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tv   U.S. Senate Confirms David Friedman to be Ambassador to Israel  CSPAN  March 23, 2017 1:29pm-3:30pm EDT

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spectrum. it politicized our foreign policy in the middle east with whoo have been a bipartisan -- with what would have been a bipartisan vote will now be confirmed along party lines. people look at this confirmation and say u.s. support for israel now exists on a partisan basis. leets be clear. -- let's be clear, it does not. i think it's critical that the country continues its military edge in the area, and i take a backseat to no one for the u.s. ambassadorred offer and that's why i cannot support david friedman. he has made a wide range of
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comments. mr. friedman said that the state department is anti-semitic. he said that president obama is an anti-semite. he said the two-state solution solves a nonexistent problem. mr. friedman called for israeli citizens who are arabs to be stripped of their rights. he has called large parts of the jewish communities a name that is a term used for those who worked in concentration camps. these are lies. the united states has stood firm as an honest broker of peace. we said to both sides you can trust to help end this conflict. it's based on the principle that the u.s. is passionate about peace in israel but dispassionate about how we get there. mr. friedman is not objective about how we get there. on the contrary he's very
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passionately for settlements and he's very passionately against the two-state solution which means he's basically against decades of bipartisan u.s. foreign policy. just a few months ago, the organization he led advertised that they have a new program that will train students to, quote, successfully delegitimatize the notion of a two-state solution. this group is actively working to take the two-state solution off the table. i understand that the senate is not fully aligned on u.s. foreign policy when it comes to israel. i understand we have our disagreements. we may disagree about whether or not a two-state solution is best, on where our embassy should be located, and how to approach the peace process. but there are some things that we ought to be able to agree upon, that our ambassador to israel should not be more involved in israel's politics than our own, that our ambassador to israel should not be so provocative that they
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wouldn't even be welcome at the peace negotiating table. our ambassador should not be the kind of person who uses language to fuel violence, hate, instability. and that means we should be able to agree that our ambassador to israel cannot be mr. friedman. i urge my colleagues to join me in voting no to support u.s.-israel relations and reject mr. friedman's confirmation. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. a senator: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that a member of my staff tannis fox be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the 115th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: thank you very much, mr. president. mr. president, the middle east
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poses some of the most difficult diplomatic challenges faced by our nation. mr. udall: the region is troubled, unstable, sometimes dangerous. conflicts span over centuries. peace throughout the region seems distant and far away. the problematic powers like iran, syria, hezbollah and russia promote their own interest in the area, sometimes violently and those interests are often contrary to ours. the united states is deeply involved through the region. israel is america's staunchest ally in the middle east and one of our closest friends on the world stage. the united states has had the will to continue to have a special relationship with israel, and our country will continue to protect and aid vis to help secure -- israel to help secure her survival. i believe a qualitative military
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edge is necessary for the safety of israel and i've always voted to support military aid. i have also been a strong supporter of the two-state solution, a peaceful resolution between israel and the palestinian people would help heal the source of many of the insecurities facing israel. but peace as eluded israel and the palestinians for decades. mutual distrust runs deep and tensions are high between israel and many of its neighbors. for all these reasons, the ambassadorship to israel is one of the state department's most important diplomatic posts, and one of the most sensitive. since israel became a nation, the post has been held by 18 of some of the most experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable diplomats. the vast majority were career foreign service officers. many served in both republican and democratic administrations. all had significant
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international and government experience prior to their appointment. the ambassador to israel must be able to thread the needle between israel and its neighbors. he or she needs to have the confidence, respect, and trust of powers throughout the region but be seen as an honest broker, have the temperament and finesse to diffuse conflict while able to stand one's ground, and have the capacity to find common interests and common ground. however, with david friedman, the president has put forth a nominee who has no diplomatic experience whatsoever, no government or international experience, who is known for his offensive statements towards jewish groups and others with whom he disagrees, and who has repeatedly expressed extreme policy views, views antagonistic to any realistic peace process with the palestinians.
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mr. friedman is not a seasoned diplomat. he is the president's bankruptcy lawyer. president trump and mr. friedman clearly have a lot of experience with bankruptcy, but it is hard to think of a pair of personalities less suited to diplomacy in a volatile region. mr. friedman has vocally opposed a two-state solution, a cornerstone of u.s. foreign policy for peace in the region since president ronald reagan. he not only supports but is generously funded israeli settlements, settlements long considered as an obstacle to peace by the united states and deemed illegal by much of the international community. mr. friedman's imtemperament remarks have been widely reported. he lashed out that liberal jews, and i quote here, suffer a cognitive disconnect in identifying good and evil. he has said that the state department, and i quote, has a
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hundred--year history of antisemitism and that president obama, quote, is an antisel ant- antisemite. he said jews who turned in their fellow jews in the nazi death camps, they are just smug advocates of israel's destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure american -- it's hard to imagine anyone worse, end quote, of mr. friedman. five former u.s. ambassadors to israel serving under both democratic and republican administrations called mr. friedman unqualified to assume the role of chief diplomat to israel. 29 holocaust scholars objected to his kapo remarks. the historical record shows they said and i quote, that kapos were jews who the nazis forced at pain of death to serve them
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in the concentration and extermination camps. these jews faced terrible dilemmas but ultimately were made into unwilling tools of nazi brutality. to brand one's political opponents, members of ones own community merely for debate is historically indefensible and is a deeply disturbing example of the abuse of the holocaust and its victims for the -- for present political gain, end quote mr. friedman. a group of holocaust survivors called his use of kapo and i quote here, group of holocaust survivors slanderous, irresponsible, cynical and immensely damaging to our people. , end quote. more than 600 rabbis wrote that his remarks were quote, the very antithesis of the diplomatic behavior that americans expect from their ambassadors. while mr. friedman apologized
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during his confirmation hearing for his abusive language, i don't believe it erases his past behavior and suddenly qualifies him for the job. this post should be earned over time through actions and words that demonstrate without question the nominee has the right judgment, temperament and skills. mr. friedman has not come close to demonstrating that. we should not risk confirming him to this important post. we have seen how distracting and destructive hot headedness is in the seat of power. during his confirmation hearing plrks friedman also walked back his positions on a two-state solution in israeli settlements which prompted the committee chair to riley ask him why he even wants the ambassador position if he has to, quote, recant every single strong belief you've had, end quote. i'm a strong supporter of
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israel. i want to see the state of israel prosperous and secure forever into the future, and i believe in the right of the palestinians to self-determination to chart their own course and their des nye. i want -- destiny. i want to sea peace between israel and palestinians and between israel and her neighbors, and that is what the vast majority of americans want. the u.s. has a strong national interest in securing this peace. the last thing we need is another active military conflict in the middle east which could draw in u.s. forces. that's why over 40 years u.s. policy has held that the only realistic path to peace is through a two-state solution. the palestinians are entitled to a homeland. and a two-state solution is the only viable path forward for israel. as secretary kerry said, and i quote, if the choice is one
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state, israel can either be jewish or democratic. it cannot be both, end quote. given mr. friedman's past staunch support for a one-state solution and expansion of israeli settlements, is he really ready and able to embrace and put forward opposing policy positions? can he ever be viewed by the palestinians and the international community as an honest broker? i'm under no illusion about how difficult it will be to achieve peace between israel and the palestinians. many presidents and able diplomats have tried and failed to achieve settlement, but the united states must continue to do its best to reach an accord. and above all, we should not make the current situation worse. we need a steady hand in the middle east. i'm not convinced that mr. friedman is qualified for this job with no diplomatic experience and a history of
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extreme positions and imtemperament language, his attrition is too little too late. i'm worried that by ignoring these huge red flags with his nomination, we run the risk of a diplomatic incident that could needlessly increase risk of conflict in the region. and, therefore, mr. president, i must vote no on this nomination, and i yield the floor, mr. president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to talk about president trump's selection of david friedman to serve as united states ambassador to israel. mr. president, our relationship with israel is of tremendous importance. we are strong allies and we have a strong military, diplomatic, economic and cultural relationship with the state of israel. as a jew, the importance of that relationship is something that i feel in my bones.
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and as a senator working to make our relationship with israel stronger is a major priority. i strongly believe that part of strengthening that relationship is doing everything we can toe make progress toward a peaceful resolution of the israeli-palestinian conflict. helping to resolve that conflict is consistently been one of the united states' top diplomatic priorities. there are really important implications for -- in this selection for the israeli people, for the palestinian people, the middle east region, and even beyond. we need an ambassador who can rise to the challenge, someone
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who can bring the parties together, together for negotiates and be regarded as legitimate in the eyes of all parties. mr. friedman is not that man. mr. friedman's past conduct demonstrates take he lacks the tools -- that he lacks the tools one needs to be a good diplomat. for starters, diplomacy is about choosing your words carefully. it's about reasoning with those with whom you disagree. diplomacy means not resorting to insults and to name calling when you have a disagreement, which is something that mr. friedman has done time and time and time and time again.
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in an op ed for th for a newspa, mr. friedman called supporters of the american jewish organization jay street, quote, far worse than kapos. unquote. now, for those who share the history, i grew up -- i was born in 1951. i grew up with the holocaust and the stories of the holocaust pounded into my head. and i know what kapos are. it's the term that refers to jews who collaborated with the nazis with the gaz ta gaz strape
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with the guards at the concentration camps during the holocaust. when asked to repudiate his statement on j street, mr. friedman refused and in fact doubled down, stating, they're not jewish and they're not pro-israel. now, for those who don't know, j street is a pro-israel organization dedicated to a two-state solution, a goal that is shared by successive u.s. administrations, both democratic and republican. a two-state solution is the only way to keep israel, a jewish
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state and a democracy. mr. friedman's smearing of our fellow jews, my fellow jews, many of whom are members of j street -- this is a calam. why. this should be a disqualifier for someone seeking to represent the united states and the state of israel. mr. friedman's statement shows that he lacks understanding of history, of our history, the history of the jewish people.
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it shows that he is intolerants to opposing views, and he is profoundly -- profoundly insensitive. and that's probably why so many of my fellow jews have reached out to me, have urged me to reject his nomination. mr. friedman's offensive remarks don't stop there. he regularly -- regularly insults those with whom he disagrees. he even called me a clown and a moron after i pointed out the anti-semitic stereotypes evoked in the trump campaign's final ad. as i told mr. friedman when we meet in this office -- in my office, i've been called a moron before. that kind of thing happens in
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campaigns all the time. but, as i also reminded him, part of being a diplomat is being diplomatic. now, while i have serious concerns with mr. friedman's temperament, my biggest issue with this nominee is his lack of commitment to the peace process. for example, right after being nominated to serve as ambassador, mr. friedman stated that he, quote, looked forward to doing this from the u.s. embassy in israel's eternal capital jerusalem. now, it has been a long-standing -- it has been a longstanding policy of the united states to recognize tel aviv as the capital of israel.
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this policy to be viewed by successive administrations for helping to maintain regional stability and peace between israel and its neighbors. an abrupt change in this tradition would make it difficult for the united states to play the role of arbiter to achieve peace and security between israelis and the palestinians. at a time when we need to reduce tensions in the region, mr. friedman was sending the exact wrong message. what i find even more troubling is mr. friedman's support for settlement building. successive u.s. administrations have recognized that new settlements are barriers to peace. mr. friedman has served as president, has been actively
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fund-raising for the american friends of a nonprofit that supports the expansion of that settlement, an expansion which is illegal under international law. an expansion deep inside of palestinian territory. mr. president, how can we possibly help advance peace between the two parties with a man who believes there ought to be more settlements, one of the very things that observers on both sides of this conflict recognize as a significant obstacle to peace.
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mr. president, the israel israeli-palestinian conflict has remained intractable for far too long, proving a hardship, a tragedy for israelis and palestinians both, and impacting regional and even global security. i believe -- i am convinced that a just and lasting agreement between the two parties on a two-state solution, though very different, can and must be achieved. confirming david friedman as ambassador of the united states
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to israel will only serve to make that job more difficult, if not impossible. and, in my mind, it would be a tragedy. i urge my colleagues to vote no on the friedman nomination. thank you, mr. president. and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. rounds: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. rounds: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent -- the presiding officer: we are in a quorum call. mr. rounds: i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. rounds: thank you,
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mr. president. i would ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding rule 22 at 2:15 perjure the senate vote on the friedman nomination. if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be made and laid upon the table and the president be immediately notified of the senate's actions with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. rounds: thank you, mr. president. now, mr. president, i would ask to speak as if in morning business for a period of ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. rounds: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to discuss the patient protection and affordable care act care act commonly known as obamacare on the seventh anniversary of being signed into law by our previous president, barack obama. there isn't a whole lot of good us in in thi news -- news in ths report. since that time, americans have been hit with hundreds of billions in new taxes.
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health care costs have risen exponentially and families have struggled with fewer options and reduced access to health care services. just in the last year health insurance premiums have gone up 25% for the typical obamacare plan. that number is even higher in my home state of south dakota, where premiums have increased 37%. obamacare has also driven health insurance companies to completely leave the marketplace, leaving americans with fewer insurance options. again, i'll use my on state as an example. under obamacare the number of companies offering insurance in the individual market in south dakota has dropped from 13 to a mere two today. while this is unfortunate, we are better off than folks in alaska, alabama, oklahoma, south carolina, and wyoming, all of who have no options at all, as only one insurer offers plans in those exchanges. this is also the case for more than 1,000 counties across the
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nation basically a third of all of the counties in total. as a result of these skyrocketing costs and reduced options, the number of americans enrolling in obamacare continues to drop dramatically. projections continue to be millions fewer than predicted. between 2016 and 2017, nearly half a million fewer americans signed up for the exchanges. all of this has barely moved the number of uninsured south dakotans between 23010 when -- between 2010 when obamacare was enacted and today. so the health insurance market was crippled, premiums have skyrocketed for hardworking families, and our economy has suffered tremendously under the a.c.a. only to have the same number of insured and uninsured individuals in my home state as before we started. nationwide, americans are rejecting obamacare in record
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numbers. we saw this rejection of obamacare repeatedly over the past seven years when the american people elected into office candidates who at least in part ran on the platform of repealing obamacare. obamacare's higher taxes, fees, and penalties on businesses an investors have also taken a toll. meanwhile consumers who are facing obamacare's higher premiums and deductibles have less to spend on goods and services. with one-sixth of our economy tied to health care, this has been detrimental to growth and to opportunity. it has also been easy to see how the health care industry has rejected obamacare over the past seven years with many insurers pulling out of the market and in other places the markets collapsing all together. this limits competition and leaves little room in the health care industry which is why obamacare is failing to control the cost of health care in our country. cost control is a crucial
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component of providing truly affordable health care and that begins with the elimination of obamacare's added bureaucracy and paperwork. we must get government out of the way and allow competitive markets to work once again. and that is what we are seeking to do with obamacare's replacement which is expected to receive a vote in the house later today. since we started the process of repealing and replacing obamacare, my office has received a number of calls and e-mails from south dakotans who have expressed concerns. i want to make clear to them and to all americans that during the period in which we transition away from obamacare and toward a more affordable and competitive system, we understand the continuation of coverage is an essential component. and we plan to include a number of items that are very important to the american public, guaranteed renewal of coverage, portability of coverage for those who change jobs or leave the work force by retiring, a ban on lifetime limits because
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if you bought insurance, you shouldn't run out of insurance. the provisions of the indian health care improvement act which were included in obamacare should be cluld in our plans. and there should -- included in our plans and there should be no exclusions on preexisting conditions if you maintain insurance from policy to policy without lapses, and we should include provisions to allow children to remain on their family's plans until at least the age of 26. we understand that there is a way to retain all of these positive provisions which are vital to assuring continued health insurance coverage for all american families who want it while also providing a fair and open marketplace that provides a strong, healthy, competitive market. this in turn will bring affordable, efficient health insurance with innovative products that will actually help to control the cost of care. and that is what the g.o.p.
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alternative while still far from perfect is seeking to do. one thing we do know, the end result will be better than obamacare. mr. president, as a father and as a grandfather, i understand how important it is to have access to affordable health care. no one should be priced out of health care coverage for their families, but our current system is simply not working. after seven years of obamacare, the american people are dealing with higher health care premiu premiums, fewer options, more taxes, and reduced access to care. and health providers are struggling with more pure ross crazy -- more bureaucracy, more time filling out paperwork instead of caring for patients and being frustrated by obamacare's crippling new regulations. as i've said from time to time again, obamacare is a rapidly sinking ship, and there is simply no hope for recovery.
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on its seventh anniversary, it is hurting more people than it is helping, and it must be repealed and replaced before it totally crumbles under its own weight. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i rise as the ranking democrat on the senate foreign relations committee to comment on the nomination of mr. friedman to be the u.s. ambassador to israel. we'll certainly be having that vote, and i consider the u.s.-israel relationship a strategic anchor for the united states in the middle east, one of our most important relationships with any country. since the creation of the state of israel, support for this relationship has been bipartis
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bipartisan, bicameral, and supported by successive u.s. administrations. this bilateral relationship is also sustained by the deep bonds of friendship between the people of our two countries. mr. president, this relationship has benefited israel and has benefited the united states. given the range of strategic challenges across the globe that our country faces and the unprecedented instability and violence rolling the middle east today, it is critical that we take steps to unify support for the u.s.-israel relationship across the political spectrum. thus, i believe it is vital that the u.s. ambassador to israel is seen as a unifying figure in this enduring relationship. i really do believe that there is broad understanding and support in the senate, in the house for the special relationship between the united states and israel.
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israel the only true democracy in the middle east, a country that we can rely upon for important intelligence information, an economy that is similar to ours, it's a country that has enjoyed a special relationship since 1948 when harry truman recognized israel after the historic vote in the united nations. so following extensive consideration of mr. friedman's record and taking into account his statements during his nomination hearing, i have concluded that his past record would make it very difficult for him to serve as that unifying force. for that reason i am unable to support his nomination as america's top diplomat in israel. i appreciate mr. friedman's efforts before the committee to express regret for his substantial record of divisive irks inflammatory and offensive statements. unfortunately i believe that the body of mr. friedman's published work, not to mention his public statements will compromise his
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effectiveness in representing the united states and all americans to the government of israel and all israelis. taken together, mr. friedman's statements and affiliations make it clear that he does not believe the two-state solution is necessary for just and lasting peace. i'm concerned that mr. friedman's history on this issue in which he calls the two-state a scam will undermine his ability to represent the united states as a credible facilitator of the peace process. this is simply no realistic sustainable prospect for a lasting peace between the israelis and the palestinians other than two states living side by side with security. mr. president, i want to thank chairman corker for the manner in which this nomination was handled before the senate foreign relations committee. i think we had ample opportunity and i want to thank chairman corker for that, but i do urge
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my colleagues to reject this nominee. with that i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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dush mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i ask consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. durbin: i ask consent notwithstanding the previous order to move to the roll call vote now. the presiding officer: without objection. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the question is on the confirmation of the nomination. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or to change their vote? if not the yeas are 52. the nays are 46. the nomination is confirmed. mr. mcconnell? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i move to proceed to legislative session. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion. all in favor say aye. opposed say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. mr. mcconnell: i move to proceed to executive session to
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consider calendar number 1, treaty document number 114-12, protocol to the north atlantic treaty of 1949 on the accession of montenegro. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion. all those in favor say aye. all those opposed say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report. the clerk: treaties, treaty doc114-12 protocol to the north atlantic treaty of 1949 on the accession of montenegro. mr. mcconnell: i send a cloture motion to the desk. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate dehereby move to bring to a close debate on treaty calendar number 1, treaty document 114-12, protocol to the north atlantic treaty of 1949 on the accession of montenegro signed by 17 senators as
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follows. mr. mcconnell: i ask that the reading of the names be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: for the information of senators, we'll have a cloture vote on this treaty monday night at 5:30.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: thank you, mr. president. i ask for a vitiation of the quorum. the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. mr. markey: i would then -- oh, it is not in a quorum call. i would seek recognition then to speak, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. mr. markey: i thank you, mr. president. i rise to speak again today about the epidemic of deadly illicit fentanyl plaguing our nation and how through bipartisan legislation i have introduced today, we can help to stop this dangerous opioid from flowing into our country from abroad. i want to start by providing some basic information about fentanyl. what is fentanyl? well, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and a hundred times more powerful than morphine, although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, the current fentanyl epidemic in our country
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is being fueled by illicitly manufactured fentanyl and illicit versions of chemically similar compounds known as fentanyl analogues. fentanyl in its powder form is often mixed with other illegal drugs like heroin or is disguised in pill form to resemble an opioid painkiller like oxycontin. many drug users overdose on fentanyl because they have no idea that it is cut into whatever substance they are injecting or whatever pills they are swallowing. they simply do not realize just how deadly fentanyl is. in fact, just a few salt-sized grains of fentanyl can kill an adult. where does illicit fentanyl come from? according to the drug enforcement administration, mexico is the primary source for
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illicit fentanyl trafficked into the united states. distributors in china are the principle source of the precursor chemicals, the chemical building blocks used to manufacture fentanyl in mexico and elsewhere. china is also a source of finished product illicit fentanyl coming into the united states. why is illicit fentanyl trafficking increasing? well, we're in the midst of an opioid epidemic that is -- that has begun with the overprescription and resulting abuse of prescription opioids, like oxycontin. when users found those pills too expensive to sustain their addiction, they turned to cheaper heroin. now they are turning to even cheaper and more powerful fentanyl which has become an extremely lucrative product for drug dealers and drug cartels. according to the d.e.a., a kilogram of heroin can be
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purchased from colombia for about $6,000 and then sold on the wholesale drug market for $80,000. purchased for $6,000, sold for $80,000. by comparison, a kilogram of pure fentanyl can be purchased from china for less than $5,000 and then sold on the market for $80,000 as well, but because it is so potent that one kilogram of fentanyl can be cut with agents like tall cool him powder -- talcom powder or caffeine resulting in 24 kilograms of product to be sold, that means that one 5,000,000 kilogram of fentanyl actually reaps a whopping profit in the neighborhood of $1.6 million. what has been the impact of the fentanyl epidemic on the united states? well, the d.e.a. is so concerned about fentanyl that in march of
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2015, it issued a nationwide alert that highlighted the drug as a threat to health and public safety. between 2014 and 2015, overdose deaths in the united states from synthetic opioids prince pally illicit fentanyl increased 72%. in 2015 there were more than 9500 such overdose deaths in the united states. last year it is estimate thad my home state of massachusetts suffered more than 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths largely fueled by the deadly rise of illicit fentanyl. in fact, massachusetts ranks second nationally per capita in synthetic opioid deaths, which includes fentanyl with the number of deaths between 2014 and 2015 increasing by 109%. massachusetts authorities are now finding fentanyl in 74% of the state's opioid overdose deaths. if those figures hold up, that means that last year there will
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have been roughly 1500 fentanyl-related deaths in massachusetts in 2016. if the fentanyl epidemic were to hit the entire nation as hard as it is hitting massachusetts, the country would lose almost 75,000 people each year to fentanyl. think about that. that's more deaths in the united states suffered in the entire vietnam war. fentanyl is the godzilla of opioids, and it will overrun communities and lay them to waste unless we take action now to stop it. so how do we stop it? there is no easy solution to a crisis caused by a drug that is so small, so powerful, so profitable that those who traffic in it just want to make money, but we know we must act. first, we need to raise awareness of the dire threat that fentanyl poses to our nation. we need to educate the public about it. we need to elevate the issues at
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the highest levels of our government and the governments of the countries from which it comes. to help with that effort, last week the senate adopted a bipartisan sense of the senate resolution on fentanyl trafficking that i introduced with senator rubio from florida. i thank him for his partnership on that resolution. i thank senators toomey and shaheen and king and johnson and nelson for adding their support. the resolution calls on our government to use its broad, diplomatic and law enforcement resources in partnership with mexico and china to disrupt the trafficking of fentanyl. we are seeing the signs of some progress. in october of 2015 china added 116 synthetic chemicals, including six fentanyl products to its list of controlled substance -- controlled chemical substances. in february 2017 china agreed to make carfentanil a powerful fentanyl analogue and three other fentanyl analogues illegal. earlier this month i led a group
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of ten senators in urging secretary of state tillerson to secure the votes of the 53 member nations of the united nations commission on narcotic drugs in favor of the scheduling of the fentanyl precursors. and last week the commission voted unanimously in favor of controlling these substances. this international cooperation is expected to yield meaningful dividends in the fight against illicit fentanyl. fentanyl will require us to build bridges to our international partners, not walls. indeed, i recently visited mexico where i met with law enforcement officials at the border, on the front lines of the smuggling and trafficking of narcotics into the united states. that is why today senators rubio, brown, capito, and i introduce legislation to help this frontline of drug detection at the border. it's called the interdict act and it provides badly needed high-tech equipment and other
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resources to the u.s. customs and border protection to help it detect and interdict illicit fentanyl being trafficked into the united states. here's how it works. there are two principle ways that drugs like fentanyl are trafficked into the united states. first, coming from mexico, they are smuggled across the southwest border of the united states. they are hidden in vehicles, beneath false floors, behind hidden compartments and elsewhere. the drugs are also carried into the united states by people sometimes hidden in the hollowed out heels of their shoes. second, illicit fentanyl is also purchased online from oversees -- overseas vendors in china and elsewhere often on the dark web and then shipped to mexico or directly to the united states through the mail or expressed consignment carriers. fentanyl shipped this way is often concealed inside legitimate goods with fentanyl suppliers using various methods to mislabel shipments.
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for example, some conceal the powder in those small silica packages that say do not eat placed alongside everyday items. others gift wrap shipments or label them as household products like laundry detergent to avoid detection. customs and border protection has many different methods it uses to find contra band being smuggled into the united states at the border or through the mail. these include drug-sniffing dogs, various kinds of scanners, fiber optic scopes and physical searches. when custom and border protection finds a suspicious substance using these and other methods, it has had success identifying it as an illegal, illicit drug like fentanyl with the help of high-tech hand-held chemical screening devices. so any time customs and border protection finds a suspicious powder, pill, or liquid, it can use a hand-held device, really something that looks and feels
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like a nintendo game buy to -- game boy to conduct a test in the field with real time results. this means that narcotics like illicit fentanyl can be detected, identified and seized quickly and on the spot. these rapid results provide vital information for law enforcement officers to continue their investigation and if appropriate, proceed with seizure and arrest. not only does the use of this technology disrupt the flow of the drugs into the country, it protects the health and safety of law enforcement officials from exposure to dangerous substances like illicit fentanyl. often border patrol agents do not know what the powdery substance they have uncovered is and whether it poses a threat to them. that's especially alarming with illicit fentanyl given its strength. exposure to a small amount by contact with the skin or through inhalation can be fatal. increased use of these high-tech
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devices will provide important protections for our law enforcement officers on the front lines. the interdict act also provides for additional equipment back in customs and border protection laboratories, including more scientists who analyze and interpret test results. the interdict act ensure that's couples will have additional -- customs will have portable screening devices available at ports of entry at mail and express and consignment areas so that they can provide support during all operational hours. so, again, i want to thank senator rubio, senator brown, and senator capito for working together on a bipartisan basis so we can give these additional tools to fight this fentanyl e
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ep -- epidemic. i urge my colleagues to support this bill. it knows no geographic or social boundaries. it is the epidemic of our time. i thank you, mr. president, and i yield back to the chair. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, at this hour we still don't know what the house of representatives is going to do. they are amending and changing and modifying the reform of one-sixth of america's economy under cover of darkness trying to secure the votes necessary to fulfill a political promise. we'll await their decision as to how much havoc they wreak. but i wanted to come down to the floor today and address, for a
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moment, the really exceptional process that is occurring right now as we speak in the house of representatives, and to talk about one of the reported changes that they are considering before sending the product over to the united states senate. just to review for a minute -- speaker ryan likes to talk about his approach to health care as a three-pronged approach. the congressional budget office headed by a gentleman hand picked by the republican house conference agrees it is a three-pronged approach. they have a different interpretation of the 3 prongs. first, higher costs and dramatically higher costs, especially for older people, sicker people, and poorer people. if you're young, relatively affluent and healthy, you may make out better, but if you're not in that category, you will
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not. 24 million people will lose health care coverage. that is catastrophic. that is the total population of 17 u.s. states. we just kick them off health insurance without anywhere to go other than our emergency rooms. and then all of this is in order to finance a tax cut for the rich. i had a chart up here yesterday that showed you that in this bill if you made zero to $200,000, you get no tax cut. if you make over $200,000, you get a healthy tax cut. it could be up to $7 million on average so higher costs for everybody except for a small slice of the population, less care -- just a nightmare when it comes to the number of people who lose care under this bill all in order to finance tax cuts for the wealthy. that's the background on what trumpcare, on what the american health care act is, and people hate it. there's a new poll out the --
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there's a new poll out that shows stunning numbers. the approval numbers for this bill is under 20%. you know, republicans kick the living you know what out of the affordable care act and they never got its approval ratings down to under 20% as has happened to the american health care act in its third week of existence. that's pretty impressive for 18% of americans to approve of a bill that's only been out there for a few weeks. and it's not because they don't know anything about it because over 50% of americans don't like it. 18% support it, 56% don't support it across demographic groups and age groups. they get it. they are not dumb. they know it is passing along tax cuts to them in order to support the rich.
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people didn't need a lot of time to understand it, but republicans in the house know that as this thing hangs out there, it's getting less popular. hard to get less popular than 18% -- those are -- you know, those are tough numbers to do worse then. but the reason that republicans are racing this bill through the process is because they know how deeply unpopular it is because they know it is a scam. they know this is taking health care from americans, forcing them to pay more in order to finance a tax cut for the rich. and so what's happening today in the house is they are blowing up their rules in order to push a bill through that no one will have looked at. i mean it's possible that they are going to file a gigantic reform to the entire american health care system and call a vote on it within hour. come on. in 2009 and in 2010, republicans were just blacklisterring
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critic -krit -- bliste ring cri. in 2009 and 2010, the house held 79 bipartisan hearings and markups on the health care reform bill, over the entire year house members spent nearly 100 hours in hearing, heard from 1881 -- 188 # witnesses and accepted 121 amendments. this bill was introduced two weeks ago. the first time the american public ever looked at it was two weeks ago and the house is rushing it through today -- two weeks, 14 days -- 20 days. not a year, not 79 hearings, not 100 hours of hearings. and we're talking about bringing it up before the senate for a
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vote next week with 20 hours of debate on a reordering of one-sixth of the american economy. i mean, this is really extraordinary how this bill is getting jammed through the process because republicans know every day it hangs out there more people figure out what it is, a massive transfer of wealth from regular, ordinary americans through less care and higher costs to the very rich and also insurance companies and drug companies to get a big tax cut. so on to today's modification of the bill. the talk today is that in order to make the bill a little bit meaner and a little bit crueler, the house is going to remove from the underlying law the requirement that insurance companies cover a basic set of what are called essential
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benefits. this change is being demanded by the very, very conservative wing of the house republican caucus. they call themselves the freedom caucus. this is the group of sort of the most radical members in the house of representatives, and they are demanding that these essential health care benefits be stripped out of the law in order to get their votes. so let's talk about what these essential health care benefits are. basically the law says now if you're offering an insurance plan and you want to call yourself health insurance, then you have to actually offer to cover health care. the essential health care benefits, what every plan today just has to offer in order to call themselves insurance in this country are ambulatory care, out patient care, emergency care, hospitalizations, pregnancy, maternity and newborn care,
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mental health and substance abuse care, prescription drugs, rehabilitation if you get injured, lab services, tests, chronic disease management, management for diabetes or heart and hypertension, and pediatric services, services for kids. that's it. that's the essential health care benefits. and, frankly, if you're buying a health insurance plan, wouldn't you expect that it would cover your emergency care if you were to go to an emergency room? if you're buying health care in this country, what good is it if it doesn't cover a hospitalization because you get really sick? if you're buying an insurance plan in this country, don't you think it's going to cover your kids when to they need basic pediatric services? so what's happening now is something different than health care reform in the house of representatives. what's happening now is really a
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radical rethink of what health care insurance is. if all of a sudden health insurers don't need to cover the costs of your hospitalization, don't need to cover mental illness at all, don't need to cover addiction coverage at all, then is it really insurance any longer? if it's not covering that list of things, what is it covering? now, c.b.o. has an answer for this. c.b.o. says that if there's a -- if there's an insurance plan that doesn't cover this list of benefits, they won't count it as insurance. so when they are giving you the numbs of the people who will have insurance or not have insurance after this bill, the congressional budget office, the nonpartisan office, says we don't really count it as insurance if it doesn't cover, you know, basic stuff like hospitalizations and out-patient services, prescription drugs,
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pediatric services. and so what's happening now in the house of representatives is really a radical rethink of health care insurance. health care insurance now under this law that they are contemplating passing wouldn't need to cover anything. you could buy an insurance plan, pay your premiums and then be told that it doesn't cover your kid when he gets diagnosed with schizophrenia, that it doesn't cover your daughter when she gets in an accident and has to go to emergency room, that it doesn't cover your spouse when they get really sick and are hospitalized for three days. what kind of coverage would that be any longer if it didn't cover that list of things? and let's be honest. this would be a massive transfer of costs on to individuals.
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the number one prong o -- of trumpcare is higher costs. if insurance companies don't need to cover any of these things anymore but you still have to buy it, then it's just a massive shift of costs on to individuals. remember, trumpcare penalizes you if you don't buy insurance. the affordable care act did the same thing. admittedly the affordable care act said if you don't buy insurance you're going to pay a penalty. that's why the affordable care act says that insurance really has to be insurance. it has to cover stuff. if we're going to require you to buy it or penalize you if you don't buy it, insurance should be insurance. trumpcare penalizes you if you don't buy insurance. you pay a massive penalty. for a lot of people the penalty could be $5,000 if they don't buy insurance. now the change they are considering in the house of representatives means that the insurance part you are forced to buy won't cover diddly.
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when your insurance company doesn't cover it and you have to pick up the costs, it's going to cost you way more money. everybody has probably seen a bill from a hospital. let's say you had to go in and get a colon os scopey. you have to go in and get a bill and you see two numbers. you see the number the hospital bills and the number the insurance company pays. often the number the insurance company pays is one-third of that what hospital billed. why is that? the insurance company is negotiating with the hospital on behalf of thousands of patients and so they get that price way, way down and the insurance company only pays a fraction of the costs that is billed. but if you don't have insurance coverage for it, if all of a sudden it's not a benefit in your plan because the american health care act told insurance companies they didn't have to
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cover hospitalization, then you will pay that higher price. you don't get the insurance company discount. you will pay that higher number. that's going to bankrupt people. i'm just going to tell you, the families in my state, when their child gets hooked on heroin, they are going to find a way to pay for that care so their child doesn't become another statistic, another one of the 900 in my state who died last year from overdoses. they will pay to get that kid care for that addiction. they will mortgage their house, sell their house. they will drain their savings account. they will sell every possession they have to make sure that child doesn't die from an overdose and that child gets the care they need. if their insurance company won't cover it, they will do


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