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tv   U.S. Senate Meets for Legislative Business  CSPAN  March 29, 2017 9:59am-12:00pm EDT

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so i think we have time for a short rate. very short break, but you got to be right back in here. we have to start the knowledge session right here at 10:30. five minute. >> from his pentagon documents, what is clear is that is moving humans in a military environment towards being comfortable with this idea of merging man and machine.
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>> senate lawmakers are meeting today to consider house approved measure overturning an obama administration when government and retirement savings plan straight it does is state programs for nongovernment employees. live coverage of the u.s.will la senate. ayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal father, our souls long for you, for we find strength and joy in your presence. guide our lawmakers to put their trust in you, seeking in every undertaking to live with honor.
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when they go through difficulties, may they remember that, with your help, they can accomplish the seemingly impossible. give them the wisdom to take time to get to know one another, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. lord, provide them with a faith that will trust you even when the darkness is blacker than a thousand midnights. may they always find strength in your providential leading. we pray in your strong name. amen.
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the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i move to proceed to h.j. res. 67. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of h.j. res. 67, disapproving the rules submitted by the department of labor relating to savings
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arrangements, and so forth. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion to proceed. all those in favor say aye. opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the joint resolution. the clerk: house joint resolution 67, disapproving the rules submitted by the department of labor relating to savings arrangements and so forth. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: over the last eight years american workers grappled with a sluggish economy and policies that often made it harder for families to get ahead. even on its way out the door, the obama administration pushed forward with more unfair regulations that hurt the middle class. they tried to advance regulations that threatened jobs and hindered economic growth. they tried to shift power away from people and toward government on everything from education to land management
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issues. and under the guise of helping more people save for the future, it undercut a system of private retirement savings that served millions of americans very well for decades. it introduced regulations that would push more and more americans into government-run retirement plans. these retirement savings regulations are a classic case of the whole being worse than the sum of its parts. the obama administration encouraged states and municipalities to set up government-run retirement plans for private-sector workers. it sounds great, some might say, but that's until you see the fine print. states always had the power to set up these plans, but they chafed at federal laws protecting the workers who would be automatically enrolled in them. they didn't like that the basic retirement protections that apply to those who manage
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private-sector retirement plans would apply to the government too. so they thought -- they sought a waiver from long accepted federal protections like the rule against self-dealing. that's what these regulations are actually about. they allow states and cities to create an employer mandate that forces private-sector workers into these government-run plans. they liberate the states and big-city mayors from federal consumer protections from these hard-earned dollars, and they create a competitive advantage for these new government-run plans. the end result will be more government at the expense of the private sector. now fortunately, mr. president, we can begin to roll these regulations back. we'll take a vote today to protect workers should big-city governments try to force their
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private-sector employees to auto enroll in government-run savings plans. later we will advance another c.r.a. to protect workers from similar efforts at the state level. congress is able to push back against troubling regulations like these because of the tools provided by the congressional review act, or c.r.a. just last week we sent the 11th c.r.a. resolution to the presks -- president's desk and we hope to add to those regulatory relief efforts again. i want to thank senator hatch, the finance committee chairman, for his leadership on this issue. he understands that we need to do more to encourage private retirement savings, and he's advocated numerous policies that would do just that. he also understands that more government involvement in the retirement of private-sector workers is not the answer. he introduced companion legislation to the house bills we'll vote on soon. we should pass that legislation
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without delay so that we can, as the chairman said, give employees and small business owners more flexibility and freedom to choose how to financially invest and build a northwest egg for retirement -- build a nest egg for retirement. now, mr. president, on another matter, since judge neil gorsuch was nominated to the supreme court, senate democrats have searched high and they've searched low for a reason to oppose him. they looked at his background, and they found a columbia alum, a harvard law graduate and an oxford scholar. they looked at his reputation and found an impartial and fair judge, and eloquent writer and humble and even tempered man. they looked at his record as a judge and found someone who follows the facts where they lead without favoring one party over another, someone respected
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by democrats, independents, and republicans alike. and someone who understands his role is to interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. now colleagues across the aisle also had the opportunity to spend hours with judge gorsuch at his confirmation hearing. once again they found little to hang their hat on when it comes to a reason to oppose him. instead these hearings made clear a point recently stated by a board member of the liberal american constitution society, the senate should confirm him because there is no principled reason to vote no on gulch. that was david frederick, a self-proclaimed long-term supporter of democratic candidates and progressive causes. in a recent "washington post" op-ed, the prominent democrat said he supports judge gorsuch because he embodies a reverence for our country's values and
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legal system. we should applaud such independence of mind and spirit in supreme court nominees. but unfortunately, instead of coming together behind this nominee, some of our colleagues continue to press forward with convoluted -- convoluted -- excuses as to why they won't support him. just yesterday my friend, the democratic leader, came to the floor to share his reasoning. he talked about the need for the nominee to be independent and impartial. well, judge gorsuch passes that test, and the american bar association, the organization revered as the gold standard for evaluating judges by the democratic leader himself and the former judiciary chairman, certainly agrees. it said based on the writings, interviews and analysis, we discern that judge gorsuch believes strongly in the independence of the judicial branch of government, and we predict that he will be a strong and respectful voice in
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protecting it. in addition to independence, the democratic leader talked about his concern that judge gorsuch has earned the support of conservatives. well, that's true. judge gorsuch has earned the support of republicans just as he received praise from many on the left as well, like president obama's former solicitor general neal katyal and president obama's legal mentor professor laurence tribe and left leaning law professor e. donald elliot, so many others. the democratic leader talked about the need for the nominee to offer assurances about how he'd rule on a certain case and assurances that he'd stand up for certain groups. but as judge gorsuch pointed out, nominees are, to quote justice ruth bader ginsburg, to offer no hints, no previews on how they would rule in certain cases. similarly, judges are to decide cases based on the facts, not
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personal views or political preferences. and finally, the democratic leader talked about the importance of a nominee's record. well, i'd like to take a moment to remind my colleagues of judge gorsuch's record now. as he said at his hearing, i've decided over 2,700 cases. my law clerks tell me that 97% of them have been unanimous. 99% i've been in the majority. they tell me as well, he continued, that according to the congressional research service, my opinions have attracted the fewest number of dissents from my colleagues of anyone i've served with that they've studied over the last ten years. to sum it up, more than 2,700 cases and a majority of them, 99% of them, and part of the unanimous ruling on 97% of them. it simply doesn't get much better than that. no wonder the a.b.a. gave him
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its highest rating, unanimously well equaled. so when we hear our democratic colleagues talk about breaking long standing precedent by mounting the first ever purely partisan filibuster to try to defeat his nomination, we can only assume one thing. this isn't about the nominee at all. it's about a few on the left whose priority is to obstruct this senate and this president whenever and wherever they can. months after the election, they're still in campaign mode calling for senate democrats to obstruct and to resist. so let's be clear, these left-wing groups aren't concerned by the qualifications of this judge. they aren't looking out for what's best for the court or the senate or for the country. they simply refuse to accept the outcome of last year's election. we will realize the enormous
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pressure that our democratic colleagues are under. it's why we're hearing talks of some mythical 60-vote standard that doesn't exist. just ask the fact checkers that have repeatedly debunked that idea. a 60-vote threshold has never been the standard for a supreme court confirmation, not for president clinton's supreme court nominees in his first term, not for the supreme court nominees of the newly elected president obama either. as "the washington post" fact checker reminded us again just this very morning, once again there is no traditional 60-vote standard or rule for supreme court nominations, no matter how much or how often democrats claim otherwise. so i would ask our democratic friends, do they really want to launch the first wholly partisan filibuster of a supreme court nominee in american history? do they really think history books or the american people will look kindly on them for filibustering this amazingly
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well qualified and widely respected nominee? judge gorsuch has earned an enormous amount of praise from across the political spectrum and from a wide array of publications all across our country. like "the chicago tribune," which recently called for his confirmation, saying that judge gorsuch has shown himself to be committed to the principle that judges should rule on the law as written and applied equally to all. and the detroit news, the paper said judge gorsuch is proving himself an even tempered, deeply knowledgeable nominee who should be confirmed by the senate. the hearings confirm, it says, that gorsuch is eminently qualified and there is nothing radical in his judicial history. and "the denver post," as we've noted several times in the run up to the gorsuch nomination hearings, it said the tenth circuit judge possesses the fairness, independence and open-mindedness necessary to make him a marvelous addition to the supreme court. the post went on to say that senators should not miss the chance to rally behind gorsuch
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who has been roundly praised here by democrats and republicans alike. so, mr. president, in other words, judge neil gorsuch should be treated fairly, receive an up-or-down vote and be confirmed to the supreme court just like all four first-term supreme court nominees of president clinton and president obama. because again, even as those on the left can't help but admit, there is no principled reason to vote no on judge gorsuch. it's the sentiment that we have heard from many of our colleagues here on the floor as we have been debating judge gorsuch's nomination over the past few weeks. as we wait for the judiciary committee to report out his nomination, i would encourage members from both sides to continue taking advantage of available floor time to discuss this important issue. i'd also remind senators that we'll have all next week, all of next week to continue debating judge gorsuch's nomination as well. i look forward to hearing from our colleagues as we work to advance this extremely
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well-qualified nominee. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: mr. president, i rise this morning on a few topics, but i first want to mention that last night, many of us spent some time at the white house where we were regaled by the wonderful marine and amendment chorus, where there was talk about renewing the spirit of bipartisanship in washington. i'm all for it. of course we democrats hope that the president and republicans in congress will sit down with us in a true spirit of bipartisanship, because so far this congress, the republican in this congress so far, the republican idea of bipartisanship has meant to both the president and the congress, republicans in congress. we come up with our plan, and you democrats should support it. that's not bipartisanship.
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the president, the republican leader, house speaker have come up with issue after issue, including the supreme court nominee. no democratic consultation and then said the only way you can achieve bipartisanship is just vote with us. you can't improve the health care system with only republican votes on reconciliation without consulting any democrats, without a single sentence of democratic input and call that an attempt at bipartisanship. you can't do an infrastructure package of tax credits and no real spending and then ask for bipartisan support. and you certainly can't outsource, you can't outsource your entire selection of supreme court justices to be hand-picked by the hard right special interest dominated heritage foundation and federalist
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society and then ask for us to vote for that nominee as a show of bipartisan support. bipartisanship means sitting down with the other side, getting our ideas and hashing out a compromise. it does not mean proposing your policy, particularly when these policies and nominees are so far to the right and then making an exhortation to bipartisanship and bemoaning the absence of it when democrats don't go along with your way. i truly hope that the president and republicans want to renew a spirit of bipartisanship, but it has to be real, it has to be meant, and their actions have to follow suit. well, let's talk about the supreme court because that exemplifies exactly what i'm talking about. over the last several weeks, my republican friends have tried to paint judge gorsuch as the bold
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ideal of a neutral and impartial judge. they have insisted that judge gorsuch is a straight, down-the-middle guy, someone who will just call the balls and strikes. the majority leader even likes to cite the letter of a friend of the judge who says there is no printed reason to oppose his nomination. of course, there are several printed reasons to object to judge gorsuch. today i'd like to focus on one in particular. judge gorsuch's long career ties to conservative interests and conservative ideological groups. the idea that judge gorsuch would simply be a neutral mainstream justice is belied by his career, his judicial record and perhaps most of all the manner with which he was selected to serve on the supreme court. he was culled from a list of -- from a list hand-picked by the federalist society and the
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heritage foundation. conservative organizations that have spent the last few decades systematically trying to shift the balance of the courts way to the right. most of my colleagues on the other side know how far right even the heritage foundation is. and they often grumble at how they are pulling the party too far over. but judge gorsuch was hand-picked by that group along with the federalist society. instead of consulting the senate, president trump outsourced his supreme court pick to the federalist society and the heritage foundation long before an election even took place. the constitution does not say the president shall appoint supreme court justices with the advise and consent of right-wing special interest groups. it says he should appoint them with the advice and consent of
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the senate. president trump didn't consult the senate. he never even considered it. he just consulted this list. surely my dear friend from utah, senator hatch, must remember when president clinton consulted him about his supreme court picks. senator hatch told the president not to select bruce babbitt and offered instead the names ginsburg and breyer. president clinton listened to senator hatch and nominated them instead. surely my good friend from utah also remembers when he suggested to president obama that merrick garland be nominated to the supreme court, calling him a fine man. president obama listened and made him his pick. president trump, different than all of the past presidents in so many ways, so many of them unfortunate, here's one. before even being elected to
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office, president trump swore off the entire process and outsourced the advise and consent to a list selected by two ultraconservative organizations. take the heritage foundation, for example. are they down the middle? are they unbiased? let's listen to some of the things they believe, way different than most americans. it's a group that believes freedom mean businesses have the right to discriminate against lgbt people. this is a group that believes limited government means eliminating resources for the violence against women act. this is a group that believes a strong national defense means discriminatory executive orders that bar immigrants and refugees from muslim majority countries. mr. president, this is a group that holds extreme right positions, a group that is far, far out of the american
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mainstream and is even out of the republican mainstream so many times, and they have hand-picked neil gorsuch to have a seat on the highest court in the land. does anyone think the heritage organization, the federalist society, does anyone think they put a judicial moderate on their list who would only call balls and strikes? does anyone think there would be all this outside dark undisclosed money being spent to support judge gorsuch's nomination if he was just someone who called balls and strikes? no. there's a reason all this dark money is being spent to support him. there is a reason the federalist society and the heritage foundation liked judge gorsuch enough to put him on the
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president's short list. and there's a reason the president pledged only to select from this list. he wanted to curry favor with skeptical, hard-right, special interests-dominated conservatives during his campaign. so the idea that judge gorsuch would simply be some neutral justice, that does not hold water. so when republicans say that if democrats won't support judge gorsuch, we won't support any republican-nominated judge, that's simply not true. we have several reasons to be concerned with judge gorsuch specifically, and specifically one of those things we're concerned about is that he was supported and pushed forward by the heritage foundation and the federalist society, groomed by billionaire conservatives like mr. anschutz, another hard-right special interest person. judge gorsuch, of course, had a chance. most of us waited until after the hearings because at the hearings, he had a chance to
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distance himself from these views, but he refused to substantively answer question after question. so if judge neil gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes -- which, by the way, the american people believe is the appropriate standard for a supreme court nominee -- it's not because democrats are being obstructionists. it's because he failed to convince 60 senators that he belongs on the supreme court. in that event, the answer is not to permanently change the rules and traditions of the senate. the answer is to change the nominee and do what president clinton and president obama did before they nominated people, consult the other party so there would be some semblance of bipartisanship. the majority's trying to make this a binary choice, confirm
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gorsuch or change the rules. not so. just not so. the idea that if judge gorsuch can't get 60, we must immediately move to change the rules is a false narrative. if the majority chooses to go that route, they do so at their own volition. no one is forcing them to do so, except maybe the heritage foundation and groups like the federalist society. now, one thing i want to say on the wall, i talked about the wall yesterday. i'm not going to ee elaborate, t i'd just like to add to the record a quote on the wall from none other than the secretary of interior, former republican congressman, mr. zinke from montana. here's what he said. this is his quote on the wall, and i hope my colleagues will listen. the border is complicated, he said, as far as building a physical wall. the rio grande. what side of the river are you
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going to put the wall on? we're not going to put it on our side and cede the river to mexico, and we're probably not going to put it in the middle of the river. finally, mr. president, on the affordable care act. today 44 democrats are sending a letter to the president that puts onto paper our official offer to work with him to improve the existing law. last friday, in the wake of trumpcare's defeat in the house, i was deeply concerned to hear the president say that he wants obamacare to explode. the president and his h.h.s. secretary, tom price, have significant latitude to either improve the law or undermine it. so far, the president has undermined the law. these are all before the vote. he discontinued the advertising campaigns to get people to sign up for coverage and worked behind the scenes to give insurers flexibility to offer less generous care, and still
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the president's executive order directing agencies to help and repeal and replace the a.c.a. is hanging out there after the defeat or lack of a vote in the house, causing instability in the market and giving federal agencies the permission to undermine the law. that should be rescinded. and what our letter says today is simple. if the president drops these efforts to undermine the law, we democrats stand ready to sit down with him and with our republican friends across the aisle in good faith to discuss a bipartisan approach to improving our health care system. it's time to work together to make health care even more affordable but not to encourage or route for the failure of the law that would have devastating consequences for millions of americans. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
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mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i have been very interested in the minority leader's comments here this morning. i have high regard for him. we have worked together on a wide variety of issues, but i have to say that he's leading a party right now that is doing completely the opposite of what democrats have done in the past when republicans have had the presidency and have had the privilege of appointing people to the court. and, frankly, it's become kind of a war that we really don't need and something that literally i think is demeaning to the senate and to this -- and to this country. i venture to say that it would be very difficult for anybody to find a better nominee for the supreme court than neil gorsuch. and i can't say that the heritage foundation was the run
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that carried the weight with regard to the choice of neil gorsuch. now, the federalist society did weigh in rather heavily, and there were -- there were around 21 absolutely top judges and lawyers who were on that list. i venture to say anybody would have a very difficult time finding anything to criticize about that list other than on a partisan basis. unfortunately for the democrats, they lost the election. now, keep in mind, all the majority leader, current majority leader was saying is that we just weren't going to go with a supreme court justice during an intensely hard-fought presidential election year. and in this century, that has been the rule. now, the majority leader,
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senator mcconnell, knew that it was very likely in the eyes of almost every pollster that hillary clinton would win. that although he and i believed that that nominee was a good, reasonable moderate democrat, we were quite sure that if hillary got elected, she would not pick him. we were even working on trying to find a way so she would have to pick him rather than pick another totally left-wing person for the court. unfortunately for the democrats, donald trump proved to be a formidable candidate for president and won the election. and interestingly enough, as is his right as president,
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nominated neil gorsuch for the united states supreme court. now, i would venture to say that it would be very difficult to find any candidate for the supreme court in this century any better than neil gorsuch, whether you're a democrat or a republican. gorsuch is going to apply the law as written. how does he conjure up his ideas of what it should be. he's not going to do that. he's going to apply the law as written. and he did that as a circuit court of appeals judge on the tenth circuit, my circuit. you would be hard pressed to find a better qualified person -- in fact, i don't think you can find a better qualified person for the supreme court than neil gorsuch. so what's all the whining about? they lost the election. they knew this was going to be a
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big deal if they won, and the republicans would pretty well have to go along with whatever they -- whoever they chose. but president trump won the election, and he has a right to pick who should go on the supreme court, and in this case pick the most qualified person, i think, in the country for the court. yes, he's conservative. yes, he came up the hard way. yes, he -- he -- he is not likely to be a liberal on the court. but i have to say anybody that this president would choose would not be likely to be a liberal on the court. in this case, the president shows one of the leading people in this country, one of the greatest lawyers in this
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country, one of the finest judges in this country who has a record of working with democrats on the bench. to become his choice for the united states supreme court. i know what's wrong with the democrats on this. they lost. and it's a hard thing for them, and i don't blame them. it is a hard thing because they were so sure that they would control this nominee to the supreme court and probably two to five more if hillary clinton had been elected for two terms. that isn't the way the american people chose to vote. i have to say i commend the american people for realizing that these things are really important. and i have to say in that last election, probably the single most important issue if that
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election that drove it towards donald trump was who's going to pick the justices to the united states supreme court? now, republicans know and president trump knows that he's not going to be able to put ideologues on the court, and neil gorsuch is anything but an ideologue. he's as fine a judge as we have in this country, albeit conservative in nature. he has as fine an academic background as anybody on the court ever. and he's a terrific human being on top of all that, a good husband, father, a terrific judge on the tenth circuit court of appeals. to be honest with you, i thought it was really nice to have somebody picked from the west. it might bring a western perspective of freedom into the
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judicial system. and i have no doubt that neil gorsuch will do that. now, to make this a big political issue it seems to me is beyond the pale, and it does bother me a great deal. mr. president, on another matter, by any measure, our efforts in this congress to repeal farmful regulations through the congressional review act has been historic. prior to this year, only one c.r.a. resolution, congressional review act resolution had ever been passed by congress and signed by the president. we are an overregulated country like never before. this year, we have already successfully rolled back 11
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regulations that were proposed and finalized under the previous administration. that's truly -- that's truly remarkable, mr. president. i think this can be attributed to a few factors. first, in the last year the obama administration was particularly aggressive in its regulatory efforts. a number of regulations were finalized after the election right up until the day president trump was inaugurated. in fact, the regulation at issue today was finalized on january 19, the day before the inauguration. in other words, the obama administration left congress and the new administration with a target-rich environment for c.r.a. resolutions. there's no doubt what they were doing. they were scrambling to get as
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many changes as they could instead of allowing the new administration to take over. another important factor has been the realization by the american people that our economy, our workers, our businesses are grossly overregulated. the regulatory state extracts hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy, much of it needlessly so. these c.r.a. resolutions are part of a much broader effort to undo some of that damage. today i am pleased to express my support for s.j. res. 67, which will likely be the 12th c.r.a. resolution passed this year. this resolution, once passed and signed will roll back a labor of department regulation that
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eliminated long-standing retirement savings for private sector workers. specifically, the regulation builds -- builds off of a prior regulation that gave states, quote, a safe harbor, unquote, from the protections that workers had under aeriesa -- arisa if employers do -- have not set one up or join the government plan. these government-run plans do not have to be portable or permit workers to withdraw their savings at any time. the resolution we are debating would roll back the regulation that provided this authority to municipalities, such as new york city. hopefully, sometime soon, the senate will pass the original c.r.a. resolution with the one
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that covered states like california and illinois. it will encourage states and municipal governments to impose burdensome mandates on private sector businesses and to bar private workers access to their retirement accounts. it would allow -- they ignored provisions in federal pension laws that required prudent investment pension practices and that ban kickbacks and self-dealing. think about that. to be blunt, places like new york city shouldn't just get a pass on investing potentially billions of dollars in private worker retirement assets without regard to federal rules regulating prudent investment practices, rules designed to protect retirement nest eggs of hard-working americans. now, don't get me wrong, mr. president, i am all for increasing coverage for
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employees in work-place retirement programs. in fact, it's something i have been working on for some time with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. last congress, the senate finance committee, which i chair, innocencely approved the retirement enhancement and savings act of 2016, a bipartisan bill that will increase voluntary retirement savings. it includes a number of provisions are from a bill introduced a few years before that, one that received high marks from analysts and stakeholders in the retirement security community. my bill, and others like it, provide workable, voluntary solutions to give -- to get more workers access to retirement plans. this approach is far better than the one taken by the obama administration and former labor secretary tom perez, which would purposefully take us down the path toward government mandated
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and government-run retirement plans. the retirement savings system that has been in place for decades now is one of the clearest examples we have to demonstrate the sprty of -- superty, private retirement savings vehicles, including 401(k)'s have produced nearly $14 trillion -- that's trillion dollars -- in wealth and savings for the middle class. i know some have concerns about the federalism implications in rolling back these d.o.l., department of labor regulations. however, let's be clear, prior to the implementation of these regulations, states were free to pass laws to encourage
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opportunities for private sector workers and they will be free to do so after this c.r.a. resolution is signed by president trump. they'll simply have to observe long-standing rules and protections that have been in place under federal pension laws, including the ban on self-dealing and the duty to invest prudently and they won't be able to offer plans on an uneven playing feel with those based on government retirement plans versus the free private sector. i have to wonder why they have to do away with this and why they think they can produce better results from the private retirement savings system which has been, thus far, an unqualified success, benefiting workers and employers alike. i have to wonder how some of my colleagues who value consumer
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protection as i do, would want to see continuation of rules that erode protections and workers and future retirees. the first step to undoing these harmful regulations is the passage of h.j. res. 67, and toward that end, i urge all of my colleagues to vote in favor of this resolution. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, let me say while he's on the floor, that i express my admiration once again for the distinguished senator from utah, my good
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friend, and in many ways a mentor and chairman of the senate finance committee. i'm privileged to be a member of that committee and work with him and, of course, on the judiciary committee as welling. but -- as well. but thank you, in particular, senator, for your leadership on this resolution of disapproval and i support your position one you00 -- 100%. mr. president, as we all know now, this chamber will consider the nomination of neil gorsuch to serve as the next justice on the united states supreme court. yesterday i talked a little bit about his qualifications, his background and his temperament. and as the nation saw back during the 20 hours of hearings that we had before the judiciary committee, i think people saw the real neil gorsuch, somebody who, again, by virtue of his qualifications, his education, his training, and his
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temperament and experience is extremely qualified to serve on the supreme court. he did pass every single test with flying colors, even as my colleagues and some activist groups have done their ways to object to what may be the one of the best qualified for our nation's court in history. one argument we've heard from the opponents of the nominee in three days of grueling hearings was that he failed to convey his approach to judging, how he would approach the job. but i want to point out that that is simply not the case. judge gorsuch made clear that the text of the statute, the text of the constitution, the text of a precedent would guide his judging and would be the place where he starts in
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deciding any case. as he has repeatedly written and stated publicly, the job of a good judge is to understand what the law means and interpret what lawmakers have done. i know some of our colleagues and some of the activist groups who were critical of judge gorsuch are upset that he doesn't believe in a living constitution. in other words, that the constitution as written and ratified by the states does not mean what it says, but judges have a license to interpret the words in a way to pursue some other purpose, some other agenda, political or personal or the like. judge gorsuch rejects that approach and rightly so. indeed, how could a judge claim to bear allegiance to the constitution if he doesn't actually start in interpreting the constitution by reading the text of the words? what would a judge decide on if not the text and the original
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meaning? well, to that effect, i received a letter from a friend of mine and an expert in this area, brian garner last week. brian is a well known writer and lawyer and is a distinguished research professor of law at southern methodist university in dallas, texas. brian's written extensively on judging and appellate advocacy and the law generally. he was in attendance at the hearings last week, and as i said, he's written a number of books, including with judge gorsuch on judicial precedent and with justice scalia on reading law. but in a recent letter, brian echoed the same point made by both of these men at different times, that adherence to the text is essential to our system of government. he said the very fact of having a written constitution meant
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that we had fixed its meaning in permanent form. that seems so obvious, but apparently it's not obvious to some of the critics. he said the very fact of having a written constitution meant that we had fixed its meaning in permanent form. in other words, our constitution is not meant to float on the whims of judges over times bound only by precedent. it's actually written down so that even judges have to start with the very text. and if you think about it, the independence that we've given the judiciary -- lifetime tenure -- they don't have to stand for election. they're not accountable to the voters or the people. the reason why the founders created such an important role for the judiciary is because they believed there ought to be an umpire. they call balls and strikes. when congress passed laws or when lawsuits were filed, they
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could determine the fidelity of those laws to the text of the constitution that had a fixed meaning. well, sometimes this is called originalism, but it's not a political doctrine or an excuse to get certain outcomes. mr. garner makes the point that although his personal politics differ dramatically from those of justice scalia, those personal politics are irrelevant because the job of a judge is to apply a fair reading of the law. and if you can't do that, then maybe you ought to run for the senate or congress, get involved in politics rather than judging, because a failure to apply the law as fairly read is essential in any good judge. because judges aren't given
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lifetime tenure, the sort of independence that nobody else in our government is given, just to enact their own visions of policy. judge gorsuch affirmed time and time again that he won't do that. that he will only interpret the law as he has throughout his career as an independent judge with faithfulness and fidelity to the text and the original understanding of the constitution. mr. president, the letter i've been quoting in part is here in my hand, and i'd ask unanimous consent that following my remarks that it be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: now i know there's some on the other side of the aisle that have indicated that adherence to an originalism is a liability or claim that it is somehow a radical doctrine out of the mainstream. but that's just a scare tactic. it's completely wrong. let me remind my colleagues that during her confirmation
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hearings, now-justice elena kagan told the same committee, we are all originalists. hardly a radical position if justice kagan and judge gorsuch agree with originalism. it's certainly not a methodology of interpreting law that should stir any concern. yesterday some of our democratic colleagues continued to reinforce my view that they don't really have any legitimate objection and reason to filibuster judge neil gorsuch. this is about judge gorsuch. this is not about president trump. this is not about merrick garland. this is not about anything else. we will have a chance to vote on the nomination of judge neil gorsuch for the united states supreme court. that is the question that will be presented to the senate for an up-or-down vote. and any fair-minded person would have to conclude that he is an
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independent legal mind and that he won't legislate from the bench. he has the intelligence, experience, and character to be a good judge, as he has been for ten years on the tenth circuit court of appeals out of denver. and he has an unflinching commitment to upholding a faithful interpretation of the constitution and our laws. so i look forward to confirming him next week. the question for our democratic friends is whether or not they're going to launch the very first partisan filibuster of a supreme court nominee in the history of the united states. it really is unprecedented what the democratic leader, senator schumer, has suggested that for the first time in the history of the united states senate, a partisan filibuster will be used to attempt to defeat the nomination of a supreme court justice and to deny the senate the opportunity to have an up-or-down vote. now just to be clear, there are
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two votes here i'm talking about. one is the so-called cloture vote, where we close off debate. that takes 60 votes. and then once that passes, then it's clearly a majority vote, and 51 votes will carry the day. but what the democratic leader has suggested that they -- he wd deny the senate the opportunity to get to that second up-or-down vote. and that's simply unprecedented. and it's unprecedented for a very good reason. because in order to believe that 60 votes would be required to confirm a nominee to the united states supreme court would be to suggest that the founding fathers, when the constitution was written and when it was ralphed somehow believed -- when it was ratified somehow believe that the senate rules were incorporated in the constitution, when that's clearly not the case.
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clearly not the case. the constitution is a separate document. the senate rules are a different thing. but again, never have they been conflated to suggest that somehow in order to confirm a nominee to the supreme court, that you need 60 votes. i understand the pressure that our friend, the democratic leader, is under, because after this last election, he's now had to straddle two competing camps within the democratic party. traditional democrats versus the democrats led by the wing of bernie sanders and elizabeth warren. and i understand the pressures that he must feel and the reason why he would do something that is unprecedented and suggest that we filibuster this nomination. well, we already know that some members of his conference have
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said they will agree to an up-or-down vote. our friend from west virginia, senator manchin, has said he opposes the filibuster. senator leahy, the former chairman of the senate judiciary committee, has said he's not inclined to go along with it either. senator cardin, our colleague and friend from maryland, has stopped short of agreeing with the minority leader's strategy. and senator heitkamp from north dakota has said that she believes the nominee deserves an up-or-down vote. if the democratic leader follows through, as i said, it would be unprecedented. never before has there been a successful partisan filibuster of a supreme court nominee. i would just say to our friends across the aisle, time and time again democrats have accelerated the arms race on judges, and
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every single time it's come back to bite them. we remember 2013 when senator harry reid, then the majority leader, broke the senate rules in order to change the rules in order to lower the threshold for circuit court and district court nominations. he did that because of the desire to pack the district of columbia court of appeals, because that was the court that had primary jurisdiction over cases coming out of the obama white house, its regulations and the like. and in order to get a court that would be more likely to rubber stamp and approve of obama policies, senator reid felt it was imperative to pack the d.c. circuit court of appeals, which unfortunately, he was able to do with the vote of the democrats across the other side of the aisle, to break the senate rules to change the rules for the purpose solely of
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rubber-stamping obama administration policies. the question before the senate this time is very different. those who would break precedent are those who would filibuster a supreme court nominee like judge gorsuch because it's never been done before. but i would ask our democratic colleagues, if judge gorsuch is not acceptable to them, is there ever going to be a nominee from a donald trump that you would find -- from a trump administration that you would find acceptable? they tried to find fault with judge gorsuch, and they have simply been unable to do so, and so they keep moving the goal post and raising different issues because they, frankly, are desperate to find some reason to justify this unprecedented filibuster. but if they do, if democrats block judge gorsuch from receiving an up-or-down vote, then there's simply no
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republican nominee to the united states supreme court that they won't filibuster. if judge gorsuch isn't good enough, i dare say there will never be another nominee that's good enough to allow an up-or-down vote if this unprecedented filibuster is allowed to stand. so i hope our colleagues will reconsider, mr. president, and that on cooler reflection, that not driven by the radical elements in their own party, but rather by their good judgment and their sense of responsibility not only to their constituents but to the constitution itself and to the important role that the senate plays in the advice and consent function to a nominee to the united states supreme court. so i hope they reconsider, and i hope when the roll call vote is held, that our colleagues will provide the 60 votes we need to get cloture so we can
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have that up-or-down vote on judge gorsuch's nomination. mr. president, i see our friend from west virginia and others here, so i yield the floor. mr. manchin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: mr. president, we have come through a crisis in our country. my state of west virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. west virginia reported 818 overdose drug deaths last year. four times the number that occur, four times the number that occurred in 2001 and a nearly 13% increase over 2015. we lost more than 700 west virginians dying from an opiate overdose last year. 42,000 people in west virginia, including 4,000 youths sought treatment for illegal drug use but failed to receive it because of a lack of treatment centers that we have been trying to correct. in west virginia, drug overdose deaths have soared by more than
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700% since 1999. west virginia had the highest rate of prescription drug overdose deaths of any state last year, 31 per 100,000 people. and west virginia providers wrote 138, 138 million pain killer prescriptions for every 100 people. think about this, mr. president. the doctors are prescribeing, manufacturers are producing and they have written 138 pain killer prescriptions for every 100 people in my state. the highest rate in the country. and i'm hoping arkansas is not facing the same dilemma that we are. every day in our country, 91 americans die from an opioid overdose. opiates now kill more people than car accidents. in 2015, the number of heroin deaths nationwide surpassed the number of deaths from gun homicides. since 1999, we have lost almost
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200,000 americans to prescription drug opiate abuse. 2.1 million americans abuse or are dependent on opiates. according to the c.d.c., three out of four new heroin users abuse prescription opiates before moving to heroin. heroin use has more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25 in the past decade. 45% of the people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opiate pain killers. between 2009-2013, only 22% of americans suffering from opiate addiction participated in any form of addiction treatment. misuse and abuse of opiates cost the country an estimated $78.5 billion in 2013 in lost productivity, medical costs and criminal justice costs. mr. president, every week i come to the senate floor to read letters from west virginians and those struggling all throughout
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our country with opiate abuse. the reason i do this is because it's a silent killer. we don't talk about it. there is not one of us in the senate, not one of us in congress, not one of us in any gathering that doesn't know somebody in our immediate family, extended family or close friend that hasn't been affected. but oh, we would never talk about it because it was so embarrassing. how did it ever break down in our family. whether you had a model family or you thought you did, this is a killer. whether you're a democrat or republican, whether you think you're conservative or liberal, this is a killer. it doesn't -- it has no discretion. it has no partisan base that goes out to one or the other. so this is what we're dealing with. the letters i read have a common theme. they will mention how hard it is to get themselves, their loved ones into treatment. sometimes it takes months and sometimes it never happens. this problem stems from our lack of a system to help those who are looking for help. we need permanent funding to create expanded substance abuse treatment facilities to help
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people get clean and stay clean. i know you've heard me say this before, but that's why i introduced the lifeboat act. lifeboat basically puts one penny per milligram of opiates, basically one penny for every milligram of opiates produced in america, consumed in america into a fund that pays for treatment centers. in your beautiful state of alaska, my state of west virginia, people need treatment. this is an illness. i used to look at it 20 years ago as it was basically a criminal act. and you know what? we put them in jail. guess what? they came out of jail just as addicted as they went in. nothing changed. so i'm willing to change. i have always said this. if you can't change your mind, you can't change anything. this is an illness that needs treatment and we're responsible for that. the lifeboat would establish a steady sustainable funding stream to provide expanded access to substance abuse treatment. let me just say, i'm going to read a letter from parents in west virginia who lost their son to drug abuse. this is my letter.
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this is renee and chris' letter that they want me to read. this fine-looking young man, he was a father, and this is such a tragic ending to this story. i'm writing to you. it says dear senator manchin, i am writing to you in hope of bringing to light the devastating effects of heroin addiction. overdose deaths and the difficulty in finding treatment for those afflicted with the disease in their families. on november 12, 2015, we lost our 23-year-old son nick who died from what we thought at the time was a heroin overdose. when nick's autopsy report came back, we discovered that his body contained no trace of heroin in his system. he had died of a fatal dose of straight fentanyl. straight dose of fentanyl. nick was a quiet, kind and inquisitive child. he learned to speak and read at an early age and spent much of his time absorbing books and riding his bike and scooter. he also loved playing in the
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woods and dreaming of adventures with his sisters and neighborhood friends. he was a protective big brother and he had a natural way of connecting with kids who were different in making them feel accepted. nick was always tall for his age. he came into this world on july 5, 1993, weighing at ten pounds and topped off at 6'8". he loved sports and excelled in basketball and soccer. he even met you when you were governor manchin after his basketball team traveled to charleston. to celebrate their class a basketball tournament championship in 2011. after high school, he went on to play basketball for the college pioneers. nick wasn't able to keep his grades up and had to drop out of glennville and dropped out of school. shortly after that he met a girl. they instantly connected. he soon became a father to her daughter. after several years together,
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they had a son of their own. after having difficulty holding down jobs and providing for his family, nick came to me in november of 2015 and he told me that he was addicted to opiate prescription drugs. we had suspected drug use for quite some time but didn't realize the extent of it. he said that he could no longer live the life he was leading and needed help. nick and his girlfriend had started using opiate-based prescription drugs after she was prescribed them for her recovery from the birth of her daughter in 2013. at first, they would make trips to the doctor or quick care with fake ailments in order to get their prescriptions. if they couldn't get prescriptions, then they bought from drug dealers. the pills were easy to get up until the time he came to me for help. he told my husband about nick's drug problem and not knowing what to do. we turned to the internet as a source of information. we found a lot of information in many treatment centers across the country. i began calling a few of the
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ones that looked reputable, but in each case, they required $3,000 to $5,000 up front for a 28 to 30-day treatment. 28 to 30-day treatment does not work, does not cure hardly anybody. the question now was were these treatment centers as good as they appear to be on their websites or were they simply out to make a profit and marketing those centers to bring in more patients? while we researched and tried to make a decision, nick not wanting to be away from his family went through detox at home and had convinced him and us that he could do this on his own. nick made it through his first round of self-detox but started using again for a short while at the end of january. we confronted him and he immediately started his second round of self-detox. he again swore that he could do this himself and was finished with the life he was leading. we were still trying to figure out what to do with him and what would happen to his family while
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he was gone. we didn't know that his girlfriend was also using and detoxing along with nick. after speaking to several people at a local treatment center and trying to arrange for him to be admitted, we were told that they wouldn't take him because our insurance. my next course of action was to call local counseling centers that offered addiction counseling, hoping that they would be able to offer advice. each one i called politely told me that they really couldn't help me. nick's addiction and our focus on him was taking away from our being able to celebrate and focus on our other children. nick's two sisters. we decided to put nick on the back burner while we prepared for our daughter's graduation party and the school events that preceded it, thinking that a few weeks wouldn't hurt. boy were we ever wrong. one of our daughters had learned that nick could get treatment if we pressed charges against him for theft. this is the sad scenario,
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mr. president. when a family has to hope that their child gets arrested and gets a conviction record so they can go to a drug court to get treatment. thafs the only help they have. he would be charged then court ordered to be sent to an addiction treatment center. she felt that this was the best course of action to get nick the help he needed, but chris and i were hesitant because of the negative impact a felony charge would have on nick's life if the charges weren't expunged after completing his treatment, which is our, what we call, fresh start or last chance bill, which you have been so graciously looking at and hopefully you will be a part of this. there has got to be a pathway forward. it's a shame they fall into this. our decision not to go this route caused even more anger since they knew that hindsight being 20-20 was the only way to get nick help. little about we know nick and his girlfriend had decided to celebrate their being clean by using heroin just this once as a
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reward for staying clean. they were rewarding themselves to using heroin because they had celebrated being clean. now, you understand that's not proper thinking. that's not rational common sense. in the past, the two had snorted heroin but never injected it. when they went to buy from their dealer, he told them that since they didn't have much money and there were two of them, they could get a better high with less heroin if they injected it, and that was the beginning of a rapid decline. on june 2, 2016, nick had his first overdose. without our knowledge, his girlfriend had taken nick, along with the children, to the emergency room where he was treated and released within a few hours. unbeknownst to us, this initiated a call to c.p.s. that would result in her daughter's father taking custody of her and c.p.s.'s involvement for nick and his girlfriend and their son. at the hospital, nick and his girlfriend talked with a doctor out of pittsburgh about a
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program they agreed to try. i traveled with nick, his girlfriend and her mother for the first visit in pittsburgh. they had a high success rate and it was decided that once a treatment was established, the two would go to pittsburgh once a month for drug testing, counseling and their saboxin prescriptions. the clinic would line up additional support services in parkersburg close by. we were very impressed with the clinic. their staff and the program which only took on 100 patients at a time. chris came to the next meeting two weeks later to speak with the counselors and was now more comfortable with the treatment plan. unfortunately, when the counselors tried to set up local support services, they were shocked to find a small number of places that treated addiction and the fact that the ones that were here would not provide services for patients who were not in their program. the decision was made to increase their sessions to twice a month and eventually once a week when it became apparent through consistent dirty screens that the two were struggling
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with the program and still using. in august, his girlfriend suffered an overdose. the pittsburgh clinic called shortly after that and said they were releasing the two from the program, letting us know that they needed a more intense treatment plan than they could provide. i called the c.p.s. caseworker and addiction counselor that were assigned to watch over the children and monitor the two after nick's overdose in june. we all met at the house and determined the next course of action. after numerous phone calls, we were able to find an open bed in las vegas, nevada, for nick while his girlfriend would decide the following week to go to a treatment center in fairmont, west virginia. in less than a week, nick was on a plane to vegas, eager to begin a new, clean life. he was upbeat and positive. before he left, he was excited by the prospect of finally having, finally leaving behind the life of addiction that he had been living for so long. during his phone calls home, he had positive things to say about the treatment. he was staying in nice homes that were part of the treatment
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center. along with their daily treatment schedule, they were taken on hikes and went go-cart racing. he even had a manicure at the facility's salon. the purpose of these activities was to teach the patients natural ways of experiencing highs. another high of life. nick's release date was scheduled on october 3. there were longer term treatment plans offered at the facility, but nick missed his son and worried about his girlfriend and wanted to come home. the treatment center had set up group sessions for him three times a week for a period of about six weeks. nick came home on a beautiful, sunny day. i waited at home for him with his son. you need to see a picture of the son. i wish we had it, a beautiful little boy, who had been staying with me and his other grandmother. when i saw nick for the first time, he looked beautiful. he looked and acted like the nick that we had known before addiction. he told us about his stay in vegas and was literally shining with hope. he told me, mom, i will never go back to that life, and i believed it was possible.
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that hope began to fade pretty quickly. nick had started working about six weeks before he left for rehab. it had taken him a long time to get that job, and he enjoyed it and felt that he could actually provide for his family if he could work his way up. after rehab he wasn't able to secure a job. nick was going to his scheduled group sessions and nightly a.a. meetings. he was so proud when he received his 60 days clean chip at the a.a. meeting. he and i spent part of the afternoon together. he wanted to look for a job. i had some errands to run. when i finished, i picked him up and took him to sam's club to show him cute toys for his son for christmas. we picked out a racetrack and i showed him some other things i bought for my grandson.
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i mentioned chris might get his son a basketball hoop and he told me, no, mom, i want to buy that with my own money. he had plans to meet with some of his high school friends who were in for the weekend. he left my house around 8:00 and i heard him return around 12:35. all of his friends said he had a good night. he was happy and smiling. there was nothing to indicate anything was wrong. shortly after i heard nick come home, my grandson's crying woke me up and i went to change him. i noticed the light on in his bedroom. it was around 1:45 a.m. and nick was lying on the bathroom floor with no pulse and not breathing. i called 911 and administered c.p.r. they worked on him and took him out to the ambulance.
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i assumed they stabilized him enough to transport him and waited for our in-laws to arrive to watch our grandson. when chris and i were called back to the emergency room, we did not expect to hear nick passed away. we didn't expect to have to call our daughters to tem them that -- them that their brother was dead or that we would have to sit with him, so cold, while we waited for our daughters to arrive from morgan town. we didn't expect that in less than two days we would be picking out a coffin and cemetery plot for our son. we expected to send him back to treatment in the hope that the next round would be successful. we expected another chance, and what we have now is the knowledge that we failed our son in worst way possible. s is -- sincely renee and chris
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fischer. we have a picture of dick, this wonderful young man lying in a casket and his little boy tip toeing to peek in. if this doesn't help us to look at this illness and start to intervene, we have to start from birth all the way, educating children, it's destroying families, economies, and communities across the country. it is something that i hope we can all fight. to lose a young man -- this was a terrific young man -- to drugs is uncalled for. i thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, i rise today in support of the nomination of judge neil gorsuch
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of the supreme court of the united states. last week the judiciary committee heard testimony from the judge. after listening to the judge's flawless testimony and after lang to him answer questions from my colleagues for days on end, i am even more convinced than ever that he is exactly the kind of jurist we need on the supreme court of the united states. i want to briefly explain my support for the judge and then respond to some of the criticisms that have been leveled against him. first and foremost, judge gorsuch understands the proper and necessarily limited role of the judiciary in our constitutional republic. last week over and over again judge gorsuch affirmed, even against great criticism, criticism that at times can be difficult to understand in its entirety, but responded time and time again to criticisms by
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pointing out that it's his judge as a judge to interpret and apply the law and not to make it, not to establish policy, but to apply that policy which has been placed into law by the legislative branch. when you're reading law, the text matters. our law consists of words and each word matters. if the law leads to an uncomfortable outcome for the parties, for politicians, or for anyone else in our society, then it's our job as a congress -- or if it is a state law at issue, it is the job of state legislator -- to get the policy right, to fix the policy problem at issue. the judge's job is to go where the law leads the judge, not to correct the law. over and over again judge gorsuch affirmed the importance of precedent in our system. it's clearly a topic that he
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takes very seriously, having coauthored a treaty on that subject. while precedent isn't always abc liewt in so far -- abc absolute that you have a -- absolute. he described precedent as the angelinaor of the law -- as the anchor of the law. over and over judge gorsuch explained that judges are not partisans in robes. no, they are different. they are different from politicians. they are meaningfully different from the politicians that make the laws or the politicians in the executive branch who enforce and execute the laws. they are unfailingly independent when they are doing their jobs right. they are devoted to the rule of law and they do their best to decide cases on the basis of the law and the facts rather than on
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the basis of achieving whatever outcome they or others might desire. now, some of my colleagues' view of judge gorsuch's record is different and i want to address some of their concerns. first, some of my colleagues have questioned the independence of judge gorsuch, his ability to exercise judicial independence. this is a very serious accusation. in fact, it's probably one of the worst things you can say about a judge. so my colleagues who have raised this criticism would need to back that up against something. if you're going to raise a really serious accusation against someone, as you are when you're calling into question a judge's independence, you've got to be able to back it up. let's look at that. can they back it up? i don't think so. in fact, i'm quite certain they can't because they haven't. the argument boils down to the
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complaint that judge gorsuch hasn't sufficiently criticized president trump's comments about judges. here's what judge gorsuch said about this topic last week and he said -- this in response to questions raised by senator blumenthal in the judiciary committee. he said, quote, senator, i care deeply about the independence of the judiciary. i cannot talk about the specific cases or controversies that might come before me and i cannot get involved in politics. judge gorsuch continued, but, senator, when you attack the integrity, honesty, or motives, i know the men and women of the federal judiciary, a lot of them, i know how hard their job is, how much they give up to do it, the difficult circumstances in which to do it. it's a lonely job too. i'm not asking for crocodile tears. i'm saying i know these people and how decent they are.
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when anybody questions the motives of a judge, i find that disheartening and demoralizing because i know the truth. senator blumenthal asked when he said anyone, would that apply to the president of the united states? judge gorsuch replied simply, anyone is anyone. it's true that judge gorsuch didn't use the magic words, i disagree with president trump, but he can't get involved in politics. he said here what he can say. in fact, he said all he can say in this context. moreover, here are some additional parts of judge gorsuch's testimony which shed light on this issue. from tuesday, quote, i have no difficulty ruling against or for any party other than based on what the law and the facts in the particular case require, and i'm heartened by the support i've received by people who recognize that there is no such thing as a republican judge or democratic judge. we just have judges in this
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country. close quote. from wednesday he said, quote, i do not see republican judges and i do not see democrat judges. i see judges. close quote. so i think any fair-minded person looking at this would have to agree that judge gorsuch's feelings about judicial independence in cases before the federal judiciary are very clear and to my colleagues who might see the issue differently, i would ask simply, what should judge gorsuch have said without getting involved in politics, without miring himself in a debate that is within the political branches of government and in the interpretive arena. second, some of my colleagues allege that judge gorsuch is somehow out of the mainstream. but consider these facts: judge gorsuch has decided roughly 2,70
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okayses. his -- 2,70 okayses. his decisions have been unanimous 97% of the time. he is an appellate judge on the tenltsdz circuit. a -- teth circuit. they sit in panels, normally in panels of 3 or sometimes a dozen or so. 97% of the time all of the judges with whom judge gorsuch sits with on any case agrees with any decision he reaches. he's in the majority 99% of the time. he's about as likely to dissent from a republican-appointed judge as a democrat-appointed judge. he has been reversed twice and in both cases, he was following circuit precedent. there is nothing wrong with a judge who dissents more than this. in many instances dissents are necessary, in many instances
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dissents are useful, even indispensable. there wouldn't be anything wrong with judge gorsuch if he dissented anymore. my point is of all the arguments you can make against judge gorsuch, this is not a fair characterization. to say that he is out of the mainstream simply runs geth mathematic -- against mathematics, it runs against the bold statistics. some of my colleagues respond that only a handful of cherry-picked cases matter. if you watched the hearing last week, you might recognize the names of some of these cases, they include transam trucking, hobby lobby, luke p. what i am revealing is that my colleagues never mounted much of a legal argument. you will not find quibbling with
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the statutory construction. they don't explain where it is that judge gorsuch somehow got it wrong, somehow departed from what the law actually says. no. they are looking at outcomes. they think judge gorsuch should have bent the law in order to go where they think the law should go. they want judges who have the right approach in mind, the right outcome in mind to decide the case according to what outcome they desire. i simply, flatly disagree with this view of judges. it is a view, frankly, that is way out of the mainstream in american law. to say it's out of the mainstream in american law, i don't mean out of the republican mainstream or the conservative main tre stream -- mainstream, the mainstream among federalist society. i am talking about rank an file practitioners of law, jurists
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from every conceivable point from the political and ideological spectrum. this is not something that a judge would ever want to admit to doing, certainly never anything a judge would aspire to do, to choose an outcome and say i'm going to reach that outcome and i don't really care that the law doesn't really authorize me to do it, i'm going to do it because i think in some abstract sense that outcome would achieve a greater degree of fairness than what the law actually requires me to do. third, i'm distressed by a lot of the rhetoric we heard during the confirmation hearing last week, rhetoric that i expect to continue and even mount over the next ten days or so. one of my colleagues last week actually went so far as to describe the supreme court of the united states as a, quote, instrument of the republican
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party. other colleagues have complained about the so-called dark money campaign to support judge gorsuch's nomination, and still other colleagues complain that president trump or steve bannon or others are enthusiastic about judge gorsuch's nomination, as if someone who is supported by someone they don't like means that the person in question is not qualified. this is unfair to judge gorsuch. with the way that he interpreted the law. no one has attacked his interpretation to statute.
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they are quibbling with the outcome and the fact that they wish it had turned out differently on policy grounds that have everything to do with the policy making arms of the government and not with the jurist prudential arm of the government. even worse, these types of statements are damaging to our judiciary. if you don't like a judicial decision, engage in the decision on its own terms. engage in a discussion of how that decision turned out wrong -- where it is that it departed from what the law requires. make a legal argument, in other words. the courts announced reasons for their decisions. there's plenty of material to dig into. don't impugn the judge's motives or independence, this is especially hard when you impugn the judge's motives without getting into what the judge did or what the law says.
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don't accuse the supreme court of functioning as an instrument of the republican party. in fact, you might as well call someone a so-called judge in a case where you disagree with the outcome. in fact, calling someone a so-called judge is probably no worse than calling the supreme court of the united states an instrument of the republican party. finally, i want to talk about the filibuster. the minority leader has urged his colleagues to filibuster. the minority whip has announced he will filibuster. only two democrats have said they will vote yes on cloture so here we are. i'd ask my colleagues if neil gorsuch can't get 60 votes for cloture which republican nominee can? some have argued if a nominee can't get 60 votes, the
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president should find a new nominee. i asked my colleagues was that the standard of several:president obama's nominees to the u.s. court of appeals to the d.c. circuit? it was. under rule 22, that was the standard. that was the standard until november of 2013, the democrats in the senate went nuclear. and they created new precedent. taking that threshold down from 60 by precedent to 51. this is the result they achieved. their analysis in its entirety went in this direction. their analysis nuked the executive filibuster. it nuked the filibuster on the executive calendar. interestingly, although some were insisting at the time and went down to the floor to explain at the time, they didn't
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intend for this to extend to supreme court nominees. when everyone thought hillary clinton would be president, harry reid admitted that the democrats would extend this same precedent for which the democrats had nuked the executive filibuster to supreme court nominees. so, look, i work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle on a great number of important issues. issues that are very important to me, issues like criminal justice reform, reform of the foreign intelligence surveillance act, reform of the electronic communications privacy act of 1986 which is badly in need of reform in a number of other -- and a number of other issues, many of which involve privacy protections. these are a+ legislative priorities for me. nothing else is more important, and i stand ready to reform the
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law whenever i see the need to do so. and will continue to work with any democratic colleagues. but i want to be clear that as we approach this discussion, unilateral disarmament doesn't work. i hope the democrats reverse course and do not filibuster this nominee. if they do, i'm confident judge gorsuch will be confirmed. thank you. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that senator white house speak after me followed by senator cotton if he is on the floor. the presidin the presiding officer: without objection. ms. hirono: mr. president, i rise in opposition to both of the congressional review act c.r.a. resolutions relating to retirement that will be considering -- that we'll be considering this week. these c.r.a. resolutions before
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us would kill federal regulations that give cities and states the opportunity to expand retirement options for individuals. our nation faces a retirement crisis. in hawaii about 50% of private sector workers have jobs that don't provide retirement benefits. according to a recent survey by aarp hawaii, 56% of working age people feel anxious about having enough money saved for retirement. for generations, americans relied on the three-legged stool of retirement: sz, private savings -- social security, private save, and a pension from their employer. those days are gone. more and more seniors are relying on social security for a bigger share of income in their old age. in hawaii the average monthly social security benefit is $12,408. given the cost of housing, medical insurance and other necessities in hawaii, that's not nearly enough. seniors should be able to count
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on us to keep social security strong. that is a bedrock position we should honor. given the retirement crisis, taking away tools that states and local governments can use to bolster retirement savings makes absolutely no sense and yet this is what we're about to do if we pass the c.r.a. resolutions. last week the hawaii state senate held a hearing on legislation that would establish a hawaii retirement savings working group. the proposed legislation would bring together public and private stakeholders to look at ways to improve retirement savings for workers. a number of stakeholder groups, retirees and other citizens testified on the bill. let me tell you one other -- one of their stories. his name is donald. he is a 61-year-old gay man who has lost three husbands to hiv-aids. donald has worked for 35 years and even set aside money for retirement using 401(k)'s.
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401(k)'s that he cashed out to help cover medical costs for his loved ones. he said, i quote, i did what i had to do out of love and devotion, especially which each of my guys' families took a step back in the face of adversity, end quote. donald now lives paycheck to paycheck in senior affordable housing. he plans to work until he's at least 65. personal tragedy isn't the only reason it's difficult for him to save. he wants to save, but he noted that and i quote him again, i am trying to muster some form of i.r.a. through local financial institutions to no avail. no one returns the calls, end quote. for too many working people, saving for retirement isn't automatic or easy. it seems out of reach, but we can't let that stand. though while my administration recognized that retirement -- the retirement crisis in our country and the need for new
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thinking to help people save. in fact, that's the point of the regulations the senate is poised to kill. these regulations simply provide a framework that states and cities can use to expand access to retirement savings. there are no big government mandates or industry takeovers. states and cities would simply have the opportunity to be creative and help families save for retirement. the fact republicans want to kill these rules has a certain alice in wonderland quality to it where up is down and down is up. for the last few weeks, republicans touted how trump care was giving states more flexibility to provide health care and while the reality was that for a state like hawaii and many others, trump care would have saddled them not with more flexibility but more costs. at that point states' rights was one of the selling points for that disastrous legislation.
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this week republicans have taken a u-turn. now they're trying to kill regulations that would actually give states more flexibility to provide retirement security. why we should take away this from states is beyond me. cynics would say republicans are doing this to help some private entities sell more retirement plans to people. however, the reality is that millions of families are not being served. killing these rules is the latest republican attack on working people. we should be fighting to give people like donald more hope and opportunity. voting against these regulations is a vote to help people like donald. i urge my colleagues to join me in opposing what i can only characterize as lousy antiworking people resolutions. i yield the floor. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous
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consent to speak as if in morning business for up to i guess 17 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, with the republican plan to defeat the affordable care act it self-defeated president trump wants to move beyond health care to focus on other priorities. one area that he has often highlighted is our nation's crumbling infrastructure, which is a priority that many of us share and something i'd like to discuss today. now, all of our kids, mr. president, i suspect, dread having to bring home a lousy report card. they'd be facing a serious talk. every four years the american society of civil engineers issues a report card for american infrastructure. our 2017 report card out just this month shows lousy marks across the board for american
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infrastructure. our ports and bridges got c pluses, flat d's for both drinking water infrastructure and roads. and our energy grid got a d plus of overall the united states took home a d plus grade point average, not pretty. and not an improvement over the scores that we got four years earlier. a report card is a progress report and our grades show we're not making progress. so it's time to get serious about the sorry state of america's road, bridges, ports, and pipes, which literally keep our economy moving. the civil engineers estimate that we need an additional $2 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next ten years to get our infrastructure back to a b grade level.
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the study also found that there's a cost for lousy infrastructure that we're set to lose nearly $4 trillion in g.d.p. and $7 trillion in lost business sales by 2025, which would result in two and a half million fewer jobs that year. our declining american infrastructure also faces growing demand. the bipartisan policy center estimates an additional 100 million more people will rely on our transportation system by mid century. the u.s. department of transportation says we can expect twice the level of freight traffic on our highways and roads by then. so our already worn down infrastructure is going to take an even heavier beating. we've got to be ready for this. we've got to make smart investments in the infrastructure backbone of american commerce. we should make those investments now and we should make them for the long term.
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i am hopeful transportation infrastructure has been a rare bipartisan bright spot in congress. after all, our red states and our blue states both have bridges that age and water mains that rupture. congress has tried many times to push large bipartisan infrastructure bills. in the 112th congress a bipartisan group led by senators kerry, graham and hutchison introduced the build act to create a national infrastructure bank that would have authorized up to $10 billion to underwrite transportation, water and energy projects. the partnership to build america act introduced in the 113th congress by senators bennet and blunt also proposed an american infrastructure fund. this time financed with a form of tax repatriation. in the 114th congress we were actually able to pass the first long-term transportation law in ten years.
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the fast act short for fixing america's surface transportation authorized more than $300 billion in transportation infrastructure investment over a five-year period. we also passed the water infrastructure improvements for the nation act to address drinking water emergencies and authorized a number of new army corps of engineers projects, including the removal of pilings and other marine debris from the providence river in rhode island. these bipartisan successes, however, barely put a dent in our nation's total infrastructure needs. out on the campaign trail, then-candidate donald trump spoke broadly of a trillion-dollar infrastructure push. i agree, we've got to make that investment in america's infrastructure, but we also need to make sure that we get real commitment from washington, not just private-public partnerships and nebulous tax cuts. to bring our roads and bridges into the 21st century, we need
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a far-reaching infrastructure program like president franklin roosevelt's works progress administration. the joint economic committee's democratic contingent put out a report analyzing the president's proposal to use investor tax credits to close our infrastructure graph. what they found -- using these tax credits alone would actually, and i quote here, cost nearly 55% more than traditional infrastructure financing. we can't let infrastructure turn into a special interest boondoggle. in the absence of any sort of executive plan or strategy, senate democrats led by minority leader schumer put forward our own blueprint to rebuild america's infrastructure. it would invest a trillion dollars in the nation's infrastructure as the president wished, creating over 15 million american jobs. the blueprint encompasses not just roads and bridges but parks and schools, hospitals and
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airports. it calls for investing $100 billion into small town communities that need revamped infrastructure. over $100 billion into aging water and sewer systems, $50 billion into our railways. over $100 billion in a public transportation and $30 billion into our essential port infrastructure. it would put billions towards modernizing our energy grid by connecting rural areas and driving investment in clean energy. it includes strong support for american workers, something that the president claims as a priority with buy-america provisions to promote american-made products and protections like davis-bacon to ensure that americans earn fair wages. for a coastal state like rhode island, which has to prepare for rising seas and increased storm surges from climate change, the blueprint includes $25 billion to improve coastal
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infrastructure and make coastal communities more resilient. this includes competitive critical infrastructure resiliency funding, a new resilient community's revolving loan fund and support for the national oceans and coastal security fund which i authored sometime ago to research, restore and reinforce our costs. our plan is big and ifs bold and it should garner the support of anyone who says they want to improve america's infrastructure and create jobs at home. this work is vitally important in my home state. the american society of civil engineers report card shines a light on rhode island's particular infrastructure woes. it shows we need $148 million in drinking water infrastructure needs, and nearly $2 billion in waste water infrastructure fixes over the next 20 years. we have $4.7 million of backlogged park system repairs and a $241 million gap in needed
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upgrades at schools. more than half of our roads are in poor condition. a lot of our infrastructure, unlike alaska, mr. president, dates back to colonial days and the foundations of our roads were first traveled by ox carts. this state of disrepair costs my constituents a lot of money. i have been told by the transportation research group trip that driving on cracked and crumbling roads in rhode island cost our motorists $604 million per year, more than $810 per motorist per year in vehicle repair and operating costs from banging into potholes. in our state, 56% of the bridges are deficient or obsolete. that, i'm sorry to say, is the worst rate in the country. these bridges have been around a long time in many cases, and they are literally falling down piece by piece. it can be pretty shocking to see. this is part of the 610
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connector in providence. that interchange is the vital link in the state's highway network for weeks traveling between interstates 95, 195 and 295. it was built in stages through the 1950's, and it can no longer accommodate the approximately 100,000 automobiles and heavy trucks that travel on it each day. our department of transportation has spent millions of dollars on temporary maintenance to keep the interchange shored up and in operation, but you can see that this type of jury rigging is not a lasting solution. while rhode island directs millions of state funds to the repair and replacement of these structures, we need some federal financing to ensure that this work gets done before a serious failure occurs which could disrupt commerce up and down the entire northeast corridor. the evidence of dangerous
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disrepair is all over my state. here is a crumbling bridge on route 37, the east-west freeway servicing the cities of cranston and warwick. the tumbled down cement and rusting ironwork are not reassuring. here is another rusted and ramshackle bridge over highway 95. we can save money in the long term, mr. president, a stitch in time saves nine, if we can get onto these repairs and get these bridges fixed. we also have to consider the bridges, roads, ports, rails and other transit systems in the ocean state that are, as you might imagine, very close to our coast. this infrastructure is at particular risk from sea level rise, from storm surge and from the more severe storms that come at us offshore, driven by warming seas and climate change. recently, noaa released updated global sea level rise estimates,
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and they focused those global estimates onto the u.s. coastline. the estimate for their extreme scenario -- that is, if we continue to emit high levels of carbon pollution -- was increased by half a meter to a total of 2.5 meters or over eight feet of global mean sea level rise by 2100. my state's coastal resources management council has adopted the high scenario for coastal planning purposes and made adjustments for the local conditions, and they now put nine vertical feet of sea level rise as the expectation for rhode island's coast by 2100. and of course, as any coastal senator knows, when you go straight up nine feet, you can go a long way back, pushing the shoreline into what is now inland. flooding a lot, of course, of
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infrastructure. so we need to protect evacuation routes from flooding. we need to bolster hurricane barriers. we need to replenish beaches and nourish wetlands that protect infrastructure from storm. we need to raise ports and reinforce bridges that are exposed to corrosive saltwater into storms. we need to manage upstream reservoirs to control downstream flooding. we need to protect underground drinking water supplies from intruding saltwater. we need to retrofit lowland wait water treatment plants that are in danger of flooding. some of ours aren't just in flood zones, mr. president. they are actually in velocity zones where wave action is expected against the structures. these improvements are essential to meeting our infrastructure needs over the coming decades. every coastal state, especially those in the northeast and the western gulf of mexico, which are expected to see the most dramatic rises in sea level, should be nervous, and that's why the democratic
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infrastructure blueprint includes funding for resilient coastal communities, including support for that national oceans and coastal security fund. i have worked to establish this lifeline for coastal infrastructure since my early days in the senate. once we fund it, it can be a tremendous resource for coastal communities needing infrastructure improvement and smart coastal adaptation. president trump has said he wants a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill. i'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get her done. democrats have put forward a blueprint for making the investments that our nation so badly needs. congress can come together on a plan that will provide direct long-term support and help communities address current needs while also preparing for the changes we know are coming down the pipeline at us. i say to my senate colleagues and to the administration let's get to work. i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i returned last week from the middle east where several colleagues and i spent the weekend meeting with leaders and security officials in lebanon, jordan and israel. as usual, the men and women who assisted us were consummate professionals, whether it was the u.s. marines or the embassy personnel or our own military escorts and congressional staff. they all did a superb job, and i want to extend to them my deepest thanks. i'd like to say a few words about what we learned while we were there. contrary to conventional wisdom, our allies told us they are more optimistic about their relationship with the united states now than they were under the last administration. now, if you thought diplomacy consisted simply of suave sophistication, i can understand your confusion, but among our
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allies, there is no confusion about what their interests are, how the united states shares them, and which country in the whole region threatens them most of all -- iran. and once you realize that, it's not so hard to understand their moral boost. do they watch what we say? yes. of course. very carefully. but they watch even more carefully what we do. and even though our foreign policy was cloaked in pretty words over the last eight years, they see the difference in leadership as clear as day. the last president coddled iran, and this president is confront ing iran. every conversation we had drove home this point. iran is the single most destabilizing force in the middle east. that's because it's more than a regional power. it's a revolutionary power. the regime initarian is not satisfied with finding good trading partners or even
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bullying other countries into proper neighborly deference. big countries throw their weight around all the time, after all. now, what's different about this regime is that it's not trying to create clients. it's trying to create clones. it wants to expand its influence by subverting legitimate governments in places like yemen and lebanon and replacing them with radical regimes. countries that can't subvert, it tries to destroy, like our friend israel. and its aggressive sectarian ideology drives sunni muslims into the arms of extremist groups like the islamic state. there's no getting around the fact that in the middle east, the answer to most questions is iran. and our allies have told me repeatedly in recent months that they need our help to confront tehran's campaign of imperial aggression. in lebanon, i'm happy to say, there are some signs of hope.
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the new prime minister has formed a government and is reportedly on the verge of approving a budget, the first of its kind since 2005. for years, the lebanese government has struggled with the growing influence of iran's proxy, hezbollah, members of which are on trial for carrying out the assassination of the prime minister's father, rafiq, in 2005. but now that hezbollah has committed to the war in syria, the lebanese government has an opportunity to take control of its border, its army and its governing institutions, free of their terrorist influence. we should take all prudent steps to support lebanon as it strives to create security and stability, both for its own people and its neighbors. then there is jordan, which for so long has been a relative island of calm in a tumultuous region. the hashimite monarchy has been
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a faithful friend to america for years, but now for the first time in recent history, jordan faces a hostile, aggressive power on its borders -- isis. it's also under an immense strain as it deals with hundreds of thousands of syrian refugees living in its territory. today, jordan spends up to 25% of its budget on helping refugees. we need to continue helping this bulwark of stability stand against the forces of islamic extremism by sharing intelligence, helping train police and counterterrorism forces and partnering in the fight against isis. and finally, there's israel, who it's no secret the regime in tehran has vowed to destroy. while we were overseas, israeli warplanes struck deep into the heart of syrian territory. they were targeting a convoy of advance missiles bound for hezbollah. in a serious escalation, syria


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