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tv   U.S. Senate 10242017  CSPAN  October 24, 2017 9:59am-12:31pm EDT

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president. the virtue of john castle, this evening received the award named after that happy warrior. the virtue of a heaton, our emcee, joy to god and country, thank you, patty. and the virtue of a leader admired for his own patience and determination and sense of duty and his own faith and patriotism, love of family and loyalty to friends and i'm sure honored to be one of them, is so uplifting, speaker paul ryan. the virtue of the alfred e smith board, a board whose devotion makes this foundation home so effectively. the virtue-- we're going to leave the last few minutes of remarks from house speaker paul ryan as the u.s. senate is about to gavel in. senators plan to finish work on
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36 1/2 billion for disaster aid. it covers recent hurricane response, wildfires, and flood insurance funding. the final vote is expected this afternoon. the senate may already consider a resolution to disapprove of a consumer financial protection bureau rule on arbitration. now live to the floor of the u.s. senate. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal spirit, who is enthroned on high, thank you for the happiness we receive because of fellowship with you.
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keep us grateful for your sustaining presence that surrounds us with your favor. lord, bless and sustain our senators. remind them that you will not forget their faithful service to you and country. deliver them from anxiety about what the future holds, as they confidently trust you to care for them. clothe them with your righteousness and prepare them to see your face in peace. help them to see themselves as your servants, bringing the illumination of your wisdom and
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peace. to capitol hill. god of our hopes and dreams, we bless your holy name. amen. the presiding officer: please join in the pledge of allegiance. 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. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., october 24, 2017. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable ben sasse, a senator from the state of nebraska, to perform the duties
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of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. mr. mcconnell: mr. president about. officer the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: today the senate will pass an important michigan to help communities rebuild after the natural disasters that have effected our country. soon this legislation will be on the way to the president for his signature. with these new resources, federal aid workers from fema and the rest of the administration can continue their critical recovery operations, including search and rescue missions, debris removal, and infrastructure repair, as well as providing much-needed assistance to individuals and to families. i'll continue to monitor these disaster response efforts, and i'll continue to engage with leaders in washington and on the ground. the senate will also continue doing its part to help the victims recover. now, mr. president, on another matter, as we continue to work in the senate, we look forward to hearing the president's
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perspectives on how to advance our shared agenda, particularly upcoming debate on bringing tax relief, economic growth, and jobs to americans. -- through tax reform. last week the senate passed a comprehensive responsible budget that will help put the government on a path to balance and help put our economy on the road to robust growth. this week the house plans to bring the budget to the floor for passage by thursday. once they pass it we'll have important legislative tools to help our economy grow through tax reform. as we all know, after years of an economy that failed to live up to its full potential, the time is now to pass tax reform so we can get america going again and growing again. we want to make taxes lower, simpler, and fairer. we want to close loopholes exploited by the wealthy. we want to make it easier to create new jobs in america and keep them here. in short, we want to take more money out of washington's pockets and put more in yours.
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these are the ideas that drive tax reform. they're shared by the president. they're shared by americans in both political parties. they should be shared by senators of both political parties as well. and for many years, they actually were. >> senator wyden called our current tax code an anticompetitive mess. the senior senator from michigan, senator stabenow, expressed her concern for a tax code that incentivizes jobs to be shipped overseas. and our friend the democratic leader wrote about tax code -- about the tax code's failure to help american workers compete. many democrats called for action to get tax reform done. i hope our democratic friends will work with us now in a serious way to actually do it. after all, it is not as if tax reform has changed since our friends made these statements. as recently as a few years ago. the only thing that's changed is the occupant of the white house. the only difference. so let's get it done.
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the american people are counting on us. on one final matter, in addition to our important legislative priorities, the senate is also working hard to confirm the president's excellent judicial nominees. last night i filed cloture on two nominees for u.s. district courts, scott palk has been nominated to serve as the district judge for the western district of oklahoma. he has served in multiple roles in the u.s. attorney's office prosecuting crime and terrorism cases and the senate judiciary committee sent his nomination to the floor with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. another nominee, trevor mcfadden, was voted out of the judiciary committee with no opposition at all. he's been taxpayer to serve as a district -- he's been tapped to serve as a district judge for the district of columbia. as a former police officer, he will bring a wealth of law enforcement experience to the bench. the senate will vote on both ever these nominees this week and then we'll continue working to confirm president trump's
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outstanding judicial nominees. i look forward to supporting these nominees, and i would urge my colleagues to join me in voting to confirm them. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president, are we in quorum? the presiding officer: we are. mr. schumer: i ask is that the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: "good morning america." i've just seen that president trump has resumed his twitter war with another member of this body, our friend from tennessee.
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it's long past time for the president to quit his daily compulsion to engage in twitter feuds and instead get to work for the american people. we've a lot of serious issues to deal with in this country. our challenges are too entrenched and complex to be solved if the president spends his time in a meaningless war of words on twitter. today with this person, tomorrow with that. we need president trump to roll up his sleeves and get to work. to stop tweeting and start leading. let me repeat that. maybe the president will hear it for the good of america. we need our president to roll up his sleeves and get to work, to stop tweeting and start leading. concerning north korea, instead of undermining his secretary of state and picking twitter fights with kim jong-un that risk a war, he should formulate a
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serious strategy to put heat on china to pressure the north currency to resolve this crisis. china holds the cards here. they've done nothing, nothing to help us -- or very little at least. on health care, president trump should stop playing games with america's health care and publicly declare his support for the alexander-murray compromise. president trump is meeting with the senate republicans at their caucus lunch today, with senator alexander and all other 11 cosponsors of the bill. why not provide some clarity? why not say as he has said in the past he supports senator alexander's work? i believe many more republican senators want to sign their name onto this bill, but they're waiting to hear definitively from the president before they announce their support. after all, nearly every republican here voted to extend
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cost-sharing already. it was part of their first health care bill. every democrat supports cost-sharing. so the president has talked to me about wanting to be bipartisan on health care. the best way to do it -- support alexander-murray. it's time the president catches up to the rest of us and supports the bill. right now, he is the barrier. leader mcconnell has said if the president will sign it, he will put it on the floor of the senate. it will get an overwhelming vote. it will then have to be put on the house floor. speaker ryan will have no choice, or the rise in premiums will be on his back and the backs of his members who he seeks to protect. and probably most of all, when we talk about the president to stop tweeting and start leading, taxes. mr. president, it's time to start really engaging with the substance of the tax plan that his -- that your staff and
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congressional republicans have put together, because, mr. president, your rhetoric does not match the reality on the tax bill. the president has been selling his tax plan as a boon for the middle class. he told a group of truckers earlier this month that his tax plan is, quote, a middle-class bill. quote, he said, the biggest winners will be everyday american workers, unquote. in his words, the republican tax plan would bring about, quote, a middle-class miracle. president trump, i urge you to look closely at the tax plan your staff and congressional republicans have put together. ask the advisors around you what about this tax plan benefits the middle class and the everyday american worker more than the wealthy and the powerful? because trickle-down, if that's the only thing that benefits the middle class in your thinking, doesn't work. no one believes in trickle down
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anymore except a small group of very wealthy business people who have undue influence on the republican party, and i hope not on you, mr. president. let's look at this plan that supposedly is a middle-class plan. it repeals the estate tax. that applies to a small number of families with estates over $5 million. it lowers the rate on pass-through entities. that benefits wealthy law firms and hedge fund managers so they can pay less in taxes than the average citizen. and it lowers the top rate while raising the bottom one. the cut in the corporate rate would hardly help the american worker. this is trickle-down. our republican colleagues don't really believe, don't talk about trickle-down because they know most america doesn't believe in it. our corporations are flush with cash already. they're flush with cash.
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giving them more cash is not going to change their behavior. what are they doing with this cash? most of them, most of the large corporations are not creating jobs with that cash that they now have. stock dividends, stock buybacks, dividends, increase in c.e.o. salaries, that's where it goes. so this bill is not a middle-class bill. i believe the president believes it is. you've got to read it. no more tweeting. no more superficiality. read the bill. don't let your advisors just walk in and say, mr. president, it's a great middle-class bill, and you just let them go by. it's already been shown, not just by me but by many others that miewp and cohn don't tell
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the truth about this bill. the policy center said the top 1% of our country will reap 80% of the benefits from this plan. they also said, mr. president, it's a middle-class bill. according to the tax policy center, no one's disputed it, a third of all middle-class taxpayers will see their tax bills go up. is that a middle-class tax bill, mr. president, one in which taxes go up, not down, on nearly 30% of middle-class taxpayers? now, if this is such a middle-class tax plan, then why do republicans here on the hill keep floating new middle-class deductions to cut the very deductions the middle class depends on? first it was the mortgage deduction. then the elimination of state and local diewbility which made it into the plan. now they are even talking about capping pre-tax contributions to 401-k plans. there are such huge tax breaks for the wealthy and such a huge
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deficit hole that the tax writers have no choice but to raise taxes on the middle class and cut deductions. even the great doubling of the standard deduction, mr. president, is undone by the elimination of the personal deduction. if you're a family of three, you break even. if you're a family of four, you lose money, even before they cut the other deductions. now, on state and local, in mosn districts in the house, in many of our republican colleague states, over 30%, certainly 20%, the lowest number is 17% of taxpayers would get a tax -- would use that deduction. the state -- eliminating the state and local deduction is a dagger to the heart of the middle class, mr. president. you should tell your tax writers here in the house and senate take it out of the bill. and here's what
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pricewaterhousecoopers just found out. home values would go down 10% if we eliminate the state and local deduction. homes are the piece of the rock for the middle class. people wait and struggle and pay every month so they can own their own home free and clear, and then that value declines because we eliminated state and local deductibility? every homeowner is affected, even those who take the standard deduction. and if this were such a middle-class plan, i would say to the president, why wouldn't republicans on the hill scrap the repeal of the estate tax, which only benefits the very rich. not one drop goes to the middle class. instead of looking for more middle-class deductions like the 401-k's to reduce or eliminate. president trump, says he wants
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to do a middle-class bill, but if the only benefit to the middle class is this trickle-down theory, it's not a middle-class bill at all. we democrats have said all along we want to update our tax code to provide middle-class tax relief. my caucus wants to provide tax relief to small business, not to big corporations. they're the ones who need the money to create jobs, not the big corporations who are flush with money. incidentally, at&t, one of the -- who is leading the charge for this tax cut, their average tax rate over the last ten years was 8%, and they eliminated 80,000 jobs. so much for the idea that when you pay a low tax rate, you're creating jobs. so we offered to the president come work with democrats on a real middle-class tax bill. the plan your advisors put together with republicans on the hill doesn't do what you say it does. we can put together a tax bill
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in a bipartisan way that actually gets the job done for the middle class, that tells the rich corporate leaders and financiers that they shouldn't be in control of the bill, which they are now. and you, mr. president, are going along, wittingly or unwittingly. either way is no good for you, no good for your party, and no good, most of all, for america. now, one final word here on wildfires, which i know my colleague from california is ready to speak about. she has seen the damage and is working so hard to help the people of her state. so i'm going to talk about wildfires, puerto rico, and the virgin islands. first, we can't forget about the 3.5 million american citizens in puerto rico and the u.s. virgin islands who continue to suffer the terrible effects of murk maria, the strongest storm to hit the island in a century. it's been more than a month since maria, and 75% of puerto rico is still without
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electricity. only a third of the island's cell sites are functional. and many have diseases like diabetes and other diseases in need of dialysis. they have been unable to receive their specialized treatments and medication. one million americans in puerto rico are suffering without access to clean water. we have seen the pictures of them drinking sewage and water from superfund sites. so i read this report that they have accidentally used wells located in one of the most contaminated superfund sites, derado, to get water, they are so desperate. i have called on the white house to put a point person in charge of the recovery, and i repeat that request today. the administration should appoint a c.e.o. of response and recovery for puerto rico, someone with the ability to bring all the necessary federal agencies together, cut red tape on the public and private side,
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turn the lights back on, get clean water flowing and help bring recovery. it's a national tragedy that deserves the most organized and efficient response. a c.e.o. for response and recovery with a direct line to the president in the white house would help get the house in order. now, at the same time, we can't forget the devastation brought by wildfires out west. a group of senators will be speaking on the floor today. my colleague from california is about to do just that in support of swift passage of disaster aid for those regions, and i wholly support the effort. as the number of forest fires and the cost of fighting these fires has risen dramatically, it's left the forest service and the department of the interior at a severe funding deficit. this has forced the forest service to take money from other accounts within the agency to cut the firefighting deficit in a process called fire borrowing. fire borrowing prevents the agency from carrying out its other missions, including investing in forest fire
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prevention. as we have seen the terrible forest fires rage across the west, hitting so hard the state of california where my colleague is going -- which my colleague is going to address, we must take action and provide the forest service with long-term wildfire funding fix. some members want to bog this process down with environmental and forest riders, but i stand with the secretary of agriculture, secretary perdue and others, who call simply to fix the funding problem without riders to allow the agency to carry on its mission. i yield the floor and ask unanimous consent that my colleague be given the time -- the time she requires to finish her remarks, because i went a little over. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the house message to accompany h.r. 2266, which the clerk will report.
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the clerk: house message to accompany h.r. 2266, an act to amend title 28 of the united states code to authorize the appointment of additional pickups judges, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: the senator from california. ms. harris: mr. president, i thank the minority leader, senator schumer, for his words of emphasis on the need to ensure that not only do our fellow americans in florida and texas receive the relief that they so dearly and sorely need, but also that our fellow americans in puerto rico and the united states virgin islands as well receive the relief that they need and receive the priority that they deserve. california has been devastated, frankly, by the wildfires that we have just experienced. ten days ago, i was in santa rosa, california, and firsthand witnessed the devastation that took place throughout that
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region, and in particular in cofey park. i met with evacuation, i met with firefighters, i met with community leaders, elected leaders, and others who traveled to that area out of concern and with the desire to help. i met county supervisors, and two of them in particular, supervisor gore and goren. their entire districts were on fire. one of the supervisors even lost her own home. yet they were leading the charge in the recovery efforts and doing so in such a selfless way and with such courage. but entire communities were devastated, and people have lost everything and are still suffering to an incredible extent because of the loss that they experienced and the fact that they have not been resettled. my heartbreaks, as i know all of us feel, for the 42 people and their families whose lives were -- were ended in these fires. there were 42 people in this
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region who lost their lives. 6 in addition, more than 8,400 homes and buildings were destroyed. for example, in santa rosa, the housing stock in santa rosa is -- 5% of the entire housing stock is gone. and many of these folks in these neighborhoods are middle-class families, working families. they are plu plumbers and teachs and first responders who were barely able to meet their mortgage. the fires have scorched more than 245,000 acres, 100,000 californians were forced to evacuate. i must tell you i am in awe at the work of the firefighters and first responders who fought tirelessly day and night. i heard stories of firefighters who worked 80 hours straight to do the work of evacuation and ensuring that no lives were lost
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and no lives were in peril. i'm in awe of their work. i've met a firefighter. his first name is paul who when i met him, he was wearing -- he finally was taking a moment of rest from the firefighting he had been doing. he was wearing sweat pants and a sweat shirt and flip-flops that he borrowed from another firefighter because he lost his home and everything he had. yet there he was on the front lines fighting to make sure that no other californians, no other people faced the kind of devastation he faced. there were more than 11,000 total firefighters who responded to the fire. some from other states and even other countries. and they deserve our thanks and i stand here in the united states senate to thank them for the work that they did coming to california and helping us deal with this crisis. first responders and medical professionals did important work
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as well. 51 doctors from santa rose take memorial hospital -- santa rosa memorial hospital who lost their homes and possessions still stayed overtime to help crowded emergency rooms full of patients. and i am uplifted by what i know and the world now saw which is the character of the california person and the californians. people rushed to help the elderly in nursing homes evacuate. i heard the story of a doctor who used his motorcycle to save newborn babies from a neonatal unit. and now these folks need our help. senator feinstein and i will continue to demand fema resources, which include the need for housing, individual assistance, transportation, and water infrastructure. we need to make sure all californians regardless of status can help at the shelters, and i spoke with d.h.s. acting
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secretary elaine duke and confirmed that i.c.e. will suspend immigration enforcement in the area until further notice. it is our belief and our understanding as californians that that notice will be clear when this -- this effort will end in terms of not enforcing immigration, and we want to be clear when it's going to start so we can tell californians because right now they are trusting d.h.s.' word that the immigration enforcement has been suspended. we will support -- we're told that fema through elaine duke will also support emergency packages that provide disaster relief for the hurricanes in texas, florida, puerto rico, and the united states virgin islands. california is resilient and we will rebuild, but we need help. more than 12,000 constituents have contacted our office. and we will continue to work with fema, h.u.d., the small business administration, and the
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usda to ensure that those affected in my state will get all the relief that is necessary. congress needs to fund programs like the community development block grant and section 8 housing to help affordable housing for low and middle class residents. they need the help to find affordable housing. californians facing affordable housing crisis like many other states in our country, and this is something that has been highlighted by the devastation that these various states and territories have experienced recently, but it is an ongoing issue that we must deal with. and we cannot stop there. we need larger supplemental emergency packages that include helping california. and this has to be a long-term commitment. california is experiencing the worst fires in history, and they are becoming more frequent. in the 1980's, fires burnt and wildfires burnt under 25 acres on average. now typical wildfires will burn
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over 100 acres. california's 2017 fire season has not yet ended, and it has already burned more acres than the average for the past five years. in southern california to san diego, red flag warnings are occurring as we speak and they are currently up to 55 mile per hour winds and warm, dry weather with no humidity or very little humidity. these are the conditions that were at play during the most recent wildfire crisis. we must also look at the future and how we can prevent wildfires from reaching this magnitude as we go forward. we must pass the wildfire disaster funding act. today over half of the united states forest service budget is dedicated to combating wildfires compared to just 13% of the budget in 1993. wildfires treated different -- are treated differently than floods or hurricanes.
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forest service is not allowed to use general disaster relief fund at fema and that makes no sense. and prevention is cheaper than reaction. the united states forest service estimated that there are 6.3 billion dead trees in the western states. removing them would improve safety by mitigating wildfires. also it would have an economic benefit and create jobs. there are certain bills and the bills that i mentioned that help achieve this because it will allow the forest service to dedicate part of the budget to forest management and not just reacting. and we must listen to the experts. for example, cal fire agrees. too often states are picking up the bill for prevention and forest management. and we should make it very clear fires are not partisan. this bill that i mentioned, the wildfire disaster funding act, is a bipartisan bill and it should be inserted cleanly into the next supplemental emergency package. and finally, let's recognize the
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connection between these disasters and climate change. california is leading the way and preparing for increasing wildfires, but the federal government needs to do its part. natural desires from fires to hurricanes to floods do not discriminate by region or by party. we must help each other when the travesties hit but we also must prepare for the future. so in closing i would suggest and urge our colleagues to pass the supplemental bill and future emergency resources, ensure that federal agencies deliver prompt help on the ground, and pass the wildfire disaster funding act. thank you and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, just as the senator from california has outlined the needs of her state having been hit by a natural disaster, so, too,
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natural disasters, not wildfires, although we've had plenty in florida, but hurricanes, hurricanes have hit other states. yesterday this senator spoke at length about the effects on a particular industry, the citrus industry. i showed pictures of 75% to 90% of the fruit on the ground. this senator made a unanimous consent request to include a bipartisan amendment of getting money for agriculture, not just in florida but texas and puerto rico and the virgin islands and
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the wildfires in california into the package, specifically about $3 billion for agriculture. and the losses in florida on agriculture are $2.5 billion of which three-quarters of a billion is just losses to citrus growers. now, that's all the bad news because the unanimous consent request was rejected. the good news is that although the white house rejected it, they made a promise to put it in a continuing supplemental emergency appropriations in november for all these natural disasters and to get that funding in there for agricultu agriculture. but some of us on both sides of this aisle in order to make sure that that promise is kept have
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put a hold on the nominee for deputy budget director. i will take the white house at its word, and this ought to all be worked out in november. that was the subject of my address to the senate yesterday along with my colleague senator rubio from florida as we talked about the losses, particularly to agriculture. today i want to talk about here a month after the hurricane in prk an -- in puerto rico and two months after the hurricane in florida, the aftermath is not going so swimmingly because people are not getting the assistance that they need. now, mind you, this is two months after the hurricane, two
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months after the hurricane in which people have lost all the food in their freezer because they didn't have any power. they're supposed to get assistance in order to be able to buy food. and if you are living paycheck to paycheck and you don't have a paycheck, you don't have any money to buy food and, therefore, the financial assistance from fema and the usda and yet you ought to see the lines, the lines and lines in miami, in orlando, in tampa, in belle glade. and then they're cutting off the lines. and the people that are getting cut out, they're going without food. so we've got a long way to go. the usda's supplemental nutrition assistance program,
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it's called dsnap is supposed to help all of our people recover from losses incurred by irma by making short-term assistance available. it's especially important for families that are low income, that don't have income or they're not getting a paycheck. and now they're saddled with unexpected repairs, a storm damaged roof. they spent money evacuating or they lost wages during the storm or they lost power and lost all the food in their freezer. you know, some people do go and buy food in bulk because they can get it cheaper and store it in the freezer. and then bam, it's all gone because there's no power.
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well, there were 50,000 people waiting at a center in south florida, and many were turned away for waiting in the heat for hours and hours. and then the next day it was the same story in another city that i didn't mention, del ray beach. and so the people are getting desperate. i want to thank fema for everything that it's done. i want to thank the congress for doing the first supplemental in september that was intended originally for harvey in texas but along came irma in florida. i want to thank the congress for the additional supplemental that we just passed last night. but the administration of all
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these programs for assistance to people, it's not going so well. so let's take another example. you get on the phone. you call fema. you're supposed to get a fema representative, and you have to wait and wait and wait. so if that's because fema needs more people on a short-term basis to handle the amount of calls, well, fema, let's get it going. or what happens if you're calling because you've got to have a fema representative come to your house to inspect your house so that you can then get the necessary individual assistance to help you. you're waiting for assistance as
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to when a housing inspector can come and visit the home. once you get through on the telephone and the last time we checked, the expected wait time to get a housing inspector is 45 days. that's too long for families to wait for an inspector to come because these are floridians that are stuck living in damaged homes, homes that have gotten wet and, therefore, the mold and the mildew has built up. and they don't have anyplace else to go. they don't have any income that they can go down to one of the air-conditioned hotels, and they're still wait being for the fema inspector to come and inspect their homes so they can get qualified to get the assistance that they in fact are
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due under the law. so our people can't access certain forms of fema assistance until the inspection is comple complete. and i'm told that fema has indeed increased the number of housing inspectors on the ground, but this process has got to be expedited. now, this isn't the only delay that is causing a very serious threat in florida, a threat to health and to safety. now fema has been very slow to get in manufactured homes, mobile homes. why? because a lot of people's homes and/or mobile homes were so damaged that they can't go back and live there.
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so they get temporary assistance. they go into hopefully some air-conditioned place, like an existing apartment complex or, per chance, a hotel. but what if you're in the florida keys? what if you're in the keys where there are not enough hotels and motels? and, in fact, there are not a lot of rental apartments. and, oh, by the way, it's the service industry that is necessary to revive the tourism industry in the keys, as an example, because that's the lifeblood of the economy, and the service industry has no place in which to live because their trailers are history. i wish i had a picture here to show you just north of big pine key of a mobile home park that i went to.
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there was not one mobile home that was upright. they were either all on their side or their updied down -- or they were upside down. and it is not unusual because these are the keys. the hurricane came right off the water, a cat 4. but fema isn't getting those mobile homes, those manufactured homes, in as temporary assistance. understand, the example i gave is the florida keys. there's one way in and one way out. but you've got to compensate for that. and in the meantime people are suffering and people are hurting. and the red tape just should not stop anyone in this country from having a safe place to live. and so i urge fema to expedite the transporting of these units all over florida, to florida
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communities and filling them up so that floridians have a place to live that is safe and that is clean. all right, if it weren't enough of what's going on, i say to my friend from new jersey -- if it weren't enough in florida, what about puerto rico? you know, right now 80% of the island still, a month after the hurricane, more than a month, 80% of the island still doesn't have power. i didn't go into the urbanized parts of san juan, although i was there and did look around. i flew back into the mountains, into the little town of utualo. for two and a half weeks they were cut off. they didn't have a road to get up there for two and a half weeks. puerto rico -- would you believe
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over a month, i say to my friend from washington, over a month after the hurricane and 30% still do not have potable water? i saw up in utualo in the mountains, i saw them going up to a pipe coming out of the water that was flowing down through the mountains, this wasn't necessarily potable water, but it was the only thing they had. and they were lining up with their plastic jars and their plastic buckets. hospitals in puerto rico are rationing services. they're foregoing optional operations. they're making difficult decisions on prioritizing patients because of limited medication, limited facilities, fuel, communications, and power. and dialysis centers are desperate to get the water, the
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clean-enough water, so that they can process the dialysis for kidney patients. and so, clearly, more needs to be done also to help the people of puerto rico in addition to florida and all the other states. and i urge my colleagues to remember the plight of americans trying to put their life together after a major disaster. and so we heard the senator from california making the plea about the wildfires. you've heard this senator make the plea for florida, puerto rico, and the virgin islands. you've heard the texas delegation make the plea for texas. we all have to come together in this time of need and pass a robust and comprehensive aid bill.
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and we hope the white house will be true to its promise, that the additional aid, particularly for agriculture, will be put in the november emergency supplemental. there should be absolutely no ambiguity that the federal government intends to provide all the necessary assistance to make our people whole. mr. president, i yield the floor. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. as we speak, millions of americans are working to put their lives together after a devastating series of as doe doessters, the hurricanes that the senator just speak about the catastrophic disaster there. there are countless families from santa rosa to san juan that
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need a hand-up rightened and we have going to there for them. including our fellow americans in puerto rico where a vast majority of families on the island are still without power or access to clean walkers as we just heard -- to clean water, as we just heard. i am glad we will soon take up a passage to send resources to those in need, many who have lost everything. as you will hear from many of our colleagues on the floor today, this is not the end of our commitment to those affected by these recent disasters, but, rather, a down payment on what we know will be a very long road to recovery for many devastated regions. but i challenge my colleagues to do one better -- not only could we address the long-standing fisheries disaster that continues to cause hardship for men and women of our fishing industry and our tribal communities, we could also fix the flawed way this country fights wildfires. for far too long the u.s. forest
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service has been forced to use up its budget fighting wildfires every season only to have no funds left over to work on preventing them. this is a very dangerous cycle and a disservice to so many communities in the west. and it has only gotten worse as climate change takes hold. meaning our wildfires have grown more massive in size and intensity in recent years. so i urge my colleagues to treat wildfires like the disaster they are. and i hope we all take this moment to acknowledge all of our neighbors affected by disaster, even if they don't make the front page of a paper. let's use this opportunity to the get the policy right and help out all our neighbors in need. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: i am grateful to be joining with a lot of my colleagues today just to talk to the urgency and the importance of what's happened in the aftermath of horrific hurricanes, hurricane harvey more than two months ago and hurricane irma and hurricane maria over a month ago. they've wreaked havoc on millions of lives. they've destroyed billions of dollars worth of property. they've created pain, suffering, loss, loss of life everywhere from texas to florida to puerto rico to the u.s. virgin islands. too many of our citizens right now are still living not just in unacceptable conditions for an american but they are living really on the brink of homelessness. food and water and security scarcity and facing the ravages
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of poverty, where you have lost everything, when you were in a dependent state, dependent upon relief aid, dependent upon your neighbors. right now thousands of families have lost everything, and i believe they have yet to receive the kind of support they deserve from their government. this nation was founded on this ideal of the common defense. it is literally written into our founding documents, this idea that we are coming together for the protection and the strength of our communities. and right now we are not doing enough. and that is not the american way. i've seen it. i still remember during the storm that hit new jersey, the super-storm sang dix i still -- the super-storm sandy. i still remember seeing us at
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our best. neighbors opening up their homes reaching tout to others. not worrying about what political parties were, not worrying about the risk it might put themselves. i still remember as the storm was still raging driving around my city in an s.u.v. checking in, coming up a hill. i get a call from the president of the united states checking in on newark as the super-storm was beginning to leave. i get a call right after that from governor chris christie were the same empathy, with the same concern, checking in-to-see how -- checking in to see how i'm doing. i remember coming up on a hill. just as i'm finishing of the last of those twos," talking to the most powerful person on the planet, two different parties, two different backgrounds, but they are americans. i remember coming up to a street corner where this massive tree had fallen, had torn down lines
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i see a person standing there in a raincoat by the lines trying to wave my buy to make sure my s.u.v. didn't hit what could have ban live wire. i pulled aside in the wind and the rain. i see this is an elderly man standing in the streets feeling like it was his obligation to protect his community. i stood there in this rain, looked at this elderly african american man standing there trying to protect people who were driving through, and just thought to me, i talked to the -- and just thought to me, i talked to the most powerful guy in the country, i talked to the most powerful guy in the state. but the true power i saw in an american who was working to take care of his community in a time of trial. that was a spirit that stayed with me, lifted me during this crisis when i was staying up day after day after day seeing his commitment to his community.
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martin luther king said it so eloquently. the ultimate measure of a man -- i would like to change the for a moment. the ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy. that's where we are right now. tens of millions of us are very comfortable right now. this is a time of comfort and convenience for many. i got up this morning. i turned on my shower. it was hot water coming out. when i opened my fridge, there was food right there. but how can we sit idly by while there is an urgency going on of epic proportions? let me tell you about puerto rico what my friend here from florida said. 80% of their island remains without power. i saw firsthand what one week
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without power did in my community, literally led to the deaths of people. not the storm itself but the lack of power was directly related to the deaths in the city of which i was mayor of. there are people who don't have access to things we take for granted, whether it be bank accounts, whether it be food and was profoundly stated by my colleague, just access to clean water. there are people who are falling ill and dying in puerto rico right now because of a lack of access to clean water. sanitation systems, water infrastructure, roads, bridges, electric grid. all of this needs urgently now federal investment. one of my staffers has a son who is a medic in the puerto rico national guard and has told her that people in hospitals have died. the loss of life, the loss of
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american lives, loss of our fellow citizens have died because of their lack of access to electricity and lack of access to oxygen. we are americans. i know our character. i know our spirit, but right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people in our country who are suffering. they may not be proximate to us in geography. they may not be next to us in site. but what spirit we need right now is the spirit of that man standing in a storm, watching over his neighbors, watching over people that were passing through, being there for their own. we have work to do. we have an urgency. children are suffering without the basics. where fools are closed, where damages have destroyed crops, destroyed access to food.
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we have work to do. and so my urgency right now is believing that the first step, we must have a comprehensive aid package, not just to help our fellow americans in florida and texas where there is urgent crises still going on, but the gravity of the pain and suffering in the virgin islands and in puerto rico right now. it's unimagine -- unimaginable for us right now experiencing it and unacceptable for us as americans not to be there for our fellow citizens. we are just five days away from the fifth anniversary of that storm that hit new jersey, and we have made great strides in new jersey over the past five years, but the reality is we today in new jersey are still recovering from that storm.
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this is going to be a long process, an urgent process. it is going to be a process that necessitates resilience, necessitates endurance, necessitates persistence, but it starts with this body, with the congress of the united states of america putting together an aid package that would include direct grant funding for rebuilding our country, and in puerto rico and the virgin islands, it must include making sure that that island is strong enough from telecommunications to energy sources to schools. we must make sure that aid package includes all that's necessary for this island to stand up again and get to work for the many months and years to come of rebuilding. and so i support my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. i am encouraged that the spirit i encountered that night of having a democratic president, a
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republican governor calling me as concerned americans, but the spirit i call to tonight is the elderly black guy on a street in a storm that said the storms may howl, the rain may come, the water may rise, but when it comes to my country, i will stand for america and stand for americans. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, hurricanes harvey and irma and maria have left a path of destruction along the florida coast and texas and puerto rico. this emergency supplemental is another step forward to recovery for the millions of americans who call these places home. but i want to remind my colleagues that there is still an ongoing natural disaster in the west that is leaving
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families displaced, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. it's destroying structures, and it's taking human lives. as of today, 5,000 firefighters are still battling more than a quarter of a million acres of wildfires that are burning across the west. in my home state of montana, despite an early snowfall, families this last weekend were forced to evacuate after a fire ripped through a dry landscape and put their homes and livelihoods at risk. in california, more than 8,000 structures have been lost to wildfires this year alone, and with temperatures expected to be in the 90's all week, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. across the country, in total, fires have burned nearly nine million acres, significantly more than the yearly average. 1.2 million of those acres are in montana, and these fires have cost the taxpayers nearly $3 billion to date.
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quite frankly, these wildfires have been devastating in montana and in states across the west. it is critically important that we take quick action to mitigate the damage caused by these fires and get communities back on their feet. the funds in this emergency package will reimburse the forest service for the funds borrowed to fight wildfires. when the forest service has to borrow from its nonfire accounts to cover firefighterring on the ground, we lose out on critical maintenance and mitigation and restoration work. this funding will pay back those accounts and support the work that is needed to recover after a record-breaking fire season. this funding can help restore the trails and the roads that were lost to fire, as well as keep our fishing streams clean and clear from runoff this spring. it will get folks back in the woods, thinning and cutting and removing debris, and it can provide the forest services the
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resources to quickly salvage the dead and dying trees that are still usable, get that timber into our local lumber mills. unfortunately, though, this bill fails to provide a long-term budget fix to pay to fight wildfires. fire seasons are getting longer, they are getting more incense, which is quickly transforming the forest service from a forest management agency into a forest firefighting agency. but, folks, our climate is changing. history is telling us that our fire seasons are becoming more intense, and they are becoming longer. longer fire seasons will mean more borrowing from the forest service to fight these wildfires. we need a long-term fix. fires are burning a hole through the forest service budget, which too often leaves our forests unmanaged and at further risk for more catastrophic fires in the future. money that should be used to curb the fire risks, maintain and improve forest health, research and develop better
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forest management policies, and fund the work that must get done to make our forests more resilient is borrowed to fight wildfires. we must change the way we're paying for fighting wildfires, and the bipartisan wildfire disaster funding act is one step toward that fix. we must keep pressing forward to get this bill signed into law. then we need to adjust the disaster budget cap to make sure this is truly a long-term fix. as i said, this bill doesn't contain all of the answers that we need to reduce wildfires, but it is no doubt a step in the right direction. it lets the forest service treat wildfires just like other natural disasters. that means more reliable support for forest management projects and emergency funding for catastrophic wildfire seasons. these important wildfire and forest resources, combined with providing the necessary fema, flood insurance, and food assistance to those displaced by hurricanes will take us a major
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step forward after a series of devastating natural disasters, but i want to underscore that we aren't at the finish line yet, and i will work with chairman boozman and the homeland security appropriations subcommittee to ensure that all montanans and all americans impacted by natural disasters aren't left waiting for congress to act. folks from both parties are going to have to work together to ensure that every community impacted by hurricanes, flood and fires has the resources to recover and turn the page. america's directly impacted by these natural disasters continue to wake up each morning, displaced, hungry, without power, and surrounded by destruction. congress must remain diligent and ensure that these communities have the support that they need and that they deserve. finally, i will just say this -- we are here today talking about a disaster funding bill. we were talking about that
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disaster funding bill because disasters are becoming more and more common. it's not going to change. we need to get down and address the root cause of this, which is an ever-changing climate, and until we do, we're going to continue to see taxpayer dollars go out the door for disasters year after year. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor, suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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ms. cantwell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i come to the floor this morning to talk about a g.a.o. report, a government accountability report that's being released today that says that the cost and impact to the federal government of climate change is in the billions of dollars. in fact, it's in the hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five years, and it's actually over the next
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decade-plus in the trillions of dollars. why is this so astounding? well, it's astounding because we've not had the government accountability office before outline for us what it costs the u.s. taxpayers, what it costs the federal government on the impacts of climate that we are paying astronomical cost. and as we can see, because we're discussing right now the supplemental and we can see what damage you have from storms, what damage you can have from fire, what damages you can have from other kinds of events and how much it costs the federal government. so the fact that g.a.o. took the last two years after receiving a letter from myself and senator collins of maine to say we want to understand these costs. now, why did we do this? the senator from maine and i have long been advocates of looking at issues of adaptation and mitigation. that is, we can debate here all we want about what people think the impacts are of climate and
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what drives it. what we're here today to say is we know that it's costing billions of dollars and that as stewards of the taxpayers' money, we ought to do a better job at adaptation and mitigation. that's why we sent the letter and that's why probably seven or eight years ago she and i started working to try to encourage various agencies that are most impacted by this to do a better job at adaptation and mitigation. for us in the pacific north west, we got to this point because we saw the shellfish industry almost devastated by the level of ocean acidification caused by changes in temperature. so much the fact we had to help the shellfish industry with science and research to say if we want to keep a shellfish industry, we had to change the science behind the seeding and do it at specific times when there was the right balance in the water just to have this incredible economy that is enjoyed by so many americans, the washington shellfish product
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that we have. really five generations, six generations of families being in that industry almost lost because of these changes. we also as a state that has a great deal of hydr hydro hydro e temperature change means a lot what happens to snow pack. it means a lot of the challenges we face. when it comes to fire, we have certainly taken it on the chin with two unbelievable back-to-backfire years where unfortunate loss of life and billions of dollars of loss in impact both to the federal government and to local communities. what we're saying is we can do better. we need to recognize these costs and impact and do a better job of planning for them in the future. that is why one of the things that i have done with my colleagues from both washington,
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senator murray, my colleagues from idaho, senator risch and crapo, our colleagues from oregon, senator merkley and wyden, introduced a bill to help reduce our risk when it comes to the fire seasons and what we can do to better protect our communities. that is the kind of planning and adaptation that we think we need to address. today's report cannot be ignored. it cannot be ignored that the federal government is going to have to spend this much money on dealing with the impacts of climate. that's what the government accountability office is saying. it says we need a better plan. we need to reduce costs. we need to look at these impacts and make sure that we as a nation are putting every resource into this or otherwise we really will be spending trillions of dollars. that trajectory is real. that's what the g.a.o. report says. hundreds of billions of dollars now, trillions in the future.
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but if we would simply recognize these impacts and start addressing them by having agencies recognize this and plan for it both in the adaptation and mitigation, i guarantee you we can save the taxpayers money. so i hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will heed this report. this report is saying that climate is impacting us, the federal government. it is costing us a great deal of money. i guarantee you it's money we would rather have to focus on whatever issues my colleagues would like to focus on, whether it's education, job training, any of the other issues that someone might want to address, health care. we cannot afford to continue to pay this kind of money in dealing with climate. it's only going to accelerate. that's the scary thing. the g.a.o. report says these numbers are going to increase for the future.
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so can we at least sit down and talk about the ways just like on fire, just like on flooding, just like on drought, can we at least sit down at the table and plan strategies for how we can work together to mitigate these impacts? i guarantee you if we don't, this bill is going to continue to rise and the conflicts for us are going to be here. if you look at this alone just this year, even though i'm saying it's $600 billion over the next five to ten years and trillions over the next 20, this year alone we will probably see $300 billion between texas, florida, puerto rico. so what is the conclusion i'm drawing? well, i think the report is very clear. the research is very clear. one thing that is happening as the climate changes is more intense weather events. these intense weather events are
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providing challenges like we've never seen before. these challenges and the dweses taition that -- twes taition that caused -- devastation that caused them is something we need to take into consideration in the future. certainly we need better science and we certainly rely on the european weather agency to give us the best, most oka accurate information about storms and weather. we should do that ourselves. we should use the great research being done in tennessee at the labs there on climate and what we can do to best prepare our nation. we need to come to the table when it comes to the issue of drought and plan the strategies that work and work successfully now, not wait another 20 years and have the cost be even more astronomical. so i thank my colleague from maine for joining this effort of getting this documentation by the government accountability office. we need to take their accounting very seriously and start doing things that will help us reduce the risk, lower the cost, better
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protect our communities, and give the taxpayers a sense that we're not leaving them to devastation and storm every year, but we're coming up with better strategies to save lives and to save dollars. i thank the president. i yield the floor. ms. cantwell: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: mr. president,
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unanimous consent that proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'm pleased to join with my colleague and friend, senator cantwell, in discussing a new g.a.o. report on the costs of climate change. as our nation begins to recover and rebuild from the devastating -- the devastation of hurricanes harvey, irma, maria, and nate, as well as from the wildfires sweeping across the west, we cannot ignore the climate change on our public health, the environment, and on our economy. most of the past focus of the impact of climate change has been on public health and the
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environment, important to be sure, but there has not been nearly enough analysis on the consequences for our economy and for the federal budget in particular. mr. president, in 2007 i first became interested in the cost of climate change when senator joe lieberman and i headed the homeland security and governmental affairs committee. we commissioned a report by the g.a.o. to look at the fiscal risk for climate change for both the federal flood insurance and crop insurance program. our attempt was to sound the alarm that there are very significant fiscal consequences for the federal government failing to take action.
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the report found that the department of agriculture and the department of homeland security can and should do a better job of assessing the fiscal impacts that unchecked global warming will have on the taxpayer-funded crop insurance corporation and national flood insurance program. in addition, this report revealed that insurance programs had not developed a long-term strategy to deal with the effects of global climate change, putting them far behind private insurers that have incorporated these risks into their overall assessments. according to a 2014 g.a.o. report, the federal emergency management agency, fema, and the risk management agency commissioned some climate change studies in order to better prepare for potential climate
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effects. to build upon this important work, two years ago senator cantwell and i asked the g.a.o. to conduct a comprehensive study on the costs and risks to the u.s. government from climate change and to evaluate policy actions that could be taken by the federal government to address these financial consequences. after two years of in-depth, nonpartisan analysis, the g.a.o. publicly released the results of its findings this morning, and they are astonishing. the g.a.o. estimates that by the year 2039 climate change will cost u.s. taxpayers more than $1 trillion. in just this past year alone, the economic losses will almost
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certainly exceed $300 billion. mr. president, in maine our economy is inextricably linked to the environment. we are experiencing a real change in sea life which has serious film indications for the -- which has serious implications for the livelihood for many in our state, including those who work in our iconic lobster industry. with warming waters, lobsters are migrating into deeper waters, which poses more risk to our lobster men and women. additionally, casco bay, which is where portland is located, has experienced an invasion of green crabs that are not native to maine and that are devastating some of our other
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sea life population. this change in the maine waters could be detrimental to our state's economy. i'm also very concerned about the excessively high rate of asthma in my state. according to public health physicians this is due to air pollution that comes into our state. now maine is not a coal-burning state, but the emissions from other states are causing the changes in sea life and are contributing also to the public health epidemic of a very high rate of asthma. the fact is that maine is located at the end of our nation's tailpipe and we get emissions blown in from other states that affect our economy and the public health of our and
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the health of our -- and the health of our citizens. mr. president, the federal government cannot afford the billions of dollars in additional funding that is going to be needed if we do not take into account and start acting on the serious consequences of climate change. spending more than $300 billion each year in response to severe weather events that are connected to warming waters and producing stronger hurricanes is simply not a solution. i hope that the release of this new g.a.o. analysis will encourage all of us to think more broadly about this issue, to take a harder look at the economic consequences of climate change and then use this analysis to inform federal
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policy. we need to support practices and policies that promote resilience and reduce risk and exposure to weather-related losses for the federal government, for states, and for local communities. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, soon the senate will pass a supplemental appropriation bill that provides much-needed relief for folks across the country recovering from hurricanes and wildfire devastation. and while some of these resources will impact texans recovering from hurricane harvey, i want to stress that much, much more will be needed
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in my state. i want to make one point abundantly clear. harvey has not been permanently handled in texas. it's not over and done with and it's not time to just move on. there was the storm and now there's the storm after the storm. nearly two months after the hurricane the most extreme rain event in history, many texans are waiting for normalcy to return to their homes, to their routines, their workplaces, their children's schools. the water may have receded, but their troubles have not. i read, for example, about people having to wait two, three, or four hours before they could even speak to a fema representative, the federal emergency management agency, who themselves are overwhelmed with requests related to not only
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hurricane harvey but in hurricane irma, maria and flooding in puerto rico and the individuals. never before do -- virgin islands. never before do i remember a series of storms hitting our nation in such quick succession. but even though fema is moving as quickly as they can, they are hiring hundreds of additional staff to help with the backlog. i'm hopeful this will help my fellow texans who have grown frustrated and discouraged by the procedural hurdles. as of sunday, three shelters remain open in texas -- three shelters remain open and over 60,000 people are living in hotels because their, wreaking of mold are still not ready. a teacher i heard about is living on a cot in her classroom
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while her house undergoes repairs. the mayor of rockport has said that perhaps a third of the destroyed areas in his town may never be rebuilt. hundreds of businesses have yet to reopen, and if they don't it will make matters much tougher on local residents than they already are. the number of houses yet to be repaired is even larger than the number of businesses. the mayor of port aransas says 75% of the homes in his community -- three-quarters, just imagine -- were severely damaged or destroyed. these are just a few of the reasons why the situation demands ongoing attention as well as the full extent of government resources. last month congress got started, and that was before subsequent hurricanes occurred. but the first wave of disaster relief was $15.75 billion.
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then the congress passed a second wave to replenish fema's nearly defeated coffers and to address the national flood insurance program which should help pay some texas claims. here in the senate the cloture vote on the second wave was yesterday and i'm glad we moved to end debate. but it's clear to me that texas will need significant additional federal assistance for our recovery efforts. as i've told folks back home, we don't expect to be treated any better than anybody else, but we're not going to be treated any worse. last week i spoke with president trump and the o.m.b. director, mick mulvaney, and they made a commitment to me that there will be another funding request coming over in mid-november that would include texas-specific relief. i realize the folks impacted by
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irma and maria are reeling as well, and we want to make sure we are locking arms with all of our colleagues who represent the areas hit by hurricane harvey, irma and maria and also those hit by the wildfires out west. and we're working together. eye appreciate the president's pledge -- i appreciate the president's pledge and i'll continue to work with senator cruz and with governor abbott to make sure texas has what it needs not only to make a full recovery, but a timely one as well. mr. president, at lunch the president of the united states will be joining us to discuss a different but very important topic, and that is federal tax reform. we want to make sure that hardworking americans get to keep more of what they earn in their paycheck and that we can help them improve their standard of living by reducing their tax burden. we passed a budget resolution last week that was step one to getting where we need to be.
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so i'm excited the president's joining us today, and i look forward to hearing his ideas. it's important that we all pull together to accomplish this joint goal. we appreciate his engagement on the issue which has been clear from day one. and finally, mr. president, i'd like to bring up one additional matter that we'll be voting on soon, and that is the repeal of the recent consumer financial protection bureau rule which governs how community banks among others resolve disputes with consumers. this rule that the cpfb issued bans using arbitration. arbitration is a widely accepted method of resolving disputes between consumers and banks and other financial institutions, and it actually increases the benefit that flows to the consumer as opposed to the alternative which is class action lawsuits, which enriches laws where consumers get pennies
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on the dollar. the cpfb's own data shows the rule would transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from businesses to plaintiffs' lawyers over the next five years. according to a recent treasury report, the rule could generate 3,000 additional class action lawsuits over the next five years, costing businesses $500 million in defense fees alone. and obviously enriching those who would benefit more than the consumer themselves. and that is their lawyers. the cpfb data itself shows that the vast majority of class action lawsuits delivered next to no relief to the class in question: consumers. and the treasury report found that the agency, the consumer financial protection bureau failed to consider much less onerous alternatives like increased disclosure or more limited ban. mr. president, i've been around
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long enough to remember back in the 1980's when there was a movement called alternative dispute resolution led by the chief justice of the united states supreme court who pointed out that while access to courts was absolutely critical, that unfortunately because of the delay and expense of litigation that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms could actually benefit consumers more if they chose to resort to those alternative dispute mechanisms. that's exactly what arbitration is. and i believe that the cpfb has gone above and beyond its authority in eliminating this very meaningful way for consumers to get compensated when they get involved in disputes with their bank or other financial institutions. and there's no reason for us to enrich a class of lawyers who brings these lawsuits and see consumers ending up with pennies on the dollar, which is what
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the status quo would permit. so thankfully we have the power of the congressional review act to overturn the rule as the house has always done. i'd urge my colleagues to repeal the cpfb arbitration rule so we can get rid of this harmful regulation that imposes obvious costs and offers invisible benefits. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. president, if i may, i have --. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: i have six requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. these have been approved by both the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted.
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: my understanding is we are not in a quorum call. the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i want to begin by paying tribute to the people of puerto rico who have been through unimaginable disaster, a
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natural disaster not of their making, and a financial disaster not any more of their fault than the hurricane that they have endured. they have perseveres -- persevered and indeed now are surviving and even thriving, despite the hurdles placed in their way by this kind of huge, humongous storm that destroyed parts of their island. and in fact even now at least a quarter of their water is undrinkable. more than 80% of their
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electricity is down. many of their roads are impassable. their schools are largely closed. their island is paralyzed, or at least largely paralyzed so far as economic progress and job creation are concerned. they don't deserve this fate. they are americans. they fought in our wars. i've been privileged to spend time with the buracaneers and led the effort to award them a gold medal simply for their time and dedication to our country. they are not only americans. they are patriotic americans. and so too are the first responders and military and
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others from states around the country who have gone to puerto rico to help with relief. i want to recognize their courage and sacrifice and service to our nation. the national guard from connecticut who have gone to the island to help with national guard from at least 13 states states -- there are thousands of them now, and they are working with men and women on the ground from fema, the department of energy, the department of homeland security security, our military. they deserve our thanks. and yet, for all that heroic work, this nation is failing puerto rico.
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americans are on the verge of failing fellow americans. puerto rico has a population of about 3.4 million people, roughly the size of connecticut. if the humanitarian crisis now ongoing in puerto rico occurred in connecticut, there would be an outcry and outrage of unprecedented proportions, comparable to a public surge of criticism unseen before. and yet, the people of puerto rico endure this humanitarian crisis. seemingly without response. the president of the united states gives himself a 10. i agree. he deserves a 10 if the grading
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scale is 1 to 100. because barely a tenth -- in fact less than a tenth of what this nation owes to puerto rico has been done for them. i flew over the island of puerto rico in a is i -- in a sikorsky blackhawk during a recent trip, bipartisan trip, and saw out of the side of that blackhawk devastation and destruction that i never thought i would see in america. whole towns flattened. homes razed to the ground. community centers destroyed. power lines dangling and down. and i heard from the corps of engineers that there is no
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timetable to repair those lines, to restore electricity, which is the lifeblood of civilization and essential to their economic functioning, let alone progress going forward, which is what the island needs. and from what i hear, that families have told me the shortages of food and water and medicine persist. the hospitals depend on generators that are sometimes nonfunctional. and medicine is lacking in those hospitals. so what's at stake in puerto rico is really our humanity. in the midst of this humanitarian crisis, what's challenged is our humanity.
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not just the legality or the protocols, but our basic instincts to help fellow americans when they need it. this nation should not have a double standard for disaster relief. the americans of puerto rico deserve what connecticut would receive. and i have stood in connecticut with our puerto rican, and we're proud of the fact that we have more puerto rican community per capita than any other state. that community has given back to connecticut, has contributed to our quality of life, and we are proud of all of our puerto puero ricans who have come to the island in past generations or just recently. and i stood with gladys rivera
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who lived in connecticut, went to puerto rico, and has just come back, with the burmu das family, with deep ties here and there, with jason ortez, and i could list many others, and they have given me a picture of that humanitarian crisis in puerto rico that speaks to my heart about families that continue to suffer and endure these hardships. so the measure that we are passing today is a tiny downpayment on what is needed for puerto rico. it is a short-term, very small
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sign of what we owe, a downpayment that must be followed by a longer term commitment, martial plan, that will -- marshall plan that will not just enable the island to repair the power lines and roads but rebuild with different kinds of power, renewable and solar, not dependent on diesel or coal, stronger more resilient struck user, whether it's a home or commercial building that can withstand a future hurricane. what's needed in puerto rico is not just repair but true rebuilding and recovery and not just the fiscal structure, -- physical structure, but the sense of financial stability and
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profit. and so the pittance in this supplemental for puerto rico is the least we can do. in fact, it is less than the least we can do because it actually adds to the debt that puerto rico now has. it adds $5 billion to the $74 billion that is owed by puerto rico. it does nothing about the bankruptcy of prepa, the power company, it alleviates in no way the financial burdens of debt. it, in fact, adds to it. and, instinctively, we know in this chamber to do more. there have been too many reports to fill this record today about
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the courage of puerto rico, about the burdens that it has to endure. we have seen and heard enough to know that a longer-term plan is necessary -- a marshall plan. leadership is needed. i propose a czar who can cut through the bureaucratic red tape and lack of cohesion and get this job done, who can tell the -- the corps of engineers what the deadlines are and bring together the leadership of puerto rico and give them the empowering authority in
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resources, not just in words. i called as well for the c.d.c. to be engaged more actively and effectively because puerto rico now faces a potential epidemic of mosquito-borne diseases, zika, the standing pools of water throughout the island, and i've seen them, pose a real public health threat at a time when the island is ill equipped to deal with it. i've begun working with my colleagues on a longer-term plan because this measure must be followed by stronger, more robust steps. the damage done to the island was in the range of $100 billion. that is a rough estimate.
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that $100 billion must not only be reinvested, but but it must be used to provide resilience. real investment, rebuilding, that is what snes for puerto rico -- what is needed for puerto rico. i hope to return and visit again soon. the faces and voices come through clearly through my friends and neighbors in connecticut who have joined with me in this call for action -- for real action and real rebuilding and real ininvesting ininvesting -- investing, much more than this short-term downpayment which will shortchange the island if we do no more. it must be simply a next step, a first step that we owe our
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fellow americans in puerto rico. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i don't need to tell anyone that middle-class americans have had a tough time in recent years. stagnant wages have left many american families stretched thin. sending the kids to college, a secure retirement, putting something away for a rainy day for too many families these hallmarks of the american dream have started to seem more and more doubtful.
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a recent survey found that 50% -- 50% of people in this country consider themselves to be living paycheck to paycheck. about one-third of people in this country say they are just $400 away from a financial crisis. mr. president, if anyone wants to know why we're taking up tax reform, this is why. we're taking up tax reform because it's not acceptable that 50% of americans are living paycheck to paycheck. an because it's not acceptable that one-third of voters are one expected -- unexpected car repair away from financial crisis. so how is tax reform going to help? for starters, our tax reform bill will make sure that hardworking americans are taking home more money from r pay -- from every paycheck. we're going to cut income tax rates, we're going to double the standard deduction, the amount
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of american's income not subject to any income and we are going to significantly increase the child tax credit. all of these things mean that american families are going to see an increase in their take-home pay. they are going to keep more of their hard-earned money. we're also going to simplify and streamline the tax code so that it's easier for americans to figure out what benefits they qualify for, and so they don't have to spend a lot of time and money filling out their tax returns. but we're not going to stop with reforming the individual side of the tax code. another key part of improving americans' financial situation is reforming the business side of the tax code so that we can give americans access to the kinds of jobs, wages and opportunities that will set them up for a secure future. in order for individual americans to thrive economically, we need american businesses to thrive. thriving businesses create jobs.
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they provide opportunities and they increase wages and invest in their workers. right now, though, our tax code is not helping businesses thrive. instead it is strangling businesses large and small with high tax rates. our nation has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, at least ten percentage points higher than the majority of our international competitors. and it doesn't take an economist to realize that high tax rates lead businesses -- leave businesses with less money to invest in their workers, less money to spend on wages, and less money to create new and better-paying jobs. and this situation is compounded when you're an american business with international competitors that are paying a lot less in taxes than you are it's no surprise that american businesses struggling to stay competitive in the global
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economy don't have a lot of resources to devote to creating new jobs and increasing wages. a study from the white house council of economic advisors estimates that reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% would increase average household income by $4,000 annually. well, that is a significant pay raise, mr. president, for hardworking american families. another study shows a similar pay increase. boston university professor and well known public finance expert larry cutlicoff concluded a study that said lowering the corporate tax rate would increase household income by $3,500 per year on average. specifically, the study concluded that depending on the year considered, the new republican tax plan raises
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g.d.p. by between 3% and 5% and real wages by between 4% and 7%. this translates into roughly $3,500 annually on average per american household. well, mr. president, on top of our high business tax rates, there's another major problem with our tax code that's decreasing american jobs, and that's our outdated worldwide tax system. what does it mean to have a worldwide tax system like we have here in the united states? it means that american companies pay u.s. taxes on the profits that they make here at home as well as on part of profit that they make abroad once they bring that money back home to the united states. the problem with this is that most other major world economies have shifted from a worldwide tax system to what's called a territorial tax system. in a territorial tax system, you pay taxes on the money that
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you earn where you make it, and only there. you aren't taxed again when you bring money back to your home country like what happens here in the united states today. most of american companies' foreign competitors have been operating under a territorial tax system for years so they're paying a lot less in taxes on the money that they make abroad than american companies are, and that leaves american companies at a disadvantage. these foreign companies can underbid american companies for new business simply because they don't have to add as much in taxes into the price of the products or services that they sell. and when foreign companies beat out american companies for new business, it's not just american companies who suffer. it's american workers. that's why a key part of republicans' tax plan involves lowering our massive corporate
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tax rate and transitioning our tax system from a worldwide tax system like we have in america today to a territorial tax system like all of our competitors have. by making american businesses more competitive in the global economy, we can improve the playing field for american workers. mr. president, 57% of the manufacturers who took part in a recent survey from the national association of manufacturers reported that they would be more likely to hire additional workers if comprehensive tax reform becomes law. and 52% reported that they would be more likely to increase employee wages and benefits, and that would be a tremendous, tremendous boost for american workers. comprehensive tax reform will allow us to see the same kind of results in other industries. mr. president, the other part
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of improving the playing field for american workers is lifting the tax burdens facing small businesses. small businesses are incredibly important to new job creation. but like larger businesses, right now small businesses are being strangled by high tax rates, at times even exceeding those paid by some of the largest corporations in our country. that can make it difficult for small businesses to even survive, much less thrive and grow their businesses. every dollar that we save small businesses by lowering their tax rates is a dollar a small business owner can use to expand the business, add another worker or give employees a raise. we can also help small businesses increase wages and create jobs by allowing them to recover their investments in things like inventory and machinery more quickly. right now it can take small
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businesses years or in some cases even decades to recover the cost of their investments in equipment and facilities, and that can leave them extremely cash poor in the meantime. and, mr. president, cash-poor businesses don't expand. and they don't hire new workers and they don't increase wages. allowing small businesses to recover their investments more quickly will mean more jobs and more opportunities for american workers. mr. president, the american people had a rough few years, but economic stress doesn't have to become the status quo for the long term. we can start turning things around right now. comprehensive tax reform along the lines of what's envisioned by the plan that's been put forward in the republican framework will put more money, more money in americans'
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pockets. it will give americans access to new jobs and more opportunities. and it will increase american families' wages. mr. president, i look forward to passing our comprehensive tax reform bill in the near future and giving the american people the relief that they have been waiting for. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest -- i yield the floor, mr. president. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to oppose the congressional review act resolution repealing the consumer financial protection bureau's forced arbitrating rule. at a time when millions of americans are suffering the consequences of abusive practices by major financial institutions including massive consumer fraud by wells fargo and the exposure of up to half of the national population's personal information due to
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inadequate cybersecurity by equifax, it is simply wrong to give immunity to bad corporate actors against lawsuits by the very customers they harmed. i urge my colleagues to think about the millions of americans who still don't know all the facts about whether they are victims of one of these or other major banking scandals and deserve the chance to gather the facts and hold the responsible parties accountable. this anticonsumer resolution strips away those victims' constitutional first line of defense against lending fraud and prevents corporations -- permits corporations more opportunities to take advantage of consumers. we have known for years that forced arbitration clauses harm the financial security of those who are most vulnerable to lending scams. companies slip these clauses into the fine print of contracts for everything for loan applications to purchases on a smartphone. and let's be clear, even if every american had the time to read, understand the fine print of every contract they sign,
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most of these contracts by major financial institutions are one-sided and the consumer has no power to bargain the terms in the fine print. with these in place, consumers will learn their bank or lender has overcharged or defrauded them, also learn quickly they signed away their right to take the corporation to court. instead they must choose between dropping their claim or going it alone in an arbitration process that is clearly and notoriously stacked in favor of the corporation. forced arbitration makes it easier for predatory lenders to avoid the consequences for taking advantage of consumers. this reality is even more outrageous when we consider the fact that predatory lenders view service members, military families and veterans as prime targets for financial scams. the cfpb has noted that service members are attractive targets because among other things, they are required to maintain
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good finances, their pay is consistent, they often relocate, and many are just starting to make significant financial decisions. the department of defense is also well aware that military bases draw predatory lenders selling bad or illegal loans which is one reason the department of defense issued new rules banning forced arbitration from many loans covered by the military lending act. but these rules still don't cover the full range of financial products that may be used to take advantage of military consumers and their families. that's why i've worked for years with senator lindh is graham -- senator lindsey graham on forced arbitration laws that limits civil rights under the civil relief act. the cfpb rule bans many of these and other forced arbitration clauses that disproportionately harms service members and their families. while the cfpb provided data on
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the positive effects for service members we should also listen to the service members' community, their strong support for this rule speaks volumes. the cfpb's rule's support include the military coalition which consists of 32 military advisory groups, including the veterans of foreign wars, and associations representing the interest of members of the navy, army, air force and marine corps. moreover, in august the national convention of the american legion adopted a resolution opposing legislation to repeal the cfpb forced arbitration rule because among other reasons, it, quote, is extremely unfair to bar service members, veterans, and other consumers from joining together to enforce statutory and constitutional protections in court. close quotes. simply put, service members don't want the c.r.a. and they are watching this vote closely. mr. president, forced
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arbitration is a prime example of a rigged system whereby powerful corporations and interests play by different sets of rules than average americans. when a normal person defrauds another person that person is entitled to seek a resolution in court. it is wrong for us to allow major corporations to create their own justice system that serves their own interests at the expense of american consumers, families, service members and veterans. i urge my colleagues to oppose this resolution and to prevent the cfpb arbitration rule to go into effect. with that, mr. president, i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. reed: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: mr. president, i would request that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until senate stands in recess until >> so the senate is recess for their weekly party lunches meeting. president trump is joining republicans at their meeting this afternoon to talk about tax reform and health care insurance. when senators return to the floor they will continue debate on the disaster aid bill. final passage vote expected this afternoon and if approved a measure will go to the president does. senators may take up a bill for consumer financial protection bureau on arbitration. you can watch live coverage of
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today's debate when senators return here on c-span2. and a picture of the capitol hill press corps awaiting president trump's visit to capitol hill where the "washington post" have been there for at least an hour. we have our c-span cameras there. we hope to catch the president as he walks through. the president took to twitter this morning to talk about senator bob corker of tennessee. bob corker who helped president o give us the bad of a deal didn't get dogcatcher in tennessee is now fighting tax cuts. look at his record. >> senator corker responded with cnn. >> i mean, they are provable untruths, provable. on the iran give everybody knows thol

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