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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  March 15, 2018 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

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no post today the senate is not expected to be in session tomorrow. on monday, the senate will vote on whether to limit debate on the bill and will hold a confirmation vote on the systems and border security nomination commission.
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the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, as we join our hearts in prayer, we praise you for protecting and preserving this land we love. remind our lawmakers that by themselves, they aren't sufficient for the challenges of our times. give them the wisdom to solve the problems that require more
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than human ingenuity. may they never fail to do the very best they can, striving to please you in their every endeavor. lord, when they are perplexed, provide them with the clarity of your guidance. may your will be done and your purposes carried out above party and personality. we pray in your strong name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible,
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with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: this week marked an important anniversary for an exceptional american. 45 years ago yesterday our friend and colleague john mccain was released after more than five and a half years as a prisoner of war in vietnam. the hanoi hilton was a site of unspeakable brutality, but it was also a crucible of character where a brave patriot was tested and grew into a generational leader. here in the senate, we're not only grateful that john mccain was welcomed home, we are especially grateful that he answered yet another call to
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serve, bringing that leadership to this body for more than 30 years. his leadership, his example are as important today as they have ever been. now, mr. president, on another matter, yesterday the president named larry cudlow as the next head of the economic council. larry is well known as a happy warrior for pro-growth economics and widely respected for his expertise in fiscal policy. the country will be lucky to have larry serving in this role. i look forward to continued engagement with the white house team. it will now benefit from his insight. speaking of highly qualified personnel, here in the senate yesterday afternoon we voted to advance kevin k. mcleenan 's nomination to serve as commissioner of the u.s. customs and border protection. this is an essential post and mr. mcaleenan is an excellent nominee. i urge everyone to join me in
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voting for his confirmation when we return next monday. now on another matter, yesterday the senate took a big step forward for the community banks, credit unions and other small lenders, on which communities across america rely for access to credit. on a strong bipartisan vote, we passed senator crapo's legislation to streamline the dodd-frank act so that regulators, regulations intended for wall street place less of a crushing burden on main street. next up is legislation to combat sex trafficking. debate on this issue will begin today. it might be easy to imagine sex trafficking doesn't happen here. it would be easy to pretend that it's only a problem in other parts of the world, but that is dead wrong. trafficking is a crisis right here in the united states. from 2010 to 2015, the national center for missing and
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kphroeuted children -- exploited children children saw reports of suspected missing children an eightfold increase. last year more than 85 cases were reported to the national human trafficking hotline, and senator portman has been inforge all of us throughout -- informing all of us throughout his tireless work on this issue sex trafficking has moved from the street corner to the smartphone. that's in large part because a 1996 law meant to protect online speech is misused to stop sex traffickers from facing the rightful consequences. mr. president, i'm a strong defender of the first amendment as you'll find. i was here in congress in 1996. i voted for the telecommunications act that included this provision. so did the vast majority of my colleagues. let me assure you not one of us intended to create a special protection for platforms that
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knowingly allow sex traffickers to exploit children. the legislation we'll consider would ensure that institutions that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking can be held accountable for their actions. there's a reason why 67 senators have joined senator portman in support of legislation to accomplish this. there's a reason why the white house is strongly supportive. america's children should not be sold online or anywhere else. america's families should not be victimized by such evil. and america's laws should not be misused to protect those who perpetrate these crimes or those who, according to the stunning subcommittee report, knowingly give them space and tools to operate while profiting in the process. several of us have worked hard on this issue for a number of years. it's now past time to take this additional step. when we vote next week, that time will have come.
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on one final matter, few subjects are closer to the hearts of parents than their children's education. that's why republicans made sure the historic tax reform we passed last year included a provision championed by senator cruz and others that will help parents choose an education for their children that makes sense for their family. a recent article in "the courier-journal" in louisville, kentucky, shared the story of one family whose second grade son struggled with an undiagnosed learn disability. he had had trouble keeping up with his public school class. so like many parents facing similar challenges, his family decided to send him to a private school with smaller classes and more individual attention. but that was a tough financial decision, even though both parents worked, affording tuition was a struggle.
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families like this are why republicans' tax reform gave parents more flexibility in paying educational expenses. the law built the foundation for important expansions of the tax advantage college savings accounts, known as 529 plans. as a result of tax reform, we're empowering families to use these tax-exempt accounts not only for college expenses but also for tuition at private and religious schools, kindergarten through 12th grade. the philosophy here is simple. more choice is better than less. that really is the moral of the story on tax reform, getting government out of the way, letting families keep more of their own income and empowering americans to make the economic choices that make sense for them. parents know best what works for their children. if we can get government out of the way so the i.r.s. takes less from tpaeplgs and parents -- from families and parents and parents get more control over
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their kids' education, we ought to do it. the young man from louisville is in the fifth grade now. his new school was able to properly diagnose and approach his dyslexia. he is thriving and now thanks to tax reform, school choice will soon get more affordable for families just like his. historically helping families save for schooling costs has been a bipartisan priority. in 1996 i worked with senator bob graham and other friends across the aisle to create section 529 in the first place. five years later i sponsored legislation to let families tap into 529 plans tax free. it ended up in the 2001 tax cuts, again a bipartisan affair. but this time is different. no democrats in the house or the senate, not a single one voted for this historic tax reform law. they tried to block this law to help families across america
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afford schooling of their choice. this time republicans had to do it all by themselves. fortunately, we got it done for american families. 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 motion to proceed to h.r. 1865, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of h.r. 1865, an act to amend the communications act of 1934. to clarify that section 230 of such act does not prohibit the enforcement, and so forth and for other purposes.
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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: are we in a quorum, mr. president? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. schumer: mr. president, since the republicans jammed through a massive corporate tax cut in december, hardly a day goes by we don't read about a corporation using the savings to purchase its own stock. now, the average citizen may ask what's that all about? when a company purchases its own stock, it sort of is artificially making less stock, buying it back, and raising the price of the shares. why do they do that? two reasons, both to benefit the corporate c.e.o.'s but not the workers. number one, corporate c.e.o.'s have a lot of the stock themselves, so they make money. and second, they look better
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when the stock price goes up. but the stock price isn't going up because the company has sold more goods or been more productive or bought new machinery or found a new product. the stock simply goes up because they have decreased the number of shares. it's a scam in a certain sense. helping corporate c.e.o.'s, helping shareholders, 80% of the shares are held by the top 10%, so it doesn't really help average americans, and that's including 401(k)'s. it doesn't hurt the worker. all the claims we've heard from our republican friends. pass this tax bill and the workers will benefit. well, now we see who is really benefiting, just unfortunately as we predicted. it's the corporate c.e.o.'s and the wealthiest of americans. just recently, a total amount of share buybacks surpassed $220 billion this year.
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according to the market data firm trend tabs, share buybacks in 2018 averaged $4.8 billion a day, a day. doubling the pace in the same period last year. for a few weeks, right after the president passed his tax bill, what happened? they had these companies announce bonuses for average workers. very few americans saw those bonuses. a lot of hoopla, but not much else, and the bonuses, not wage increases, not new hires, but one-time annual bonuses -- anyone who gets them, god bless them. they have just been so few. they are being overwhelmed by a deluge of corporate share buybacks which do not benefit the average worker but benefit the c.e.o.'s and the heads of the companies. according to an analysis by just capital, listen to this, folks. 6% of the capital allocated by companies from the tax bill has
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gone to employees. 60% has gone to shareholders. again, corporate c.e.o.'s who own those shares, the wealthiest of americans who own the vast majority of shares. ten times more capital is going to shareholders than to workers, so this bill, poorly structured, aimed at the wealthy, ain't working. more americans see it. there was an initial thrust. oh, we like the tax bill. first it was unpopular as we talked about it here on the floor. then with these bonuses and the stock market going up, popularity went up a little. now it's flattening out and even heading down. the last three polls, fewer people liked this tax plan. that's going to keep happening, my republican friends, because they know what was in that. you know what was in that. the corporate c.e.o.'s who came to lobby you, the wealthy individuals who came to lobby you. so it's no wonder the american people are starting to turn on
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the republican tax bill. polls show -- polls have shown its popularity is under water and trending downward, not up. this idea that tax cuts would be a political panacea for republicans come november is losing altitude fast. remember, that's what our republican friends said. well, maybe people are upset with the president's tweets. maybe this and that are not going so well. maybe they're not accomplishing that much. now with the tax bill, we'll win the election. well, look at just the pennsylvania election. a democrat won the district which trump carried by 20 points. and this is the kind of district that our republican friends need to carry. it's republican suburbs and blue-collar southwest pennsylvania. early in the race, what did republicans do? they tried running ads about the tax bill to help their candidate
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, rick saccone. during the first few weeks of february -- and these are the super pac's, the koch brothers and others who benefit hugely from the intil. somehow they believe that because they benefited, everyone will be benefited. so they ran these ads often paid for by the kochs. two-thirds of the ads mentioned taxes. two-thirds of all of saccone's ads, ran by super pac's and by saccone himself. the next week 36% mentioned taxes. after two weeks of these ads, they tested it out, my republican friends, they got rid of taxes as an issue. it wasn't working with fairly welloff middle-class pittsburgh suburbanites or blue-collar members of green county and westmoreland county and washington intent and southwest pennsylvania, people who had all voted for trump. it's early similar, folks, to the governor's race in virginia.
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same thing. that was before the bill passed. but still, ed gillespie started his campaign on a tax plan similar to the republican tax plan. he had to give it up. he wasn't getting traction. the american people are smart about this. they are smart. they know what's going on. they know the vast majority of this goes to the wealth. they know the amount going to them is small. they know that their tax breaks is temporary and corporate tax breaks are permanent. they know that we creed a huge -- created a huge deficit and what are the republicans saying to pay for the deficit? cut social security, cut medicare, cut health care. the american people know that health care is much more important than tax cuts. you know why?
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you get a traction break and your premiums go up several thousands in a month or even several hundred dollars in a month. that little increase is wiped away, and our republican colleagues, even in their tax bill, caused premiums to go up by monkeying around with health care. so the republican party needs to wake up and realize that giving massive benefits to corporations and the wealth is never going to be a popular issue for them in the elections because it's terrible policy for the average middle class and working american. it gets to the contradiction at the core of the presidency. the president talks like a populist but governs like pudacrat. he got rid of a wall street executive, gary cohn, and is now putting in gary kudlow who has
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helped the wealthy and all of america will benefit throughout his whole career. not how trump ran, not what he tells working people when he goes to a tent in pennsylvania, but that's what he's doing, and sooner or later, it catches up to you. the pennsylvania election showed it is catching up faster than our republican friends would like. so the president talks like a populist. president trump said that his tax bill would be a middle-class miracle, but the actual legislation is a miracle for the wealthy corporations and the richest 1%. as i said, part of the problem is the president surrounds himself with the wealthy elite. those are his advisors. and these wealthy elite push tax cuts for the rich and apply the trickle down.
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that applies to larry kudlow. he is a cheerleader for bush-era economics. gary kudlow is now going to give the president advice, he recommended that americans buy stock in the fall of 2008 when everybody else saw the economy about to collapse. does anyone think that larry kudlow is going to bring a renewed focus on the middle class? forget it. he has his whole career, and that's who president trump picks, getting rid of one and putting in another like going from the frying pan into the fire. and, by the way, i think the president, he loves having big classes of working-class people, big crowds of working-class people in those tents, but who
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are his real friends? the very wealthy. that's who he hung out with in new york. he cares what he thinks, and that's why his policies are so aimed at them. so, my republican friends, this is, in a nutshell, the problem you face. the rhetoric is all about helping working people, but their policies are all about helping corporations and the rich. i'm not against the rich or corporations. god bless them. let's hope they do well, but average americans need far more help than the top 1% and wealthy corporations. give it to average folks. need it. they are still struggling, paying for college, affording a vacation, helping an elderly mom or dad through a health care problem. that's who needs the help, not
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the top 1%. but our republican colleagues, they aim everything at that top 1%, and if weed only get -- we'd only get rid of citizens united, that awful decision that yowls the -- allows the yety to -- wealthy to have power over the middle class. i wish we could get rid of it on both sides, democratic and republican, unfortunately, this supreme court doesn't like like they are doing it. so the rhetoric of republicans, help working people, the policies of republicans, help wealthy corporations and the rich, as we've seen in poll after poll and in recent elections, the american people are waking up to that reality. it's hard to make a tax cut unpopular, but republicans have managed to do it by designing a bill that will direct 83% of the
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benefits to the top 1%, add $1.5 trillion to the deficit, and then threaten to cut social security. that is a toxic combination and republicans will not be able to run on it because only a very few wealth americans support that agenda. on a different matter, russia. a little more than a week ago, our friends in the united kingdom, england, great britain, suffered an attack on two individuals by a nerve agent. in a joint statement today, the united states, the u.k., france, germany, their leadership agreed that putin was behind it. to her great credit, prime minister may demanded an immediate response from putin and promised appropriate counter measures. she has already expelled 23
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russian diplomats and i hope she takes additional action. 23 diplomats is strong action, but we need more. prime minister putin, he's a bully. i grew up in brooklyn. you have to stand up to them or they will keep taking advantage of you. that's how they work. let's compare prime minister may's action. prime minister may was quick and decisive about countering russia's aggression, president putin can hardly seem to utter a peep of criticism of president putin. a man who is trying to undermine the united states' power and the united states' very democracy, the beauty of america. it was on full display this week when instead of personally defending our ally britain, president trump didn't say a
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word about the attack, directing everything through aides or statements. now, president trump warns all the time that we need to, quote, get smart about other countries taking advantage of the united states. i agree. i tend to agree with the president on china. china is taking advantage of us, and president trump, to his credit, is doing more than the bush or obama administrations did. but guess whose taking advantage of us even more than china? russia. they meddle in our elections, continue to sow division on social media through russia-linked bots or building an intelligence machine to meddle in our elections. later this year, putin constantly attacks our allies, our friends. so, president trump, when you are -- are you going to get smart about the threat that russia poses to the united states and our allies. we in congress, 98-2,
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republicans and democrats together, leader mcconnell and i worked this out. we voted to implement mandatory sanctions against russia. guess what, america. president trump hasn't even implemented them. what is he afraid of? what is he hiding? now, hopefully we'll get an announcement today that maybe he's implementing sanctions after what russia did, but that's not enough. like my friend from new jersey has suggested, the president should further sanction putin and anyone else involved in the biological weapons elimination act through this heinous attack in the u.k. we're waiting for president trump to direct our intelligence agencies in the state department to combat russian cyber attacks. we have heard from officials who are in charge of cybersecurity,
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they got no direction from the white house. no orders to do anything. we're still waiting for action to harden our election security, and we're still waiting for the president, president trump, to utter one word of public criticism for what putin is going to the u.s. and democracies around the world. i say to president trump, your silence speaks on this issue. your silence speaks volumes to the russian government and american other adversaries, as well as our friends and allies, and, finally, it speaks volumes to the american people. more and more americans are asking, why is president trump so afraid to take on probably our number one menace, russia? what is he hiding? what's going on? why? it's ringing in america's ears, the president is not going to
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escape. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator for ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i rise today to talk about the issue that is before the senate, and i'm very pleased that finally the senate is taking up this legislation. it has to do with stopping sex traffic being, specifically the growing scourge in our country and a stain on our national character, which is girls, women, being sold online. the legislation is called the allow states and victims to fight sex trafficking act, or sesta, it has gone through a process here in the senate. we have had a markup. this is an issue that we have been working on for many months and the last couple of years, doing investigations with how to deal with this problem. again, i am very pleased that we now have the opportunity here in the united states senate to take up this legislation and begin the process of turning the tide,
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changing this horrific situation we're in this country in this century we have an increase in the trafficking of human beings, and specifically women and children being trafficked online. the speech earlier by majority leader mitch mcconnell laid this out they well, i thought. he talked about the fact that there's been an eight-fold increase in the most recent data for missing and exploited children between 2010 and 2015, an eight-fold increase in the incidence of trafficking. he also talked about the fact that this is growing because of this growth of the internet that the internet and specifically one website has caused this increase that congress has the ability to address through a change in a federal law that can be targeted and focused and make a huge difference in the lives of those who would be trafficked and undergo the intense trauma
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that results from. i'm very pleased that we're taking up this legislation. i want to thank majority leader mcconnell for putting this on the floor. i know that we have an important omnibus spending bill coming up, and i know the senate needs to focus on that, but first let's get this legislation passed. let's take this opportunity to do something that's actually going to help immediately on this issue of sex trafficking. i would also like to thank senator john thune. he had is the chairman of the commerce committee who had the markup and i thank senator nelson for his work on this. we held a powerful hearing. i had a chance to testify and talk about the work we had done with another committee in investigating this issue. we heard from victims. we heard from experts. at the end of the day, that vote in the committee, the commerce committee, was unanimous, republicans and democrats alike saying, we get it. we need to address this issue. we've had a lot of collaboration
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on this over the last couple of years. it has been truly nonpartisan, not just bipartisan, which is rare. i want to thank the coauthor, and that is richard blumenthal, who is a former prosecutor, understands this issue because he prosecuted sex trafficking cases. i the want to thank claire mccast skill because -- mccaskill we were able to find out shocking information about what's going on online. i also want to thank senator john cornyn, senator heidi heitkamp, senators cloab and cruz -- klobuchar and cruz. they helped us to put this legislation together in a way that addresses the issue, again, in a very focused, targeted way, so we're going to have the result we're looking for but without affecting what some were concerned about, which is the freedom of the internet. we all believe in the freedom of
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the internet but we he know -- we know that committing these crimes on the internet has to be something people are held accountable for. i want to take a moment to also recognize a couple of other leaders in this effort, one is a senator, the other is his spouse. that's cindy and john mccain. i hope that they are watching these proceedings over the next week as we take up this legislation, debate it and i hope pass it on the floor of the senate because they have been very involved. john mccain from the start, as one of the leaders on this issue here in the senate, helped us put together this legislation, was with me on the permanent subcommittee on investigations looking into this matter. john can't be with us here on the floor but i know that his presence is felt. i tell you, it is felt by me and the influence he's had on this legislation and on many of us in bringing up this issue. one reason he brings up this issue a lot is he has a spouse who is passionate about it and spent a lot of time working on it.
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mccain institute specialed on this issue of -- specialized on this issue of human trafficking. i thank cindy and john for their inspiration. again, i'm confident as we get it across the finish line here, they're going to be celebrating with us. we have 68 cosponsors of this legislation now. for those of you who follow the score cards around here, that's unusual. we have a majority of republicans. we have a majority of democrats. we have a situation here where everybody's affected by it in their states and they get it and they understand that this is a federal responsibility to change this law because it's a federal law that creates this opening for websites to engage in this kind of behavior without accountability. they are effectively shielded from prosecutions or from lawsuits. this legislation takes away that shield. we've heard from the f.b.i., the national center for missing and exploited children, polaris, which runs the tip line on human trafficking. all kinds of experts told us
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trafficking is not just increasing but increasing because of the ruthless efficiency of the internet. is involved in the majority of online sex trafficking. one antitraffic organization said backpage is involved in 75% of the online trafficking reports it receives from the public. another organization, shared hope international, says it's more than that. think about that. we have this increase in trafficking primarily being caused by this movement from the street corner to the smartphones, as victims told me back home, and there is one website that has the majority of this activity. that's what we studied. as we looked into it further, senator mccaskill and myself, we were shocked to find out that not only is this activity going on on this website, but that they were complicit in the sense they knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking
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including people placing ads with them to post clean ads so they wouldn't indicate, which was very obvious in the initial ads presented that these were under age girls. for example, taking out words like schoolgirl or cheerleader, telling them to do that so they could still place the ads. in other words, get the money for the ads. as you can imagine, this is a very lucrative business, but saying we need to clean it up. they covered up evidence of these crimes which made it harder for law enforcement to follow up on these cases. they did so for a very simple reason. they wanted the ads because it increased their profits, but obviously it had incredibly detrimental impact on, and still does on women and children around our country. i talked earlier on the floor about kabiki pride, part of the documentary called i am jane doe. it is on netflix. what she told us was this alarming story of a mom whose daughter goes missing. she can't find her. she's told to like on this place
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called backpage. she does. she sees her daughter's photographs there, sexually explicit. she calls backpage and says that's my daughter. she's 14 years old on your website. thank you for taking down the ad. their response? did you pay for the ad? she says no, of course i didn't pay for it. i'm the mother. we can't take down the ad because you didn't pay for it. that story tells you how evil these websites are. let me tell you another story. it's yvonne am ambrose. her daughter was 16 years old. she was trafficked on, sold for sex on at 16 years old. yvonne got a call on christmas eve 2016. the call no parent ever wants to get. and the call was from law enforcement saying that her daughter desiree who was being
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packaged at the time on had been murdered. yvonne is honoring her memory by getting engaged in this issue and helping us pass this legislation. but she's also sure that this legislation is the thing that would have kept girls like her daughter from getting involved in this because, as she went after backpage to try to hold them accountable, she was told they have an immunity under federal law. that federal law is called the communications decency act. it was put in place with good intentions, to help protect the freedom of the internet. it protects websites from liability when users put something on their site. but it was never meant, never meant to protect criminal activity. and it's been misinterpreted in my view, by the courts. but it also needs to be clarified. it's not as clear as it should be. that's what our legislation does. this legislation was enacted back in 1996. 22 years ago the internet was in
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its infancy. there needed to be something to help provide protection from liability. but unfortunately, it has been used as a shield by these criminals to be able to sell women and children online without accountability. the same law written back then was also focused in part on keeping indecent material, pornography, from going to children ironically and now it's being used to shield these traffickers. i know congress did not intend that broad immunityty and we need to fix it. the district attorneys around the country agree with this and prosecutors. they have asked us to change this law. their association is very much involved in this issue. 50 state attorneys general have written us and communicated with us asking us to do this including some former state attorneys general now members of this body. in the most blatant call on congress yet, we've had a court in sacramento, california, say
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you've got to fix this law because otherwise we can't do anything to keep people from exploiting women and children online. a number of courts have said this, basically called on congress, welcomed us to enter into this. the one in california said, quote, quo until congress sees fit to amend the immunity law, the broad reach of this act, the communications act, applies to those who are alleged it to exploit the exportation of others. in other words, congress step in here. do something. that's what this do. it allows online sex trafficking victims to get the justice they deserve and it allows prosecutors to hold these websites accountable. we do it with two changes. first, allowing these victims to get the justice they deserve by removing the broad liability protections for a narrow set of bad actors. we actually say for the good actors, there's a good samaritan provision. if you want to clean up your website and get this offensive material off, you're protected. second, it does allow the state prosecutors to go after these
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websites which they can't do now. it takes the federal standard, not a new standard, federal law which is already a criminal act and says allow these state prosecutors, these state attorneys general to prosecute these websites that violate these federal laws. it's incredibly important to pass this, and we did it narrowly. we have a knowing standard here, in other words to be affected by this you have to knowingly be facilitating, supporting or assisting in sex trafficking. we did that because we want to make sure it was focused on this issue and not affecting the broader freedom of the internet. couple of weeks ago the white house supported this legislation. i mentioned 68 united states snorts are supporting it. -- 68 united states senators are sporting it. it's got support around the country. all the groups are focused on this issue how to avoid women and children from getting caught in this web of human trafficking and then how to help them when they get out to provide for the
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important recovery efforts needed from the trauma of this. those groups are strongly supportive. law enforcement has been terrific. the fraternal order of police stepped up and r strongly supported this legislation, and so have all the other law enforcement groups represented here in washington through their national offices. we appreciate their help. we appreciate the fact that parents have been willing to come forward and tell these difficult stories, as was the case with kubiki pride, as was the case with ambrose and her daughter. they told their stories from their heart in order to get congress to wake up and do the right thing. we now need to do that. this legislation is now before this body. we expect to have a vote next week on it. we need to do all we can to address this staying on our national character. we need to do all we can to provide these victims the justice they deserve. we need to do all we can to ensure we stop the selling of women and children online. thank you, mr. president. i yield back my time.
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. peters: mr. president, i rise today to honor michigan's farmers. agriculture is a vital part of michigan's economy. our state is home to more than 51,000 farms that contribute over $100 billion to the nation's economy. michigan is also the second-most diverse farm state in the nation, growing more than 300 commodities, including a significant portion of our nation's milk, corn, cherries, cucumbers, and much more. michigan farmers and farmers across our country feed the nation and the world, and we must do what we can to support them. our agoing aal businesses re -- our agricultural businesses rely on the ability to access the resources they need to keep growing, creating jobs and contributing to our national economy. but access to these resources
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can be especially challenging for new farm operations that are just getting started, including small farms that make up 82% of michigan's agricultural producers. small farms that are just starting out are facing tough economic conditions, sometimes struggle to have access to affordable credit. these businesses rely upon important services provided by the farm service agency which works with lenders to guarantee and deliver small-dollar loans to the small farms that need it most. farm service agency loans and guarantees can help farmers cover urgent operating costs like feed, seed, fertilizer, to get them through the season. without these loans, farmers could lose their ability to purchase equipment and other necessities for the planting season and could be forced to curtail their operations. currently more than 2,300 farms in michigan have farm service agency loans totaling more than
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$630 million. across the country last year, the farm service agency made and guaranteed almost 40,000 loans, over $6 billion. this program is in such high demand that in 2016 the farm service agency ran out of money to finance operating loans. this included more than 1,000 loans that have already been approved. this led to a backlog, and farmers were forced to wait for months until congress passed emergency funding tpo get the loans -- to get the loans they needed for their day-to-day operations. access to capital is critical across the range of businesses, but it is incredibly important for our small farmers. they can lose out on an entire growing season if they can't buy the equipment and supplies that they need while they wait on congress to fund the farm service agency. this year the f.s.a. loan
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program is again on track to exceed available funding. and if that happens, farmers will again be stuck waiting for congress to receive the loan that they deserve and need. that is why i've introduced bipartisan legislation this week with my colleague, senator david perdue of georgia, to provide greater flexibility to the f.s.a. loan program to continue serving farmers during periods of high demand. my bill, the farm service agency loan flexibility act, would allow the f.s.a. program to increase its loan authority in years when the demand for loans unexpectedly exceeds supply of funding. the legislation would enable f.s.a. to increase the available loan funding by up to 25% for the fiscal year for -l self-funding loans and guarantees that do not require appropriation. it would also authorize f.s.a. to increase the loan cap by up
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to 25% for f.s.a. direct loans that require budget authority and would allow f.s.a. to draw stopgap funding for these direct loans from the commodity credit corporation. i'm proud to have the support of the michigan farm bureau, the michigan agribusiness association, the american bankers association, and the national farmers union, among many others. like our small businesses, students and families, america's farmers deserve to have affordable loan options, and they deserve our attention and they deserve our support. i urge my colleagues to support the farm service agency loan flexibility act to help meet the financial needs of our farming communities as they support and sustain us each and every day. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. perdue: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. perdue: mr. president, it's not often i get to come to the floor of the united states senate with an uplifted heart, but today i do. yesterday, this body, two-thirds of us, mr. president, got together on an issue that's so important to main street america and agreed after weeks of negotiation and going back and forth, we passed a bipartisan banking bill, mr. president, and i believe historians will look back on this week and this bill as being a watershed event.
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it was a measured bill, mr. president. it didn't blow up dodd-frank. it didn't do away with it. it didn't go as far as some people wanted. it did more than others wanted. but two-thirds of us put the national interests above our own self-interests and passed a bill that will change the face of lending for small community banks and regional banks across our country, mr. president. last year, when president trump became president, he said job one is growing the economy. after eight years of the lowest economic performance in our history, he knew that if you're ever going to deal with a long-term debt crisis that we have, that you have to first grow the economy. he was right. his instincts were exactly right on. so what do we focus on? the president had us focus on regulations, energy, and taxes, and i'm happy to tell you that this body collectively agreed and we got those things done. we reversed 860-some rules and regulations last year.
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we unleashed our energy potential as the presiding officer knows very well. and late last year, we passed an earth-shattering, historic tax cut and tax bill that will unleash our potential and make us competitive with the rest of the world. why was all that necessary? well, mr. president, we had gone through an experiment where big government and more regulation, more control was the call of the day, and we saw the result of that. so what we have been doing is in a measured way reversing many of those onerous fiscal policies that kept the monetary policy from igniting the economy again. that's all this is. and so what we have done, mr. president, at the beginning of last year, some $7 trillion become were not at work in our $20 trillion economy. now, that's historic. that's just unbelievable. you can't even describe that to people outside this country. there were some $2 trillion on the balance sheets of the
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russell 1,000. and so that's now being employed. we see announcements every week where companies are announcing capital plans, capital expenditure plans for the next few years, largely as a result of the fullback on regulations last year. second, we see that by eliminating our archaic repatriation tax, mr. president, that was part of the tax bill, there is some $3 trillion of unrepatriated u.s. profits overseas that will be coming back. most of those will be coming back. and in this banking bill that we just did that reverses some of the more onerous provisions of dodd-frank on small banks and community banks will free up some $2 trillion potential in lending capacity. mr. president, i think this is historic. after dodd-frank, we created a two-street economy. we had wall street and we had main street. i have a chart here that explains that dodd-frank -- and
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this happens so often in washington, where well-intended people who have very little experience in the free enterprise system make decisions that have unintended consequences, and this is one. dodd-frank was intended to rein in and control the big banks. yet what it did inadvertently was penalize the small banks and make big banks better business. so this chart calls out the way i would measure this is the lending activity, mr. president. what we see, the dark blue line here is since the 2008 crisis, large business loans coming out of these major money-centered banks has increased dramatically. and even that hasn't driven the recovery that we talk about because a lot of the job creation comes in small town america and small companies. mr. president, this light blue line here is small business loans, less than $1 million. we're not even back to where we were in 2008. we will be now that this bill
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just passed because it releases the reserve requirements or changes the reserve requirements for small and community banks and regional banks. it also changes the definition of what is a regional bank and increases it to $250 billion from $50 billion. what that does is that lowers the regulatory burden and the costs of compliance for these small banks. mr. president, that gets translated into money flow, cash flow into businesses that create jobs. this is an innovation economy, mr. president. we know how to create jobs. we just need to get the federal government out of the way. one-size-fits-all regulations do not work, and that's what we did yesterday, is we pulled back on a blunt instrument law, dodd-frank, that was done with a supermajority, mr. president, by the way, that was totally ineffective and got the opposite results of what they really wanted. those entities did nothing -- the small banks and community
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banks did nothing to cause the 2008 and 2009 crisis. but since dodd-frank was enacted, mr. president, over 1,700 small banks primarily have gone out of business. 1,700. many because they were unable to cope or afford to comply with the 2,319 pages and 390 new regulations imposed. let me say that again. 390 new regulations were imposed by dodd-frank. my goodness. these small banks had nothing to do with the crisis of 2008. many of these banks were community and regional banks that actually support small businesses on main street, give small businesses needed capital, and sponsor little league baseball parks. i grew up in a little league baseball park that was sponsored by the three banks in my hometown. my father was a board member of one of those small banks. i remember those days. they were involved in the community. when you borrowed money from them, they knew you personally.
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but what we have done is we have created an environment that just shut down our lending activity in these small banks. small business lending, which we all know is a driver in every recovery since world war ii, took nearly eight years to barely get back to where we were in 2008, and i'm not sure we're totally there if you go across the board entirely. i'm so glad to stand here and to say that finally the united states senate took action. i'm also proud to say, mr. president, even though it didn't go as far as i would like, that we got to a measured approach here that both sides could agree on. i want to remind everybody here in this body that two-thirds of us agreed to this. i can't think of another issue that's come before this body. i think we had one vote 98-2 to allow the head of the v.a. to run his human resources practices the way people in the real world do, and we have seen over 1,500 people now replaced at the v.a. to clean that place up. i can't think of another thing
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that has wrought us together like this -- brought us together like this because we all know small banks have been inappropriately affected by dodd-frank. republicans and democrats proved this week and over the past several weeks that we can put our self-interests aside and get to the better good, and i'm proud to be a part of this. that's why i ran for the senate, mr. president. that's why you ran. we did not come up here to not get anything done or just get reelected. the american people are fed up with that that's how donald trump got elected president. that's how i got elected. i would dare say that the american people have the right idea about the future of america if we just listen to them. nobody has all the right answers, mr. president, but putting up capital right now to put the work in our economy is the only way that we're going to grow this economy nor the 3%. and i police chief we can breathe life back into our rural communities. i had lunch yesterday with the secretary of agriculture. they are focused on redeveloping our rural communities that have been ignored for the last decade. these are communities that share the values that built america, mr. president, and yet they have
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been ignored by past administrations that led to big city, big urban focus. and i think -- i mean, i think this bill more than anything else we have done since i have been in the senate will actually breathe life back into those rural communities. i applaud our democratic partners across the aisle. 17 of them, mr. president, took the heat from their own party and from k street and from the vested lobbyists that did not want this to happen. i applaud them for their courage and for standing up for the people back home. that's what we are here to do. it doesn't always work out this way. sometimes 15 or 16 of our people in the republican party, we'll work with them and get a bill that they want to do. that's what this senate body is supposed to do, mr. president. i know that there are some on the other side of the aisle that really want a one-size-fits-all and a bigger government, more intrusion. we heard the speeches this week, that it's going to be so draconian that it -- you know, they just don't understand how this bill will make and breathe
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life back into capital formation, which is the cornerstone of a capitalistic society. but i believe that most people in america have seen the dark side. they have seen the punitive nature of large regulatory bodies by a federal government that wants to dominate every as expect of -- aspect of our life and dodd-frank was one of the ramifications of that, accomplished, as i said, only during a supermajority. the irony of dodd-frank is that it's just another example of washington overreach that helps the very people it claims to champion, and it fails to help the working middle class. we see from this chart. large businesses had no problem getting loans, mr. president, but i have got to tell you, the small start-up entrepreneur is having trouble today, and that's what this bill goes a long way toward helping to alleviate. small businesses should look at this and say we're back in business. we're open for business. i believe that this will breathe life back into many communities around our country.
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these community and regional banks and by extension communities and small businesses across the country have been unduly punished for something they had nothing to do with, and it's time to correct that, and this bill does that. i am proud to be a member of the united states senate today, mr. president. i haven't said that many times here. i'm proud because we took action. we put our self-interests aside. this is exactly the kind of result that the american people want us to deliver. this rollback, which i believe is very measured, combined with last year's regulatory rollback, president trump's step to unleash our energy potential, and, yes, our historic tax bill go a long way to be a big win for our economy. it sends a message to the rest of the world, and i am hopeful that the house is going to pass this bill as soon as possible and that president trump is going to be able to sign it into law very soon. president trump has a vision for america. it is born out of main street america.
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i believe that this puts us back on the track to greatness and leadership in the world, economically, socially, politically it's the right thing to do for our country, it's the right thing to do for every person in america. mr. president, i yield the floor and i note 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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the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. kaine: mr. president, might i inquire if we're in a quorum call. the presiding officer: the senate is. mr. kaine: i ask that it be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kaine: i rise to talk about
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gun ownership and safety in the united states. i speak as a gun owner and strong second supporter, and i want to do a couple of things in the speech, but one thing i want to do is put to rest that gun owners, gun ownership and the second amendment are incompatible with gun safety rules. first, i accept the ruling, holding, and principal announced by the supreme court that the second amendment conveys an individual right to bear arms and conveys that right to the american public. there was, and there remains, some controversy over the ruling. some have argued that the text of the amendment only discusses the right to bear arms in the context of participating in a militia, which in 1787 was a necessary strategy for defending the nation during a time when we had no standing army. for years many scholars supported that notion and argued
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that the other amendments were different in that way. but in heller, the supreme court ruled that the second amendment, like all the other amendments, conveys an individual right. i accept and believe that interpretation, but the heller decision came with an important caveat. the second amendment is the only amendment that use the phrase well regulated. the amendment may convey a personal right to gun ownership, and it does, but it explicitly acknowledges that regulations are part of what may be necessary. and courts constituent to heller have frequently held it is well within the scope of the second amendment. the n.r.a. and other organizations often suggest that the phrase well regulated -- or they often pretend that the phrase well regulated doesn't even appear in the amendment. often they'll print a copy of the second amendment or the text and have the second clause omitting the well regulated
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phrase. while that phrase, like the text of the amendment is set in the context of a militia, it is clear that the framers knew that firearms are dangerous, though necessary, and there needed to be rules. in other words, the words well regulated is not to refer to the kind of uniform, it is there to refer to the need of discipline and training to keep those who bear arms behaving in a reasonable and safe manner. mr. president, even if the phrase well regulated did not appear in the text of the second amendment, and that phrase, well regulated appears in no other amendment other than the second, it would be clear that the second-amendment right is not absolute and free from any governmental rules. the heller decision, authored by justice scalia, stated this very clearly, that a ruling of
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individual ownership and use of firearms does not restrict the government from imposing reasonable rules on their use, and many subsequent cases have affirmed these reasonable rules over time. the first amendment, for example, guarantees the right to free speech and makes clear that no law infringing upon such a right is constitutional. but the supreme court has long held that government agencies can place reasonable limits on the time, place, and manner of speech so long as the limits don't discriminate on the content of the idea that's expressed. so easy example, a city can ban sound trucks with megaphones from driving through neighborhoods blaring ads in the middle of the night while people are sleeping. the right to free speech is subject to reasonable limitation. similarly, the first amendment guarantees freedom of the press, but states punish civil liable
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through their civil litigation and court process cease, a newspaper trashing someone through a knowingly false statement can be subject to civil liebt liberty. -- lie ability. this is similar to the second amendment. while the right to ownership to bear and use arms, not just own, reasonable rules with gun usage are explicitly expressed in the amendment. mr. president, i think it is important to recognize that we all tolerate reasonable limits on gun use. one common use of firearms in virginia and alaska, i know from my one visit to alaska, this is the case is hunting. in virginia, the voters of our associate by referendum amended
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or constitution in 2000 to guarantee a right to hunt and gather game subject to the rules by the assembly. i was the legal counsel to this effort before i held state office, arguing the validity of the amendment when some sued to keep it off the ballot. the amendment passed overwhelmingly with 60% of the vote. that vote showed our population embraced the right to hunt but also embraced the acceptance the notion that right should be subject to reasonable rules imposed by the legislature. we have many state rules on hunting in virginia. the state determines the seasons in which hunting can occur and those seasons can differ depending on what you're hunting. where it can occur, the license you need, the training you must
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complete, which days of the week are open for hunting, what kinds of weapons can be used in hunting, and even the size of a magazine in any automatic or weapon that can be used in hunting. in virginia, by statute, you can hunt with a shotgun, but the magazine can contain no more than three rounds. if the magazine on a weapon is larger than that, you're required to have a plug or filler in the magazine that will reduce its capacity to no more than three total rounds as measured in the magazine or chamber itself. so the bottom line for these regulations, which are well accepted and understood in virginia is clear, even the use of firearms for hunting, protected by the virginia constitution, as well as by the second amendment, is subject to safety rules that society fully accepts. the clear constitutionality of gun safety rules and the public acceptance of these rules poses
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a stark question to congress. why in the face of escalating tragedy are we so unwilling to adopt commonsense gun safety rules designed to reduce gun violence? why does congress shield gun manufacturers from liability from a federal protections that we don't give to the manufacturers of other products? why does congress limit the centers for disease control to research gun violence? why does congress limit the ability of law enforcement to fully trace the use of guns that are used to commit crimes? why does congress prohibit weapon ownership by certain classes but resist a universal background check system that would be necessary to enforce that prohibition. why won't congress enact the same kind of magazine limitations used to kill people
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that we embrace on weapons to kill deer? why won't congress ban weapons of war that are used by trained officials as was the case with the president and his military service or my son in military service, but why won't we ban those weapons of war from the streets of our country? self-defense, sport, hunting, are all protected and encompassed within the broad protection of the second amendment. there is not, there has never been, and will never be an effort to confiscate all weapons because of the clear demands of the constitution. but why can't we have reasonable safety rules? america's children, so many of them appeared here yesterday, children from a middle school in northern virginia, some high schoolers from thomas jefferson high school, and i met with some children from florida. they posed the question, does
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congress care more about its children or more about its contributions from the n.r.a. and gun manufacturers, can adults act like adults and try to keep children safe? those were the questions i heard from the students on the capitol steps yesterday. i applaud the children of this country who are asking these questions. they stand together with an overwhelming jrlt of americans who -- majority of americans who believe we can do better and we need to do better. mr. president, i've seen the tragedy of gun violence, but i have also seen that we can do better, and that part of that is better rules on guns. when i was elected to the city council in richmond in 1994, we had the second highest homicide rate in the united states. that was the only top ten list we were on. that's not the one you want to be on. i went to too many funerals and too many wakes and too many crime scenes, and i was in too many church basements with homicide victims and -- homicide victims families support groups and i don't want to do those kinds of things again.
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through the pain of that, multiple efforts by multiple people, we helped reduce our violent crime rate risk. we dropped the homicide rate by 60%. we dropped the aggravated assault violent crime rate by nearly the same number. and we did a number of things, but one of the things we did was to recognize we had a problem with guns. it wasn't just about people or just about mental health. there's -- those were issues, sure. but we had a high gun carry rate in richmond. gun carry rate means in a hundred stops that the police would do, what percentage of the time were people wearing a weapon. in richmond we had an unusually high percentage compared to other cities for a variety of reasons. what we decided to do is if we can bring down the gun carry rate, we may not make bad people good people but we can avoid an argument breaking bad and turn a homicide into aggravated assault. we could have people leave their
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gun at home instead of putting in their pocket. by doing that, we helped bring down gun violence. we found that you can take concrete steps to make people safer. i was governor at the time of what was the worst shooting in the history of the united states. the weird thing to say about my own state, i wish it had always been the worst shooting, the tragedy of virginia tech in april 2007 where 32 people were killed. it's now been eclipsed by shootings in orlando and las vegas and newtown, so many other tragedies have happened since then that even some of the particulars of the virginia tech shooting start to recede in memory as new tragedies happen. it was painful, mr. president. i interacted with the 32 families who lost their kids and lost their parents who were professors and have continued to interact with them over the year and learning what went wrong that day and a lot of things went wrong. and then vowing to the families we'd try to fix them has been a cause of my life for the last 11
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years. but we also learned through the pain some things we could do to make our communities safer. in this particular case, there were problems with mental health and there were problems with privacy rules and there were problems with campus safety protocols, but a significant problem was that we had a flaw in the background record check system. and a young individual who'd been adjudicated mentally ill and daing rules and was pro-- dangerous and was prohibited from owning a weapon slipped through the cracks to get a weapon that he shouldn't have had. so the lesson we learned is better background check system, you reduce the risk of tragedy. so whether it's common -- you know, street kind of crime of the kind that occurs every day and may not get the attention on the weekly news or whether it's a mass shooting that gets the attention on the weekly news, i've had some scar tissue over this. but at least the scar tissue has taught me a few things. and one of the things i've learned is you can take meaningful steps, and if you do so, you make communities safer.
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if you know that you can take steps to make people safer, then you must. you must. mr. president, i'll conclude and just say this. we need a debate on the floor of this chamber about how to promote -- how to reduce gun violence and promote gun safety. we haven't had one since april 2013. it's been five years. and the list of tragedies is getting longer and longer and longer. we shouldn't be afraid to entertain both republican and democratic proposals for reducing the scourge of gun violence. there will be different kinds of proposals. that's as it should be, just as the debate we had about dreamers a few weeks ago. there were different proposals put on the table going different directions. we know in this body any would need to get 60 votes to pass which means nothing will pass unless there's bipartisan support. but we shouldn't be afraid of having that debate. we've been afraid to have the debate, but our children are afraid for their lives. and if they're showing the courage to speak out for change, the least we can do is show that we're listening.
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thank you, mr. president. with that i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, before the senator from virginia leaves, since he is the cochairman of the american spain council, i want him to hear my very brief remarks. because it has been discovered and it will be officially announced today at 4:00 with a new website la florida discovered by historian dr. michael francis of the university of south florida at st. petersburg, one of the imminent spanish colonial scholars in the world the
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following. appropriately said and launched today since st. patrick's day is this saturday. that the first st. patrick's day was not in boston in 1737, nor was the first st. patrick's day parade in new york in 1762. but as discovered in the spanish archives in seville by dr. francis, the first st. patrick's day was celebrated by an irish priest richard arthur, better known as ricardo arturo in st. augustine in 1600.
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to be followed by the first st. patrick's day parade in the new world in st. augustine in 1601. needless to say, this is not going to make our friends in boston and new york happy to hear that they were eclipsed by well over a century, a century and a half. however, it shows the strong roots of the irish people in america all the way back to st. patty's day in 1600 in st. augustine, florida. thank you, mr. president.
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the presiding officer: senator from the great state of alaska. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i enjoyed that little bit of history there. i'm sure that the irish everywhere and those that are perhaps not quite as irish will still find good reason to celebrate on march 17, whether you're in florida or in the northeast or in alaska, as the present occupant of the chair will certainly know. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that kennis badey, a -- brady, a eastbound in of my staff be dwrantsed floor privileges for the remainder of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i'm here to share a little bit of alaska. i no he that you will also appreciate the update on an event that we in alaska celebrate every year, the past 46 years. the annual idatarod race has been run in the state of alaska. this is a sled dog race of international fame, a race that begins just outside of
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anchorage, alaska, and ends in nome. about a thousand miles. i think this year's southern rate was 998 miles to be exact. it's one of the longest dog sled races on earth. and it travel, over some pretty interesting terrain and interesting is a choice word to use as you cross mountains and frozen tundra and forests and out on the frozen ice. the idatarod is truly a race for only the most hearty, only the best. the idatarod itself commemorates the diphtheria outbreak that happened in nome. and there was no way to get the diphtheria from the coastal area down in seward at the time all
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the way up to nome. this was before we had air transport as a viable option. and so the real question is, how do you move this, how do you move it quickly. this is the middle of the winter. and so it was a -- it was not a race. this was a life-saving mission to move serum, again, a thousand-plus miles to the north to save a community. and they resorted to a relay of dog sleds, of dog teams to move that serum. today the idatarod is no longer a relay. it is a race of individual sled dog teams. again, it's about a thousand-mile race that is the test of determination, certainly of the musher and to the canine mushers but it is tough. it is tough. it started off -- it's always the first weekend in march, but
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this time of year in alaska, sometimes conditions can be pretty good, above zero. sometimes they can be 30 degrees, 40 degrees below zero. sometimes you can have ground blizzard and wind conditions moving close to 80, 90, 100 miles an hour. when you want to talk about windchill out there, it is real. it is extreme. this 46th annual running of the idatarod hasn't been that challenging in terms of the cold, in terms of what they've seen in the past but there's always some bump, always something that causes the race to be a little bit different. this year the mushers had a scheduled check point on eagle island. this is a place where they take a mandatory eight-hour break. the game changer in the race this year was snow conditions. because of the ceiling, planes could not drop food for the
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mushers. so they had to take this very critical check point off of the board. so the mushers plan all this out in advance of their trip. they kind of know where they're going to be along the way. they plan their moves. so this was a pretty unanticipated event at the end. and can impact you. but you've got mushers that are pretty vir versatile, pretty adaptable. they took the news in stride, continued up the yukon river toward other rest stops there. nicholas petite who arrived, he was the front runner at the time, he was like no big deal. my strategy is an evolving thing. and yet that evolving thing allows for, again, curveballs that get in the way. in the instance of nick, a musher from a place where you and i frequent often and i call home, front runner was quite
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excited and long story short, lost the trail. lost the trail and lost the lead. and you think to yourself, wait a minute. how can you lose the trail? well, this is not a nascar race where you just go around the same track here. this is a thousand miles, and if it is -- if it's windy, if it's blowing, if it's ground cover that you can't see through, things happen. and things truly happen. on top of the harsh climate conditions that the mushers face, there are occasionally chance encounters with some wildlife. we've got moose. you have caribou. you've got bear out there, porcupines. and they're all potential rendezvouses for mushers around the trail. one of the interesting headlines coming out of the idatarod this year was a headline that says, idatarod musher chases bison off with axe.
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marcel fresno, she and her 14 sled dogs were between nome and riccoli and they came face to face with a bison and her calf. what do you do? you don't want your dogs to be in danger. tough alaskan woman takes her axe and charges bison and says go away, go away. long story, they ransom away and she continued her journey to nome. you have to admit, people like this are ready for adventure. they're full of grit and determination to succeed. and, of course, it's not just the mushers. it is the canine athletes. it is these dogs that truly, truly are the inspiration to watch along the journey. this year's idatarod kicked off with 67 talented, resilient competitors from all over alaska and the world. 67 dog teams. this year joar ulsom was the first musher to arrive in nome. he came in wednesday morning,
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just after 3:00 a.m. he is originally from norway and he's been dreaming of being an idatarod racer since he was a kid. in 2011 he relocated to willow.e in nine days and 12 hours. again, this is not -- this is not a record-breaking time. snow slowed things down. think about it. think about it. standing on the back of your sled for nine days and 12 hours, minimal sleep, constant attention to the dogs in front of you. it is -- it's just an extraordinary story. the newspapers are telling the
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story of jaor crossing the finish line in nome. thousands of people have gathered under the arch to congratulate him. it's about 4 degrees at, again, 3:00 a.m. and you've got a thousand people out on the street. it was actually my brother and my sternl who had come -- and my sister in law who came all the way from brazil. it was my sister in law's dream, bucket list, to be at the end of the idatarod. but jaor and his team are happy. we are very, very pleased for him. i offer hearty congratulations to our 2018 idatarod champion and his team of amazing dogs. i wish all the competitors that are still, many of whom are still out on the trail, success and safety as they compete in this extraordinary last great race on earth. mr. president, i want to transition just a moment here to
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recognize a long time member of my staff, chuck, who recently retired from the senate here. ful you're from alaska -- if you're from alaska and you've ever had any dealings with the alaska delegation, you have -- you have met or dealt with chuck. he is held in great respect in our state as a result of the work that he did for so many people back home. and it's really an understatement to say we miss him already. he's not been -- a little bit of his biography. for those of who are not fortunate to know and work with hurricanes let me share w he is an alaskan not by birth but by choice. he moved from ohio to alaska in 1976 to work as a reporter at the juneau empire in our capital. a few years ago later he became press secretary for
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then-governor jay hammond. he to do followed that with a stint at the department of environmental conservation and then he returned to reporting for a few more years. chuck first came to the senate in 1991. he was convinced by my father, frank murkowski, who was senator at the time, to move to washington, d.c., to be his press secretary. and so he did. he made the move. now 27 years later chuck is still part of the family here. he has served as my father's communications director, a legislative assistant in my personal office, and most recently as senior advisor for the energy and natural resources committee. chuck i think it's fair to say was an institution within our institution. he had -- has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things alaska. if you wanted to know what the vote was on a measure back in
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1993 that related to trans-alaska pipeline or whatever, chuck would be able to recall that without any notes, without any prompt, without any background. chuck is extraordinary. and he has a work ethic that is second to none. we have a phrase that's been around for about 30 years now and it's check with chuck. just check with chuck because you don't need to do any fact-checking. he is it. and his legislative achievements are almost too many to name here. but let me talk about some of the big-ticket alaska items that chuck was involved with. he was involved with responsible energy development in the 1002 area. he has led this fight for us, mr. president, for decades now, as we have sought to open up anwr. he has been the lead on a lifesaving road for the good people of king cove that we've just again been successful with.
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he's been working to build out a safer route on the sterling highway, a much-needed timber supply in the tongass national forest. he wrote legislation to ensuring the transfers of land owed to alaska to promote the construction of an alaska gas line, to expand the use of renewable resources such as hydropower, marine hydrokinetic, geothermal -- chuck is involved in all of them. he has been involved in so many significant accomplishments for our statement but what is equal whaequally impressive was the wk chuck did very quietly and just every day for alaskans all over the state. whether it was a bridge that needed repair, a light pole that had toppled over in bad weather, land use fees that have been miscalculated by a federal agency, chuck was always there
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-- no matter how small the problem, no matter how complicated it may be, chuck was there to work on it. chuck's only been retired now for a few weeks and the people that i'm talking to that are saying, i miss chuck, how is chuck doing, where is chuck -- they all say that they're going to miss him, and i say how much i already do. it is comfort to know that chuck is not going too far. he is retiring from washington, d.c., and he's moving to a beautiful little farm in floyd, virginia. apparently there is only one stoplight in chuck's new town. but i think chuck is going to keep busy. his better half, tory, says h -- says she wants a cow. there is some grass to movement there is a half-achier pond that is stocked with fish. there is a barn that we've all volunteered to help him paint there summer. so we'll figure out a time to do that barn painting.
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but the people of floyd, congratulations on bringing chuck into the fold. we know the barn, the cows, the hay, the pond, the single sto stoplikes the whole community is lucky to have him. 27 years in congress, and you ye double that working on behalf of alaska in some fashion or another. chuck's guidance and work have not only benefited me and the state and the people of alaska and the rest our country. and the favorite part, what i love best about cluck is after all he has done, all he has accomplished, he is still one of the most humble guys that you will ever meet. i told him that recently and he says, oh, yeah, it's easy to be humble when you have a lot to be humble about. chuck was just that way. he's always modest. but the example that he set as a true public servant is one to emulate.
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he worked hard every day, every day. he made our office a better place. he helped people, and in doing so, he's left some truly enormous shoes to fill. and should anybody doubt that chuck left a lasting impression, all we have to do is look at the single-spaced 50-page exit memo that he wrote to give to the rest of my staff, giving them updates on everything that he had been working on -- the status, who to contact, what to do next. chuck left the guide book. he is incredibly thorough. he is aplacingly -- he is amazing librassive. so i just want to tell chuck kleeschulte, thank you. you will always be part of the senate family and a beloved member of team murkowski. after 27 years and on behalf of
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those who knew him, i wish chuck the absolute best as he begins his very well-deserved retirement. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. alexander: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. some time ago i ran into a woman -- i came -- i ask to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i want to talk for a moment about something that's on the minds of anybody in this country who's making $60,000, $70,000 or, $80,000, $90,000, too much to have a subsidy to pay for your health care insurance and may be paying $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 of that salary for your health insurance this year and have heard from a lot of people that on oklahoma 1 the insurance companies are going to -- that on october 1, the insurance
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companies are going to announce your premiums are going up. let me use the example of a woman named marty in tennessee. she came up to me before christmas at the chick filet in nashville and stopped me while i was getting my mac &ies and she says, my name is marty. aim self-employed farmer a few years ago my health insurance was $300 a month and today it's $1,300 a month and i cannot afford that. well, mr. president, in tennessee prices for health insurance for people who work and don't get any subsidy to help them buy their insurance and don't get insurance on the job, they don't get it from medicare, they don't get it from medicaid, people who work, the self-employed farmer, the contractor, the plumber, the songwriter, somebody who might be making $60,000, say, their
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like marty. they're paying $20,000 for their health insurance. and they cannot afford that. i told marty, i think we have a christmas present for you. i think the congress, when we pass our omnibus spending bill is going to include in it a set of policies we have that will lower your rates when they're announced often october 1 -- on october 1 of this year, which is 23018. unfortunately, mr. president, we had a continuing resolution at the end of the year and marty didn't get her present. then i thought she might get a valentine present and we did another so-called c.r., continuing resolution. now we've got until the end of next week to fund the government for the year we're halfway through. and i'm on the floor today to say to marty and to every plumber, farmer, songwriter, self-employed person in this country, somebody who might be between jobs, that if the
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congress will act, we can lower their rates next year for up to as much as 40%. 40%. now, that's according to oliver wyman, one of of the leading health care consulting firms in this country. who announced on monday that a set of policies which we call alexander-murray-collins-nelson, which president trump supports, which congressman walden, the chairman of the house committee in this area, supports, which senator mcconnell supports, which i support -- we have broad support thor this -- this policy that we have been working on for months cork to oliver wyman, over the next three years assuming the states take full advantage of all the options we're giving them, could lower rates by 40%. that means if you're paying $20 in our your health insurance,


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