tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN November 29, 2018 3:59pm-5:59pm EST
the work that i'm able to do on behalf of michigan's over 600,000 veterans. our veterans have always been first in line to defend our democracy. that's why they should never be at the back of any line for a job, for health care, for housing, or for education. our government has made our veterans promises, important promises, and those promises must be kept. that's true of the trump administration as well as every other administration. unfortunately many of our veterans are now finding that promises the government made to them regarding their education are being broken. for weeks now student veterans have spoken out about their g.i. bill benefits being delayed or incorrect. one of those veterans is
brendan. he serves his country in the michigan national guard, and he's a student at lake superior state university in beautiful upper peninsula of michigan. a few months ago brendan's g.i. benefits simply didn't go through even though he did everything that he was supposed to do. as bend ann told his -- brendan told his local station, i got e-mails saying that i have to pay your tuition. it stresses you out, you wonder if you're going to get paid and if i don't get paid, i can't enroll in the next semester. another student, bill, is a veteran of the united states marine corps. his housing stipend was 36 days late. it upsets me, he told
w.w.t.v. -- wwtv. he said when i was active duty you are expected to be anywhere in the world within 24 hours, boots on the ground, ready for any mission. when it is time to pay veterans back for their service, it takes 35 days to get a check in the mail. this is outrageous. and what is even more outrageous is this week the department of veterans' affairs says it does not intend to reimburse veterans who were paid less than they were told. that's after the trump administration promised a house committee earlier this year -- actually earlier this month, that it would make hiewr veterans are reimbursed. the department blames computer issues and sauce going back to fix them the mistakes would only delay further claims. that's completely unacceptable. and you can bet if brendan or
bill or any other veteran tried to blame computer glitches for not paying their bills, their phone bill or failing to complete an assignment, it wouldn't work. these veterans have done everything -- everything that we've asked of them. it's our government's responsibility to provide them with everything they have been promised, and i'm committed to doing everything in my power to make sure that happens. that's why earlier this month i called on the secretary of veterans' affairs to address this issue with the urgency it deserves. in other words, now. this isn't the first time the v.a. has faced backlogs either, but it should be the last time -- the very last time our veterans are affected by them.
i heard about some of these issues during a series of 13 veterans roundtables that i held around michigan this year. i do this on periodic basis to find out how things are going, what more i can do to help as well as, of course, working with individual veterans who call our office every week. but in response to these roundtables, which i very much -- appreciated people participating in from around the state, i introduced the student veterans housing act, which would help ensure that students veterans have a place to live as they are pursuing their education. currently the end of the semester can mean the loss of housing benefits when you're between semesters and not actually in school because the v.a. can't pay for housing in between semesters. my legislation would help ensure
that student veterans don't have to reach into their own pockets to pay for a benefit that they have already earned and to make sure that they are not losing their housing between semesters. our veterans should be able to focus on their studies, not worry about keeping a roof over their heads. and these veterans need to know that their tuition payments will be there on time, just as they were promised. it's not enough to praise our veterans. we do that all the time, but praise doesn't pay the tuition bills or housing costs for student veterans. instead, we must uphold each and every promise our country has made to them, including their g.i. bill benefits. i was very pleased when we were
able to strengthen the g.i. bill and was excited about the opportunities for new support for our veterans, and now we are hearing about technical issues and glitches that make no sense and undermine the capacity for our veterans to fully benefit from the improved g.i. bill. the trump administration must address these technical issues immediately. the senate must pass legislation, including my student veterans housing act which will ensure veterans are receiving all of the benefits they have earned. and the v.a. must repay each and every dollar our veterans are owed, period. veterans like brend and bill and -- brendan and bill and so
a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that we vitiate any pending quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: madam president, this evening the leader or someone standing in for the leader is going to come and close out the floor with a number of unanimous consents. one of them will be unanimous
consent to push consideration of the national flood insurance program, to reauthorize it a week down the road. i will not object to that request for unanimous consent, but i do want to speak to the predicament of the national flood insurance program. for coastal states this is a very big deal and is this a program that is now completely out of step with the conditions that coastal states see before them so we have got to get this fixed. the liability of the national flood insurance program ran up to $30 billion after hurricane harvey. it borrowed $30 billion from the
u.s. treasury, and that's its borrowing limit. it basically maxed itself out. so in october congress forgave $16 billion. we moved that from a liability of the national flood insurance to a liability of the united states, in effect, putting it on our national credit card. that allowed nifb to -- p to pay out for harvey, irma and maria. at this point that leaves the program $20 billion in debt. we're not sure completely because claims are still being processed from the 2018 hurricane season. but c.r.s. says as of september the nfip has only $9.9 billion of remaining borrowing authority. c.r.s. also points out that repeative loss and severe
representative loss properties over the history of nfip have totaled 30% of all claims. a grand total of around $17 billion, which is almost a perfect match with the $16 that we had to forgive. if you look at the properties that nfip now insures, the repetitive loss and severe repetitive loss properties are about 2% by number but they account for about 16% of all claims. so it's at pretty big piece of our national flood insurance program liability. it's about $9 billion. we can keep going forward and
funding these represent repetitive -- repetitive losses time after time. but there is a problem. back in the old days before sea levels were rising when you expected the coast to revert to a status quo after the storm, they made what seemed to be a sensible rule, you had to rebuild just what was there. we are weren't -- you had to rebuild what was there. the problem is maps are changing, sea levels are rising, storm vulnerabilities are pushing inland and to rebuild in place now no longer makes any sense any longer. you have to at least be able to rebuild higher and out of the way of storm surge or you have to be able to relocate. to rebuild ever couple of years and get wiped out by a new storm makes no sense, but the nfip encourages people to do because
it is hard to get paid out to relocate. it has to be triggered by a state or municipality doing its own buyout. if you're a small rhode island municipality, you have a pretty strong interest in not doing that major buyout of flooded programs because as soon as that happens, they are torn down. it aches a long time to -- it takes a long time to get there for one thing. these are slow processes. the house gets torn down and it goes to public space and the town loses the tax revenue from the ownership of that property. it's a shot to the municipal budget to go down that road. it's not a decision made by the homeowner. the homeowner is stuck waiting for the municipality to make that decision. so the nfip program, we have got
to get it stood up again, we have got to get it reauthorized. we have to lift with consistent with rising seas. and if it makes no sense to rebuild in that place because it's just going to be washed out again, we have to make sure this program allows homeowners to take their final payout and go elsewhere, rather than in order to stay in the program have to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in a house that taxpayers have to continue to pay for. anyone who complains that there's a subsidy involved in here for coastal homeowners, let me say that the $16 billion in forgiveness, this big one-time forgiveness that we did compared to $44 pl in -- $44 billion in crop subsidies from 2014 to 2017. if we're going to help farmers
in crop sus i dids, no reason -- subsidies, no reason to deny coastal homeowners. the states that are being hit are getting hit pretty hard. florida has been estimated by the union of concerned scientists to have the most homes an property value at risk from sea-level rise. 64,000 homes may see flooding every other week by 2045. that's going to be a lot of claims on national flood insurance. half of these homes are located in south florida. so those counties and those municipalities are going to take a heck of a hit. in georgia, king tide flooding regularly floods st. mary's, brons wick -- brunswick, rg according to one report and
flooded 22 times in 2015 and it's expected that with one foot of sea-level rise it will be under water 100 times annually. it is terrific to see the senator from louisiana taking on the president's chair right now because the fourth national climate assessment highlights louisiana as facing some of the highest land loss rates in the world. between 1932 and 2016, louisiana lost more than 2,000 square miles of land. from my small state of rhode island, i'm not even going to talk about what 2,000 square miles means but it's a big deal and it's due in part to high rates of relative sea level rise. so getting the national flood insurance program right, gettin it reauthorized and adapting it so that people who are going to be swept off of their lands by sea level rise is really important. and i do want to commend senator kennedy for his persistence and
leadership in trying to solve this problem. north carolina, according to an article published in the weather channel beach near east sea gull drive in nags head has been eroding about 6 feet back per year. if you're rereading at -- eroding at 6 feet per year, you're going to wipe out a lot of homes. we have to get the flood insurance program adapted to that. north carolina itself has predicted a rise of 1 meter of sea level rise by 2100 data compiled and analyzed by noaa shows the worst case potential at about twice that, 2 meters. south carolina according to the fourth national climate assessment, charleston, south carolina has seen flood increasing and by 2045, charleston, south carolina is projected to face nearly 180 tidal floods per year. that's going to be a lot of properties that they're going to be making claims against this
program. 180 tidal floods per year compares to 11 in 2014. so this is getting worse and it's getting worse fast. in texas, bryce wofort and texas -- university and text a&m compared flood damage from the storms that hit houston and they found that fema's flood risk maps only captured about 25% of the actual damage. so if you're a municipality in addition to the problems that you have trying to deal with protecting your tax base and of having people flee valuable coastal property as sea level rises, you also have the problem that when you look to the federal government to figure out, okay, what's my risk here, what are the problem areas, the fema maps are wrong. the fema maps are misleading. we saw this firsthand in rhode island as well. we had to do a lot of state level work to get correct mapping so that our coastal
municipalities could have a true assessment of what their risk was. and those homeowners need to know those facts. homeowners now relying on fema maps are being misled. and we have to fix that problem as we fix the nfip problem. more than half of the homes damaged by hurricane harvey were not listed in any flood risk areas. so they didn't have flood insurance. that's another problem. not only is there going to be a big load of new claims because of sea level rise on the national flood insurance program, not only are we going to have to adapt the way that climates can make their claims so they can raise their homes to survive the next storm or clear out because they can't survive the next storm, but we are also going to have to deal with this problem of homes that aren't covered by flood insurance because fema's maps are wrong and their owners are then left
stuck without insurance. so for a lot of reasons, my patience is wearing out with this continued kicking down the road of the nfip program. i have been working on this. i hope in a constructive way. and i intend to continue working on it and i hope in a constructive way but again my patience is wearing out with our inability to agree and make these changes. i'll yield the floor with again my compliments to the senator from louisiana who has been a very constructive and very ardent proponent of finding a solution. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. a senator: mr. president, i'm here today to ask my colleagues to prove a bill to reform and reauthorize the chemical facility antiterrorism standards program commonly known as sea fats. it regulates chemical facilities
to help prevent terrorists from carrying out an attack with dangerous chemicals, a very worthy goal. mr. johnson: since the start in 2006, watchdogs have dent nyeed significant -- identified significant problems with the program. the government accountability office found it had a seven to nine-year backlog to review more than 3,000 security plans and a flawed methodology to assess security. the inspector general and congress have questioned whether the program successfully reduces risk and enhances security and warned of serious management problems. that's why each time congress has reauthorized the program has done so only for a limited duration. coming from a manufacturing background, i agree with this approach. this is exactly how you help ensure continuous improvement. so in 2014 when the program was last set to expire, the committee on homeland security
and governmental affairs under the chairmanship of sandra carper and congress did its job. it did oversight and made reforms and extended the program for another four years until january 2019. under my chairmanship, our committee also took its oversight and reauthorization responsibilities seriously. over the last two years, we've conducted extensive oversight on cfats to evaluate the program's effectiveness and develop a plan to make it better. we enlisted the help of g.a.o. to conduct a nonpartisan review of the cfats program to help inform our work. we held a round dg table with d.h.s., g.a.o., a chemical inspector and multiple companies and industry groups. we had an important, frank discussion about the program's strengths and weaknesses. committee also held numerous briefings with chemical facility
owners, trade groups, d.h.s., and other relevant agencies. after gathering information and talking directly with stakeholders, here's what we've learned. didn't h.s. has made significant progress under the 2014 reforms by limiting the backlog and improving management of the program. but more work is necessary. it's still far from clear that cfats actually reduces the risk of terrorist attacks and d.h.s. does not measure whether it actually does so. the program forces some explosive material companies to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars complying with the regulations that are duplicative of justice department regulations and subjects companies to frequent, unnecessary site inspections. these practices are extremely costly and neither reduce risk nor enhance security. the program fails to give credit to companies who already comply
with other private sector-specific programs that require high standards of care. recognizing these exceptional programs would significantly reduce the regulatory burden on companies without reducing security. d.h.s. needs to do more to reduce unnecessary costs on both the companies and the american taxpayers. and it needs to be more transparent about how it classifies facilities to help companies understand what rules to even follow. after conducting this oversight, i introduced a bill toll address these issues and reauthorize the program for five years. representatives catko, mull far and cuellar introduced a similar bipartisan bill in the house. our legislation brings much needed regulatory relief to u.s. businesses by exempting explosive materials that are also regulated by the bureau of
alcohol, tobacco, and firearms and explosives. reducing the frequency of audits and inspections and reducing the burden of compliance of companies that participate in the recognition program all while ensuring safety and security. it improves transparency by requiring d.h.s. to provide information to companies on why their regulatory tier changed. it requires more d.h.s. and independent assessments of how successful the program is at reducing risk and enhancing security and it reauthorized the program for five years. after going through a thorough process of discussion and compromise, our committee approved the bill unanimously by voice vote in september. the bill supported by a wide range of private sector stakeholders, including the u.s. chamber of commerce, the american chemical council, the national association of manufacturers, and numerous others. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that their letters of
support be entered into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. johnson: now, recently i have been asked to -- now having gone through all of this work, all this oversight, taking that responsibility seriously, i've recently been asked to support a one-year reauthorization of the program without any reforms. without any consultation, secretary nielsen just sent me a letter completely ignoring our work. and has -- completely ignoring the work our committee has done informing me of her support for a, quote, short-term, unquote, extension. today i was told the house plans to pass not a one-year but a two-year extension with no reforms. the house is claiming they cannot possibly consider reforms because there's simply not enough time because they haven't done any oversight, because they didn't mark up a bill in this
congress. yet the house committee on homeland security has had years to act. my committee did the work. we did act. now i'm being threatened with a false choice. either reauthorize the program as is without much-needed reforms are a let it die. in fact, there is a much better third choice. pass s. 3405, the bill our committee passed unanimously. a bill that provides unanimous reforms that strike the right balance between security and efficiency. again, our committee did the work. we did act. and i have to tell all my colleagues here, this is the only option i will support. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 670, s. 3405. i further ask the committee-reported substitute amendment be withdrawn, the
johnson substitute amendment at the desk be considered and agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? reserving the right to object. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. carper: thank you, mr. president. in the wake of 9/11, congress took a fresh -- i want to walk back in time a little bit of how we actually got here today. but in the wake of 9/11, congress took a fresh look at some of our nation's vulnerabilities and realized that our country's chemical facilities is a part of our industry the presiding officer knows a lot about, but realized that our country's chemical facilities could be potential targets for terrorist attacks. so we created the chemical facility standards program to better protect -- to better
protect high-risk chemical facilities from those looking to do us harm. my legislation is not perfect but my -- my reaction is not perfect but the prime authors of that were i believe senator collins from maine and possibly senator lieberman from connecticut, the senior democrat, senior republican on the homeland security committee at that time. the program that was created, i believe -- i hope i'm not mistaken but i believe with their guidance and leadership, at that time, roughly ten years ago, start out with some stumbles out of the gate. some may recall. but the department of homeland security, then a younger organization, lacked the trust of industry. the program also lacked long-term authorization. there was a fair amount of concern about predictability. you know how businesses like
predictability and certainty which is understandable. in 2014, senator coburn and i -- the chairman of the committee at the time. he was the ranking member. we had what turned out to be a great partnership on a lot of issues including i thought this one. and we worked with industry stakeholders, the department of homeland security, their folks, labor groups, and others in order to provide cfats with a clear statutory authorization, laying out the roles and responsibilities of chemical facility owners in securing their sites against attack. what was first created when cfats was a brand new bill becoming a brand new law, obviously not perfect. that's why we came back roughly five years later to perfect it. and what we did in 2014, i think that's the right year, what we
did then was not perfect either. i think he knew that and i knew that as well. having said that it appears for the most part that the authorization that we worked on, reauthorization that we worked on is working, not perfect but it's working a whole lot better than what it's replaced. g.a.o. for example has reported the department imlit -- eliminated the inspections backlog. it had a very long inspections backlog. the departments worked through that. i think we're seeing over time in improved trust and sense of cooperation between the didn't and the stakeholders, including those in the industry. that authorization that senator coburn and i worked on -- now it's almost five years ago -- is set to expire in january. if it does, this important antiterrorism program will most likely go back to a year-to-year authorization.
industry and labor groups and the department serve -- i think they deserve more certainty than that this time. to his credit, chairman ron johnson, his staff has worked, cooperated with mine this week to address a number of outstanding issues with the bill that was reported out of committee, and it was one of those bills that was reported out. we have all been there. a bill was let out of the committee with an empolice it understanding or tacit understanding that some work would be done on the bill on the way to the floor. and that in mind, at least this week there has been an effort to do that for his staff and i think for my staff. i want to thank him for his willingness to reinsert the enhancement to whistle-blower protections that our ranking member of the homeland security committee, claire mccaskill,
and her staff worked hard to try to enshrine. however, the bill still contains a number of concerning provisions. most importantly, the bill would exempt facilities that store and manufacture some of the most dangerous materials, chemical explosives, from regulation under cfats. they are subject to a separate regulatory program. this change as far as i know has not been studied or at least not studied adequately, as a number of folks have suggested, and if enacted could expose our communities to significant harm. could expose our communities to significant harm. earlier today, i was surprised to receive a copy of a letter that i hold here from the secretary of homeland security, and i think the chairman -- the chairman alluded to it already, but this letter from secretary nielsen basically urges caution
in making the kind of changes that our chairman's bill would provide. she has urged the house and the senate to pass a clean reauthorization of the program in order to ensure that it does not lapse. this morning -- i was surprised to get this today. i was anticipating i had this opportunity to go back and forthwith our chairman on -- back and forth with our chairman on unanimous consent requests. i was also surprised to hear this morning that the chair and the ranking members of the house homeland committee and the energy and commerce committee, committees which have jurisdiction over this program, shared jurisdiction over the cfats program basically answer the call of the administration, the secretary of homeland security by introducing a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the program for two years. their bill would provide not
perfect two-year extension, not perfect, one-year extension, not perfect. their bill would provide industry and stakeholders with the certainty that they need, but maybe without some of the changes that should be made in the program as we know it. i'm trying to remember the name of the paul newman movie. maybe the chairman can help me. but it was coolhand luke. maybe the presiding officer can help me. remember he was in -- an inmate. he was captured, a prisoner, an inmate. he escaped. and he was hard to catch, hard to catch. he -- before he escaped, he was always at odds with the warden, and he was like a short, stout guy. it was cast in the south. i will never forget this guy had a real southern accent, the warden. they are tracking down with dogs and doing everything they can to track down paul newman, the
character played by paul newman. i see the presiding officer smile. he remembers this movie. they finally captured paul newman. the warden was really happy that they had their guy. he looked at paul newman, i will never forget, and said what we have here is a failure to communicate. i cannot do justice to his accent. but i think really what we have here is a failure to communicate. and senator ron johnson and i get along pretty well, i hope, and until -- actually, today or yesterday, we haven't had the kind of communication on this issue that we ought to have on something this important. and i and -- i can object, he can object to anything i might try to do with a one or two-year extension, straight extension, but i think what we really need to do is kind of like lay down our arms. not literally our arms, and go back to -- not necessarily to our respective corners, but go to a negotiating table and maybe
even invite some of our house colleagues. a department which obviously has a clear interest in doing this and some other stakeholders to join us as well. we're going to be in session -- what is today? today is november 29. we could be here for a couple more weeks. i think that's probably time to maybe hammer something out. at the end of the day, if we're not successful in doing that, then we come back out here and do these -- go through all these machinations and object and counter object and so forth. i think the folks who care about this, the communities who care about this, the folks who are in the business, the folks in the chemicals business, the folks who make explosives, the department has jurisdiction, i think they would like us to try to work it out. as the chairman knows, as the presiding officer knows, we are working on a number of things together. that's always my inclination, to try to work things out. i think there is a win-win here, and we just need to work a little harder to seize -- as we
say in delaware, seize the day. i don't know much latin, but i do know carpe diem. in delaware, we say carper diem. seize the day before time expires in a couple of weeks. that would be my thought. i would yield to the chairman for any thoughts that he has. he may want to pour water on what i just said. i hope not. mr. johnson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. mr. johnson: i'm happy to respond. the senator from delaware is well aware of the fact that we have been working. we have already agreed on three improvements from your standpoint. we increase the frequency of inspections for companies participating in cfats recognition programs. we have added a third-party study to look at how workers can be made more aware of the fact that their facilities are covered by cfats. we had a future g.a.o. study to look back at how our provision exempting explosive materials covered by both cfats and a.t.f. is affecting the program. we're already making movement.
if you want to discuss this for a few more days, fine. time obviously is running out. but i do want to make everybody aware of the fact that because we have done this work, because we have passed this out of our committee unanimously -- and i'm not in any way, shape, or form expecting some of the fact that we have not communicated. we have been trying for four months working with the house. there has been no yield whatsoever. there has been no give whatsoever. there has been very little desire on their part to do anything other than a take it or leave it, let's extend this no reforms. that's simply unacceptable to me. i have got a great respect for president ronald reagan. i don't want to prove him wrong. i actually want to reauthorize this thing. but if we can't come to agreement with a reformed reauthorized cfats program, i am more than willing to prove ronald reagan wrong when he said, to paraphrase, that the
closest thing to ee learn life on this earth is a government program, and i will let this program expire because i really do not think it really enhances the security of our nation. it's certainly not proven that way. without reforms, i'm happy to let this program go the way of the dinosaur. i yield the floor, mr. president. mr. carper: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. carper: i am trying to think of a rather quick reagan comeback, but my memory fails me. i have a pretty good one from john kennedy who once said never negotiate out of fear, but -- but always be ready to negotiate. that's a paraphrase. never negotiate out of fear, but always be willing to negotiate. i would just say -- i would just suggest that we kind of withdraw what we're trying to do here in a parliament way and get back to negotiating. and if in the end we come back here in a week or two, we come back. but i'd like to give it the old
college try. i hope that -- mr. johnson: will the senator yield? again, inhappy to do that, but we have not had that kind of engagement. right now there is basically a gun to my head threatening me take it or leave it, and that's not a collegial, that's not a very high integrity approach. so i'm happy to sit down. let's continue working on this thing. but this program needs reforms. we've done the work. i think that work needs to be recognized and respected. so, again, let's sit down, get our staffs going together on this, and let's reauthorize a reformed cfats program. mr. carper: and i would -- i welcome your words. the folks over in the house -- i used to be a house member. i think we need to respect their views as well. obviously, they have some views that need to be taken into account. this is not something to discuss with the secretary. i don't know how many she has thought about it, given everything else she has on her
plate. clearly she has people who work for her who thought about it a lot. a chance to reingauge with the chairman, his staff, our staff. some of the other stakeholders that we talked about here are engaged as well. and we need to put some pedal to the metal. get somewhere. mr. johnson: if you would please yield. the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. mr. johnson: had the house put an ounce of effort and work into this, i would have something to respect, but they have done nothing other than basically just threaten me with these types of tactics. so, again, let's work together. let's provide a product that we can present to the house that they can pass. the presiding officer: there is a pending unanimous consent request. is there objection? mr. carper: i was prepared to ask the senator modify his request to the senate instead to take up a bill that i have introduced that basically reflects what the secretary has
done and what the house has done. it's at the desk. help me on this, mr. president. does -- i think the chairman of the committee is willing to withdraw his unanimous consent request. i think that's a good way to go. the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. mr. johnson: i am not withdrawing my unanimous consent request. you can object to it, and we will work with you. i won't consider that the final say. we'll work in very good faith to come up with something better and come back here to the floor hopefully with a bill that we have agreed to. mr. carper: i don't get to object to unanimous consent requests every day. i think i will do that just to see what it feels like, and i will object. but in the spirit of trying to get something done. the presiding officer: there is objection to the unanimous consent request. mr. johnson: the objection is taken in that spirit. mr. carper: all right. thank you. democracy. what did winston churchill say, mr. speaker?
mr. president, democracy is the worst form of government deviced by way of man, except for all the rest. and he also said america, he said america, you can always count on america to do the right thing in the end after trying everything else. so hopefully in the end, we'll get a lot closer to perfection. so let's give it a shot. thank you. and i yield back.
mr. sullivan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not, sir. mr. sullivan: okay. i ask unanimous consent that my defense fellow, amy williams, my coast guard fellow and my state department fellow marie ilene be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the congress. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, it is thursday and that means it is typically time for me to recognize somebody in my state who has made a big difference for alaska, sometimes who's made a big difference for america, and we like to call that person
"the alaskan of the week." i know this is your favorite time of the week, because these are usually great stories about great alaskans, great americans. and today i guarantee you i am not going to disappoint with talking about another great alaskan. now, i like to brag about alaska, it's beauty, it's mystique, it's great people, it's vastness, welcoming communities, tough people, tough environment. everybody should visit. if you're watching, come on up. come on up in the winter be, by the way, not just in the summer. the northern lights are out. you can see them. they're beautiful. we actually gate lot of tastes in the winter, believe it or not. but there's something else that's very unique about my state, very special, and it is this -- it's one of the most patriotic states in the entire country. more veterans per capita than any state in america.
so, we like to brag about that. i certainly like to brag about that. my constituents serve in the military, and their families sacrifice. and so many of these veterans, like thet do throughout the country, some of our alaskan veterans devote time, energy, and resources to giving back to their community. but to also helping other veterans. so, mr. president, we all know a few weeks ago we celebrated veterans day, and as part of that celebration, as part of our alaskan of the week series, i want to recognize as today's alaskan of the week, mr. ron travis, alopping with his wife linda, and what they have done in terms of spending years making a difference for american veterans, alaskan veterans, hundreds, if not thousands. so let me tell you a little bit about ron. he came from a patriotic family.
his father fought in world war ii. his mother was a member of the v.f.w. auxiliary. and in 1961 ron joined the navy, where he served from 1960 to 1964 as a machinist mate, third class on the u.s.s. providence. it was a guided missile cruiser and was the first u.s. fastest ship -- u.s. navy ship to travel up the saigon river in the vietnam war. so he is a vietnam vet. after he got out of the military, he used the g.i. bill to go to college at what was then eastern washington college in 1967, bit of a kind of a -- a lot of turmoil during that time in our country, particularly on college campuses, so this is during the height of the vietnam war, a lot of the protests. and when he was in college, like
so many vietnam veterans, he was certainly upset to see a lot of the protests. he was particularly infuriated to see his professors canceling class so they could join the protesters. quote, a lot of our professors we had didn't even know where vietnam was, but they went out and protested. however, there was a rule on campus that even if one student showed up for class, that the professor couldn't cancel the class to join the protesters. so ron and other veterans joined a club. they organized a club at their university to make sure there was a veteran in every classroom pretty good idea. keep the professors doing what they're supposed to be doing, teaching. they also helped vents pay for books they needed and to help
them with their classes. again, veterans helping veterans is what ron has been doing his whole life. it turned into the biggest club on campus. now, there was another club on campus, kind of infamous. the students for democratic society, better known at s.d.s. not necessarily the most pro-military group in the country in the time, to say the least. and at one point they tried to take over the club's -- the veterans' club's canteen, but that didn't work. as ron said, they forgot one thing -- we would fight for what we believed in. we had already done that. now, unfortunately, it never came to blows. he's quick to point that out, but the s.d.s. certainly backed down to ron's veterans club. so eventually he made his way up to the great state of alaska to work on the alaska trans-alaska pipeline. like so many people who came up to our state, he fell in loves
with t he brought his wife linda to alaska to settle. stealthed in a wonderful -- they settled in a wonderful community called big lake, about an hour's drive from anchorage and made a wonderful life for themselves. they built a cabin off the grid, raised their kids in alaska. ron worked as a he in cantic -- ron worked as a mechanic. he had health issues associated with his service in vietnam, exposure to vietnam. he joined the american legion, post 35 in particular, in wasilla, alaska. and he began to get mored and more involved in veterans' issues. eventually he became the commander of the post. and then again duty called, another time for ran to help with regard to our veterans. now, mr. president, no doubt you and most other people watching
have heard about this great network of americans called the honor flight network. this has chapters in individual states that bring veterans here to washington, d.c., at no cost to the veteran so they can visit the memorials that in many ways they've dedicated their lives to. the world war ii memorial, the korean war memorial, the vietnam memorial. it's an outstanding program. it started with bringing world war ii veterans here who haven't seen the wonderful world war ii memorial here on the mall that was built for them and finished in 2004. now, because of our distance, alaska's distance, thousands of miles literally from d.c., we did not have a program, despite having all these veterans. we did not have an honor flight program.
well, guess who changed that? ron and his wife linda. they were at a veterans' facility when they were down in washington state visiting ron's mother at a resthome and hat that facility they met another veteran, they were shown pictures of a recent trip and said, you know what? alaska needs to do this. alaska needs to do this. ron said, someone should start one. someone should start one of these programs. he looked at his wife and they realized that they were going to start it. and the last frontier honor flight program was born. two times every year since 2013 they organize a trip for up to 25 veterans, their escorts, a photographer, a doctor, two staff members, and they come to washington, d.c., to visit the
memorial, the different memorials for our veterans living in alaska -- world war ii, korea, vietnam. all told, they have organized trips for 286 veterans, 155 of them fought in world war ii. just from alaska. and it's not an easy flight, especially for some of our older veterans. but they're all doing it. ron and linda's love and care and dedication. his goal is to try to reach out to as many world war ii veterans as they can while they are still with us. and, of course, it's a trip of a lifetime for so many of these veterans. a wonderful gift, one veteran called it. others have referred to it as their final mission. ron says that the veterans often shed a tear in front of the world war ii memorial.
it takes them by surprise, he said. they often don't realize how much they feel until they see it. it's a healing mission and trip for them. they do a lot of these things during these trips. it's just an honor to to be parf it. now, mr. president, i try to see ron and his team every time they come to alaska -- or come to washington, d.c., and we usually greet them with a couple dozen doughnuts when they're out looking at these wonderful memorials. ron recalls one particularly emotional moment with one of the world war ii veterans he brought from alaska when he was in front of the world war ii memorial, when he was approached by a woman who was also visiting the memorial. he saw them talking. then they hugged. then they cried.
total strangers. what was going on there, mr. president? this woman's parents had been at the concentration camp dachau. the veteran, the world war ii veteran, the alaskan veteran had been part of the unit that liberated the camp. her parents, she said, were in some ways alive because of what he and his unit did to liberate them. right here on the mall. powerful. ron credits the community in alaska for making these trips possible. of course, he and lindh did a are being -- he and link did a are being humble. but there's been great community involved. alaska airlines pays for the flights for the veterans and offers discounts for the escorts. various community organizations and veterans groups and businesses help pay for the hotel rooms and all of the food. volunteers and board members come together to raise money.
the community that helps with these trips includes our active duty and reserve forces in alaska. and when you're home and they come home, many of whom are in wheelchairs, hundreds of alaskans come out to meet them in the airport. it's great. ita wonderful. it's the community of my state and really the community of this great country coming together. but in these leaders, in these leaders, and ron and linda have been those leaders, founding the last frontier honor triumphant so i want to thank ron and linda for their great service to alaska, to their country, to our veterans, for all that they've done and congratulate them on being our alaskans of the week. i yield the floor.
mr. nelson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i want to talk about trickle-down economics and give you an example of why it doesn't work, particularly in parts of the country that have long been neglected by the power structures in those communities. let's take, for example, south saint petersburg, florida. saint petersburg is a part of pinellas county. it's one of our major cities in florida. it's at the tip of a peninsula that wraps around tampa bay. south st. pete is riddled with poverty. according to the census bureau,
16.4% of the people who live there live there below the federal poverty line. that's 6.7% of which have jobs but they still live in poverty. now there's something wrong with that. if you have a job, you shouldn't be living in poverty. and what we know of a survey by united way, that 44% of people in florida in this survey taken in 2016, 44% of the people in florida, almost half, do not make, earn enough money to make ends meet. that means they don't have enough money for food, for housing, for health care, for
transportation, and for child care. essentials for someone who is working to be able to have enough to live day to day. so there's something wrong with this. and we find people in pockets all across this country, but i want to give you an example in florida of south st. pea -- south st. petersburg, and many there not only don't make enough to make ends meet -- of course that means that you've got to have both spouses working. 44% of the people do not have an economic situation to make ends meet. and so what do they do to compensate? they work two, three jobs in order to compensate.
so in south st. petersburg, there are a lot of people that don't even have a job, and it's not because they don't want jobs. it's because a lot of the established financial power, including banks and corporations and big investors see areas that are depressed like this one. they see it as a lost cause. they don't believe it has the economic potential to support new business. i want to tell you a great success story, and that's what a husband and wife team, ellahue
and carolyn braybury found out when they tried to open a restaurant on 22nd street in south st. pete, an economically depressed part of the town that was long overlooked by those at the top of the economic ladder. i want to show you a picture of them. this is the brayboys. and in fact the building the brayboys wanted to use for their restaurant previously sat idle for 35 years. it was basically wasting away. and when the brayboys went looking for a loan to buy the building, every lender that they went to said no, it's to do depressed. it sat vacant for 35 years. everywhere they went, they heard the same thing. the community won't be able to bring in enough business, and you won't be able to get enough
customers from outside the community to visit that area. so most people would have given up after receiving so many noes, or given in to the pressure to put the restaurant in a more acceptable part of town. but like most people in south st. pete, the brayboys are a different cut because they are not easily deterred. if there's one thing you should know about the people of south st. pete, it's this: don't test their resolve because you're in for a surprise. undeterred, the brayboys, mr. and mrs. brayboy, took out
money out of their 401(k) accounts and poured all of their life savings into buying that hulk of a building on 22nd street. and after gutting the inside and pouring in their blood, sweat, and tears into remodeling the property, chief's creole cafe opened in november of 2014 and has been going strong ever since, creating jobs and changing the way people think about south st. pete. and this is how the restaurant looks today. despite the warnings of all those doubtful lenders, they have been able to sustain the business by attracting both locals and customers from outside of the area of south st.
does that not look like something that is a well-run, going, successful business? and so the old saying stands, if you build it, and if you really try, they will come. and now this is a great story of stubborn determination, triumphing over fear and adversity and rejection after rejection. but this type of story is few and far between in too many parts of florida and across the country. so let me show you another picture. this is the three oaks plaza.
the three oaks plaza which used to be a location of a dollar tree store, but the store closed last year. this is how it used to look. now this is how it looks. the closing of the dollar tree store came on the heels of the closing of the local walmart nearby. unfortunately this is all too common in south st. pete and too many other parts of problem. the problem isn't new, but we need a new way to think about this. we need economic policies that rely less on outside investors and outside companies to come in and remake the image of the area
and to rely instead, what we need to do is more on empowering local residents to create their own businesses. they're more likely to keep profits in the community, creating a more sustainable loop of economic activity. and that's what i want to recommend, that this senate and future senates do with legislation, take an example of legislation that i introduced earlier this year called the economic modernization act. that bill does a lot of things, but one key thing it does is to create a new tax break for local businesses that move into buildings that long have sat
idle and vacant. and under a piece of legislation such as that, if a business moves into a building that has been vacant for two or more years, and renovates the property, the business would be able to get a tax dukes -- deduction worth many, many more times what it put into it. and any profits earned at the property for the first three years in that building would be a tax deduction. the deduction would be capped. it could be in legislation, at 50% of the business' wages to make sure that the employees are also getting a benefit. and the more the business pays its employees, the more the business saves with that tax deduction. and,