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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  December 18, 2018 2:15pm-8:00pm EST

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the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and call up amendment numbered 4123. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. grassley: reserving the right to object. i'd like to explain my registering my right to make a point before i object. this amendment is inconsistent with current federal law and would allow states the right to break existing law. if there is an attempt to legalize across the country, we should have that debate and let the congress decide the issue instead of creating a back door to legalization. furthermore, the amendment would allow financial institutions to bank marriage distrib tors. this is inappropriate to
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consider in the context of a criminal justice reform bill. criminal justice is not a vehicle through which we create reform for banks to create more business. so the senator from colorado is very much an advocate for the people in his state. i understand that. i respect his position. he works hard on this, and he may be ahead of the time when there will be a real debate on this and maybe there will be at that point an opportunity to consider his approach as something lesser than the legalization of marijuana generally. so because of those reasons, i will object to what the senator from colorado is trying to accomplish. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. gardner: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: i thank the president. i thank the senator from iowa,
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chairman grassley. after much debate and compromise, this week the senate is going to be taking up a bill that he worked very hard to see through to this day, a criminal justice reform package. the peamg today that's on the floor that we're debating, talking about amending shows the american people that bipartisanship remains alive in the u.s. senate. leaders on both sides of the aisle as well as the white house should be commended for their admirable and persistent cooperation and determination on this legislation. i believe the package's goals are noble. it's right to help those who have paid their debt to reenter society with the best possible chance to be productive contributors. it's right to take steps to ensure that sentences are fair and appropriately tailored to the defendant. and it's right to calibrate the way we treat those in custody based on the risk that they pose to society. but being from colorado, it's hard to think about federal criminal justice reform without thinking about the biggest problem the federal criminal law creates for colorado. the refusal to respect the will of coloradans when it comes to their decision on marijuana.
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that's exactly what i am trying to do is to create a debate so that we can address the conflict between state and federal law. everyday coloradans of good faith follow colorado law to a t, yet they are still criminals in the eyes of the federal government. cancer patients using medical marijuana to control their pain and veterans who are using marijuana to alleviate post-traumatic stress, they suffer because they served their country. federal law says they are criminals, even though they are perfectly legal within their right under state law. that's the attempt we are making today is to fix the inconsistency between federal and state law, to begin the debate, because the people don't think that they're criminals when they follow the law in colorado. so we should change federal law. this disconnect doesn't just affect the industry's patrons or
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even its growers and retailers, for that matter. it also makes criminals of those outside of the industry. as we were talking about criminal sentencing reform, we should be thinking about a plumber, electricians, bankers, landlords, real estate service providers, employment and advertising agencies, insurance companies, h.r. services, and all the other everyday services that interact with the marijuana industry, like they do any other part of our economy are affected by federal law, too. that's because when they take money from a marijuana business, federal law considers them money launderers. putting them at risk for both criminal liability and civil asset forfeiture. that means the mother who moved to colorado to treat their child who has epileptic conditions, severe epilepsy, thousands of seizures a month, to move to colorado to treat them with the c.b.d. oil that you can derive from the work that we were doing on marijuana, that reduces those seizures from a thousand a month to a few -- six, seven, eight,
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or a dozen a month are illegal under the eyes of the federal government. putting them at risk for criminal liability and civil asset forfeiture. the connect forces colorado's $1.5 billion market back into the pseudoshadows where businesses -- it's hard to attract cash, $1.5 billion in cash, inviting dangerous robberies, hindering law enforcement, ensuring that legal marijuana sales benefit legitimate businesses rather than illicit cartels. this is an effort to bring that $1.5 billion in colorado alone out of those shadows. it also means that researchers can't test marijuana for medical efficacy to help better understand impairment because those researchers fear the loss of federal funding. all this flies in the face of what the colorado people have chosen to do for themselves. indeed, it flies in the face of the 33 states that have now legalized some form of
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marijuana, including ten that allow regulated adult use. and this year alone, just this year, oklahoma, missouri, utah have passed laws establishing medical marijuana programs and michigan and vermont have passed laws permitting regulated adult use. and wisconsin voters in 16 counties overwhelmingly passed advisory referenda supporting legalization. here's the chart. look at this chart. green on this chart represents the states that have legalized some form of marijuana, whether it's recreational, whether it's medical, whether it's c.b.d.'s, some kind of hemp product, cannibus. look at the green on this map. over 95% of the population in this country live in a state that have made legalization happen in some way, shape, or form. almost every state. let's go to the list of the states. almost every state here are the states allowing some form of
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marijuana. alabama, alaska, arizona, arkansas, california, colorado, connecticut, delaware, florida. it goes on and on. it's easier to say the three states that have not allowed it. idaho, nebraska, and south dakota. the only three states that have not. recent polling from quinnipiac shows more than 60% of the american people support legalized marijuana and 93% support medical marijuana. 93% support medical marijuana. the american people have made up their minds. this is happening. let's be clear. this isn't just happening in blue states like california or massachusetts or purple states like colorado. it's happening in bold, deep red states like utah, oklahoma, and west virginia and it's happening in swing states like florida, ohio, pennsylvania, michigan, and missouri. the bedrock principle of our government expressed in the declaration of independence is that governments derive their just now we ares from the consent of the -- powers from
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the consent of the governed. as the federal government continues to ignore the will of the people, the people lose respect for the law. the congress must respond because one way or the other, the people of this country are having their say. that is why senator warren and i are offering the states act as an amendment to this criminal justice package before the senate. the act is a simple, straightforward plan. within certain basic federal guardrails, conduct in compliance with state marijuana law will not violate the controlled substances act. this legislation is the embodiment of federalism our founders envisioned. it allows each state to move if at all at their own pace. it lets states like colorado be the laboratory of democracy that american people have come to expect. but most importantly, it lets colorado be colorado. south carolina be south carolina, and florida be florida and they all will have federal prosecutors backing up whatever decision they make with respect to this decision. the people of colorado have made
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their decision already. i did not vote for legalization in 2012. i did not support legalization. but i respect my state's decision. its people know what is right for the colorado. it's people -- its people know what is right for the state, colorado. the decision colorado makes may not be right for the people of south care or florida. but their decision should be respected and supported by the federal government just like the decisions in every other state. i'm all for helping those that have paid their debt to society but there are many for whom there should be no debt. that is why the states act should be included in federal criminal justice reform. let's close with this map. if i could see it one more time. over 95% of the population of the united states lives in a state where they have legalized some form of marijuana. every state in green is a state that has legalized some form of marijuana. by the year 2022, this industry
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will be over $20 billion, all of which can't be in the banking system because it's against federal law. and what happens when you force a $20 billion all-cash economy? i guess that's what we ought to be dealing with here today. it isn't just about banking. that's a side effect of the states act. the states act recognizes that federalist principle that a state can decide this issue for itself. this bill, this amendment at this time recognizes that you shouldn't go to federal prison for following state law. that in its essence is sentence and reform. if we had a chance to vote on this amendment today, the amendment would be germane. it would be a 50-vote threshold, simple majority, up or down, and i know that this bill, this amendment has the support from this body on both sides of the aisle to fix this conflict and
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allow the states to make their own decisions without the heavy hand of washington telling them what to do. mr. president, i yield my time and will not give up this fight.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator -- a senator: did we go in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota is recognized. mr. thune: no quorum call, okay. thank you, mr. president. mr. president, before i begin i would like to say a few words about senator alexander. i was sad to hear he will be leaving the senate in two years, not running for reelection in 2020. while imhe sure he will enjoy relaxing in his beloved tennessee, his gain is our loss. over the course of his 16-year career in the senate, he has been a leader and a model for many of us, including me. as a former secretary of education, he has unsurprisingly been a leader on education issues and he's also been a
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tremendous leader on health care. he combined an impressive knowledge of the issues with an ability to bring together members of both parties to get things done. he and i share the unusual distinction of having both been congressional staffers before becoming members of congress. we both served as chairman of the senate republican conference and have to say lamar was definitely a very tough act to follow. i will miss his presence in the senate, but i'm glad that we have two more years to work together to improve the lives of the american people and i expect, mr. president, that in his last couple of years, he will get a lot done around here because there isn't anybody in the united states senate who is a more effective, more results oriented legislator. so i look forward to the things we can get done together over the course of the next two years, but like many in this chamber are going to be very sorry to see senator alexander leave. mr. president, i also want to mention senator kyl who just announced he's retiring from the
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senate for the second time. senator kyl initially retired at the end of the 110th congress after a distinguished career and stepped in after we lost senator mccain earlier this year. senator kyl is rightly renowned in this body for his statesmanship and his deep knowledge and it's been a pleasure having him back in the senate, even if that's just for this brief time. mr. president, the 115th congress is drawing to a close and it's time to finish up our work. most importantly, of course, we need to fund the government. while this year's senate was the most efficient in two decades in terms of passing appropriation bills, we still have a significant amount of funding left to pass this week. and a critical part of this funding is border security. as all of us know, protecting our border is protecting our nation. when we can't control the flow of goods and people across our borders, dangerous individuals and products enter our nation without our knowledge. the fact is our borders are not
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sufficiently secure. and as we've recently seen with the migrant caravans, they are a target for illegal entry. over the past year illegal border crossing ap hences have -- apprehensions have shot up by more than 30%. a porous border leaves us susceptible to illegal entry by gang member, human traffickers, drug dealers, and weapons traffickers. federal agents have seen a substantial increase in seizures of deadly drugs, including a 115% increase in the amount of fentanyl seized between ports of entry. fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids out there and a major contributor to the opioid crisis that is raging in this country. in 2017, opioids were involved in the deaths of almost 50,000 americans. roughly half or more of those deaths involved fentanyl. if this is what's being caught at legal points of entry, we know more is coming over our
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unsecured border. then there's human trafficking. every year between 14,517 individuals are trafficked into the united states predominantly women and children. then they're sold into domestic slavery or more frequently forced into pornography or prostitution. and of course there's the ever present and very real danger that members of terrorist groups will exploit loopholes in our border security to enter our country and endanger our citizens. mr. president, i don't need to explain this to democrat members of the senate. they know all of this. and they've supported measures in the past to protect our borders. in 2006, the democrat leader and the ranking member on the senate judiciary committee voted for legislation to authorize a border fence. they were joined in their vote by then-senators biden, clinton,
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and obama. in 2013, every senate democrat supported legislation requiring the completion of a 700-mile fence along our southern border. this legislation would have provided $46 billion for boarder security and $8 billion specifically for the border wall. well, nothing's changed, mr. president. border security is still a national security imperative, and it still needs to be funded. so i hope that democrats support for border security won't change either. in 2013 nancy pelosi said that a shutdown was, and i quote, and unthinkable tactic to use in a political debate. end quote. well, i have to agree that it's unthinkable that democrats would jeopardize government operations and services to block funding to secure a border. the american people are certainly not interested in a government shutdown.
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they made that clear back in january when democrats shut down the government over illegal immigration. and i know democrats and republicans in congress both are not interested in shutting down the government for christmas. so i hope, mr. president, that an appropriations bill will pass this week. it is time to get the government funded. mr. president, while i'm on the issue of national security, i'd like to take just a few minutes to discuss the recent report from the national defense strategy commission. the report is sobering. and it should give our work to restore military readiness a new level of intensity. i just would like to highlight a few exerpts -- excerpts from that report. these are quotes. the security and well-being of the united states are at greater risk than at any time in decad decades. the u.s. military could suffer unseparably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in
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its next conflict. it might struggle to win, the report goes on, or perhaps lose a war against china or russia. the united states is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously. additionally, it would be unwise and irresponsible not to expect adversaries to attempt debilitating kinetic cyber or other types of attacks against americans at home while they seek to defeat our military abroad. u.s. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for american interests and american security are severe. mr. president, those are all findings from that report. so, mr. president, would i -- what i would say threats to our national security are many and they're growing in complexity by
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the day, but it's not our strength that tempts our adversaries. it is our weakness. the best way to ensure our security and that of our allies is to project strength. and the best way to project strength is to make sound investments in our men and women in uniform and the right investments in sustainment and noddization -- modernization. i hope, mr. president, that this report will be a wake-up call and the democrats will come to the table to continue the work of rebuilding our military in this next congress. we need to continue the momentum led by president trump in restoring our military readiness so that bad actors will rethink their actions. if i can remind my colleagues, mr. president, providing the pentagon funding certainty allows it to leverage its greatest asset, and that's the men and women of our military. investing in our national defense is an investment in the men and women who are currently standing watch around the world
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this holiday season, foregoing the comforts of home so we can celebrate with our friends and family. t this last weekend i had the honor of attending an activation ceremony of the south dakota national guard. they are deploying in support of operation atlantic resolve and demonstrating yet again america's commitment to security in europe at a time of heightened tensions. we thank them for their service, and we wish them a safe deployment. may we think of bravo battery and extend our thanks to all the men and women in uniform defending our freedoms this time of year and may we return, mr. president, in the 116th congress with a renewed commitment to supporting their mission and needs.
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mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. kennedy: mr. president, i want to spend a few minutes talking about the so-called criminal justice bill that we will soon be voting on in the united states senate, and i want to make it very clear that i don't believe there is a single solitary member of this body that would do anything intentionally to jeopardize public safety. i don't believe that for a moment. i do believe, though, that there will be some sharp divisions over the merits of this bill. i don't intend to vote for the bill, but i recognize that
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sometimes fair-minded people disagree. what i wanted to do today, mr. president, is just share with you my perspective on this legislation. there's -- there are some things in this bill i really like. the provisions to try to give prisoners job training, mental health counseling, in some cases give them the opportunity to obtain a g.e.d., the so-called anti-recidivism provisions. i support them. i have for years argued that there's no reason with technology that we can't give every prisoner in state and federal prison the opportunity to get a g.e.d. i support the part of the bill that would house inmates when we can within 500 miles of their home so they could receive
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visits from family. i think that might help them not to recidivate. and there are other things in the bill that i like. but let me explain why i'm not going to support, not going to vote for the bill, though i will have some amendments to try to make it better. my objection is to the approach of the legislation. i think it's backwards. i believe that -- i believe that the primary goal of a criminal justice system is not deterrence. it is an important goal, but it is not the most important goal; nor is retribution, nor is rehabilitation. rehabilitation, detention retribution are -- rehabilitation, detention retribution are important goals of the criminal justice system,
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but they're not the most important. the most important goal of a criminal justice system for most americans is justice. again, it's not to say deterrence and rehabilitation aren't important. but they go to the effectiveness of your penal system. they have nothing to do with justice. and that's what we try to do here in the united states congress when we establish rules for sentencing catch and release. -- for sentencing criminals. what's justice? it's been talked about and debated and discussed through the ages. i can tell you what justice means to me. and it means to many people smarter than me. justice exists when people receive what they deserve. justice exists when people receive what they deserve.
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for example, justice exists when the people of tibet are allowed to worship the dalai lama, because they deserve freedom of religion. justice exists when a rapist receives a penalty proportionate to his crime. this, to me, is -- that, to me, is justice. i'll say it again. justice exists when people receive what they deserve. i didn't say that, not first. i agree with it. c.s. lewis did, in an essay called "an humanitarian theory of punishment." and before c.s. lewis said it,
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emanuel kont said it. and before he said it, st. augustine said it. i'll say it again -- justice exists when people receive what they deserve. and that's what the american criminal justice system about. it is not supposed to be primarily about detention or rehabilitation, though those are important goals. but the ultimate matter goal is justice. that's why i think this bill is backwards. what this bill says is, it says our sentencing provisions, as established by the united states senate and united states house of representatives, are unjust. they're unjust. that's the assumption of the bill. and rather than try to fix them, we're going to give discretion -- if you read the 150-page bill carefully, and i have -- almost unfettered discretion to the bureaucrats in the department of
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corrections to fix our mistakes. if you follow the logic of the proponents of this bill, it's like putting paint on rotten wood. the sentences are unjust, they assume. therefore, we're going to give the wardens and the director of the bureau ofmans' prisons the authority -- of the bureau of prisons to let out whoever they want to. i know there are checks and balances supposedly built in there, but you read the bill carefully, in the final analysis, this is going to be a subjective call as to who gets out early and who doesn't. if you want a debate on this floor -- if you want to debate on this floor, mr. president, our sentencing provisions and whether they are just, i will pounce on it like a ninja. i will be here all day and all night. but i'm not going to vote to pass the buck to the
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bureaucracy, and trust them to do the right thing. that is our job. if the sentences are unjust, then, by godly -- by god, let's fix them. but let's don't just give our authority to the bureau of prisons and expect them to fix our so-called mistakes. now, i'm not conceding that we've made mistakes. i don't know, because we haven't focused on the sentencing part. i'm not sure this body has the courage. i'm just not sure we have the courage, and that disappoints me. and that's why i'm against this bill. we've talked a lot about rehabilitation. we've talked a lot about deterrence. those are all important things. but we've talked very, very little about justice. and in the final analysis,, that's what the american people expect from us. i'm going to offer two amendments that i think -- i
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think will improve this bill, and if my glasses hadn't fallen off, i would read them to you. so instead i'm going to tell you about them. but i wrote them down carefully so i'd try to be precise. they're very simple amendments. senator cotton and i are offering these amendments together. i'm going to let him explain his amendment. here's what my two amendments would do. my first amendment would say, victims count. victims count. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the senator from louisiana. mr. kennedy: my first amendment would say that victims count, mr. president. victims matter. it would direct the director of the bureau of prisons, before he releases an inmate -- a rapist,
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for example -- early because the warden or the director thinks he is nonviolent, it would direct the director of prisons to contact the victim of that rape and say, hey, i've made the decision to let this guy out early. and i wanted to tell you about it. and i wanted to give you the date that he's going to be released. and i want to give you a chance to write me a statement about how you feel about it, and i promise to read it. it doesn't give the victim veto power. i wish i could. all it says is, that before a warden lets a child molester or a pedophiler or a rapist or a fentanyl dealer go, he's going to call the victims.
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and if the victims did, and he says, i canadian decision to let him out. here's the date i'm going to let him o you have the right to write a statement about it and i promise you i'll read it. some of my colleagues call that a poison pill. i call it fairness to the victims. and i call it common sense. and i call it justice. now, the second amendment is equally simple. it just says 10 the director of the -- it just says to the director of the bureau of prisons, once a quarter you're going to be letting these catch and release go -- once a quarter you've got to make available to the public, without naming the inmate's name -- we're going to deep anonymous -- you've got to publish a list one a quarter of the people you let out early.
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you've got to publish the crime for which they were in prison. you've got to publish their rap sheet so we know what they served time, if any, in reason for, and you've got to tell the public whether they've been rearrested, and if so, what for. that's t some of my colleagues call this a poison pill. i call it transparency. i call it common sense. i deeply regret, mr. president -- and i'd conclude on this note -- that i can't support this legislation because i think there are ways we can improve our penal system. but, in my opinion, if we want -- if we want to do justice on a piece of legislation, we don't do it by giving our discretion and our law manufacture making authority and our lawmaking
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authority to the bureaucracy as to who gets to stay in prison and who gets to go home early. we make those hard decisions ourselves on the floor of the united states senate in front of god and country and the voters. we don't hide behind the bureaucracy. that's why i'm going to oppose this bill. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. mr. nelson: mr. president, before in a request -- the presiding officer: will the senator withhold? mr. kennedy: i'm sorry, mr. president -- the presiding officer: will the senator withhold his suggestion? mr. kennedy: certainly, i will. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i want to rise to speak on behalf of the bill, senate 756, the first step act. and it is a first step, and it is a mitety important first step. and hopefully this bill to going to pass later today. this revised first step is long
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overdue. i'm proud to see that the house, the senate, and the president all working together, as they should, to pass this important bill -- this country of ours incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. the federal prison population has grown by over 700% since 1980, and it consumes one-quarter of the department of justice budget. now, no one questions that some people deserve to go to prison for the crimes that they commit. sometimes for a long time. but it is time to bring some common sense back into our criminal justice system. this legislation will allow judges to dot job that they were appointed to do, to use their
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discretion to craft an appropriate sentence to fit the crime. and there are numerous stories of judges being forced by strict mandatory minimums to sentence people to decades in prison for low-level drug offenses. how many times have we heard of a judge that would say, i don't think that this sentence ought to be imposed, but i have no other choice for this is what the sentencing guidelines say? we've seen examples of people sent to prison for more than 50 years for selling $350 worth of marijuana. a drug now that is legal in some states. in my state of florida, the use
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of marijuana for medical purposes is legal. that was passed by three-quarters of the people in a constitutional amendment. and so these rigid sentences that are not fit to the crime ought to be turned around, and that's exactly what this legislation does. and if we don't start this first step to turn it around, it's so wasteful, it's so unfair, it's so costly, and it's not how our criminal justice system was intended to work. this legislation, i'm sure that the senior senator from illinois has already told you about the wide swath of groups and people and organizations from across the political spectrum who understand that the system is broken, and they want it to start to be repaired.
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and in addition to the much-needed sentencing reform, this legislation includes prison reform, ending cruel and inhumane practices in our federal prison system. it ends federal juvenile solitary confinement, a practice which now the psychiatrists tell you gives long psychological damage. it also prohibits the shackling of pregnant prisoners. and we have seen, doctors have told us about the harm can come to a pregnant female and serious harm to the fetus if she is not appropriately looked after, and shackling can interfere with that appropriate medical care. the american medical association and the american college of obstetricians and gynecologists
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strongly oppose the shackling of women who are pregnant. this first step act also requires prisoners to be incarcerated closer to their homes, so family members can visit them. after all, don't we want to rehabilitate prisoners? and it provides opioid treatment to inmates that suffer from addiction, something that probably led to their incarceration in the first place. and there is more to do, certainly more to do. that's why this is just a first step. it's a bipartisan first step. it's a concrete improvement of our current system. i'm proud to support this legislation. this senator gave his farewell address last week, but because
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of this very important legislation which this senator has wanted to see come to life and be enacted into law for such a long time, it was important for me to come to this floor and to speak on its behalf and to thank the managers of the bill who have brought it through this long and torturous path, and it's finally going to become a reality. this indeed is an example of when people of goodwill put their mind to it and come together in a bipartisan fashion, in fact you can get something done. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, i want to thank the senator from florida for his kind words of encouragement on this criminal
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justice reform bill which is pending before the united states senate. i thank him. i know his personal interest in this subject and i'm going to miss his service and his friendship here in the senate chamber, but thank him for his many years of serving the people of florida and standing by me on many causes. it's rare that one of these causes is so bipartisan, and this one is. i heard the testimony, or the statement earlier by the senator from louisiana, senator kennedy. i count him as a friend. we've cosponsored bills together. i like him. we disagree on some issues, but we do it in a very positive way. the comments i'm about to make, i want them to be as positive as possible. he brought a chart to the floor and suggested there was no support by national law enforcement for the bill that's before us and said that most of the state and local law enforcement groups were opposed to it as well. i beg to differ with him, and i'd like to submit for the
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record that currently we have the support on this grassley-durbin bill from the american correctional association, from the american federation of government employees, the aflcio council of prisons, the prison guards senator kennedy referred to in his chart are supporting our position and are opposing the amendment he's offering with senator cotton. the association of prosecuting attorneys, the association of state correctional administrators, the fraternal order of police supports our bill. in addition, the international association of the chiefs of police. i'd like to submit the remainder of these law enforcement, corrections, and government groups for the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you, mr. president. at the heart of the amendments being offered by senators cotton and kennedy is an effort to provide notification to crime victims. i spoke to this early this morning, and i think it bears repeating. it is interesting to note that
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they are arguing their amendments are necessary for the sake of crime victims. at the same time virtually every leading organization in america representing crime victims support our bill and oppose the amendment being offered by senators cotton and kennedy. why do they oppose it? because we already have a law. the law says if you are a victim of a crime, you have certain rights written into the statute, some ten specific areas where you have the right to be consulted or notified if you are a victim and you want to know what is going to happen to the person who is accused of the crime that you were a victim of. it's only right that we do that, and we've done it for a long time. we also have regulatory provisions where the bureau of prisons will not release someone without noiftion to -- notification to the crime victims. there's a healthy pattern
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established by law that victims of crime in the united states have the right to receive all of this information and in some cases can actually participate in the proceeding. we voted on that on a bipartisan basis years ago. that's the way it should be. so what does the cotton-kennedy amendment add when it comes to crime victims? it adds something that the crime victims organizations oppose. let me tell you what it is. you have a right as a crime victim to be notified, but you are not mandated and required to be notified. that's your call. and it turns out that 10% of crime victims over the last five years, over 160,000 american crime victims have chosen not to be informed. they don't want to be notified. why? why would they not want to be notified? what if the victim is a child in your family who is the victim of a crime at an early age and you've decided for the sake of that child and your family, you want to put this behind you. don't put me on the list to
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notify me what happens with the criminal defendant. we want to put that chapter behind us and move forward as a family. perhaps as a crime victim you're dealing with psychological trauma. understandable. you're going through counseling and usable constant reminders about the criminal defendant don't help you get well and don't help you move forward. you can make an individual personal decision. you have the right to make it that you don't want to be notified. then comes the amendment which will be on the floor tonight or tomorrow. the amendment by senators cotton and kennedy says forget that. you're going to be notified whether you want to or not. i think that's wrong. don't take my word for it. go to the crime victims organizations and ask them what they think. they think this mandatory notification will retraumatize many crime victims. they respect the right of a crime victim to say, i don't want to learn this. i don't want to know about it. don't send me these notifications. they respect the crime victims
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and the circumstance, and the cotton-kennedy amendment does not. so at the heart of their amendment process, in an effort to, quote, help crime victims, they've drafted a provision which the leading crime victims organizations oppose. no senator of either party should vote for the cotton-kennedy amendments to this bill and believe they're helping crime victims. they're not. the existing law gives all crime victims the right to know, the right to be informed and also the right to say i don't want to know. don't contact me any more. i want to put that behind me. that's up to individuals. the cotton-kennedy amendment, unfortunately, moves into a new territory and forces this information on people who are not looking for it. in addition to it, they have a list of crimes, if you've committed these crimes and been convicted, a list of crimes that would be ineligible. you couldn't get the prison reform package that we're talking about, the possibility
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of early release if you commit certain crimes. well, we tried to take care to create a process that was sensitive to this, and we started with a challenge. there were 5,000 federal crimes. you wouldn't believe how many there are. and we had to go through and pick those that clearly should disquaff you from getting any -- disqualify you from getting special treatment when it comes to your prison sentence. we came up with a list that was 20 pages long of specific crimes, over 60 crimes. and taf we produced the list members would come to us and say what about this crime? well, if we thought it was a legitimate concern, we added it to the list. so we tried to be as inclusive as possible and to cover the most serious crimes whether they involve violence or harm to an individual, to be sensitive to it. and along the way senator ted cruz of texas produced a list that he wanted included. we took a good-faith look at it
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and we agreed with him on about eight or ten of the provisions which he made. and we said we'll include these in our list, if you committed the crimes that senator cruz came up with, you would be ineligible for this prison recidivist program. and so we started to put it in the bill. we thought it was in the bill, incidentally, and we learned it had not been included. we asked for consent to amend our own bill to include these new categories, and unfortunately, the republican leadership and senator cotton objected. they wouldn't let us include new lists of crimes which would make a person ineligible. that's unfortunate. sadly, the provision of one of the amendments from senator cotton is now attempting to include some of those crimes in his list. we made a good-faith effort to do this on a bipartisan basis. we'll continue to. but the last point i want to make on this -- and i see the senator from pennsylvania has come to the floor -- the last point i want to make on this is
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there's a provision in one of the cotton-kennedy amendments which redefines the crimes that would make you ineligible to participate in this program. it's a new definition. it includes a reference to something which you don't see often: violence to property. i'm not sure what that means. the use of physical force on property is in the law in many places. but the term violence against property is something that i'm not sure what senator cotton was trying to achieve with this. it's going to create confusion. and unfortunately, if you add every crime that might involve some damage to property, you can see that it would expand the list dramatically and go way beyond what we're trying to achieve. we're trying to give those incarcerated, who truly want to turn their lives around, truly want to have training and be ready to move forward, the opportunity to do just that. so at this point i'm going to conclude my remarks and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. toomey: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: i ask unanimous consent that we vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. toomey: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to speak about the first step act and i want to say i think this is a very important bill. it's important legislation. i know a lot of people have worked very hard on it. they have only good intentions behind this legislation. i know it's an attempt to improve our criminal justice system generally, to increase public safety. those are the goals. i am sympathetic to all of those goals, and i am seriously considering supporting this act. i want to see how this amendment process plays out, but i recognize a lot of good work has been done here. i do want to say to begin i'm
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also sympathetic with the legitimate concerns that have been raised about this legislation by law enforcement officers. i have spoken with people across pennsylvania who protect us every day who have some concerns about this. i've been glad to see there have been changes made along the way, changes that address some of the concerns that -- serious concerns that i and others have raised. i do think there is still room for more imdevelopment, and that's why i support the three modest amendments that could the orn and kennedy have -- cotton and senate have proposed. one amendment will ensure that all violent felons like criminals who assault law enforcement officers and sex offenders will not be eligible for the earned credit. i thought that would be part of it. that is a good amendment in my view. a further feature is to notify a
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victim of the crime to know they are released. and finally, to require the department of justice to track the outcomes. let's medicare sure we know. you know, a few years from now if this passes and signed into law, have we reduced the recidivism rate or not. these are commonsense amendments and i support them and i urge my colleagues to support them. mr. president, my real purpose is to highlight one of the amendments that i filed and i hope that i'm going to be able to get a vote on. my amendment -- it's victims of crimes, but specifically victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other violent crimes, and a need to end congress's longstanding injustice to these victims. now, the first step act does a lot, especially for people who have committed crimes, but, unfortunately, it doesn't do anything that i'm aware of for
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the cripples of -- victims of crimes and these two things are not mutually exclusive. we have an opportunity here with this amendment to address something very substantive we can do with crime victims. specifically, congress should stop what i think is an unconscionable annual raid on the crime victims fund. since fiscal year 2000, congress has diverted literally billions of dollars from the crime victims funds by using a budget gimmick to with hold money from victims and the organizations that help victims. here's how it works. every year the crime victims fund collects the money from federal criminal finds and penalties. there's no taxpayer money at all involved. these are criminal fines that result from convictions. the fund was created in 1984 with a very simple principle in mind, and that is the money the
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federal government collects from those who are victims of crime help those who are victimized by the crime. the money collected in one year is supposed to be dispersed to victims of crime the next year. unfortunately, starting in 1999, congress began to systematically with hold some of the money that supposed to go to the victims. effectively shortchanging the victims who were at no fault at all were victims of a crime. you might ask, why would people do a thing like that? the reason it's done is the federal government has bizarre and ridiculous budgetary rules, and one of them holds that when you shortchange victims of crime this way, when you refuse to allocate, the criminal element to victims, you get to pretend for budgetary purposes that you're saving taxpayer money. it's totally untrue.
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it's not saving taxpayer money at all. but you get to pretend that. so in pretending those savings have been achieved, it allows you to spend more money elsewhere, and there's few things that congress likes better than spending money. so this money, which is supposed to go to victims of crime, is instead completely on completely unrelated items in appropriations bills year after year. now how much you might ask does this matter, does it add up to anything meaningful? astoundingly over the last two decades of this practice, congress has used this gimmick to add $82 billion in unrelated federal spending that has all gone to increase our deficits and our debt all because every year they withheld money that was supposed to go to victims of crime. where did it go? welshing the money could go to anything that congress decides to spend it on, anything in the
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congress, justice, science appropriations bill. in 2014, congress gave victims less than 6% of the money they were supposed to give to victims of crime. again, not taxpayer money, criminal penalty money. it used the remaining $11.8 billion for other spending, and that year the cjs bim funded -- bill funded $ 366 million to pay individuals to lie in bed for 70 days, another for a pbs documentary to promote a best-selling book and $155,000 so a game designer could develop a zoom by web game. this is beyond egregious, and because of this behavior on the part of congress, it has much more difficult for the victims of crime to receive the funds they are supposed to go.
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these cripple victims funds, a lot of it goes directly to helping people, some of the most vulnerable in our society. and because this money is not fully allocated as it should be, abused children sometimes have to wait weeks before they can receive the full medical and emotional services care that they need. there are rape victims who are not able to obtain the prof lettic -- prof -- presiding officer d because congress refuses to allocate the money it's supposed to allocate to it these victims. so we can fiction this, mr. president. we can fix it. i think we can fix it this afternoon. now, in fairness in the past few years, the extent of this gimmickry, this -- this terrible practice has diminished, and i give a lot of credit to are senator shelby, the chairman of
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the appropriations committee has decided to increase the appropriations in recent years to something approximating where it should be. but still there are billions that have not been allocated to victims, and there is no guarantee whatsoever that the next year, the year after at any point in time congress could resume massively shortchanging the victims as it has in the past. so what i think we need is a permanent solution to this. my amendment will provide the fix that we need. it's identical to a bill that i've already introduced, which is called the fairness for crime victims act of 2018. this bill is endorsed by many, many victim advocacy groups. last year virtually identical legislation was unanimously passed out of the budget committee. not a single republican, not a sing democrat opposed my legislation in the budget committee. all it does is returns honesty to the crimes victims fund by ensuring a steady stream of funds, the very funds from
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criminals that are supposed to go to victims and their advocates. it would simply assure that they get what they are supposed to get. so, mr. president, as the senate considers the first step act, i think we should take this opportunity to end this unconscionable raid on the crime victims fund many we're going to do something to help criminals, we should also do something to help victims. all i'm asking for is that we have a vote on this. if people disagree with me and think we should continue this practice, okay, vote no. but let's have a vote. at a moment when we're doing so much for criminals, i think it's reasonable to do something for victims. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and call up amendment number 4120. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. durbin: mr. president.
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the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, reserving the right to object. this issue, when i sphoac to -- spoke to senator toomey about it personally, struck a cord with me. i recognized that we had the same debate in the appropriations committee. it's champion in the committee is senator james lankford of oklahoma, who has for at least two years or maybe longer has suggested the change that the senator from pennsylvania brings to the floor. i think he made a compelling argument and i voted with him for the change which he wished to see in the law. we did not prevail in the appropriations committee. at least didn't prevail in changing the budget rules. but senator lankford, with his effort in the committee, has prevailed in changing the allocation of funds. the amendment which senator toomey offers, the senator from pennsylvania offers, it creates a new point of order against any c.g.s. appropriations bill if it doesn't spend at least the three-year average of collection in the crime victims fund.
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there's good news. because of senator lankford's effort and senator shelby, the amendment is not necessary since fy-15 through 18, the c.j.s. spent at least the three-year average of collections, a total of $12.4 billion which has been returned to crime victims. so we have, in fact, changed the budget policy that governs how the crime victims compensation fund is distributed. what i would suggest though is that this good, worthy issue and battle which i'd be happy to join on does not belong on this bill. in fact, as a result, it could complicate this bill and its passage. we've been working to put this measure foght for six years, -- together for six years, democrats and republicans. there were some 82 or more senators, i know the senator from pennsylvania was not one of them, who voted for cloture on this bill because we felt we should move forward in this debate. i might say some of the
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amendments that the senator from pennsylvania said he will support for this bill are not helpful. they are opposed by those who are behind the bill. so let's save this budget debate for another day on behalf of myself and the ranking member of the senate appropriations bill -- committee, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: i'm not shocked, but i am extremely disappointed. one of the things that's so disappointing and serving in this body, it was once a body where a difference of opinion would be litigated on the senate floor, including culminating in a vote. and we would decide as a body whether or not we wanted to proceed in a certain direction. but now our friends in the minority are refusing to even allow the vote to occur. i'm not asking for a guaranteed outcome. i'm not asking for any jut come. i'm simply asking that we have a chance to debate and vote on whether or not victims of crime across america are going to get
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the allocation that they're supposed to get. in recent years the situation has improved. and if that's the commitment of my friends on the other side, they should be willing to enshrine that improvement in law. but they're not. which might speak volumes about where this is headed. so, mr. president, i am very disappointed that we're not going to get a vote on this amendment today. i do, however, hope that we'll be able to vote on and pass the cotton-kennedy amendments, and with that i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is not. mr. inhofe: mr. president, i want to finish up where senator kyl and i started off this morning in elaborating a little bit more about what the responsibilities are concerning the nuclear modernization program. you know, defending america should be our number one priority. and in most all of the administrations throughout the years, it has been our number one priority. and today we'll talk about the modernization of nuclear forces. the reason i think this is important, there are a lot of
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people who say the nuclear forces are a relic of the past. this just flat is not true. some in washington believe we don't need to modernize our nuclear forces or cut off one of the three legs being the i.c.b., the bomber and the submarine. it's just not true. our nuclear triad has got to be kept intact. our arsenal is aging. most of it hasn't been modernized since it started in 1960's. then in the 1980's, the last modernization actually took place during the obama administration. they believed if we reduced our role in the number of nuclear weapons, the other countries would come along and do the same thing. that didn't work out. in fact, they've done just the opposite. as the nuclear posture review said very clearly and i'll quote
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now, since the 2010 no potential adversary has reduced either the role of nuclear weapons or its national security strategy or the number of nuclear weapons it fields. there we are. there's a comparison. now, the lighter color there is in development. in fact, russia and china are both way ahead of us in that. and in terms of feeding a system, that we haven't even fielded a system. so we are clearly behind in that respect. russia is modernizing every leg of its nuclear triad. but it's not just that. they're also building a vast arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons in addition to their triad. we heard pu continue talk about -- we heard putin talk about some of these last springs like the nuclear armed hyper sonic weapons. those are the hyper sonic weapons that react not like six per minute but by many per a tenth of a second claiming that he is ahead of us in that
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respect, they have the nuclear-powered cruise missile and nuclear armed defenses. we're talking in both offensive and defensive capability, that's what putin has been doing. what's more, russian doctrine emphasizes using nuclear weapons to coerce the united states and nato and putin threatens nato allies with nuclear strikes. now, this is interesting. you've got to keep in mind we are a nuclear nato -- we're a nato ally. in fact, that was about the time that putin made the statement that they could now if they were to declare war on nato, and that includes us in western europe, that they would win. and so that's how things have become more and more serious and how they are very proud of themselves that they've been putting together a program faster than we are. meanwhile, there's china also further along in modernizing its
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nuclear arsenal. i think -- they claim or others claim that soon they'll have a complete nuclear triad, including an i.ic -- an icbm and a bomber. i suggest they may very well have that already. this doesn't even get to north korea's capabilities, iran's nuclear ambitions, or the threats from terrorism. it should be clear looking at all these, that nuclear weapons are no code war relic -- cold war relic. we need to modernize them for the current threat of the environment that we face. put the other one up here. now, some of the critics say that nuclear modernization is too expensive. i won't say it's going to be cheap but it's going to be affordable. at its peak in 2029, nuclear modernization will cost about 6.4% of the military budget of the d.o.d. budget. on average over the next two
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decades, it will be about 5% of the d.o.d. budget. i think that's a pretty good price, especially when you consider that we haven't been investing in it for over two decades. this investment will get us to the new -- get us a new b-1 bomber with modernized cruise missile and a columbia-class submarine. with this necessity to increase our capabilities comes some good news and helps us with our buildup. and it will also bring command and control to the 21st century. it will help revitalize the infrastructure, including the department of energy and some critics also say that we have to choochoose between nuclear forc, that we can't modernize both at the same time. but this report that we talked about this morning is the best report i've seen in showing where we are right now, where the other side is, what their capabilities are.
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and they make it very clear that the nuclear -- the nuclear and conventional forces are both indispensable to a balanced, effective defense. the nation should not hollow out one set of capabilities to pay for the other. so i think we are in a position now to go forward and people recognize now that the -- that we are now trying to do and keep up with what our adversaries are doing. in the past, there are some hav been very bipartisan support for our nuclear deterrent. in fact, some of the current modernization programs was started during the obama administration when all other parts of our national defense was deteriorating. secretary mattis said last year it's not possible to delay modernization of our nuclear norses if we are -- forces if we are to preserve a credible
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nuclear deterrent. ensuring that our diplomats continue to speak from the position of strength on matters of war and peace. i couldn't have said it better myself. we need to keep our deterrent credible. let's keep in mind, though, yes, this is true. the only reason we're bringing it up and emphasizing it at this point the necessity for nuclear modernization is we've been neglecting it for so long. while we've been neglecting it, the other side has been paying attention to their capabilities. now, this bill we talked about this morning, i didn't mention some of the highlights in the book that i think are important because we in the united states have to understand that we don't have the capabilities that some of our adversaries have. some of the highlights in this mamanual is probably the most accurate, bipartisan manual on defense that we've ever analyzed. it says -- and these are quotes
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-- assets unequivocally -- assets un-- assesses unequivocally that the defense system is not add equalitily -- not adequately resourced. another quote. america is very near the point of strategic insolvency. it further quote, america's military superiority has eroded to a dangerous degree. america's combat dpsh that's aln this -- that's all in this manual. we saw this coming. remember back in the early day of the obama administration when chuck hagel was the secretary of defense, he said, and i read this to more people around the country back when the quote actually came out which was 2014. this is a quote from our secretary of defense under the obama administration. quote, american dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted.
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mark mil let, the army chief of staff said in terms of artillery, the army is outgunned and outranged by our adversaries. the c.n.o. of the navy, admiral moran, said for our entire hornet fleet, we have 62% that are not viable today. we're rapidly recovering right now. in fact we're entering into a defense authorization bill, and one of the commitments that we made is we're going to have a defense authorization bill that will come up currently so we will have it done well before the new year starts, and that being the case, that will allow us to then go in with appropriations. one of the problems we had before is we're depending on just renewing the previous year and this is not going to work in this case. so i think we're coming out
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ahead. i think we pretty much convinced most people are making the decisions that we're going to have to do something to renew our nuclear modernization and get on with the rebuilding that's taking place at this time. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. mr. isakson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, i want to address the senate, if i can. the presiding officer: the senator is in -- the senate is in a quorum call. mr. isakson: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be
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vitiated. mr. isakson: thank you, mr. president. knowing that we're in morning business, i want to address two subjects and i would like it divided in my remarks in two separate places at the appropriate time in the record. mr. president, i'm here to do something that every senator does and that is pay tribute to another poll sition, one back in my home state of georgia who is retiring this year after serving two terms as governor of the state of georgia. he is a personal friend and has done a wonderful job. we ee elected -- we elected him at the time we had no idea it was a three for one. when nathan came and his wife sandra and his chief of staff and the three of them were the a team. you remember the a team, you needed real help, they would come in and solve your problem. nathan is that way too. he's tough and smart. he's also crafty enough your wife always knows better and he
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had a large role in education in georgia and she improved it a lot. and his chief of staff has been a good friend and did a tremendous job as a chief liaison whether it was congress or the senate. georgia is now the number one place in the country to do business and we've been elected six consecutive years or six of the last seven years as the best place to do business. georgia thinks of gone with the wind. georgia is now the eighth largest state in the united states of america moving from under his administration from tenth to eighth. our votes in the electoral college are prized now. our role in politics is rising and our influence in the country is rising all because of that. he also brought new jobs to georgia, not just repeat jobs or old jobs that we added on, but new jobs. nathan was smart enough to realize that when america started investing in cybertechnology and when we
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found out fort gord orn, which -- gord orn, in augusta georgia, our governor didn't say, isn't that great and brag about it in the federal government, he established a cybercenter and invested $50 million to get it started. today young georgia children starting careers in cybertechnology which will be the proving ground in future. all because nathan said, if you build it, they will come. if cybercommand represented by the united states army and the signal corps will be our cyberwatchdog, if we have the cybertool, our state will be much better off. nathan did something else. he built on another governor's success and made it even better. zell miller, a former member of this body and a person i succeeded after he left, created the hope scholarship in georgia, which everybody heard about.
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most of us kids who enter from our state go to college paid for by the georgia lottery. zell beat me running for governor on that. and he made me a big believer. and it's worked great, but nathan said, that's not good enough. we don't want just to help the top students who have b averages, we want to bring up the bottom students so they can grow and go to college. so he created something called reach. reach is a program that he designed to be sure and reach out and bring those who were not getting help what they should get. it stands for realizing educational achievement can happen. it's scholarships that go to kids who have no chance of having it happen, who subscribe to build themselves up and make themselves better. in georgia we have a lot of kids on the scholarship and other kids who would never be in college otherwise.
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his wisdom and knowledge and ability to bring it together it bringing future students together which would have been wards of the state. ironically we are debating the justice system in the senate. we have been talking about it, are you letting them out too early are you not? nathan was the originator of the reform of the criminal justice system to see to it that those getting ready to get out anyway -- those who were waiting to get out anyway, have an opportunity of more of an education by creating programs that they could vol fear in prison if they wanted to, not just to study or do something well, but give them in a chance to sell them the promise of a job and a future rather than just be a recidivist on an early release. by doing so, some amazing statistics happened in our state in terms of the number of people
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who were released getting jobs that before weren't. the increase of african americans getting work rather than going back to prison, the people he reached out to in our prison system. we had a decrease in our prison system not because we didn't convict, not because they aren't serving their time, it was because those who got out of the reach program got an education in the last couple of years in prison and made something of their lives. that's the way you do things. it's easy for any of us to take the easy things to do, but the hard things are what a lot of politicians won't reach out for. nathan deal has. i have three children, eight grandchildren, chairman of the board of education in my state. i know some kids love to read, but a lot of them hate it. i used to tell kids, if you can't read, you can't do anything, if you can read, you can do everything. nathan's wife sandra, who is one of the most wonderful women you could hope to meet, dedicated
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her time as first lady to reading to kids. she visited 100,000 kids in our 159 counties. the reading scores in our state have gone up, not down. the focus on reading has gone up in our schools. because of sandra's example, she got in and did it, are making wonders. when -- you know the pass book when you go to the federal parks and get if stamped like a passport, she did the same thing to increase the use of our kids and our families and the parklands that they paid for as taxpayers. i could go on and on and on, but to do so might be to talk too much. but you can't say too much about somebody who contributed eight years of their life to their state and brought home so many things, first in economic development, first in job creation, first in making a difference in education, first in getting cybertechnology a
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main heart and soul of georgia's focus in the future. all of those things and nathan deal and his two partners, the chief of staff and his wife sandra deserve equal credit with nathan. i know i'm supposed to just brag about nathan, i want to brag all three of them because those three as a combination make a great team. mr. president, i'd like to go to the second subject i was going to talk about and ask the clerk to divide this in the record at the appropriate place. i want to talk about the blue water navy for just a second. everybody in this room, everybody in the senate knows that's an issue we had last week on the floor for u.c. we had one objection out of 100. one member objected to it be adopted by unanimous consent, so it is not even adopted. it is going to be pending in another u.c. in the next few days, and the people working on the bill, myself as a member of the veterans committee are doing
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yeoman's work to get it through. and others are looking to knock the legs out from us in terms of the momentum we've gotten on the bill. most recently at 2:00 this afternoon c.b.o. issued a new correction on what the program was going to cost. and in that estimate they doubled it from $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion. on the estimate they said before they weren't going to make another estimate. they decided to do it at the last minute. it's whatever figures they came up. i'm not going to argue i qo make up as good a figure as anybody else to show the cost of that to the taxpayer. but i know this. there's somewhere in the area of 60,000 americans who fought in vietnam in the united states navy or on the forces that used the water who are not eligible for in napolm -- those who servd
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in the navy, the rest of the soldiers on the land got it. so today you've got soldiers who served in vietnam, risked their lives, some of them died who if they get cancer or some of the other cancers it has been conclusively proved this has been a contributor to, they get a benefit, but if they only served in the navy and never put a foot on the ground, the v.a. uses that to separate them from being eligible. it is like the insurance companies do when they want to lower their costs, they lower their benefits. the v.a. did this as an agency. it wasn't passed by the congress. we want to do something to give it to the soldiers who earned it and deserve it. is it going to cost more? sure. but it always costs a little more to do what's right rather than perpetuate what is wrong. when you have the chance today, members of the senate or tomorrow or the next day to vote
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on the blue water navy u.c. that we're going to try and offer, if you have a question, if you read the c.b.o. letter, come see me. i'm not smarter than anybody, i won't intimidate you. as a member of the veterans committee, i care about our vets. they risked everything to be here today. they deserve if we made a wrong in the pass to fix it. the v.a. deserves to be pointed out when they make a mistake so they never make it again. together we can be a great team. but separated we lose and we're never the great team we ought to have. with that, mr. president, 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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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. a senator: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. king: thank you. mr. president, before coming here, i used to teach a course at the college level on leadership. and at the time, what we tried to do was establish over the term of a semester what were the qualities of good leadership. and one of them was that in any complex job, any difficult job,
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any challenging job, nobody can do it alone. nobody can do it alone. and that description certainly applies to our job here in the united states senate. complex, challenging, and difficult. and we don't do it alone. in fact, all of us have staff. and we might let the public think that we're doing all these good works on their behalf, but the truth is, we're supported by wonderful people who work long hours, are creative and able and really enable us to do the people's work to the extent that we are successful. and that's what i want to talk a little bit about today. we don't talk about staff very much, but they're really essential to the separation of this institution, whether it's the people here in this floor who allow us to do our daily work on the floor, whether it's committee staff, or personally or particularly the personal staff of each senator, both in our home state and here in
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washington. i rise today in sadness because this week or actually the first week in january marks the end of a 25-year association for myself and chief of staff kay rand. kay is a young woman from northern maine, arista county, the most northern part of our state, grew up on a potato farm, learned the value of hard work, went to a public college in the southern part of the state, and she and i have worked together off and on for 25 years. she was my chief of staff when i was governor, and she's been my chief here in washington. anything i have achieved in my public life has been in many ways attributable to the work of kay rand. she meets all those criteria. and i was just sitting down and going through what the list that we used to come up with at the
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end of each semester about the qualities of leadership, vision, teamwork, empathy, management, communication, optimism, decisive, doing homework, integrity, and character. staff members are so important to our functioning here, they are in many ways our ambassadors. they do research. they give us background. i call them the ball bearings of the legislative process. they allow it to function. and kay is certainly one of those people. she's a superb manager. she manages not only the office here in washington but the staff back in the state, manages personnel matter, encourages, supports, provides empathy and listening, and she does it like no one i have ever met. she also has a vision. she's not just a functionary or somebody who says, well, we're just going to do this, this,
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this tomorrow and hire this or that person, but she has a vision of public service. they has a vision of what it is we can be and can do as public servants. and she never lets me forget that that's my job, to be a public servant, not simply an office holder. she is a sounding board. she's the person i go to for advice. and she always has good advice. and by the way, one of the things we used to talk about in my classes was if you have staff or people who work with you who only tell you what you want to hear, that's a disaster for your leadership. you have to cultivate and value and enable people who are willing to tell you when you're wrong. and indeed kay has never had any trouble doing that with me. in fact, when we first became -- went in as governor when i was first elected governor of maine,
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we had the whole staff and cabinet including myself do personality tests. what are your strengths and weaknesses. i don't remember too many of the specifics, but i do remember that kay scored zero on the respect for authority scale. and i know it was a good scale because the chief of the state police and the head of the general both scored a hundred. but that's so important. you have to have somebody that tells you when you're on the wrong track, when you're not following what you've said you were going to do, when you're not really thinking about what the proper issues are and what the proportion of those issues, and that's the reason that kay has been so valuable to me over these 25 years. i could always count on her to tell me the truth. and that is an essential function for someone in a position of that kind of responsibility with a public official. she also is a perennial optimist
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and she always -- it's amazing. of all the years we've been together, all the discussions we've had, and all the issues we've talked about, i always felt better at the end of a conversation with kay rand than i did at the beginning with one exception. the one exception was when i was in the car driving from bangor to augusta, when i was governor and she called me to tell me there was a $75 million shortfall in the state budget because of the recession of 2001. that was not a happy conversation. there was no way to feel better. other than that, though, kay always had a way of making me feel better leaving a conversation than i did entering into it. she also listens which is an essential part of leadership. and by the way, when you talk about a chief of staff, you're talking about a leadership position. and she listens and listens emnetically -- empathyically and
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everyone feels they're valued and that's one of the major things she has brought to my office and to my life over the past 25 years. she listens. she shares. she's empathetic. she has no respect for authority. she's honest. and she has made an enormous difference in my life and i believe in the life of the people of maine. she's never lost her passion for public service, her deep affection and understanding for the people of maine, and the responsibility that those of us who have been entrusted with public -- with the public charge, the public trust, with the responsibility we have to remember who sent us here, to remember what the values are, what the issues are, what we can do to represent the people of maine, kay rand has always
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always reminded me of that because that's who she is. facetiously i've often said my standard for leadership can be summarized in one sentence. hire good people and take credit for what they do. and i've been doing that for 25 years. kay rand is an extraordinarily able, devoted, and serious public servant. she's leaving, well deserved, going back to bar harbor, maine. that's not a bad place to be going back to. i understand it fully. but i just want this senate to know and the people of maine to know that an important public servant is leaving us but has left us and left me with an everlasting legacy of leadership, integrity, charact character. she in many ways has taught me how to lead. i will miss her.
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i'll miss her as a friend. i'll miss her as a leader in my office. i'll miss her as a person who has made such a difference in my life, in my family's life, and the life of the people of maine. kay rand is an extraordinary person. she has done an amazing job for the people of maine, for the senate, and for myself. and personally i'll make it but it's going to be difficult. it's going to be difficult. kay rand is a very special person as all of us who know her can attest. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: i want to thank the president and acknowledge that my friend, someone i deeply admire sitting in that chair and it's great to give this short speech in front of him.
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it's good to see you, my friend. i want to say good afternoon to everyone, and this is a moment really where i want to give open with a sense of gratitude. i want to thank my colleagues for their incredible work and leadership and especially recognize the chairman of the judiciary committee, senator chuck grassley. i want to thank senator dick durbin who has been a hero of mine on issues of criminal justice reform as well as mike lee who has been a champion, all of their staffs, everyone who has been involved in the tireless work and efforts that have been going on in what is a bill that is pending on the floor now, the first step act. i also want to recognize the incredible people, many of them advocates, many of them citizens, many of them activis activists, so many groups that have been pushing, challenging, demanding that we have criminal justice reform in this country. a lot of these groups have been organized and working for years and years, years before i came to the senate to try to bring
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forth crime justice reform. they've offered insight. they've brought wisdom. they've helped to shape this legislation. their advocacy has made this a better bill. it's because of the work and the diversionty of voices -- diversity of voices that have been involved in this process that we stand poised today to pass this bill, to begin to deliver some reform to our savagely broken criminal justice system. i'm proud of this coalition. i'm proud that the coalition has people all across the political spectrum. i'm proud of the coalition has people from diverse backgrounds. this is how change has been made in this country for generations. but i want to return to this fact that we are poised to do this bill because of the deeply savaged and broken criminal justice system that we have. since 1980 alone, our federal prison population has exploded by 800%. 800% increase in our prison problem. -- prison population. and this is because of failed
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policies by this body that created harsh sentences, harsh mandatory minimum penalties, three strikes you're out, the kind of bills that helped this population of prisoners to explode to be the largest in terms of percentage on the planet earth. america is now the preeminent incarceration nation. we are the incarcerating capital of the planet eergt. even though -- earth. even though we only have 5% of the world's population, one in four of the incarcerated people on the planet earth are here in the united states america. one in three of all the incarcerated women on the planet earth are here in the united states of america. and today close to a third of all adults in the united states has a criminal record. we have criminalized the united states population. about a third of americans have a criminal record. but after decades of failed federal policies and after
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decades of growing in -- going in the wrong direction, we now have an opportunity to reverse course in a significant way. our criminal justice system as it stands right now is an affront to who we say we are as a nation. we profess -- we actually swear an oath to the flag that we are a nation of liberty and justice for all, but our criminal justice system violates those values. i believe you can tell a lot about a nation not by its building, not by its structures or its wealth, but you can tell a lot about the true character of a nation by looking at its prisons and seeing who they incarcerate. you can go to countries with authoritarian regimes and see how they imprison their political opposition. you can go to some countries and see that they actually incarcerate members of the media. we don't do that in the united states, but we in this country, if you go into our prisons and
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our generics you see overwhelmingly -- and our jails, you see overwhelmingly we incarcerate those who are marginalilized in our society. overwhelmingly in the united states our prisons and jails are full of those americans who are already hurting and struggling and p often need more help than a system that hurts them. our prisons and jails have become warehouses for people that are struggling with trauma, struggling with disease, struggling with illness. right now our prisons and jails are filled overwhelmingly with people with mental illness, overwhelmingly with americans struggling with addiction, overwhelmingly with americans who are survivors of sexual assault. and also overwhelmingly it's full of americans who are low-income, full of poor folks and people who are
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disproportionately people of color. this is a system in our country that feeds upon certain communities and not others. the war on drugs, which has fueled so much of the explosion of our prison population, has really been a war on people, on certain people in certain communities and not on others. i'm the only united states senator that lives in a majority-black community. it is low-income, but i tell you right now, my community does not mistake worth with wealth. when i go home most weeks, i draw strength from my community. i see the evidence of the incredible growth that's occurred when good people pull together, work together, and accomplish things that other people are disregarding or just plain dissing them don't see.
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i still live in a community that is both over-criminalized and underprotected because of federal policies, because of policies in this body, policies that mistake the severity of a punishment with the actual security of a people. we know there is no deeper proclivity to commit crimes among people of color, but there is a much deeper bias in the way that our drug laws have been and are being applied, which disproportionately target people of color and low-income communities. we have a system that over a century we in the nation have overcome slavery, decades of jim crow, but as one author, michelle alexander, calls our criminal justice system, she calls it the new jim crow because of its disproportionate impact on people of color.
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we now have a criminal justice system where there are more african american men under criminal supervision than there were enslaved in 1850. this is a punishing reality that i've seen with my own eyes, where people in certain privileged communities don't face the kind of scrutiny, the kind of arrests that you do in other communities in our country. and the truth is about human nature, about human beings, is that all of us make mistakes. that's an inevitable part of life. but the way our country's drug laws are designed and applied -- a kid in a privileged -- more privileged community or on a college campus gets a chance to stumble, to learn a lesson, wide margin for error. but a kid living in a community that's low-income or a community that's black and brown, they get trapped by a system that
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disproportionately impacts their lives than it does others. as brian stevenson said, we live in a nation that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. we see in the united states of america americans getting trapped in a system that we know the data is clear, there is no difference between blacks and whites for using drugs or selling drugs in the united states of america. no difference. but 23 you are black, you are -- but if you are black, you are almost four times more likely to get arrested for selling drugs and almost three times more like lie to get arrested for possession of drugs. this is one of the things that have led to such a dramatic racial disparity in incarceration in the united states of america. people right now in our country sitting in prisons for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing but encountered a different type of justice
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system. the scales of justice in america are not balanced. this is a system that hurts people and it hurts people that are often already struggling, often already hurt. what do we don't in this country with a nonviolent drug offense? what we do to people in this country with a nonviolent drug offense is like getting a life sentence. for the rest of your life, even after you come out of a prison sentence, or even after you've got no time served at all, once you've been convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, if you've been convicted for that crime, potentially in this body -- i'm making no accusations -- but once you've been intelligence committee requested of a crime, for the rest of the your life, if you're one of those folks who's been convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, you have to check a box that
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says you're going to have difficulty being hired, difficulty getting housing, you can't get food stamps, a loan from the bank. the american bar association points to 40,000 collateral consequences that follow you for life for a criminal conviction. and so now we're debating a funding bill. it's dominating the bill. we already are throwing an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars into the black hole of mass incarceration, not making us safer, not making us stronger, in fact macing us more -- in fact making us more vulnerable. it doesn't offer for opportunities for americans to get access to health care, not to rehabilitate people, but we have been spending more and more
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money actually hurting more americans, putting them into a system that actually harms them often the more than helps them with their addiction, with their men hall felt issue with their -- mental health issue, with their trauma. we are using our resources to compound, hurricanes and harm the people -- to compound, hurt, and harm the people who have already suffered. it ultimately makes our communities less safe, not more. despite the fact that our infrastructure is -- in this country is crumbling, that our trains and he hads are and bridges are in desperate need of repatience we have been investing in a different type of infrastructure. between 1990 understand 2005, a new prison in this country has been opened every ten days. billions and billions of dollars for the construction of prisons and jails to warehouse human potential, folks that often need help, need counseling, need mental health care, need rehabilitation. we've been taking the far more
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expensive way and warehousing human beings in our prisons and jails i understand -- instead of helping them. and we call this system a justice system. it is not meant to be a system of retribution. it's meant to be a justice system. it's not meant to be a system of punishment. it's supposed to be meant to be a justice system. we are americans. we have ideals of restoration, of rehabilitation. ultimately in the united states of america, we all believe that this is a nation where redemption is possible. one of our senate colleagues, a former colleague who stood in the same well, he got into a lot of trouble in his youth, was convicted of multiple crimes, crimes like arson, crimes like assault, he attacked a police
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officer. he actually became one of the most serious, outspoken advocates for reforming this broken system. it was senator alan simpson. this is what he once wrote. he said, i was lucky that the bullets i stole from a hardware store as a teenager and fired from my .22-caliber rival never struck anybody. i was fortunate that the fires i set never hurt anyone. i heard my wake-up call and i listened. he went on to say that, i went on to have many opportunities to serve my country and my community. when a young person is sent up the river, we need to remember that all rivers can change course. he went from an arsonist, he went from a person that attacked police officers, he went from a person that was admittedly guilty of crimes to a united
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states senator because we are a nation that believes in the -- in redemption. the fact of the matter is that when most people go to prison, 95% of those folks right now in state prisons will come back to our communities. and the question is, will they come out further harmed by the system or better able to start again? better able to avoid more criminality or will they be people that actually help to make us safer and stronger? to be elevated towards that ideal of full citizen. those of us in this body who proclaim christian faith, we know the story of the prodigal child, that child that did wrong, but yet when they came back, their father embraced them. it was that story held in the christian community as an ideal. but what do we do in america? is it the story of the prodigal child? it is not.
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because this is a system that right now inflicts harm on those incarcerated rather than trying to rehabilitate them. this is a system that still subjects young people to what other countries and human rights activists in this nation call torture, juvenile solitary confinement. this is a system that still denies women access to basic sanitary patriots. this is a system that allows the shackling of women during birth. this is a system that burdens family, burdens them economically, fracturing entire communities, like the one i live in. it is a system that inflicts poverty by concentrating its attacks on low-income neighborhoods. in fact, according to a study from villanova university, the poverty rate in all of america would be 20% lower if we had incarceration rates in line with our industrial peers.
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this system as a whole is a cancer on the soul of our country, and it's hurting every single american. but today we have an opportunity to do something, something about addressing the ills of this system. and that's why i'm proud that this is a bipartisan compromise bill with leadership, extraordinary leadership, on both sides of the aisle saying, hey, there are things we need to begin to correct for the the system. there's ways to make this system more fair. there's ways to make this system better reflect our collective values and ideals. because of this collection work done over the last years, this bill includes critical sentencing reform that will reduce mandatory minimums and give judges discretion back, not legislators but judges who sit and seek all -- and see all the totality of the facts. thanks to the work of senator durbin -- the racially-based
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crack cocaine disparity has been negotiated down from 101 to 1 to 12-1. the problem was the change wasn't retroactively applied. and because of that, there were people sitting in jail right out in for selling an amount of drug equal to the size of a candy bar who have watched people come in and leave jails for selling enough drugs to fill a suitcase. we never made this change retroactive. that's not justice. making this fix in this bill alone will mean that thousands of americans who have more than served their time will become eligible for release, and it decreases some of the racial disparities in our system because 90% of the people who will benefit from that are african american. 96% are black and latino. this bill includes a provision that i've worked on for the past four years that were effectively end the use of universal
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solitary confinement among young people under federal supervision. this bill takes an important step but still an incomplete step in reforming the way women are treated behind bars. this bill will ensure that women have access to free an terry products and ban the shackling of pregnant women. this legislation is just one step in the right direction but if we pass this legislation, it is a step in the right direction, and i hope momentum for greater urgently needed reforms that are supported by conservatives in this country and progressives. let's make no mistake, this
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legislation, which is one small step, will affect thousands and thousands of lives. those are not just some people. when you affect the lives of some americans on issues of justice, you affect the lives of all americans because we as a people cannot fall into that trap of separateness, the insidious idea that we think that there are some throwaway people whose dignity we can assault without assaulting our own. dr. king said justice is indivisible, and he was right. we cannot separate a system of oppression in our country and think that it won't affect us all as a whole. it couldn't be further from the truth p. you cannot deny justice, deny dignity to any american without affecting us all. you cannot cheapen justice for some of without it cheapening the justice of us all. as a man, much greater than
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anyone in this body ever said, injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. we are all caught in an inescapable network of reality tied in a common garment. we cannot suffer the illusion of separation when we think this criminal justice system that is so punishing some is not hurting this country as a whole. our criminal justice system as it stands right now is a gaping self-inflicted wound. this bill is a step -- a step -- towards healing. mr. president, it's been perhaps one of the greatest honors of my life, easily one of the greatest honors as a senator, to work in a bipartisan coalition over the last five years to get to this point. i've had the opportunity to sit down with people in common cause, from republicans on the far end of the conservative spectrum to individuals and organization whose on most issues i often disagree with, but we have found common ground
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because this system is an affront to our most fundamental common values on both sides of this aisle, values of freedom, values of liberty, values of equality, values of fairness and justice. we share those common values because we still live in a nation where the ties that bind us are stronger than the lines that divide us. this bill is a recognition of the fact that we are bound together as a people by the most precious ideals and humanity, the ideals that were put forth by our founders and that have inspired to in every generation and have been worked on in every generation making us a more perfect union. we know that our nation's history, bills and debate we have seen in this body. we know our history is scarred by many wretched injustices. jim crow and segregation. but like people, individuals who have done wrong in the
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past, like people, our nation has demonstrated the capacity to change. we as a nation have demonstrated the capacity to improve, like people we have demonstrated as a nation the capacity to redeem ourselves. none of us should ever be judged by the least of what we've done, but instead by our ability and our capacity to find redemption. every generation has worked to make our ideals more true and real, making the dream more accessible to us all and standing for each other. we have worked with each other. we have sacrificed with each other despite differences in race and differences in color, differences in religion and creed. every single gain in this country has been made by multiethnic, multiracial, broad-based coalitions because we recognize the ideal that is above the president's desk, written in stone here, the ideal of e pluribus unum, out of the many, one.
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we know that that's not just a slogan. those aren't just words. it is a calling to the people of this country. i want to see more than the bill we have today, and i know we can do more than just this bill we have today. but this is a first step. it is a necessary step for the sake of thousands of americans whose lives will be affected, directly affected, this is a step in the right direction. i hope that we all come together and make this first step momentum on the journey. we have work to do in this country. i'm proud to have been a part of the what can be an historic step in the right direction. may our work continue. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the
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senator from ohio. a senator: i'd like to ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with two of my colleagues. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: mr. president, i'm here on the floor today to talk about legislation that helps our national parks, something that everyone on this floor has been supportive of over the years, and i'm here with a couple of colleagues who spent a lot of time and effort focused on that issue. one is senator angus king, who is an independent. although he organizes over there with the democrats. he and his colleague, senator mark warner, a democrat from virginia, have been very involved in this issue and have introduced legislation to address the unmet needs in our parks. it's a critical issue right now. $12 billion that deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks. many of our roads and bridges and water systems and railroads in my home state, we have a railroad running through a national park, are crumbling and we need to address it.
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we're going to hear a little bit from senator king today about that. the other colleague i'll talk about is senator alexander. he has been a champion for parks over the years. my recollection is a few decades ago president ronald reagan named him to a commission on the outdoors probably when he was governor of tennessee, one of his many jobs he's had, including being secretary of education, and also president of the university of tennessee. but through all his jobs and will you his lifetime he has been a huge supporter of the national parks and understands like everybody else given he's from tennessee and they have unmet needs, to address the needs and a way to figure out the backlog. i mentioned $12 billion. that's a big price tag and more we can give the parks every year can possibly accommodate. it's about long-term capital costs. i said to senator alexander it's lk like we have -- almost like
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we have a debt unpaid. we have a shining example for our country and the rest of the world. 330 million visitors last year at our national parks. think about that. visitation is up and yet you have this crumbling infrastructure and huge issues that must be addressed. we've come up with a creative way to deal with it. it takes the revenue from onshore and offshore federal energy projects and says if it's on federal land, some of the royalties come to the federal government. let's take not the money that's already going to the land and water conservation fund and other good purposes, but let's take half of the part that has no other allocation currently and let's use it to address this issue. and by doing so, we think we can address half of the backlog, about $6 billion over the next five years. now it so happens that the national park service has been asked to look at all these projects and come up with which ones are of immediate concern. and where there's a true crisis where you've got to address it now or the need's going to get much greater. and, by the way the taxpayer
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costs are going to increase dramatically because this is a compounding problem. when you downt fix -- don't fix the roof you end up having to repair and replace the entire building. we believe there is a way to do this, a sensible way for us to use some of this funding. and guess what? so does a lot of other people all around the country because we've got support from all kinds of groups who are supporting the parks around the country, conservation groups, groups that care a lot about what the experience is of the visitor at the parks. we've also got support from our colleagues in the house. they have a companion bill that's bipartisan also, republicans and democrats alike are supporting it. it's got the strong support in their committees over there, as this bill has gotten in our committee here. in fact, it got out of the energy and natural resources committee with a big bipartisan vote. and then finally, and in some respects maybe most importantly, as a former director of the office of management and budget, the administration is supporting it because sometimes the administration is careful about supporting proposals that have
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to do with this sort of spending, the mandatory spending so called that comes from the revenue from these natural gas and oil resources that are on federal lands offshore and onshore. we have the trump administration supporting it. we have so many colleagues on both sides of the aisle supporting it. we have so many outside groups supporting it. why? it is time to do it. it's a sensible idea. it will save taxpayers money in the long haul because by fixing the infrastructure you won't have the huge additional costs that would be borne otherwise. these parks are our treasure and a legacy and we need them. with that i'm going to ask my colleague from tennessee to say a few words and my colleague from maine to say a few words whatever order they would like to go in. let me say this is a sad note. i learned on monday that my colleague from tennessee who is about to speak has dieded that at age 78 it's time for him to enjoy a more peaceful and enjoyable lifestyle outside the
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united states senate and he's not running for reelection in two years. two years is a long time. we're going to get a lot donnelly together. this bill is one of them -- get a lot done together. this bill is one of them. i'm going to miss him a lot. he's a great l legislator in the united states senate. he can bring together parties not just democrats and republicans but sometimes within our parties personalities are not easy to deal with. he meantions manages to smooth feathers. i hope working together this will be one of the many legacy items he will get to talk to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about. with that, i would like to turn it over to senator king from maine and senator alexander from tennessee. mr. alexander: i thank the senator from from ohio for his generous comments and i defer to the senator from maine.
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mr. king: i'd like to thank the gentleman from ohio for bringing forth this proposal which makes so much sense which as he points out has bipartisan support. in fact, i don't know if i've ever heard you make so much sense twice in the same time of being on the floor about this bill and about senator alexander. you were right on both counts. we're certainly going to miss the senator from tennessee. but like the characters in tom sawyer, when tom and huck were in the attic of the church at their own funeral, he's still here and he's going to be here for another two years. we're going to get a lot done. i had a very formative experience as governor of maine. every year we used to go to new york to talk to the rating agencies about our bond issues and our bond rating. of course the desire of any governor of any state is to have a good bond rating so that you pay less interest. and at one point i was making a presentation to the bond issue, to the bond council, the rating agencies in new york, and i said we have low debt and we
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don't take on much bobdz and we pay them off in ten years and we're really keeping the bond indebtedness down. and one of these green eye shade guys stopped me. he said, governor, when you're not fixing things, it's debt. just as if it's on your balance sheet. and that's what we're talking about here. we're talking about a debt that's going to have to be fixed sooner or later, and we've come up with a method of funding it that's very creative. it doesn't take funds from another purpose, and it's symmetrical because it takes funds from the utilization of federal lands to provide the maintenance and support for other federal lands for the national park system. and the senator from ohio mentioned 330 million people visited national parks last year. that is the entire population of the united states. we have a wonderful park in
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maine, acadia. we had 300 million people last year at that park. the problem is i visited, seen leaky roofs and roads that need repair. and if we don't do that, we're not serving the public, not serving the next generation of americans who want to enjoy the parks. and now we have an opportunity to do so that is supported on a bipartisan basis in this body, in the other body, and by the administration. so this is something that we ought to be able to do, and it is a responsibility that we have. i would say maintaining what we have is one of our most fundamental responsibilities. and this is a bill that enables us to do that in a way that is responsible fiscally. and i want to emphasize that if we don't do this, we are adding to the national debt. and we're adding to the national debt that's going to have to be paid. construction costs always go up, so in effect it's going to have to be paid with interest. and now is the time to take this
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step. in order to maintain the national parks in the condition that our american public deserves and they expect us to meet this responsibility. so i want to complement and thank the senator from ohio and tennessee, our colleague mark warner from virginia for bringing this bill forward. we've now added cosponsors from both sides of the aisle and we're ready to make this happen. and there's no reason we can't move forward in this congress, if not, very early in the next congress. but this is one of those things where it is not -- it's not all that glamorous repairing roofs and doing main nance in national parks, but it will mean something to the people who come. and sometime years from now a family will walk through acadia national park or the great smokies or the great parks in ohio and they won't know who
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fixed that trail. they won't know who repaired that visitor center. they'll just know that they've had one of the most memorable experiences of their life and somebody helped that to take place. and i just hope, mr. president, that that somebody is us, because we are able to do it. we have the means. we have the vehicle. and now is the time to move this bill, to do something, to pay a debt that we all have to the american people. mr. president, i yield to my esteemed colleague from tennessee. mr. alexander: i thank the senator from maine and the senator from ohio. you know, i often say to my constituents in tennessee that they might look at washington, d.c., as if it were a splitscreen television because on one side you have, for example, in september all of the mudslinging and back and forth of the judge kavanaugh hearing but a on the other side of the screen, at the very same time,
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the very same senate, the very same capitol, you had 72 senators working together on opioids legislation. senator portman had a major role in that. you had a songwriters bill that senator hatch and i had been working on. took 15 years to do. you had appropriations bills for the fourth year, biomedical funding. and you had coming out of the interior and energy committees in our senate by a vote of 19-4 in the senate and unanimously in the house a piece of legislation sponsored by senator portman, senator warren, senator king and myself and others that will do more for our national park system than has been done in 50 years. i don't know how often my deletion hear someone say, -- i don't know how often my colleagues hear someone say, well, why don't you guys do something, why don't you stop
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arguing with one another? just a while ago i heard the senator from new jersey talk about a prison sentencing bill that the senator from utah was talking about at lunch in the republican caucus and that president trump was talking to me about on sunday night. they're all for it. it is a huge change in prison sentencing. i mentioned a number of bills. so on the side of the splitscreen television that is the problem-solving part of the united states senate is the restore our parks act, the portman, warren, king, alexander bill that will do more for the national park system than anything in a half-century. and it not only has our support, it has in the house of representatives 228 bipartisan supporters. it has in the united states senate 37 of our 100 members already. i suspect it will have more. and it's strongly supported by president trump. it has 100 conservation groups
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for it. let's think about it. what else can you think of that has president trump, 100 conservation groups, 228 house members and 37 senators in favor of of it that is such a good idea? i can think of nothing else. for example, in the smoky mountains -- and the senator portman and his family have been there, to our home more than once. he's great outdoorsman, a greater leader for the national parks in many areas. but there is a look camp ground that is been closed for many years. the problem with it is the roof leaks and the pathrooms don't work so it is closed. we were going to fix it, but that is -- we're going to fix it, but that is true all over the country. so i guess the logical question is, then why don't we go ahead and pass it? welling, the problem is the way we -- well, the problem is the way we pay for it.
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senator port man is a former budget director and senator king discussed the funding of the issue. we pay for it with something we call mandatory funding. it is not the type of funding we usually worry about in the senate. that's when we borrow money and use it to pay for other entitlements and that's running our debt way up. all of us are worried about that. this is different in three ways. the senator from maine talked about it. this is really debt that we're reducing -- deferred maintenance is debt. this is the backlog we intend to fix. the second is we're using real money. we're not borrowing money to spend. we're taking money from drilling for oil or for gas or for other energy on revenue and paying for other needs and then we're using some of that money up to $6.5
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billion, i believe, to pay for about half of the deferred maintenance needs of the national park system. that's not a budget gimmick. that's real money to reduce debit. -- to reduce debt. and then it's in one other way not the same as the mandatory funding we talk about it. it's authorized for only five years. it's a limited, targeted program using real money to reduce debt, supported by republicans and democrats, the senate and the house, the office of management and budget and the trump administration, and the president himself. so i agree with the senator from maine, and i congratulate the senator from ohio. he and senator warner of virginia were the two senators who came up with this idea, working with conservation groups. senator king and i had a similar idea. we put the bills together, and we thought the right person to be the principal sponsor is the
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former budget director, senator portman, because we're talking about spending money. and senator warner, who has been such a leader in the area, and senator king. so i agree. we ought to as if this week with that kind of support. it is a terrific idea that almost all americans would support. but we're on the floor to say that if it doesn't pass this week, it ought to be the first order of business in the first month we get back. i look forward to working with the senator from ohio and the senator from maine to help accomplish that. mr. portman: i appreciate the colleagues of my colleagues -- i appreciate the comments of my colleagues from tennessee and maine. this legislation is ready to be passed. we've done the hard works and looked at a number of ways to handle this backlog that everybody wants to get at. everybody agrees that our national parks are such crown jewels and we need to address it. if you don't fix the roof and the building ends up falling down, you have to pay a lot more. so to the point that this is a
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debt unpaid, it is also a debt that grows because it compounds over time, and these are two former governors who just spoke, and they did this in their own states, what you might call capital budgeting; in other words, looking not just as your annual expenses for, in this case, park rangers and naturalists, but how do you take a building that is about to fall down and put the enormous amount of expense into that to enshould you are that you save money over time. i will say that i've been all around my time. we don't have parks that are quite as big as acadia or the smokies, but we do have a lot of beautiful parks in ohio. it is number 13 in the nation, between akron and cleveland. it is a faunists particular opportunity for young kid whose -- it is a fantastic opportunity for young kids who come. we are not talking about displacing the volunteer work that's being done. it is very effective as building
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the trails, ensuring young people come to our park. there's also a lot of friends groups, the friends group in cuyahoga national park is head the by -- all give money, private foundations who give their money for our national parks. that's all needed. they cannot afford the $12 billion maintenance backlog that is the responsibility of the federal government. and so $47 million as an example is needed at cuyahoga valley national park to fix the railroad, to fix a roof at a visitor's center. it's also $47 billion for a monument off lake erie. there is a seawall to protect the perry monument. that seawall is crumbling. tend it is a huge expense to repair a seawall as a coastal
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governor like governor king will tend you. and so that's a maintenance backlog issue that has to be addressed. i am very excited about the opportunity to get this done. it is going to be difficult to get it done this week because we're up against the end of the year and we have so many other priorities. on the other hand, this one has not just bipartisan support but i would say nonpartisan support, and bicameral support. and it's one of those that i think senator alexander is exactly right, we ought to put at the top of the agenda. it will be a great win. i think the american people are looking for wins right now. i think people are wondering, how can divided government work? here is an example. you have the administration, republicans, democrats saying this is a problem -- long in the making, by the way. it has been years and years of us delaying the expenditures for improvements needed. so we're going to hit the ground
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running. come january we'll hit the ground running. we'll be out there getting cosponsors from staff, who happen to be listening. you ought to be on this bill. if you're not one of the more than one-third of the senate that's already a part of it. and i just can't thank my colleagues enough for showing up today to talk a little about this. i know senator warner is busy with other meetings right now. speaking for him, he came up with this, i think, very creative idea. i want to thank him for his hard work on this and i know that his home state with the blue ridge and other great national parks, he's got the same sense of urgency that all of us have, which is if we don't address this and don't address this now, we're going to see the visitor experience be diminished, we're going to see lot of higher costs for taxpayers. this is the time. we have the organizations behind us. senator alexander talked about 100 conservation organizations. i didn't know there were 100 conservation organizations. but they're all on board and they understand that this is the opportunity to do something very
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significant. i think senator alexander is right. probably in the 100-year history of our national parks they a never been a single bill that can make such a big difference, maybe not since teddy roosevelt decided to start acquiring national land to protect our national treasures. i thank my colleagues and i welcome them to make any final comments. senator king? mr. king: my only final comment is to suggest a friendly amendment as to how to allocate these funds. i suggest after if a betically. the fact that acadia is in maine is a mere coincidence. seriously, i think my two colleagues have made a very powerful case. hopefully we'll be able to move this again through the committee, as senator alexander reported, it has already been considered and reported favorably by the committee and hopefully it'll be one of the first items of business in the new year. as you say, senator portman, this is a win. it is a win for the american people. and i think it will be reassuring that we can in fact
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find ways to work together on important national problems and senator alexander listed the things done. the only one he didn't mention is the farm bill, which passed last week i think 87-13. makes a little difference for rural america. here is a chance to make a difference for all of those who love and treasure our national parks. i look forward to working workih my colleagues to make it happen. mr. alexander: i'll conclude this athe colloquy, if that's all right with senator portman and then i ask consent for ten minutes to address -- speak about senator hatch. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: but prior to doing that, i want to join senator portman in acknowledging the leadership of senator mark warner of virginia, along with the conservation community, in developing the bones of this bill. we had competing bills.
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he and senator portman were out there first, so we did what we should do, we put them together and look what the result is. so that happens a lot more than people notice. when an airplane lands safely, it's not news. when it crashes, it is. this is an example of one landing safely. and my prediction is that if all of those 100 conservation groups and all those senators and congressmen who already support this will sign up with us quickly in january , we can get this train moving and we can begin to fix the roofs and repair the bathrooms and build the roads and take america's best idea -- our national parks -- and make it what the american people expect it to be. so i thank senator portman and the senator king for their leadership as well as senator warner. now, mr. president, in 1976 -- it was not a particularly good time for the republican party.
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watergate had decimated the republican party in 1974 and the hangover still existed in 1976. but one good thing that happened was the election of orrin hatch from utah to the united states senate. he was a boxer as a kid. he grew up the hard way. he joined a labor union, moved to utah, and won a senate race that he wasn't supposed to win. i happened to be here in 1977 in january as administrative assistant to howard baker who was a newly elected republican leader of the senate. there were then only 37, 38 republican senators, but i was impressed with their vigor and enthusiasm, and no one impressed me more than the young senator from utah. here is what he was doing by 1978. and i want to read a paragraph from "the american senate" by
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neil mcneil and richard baker, which i think is the best history of the senate. in the spring of 1968 utah's orrin hatch and indiana's richard lugar, both freshman republicans, undertook a sophisticated filibuster to defeat organized labor's prime legislative goal, a complex bill to revise the nation's labor laws. first they relied on traditional tactics. much talk, quorum calls and all other dilatory maneuvers. this is 1978. they copied the old southerner's strategy of creating three platoons each of a half dozen senators to spill each over other the next several weeks. next they adopted senator allen's postcloture strategy. that was senator jim allen from alabama who would sit at the front. introducing more than 1,200 amendments with which to continue their filibuster
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indefinitely. robert byrd who was the majority leader, tried six times to invoke cloture and failed. this victory by conservative republicans was the most notable they had achieved so far, and the editors of the congressional quarterly concluded the republican filibustering had changed the dynamics of the senate legislating. the republicans they said, quote, retrieved for themselves weapons of enormous legislative importance, so important that for now the senate could not approve any controversial measure without producing a 60-vote supermajority. so i guess when we say you have to get 60 votes to get anything important passed around here, we can thank orrin hatch, because when he came to the senate in his first couple of years along with senator lugar, he took on a task that nobody thought he could win. the primary objective of organized labor in a democratic congress with a democratic
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president when republicans only had 37 or 38 votes in the senate, and he stopped it. that's typical of senator hatch's persistence. he later became chairman of three important committees in the senate in his 42 years here. the health education, labor and pensions committee; the judiciary committee; and finance committee. like many senators, he realized not long after he was here that it's hard to get here, it's hard to stay here, so you might as well try to amount to something while you're here. and amounting to something means getting a result. and getting a result means if you have to get 60 votes to do it, working with people on the other side of the aisle. so he formed an important alliance with senator ted kennedy who was the leading liberal member of the senate. hatch approved himself to be one
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of the most partisan republicans but when they could agree, they passed some very important legislation. there is the hatch-waxman act. i won't try to list all of the legislation. there was legislation about religious freedom. i think it's accurate to say that no living senator has passed more legislation than orrin hatch. he also did me a personal favor. in 1991, i came back up here as president bush's nominee to be united states secretary of education. i should have known better, but i sold my home, put my kids in school. i forgot i had to be confirmed and that anybody might object to it. so i go before the democratic-controlled help committee and senator metzenbaum of ohio said governor alexander, i've heard some very disturbing things about you but i don't think i'll bring them up here. and nancy kassebaum said, howard, i think you just did. she was a senator from kansas.
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for two or three months i just twisted in the wind there wondering whether i would be confirmed by the democratic senate. late one night somehow orrin hatch came to the senate floor and got me confirmed by unanimous consent. i spent 22 months as president bush's education secretary. i think he was a consequential education president with his america 2000 and his summit of governors on education, his advocacy for start from scratch schools which we now call charter schools. but i have orrin hatch to thank for that confirmation. of all the bills that senator hatch has worked on, my favorite is the music modernization acts. we call it the hatch-goodlatte music modernization because of his role in it. and he likes it too because it's a bill that helps songwriters mostly, songwriters, we have thousands of them in tennessee, all around nashville. nashville is a music city. memphis has a lot. other places in america have a
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lot. but songwriters are typically taxi drivers, music teachers, waitresses, all sitting there not making much money. they have the idea of writing a number-one song. but the problem is that as the internet arrived, more than half the money in the music industry came from songs played on line and songwriters, number one, weren't getting paid often. and, number two, weren't getting paid a fair market value. so a number of us took that on and the result was the music modernization act. by the time it passed the senate by unanimous consent and the house almost unanimously too, it had 80 sponsors here. but it was a very complex bill, a once-in-a-generation copyright law change, and the principal sponsor was orrin hatch. it's right that he should be. he was chairman of the finance committee. but more than that, he's a songwriter himself.
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he's had a gold record and a platinum record. so we think of him in nashville as our third united states senator. he's welcome to come back any time in his retirement after january and sit down and write some more songs, because his music modernization act, the hatch-goodlatte act, is going to help thousands of songwriters and make this a more joyful country with more good songs. i come to the floor today simply to express my respect and appreciation for our senator who is retiring, orrin hatch, who served 42 years, longer than any other republican in the history of the united states senate, and to say that if he decides he's running out of things to do when he goes back to utah, the door's open in nashville. he can come write a few songs. mr. president, i ask consent that my remarks be included in the record whenever all of the remarks about senator hatch are printed, and i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: i want to talk today about the criminal justice reform legislation that's before the senate. this is legislation that deals with two huge issues in our criminal justice system. one is important sentencing reforms. a lot of this has leveled the playing field, for instance, between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, what kind of sentencing ought to be used, something talked about for many years. there is, in our view, many of us, an injustice with the levels of sentencing. that's important. second, this legislation deals with an issue that many states are finally figuring out, which is that we need to do something to keep people who are leaving our jails and prisons from coming right back into the criminal justice system again. these numbers are just amazing. 95% of those who are incarcerated will be released someday. we all know that. 95% of them.
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when people are released from prison or jail, over a three-year period, about two-thirds of them are rearrested. some call it the revolving door. there's a fancier word for it. it's called recidivism, and it's a huge issue. because think about that. if two-thirds of the people are back in the prison system or the criminal justice system, that means they committed another crime. that means our communities are less safe. it also means that the taxpayer ends up picking up the tab, both the cost of prosecution again but also the cost of incarceration which can go from $25,000 a year to $40,000 a year, depending on what system these prisoners are in. huge costs. and many of our states, frankly, this is what has driven the push toward doing something about it because the state budgets have been overwhelmed with the cost of criminal justice. so we've committed ourselves here in congress to deal with that, to try to reduce the crimes, bring families back together, help people be able
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to live out their purpose in life and god post office purpose in life for -- god's purpose in life for all of us may be a little different but it's certainly not for someone to be in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. one thing we have focused on is how do you give people the tools to be able to be more successful when they have left prison and reentered society. i've worked on this for the past 15 years, and one thing that we came up with was legislation called the second chance act. the second chance act was put into law about 11 years ago. it is a, an idea actually that george w. bush talked about in his speech to congress, joint session of congress about 14, 15 years ago. and what he said was let's give people a second chance. we believe in redemption in this country. many of us believe in it as it is from its biblical roots. but it is something that george w. bush believed in. and then he also said, and it makes no sense because people are costing the communities
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more, more crime, costing taxpayers more, prosecution, incarceration. so let's do something about it. not hold people back because of their mistakes in the past but instead give them the tools to be able to lead a better life, a more productive life. the second chance act has worked well over the years. it's provided this on ramp to help ex-offenders reenter society appropriately. however it needs to be reauthorized. the criminal justice the reformn before us deals with this people of -- by giving them tools they need by drug treatment, jobs, and that's important. once they get out of the system that's where the second chance act is so important. the message is clear. it tells ex-offenders if you want to turn your life around and become a productive member of society we want to help you do that. rather than incarcerating these repeat offenders, sometimes generation after generation, let's put our tax dollars to use in a more efnggettive way to
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break -- effective way to break this vicious cycle. congress appropriated funding for the second chance programs this year at $85 million, up from $68 million in some years in the past. we're actually putting more funding against it. but the program needs to be reauthorized to improve the program, put more accountability measures into the program. and that's what it does. again, it's part of this broader criminal justice reform that we are voting on today. i have spent a lot of time going around my state of ohio seeing how these second chance act grants are working. one thing they have done in my state and probably in your state is they have created these reentry coalitions now, because to get a coalition grant, it's easier to have a reentry coalition making application for it. you have these comprehensive coalitions. i l only had a few in ohio and a few of our counties. now we have them in over 60 of our counties and it's great because you have the business sector coming together, the private sector along with the law enforcement folks, along with the treatment providers. and i've seen it work all over our state.
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i've seen so many people who have successfully been able to make that transition from prison and a life of crime and this revolving door into a productive life. i'll tell you about one person who is always on my mind when i think about this. it's someone i met at something called central kitchen. central kitchen is a reentry program run by the lutheran ministry in cleveland, ohio. melvin is the gentleman i met there, and melvin's story is classic. melvin had been in and out of prison his whole life for about a decade and a half. he was in prison, out of prison, out of prison. he grew up in a rough neighborhood as he said. he got involved with drugs and alcohol. he couldn't get out of the cycle, couldn't get out of the revolving door. one day he said he heard about this program and said i'll check it out. it's a faith-based program. they tend to be particularly effective, in my view, but it's one that's supported by legislation like the second chance act. and sure enough, it's worked.
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melvin learned how to cook. he then worked there at the central kitchen, went on to work full time at another restaurant. as he said, what better way to be rewarded. what better way to be forgiven. he started his own catering business now. he's no longer defined by his past. he's defined by his willingness to take advantage of the second chance act. his eyes are now on the future. by the way, one thing he told me is i finally got a place to live again. i got my apartment back. and he sait most importantly -- he said most importantly to me, i got my child back. after 15 years of being in and out of prison, paying some child support, sometimes not, he now has his little girl living with him and he's a role model for her. and i've seen these role models all over our state. i've seen them in factories. i've talked to supervisors in factories who tell me the second chance employees, they are the role model, they show up on time. they're grateful. they realize they have been
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given a second chance and take it seriously. mr. president, i support the underlying legislation, criminal justice reform law that we are now going to take up here on the floor. i think it's the right thing to do for our country in so many respects. our communities will be safer. taxpayers will be able to spend their money more efficiently and effectively and to these individuals who will be able to live l productive lives, that is their purpose in life. god's purpose in life for them is being fulfilled by this legislation. i'm glad it's being reauthorized as part this legislation. i encourage my colleagues to support this legislation. i thank senator leahy, the coauthor of the second chance act on the other side of the aisle. this has been be -- ip want to thank the president for this legislation. i also want to thank those members of the senate who have been so involved in this, particularly my colleagues on the judiciary committee, senator durbin, senator lee. i just talked to senator lee
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about this legislation a moment ago. he's been tenacious, senator grassley, senator feinstein, senator booker, senator whitehouse, and others. this legislation will make a difference in my state of ohio and around the country and i encourage my colleagues to support it. i yield back. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. kyl: mr. president, let me speak for a moment about this act. the sponsors, as you just heard and supporters like senator portman, have proceeded here with very good intentions. as you just heard a compelling case to finding ways to help people who have made a mistake or more have an opportunity to turn their life around. one of the reasons that i'm concerned about the legislation is that all of the kinds of programs that have been spoken of here to enable people to learn new skills or change their attitudes about life so that they won't commit crimes again, we won't have more recidivism.
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one of the concerns is there isn't anything to prohibit these programs from being done today and they are done all over the country in state prisons and federal prisons and the like. where i have a problem is to provide rewards for people to participate in these programs may have more negative than positive effects. i think the sponsors of the bill need to look at that in order to persuade some of us that these rewards are necessary in addition to the programs which railroad already in existence. the other thing that concerns me is that there's a forgotten person in this whole equation, and that's the victim of the crime. ever since i came to the senate, i have worked on legislation to support crime victims, and finally, and i think it was my first term in the senate here, senator feinstein and i were successful in getting enacted and signed into law the federal
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crime victims rights bill. this act provides a whole series of rights for victims of crime starting with the right to be notified -- the right to be notified of key events during the criminal justice process and at appropriate times the right to speak or to participate. now, as i said, the crime victim seems to be forgotten in this legislation which has the good intention of preventing recidivism, but one of the incentives for people to participate in programs while they are still in prison is they can earn, in effect, some credits to enable them to get out earlier or to go on other kinds of programs before they are released by participating in these programs, but the victims don't need to be notified. with the many people involved here and have been in prison,
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there are reasons for the victim to be concerned of the release. not to night the victims would be a grave injustice. one of the amendments that are senator kennedy and senator cotton have proposed is to provide notification. some have said this is redundant because the crime victims act already requires notification. yes, the crime victims rights act requires notifications of the court proceedings. here the proceedings are before the prison warden in effect. he or she makes the decisions adding up these credits to determine whether or not the prisoner is eligible for some kind of early release program. but the crime victims right act provides, and i will quote it, provides that victims have the right to be reasonably heard at
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any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding. first of all, it has to be public, secondly, it has to be in court. that's not the proceeding that we're talking about in this legislation. and that's why the amendment of senator cotton and senator edwards is necessary to ensure that in this context as well crime victims are notified of the potential release of the perpetrator of the crime upon them so that if they wish, they can allow their views to be known presumably in some kind of written correspondence to the warden, which the warden could then take into account or not. now, i heard an odd argument made on the floor here in opposition to this amendment, and that was that under the crime victims act about 10% of the crime victims don't care to be notified and, in effect, they opt-out of the notice procedure,
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and therefore because of that there shouldn't be a notice requirement for this procedure. well, that's a nonsecondor if i ever heard one. there are those who chose to ignore the notice they received. for whatever reason they don't want to go back into the court or to do anything about the notice they received, but for the other 90% this is a very meaningful proposition, and i think it would be a very scary proposition for some people not to be notified that the perpetrator of the crime against them is about to be released and they don't know about it let alone have any opportunity to say anything about it. the fact that 10% of the people may choose to ignore this notice is not reason not to provide the notice. if you don't want to receive the notice, there's something easy you can do about it, put it in the waste basket. or if you're concerned that you might get notified again and
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that's a bother to you, you can et let -- you can let the warden know that. this is not a persuasive argument to me because one in ten choose not to do anything with the notice therefore we shouldn't give notice to the other 90% for whom it may be extraordinarily meaningful. to my colleagues i would say, remember, the only reason people are in prison is because they have committed a crime against someone, and that someone is frequently ignored in the criminal justice process. they shouldn't be ignored anymore, and at least in federal court, we have provided, by law, a series of requirements for notification and in some cases the right to be heard that finally recognizes that the victim should have some right to participate in and at a minimum be notified of the proceedings that involve a case that's only there because they've had a crime committed against them.
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and in many cases it's a very meaningful thing for them to come to closure and to find a sense of justice in our criminal justice system to be able to participate in that very same system. in the past we seem to have gotten away from this. like, well, it's the prosecutor and it's the defendant and nobody else has any reason to be involved and, yet, of course, the victims have every reason to be involved. so to my colleagues who say, well, it's redundant, no it's clearly not redundant, the material crime victims rights act will not provide a remedy in the case of the bill before us. so if you care about crime victims, if you believe that they should have a right to be informed and to potentially present their view to the warden if they choose to do so, then i would urge you to support this amendment of the cotton and john
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edwards amendment. and, finally, mr. president, i heard an argument that while there is a victims rights group that opposes this. i don't know that victims rights group. i do know this. i have been in touch with a lot of the advocates for crime victims and they oppose the underlying legislation, and one of the reasons is because it doesn't account for the crime victims. perhaps the opponents could get more support for their legislation if they would pay attention to the people against whom the crime was committed in the first instance and at least notify them that the prisoner is going to be released and give them tan opportunity to respond if they choose to do so. i urge my colleagues to support the crime victims rights amendment to the underlying bill. i yield the floor, mr. president. mr. portman: mr. president. the presiding officer: the
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senator from ohio. mr. portman: among the colleagues of ours who will not be rejoining us in january is dean heller. senator heller hails from nevada and he is a good friend. he's also a valued member of this body and we're going to miss him. dean is a classic servant leader, dedicated to public service. he served in all kinds of role in his community, his state, his country and he's always done it with class and humility. he grew up in carson city, nevada, with his five brothers and sisters. he said he started working at his dad's auto shop in middle school. you know what, i think he brought some of those skills you learned in middle school on the shop floor here in the united states senate because like every good mechanic, he's optimistic, every mechanic thinks he can fix whatever problem you have.
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he rolls up his sleeves and believes he can make things better, as it as true if he's working on a car or on legislation here in the united states senate. he served for two terms on the nevada assembly representing carson city and served three terms as nevada's secretary of state before representing the second congressional district in the house of representatives, later he was appointed to the united states senate, and then he won his election to the united states senate in 2012. i had the privilege of working with dean heller a lot on issues. we both serve on the senate finance committee. we have jurisdiction over a lot of things including tax reform. during the tax reform process over the elizabeth year, we -- over the last year, we being worked hard together and i saw the hard work and dempletion he -- determination he developed in his dad's auto body shop. he was effective in a number of ways with regard to helping others, helping with opportunity. one that he worked with the
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presiding officer on was doubling the child tax credit. it's a provision that puts more money back in the pockets of hardworking families in america. he also served on the bankruptcy committee, the veterans' affairs committee, commerce committee he's been involved in a lot of the issues that this body takes up. in fact, more than 100 of his bills have become law during his time in the united states senate. that means he reached across the aisle to help his fellow nevadans. he will be missed but i know he will stay busy back home doing things he loves, baling hay on his ranch, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, spending time with his family. he and his wife lynn have been married for 40 years and i know he's looking forward to spending time with his kids. he'll told me for one of his holiday traditions, he gets out his trombone and his kids and spouses all grab instruments tan
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they play music. the heller band play well-known holiday christmas songs. i'd like to see it -- i'm not sure i'd like to hear it, but i'd like to see it. dean heller is great guy. i know he has a bright future outside of this place. i look forward to staying in touch. we'll miss him knowing his work is not done. we look forward to continue to work with him. i yield back my time. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator in new mexico. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president, for the recognition. i rise today on the senate floor as a senator from a border state, a state that borders with the country of mexico, with a
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message from my state's proud border communities. we will not stand by as the president threatens to shut down the government in an act of political extortion. as the president tries to force the american people to pay for his border wall, a wall that would run right through new mexico and through so many of the communities and ecosystems that define our state. i am joining with new mexicans all across the border and all across our state who are calling on the president to stop playing politics with our communities, with our budget and taxpayer dollars. border communities have the most at stake in this fight and we will be heard. last week we learned of a terrible tragedy along the border just on december 7, a
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7-year-old girl from guatemala jacqueline mep kene died from dehydration while in customs and border protection custody. the sadness of the loss of this little girl coming to our country with her father in search of safety cannot be overstated. it is truly heart breaking. i have called upon secretary nielsen, customs and border protection commissioner mclean, and the office of inspector general to immediately and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of jacqueline's death. all facts mutt be brought to light so that no families ever have this kind of tragedy again. jacqueline and her father turned themselves in to c.b.p. near a remote port of entry in new
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mexico. that port of entry called antelope wells which was closed at the time. by the time that jacqueline received adequate medical care, it was too late. instead of demanding massive resources for an ineffective wall, the president should direct the department of homeland security to provide border stations and c.b.p. officers with the resources necessary to meet the basic needs of children and other vulnerable individuals. the trump administration's cruel policy of delaying immigrants at commonly used ports of entry for weeks and months at a time inevitably results in asylum seekers taking more dangerous routes in remote areas. instead of creating a humanitarian crisis at the border by refusing to process asylum seekers, the president should direct d.h.s. to meet the spirit of the asylum laws and
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begin treating those fleeing persecution and violence with the dignity and respect that they deserve. this administration has failed repeatedly to live up to our values as a nation when it comes to immigration. sadly, there are tragic human consequences to the administration's inhumane immigration policies. this week, we in congress find ourselves in a familiar position. once again, the president says he will shutter the federal government unless we appropriate billions of dollars for his border wall. this obvious political ploy aimed at his narrowing base is the same tired and hateful refrain that he's used since the day he launched his campaign for president. the president's anti-immigrant attacks are now a staple in his political toolbox. they are no surprise. but congress should not give in
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to the president's latest anti-immigration can interim, a tantrum that is not based in reality and that fundamentally lacks the support of the american people. there has been a lot of talk about the border here in washington, a lot of talk about what the border needs from a president that doesn't know the first thing about our border communities. i proudly represent a border state, a state that shares 180 miles of border with mexico, a state that is in many ways defined by our border, immeasurably strengthened by our relationships with our southern neighbor, by our immigrant heritage and by communities and ecosystems that dot every mile along the border. i know our border communities. i hear the hopes and concerns of new mexico's families and businesses that form the fabric of those border communities.
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let there be no equivocating. new mexico's border communities emphatically reject the president's unnecessary, ineffective, and offensive wall. 36 communities across new mexico, california, arizona, and texas have passed resolutions opposing a wall along their borders, and poll after poll shows that the american people from coast to coast and from border to border do not support this wall. people in new mexico and across the nation want humane immigration policies, continued community ties and economic activity between mexico and our nation, and smart border security that will actually make us safer, not an unnecessary and ineffective wall, and not
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insulting attacks on mexicans and central americans. the american people reject the president's latest take it or leave it demand that they pay $5 billion for his wall, a wall he vowed during his campaign that mexico would pay for, a wall that will not stop illegal immigration, a wall that would stand before all the world as a symbol of division, fear, and hostility. there is little disagreement in the halls of congress or among the american people that we want smart border security, that our immigration laws need to be reformed, and that we want to stop illegal drugs from coming into the country, but we do disagree and strongly on how to effectively achieve those goals with limited taxpayer dollars. the president would have us believe that hoards of dangerous criminals have our borders under siege. this is one of his countless
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misrepresentations to the american people. the american people have had enough of misinformation, of blatant distortions. it's time for some facts. the fact is the numbers of border apprehensions are down significantly since the early 2,000's southern border apprehensions have dropped 81%. in fact, the number of apprehensions at the end of fiscal year 2017 was the lowest it's been since 1971, lowest it's been since 1971. and we have the lowest number of undocumented immigrants in our country than we have had in over a decade. the pew research center released estimates just this month that the total number of undocumented immigrants residing in the united states is far less now than in 2004, a 14-year low. and the numbers from mexico,
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people who the president con adults -- insults, rapists, criminals, have decreased even more dramatically. so who are the people coming to our southern border? after hengses between ports of entry consist largely of family units turning themselves in for asylum, fleeing the terror in their home countries. they are crossing between ports in part because d.h.s.'s obstacles to asylum and ports of entry, including inadequate resources for staffing and infrastructure at our ports. individuals trying to claim asylum and the ever-increasing trump-manufactured wait times. so given the number of southern border apprehensions, this is at an all-time low, and the makeup of our southern border crossers now is not the time to raid taxpayer-funded coffers for a
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boondoggle of a wall. now is the time to begin talking across the aisle about how to meaningfully address the root causes of immigration from central america. and not only that, border walls have not been shown to effectively increase security or to reduce smuggling or improper entry. in 2017, the government accountability office found that customs and border protection could not demonstrate the border walls had any measurable impact on border security. finding -- and this is from d.h.s., and i quote -- not developed metrics for this assessment. as former d.h.s. secretary janet napolitano said, quote, show me a 50-foot wall, and i will show you a 51-foot ladder. walls are not only offensive, they are ineffective. while the effectiveness of the
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president's wall is in question, the extraordinary high costs are not. the department of homeland security estimates the cost would be $21.6 billion. the democratic staff of the senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee estimates $70 billion. and those costs are only to build the wall. any wall would have to be maintained. studies estimate maintenance costs would reach $100 million to $150 million a year. and just as troubling, g.a.o. concluded that d.h.s. is not responsibly spending the funds already allocated for the wall. g.a.o. reported that, quote, d.h.s. faces an increased risk that the border wall system program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned, and not fully perform as expected.
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in fact, d.h.s. blew past its september 19 deadline to submit a risk-based border security plan as the law requires. there is no accountability here. and worse yet, while the president ups his demand for $5 billion for a wall, d.h.s. hasn't even spent its funds for border barriers in the previous year's budget. d.h.s. has only spent 6% of the funds provided on this boondoggle since 2017. it hasn't even obligated $900 million of its last $1.6 billion appropriation. the president ignores d.h.s.'s failure to spend the money it's been given while he demands $3.4 billion more than his own budget request. this is pure extortion. we should categorically reject the president's demand for
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$5 billion for the wall, and we should reject any proposal for a slush fund for the president to use to implement his anti-immigrant agenda. of course, americans are no longer surprised by this administration's utter hypocrisy when it comes to fiscal responsibility, but the president's demand for billions of unnecessary funds for his wall is a particularly galling and offensive example, and it should be called out. in budget after budget, the trump administration says we can't afford to provide for americans' health care, to provide for environmental protections, to provide for quality education for our kids, to provide for those in society who are struggling the most, but the president says we can afford to throw billions and billions of dollars on a symbolic and wasteful boondoggle of a wall. that's billions of dollars that
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could be spent on the priorities that new mexicans and the american people actually value, like good jobs, good health care, good education. backwards doesn't even begin to describe this administration's priorities. the republicans claim to be fiscal conservatives, but time and time again, they show themselves to be fictional conservatives. they want to spend billions on a wall that doesn't work. they passed tax relief for the wealthy, leaving working and middle-class americans high and dry and create massive deficits the american taxpayer will be paying off in the years to come. this is not fiscal conservatism. this is the epitome of fiscal irresponsibility. but the wall isn't just wasteful and unnecessary. it would also do serious harm to the border region. while a border wall won't effectively address border
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security, it will disrupt border communities, hurt international trade, interfere with private property rights, and damage habitat and wildlife. much of the land along the border is privately owned, and some for many generations. approximately 4,900 parcels are at risk. the trump administration is already seizing private property through eminent domain to build its wall. homes could be con confiscated, farms ruined, neighbors cut off from one another. to build the wall, d.h.s. has waived almost 50 laws to protece public and protect the environment, including the endangered species act, the clean water act, the native american graves protection and repatriation act, among others. this proposed funding targets the border along the rio grande, which is the home to a by
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logically diverse and rich environment. i have traveled to this area. last winter, i canoed part of the wild and scenic rio grande in big bend national park along the texas-new mexico border. this month i saw a new documentary called "the river and the wall" that showed the stunning rio grande valley and part of our trip. adding 65 miles of border barrier through the lower rio grande valley would damage this area of profound environmental and ecological significance. a wall harms ecosystems, disrupts wildlife migration patterns, blocks vital wildlife access to food and water, and fragments wildlife communities. these photos show the problems posed to wildlife. this is wildlife here blocked by
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a fence. here's fencing that was previously here that allows the wildlife to get through. animals can't get over or through the border wall. they are stopped in their tracks. for many animals, fragmented habitat has led to their endangerment, chopping you are their territory pushes them closer to extinction. now that's the conclusion of career biologists and wildlife managers at the u.s. fish and wildlife service. they warned in a draft letter to cpb that the wall threatens already endangered wildlife. according to them, a wall is vulnerable to catastrophic -- this is a quote -- catastrophic natural flood events leaving wildlife trapped behind the wall to drown or starve. they recommended the c.p.b. consider technology and other resources and mechanisms when possible instead of installing walls. "the washington post" reported
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last week that secretary zinke made it known that fish and wildlife needed to, quote, support the border security mission. end quote. and so fish and wildlife higher ups scrubbed the career scientists' recommendations in a final letter to c.p.b. on the impacts of the wall. science has a hard time competing with politics in the trump administration. to sum it up, the president's border wall won't have any effect on the number of migrant showing up at our border daily. it will not deter migrants from making the dain dangerous journo cross our ports of entry, whether fleeing from the horrific screw -- horrific violence and persecutions in their country. it's wildly expensive. the wall hurts the communities and economy across our border. it comes use of land from private homeowners and
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jeopardizes the environment and wildlife. so why does the president want this wall? it's only -- its only discernible purpose is as a political symbol and an offensive and unpopular symbol, a symbol that america no longer welcomes. the tired, pour and huddled masses, that we fear the world and are shrinking from our position as a beacon of hope for people everywhere. mr. president, i have several additional remarks that i would ask consent to insert in the record as if spoken. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president. and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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quorum call: mr. cotton: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i ask unanimous consent to end the quorum call. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. cotton: mr. president, i want to speak on behalf of the amendment offered by senator kennedy and myself to the first step act. i think many of the policies in this bill are deeply unwise, to allow early release from prison thousands of serious repeat and potentially violent felons over the next few months if this bill passes. our amendment won't do much to solve that problem. it won't solve some of the other problems of the bill which slash some of the mandatory minimum sentences on the front end of extending, however, it will fix some of the worst part of this bill and i would urge all my colleagues to support them and frankly i don't understand why any senator would oppose them. let me talk about what these amendments would do. the first amendment would specifically exclude from early release from prison certain heinous catch and criminal -- hs
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criminals, to be certain they serve the full length of the sentence which a jury and judge sentence them. let me just outline the crimes that our amendment would cover and, therefore, prohibit from early release. coercing a child to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity, carjacking, assaulting a law enforcement officer, bank robbery, assisting federal prisoners with jail break, hate crimes, and assault. the bill's sponsors have said that this bill would not allow early release from prison for violent felons or serious felons. i consider coercing a minor into sex and prostitution or carjacking or bank robbery pretty serious crimes and usually violent crimes as well.
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our amendment would also ensure that there are no violent felons that are released from prison or any other sex offenders. this is consistent simply with the rhetoric and the talking points the bill's sponsors have used for years to sell the bill. unfortunately, the bill text does not cover all violent felons or sex offenders. now, 62% of all federal prisoners would still be eligible for early release according to the united states sentencing commission. so this would not solve all the problems of the bill. but it would at least ensure that some of these most heinous catch and release who prey on young -- criminals who prey on young children orb the vulnerable are not released early from prison. our second amendment is a victims' rights amendment. simply it says that this bill which creates new ways and categories under which federal prisoners can serve their sentence, if they do in fact get released from prison early, their victims will be notified and given a chance to comment.
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they don't get a veto. i frankly probably wouldn't object to that, but they just get notice and they have a right to write a letter to the warden. i think we should stand with victims at a time when we're passing legislation that is going to slash sentences on the front end for serious and repeat felons and then release them early on the back end. it is not too much to ask that we notify their victims when they're released early from prison and give those victims a chance to comment. finally, the third kennedy-cotton amendment would direct the department of justice to track the recidivism crimes of any prisoner released early from federal prison under this law. the bills' sponsors make much about the recidivism-reduction training that federal inmates will receive, how it's all evidence-based. this simply provides more evidence consistent with the department of justice's
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traditional collection of criminal justice data, it directs the department merely to report to congress on the recidivism rates of inmates who are released under this legislation. again, these are very modest amendments. they are consistent with the rhetoric of the bill's sponsors. i know that some of the sponsors have said this is a poison pill. i frankly don't see why. it is consistent with their own rhetoric. 62% of all felons in federal prison would still be eligible for early release. it does nothing to reduce the leniency on the front end for two-time and three-time drug traffickers. these are pretty modest amendments. i wish we would have already voted on them. senator kennedy and i were ready to vote hours ago. i know there's some disagreement about other amendments on which we may be voting, so pleat me state for the -- so let me state for the record, i also support senator lankford's amendment to ensure that faith-based
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organizations have access to federal prisons and federal grants as one of those very critical anti-recidivism opportunities that we provide to federal inmates. this amendment was promised to senator lankford last week. somehow it didn't get into the text of the bill. i think it could be adopted by unanimous consent. i certainly support senator lankford's amendment to be adopted by unanimous consent because i support faith-based organizations who work in prisons to try to help prisoners turn their lives around. another amendment under consideration is senator cruz's amendment that would exclude more offenses from early release. i support senator cruz's amendment as well, and i would support a unanimous consent agreement to call senator cruz's amendment to the floor and to pass it it doesn't overlap exactly with my amendment. it doesn't have the same
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offenses, but it does have serious offenses. so i think that we should call that up as well. and then we can vote on the bill. the bill has been years in the making. it's the result of painstaking negotiations. these amendments are pending. they're germane under the rules of the senate. we should vote on them. we should vote on passage of the build and move on to the senatest other business. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. mr. durbin: i'd like to respond to the statements by the senator from arkansas in terms of the business of the senate. we're close to an agreement that would bring the underlying bill,
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the criminal justice reform bill, for a vote this evening. it's been a bill that's been years -- literally years in the making. and i believe that we have discussed it at great length and we are prepared to make a decision in the senate. there will be three amendments offered by the senator from arkansas, senator cotton, and after those amendments are offered, then we will launch into another consideration of a change to the bill which has been characterized as a cruz-lankford amendment. for the record, we reached an agreement with senator cruz about this amendment. we reached an agreement with senator lankford about this amendment on a bipartisan basis, and i included a provision in there which required annual reports on the success of this program so we can measure it carefully and see if it's working as we hoped it would. so there were three pieces to this for senator cruz, for senator lankford and a piece i offered for this annual report. we accepted that language,
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language which will be considered here in the senate. and i certainly hope that when the request is made to include that language, the annual report will be included in it. so we can move forward very quickly on the three cotton amendments, as he suggested, this evening. we can agree on the cruz, lankford, and durbin amendment. i think that would not create any burden. -- to move on that, and we're in a position to consider final passage even this evening. so that seems to be the lineup, and as i've said to senator grassley, senator lee, my partners nuclear this effort, as well as senator booker, we've worked long and hard on this. we've had police groups, prosecutors, civil liberties groups. all have carefully reviewed this. no one is getting what they wanted completely. this is a product of compromise. but that's how you pass a bill in the united states senate -- at least that's my experience. this is the strongest bipartisan bill that i've seen in terms of
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democrats and republicans work being for final passage. it will be significant and historic if we're successful, but i won't presume that until we go through the orderly process of the amendments this evening. so, i want to thank again my colleagues who have patiently waited for us to reach this moment, but i think we have a chance to even move forward this evening if we reach a basic agreement. mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. rubio: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. rubio: we're talking about the subject of justice, and i thought it was appropriate to take a couple minutes here as we get ready to vote to signify a unique injustice that occurred in florida years ago. in july of 1949 a white couple was driving their couple when it broke down on a rural road near groveland, florida. two black men, irvin and shepherd, stopped to help the couple. what followed was a horrifying injustice. it haunts florida and truly the position that this day.
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norma pageant was the white woman in that truck. she was 17 years old. she told police that she abducted and raped by four black men. many locals at the time doubted her story. her estranged husband was known to be a drinker and to become violent with her. many suspected she had made up these accusations to cover up for his abuse. the sheriff's office never the less detained three men for this crime. the two men who had stopped to help the couple were both world war ii veterans. they both denied abducting or raping the woman. nevertheless, they were detained and they were brutally beaten in the basement of the sheriff's office in the jail until they confessed to a crime they did not commit. a few days later mr. shepherd's family home was burned to the ground. a third man, 16-year-old
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charles greenlee, only 16, really a boy, at the time that truck broke down he was 20 miles away, a fact that was testified to by a store watchman. he didn't even know mr. irving or mr. shepherd. and the woman whose own husband testified that he was not one of the four men that he alleges had brutally beaten him and abducted and raped his wife, but he too was taken to the basement of that jail and brutally beaten. a fourth man, earnest thomas, he was never arrested because he was hunted down over 30 hours by an armed posse of over 1,000 men, including the county sheriff. they found him sleeping under a tree in madison county, florida, and they shot him to death. greenlee, irving and shepherd with tried. the judge over that case denied their attorney access to
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exculpatory evidence. the judge in that case barred testimony about how they had been beaten until they confessed and an all-white jury convicted them, sentenced irving and shepherd to death and sentenced 16-year-old greenlee to life in prison. then a young attorney named thurgood marshall took up their case. pe appealed it to the supreme court of the united states which found they did not receive a fair trial. in fact, justice robert jackson said the trial was, quote, one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to american justice. end quote. the supreme court ordered a retrial. a few months later the same sheriff that was part of that posse picked up mr. irvine and mr. shepherd from jail to trance pored them from trn -- transport them from prison to hearing before the trial. he pulled over his car, pulled the two men, handcuffed the two men out of the car and he shot them. mr. shepherd died.
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mr. irvin played dead. the f.b.i. later found evidence that he had been shot while laying on the ground handcuffed to mr. shepherd. by the way, lying wounded, his treatment was delayed because the hospital refused to transport him because he was a black man. mr. irvin was eventually retried and again convicted in another sham trial and again sentenced to death. by 1955, the facts of the case were so troubling that florida governor leroy collins commuted his sentence, took him off death row, and commuted his sentence to life in prison. finally in 1968 he was paroled by governor claude kirk. one year later mr. irvin returned to lake county for a funeral. he was found dead in his car. mr. greenlee, the 16-year-old at the time of the manufactured crime, was paroled in 1960.
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he left florida and died in april of 2012 at the age of 78. in 2017 the florida legislature unanimously voted to issue what are now known as the groveland four, a formal and heartfelt apology and asked the state's cabinet to undertake an expedited review of the case and issue pardons. i come here today to talk about this case because while there is nothing we can do to give mr. thomas or mr. shepherd back their lives, there's nothing we can do to give mr. irvin or mr. greenlee back the years they spent in jail for a crime they did not commit, we can give these men back their good name. what we can do now as a state in florida is seek the forgiveness of their families and them for the grave injustice that was committed against them. and this is what i come here to the senate today to urge the new florida cabinet to do as soon as possible after they take office next month.
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because after 70 years, it is time for florida to do the right thing for the groveland four. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: before we go to the amendments, i want to give a general overview of what it took to get to the point where we are now. the first thing we had to do was to show the leader that we could produce 60 or more votes for this bill. this is a big bipartisan bill. senator durbin, lee, graham, booker, and i -- and i suppose i'm leaving out some people, but we've spoken extensively with our colleagues to address their concerns and gain their support. as we saw last night, more than 80 senators showed that they were ready for the debate and the culmination of this bill on the senate floor. then the next step we had to take was to show the people that we had broad bipartisan support. on november 15, the first step
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act was introduced in the senate. at that point we had 12 cosponsors. we now have 38 cosponsors. then of course the question always comes up about is the house of representatives going to take any action if we were successful on the floor of the united states senate. so every step of the way the house was read in on the senate bill, and the leaders in the house of representatives -- that happens to be representative collins, representative jeffries and of course chairman goodlatte of the judiciary committee -- they were all strong partners in this compromise, and we've reached a point with the house of representatives that when the house -- when the senate passes this bill, and hopefully we will, senator ryan is ready to act on this bill. so we don't have problems with the house of representatives as
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sometimes comes up late in a session like we are -- hopefully the last week of this congress. we know that what we're spending our time doing will be considered by the house of representatives. and then we about three or four weeks ago, we had a republican caucus, and we listened to the concerns that our colleagues had, so we were asked to show more republican support within the congress. and with several changes that were made in the bill in the last three or four weeks, we addressed our republican colleagues' concerns, the same ones that were raised in our caucus, and we did this obviously because we wanted to gain support for our bill, and concern among republicans that the caucus was not divided to
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the point that more of a majority of the caucus was against the bill than for the bill. and i think with the answers that we had from colleagues as we individually talked to them about support for the bill, we gained that support. so then we also had to show support from outside of the congress of the united states. i have here, without reading any names, but just broad bipartisan support from conservative organizations, but at the same time there's a lot of law enforcement organizations and liberal organizations. so i'll just name four or five at this point. the fraternal order of police, the american civil liberties union, the american
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conservative union, and the international association of chiefs of police. so we had to show the colleagues in the congress that we had broad support from what you might say the extreme right to the extreme left in support of this legislation. i don't know whether we've had legislation like this before the united states senate where you put together such a diverse group of people and organizations supporting the bill. and then of course it's very legitimate for our colleagues to show them, our colleagues, that once we went to this hard work of getting this bill where it is now on the senate floor, was the president going to sign it? and so we worked very closely with the house of representatives, even making some changes at their suggestion.
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but they are also talking to individual members of the senate, so they knew what some senators had concerns about. so we god admonition -- we got admonition from the president in the white house to change some things to bring the president on board. and so we now have a person who has a reputation for being tough on crime but also a person that recognizes that within our criminal justice system and the prison system and the way judges have to make decisions under mandatory minimums, that there's some unfairness. so we have a president that may not be seen by a large part of s country as being somebody that not only wants to be tough on crime but be fair on crime. so when it comes to the president of the united states, and he had a news conference
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when we put the original bill together before the fine-tuning that i've already talked about to get additional member support, at the end of the news conference where many members of the house and senate were present, the president said i've got my pen ready to sign this bill. so if anybody's got any doubt whatsoever about whether or not the president is for this bill, i'm telling you what i heard from his own words. that he's got a pen ready to sign this bill. so i don't hope anybody comes up here and wonders what does the president of the united states think about this bill? i heard him say it. so i hope that we have a senate majority, particularly the senate majority. when you've got an opportunity
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to have the president of the united states that's tough on crime but understands there's got to be some fairness to it, the majority party in the united states senate would support the president of the united states. that's what they will think about as they cast these votes on the amendments that we are soon going to have. so i think it's fair to say that as we proceeded over the last four years to get a piece of legislation like this, that they would be skeptical about this president. don't be skeptical any more because this president gives this bill his full backing. and this is an opportunity for a republican majority in the united states senate to show that this republican president can do something that even
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president obama couldn't get done, because this was a big issue in the last congress, but we couldn't get it up here in the united states senate, so the congress could deliver a big bipartisan legislative accomplishment for president trump with the passage of this bill. this is -- i just described to you how the legislative process is supposed to work, one on one. how do you eat 10,000 marshmallows one at a time? how do you get support for a bill one person at a time? and that's pretty much what republican supporters of this bill have been trying to do, and why do it? to placate the honest interests of people in our caucus that raise those same concerns -- raised those same concerns three weeks ago. so this is how the legislative process works. you work in a bipartisan way to
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build support for your policy and debate it on the floor of the united states senate. i yield and later on i will ask the floor for unanimous consent request. mr. mcconnell: i would suggest the chairman of the judiciary committee go ahead and ask the unanimous consent request. mr. grassley: if the senator is ready that objects to what i am doing. before i ask -- well, i am going to ask unanimous consent, but before any -- anybody objects, i would like to make a one-minute statement for my reason on the unanimous consent. i ask unanimous consent that amendment 4132 be made pending and agreed to, and this is why i ask that. this amendment ensures that faith-based groups can operate in federal prisons to help prisoners turn over a new leaf. it also excludes dangerous criminals from earning time
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credits. finally, it extends the independent review committee from two years to five years, and it also requires an annual report. now, i have had a little bit of conversation with senator cotton, the main opponent of our legislation, and senator kennedy as well. i think that everything that's in amendment 4132 is something that at least every republican ought to support, and i think a large part of the democrats support it, and as far as i can tell from reading my friend from arkansas' point of view on some of these amendments that -- that this point about extending the independent review committee from two years to five years and
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requiring an annual report is about the only part of this amendment 4132 that senator cotton disagrees with. and i don't know why he would disagree with an independent review that could be done over a period of -- go on from two to five years because there is going to be periodic decisions made in the meantime, and having an annual report, but that's what this amendment does, and i would hope that we could get it adopted. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. kennedy: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. kennedy: mr. president, reserving the right to object, i don't think there is a single solitary member of this senate that would do anything to hurt public safety, and i mean that. certainly senator grassley
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wouldn't, senator lee. my problem with this amendment which senator grassley explained very well has nothing to do with an objection to faith-based organizations participating in the antirecidivism. in fact, i'm amazed that the bill got this far with the provision that would -- would prevent our faith-based organizations from participating in the antirecidivism program. i'm stunned that he got this far. so i certainly don't object to that. and indeed later on i hope we can offer that amendment separately. and i certainly don't object to senator cruz's suggestion that we not let dangerous people out of prison. so i am all for that portion of the amendment, and i hope we can deal with that separately. what i am not for is extending the sentencing commission, sentencing review commission and yet again creating more bureaucracy, because that's my
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problem with the whole bill. if you believe our sentencing laws are unjust, then i am prepared to stay here night and day through christmas and let's debate them and let's fix them. but that's not what this is doing. what this is doing is giving away all of our authority as united states senators to nameless bureaucrats -- i'm not using that in a pejorative sense. nameless bureaucrats in the bureau of prisons who will decide who gets to leave prison early and who doesn't. it's like putting paint on rotten wood. so with respect to our senator, my colleague, i object with the caveat that i hope he will bring the two good parts of this amendment back later. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the
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majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the senate now vote in relation to the divisions of the kennedy amendment numbered 4109 in the regular order. further, that there be four minutes prior to the votes equally divided between the opponents and the proponents. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: so for the information of senators, the vote order will be division one, division two, and then division three. the presiding officer: there will now be four minutes of debate equally divided prior to the vote in relation to division one, amendment numbered 4109. mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i have a unanimous consent request that is not controversial. i ask unanimous consent that rachel rossi, a detailee of my judiciary staff, be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the copping. the presiding officer: without objection. who yields time on the division?
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mr. cotton: mr. president. i will take the two minutes for this division, i believe. senator kennedy will take the two minutes for each of the next two amendments. this amendment is very simple. it simply ensures that the sponsor's rhetoric is reflected in the text of the bill. we have heard for years that this bill would not allow violent felons to be released from prison. as it stands now, this bill allows people convicted of carjacking and bank robbery and coercing a minor into sexual activity and prostitution to be released early from prison, among many other offenses. that's just a fact of the bill itself. so the amendment that senator kennedy and i have offered would exclude certain specified heinous crimes like coercing a minor into sexual activity or prostitution from those prisoners who are eligible for early release. and it would ensure that no person who is convicted of any crime of violence or any sexual
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offense is released early from prison. that is what the bill sponsors have said all along. unfortunately, the bill language does not reflect that rhetoric. our amendment will ensure that it does. i know some people have called this a poison pill, which is a slogan in the substitute of an argument. the u.s. sentencing commission has said that even if this amendment passes, 62% of federal prisoners will still be eligible for early release. if i could do more, i would, but i think we can all agree that people who are convicted child molesters should not be allowed early release from our federal prisons. if you're curious about how many sex offenders we have and what our bureau of prisons thinks about them, let me share this little statistic with you. there are over 15,000 sex offenders in federal prison, and 72% of them are currently assessed at low risk. 72% of those 15,000 sex
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offenders could be eligible for release if we don't have a simple exclusion on sex offenders and crimes of violence. mr. president, i yield back the time. mr. grassley: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: before i speak, i think i ought to -- i think we need to give the senator from arkansas another two minutes because he was speaking on the wrong amendment just before the -- amendment that's before the senate. mr. cotton: i appreciate that from the senator from iowa. if that's the case, i will defer to the senator from louisiana because i think he wanted to speak on that specific division. mr. kennedy: yes, i will speak. mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. kennedy: mr. president. thank you, mr. president. mr. president, this amendment is very, very simple.
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this is what it does. it requires the director of the bureau of prisons to do four things. notify each victim or if the victim of a crime is deceased, the victim's next of kin. that the -- the bureau of prisons expects to release the inmate that committed the crime to the victim. so step one, bureau of prisons has to notify the victim that the person who committed the crime is about to be released. secondly, the bureau of prisons has got to tell the victim -- that word isn't used enough in this bill -- that the -- the
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date that the inmate will be released. third, the director of the bureau of prisons has to allow the victim or the victim's next of kin to make a statement about the inmate's release. it doesn't give the victim veto power, but the victim is allowed to make a statement. and finally, it requires the director of the bureau of prisons to review that statement. now, mr. president, this bill spends billions of dollars on our criminal justice system and on criminals. certainly, hundreds of millions of dollars, but it doesn't do much for victims. all this bill would do is say victims have some rights, too, and the victims' rights are very simple. let me give you an example. if a rapist is about to be released from prison early, the bureau of prisons has got to tell the rape victim we're letting him out early, the date
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we're letting him out, the victim's entitled to make a statement, and the bureau of prisons has to read it. now, that's the least we can do for victims under this bill, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: before i take my two minutes in opposition to this amendment, for the leader, i ask unanimous consent that the votes following the first vote in the series be ten minutes in length. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. grassley: i rise in opposition to this amendment. this amendment is unnecessary. this amendment is duplicative of requirements already enacted into law under the crime victims' rights act. current law requires notification to crime victims who choose to be notified.
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it allows others to opt out to avoid being retraumatized. this would change the law to require victim notification which could retraumatize victims who choose not to be notified. this is not a victim-center approach. it's a heavy-handed violation of victims' choice. this amendment would require notification even if the victim doesn't want it, raising the specter of retraumatizing a victim who is -- who has tried to move on with their life. this is not a victim-centered approach. it's a heavy-handed government violation of victims' choices, victim rights groups oppose this amendment for this reason. the public notice mandate creates a series of new
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bureaucratic big-government requirements and a new unfunded mandate for the bureau of prisons. so i will vote against this amendment and to support my reasons i could quote from a whole list of conservative groups -- the american conservative union, freedom works, right to crime, our street institute, jessica jackson's equivalent, u.s. justice action network, a whole group like that, heritage action scores it. we have from the victim rights groups, the crime survivors for safety and justice, fairness, dignity and respect for crime victims and survivors, and the national coalition of police and prosecutors warn of hostile
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amendments. i'm going to end by what you heard my say in my opening remarks before this. that we have a chance to send a bill to the president that in his news conference he said he's treed sign. we have a president who's tough on crime but he wants to be fair on crime. and the bill that we put together with the white house does that. i ask you to vote no. the presiding officer: all time has expired. the question occurs on division one. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the yeas are 32. the nays are 67. division one of amendment 4109 is not agreed to. there will now be four minutes of debate equally divided. there will now be four minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote in relation to division two of amendment number 4109. kennedy kennedy mr. president.
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the presiding officer: -- mr. kennedy:mr. president, i know there has been some confusion about these amendments as one sort of bleeds into the other. so without repeating myself, i want to describe this amendment very quickly. this amendment would require --. the presiding officer: will the senator suspend, please. the senate will be in order. please take your conversations out of the chamber. the senator from louisiana. mr. kennedy: mr. president, this amendment would require the director of the bureau of prisons on a quarterly basis and without using the released inmate's name, so it would be anonymous, to publish, number one, the crime for which the inmate is imprisoned -- or rather was imprisoned. i'm talking now about the released inmate -- number one,
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the bureau has to publish the crime for which the released inmate was in prison. number two, prior crimes for which the inmate was imprisoned. some would call that his rap sheet. number three, whether the released inmate has been rearrested. and if he has, or she has, what for. and the information would be broken down by state. this is merely reporting and it is a -- the objective is transparency. now there are provisions of this amendment, mr. president, i don't want to mislead anyone, that will reassert the right of the victim to be notified when an inmate is released. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. the senator's time will not be charged while order is obtained in the senate. the senator from louisiana.
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mr. kennedy: i'll just sum up, mr. president. thank you for that, by saying i don't want to mislead anyone. there is a victim's rights notification provision in this amendment as well, but it is primarily a transparency provision. and i'll be glad to answer any questions. the presiding officer: who yields time? mr. grassley: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: as we talked on the previous amendment -- mr. durbin: mr. president, the senate is not in order. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: we talked a great deal on the previous amendment about victims' notification. there's also a victims' notification in this amendment as well. i don't want to go into -- the arguments are the same and remember victims' rights
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groups, i cited, oppose this amendment because it's covered by current law. so i want to spend my time talking in opposition to this amendment from the standpoint of granting warden's veto authority over what this law sets up as an objective, evidence-based system. or you could call it a risk system in the act to make the -- to make sure that we have a good foundation for determining whether somebody is a risk to society, if they take advantage of this program, and to do it in a studied way. and once that's set up, then this amendment would allow a warden to veto it. so if a low and minimal-risk inmate works hard to make
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themselves ready to be productive citizens and community leaders, or members, then they ought to reap the rewards of that work under the first step act and not have a person step in that could put bias into the system and human error into the system. we're trying to set up a system to get away from it, because this legislation is all about bringing fairness to the prison system and to the judicial system as well. so how much time do i have left? the presiding officer: just a few seconds. mr. grassley: what? the presiding officer: just a few seconds. mr. grassley: i'm done. did you say two seconds? the presiding officer: a few seconds. mr. grassley: okay. vote against the amendment. the presiding officer: the question is on division two of the amendment. is there a sufficient second?
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there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or to change their votes if not, the ayes are 33, the nays are 66.
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division two amendment numbered 4109 is not agreed to. there will now be four minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote in relation to division three of amendment numbered 4109. mr. cotton: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: thank you. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mr. cotton: mr. president, i won't speak for two minutes. there was some confusion earlier about which amendments we are voting on. i already said my piece about this amendment. frankly, most of you have heard my arguments before. just to clarify, this has six specific exclusions from early release. offenses like coercing a minor into sexual activity or prostitution, carjacking, bank robbery, hate crimes, as well as a catch-all for violent crimes and sex offenses. with that, i yield back the balance of my time and urge my colleagues to vote yes. mr. grassley:
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mr. president, do i have two minutes? the presiding officer: yes, you do. the senator iowa. mr. grassley: i had two minutes last time. i should have had more than two seconds left over. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that the gentleman be given three minutes. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: okay, let's see if we can keep our bipartisan coalition together to pass a bill that the president said that he is ready to sign. that's what he said at the end of his news conference. so it's pretty important to understand that this is something the president is behind. so we're facing a very serious vote here on this next one, so obviously i rise in opposition to this amendment. this amendment is very finely tailored to scare that you if you don't vote for this amendment, you're going t


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