tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN September 12, 2019 9:59am-12:00pm EDT
and i think we're better off answering them than not, but we are looking at vaping very strongly. it's very dangerous, and children have died. people have died. and the acting commissioner is somebody that expert on it as much as you can be an expert on a brand new subject and we're going to have some very strong rules, regulations and more importantly, i think we're going to have some very important information come out very shortly. okay? and we'll be reporting that over the next couple of weeks and i want to thank you, and commissioner, thank you very much. thank you, everybody. >> thank you, guys. >> thanks. thank you for asking. >> thank you. >> mr. president. >> thank you very much. >> we're leaving now. thank you. >> keep moving, guys. >> c-span2 is live on the senate floor. lawmakers are getting ready to consider a number of nominations, including the
federal reserve board member. first round of votes are expected at 12:15 eastern. you're watching live coverage of the u.s. senate right here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain of the senate, dr. black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. holy god, your goodness extends to all generations. thank you that you can be found by all who truly seek you. you are our god and we trust your love, wisdom, and power.
lord, guide our senators to protect our goodly heritage of freedom, using them to defend our constitution from all enemies, please, god, hear our fervent prayers, for you are our refuge and strength. cause us to live now as we shall wish we had done when our time comes to die. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in the pledge of allegiance. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god,
objection. mr. grassley: i have two points to main. i have three bills to help students understand the actual cost of college because it's kind of a complicated thing to determine because there's not enough transparency. colleges tend to think that having a high tuition is a reflection of quality which just means that they have to offer more scholarships. between that and the complexity of federal student aid, price shopping for colleges is very difficult and some people might think impossible. that's why i was glad to learn that one of iowa's well respected private colleges, central college in pella, iowa, has lowered its true television -- true television to $18,600 to better reflect the actual cost.
yes, that's right. they reduced their college tuition by $20,000 a year. maybe pella christian college will start a trend. on another point, iowans and particularly veterans mourn the loss of chuck gearts of muss -- muskatine. he was an active duty service member for 23 years but continued to serve his nation after his retirement in 2009. and this is how he did it. through establishing an organization in 2008 called healing at english rivers outfitters or as he established the acronym hero. that organization does great good. it provides veterans and their
families with relaxing outdoor activities for physical and mental healing. chuck is remembered for his caring spirit and dedication to his community and most important, his fellow veterans. while he will be missed, the legacy of community service will continue. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. thune: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: madam president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: yes, we are. mr. thune: i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the
leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed toll executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, international bank for reconstruction and development, jennifer d. nordquist of virginia to be united states executive director. the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: madam president, it was a good august. while i head back to south dakota almost every weekend, august gives me the chance to spend multiple uninterrupted weeks back home visiting with south dakotans and traveling to the far corners of the state. august is also fair season in south dakota. and there is nothing better, madam president, than a south dakota fair. this year i got to attend the south dakota state fair, the brown county fair, the empire fair, the turner county fair, the mccook county fair to name a few on the list.
as usual i had a great time at all of them. of course, the people are the best part of the fair. although i have to say that the fair food is not far behind. i'm still enjoying at this late date the tubby burger that i had at the brown county fair, and i would tell you, madam president, that they don't have burgers like that here in washington, d.c. madam president, agriculture is the lifeblood of south dakota and as always, a lot of my conversations over august were centered around agriculture. farmers and ranchers have had a very rough few years. in addressing the needs of our agriculture community is one of my top priorities in congress. one big corner for our producers is ethanol and biodiesel. while we receive some good news this year with the approval of year round e15 sales, the ethanol industry is still facing significant challenges owing to the excess of small refinery waivers that have been issued.
an issue that we continue, madam president, to try to address. perhaps the biggest concern for our farmers right now is trade. multiple protracted trade disputes have exacerbated already struggling ag economy and have left farmers and ranchers unsure how markets are going to be going forward. ranchers received some good news in august with the announcement that the administration had reached a deal to increase u.s. beef sales to europe. that's just a tiny fraction of what we need to be doing trade wise. each time i speak with the president and his administration, i tell them what south dakota farmers have told me. we need to conclude negotiations on the various trade deals we're working on as soon as possible, to open new market, and to expand existing ones and to give agricultural producers certainty about what the playing field is going to look like going forward. one of my priorities right now is pushing for passage of the united states-mexico-canada free
trade agreement. the united states-mexico-came today agreement will preserve access to export market, canada and mexico. and substantially expand market access for u.s. dairy products in canada. negotiations on this agreement have already been concluded. we need democrats in the house to indicate their willingness to take it up and pass it. madam president, august is always a great time to share with south dakotans what i'm working on in washington and to get their feedback which is why i'm glad i had the opportunity to host several town hall meetings across the state, to tour numerous local businesses, and to visit nearly every corner of south dakota. as south dakotans know, i'm a long-time member of the senate commerce committee. i served as chairman in the last congress and chair the committee on communications, technology, innovation and the internet. this has given me the chance to address a number of issues facing americans and south dakotans from the frustration of illegal robocalls to the data
privacy concerns we awfully face in the internet age. it's also given me the chance to focus on digital issues that affect rural states like south dakota, particularly the lack of high-speed internet access in rural areas. to residents of large cities, being without access to high-speed internet is unthinkable but for families in rural areas which lack the telecommunications infrastructure of cities and suburbs, even basic internet access can sometimes be a struggle. broadband access is frequently just a dream and that has real consequences for these americans. it's not just a matter of being able to stream netflix without interruption. in our digital economy, a lack of reliable, high-speed internet access means losing out on opportunities to grow your business. it means fewer educational opportunities. it means fewer health care resources in areas that already lack easy access to specialty
care services. telehealth promises to reduce some of the geographic barriers, to care for individuals in rural areas, but it depends largely on high-speed internet access. then there's the rapidly developing field of precision agriculture. precision agriculture which uses tools like robotics and remote monitoring to help farmers manage their fields promises to help farmers substantially increase their yields while reducing their cost. but once again it depends on reliable access to high-speed internet. that's why i've made this issue such a priority. nationwide the digital divide is shrinking as more and more americans gain access to broadband. and in south dakota, we're ahead of the curve thanks to people like sioux falls mayor paul headache rch who has worked agrees ifg to remove barriers. i was very encouraged by the federal communications
commission's recent announcement that it will invest $705 billion over the next decade to bring broadband to rural areas in south dakota that currently go without but there's more work to be done. i'm committed to pushing this issue until reliable broadband access is standard in rural america. during the last week of the august break, i brought the commerce committee to sioux falls to conduct a field hearing on rural broadband. we brought an fcc commissioner with us so he could hear directly from south dakota yafns who -- dakotaians who were on the front lines and leading the innovations that come along with it. it was a great hearing and i'm very encouraged by the progress we're making on the issue. i look forward to doing more work on this issue in the coming months. madam president, i'm energized by the time that i spent with south dakotans during the august break, and i'm looking forward to continuing to fight for south dakota's priorities here in washington this fall.
madam president, before i close, i want to take a minute to recognize one of the people who's been instrumental in helping me serve south dakotans throughout my time in the senate. this week my whip office chief of staff brennan placke is leaving my office after 14 years. he's been with me during my entire time here in the senate, from my very first month on the job. it's difficult to manage the office without him. he started out at the bottom as a guy that had to drive me to evening events so i could squeeze in a little more work or a few more phone calls to south dakota on the way, but he was always cheerful about it and even better. he drove well. he never ran out of gas. now, that may not sound like a big deal, but having been subsequently stranded on the way to an event after running out of gas, i appreciate, as always, brendan's preparedness. brendan soon moved up to legislative correspondent and legislative assistant, and then up from there. policy director, legislative director, staff director, chief
of staff. he has been an indispensable part of my team. no job has ever been too big for brandon, no task too hard. it doesn't matter the hours. he always put in the work that needs to be done. he always stays cheerful through it all, lifting everyone else up with him. he is a natural leader who is not only exceptionally talented himself but is great at spotting talent in others. he helped me put together an outstanding team for the whip office, and he has helped me maintain an outstanding team in my personal office. madam president, politics, as we all know, you meet people who are great at the nuts and bolts of policy and know every detail of an issue, and you meet people who aren't as focused on the details but who have an ability to see the big picture and how what we're doing fits into our larger goals. you don't always meet people who can do both. but brendan has always been able to get into the nuts and bolts
of a policy and at the same time see the bigger picture. one of the things i have appreciated most about brendan is the fact that no matter what we're doing, south dakota is at the forefront of his mind. as a native of madison, south dakota, and the son of a farmer, brendan has a keen insight into south dakotans priorities. whether it's tax reform or energy legislation or agriculture, brendan is always thinking about how we can serve south dakota on the national stage. and he's played a key role in so many of the things that i have been able to get done for south dakotans here in washington. now, i have described a pretty outstanding individual here, but brendan is not without his flaws. he is a long-time vikings fan. over the past 14 years, i have tried hard to convince him that he should be rooting for the green bay packers, but so far i haven't gotten anywhere. fortunately, our shared appreciation for the tuba has helped us get over our major
disagreements on football. both brendan and i are tuba players from way back, although i think he is more than a little more accomplished at the tuba than i am. i never made it beyond the high school marching band. brendan went on to university in south dakota on a music scholarship and played in the concert band. and i just learned that he actually lost his tuba scholarship, if you can believe this, to dedicate time to my first campaign. madam president, i said earlier it's hard to think of my office without brendan. he will be deeply missed. i look forward to watching him excel in all his future endeavors. and i know that he may enjoy having a little bit more time to spend with his wife lindsey and with his little ones, timmy and katie lou. as we all know, days on the hill can be very long. madam president, if you ask brendan how he got into politics, he'll tell you about the meeting he attended in college where i was the guest speaker. that meeting, brendan says, got him interested in politics for the first time.
shortfall after, he applied to work on my first senate campaign, and the rest, as they say, is history. to hear brendan tell it, attending that meeting was a lucky day for him, but i know that it was an even luckier day for me and for the people of south dakota. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. now there are two possible paths when it comes to the appropriations process here in the congress. i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you for informing me of the rules. i appreciate that very much. there are two possible paths when it comes to the appropriations process here in congress. there's the bipartisan path where both parties work together in good faith to pass all 12 appropriations bills. then there is the partisan path
where one party breaks faith with the other and we end up traveling down a road of brinkmanship, continuing resolutions become the order of the day, and the risk of a government shutdown increases. we all know the bipartisan path is far preferable. it both avoids the possibility of another damaging government shutdown and when we legislate the appropriations bills, we can intelligently allocate our resources for the future. continuing resolutions, on the other hand, are blunt objects that simply recycle last year's priorities. it hurts our military, it hurts the middle class, it hurts the american people. we're at an important crossroads between those two paths right now. after successfully negotiating the broad outlines of a budget deal earlier this year, we must now agree on the allocations to the 12 appropriations
subcommittees. these are known as the 302-b allocations. this process was completely bipartisan in 2018. these allocations passed the appropriations committee unanimously 31-0. but this year the republican majority, without consulting democrats, proposed taking away $12 billion from urgent domestic priorities and from urgent military priorities and wasting it -- wasting it -- on president trump's ineffective and expensive border wall. this is the very wall that president trump promised over and over again that mexico would pay for when he ran for office and garnered support for it from his constituency. no republican, certainly not the republican leader who knows this place well, could seriously believe that democrats would agree to that.
$12 billion from the wall stolen from health care programs to fight opioid addiction and encourage cancer research, stolen from military families? no republican could expect democrats to support that, nor should they. it's terrible policy. this morning in the appropriations markup, every single republican on the committee, including leader mcconnell, voted to move forward on this idea. republican enforce who opposed the president's emergency declaration voted for it. republican senators whose states would lose tens of millions of dollars in military funding voted for it. this is the clearest indication yet that republicans may well be abandoning a bipartisan appropriations process. they would do so at their peril as well as the peril of the nation. republicans have started off
here on the wrong foot, repeating the exact same mistakes they made at the end of 2018 which resulted in the longest government shutdown in american history, a shutdown that president trump and republicans rightly shouldered the blame for. there's only one bit of good news in this maneuver. there is still time for republicans to reverse course. the republican majority should sit down with democrats on the committee and start over on the 302-b allocations, figure out an order to bring each bill to the floor, and get a bipartisan process back on track. that's how we democrats want to do it. that's how we always have gotten appropriations bills done. no one wants to resort to a continuing resolution or, god forbid, another republican, donald trump-inspired government shutdown. but it takes two to tango.
my republican colleagues must know what happens in the next few days and weeks will determine whether we can proceed with a bipartisan appropriations process this fall or not. i urge leader mcconnell, i urge every single republican to reverse course -- it's certainly not too late -- work with us and get it done. i spoke to leader mcconnell yesterday right here in the well and suggested just that. he seemed open to it. let's hope that our request is heeded. now on guns, yesterday in an open letter to the senate, the leaders of 145 companies, some of the most recognizable in our country, added their voices to the millions of americans who want action on gun violence. here are the words of these corporate leaders, hardly left-wing radicals, quote, doing nothing about america's gun violence crisis is simply
unacceptable. the senate must follow the house's lead by passing bipartisan legislation that would update the background checks law, helping to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. they are correct. and the people who shouldn't have them, almost no one thinks they should. felons, should they have guns? spousal abusers, should they have guns? people adjudicated mentally ill, should they have guns? yet the enormous loophole in the law allows them to have guns. 40% of the guns sold in america now are sold without background checks because they're sold either online or at gun shows. so these corporate leaders are exactly right. they're not asking for anything radical. they're asking for something that 93% of the american people support. when it comes to gun safety
legislation, no policy is a better starting point than universal background checks. we're certainly open to debating the finer points of legislation with our republican colleagues, but we certainly will not settle for anything less than meaningful action to address gun violence. and we know that meaningful action begins with closing the loopholes in our background checks system so that guns don't fall into the wrong hands in the first place. after saying that the issue of gun safety would be front and center when congress returned, leader mcconnell has given no indication of when the senate might have the debate. instead he suggested that it's up to the white house. a mercurial, inconsistent white house to determine what, if any, legislation reaches the floor. meanwhile after republicans met with president trump at the white house this week, a few said that president trump was liable to let congress take the
lead. well, leader mcconnell, president trump, republican senators, it's the old abbott and costello again. they're going like this. the congressional republicans point at the white house. the white house points at congressional republicans, and nothing gets done. and we know why nothing gets done. the public overwhelmingly, the vast majority of americans, the vast majority of republicans, the vast majority of gun owners, the majority of n.r.a. members want to close the loopholes, but the n.r.a. has our republican colleagues quaking in their boots. and almost always they bow down in obeisance to the n.r.a. the n.r.a. says let us look at the legislation, and then it is so weakened, it virtually does nothing. that's not going to happen this time. we need a vote on h.r. 8, the
modest bipartisan universal background check legislation. our republican colleagues should realize this game that they are playing of pennsylvania avenue hot potato has become a strategy to delay and kick responsibility around so that republicans can avoid addressing the tough issue. the issue that american people sent us here to take on. when leader mcconnell says he's just going to do what president trump wants, how unreliable. president trump has been all over the lot on gun safety with no real results for the two and a half years that he's been in office. what lack of leadership. let's just do it. the public wants us to do it. and what's different this time, my colleagues on the republican side, the public is so strongly on the side of what we want to
do -- closing the loopholes -- that people will begin to pay a political price for not doing it. it used to be the equation was the other way. a small dedicated core of advocates, quite extreme, on the progun side had more weight than the vast majority of the american people who cared about this issue but didn't make it high up on their list. but what's changed is this, it's one of the most important issues in the country. and that's not me saying it. that's what the average citizen is saying. so the idea now of bowing down to the n.r.a., of not doing anything they don't want you to do is a political loser. i urge my republican colleagues, for the sake of our country, for the sake of our -- for the sake of lives, to change their minds and behave differently. the fact of the matter is this, the issue of gun violence is not
going away. and when the american people are not going -- and the american people are not going to settle for half measures or half-baked solutions that the n.r.a. crafts. while we continue to press the white house to make its position public, we urge leader mcconnell to do something very simple. let us debate h.r. 8, bipartisan house-passed universal background checks bill on the floor asap. and now on china, a report in the "wall street journal" this morning describes how china will seek to narrow the scope of ongoing negotiations with the united states, hoping to focus on trade alone, leaving national security issues for a separate conversation. of course in many cases these two issues are intertwined and indissoluble. and of course china and the united states will invariably disagree about which issue is a trade issue and which issue is a
national security issue. regardless, this transparent attempt by china to dodge a conversation about its predatory actions against american companies should not stand. china has stolen an entire generation of innovation from the united states. of course they don't want to talk about this topic. of course they want to defer this conversation to a day in the future that will never come. and make no mistake about it, what the chinese are doing is another effort to protect huawei and similarly large chinese corporations from further action in the united states. they don't let our best and biggest corporations sell goods in china. why should we let them sell goods here, particularly when there's a national security risk, as there is in huawei? my late father-in-law, a new york city cab driver, used colorful language.
he said when it comes to china, we're not uncle sam. we're uncle sam. let's stop that already. president trump has shown some strength on this issue, then he often backs off. we've got to be tough on huawei, very tough on huawei. that's the best way to teach china that they can't sell whatever they want here in america and not let us sell in china. i have a concise and pointed request to the white house this morning. tell china forget about it. don't let china exclude our nation's security and huawei from the negotiations. let me remind president trump and his advisors that over the past several years china has endeavored to keep our blue-chip technology companies out of its markets. when it does allow american companies access, it makes the transfer of proprietary intellectual property and
technology to chinese companies a precondition. when american companies don't play by the rules, sorry -- when american companies don't play by their rules, chinese companies steal the technology. president trump, you've been tougher on china than president bush or obama. i'll give you some credit for that. but it'll all come to naught unless we actually take action. don't let huawei sell here. don't let huawei get the components made in america that they need to continue to threaten both our economic and national security. if china keeps american companies out, we should keep important chinese companies out, particularly those like huawei, until china relents -- and they will, if we stay strong and if we stay tough. president trump, stay strong. on china and on huawei.
finally, mr. president, some praise for the trump administration. i don't do it that often, but what it's due, it's due. yesterday the federal drug administration announced that it plans to pull most flavored e-cigarettes from the market. been concerned about this for a long time. i have been one of the if irrelevance to bring attention to the fact that -- i have been one of the first to bring attention to the fact that e-cigarette manufacturers aim at kids. i've called for greater scrutiny, asked companies to recall brands of e-cigarettes where the pods are explode and am particularly focused on getting the f.d.a. to ban these e-cigarettes designed to appeal to kids. i have had several conversations and meetings with the f.d.a. commissioner scott gottlieb. i brought him some kids from
high school in westchester who said that e-cigarettes was hurting their school, that so many kids were involved. i think it made a good impression, a strong impression on former commissioner gottlieb. we take wide-ranging steps to prevent tobacco companies from targeting underage children in their marketing but so far have done little to prevent e-cigarettes from executing the same strategy. it is past time to take these kid-friendly products off the shelf, and i commend the f.d.a.'s announcement that it plans to take action. i yield the floor. mr. portman: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i appreciate what the democratic leader just said about the flavored e-cigarettes, and i, too, commended the trump administration yesterday for taking this action. it's a big deal in our high
schools in ohio and other venues as well, and this will help keep a lot of young people from engaging in this, which is bad for their health and certainly just like cigarette smoke, it also leads to addictions. and so i commend them for that. the democratic leader also talked about the fact that president trump has been tougher on china than any previous president in modern times certainly, and that's also true. and let's all hope that the chinese government comes to the table in the next few weeks as they get back to their discussions, ready to actually address some of these issues -- particularly the issue of their subsidies, which are contrary to our laws but also the international rules and the technology transfer, the taking of our intellectual property. these are changes in the structure of our trade relationship that are required for us to get to that level
playing field that all of us should want. and i also agree with the notion that we should have more reciprocity. so if they're keeping our stuff out, we should be able to respond in kind. ultimately, we all want a resolution of this issue. we want the tariffs to be eliminated, but we want to do on a basis where there is actually a fair trade between our two countries. with regard to the appropriations process, i, too, am hopeful we can get something done here on a bipartisan basis. the democratic leader suggested that we might end up with a government shutdown. we should never end up with a government shutdown. it is terrible policy. it hurts government workers. it's bad for taxpayers. we'll be issuing a report from the permanent subcommittee on investigations tomorrow in this regard to show how the last three government shutdowns have resulted in tremendous pain, not just to those who get furloughed, those work without pay, but also to the taxpayer and that they're fairly
inefficient. so let's not even talk about government shutdowns. why are we going down that road? here in the senate, this is the first week back in session after what's called the august work period, and so today i want to talk a little about my travels around the state of ohio over the august district work period and talk about what i learned that can help inform us here as to what we can do better in the u.s. congress to help on issues that are important to people i remember back in ohio. one that was striking for me and has been actually for the last several years is workforce needs, that there just aren't enough workers to fill the jobs that are out there. what a great opportunity for people to come in out of the shadows and get to work and also when a necessity it is for our economy to have these workers. heard a lot about that. the changing drug prices -- we in ohio have been hurt hard with the opioid crisis, but it is evolving, as always.
fentanyl, the synthetic form of opioids. challenges in ag country. our farmers are hurting. low prices over the past few years have been compounded by bad weather, the worst planting season in my memory in ohio. half of the crops are not in good shape. then ways to do a better job in he can protecting lake erie. our number-one tourist attraction and incredible source of income and jobs. we have about a $6 billion fishing industry in the great lakes, and the most important lake of all? lake erie. as an example, several million people get their d.r.c.king water from lake -- their drinking water from lake erie. i learned a lot about that over the break. then also the importance of the
military, having the support they need. i went to our military bases an the state, learned about what we can do to help them more. also the nasa centers around our state. nasa glenn and then the plumbrook station. that was very helpful to understand better about how we can be providing better funding here in the congress so that we can indeed fulfill our missions that we've always had here in this country, which is to push beyond the bounds, and go back to the moon, have the first woman on the moon, and the benefits of that, going to mars. i traveled to 39 different counties in ohio over the last several weeks, more than 4,000 miles on my pickup truck, which now has over 180,000 miles on it traveling around our state,
several events. when i began my second term representing ohio back in 2017, i made it a goal of mine to visit all 88 counties in ohio during this term. and i'm happy to report that just during august we achieved that goal. so a few years early we fit all 88 counties, now we'll just continue to go around our state and see people in every part of our state, hear them out and, again, to know what the best thing is to do here in congress to be able to help them, help their families, help our state. i also, though, traveled by train, by ferry in lake erie, by bike, and even by kayak to meet with constituents about how washington can a better partner for them and their families. i met with a lot of small businesses and i talked to them about how they're doing. and the tax reform and the regulatory relief has really helped. this is why we have a stronger economy than anybody projected. it's why we've more jobs
created. it's why we have wages going up for the first time in a decade in ohio. we had wage increases of 3.5% last year. that is a welcome change. really after in ohio about a decade and a half of flat wages, not keeping up with inflation, people feeling like they're working hard, playing by the rules but couldn't get ahead. now you finally see wages going up. the biggest increases? among lower-income and middle-income workers. exactly what you want. so i'm happy to report that. and i'm happy to report that small business owners in ohio are happy because it's expanded their operations and they've hired more people. but what i did hear consistently from employers at every level and for that matter from hospitals and nonprofits and from state and local government is one thing -- workforce. they don't have enough qualified workers to fill the jobs that
they have. again, a great opportunity to bring people off the sidelines, people who are not applying for work, not looking for work, the laborforce participation, as economists call it, is relatively low, bring them off the sidelines. but we also need these people to meet our economic needs. if you go on ohioneedsjobs.com, you'll see about 150,000 jobs being tied. a lot of them required skills, not the kind of skills that you get from a college degree but the kind of skills you achieve somewhere between high school and college, things like welding, machining, coding, other i.t. jobs, techs for hospitals, truck drivers. these jobs are open in ohio. economists call these jobs skilled jobs. but the kind of jobs that you can get the skills from a
short-term training program. i've been a big fan of improving those skills and we've made some progress here. we've started a committee here to help us to be able to fill this need. the openings that we have in ohio are also all around the country. and i was pleased that recently the president signed my educating tomorrow's workforce act into law that allows states and localities to use perkins grant funding to establish these career and technical education academies at the high school level. but we need to do more. and one that would really help is if we could pass what's called the jobs act. it's legislation i've introduced consistently with senator tim kaine from virginia. it says, we ought to be able to use pell grants not just for college but also for these shorter-term training programs. they're much more relevant to what we need now. sadly, most people who get a pell grant to go to college don't end up with a college
degree. i support pell in colleges and universities. it is an important way for lower-income students to get access to education. but why not allow those same students to get a shorter-term training program under their bill? right now they can't afford it. if you want to get a welding degree to get an industry-recognized credential to become a welder, you can get a good-paying job right away with good benefits. yet it is costly to go through that program. they're less than 15 weeks so they don't equal file for pell. so a -- so they don't qualify for pell. so a student is told, you can go to college and get a history degree, but you can't get a welding grant. i made visited to career and technical schools around ohio, which is they want the jobs act and they want it now because at the know it is going to help them. i heard from students -- one student at a welding program, at a c.t.e. school told me she wanted to get an advanced
welding certificate so she can get a great job. she knows exactly what she wants to do but she want afford it. this is an 18-year-old, last year of high school. she's working three jobs right now. but they can't afford the cost. so she's probably going to take a pell and go to college, but she'd really prefer to take a pell and get this advanced certificate that's industry recognized so she can get a good welding job. that's something we should pass hered and do it soon. the higher education act may well be passed this year. this is a perfect vehicle for it. i want to thank senator lamar alexander, who has been supportive of this commonsense change to be able to give our young people and others the training they need to be able to access the jobs that are out there. elsewhere around the state, i did meet with our farmers in several counties. the heavy flooding has led to the worst planting season in our modern history in ohio. we've helped a little bit because the department of agriculture at our urging has included ohio in a disaster declaration, so some of these
farmers who haven't been able to plant are getting low-interest loans. and that's good. but these farmers also want to have the access to more markets around the world because they know that's going to increase their prices and enable them to get back on their feet after these tough times with the weather. they are particularly concerned about what's happening with regard to the u.s.-mexico agreement. remember, we had this existing agreement called nafta, which is with mexico and canada, our two largest trading partners. for ohio, by far our two largest trading partners. but right now the nafta agreement is 25 years old, outdated, not keeping up with the times, not opening up markets enough, and so we have this new agreement that's been signed by mexico, signed by canada. we're ready to go with it, but it has to be confirmed here in the united states congress. right now, unbelievably, it's being held up, even though our farmers desperately want it. you know who else wants it?
our workers, because it's going to help manufacturing. the people who are involved in trade understand the importance of canada and mexico because they are our largest markets. and it's going to be so helpful for our countries and for my state of ohio if we can get it done. the international trade commission, which is an independent body, has studied this and says yes, it's going to create over 150,000 new jobs in the auto industry. it is great for michigan, ohio, other states. and, again all we have to do is have a vote here in the united states congress to be able to confirm this and we can put it in place. it will help our economy. it will help create more jobs. it will help create some certainty going forward. we need to get this done. many of the things in the agreement, by the way, are things that democrats have been calling for for years. tougher labor standards that are enforceable as an example. it actually has a minimum wage in the agreement for 40 to 45% of auto jobs, a 70% requirement to use north american steel.
is has a number of things that democrats have called upon us to do for years. and if we don't pass usmca, the alternative is the status quo which is nafta. so in effect if you don't support usmca, it must mean that you support the status quo which is nafta which again so many democrats have been criticizing over the years. so let's get this done. the 25-year-old nafta is not the status quo that anybody should want when we have this better agreement in front of us, specifically the house of representatives if they were to bring the bill to the floor, i believe they could pass it just because of the logic, the fact that this agreement is so much better than the status quo. and then over here in the senate, we have no trouble passing it in my view. during my tour over august, i also spent time visiting with a lot of groups and organizations that are combating the drug epidemic that has gripped my home state of ohio and our country. as you know, we now have more people dying of overdoses in
ohio than any other cause of death. it's unbelievable, 72,000 people in 2017 died of overdoses in this country, more than we lost in the entire vietnam war just in one year. 72,000 americans. so we have made some progress recently. we should be proud of that. last year for the first time in eight years we saw a reduction in overdose deaths partly because congress has stepped up, over $4 billion in new funding for prevention and longer-term treatment programs. and recovery programs and more narcan for our first responders. this is important but we also have to realize that the threat is evolving and changing. one thing i learned when i was home and talking to groups all over the state about this issue is that yes, the legislation we passed is helping. i got to see it helping, so you how the comprehensive addiction recovery act, my legislation, is being put to work in ohio. but the new threat in ohio is these new drugs that are coming in, particularly crystal meth. crystal meth coming in from
mexico that is more powerful and less expensive than ever. we used to have meth labs in ohio. you may have had them in your communities as well. you probably won't hear much about meth labs anymore. why? because the stuff on the street is even more powerful than you can make in a meth lab, some someone's home. and it's less expensive. in fact, the law enforcement folks in ohio are telling me the meth on the street in ohio is less expensive than marijuana and has a much more corrosive effect on our communities and a devastating impact on families and individuals, increasing crime. this is a psycho stimulant like cocaine that is causing more aggressive crimes in fact. the opioid crisis we need to continue to keep our eye on the ball. need to continue what we're doing. congress deserves credit for expanding the treatment, longer-term recovery programs, some of the prevention money, the use of narcan but at the same time we have to be more ex flexibility -- flexible. so legislation i hope we'll be
able to pass which says let's provide more flexibility to our communities, to take that money for opioids and use it for whatever the community needs to address substance abuse. i heard also when i was home of a -- a lot about lake erie which is our treasure in ohio, number one tourist attraction in the state. it's the place where ohioans have come for generations and generations for recreation, swimming, but also so many ohioans depend on it for their drinking water. there are several million ohioans who require to us have clean drinking water out of lake erie. those individuals are worried. why? because we actually had in toledo a few years ago a recommendation that we shut down the water system because of the toxic alija blooms that are in lake erie. this is another tough year for the alga blooms cutting out swimming opportunities. we need to do more to address t. congress has made progress in this area. we passed legislation that's
helping, more money that's helping, my legislation to deal with the blooms is giving the federal government a bigger role. that's important. but clearly we need to do more. one is to ensure the great lakes restoration initiative, federal legislation continues to be funded. that's a fight we're having now with the appropriations process. senator stabenow and i have introduced legislation to authorize that program going forward and to increase the funding slightly. why? because it's working. this is public/private partnerships all around the great lakes to deal with the blooms, to deal with the invasive species coming in. it's one of those federal programs that works well. we also had the opportunity to go to all of our material bases around the state of ohio and our two nasa facilities. i'm so proud of the individuals in ohio who are standing up for our troops in their own way, whether it's at the lima tank plant where i got to visit individuals making our tanks and our striker -- stryker vehicles or at nasa where we are
preparing for the next mission to the moon. nasa administrator james bridenstein came to the research center in cleveland. we got to see how those scientists and engineers, the best in the world, are working to complete the artemis program. this ambitious effort to put a woman on the moon and the next man on the moon in the next five years, laying the groundwork for a mission to mars. mr. president, it was great to be home. it was great to have the opportunity to visit with togethers all over the state of -- folks all over the state of ohio. we were busy but it's great now to have the opportunity to come back refreshed and talk about how we can make a bigger difference for them here in the united states congress with some of the legislative initiatives i talked about today. there's so much we can and should do this fall. i'm eager to roll up my sleeves, have a productive session here working on a bipartisan basis to get things done for the people i represent and for all americans. thank you. i yield back my time.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you. i would ask unanimous consent that katherine sullivan be given floor privileges for today. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. tester: thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i think people are surprised when they come to texas and find out how diverse a state it really is. not everybody there looks like me or pronounced their last name the same way. in fact, we are a huge melting pot of people from all over the country and literally many from around the world who come to the state because we are a growing economy and creating jobs and opportunity and people can find work to provide for their family and achieve their dreams.
so it's -- it shouldn't surprise anybody that texas is increasingly diverse. and we've benefited a lot from the variety of folks and cultures and ideas that have come around the world and planted roots in the lone star state. when i ask folks if they know what the second most spoken language in texas is, they say well, that was easy. it's spanish. i say that's right but let me give you a harder one. what's the third most commonly spoken language in texas? and after a couple of guesses, they're usually surprised when i say vietnamese. it's not in the overall numbers of spanish and english to be sure, but we have a vibrant vietnamese community in texas that was established after the fall of saigon and the vietnam war. many of them immigrated to the houston area or to the metroplex area.
but of course they faced many of the same struggles as those who've come to america throughout our country's history. in addition to adjusting to a new home, language and culture, they dealt with some ugly aspects of their new home, racism and bigotry. but from those challenges and overcoming those challenges, they derived tremendous strength, demonstrated outstanding drive and a desire to succeed. our vietnamese american communities in texas are growing and thriving, and they continue to play a very important role in our increasingly diverse state. i had the chance to meet with a number of my vietnamese american constituents during the august break and talk about some of the issues that concern them the most. just last week and in fact i visited cal l saigon mall for
thage children's festival. i participated in an on-stage discussion with a number of community leaders and though the children seemed more interested in the tiger dance or musical performances and the colorful costumes, it was a great opportunity for me to hear from the folks, these folks firstha firsthand. and we had a serious discussion about the human rights climate in vietnam which has continued to decline. the vietnamese government limits political freedom by denying its own citizens their right to vote in free and fair elections. it denies them the freedom of assembly and expression and due process rights, the sort of basic rights that we call human rights here in the united states. last year one of my constituents, a young man named william nuan was unjustly beaten and detained for participating in demonstrations in hochiman
city. we were fortunate enough to secure his release back home after the government convicted him on trumped up charges, and i was glad to welcome him back to the good ole u.s. of a. but sadly the people who continued to live in vietnam have no escape from a brutal communist regime which continues to disregard the most basic human rights, threaten religious freedom and silence the press. vietnam remains one of the lowest ranked countries in the world when it comes to freedom of the press. in 2018 reporters without borders ranked vietnam 176th out of 180 countries worldwide. it should come as no surprise vietnamese americans who lived under this type of rule or who have family members that still do don't take our freedoms here
in america for granted. just the opposite. these immigrants are great patriots who fully appreciate the freedoms they enjoy here in america because they realize how close they came from seeing those same freedoms denied in their home country. and with them i share concerns -- their concerns about the rising interest here at home and failed ideas like socialism and will continue to dispel rumors that socialism could provide more than the free enterprise system which has created the very prosperity that vietnamese americans and other immigrants enjoy here in the united states. in addition to our efforts to strengthen our own democracy, we need to do more to strengthen democracies around the world and to protect basic human rights. earlier this year i reintroduced the vietnam human rights sanctions act to try to do just that. this bill would provide -- or
would impose travel restrictions and other sanctions on vietnamese nationals complicit in human rights abuses against their fellow citizens. these sanctions would not be lifted until the vietnamese government releases all political prisoners and stops the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. we simply can't avert our gaze and allow these practices to continue without any sort of accountability, and i would say the same for what's happening now in hong kong. i appreciate the many vietnamese americans who've shared their experiences with me on this topic, and i'll continue to advocate for a brighter future for the people of vietnam. mr. president, on one other matter, i want to take a moment to recognize a member of my staff who is nearing her retirement, sandy edwards. sandy is the regional director
in my austin field office, but she's been with me for nearly two decades, first in my office when i was attorney general of texas. now in the united states senate whereas -- where she serves, as i said, as my central texas regional director. everybody that knows sandy knows she has the heart and spirit of a public servant. she works hard to make sure that every texan who contacts my office feels appreciated, understood, and is happy with the support they receive. she knows that our faces represent what people get for their tax dollars and with sandy central texans have gotten serious bang for their buck. over the years she is, of course, developed countless relationships with people and organizations working to improve our texas communities in central texas. i'll never forget one year spending a december evening out in eas