tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN September 24, 2019 9:59am-1:10pm EDT
app. app. >> the house will be in order. >> for 40 years c-span has been providing american unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events from washington d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind. created by cable in 1979, c-span has been brought to you by your local satellite or cable provider. c-span your unfiltered view of government. government. >> the u.s. senate about to gavel in for more debate on executive nominations including brian mcguire to be deputy undersecretary of the treasury. the first set of votes are scheduled for 11:30. senators are also planning to take a break in the afternoon for their weekly caucus meetings. before the week is over, we also expect the chamber to take up a temporary spending bill passed by the house to fund the
government until november 21st. floor action on that is still at a time to be determined. now live to the senate floor. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, give our lawmakers the power to live with purity. remind them that for each test and temptation, you have provided a way of escape. when they stumble, help them to receive
the forgiveness of your abounding grace. may they permit your spirit to control their minds and hearts, continually delivering them from evil. lord, we cannot live with integrity in our strength alone, so keep us united with you. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
mr. grassley: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i would ask permission to address the senate as if in morning business for one minute. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: we've been hearing from the other body a lot about how the senate isn't taking up house bills. now, that seems to be as though the senate is supposed to somehow be a rubber-stamp for the other body. well, we just celebrated constitution day last week, and the constitution doesn't provide for the senate to automatically
take up bills from the other body. maybe it's time for a reminder about how the founding fathers intended the senate to work. so i'm going to give a short quote by james madison in federalist paper 62 entitled the senate. quote, the necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent pationz and to be -- passions and to be seduced by pass -- fastist leaders. i'm not saying -- end of quote. i'm not saying that the house of representatives passes intemperament better resolutions, but our founding
fathers thought that could happen and they had the senate to be a check on the house of representatives, just like the house of representatives can be a check on anything that we do. so there are now over 80 bills that have passed both houses, but there's some that can't pass the senate and there's probably some that the senate feels shouldn't even be brought up. but the difference between the house and senate and some contemplation by the senate to be very cautious, that's how the constitution meant senate was supposed to work, and i hope leaders of the house of representatives will be reminded of that from time to time, and that's my purpose today. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: madam president, first i join the kentucky families and first responders in meade county in mourning chris palsy who was killed in the line of duty. deputy halsy was attacked by investigating a suspect and pronounced dead at the hospital hours later. deputy hulsey proudly answered the call to public service with a decades-long career that included time as a firefighter and paramedic. his service left his community safer and his sacrifice left it in grief. i stand with them in mourning his loss and honoring his service. tonight the community will hold a candlelight vigil to honor this kentucky hero. the prayers of the senate will be with them.
now, on an entirely different matter, the senate continues making headway on the personnel business. it's still too bad that our democratic colleagues continue to insist on cloture votes, floor time, and roll call votes for the kinds of uncontroversial nominees who have ordinarily traveled by voice vote for past administrations of both parties. but the senate hasn't been deterred by this novel campaign of systematic obstruction from our democratic friends. we will keep right on getting these talented public servants on the job where they belong. later today, we'll confirm a deputy under secretary of the treasury. then we'll confirm an ambassador, a solicitor of a cabinet department, and a deputy commissioner of social security. and they aren't the only nominees we will confirm this week. before our work is finished, we'll also have confirmed our next vice chairman of the joint chiefs, and pending the committee action of our colleagues, our next secretary of labor. another group of talented
professionals put to work for the american people, more of the president's team in place. this week, we'll also address our responsibility to keep the federal government funded. republicans regret that our democratic colleagues have chosen to back away from the agreement we all reached just last month to ensure a smooth bipartisan funding process. we regret that democrats chose to block funding for the national defense, including a pay raise for our men and women in uniform in order to pick a partisan fight with the white house. but for the sake of the country, our near-term priority is passing a taxpayer continuing resolution so the government can stay open while work continues. i'm glad the continuing resolution on the table earned significant bipartisan support across the capitol and has also earned the green light from the white house. the senate will vote on it this week. and as chairman shelby and senator leahy continue their work on regular order
appropriations, i hope the cooperation that's surrounded this c.r. can carry over and that we can get the appropriations process back on track. now, on yet another matter, the productive bipartisan work that needs to happen here in the senate will stand in stark contrast to the choices made by house democrats across the capitol. over there, it seems as so far-left socialist ideology is increasingly becoming mainstream democratic party doctrine, and rather than roll up their sleeves and work with republicans and with the white house on proposals that can actually become law, the house continues to promote one dangerous left-wing policy after another. the senate's already voted on the green new deal, democrats socialists wish list to eliminate the jobs many americans rely on and even empower government bureaucrats to redesign families' homes. needless to say, it didn't do
too well. here in the real world, outside of the college campus atmosphere that seems to characterize house democrats, the senate voted it down. i've already discussed the recent house-passed bills that would have cut down on our domestic energy and american energy independence, and we all know about medicare for none, the plan that democratic presidential candidates are rushing to embrace that would literally outlaw the existing health insurance that 180 million americans currently get on the job and throw everyone into an untested one-size-fits-all government plan. just last week, speaker pelosi expanded on democrats' medicare for none philosophy by introducing a bill to micromanage america's medicine and start trying to have washington, d.c. run the prescription drug industry. because if there is anything that's been proven to increase competition and affordability for american families, it's huge new doses of heavy-handed
washington, d.c. interference. so we won't let democrats take a stand that embraces the socialist concept of starting to nationalize an industry with people devoted to finding cures and saving lives. the life sciences sector is driving the search for cures to alzheimer's, parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and countless other diseases that impact millions of americans. the speaker and her caucus may be content to spend their majority passing left-wing messaging bills, but in this senate, we take the american people's priorities more seriously and we will stick to getting their business done. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report.
mr. thune: madam president. the presiding officer: majority whip. mr. thune: madam president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is. mr. thune: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. is. mr. thune: madam president, in just a few days we will mark the one-year anniversary of the president concluding negotiations on the united states-mexico-canada free trade agreement. it's time for congress to ratify this agreement now. the united states-mexico-canada agreement will benefit pretty much every sector of the u.s. economy. the automobile industry, textiles, digital trade, and
e-commerce, services, manufacturing, and yes of course, agriculture. madam president, as the represent of -- representative of a state whose lifeblood is agriculture farmers and ranchers are always at the top of my mind, and a huge focus is helping the struggling economy. low commodity, livestock prices, protracted trade disputes have meant a tough few years for our nation's farmers. one of the most important things that we can do to help our agricultural economy recover is to open new markets for american agricultural products. during august i spent a lot of time talking to farmers back home in my state of south dakota, and again and again they emphasized that they need action on trade from washington. with so many trade deals currently up in the air, farmers and ranchers are struggling with a lack of certainty about what international markets are going to look like. while they share the president's goal of addressing trade
imbalances and securing more favorable conditions for american products, they also believe that we need to conclude the agreements that we're negotiating as soon as possible. the longer negotiations drag on, the tougher their situation gets. that's why i stressed the need to bring these to a swift conclusion and i emphasize that point to the president nearly every time i talk to. however, there's one deal we don't need to wait for and that's the united states- states-mexico-canada free trade agreement. negotiations on this agreement concluded a year ago and it's time congress takes it up and passes it so farmers and ranchers can start seeing the benefits. the united states-mexico-canada agreement is a big win for farmers and ranchers of of particular interest to south dakota are the agreements dairy provisions. dairy is an important and rapidly growing industry in south dakota. drive the i-29 corridor north of
brooking, south dakota, and you can see firsthand the massive dairy expansion that we've experienced over the past several years. the u.s.-mexico-canada agreement will preserve u.s. dairy farmers' role as a key dairy supplier to mexico and substantially expand be market access in canada where u.s. dairy sales have been restricted. the u.s. international trade commission estimates that the agreement will boost u.s. dairy exports by more than $277 million. the agreement will expand market access for u.s. poultry and egg producers and it will make it easier for u.s. producers to export wheat to canada. and, madam president, so much more. above all, this agreement will provide farmers and ranchers with certainty about what the canadian and mexican markets are going to look like going forward. american farmers depend upon these markets to sell their products and it's vital that farmers have a clear idea what
these markets are going to look like in the future. madam president, republicans in the senate are ready to take action on the united states-mexico-canada agreement at any point. i hope house democrats will quickly work out their remaining issues and indicate their willingness to vote on this deal. the administration has made addressing democrats' concerns a priority throughout the negotiation process, and it's time for democrats to bring this process to a swift conclusion. as i mentioned, madam president, we are almost a year now past the time when the president signed this agreement and it's been available for consideration by the house of representatives for that entire time. it is high time that we act on this trade deal and get it over here to the senate where we can vote on it and get it to the president for his signature. last week seven former u.s. agriculture secretaries from both democrat and republican administrations sent a letter to
house and senate leadership stating their strong support for the united states-mexico-canada free trade agreement. as the secretaries noted, and i quote, with farmers facing one of the lowest net farm incomes in the last decade, usmca would create enhanced export opportunities and hopefully capitalize on increased global demand for products. furthermore usmca would boost farm incomes and create jobs both on and off the farm in rural communities, end quote. again, madam president, that from seven former u.s. agriculture secretaries serving both republican and democrat presidents. madam president, life hasn't been easy for our nation's farmers and ranchers over the past few years, and i can certainly attest to that as i've looked at what the economy in south dakota has been like in these last several years. the surest way that we can stabilize and boost farm income and help farm country is to
conclude agreements like the usmca. madam president, i urge my democrat colleagues in the house of representatives to make getting this deal done in the house over to the senate and cross the finish line their number-one priority. madam president, i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: madam president, we continue to read reports containing additional information about the nature of president trump's phone calls with the ukranian president and his administration's conduct in the weeks and months before and after those communications. ignoring for a moment that the -- ignoring the political reporting. we know someone inside the intelligence community found the president's conduct alarming enough to warrant an official whistle-blower complaint. the complaint was so alarming that the inspector general of
the intelligence community appointed by president trump said that it was credible and urgent and a complaint that, by law, must be submitted to congress. this is not one of those discretionary moments. the law says this must be transmitted to congress. well, we still have not received the whistle-blower complaint and congress has been advised in writing by the inspector general of the intelligence community that the trump administration is preventing us from getting this report. so later today i will request the unanimous consent of the senate to pass a resolution calling for the whistle-blower complaint to be provided to the senate and house intelligence committees as prescribed by law.
let me repeat that. later today, i will request the unanimous consent of the senate to pass a resolution calling for the whistle-blower complaint to be provided to the senate and house intelligence committees as prescribed by law. it is our job in the congress to provide the necessary oversight of the executive branch, to take these matters, matters of foreign policy, national security, and constitutional integrity with the utmost integrity to seek the facts and grapple with them. i made several requests of the majority leader yesterday in an effort to collect the facts to which i received no response. today i will seek approval for a simple resolution calling for the whistle-blower complaint to be transmitted to the relevant committees in congress. i hope the majority leader and
senate republicans would not block it. i hope they will rise to the occasion and realize this is their constitutional duty and realize that this involves the security of the united states. i will have more to say on the matter before requesting my colleagues' consent to pass this resolution later today. now, on the national emergency. another issue that involves rule of law and the president's overreach. this week, as early as tomorrow, the senate will vote on whether minority to terminate the president's national emergency declaration, which he has used to steal funds from our military to build a border wall, a wall president trump promised over and over again that mexico would pay for, not american taxpayers, not american troops, not their families -- mexico.
that was the president's promise to the american people. it's a promise he broke, but that is what it has come to. if my republican friends stand -- choose to stand with president trump on this vote, they will be supporting the president taking money from our military and their families to fund a border wall. i imagine that even many of those who support the wall, and that is not a majority or close to a majority of americans, would not want the money to come from military. later this morning democrats will have a press conference where we will talk about this. we will remind people that the consequences of the president's emergency declaration is far reaching. he's taking money away from military readiness, military families, the children of service members. he's taking money from military medical facilities in north
carolina and hurricane recovery projects in florida, money from programs we use to combat russian cyber aggression and money to upgrade storage facilities that are decrepit. what the heck are we doing here in congress appropriated these funds with a specific purpose. in our constitution, the president doesn't get to decide where the money goes. we do. he gets a veto power. he tried to shut down the government and failed. and if he can get around the constitutionally sanctioned balance of power, that's what a dictator does, not someone who believes in democracy and rule of law. what he has done here far exceeds any overreach that my
republican colleagues complain about that president obama did, but remarkably too many are silent -- too many are willing to go along. the fear of this president, who many of my colleagues know privately, does not have the honor, morality, honesty, and actually competence to do this job. they know that, but they go along with justing about everything he does. now, on a policy basis -- you can shrug your shoulders, that's differences between the parties. but when it comes to defending the kiewnd rule of law -- constitution and the rule of law and not the executive overreach, the number one fear of the founding fathers, we're above that. where are our republican colleagues? i'm sure if the shoe were on the other foot and the democratic president declared an emergency
to reappropriate funds, my republican colleagues would be up in arms. as i mentioned, when president obama did far less, they were screaming bloody murder, but now they are remarkably silent. so it's about time our senate republicans stood up for the rule of law, stood up for the constitution, and stood up to the president when he was wrong. time to reassert the powers of the legislative branch, the people's branch of government. senate republicans will have that opportunity this week, likely today, and the american people will clearly be able to see whose side each republican is on, the people's side, the constitution's side, or the president's side. finally, on the daniel habib jorjani nomination. later today the senate will vote on daniel habib jorjani to serve
as the solicitor of the department of interior. the leader should withdraw this nomination. it has come to light that mr. mr. joe be on -- daniel habib jorjani lied to congress. under president trump, the interior department has been mired in several investigations about the ethical conduct of its political conductees. it is-offs that they need -- it is obvious that they need transparency and public accountability especially when the stewardship of our public lands are at stake. but at the department of interior, political appointees have instituted policies to stonewall and squash transparency. it's likely that mr. daniel habib jorjani played a key role in shaping these policies and is
one of the subjects of an interior inspector general investigation. despite reviewing public documents, mr. jorjoni was involved. if confirmed, daniel habib jorjani would play a larger role in overseeing the interior department's public releases. this -- the president said he would clean the swamp. nomination after nomination that he makes make the swamp even filthier, he seems to have no morality, he seems to have no honor. this is a man who is loaded with conflicts of interest, ethical
concerns, is likely an ideologue and opposed to the position to which he is nominated. mr. major daniel habib jorjani is an example of the lack of morality and honesty in the trump appointees. i urge senate republicans to join democrats to vote to reject this nomination. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: madam president, there are certain elements of this responsibility of serving
in the united states senate which are tested from time to time in our history. each of us, as members of the united states senate, stands in the well right over in that corner, raises our right hand and swears to uphold and defend the constitution of the united states. those words are almost a cliche because they are used so often, and, yet, here today we're being called on to really reflect on that responsibility. we're called on to reflect on it because of things that have happened which have come to light in the last several days that raise serious constitutional questions. i will say in the two and a half to three years that donald trump has been president of the united states, i think our nation has been rocked by this president's approach to the highest office in the land. he has said things and done things which no other president has ever done. members of his own political
party have been uncharacter i characteristically silent when it comes to this president for his wrongdoing, the litany of things he has done is long and troubling. but there is one thing that we, as both political parties need to maintain as the bedrock of this democracy, the bedrock of our commitment to this constitution, and that is that in this nation of the united states the people govern. ultimately the people of the united states have the last word in our elections, and in those elections they make their choices whether you like them or not. i wasn't particularly ee namerred with the president -- enamored with the presidential choice of 2016, but i accepted it as constitutional verdict of the american people, and it really is the bedrock of who we are and what we are. that's why the notion that some
other nation would interfere in our election is so repugnant. the thought that the american people would not have the last word, that there would be other factors and other people, other countries engaged in our election is as reprehensible under our constitution as any concept i can think of. we are sworn to defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies foreign and domestic. another group of words you've hovered and over -- heard over and over again, but reflecting on those for a moment, sworn to defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies foreign and domestic is a nation which tries to interfere in our political process an enemy of the united states? of course. that's obvious on its face. and those who would encourage a nation to be engaged in our political process, to try to tip
the scales one way or the other, are they enemies of the united states? well, they are certainly not acting consistent with that constitution principle. this seems like a pretty extraordinary constitutional interpretation. you don't need a ph.d. or a law degree to understand that if a foreign country tries to interfere in the united states election process, that foreign country is an enemy in that action. and those who would encourage a foreign country, foreign agents to engage in our election, they, too, have crossed the line. as i consider the revelations that president trump is using his office to extort ukraine to support his political reelection campaign, i wonder why there is so much silence on the other side of the aisle. this is an outrageous development. months before the 2016 election,
our nation's top intelligence officials told key congressional leaders about the efforts of russia to interfere in the 2016 election, the election where the american people were choosing the president. our top intelligence officials were understandably concerned. at that time, president obama asked our congressional leaders for a bipartisan message condemning vladimir putin's efforts on behalf of russia. president obama wanted to make sure it was bipartisan before that 2016 election and showed a unified resistance to the interference by any foreign country in america's election process. what was the response of the republican majority leader, senator mcconnell, after hearing this bombshell, this threat from the former communist k.g.b. official vladimir putin
against america's democratic process of election? the answer that he didn't want to get involved, and he didn't. and then for months after the election, not a single republican senator spoke on the senate floor about the mounting and devastating evidence of russia's attack on our election in 2016. i know that personally because the first casualty in that attack was my state of illinois' voter file. the russians found a way through their trolls to get into the voter file of my home state and to the voting records of 70,000 or more americans who live in illinois. what did they do with that information? it appears little or nothing, but they could have changed it, and they could have had dramatic impact on the right of these american citizens who make their legitimate constitutional choice in the election.
for months, the silence was deafening as well as president trump defended vladimir putin's brazen denials of these attacks. president trump took the word of vladimir putin over that of his own american intelligence professionals. senate republicans blocked election security measures after election security measures and despite finally relenting last week when senator mcconnell said we could come up with $250 million for election security grants, they still continue to block substantive legislation despite ongoing attacks in u.s. vulnerability. the country spent much of the trump presidency asking serious, necessary questions about candidate trump's open solicitation of russian help in his presidential campaign, and if such cooperation actually ran
deeper, and while unable to establish any formal conspiracy between the trump campaign and the russians, in nearly 200 pages, the mueller report describes, quote, numerous links between the russian government and the trump campaign. the mueller report also laid out in detail how the russians brazenly and systematically interfered in our election in 2016 and tried to shape the outcome. you would think that after such a sobering set of findings, that any american president would take the matter seriously and reassure the nation that he really does put america, not a foreign power, first when it comes to our electoral process. but no, shortly after the mueller report's release, president trump told abc's george stephanopoulos he would still accept a foreign government's offer to share damaging information about a political rival, echoing similar
remarks he had made in his original presidential campaign. in short, president trump learned nothing from the experience of the 2016 election. and the silence of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle seems to indicate the same. now we have reports that president trump is at it again, trying to strong-arm the leader of ukraine to join him in attacking one of president trump's political rivals, joe biden. not to advance american interest, not to serve the american people, not to help an ally in ukraine, not to uphold american values, but to serve the president's own reelection campaign interest. last week, i offered an amendment in the appropriations committee to address $250 million which had been appropriated by congress to help
protect ukraine from russian aggression and was never released. last thursday, i had this amendment coming before the committee, and it basically said to the administration if you don't release the money that we have appropriated, you're going to pay a price for it. occasionally, that's all you can do as a member of congress, to get money spent that was appropriated and approved by the president. it was a curiosity. why in the world were we holding back $250 million that was supposed to help the ukrainian people stop the aggression of vladimir putin? well, i went to the committee hearing on thursday morning, and before it started, one of my staff members said, oh, the trump administration released the money last night. last night? why did they wait until two weeks before the end of the fiscal year to release the money? oh, they were reviewing this to determine whether or not there was any problem with releasing the money to ukraine. it was a curious answer. it didn't make much sense. the president had signed this
appropriation bill. for months, as president trump, through his personal attorney, rudy giuliani, tried to pressure the ukraine president zelensky to further his political agenda, the money that was supposed to go to ukraine was withheld. we learned in this morning's "washington post" that the president had instructed his chief of staff to notify the appropriate agencies to withhold the money while he bargained with zelensky over salacious negative information about joseph biden and his family. now we're learning that there was a whistle-blower complaint reportedly about the same issue. apparently, someone in the administration who learned what president trump was trying to do in strong-arming ukrainian president zelensky decided that it's overstepped the bounds and needed to be reported on
officially. the congressional intelligence committees that get access to the information provided by this whistle-blower are still waiting for that information. information that the president trump-appointed inspector general for the intelligence community, michael atkinson, a trump appointee, i repeat, has determined to be credible and urgent. in other words, something happened at the highest levels of our government which led a professional in the intelligence agency, inspector general, to make a whistle-blower complaint for the record. the law requires that complaint to be shared with committees of congress. it wasn't. it turns out that the attorney general of the united states, william barr, may have played some role in diverting it from its ordinary statutory course. the president may not want anyone to see it, but the law is clear and must be respected.
this information and the whistle-blower complaint must be transmitted to congress. mr. president, is there anyone in this senate, anyone who took the oath to protect the nation against enemies foreign and domestic, who thinks any of us, regardless of political party, should solicit help from a foreign power to make sure we get elected or reelected? this abdication of responsibility by the other party is remarkable. i want to salute one senator. i hesitate to mention any direct reference to him, but one senator on the republican side who has spoken out. he understands the gravity of the situation, the constitutional issues at stake in this debate, and the fact that ultimately history will stand in judgment of all of us of whether we have spoken up. if this president of the united states can attempt to extort a
foreign leader to withhold security funds that were to be given by the united states to his country in order to pursue and promote his own political agenda, we have reached a new low in the united states. and if this whistle-blower's claim goes into detail, it is only right and appropriate under the statute that this information be shared with the appropriate committees of the united states senate and the house. the whistle-blower's claim needs to be released to the appropriate congressional committees and evaluated according to the law, and congressional republicans, house and senate, need to make it clear once and for all that no president, not this president, no president can solicit or strong-arm a foreign country to further his own campaign. that is unacceptable under the constitution of the united states, which i remind my colleagues we have sworn to
uphold and defend. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: mr. president, over the past two and a half years, we have seen a remarkable pattern emerge in the types of people donald trump anonymous to serve in his -- nominates to serve in his administration. his nominees have extensive conflicts of interest. they work for the interest of former clients, financial patrons, or other special interests. and in doing so, they are actively hostile to the very departments in which they have been nominated to serve. daniel jorjani, the president's nominee to serve as solicitor of the department of the interior, is a classic example of this pattern. the d.o.i. solicitor is a critically important position in the department. in addition to being the chief legal advisor to the secretary, the solicitor is intimately involved in developing the legal
justifications for department policies, defending d.o.i. positions in court, and overseeing compliance with the freedom of information act, foia. given the influence on the department the solicitor has on issues such as the implementation of the endangered species act, stewardship of public lands, and holding companies accountable for their impacts on the environment, it is essential that whoever occupies this job can execute his or her duties in a manner that upholds the public trust. with the nomination of daniel jorjani, donald trump has once begin shown that he prioritizes exploiting our environment for the benefit of fossil fuel companies over the very real interests of the american people and protecting our environment. prior to joining the trump administration, mr. jorjani spent seven years working in organizations throughout the
koch brothers' sprawling empire, in positions such as the general counsel of freedom partners, mrh brothers in pursuing a relentlessly pro-fossil fuel agenda. he fought against the obama administration's action to combat climate change and protect the environment. it was with precisely this experience in mind that donald trump appointed mr. jorjani as the principal deputy solicitor and acting solicitor of d.o.i. in 2017. during his tenure in these roles which did not require senate confirmation, mr. jorjani wasted little time before mounting a full frontal assault on obama-era environmental regulations to the delight of his former patrons. of the eight solicitors' legal opinions that mr. jorjani authored, seven roll back obama-era environmental regulations. let me focus on one example that
certainly sticks out. in a stunning reversal of a 2017 opinion issued by then-solicitor hillary tompkins, mr. jorjani pushed to shield companies from liability for killing birds protected under the migratory bird treaty act as long as it was not the company's intended action to kill these birds. that's like saying b.p.a. shouldn't have to pay for cleanup of the deepwater horizon oil spill because they didn't intend to release nearly five million barrels, 200 million gallons of oil into the gulf of mexico. clearly, companies should not be shielded from their negligence. mr. jorjani's reversal of the opinion overturned existing departmental enforcement practices that had been in place for the past 40 years. the oil and gas industry have been complaining about this rule for years precisely because it held them accountable for their
actions. when i asked mr. jorjani directly at his confirmation hearing about which industry benefited most from this reversal decision of his, he claimed, quote, i'm not aware of any particular industry that benefits from this, end quote. who is he trying to kid. my reaction to mr. jorjani is that the oil and gas industries are the biggest beneficiaries. he knew it and i knew it. mr. jorjani's actions are particularly alarming in light of a new study that found north america has lost three billion birds, nearly 30% of our total bird population, in the past 50 years. in normal times, we'd expect leaders of the interior policies to pursue policies to mitigate the harm being done to our ecosystems and the environment, not to do things that will actually make big problems even
worse. but these are not normal times. instead we have yet another trump nominee with extensive conflicts of interest pursuing policies that help his former employers in a manner that is fundamentally hostile to the department in which he or she serves. fitting the trump administration's normal mat tenure of probe, it should be more than enough to deny confirmation to this critical job, but mr. jorjani, like his boss, david bernhardt, is also currently under investigation by the d.o.i. inspector general. mr. jorjani is under investigation for potential misconduct related to his management of the department's compliance with the freedom of information act, foia, and its so-called supplemental review policy. under this policy, political appointees at the department are notified about the public release of any documents containing their names or e-mail addresses.
this policy can be problemmatistic even in normal times. it could result in political interference in the foia process, to delay the release of potentially damaging information. the d.o.i. allegedly has an additional internal review policy that goes even further. it allows mr. jorjani and the deputy's chief of staff five days before release to review requested records that involve senior staff in the secretary's office. this review process not only opens up the possibility for inappropriate delays, but also allows for willful and blatant withholding of important information that the public has requested. in response to questions at his confirmation hearing and questions for the record, mr. jorjani asserted that he, quote, typically did not review records prior to the release under the foia, end quote. however, internal documents released by the d.o.i. paint a
very different picture. one image in which mr. jorjani was regularly involved in reviewing foia documents. at best, mr. jorjani was not forthcoming or candid. in fact, it appeared that he lied under oath. with a position as important as this one, the american people deserve at the very least an ethical solicitor devoted to the mission of the department, one who isn't compromised by or catering to the narrow interests of his former employers, or one who doesn't tell his staff, as mr. jorjani told his staff, that, quote, at the end of the day our job is to protect the secretary, end quote. protecting the secretary is nowhere in mr. jorjani's job description. he is yet another trump nominee who should not be confirmed by the senate.
mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, i'd like to propound a unanimous consent request. i think colleagues know we've run a little bit behind. i would ask unanimous consent, mr. president, that the senator from iowa be recognized next for her remarks and i be recognized to close the debate on mr. jorjani and be allowed to speak for up to 15 minutes. i think we'd end up being about ten minutes late or thereabouts, between 1 1:40 and 11:45. i ask unanimous consent to be able to speak up to 15 minutes after the senator from iowa has finished her remarks. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. ms. ernst: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. ms. ernst: i'd like to thank the senator from oregon. i appreciate that very much. mr. president, of course we all know it is the season in
washington, government agencies are going on their annual christmas in september use-it-or-lose-it shopping spree. if not spent by midnight on september 30, leftover dollars expire and can no longer be used. rather than returning the money to taxpayers, binge-buying bureaucrats are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars needlessly. frankly, folks, this is washington's most notorious tradition at the end of our fiscal year. and let me tell you, folks, iowans and hardworking folks across the country really should be appalled by many of the last-minute purchases our tax dollars are paying for. and i'll just give you some
examples. right here, $4.6 million were spent on lobster tail and crab. $2.1 million spent on games, toys, and goods, over $53,000 on china and tableware. more than $40,000 on clocks. and nearly $12,000 for a commercial foos ball table. yes, that's right, folks. 12 thousand of your dollars. and what are we as congress doing about this wasteful spending? nada.
nothing. congress is sitting idly by legislate -- letting washington bureaucrats waste the hard-earned dollars of folks in my home state in iowa, failing to pass the bills necessary to fund the government on time makes it difficult for agencies to thoughtfully plan and allocate billions of dollars. that's why i fought hard to make sure congress completes its job of appropriating and budgeting on time. through my no budget, no recess act, members of congress would be prohibited from leaving washington if we fail to pass a budget by april 15 or if we fail to approve regular spending bills by august 1. the way we're doing business is
incentivizing federal agencies to rush and spend the rest of their money as quickly as possible. and it makes it all the more likely that they'll waste money on unnecessary goods and services. as iowa taxpayers know, it's never smart to rush into a big purchase. unfortunately it seems washington bureaucrats don't agree, especially when it's the tax dollars of hardworking americans that they are dealing with. washington's spending disorder gets more expensive every year. the $97 billion rung up in september 2018 is 15% more than was spent the same month the previous year and a staggering
39% more than that time in 2015. but if federal agencies follow the president's directive to trim their budget by 5%, an easy place to start is simply by cutting the dollars they have been unable to spend. federal agencies end every year with leftover money in their budgets. this year it's estimated the government will end up with more than $825 billion in unspent funds that have not been committed by contract or otherwise obligated to be spent. so last year's $804 billion budget deficit could have been wiped out and turned into a surplus if the unobligated
balances being held in the federal coffers have been canceled. instead federal agencies ordered lobster tail and tons of -- get this -- tater tots. tons the tater tots as washington amassed its largest shortfall since 2012. folks, we've got to put an end to this madness, seriously. someone has to be the bringe on behalf of our -- the grinch on behalf of our taxpayers. that's why earlier this year i introduced the end of the year fiscal responsibility act. my bill would limit an agency spending in the last two months of the year to no more than the average of the previous ten months. this bill won't end all wasteful
spending but it will force agencies to put more thought into long-term planning and curtail the bad habit of out-of-control impulsive spending. folks, washington spending is out of control. with our national debt now surpassing $22 trillion, washington should be looking for ways to save by canceling or delaying unnecessary expenses rather than splurging on year of the end wish lists. i would like to recognize the great work of the nonpartisan group open the books, that is working to put every dime the government spends online in real time to hold washington accountable. the group issued a report on this very subject in march. i would also like to note that
iowans sent me to the senate with a specific mission, cut wasteful spending and make washington squeal. to prevent buyer's remorse, i'm giving everyone in washington fair warning. my office will be reviewing your last-minute purchases and asking you to justify them to the taxpayers. it's time to put an end to this reckless behavior. billion-dollar binge buying is no way to budget. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. wyden: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, there is a job opening at the interior department, and that can mean only one thing. another trump nominee who incredibly is already under investigation for misconduct even before his first day on the
job. this time it's daniel jorjani, a long-serving trump interior official who's up for a powerful role as the department solicitor general. mr. president and colleagues, i have put a public hold on this nominee. and if anything, the case for withholding action on this nominee has gotten greater in the last few days. just in the last few days the department's inspector general has made it clear that this an individual that he is going to investigate. and i will tell my colleagues that if you're putting somebody already under investigation on a
fast-track to the interior department corruption hall of fame right up there with ryan zinke, that is a mistake i believe the senate is going to regret. it probably doesn't take an inspector general investigation to uncover why this is a mistake, and i'm going to explain this here this morning briefly. first, i believe it's important to start with an honest assessment of what donald trump's appointees have done at the interior department. under this president, it is often difficult for one agency's corruption to stand out above the rest. but somehow interior department officials manage to do that again and again.
mr. jorjani, a former industry advisory for koch industries, is an example of just this type of behavior. the office of interior solicitor general is in charge of legal issues and ethics for the department. a big team, mr. president, lots of power. mr. jorjani has been a key member of the solicitor general's office. now, his own words indicate that he doesn't believe that his primary function at interior is to protect public lands and uphold an ethical standard. we already heard discussion earlier this morning that he wrote to agency colleagues that -- and we've been quoting it -- he said our job is to protect the secretary. those are his words, not the words of anybody here in the
senate. what senators may not know is mr. jorjani was talking about ryan zinke who brought on a category five ethical hurricane during his brief time as interior secretary. in the same e-mail mr. jorjani boasted about having impeded inspector general investigations into the misuse of taxpayer funds for travel. it wasn't just talk. the record shows that covering up dirty ethics and potential lawbreaking is routine for mr. jorjani. by my count, as of now, there are at least four investigations into wrongdoing at the interior department that were closed or found inconclusive due to a lack of cooperation or records production on mr. jorjani's watch. these investigations covered a
multitude of issues, from the potential of misuse of expensive chartered travel to a halted study on the impact of potentially dangerous interior department energy policies. then there's the issue of the interior department's new policy under the trump administration with respect to the freedom of information act. the new policy, and again, this is a retreat from public interest standards, this policy gives political appointees unprecedented control over the department's response to freedom of information act requests. in my view it looks like an effort to conceal the fact that
trump -- trump interior officials are spending their days doing the bidding of a host of special interests. there is clear evidence that this new secretive freedom of information act policy was implemented under the trump administration, that mr. jorjani knew about it and that he was up to his eyeballs in putting this in motion. when i asked mr. jorjani about the freedom of information act policy during an energy and natural and resources hearing, mr. jorjani actually claimed it didn't exist. he later told one of our colleagues, the distinguished senator from maine, senator king, he had no involvement in freedom of information act responses. i want it understood, mr. president, that i believe
mr. jorjani lied to the energy and natural resources committee and perjured himself to that body. colleagues, i know that members on both sides are concerned about what has happened with the freedom of information act under this administration. i want to commend the several republican senators who have said they are troubled about what this administration is doing with the freedom of information act, so-called awareness reviews by appointees that really aren't hard to figure out. it's about secretive political interference. what you are seeing with the freedom of information act is inconsistent with the intent of congress and it is wrong. the importance of government openness and honesty with the
american people ought to be a bipartisan proposition. it's in everybody's interest, democrat and republican, to protect the freedom of information act from evasion and protect it from abuse. that's part of why this new interior policy on the freedom of information act is so troubling. as i mentioned on friday the interior inspector general confirmed to me that mr. jorjani is currently under investigation for his role in this freedom of information act policy. so, mr. president, and colleagues who may be following this, let's just understand what's going on. we're getting ready to vote on whether to advance somebody who's under a formal inspector general investigation. the fact the inspector general is investigating such a serious
matter ought to be enough all by itself to stop this nomination from going forward. certainly mr. jorjani's own words about how he views the job, not about protecting the public but about protecting someone like ryan zinke, that ought to be disqualifying. if mr. jorjani is confirmed, the person will be in charge at -- in charge of ethics at the interior department told colleagues that his job was to protect a crook. that's what he said. colleagues, this administration, in too many instances, has made deceit and unethical conduct the norm at the interior department. they have sidelined the purpose which is to protect our treasured lands on behalf of all americans. too often it seems they side
with special interest, interest that will pollute clerk's -- america's air, fuel climate change, destroy the treasures that americans love. so at some point -- at some point, mr. president, the united states senate ought to draw the line. i think the jorjani nomination is such a place. i would urge colleagues to oppose the nomination. i urge my colleagues to join me in voting no. and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22, do hereby bring to a close debate on the nomination of joseph cella, of michigan, to be ambassador to the republic of
fiji. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question, is it the sense of the senate that the debate on the nomination of joseph cella, of michigan, to be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the republic of fiji and to serve as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the united states of america to the republic of tonga to be brought to a close. vote:
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the ayes are 55, the nays are 37. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of daniel habib jorjani of kentucky to be solicitor of the department of interior, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent request, the mandatory quorum call has been
wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the ayes are 50, the nays are 41. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22, do hereby bring to a close debate on the nomination of david fabian black, of north dakota, to be deputy commissioner of social security, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of david fabian black, of north dakota, to be deputy commissioner of social security, shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the ayes are 66, the nays are 25. the motion is agreed to. ms. murkowski: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: i have five requests for committees to meet
during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of the treasury, brian mcguire of new york to be a deputy under secretary. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m.