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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  January 8, 2020 10:00am-2:37pm EST

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the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain of the senate, dr. black will open the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal lord, the giver of grace, in these turbulent and tempestuous times, when we do not know what a day may bring, you continue to be sovereign.
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morning after morning, we continue to receive your new mercies. lord, sustain our lawmakers with your unfailing love that is as high as the heavens. may our senators know that in everything you continue to work for the good of those who love you, who are called according to your purpose for them. pour out upon our legislators the riches of your mercy so that they may stay steadfast in faith. eternal god, hear us as we pray. we need stronger hearts, greater faith, and clearer perception.
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we pray in your mighty name. amen. the president pro tempore: amen. please join me in reciting 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, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask to speak for one minute in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: there is a story that we often hear about in high school in government classes where george washington is said to have told jefferson that the senate was created to, quote-unquote -- cool house legislation as a saucer is used to cool hot tea. whether that's historically accurate or not, it is a good summation of the role of the united states senate. now i'm going to quote from federalist 62 what madison said, and he could have made this quote a little easier to understand, but here it is anyway. the necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity
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of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of a sudden and violent passions and to be seduced by factuous leaders. end of the quote from federalist 62. now, considering madison's admonition, it should be no surprise to anyone whatsoever that the senate passes fewer bills than the house and always has. but, how come those who parrot the partisan talking points that the senate is a legislative graveyard don't always talk about the over 200 senate bills on speaker pelosi's desk. i yield the floor.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i had planned to discuss the corrosive political games that the speaker of the house continues to play with the solemn issue of presidential impeachment, but the deadly serious events of yesterday evening threw those political squabbles into the starkest possible relief. i was troubled but not surprised by reports that iran fired ballistic missiles at u.s. forces in iraq last night. as i have warned, the threat posed by iraq has been growing for years and this threat will continue even beyond the death of tehran's master terrorist, soleimani. we must remain vigilant in the threat of serious threats posed by tehran. apparently, these strikes did not kill or wound americans, but they demonstrate the significant
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progress iran has made over the last decade in building a large, long-range, and accurate ballistic missile force. many of us have long cited the absence of any constraint on iran's missile program is one of the primary shortcomings of the obama iran deal, and this strike stands as a reminder to the world of this growing threat. we rightly talk a lot in this chamber about american interests, but last night was another stark reminder that iran and its proxies have been a cancer on iraq's sovereignty and iraq's politics for some time. tehran has long shown disregard for iraqi lives. just in the last few weeks its militia proxies have slaughtered innocent iraqi protesters and it has launched ballistic missiles at its territory.
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the millions of iraqis who have been taking to the streets for months have understood this perfectly well. i spoke to the president last night. i'm grateful for his patience and prudence as he and his cabinet deliberate how to respond appropriately to the latest iranian provocation. as a superpower, we have the capacity to exercise restraint and to respond at a time and place of our choosing, if need be. i believe the president wants to avoid conflict or needless loss of life, but he's rightly prepared to protect american lives and interests. and i hope iran's leaders do not miscalculate by questioning our collective will in launching further attacks. for our part, i think certainly hope our own it does not give iran question to question our national will. the senators will be briefed
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today. as i said before, i hope all senators will wait for the facts before they pass judgment on the recent strike on soleimani. patience, caution, and restraint can sometimes be in short supply around here. but when matters of national security are at hand, it's imperative that we seek out the facts, restrain our partisan urges, and concentrate on protecting our country. for this reason, it's troubled me that speaker pelosi responded by leaping to blame, quote, needless provocations by our administration. in other words, blaming the united states. so let's be clear. we can and should debate how to responsibly respond to iranian threats, but the notion -- the notion that our administration is to blame for iranian
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aggression? mr. president, that's nonsense, utter nonsense. for 40 years since the founding of the islamic republic, iran has pursued aggression against the united states, against israel, against its arab neighbors. the question before us is not who is to blame for the aggression. it is how best to deter and defend against it. now, mr. president, i do need to say a few words about the other serious matter occupying the congress. late last year speaker pelosi and house democrats sped through a slapdash impeachment of president trump in 12 weeks. because they insisted the need to undo the 2016 election was urgent -- urgent, they said. since then, the same people have spent three weeks dragging their heels and refusing to proceed to a senate trial. supposedly, the explanation for this shameless game-playing is that speaker pelosi wanted
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leverage -- leverage -- to reach in to the senate and dictate our trial proceedings to us. now i've made clear from the beginning that no such leverage exists. it is nonexistent. and yesterday we made clear it will never exist. a majority of the senate has decided that the first phase of an impeachment trial should track closely with the unanimous bipartisan precedent that all 100 senators supported for the first phase of the clinton trial back in 1999. there will be no haggling with the house over senate procedure. we will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. the house democrats' turn is over. the senate has made its decision. the 1999 precedent does not guarantee witnesses or foreclose
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witnesses. let me say that again. it neither guarantees witnesses nor forecloses witnesses. it leaves those determinations until later in the trial, where they belong. i fully expect the parties will raise questions of witnesses at the appropriate time. and i would remind my friends on the the other side, i strongly suspect that not all the potential witnesses would be people the democrats are eager to hear from. so the senate will address all these questions at the appropriate time, and that is for the senate and the senate only to decide, period. now, even fellow democrats are expressing public concern over the speaker's endless appetite for these cynical games. here's what the junior senator from connecticut told the press yesterday.
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he said, i think the time has passed e she should send the articles over. and the senior senator from west virginia said, i think it needs to start. i really do. and the junior senator from maine said, i think it's time for the speaker to send the articles over. my democratic friends are losing patience, just like the american people are losing patience. the country knows this absurdity should not go on. so what are the american people saying? a recent harvard harris poll found that 58% of americans believe speaker pelosi should send the articles to the senate, not continue holding them up. let me say that again. this is a harvard poll, found that 58% of americans believe that speaker pelosi should send the articles to the senate, not continue holding them up. and in the same survey, 77% believe democrats need to accept
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the same structure as the clinton trial rather than hold out for special rules. so we're beginning to hear from the american people how they view this standoff. we all know that senators have a diversity of opinion about president trump, about the house inquiry, about the optimal structure for a trial, but withstanding all of this, no senator, no senator, should want the house of representatives to steamroll institution norms and dictate our business to us. haven't enough toxic new precedents been set in recent months? hasn't the house broken enough constitutional china already? this is not about the current speaker and the current president. do my colleagues believe this is what a future democratic president would deserve? do they believe it's good for the country? there is a reason the
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constitution reads the way it does. the house has the sole power of impeachment. they have exercised it. but it is the senate to whom the founders gave the sole power to try all impeachments, end of story. and yet, even as her fellow democrats are jumping ship, the speaker is trying to double down. yesterday evening in the midst of these deadly serious events, speaker pelosi put out another statement saying she has no intention to end her political game playing. at the very same thyme a global crisis was unfielding in real-- was unfolding in real time, she published another dear colleague letter saying she intends to keep our commander in chief in this limbo indefinitely. i'm glad democratic senators are losing patience with this.
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i would urge my friend, the democratic leader, to listen to his own members. my distinguished colleague from new york is the minority leader in the united states senate. he is a senior member of an independent branch of our bicameral legislature. the senate is not a creature of the house. the democratic leader does not need to continue to be in thrall to the speaker. he does not need to keep colluding with outside efforts to supplant the judgment of his own colleagues. stand up for the senate. stand up for our institutions. stand up for the country. the presiding officer: the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the
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senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, matthew h. solomson of maryland to be a judge of the united states court of federal claims. qoid i note the absence of a quorum. quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president, are we in a quorum? the presiding officer: we are. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: now, last night, the department of defense confirmed reports that iran launched missiles at a number of our installations in iraq that housed u.s. and coalition forces. as details continue to emerge, it appears that there have been no casualties. we commend the professionalism and bravery of our service members and other personnel in harm's way. and while we're thankful that there were no casualties, we're thankful for the safety of american forces and personnel in the region, i condemn the attack by the iranian government and remain concerned about the risk of further escalation of hostilities in the middle east. now more than ever, the united states must be clear-headed and
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sure-footed about what comes next. the american people do not want a war with iran, and the president does not have the authority to wage one. yesterday, we learned that the president had ordered the deployment of at least as many as 4,500 soldiers to the region, potentially more. beyond iraq, the united states military now has more than 70,000 troops in the middle east, from kuwait to qatar to afghanistan to the u.a.e. to saudi arabia to jordan, oman and bahrain. the president has promised to get the united states out of these forever wars in the middle east, but the arrow is headed in the wrong direction. mr. president, how many more is it going to be? how long will they remain abroad? what is their objective? how will they assure their -- how will we assure their safety? will more be deployed in the weeks and months ahead?
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these are urgent questions. the administration must answer them, but so far there has been a profound lack of information provided to congress from the department of defense concerning what the department is doing in response to iran. so i join senators reed and durbin in requesting regular briefings and documents from the administration detailing the number of troops the president has deployed and plans to deploy in support of contingency plans with respect to iran. we need to know if the administration is committing additional troops to the region and for how long. our letter urges the administration to clarify to the american people and our military that international law prohibits the deliberate targeting of cultural sites and that such an order would be unlawful and should not be followed. the american people pyritefully have serious concerns about a
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war with iran and whether we ars concerns about a war with iran and whether we are safer today with the president's foreign policy. i'm afraid these i am pull tiff and erratic actions throughout the world -- impulsive and erratic actions throughout the world are making us less safe. now on impeachment. yesterday, leader mcconnell announced he has the votes to pass a resolution to set the rules for the impeachment trial of president trump. it was another unfortunate confirmation that leader mcconnell has no intention of working with the minority to establish rules for a fair and honest trial that examines the evidence heard from witnesses and receive the relevant documents. i've asked leader mcconnell repeatedly to sit down and negotiate a plan where we would have witnesses and documents, and he has refused. instead, leader mcconnell, by his own admission, took his cues
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from the white house when it came to setting the parameters of the trial. rather than engaging in any serious negotiation with the senate minority, he only spent time trying to convince his caucus that we should punt the questions of witnesses and documents to a later date. i have explained why this proposal makes very little sense from the perspective of having a fair trial. the evidence should inform arguments in a trial. it should not be -- evidence should not be an afterthought. why would it make sense for both sides to present their entire case and then decide whether the senate should request the evidence that we already know is out there? it's extremely telling that leader mcconnell and senate republicans are not willing to take a forthright position on whether we should call witnesses and request documents. they can only say that the issue should be addressed later. their only refuge, not much of one, is to kick the can down the
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road. no one, no one has advanced an argument as to why the four eyewitnesses we have proposed should not testify. no one has advanced an argument as to why the three specific sets of documents related to the charges against the president should not be provided. republicans can only get behind kicking the can down the road because they know we have the full weight of the argument on our side. there is virtually no argument why we shouldn't have witnesses, why we shouldn't have documents. but i want to make one thing very clear. there will be votes, repeated votes on the question of witnesses and documents at the trial. the initial votes will not be the last votes on the matter. republicans can delay it, but they cannot avoid it. and when those votes come up, senate republicans, not leader mcconnell who has already cast his lot completely with the
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defendant, the president, but all other republicans will have two crucial things to worry about. first, if the senate runs a sham trial without witnesses, without documents, without all the facts, then the president's acquittal at the end of the trial will be meaningless. a trial without all the facts is a farce. the verdicts of kangaroo courts are empty. leader mcconnell is fond of claiming that the house ran, quote, the most rushed, least thorough, and unpair impeachment inquiry in modern history, unquote. i know that's his talking point, but in truth, leader mcconnell is plotting to run the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history. if the senate rushes through the president's impeachment, if we actually fail to try the case, as the constitution demands, then the true acquittal the
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president craves will be unobtainable. the american people will see right through a partisan trial and understand that a rush to judgment rendered that moot. they will understand that when you don't want witnesses and documents, you're afraid of the truth and that you're covering something up, that the likelihood is strong you did something very wrong. that's common sense. that's what all the polling data shows most americans believe. second, when the senate has votes on witnesses and documents, my republican colleagues will have to answer to not just the president. the american people do not want a cover-up. whatever their view of the president, the american people want the senate to have a fair trial. all the data shows that in two more polls in the last few days. every senator will be under massive public pressure to support a fair trial that
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examines all the facts. the american people understand the gravity of the charges against the president. the house has impeached the president for using the powers of his public office to benefit himself. the president was impeached because the house believes he tried to shake down a foreign leader into investigating his political opponent, pressuring a foreign power to interfere in our elections. he was impeached because he undertook an unprecedented campaign of obstruction to prevent congress from investigating his wrongdoing. the articles of impeachment suggest the president committed a grave injury to our democracy. the conduct they describe is exactly what the founders most feared when they forged the impeachment powers of congress. if the senate fails to hold a fair hearing of those charges, if one party, the president's
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party, decides to rush through a trial without hearing all the facts, witnesses, and documents, it won't just be the verdict of history that falls heavy on their shoulders. the american people in the here and now will pass a harsh judgment on senators who participated in a cover-up for the president. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. durbin: last night iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two military bases in iraq where american troops were based. it was a brazen escalation of dangerous implications for the
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united states and the world. we're fortunate as of today, at this moment none of our personnel have been reported to have been harmed, but the outrageous act was clear and unsurprising retaliation to president trump's killing of iran general soleimani. our first order of business must be the safety of our military and civilian personnel in iraq and the region, and i call on the trump administration to make that the highest priority. another immediate requirement is that the congress step up and play one of the most important and long neglected constitutional roles that we can envision. article 1, section 8, of the united states constitution is clear in stating that the power to declare war is an explicit authority and power of congress, as it should be. one should never send our sons and daughters into conflict without the knowledge and consent of the american people.
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our founding fathers were wise in making sure this awesome power did not rest with a king-like leader, but with the people's elected representatives. i made this same argument regardless of whether the occupant of the white house was a democrat or a republican. some have had the audacity to argue that the 2001 authorization for the use of military force approved by this congress to respond to the september 11, 2001, attacks, or the 2002aumf from war with iraq apply to the situation today in iran. that is clearly wrong. let me be clear, i cannot imagine anyone, anyone who took either of those votes nearly 20 years ago -- and i was here at that time -- thought that they were approving a war with iran two decades later. i certainly didn't. this congress should not be a
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rubber stamp for president trump's worst instinchts. it's time for this body to show some courage and do their constitutional jobs. if you want a war with iran, step up and face your constituents and record your vote accordingly. the war powers resolution i filed last week under the leadership of senator tim kaine of virginia, will be a first step regarding congress' role in any conflict with iran, but not a last step. ultimately this president cannot start a war with iran without the approval under the constitution of congress, and the republican leadership should not roll over and play the role of lap dog when it comes to such a serious life-and-death matter. tragically this escalation with iran and the height end risk to our personnel and security interests was entirely predictable, except it appears to president trump and secretary pompeo. the question was never a
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simplistic canard over whether killing soleimani, a general general -- genuinely loathsome terrorist actor was warranted or not but clearly whether taking him off the face of the earth was in the best interest of the united states. would such an advance advance the interest of our country or precipitate another war in the middle east? the answer is increasingly upon us. i'm going to ask that the remainder of my statement be placed in the record. i see my colleague from illinois is here and has asked for permission to speak on the floor. and so with the consent of the chair i'd ask that the remainder of my statement be placed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. duckworth: mr. president, i'm here to speak on two matters, first on the nomination for ambassador of the kingdom of thailand, michael george desombre.
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the kingdom of thailand is a key partner for our efforts in the southeast asia region both economically and militarily. unfortunately this nominee has failed to reach out to either myself or my colleague, my senior senator, senator dick durbin, both of whom are his home state senators. he has not reached out to me, so i am asking my colleagues to please vote no on cloture on michael george desombre to be our ambassador to the kingdom of thailand until such time as i am able to sit down with him. and now i'd like to speak on the attacks from iran. quote, all is well. that's what donald trump said just hours after a dozen missiles were fired at two united states military bases last night. that's what he said as thousands of troops are readying to deploy to the middle east to a hotbed of anger where wearing an american flag on your shoulder gets more dangerous by the day. that's what he said as our nation careens towards a
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reckless war born out of illiteracy and are common sense. donald trump used his father's money to buy his way out of military service when his country needed him in vietnam. so let me make something clear to donald trump. all is certainly not well when war is on the horizon just because you want it to look like the toughest kid on the playground. i'm incredibly thankful that no americans were killed last night in iran's rebuttal attack, but some missed missiles should be no cause for celebration for the president. just because there weren't fatalities yesterday doesn't mean there won't be any tragedies tomorrow. we got into this situation because of trump's glibness, because he liked the feeling of thumping his chest and the roar it got from fox news, because he was so enamored by maximum pressure that he laughed at the idea of even minimum diplomacy.
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and now america is less safe as a result. so, no, mr. president, all is certainly not well. sadly, trump's glibness is shocking but not surprising. last weekend he was at his golf course in florida while more and more american troops were packing and getting ready to deploy 7,000 miles east. he was tweeting from mar-a-lago where the iraqi parliament was voting to expel u.s. soldiers from their nation. he was rubbing shoulders with millionaires from his country club while the u.s. coalition against isis was announcing we no longer have the resources to fight isis in iraq, that instead we have to hunker down and focus on protecting troops from the acts of revenge that iran promised are on the way. a potential global conflict is veering closer by the hour. and it's because of donald trump. it's because of his
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impetuousness and his ignorance. it's because once again he has been manipulated by a hostile regime into decisions that further their goals while endangering the security of the nation trump's actually supposed to be leading. when i deployed to iraq in 2004, i saw firsthand just how eager the country was to shake off iran's influence, and i watched as an anti-iran protest continued long after i flew my last mission. as young iraqis spoke out against iranian while i was in baghdad this past spring, as protests roiled last month when tens of thousands of iraqis flooded streets, raising voices, picket signs demanding their government crawl out from under are tehran's thumb. now after donald trump decided to kill major general qasam soleimani on sovereign baghdad soil, those same streets are now filled with protesters once more. yet this time they're marching
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in solidarity with the enemy that hundreds of iraqis died marching against a few short weeks ago. with one choice, donald trump squandered the opportunity that existed to push against iranian influence and for greater democracy and stability in the middle east. in one fell swoop he somehow managed to villainize the united states and victimize iran, our enemy, isolating us from our long-term partner in iraq and am pg up iran's influence in a country everyone knows is vital to our country's security interest throughout the middle east. iran didn't want trump to kill soleimani but they were hungry for all that has happened as a result. they were starving to go on the offensive, desperate to change the narrative, to swing public opinion and solidify their power in iraq, to have a new excuse or attack anyone with an american flag on their shoulder and to shrug off the restraints
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of the nuclear deal. like a pawn in a game of chess he didn't even seem to know he was playing, trump was baited into handing them all of that. like a child blind to consequences, ignorant of his own ignorance, he's given iran everything they could have asked for in the end, making it far more likely that tomorrow or next week or next month more americans will be sent into another one of the forever wars he's bragged that he and he alone would be able to end. we used to have the monroe doctrine, the truman doctrine. now we have the trump doctrine in which the leader of the free world, the commander in chief of the greatest fighting force ever assembled gets manipulated again and again by dictators of hostile regimes. we've already seen it too many times since he was sworn into office. we've seen it played out on the streets of venezuela, in the deserts of northeast syria. we've seen him get manipulated by tyrants in pyongyang and
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riyadh, subjugated by despots as our allies laugh at him behind his back. all these dictators and hostile regimes know they have realized the same thing, the president of the united states is as easy to control as a toddler. sweet talk him or thump your chest and issue a few schoolyard threats and you've got him. he'll fall for it every time, doing your bidding as if it is your own. i wish this weren't true, but my diaper-wearing 20-month-old daughter has better impulse control than this president. kids in school cafeterias know not to look up when someone tells them gullible is written on the ceiling but i'm pretty sure donald trump, a man who once stared directly into a solar eclipse, would be caught stealing a glance just to be sure. the thing is trump told us who he was long before he stepped into the oval office, and too many chose not to believe him. as a so-called businessman, he
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left a string of bankruptcies wherever he went destroying his own companies and small businesses unlucky enough to be caught in his wake. now as commander in chief, his incompetence cost us our standing in the world, endangered our national security and placed an even bigger tarpgget on our deployed -- target on our deployed troops. now the currency he is spending isn't just the money that his father left him, but the blood of the men and women who have sworn an oath to defend this nation to their deaths. 16 years ago i was one of the many americans who deployed to iraq. one of the many who was willing to sacrifice everything after our commander in chief convinced congress that our nation's security depended on removing saddam hussein and replacing his regime with a democracy. a decade and a half later we've spent trillions of dollars to achieve that goal, hundreds of thousands of iraqi civilians have been killed or displaced, thousands of our bravest died for that goal.
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tens of thousands more have been wounded and maimed. we did not sacrifice all of that for this president to turn our iraqi partners into adversaries who vote to kick us out of the very democracy we helped to build. i have friends who have done eight, nine, ten tours in iraq, who go each time knowing that they'll probably be back on that same stretch of sand in a few years, who proudly answered the call and who will continue to answer the call fighting for that same patch of desert over and over again because they believe -- they believe us when we tell them that that will take america safer and more secure. they gain a few feet one to you, losage inch or two the next, watching their buddies lose a limb over that same piece of ground time and time again. they hope up to do their jobs no matter what. we need to honor that. we need to honor their willingness to show up and carry
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out the mission. now, especially after the attacks last night, we in congress can honor them by doing our job. we are the branch vested with that most solemn duty of declaring war. so we need to exert our constitutional control over this out-of-control toddler-in-chief and vote to prevent him from entangling us in another war. we need to be doing whatever we can to break the cycle of escalation. we need less chest thumping and more diplomacy. i am glad this general is dead. he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of american service members over the last decades. i also want to stop iranian influence, but this decision by this president has not done that. if we truly want to honor our heroes in uniform, we wouldn't send them into harm's way
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without a clear mission statement and then after we had that discussion, if we still believed that war is the right path, that i will vote yes. but so far trump has not even managed to come to us to give us his reasons for his actions. having never sacrificed much himself, he doesn't understand our troops' sacrifices. having never really served anything other than his own self-interest, he doesn't give a second thought to their service, treating their dedication to our nation with a kind of reckless abandon he did, the cash he blew through with each of his bankruptcies. i don't need to remind anyone that donald trump is a five-dedeferment draft dodger. it's also revealed in his brazen embrace of torture, his hostilities toward good order and discipline and his stated
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desire to commit war crimes. i implore my completion on the other side after the -- i implore my colleagues to recognize the commander in chief for who he really is. donald trump will never cut the puppet strings that the likes of putin and kim jong-un are using to make him dance. small-time dictators will continue to have access to the world's most powerful marionette and we will all suffer the consequences. and with that, i yield the floor.
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mr. thune: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. thune: mr. president, let me just say that i along i think with most americans are grateful that in the rocket attacks launch the last night by iran that there were no american casualties and i think i, like most of our colleagues here in the senate, i hope, have an opportunity later today to hear from the administration about the state of events here and what the plans are going forward. we all we in this is a dangerous part of the world. it has been that way for beings did. the iranian influence there is a maligned influence that has put at risk and in jeopardy not only american lives but lives of countless people throughout the region. and mr. soleimani, who was removed here in the last few days, of course, was responsible for hundreds of american deaths, and so his loss is something that i think not only people here in this country but certainly people in that region
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of the world benefit from because he will no longer be able to conduct and operate and commit terrorist attacks and bring about death to people all over that region of the world. mr. president, i would also like to point out that, as i think most know and most of the reporting has reflected this, that republicans here in the senate and leader mcconnell of course yesterday made this statement that -- are prepared to take up the articles of impeachment when they are delivered over us to by the house of representatives. for whatever reason -- and it appears that the house democrats under speak pelosi have determined that it is to their political advantage for some reason to hang on to those articles and to perhaps game this out a little bit. we of course don't know what that gains them. but, in any event, they have yet after now several weeks decided to proceed and to bring those
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over here to the united states senate. but i would point out that it can't be because there isn't a process in place to deal with those articles when they arrive. obviously, what republicans in the senate have agreed to adopt is the clinton precedent. in other words, the precedent that was used when president clinton went through impeachment 21 years ago. at that time, it was good enough for all the democrats in the united states by a vote of 100-0, a unanimous vote here in the united states senate, to proceed to those articles and all senate republicans are simply saying is that's a good precedent. it was good enough for democrats and republicans back then. it ought to be good enough for republicans and democrats today. and what that simply provides for is to allow both sides -- the managers in the house to come over to make their argument and for the president and his team to be able to put up their defense, for senators to have an opportunity to listen to those arguments and then to be able to
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propound questions and then at that time to determine whether additional information, evidence, witnesses, et cetera, could be brought forward. but as a very frat forward process, one that met with the approval of all 100 senators, both democrats and republicans, back in 1999, the clinton precedent is -- seems to me at least to be a fair way in which to proceed and one that senate republicans have agreed to move forward with. so if and when the house democrats under speaker pelosi determine that they are ready to send those articles over here, it seems like maybe they're waiting for something to reserve could you what i think is -- rescue what i think is an otherwise weak argument that they have to make. but when those articles arrive here, we will have a process in place in which to move forward and get this trial under way in the senate and hopefully hear the arguments and at some point -- i hope in the not-too-distant
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future -- conclude this and get on to the work that i think the american people sent us here today. obviously there is an election coming up in november t. the first votes will start being cast in the state of iowa in a few weeks, in new hampshire and other states followed very closely on by super-tuesday. so the election process is already under way. that will the means by the which most americans believe we ought to deal with our leadership and in a democratic system of government we have the opportunity as people to express our opinions and to voice our views in that manner. and i would hope that that is where we can settle these political differences and disputes that we have. mr. president, while the house continues to be bogged down and stalled out over impeachment, the senate here is moving forward with the business that is important, i think, to the daily lives of the american people. and so yesterday the senate
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finance committee passed the united states-mexico-canada agreement out of our committee. i serve as a member of that committee. i was pleased to vote to move this agreement one step closer to final approval i about the full senate. the united states-mexico-canada agreement will benefit almost every sector of our economy, from manufacturing to digital services to the automotive industry. it will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, boost our economic output, and increase wages for workers. the agreement breaks new ground by including a chapter focused on small- and medium-sized businesses, the first time a u.s. trade agreement has every included a dedicated chapter on this topic. roughly 120,000 small- and medium-sized businesses around our country export goods to mexico and canada, including a number in my home state of south dakota. usmca will make it easier to support these products. businesses and consumers will
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also benefit from the fact that the agreement mrs. concontinues the current u.s. did de minimis threshold. i'm particularly excited about the benefits that usmca will bring for farmers and ranchers. low commodity and livestock prices, natural disasters and protracted trade disputes have left farmers and ranchers in my home state of south dakota and around the country struggling. i spend a lot of time at home talking to farmers and ranchers. and again and again they've emphasized to me that the most important thing that washington can do to boost our nation's farm economy is to conclude favorable trade deals. that's why i spent a lot of time this past year pushing for adoption of the united states-mexico-canada agreement agreement. and why i'm so pleased that after a long year waiting for the house to take it up and arrangement on it that we're going to have an opportunity to approve that trade deal in the senate.
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canada and mexico are the number one and number two markets for united states agricultural products. the the agreement will expand access to these two critical export markets and give farmers certainty about what the markets will look like long term. i canty excited about the improvements made for dairy farmers if you drive the i-29 corridor north of brookings, south dakota, you see firsthand the major dairy expansion. the united states-mexico-canada agreement will preserve u.s. dairy farmers' role he's a key dairy providing to mexico and will, spanned market access in canada. in fact, the u.s. international trade commission estimates that the agreement will boost u.s. dairy exports by more than $277 million. the agreement will also expand market access for u.s. poultry and egg producers and make it easier for u.s. producers to
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export wheat to canada. mr. president, so much more in this agreement. yesterday's finance committee vote was a long time coming for south dakota farmers and ranchers. months of delay by house democrats left agricultural producers wondering if they'd ever see the benefits of this agreement. but we have at last been able to move forward and i look forward to full senate passage of the united states-mexico-canada agreement in the very near future. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. rubio: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator fromful f. mr. rubio: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. 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 matthew h. solomson of maryland to be a judge of the united states court of federal claims, 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 matthew h. solomson of maryland to be a judge of the united states court of federal claims shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the yeas are 88, the nays are 7. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion,
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cloture are -- be debate on the nomination of eleni maria roumel to be a judge for the united states court of federal claims. the presiding officer: the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate of the nomination of eleni maria roumel to be a judge for the court of the united states shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or to change their vote? if not are, the yeas are 51. the nays are 44. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in
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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 michael george desombre of illinois to be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the united states to the kingdom of thailand signed by 16 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 michael george desombre of illinois to be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the united states of america to the kingdom of thailand shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. the presiding officer: vote: vote:
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the presiding officer: have all senators vote sphd any senator wib to change their vote? on this vote the yeas are 64. the nays are 31. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: accident of state,
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michael george desombre of illinois to be ambassador of the united states of america to the kingdom of thailand. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i have two requests for committees to meet during today's session of the ?a. they've been approved by both the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. cornyn: mr. president, yesterday evening iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against military bases in iraq which house u.s. troops.
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after general qasem soleimani was killed in a targeted drone strike late last week in an act of self-defense and to deter further aggression against america and our allies, our forces were on high alert for an iranian attack. our leaders emphasized we would be prepared for whatever response iran chose to deliver and by all accounts we were. well, if the present circumstances hold, it appears that no u.s. service members were harmed during this attack last night by iran which is the best outcome we could have hoped for. in addition, i'm glad no iraqi troops appear to have been injured or killed in this strike as well. while the result of this provocation by iran could have been a lot worse, it does not diminish the fact that the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism has a sophisticated
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and capable ballistic missile program. we know that those capabilities only accelerated under the joint comprehensive plan of action, the so-called nuclear deal during the previous administration as has the regime's pursuit of their nuclear aspirations. i'm confident that this administration's maximum pressure campaign combined with our unparalleled military capabilities as well as the president's decisive actions that have culminated in the air strike last week have prevented a much worse outcome from this iraq by iran. last week i had the opportunity to visit strategic command stratcom in omaha, nebraska where their motto is strategic deterrence. i think that's an important goal to keep in mind. that is having the means and capabilities not only of hitting back but a message of deterrence
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to our adversaries to dissuade them from initiating hostilities in the first place. ronald reagan, president ronald reagan had his own notion of strategic deterrence. he called it peace through strength. that is something that i believe the president's actions last week have begun to restore. no less illuminary than former general david petraeus said after the soleimani attack that perhaps, just perhaps this woof reestablish -- this would reestablish deterrence and indeed based on the response by the iranian regime last night where they obviously targeted uninhabited areas where they wanted to save face by showing that they were doing something to retaliate but not wanting to escalate, i think that general petraeus is right on, that what has happened to this point is reestablishing some level of
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deterrence. i applaud the president for speaking this morning to the american people and making it clear that under his watch, iran will never ever have a nuclear weapon. this in my view is the single most important policy objective for the united states and our allies in the middle east. deterrence through strength combined with additional economic sanctions are designed to encourage and persuade the iranian regime to rejoin the community of nations which will help pave the way for a better way of life for the iranian people and give up these tools of terror which have characterized the iranian regime since 1979 since the revolution. exporting that terror to other countries and there was no one more responsible for doing that than general soleimani who was taken out in an air strike last week. as we move forward, the united
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states and our allies can't turn back -- we can't relieve this maximum pressure campaign and we also must remain cognizant of the dangers of creating power vacuums in the middle east. mr. president, the senate is not in order. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i also hope that our allies in germany and france and the united kingdom will work with us to persuade the u.n. to invoke the snapback provisions under the joint comprehensive plan of action, restore international sanctions and restrictions on the iranian regime to further persuade them to join us in negotiations which will lead to a better outcome for all. it would be helpful if our friends and allies in the u.k. and france and germany would join us in that effort. while the united states is not purposely sought out further
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conflict that would lead to an unnecessary loss of life, we need to defend. we must always defend american personnel and our interests in the middle east. as the president has pointed out this morning, one of the things that historically has given presidents like jimmy carter the determination to declare the blocking of the strait of hormuz as an act of war during his administration was our overdependence on energy from the middle east. as the president pointed out this morning, thanks to the creativity and innovation in places like oklahoma and texas, north dakota, and elsewhere, we now are largely energy independent and self-sufficient. and now we can use this as a tool to engage other countries that are completely dependent on countries like russia and iran and others in the middle east
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for their energy needs. so this is changing the geo politics of the world. this is not just the president taking a decisive action against the leading master of terrorism in the middle east. the geo politics of the world have shifted, and i hope we will all work together to take advantage of that. as i've said, i appreciate the president's courage and leadership. this must have been no easy decision to be sure. i continue to be proud of our military leadership and the rank and file service members who work so hard to protect the united states and our national interests in the middle east and around the world. mr. president, on another matter, i spoke last week on the senate floor about some of the great things that have been accomplished this last year for our country, including my home state of texas. i pointed out that we notched a
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number of wins for the american military as well as our veterans. we sent much needed assistance to communities devastated by natural disaster, by hurricane harvey and others. we confirmed more qualified judges to the federal bench. we invested heavily in securing americans -- america's elections from the sort of interference that we saw occur in the last presidential election. and i'm proud to say we strengthened our fight to end the rape kit backlog. we made strides big and small to improve the lives of the american people, and i'm eager to add more wins to that list this year. unfortunately, congress is starting this year in a rather inauspicious way not designed to regain the confidence of the american people and our ability to do -- do what benefits them
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as opposed to satisfying some partisan political interest. high on that list of pretty embarrassing developments is the articles of impeachment that the house has passed, but speaker pelosi now three weeks after the house said this urgent matter must be pushed through to protect the country and defend the constitution, she still is refusing to send those articles of impeachment to the senate. and we're waiting. now i'd be happy if she never sent the articles of impeachment here and realized the error of the house's ways but i don't expect that to happen. in the meantime we're going to continue to confirm well qualified nominees as we are today and hopefully we'll be able to do work on the usmca, the united states-mexico-canada trade agreement which the presiding officer knows we voted out of the senate finance committee yesterday but which has to clear six other committees before it's ready for floor action. hopefully we'll be able to get
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that done sooner rather than later. but with an impending impeachment consuming most of the oxygen here in washington, there's not a lot of opportunity let alone political will to get actual legislating done. there is a laundry list of bills that we could add to our accomplishments in 2020, but there is an opportunity cost when we're squandering our time on this ill-considered impeachment mania. the time and effort we're spending on that could well be used to pass these other pieces of legislation. and so these -- these pieces of legislation wait in impeachment purgatory. on the top of my list this year is legislation to bring down health care costs for the american people, particularly out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, something that i thought was a high priority for members on both sides of the aisle as well as
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the white house. over the summer the senate judiciary, finance, and health, education, labor and pensions committees passed bipartisan bills which deal with everything from high prescription drug prices to surprise medical billing. while we knew there was still additional work that needed to be done, everyone was somewhat optimistic that we could pass some combination of these bills by the end of last year. and unfortunately that didn't happen. negotiations are continuing but i had hoped we could make progress on some noncontroversial bills in the meantime, like the one that i introduced to stop drug makers from gaming the patent system. i just read this morning that humira, the manufacturer of humira which is an incredible drug but -- widely prescribed drug in america, they're raising their list price by 7%. this is a drug that has generic
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competitors overseas but are not approved here in the united states because humira has gamed the patent system by acquiring more than 120 different patents on this drug, the same one that's being sold cheaper and more widely available in europe. the bill that we introduced with -- that i introduced with senator blumenthal, the senator from connecticut, to deal with that was called the affordable prescriptions for patients act, and it strikes a delicate balance of protecting innovation while increasing competition, and it would be a win for every american whose felt the sticker shock at -- who has felt the sticker shock at the pharmacy. this is a modest bill but it represents real progress. bipartisan support, check that box. i introduced the bill with senator blumenthal from connecticut as i mentioned, and i'm proud to have the support of the minority whip as well as the ranking member of the health, education, labor, and pensions
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committee, and this passed out of the senate judiciary committee unanimously. well, does it increase the deficit? no. it actually helps the deficit so we can check that box. the congressional budget office statements that it would save the government more than $500 million over the next decade. during simpler times, this bill would have been quickly approved by the senate and sent to the house for their consideration and the president's signature. if we've learned anything this last few years, it's that nothing is simple here in congress. or in washington. so after waiting for months, came to the senate floor to ask that the built be passed. after all, it sailed through the process, and i hadn't heard a single senator with any substantive objection to the bill. but that's when the democratic leader, the senator from new york, came down here to block it, and he did it not once, but
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twice. he didn't object on substance. in fact, he admitted it was a good bill. as i said, it checks every box when it comes to good legislation, so it certainly wasn't because it fell short there. the only reason the democratic leader objected to this legislation on two separate occasions is because of politics. he's chosen to participate in political games with a bill that's noncontroversial and straight forward which would prevent big pharma from increasing their prices to consumers. at a time when he views his most critical priority as the minority leader in opposing the president and, in turn, senate republicans, he couldn't stand to see a bill introduced by a republican actually advance and become law. i'm sure his constituents in new york can't be too happy about that because they're paying the
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high price of patent gamesmanship, too. and you can guarantee -- i can guarantee you that big pharma is revoicing over his obstruction. well, as i said, just this last week big drug companies have already begun to announce their price increases. according to their analysis, 445 different drugs have had their prices raised already by an average of 5% and we're only one week in the new year. it's particularly maddening that even consensus legislation is getting caught up in this hyper partisan environment. but i'm hoping that once this looming impeachment trial is behind us, we can find our way to work together and make some progress. another bill that i'm anxious to see passed this year is the reauthorization of the violence against women act, which again has gotten caught up in partisan gamesmanship. last year the house passed an
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ultra partisan bill which both parties knew would be dead on arrival in the senate. our friends, the house democrats, chose to include a variety of poison pills in order to prove a point and perhaps gain some political advantage rather than actually get a bill to the president's death to their credit, that's where senator feinstein and senator ernst, to their credit, they tried long and hard to try to come up with a bill that we could take up here on the senate floor. but all of a sudden late in the game our friends across the aisle walked away from the negotiating table and chose to introduce a near he had -- near replica of the house's piece of legislation. unfortunately, they succumbed to the politics of the moment rather than solving the problem that would actually help support victims of violence and make
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that re-- reauthorize that legislation. despite our democratic colleagues leaving those negotiations, though, our colleague from iowa, senator ernst, continued to work in good faith on a bill to reauthorize the violence against women act, and i'm proud to be a cosponsor. i would urge the majority leader to put that piece of legislation on the floor and to do it at the earliest possible moment so we could have a moment, we could have a debate, we could offer amendments, but we could actually get the job done rather than continuing to use this as a political football. it sends more funding and resources than the bill that the democratic -- the democrats have proposed, and it authorizes a program twice as long. it is not just an alternative, it's a better choice for victims of sexual assault and violence. it includes a whole lot more than funding, though. it addresses a number of horrific crimes that are being
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committed by women and girls around the country that are not included in our democrat colleagues' version. i regret that we were unable to pass a reauthorization for the violence against women act, and i hope our colleagues across the aisle will reconsider and come back to the negotiating table and work with us so we can finally reauthorize this program. and finally, mr. president, another priority that i alluded to a moment ago that i hope we can get to soon is pass the usmca, the united states-mexico-canada agreement, which will succeed nafta and guide our tradings relationships with mexico and canada in the future. nafta has been a boon for our country, but it is time to bring this agreement into the 21st century. that he precise list what the usmca will do.
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it lays the foundation for better economies, more jobs, and greater prosperity for each of our countries. the process of getting that bill across the senate floor has been more than a year in the making, but we are making some progress, as i indicated starting yesterday in the senate finance committee. it was reported out with a bipartisan vote, 25-4, and three against. i haven't been shy about expressing my concerns about how this process has played out, especially cutting the senate out of the negotiating -- it's negotiating position under trade promotion authority. but i do believe on net that this agreement has been is beneficial and so i will support it. so i look forward to getting an opportunity, presumely once speaker pell low -- pelosi sends the articles of impeachment over here and it meets its expected fate. nobody i know expects 60 as if
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in morning business to vote to convict and to remove -- nobody i know expects 60 senators to vote to convict and remove the president based on the two articles of impeachment presented by the house in an ultra partisan manner. i hope after we get passed all that we can continue along a series of wins for our country in 20 20. i hope we'll be able to chart a path forward on the impeachment trial so we can begin focusing on this legislation that will help the american people over the next 12 months and not squander a minute more than absolutely necessary. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i listened carefully to the montes of my colleague from mechanics -- the comments of my colleague from texas. i talked about impeachment purgatory and the fact that the senate is unable to act on
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critical legislation, many bills which have already passed the house of representatives, because of the impeachment proceedings. well, the impeachment proceedings have not started in the united states senate. so what's the excuse? was it the impeachment proceeding that stopped us from considering one bill in the senate this week? was it the impeachment proceeding that stopped us from considering one bill in the senate last week? no. it was the conscious decision of the senate majority leader, senator mcconnell, the republican leader, with the republican majority not to call a single piece of legislation in the last two weeks. but there shouldn't be any surprises among the membership that we did nothing in the last two weeks other than a few garden-variety n.o.m. nominations. the fact is we've done nothing for a long time under senator mcconnell's leadership. for the record, how many amendments were actual liquidated on the floor of the united states senate last year in the entire calendar year?
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22. 22 amendments, six offered by the junior nor -- senator from kentucky. if i'm mott mistaken, all of them defeated. 22 amendments in one year and now the republican majority is blaming speaker pelosi and the impeachment proceedings for the fact that we do nothing? doesn't make sense, and it doesn't add up. we're doing nothing because that is the strategy of senator mcconnell. the house of representatives has passed hundreds -- not a dozen, hundreds of bills for the senate to consider on every imaginable topic, issues relating to health care, which we heard from the senator from texas, issues relating to immigration. the litany is long. and within that litany you would they had that senator mcconnell could find one bill, just one, from the house of
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representatives to debate on the floor of the united states senate. but we don't do that in the senate. we no longer debate under senator mcconnell's leadership. some people look at this room and call it the senate chamber. that's true. it is the senate chamber. but now, sadly, it is the senate storage facility. we story on -- we store on the floor of the senate chamber the senate desks. there is still some active business under way but these desks, if they could speak, would tell the stories of men and women who stood up and debated issues. issues of war and peace? we don't take those up anymore. if a president wants to go to war, his party thinks that we shouldn't interfere with his thought process, though the constitution states clearly that we're supposed to interfere. congress halls the authority under the constitution to --
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congress has the authority under the constitution to declare war. and when issues come up before us, important issues in the past, we would debate them at length, whether it is health insurance for americans, whether we're talking about questions of the disabled in america being active participants in our society, a time when senators from both sides of the aisle stood up in this chamber and in a lengthy debate passed the americans with disabilities act. one was senator bob dole, a disabled veteran from world war ii and republican leader. another was tom harkin, senator from iowa. the two of them had a fulsome debate. doesn't happen anymore. for senators to come here and blame speaker pelosi for our inactivity is laughable. we have failed to move forward because the leadership does not want to call a bill. senator mcconnell has the authority to decide what we will debate on the floor of the united states senate, and he has decided we will debate nothing.
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nothing. what a wasted opportunity. if america were just picture-perfect from sea to shining sea, we'd not need a senate. but we know better. there are issues facing families across america, the mounting student debt across this country and what it's meant to hundreds and thousands of young people and their future. the issues involving gun violence where we still have mass killings and yet can't even pass one bill to keep guns out of the and thes of convict -- out of the hands of convicted felons and people who are men malley unstable. the issue of health care. i agree with the senator from texas when this comes to the cost of prescription drugs, number-one concern of families across this country. all senator schumer has asked for is we bring this measure to the floor and let senator conanyone's good idea be brought -- senator cornyn's good idea be brought to the floor with other
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senators' good ideas and actually have a debate right here on the floor of the senate. it would be amazing. people would be tuned in all across america, saying, you can't imagine, the senate is actually alive. it is considering measures. but we don't. 22 amendments in one calendar year. it is just amazing that we've leeched that point. -- reached that point. i've comb to the floor to i've come to the floor to address three specific issues. over the years my staff came to me and talked to me about political prisoners in far-plunge nations around the world. men and women in jail because they are exercising their right to speak, to be journalists, to assemble, to run for political office. my staff said, they're forgotten. nobody knows they're there. they languish in prisons for months and years and sometimes
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die there. nobody even mentioned their name. would you consider coming to the floor of the senate and saying something? perhaps writing a letter to the embassy of the country where they're being held prisoner. i was skeptical as to whether or not that would be worth the effort but the i've learned over the years it is. i have come to the floor to raise the case of political prisoners around the world, activists who found themselves jailed for freedoms we take for granted. in some cases, with help from colleagues from both sides of the aisle, we've seen the release of some of these prisoners. others little languish. i bring their pictures to the floor. seeing them tells a story. rafe bedoui and ralief continue to languish unjustly in prison. we continue to press for their
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leave. i've always thought that trying to secure the release of political prisoners was worthwhile because it spoke to our values. i've had a chance to meet some of them after they were he is released. it is an amazing feeling after someone's spent years in phon have them come to my office here in the capitol and break down in fierce and gratitude. it it reminds me they shouldn't be forgotten and neither should many others. unfortunately, this president is too comfortable with these auto accurate i can leaders who imprison people around the world. i wish he weren't. which brings me to the philippines. one of our key democratic allies in asia. over the christmas break, i thought my friends were joking with me when they came to me and said well, i guess you won't be going to the philippines soon, and i didn't know what they were talking about. it turns out in my home state of illinois, there are many filipino americans. it's one of our largest immigrant groups coming to our
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country. what an incredible population filipino americans are. as i have come to know them, strong, strong family values, strong religious values, hardworking folks. i mean, they open these little shops and sit in them for 16, 18 hours a day because that's the way the immigrating filipino sets the stage for their son and daughter to have a better life. well, over the holiday recess, the president of the philippines, president duterte, announced that he was banning senator patrick leahy of vermont as well as myself and senator ed markey of massachusetts from ever visiting the philippines. i was kind of shocked to see that. i didn't expect it. what precipitated this reaction? he also instantly threadened to restrict the travel of all americans to the philippines. well, for some time, several of us, including senator leahy, senator markey, have been advocating for the release of
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filipino senator lela delima. senator delimo was the former head of the national human rights commission of the philippines and an internationally recognized human rights champion critical of president dutarte's extra judicialjudicial killings. what do that lead to? her arrest and being sentenced and imprisoned for three years in jail for speaking out against the current president of the philippines. here is a photo of her being taken to court after she was arrested. a little over three years ago. who is behind her release? not just the senators, but also amnesty international, a human rights commission, the raul wallenberg center. let me read an excerpt from a letter she sent me. as you can imagine, i may be the one currently in detention but i'm not the only victim suffering in incarceration.
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so are all defenders of human rights. ultimately, so are all of us all over the world who defend democracy and the rule of law. senator markey has a resolution calling for senator delima's relief and the end of harassment of the filipino journalist. i'm proud to cosponsor and i hope will pass the senate soon. last year, senator leahy was just on the floor, joining me in an amendment to the state department operations bill denying u.s. visas of those involved in senator de lima's political incarceration. it was our bill that led president duterte to ban us from ever traveling to the philippines. there is an easy and honorable way forward. the d. uterte regime should stop threatening the travel of americans and so many others who travel between our nations and instead ensure a quick and credible trial for senator de
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li ma. in the end, these will be important tests of whether cherished democratic norms we share with our long-standing filipino allies will be respected by president duterte. mr. president, i ask consent to speak on a topic to be placed in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, trade agreements are controversial. they come before the senate and the house infrequently and are usually very hard to pass. it takes months and months of work. one of those trade agreements, which is known as the usmca, the united states-mexico-canada agreement, or nafta 2.0, is one that i have watched carefully. i voted for the original nafta agreement when i was a member of the house of representatives. it was not a popular vote among many people in illinois. but i felt that it was the right thing to do. i felt that moving the mexican economy forward, watching it mature, the creation of a middle
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class would mean that it would be a more stable nation and a nation that would consume any goods produced in the united states. that happened, but it happened at an expense, too, to be very honest. many companies in the united states saw low wage rates in mexico, closed their plants in places like galesburg, illinois, and moved operations to mexico. some moved to china and other places. that displacement of jobs was painful. it was hard to explain to families that this was a transition that ultimately was for the good of all nations involved. if it was your family, you didn't care about the good of a nation. you wanted to know if dad had a job. so the pain that we went through over the last 25 years led me into this conversation about the usmca with some skepticism. i didn't want to be behind any effort that would ultimately result in more american jobs being lost unnecessarily. i'm proud to say that this
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negotiation, unlike many things in this town, turned out to be a bipartisan success. president trump presented us with the original version of the usmca, and many of us took exception to some of its contents. i was particularly worried about one provision in there relating to the price of prescription drugs and some other provisions that were in the original measure. then a fulsome negotiation took place. democrats and republicans sat down. the net result was a positive thing. just this last week, the senate finance committee reported this usmca by a vote of 25-3. i believe this bill, this new measure, this new nafta enjoyed broad bipartisan support. this morning, i went on a conference call with the agriculture leaders of illinois. i'm proud to say we have one of the strongest agricultural states in the nation and some of the best women and men who farm our land and produce food and fiber for people to consume all across america and around the
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world. they have gone through some very, very tough times. the president's trade problems with china have hurt us especially. our soybean producers have seen a 93% decline in their exports of soybean products, soybeans and soybean products from the state of illinois. they have paid heavily for the decisions of this administration to cut back on renewable fuels or issue waivers to oil companies so they don't have to blend them in the fuels they sell at gas stations. they have seen a decline in net farm income, an increase in foreign debt, and we have sent aid payments to them which they reluctantly accept as the only lifeline they have to keep their farms and o this new trade agreement. a new nafta, the usmca, means that the top trading partners of the state of illinois, mexico and canada, will have a new lease on a relationship that can improve as we increase trade
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among our nations. the three nations will prosper. our bioteam that we produce in the farmlands of illinois will be shared with mexico, canada, and many nations far beyond them. it's a step forward for us. i'm glad it was done on a bipartisan basis, and i am particularly happy to see that the overwhelming majority of labor organizations in the stats and in the nation support the usmca. it's great to have both labor and business and the farm communities together in this effort. far from perfect, this is a bill that moves the right direction, and i hope that we bring it for consideration and a vote very soon on the floor of the united states senate. and now, mr. president, i have one last statement i ask be placed in a separate part of the record as well. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, for many years, i have had a battle on with the tobacco lobby. it's personal. i lost my father to lung cancer when i was 14. he was 53. i watched, seafood by his
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bedside for literally 100 days as he languished and ultimately died from lung cancer. he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. when i came to the united states house of representatives, i was determined to try to do something about the death that was being caused by tobacco products across america. i proposed a measure which seemed pretty modest at the time that band smoking on airplane flights. it was an inconvenience and a mess to get on a plane with the so-called smoking and nonsmoking section. i thought let's get rid of it once and for all. it was quite a battle in the house of representatives. we passed it by a handful of votes to ban smoking on airplanes. luckily, i found a great colleague and friend, former senator frank lautenberg of new jersey who took up the cause here on the floor of the senate, and we banned smoking on airplanes over 25 years ago. i didn't know that it was anything more than elimination of an inconvenience while people
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took airplane flights. it turned out to be much, much more. it turned out to be a tipping point. people across america said if it's unhealthy to breathe in secondhand smoke on an airplane, how about trains? how about buses? how about offices? how about hospitals? how about restaurants? at the end of the day, we know what happened. if someone walked into your home or your place of business and lit up a cigarette, you would look at them and think where are you from? we don't do that anymore. you certainly don't do it without asking permission. but that's what's happened in america. we had to fight the tobacco lobby every step of the way, and we've had some success. the number of young people who were using tobacco cigarette products declined dramatically from over 20% to around 8%. we were winning the battle because these tobacco companies were recruiting our kids at an early age with a nicotine addiction that they couldn't shake later in life. well, guess what happened?
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the tobacco companies invented a new product. it's called e-cigarette or vaping. if you think i am making this connection up, take a look at the largest vendor of vaping devices, juul, and look at the major shareholder of juul, and it turns out to be altria which also turns out to be a major tobacco company. so now the tobacco companies have decided that since kids don't gravitate toward tobacco cigarettes, they will give them an alternative, and the alternative, an e-cigarette, a vaping device. you know what's happening, mr. president? in your state and mine, high school kids are taking up this vaping addiction in numbers unimaginable. the latest reports suggest that almost 29% of high school students across the united states are currently vaping. what they're doing is using pods and flavor pods with nicotine
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included and using an citron device to inhale this vapor and blow it out. unfortunately, in inhaling it in their lungs, they are also inhaling nicotine and developing an addiction, a terrible addiction. students came to my office a few weeks ago and sat down. they were from new york and just asked to see me. they said senator, don't kid yourself. it isn't 28% or 29%. it's over 50% of students who are vaping today. they are desperate to buy these flavor pods and to buy these new juul devices. when a teacher in the classroom steps out, they are all vaping right there in the classroom. they do it in the rest rooms and the classrooms and the cafeterias and outside the schools, and they are doing desperate things to be able to afford these devices. on september 11, this year, president trump and the first lady held a press conference in the oval office, and although i have been critical, mr. president, for many things, i applauded what they said. they recognized this vaping
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crisis, and they said we're going to stop it. we are going to make the move necessary to make sure these flavor pods that are enticing children are finally taken from the market. i couldn't believe my ears when i heard it. here was president trump stepping up to do the right thing. perhaps he and his wife as the father and mother of a teenager understand this better than some, but whatever the reason, whatever the motivation, they came forward with what i thought was the best proposal -- end the flavor pods once and for all. well, after they made their announcements, the vaping industry went to work. they started buying ads on fox, naturally. that's where the president watches television. and they started saying to the people this was unfair to take away these flavor pods. sadly, these flavor pods, when you look at them very closely, are just an enticement for young people to use this product. now, the vaping industry tries to argue well, wait a minute, people who use tobacco cigarettes ought to have vaping as an alternative. it is safer.
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marginally, it may be if that were the end of the story, but it turns out that vaping device has also become an enticement for young people to use flavor pods and to develop this addiction to nicotine on vaping devices. it is impossible to argue that some veteran smoker of tobacco products is going to be enticed to vaping if he can buy candy flavors, bubble gum flavors, fruit flavors, or other flavors. can you imagine some 50-year-old who has been smoking for years, marlboros, says, man, if i could just get my hands on some unicorn milk flavor pods, i would give up tobacco and move to e-cigarettes? we know better. these pods are designed to entice children. well, we waited to see what would happen after the president's september announcement. we were lucky to have one of our own colleagues who is now taking the chair from the state of utah who was present at the meeting with the president on the issue of vaping. i salute him for his friendship
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and leadership on this issue. last week, after delays, president trump finally announced a plan to ban some of the e-cigarette flavors that are hooking our kids on nicotine. within 30 days some flavored e-cigarette pods and cartridges will be removed from the market. this is an important step but it's not nearly enough. for instance, menthol pods are exempt, so i'm afraid kids are going to move to juul's menthol flavoring. further, liquid e-cigarette flavors that are used in open tank vaping devices are also exempt. vaping shops are still in business. liquid nicotine are sold in flavors like gummy gaifers, iewn corn milk. these are going to stay on the market under president trump's new policy. this week's announcement is not
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what the president said what happened in the oval office a few months ago and that's why the public health community and this senator is so disappointed. we know the president decided to water down the e-cigarette flavor ban. heavy lobbying by big tobacco and big vape were behind it. when announcing this new restriction, president trump said some words which may tell the story. he said, quote, we have to protect our families. at the same time it's a big industry. we want to protect the industry industry, end of quote. protect the vaping industry? it makes sense why these companies wanted the president to backtrack on his promise. they make a lot of money on our kids and they addict them and kids spend money because of the addiction. why doesn't it make sense for the president to stand up for big tobacco and big vaping on behalf of our kids across america? the fight's is not over. fewer than 4% of adults use e-cigarettes.
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30% at least of high school kids across america are using them. now the f.d.a., with a new leader, dr. steven hahn, has to come off the sidelines and do their jobs to protect the kids. by court order, all e-cigarette companies will have to submit applications to the food and drug administration in may if they want to keep their devices and flavors on the market. if they do not submit an application in may, they'll have to come off the market immediately. the f.d.a. must enforce this fully. for companies that do submit an application, the f.d.a. has up to one year to decide whether they stay on the market. the f.d.a. must reject the applications of any vaping products that are clearly designed to appeal to children. period. and if significantly used by children they should be taken off the market. i've told commissioner hahn the f.d.a. must evaluate applications based on science, not anecdotes. what matters is that e-cigarette
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companies prove their health claims which to date they have never been able to do. do e-cigarettes help smokers quit cigarettes? are they safe? are they in fact hooking children on nicotine? those are the important questions that should be answered with science, not with politics. there are ways to preserve e-cigarette access for adult smokers without allowing an entire generation of kids to become hooked on nicotine. this means getting rid of all of the flavors, taking illegalling products off the market and rejecting e-cigarette applications that fail to show a public health benefit. to date the f.d.a. has not been as active or aggressive as it should. for the sake of our children and the families who love them, it's time for the f.d.a. to get off the sidelines and make sure that we do everything in our power, including in congress, to make certain that this epidemic -- the f.d.a. came up
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with the word -- this epidemic of e-vaping and e-cigarettes comes to an end in america. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mrs. blackburn: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mrs. blackburn: i ask that we waive the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. blackburn: thank you, mr. president. for years i have been at work alongside an administration that prioritizes filling vacancies on
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the federal bench with smart, dedicated, constitutionalist judges. and, you know, mr. president, when i'm at home in tennessee, that is what people tell me they want to see is constitutionalists, not activist judges. and i -- i know that i've sounded like a broken record reiterating just how important it is to keep these judicial nominations moving through judiciary committee and moving to the floor, but i will tell you this. i think it is a message needs to be repeated day in and day out because the american people, and as i said, tennesseans, know that this should be a priority. this is how we continue to protect freedoms from generation to generation. since 2017, we have confirmed
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over 180 nominees, and even in the face of partisan bickering, we have no plans at all to slow that pace. to date -- today we were in judiciary committee hearing again from nominees that we will move forward and bring to this floor for confirmation. and today i want to shine light on a court that doesn't get a whole lot of attention but let me tell you, we'd be in real trouble if we did not have this one. i have come to the floor to support president trump's latest nominee to the u.s. court of federal claims, eleni maria roumel. i first met eleni when she first joined the nonpartisan office of general counsel for the house of representatives. during her six-year tenure, ele nirch advised those of us that
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were members of the energy and commerce committee as we faced some challenging and high-profile legal matters, and as we looked at laws that were going to affect the american people and how they live their life every single day. the energy and commerce committee in the house has wide jurisdiction. of course energy policy, commerce, and trade, health care, manufacturing, pro-sports, privacy, the internet, all of that comes under that jurisdiction. so eleni served us well in providing advice. i witnessed her commitment to bipartisanship as she served each side of the aisle with the same quality of representation, and she did it all while she was pregnant with her son john who is now 2 years old, and someone
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who has been a working mom, i know the challenges that that presents. from her time as a truly excellent student at tulane law to her work in the private sector and beyond, her professionalism has elevated her above the rest of the pack. she practiced intellectual property law and earned a promotion to partner as she represented both probono clients and publicly traded fortune 500 companies. she taught and mentored students as an adjunct professor at charleston law school. she solidified her reputation as a lawyer committed to the rule of law in her work handling government oversight of federal agencies. these cases were vital to the safeguarding of the separation of powers and emphasized the supremacy of the constitution as what it is, the law of the land.
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in her 19-year career, she's appeared before 20 different federal courts, including the united states supreme court and just last year she was elevated to the role of deputy council to vice president mike pence. i am truly honored to have supported eleni roumel's nomination to the court of federal claims. she will be an excellent role model on the bench, especially to young women in the legal profession. i encourage my colleagues to take a look at her resume, get to know her, and then to join me in wholeheartedly supporting her confirmation. i yield the floor. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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ms. collins: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that proceedings under the call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i send a bill to the desk and ask that it be appropriate lid referred. the presiding officer: the bill will be received and appropriately referred. ms. collins: mr. president, i rise today to introduce the
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success for rural students and communities act, a bill that would help rural students achieve their higher education goals and connect their successes with economic opportunities in their own communities. i want to thank senator hassan for introducing this bill with me. the success for rural students and communities act aims to improve the outcomes for rural students who are pursuing higher education and skills-based credentials that will prepare them to meet the workforce needs of their home communities. mr. president, according to the 2010 census, maine is now the most rural state in the nation. two out of three maine schools are in rural communities, and more than half of maine students
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attend those schools. while nearly 90% of the students in my state graduate from high school, only 62% enroll in higher education, at least right away. according to a recent report by the maine department of economic and community development, only 30% of maine students go on to earn a two-year or a four-year degree. so we have a huge dichotomy between the number of maine students who graduate from high school and the number who are successful in graduating from some sort of higher education. maine's experience reflects the trends observed nationwide. rural students tend to graduate from higher school at higher rates than their peers in urban
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districts and at about the same rate as their peers in suburban schools. but only 59% of rural graduates enroll in college upon graduation, which is a lower percentage than their counterparts in urban and suburban areas. the success for rural students and communities act would help spur innovation and investment in strategies that would improve college access and success for rural students. it would create a demonstration program to encourage rural community stakeholders to partner together to help students go on to college or obtain some other postsecondary education, complete this education, and enter the workforce. these partnerships would draw on
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the talents of local school districts, institutions of higher education, regional economic development entities, rural community organizations, and the private sector. the bill encourages these partnerships to develop and implement strategies to help students and their families navigate higher education opportunities and addresses the barriers to their achievement. for example, the bill calls for partnerships to coalesce around approaches that boost higher education enrollment rates for rural students by exposing students and their families to college campuses, courses, internships, and career pathways to jobs at home. these partnerships could also focus on rural and completion rates of nontraditional students
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who may need additional credentials or who once began but did not finish higher education. to to meet the demands of today's work force, many employees will need a credential beyond a high school diploma -- perhaps a college degree, a skilled trade credential, or professional certificate. the success for rural students and communities act encourages schools and employers to forge partnerships that will put students on pathways into the high-demand jobs available where they live, so that helps the rural communities. it helps them keep their young people. it helps them keep people who had the education and the skills that those communities need to be vibrant and successful to
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have strong economies. the bill highlights a number of strategies that could be developed and tested, including work-based learning activities such as apprenticeships, intern ships, and stackable credentials that make up a sequence of courses on the path to a certain skill or job. mr. president, i have toured apprenticeship programs in maine, including one that helps to train people for jobs in forestry, and i've seen firsthand how successful those apprenticeship programs are. when rural students enroll in college, they often face barriers that prevent them from graduating, and that's why i have been a big promoter of
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students' success programs. i've seen a very effective one at the eastern maine community college in bangor where students are helped with whatever the barrier is that is preventing them from completing community college. in some cases, it's the need for some mentoring. in others, tutoring in some areas. in other cases, it simply is a short-term loan in order for them to fix their automobiles so that they can get to class. in other cases, it's child care needs. but whatever the barrier is, if we can help these students, they will be able to complete their education. many are the first in their families to attend college, which means that they may have a more difficult time finding information about financial aid or selecting an education
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program that meets their needs. with the right supports in place, more and more rural students can complete their postsecondary education. let me give you a great example, mr. president, of the type of program that i have talking about that would fulfill the goals of this legislation. the c aspirations initiative is using this kind of model to help put students on pathways to academic and career success. launched with a generous donation from local philanthropic partners, aroustic aspirations provides scholarships to high school students in the county who are seeking postsecondary education. the initiative collaborates with local colleges and universities, including the university of
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maine, and at presque isle. it works with area businesses and entrepreneurs to offer seminars that guide students throughout their college educations. the kind of mentoring that i was referring to. students can also team up with employers through intern ships that give them experience in the jobs that they wish to pursue or simply try out to see if it fits them. they create relationships with professional mentors who help put them on the right path to entering the workforce. the success for rural students and communities act would support dynamic programs such as the aroostook aspirations initiative and encourage other
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communities in rural america to innovate in similar ways. mr. president, the success for rural students and communities act would make a meaningful investment in the educational aspirations of rural students and their families and would strengthen the economy in rural america. by helping students succeed in reaching their education and career goals, we can also enhance this goal -- the skills of our workforce in rural america. i urge my colleagues to support the collins-hassan bill. thank you, mr. president, and i would yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mrs. fischer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator for nebraska. mrs. fischer: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to legislative session. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mrs. fischer: i would ask that the quorum call be vitiated, please. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: thank you. i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to legislative session for a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 337, senate res. 343.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 337, s. res. 343 congratulating are the people of the czech republic and the people of the slovak republic on the 30th anniversary of the velvet revolution and so forth. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i further ask that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 340, senate res. 385. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 340, s. res. 385 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall, the reunification of germany and europe and the spread of democracy around the world. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will
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proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the committee-reported amendment to the preamble be agreed to, the preamble as amended be agreed to, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration much calendar number 341, senate res. 447. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 341, s. res. 447 expressing serious concern about widespread irregularities in bolivia's 2019 general elections, and so forth. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported substitute amendment to resolution be agreed to, the resolution as amended be agreed to, the committee-reported amendment to the preamble be agreed to, the preamble as amended be agreed
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to, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 365, senate res. 142. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 365, s. res. 142 condemning the government of the philippines for its continued detention of senator laila delie in a calling for -- delima calling for her release and for other purposes. the presiding officer: without objection the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the committee-reported amendment to the resolution be agreed to. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i know of no further debate on the resolution as amended. the presiding officer: if there is no further debate, the question is on adoption of the resolution as amended. all those in favor say aye. those opposed no. the ayes appear to have it.
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the ayes do have it. the resolution as amended is adopted. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported amendment to the preamble be agreed to, the preamble as amended be agreed to, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 366, senate res. 152. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 366, s. res. 152 expressing the importance of the united states alliance with the republic of korea and the contributions of korean americans of the united states. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported substitute amendment to the resolution be agreed to, the resolution as amended be agreed to, the committee-reported amendment to
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the preamble be agreed to, the preamble as amended be agreed to, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 368, senate res. 395. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 368, s. res. 395 recognizing the 40th anniversary of the iran hostage crisis, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 374, s. 1228. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 374,
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s. 1228, a bill to amend the communications act of 1934 to provide for enhanced penalties for pirate radio and for other purposes. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 375, s. 1611. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 375, s. 1611, a bill to ensure appropriate prioritizations and inter-agency coordination to support the internet of things. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure.
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mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported amendments be agreed to, the bill, as amended, be considered read a third time and passed, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the committee on commerce be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 583, and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 5le 83, -- 583, an act to provide for enhanced penalties for pirate radio and for other purposes. the presiding officer: without objection, the committee is discharged and the senate will proceed to the measure. mrs. fischer: i ask unanimous consent that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mrs. fischer: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate recess until -- 3:45 p.m. and when it resumes, it consider the solomson nomination. the presiding officer: without objection. the senate stands in recess the senate stands in recess >> they spent the day on nominations, to judicial nominations for the federal claims court which hears monetary claims against the u.s. government and the nominee for u.s. investor to thailand. senators took time today to talk about iran's strike against u.s. troops in iraq and the president's announcement that he's imposing additional sanctions against iran. here is some of what the senators had to say.
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>> i planned to discuss the corrosive political games that the speaker of the house continues to play with the solemn issue of presidential impeachment. but the deadly serious events of yesterday into the circus possible relief. i was troubled, but not surprised, by reports that iran fired ballistic missiles at u.s. forces in iraq last night. as i have warned the threat posed by iraq has been growing for years and this threat will continue even beyond the depth of the terrorist, soleimani. we must remain vigilant in the face of serious threats i posedy iran. apparently these strikes do not kill or wound americans but they
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demonstrate the significant progress iran has made over the last decade in building a large long-range and accurate ballistic missile force. many of us have long cited the absence of any constraint on iran's sophisticated missile program as one of the primary shortcomings of the obama iran deal. this strike stands as a reminder to the world of this growing threat. we rightly talk a lot in this chamber about american interests but last night was another stark reminder that iran and its proxies have been a cancer on iraq's sovereignty and iraq's politics for some time. tehran has long shown disregard for iraq he lives just in the last few weeks it's militia proxies have slaughtered innocent iraqi testers and launch ballistic missiles at its territory. l
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millions of iraqis have been taking to the streets for months g protest have understood this perfectly well. i spoke to the president last night and i'm grateful for his patience and prudence as he and his cabinet deliberate on how to respond appropriately to the latest iranian provocation. as a superpower we have the capacity to exercise restraint and respond at the time and place of our choosing if need be. i believe the president wants to avoid conflict or needless loss of life bute' is rightly prepard to protect american lives and interests. i hope iran's leaders do not miscalculate that question our collective will and launching further attacks. for our part i certainly hope our own congressional delegations do not get tehran reason to question our national will. top officials will provide a classified briefing to senators today and as i said before i
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hope all senators will wait for the facts before they pass judgment on the recent strike on soleimani. patients, caution and restraint sometimes can be in short supply around here but when matters of national security are at hand it is imperative that we seek out the facts, restrain our urges and concentrate on protecting our country. for this reason it's troubled me that speaker pelosi responded to earlier reports yesterday about blaming, quote, needless provocation. by our t administration. in other words, blaming the united states. let's be clear, we can and should debate how to responsibly respond to iranian threats but the notion, the notion that our for iranian aggression, mr.
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president, that is nonsense. utter nonsense. for 40 years since the founding of the islamic republic iran has consistently pursued aggression against the united states and sagainst israel and against its arab neighbors and the question before us is not who is to blame for the aggression but how best to deter and defend against it. >> last night the department of defense confirmed reports that iran launched missiles at a number of our installations in iraqet that housed u.s. and coalition forces.av as details continue to emerge it appears that there have been no casualties.. we commend the professionalism and bravery of our service members and other personnel's in harm's way. while we are thankful that there were no casualties

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