tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 17, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT
mr. inhofe: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call in process be vitiated. officer sphe without objection. the presiding officer: without objection,. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nominations, department of state. john r. bass of new york to be ambassador of the united states of america to the republic of turkey. eric t.schultz of virginia to be ambassador to the republic of zambia. thomas frederick daughton of arizona to be ambassador of the united states of america to the republic of nam namibia. david pressman of new york to be although representative for special political affairs in the united nations with the rank of
ambassador. david pressman of new york to be an alternate representative to the sessions of the general assembly of the united nations. department of defense, deborah ss. wada of hawaii to be assistant secretary of the army. federal housing finance agency, laura s. wertheimer of the district of columbia to be inspector general. department of housing and you un development, bradford raymond huther of virginia to be chief financial officer. the presiding officer: the question occurs on the bass nomination. there will be two minutes of debate equally divided prior to the vote on the nomination. a senator: ahmadinejad, i yield back all time -- a senator: madam president, i yield back all time. the presiding officer: without objection, all time is yielded back. a senator: i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there
the presiding officer: is there any senator who wishes to vote or to change their vote? is there any senator who wishes to vote or to change their vote? seeing none, on this vote the yeas are 98, the nays are zero and the nomination is confirmed. the majority leader. mr. reid: we're about to enter into --. the presiding officer: order in the chamber. please take your conversations out of the well. the majority leader. mr. reid: we're about to into a situation to approve of number of nominations. i ask unanimous consent all time on these nominations be yielded back. the presiding officer: is there objection. the presiding officer: without objection. the question occurs on the schultz nomination. all those in favor say aye. all those opposed say nay. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes to have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the daughton nomination. all those in favor say aye.
all those opposed, nay. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the pressman nomination. all those in favor please signify by saying aye. all those opposed say nay. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the pressman nomination. all those in favor signify by saying aye. all those opposed say nay. the a eyes appears to have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the wada nomination. all those in favor signify by saying aye. all those opposed say nay. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the wertheimer nomination. all those in favor please signify by saying aye.
all those opposed signify by saying nay. a ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the huther nomination. all those in favor please signify by saying aye. all those opposed say nay. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motions to consider are considered made and laid upon the table, the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate will resume legislative session. mr. reid: seeing no one -- we do have some people to take the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. boozman: last month we marked the 24th anniversary of the beginning of the gulf war. in august, 1990, iraq invaded kuwait. shortly after this development,
the united states launched operation desert shield, which led to the operation desert storm to drive iraqi forces out of kuwait. arkansans made a huge survives during operation desert shield and desert desert storm. the arkansas national guard has called to serve during these operations and ten units of the arkansas national guard were called up. more than 3,400 arkansas guard soldiers were called up altogether, the second-highest percentage of any state. of those arkansans called to serve, nine of the army guard units served in combat, including the 142nd field artillery brigade, the only national guard artillery brigade called to active duty during the gulf wamplet i want to thank all of the men and women, more than 600,000 americans from across the united states who served and sacrificed isacrifice operationt storm and desert shield.
these service members deserve a mace of honor in our nation's capital. my friend senator donnelly and i have been working toward that goal. the national desert storm, desert shield memorial act in may. i ask that we bring this up in a timely fashion in the senate. this bill is budget-neutral. private funds for construction of the memorial will be raised by the national desert storm war memorial association. this bill is authorizing the establishment of a monument on federal lands in our nation's capital, which is what congress needs to act on to honor all of these men and women of the armed forces and their feassment fami. passing this bill would be a great step in honoring our gulf war veterans, and i am grateful to have the support of the full senate and look forward to a swift, ultimate passage. for that reason, i ask unanimous
consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 403, h.r. 503. i further ask that the bill be read a third time and passed and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: i actually do object. and if i -- the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. booker: yes. and what i would like to do, because i fully support what an extraordinary and very important piece of legislation honoring those who served and fought and fell in desert storm, what i object to is the de-cumming of the two -- the decumming of the
two bills. i ask that the senate proceed to h.r. 1003, the american battlefield protection program amendments act and calendar number 403, h.r. 503, the desert storm memorial en bloc, that the committee-reported amendment to h.r. 1033 be agreed to, that the bills, as amended, if amended, be read a third time and passed en bloc, and the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: reserving the right too object, let me explain to the people who are watching what's happening here. we have a bill that everybody agrees to that isn't going to get passed because everybody doesn't agree to another bill that is linked to it.
we have offered multiple compromises on the battlefield protection act. we just have a $17.8 trillion deficit. we're going to have a $599 billion debt this year, and yet this program that they want authorized that will keep this program that the senator from arkansas would like to honor our desert storm vets from happening, they refuse to take "yes" for an answer. there's 26 critical sites that need to be protected that we know. we said, do that. we've said, don't authorize more than we can afford. woangts dwon't do that. we've made compromises so that we can do what the intent of the battlefield protection act is and accomplish the leverage against the desert storm honoring our desert storm
veterans, but that's not good enough. so what we've asked for is, quit allowing states and localities to game the system with any kind of pay-fors. don't have the federal government pay for the state share, the local government share plus the federal government share. you can pass this bill today if in fact they'll take some adjustments to the bill. and so what i would offer is that -- is rather than object, i'd ask unanimous consent that the senator from new jersey modify his request so that my substitute amendment to h.r. 1033, which is at the desk, be agreed to. if you agree to these simple, straightforward, government good, financially secure items, you don't get the full basket but you get the things that are critical to this country in terms of protecting battlefield sites, and we get to honor our desert storm veterans. i ask that we are have that modification be agreed to that's at the desk. the presiding officer: does
the senator from new jersey so modify his request? mr. booker: there's no more eloquent person when it comes to good government than senator coburn, but i do not modify my request. i object and ask unanimous consent that the -- excuse me. i ask that the previous request that i made be considered. mr. coburn: i object. the presiding officer: is there objection to the original request? mr. coburn: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the senator from arkansas. mr. boozman: mr. president, the sad thing is that the people that were involved in operations desert storm and desert shield are in the middle of this. we have this other bill that there's some concerns about it, and that's fine. that's what this place is all about. but the idea of holding the operation desert storm and desert shield bill hostage in this situation with is not good. we fiscal cliff an era of
gridlock and problems getting things done. this bill passed the house unanimously, and would pass the senate unanimously. so i would hope that we can again get together, get things worked out. it's -- the reality is the problem is is that there's no reason to couple these two together. if the other bill has problems and it needs to be worked out, that's what it's all about. let's have that discussion. but the operations desert stor storm/desert shield bill has nothing to do with that. so i would hope that in the near future we can move forward and honor these 600,000 people that participated so that one day their children can come and visit washington and be able to look at the monument, which the committee will decide as to what's appropriate. h. sso that we can honor these individuals. i yield back.
mr. harkin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: mr. president, in a moment i'm going to propound a unanimous consent request, but i would like to first talk a little bit about the background of this. but before i do that i would like to ask unanimous consent that scott robertson, a fellow from the health, education, labor, and pensions committee be granted floor privileges for the remainder of today's session and
that brent becker and ben struby, interns with the committee, also be granted floor privileges for today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: mr. president, 24 years ago on july 26, 1990, president george her better -- e herbert walker bush on a glorious sun-filled day on the white house lawn attended by more people than had ever attended a bill signing in the history of our country, were there and president bush signed into law the americans with disabilities act, a bill broadly supported by democrats and republicans here in the senate and in the house. it was a momentous occasion. you see, most people thought of
civil rights as pertaining to people of color, religion, national origin, sex, that type of thing, but up until july 26 of 1990, people with disabilities had that civil rights. and i remember when president bush signed that law, he uttered these words. he said, "let the shameful walls of discrimination come tumbling down." a wonderful day. and looking back over those 24 years, can anyone deny that our country has made great progress in expanding our concepts of the rights of people with disabilities, the right to be educated and well-educated, the
right of people with disabilities to have independent living, to live on their own, not to be institutionalized, the right of people with disabilities to associate freely with others, the right of people with disabilities, children with disabilities, to go to school with other kids who are not disabled, the right of people with disabilities to travel freely with barriers broken do down, ramps, not stairs, buses that are fully accessible now, trains, everything accessible, every building designed in america -- think about that -- every building designinged and built in america today is fully accessible. and we have gone a great ways in making older buildings, even some of our national monuments, totally bein accessible to peope with disabilities. and people with disabilities are
finding more and more employment. they're working, not at some minimum-wage job, but working alongside others, showing that they, too, can contribute to our society. and be fully functioning members of our society. that's what the americans with disabilities act did for our country. in 1991, the united nations decided that what we had done in america could be an example for the world, and so a commission was established to draw up a convention, a treaty, on the rights of persons with disabilities. i might point out, it was negotiated under the george w. bush administration, and it took several years, but it was
hammered out with the concurrence -- get this, with the concurrence and the approval of the george w. bush administration. that u.n. treaty has been sent out for nations to be ratified. over 150 nations have now ratified it. think about that. of 196 members of the united nations, 150 have already ratified it. one country is singularly absent: the united states, from whence it all started. and if you look at the treaty, if you just read it, it just echos with the americans with disabilities act and the language of what it does. and so i'll have more to say about this later, but i just want to give that background.
and weigh brought i we brought s ago for a vote. under our constitution, a treaty requires two-thirds vote. two-thirds of those present and voting. and it was brought up two years ago in december of 2012, and we didn't have two-thirds vote. so it failed. well, that congress ended. a new congress started so the president had to resubmit it, had to go back to the committee, now under the leadership of senator menendez, had more hearings on it, which was requested. the committee has reported the bill out again with new reservations, understandings, and declarations, and so now it's incumbent upon the senate to debate and vote again on this treaty. i am hopeful that we would have the votes this time, after due consideration over the last
couple of years, that we would have the votes necessary. now, the -- the unanimous consent request that i am about to proffer is the mirror image of the same one two years ago. i want everyone to understand that, that this unanimous consent request was not denied two years ago. we went ahead and we debated and we had a vote. and that's what this unanimous consent request would do, provide us with, again, two hours of debate evenly divided in the usual form and then an up-or-down vote. and we have the time to do it. i mean, you know, what are we doing around here? one quorum call after another. people want to leave here tomorrow night, two hours of debate, a vote. that's nothing. to pass this momentous piece of
legislation. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent -- mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the majority leader, in consultation with the republican leader, the senate proceed to executive session to consider calendar number 12, the disabilities treaty document 112-7 [disability] that the treaty be advanced through the parliamentary stages, up to and include the resolution of ratification, that any committee declarations be agreed to, as applicable, that there be no amendments in order to the treaty or the resolution of ratification, that there be two hours for debate equally divided in the usual form, that upon the use or yielding back of time, the senate proceed to vote
on the resolution. that any statements be printed in the record as if read. that if the resolution of ratification is adopted, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, that the president be immediately notified of the senate's action that. if the resolution is not adopted, the treaty be returned to the calendar and that there be no motions or points of order in order other than a motion to reconsider and the senate then resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. lee: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, reserving the right to object. i'd like to note that this is a treaty that has attracted a fair amount of controversy. it's a treaty that was voted on in 2012, failed to receive the requisite two-thirds supermajority vote in order to be ratified by this body. this treaty received additional consideration earlier this year in the senate foreign relations committee on july 22, received a 12-6 vote.
there are a number of our colleagues both on and off the committee who have concerns with this treaty who would like to -- the opportunity to propose amendments along with our consideration of this document. under the proposed unanimous consent, we would not be allowed to propose any amendments and we'd be given two hours, only two hours to debate it. given the significance of treaties and the fact that they carry the effect of law of the land, once ratified, i think this body deserves more certainly than the opportunity to debate it for only two hours. and to not have the ability, to be precluded here from the opportunity to present any amendments would not be an appropriate thing for us to do. and on that basis, mr. president, i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. hark harkin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: mr. president,
another sad, irresponsible day in the united states senate. i say to my friend from utah, my friend from utah was here two years ago when we proposed the same exact unanimous consent and the senator did not object. it also did not allow for any amendments. that's usual when we have treaties up that comes through the committee. and so why is the senator from utah objecting today to even doing what we did two years ago? maybe he has the votes to defeat it. i don't know. i don't know. we won't know until we vote on it. but two years ago the senator from utah did not object to the very same unanimous consent. he says there's been a lot of controversy about it. well, that's not so. the only controversy's been raised by the tea party.
and some who i call the black helicopter crowd, people that just don't like the united nations. well, i don't care if you like the united nations or not. that's up to you. but it seems to me that we at least ought to bring it up again and debate it and see if anybody's changed their minds. we've got new people here that were not here two years ago, new senators that have not had the opportunity to express themselves on this treaty. so i -- i disagree with my friend from utah. there's no controversy over this basically. controversy? controversy? huh. here's a treaty supported by former president george h.w. bush, former president george w. bush, former president carter, former president clinton -- all
support it. every -- all the veterans' groups support it. american legion, v.f.w., iraqi-afghanistan war veterans, vietnam war veterans -- all strongly support our ratification of this treaty. the united states chamber of commerce has supported it strongly -- and i don't mean just leaning back. tom donahue, the head of the chamber of commerce, has written, has called people how important this is to the business community that we ratify it. governor engler -- former governor john engler, who is now the head of the business roundtable, brought this up to the business roundtable and they unanimously supported our ratification of this treaty. i -- i just spoke to the business roundtable group just
last evening and they were all, at least the ones i talked to individually, couldn't understand why we would block this treaty. because it's good for business. and they understand it. it's supported by the information technology industry council. that's at&t. and i just spoke with the c.e.o. of at&t last evening. strongly supports it. sprint, adobe, microsoft, all the high-tech people because they understand that we need strong, accessible standards for their products and their software across the globe. all disability groups, every single disability group in america supports this. faith-based groups across the spectrum support it. senator bob dole has worked his heart out on getting votes to
rarat my treaty. he has been on the phone -- ratify this treaty. he's been on the phone. he's made appearanced. and we have -- he's made appearances. and we have republicans on it. senator mccain. senator mccain has been strong for this from the very beginning. senator kirk, senator mark kirk. you know, he's a veteran himse himself. we had a -- we had a press conference with all the veterans' groups here not too long ago and i thought senator kirk said something very poignant. he said, you know, a lot of disabled american veterans fought in places around the world to secure our freedom. they should have the right to travel freely in other parts of
the world even though they have a disability. think about that. senator barrasso, strong supporter. senator murkowski, senator collins, senator ayotte have all worked hard on this. but for a couple of people who raise an objection, we can't bring it up. the senator from utah just objected to bringing it up. two hours of debate and an up-or-down vote? i say, look around the chamber, there's no one here. there won't be anybody here all afternoon. huh. we could have a little debate on this, two hours, they could make their case, we could make our case, a vote, what, 15 minutes? and yet the senator from utah will not let it be brought up. even though he let it be brought up two years ago. he said, well, we can't offer
amendments. well, that was the same two years ago. but they didn't object to bringing it up. so when you see all of the support that this has. and i might address an issue, mr. president, that has come up and it seems to have its genesis in the tea party. and they've raised objections on the basis that somehow by ratifying this treaty we give up our sovereignty as a nation. it erodes our sovereignty. now, that's based upon the fact that there is a commission under this treaty, there's a commission, a u.n. commission set up, 16-member commission, of experts. a commission of experts to draft standards, advise countries on
what they need to do to meet their obligations. now, again, if we are a signatory to the treaty, i have no doubt that we would get a seat on that commission. and the high-tech industry council and the business groups know that, and that's where we have our input to making sure that accessibility standards, software standards, other things are adaptable for us. our business community, our software, our hardware. so the tea party, some of these people have objected to this commission, saying that the commission can issue findings and stuff that take away our sovereignty. mr. president, we have operated at least for the last 20 years under two other treaties that
have the same kind of commission of experts and it hasn't eroded our sovereignty. do you know why? because it's only advisory. that commission has no authority to assess penalties or anything else on the united states or any other country. all they can say is, well, you should do this or you should do that but it's only advisory. how does that erode our sovereignty? and yet, mr. president, the very same people who make the argument that somehow this erodes our sofn sovereignty, wh, they'll rush to the front to vote on a trade agreement, a trade agreement like nafta or other trade agreements that we have, which do erode our sovereignty because it turns over to the world trade organization the ability to fine america, to tell us what we have to do in order to make trade right.
they have the ability to tell america what to do, and yet my friends that are objecting to this probably support those trade agreements. yet when it comes to people with disabilities, why is it that they are so adamant that we cannot join 150 other nations of the world to advance the rights of people with disabilities globally? why is it just people with disabilities that they've focused on? they didn't focus on torture. they didn't focus on -- on the worst forms of child labor. they haven't focused on any of our -- of our trade agreements. but why people with disabilities? it makes you wonder.
is this just another blatant form of discrimination against people with disabilities? now maybe, maybe some in that tea party would like to undo the americans with disabilities act. i don't know. but you can't say honestly, you can't say that, yes, the americans with disabilities act is good. it's done a lot of good for our country, for our business community, for people with disabilities. you can't say that and say, but we don't want to be involved in helping other countries advance the cause of people with disabilities, so people with disabilities in other countries have the same kind of rights, accessibilities, standards that we enjoy in this country for people with disabilities.
some people say, well, we're the best in the world on disability law and policy. that's true, we are. so why don't we shine our light around the world? president reagan always referred to america as a shining city on a hill. if you're a shining city on the hill and no one can get there and you're not willing to help other countries, what does it mean to be a shining city on a hill? is that some kind of, some kind of an idea that only us, only we can have? we are a shining city on a hill when it comes to disability rights, and we ought to be involved in spreading it globally. globally. this is our opportunity to do so. some people say, well, you know, we can work with other
countries. if they want our advice, we can go to other countries and help them with disability policy. well, think about that for a second. we don't have the personnel, the wherewithal to go to 150 separate different countries to help them in terms of changing policy. it takes kind of a collective action where we can join with other countries that have done pretty darned well. there are a lot of other countries that have done very well in disability policy, to join with them much better, much stronger that way than us just going to another country. when i was in china earlier this summer meeting with people about this treaty, which china has adopted, they've signed on, and we talked about the u.s. working with china not only in china,
but with other countries to help advance the rights of people with disabilities. china is doing some interesting things. they're starting to move ahead. but this one person said to me, what's so important about america being a part of the treaty is that when we speak to one another, we speak in a common language of the convention on the rights of people with disabilities. if you're not -- he said to me if the united states is not a part of that and you come to speak to us, you speak to us in a different manner. it's, united states, here's what we do. here's what you ought to do. that doesn't get you very far in diplomacy. but if we work with the chinese and other countries to say here's what we ought to do, here's what other countries have done. here's the standards that we ought to abide by, much more
force and effect than if we try to go it alone. i assume that there are military analogies to this. think about the present situation. should we go it alone simply because we are the most powerful, we have the biggest military, the best weapons and everything else? should we just go it alone because we're the best militarily in the world? i don't think the american people would want that. but we have to join with other countries, and sometimes ask other countries to take the lead. and we provide that strong backdrop. that's as i see it, as disabilities treaty. we have to join with other countries. how can we give up the moral leadership that we have had on
this issue both here and abroad, the moral leadership that we've had on advancing the rights of people with disabilities? how can we abdicate that? because a handful of people are afraid of our giving up our sovereignty, which is a bogus argument. bogus, because as i said, that committee is advisory only. it makes recommendations, but it has no enforcement authority whatsoever. by not ratifying this treaty, we're left behind. think about that. we, the united states, are left behind in a field in which we have carved out leadership. and we're just going to give it up. no, we don't want to lead the world. why wouldn't we want to lead the world in disability policy?
to not join 150 other countries, to not provide the leadership, to not provide the expertise that we have developed over 24 years or more relinquishes our responsibility to people with disabilities both here in america and around the world. why on earth would we want to do that? in ghana, a grad young advocate named emanuel usuva oboa. a man born with no leg but wanted to play soccer, turned his obsession to play into an advocate for helping people with disabilities.
in malawi a 21-african nation met on this issue of changing their policies, advancing the rights of people with disabilities. i was asked to go and meet with him, i couldn't because we were here in session in the senate. but that's what they're reaching out to. they want us to be involved with them to help move this issue forward. in nepal, parents of children with autism banded together to start their own school to educate their children. they want their kids with disabilities to be fully included in society, have opportunities for work and for life. they want us to be joined together with them. it is conspicuous. i was privileged to join senator
cardin earlier this summer in b baku, azerbaijan, in a meeting for the committee for security and economic development in europe, and i offered an amendment putting all the nations of europe that are in that oecd, the organization for economic cooperation and development, that we supported ratification of this treaty. it was adopted unanimously. they want the united states to be a partner in this effort. talk to a disabled veteran who would like to travel overseas maybe with his or her spouse, their children. i recently talked to a mother
whose family emigrated here from italy, wanted to go over for a big family reunion but she has a child with a disabilities, and where they were going, no accessibility. she could have gone and left her son at home, but she couldn't do that. so she missed that big family reunion because of a lack of accessibility in italy. so, mr. president, it is a sad day that one individual on the senate floor would object to bringing this up. when it has such broad support.
when it has such broad support. and, you know, i just want to say this one last thing about this issue of sovereignty. i have heard a couple of senators on the republican side talk about the fact that this commission, we give up our sovereignty, which i've said is a bogus argument. now, let me ask this question of my friends on the other side, the few who have objected to this on the grounds that we would lose our sovereignty. let me ask this question. former president george h.w. bush supports this treaty wholeheartedly. does he not understand about sovereignty? or does he not care about our sovereignty?
former president george w. bush, under whose administration this treaty was hammered out, supports it. does former president george w. bush, does he not understand this or does he just not care about our sovereignty? bob dole, he knows this treaty backwards and forwards. a world war ii hero, presidential candidate, republican leader of the senate, disabled american veteran. are those few people over there that say that this would erode our sovereignty, are they saying that they know more than senator dole? or are they saying senator dole just doesn't care about our
sovereignty? which is it? which is it? or those few that raise the issue of sovereignty, u.s. chamber of commerce doesn't care about our sovereignty? i don't think you'd like to say that to tom dunning or john engler at the business round table. of course they care. tell that to the american legion. tell the american legion they don't care about our sovereignty or they don't understand this, or they're just too stupid to understand. is that what they're saying? or are they saying they are the arbiters? they, that few, they are the arbiters of what is and is not our sovereignty. they rise above all former presidents. they rise above republican leaders, they rise above john mccain, a war hero. believe me, i think john mccain understands about our
sovereignty. he knows. he supports it wholeheartedly. are those few that raise this issue saying john mccain doesn't get it or he doesn't care about our sovereignty? which is it? which is it? in fact, john mccain does care about our sovereignty. he does get it and he knows that this doesn't erode our sovereignty one single iota. but i want to make that point because those few -- they keep raising this issue of sovereignty as though they are the guardians. they alone know what distinguishes our sovereignty and what erodes it. not former presidents, former republican leaders. in fact, every former republican leader of this senate still alive today supports this treaty. every single one of them.
my, how far we have gotten off track since the adoption of the americans with disabilities act. that was bipartisan, strongly bipartisan. and the americans with disabilities act amendments that we put through in 2008 strongly supported by both sides. and i dare say we have strong republican support for this treaty, but for a few on the republican side who just want to adhere to that tea party nostrum that somehow this erodes our sovereignty, and we can't join with them. i will kind of close where i started, mr. president. the unanimous consent that i offer today and that was objected to by the senator from utah is the same as what we had two years ago and no one objected to it.
the senator from utah was here. he didn't object two years ago. same unanimous consent; did not object. so it goes back on the calendar, goes back on the executive calendar, and it will be there. so i guess, mr. president, i would say that the action by a few on the republican side blocking ratification on the convention on the rights of people with disabilities will not be the end. i may be retiring from the senate, but i'm not retiring from this fight. i will never retire. the fight for justice and fairness and equality for people with disabilities both here and around the world. i will never retire from the fight to refute those absolutely unfounded and bogus objections
to this crucial treaty. i will continue to work with former senator bob dole, with former veterans, with business leaders, with republicans on the other side who support this treaty, with the international disability community, with our disability community. i will continue to work with them to advance this and to get it over the hurdle. the false claims, the false claims of those who object to this treaty will be overcome. we will succeed in ratifying this treaty. we will restore america's stature as the world leader on disability rights. and we will continue to fight for justice and a fair shake for people with disabilities, not just here in america but around the world. a sad day. another sad and irresponsible
the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. donnelly: i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. donnelly: mr. president, i rise today in recognition of suicide prevention month to once again bring attention to an issue that weighs heavy on many of our hearts and minds.
last month, the world paused to mourn the loss of a man who brought laughter and joy to countless lives, a man whose internal suffering didn't stop him from improving the lives of so many he touched, including our heroic men and women serving overseas. robin williams said the best audiences he ever had were the troops he entertained on u.s.o. tours. his death showed us that we may not always know who among us is living a life of unbearable pain and suffering. even the strongest among us sometimes needs a helping hand. including the brave men and women in uniform who protect our country each and every day. mr. president, today i want to once again shine a light on the scourge of military suicide. earlier this month, the department of defense released a report and it detailed the number of suicides among service members during the first quarter of 2014.
the department of defense reported that a total of 120 service members committed suicide from january through march, including 74 active component service members, 24 reserve members and 22 national guard members. in 2013, 475 service members took their own lives. in 2012, we lost 522 to suicide. we have seen two straight years of more deaths as a result of suicide than of combat in afghanistan. these men and women are giving their all to support our way of life, and they risk making the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. at a minimum, we should honor the service and sacrifice by doing all we can to support them. we all understand that this is
not a simple issue. there is no one solution to the problem. no cureall that ends it tomorrow. i do believe, though, there are commonsense steps we can take now to make meaningful progress. in may, i introduced a bipartisan jacob sexton military suicide prevention act of 2014. this legislation is named after jacob sexton, an indiana national guardsman from farmland, indiana, who took his own life while home on 15-day leave from afghanistan. building upon legislation i introduced last year, the sexton act ensures that mental health is evaluated regularly and is a central element of a service member's overall readiness in four key ways. first, it requires annual mental health assessments for all service members, including the
active duty, the guard and the reserve. right now the military provides the most effective mental health care only for those who are preparing for returning from deployment. despite the research that shows the majority of military suicides occur among service members who have never been deployed. second, it establishes a working group between the department of defense and the department of health and human services to find innovative ways to improve access to mental health care for members of the guard and reserve. where service members often rely on civilian health insurance and providers like the guard and the reserve do, we want to team up to be able to provide them with care right in their own communities. suicide among guard members hit a record high in 2013, and we are committed to bringing that number down to zero.
third, the bill requires an interagency report to evaluate existing military mental health practices and to provide recommendations for imimprovement, including peer-to-peer programs i have introduced in the past. finally, the bill ensures that seeking help remains a sign of strength. it protects the privacy of the service member coming forward because no one should be punished for seeking help, no one should be kept from their next promotion for seeking help. i introduced the bipartisan sexton act with my republican colleague, roger wicker of mississippi. since then, it has received the endorsement of numerous national organizations, including the national guard association of the united states, the american foundation for suicide prevention and the iraq and
afghanistan veterans of america. this bill is a step in the right direction in the fight against military suicide. i was encouraged when the senate armed services committee passed this legislation as part of the fiscal year 2015 national defense authorization act just in may. this is important progress, but we need to get this legislation signed into law. as the senate prepares to recess, i call on the senate to take up the ndaa as soon as we return to washington. there is no reason why this bipartisan legislation should not be passed and passed quickly just like we have for the last 52 years. our country, as all of you know, is faced with many serious issues, some of which we don't have good answers to yet, but
the sexton act is a good start to address the pressing issue of military suicide. this legislation helps save lives, helps save soldiers' lives, so let's pass the ndaa, and with it the jacob sexton act to show our service men and women that we're all in on supporting them the same way they support us. this legislation is just the beginning, combating suicide both in our military and elsewhere is an issue that continues to demand congress' attention. we must continually re-evaluate what we're doing, take a second and third look at the resources we're offering and ask ourselves every day can we do better, is there more we can do before it's too late. the answer more often than not is yes. that's why we must be vigilant
in the effort to let people know they're not aloan. there's somewhere they can go, someone to talk to and someone to help carry the load. we need to continue the conversation about what we can do to help our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives who may feel like they are struggling with seemingly insurmountable challenges all by themselves. these challenges can be overcome suicide prevention month is a reminder of that fact. there are many resources available to those who struggle with suicidal thoughts. for our service members, trained mental health specialists are available 24 hours a day through the military and veterans crisis line. all you have to do is call 1-800-273-8255.
and press one, and you will get immediate confidential assistance 24 hours a day. for additional help, military mentalhealth.org offers a free 100% unanimous mental health assessment. this is a valuable tool for service members unsure of where they stand. i hope all of our service members struggling with mental health concerns and with challenges know that we're here for them and that we're working nonstop to ensure they receive the care and support they deserve. let's continue to spread that message throughout the rest of suicide prevention month and every month thereafter. mr. speaker, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: