tv U.S. Senate CSPAN October 1, 2015 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. a senator: i move we vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: madam president, today i want to talk for a few minutes about the discussion we're having about whether to have a discussion or not, the debate we're having about
whether to have a debate or not is always amazing to me how far we've moved in such a short period of time from the way the congress always did its work. the way you set your priorities, would both at home and in the government, is how you spend your money. you might not think that's the way you set your priorities, but if you think something is really important to you and your family and you find out you're not investing either time or money, either one into it, it's probably not all that important, it's probably something you've decided is a good thing to say is important. this is the process we go through in the government to talk about what our priorities are and what could be more significant in our priorities than the bill that i'd like to see us take up today, the military construction and v.a. affairs bill, the bill that determines lots of things about not only people who serve in the military but what's available for their families.
mr. blunt: what kind of support structure is there, and of course what's with the veterans administration, what's there after you serve, how we make that commitment to our veterans that you serve as we are grateful for the government then is sure that we're always there to do what the american people have told the veterans they do if veterans did serve. we've already voted on -- we've already had votes not to go to the defense appropriating bill, a bill that's about the same amount of money the president asked for and what the president said was needed to defend the country, but apparently there is some balance somewhere in the world that i'm not aware of that no matter how much it costs to defend the country, you have to spend that much money on other things that don't defend the country, that there is a balance between what's happening in syria today and how many employees the e.p.a. needs or
how many employees the i.r.s. needs. that is obviously something than doesn't make sense to people, it doesn't make sense to me, but we couldn't get the four additional votes we needed to go to the defense appropriating bill. now, i guess in a world where the president said that he's also going to -- going to veto the defense authorizing bill, not because of what it authorizes but because of the money that eventually the appropriators would have to spend, people have to wonder what's going on here. i mean, the number-one priority of the federal government is to defend the country, and following that priority are obligation to those who do, those who serve in the military, their families, and that's what the military construction bill would do, and it actually spends a little more money than we spent this year. that appears to be everybody's complaint, that somehow the government is not spending enough money, but the appropriating committee took the
amount of money that the law allows and the budget control act did a good thing in terms of keeping spending under control. that's one of the few things that has happened in washington, d.c., in a long time that actually did put a lid on spending because it actually put a lid on spending. it actually says in the law how much money we can spend this year on discretionary spending. and so the appropriating committee, with republicans in charge for the first time in a long time, did the work for the first time in a long time. in fact, this is the first year in six years that the appropriating committee voted all the bills out of committee, marked up all the bills, cut places where the committee thought should be cut, increased places where the committee thought should be increased, and did that all at a level that the law allows. but apparently the law is not
good enough for our friends who always want to spend more money, and it's not even good enough to debate the bills that come out at the level of the law and to let those be amended and to let that work be publicly done. this worked pretty well for a long time. we're -- i think initially, madam president, there is probably one bill, probably one spending bill, but i think in the tradition of the congress, that was the one bill that in both the house and the senate you're able to debate as long as you wanted to until everybody was worn out, offering their ideas of how to spend the money better or not spend it at all. in the house, which has continued to do this except for a couple of years under speaker pelosi, an the half a dozen big bills of the 12 spending bills we have now, they traditionally have 200 and 300 amendments on each of those bills. 200 and 300 different ideas as to how to spend the money.
some of those ideas are not to spend it at all, and what could be healthier than that? but the senate is not allowed to do that. so we're asking again today, let's debate these bills. let's, of course, debate that defends the country. let's debate the bill we're talking about here that takes care of those who do. now, this bill includes $5.5 billion more money than we spent last year. i don't recall a huge hearken cry last year when this bill finally gets passed as part of one big not very appealing package at the end that we're not spending nearly enough on military construction or veterans' programs. but suddenly $5.5 billion more than we spent last year isn't nearly enough to spend this year. now, the -- the committee thought it was enough. in fact, this bill was voted out of committee. and remember, this committee has democrats and republicans on it,
27-3. 11 democrats and all the republicans said this is the best way to spend this amount of money, $5 billion more for these purposes than we spent last year let's vote that bill out so it can be debated on the senate floor. and here months later, we're still trying to get 60 senators to agree to have that debate. really we're trying to get i think five senators to agree to have that debate because all of the republicans and one democrat appear to be willing to move forward on these defense funding bills but not enough on the other side. so if we could get those -- if we get half of the democrats that voted for the bill in committee, we'd have the votes we needed to have this debate and talk about spending money. but the alternative, we should all understand, is if we don't do it this way, eventually the government has to be funded and
it will be funded in absolutely the worst possible way -- one big bill, no debate, some desperate decision at the end of the year that we have to keep the government funded. because we do have to defend the country. i'm not arguing with the decision that ultimately has to be made to defend the country. i'm not arguing with the decision that ultimately has to be made to have the military installations that allow that to happen with military construction. i'm not arguing with the decision that has to be made for the veterans affairs part of our government, including veterans' health, mental and physical health, behavioral health and other health, to be -- to be funded properly. but why aren't we doing that today? what would be wrong with debating this bill? if you're not on that committee, if you're not one of the 27 senators -- so 27% of the senate has already voted on this. let's send it to the senate floor. if you're not one of the 27 senators that voted for it or
one of the three that voted against it, bring your ideas to the floor. that's how this process is supposed to work. they may be better than what's in that bill but you'll never find out if we're not allowed to debate it. and it's regrettable for veterans and their families. we see a veterans administration that's not doing what it ought to do. you know, we've gone in a year from where the president a year ago said that the v.a. was the best funded part of his government, his government being in quote. best funded part of "his government" was the veterans administration. well, suddenly the veterans administration problems are not -- there's just not enough money. there was enough money a year ago, the president thought. but apparently not enough money now. what there's not is enough commitment to veterans in the veterans administration. we could have that debate here too. we've moved a long way in the last year to giving veterans more choices, more options, more places to go to get their health care.
that's -- that system is in its fledgling stages. it ought to be debated as we talk about how to spend money that would be spent on the veterans administration. but you can't debate it and vote on it if you can't get it -- if people aren't willing to have the vote that it takes to have that debate. so getting back to the way this process work transparently, the way it works constitutionally is what we ought to be doing. we need to have this vote today. we need to get to the defense appropriating bill. we had a vote earlier this week that i didn't support but the vote was to move forward for a few more weeks with last year's spending. last year's priorities only work for so long. when we had the situation just a few -- a couple of years ago where the budget control act had to go into effect and it went into effect because the congress didn't do its job, appropriated
more money than the law would allow so then that required that line-by-line cutting, the sequester -- not a necessary part of that law at all. it's only part of the law if the congress violates the law. and the congress violated the law. the president signed the bill. and then you go and do line-by-line cutting. and whenever we brought the leaders of our military in to talk about this, none of them were for line-by-line cutting. who would be? that's the worst possible way to reduce spending because you're not making any choices, you're just admitting you can't make any choices so everything gets cut everywhere. but every one of them said, this is a problem. but an even bigger problem in every case -- admiral mccraven in special ops said an even bigger problem than the sequester was the continuing resolution because we were cutting lines of a budget that might have met the military needs five years before that but
it hadn't been updated for five years. let's have this debate. let's move beyond saying we can't decide how to spend the money to debating how to spend the money. let's have a -- a defense structure that works for 2015 and 2016, not a defense structure that might have worked for 2010. one of the great frustrations that the people we work for have with us today is that they believe that this is not all that complicated and they're right. how complicated could it be to get elected to the united states senate to be willing to take positions and vote and then just say, let's take positions and vote? that's what this debate would be about. this debate would be about moving forward on these critical issues. i hope our colleagues will join us today. i hope there are 60 senators who say, i'm ready to have this debate, i'm ready to defend the
country, i'm ready to take care of those who do, their families, the veterans, their survivors. that's what this budget is all about. how you could walk on to the floor and say, i don't want to deal with that now. i just want to put that off a little while longer is disappointing to me and it's disappointing to lots of people. so let's get our work done, madam 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:
mr. blunt: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: ask to vitiate the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: madam president, i have 11 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority leader and the minority leader. and i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that we suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kirk: i come to the floor to urge my colleagues to approve the military appropriations bill. this bill has a $4.2 billion increase over last year's level. we passed the milcon-v.a. bill out of the full appropriations bill out of committee with democrat senators leahy, feinstein, schatz all supporting the bill with 16 republicans backing it. we have record levels of funding to fix disability claims in the v.a. we took construction out of the hands of the v.a. and gave it to the army corps of engineers so that we never have it overrun
like at the denver hospital again. the bill also banned funding for glenn hextrum, the person responsible for spending $950 million over budget in denver. the bill provides new protections for whistle-blowers, also especially for doctors and nurses protected now by the whistle-blower protection act. by voting "no" on this bill, members will be voting against a $4.2 billion increase for our veterans. thank you, madam president.
the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. tillis: thank you, madam president. i rise today to talk about a subject i touched on about a month ago regarding current trade negotiations. you know, i don't blame elected officials for pushing legislation, policy proposals or ideas that further their own state's interests. in fact, i think that that's one of the first things that we should do here is make sure that folks that elected us, that we're standing up for them. but i also think that there comes a time when we need to recognize that the long-term interest of our constituents, while they may look like they're served by some of the immediate thingdz we're doing here, in the long term they can harm us. that the why i want to talk about the current status of the t.p.p. or transpacific
partnership. i learned overnight they have tabled language which would put certain grown commodities out of the protection, trade deals, dispute settlement, isds mechanism. what they've decided to do right now relates to tobacco. by carving out tobacco from the t.p.p., the president and his administration are discriminating against an entire agriculture commodity, setting a dangerous precedent for future trade agreements. i rise today to defend the farmers, the manufacturers, exporters from the discriminating treatment in this proposed agreement. today it happens to be about tobacco, but i will do this for any crop now and for any agriculture commodity for any state going forward in the future. this is about american values and fairness. in july i stood on this same floor and i discussed the same
issue. i went out of my way to emphasize that i believe free trade is good. that's why i voted for trade promotion authority. and balanced trade agreement will benefit all of us. i also recognize the united states over the years has tried to do more with these agreements than merely haggle for market access or tariff reductions. over the past 30 years the united states has consistently imported certain components of our american system into these agreements. due process protections, dispute settlement procedures, protection of private property rights. these are now standard terms, and those who engage with the united states at the bargaining table know that they're not negotiable. they never have been. that is until yesterday. our negotiators have now concluded that while some investors are entitled to equal treatment under the law, others aren't. what our negotiators have
proposed sets the stage for the remainder of this negotiation, and for those deals that will be negotiated in the future such as the agreement with europe and future agreements with african nations. our trade agreements are now apparently nothing more than laboratories for settling partisan policies and picking winners and losers. if we condone this kind of behavior, how can we be assured it will ever end. as i stated in july, once we allow an entire sector to be treated unfairly, the question is, who's next? is it the beef industry in nebraska? is it the pork industry in states like iowa and north carolina? is it the poultry industry in delaware, north carolina, arkansas, and georgia? we need to look far beyond to find protracted, heated policy debates about any number of issues that affect trade. the consumption of coal, energy
exploration practices, the use of pesticides, the use of biotechnology, the right place for those debates is in bodies like this one, not in trade agreements. the wrong place is what's going on right now with our trade negotiators and the members to want trans-pacific partnership. and i hold a sincere belief that unfair treatment for one agriculture commodity significantly heightens the risk that more unfair treatment for another commodity lurks around the corner. i have no choice but to use this forum to make two very important points and make it very clear to the negotiators as we reach the final stages of the trans-pacific partnership negotiations. a failure to abide by the process and the terms of the t.p.a. is unacceptable. when i state that i have no choice but to use the senate floor to make these points, i mean it. a full eight weeks ago i wreath
to our trade ambassador cautioning him about this course of action and requesting that he consult with me as he was statutorily obligated in the t.p.a. to do that. to explain to those of you in the gallery, we passed a bill that said that we wanted to provide the president with trade promotion authority. we wanted to empower representatives of the united states to negotiate with trading partners that are in the trade promotion trans-pacific partnership. wheated -- we wanted to promote that. we set a groundwork for being able to do that. they had to review with congress some of the proposed items of the agreement that may be the most contentious about intellectual property, about the carveout. but today i have had absolutely no additional communication from the ambassador or his designees. in other words, it's been lights out. in fact, i would defy -- or i
would ask any member of the senate do they honestly know what currently is in the agreement in the t.p.p. which is being in my mind pushed forward and pushed to a point where we'll have a simple up-or-down vote? i think it's in violation of the letter and spirit of the t.p.a. as a result. the last time anybody spoke to me about the provision that has to do with the carveout i was told it is something partners were insisting on. the actions of the last 24 thowrs, namely -- hours, namely that the u.s. table the language in question raises doubts about that assertion. the failure to abide by the substance of the provisions of t.p.a. puts the privileged status of the proposed treaty at risk, and it's something that i'm going to spend a lot of time focusing on. in addition to the blatant failure to communicate, i would remind this body that you have already, in bipartisan fashion,
disavowed this kind of language. in the t.p.a., congress said that opportunities for the u.s. agriculture exports must be substantially equivalent to opportunities afforded foreign exports in u.s. markets. congress has stated the dispute settlement mechanisms must be available across the board, not selectively. i voted to give the president trade promotion authority to allow trade agreements like the t.p.p. to move through congress in quick, orderly and responsible fashion. congress granted the president trade promotion authority with the mutual understanding his administration would negotiate deals in good faith. it did not vote to give the president and the administration the freedom to indiscriminately choose when fairness should be applied and when it should be ignored. if the president chooses to arbitrarily ignore t.p.a. provisions he doesn't like, then congress is obliged to honor -- not obliged to honor the
fast-track status. if any carveout is included in the t.p.p., i will work hard to defeat it. i might add that our own majority leader has expressed concerns over this and has expressed the same sentiment to the trade negotiation team. in closing, i would like to offer this to anyone who believes my sticking up for tobacco or this particular provision for equal treatment and american values is shortsighted. i want you to know that i would do this -- i would do it for beef in nebraska, for pork in iowa, for poultry in delaware, for any farmer who is being unfairly carved out as a result of the administration's desire to put provisions in a trade agreement that simply shouldn't be there and they have not been there historically. to my members of the senate and to the american people and the farmers out there, i want you to know i'm going to continue this fight. i also want you to know that i think there's a growing sense of
concern, whether it's senator hatch, senator mcconnell or a number of other senators who regardless of how they feel about this particular issue with tobacco, the provision in such a trade agreement is unacceptable. i hope our trade negotiators recognize that we are focusing a lot of attention on this and they risk putting together a good trade agreement that we'd all like to get behind as a result. thank you, madam president.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: mr. president, for 50 years the land and water conservation fund has done amazing work protecting our lands, our waterways, our forests, our state and local parks and critical wildlife habitats. this is particularly true in new hampshire, where since 1965, lwcf has funded more than 650 individual projects in new hampshire. just this month, new hampshire received eight new lwcf grants which will allow new hampshire communities to develop outdoor recreation facilities in dover, which is close to where i live, to renovate osgood pond in milford and so many other
projects. in the last couple of months, i've had a chance to go around new hampshire and visit so many of these projects that were done because of lwcf grants. and one of the things that really struck me about them is that they're not for big projects, although some have been used towards doing that. the silvio conte national wildlife preserve that crosses new hampshire, was started with republican judd gregg from new hampshire, with his help, lwcf has helped with that. but so many of these grants have been used for small projects in communities like meredith in new hampshire, where i visited. they've been able to expand the park along the lake so that people not only from meredith but from across the state and other parts of the country when they're visiting can come and sit and enjoy the water. they've been able to put in new docks with those projects so
that people can get out on the lake on boats and enjoy the water. without lwcf, those projects would not have been possible. and it gets people out into the outdoors who otherwise wouldn't be able to do that. federal and state lwcf funds are also violates to the outdoor -- also vital to the outdoor recreational industry in new hampshire. that's one of our biggest industries. it accounts for $4.2 billion in consumer spending. $1.2 billion in wages and salaries. and nearly 50,000 jobs. and the importance of these projects and the conservation efforts that are the result of lwcf to the tourism sector and our economy, to our outdoor industry, they cannot be overstated. now, there has been bipartisan support for lwcf really since its inception back in the 1960's, and there is a bill that senator burr has introduced --
and i'm a cosponsor of -- that would extend lwcf for 60 days. unfortunately last night, lwcf expired. its authorization ended as of september 30. and the effort to reauthorize the program, to invoke senator burr's and this bipartisan legislation was defeated. and when they objected to a simple short-term extension of lwcf, our republican friends indicated it was because they believe most lwcf funding goes to federal land acquisition. well, i would like the record to reflect that this is just not the case. i have seen it firsthand in new hampshire in those projects that i've talked about. i would bet the presiding officer has seen it in north
carolina, the support that lwcf has provided. in fact, during the last 10 years, lwcf funds have been split about 50/50 between federal agencies and states. and in new hampshire, what these federal grants do is to leverage state support and private support and local support. move, most federal lands that are acquired with lwcf funds are within the existing boundaries of federal parks, refuges, forests and other recreation areas. and consolidating these lands helps reduce federal maintenance and management costs and saves taxpayer dollars, and it enhances the experience that visitors have to these areas. for example, in 2014, 39 of 40 40lwcf national forest acquisitions expanded access to property already managed by the federal government, that had
been previously closed to the public. so this is not about keeping the public off these lands. this is about helping make sure the public can get on these lands and benefit from them and enjoy them. so i'm really disappointed that we have seen a few people blocking the extension of this program in a way that affects every single state in this country. our failure to act has significant consequences for each and every state. the expiration of this program jeopardizes access to public lands for hunting and fishing, which is one of the great benefits that we have in new hampshire that we use these lands for. it prohibits access to other outdoor activities that are important and unique to our american heritage. and this is going to adversely impact our nation's outdoor
recreation, conservation and preservation economy. in new hampshire, our whole outdoor industry is affected. that outdoor industry contributes over $1 trillion to our nation each year and it supports millions of american jobs. now, i think it's critical that we pass a short-term extension to keep this program operating but ultimately what we need to do is pass a bill that permanently reauthorizes and fully funds lwcf, something that a majority of this body, a bipartisan majority, supports doing. now, i'm going to continue working to pass a permanent authorization. i know that senator burr, my colleague from new hampshire, senator ayotte, other people who are on this bill feel the same way. but i think in the meantime, we should not allow lwcf to lapse any longer. so in a minute, i'm going to
renew a unanimous consent request that was made last night by my colleague from new mexico, senator heinrich, to pass a 60-day extension. now, i recognize that this request is going to be objected to by senator lankford, who i see on the floor here, but i just want to remind us all that less than two weeks ago, 53 senators wrote the senate majority leader urging action to reauthorize lwcf. and to the 12 republican senators who signed that letter, i say this -- i hope you will work with us to correct the misconceptions and the mischaracterizations about this program that exists. and let's work together so we can allow this short-term extension to pass. and let's work together to get a long-term reauthorization for the land and water conservation fund. because lwcf has expanded
outdoor opportunities in every single state in the country. we should come together to support the land and water conservation fund to protect one of america's most essential tools for conservation and economic growth. so with that, mr. president, i would unanimous consent that the energy and natural resources committee be discharged and that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. 2101, and i ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. lankford: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: reserving the right to object. mr. president, i do object to this bill moving forward on a unanimous consent today. and the issue is, this bill needs reform. i enjoy our national parks. my children enjoy our national parks.
29% of the united states is already under federal ownership. 29% of our federal -- of all of the united states is under federal ownership. and a significant portion of this, in account far, last year it was $306 million that was spent from the lwcf, $178 million was for new land acquisition. so the bulk of what this program is used for is used for new land acquisition. but the real issue to address here is not only what happens if we allow it to happens, but what happens with it day to day? the day-to-day operation is for putting in a state grant to have them buy new state facilities, not maintain it. we're not setting aside the money to maintain it. we have an $11.5 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national parks right now. the new dollars are used to be able to pick up new properties, not to be able to maintain what we currently v so the challenge that i have is, why don't we look at this fund in a new way? why can't we take care of what
we already have and not just focus on acquiring new properties? to leave the lwcf as it currently is would be akin to saying i want to buy a new car but i don't want to set aside money to actually put gas in it. i just want to have the new car. if we're going to have that property, we better take care of t and currently the federal government is a terrible steward of the land that we have. now, as far as this program, this program is not reauthorized. the program currently has $20 billion in reserve right now. $20 billion. last year $306 million was spent, the year before, $306 million was spent in lwcf, mean in current status right now, if we don't put a single dime into lwcp for the next few years, we'll only have 65 years of reserve left in this program. it's not a crisis that we need
to fix immediately. this authorization doesn't keep the program going. this authorization means we're not adding new money to the $20 billion already in reserve. i think we have at least 64 years to be able to work this out. in a 65-year reserve. i can't imagine it would take that long, but with this senate, everything seems to take too long. mr. president, what we're looking for is pretty straight forward is simple. let's spend some of these dollars to focus not just on buying new properties but on actual thraiking care of the properties that -- actually taking care of properties that the united states has the responsibility to maintain much toss reform this program in the days ahead and to make sure we're managing new land as well not just adding new land all the time. so, with that, i do object to it. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mrs. shaheen: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: i would be all for taking the backlog of funding and putting it into
lwcf. and i think that my colleague raises some real reforms that could be made to lwcf. and in fact there is legislation in the comprehensive energy bill that senator murkowski and cantwell have passed that would make some of those reforms. but if we can't get to that, if we can't extend this program in the short term, we're never going to get to that point. and the fact is that the backlog of maintenance needs to be addressed. but it doesn't make sense for us to suspend the program while we address those needs. lwcf was not established for maintenance purposes. it was established to protect natural areas and to provide recreation opportunities to the american public. when i went to the city of mash walkers the second -- of nashua, the second-largest city in new hampshire, and walked with the
republican a long the river walk that they're trying to establish there, what i heard from her is what a critical lwcf made to the city and being able to leverage funds that the city put in and that the state could put in to help make sure that the people of nashua, many of whom can't get to national parks or to the white mountains in new hampshire, but they could get to the riverwalk through downtown nashua. those are the kinds of projects that lwcf goss hel goes to help. 99% of what federal agencies spend going to acquire inholdings. pieces of land that are already within the boundaries of a national park, a national forest or a national wildlife refuge that if stoled a private developer would -- that if sold to a private developer would damage park resources, harm the visitor experience, and it would make it harder to maintain those very projects that my colleague is talking about wanting to
maintain. so i think, while it sounds simple to say there's a backlog so we shouldn't reauthorize this program, that is only half the story, and it's very disappointing that with the strong bipartisan support this legislation has, with the need to reauthorize it, to continue to protect special places in the country, that we're seeing opposition from a very few people in this body who are able to block our moving forward. so, mr. president, i would like to, if i could, move on to address a different issue. and i hope that we will see some cooperative agreement at some point in the future. i also want to urge
consideration of the nomination of gayle smith to serve as the administrator of the united states agency for international development. also known as usaid. i'm here with my colleague, senator coons, from the foreign relations committee to talk about this nominee because this is a noncontroversial nominee of a seasoned public servant for a position that should be above partisanship. so it's really disappointing that, again, there's only one person in this body who's holding this up, and this comes at a particularly difficult time because we're witnessing a humanitarian crisis in syria and across the middle east. it is a crisis that goes -- grows worse every day. our european allies are struggling to cope with a massive refugee and migration crisis without precedent since
world war ii. and the united states' ability to provide humanitarian relief has played a leading role, but there's more we can do to assist both the syrian refugees and the neighboring countries that are hosting them. to help with that humanitarian crisis. but our ability to respond effectively to these challenges is hampered by the inability of the senate to vote on gayle smith's nomination to lead usaid. so again, nearly four months have passed since she appeared before the senate foreign relations committee. the committee approved her nomination by a voice vote in july. since then there has been no attempt to bring her nomination to the senate floor, even as these humanitarian crises have deepened and deteriorated. and it is not only our operations in the middle east that are being hampered. usaid currently operates more than 60 countries -- in 60 countries and regional missions around the world.
following the devastating earthquake in nepal in april, usaid disaster assistance response teams were among the first to deploy there to organize the humanitarian response. usaid personnel continue to support our development efforts in afghanistan. those efforts are critical to the long-term success in the country. and given the extraordinary humanitarian crises confronting the u.s., confronting our allies and the world, we really need a leader in place at usaid. it's unconscionable that here we are four months later and she's still being stalled. gayle smith is a superbly qualified nominee who will almost certainly be confirmed by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote. the senate serves the chance to vote on this critical nomination. so again, i urge the majority leader to bring her nomination to the floor. we discussed it again today in
the foreign relations committee, and i know my colleague from delaware can speak also to what we heard in the foreign relations committee. so i would yield to my colleague from delaware to discuss what we've heard in the foreign reels committee about gayle smith and the need to put her in this place as leader of usaid. mr. coons: mr. president, confirmation and expiration are issues before us today. as we've heard from the member from new hampshire, the senate foreign relations committee on which we both serve months ago considered the nomination of gayle smith to be the next administrator of us aivmen u us. today 60 million people are displaced throughout the world. it is the single greatest refugee crisis since the end of the second world war. and gayle sminl came before our
committee and received commendation, plaudits from republicans and democrats for her long experience as a leader in humanitarian agencies, as a member of the national security council, as a cofounder of the modernizing foreign assistance network as a seasoned and senior leader who could help bring strong leadership to usaid at this difficult and important time. four months later, she has yet to be confirmed by this body. we have broad, bipartisan support for this nominee. yet fail to move her forward due to a hold by one member. i think this points to a longer chchallenge this that this body faces. you also heard attempts to move forward the land and water conservation fund which yesterday expired. i cannot yield without commenting on how hard i worked in the previous congress to get reauthorized two critical
programs -- a bulletproof vest partnership program that for years provided tens of millions of dollars to state and local law enforcement for lifesaving bulletproof vests and a reauthorization effort i led for years -- bot, both of these with bipartisan support, to restore authorization to child advocacy centers, centers that critically support families who have been harmed by child abuse and allow local law enforcement to pursue effective prosecutions. it is unconscionable that this body yesterday, september 30, allowed the land and water conservation fund to expire, allowed a whole range of child nutrition and school lunch authorizing programs to expire, and allowed the james zadroga 9/11 first responders act to expire. one of the very first bills i cosponsored and was proud to support as a new senator five
years ago was the james zadroga 9/11 first responders act which provides support for those who raced to the site of the 9/11 catastrophe, risked their lives and today suffer lasting health effects from it. the idea that this body allowed that funding to expire yesterday and that many of the folks who are the beneficiaries of that fund now face the extinction of their medical support is unacceptable to me. so before i yield the floor, i simply wanted to commend my colleague for raising the issue of gayle smith's nomination at this unique time of global humanitarian challenges. usaid cannot effectively do its job without a confirmed leader, d. and to remind everyone in this body that when we fail to work together, when bills expire, it has real consequences. not just for humanitarian issues overseas but for our own first responders whom we are pledged to support.
i say it is a shame on this body that we allowed the 9/11 james zadroga first responders act to expire, that we allowed the authorizing statute for the summer lunch and school lunch programs to expire, and that we've allowed the land and water conservation fund to expire, and it is my hope that we will begin to work together in this place and to stop allowing nominations to rest for months unaddressed and to stop allowing the expiration of valuable statutes that underlie our security at home and abroad. thank you, and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cotton: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i ask consent to speak for up to five minutes, after which point i'll be followed by the senator from montana. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cotton: three years ago when president obama's opponent heard that -- or when -- three years ago when president obama's opponent said that russia was our chief geopolitical rival,
president obama chuckled, said the 1980's called and they want their foreign policy back. wrl now the 1930's are calling president obama and they want their foreign policy back. yesterday was the anniversary of munich. how fitting that russia conducted its first major military operations outside of its in syria yesterday, because the president's foreign policy has invited exactly this kind of provocation all around the world. president obama and secretary kerry keep saying that they don't know what russian intentions are. they don't know what russia's goals are in the region. russia is an enemy. vladimir putin is a k.g.b. k.g.b. spy who used the world as a zero-sum game. he intends to prop up bashar assad. in the median term he wants to either preserve assad or he wants to replace him with a likemingedded alifetime he wants
to diminish u.s. power and prestige in the region, establish russia as the main middle east powerbroker and he wants to divert ateption from his continued occupation of ukraine. in the long term, he sees an opportunity to divide the e.u. and divide nato. at lower risk than it would take to conduct military operations against quuns like he i estoniar latvia. if europeans are going to be divided, imagine what could happen when putin turns up the heat in syria and drives hundreds of thousands more refugees into europe. how does this come to pass? why does he think he can get away with all this? because of the unending series of con s.ments and appeasements of vladimir putin before he was even elected to office in 2008 when he invaded georgia. barack obama, then a candidate, called for georgia to exercise restraint while they were under invasion. just a couple of months later, he called for a reset while there were still russian troops
on georgian soil. a few months after that, he withdrew missile defense systems from the czech republic and poland. on the 70th anniversary of russia's invasion of poland, without so much as a head's-up and without getting anything in return. he entered into the new start treaty which allows russia to continue to grow their nuclear forces while requiring the united states to reduce ourselves. in a hot mic moment, he was caught with da -- i did -- dimitri i medveded. he continues to look the other way as russia violates the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. he jumped at the opportunity that vladimir putin provided him in 2013 to avoid carrying out his airstrikes in syria to enforce his own red line. just as in georgia, when vladimir putin incaided crimea, he demanded restraint. when vladimir putin began to conduct operations in eastern
ukraine, he looked the other way, he imposed weak sanctions. to this day, he refuses to arm them in the ways that they are desperately calling for. so what should we do now? again, i think it's pretty simple. let me lay it out. we should make it clear that vladimir putin and russia will not be a power in the middle east. we should pressure our partners to do the same thing. we should establish no-fly zones in syria and make it clear that any aircraft that enters those zones will be shot down. we should make it clear that we will fly where we want and when we want, that any aircraft in syria, or, for that matter, in the vicinity of the country that turns off his transponder, will be shot down as a civil menace to us and our allies. we should ramp us our airstrikes in syria. we should threaten iran with termination of the nuclear deal because they are continuing to provide support for bashar al-assad. we should make it clear that israel retains the right to interdict missile shipments from iran through syria to the terrorist group lez -- hezbollah. let's not forget about ukraine.
we should arm ukrainian forces. we should give them intelligence they need on russian forces and rebels that are massing on their border. we should enhance sanctions by expanding them throughout all sectors. we should move troops to base them at least not temporarily at least perm not -- permanently. some say this will be provocative. but where will putin's intentions end. putin is humiliating the united states. if we don't draw a line now and enforce it, it will not be a choice between humiliation or war. it will be a choice between humiliation and war. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you, mr. president. i do want to go back to the good senator from new hampshire's comments on the land and water conservation fund and i want to associate myself with her remarks. and i also want to add to the record that there is a fair
amount of money that is spent in land acquisition. that's not a bad thing. get some of the outholdings become inholding. and if you are a fisherman or a hunter in this country, access and habitat is a huge issue in the land and water conserve -- and the land and water conservation fund is all about hunters and fishermen and bird watchers and all those folks. and habitat for big game and fisheries. and for this -- for this fund to expire for the first time ever is a travesty. and you're right, we've spent 306 million bucks on it the last two years. we were supposed to have spent $900 million on this fund and that's why there is the reserve there is. and quite frankly, if you take a look at the united states and you take a look at the inholdings and you take a look at the recreational opportunities out there, $306 million isn't enough. but yet this fund has expired.
not authorized. in montana alone, just for the record, recreational opportunities add $6 billion -- with a "b" -- to our state. $6 billion to our economy, employs over 4,000 people. -- 64,000 people. and that doesn't count the businesses that move to montana for the recreational opportunities nor the people who come to work for those businesses for the recreational opportunity. just wanted to get that in the record. now i want to talk about the bill that's under consideration right now. the military construction-v.a. appropriations bill. and i want to express my opposition to that bill. why? we just heard a presentation from a senator here a minute ago that talked about shooting down planes and potentially going to war. the cost it takes -- the amount that it costs to take care of our veterans is a cost of war,
and we are underfunding the v.a. today by over $800 million. i want to express my deep disappointment in the majority's inability to recognize the true cost of sending this nation's young men and women into harm's way. veterans day is six weeks from now. many of the folks in this chamber will go back to their home states and will be attending ceremonies and taking photos of men and women that are in uniform, give speeches and talk about our profound gratitude to the veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for this country. in the meantime, you'll see a flurry of press statements from senators oftentimes patting themselves on the back for expanding benefits to veterans or enhancing quality or timeliness of their care. on or you're hear senators and congressmen lamenting on the lack of leadership within the v.a. and taking the v.a. to task
for not performing up to their expectations. but there's one thing that many of those members of congress won't do and that is give the v.a. the resources it needs to serve the men and women who have served this country. in the military. right now the v.a. is under greater demand for services and subject to a higher degree of accountability than at any other time in this department's history. after a decade of war in the middle east, that demand should be expected to be high. after recent allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing, that accountability is absolutely warranted. but the standard that we're holding the v.a. to should be the standard that we hold ourselves to. is congress doing the very best that it can do to ensure that our nation's veterans can access the health care and the benefits that they've earned? mr. president, given the
appropriations bill before us, the answer to that question is, no, we're not. our job is to make sure that the veterans -- that the v.a. is working for all veterans. and to make sure that it can work for all veterans. that means holding it is v.a. accountable -- that means holding the v.a. accountable and ensure that it operates in full transparency. but that also means that the v.a. has to have the capacity to meet the current needs of the demand for its services. and to meet those demands into the future. it requires rigorous oversight. today's president understands that. there's no doubt about that. but it also requires giving the v.a. the tools and resources it needs to get the job done. let's be clear. i believe this bill sets the v.a. up for failure. folks on the other side are demanding that the v.a. fix
itself. but in order for it to fix itself, you have to give it the tools it needs to do that. we're refusing to do that in this bill. we're setting the v.a. up for failure and that failure will result in failing our veterans. if this bill is enacted, it could mean that 68,500 fewer veterans receiving the v.a. medical care that they need next year. veterans like a constituent of mine from reid point, montana. this man had an eye exam in early february, received a prescription for a new pair of glasses. he was told that he would receive them in four to six weeks. but due to a large backlog, he did not receive them until july. it took five months to get this man glasses. now, how are we going to improve the quality of care for veterans if the v.a. budget isn't where it needs to be? take the story of perry. 67 years old.
he's 100% service-connected disability due to agent orange exposure in vietnam. he relies on the v.a. for lifesaving cancer treatment. without chemotherapy and specialty carry, his prognosis is not good. and to make matters worse, the v.a. can only approve six appointments at a time, which is a real challenge for perry, because he's receiving treatments five days a week. so every week he has to fill out another round of paperwork to qualify for medical care. these are real folks that served our country. they're veterans who have real issues. with the v.a. today, at current funding levels. do we think these problems are going to be easier to solve if we give them an underfunded budget? they won't be. over the last 14 years, we have fought two wars in the middle east. almost 10,000 americans are still involved in a fight in of afghanistan at this very moment.
for them, this war is far from over. and for many people in this chamber -- some who led us into the war in iraq -- they refuse to admit that these are also the true costs of war, taking care of our veterans. when we send young men and women over there and put these wars on america's credit card, as we did, financed by china, japan and others, we do not bother to factor in what it would cost to meet their health care and education requirements when they come back home. honoring our commitment to veterans is a cost of war and one that we should never forget about. those who came home are now suffering from physical wounds but also wounds we can't see. as i said yesterday, at least 22 veterans are taking their own lives every single day. a billion dollars less won't help the v.a. get these men and women back on their feet. and give them the mental health
care that they need. the v.a. also faces unprecedented demand for new treatment of diseases like hepatitis "c" that are shorter in duration, with fewer side effects, that have cure rates -- and this is very good news -- approaching 100%. but they cost money. and as vietnam veterans reach retirement age, that means nearly half of this nation's veteran population will be 65 years of age or older. they're entitled to their v.a. care. after all, they have earned it and they're going to need more and more of that care in the years ahead. my home state of montana is second highest per capita in veterans' population in this country. it's a rural state where distance poses a major obstacle to care. the choice act that we passed and was enacted last year was designed to address many of those obstacles that rural veterans face. the v.a. is also working to establish residency programs in rural states to encourage
medical providers to locate in those rural states. we need to build off of these efforts and work to ensure that they're carried out as we intended and as the veterans deserve. while cutting pay for v.a. providers helped bring more medical professionals to montana or alaska or oklahoma or north carolina? the answer's no. i go home nearly every weekend and when i travel around the state, i talk to veterans and they tell me that getting in the door of that v.a. can be very frustrating. shortchanging the v.a.'s medical facilities doesn't solve that problem. not allowing the v.a. to hire for doctors and nurses doesn't solve that problem. so today we need to fix this bill. because the folks who sacrificed so much for this country deserve nothing less. i yield the floor.
the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: snore mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. burr: mr. president, i yield back all time. the presiding officer: without objection, all time is yielded back. 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 motion to proceed to calendar number 98, h.r. 2029, an act making appropriations for military construction and so forth and for other purposes. 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 motion to proceed to house
resolution 2029, an act making appropriations for military construction, the department of veterans affairs and related agencies for the fiscal year ending september 30, 2016, and for other purposes shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote: vote: