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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  November 10, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm EST

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tuesday. in an hour lawmakers will turn to the defense programs and policy bill. a final passage vote scheduled for a plug-in:20. the house passed the bill last week after president obama v. code the war funding. now live to the senate floor. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal father, inspire our lawmakers to give you their best. striving to serve you and country, may they refuse to bring you the leftovers of their time, talents and trust. inspired by your providential movements in our world,
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help them to raise the bar of their expectations. remind them that you can accomplish through them more than they can ask or imagine. lord, today we pay tribute to all american veterans, living or dead. we praise you for the gift of people who were willing to serve their country honorably during times of war and peace. inspired by their exemplary lives, grant to us all a new dimension of compassion, courage and competence. use us to touch your world and
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leave it better than we found it. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: for the information of all senators, this morning the senate will resume consideration of the milcon-v.a. appropriations bill. several amendments were agreed to yesterday, and we expect more to be considered before we complete action on the bill. senator kirk and senator tester expect to wrap up consideration today, so any senators with amendments to the bill should be talking to the two managers. we'll have a roll call vote on the ndaa at approximately 11:20, and i hope to vote on passage of the milcon-v.a. appropriations bill shortly thereafter. if we can complete action on ndaa, milcon-v.a. and send a long-term highway bill to conference later today, that will allow the senate to adjourn for the veterans day holiday.
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now, madam president, like many of my colleagues, i plan to commemorate veterans day with the people i am honored to represent here in the senate. i'll join kentuckians at a ceremony in shelbyville's veterans memorial park. hands will be put to heart as the star-spangled banner is played. heads will bow in reverence as 106 names are read aloud. each a kentuckian who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others. each a reminder of our enduring debt to america's men and women in uniform. i'm proud to represent the nearly 330,000 kentuckians who served in the armed forces. i'm also proud to represent the many thousands of soldiers and their families who reside in or hail from our great commonwealth, whether at fort knox, fort campbell, the bluegrass army depot or beyond.
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i recently had a chance to meet some of kentucky's brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who currently serve in afghanistan and iraq. sadly, a nato helicopter had just crashed in kabul, killing five people, including two american service members. i was honored to take part in a prayer service led by a chaplain from lexington, kentucky. and the occupant of the chair was with me at the time. what an incredibly humbling moment it was. the tragic crash, a stark reminder of the incredible danger our service men and women face every day and a stark reminder of what all americans owe them. veterans should know that they have many champions fighting for them here in the senate. one of them is senator isakson, the chair of the veterans' affairs committee. under his leadership, the committee has actively sought to do right by the men and women who never hesitate to do right by us.
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he sent important legislation to the senate floor that we have been able to pass on a bipartisan basis and that the president has signed into law. one law we passed would improve the veterans choice program, for instance, while another, the clay hunt suicide prevention for american veterans act, would help reduce the tragedies that befall too many of our heroes and the heartbreak that befalls too many of their families. important veterans' affairs committee oversight has also been brought to bear on an agency that's lost the trust of many it serves. that's the v.a. of course, there is much more to be done. veterans deserve the very best and the v.a. crisis will not be resolved easily or quickly. but working together, there is a lot we can do for the men and women who risk their all for their country. one way to do so is by passing the veterans funding bill that's before us. it's the result of great work by another champion of veteran
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senator kirk, chair of the military construction and veterans' affairs subcommittee of appropriations. just like senator isakson's veterans' affairs committee, the subcommittee led by the senator from illinois has been -- has done great work for veterans and sending important legislation like this to the floor. we'll pass one important measure today. senator kirk's bill would fund the health care and the benefits our veterans rely on. it would support military families by funding the housing, schools and health facilities that sustain them. it would provide support for medical research for women's health and for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury. and in kentucky, it would provide funding for a special operations headquarters at fort campbell, for educational facilities at fort knox and for design work for a new medical center in louisville. senator kirk's bill would also fund reforms designed to help address the crisis we have seen at the v.a.
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these reforms would allow for greater national and regional progress in reducing claims, backlogs, and they would deploy important protections for whistle-blowers as well. it's obvious why our veterans deserve this bill right now. let's not wait a moment longer. let's pass this important legislation later today. the men and women who have worn our uniform have had to wait long enough for it already. we'll also turn to legislation today that the men and women who currently wear our uniform have had to wait too long for. when senator mccain says that it's the first duty of the federal government to protect the nation, he means it. he knows what it means to serve. he knows what it means to sacrifice. and in his role as chair of the armed services committee, he worked hard to craft a bipartisan defense authorization bill with input from both parties. it would transform bureaucratic waste into crucial investments for our troops and their families like the raises they've earned and the quality of life
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programs they deserve. it would provide hope for wounded warriors and extend a hand of compassion to heroes who struggle with mental health challenges. it would also authorize the new medical facility at fort knox, an important project i've championed literally for years. and at a time when our country faces the most diverse and complex array of crises since the second world war, as henry kissinger observed, senator mccain's bill would help position our military to confront the challenges of tomorrow as it offers support to the men and women serving in harm's way today. the defense authorization bill is legislation we typically consider every year. it's legislation that typically passes with broad bipartisan support. we expect that to finally happen again today. we expect the president to finally sign it this time. this should have been allowed to happen a whole lot sooner.
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we all know the unfortunate and unnecessary roadblocks the defense authorization bill has faced this year. we all know the president decided to veto the version of the bill we passed last month. the veto is particularly unfortunate and puzzling given the two chief concerns the president cited when he vetoed it. one, he said he was concerned that the bill relied upon contingency funding to meet the department's operational costs. two, he said he was concerned that the bill again contained a clear bipartisan prohibition on moving guantanamo bay terrorists into our local communities. but the bill really hadn't changed much since then, and the top line has now been settled by the bipartisan budget agreement. either way, we look forward to the senate passing this essentially unchanged legislation and the president signing the bipartisan bill, along with, along with its
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restrictions against bringing terrorists into the united states. this bill will include restrictions on bringing terrorists into the united states, and he's going to sign it. that's the right thing for our men and women in uniform, and that's the right thing for our country. before i leave the floor, i'd like to underline the point i just referenced. this morning, the senate will pass two bills. we'll pass a veterans funding bill that supports americans who already served their country. we'll pass a defense authorization bill that supports americans who are currently serving. each of these bills contains a clear bipartisan prohibition on the president moving guantanamo terrorists into the back yards of the american people. both of these bills include restrictions on moving terrorists into our country.
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the senate has voted many times over the years to enact these bipartisan prohibitions. we've enacted them in congresses with split party control. we've enacted them in congresses with mossive overwhelming democratic majorities. and today, the congress elected by the american people will express itself clearly one more time -- not once, not once but twice, today. the president may not like this bipartisan action, it may conflict with the campaign slogan from eight or nine years ago, but here's how one senator put it. congress' job is to pass legislation. the president can seat -- veto it or he can sign it. that was then-senator obama as he was criticizing the idea of doing an end run around congress. i believe in the constitution,
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he said at the time, senator obama, and i will obey the constitution of the united states, said senator obama. those were his words then. they should guide his actions now. employment the democratic leader. mr. reid: as i mentioned yesterday morning, the republican leader is right about a lot that he talked about, the military construction and v.a. but one thing he glossed over. our democratic caucus is holding firm, the veterans have $2 billion more than they would have had we followed the republicans' lead.
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$2 billion more. 70,000 veterans will be treated that wouldn't have been otherwise. so we're satisfied this bill is a good bill and it's a good bill because veterans are getting $2 billion more. and there are other reasons, of course. i think the bipartisan support we got for the bill was important, but for veterans, the most important part was $2 billion extra. mr. president, the fifth circuit yesterday was a political move that ignores past presidents on executive action on immigration. like every republican before him, the republicans have spoken out against present action on what he's done on immigration. why did he do it? because he was trapped. he had to do it because republicans refused to legislate. and like every president before him, president obama has the legal authority to establish clear immigration enforcement priorities and allocate
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resources accordingly. every president has done this. but the attorney general of texas and 25 other republican governors and attorney generals filed a lawsuit stating that the president had exceeded his authority. this decision affects millions of american families who are now subject to being torn apart. and as many as 5 million immigrants who could be set for mass deportation. i expect the administration will swiftly appeal the decision of the supreme court. i'm very confident that the court will find the actions lawful. it's sad the republicans are wasting their time talking about mass deportation when they could be doing things to solve the problem. like passing a bill that reforms our immigration system once and for all. the republican party has neglected the lessons of the 2012 elections and have plunged over a cliff following donald trump, ben carson and the others. the executive actions were
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neither a complete nor permanent solution to the problems plaguing the immigration problem, but they were in the face of inaction. as judge carolyn king said yesterday, "a mistake has been made" so it's now up to the united states supreme court to correct this grave mistake, a mistake that sets not only a dangerous precedent but one that's bad for families, communities and bad for the future prosperity of our country. as again judge king said, "a mistake has been made. "madam president, yesterday i addressed the republicans and the remarks that he gave regarding the iran nuclear agreement. and i want to just talking a little bit now more directly about his remarks that he made yesterday.
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-- regarding the iran nuclear agreement. in short, no matter how republicans misrepresent the iran nuclear agreement, the agreement brought about the long-sought goal of preventing iran from having a nuclear weapon. the agreement does nothing more, nothing less. it prevents iran from having a nuclear wevmen weapon. madam president, later today the republican leader and i will host israeli prime minister netanyahu, as we've done on other occasions. it's always a pleasure to meet with prime minister netanyahu and reaffirm america's long-standing commitment to the security of israel israel knows it has an ally in the united states. in fact, no greater ally in the world than our great country. while some republicans in congress are trying to drive a false narrative of acrimony between the united states and israel, i choose to see the full picture. and the full picture is one of strength and cooperation and
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shared interest. israel has always and will always depend on the united states to be by its side. that's why the united states and israel are negotiating right now a new ten-year memorandum of understanding on security assistance. much of yesterday's meeting between the president of the united states and the prime minister of israel centered on the continued assistance that we provide israel. israel's interests will always be protected by the united states in matters that come before the united nations, as israel, conversely, has always protected the interests of the united states before the united nations. in recent years we've seen a resolution before the united nations general assembly and the human rights council that unfairly targeted the people of israel. the administration has denounced such efforts, but we must also stand gunshot palestinian -- stt palestinian attempts to go around the peace process. wherever, whenever and however the united states will always stand by israel.
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madam president, i share the republican leader's hope that we can conclude the military construction-v.a. bill later this morning. i commend the managers of that legislation for doing a good job. there's no senator i admire more than jon tester from montana be, and he has been ably leading the direction of this bill. i join with the republican leader as we honor our veterans tomorrow on veterans day. and, madam president, i just want to take just a brief minute and talk about my veteran that i look to with admiration. the chaplain today gave a prayer today saying that he prayed for veterans who have already left us and those who are now veterans who are still alive.
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i come, as a lot of people know, from the little town of searchlight, nevada, a little tiny town with not a lot of people in it. it's been that way for a long, long time. for a brief period in the history of searchlight, it was bigger than las vegas, had 3,000 people there. during world war ii, a young man who had already married, had children, went to a movie with his wife in las vegas. he came out of the movie and he told his wife, i think i have to join. he didn't have that. he felt he had to. and so this young man joined at that time the united states army, became part of the army air corps, which is now the united states air force. it was a huge sacrifice for him and his family. he traveled with his wife and children to georgia, where he did his training, then went to
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the european theater as a pilot. he served gallantly in bombing, strafing, other things you do in the air during world war ii. so he was -- he had been through 68 different missions. he was thrilled. but as happens sometimes in life, things develop this change your life. he volunteered because one of the other pilots was unable to go on his flight, volunteered for one more flight. on his 69th flight, somewhere over belgium, bill necessarily list -- bill nellis, boy from searchlight, was shot down over europe.
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i knew his family, knew his son garry, his aunt thelma, who i knew in searchlight. now, this good man was so gallant in the eyes of we from nevada that a previous congressional delegation from nevada, in conjunction with the president of the united states, decided it would be appropriate to name the las vega las vegas y school -- as it was known at that time -- nellis air force base. it is the finest air force fighter training facility in the world. thousands and thousands of people serve there. it was originally on the outskirts of vying vying. -- of las vegas. now it is in las vegas, very populated area.
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no one complains of that air force. it is a huge facility that has the finest gunnery range for air force pilots in the world. we have exercises there every year. pilots from all over the world bring their own aprils, from australia, great britain, other places to train there. so, madam president, we in nevirapinnevada are new englandf bill nellis and the air force base, as is the entire military complex in the united states. it is a wonderful facility, and tomorrow is a day we honor bill nellis and the many other gallant people who have served and are serve in the united states military. will the 0 chair announce the business this morning. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 2029, which the clerk will report.
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the clerk: calendar number 98, h.r. 2029, a 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. the presiding officer: under the previous order shall the time until 11:00 a.m. will be equally divided in the usual form. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the sphror utah. mr. lee: madam president, i rise today to support and to request the senate's approval of this resolution, which would designate the second week of november as national pregnancy center week, in honor of the lifesaving and life-affirming work of america's community-supported pregnancy centers. i'm asking for my colleagues' unanimous consent because there's absolutely nothing contentious about this resolution, senate resolution 312. nor is there anything contentious about the pregnancy
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resource centers commemorated by this resolution. there are approximately 2,500 pregnancy resource centers in america, and every single day they serve an average of 65,000 women and men faced with challenging pregnancy decisions, providing them with a wide array of resources. that includes at many centers, testing for s.t.d.'s and s.t.i.'s. it includes emotional and educational support, like options counseling and parenting classes, and it includes material and logistical assistance to help new moms and dads deal with all the little things that easily add up to big obstacles in the first few weeks and the first few months of parenthood. america's pregnancy resource centers aren't out to make a profit, nor are they out there to push a particular political
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agenda. they're just there to help and to do so in a way that's compassion 2345compassionate, cf dignity. any way you look at it, america's pregnancy resource centers deserve our recognition and respect. the real measure of their significance isn't in the words of a floor speech in the united states senate or the outcome of a vote. it's in the thousands of lives they help save from the pain of abortion every year, the millions of teachers, soldiers, and nurses, friends, and spouses whose lives and contributions to our communities we might never have known had it not been for the unassuming heroes down at the local pregnancy center giving their tomb to keep the lights on, to answer the phones, and to help young women find the hope and the courage to choose life. and so, madam president, i ask
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unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. res. 312 submitted earlier today. further, that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and -- laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: sl objection? mrs. murray: madam president, reserving the right to object, i would ask the senator to modify his request to whoever a resolution that actually helps move women's health and rights forward. sumly putsimply put, this is anr effort to pander to the extreme republican base by using women's health and constitutionally protected rights as a political football. and, unfortunately, it makes clear for the umteeth time that when it comes to improving
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access to affordable health care for women, some republicans are determined to stand in the way of progress. i suspect that some of my republican colleagues will say this resolution shows how many they care about wims health. the truth is, it shows the opposite. it shows once again that the republican party wants to interfere in a woman's medical decisions. strengthening women's health care doesn't start with telling women what they should and should not do with their own bodies, but that's exactly what that resolution does. if my republican colleagues really want to support women's reproductive care, they would work with democrats on improving access to affordable birth control under the affordable care act, including emergency contraceptives; ensuring women and families make their own decisions about their health care, not their bosses; and fighting back against efforts across the country to undermine women's constitutionally protected health care rights.
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madam president, it's time for republicans to drop the political attacks on women's health and instead join democrats to focus on these priorities and more like them so that women, not politicians, not insurance companies, not c.f.o. -- or, c.e.o.'s, are in that he wilthat he-- arein control of t. i ask the senator to modify his request that the health committee be discharged from s. res. 37 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration, the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: there the senator so modify his request? mr. lee: madam president, reserving the right to object, there is nothing divisive about this resolution that i've offered today, nothing divisive
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whatsoever. this simply seeks recognition of the great work that is performed by the men and women who staff these pregnancy centers. there is nothing about it that is a political football, nothing about it designed to drive a wedge. now, unlike our resolution, the resolution that i offered up today, senate resolution 312, which merely commends community volunteers around the country for helping young mothers and their children -- hardly a divisive thing -- the senator's counterproposal is divisive and controversial. my cosponsors and i wanted only to recognize life-affirming and life-saving work, the kind of work that brings families and communities together. the counterproposal would only pull americans further apart and further away from the more humane and compassionate society that all americans deserve. madam president, if calling for recognition of these brave and noble men and women who serve
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people at pregnancy centers around the country, if that's divisive, we've got significant problems, but the fact is it's not. i'd encourage anyone within the sound of my voice to read senate resolution 312 and they'll discover that it's not the least bit divisive, doesn't discuss anything that's the least bit controversial. on that basis, i can't agree to the modification, and i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. to the modification. is there objection to the original request? mrs. murray: madam president, i object to the original request then. the presiding officer: objection is heard. ms. mikulski: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: madam president, i rise to speak as if in morning business in terms of the bill
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we'll be voting on at 11:20 today, the -- the armed services authorization, as well as what we're going to be voting on this afternoon, which is veterans health care. they actually go hand in hand. and what a great set of votes in a symmetry that shows our support for national security, our support for our united states military, our support for our united states military who are on active duty today, and then also for our veterans who in their heart are always on active duty. and we have our ability today to actually show that we can govern, that we can pass bills on a bipartisan basis that help our country be able to defend itself, show our respect to our united states military and honor our commitment to veterans. i'm looking forward to voting on the armed services authorization
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because i think it does give the tools that we need to be able to defend ourselves, and i commend senators mccain and jack reed for their excellent work. but i really speak now as the vice chair of the appropriations committee. i am so excited that we are bringing the v.a.-milcon bill to the senate. madam president, i have been voting for veterans ever since i've come to congress. veterans are our nation's heroes. they put their lives on the line to fight for our freedom, they made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and whether it's veterans who are still alive from world war ii, those who fought on pork chop hill during the korean war, the vietnam war at maikon delta and afghanistan.
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we owe our veterans a debt of gratitude, but we want to show our gratitude not only with words and yellow ribbons but deeds, and i believe that the best deed is to make sure we adequately fund the veterans administration to end the backlog for disability benefits. if you fought in the front lines, you shouldn't stand in line here to get your disability benefit, and to robustly fund veterans health care along with other benefits that this congress has so authorized. we've accomplished a lot over the years working for our veterans, and it will have a lot to do with our legislation. i wish to depend the subcommittee chair, senator kirk and the vice chair, senator jon tester, for the work they've done. but as we were working on our bill this summer and through the spring, veterans told me and
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they told them that the senate funding was too spartan, that we were underfunding our veterans and not by just a few dollars but by $850 million. so we held it up, not as a parliament king kong, not as a parliamentary -- parliamentary ping-pong, not as a parliamentary temper tantrum, but as a way of saying our veterans need more money. now as a result of the budget agreement, we are able to do this. we are on the floor today where an amendment will be offered by senators kirk and tester to add $2 billion for veterans' health care. $2 billion to be determined by this secretary. what do we look forward to? well, life-saving drugs, one of which, of course, is this issue of being able to pay for hepatitis-c. the other while we're looking at actual hands-on medical care, we want to reduce the wait tiles.
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there is too much waiting at the veterans administration, whether you're waiting for your disability claim or you're waiting to see your doctor or your mental health counselor or your ophthalmologist. we need to be able to reduce the wait times, and this is what part of this $2 billion will do. and then there are those who are not only chronically ill from the wounds of war but are chronically and devastatingly injured. so we look at those who are unable to care for themselves but are being cared for at home by loved ones, and this will add more funds to be able to help those care differs that are stepping up for their responsibility. so they're taking family responsibility, but we have got to take u.s.a. responsibility. that's what we fought for in the $2 billion. i'm urging my colleagues to
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really move ahead and to be able to vote for this. i do believe of that this legislation by adding the money and the kind of excellent work that has been done by our authorizers, the assistance of good provisions put into the bill, we are going to shrink that v.a. backlog, and also we're going to do something else. we're going to advance funding for a mandatory veterans' benefits, so no matter what government means, if we ever get into another shutdown, slamdown, slowdown politics due to us, the veterans' benefits will go forward. by the way, madam president, i have been working on this backlog for a long time. by the time we got to march march 2013, we were at a national standoff. there were over 600,000 claims pending. in maryland, we were -- had one
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of the worst claims offices, in my own hometown of baltimore. i couldn't believe it. when i met with my veterans' advisory board and stories poured out, the kind of calls that were coming in to my constituent services offices, not only were they waiting in line, this isn't like, you know, just standing in line at the supermarket. this is for disability benefits where people were in danger of losing their home and other kinds of things. so we went to work, and i'm telling you we went to work on a bipartisan basis. i'm proud of what we did. i'm proud of our authorizers. i see senator isakson is on the floor from georgia. he was a big part of the reform effort. it shows our military knows how to win wars, but we need to know how we can govern so that they don't have to fight a war with the v.a. bureaucracy. so we hope that we'll be able to make these reforms, not only by throwing the money -- not by
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just -- we're not going to throw money at it. we're going to insist on metrics. my last point is i want to talk about the advanced appropriations. people will say aren't v.a. benefits mandatory? well, there are unless we get into one of our parliament ping-pong debates. so i worked with the disabled veterans of america and a coalition of several voluntary veterans service organizations. great groups. the american legion, vietnam vets, iraq and afghanistan veterans of america. they asked me to advanced appropriations to the omnibus. one year in advance, making sure that we funded things one year in advance, protecting them from shutdown and slamdown politics. we were able to do that again, and i hope we can do that again this year. madam president, i know that i have other colleagues who wish
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to speak who are on the floor now, but i want to say that today we can really show. we not only want to know how to fight for america and its security, but we know how to fight for those who do the fighting. madam president, i yield the floor. ms. collins: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise today on the eve of veterans day to urge my colleagues to support the fiscal year 2016 military construction and veterans appropriations act. this marks the first time in two years that we have had the opportunity to debate, amend and vote on this important legislation on the senate floor. it is vital to those who serve
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and to those who have served our nation. madam president, i first learned to honor our veterans from my father. my father is a world war ii veteran who was wounded twice in the battle of the bulge and earned his purple heart and his bronze star. it was he who would take me to the parades on veterans day and on memorial day and boost me high on his shoulders, and from the best vantage point in the parade, i would watch our veterans march by. and he taught me of their sacrifice and that we have a never-ending obligation to thank those who wore the uniform of
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our country. passing this bill fulfills important obligations that we owe to our nation's 22 million veterans, 127,000 of whom live in the great state of maine. it also sends an important message to our veterans, we will honor the sacrifices that you made and are making on our behalf. it would be a mistake to send the opposite message by further postponing or delaying consideration and final passage of this important bill before we celebrate our veterans, honor and remember them tomorrow. as a member of the military construction and veterans' affairs subcommittee, i know
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that this bill before us now is the result of bipartisan compromise, and i want to commend the leadership of chairman kirk and ranking member tester who have worked hand in hand to craft the manager's amendment that they will be bringing before us today. in may of this year, the appropriations committee reported this funding bill by a strong bipartisan vote of 21-9. since then, the bipartisan budget act has been enacted which provides needed additional resources to fund vital national priorities, and that will be reflected in the manager's amendment. the manager's substitute would provide a total of $79.7 billion in funding, which i would note
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represents more than a billion dollars above the president's budget request. this bill increases funding for our veterans in areas where they need it most, including mental health care and benefit claims processing, two issues which the senator from maryland has been so active in resolving. this bill also includes funds aimed at reducing veterans' homelessness. this is a special priority of mine as the chairman of the transportation, housing and urban development appropriations subcommittee. i worked with senator murray on this issue, and we have made real progress, exciting progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans across this country through the program, but
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there is still more work to be done. in addition, this bill includes $270 million in funding for the office of rural health through which the access received closer to home or the arch program is funded. in five pilot states in which it operates, arch ensures that rural veterans who often have a very difficult time accessing the regular v.a. health care system, particularly the v.a. hospitals, can receive care closer to where they live and where their families live. the arch program located at kerry memorial hospital in caribou, maine, ensured that he could receive the care he needed
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in his community and close to his family, rather than enduring a four-hour-long drive over bumpy winter roads during a ferocious snowstorm to the v.a. medical center in augustus, maine. arch has made a tremendous difference for our veterans and continues to help those who live in rural communities and who are facing similar challenges and emergencies. the manager's substitute also increases veterans' affairs medical services by nearly $2 billion, including $10 million for programs supporting caregivers. we all know of the wonderful work that elizabeth dole has done in this area, and i have been very pleased to join with my colleague, senator patty
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murray, in introducing the military and veteran caregivers services improvement act. the bill before us is going to help provide benefits for those who shoulder the responsibilities associated with long-term care for critically injured veterans. this bill would expand comprehensive caregiver benefits for those who take on those responsibilities. and i would note, madam president, that the senator from wisconsin, senator battle win and i, have a broader bill dealing with caregivers that the help committee is considering, and i hope will be approving shortly. in addition to the vital funds for veterans' programs, this bill also funds military construction projects which
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unfortunately have been adversely affected, cut, delayed and deferred as a result of the budget caps and the impact of sequestration. therefore, i'm particularly pleased that this bill includes 7 $.2 million in funding needed to repair, renovate and upgrade the 101st air refueling wings fire and crash rescue station in bangor, maine. this is funding for which i have strongly advocated and i thank the managers for including it in the bill. the 101st mainiacs provide critical 24/7 air and ground refueling services that support global military operations, and this funding will strengthen their capabilities. i would note, madam president, that i recently met with general
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breedlove, our nato commander, and he told me that he refueled at bangor, maine, on his way back from europe recently. madam president, i could go on and on about the important programs and priorities in this bill. they are essential to providing what we owe to our service members and our veterans. safe and reliable infrastructure so that our troops can complete the missions that they are assigned, access to medical care earned compensation and benefits and assistance to help our veterans successfully transition to their civilian lives. tomorrow, madam president, on veterans day, our nation will pause to honor all those who serve. today we have the opportunity to
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say to the american people, to our veterans and to those who are considering military service to our nation that no matter what partisan issues may divide us, we stand united in fulfilling our commitment to those who serve and those who have served. we can send that message by passing this measure and sending to the president a funding bill that takes care of our service members, our veterans and their families and that honors their service to our great country. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business for five minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: madam president, this veterans day, we pause to honor the men and women in our military who stepped up to fight
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for our freedom and to protect our families. in my home state of washington, we have a lot to be thankful for. more than 600,000 of our friends and our neighbors and our family members have bravely served their country. as the daughter of a world war ii veteran, i know the sacrifice it takes to keep our country safe and protect our values, and thanks to my father and the countless other veterans i've had the honor of meeting, i believe that when brave individuals sign up to serve our country, we must fulfill our promise to support them when they come home. madam president, we should honor our veterans by showing them we've got their back long after the war is over, and while i would like to stand here and say our country is doing everything we can for the people we owe the most to, that we are fulfilling the promise we made to them when we sent them off to fight for us, i believe our work is far from over.
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while congress passed a sweeping bill last year to provide new resources and add more accountability to the v.a., i continue to hear from veterans across my home state of washington about care that is falling short. despite structural changes at the v.a., veterans are still waiting on surgeries and m.r.i.'s and oncology appointments, mental health screenings, you name it. our veterans have already fought for our country. they should not have to fight to get their health care or benefits they were promised so we have got to fight on their behalf. as a senior member of the senate veterans' affairs committee, i am committed to making this country work better for our veterans, and even though there are challenges, there is hope. just two weeks ago we successfully passed the homeless veterans service protection act out of the senate to make sure a
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v.a. policy change doesn't cut off services and force veterans on to the street. that bill cleared one hurdle. now i call on my colleagues in the house to get this done. i'm also fighting to end the v.a.'s outdated ban on fertility services for veterans so they can start families. there's absolutely no reason to deny this service for members of our military especially when they're injured while fighting for our country. and i believe we must extend the critically important military caregivers support services program to veterans of all eras, a program that enables injured veterans to recover and stay in their homes with their families instead of being in a hospital or a nursing home. madam president, these aren't the only things i'm working on because our veterans kept their end of the bargain and we have got to keep ours.
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that mean access to mental health care. that means a solid path to a college degree that happens means job training programs and transitional services so veterans have a path to good careers after the military service is complete. these things aren't about going above and beyond. that is the bare minimum of what our country should be doing to fulfill its promise to care for our veterans. so, madam president, as our country recommits to that promise this veterans day, i'm going to let veterans know in my home state of washington and across the country i will not stop fighting for them. i again want to express my heartfelt thanks to all the veterans around the country who have served and for all who are still serving today. and i call on all of my colleagues and fellow citizens to honor our veterans every day of the year with the kind of action that shows them we're
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grateful for their service. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: madam president, i want to thank senator kirk and senator tester for their outstanding work on this appropriations bill, senator murray for her cooperation and help on caregivers and so many programs in the committee. senator collins on her work on milcon. i want to encourage everyone in the senate to vote favorably before the senate when it comes before us later today. but i want everybody to stop and take a deep breath and think about three things. number one, today is the 240th anniversary of the united states marine corps, the strongest veterans we have, veterans who fought and died for us around the world for two and a half centuries. tomorrow at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 1 this month we celebrate the soldiers of world war 1 in the united states of america. and today in the united states senate we're fixing problems that confront our veterans.
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as members on the committee or on the floor the v.a. committee committee -- v.a. almost collapsed years ago. v.a. had a reputation of being the worst agency in the federal government. i don't take credit for it as chairman but i'll tell you what your committee has done, members like senator tester and senator murray. we decided instead of complaining about people, instead of putting targets on the wall and saying they are the problem, we decided to be part of the solution. i want to recite for you what's happened in the last ten months. number one, we passed the clay hunt suicide prevention bill, and this bill funds it. for reducing suicide. today 22 veterans a day commit suicide. we want that reduced to perfect score of zero at some point in time but you only doing that by hiring the psychiatrists and making the comivment. this united states senate and the united states house have done that. we had an overrun in the denver hospital the v.a. was trying to
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build. there were 13 years into construction and not half finished. this committee said that will not stand. we passed legislation to complete the funding by taking the money out of v.a. without additional appropriations from the congress. and more importantly, we got the v.a. out of the construction business. we said you guys are supposed to take care of the health of our veterans, not -- the presiding officer: the majority time has expired, senator. mr. isakson: i ask unanimous consent to have three additional minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. is there objection? mr. tester: i just need about a minute johnny -- sorry -- the senator from georgia. you can have everything but give me one minute. mr. isakson: how much time is left? the presiding officer: approximately 2 1/2 minutes. mr. isakson: let me give you the closing and leave out the juicy parts for later on. the story that should be read about this appropriations bill is we are not letting our veterans down.
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we are uplifting them. we're seeing to it the problems we have had seen i am straited -- illustrated are being fixed. the v.a. are a work in progress. there will still be problems but not because of lack of attitude and funding. we're going to do what our veterans did for us. we're going to stand ground, take the hill, hold the hill and see to it that those who fought and died for the united states of america are rewarded not only for themselves with their health care but retired benefits and thaird loved ones as well. i commend senator tester for what he's done and all the other members of the committee and i yield back the balance of the time to the distinguished senator of montana who can call me johnny any time he wants to. mr. tester: thank you, senator. madam chair? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you, senator. i appreciate your comments. this v.a. milcon appropriations bill is a critically important bill. why? because we are demanding a lot from the v.a. in order to demand a lot we need to give them the tools and
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resourses they need to be successful. it would be totally unfair to put them on the line without the resources they need to take care of our veterans. and that is important because we have today unprecedented demand. not only are our vietnam veterans getting older, not only do they need services like never before, but we've been in war for 15 years in the middle east and we've got folks coming back with complex injuries. we've got men and women who need help when they get back, that some would not have survived if they had been in any other war but this one. so the pressure is on the v.a., is incredibly important. and if we're going to fix the access problem, if we're going to serve our veterans in the way they need to be served, we need to pass this bill. let me finish with a quick story. not long ago a guy by the name of henry, vietnam vet from helena, montana, walked into my office. henry fought in vietnam, he was awarded four purple hearts for his combat and for his
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sacrifice. henry walked into my office, sat down across from my staff member and said i can't live anymore. henry was in trouble. he had behavioral health problems and he needed professional help to get it fixed. we were able to get him into the v.a. the v.a. had the professional that was able to help hen relationship and henry is living a good life today. our veterans deserve no less than to make sure they get the help they need when they need it. and that's what in budget is about. we'll be voting on a managers' package soon and then we'll be voting on passing this bill out and getting it on the president's desk. hopefully we can do it with a strong, healthy vote. hopefully it will be unanimous because this is an important bill not only for our military construction but also for occupier veterans. i yield the floor.
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mr. tester: i notice the absence of a quorum. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the chair lays before the senate the house message to accompany s. 1356, which the clerk will report. the clerk: resolved that the bill from the senate, s. 1356 entitled an act to clarify certain provisions of the border patrol agent pay reform act of 2014 will not take effect until after the director of the office of personnel management -- mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent further reading be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent that when the senate proceeds to the consideration of h. con. res. 90, as under the previous order, it be in order for me to offer an amendment to the resolution. further, that the amendments -- amendment be agreed to and all other provisions under under the previous order remain in effect. the presiding officer: is there objection?
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without objection. mr. mccain: i move to concur in the house amendment to s. 1356. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 20 minutes equally divided prior to a vote on the motion to concur in the house amendment to s. 1356. mr. mccain: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: today the united states senate will once again consider in the national defense authorization act, legislation passed the house last week in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 370-58. i hope we will have a similarly resounding vote here today. today's vote would not be possible without the hard work of chairman mack thornberry, chairman of the house armed services committee. it's been a privilege to work alongside him and the senator from washington, congressman schiff, to produce a defense authorization bill worthy of the troops it supports.
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i thank my friend and colleague from rhode island, senator reed, for his dedicated work on this legislation and his many substantive contributions that made this a better bill. i want to thank the majority leader, senator mcconnell, for bringing this legislation to the floor today and for his commitment throughout this process to ensure that we give our military the certainty they need to plan and execute their missions. for 53 consecutive years congress has passed the national defense authorization act. that's a testament to the vital importance of this legislation which provides the authorities and support necessary for our military to defend the nation. but perhaps at no time in the last half century has this legislation been so critical. our nation confronts the most diverse and complex array of crises since the end of world war ii. the rampage of isil terrorist armies, iran's maligned activities across the middle
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east, russia's invasion of the ukraine and bloody intervention in syria, china's continued pattern of assertive behavior towards its neighbors in the asia pacific, and the list goes on, including the recent what appears to be a bombing of an airliner over egypt which apparently caused the loss of 244 lives, apparently an act of terror of really monumental consequences. rising to the challenges of an increasingly dangerous world requires bold reforms in national defense, and that's what this legislation delivers. legislation is a reform bill. this legislation delivers the most sweeping reforms to our defense acquisition system in a generation. the ndaa modernizes a 70-year-old military retirement
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system and extends benefits to hundreds of thousands of service members that previously were excluded under the old system. the legislation also makes significant reforms to pentagon headquarters and management to ensure precious defense resources are focused on our war fighters rather than bloated staffs. the bill identifies $1 # 1 billion in -- $11 billion in expessive and unnecessary spending from that requests and reinvests these saifgdz -- savings in priorities including fighter aircraft, accelerated shipbuilding, strengthening our cyber defenses and $300 million in vital assistance to ukraine to resist russian aggression. and we did all of this while upholding our commitment to our service members, retirees and their families. the ndaa reauthorizes over 30 special pays and bonuses, makes military health care more
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affordable, increases access to urgent care facilities, strengthens sexual assault prevention and response and knocks down bureaucratic obstacles to ensure service members maintain access to the medicines they need as they transition from active duty. finally, the legislation before us recognizes the strong national defense requires supporting our friends and allies and responding to common threats. with vladimir putin on the march, the ndaa includes $300 million to help ukraine resist russian aggression, including $50 million for lethal assistance and counterartillery radars. as china continues its aggressive behavior in the south china sea, the ndaa will provide $50 million to assist and train our allies in the region to increase maritime security and the maritime domain awareness. and as the taliban mounts an offensive across afghanistan,
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the ndaa authorizes $3.8 billion for the afghanistan security forces fund to preserve the gains of the past decade and continue to degrade and defeat terrorists that want to attack the united states on our allies allies -- and our allies. this is an ambitious piece of legislation, but in the times we live, we cannot afford business as usual in the department of defense. to prepare our military to confront our present and future national security challenges, we must champion the cause of defense reform, rug rustily root out pentagon waste and invest in modernization and next generation technologies to maintain our military technological advantage. that is what this legislation is all about. additionally, i'd like to point out that as our citizenry and our voters are deeply frustrated and angry about our failure to get anything done here in the
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congress of the united states, i would at least make the comment that our most highest priority responsibility is defending the nation, and i believe that this legislation is an example of working not only on both sides of the aisle but on both sides of the capitol. i would argue that this is the most significant reform legislation that has been passed in 30 years, but i would also tell my colleagues that this is just the beginning. this is the beginning of a bipartisan effort to reform the pentagon, to reform the way we do business, to reform our priorities and to reform the way that the pentagon was structured and our defense was structured and the last time it was reformed was 30 years ago under legislation called goldwater goldwater-nichols. obviously, in the last 30 years,
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that world situation has changed dramatically, dramatically, and in a bipartisan basis, working across the aisle and across the capitol, i can assure my colleagues that next year about this time, they will be seeing legislation that will try to address the challenges that we are now facing in the world, in a more chaotic world than we have seen since the end of world war ii. that is not just john mccain's opinion. that is the opinion of every knowledgeable, respected national security expert ranging from henry kissinger to madeleine albright to brazil enski to brent scowcroft and others. we have to have a reformed pentagon to meet the challenges. one great example of that is cybersecurity. 30 years ago, there was no cyber attacks on the united states of america. today it is one of the looming challenges we face.
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i intend to carry on in a long tradition of this committee, which the senator from rhode island and i have worked in partnership in addressing these new challenges and these grave challenges to america's security, and i'm proud of this legislation. could we have done more? yes. were there different areas that perhaps we should have paid more attention to? perhaps. but i would argue that this is the most significant reform legislation in the last 30 years, and i thank my friend and colleague from rhode island. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, madam president. i rise to speak in support of the revised national defense authorization act conference report that we have before us today. it is the result of months of collaborative work by the senate armed services committee and a very political conference, and i would like to join the chairman,
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chairman mccain and matt thornberry of texas and adam smith. the cooperation was extraordinarily outstanding. the reason we are here today most fundamentally is the leadership of chairman mccain on the committee. it was thoughtful, it was bipartisan, it encouraged participation by all the members of the committee. there was vigorous debate and then there were votes. but that's the way this committee and this congress should operate. and ultimately, too, i think it reflected what the chairman has always brought to his duties as a member of the united states senate and before that the united states house of representatives and before that the united states navy. understanding that what we do here ultimately reflects and influences and shapes the service and sacrifice of millions of young americans in uniform.
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and the chairman never forgets that. he has laid out some of the extraordinary reforms that have been introduced in this legislation, and he has also indicated that we will continue to work next year under his leadership at additional reforms. these reforms and compensation, personnel policy, a host of others are going to set us and our department of defense on a better path forward, and again much of it is because of his leadership and his direction. now, previously the bill came up and there was one area of major disagreement, and that was the use of the overseas contingency fund. i must again thank the chairman because he allowed a vigorous debate, a vote on the floor and ultimately and very satisfactorily, this has been resolved through the recent budget agreement. so now we have legislation before us that raises the annual budget cap of the department of defense and other agencies and it allows our defense department i think to be more forward
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looking, more able to rationally budget going forward, and this is -- has i think given us both the budget authority and the proper direction so that we can have a much more stable, much more predictable future. and again, i think it will be a wonderful facilitator as we consider additional reforms next year in the defense authorization bill. it also recognizes the fact one of the challenges is not only those programs that are controlled by the department of defense but also other agencies that are involved in national security, and relief for those agencies is also important to carrying out the mission of the department of defense and protecting the american people. with this new ndaa, i think we have been able to keep our pledge to the men and women in the uniform of the united states, and let me finally
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conclude where i began. thank chairman mccain, chairman thornberry, ranking member smith, but more particularly the staffs. we who have the privilege of serving on the armed services committee understand the extraordinary hours, the efforts, the insight, the total commitment of not only the committee staff members but the staffs of the individual members. their efforts are reflected in this bill. it will not bear their names but more importantly bear their work, and for that i thank them very, very much. let me urge all of my colleagues to support this bill, to join senator mccain and others so that for the 54th straight year we will have a national defense authorization bill that will become the law of the united states. and with that, madam president, i would yield the floor.
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mr. mccain: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. kirk: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kirk: madam president, the ranking member and i have a package of amendments that have been cleared by both sides. i ask unanimous consent that when the senate resume resumes consideration of h.r. 2029 that the following amendments be called up and reported by number for the senate to vote en bloc. it's moran 2774, murkowski 2775, murkowski 2776, and the
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blumenthal 2779. blumenthal 2781, and toomey 2785. sullivan 2786, sullivan 27 l 87, collins 2788 and cornyn 2789. bennet 2795. durbin 2794, boxer 2798. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. under the previous order, the question occurs on the motion to concur in the house amendment to s. 1356. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll.
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vote: psh(hjñ
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ment. vote:
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this is a test. millions of american families who are now subject to being torn apart. and as many as 5 million immigrants who could be set for mass deportation. i expect the administration will swiftly appeal the decision of the supreme court. i'm very confident that the court will find the actions lawful. it's sad the republicans are wasting their time talking about mass deportation when they could be doing things to solve the problem. like passing a bill that reforms our immigration system once and for all. the republican party has neglected the lessons of the 2012 elections and have plunged over a cliff following donald trump, ben carson and the others. the executive actions were neither a complete nor permanent solution to the problems plaguing the immigration problem, but they were in the face of inaction. as judge carolyn king said yesterday, "a mistake has been made" so it's now up to the united states supreme court to correct this grave mistake, a mistake that sets not only a dangerous precedent but one that's bad for families, communities and bad for the future prosperity of our country. as again judge king said, "a mistake has been made. "madam president, yesterday i addressed the republicans and the remarks that he gave regarding the iran nuclear agreement. and i want to just talking a little bit now more directly about his remarks that he made yesterday. -- regarding the iran nuclear agreement. in short, no matter how republicans misrepresent the iran nuclear agreement, the agreement brought about the long-sought goal of preventing an from having a nuc 0ú
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