includes provisions repealing parts of the health care law and defending planned parenthood for a year. majority leader mitch mcconnell may update the status of the bill and other legislation when he speaks at the start of the session. live coverage on c-span2. . the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. god of grace and glory, on your people place your power. as we turn our hands and hearts
in grateful praise to you, use us for your glory. touch our senators. lift them from valleys of pessimism as you fill them with your abiding hope. prepare them to receive your best gifts, helping them to remember that you are able to do more than they can ask or imagine. thank you that you are the beginner of our yesterdays, the mystery of our today, and the hope for our tomorrows. we pray in your sovereign name. amen.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: when washington democrats passed obamacare over the objections of the american people, they were confident americans would soon warm up to this new law, but more than five years later the american people continue to oppose this unprecedented democrat attack on their health care. is it any wonder? when americans think obamacare, they think increased costs, run-away premiums, surging deductibles, tax hikes on the middle class. when americans think obamacare, they think decreased choice, fewer doctors, far-away hospitals, a frightening scarcity of options for too many when they get sick. when americans think obamacare, they think broken promises and
endless failure. imploding state-based exchanges, collapsing co-ops, insurers eyeing the exit door, fewer jobs, and the lie of the year: if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. it's not like obamacare's structural failures are just going to go away. they are baked right into the law, and they only seem to get worse as time moves along. just as we've seen costs rise, choices narrow, and failures mount, we've seen congressional democrats block attempts to start over with real health care reform. this week we finally have a chance to end obamacare's cycle of broken promises and failures with just 51 votes.
this week we'll take up the restoring america's health care freedom reconciliation act of 2015 that already passed the house of representatives. it's a bill that would take the first steps necessary to build a bridge away from obamacare. by building upon the house's good work, this bill would also save billions in spending and eliminate more than $1 trillion tax burden on the american people. and by employing the same tactics democrats used to help get obamacare across the finish line, this bill will not be subject to a filibuster. in other words, it can't be blocked by defenders of obamacare's failed status quo. in other words, the president can't be shielded from the weighty decision he'll finally have to make when this measure lands right on his desk. when the president picks up his pen, he'll have a real choice to
make. he may decide to stick to his rhetoric that the law is working better than even he intended and veto the bill, but he should instead decide to finally stand with the middle class that suffered enough from this failed law and actually sign it. we'll see. it's a choice the president has never faced before. it's a choice he's going to face after senate action this week. now on another matter, mr. president, the new republican senate has been working hard to get congress back to work over the past year. we've obviously had a lot of success. as i noted yesterday, the new republican senate will soon pass two really significant bipartisan bills for a second and final time. the bipartisan multiyear highway bill and the bipartisan replacement for no child left behind. and we'll send them to the president for his signature.
these are the latest examples of a new congress that's back to work, and on behalf of the american people. they are hardly the only examples we'll be talking about. take another important issue that languished for too long that passed the new senate: cybersecurity. we ended years of inaction on this year by passing important bipartisan cybersecurity bill that even the white house endorsed. that bill was the product of a lot of hard work by the top republican and top democrat on the intelligence committee. i'm glad that the new more open and more inclusive republican senate made their cooperation possible. because even though the old forces of gridlock tried to trip that bill up several times along the way, we kept moving forward and we always knew that we were doing the right thing for the american people. so my hope is that we can ultimately get this bill into
conference and send it to the president closer to its current form. because the challenges posed by cyber attacks are real and they're growing. because a cyber attack can be a deeply invasive attack on personal privacy, and the voluntary information sharing provisions in the bill we passed are key to defeating cyber attacks and protecting the personal information of the people we represent. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader.
mr. reid: my friend the republican leader talks about the old forces of gridlock when he talked about cybersecurity. those old forces of gridlock were him and his caucus. we tried for five years to pass a cybersecurity bill. it was filibustered every time. and the bills, quite frankly, that were filibustered were very strong, good, in-depth bills. we passed a cybersecurity bill better than nothing, but that's about it. it was not a really resoundingly good effort to go after the problem we're having with cybersecurity. but we got it done finally because the problems on the republican side disappeared. mr. president, my friend, the republican leader, has an obsession with the affordable care act, obamacare.
he can't give up on this obsession. americans without insurance are at the lowest point in history, and one need look no further than renowned republican -- republican columnist, "the new york times" david brooks. here's what he wrote -- i'm sorry to take so much time in reading something that was written by this man who is a republican columnist. i repeat, for "the new york times." here's what he said: regardless of what the republican leader may claim, the affordable care act continues to work. it is increasingly -- it is increasing quality health coverage, improving care, and there's no question about that. now, brooks noted health care
costs are rising at their lowest rate in years. he said -- and i quote -- "the good news is that recently health care inflation has been at historic lows. as the chairman of the president's council of economic advisors put it in a speech, the hamilton project last month, health care prices have grown at an annual rate of 1.6% since the affordable care act was enacted in march 2010, the slowest rate for such a period in five decades. 50 years. and those prices have grown at an even slower 1.1% rate over the 12 months ending august 2015. continuing the quote, "as a result of the slow down in health care inflation, the congressional budget office keeps reducing its projections of the future cost of federal health programs like medicare. as of october, projections for federal health care spending in the year 2010 were $175 billion lower than projections made in
august 2010. that would be a huge budget improvement. historic lows and hundreds of billions of dollars saved by the federal government tells me that obamacare is working.." mr. president, enough of this haranguing about obamacare from my republican friend. one needs only to go home and people come up to you and say, you know, obamacare is so good, my daughter who could never get health insurance because she was a diabetic, now she can get it. no one with a preexisting disability can be denied insurance. young men and women struggling to finish their college education and stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26, that is important. that is part of obamacare. community health centers around this country are booming. why? because in the affordable care act we put $11 billion in there to provide for these essential
community health centers. so, mr. president, i'll have more to say about this because i'm sure he's going to come and talk about what a great victory it was on this reconciliation, which is a, an anomaly that we face every year, passing some things just to satisfy the haranguing about obamacare that means nothing substantively. and it will pass and go to the president, and he'll veto it in about ten seconds. and of course, the veto will certainly be sustained. so, mr. president, the -- even in kentucky, even in kentucky here's what one article said in kentucky -- quote -- "in a state of 4.4 million people, 500,000 people gained coverage because of their, the obamacare in that
state. four in five through medicaid. continuing to quote, the effects were particularly dramatic in one appalachian county where m coal jobs vanished and the employment rate was 23%. from 2013 to 2014 the proportion of residents lacking health coverage plummeted by half from 13% to 6%. half a million kentuckians are using the affordable care act. that's more than 10% of the state's population. so, mr. president, there are all kinds of personal accounts of how this has saved people's lives literally. one uninsured mother and daughter said amid the coalfields of kentucky -- from a news article -- a small clinic part of the big sandy health care network furnishing daily proof of the state's affordable care act. it is here minimum did i --
mindy fleming handed tissues to a woman who had a daughter with a 150 degree fever. it will be all right and it was. an hour later she had a health care card and found four l-year-old alexis had an issue problem. another, dennis had a liver disease, pulling his 6-foot frame with an abnormal heart rhythm, struck by lightning ten years ago in his tin roof farmhouse. he was making payments for an m.r.i. and went to the only hospital in a 150-mile radius. fleming helped him sign up for managed care medicaid plans available in kentucky.
so, mr. president, the facts never seem to get in the way of my republican friend when it comes to obamacare. anything he can do to denigrate this system that is helping 17 million people. mr. president, one need only watch the news to see how our nation is facing threats abroad. we're doing the best we can. but as the world grows more dangerous, senate republicans continue to block and obstruct the president's national security nominees. they're blocking the very people that could help us respond to these threats. take, for instance, for week after week after week, a man by the name of azita raji has been nominated to be our ambassador to sweden.
this nation is the second largest country of origin per capita for foreign fighters in europe. the swedish government is on heightened alert for an attack, yet the united states doesn't have a senate-confirmed ambassador to represent us in stock home. like sweden, norway is also dealing with the growing threat of terror, and some of their citizens have joined the radical ranks of foreign fighters. but due to republican obstruction, our nation does have -- does not have a confirmed ambassador in norway. sam heinz, a minnesota attorney nominated by president obama, has been pending on the floor since july. we're now in december. so i personally applaud the presiding officer today for finally removing the holes on these -- holds on these two good people. i appreciate it very much. he and others have held up these nominees, and it's unfortunate. it's gone. i'm glad. in the wake of the paris
attacks, the threats across the continent, it is imperative that we have ambassadors with european governments at the highest levels. perhaps most egregious example of republican obstruction is the nodges of adam zubin. this man would lead if he were approved here a team within the department of state that disrupts terrorist financing networks, cutting off money for terrorists so they cannot finance their attacks. hand in hand, they work with the treasury department. you would think that such an important nominee would be quickly confirmed. mr. zubin's nomination has been pending for more than 200 days. remember what he does. remember what he would like to do, i should say. he would lead a team that disrupts terrorist financing networks, cutting off money for terrorists, but they -- so they can't finance their own evil deeds. the chairman of the banking committee, the senior senator from alabama, has previously called this position -- quote --
a vital position in the effort to combat terrorism financing, close quote. but in spite of this, the committee of banking continues to block zubin despite his qualifications. i'm sorely disappointed that so many republican senators have decided that scoring political points is more important than confirming these national security nominations. two weeks ago, i asked the senior senator from iowa to put an end to his partisan investigation of secretary clinton. for months, this senior senator blocked more than 20 foreign service promotions. in fact, for a day there were some 200 nominations -- i'm sorry, 600 nominations. people who were just simply in the foreign service who were entitled by law to a promotion. well, he blocked these people for a long, long time. talking about he wanted more documents from the state
department. i told the senior senator that i thought it was a mistake to target career promotions, so i was surprised happily so when he appeared to change course and allow these good public servants to get the promotions they earned and deserved. unfortunately, though, just as he took one step forward, he immediately took another step back. although he allowed the list of 20 foreign service promotions to proceed, he doubled down on his obstruction by placing a hold on tom shannon, president obama's nominee to serve as undersecretary of state for political affairs, an extremely important position that's not filled now. ambassador shannon is a career member of the foreign service with more than 30 years of experience. he served as our nation's ambassador to brazil, he's worked in the national security council, in the last bush administration. his experience will help the state department strategy in combating isis.
he can't do that because we're not able to approve him because of the holds. and like -- and the senator from iowa continues to block other important nominees like david robinson to be secretary of state and the bureau of conflict and stabilization. he is a 30-year veteran of the foreign service. this is a man who has served in the nation of afghanistan, bosnia and many other places around the world. brian egan has been nominated to be the state department's legal advisor, their lawyer. he has been a senior member of the legal team in the state department treasury, national security council of the white house, but he has been held up since june without a vote, all because of republican obstruction. remember, it would be nice if the state department had a lawyer. but as the senior senator from iowa will tell you, he has nothing against tom shannon, david robinson or brian egan. senator grassley has expressed no substantive objections to these nominees or questions about their capabilities. senator grassley is blocking these important nominations for
the sake of his committee's political crusade against former secretary of state hillary clinton, who as we all know is running for president. this good woman scares republicans because she will likely win. this is all part of the disturbing trend of the judicial committee to politicize the oversight process. it appears that the constitution duties of the senate are taking a back seat to a political hit job on a democratic candidate for president. just look at what he and his committee -- that is, the chairman and his committee are doing. they're requesting transcribed interviews from the bill clinton staff. they have asked for time sheets. the committee investigation has gone so far as to ask for the ma maternity leave records of one of secretary clinton's closest aides, huma abedin. it appears he is going to
continue to block state department nominees. i'm disappointed that my friend from iowa refuses to do what i believe is the right thing. he should drop these unwarranted holds. i'm disappointed that he continues under the guise of oversight as his anti-hillary clinton crusade which is hurting american security. each day this investigation continues, we can see what a waste of taxpayer resources it has become. last month, when given the opportunity, my friend from iowa refused to address the significant amount of resources this committee is spending to investigate secretary clinton. why? if he is so confident of the work his committee is doing, why not really acknowledge the amount of taxpayer resources that are being used. put aside from the wasting taxpayer dollars controlled by the way that his committee staff is operating. press reports have suggested that republican judiciary staffers are selectively leaking confidential information. for example, in september, the
state department gave the committee information that senator grassley requested with specific instructions that the documents remain confidential. that's because the information shared with the judiciary committee contains sensitive information or other personal information from state department employees, including the state department's response to the grassley -- including the state department's response to senator grassley was a big warning in capital letters across the page. it said in bold letters, in very large bold letters, u.s. department of state production to the senate judicial committee only. not authorized for public release. well, young email reproductionso from the department of state contain a water mark in red capital letters saying the emails were not for public release, across the entirety of the document. it had the water mark and the
large bold letters. within 24 hours, the information was public and reporters began calling with questions. within 48 hours, stories were published based on the emails given to the judicial committee that falsely created the appearance of impropriety by miss abed in-- miss abedin, and i mean false. how did the reporter get documents that were solely in the possession of the judicial committee staff? as i have said before, miss abedin is an american success story. she has reached the highest levels of politics as an aide to secretary clinton for decades through hard work and loyalty. john mccain said about her miss abedin is an honorable woman, a dedicated american and a loyal public servant, close quote. she doesn't deserve the treatment that has come from the judiciary committee. republican investigators on that committee cannot stop their
fixation on miss abedin, even going so far as to request her maternity leave records, and as a result her personal information including her social security number and payroll records have been given to the press. violating the privacy of hardworking staff members and particularly a staff member to score political points against secretary clinton is unbecoming of the world's greatest deliberative body. the senate has been through difficult times in the past when confidential information has been leaked. senator grassley and i were both here in the 1990's when then-senate majority leader george mitchell came to the floor to address this disturbing trend. he said, and i quote -- "the unilateral decision by a member and employee to release confidential committee information is inconsistent with the senate's practice of making such decisions ultimately collaborative. this can destroy mutual trust
among members and be harmful to this institution, close quote. that is an understatement. senator mitchell's quote gets to the heart of the matter. leaking information undermines the institution of the senate and the trust between members. in the republican fervor to target secretary clinton over benghazi, we should not lose sight of the rules that govern our behavior in the senate. the benghazi report on her is now over $5 million. it's wrong to target a former clinton aide with invasive requests about her maternity leave and pass her personal information to members of the press. it's wrong to politicize the legitimate oversight of congress ahead of the 2016 presidential election. sadly, the improper disclosure of sensitive materials related to secretary clinton's aides only demonstrates the underlying political motivation of the judiciary committee's oversight. going forward, i hope my republican colleagues will exercise greater restraint in the relentless pursuit of secretary clinton. more importantly, i hope senate republicans take their
constitutional responsibilities more seriously. their advise and consent responsibility on the presidential nominees -- i hope they take them very seriously. it's shameful the republicans are blocking critical national security nominees for political purposes. i would ask them to please change course because the american people are watching. finally, very briefly, mr. president, 60 years ago, rosa parks boarded a bus in montgomery, alabama. she had worked hard all day. she was riding a bus. she was asked to give up her seat by the bus driver, who was a white man. she was sick of having to give up her seat, and she was tired. she refused to give up her seat, so she was arrested. on that day, at that moment of courage, rosa parks sparked a movement that would end legal segregation of public transportation, the montgomery bus boycott. that boycott lasted from december 5, 1955 to december 20,
1956, almost a year, becoming the first large-scale demonstration against segregation in our country's history. the supreme court boldly ordered montgomery to integrate its public bus transportation system. rosa parks went on to become a pillar of the civil rights movement, a lifelong freedom fighter and changed the course of history. in 2013, a bronze statue of miss parks was unveiled in statuary hall here in the decades. in the -- in the capitol. in the decades since that, our nation has made tremendous progress in the defense of civil rights for all americans. we have much more to do. after 60 years, rosa parks took a stand for equality. the fight for equal justice rages on, just like rosa parks, many americans across the country are really upset with the status quo. they're taking a stand against injustice and discrimination. as we remember the valiant actions of rosa parks, may we be inspired by her character and determination. may we follow her example and
continue the work of the civil rights movement. mr. president, what do we have to do the rest of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 12:30 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. a senator: mr. president, i request permission to address the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: the senate is in morning business. mr. isakson: last thursday was thanksgiving in america, and like every member of the senate and every american, i pause to give thanks for the many blessings we have in our country, the blessings i have as a father and a grandfather and for blessings we enjoy for all those who serve us in harm's way around the world to keep us safe and at peace. i also took a second to participate in some charitable activities for those that are less fortunate, in doing so stopped to pause to give thanks for nose people who on -- for
those people who on the day of thanksgiving were giving of their times and their money to help the lives of those less fortunate. one of the people i want to talk about this morning who has done exactly that for five decades is a man named thomas g. cousins, a real estate developer of great renowned in atlanta and around the world who has amassed millions and millions of dollars in the cousins focus -- cousins foundation and invested that money in trying to solve the problems of crime and unemployment and health care. he became very frustrated. he became frustrated because he recognized that of the 72 million children in the united states of america, 40% of them lived in poverty. he became frustrated because he found that poverty isolated neighborhoods of concentrated poverty created crime, unemployment, poor performance by students and greater crime rates in the city of atlanta. and worst of all, he found the entrepreneurial, the gifts of charities trying to alleviate
these problems often got consumed but never made a fundamental change and he thought it was time for his charitable money to become entrepreneurial, not just a give-away. so in the decade of 1990 tom cousins decided to do something about making the cousins foundation investment make a meaningful difference in the lives of americans around the country, and he did exactly that. he heard a dr. todd clear, professor at rutgers university, make a speech in new york city where he had done research on the prison population of the state of new york and researched where they came from to find amazingly that three out of every four prisoners in the new york state prison system came out of eight neighborhoods in new york city. concentrated poverty created concentrated prime and concentrated criminals and it was a never ending cycle of those neighborhoods, crime in those neighborhoods and poor educational performance. tom cousins decided instead of giving his money away in incremental bits, he would go to
a neighborhood of concentrated crime and poverty and try and make a meaningful difference. he found a neighborhood called east lake me dose in the 1990's in atlanta, georgia. it was the home of bobby jones, the famous golfer and charlie yates the famous golfer in the 1920's but had become dilapidated and a neighborhood of crime, known as the little vietnam of georgia. police would not enter the area because of the crime rate. the school that was there, drew elementary, was the worst per forming elementary school in the state of georgia. tom asked us to go to the city of atlanta to ask them to issue a charter to drew elementary school and a 99 year lease to the cousins foundation. tom cousins went in to build a new drew elementary school, hired georgia state university to bring in a professor to be a principal there. drew elementary school went from being one of the worst performing schools in the state of georgia to one of the best.
he improved the neighborhood, improved the facilities, built a ymca, took a holistic approach of east lake meadows and turned it into a shining city. he didn't do it because he gave money. he did it because he invest #-d his money in the lives of these people. let me give you an idea of the results of the changes made. drew elementary went from 5% of its fifth graders reading and performing at math levels to where 90% of them expeeded the levels -- exceeded the levels. where the median income was over $4,000 and 15 years it was over $16,000. there was a 90% reduction in the crime rate to the point it was 50% lower than the city's overall crime rate. the transformation of a neighborhood because he invested his money entrepreneurially in trying to solve the problems in the lives of these people. he went to warren buffett and
formed an organization called purpose built communities based on three fundamental discoveries they made at east lake meadows. number one, it can be done. how many times do people walk by declining neighborhoods, poverty, crime, failing schools and say there is nothing we can do. we cannot solve that problem. tom cousins proved any problem, no matter how great, is solvable if you're willing to dedicate yourself to doing so. second, it takes a holistic approach, not just the schools, not just the playgrounds, not just the housing, not just the jobs. but everything. the transformation of east lake meadows was a holistic approach to entire community. lastly, mixed income housing was important to bring employed people back into the neighborhoods so you had mixed use housing throughout east lake meadows. the result, a purpose built community now home to the p.g.a. fedex championship, a restored east lake golf club and a community that's proud of itself and one of the shining stars of the city of atlanta because a man with purpose, thomas g.
cousins, invested his money in public purpose built communities that all over the country are being started as renovation projects in indianapolis, in new orleans and cities around the united states of america. so as we all pause to give thanks for those who have done so much to make our state and our country better, i pause to thank thomas g. cousins for the great investment he's made in the city of atlanta, the children of our state and the united states of america. and i yield back my time. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: and i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 20 minutes is as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, this week the republican-led senate will keep a promise that we made to the american people. if they entrusted us with the leadership and the majority in
the last election, we told them that we would vote to repeal obamacare, which is the largest federal overreach in recent history. and it's been disastrous to thousands if nol millions of people. unfortunately the president's ill-advised health care law and the partisan push that made it law came with a lot of burdensome regulations and the law and those regulations hobbled the american economy because they added burdens on the small businesses we depend upon to create the jobs so people can find work and provide for their families. it's hobbled those small businesses by burdening them with unmanageable costs, and it's failed the american people at every turn. when the president said if you like what you have, you can keep it, that was not true. millions of americans lost their preferred health insurance
providers and the doctors that accepted that coverage, and instead of providing people with more affordable access to health care, millions of people faced higher premiums and higher deductibles. for all practical matter, the higher deductibles that come along with most obamacare health care policies make millions of americans effectively self-insured. and so more than five years after it became law, it's no surprise that a recent poll found that only 37% of the respondents approved of obamacare, 37%. obamacare is a textbook example of how bigger government does not necessarily lead to more choices or real solutions. indeed, what it demonstrates is that it can lead to higher costs, inefficient health care delivery and millions of americans being let down by a system that again was a partisan
vote here in the senate. i remember being here on christmas eve in 2009, 7:00 a.m. in the morning when senate democrats pushed through the obamacare legislation in the senate. again, without any sort of bipartisan commitment to actually improve health care choices and make health care more affordable for the american people, it was purely a partisan undertaking. this bill will not only provide -- this bill that we're voting on to repeal obamacare will not only provide relief and more choices and the opportunity for the market to give people the health care they want at a price they can afford, but it also represents keeping a promise that we made to the american people, as i said earlier, that we would deliver on if they gave us the majority, and we will do that this week. mr. president, there is another subject i want to raise because
it's a matter of great concern, and it's not just because i come from texas and we see thousands and thousands of unaccompanied minor children continuing to cross our border, but you'll recall just the summer of 2014 when i believe the president himself talked about the humanitarian crisis as a result of the thousands and thousands of unaccompanied children, some with a single parent, that were streaming across the border, and the overload of the capacity of local communities in the rio grande valley and elsewhere to be able to deal with these children in a humane and acceptable sort of way. while the memory here in washington, d.c., may have faded about this humanitarian crisis, i can tell you that most texans remember it vividly. the picture was stark, as i said. tens of thousands of
unaccompanied children coming from central american countries that had set out to cross mexico and to cross the border into the united states. virtually all of these children had seen their lives placed in the hands of violent criminals to get here. to say the journey was a perilous one is a gross understatement. we recently had a hearing of the international drug enforcement caucus in the united states senate, and i asked one of the witnesses, i said isn't it the case that the same criminal organizations that smuggle people into the united states for economic reasons, that they are the same people who smuggle children for human trafficking purposes, that these are the same people and the same organizations that smuggle illegal drugs and perhaps dangerous and other hazardous materials into the united states, and the witness said
without a hesitation yes. now, it may have been some bygone era when an individual coyote as we called them in south texas smuggled people in for the fee that they can charge, but now this is a big business. this is a business model that's being exploited day in and day out by the transnational criminal organizations. but that all seems to be lost on the administration. i saw how this tragedy was unfolding firsthand in mcallen where i visited these children who made the journey, sometimes alone, just to end up here in this country by themselves looking for a friendly face or somebody that might help them. it was heart breaking to see young children without their parents and extreme heart breaking to hear about the horrific stories about the trips that they made. again, coming from central america across mexico, perhaps
on the back of a train they call the beast. physically assaulted, some murdered, many robbed and otherwise mistreated. of course, the pressing question that summer of 2014 was why now and why here. why was all of this happening, and how could we stem the tide of the seemingly endless migration of unaccompanied children from central america? well, you don't have to look much further than the president's own department of homeland security. one internal memo analyzing the surge of child and female migrants flooding the southwest border stated, and i quote, the main reason the subjects chose this particular time to migrate to the united states was to take advantage of the -- quote -- new u.s. law that grants a free pass or permit. i think they called them
permisos in spanish. in other words, they came here because of the widespread perception that these unaccompanied children and women traveling with children would be allowed to stay here in defiance of our immigration laws, even after they crossed the border illegally. a similar study by the department of homeland security's office of science and technology director concluded that the unaccompanied minors were aware of the relative lack of consequences they would receive when apprehended at the u.s. border. so apparently at the time these minors and their parents believed that there would be no or little consequence to illegally coming into the united states, and tragically, sadly, they were right. in the wake of that crisis last summer, it became clear that the president's failed immigration policies, including his deferred action program and his overall lack of seriousness when it came to immigration enforcement,
played a role in inducing thousands of families to risk their lives to travel to the united states. until recently, we had perhaps been lulled into the misconception that this flood of migrants had stopped, but over the weekend, i was startled by news reports -- perhaps i shouldn't have been surprised but i was -- that suggest this downward trend has started to reverse, and in a big way. according to these reports, smugglers are again bringing hundreds of women and children into the united states across the rio grande. one from the "new york times" noted that according to official data, border patrol apprehensions of migrant families have increased 150% from last year, and the number of unaccompanied children has more than doubled. the bottom line is that clearly there is virtually nothing being done to deter these children and their families from illegally crossing the border, and little
or no consequences when they do. and i have to point out that the administration has done virtually nothing to make sure that these children are not exposed to the same criminal organizations operating in this country. in fact, current law requires these children be released by the department of health and human services to sponsors without any assurance or systemic protections that they are being sent to a safe environment. there are no criminal background checks. they are not required to be actual family members. and there could well be some extension of the same criminal organizations that smuggled them into the united states in the first place. it's shocking to me that the senate would not be moved to act on this because, of course, we passed a large antihuman trafficking law just this last
spring with a 99-0 vote. but to sit quietly while these children continue to stream across our border and are placed in the hands of potentially dangerous individuals is unacceptable. earlier this year, four individuals were indicted for their involvement in a trafficking ring that smuggled unaccompanied guatemalan children into the country and forced them into slave labor at a farm in ohio. these children not only were forced to work long hours, they were abused and threatened and exploited. many of them could have been spared if the federal government and health and human services had an adequate system for screening and vetting the sponsors of these unaccompanied minors. we have to do a better job of protecting these children, which is why i recently joined a letter with the chairman of the senate judiciary committee demanding answer from the department of homeland security
and the department of health and human services. it's clear the federal government needs to step up and create a more effective review process before releasing these children to strangers and perhaps criminals. our government has a duty to protect them once they're here and ensure that they are no longer preyed upon by criminals and human traffickers. so given the administration's inability to dieter -- detear illegal immigration and the federal government's failure to deal with them reasonably and rationally and humanely when they get here, we have every reason to believe that immigration surges of this nature will continue and will grow until we reform this system. that's why i intend to introduce a piece of legislation called the humane act which would reform the system to end the practice of automatic catch and release to nongovernmental sponsors. it would enhance the screening of these children to determine if they are victims of crime or
in need of some specialized care. and it will make sure that they get a swift and fair court determination on whether or not they are eligible for any status, any protected status under our immigration laws. the humane act would also help ensure that if these children are in need of humanitarian assistance, they will never be released to sex offenders, criminals or others that will seek to harm them. of course, preventing these surges is not just a humanitarian issue, it's a national security issue as well. by tying up our law enforcement, customs and other security officials with humanitarian care obligations, the cartels and other transnational criminal organizations create an environment where it's much easier to traffic in drugs, weapons and other contraband. we know they are increasing ties between terrorist organizations
and drug cartels, so the threat that they will work together to exploit another humanitarian crisis is very real. for instance, last year before the senate armed services committee southcom commander general john kelly stated that he was troubled by the financial and operational overlap between criminal and terrorist networks in the central american region. he went on to say that although the extent of criminal terrorist cooperation is unclear, what is clear is that terrorists and militant organizations easily tap into the international illicit marketplace to underwrite their activities and obtain arms and funding to conduct operations. so, mr. president, i'm not just talking about economic migrants. i'm talking about immigrants from around the world who can potentially get through our southern border virtually at will, and i'm talking about transnational criminal organizations determined to spread violence and import
narcotics to the united states. so i hope the administration will take these most recent reports seriously before we are -- we experience once again the horrifying humanitarian disaster we experienced in 2014, but nothing short of real improvements to border security and our laws will work. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i rise to call for urgent action to prevent widespread violence and mass atrocities in burundi. let us not allow burundi to become the next rwanda or darfur. we're at a critical junction. i call on the burundi government
in opposition to -- and opposition to respect the spirit of the 2000 arusha agreement and immediately stop all violence, disarm militias, including youth militia aligned with the government and urge all legitimate stakeholders to agree to participate in an inclusive dialogue to determine a path forward for their country. as my colleagues may know, the country has been in turmoil since april when president pierre kurazia decided to run for a third term. his decision y feel violated the agreement ended the spirit of the burundi war and the burundi constitution itself led to widespread violence. an attempted coup in may revealed an alarming split in the militia military ranks and i came to the floor to express my concern the situation could escalate. unfortunately i was correct, it has.
at that time 90,000 people fled the country. now there are over 200,000 refugees. in june an estimated 21,000 people died during the protest. the u.n. now estimates 250 people have been killed since april, some at the hands of the security forces and others in a series of tit for tat targeted assassinations and killings. the violence is taking a troubling overturn. bodies of those who have been clearly victims of execution-style killing are found daily on the streets of burundi's capital. the families of political opponents are now being targeted and killed. government officials have been murdered. in november burundian officials engaged in alarming rhetoric reminiscent of that used to carry out the genocide in rwanda. the government was forced to issue a letter which claimed that the statements made by the president and the president of the senate were not intended for
such actions. intended or not, such comments are deeply disturbing. the international community has engaged but i fear our efforts may not be enough. i was very pleased to see the african union peace and security council's october 17 compliewn compliewn -- communique which urged dialogue, called for deployment of additional human rights monitors and threatened target sanctions against those who contribute to the escalation of violence and acts as spoilers to a political solution. it sent a strong message to all parties that continued violence will not be tolerated and that an inclusive dialogue, one that includes the burundian opposition that has taken refuge owd the country is the only way to restore civility. the european union has been forward leaning imposing
sanctions on government officials and requesting a dialogue with the gooft -- with the government to discuss the situation under the agreement related to democracy and human rights. the united states has been actively engaged in preventive action and diplomacy for some time. on november 23, president obama issued an executive order sanctioning four individuals whose actions have threatened the peace and security of burundi. he also announced that as of january, burundi will no longer be eligible for preferential trade benefits under the african growth and opportunity act. our special envoy for the great lakes, tom perrilli, has been in the region numerous times. high-ranking officials including u.n. ambassador and secretary of state ambassador power has traveled there herself and i applaud the administration's
attention to burundi. the violence continues. we must redouble our efforts to support a political solution to this current crisis. let me be clear, there is no substitute for a commitment by the burianians themselves. they themselves must choose the path of peace. i firmly believe in cooperation with our international partners, we can provide the right incentives for them to do that. we can take other meaningful actions in pursuit of an agreement we must help the african union finalize contingency plans to prevent violence in the country. i call upon the e.u. to convene a meeting with special envoys from the united nations, african union, the united states, european union and belgium as well as representatives from the east african community to discuss coordination between the united nations, the e.u. on the security council's recommendations and identify ways that the international actors can support the increased
number of human rights monitors and military observers authorized by the a.u. in october. third, it is imperative that we help put in place mechanisms for accountability for those who have engaged in extra judicial killings during this period of time. those who have committed these atrocities must be held accountable. the international community must be firm about this. we cannot allow those who perpetrate these crimes to go unpunished. the united states has made promise to actively prevent the commission of mass atrocities. as the unrest continues, people are suffering in refugee camps or living in fear of their homes, afraid to go out at night. violence is on the rise. the the economy is in a downward spiral. every day the probability of atrocities increases. preventing widespread violence and mass atrocities is everyone's business. diplomatic engagement to prevent
political violence that has the potential to become ethnically based killing is exactly what we and the rest of the international community must focus on addressing. i submit to you that acting to prevent this from happening is all our collective businesses. i urge continued action to do so. mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
obama signed the affordable care act into law, the senior democrat senator from new york went on "meet the press" to discuss the bill. he told the host, and i quote -- "well, i think as people learn about the bill and now that the bill is enacted, it's going to become more and more popular." end quote. well, mr. president, i don't need to tell anyone that that never happened. five years after obamacare was enacted, a majority of americans disapproved the law. that's a pattern that we've seen since the law's passage. so why has the law failed to earn the support the democrats predicted? for one simple reason, mr. president -- the law is just not working, as president obama promised that it would. the affordable care act was supposed to lower health care premiums. it didn't. it was supposed to reduce health care costs. it didn't.
it was supposed to protect the health care plans that americans wanted to keep. it didn't. the law was sold as a health care solution, but it turned out to be yet another health care problem. five years after the law's passage, here's where we are. americans with job-based insurance are paying more for their health care with the average employee seeing a $400 increase in his or her deductible since 2010. small business employees have fared even worse, with average deductibles now close to $2,000. americans are paying more for their premiums as well. average annual premium contribution for family coverage is currently $12,591, up from $9,773 in 2010. that's nearly $3,000 in additional premium costs or another $250 a month. for many families, this comes on
top of an increase in their deductible. meanwhile, thousands of part-time workers have lost their job-based insurance thanks to obamacare mandates that encouraged several large employers to stop offering health benefits to part-time employees. the situation on the exchange is no better. exchange premiums will rise once again this year with many americans facing rate increases in the double digits. mr. president, over the past few months, i've heard from numerous constituents wondering how they will be able to afford the massive premium increases that they are facing. one constituent in westington, south dakota, wrote to tell me that her and her husband's health care plan is going from $17,194 this year to a staggering $25,370 next year. that's an increase, an annual increase of more than $8,000.
now, what family, what family, mr. president, can afford an $8,000 increase in expenses from one year to the next? another constituent of mine wrote to tell me, and i quote -- "we just received our rate increase for our family health insurance. we have been paying $1,283 a month, and the $557 increase will bring it up to $1,841 per month. this amount has gone from 26% to 37% of our income. it is over twice, they went on to say, our house payment. after having insurance coverage for the past 38 years, we're faced with dropping coverage, which is ironic since that is not the purpose of the affordable care act. we are considering dropping insurance and facing the penalty just so we can continue to live in our house, pay our bills and buy groceries." end quote. that's from a constituent of
mine in south dakota. mr. president, i have received far too many letters like these from individuals who are facing enormous premium increases. another constituent who wrote to me is facing a 69% premium increase. 69%. she and her husband are facing a $22,884 insurance bill. she could buy a brand-new car for less than that. so it's no surprise that a recent survey from the robert wood johnson foundation found that nearly 80% of uninsured americans who looked for insurance report that they cannot find or cannot afford to buy health insurance. the grim reality for millions of americans is that the affordable care act is anything but affordable. and unfortunately, higher health care costs are just one of the problems with this law. obamacare has also reduced
americans' health care choices. faced with expensive obamacare mandates, insurance companies have chosen one of the few methods left to them to control costs, and that's restricting consumers' choice of doctors and hospitals. americans were promised they could keep the doctor they liked, but for many americans, that's not true. and then there are the taxes imposed by the law. because the administration did its best to hide the true costs of obamacare, many americans didn't realize and don't realize that the law hiked taxes by a trillion dollars. but in fact the law imposed almost a dozen new taxes, including an annual tax on health insurance that is passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums. a tax increase on flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts. and a tax on wages and self-employment income. president obama promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000, but as we all
know he broke that promise many times over when obamacare was signed into law. many of these taxes directly impact low and middle-income families. additionally, the law's tax on pacemakers and insulin pumps which went into effect in 2015 has already driven up the price of essential medical equipment. the medical device industry is not the only industry in which obamacare is costing jobs. obamacare's requirement that employers provide their workers with government-approved insurance or pay a tax has made employing full-time workers more costly which discouraged employers from hiring. workers in the retail and restaurant workers, many of them younger and less-skilled workers, have been hit particularly hard. in all, the congressional budget office has predicted that obamacare will result in the equivalent of two million fewer
full-time jobs in 2017 and 2.5 million fewer full-time jobs by 2024. that is not good news for our already sluggish economy. mr. president, all americans remember the president's claim that under obamacare, and i quote, if you like your plan, you can keep it, a claim that was named, interestingly enough, politifact's lie of the year in 2015 after obamacare eliminated the health care plans of more than four million americans. now hundreds of thousands of americans will be losing their obamacare health care plan after a number of the health insurance co-ops established under the law prove unsustainable. in all, 12 of the 23 health care co-ops established by the president's health care law have collapsed, resulting in the loss of billions in taxpayer dollars in addition to a loss of americans' health plans.
taxpayers have also lost more than a billion dollars spent on failed or failing state exchanges like the failed exchanges in the states of oregon, hawaii, vermont, maryland and massachusetts. mr. president, four years after telling "meet the press" that obamacare would become more and more popular, the senior senator from new york admitted that democrats had made a strategic error by focusing on obamacare. americans, he admitted, were, and i quote, crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not for changes in their health care -- end quote. mr. president, the senior senator from new york was right -- americans didn't want obamacare then and they certainly don't want it now. obamacare is broken and americans know it. it's time to repeal this law and start moving toward the kind of health care reform americans are actually looking for, an
affordable, accountable, patient-focused system that gives individuals control of their health care decisions. this week, the senate will take up a repeal bill that will begin the process of lifting the burdens that obamacare has placed on americans. i look forward, mr. president, to debating the bill and working with my colleagues to begin building a bridge to a better health care system for hardworking families across the country. it's time, mr. president, to give the american people the real health care reform that they deserve. mr. president, i yield the floor.
before we recessed for thanksgiving, an act dealing with the refugee crisis from syria and iraq, and it's an act that is sort of pending before the body now as we try to decide whether to take up the house bill or take up the topic of the house bill as part of other deliberations we're engaged in. first, i think everyone in this body and everyone in the house acknowledges the security needs of america in this challenging time as we're engaged in a battle against isil and as we have seen in recent weeks the reach of isil, whether it's a passenger aircraft in sinai, a neighborhood in southern beirut or multiple neighborhoods in paris, isil's threat is expanding and mutating, and we have to take those security concerns seriously. i applaud the work that has already been done to try to make sure that the vetting process
for refugees that enter the united states is pretty intense. four million refugees have left syria during the course of the syrian civil war. of those four million who have left and registered with the u.n. after a fairly extensive review process, the u.n. has referred 20,000 to the united states for possible consideration to be refugees, and of those 20,000, after an 18-month vetting process, we have allowed approximately 2,000 into the united states. so the vetting process for refugees is pretty intense. if we can make it better, we need to do that, but it is already fairly significant. i also applaud efforts that the administration announced yesterday and that other colleagues including, mr. president, you and others are working on to take the visa waiver program that we currently have that allows citizens from 38 countries to come to the united states without visas, to
make sure that program is tight. we've got to do our best in a careful and deliberate way to make sure that our security in the midst of this battle against isil is strong. but, mr. president, i rise today to talk particularly about this act because i think it's problematic and i think it's problematic from the very title of the act. and i think it raises some questions we have to be very careful about. syrian and iraqi refugees are not foreign enemies. refugees are not the enemies of the united states. we have an enemy. the enemy is isil. we're coming up on the start of the 17th month of a war against isil that congress has been unwilling to debate, vote on and declare, but they are an enemy, and we would all acknowledge that, but the refugees who are leaving syria and iraq are not our enemies. they're victims. they are victims. and i
think before we go down the path of quickly -- and this bill was passed in the house in just a couple of days -- of painting with a broad brush these people, we really need to re-flct on what they have been through. this refugee crisis in syria has been called by most n.g.o.'s's d other organizations like the u.n. the greatest humanitarian crisis since world war ii. in a country of between 25 million and 30 million, 4 million have had to flee their country because of the atrocities of the assad regime and the atrocities of the civil war carried out by isil and other terrorist organizations. 4 million have had to leave their country. 8 million more have had to leave their homes and move to other places in their country where they would prefer mott to live because their homes are unsafe because of the civil war. nearly 300,000 syrians have been killed in this civil war. and the atrocities are horrible.
the assad regime uses barrel bombs in civilian neighborhoods to kill innocents, without any rhyme or reason as to where -- or when they're going to fall, creating psychological terror as well as physical danger. and isil in syria is, it's beheadings, it's the forced subjugation of people, it's the oppression of religious minorities. virtually any religion other than a sunni extremist that would fit within isis' narrow definition of who they think true believers are. and this is what people are fleeing from. you know, mr. president, i really want to emphasize -- and i just with a nt want to emphass point, that refugees are not our enemies. they're victims that deserve compassion. this is a photograph that's a
fairly photograph one from a suburb in damascus filled with palestinian refugees who have been waiting for food. the assad regime had cordoned them off and would not allow humantain aid because they -- humanitarian aid. this was a photograph taken in january of 2014 when the u.n. fine lily could come in to deliver humanitarian food aid to these folks. you can see just the tens of thousands of people who are waiting in the midst of their bombed-out neighborhoods for a delivery of basic food aid, which has been very episodic during the course of this war. and this neighborhood has gone back under blockade. and it has been extremely difficult to get them the food they need these are not enemies. these are people worthy of the compassion of any person and especially of a nation as compassionate as the united states. and then more recently i know we were all just stunned to see
this horrible photograph of a three-year-old syrian boy who, with his family and a group of 12 syrians, tried to make it across water to greece, fleeing atrocities in the battle between kurds and isil in northern syr syria. and 12 members of this family -- 12 members in a boat were killed and drowned, including in three-year-old and his five-year-old brother. these are not enemies. and to have an act that purports to deal with this refugee crisis and to call this an act that's an act about foreign enemies, they're not enemies. and there's no way we should allow a kind of tar-brush approach that would paint these poor unfortunates who are the victims of the worst humanitarian crisis since world war ii as if they're somehow
enemies. we should have a compassionate response that protects american security but that is nevertheless compassionate. mr. president, these photographs really grab me, and the rhetoric surrounding these refugees and the fact that they're enemies when this act passed really grabbed me. i found myself thinking about it, not so much even in just the policy way. i mean, what is the right policy? what's the right mixture of things we should do to keep the country safe? that's very important, but these kinds of pictures make you think about something just more fundamental: why does this happen? right? since the beginning of time human beings have asked, why is there suffering of this kind? why must hundreds of thousands be huddled into a bombed-out neighborhood and be nearly starved out and wait for a delivery especially sod economy from the u.n.? why would a family have to flee from their home and with their
children killed to try to get away from atrocities? why, if you were a student from the university of california in northridge on a semester abroad program in paris and then you get gunned down by isil terrorists, why if you're a truerist coming back from a -- tourist coming back from a vacation in the sinai, you suddenly have your plane bombed out of the sky. why do these things happen? and there are two conventional answers to the question of why these things occur, and then there's a nonconventional answer that i think is a very challenging one that we as a body and as a country really have to grapple with. the two conventional answers to why there is horrible suffering like this are obviously there's evil in the world and there's evil within. so there's evil out in the world and then there's evil within and we make mistakes. clearly there's evil in the world. isil is evil. refugees are not evil.
you know, i think it's interesting, again, that we -- that one of the bodies here could come up with a piece of legislation draft it, debate it and vote on it in a couple of days to label refugees as foreign enemies when we've been at war for 17 months against isil and we haven't been able to have a debate in this body to authorize military force and declare that they're an enemy? there is evil in the world. we must call it out and be willing to stand against it. the great irish poet yates talked about a situation where the best of conviction and the worst are filled with compassionate intensity. i worry that this legislative branch, we have not shown the conviction to call out evil in the way that we should call it out and mistakenly we're calling people evil who aren't evil but
who are deserving of a compassionate help from us and from other nations. that's the first explanation of why evil occurs. there's evil out in the world, and there is -- and isil is evil. the atrocities of assad are evil. we ought to call it out. the second explanation is our own weakness. you have to look in the mirror when bad things happen either to yourself or your country, did we do anything wrong? i have a concern that when the chapter of this is written, the syrian refugee crisis, neither the united states nor the other nations are going to look that good. it is kind of like going to be like looking back at the 1990's and why the united states was able to intervene and stop atrocities in the balanc balkand didn't in other places. 4 million, 8 million people killed, these children and their families. i think we do have to look in the mirror and we do have to ask
ourselves whether we have done enough or whether we can do more. but lastly, mr. president, and i will a say this, there's a none conventional-- --d.h.s. there's a nonconventiol explanation of of why suffering occurs that is a challenging one and it is in the book of job. you have got a bible up there on your disk desk. the president has it right there because it is such a great woke of wisdom of it is an interesting story as we grapple with suffering like this and we have to ask why it occurs. so job was an upright and honest man. he was a blameless person, a person of integrity. and the storytellers -- this story was writ bee written abou. satten says, god is only great because he is wealthy, he is a great family. if he lost that, he would cease
being so faithful. god says, no i thinked a be faithful, anyway. let's have a little wager, satan said. that's how the book of job begins. this upright and blameless man who has everything proceeds to very quickly lose everything. he loses his wevment h wealth. he hahe loses his family fnlinge loses his health. not because of his own sin or his own error or mistake. not because of evil in the world. he suffers because he's being tested. that's the reason he suffers. and as the story goes on, he's tested, he's tested. he argues with god, he fights with the fates but he doesn't let go of his faith. and in the end of the story, this book of job -- this is not only in the old testament, it i
in the koran -- this is a story that all the faiths have grabbed onto because it has a a fundamental piece of wisdom to it. sometimes it is not just because of evil in the world or our own sin, it is because bad things happen to test us. -- as individuals. bad things happen and sometimes test us as a country. i look at this refugee crisis as a test. it's a test about whether we, like job, will be truit true tor principles or abandon them. job was true to his principles but then things came back to him multiplied. my state of virginia began when english, who were starving, were helped out by indians down near jamestown island. there was an extension of a hand to strangers in a strange land
that had allowed this emt allowo survive. my people came from ireland in the 18 40's. they were chased out by oppression, they were chased out by hunger. my people v.o.a people have thes virtually others who came. the nation of france recognized the united states for what it was, this beacon of liberty people around the world -- when france gave to the united states the statue of liberty, which we planted in new york harbor right next to ellis island, and nobody who came here had it easy. people faced signs, "no irish need apply" or they faced oppression. when they were really refugees looking for a better situation -- as we think about what we're
grappling with and what we may be called to vote on in the next ten days in this body, i really think about this massive scale of human suffering that's going on with respect to syria and i think about that whic wisdom fre book of job, which is sometimes suffering and adversity is to test us. or we going to abandon our principles, not going to be the statue of liberty nation, not going to be the nation that will extend a hand of welcome or friendship to people who have suffered? or are we going to be true to our principles? and again and again in our nation's history and in the history of other nations, it's been shown that if you are true to your principles, especially true to them during times of adversity, then you're worthy of respect. you teach important lessons to your kids and to the generations that follow, and usually things work out. i think our nation's principles are solid. they are rock solid. and in the heat of the moment,
we shouldn't abandon them. and we shouldn't abandon people who have suffered and are suffering with the kind of hot legislative language that would label them as "foreign enemies "quhtion the"when they are justn the same way people throughout history have been refugees needing a compassionate response from others. thank you, mr. president. with that, i yield the floor. mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent that i be permitted to complete these remarks and they be placed in the appropriate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: mr. president, last week families across the nation gathered in gratitude to sel celebrate thing thanksgiving. with humble appreciation we venerate the sacrifice of america's he recalliest settlers. we remember their fortitude, leaving home to colonize a new
wilderness, facing disease, starruation and even death. these brave men and women endured tremendous hardships to secure the blessings of liberty, freedom of religion so precious and prized by our forebearers is the legacy we enjoy as a result of their sacrifice. today i wish to honor the programs' legacy by speaking -- the pilgrims' legacy by speaking on the topic of religious liberty. i have addressed this subject at length and in so doing i have explained the critical spurnes e critical importance of religious freedom. i have also debunked the notion that religious liberty is a primarily private matter that has little place in the public domain. more recently i have detailed the many ways freedom of conscience is under attack, both at home and abroad. mr. president, you might wonder
why i have devoted so much time and attention to this vital subject. after all, this is the seventh in a series of speemps speechee givgiven on the topic on the fl. why do i feel so compelled to speak out about religious freedom? because, mr. president, no other freedom is so essential to human flourishing and to the future of our nation. indeed, religion is not only beneficial to society, but also indispensable to democracy. i begin by discussing the most tangible benefits religion brings to society. history provides many examples. indeed, many of our nation's most significant moral and political achievements were grounded in religious teachings and influences. first, consider the role of religion in the formation of our most basic rights. america's framers were well versed in both religion and
philosophy and in drafting our founding documents, they drew inspiration from both sources. take, for example, the unalienable rights identified in the declaration of independence -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. these rights are a synthesis of both religious and fill to havic teachings -- fill to havic teachings. the rights themselves stem from the theories of philosopher john locke, but the concept of inalienability, the idea that these rights are violable because they are -- quote -- endowed to men by their creator -- unquote -- is religious in nature. by invoking the divine and linking our rights to a moral authority that lies above and beyond the state, america's founders insulated our freedoms from governmental abuse. philosophy helped activate our fundamental rights, but religion made them unassailable. thanks to the moral grounding
provided by religion, we exercised these rights free of state control. in addition to undergirding the establishment of our god-given rights, religion directly benefited american society by catalyzing the two greatest social movements in our nation's history -- abolition and civil rights. abolition traces its roots to the second great awakening when preachers such as charles granderson finney and lymon beecher rose to prominence on their revivalist teachings on social justice and equality. many of the earliest pro-abolition organizations coalesced around christian evangelical communities in the north. emancipation was a religious cause first and a political movement second. most abolitionists were deeply religious themselves, including two of the movement's most vocal
leaders -- almost garrison and john greeley whittier. the christian doctrine of moral equality was especially crucial in generating the grassroots support that eventually made emancipation possible. religion was equally influential in guiding the civil rights movement. we speak today of dr. martin luther king, but we sometimes forget that before he was a doctor, he was a reverend. in 1967, the year before his death, reverend king proclaimed -- quote -- "before i was a civil rights leader, i was a preach of the gospel. this was my first calling, and it still remains my greatest commitment. all that i do in civil rights i do because i consider it a part of my ministry." unquote. reverend king recruited other religious leaders to his cause when he convened a meeting of more than 60 black ministers in
what would eventually be called the southern christian leadership conference. this coalition of evangelical leaders was ininstrumental in organizing both the birmingham campaign and the march on washington. for these ministers and many other men and women who participated in the civil rights movement, religion provided the initial impetus for their advocacy. today religion continues to benefit society by contributing to our nation's robust philanthropic sector. the importance of charity and helping the poor is nearly universal across all faiths. every year, religious organizations throughout the united states feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless and care for the sick and afflicted. without these religious groups, our government welfare system would be overwhelmed, and some
think it's overwhelmed even with these groups. charitable organizations are irreplaceable, because they often step in where the state cannot. consider some of the largest, most well respected religious charities in operation today such as the salvation army, catholic charities, world vision or the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints humanitarian services. these organizations are motivated by more than a mere humanitarian impulse. they are driven by a sense of duty both to god and to man. every year they lift millions from despair, offering not only material assistance but also spiritual direction to individuals -- to help individuals lead more prosperous lives. this is a critical service that no government program could ever really provide or at least provide as well.
mr. president, it's clear that religion has benefited our society in several meaningful ways. first, as a result of religious teachings, we have unfettered claim to the natural rights delineated in our nation's founding documents. second, thanks to religious leaders from john rankin to martin luther king, we freely exercise civil rights today that were once denied to millions of americans. and third, by virtue of religious teachings on charity, we have a humanitarian sector that is unparalleled in its ability to respond to crisis, bless the poor and lift the needy. but my purpose in speaking today is not merely to recite a list of blessings brought about by religious liberty. religion is not simply beneficial to society. it is an indispensable feature of any free government.
without religion, liberty itself would be in danger and democracy would devolve into despotism. the nexus between religion and democracy involves the relationship between morality and freedom. freedom is a double-edged sword. it can be used for good or for evil. statesmen may use freedom to defend justice, but tie -- tyrants can abuse it for their own corrupt ends. morality is necessary to ensure that individuals that exercise their freedom responsibly. religion provides free individuals with the moral education necessary to exercise freedom responsibly. it instills the very virtues that lead to an engaged citizenry, including a concern for others, the ability to discern between right and wrong and the capacity to look beyond
the mere pursuit of present pleasures for the good of society. president george washington identified the link between morality and religion. according to washington -- quote -- "religion and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle ." unquote. for washington, morality presup posed religion and both virtues cultivated a healthy society. perhaps this is why he said that -- quote -- "of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." unquote. that was george washington. john adams was of the same mind. he argued that without religion and morality, our government could not stand because -- quote -- "averice, ambition, revenge
and gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution, as a whale goes through a net." unquote. hence his most famous observation that the constitution -- quote -- was made only for a moral and religious people, unquote. for washington, adams and many others who helped to establish our constitutional system of self-government, religion, morality, freedom and democracy are necessarily interlinked. without the moral sensibilities that religion can provide, freedom is all too easily corrupted, endangering the very foundation of democracy. our founding fathers were not alone in calling attention to the inextricable connection between religion and a healthy democracy. the renowned political philosopher alexis de
tocqueville offered his own analysis on the subject. after spending several months observing american government and society, tocqueville wrote his famed "democracy in america" in an attempt to explain american political culture to his french counterparts. when tocqueville published his work in the early 21st century, the united states was a burgeoning democracy, and unique as one of the only countries in the world that guaranteed religious liberty to its citizens. at this intersection of democracy and religion, tocqueville made his most compelling observations. like washington and adams, tocqueville believed that religion was essential to the success of the american political experiment. without the moral structures of religion, the nation's democracy would collapse on itself. in tocqueville's own words -- quote -- "despotism may be able
to do without faith, but freedom cannot. how could society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? and what can be done with a people master of itself if it is not subject to god?" unquote. in other words, tocqueville asked how the experiment of self-government could succeed if individuals refused to submit to any moral authority beyond themselves. by posing this question, tocqueville argued that democracy needs religion and morality to ensure that citizens exercise their freedom responsibly. democracy needs religion to help refine the people's moral sensibility and instill the virtues of good citizenship to make democracy possible in the first place. tocqueville also taught that
democracy needs religion to temper the materialistic impulses of a free market society. by setting our hopes and desires beyond imminent temporal concerns and turning our heads instead toward those in need, religion engenders charitable behavior and saves democracy from its own excesses. in tocqueville's view, the free exercise of religion is not just a coalition of liberal society. it is a precondition for a healthy democracy. without religion and moral instruction that religion provides, freedom falters and democracy all too easily dissolves into tyranny. in this regard, religion is not merely a boon to democracy but a bulwark against despotism. laws alone are incapable of instilling order and regulating
moral behavior across society. as has been observed, "our society is not held together just by law and its enforcement but most importantly by voluntary obedience to the unenforceable and by widespread adherence to unwritten norms of right behavior." unquote. allen yokes was ultimately became a justice on the utah supreme court before being called to the quorum of 12 apostles in the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints. he is spending the rest of his life talking about religious principles and traveling the world helping people. what a tremendous individual. i know him personally. of course, religion and a basic sense of morality have induced such voluntary obedience to the
un enforceability that he describes. george washington conceded that individuals may find morality without religion, but the political society needs the spiritual grounding that only religion can provide. in this regard, religion complements law in cultivating a moral citizenry. both law and religion are necessary to engender good citizenship. as the influence of religion diminishes, governments must enact more laws to fill the void and maintain a moral citizenry, so the consequences -- so the consequence of less religious activity is not greater human freedom but greater state control. religion then acts as a check on state power. it cultivates morality so governments don't have to go through the cold impersonal machinery of law.
by acting as a shield against state overreach, religion is a friend of both democracy and freedom. expanding religious freedom empowers democracy, but limiting religious freedom weakens our democratic institutions. in the most extreme case, eliminating freedom and religious freedom altogether results in tyranny and human suffering on a massive scale. consider the catastrophic state of affairs in countries that have explicitly outlawed religion. the soviet union, communist china under mao, the khmer rouge in cambodia and north korea are common in examples. in each of these countries leaders committed unspeakable atrocities to enforce their own godless morality. in the absence of faith there
was no religious horizon to keep political ambitions within limits. unencumbered by the moral restraint of religion, dictators systematically killed millions of their own people to establish their own secular vision of heaven on earth. these illustrations of totalitarianism, torture and genocide demonstrate that a society without religion is a society without freedom. mr. president, i raise these grievous examples to reiterate my initial point. religion is central to human prosperity. society needs religion to keep political ambitions in check, and democracy needs religion to maintain morality so that freedom can flourish. mr. president, i had the privilege of serving for two years for three states: ohio,
indiana and michigan, as a missionary for the church of jesus christ and latter-day saints. we served without pay, without compensation and lived on $55 to $60 a month and i traveled all over those three states helping other missionaries be able to teach the gospel of jesus christ. i'm glad i had the freedom to be able to serve that mission in three states in this beautiful, wonderful country where religious freedom is a heralded right and a heralded concept. mr. president, those two years were the most important years of my life because they led to a wonderful marriage to elaine and six children, 23 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. and that's all i know about at this time. i have to say they led to a
better life in every way, even though my life has been hard. i was raised in pittsburgh, pennsylvania. my father was a building tradesman. sometimes there wasn't work. we lost our home shortly after my birth, a little box frame home in homestead park, pennsylvania. my dad borrowed $100 to purchase an acre and tore down a burned-out building to build us a home that was black on three sides, and the first side had another gold dairy sign that he apparently had torn down and put up just exactly the way it was. we didn't have indoor facilities. it was an acre of ground and we raised quite a bit of our food. we actually raised chickens. i was in charge of the chickens, taking care of the chicken coop,
feeding them, cleaning up after them, and collecting the eggs every day, selling the eggs and delivering the eggs from six years old on. i'm glad i had that experience. i'm glad that my family went to church and was religious. the church at that time in pittsburgh was really small, but the people were all patriotic and loved america. why did they? many of them were from other countries. they loved america because they were free. i didn't know any better, but i knew i was free, and that was important not just to me, but to
my parents and many others as well. elaine and i are so grateful that we've been able to raise our six children, all of whom are married now, all of whom have children, and many of whom have our great-grandchildren. the thing that ties us together more than anything else was religion in this freest of all nations. i'm so grateful for this country. i'm so grateful for the freedoms that we all take for granted. i'm so grateful for my parents who were just humble people, neither of whom had gone beyond eighth grade, but each of whom was brilliant in his and her own right. and the thing that they taught us was religion and doing good
to our fellow men and women. i'm so grateful for this great country. i'm so grateful for all of the many blessings we have from religious freedom. and i don't want to see us lose that in the realm of political correctness. in closing, i urge all of my colleagues to consider the state of religious liberty in the united states today. only by strengthening this fundamental freedom can we secure the future of our own democracy and keep the rest of our freedoms alive and viable. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
mr. coats: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. coats: i ask unanimous consent that that quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: mr. president, i have six unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the aapproval of the majority and -- the approval of the majority and the minority leaders. 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. coats: mr. president, i'm here for my now 28th "waste of the week." i've been coming down to the floor of the senate for 28 weeks
pointing out government waste. people say -- some in this chamber say, oh, we can't cut a penny more. we're down to the bone. we're far from it. this is just a small, small effort -- having been shot down in terms of anything larger to do to deal with our fiscal situation here because the white house simply does not want to engage in that. we ought to the a least be able to take steps as a body to eliminate the kind of wasteful spending that takes place on a daily basis here in washington. now, i've come down once a week do this. i'd come down every day, i'd come down every hour and point out something in this vast array of federal government that never stops growing that simply falls in the category of waste, fraud, and abuse. but so far we're well over our
$100 billion goal of accumulated waste. and that today this is number . and specifically this particular week's "waste of the week" is facilitator fraud in the social security disability insurance fund. what is facilitator fraud? facilitators are those who work with people who supposedly legitimately qualify for social security disability. the facilitator helps them fill out the forms, go through the process, qualify for the payments, and if accepted, then they become part of the system receiving those benefits. facilitator fraud are those who are using the system as a means to fraudulently, illegally qualify people for receiving these benefits. they recruit -- they recruit -- they go out and look for
claimants, either by putting out ads or using social media or word-to-mouth -- look, you, too, can get checks from the federal government, even if you're not disabled, because we've got it figured out as to how you can qualify. we will help you process these forms. we have connections with doctors and medical providers who will be able to give us written information, even though it's fraudulent and illegal, that you can use to justify with the social security administration to qualify for social security disability. and then when those payments start coming, the fater facilits get a prejudice of that, or they've -- get a percentage of that, or they've work out something. and there's this vicious cycle of fraud and abuse.
soinstead of robbing peter to pay paul, peter and paul are robbing the federal government together and reaping the benefits. now, over the last five years the social security administration has seen an amazing increase in fraudulent activity associated with facilitators. the estimate is potentially one percent and perhaps even more -- we haven't really tied this down yet -- of s.d.d.i. are payments are affected by facilitators. what we've taken today is a rough estimate of what this would amount to over a ten-year period of time and we've dropped $.4 billion. we think $10 billion a year is a conservative estimate.
pat koir roll shared his concerns about this question. he said "there are people out there in positions of trust that we have to rely on for information as to determining whether or not a claim is a legitimate claim for coverage." and he said, "if those people that we rely on to provide us the information are defrauding the government by sending in falls claims backed up by -- false claims backed up by false medical support," he said, the taxpayer here is being taken to the cleaners. we have found, and i quote again, "we have found in some cases the former social security employees have left the employment of the federal government, they know how the system works, they go -- then go
into conspiracies with unscrupulous medical providers and attorneys where they will use improper information and facilitate getting in so that a person will get the benefits and they get the payment and the rewards." last year a san diego area psychologist confessed to charging his patient patients $h to fabricate medical evidence to support their disability claims. imagine getting up in the morning, going to your desk, you've got the credentials of a doctor or, in this case, a psychologist, to issue an opinion as to what the medical condition is of this claimant and then participate in this cycle of fraudulent activity and be paid for it. that's his job. what's that he does every day. fortunately we caught him.
in august of 2014 -- 2013 federal law enforcement officials and the puerto rico police department arrested 75 people in puerto rico and dismantled a large-scale disability scheme involving physicians a understand a claimant -- and a claimant representative, a former social security administration employee. not only are individuals doing this, but there are groups of individuals who are working through a system. and these are just two small examples of what's happening here. to give some credit, we -- the discovery of this has reduced some progress in terms of addressing this problem. the most recent budget deal that we reached here in the senate included increased funding for what's called the cooperative disability investigation units,
which investigates do investigas disability claims and prevents fraud hopefully before it happens. the regio regional disability fd pilot program works on facilitator fraud across the country trying to identify those high-dollar, high-gac high-impas involving facilitators conspiring to defraud the social security administration. it is a pilot program. i don't know why we haven't had that program in place with this from its very inception. in fact, every agency that is distributing funds for individuals should have as a component of that agency an investigator -- investigative process for fraud, wasters and abuse because you name the program that is writing the checks to the claimants and i'll be able to tell you -- we'll be able to find those that are
fraudulently taking money out of the taxpayers' wallets. so we're going to keep coming down here every week, keep putting the spotlight on waste, fraud, and abuse. and today we add another $10 billion to the total, which keeps growing and growing, and now is at a total of $128,81 $128,812,000,000,000 of fraud, waste, and boo buse. agencies of the federal government that have accountability to try to dig in and find this abuse, provide this information on a regular basis, but it is something that the taxpayer simply cannot forward, should not be obligated to pay, and it's something that highlights the fact that we have
the presiding officer: the senator indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, again i ask that the quorum call be vacated. i ask -- the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: i ask unanimous consent that morning business be extended until 3:00 p.m. today, with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: thank you, mr. president. and once again i -- oh, old hon. one more. i also ask consent that the senate stand? recess as if under the previous order. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m. recess:
>> c-span takes you on the road to the white house. best access to the candidates, at town hall meetings, speeches, rallies and meet and greet. we are take your comments on twitter, facebook and by phone, and always every campaign event we cover is available on our website c-span.org. >> democratic presidential candidate hillary clinton received endorsements from 13 female democratic senators. the each spoke before introducing the former secretary of state. senator tillis with lord of massachusetts was the only female democratic senator who did not attend. >> almost over two years ago we all signed a letter and the letter said run hillary, run. we promised hillary that if she took up this challenge when we know that there's a lot of other