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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 16, 2015 11:00am-12:01pm EST

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government running for another six days. through next tuesday. now live to the floor of the u.s. senate. ..
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the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. today's opening prayer will be offered by rear admiral brent w. scott, deputy chief of chaplains for the united states navy and chaplain of the marine corps in washington, d.c. the guest chaplain: please join me in prayer. heavenly father, we begin this day in the privilege of prayer, thanking you for this great nation, a people gathered from every tongue and tribe, bound
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together through the more noble ideals of liberty and justice and equality, formed and favored as one nation under god. we ask your help as you continue to make us as one. we pray for our senate in this session, and ask you to bless them with wisdom and discernment to lead our people toward reconciliation, to rebuild our nation's confidence in justice, to restore our sense of equality. free each one from the divisive distractions of any lesser ideals that they may more powerfully serve the people as a body of, by, and for the people, making every effort to keep and protect a more perfect union. we pray blessing also for the men and women who wear our nation's cloth, standing watch in every corner and clime of the globe. give them peace as they bring
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peace to this troubled world. we pray in your holy name. amen. the president pro tempore: thank you so much, captain scott. please join me in reciting the pledge f allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i said yesterday that committees and members from both sides were making important progress in the appropriations and tax relief negotiations. as colleagues now know, last night the committees and members reached agreement and filed legislation over in the house. i just participated in a productive meeting where the committees walked our conference through details of this legislation. i know our colleagues across the aisle are discussing the matter as well. i'll obviously have more to say on this soon. now is the time for members to review the legislation for themselves. i would encourage them to do so, and i would also encourage members to debate it.
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mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: mr. president, as the republican leader mentioned, last night the senate and house leaders finalized a bipartisan compromise. i said last night -- according to how you define "last night" -- the last e-mail i got was at 2:45 this morning from my chief of staff, who was one of the negotiators. anyhow, sometime in the dark in the bill was finalized. when i say "the bill," it's really two bills. it extends important tax policies for american businesses and families. this was not an easy process. members worked weeks to craft in
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agreement. mr. president, i mentioned yesterday and i say again today, i appreciate the cooperation, the expertise, and all the good work done by speaker ryan, leader pelosi, senator mcconnell and their staffs. i underscore and underline what my chief of staff, drew willison did. this is a good compromise. mr. president, the presiding officer not being a lon longtime member of congress, knows that no legislation is perfect. this is good legislation. this is truly the art of compromise. and when we say "compromise," it doesn't mean anyone is doing
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away with any of the principles. what it simply means is people can't be bullhead and have to be reasonable in what they're doing to accomplish their goals. in spite of republican majorities in the senate and house, we democrats were able to ensure that this legislation creates and saves middle-class jobs, protects the environment, invests in renewable energy sources. for example, by extending tax incentives for wind and geothermal, the omnibus bill will create over 100,000 jobs in the private sector. it help cut carbon emissions by roughly 25% by 2022. to those who will argue that lifting the oil export ban will counter those effects, that's simply not the case. it is not true. extending the wind and solar
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incentives will eliminate over 10 times more carbon emissions than lifting the oil export ban will create. the omnibus spending bill is good for jobs, good for clean energy and the environment. it also helps american families by including a provision that will lower health insurance premiums. but to fully appreciate the compromise, we can't simply tick off the many beneficial policies that the agreement includes. we must also consider the many troublesome provisions that didn't wind up in the legislation. when this matter came from the house, no more than 200 so-called riders, and they didn't wind up in the bill. many of these riders represent the worst of legislative priorities. weaken dodd-frank banking regulations, undermine the department of labor's different rules, roll back the nlrb
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standards, clean air, water, and climate and some of the writers tried to weaken the consumer financial protect bureau's ability to protect consumers. there were efforts made to curb the president's powers under the antiquities act, to create national monuments. these are only a few of the special interest riders that were sent to us from the house, and we did not allow 99% of these to be included, because they're harmful policies. so i say again, this compromise isn't perfect, but it's good. it's good for the american people. and if it weren't for democratic efforts, it would have been a lot worse. i also want to extend my appreciation to the great staff of the white house. first of all, the president's chief of staff dennis mcdonough. he is a former college football
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player. he is a strong man emotionally and physically, and he's very forthright, which i appreciate in the positions he takes with everybody. he's helped us guide this legislation through. we have a number of people that work at the white house that we worked intensely with. all the cabinet officers -- we had a very good relationship with jack deitch. i appreciate his involvement in so many different ways. longtime senate employee katie burn fallon has been available anytime we needed her. and this has been very difficult for her because she is a new mom with two little twins sms she -h two little twins. she was always available. her knowledge of the senate has been helpful in our being able
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to move this bill as far as it has been. and then longtime floor staffer who operated and ran the floor for many, many years marti payon. we still miss him here in the senate. he did such a good job for the country and the senate. we must pass this legislation as quickly as we can. christmas is fast-approaching. so i hope republicans in the house and the senate will move quickly to bring this legislation to the floor so we can vote on it, give the american people every confidence their government will remain open. mr. president, would you tell me and the rest of the senate what we're going to be doing 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 6:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each.
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mr. reid: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. kaine: mr. president, i ask the proceedings under the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. warner: i rise to call attention to the contributions public servants make to our nation each day. it appears we're close to final conclusion to the budget and tax extenders debates, and hopefully we'll soon all be able to go
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home to see our families. i have a little easier opportunity with that than the presiding officer. it does appear this year we may be able to put together a two-year budget process which is a step in the right direction. too often congress punts on its public responsibilities with stopgap solutions to our country's problems. through all these challenges, though, our public servants, particularly our federal employees, with little recognition and less fanfare, work through these ups and downs to improve americans' lives. since 2010, i've come to the senate floor on an occasional basis to honor exemplary federal employees, a tradition started by my friend, the former senator from delaware ted kaufman. tide i'm pleased to -- today i'm
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pleased to honor a great federal employee, kevin strickland, who also happens to be a virginian. as the administrator for coal at the mine safety and health administration, mr. stick land leads a team -- strickland leads a team that enforces safety rules, improves industry compliance and executes rescue and recovery operations. on his watch the number of coal miners who have died in accidents last year -- 16, while still too high -- that was the lowest ever recorded in united states history. in addition, the number of mines with chronic violations dropped from 51 in 2010 to 12 in 2014. and the number of citations against mines fell from more than 96,000 to less than 63,000 in 2014 as inspections increased. after the upper big mountain -- after the upper big branch mine disaster in 2010, mr. strickland was at the front lines of
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implementing reforms to improve mine safety, including quartererly inspections, surprise inspections for repeat violators and a program that identifies habitual safety lapses. when accidents have occurred, mr. strickland's creativity and calm under pressure have saved countless lives. in 2002 -- a 2002 accident, a pennsylvania coal mine flooded, trapping nine miners. mr. strickland and his team devised a plan to drill a six and a half inch hole and inject compressed air into it. their plan provided oxygen to the miners and prevented the water level from rising any further. the miners survived and were hoisted to the surface using a capsule the team helped design. following a 2006 accident in west virginia, rescuers' efforts were impeded by limitations in communicating over long distances. the protocol at that time was 1,000 feet.
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the team's solution was to develop a wireless fiber optic system that extended communications to up to five miles. mr. strickland and his team improved the standard by more than 26 times. like so many other federal employees, they went above and beyond because it was in the country's best interest. not because they expected praise or recognition. mr. strickland, whose two grandfather and father were all coal miners, described his objective as being -- quote -- "for each miner to go home as safe and as healthy at the end of the day as they started at the beginning of the day." i'm proud to rise today to recognize mr. strickland's dedication to public safety and commitment to public service. i hope my colleagues will join with me in thanking him, his team, and, frankly, at this holiday season all federal government employees at all levels of service to this country for their contributions and hard work. as we go through these final
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days of debate, and hopefully as i said at the outset, get a chance to spend time with our families over the holidays, i do think it's important that we also take a moment to reflect on the close to two million federal employees who serve our nation in so many ways each and every day without fanfare but in so many ways serving our country. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. prayer and pledge the clerk will call the roll. -- -- the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the president pro tempore. mr. hatch: i ask that the quorum call be dis missed.
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the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: i also ask that i be permitted to complete two sets of remarks here. last night after months of discussion and several weeks of intense negotiations bipartisan leaders from both the house and senate reached an agreement on both the substance and a procedural path forward for legislation that will provide millions of american families and businesses with much-needed tax relief and set the stage for comprehensive tax reform in the future. the bill which we're calling the protecting americans from tax hikes, or path, act of 2015 would make a number of temporary tax provisions permanent, putting an end to the repeated tax extenders exercise that has plagued congress for decades and giving certain -- giving greater certainty to u.s. taxpayers across the board. there are no two ways about it, mr. president, this is an historic bill that is actually
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the latest in a long line of historic bills we've considered in the senate this year, and it has quite a bit in common with some of the other efforts we've tackled in 2015. for example, for many years now much of what we've done in congress has been dictated by the next deadline, cliff, or crisis around the corner. and more often than not the tendency has been to simply kick every can down the road and then give speeches about why we shouldn't do that any more. this year the senate has worked to end the practice of governing by crisis. among other things, we've passed bipartisan legislation to repeal and replace the medicare sustainable growth rate, or s.g.r., formula and to provide a long-term funding for highway and infrastructure projects. both of these issues had plagued congress for decades with permanent or long-term fixes seemingly always out of reach. regularly demonstrating that congress is too divided and too
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ineffective to reach any meaningful solutions. the same can be said for tax extenders which has been an almost yearly exercise in relative futility characterized by partisan bickering as the deadline approaches -- deadlines approach with short-term extensions enacted at the last minute, leaving no one, certainly not american taxpayers, feeling better in the end. yet with the path act, as with the s.g.r. and highway funding bills, we've been able to reach a bipartisan agreement that would effectively end this cycle. now, mr. president, we have to pass it. according to the joint committee on taxation, 52 separate tax provisions, what we typically refer to as extenders, expired at the end of 2014. that's 52 separate provisions that on a relatively frequent basis faced expiration and
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requires to reach agreements on further extensions. our bill would reduce that number down to 33 provisions, still far too many but a significant relief in terms of ongoing extenders pressure. most importantly, the bill makes permanent many of the most consequential extenders provisions, the ones that tend to drive the crisis and cliff mentality when it comes to tax extenders, further relieving the pressure and allowing congress to function more effectively by adding more permanence to the tax code, we will allow families and businesses to better plan for the future. in addition, we will adjust the tax and revenue baseline to make conditions vastly more favorable for comprehensive tax reform in the future, a major priority for members of both parties. most importantly, passing this legislation and making more tax policies permanent will provide significant tax relief for hardworking taxpayers in every
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walk of american life, from the middle class to middle-class families to the working poor it will do the same for job creators throughout our country, resulting in a healthier u.s. economy, increased growth and more american jobs. put simply, mr. president, more permanence in the tax code will be a good thing for our country, and the path act will provide just the kind of permanence we need. so let's take a few minutes to look at some of the key provisions of this legislation. i'll start by talking about some of the biggest priorities that my friends on the other side of the aisle brought into the recent negotiations. as we all remember, president obama's so-called stimulus included provisions that made some of the biggest refundable tax credits in the tax code even more refundable, including the earned-income tax credit, or eitc, and the child tax credit,
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or c.t.c. this increased credits which when boiled down are essentially additional cash payments made directly from the government to an individual filing a tax return, where originally designed to be temporary and had to be extended a number of times over the years. going into these negotiations, democrats essentially demanded that the enhancements to eitc and c.t.c. along with a partially refundable tax credit that was also in the stimulus be made permanent. as you might expect, republicans were reluctant to go down that road not because we don't want to help families who benefit from these credits, but because we know that refundable credits are particularly susceptible to error, fraud, and overpayment. these types of improper payments are well documented, particularly with regard to the eitc, where every year we lose tens of billions of dollars to either deception or bureaucratic
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mistakes. however, we opted to make accept making these credits permanent because doing so allowed the negotiations to move forward, but we did demand, and the democrats agreed, to include significant provisions to improve the program integrity with regard to these credits in order to reduce improper payments going forward. in fact, if enacted, the program integrity provisions in this bill will be the most robust improvements to address waste, fraud, and abuse in the tax code in nearly 20 years. so essentially this compromise in refundable credits was the very definition of a win-win situation. particularly whenne when you cor the other provisions have been included in this legislation as a result. and we never did this really before. we all knew that there was fraud. with this bill, we'll be able to secure key incentives for economic growth. for example, the bill makes permanent section 179, small
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business expensing, which allows smalsmall businesses, the drivef american job creation, to grow and invest with more immediate tax benefits. this has been a top priority for many members of congress, not to mention virtually everyone in the business community. the path act will also improve and make permanent the research and development tax credit, a vital tax provision for industries and businesses that thrive in areas of research, areas where the u.s. continues to lead the world. and this has been something i've fought for every year, year after year after year. and we've always gotten it but it's never really worked as well as it should because there was no permanence to it. now we're going to have a permanent. that's a great, great step forward. our bill also gives more companies greater incentives to invest in assets that will help their businesses grow and expand. this, too, has been a longtime
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priority for the business comiewndz and many members of congress -- business community and many members of congress. and while we were not able to make it permanent, we did improve and extend this important tax incentive. the bill will also make america more competitive on the world stannel. it permanently extends the active financing exception, or afe, from subpart-f income and provides a five-year extension for the controlled foreign corporation, c.f.c., look-threw- look-through provision. this gives companies a greater ability to compete internationally. this is important if, like me, you want to see u.s. companies remain u.s. companies. in addition to these top priorities for businesses and job creators in the u.s., the path act would provide significant tax relief for
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families. the bill makes permanent the deduction for state and local sales taxes. it makes permanent the low-income military housing credit and the employer wrangle credit for active -- employer wage credit for active military employees. and it includes an expansion of eligibility for work opportunity tax credits. all of these provisions benefit american families in various regions under a number of different circumstances. our legislation will ensure that millions of americans who benefit from these tax provisions will be able to rely on and plan around them well into the future. not a bad result, if you ask me. i'm not done yet, mr. president. in addition to the many benefits we'll provide to families ans businesses, the path act would also give significant tax relief to charities. it would make sure that charitable distributions from
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ira's remain tax-free on a permanent basis, and the charitable distributions for contributions of food inventory would also be made permanent under the bill, as would a provision that incentivizes "s" corporations to make charitable contributions of property. i'm really only going through the highlights. i haven't gotten to the obamacare provisions yet. as we negotiated this legislation, the most difficult part was probably dealing with the rumor mill, which i suppose was not unexpected. most of the really outrageous rumors we heard during this process dealt with provisions of the so-called affordable care act. people were claiming that senate republicans had agreed to bail out the obamacare risk corridor program in order to get a deal. we heard that there was an agreement to provide tax relief to prop up the failing obamacare exchanges. none of these rumors were true, of course.
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this exercise in tax permanence was never going to be used to solidify obamacare and republicans never for a second considered allowing that to happen. however, because many democrats have begun to recognize some of the more problematic elements of the president's health law, we agreed on the need to suspend one of the more harmful taxes imposed under obamacare. the bill includes a two-year moratorium on the med device tax -- medical device tax that has drawn the ire of republicans and democrats alike. this moratorium is important, mr. president, not only because it demonstrates the bipartisan opposition to the tax but because it will help patients and consumers throughout the country who have seen their health care costs go up because of the medical device tax.
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i have been a particular advocate to get rid of that lousy tax, and we're ultimately going to get rid of it. but at least we're rid of it for the next two years. we'll see what happens in those next two years. this legislation provides roughly $650 billion in tax relief over the next ten years for families, job creators, and others. that is real money that will help millions of people and provide real growth to our economy. that, mr. president, is the real value of greater permanence in our tax code and is the biggest reason we need to pass this legislation. now, don't get me wrong ... i don't believe this is a perfect bill, by any means. it is not even close to perfect. as i've grown fond of saying, if we were living in the united states of orrin hatch, this legislation would look a lot different. though it pains me to admit it
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sometimes, that's not where we live. here in the real world, any undertaking wornl thest i worths going to require compromise. i know i say that a lot. this is a good bill, period. anyone, if they are so inclined, would cling to the parts they don't like and make excuses to vote "no." but taken as a whole, both parties should be able to support the overall package we've put together and without question every one of us should welcome the positive impact this bill will have on our economy and future legislative efforts here in the congress. so i urge all of my colleagues to support the path act and provide real tax relief at this critical time. now, before i close, mr. president, i just have to note that a lot of work has gone
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theinto this legislation. every provision of this bill has had a number of champions in congress who have worked for years to preserve and enhance these provisions in the hopes of eventually making them permanent. i want to acknowledge some of those efforts here today, particularly those of my colleagues on the senate finance committee. for example, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, which this bill makes permanent, has had a number of champions on both sides of the aisle. in our committee, senators enzi, cornyn, and heller have all made this a priority and our legislation will ensure that their work pays off. another one of the more significant tax provisions this bill would make permanent is the research and development tax credit. that has been a top priority of mine for many, many years, and senators cornyn, crapo, and roberts have also played leading roles in this effort over the years. section 179, small business
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expensing, will also be made permanent under this bill, and senators toomey, roberts, thune, portman, and isaac san have all been leaders on this for many years. the bill would also make permanent the accelerated 15-year depreciation for restaurants and retail, a provision that senators burr, cornyn, crapo, heller, isakson, roberts, and portman have all worked long and hard to keep in place. of course, i could add my name to every one of these. in addition, senator enzi has been a big supporter of making the active financing exception, or a.f.e., permanent. our bill once again accomplishes this goal. senator roberts has been a strong supporter of the "s" corporation basis adjustment for charitable contributions and the charitable deduction for food inventory contributions, both of which will make permanent by passing this bill. senator thune has also been a leader with regard to the food
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inventory deduction, and he's also worked to enshiewsh that charitable -- enshould you are that charity -- ensure that charitable deductions from ira's recent tax-free -- remain tax-free, another permanent provision in the path act. senator heller has championed the special rules for real property contributions made for conservation purposes, yet another item that our bill makes permanent. the deduction for teacher classroom expenses is also made permanent in this bill. senators burr -- senator burr has been a strong supporter of that provision and deserves a lot of credit for it. the path act will make the low-income housing tax credit permanent something that senator crapo has worked on for sometime. senator portman, all of these people have been really active members on the republican side. senator portman has worked to
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extend the work opportunity tax credit and expand it to include the longterm unemployed. his proposed modification is included in our bill, as is an unprecedented five-year extension for this credit. we appreciate your work on this, senator portman, as we have seen you work so hard on so many of these issues. we're grateful for you, and i'm really grateful to have all these people on my committee. of course, this was not an exhaustive list, mr. president. for right now, i'm focusing mainly on temporary provisions that will make permanent by passing the path act. if i start talking about my colleagues' -- various colleagues' efforts on the shorter-term extensions in the bill, we would be here all day. i do want to give credit on the obamacare provisions. for years opposition to the
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misguided medical device tax -- and that's the most charitable description of that tax you'll ever hear from me -- has been gainingaining momentum. throughout that time, the senators have worked hard to push for a repeal. as i noted earlier, our bill would take a significant step inured this effort by -- step forward in this effort by imposing a two-year moratorium on this tax. i haven't mentioned my colleagues on the other side, but certainly amy klobuchar has stood right with me in getting rid of that tax. it's only for two years, but we're going to ultimately get rid of it completely. and we've got to do that. as you can see -- and let me just say, it is a pleasure for me to work with senator wyden, the rangthe ranking member. he's worked with us on many of these issues. and so have others on the democrat side of the aisle.
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but the leadership on many of these issues has come from many of these people i've mentioned. i just want to make sure that they -- that people understand this who are listening. but as you can see, mr. president, the path act reflects the efforts and priorities of many members of the senate, not just members of the finance committee but members on both sides on some of these very important issues, as they would have to be. i thank my democratic friends for helping. as the debate on this important bill begins in earnest, i a i am particularly grateful for the work my colleagues on the finance committee have put in to advance the interests of their constituents. each of our members has put a huge stamp on this legislation, and with a little luck that a handful more votes, their work will be permanently enshrined in the tax code. that's no small achievement, after all these years of trying to make some of these provisions permanent. there are, of course, others who
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have also worked hard on various parts of this bill. virtually every senator, or at the very least, every senator's constituents has high-priority items included in this bill. that's a big reason why it is important that we get this done for the american people. again, i'm happy to bring together both democrats and republicans on this important set of tax changes that really is long, long overdue. i'm very pleased to work with my democrat colleagues as well, many of whom deserve credit as well. being in the majority, we had to have the efforts of these republican people that i've been praising here today. mr. president, before i yield my time, i wish to pay tribute to a beloved uta utahan, who was takn years before his time, nathan graham. nate was not only a celebrated member of this tightly-knit community of utah and here in
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washington, but also a well-respected former staffer of the united states senate. tragically at the young age of 37 nate was struck by a random infection and passed away while on a business trip to china last week. although he's no longer with us, the great love he shared with others remains in our hearts. born in utah, nate graduated from northridge high school before studying political silence at weeber state university and moving to washington, d.c. from 2003 to 2009 he served as legislative assistant for my friend and former colleague senator robert f. bennett. nate was senator bennet's key staffer on the trans-atlantic policy network, a group that includes the united states and european elected officials as well as business, policy and academic leaders in europe and the united states.
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as a military legislative assistant, nate also worked closely with combat leaders in utah's military installations, including hill air force base, the dougway proving ground and the utah test and training range. in this capacity he also advanced senator bennett priorities on the is subcommittee. the senate's agenda included increased funding for microfinance programs, strengthening the millenuim training program. he accompanied the senator to europe several times for business and meetings. he traveled to egypt, taiwan and china in support of senator bennet's work on foreign policy. nate's trademark endeared himself to all. he never thought of himself
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better than anyone else and was always kind to everyone regardless of staw and position. -- regardless of status and position. he looked out for young staffers just starting their careers and actively searched out new experiences for their professional development. following hits time in the senate, nate entered the private sector accepting the position with procter & gamble as their senior manager for global government relations and public policy. although nate never worked for me directly, he was a gifted public servant whose contributions were highly regarded across the entire utah delegation and across me personally. speaking to nate's character, senator bennett who is going through his own personal cancer right now sent me the following note over the weekend -- quote -- "nate graham was a valued and much loved member of my staff who was on track for great success in life both
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professionally and with his beautiful family. this is a terrible tragedy. our thoughts and prayers are with his family. we will miss him terribly." unquote. those are beautiful sentiments from senator bennett who is a really fine man. i might add i don't that senatot has had some good results from his therapy on his cancer and it looks as those he's hopefully cancer-free at this point. a lot of us have been praying for him and we're going to continue. when nate was working for senator bennett, he met and fell in love with his sweetheart and eternal companion melanie nicoleson. i know bob was delighted when he could be a match maker for some of his staffers. in addition to melanie, nate is survived by their four sons, rowan, james, lincoln and
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griffin. griffin, who was just born two months ago. nate was an active member of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints, having served an l.d.s. mission in honduras and belize. six months before he passed away, he was released as the bishop of a local congregation in arlington, virginia, where he built a reputation for fostering a community of love and friendship. a tidal wave of support has washed over the graham family in the wake of nate's passing. in just a few days friends and neighbors have already raised nearly $100,000 in a crowdfunding effort to support this family. mr. president, i would like to close with the words of the scottish poet henry francis lyke from his hymn "abide with me" which he wrote on his death bed in 1847. this song is one of that crosses
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the l.d.s. community that offers comfort and peace. i fear no foe with thee at hand to bless. ills have no wait and tears no bitterness. where is death's sting? where grave nigh victory. i triumph still with me. we know that nate now abides in a holier place. his father is in his thoughts as they are in our prayers. his family is in our thoughts as they are in our prayers. may god cover them. may he comfort all of us as we mourn the loss of an exceptional friend, father and husband. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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