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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 18, 2015 12:00pm-2:01pm EST

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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i disuct that the senate now proceed to the consideration of s. 2425. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 2425, a bill to amend titles 18 and 19 of the social security act and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the clerk will read the title for the third time. the clerk: s. 2k4, 25, a bill to amend titles 18 and 19 of the social security and so forth and for other purposes. mr. mcconnell: i know of no other debate on the measure. the presiding officer: if there is no further debate, question is on passage of the bill. all those in favor say aye. opposed, say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the bill is passed. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the motions to
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reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of h.r. 1321, which was received from the house. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 1321, an act to amend the federal food, drug, and cosmetic act and sphoa forth. -- and so fortunately. -- and so forth. the presiding officer: is there objection to the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the motion to reconsider be laid on the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 291, s. 21526789. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 291, s. 2152, a bill to establish a comprehensive united states government policy and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: sl is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported amendments be agreed to, the corker amendment
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at the desk be agreed to, the bill as amended be read a third time and passed, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. res. 338, which was submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 338, congratulating to you son university on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the university. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding 0 with the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection, sowe so ordered. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 39, submitted earlier today u. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 339, congratulating the university of iowa, college of law, for 150 years of outstanding service to the state of iowa, the, and the world.
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the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: before we adjourn, mr. president, i want to say a few words of thanks. i'd like to thank the members of the secretary of the senate's office, which houses everyone from the parliamentarians to members of the disbursing office, to the clerks, historians, curators, librarians, and many other offices and individual whose keep the history and dignity of this institution are alive. i'd like to thank the sergeants office and the many hundreds of
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individuals who do everything from keeping us safe to setting up rooms for meetings. i'd also like to thank the office of the architect of the capitol, which works daily to preserve this complex, which is more than just a collection of buildings. it's a living part of our nation's history. i'd like to thank the capitol police who were prepared to put their lives on the line every day to protect everyone who works in and visits the capitol. we're grateful for everything they do. there's so maniers to thank, from the committees and their staffs to the doorkeepers to the legal counsel's office and the pages. i know i'm going to forget many individuals who deserve our thanks, but please know that we are thankful for your service and your dedication. and i ask consent that a list of the young people who serve in the chamber as senate pages be included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: on the member side, allow me to thank my leadership team.
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their counsel is absolutely invaluable and their dedication is without equal. and here on the floor, laura dove and her republican cloark room staff have a tough job making things function every single day. garry myric has a tough job on the democratic side as well. they deserve recognition from both sides of the aisle for what they do. i particularly would like to thank my chief of staff, sharon sodderstrom for her workethic, obvious talent. she's got an impressive team behind her. there are so many i can name but then we'd be here all day. so let me say something they already know: i'm certainly thankful for what sharon and her whole team do every single day. i know the democratic leader feels the same way about his chief, drew wilson, and the members of his staff. let me acknowledge his kind words yesterday as well.
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we both have difficult jobs. it's been my view that senators can have strong political disagreements without personal animosity always accompanying it. i'd also like to thank many of the 99 other members of this body who agree with that sentiment. we can disagree, as we often say, without being disagreeable. that's how this institution is supposed to function. after all, i thank senators for their service to this institution. we all signed up for a rather challenging job. we often have different ideas about what serving our constituents means, but as we have proven so often this year, we can still come together to accomplish important things for our country on education, on transportation, and so many issues. just like we saw again just a few minutes ago with passage of a significant cybersecurity, long overdue improvements to the visa waiver program, tax relief
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for families and small businesses, and other important matters. i thank the chairman of the finance committee the other day for his impressive work on the tax side of that legislation. senator hatch has been an invaluable ally working those issues. passage of a visa waiver reform and cybersecurity legislation are both notable accomplishments for our country and neither would have been possible without the continued hard work of the chairman of homeland security, ron johnson. i'd like to express sincere gratitude to the chairman of intelligence, richard burr for his work on cybersecurity, too. i know there are many others to thank, the chairman the appropriations committee and the leadership and members of all the committees who worked many long hours recently in particular. so i apologize to those i haven't been able to mention, but i want to thank them and to say simply this: i wish you a merry christmas and
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a happy new year and happy holidays to everyone. see you in 2016. rest up because we've still got a lot of work to do for the american people. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i thank my colleagues for their commendation to the 150th anniversary of the university of iowa college of law. this makes it the first law school west of the mississippi to reach that milestone. in the past 150 years, the college of law has served the people of iowa, the nation, and the world, and i'm pleased, along with my colleague senator ernst, that that resolution congratulates the college of law on it's accomplishments. i've been honored to attend some of the events celebrating iowa law this past year and the law
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school should be proud of its fast history of achievements. it's the oldest law school west of the mississippi river, and it's produced generations of attorneys that have been dedicated to improving and enhancing the practice of law in iowa and throughout the nation. currently iowa law has over 10,000 living alumni that practice in iowa and around the world. iowa was the first state to admit a woman to the practice of law. iowa law followed this tradition when in 1873 it graduated what is believed to be the first female law student in the united states, mary hickey. iowa's law second female law student, mary haddock, was the first woman admitted to the practice of law before the district and circuit courts of the united states. iowa law was one of the first law schools to grant a degree to
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an african-american student when alexander clark jr. graduated in 1879, decaded before other law schools allowed the enrol enrolt of nonwhite students. iowa law has always been at the forefront of the legal field particularlparticularly when ito diversity. iowa law has consistently ranked as one of the top ten public law schools in the country and is currently ranked the 22nd best law school in the nation. throughout the years, iowa law has maintained its commitment to the legal community and encourages students to participate in a variety of programs that better iowa. for example, iowa law has recently partnered with the iowa state bar association to start a program that trains and recruits law students to work in rural and small-town practices, providing better access to legal
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services in these communities. iowa law offers several clinic programs that focus on helping the citizens of iowa and has cephal programs to encourage students to provide pro bono legal services. so for the past 150 years, iowa law has produced lawyers that embody the model of the state of iowa, which is -- quote -- "our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain." end of quote. so i congratulate the iowa college of law on its many achievements, and i'm grateful for its continued dedication and commitment to the state of iowa. i yield the floor. mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, now that votes are concluded and we have successfully passed our legislation granting tax relief to millions of americans, i want to take a you fao minutes to express my -- a few minutes to
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express my gratitude. this has been a very long and sometimes difficult process, but it has at almost every step been bipartisan and cooperative. i think the results speak for themselves. this legislation, the path act, will help families and job creators grow our economy. this legislation will show businesses -- it will allow businesses and run-of-the-mill taxpayers to more effectively plan for their future. this legislation will pave the way for comprehensive tax reform, and this legislation will relieve the pressures we face every year on tax extenders and end the cliff for crisis mentality that surrounds much of our tax policy. it is quite simply a win for good government. the last of many we've enjoyed in what has been a very productive year here in the senate. i'm so pleased to have had the opportunity to work on this important bill and even more
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pleased to see it finally passed through both the house and the senate. i want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who worked to make this possible, who set aside partisanship and allowed both parties to realize their top priorities in this legislation without seeing it as a loss for their side. here in the senate i want to thank senator wyden, who has been an effective, valuable partner in all of our efforts on the finance committee this year. i really need to thank all of the members of the senate finance committee and their staffs who worked extraordinarily hard on the tax extenders issue throughout this entire year. i also want to thank our distinguished majority leader, who recognized the opportunity to get another big accomplishment for the senate this year and pushed to help us get the substance of the bill in place, and he worked tirelessly to get it across the goal line. thanks also to our majority whip for leading yet another successful effort to secure the votes and shore up support within our conference.
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i also want to thank our distinguished minority leader as well. though he and i are friends, we are quite often in disagreement on issues before the senate. but in this effort, we were able to find a lot of common ground, and he worked hard to get us where we neen needed to be and s ex-strombly effective in leading -- extremely effective in leading his krchlts on the other side of the capitol, need to thank kevin brady. chairman brady is pretty new to his position, but he worked like a seasoned veteran as we put this bill together. he is quite simply an exceptional and excellent legislator. i want to thank speaker ryan for the work on this as well. he and i have worked well together over the past year and enjoyed a lot of victories. this is one of the biggest and most consequential, and i think he would agree. i also need to pay tribute to our staffs who put in so much time and effort to get this endeavor off the ground and see it through the finish, oge on bh
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sides of the aisle. there have been a lot of late nights, early mornings and neglected families during these final weeks. on my finance committee staff, i need to thank our staff team led by mark prader, our chief tax counsel and deputy staff director. we all know and love mark here in the senate and this bill like every major tax bill in the last quarter century has his fingerprints all over it. i also thank bill leones for spear heeding the effort along with the republican tax team. tony coughlin, eric oman, nick wyatt and sam beaver. i also need to thank my policy director and chief health counsel for his work on the health care issues we addressed in the bill. and also on the health side, i want to thank katie simeon, one
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of the best health staffers on capitol hill. i also want to express particular thanks to chris campbell. he is my incomparable staff director for shepherding another high-profile effort and mainly success through the senate finance committee. i want to thank other members of my senior team including julia and brian hickman for their work in the press and communications outreach and of course building coalitions. i really do have the best committee staff in congress, a statement i make without reservation, but with all due respect to my colleagues and their staffs, i have to make that statement. on ranking member wyden's staff, i need to thank his tax team, particularly todd metcalf who really led the efforts for the other side. he was a key liaison with the white house on these issues. thanks also to the rest of the democratic tax team, tiffany smith, ryan abraham, chris arnison, robert andrews, karen getts and tom wooten.
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i also want to thank ranking member wyden's health people. for majority. mr. mcconnell:'s office, i want to thank hazel marshall, scott ram, don stewart for all they did to help put this bill together and negotiate the package and to shore up enough votes to get it done. thanks also to monica paup and jane lee from the majority whip's office. and from the minority leader reed's office, i want to thank drew willison, ellen denesky and kate lyon. over on the house side, i want to thank chairman brady's tax team for their work on this legislation. and from speaker ryan's staff, i want to thank austin snite and dave haufy. of course no tax effort is ever completed without the vital assistance offered by the staff at the joint committee on taxation. i want to thank j.c.t.'s chief of staff and all of his great staff for the long hours they put in to make sure this bill
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was put together right. finally, i want to act knowledge the senate legislative counsel's office, particularly for mark and vince gioni, alison otto and jim fransen. thanks to all of them as well. as you can see, mr. president, it took a lot of people to put this bill together and get it passed. i'm sure i haven't mentioned everyone who played a role. once again, i am very pleased to have been a part of this huge effort, although we have been in a rush to get to this point at the end of the year, i think we all have a chance to reflect on the implications of what we have been able to do. we will all recognize the truly historic nature of this very important piece of tax legislation. mr. president, before the senate adjourns for the year, i want to speak once again on puerto rico's financial and economic challenges. yesterday, we heard frustration from a number of my friends on the other side of the aisle about the fact that the end of
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the year legislative vehicles did not include any changes in bankruptcy law to make puerto rico eligible for chapter nine and to allow those protections to be retroactively applied to its debts. sadly, we also heard a number of misrepresentations, false claims and statements that effectively -- that really effectively impugn republicans' motives as we are working to address the puerto rican challenges. some of my friends on the other side of the aisle argued that republicans are somehow holding up retroactive chapter nine eligibility for puerto rico in order to protect interests of -- quote -- hedge funds -- unquote -- of all things. to back that claim, loose numbers apparently drawn from some kind of random number generator were put forward claiming that hedge funds holds maybe anywhere between 15% to perhaps 50% of puerto rico's outstanding debt of around $73 billion. conveniently, they did not go
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into great lengths to define the term -- quote -- hedge funds -- unquote -- making it pretty easy to throw numbers around without a clear link to any real discernible facts. nonetheless, even if so-called hedge funds held 50% of puerto rico's debt, the remaining 50% is held by others, including millions of retirees and near-retirees spread across our country and in puerto rico itself. that includes mom and pop investors in florida, the state of washington, connecticut, illinois, utah and every other state, and in puerto rico itself. of course those complicating facts do not seem to matter to some of my friends who claim that anyone not in favor of immediately granting chapter nine eligibility for puerto rico must be a shift for health funds. that's total bull. they should tell that to the retiree who wants bankruptcy proceedings to result in reduced payments on bonds issued with the understanding and expectation that current law would apply to debt being issued
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would make up to the news that their next -- that their nest egg had suddenly taken a hit. of course, those middle-class investors, the millions that aren't wealthy venture capitalists, would likely not be aware that their modest portfolio took that hit because some senators had lumped them into some vaguely defined category of rich fat cats who don't deserve the protections of the law. if we're going to have a debate about these issues, we're going to need to specify exactly what we're talking about, not only with regard to who will actually be impacted by the proposed bankruptcy change, but about what the change would actually do. yesterday, many of my friends on the other side suggested here on the floor that republicans are simply denying tools to puerto rico that are currently available to municipalities in all 50 states. however, that is a misrepresentation. my colleagues aren't simply demanding that puerto rico be
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given access to chapter nine restructuring authority for fresh debt offerings. they want that authority plus an additional allowance for puerto rico to retroactively apply chapter nine to debts already issued. that is for debts issued under current conditions that explicitly do not allow for application of chapter nine, which lenders took into account when formulating terms of their contracts with puerto rico. and our friends want to change the rules after that fact, or those facts. that, mr. president, is not in the words of one of my colleagues -- quote -- the very same tools that are available to municipalities in all 50 states, unquote. that is a change to lending conditions which carry far more serious rule of law implications than my friends want to acknowledge. no matter, they say, those pesky rule of law concerns are almost irrelevant. lenders, according to my colleagues, knew perfectly well the rules of the lending
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transaction can be changed by the federal government after the fact. lenders, they say, know the federal government can step in and expropriate wealth and change conditions of an agreement after expectations have been formed and the conditions of the transactions have been agreed upon. well, mr. president, the federal government can do many things, i suppose, but that does not ensure that what it does is good policy, nor does it mean that anyone entering into any contract should build into the terms an expectation that congress, simply because it will step in and change the rules midstream -- or because it can or will step in and change the rules midstream. yet my friends on the other side have casually and even flippant ly suggested that all of puerto rico's creditors knew or at least should have known that the laws governing their debt transactions are subject to change at any time. in any event, who cares? after all, according to my
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friends, we're only talking about a bunch of rich hedge fund managers. mr. president, i think that every senator here representing every state in the union should care. if it is what the majority wants, we can go ahead and cast aside expectations on credits already issued, but we should then at the very least be willing to consider that such actions will alter expectations of creditors moving forward. that can easily mean higher costs of borrowing to every municipality in every state of the union and in every territory. these aren't just itty-bitty things. and that would include puerto rico, utah, florida, the state of washington, new jersey, connecticut, illinois and all of the rest. even with all these obvious yet unaddressed considerations, my friends yesterday decried the chapter nine authority was not being granted to puerto rico this week. yet in discussions i have had with democrats in congress and with administration officials, chapter nine is not even what they really want, nor is it
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applicable. what they really want, what they make clear to me is something far broader which would not only give municipalities in puerto rico access to chapter nine but also a brand-new bankruptcy authority created out of whole cloth that encompasses all of puerto rico's $73 billion or more debt but also includes pension obligations of well over $40 billion. these are serious problems. you can't just flippantly think they are solved just by passing a law. that, mr. president, is not chapter nine, by the way. it is all new bankruptcy authority. that new authority which is not what democratic senators talked about on the floor yesterday also includes -- quote -- general obligation -- unquote -- debt of puerto rico, which enjoys special protection under puerto rico's own constitution, which is apparently of little consequence in my friend's agenda. the question i have is if we're going to get in the business of
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ignoring rule of law issues and creating fresh new bankruptcy law and provisions for a u.s. territory, which does not have that, neither do the other territories. why wouldn't heavily indebted states start to believe that we should do exactly the same for them? and more importantly, why wouldn't creditors start to believe that as well? but these moral hazard problems do not seem to be an issue for my friends, which in my view is both disappointing and reflective of some fundamental misunderstandings of the workings of expectations in credit markets. let's be clear, mr. president. i share the frustration of my dear friends on the other side of the aisle when it comes to puerto rico, but probably for different reasons. i have been working to find ways to address puerto rico's challenges throughout the year, not just in the past couple of weeks. they have been working to do so in a bipartisan way.
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but come to the floor and put it on the record to working in good faith with my colleagues toward finding a solution. and i am working and will continue to do so. but today i am somewhat frustrated. since august of this year, i and many others have been asking for audited financial statements from the government of puerto rico, and despite assurances that we would she have them, we have not. we have been repeatedly told and we're reminded yesterday that there is or will be a humanitarian crisis in puerto rico because of indebtedness and a health system in crisis. yet despite my numerous inquiries, i have heard little from health officials and the administration. what i have heard is that the department of health and human services seems to be gathering data, analyzing the facts and may be ready to make some administrative changes in a year or two, maybe. in the face of what we are told is the humanitarian crisis. you think that health officials would have at least had an urgent meeting or two with relevant committees of jurisdiction here in congress.
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unfortunately, to my knowledge -- and i am that relevant chairman here in the senate -- there has been no such outreach. similarly, you would think that those in congress and the administration are putting forward proposals to grant more health funding for puerto rico would acknowledge the costs of their proposals, particularly given the numerous inquiries i have made in that regard. you would also think they would let us know up front whether they want to offset any of those costs, and if they do, how they plan to do so. i've asked, but i've gotten no response. i've also asked administration officials how much is needed for health system relief and what they have in mind when they say it should be provided in a -- quote -- fiscally responsible -- unquote -- way. i have not gotten an answer, and i worry the parties including the government of puerto rico have not made sufficient efforts to arrive at a negotiated debt restructuring with creditors
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despite encouragement from me and others to get to work. now, mr. president, throughout the year, i have offered to work with anyone who wants to help people of puerto rico to find a solution. i have worked productively and will continue with administration officials. i have had constructive meetings with many puerto ricans, including the current governor and others. i have had gracious visits and offers of productive collaboration from interested house members, including representatives velazquez, serrano, gutierrez and luisi. i want that to continue. many of us are intent on persevering and continuing to arrive at solutions. even with incomplete information on puerto rico's finances and the reluctance of administration health officials to engage, i am joined with senators murkowski and grassley to put forward tools, funding and tax relief to help begin to address what we know about puerto rico's challenges. our bill provides tax relief to
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workers, tools, but no mandates to help put pensions on a sustainable path and oversight and assistance in budgeting, transparent accounting, planning and attainment of fiscal sustainability. all told, our bill puts forward more than $7 billion of relief without costing federal personal income tax payers a dime. more than $7 billion of relief. in the interest of promoting bipartisanship, the bill was put forward without provocation of sensitivities of my friends on the other side of the aisle. nonetheless, the bill was not included in the end-of-the-year legislative vehicles that we voted on today, just as the democrats' super-chapter 9 proposal was not included. yet in you listened to some of my friends on the other side of the aisle, you probably walked away with the understanding that
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my republican colleagues and i were holding up a simple and fair application of tools that everyone else has to adjust and restructure debt that won't cost the federal government anything. you were probably also surprised to learn that republicans don't even realize that puerto ricans are american citizens. i'm not making that up. one of of our colleagues actually said that. mr. president, we all know that those claims were, to be more blunt than i typically like to be, a bunch of baloney. speaking for myself, i can only say that if i am schilling for anyone on this issue, it is for the people of puerto rico and not for speculators, hedge funds, unions, or standings in political polls. i am not preventing access to tools everyone else has because thathat is not even what my colleagues are asking forment no--asking for. i bleb that the peopl believe tf
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puerto rico are not political pawns. while others may wish to engage in political dart-throwing exercises, i am not interested and i believe it is a disservice to the people of puerto rico that deserve our continued efforts. i intend to continue working with anyone who wants to work with me to arrive at tools, support, and assistance that will help the people of puerto rico, not particular politicians or interest groups here or on the island. my goal and the goal of anyone who wants to continue working with me or join me anew is simple: help the people of puerto rico and help get puerto rico on a path to fiscal sustainability, economic growth, and stability, and greater efficiency in government. we can do it, and i'm dedicated to doing it, and we've given them the benefits so they can carry this over until the end of february, maybe even into march, while we try to work on what really is -- should be a really good resolution of these problems.
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in the meantime, i hope puerto rico will get us their aitded financials. -- their audited financials. that will be of great help to us. but we've given some time here now, because it was impossible to put together a major bill on this matter and have everybody support is. so we've given time. we think we can get this done and i intend to get it done one way or the other in the best way we possibly can so that puerto rico will be helped to go on into the future and puerto ricans who have had to leave that country for jobs will want to return and be members of the citizenry of puerto rico again. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, while senator hatch is still on the floor, i want to thaipg him and congratulate -- thank him and congratulate him on his work in regards to the tax provisions we just voted on. i am a proud member of the senate finance committee. senator hatch and senator wyden, working together i think in the best tradition of the united
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states senate, was able to bring out an incredibly bill that will add predictability to our tax code and provide the right incentives for growth. i want to thank you for the work and i'm proud to serve on the finance committee. i'd be glad to yield to my friend. mr. hatch: well, i would like to thank him. he's one of the really good people in this body, and i am so grateful that he's on the senate finance committee. we have a lot of good people in this body, but this senator from maryland is one of my favorite people. he works on, he's very articulate, he's very intelligent, and though too liberal for me, he works hand in glove with the rest of us on the committee to make things work. and frankly if i was from maryland, i'd probably be as liberal as he is. all i can say is that he's a great man to work with. he is a great man here in the
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senate. and i happen to care a great deal for him. mr. cardin: mr. president, once again i thank my friend from utah. we share a lot of the same objectives on a strong nation and moving our country forward, and i think that's reflected in the bill we just voted on, the omnibus aetion pros bill. but before i talk about that, i noticed that just a few moments ago the united states senate approved the resolution for the 150th anniversary of towson university. i must admit i have a direct interest in this. my mother graduated from towson university. myrna today is the chair of the board of members of the university. it is a great institution, it started as the primary institution for educating our teachers and now has expanded to be one of the great universities in our state, attracting students from the entire country in a variety of programs.
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we're very proud of its 150-year history and we know that it has a very bright future. mr. president, i want to talk a few moments about the omnibus appropriations bill and tax bills that we just passed. i'm very proud to have supported it. we have finally passed a budget for this year, giving predictability to our agencies and providing predictability for those who depend upon the government as a partner or for services. the alternative would have been another continuing resolution, which freezes in last year's priorities at last year's level. now we have an elevated appropriation with this year's priorities. the other alternative could have been sequestration, which is a mindless across-the-board cuts saying that every priority in government is the same when it's not. and we've avoided the worst
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consequence, and that is a government shutdown that we've seen happen in the past. so we should be very pleased that the political system has worked and we've been able to pass a full-year appropriations bill with current priorities at a reasonable level. i'm also pleased that we were able to pass the tax legislation that chairman hatch talked about. the alternative to that would have been another short-term extension of the expiring tax provisions, and we saw last year that we did that with two weeks remaining in the year, and it expired on december 31, two weeks later. now we have given many of the permanent provisions -- many of the permanent provisions give long-term predictability and we've improved the tax provisions to make them more efficient. that's good news. then we've acted on many important issues, from dealing with the extension of benefits to the first responders and the attack on our country on
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september 11 to the extension of reform of the i.m.f., international monetary fund, authorizing some very important programs including the land and water conservation program, a three-year authorization that provides $350 million in this year, $144 million above current appropriations. that is all good news. i could list many, many more accomplishments in this omnibus legislation. i must tell you, there are some disappointments. one is that we didn't follow regular order. it would have been much better to pass each of the appropriations bills, to have the tax bill considered as an independent bill and have these other issues, and done it in an orderly way rather than looking at it on december 18. so i would hope that in the future we will return to regular order where we have, i think, a better chance of improving legislation with participation
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from all members. secondly, i was very disappointed that included in this legislation was the lifting the ban on oil exports, energy exports. now, the reason i'm so upset about that is i think that should have been a separate issue. it should have been taken up in consideration with the energy policies of america and environmental policies an the economic impact, the security impact. we should have had a chance to debate that issue as a separate issue. it is far too important, our energy security and our energy policy in this country. another concern i have -- and let me point this out -- i supported the package, i supported the tax provisions. the tax provisions will be scored as losing $680 billion over the next ten years. i think that's somewhat misleading. i am going to be perfectly blunt about it. because if you take out existing policy -- in other words, this is current policy in our tax
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code -- the actual cost is about 10% of that $680 billion. but that's still a substantial amount of money. and i think it would have been far better to deal with these issues in an long-term budget agreement that dealt with the revenue needs of our country, dealt with our discretionary spending targets moving forward, as well as mandatory spending. that's what we should do rather than taking this up piecemeal and now making it a little more difficult because of the revenue projections are going to be less than they were before. on the omnibus appropriations act, i want to -- on democratic side -- i really within the to thank my colleague from maryland, senator mikulski. what a great job she did on our side. thad cochran on the republican side. look, senator mikulski is my seatmate. she is my colleague from maryland. and we are so proud that we have given you one of the great leaders in the united states senate, and i think that was demonstrated on the
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appropriations bill o omnibus tt swreeted ovoted on a little whi. from my state of maryland, we can particularly pleased that so many of the military installations and federal agencies that are located in our state will get the resources, the pre-did i believe resources -- predictable resources to carry out their very important mission. we are proud of the role maryland flaiz oumaryland playsl defense, with the military installations, from andrews to indian head, walter reed naval. we have major facilities located in our state and now they will have a predictable budget to carry out their mission of national defense. on the civilian side, we have many important agencies that are located in our state that now will have the resources they need in order to carry out their mission. i could mention so many, but let me if i might, the census bureau will get $228 million increase
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in their budget to start planning for the next census. n.i.h. will get a $2 billion increase. that's the largest increase they've gotten since 2003. the work they do is lifesaving. this appropriations bill will save lives in the united states and around the world and will create jobs, because as we know the basic research done at n.i.h. is so critically important to our economic growth. i'm pleased that in woodlawn in baltimore, the social security administration will get $150 billion for badly needed rein knowvations of their facilities. -- renovations of of their facilities. that's important for them to carry out their critical role of providing the administration of the social security act for our seniors and for our disabled and those who depend upon the social security administration. there are so many areas i could talk about, the victims of domestic violence will receive the resources they need to carry
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out our commitment of a law we passed. there's certain challenges we have in our community. the heroin epidemic is affecting every state in our country, and this appropriations act will provide resources to deal with that. i'm particularly pleased that in dealing with drug issues, the high-intensity drug trafficking area, the baltimore-washington corridor, will receive the resources they need in order to deal with the challenges. our nation's infrastructure benefits from this legislation. i am particularly pleased that metro in the washington area will receive the next installment of the $150 million, that's part of the $1.5 billion commitment, legislation that i authored with the help of our regional colleagues. that commitment will stand firm. we know that the washington metro transit system is the
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nation's transit system, and so many of our federal workers depend upon it mured t in ordert to work. amtrak $1 .4 billion, crit fiscally important to the -- critically important to the entire country. we are particularly dependent upon amtrak in the northeast. the baltimore harbor will receive significant support. that's jobs, maintaining our harbor. poplar island, a dredge site, will get $26.5 million. mr. president, i've taken the floor many times to talk about the chesapeake bay and the federal partnership with the chesapeake bay. i was in the state legislature when we started this program. $73 million is going to be directly appropriated as the federal portion for the chesapeake bay program. there's $2.2 million for the captain john smith national historic strail, there's $1.97 million for chesapeake bay oyster recovery, $2 million for
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the chesapeake gateway and water trail network. so there is a -- there are resources here that carry out the federal government's commitment. every president in recent times has acknowledged that the chesapeake bay is a national treasure. largest he is wary in our -- largest estuary in our hemisphere. i'm particularly pleased under the agriculture partnership program we started last year under the leadership of senator stabenow is funded. the chesapeake bay region will receive funds under that program to help in our efforts for preserving the chesapeake bay. in the western part of my state, the appalachian regional commitment is important for economic growth. they received an additional $56 million of funds. to me, that's extremely important for the development in the rural part of my state in western maryland. during the passage of the affordable care act, i authored
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and i was pleased to see that the establishment institute for minority health and health dis parities national institutes of health, it acknowledged the fact that we have not done everything we need to deal with in disparities in our health care system. we're appropriating an additional $9 million to the institute. i think that continues our commitment to make sure that all americans, that we deal with th. last year i brought before the congress a request that we do something to deal with the holocaust survivors that are still alive and are in the united states. they are at a very delicate age and very fearful of being institutionalized. this budget provides $2.5 million to deal with that vulnerable population. i've been a strong supporter, at one time i chaired the maryland legal services corporation. i have been urging us to try to
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stop falling behind in our commitment for the legal services corporation. more and more people are being denied access to our legal system because of the failure of congress to appropriate adequate funds. i'm very pleased that in this budget an extra $10 million is appropriated to the legal services corporation. i think my colleagues are aware of the challenges we had in baltimore. i am very pleased that the obama administration, through its agencies, made resources available to baltimore and other urban centers to deal with opportunity for all communities and to restore the confidence between law enforcement and community. this budget, this budget moves forward on those commitments from the body cameras for police to helping law enforcement deal with ending racial profiling to the byrne grant funds, over $4 million that's available -- $476 million that's available, and
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community and youth opportunities are in this budget as well. byrne grant was $500 million. community youth opportunities. this is a budget that will help us deal with the problems in our urban centers. mr. president, i've taken the floor on several occasions to talk about our federal workforce and how our federal workforce has made incredible sacrifices during these tough budget years. although they didn't cause the deficit, they have been called upon over and over again to contribute by being denied pay raises, by being asked to pay more for their pension, by being asked to carry on more responsibilities with less personnel. this budget is a reprieve from the past budgets. there's no punitive action against our federal workforce, and i'm pleased for that. it provides a modest pay adjustment of 1.3%. it provides protection of, on
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the data breach that was under the cyber attack that affected our federal workforce, a $5 million protection. i'm glad that was in this budget act as well. we give them more resources and more personnel to support and carry out their mission. on the national security front, i've already talked about the support for our military installations, particularly pleased that the f.b.i. will receive $390 million down payment on a consolidated facility. the f.b.i. today is located in 30 different facilities in, and their main headquarters, the hoover building is not adequate to meet the challenges they have today. all of us have expressed our concern about homeland security, about homegrown radicalizeation of our population. the f.b.i. needs the facilities in order to keep the homeland safe, to keep us safe, and this $390 million down payment on a
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consolidated, a fully consolidated facility for the f.b.i. mr. president, a few weeks ago i wrote a letter with 27 of our colleagues to our leadership urging them that this omnibus appropriations bill should not be the place for the so-called policy riders. i heard senator mikulski talk about it during her comments. we were concerned we were working on it without the authorizing committees doing the work they were supposed to do. i am very pleased that most of these riders were excluded, so we're not going to be talking about potentially really damaging provisions that could have been included in here from restricting planned parenthood to effecting the clean water of this nation to affecting the ability of america to respond to the challenges of climate change, to dealing with protection of our workforce
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through labor laws to public safety with restrictionsing that could have been put on from gun safety legislation to dealing with our refugees. all those areas and many more were subject to policy riders that could have been included in this omnibus budget but was not. on the tax front i've already thanked senator wyden and senator hatch. i'm very pleased that we were able to do some very important things in the tax provisions. we got renewable fuels for wind and solar extended and improved, particularly for solar. and i think this will make a huge difference. but let me just quote, if i might, from the bloomberg new energy finance, bnef, report. i'm quoting from that. it says in short term the deal will speed up the shift from fossil fuels more than the global climate deal struck this month in paris and more than the
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clean power plant that regulates coal plants. this is exactly the sort of bridge the industry needed. the cost of installing wind and solar power have dropped precipitously. by the time the new tax credits expire, solar and wind will be the cheapest forms of new electricity in many states across the united states. end quote. these are significant. and am i satisfied? no. i would like to see them stronger, particularly with wind. i thought wind could have been stronger. but i think we have made significant progress in dealing with renewables, which is what we have to do from the point of energy security as well as our environment as well as our economy. having a more diversified energy portfolio, being more energy secure will help our environment, will help our economy and will help our national security. on the tax side, i was very pleased that we were able to make permanent -- permanent -- several of the tax provisions that are critically important to
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families here in the united states. we were able to make the child tax credit permanent. the earned-income tax credit permanent. american opportunity tax credit for higher education costs permanent. transit parity. transit parity is where, particularly like federal workers who use the transit system to come to work, don't bring their cars. we subsidize greatly the parking lots and the ability of people to bring cars to work. when they take a transit, they're helping us. and we now have made permanent the full limit on deductibility of the transit benefits. so that's a major step forward. i'm very pleased that we were able to make that permanent. i thank senator schumer who took the lead on that and i was proud to work with him on that. the low-income housing tax credit improvements that allows it to be more effective in its use was made permanent. conservation easements were made
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permanent. the s. corporation improvements which helps small businesses, helps small businesses made permanent. ls a lot here -- there's a lot here that we don't have to worry about this next december or two decembers from now or even five decembers from now saying are they going to expire? we do have some success on five-year reauthorizations. that does give us predictability and will allow us to move forward. the new market tax credits are extended for five years. the new market tax credits have been critically important for development in my state of maryland. i could take you to east baltimore where you see redevelopment occurring. the new market tax credits have been responsible for that. or i could take you to maryland, close to here in prince george's county and the work they're doing there. these are important tools that help create jobs and we now have more predictability.
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then we have the two year extenders including the energy efficiency that i led the effort on. so bottom line, we now have much greater predictability. let me just comment just very briefly as the ranking member on the senate foreign relations committee. i'm certainly pleased when you look at the budgets that have been, that have been brought forward or passed now for our foreign development assistance, i'm pleased that we have the support for israel that's included in this package, the economic aid for ukraine. refugee assistance, one of the great humanitarians crises of our time, funds are in here for the united states to work with our international partners to provide refugee assistance. there are many anticorruption initiatives. there's $2.5 billion -- $2.5 billion in this budget for good governance to advance human rights globally. it is a high priority of the senate foreign relations committee working with senator corker, the two of us are working very closely together to make it clear that we won't
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tolerate corruption and that we will continue to work as countries develop on good governance and respect for human rights. as i said earlier on the overall plan, there are a couple issues in this budget i'm very disappointed about. one is the visa waiver program, the discriminatory provisions against dual citizens i don't think has anything to do with safety. i don't think we're safe because we're going to make dual citizens go through a separate process. and it will cause, i think, actions by our allies that will be counterproductive to americans and could have some unintended consequences. that shouldn't have been in this legislation. i think it's misguided. also the restrictions on the closing of guantanamo bay. guantanamo bay should have been closed a long time ago, and i regret that those restrictions are continuing in place. bottom line, very proud that we passed the omnibus bill.
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i supported it enthusiastically. it represents, i think, a compromise on the political balance of our nation. we have resolved many policy challenges. we provided predictability to our agencies and predictability to policies that help private investment in our economy grow. it advanced a cleaner environment, security of our homeland, education and welfare of our citizens, america's ability to compete globally. it deserved our support and i was glad to see that it was passed and shortly will be signed by the president and will be the law of this land. mr. president, i know there are other colleagues here, so let me very briefly if i might consent to speak on a different issue, be separated in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, earlier today i took the floor and senator cruz was here, and he raised an objection to a unanimous consent request that i had not yet made. and i'm not going to make that
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unanimous consent request, but i'm going to mention as the ranking member of the senate foreign relations committee, there are 14 nominations that our presiding officer is one of the distinguished members of the senate foreign relations committee. there are 14 nominations that have been approved by the senate foreign relations committee. some a long time ago. these are not controversial nominations. each of the individuals are well qualified for the positions. the senate foreign relations committee under the leadership of senator corker reported these nominations out in a very timely way. each of those in their own position are critically important to our national security. having confirmed ambassador to a country is critically important to our national security. having the number four person at the state department confirmed is critically important in negotiating security issues. so it is our responsibility to take these nominees up and to act on them and to confirm them
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so that we can have confirmed positions. i'm going to mention a few and as i said, i had given notice that i would ask unanimous consent. senator cruz has indicated that he would object and actually came to the floor to object. but we've got to get this done. the reason we're not voting has nothing to do with these individuals. nothing. not one thing. these are qualified people. they're being held for reasons unrelated to their important responsibilities to our country. thomas shannon, a career person to the position of under secretary of state for political affairs. this is the person who, the point person in negotiating globally. brian egan to the position of state department legal advisor. we all have questions on a lot of legal issues on foreign policy and yet we won't confirm a career person who has given his career to public service? david robinson to the position
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of assistant secretary of state for construction and stabilization and coordination for construction and stabilization, this is the person who we need to deal with a lot of the human rights issues. john estrada, ambassador to trinidad and tobago. drug trafficking, months and months on the calendar and no action. i want to mention azita raji to be ambassador to sweden. sam wall heins to be ambassador to norway. i was at the embassy, i was at the state department this week for the holiday reception with the heads of missions that are stationed in washington. ambassadors from other countries came up to me and said, will we get a confirmed ambassador? it is affecting america's security and reputation, and we need to have confirmed ambassadors. norway, two years without a confirmed ambassador -- two
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years. we have a person who's eminently qualified, no objection to samuel hines being confirmed and yet we can't get a vote on the floor of the united states senate because an individual senator is objecting. that's wrong. we have a responsibility to act. david mckean to be ambassador of luxembourg, sandra lutz to be ambassador of the about a ham pas as. that's -- ambassador of the bahamas. that's eight of the total being held. senator cruz has already come to the floor to object. i regret that. i urge my colleagues to work out their problems and do it in a timely way and don't hold america hostage. because that's what you're doing. you're not holding the obama administration hostage. you're holding america hostage. who is hurt by not having a confirmed ambassador in norway?
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there are americans that get hurt, who depend upon our relationship with norway. there is a die a suprain the united states hayes -- there's a diaspora in united states that's affected by not having an ambassador to sweden. i urge my colleagues t who have problems, enjoy the holidays, get some rest, come back here ready to vote because i think that's what we were equity willed to do. i would urge my colleagues ko allow us to have votes on these very qualified people who are serving our country and are prepared to serve our country in a more significant way. with that, mr. president, i would issue all my colleagues a happy holiday season and yield the floor. mrs. gillibrand: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mrs. gillibrand: i want to speak for a moment about a great
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man and a wonderful friend of mine. his name is ray pfeiffer, and he is an incredible leader and inspiration to many, myself included. ray was a new york city firefighter for 27 years and 220 days, by his count. he called it the best job in the world, and he said he was proud to put the uniform on. but ray had to retire last september, years before he wanted to, because he has cancer. and his cancer has spread throughout his body, to his ribs, to his leg, and now to his brain. now, we know that cancer can strike randomly, sometimes with nothing to blame, but there is nothing random about ray pfeiffer's cancer. ray has cancer now because he
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was a first responder at ground zero, because he was one of thousands who rushed to help after we were attacked on 9/11. he served in engine 40, ladder 35ings, in the 9th battalion and most of the members of his aboubattalion were killed on 9/. ray spent months on the pile searching for his friends. he wouldn't leave. he spent months digging for bodies in the rubble. he spent months there breathing in horrible toxic air that hung over ground zero like a deadly mist. many members of the senate would actually recognize ray, because he's been down here so many times, dozens of times, working the halls of congress, asking senators to do the right thing and support the 9/11 bill. he was a strong, smiling man in
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uniform traveling in his wheelchair from office to office with contagious optimism and unmatched grace. ray pfeiffer has never wavered. he has never been deterred. he's never been given up his efforts to pass the 9/11 health program. but you must know, ray was never doing this for himself. he was doing it so other first responders didn't have to. ray personally wanted to be here today to see this bill pass because he'd worked so long and so hard, but last week ray had to go back to the hospital because his cancer had spread to his brain. ray is physically in new york right now, but ray's indomitable spirit is with us in the capitol. his strength is with us, his
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unmistakable grace is with us, and, ray, i know you're listening. we never, ever could have gotten this done without you. you did it. but i must tell you, ray, this speech isn't for you. this speech is for your wife karen and your son terrance and your daughter taylor. tear rains waterrance was actuan as a new york city firefighter earlier this year, just like his dad. this speech is for them because they shared you with all of us. this speech is for all the responders who fought for all these years so that our 9/11 heroes could have the health care for the rest of their lives.
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the city of new york and the united states of america owe ray and his family a debt of gratitude that can never truly be paid. ray is the embodiment of everything we strive to be as americans: selfless, kind, brave, optimistic, someone who fights for what is right and never gives in. ray, i know you're a fighter, and i know you will get through this. you have the prayers of more people than you know, and may god bless you and your family. i look forward to celebrating this hard-fought victory in person with you soon. i yield the floor.
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mr. udall: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president, for the recognition. thank you very much. last night was an historic moment in the united states senate. after years and years of
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negotiations and collaboration, after working with stakeholders across the country, we made tremendous progress toward historic, bipartisan environmental reform. the frank r. lautenberg chemical safety act for the 21st century passed the senate on unanimous voice vote with 60 bipartisan cosponsors and with overwhelming support. this is a great milestone. first i want to thank senator vitter, senator vitter and i introduced this legislation for one reason, one basic reason: to fix our nation's broken chemical safety law. i remember over two years ago we had a very quiet dinner and we walked away from that dinner saying, we're going to form a team and we're going to get this done. it was after senator frank lautenberg had passed away and senator vitter is a man of his word, and we stuck to it, and we're making significant historic progress.
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and i thank him for that. the there were times when the bill was stalled from even getting introduced and senators like tom carper stepped in and helped us get back on track, and i want to thank senator carper for that. his early leadership as an original cosponsor of this bill got us off on the much-needed right foot, and other moderates joined in, and we had some momentum billing up. -- building up. this has been a long road to get here today. i want to thank chairman inhofe for his calm, steady leadership and senators merkley, booker, whitehouse, markey, and coons, and senator durbin, and many, many others. all helped move this forward. all helped make this a better bill. and i also want to thank bonnie lautenberg. senator lautenberg fought hard for tsca reform. i was proud to take up that
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fight, and i'm grateful to bonnie, who has helped us every step of the way. she's been an incredible advocate in terms of interacting with senators and their staff to push the crucial message forward on tsca reform, and it was the message that her husband, frank lautenberg, would repeat every day when i saw him in committee. he said, are we doing the right thing for our children and our grandchildren? and he really believed tsca reform would save more lives understand that anything -- than anything he ever done in his life. i'd also like to recognize the great advocates for reform. a lot of this was grass-roots people standing up and saying, we haven't done what we need to do for the american people, for our families, for our children on chemical safety. and some of these -- there are too many to mention all of them,
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but the bipartisan policy center stood up and helped out, the environmental defense fund, fred krup their lead played a crucial role, the national wildlife federation, collin there helped out tremendously, marc march of dimes, north america's building trade union, moms clean air force, the physician for responsible medicine, the humane society and so many others. all of these groups taken together represent over 30 million americans. all support the lautenberg act. they pushed congress to act and they kept pushing until we did act. many thousands of americans have worked for chemical safety reform over the last four decades. thank you for not giving up. they understand that we need a national solution to our broken chemical safety law.
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the toxic substances control act was enacted in 1976, nearly 40 years ago. it was supposed to protect american families, but it doesn't. over four decks four decades, t. has been aiblg to restrict just -- has been able to restrict just five chemicals and has prevented four chemicals from going to market. every day americans going to the grocery store, hardware story, they believe that the chemicals in the products they buy have been tested and they are safe. but that's not true because tsca is broken. because this is all about health and safety. this is about our children and grandchildren, and this is about people like dominic browning who works with moms clean airforce who worries about her kids and
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the products and toys they use every day. she herself survived kidney cancer. when she asked her doctor it what caused her kidney cancer, he said, it's one of those environmental ones. who knows? we're full of chemicals. that's her doctor talking to her when she gets kidney cancer. this is about people like lisa hugenot, a ph.d. scientists who has done work at princeton and rutgers and at the state and federal level. she is a mother first. her 13-year-old son harrison was born with autism, an autoimmune dwisdeficiencies. she testified before senator lautenberg's subcommittee on the need ford reform. she's eager to see tsca reform be signed into law. they's that's why we're here to fix this broken system. now we're close to the finish line. for the first time in almost 40
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years. mr. president, in 2009 the obama administration laid out six essential principles for tsca reform. the bill we passed last night meets all six of those principles. and let me go through those. principle number one, chemicals should be reviewed against safety standards that are based on sound science and reflect risk-based criteria protective of human health and the environment. our bill requires e.p.a. to assess chemicals based only on the health and safety information, not on the cost. that was a significant change we made, and many of the senators i talked about earlier helped us to get that done. principle number two, manufacturers should provide e.p.a. with the necessary information to conclude that new and existing chemicals are safe and do not endanger public health or the environment.
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our bill gives e.p.a. new authorities to develop testing data and requires a finding of safety before new chemicals, as many as 1,500 a year enter the market. so that finding on safety needs to be done not like it's done today but before they enter the marketplace. principle number three, risk management decisions should take into account sensitive populations, cost, availability of substitutes and other relevant considerations. our bill explicitly requires the protection of vulnerable populations and lists examples of such vulnerable populations such as infants, the elderly, pregnant women, workers and others. principle number four, manufacturers in e.p.a. should assess and act on priority chemicals both existing and new
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in a timely manner. our bill requires the e.p.a. to systematically review all the chemicals in commerce, prioritizing the chemicals of most concern first and it sets aggressive judicially enforceable deadlines for e.p.a. decisions. principle number five, green chemistry should be encouraged and provisions assuring transparency and public access to information should be strengthened. our bill includes a section on sustainable chemistry and also makes more information about chemicals available by limiting industry's ability to claim information as confidential. and it gives states and health professionals access to confidential information to protect the public. principle number six, e.p.a. should be given a sustained source of funding for implementation. our bill gives e.p.a. sustained sources of funding and ensures
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that e.p.a.'s priorities are not overwhelmed by private interests. to ensure that the program we implement is a risk-based system. decisionally, the -- additionally, the bill allows e.p.a. to develop cost effective final regulations but without the high procedural hurdles in the underlying statute. it strikes an appropriate balance between federal and state action. it gives states the right to coenforce federal standards. so you have state attorneys general able to move when the federal government may not be moving. and it leaves state civil actions alone and gives no special advantage to either side in litigation. mr. president; we're on the verge of historic reform. decades in the making and decades overdue. tsca is the last of the environmental laws from the 1960's and 1970's left to be
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updated. some days you might not think we could pass a major environmental law in this congress, but we've proven that wrong, and we have a very strong bill. our bill finally gives the e.p.a. the authority it needs to set clear guidelines. for the e.p.a. to evaluate new and existing chemicals and to protect the american people. that is why support for this bill was so strong and continued to build from environmental conservation, good government, industry and health and labor groups. we'll be working to reconcile the bill with the house legislation. this is historic reform. the old tsca will be obsolete. we'll have a cop on the beat. we'll finally be able to protect our kids from toxic chemicals. again i want to thank senator vitter. i'm proud to work with him on this bill. we may disagree many times on
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other things. the negotiations were sometimes difficult. but we stayed at the table. we listened to all sides and we looked for solutions instead of roadblocks. and i thank senator vitter for that. and i also want to again thank the many colleagues who worked with us for the best possible bill. at every step of the way we had senators from both sides of the aisle step forward, make suggestions, join the bill, cosponsor and help move us forward. and it wouldn't be right to finish this afternoon without mentioning the staff. the staff do an incredible job here in the senate in terms of getting focused on the issues, learning them in depth, working with each other and many times moving roadblocks out of the way. and so we had a number of staff members here.
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one worked for senator vitter when senator vitter was chairman. he now works for chairman inhofe dimitri kerketos. dimitri has been amazing in terms of his staff ability and understanding and we appreciate his help. ryan jackson who is chairman inhofe's staff director. zack begg with senator vitter. colin pepperard. end early with senator white whitehouse. jasmine hunt with senator durbin. ls is a jones -- lisa jones with senator coons. i think i mentioned jonathan black on my staff but we've had incredible work by my
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legislative director, andrew wallace, all of my staff at various points because this has been a heavy burden. it picked up parts where others had to work hard on this. and so i just appreciate so much for my chief of staff to everybody in the office, all the really hard work that has been done. we also had the opportunity to consult with and ask for help from the senate legislative counsel. they worked to turn around text so quickly at crucial points. that makes all the difference in the world sometimes to be able to have a text, get it looked at, get the changes made and get back to the individuals involved. michelle johnson wider, she played a key role. deanna edwards, and i'm sure there were others over there that also helped us out. that's not a definitive list. there are many, many others. i want to conclude by thanking
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again our bipartisan partners. senator vitter and i have been working on this for years. we took it up after senator lautenberg passed away. senator vitter also, when he was on the committee and the ranking member and the chairman and back and forth, then senator inhofe took over. i remember we had a meeting with senator inhofe, and he took a real interest in this. he's had incredible, calm, steady judgment in terms of pulling together what needs to happen to get a bill done in this sometimes hyperpartisan atmosphere. and he was always willing as chairman to listen to the people on the committee, off the committee, pull people together and help them find common ground
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on this bill. so with that, we look forward to working with our house colleagues. many of us served over in the house. we served with house members, fred upton, representative frank pallone, john shimkus. these are key people that are going to be working on this over in the house and we look forward to working with them and our staff working with each other to reconcile these bills. the house has some very good ideas in its bill. and we've been a little more expansive and covered more areas and i hope they'll work with us on that. we look forward to working with them and putting the two bills together and then getting this passed early next year. mr. president, i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the
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clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i want to mention just a few words this afternoon on the vote that was just taken here on the senate floor this morning. i will certainly admit that this was a difficult vote for me, this 2,200 page, $1.8 trillion spending and tax reform bill. it certainly does contain provisions that i've advocated for, will continue to press for, that benefit different alaska groups, small businesses, the energy sector and others. however, voting in favor of such a massive and consequential piece of legislation without
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having the opportunity to fully understand, fully vet both its positive and negative implications for alaska and for our nation, or to offer amendments is something that i could not do in good conscience. i know leader mcconnell, majority whip cornyn and so many other leaders in the senate have worked hard in terms of this process over the past year. you've heard a number of senators come to the floor and talk about what clearly is a very, very -- has been a very productive senate under their leadership. i want to commend them for their leadership. i appreciate their leadership. and i know in terms of the budget, they tried to get this body to the right place, meaning we actually passed a budget for the first time in many years.
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we passed 12 appropriations bills in the appropriations committee. again, first time in many years. but then as those bills came to the senate floor, they were halted. unfortunately, blocked, filibustered. i remember debating here not once, not twice, but three times. three times. the other side filibustered the defense appropriations bill. still, mr. president, i still don't understand what was behind all that. i'm still not 100% sure why the appropriations and funding process was just halted in this body, and then you saw the smash-up the last week when everything came together at the end of the year. so i'm not sure what the motivation was to do this, but i do know this. the way in which we fund our
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federal government, in this case 72 hours to read a 2,200 page $1.8 trillion take-it-or-leave-it bill, negotiated by just a few members of congress and the white house is a broken process. and it's not worthy of our great nation nor the people we represent. and i also believe it's a principal reason why we have seen an explosion of trillions of dollars in debt that imperils our nation's fiscal stability and certainly imperils our children's future. back home in alaska we are currently debating, through a transparent, open and -- yes --
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contentious process how to best address our state's significant fiscal challenges, which we have big fiscal challenges. just like this government. it's my view that the federal government should be doing the same. the bill we voted on today and the process that produced it demonstrates that we are not. and going forward, i certainly want to continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the leadership on both sides of the aisle to continue to work to improve this process, because the people we represent deserve much, much better than what just transpired. mr. president, obviously there's been a lot of talk about the
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omnibus bill in the last couple days on the floor, but i just wanted to say a few words that sometimes it takes a reminder from home, a reminder from what's going on back home to ground us, to remind us what's really important in our lives. like family and friends and life itself. i'd like to talk briefly about an effort that's going on in alaska right now to try to recover one of our own. casey graham, an alaska native, a patriot. 24 years old. son of steven and lucy graham. brother of cheryl, michelle, megan and pauline. a veteran who served in the

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