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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  February 23, 2016 10:00am-12:31pm EST

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>> u.s. senate committee today to continue debate on the food and drug administration. senators voted yesterday to move the nomination forward your confirmation vote could take place later today but is likely tomorrow. now, live coverage here on c-span2. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. lord, you are great and highly to be praised. make yourself known in the hearts and minds of our lawmakers. may your presence create in them a hunger and thirst for righteousness. help them to see the opportunities that reside in
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their challenges, as thoughts of your steadfast love sustain them throughout life's seasons. may their lips speak of your wisdom and the meditations of their hearts earn your sacred approval. give them the which is disple to remember how fragile life is and that when we die, we leave our possessions to others. when our senators call on you in the day of trouble, deliver them with your mighty hands. and, lord, touch senator claire mccaskill with your healing hands. we pray in your great name. amen.
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the president pro tempore: pleae 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: at a time when the prescription opioid epidemic is tearing families and communities apart in our country, it's clear we need strong leadership at the f.d.a. this is an agency that request play a leading role in addressing the crisis through its drug approval process, but it's also an agency that's been rightly criticized for not recognizing the severity of such a significant problem and for not taking greater action to address it. so today we'll consider the nomination of someone who i think can help lead the agency in a new direction. i recently met with dr. califf
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and raised my concerns and desire for the f.d.a. to take a more acertificate tougassertiveg this serious epidemic. he shared with me his proposed plan for dealing with the issue and for establishing a necessary cultural shift over at the agency. i plan to support his nomination today, and i look forward to working with him. that said, i proudly led many efforts over the years to push the f.d.a. to take a stronger approach when it comes to ending today's prescription opioid epidemic. i don't plan to let up now. the f.d.a. should expect continuous, ri rigorous oversigt in the way the agency addresses this epidemic in the future. so on a different matter, mr. president, we understand that in just a few minutes the president is set to make an announcement on the secure facility in guantanamo. in light of that, colleagues
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should consider the following things we've heard in recent weeks: general dunford has spoken of the need for our military to take more agresssufficient action -- aggressive action against the isil group that's operating inside libya. general campbell has spoken of the need to retain a sizable enough force in afghanistan to accomplish the dual missions of both conducting counterterrorism operations and training and visiontheafghan security forces. secretary carter has requested money for the programs we'll need to balance against the region noel ambitions of china and russia u in other words, some of the most senior national security officials within this administration are already working to better position the next president for the national security challenges that we'll face in 2017 and beyond. and yesterday president obama
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seed seemseems to remain capture matter by a exrai campaign prome made back in 2008. his ill-considered decision to close the secure facility at guantanamo. today we received the descriptions of where the president would like to detain terrorists within the united states, though not any actual proposed locations. despite the fact that it would be illegal under current law to transfer foreign terrorist at guantanamo into the united states. this isn't a case where the president can even try to justify the use of some pen-and-phone strategy which claiming congress failed to act. to the contrary, congress acted over and over rand over again in a bipartisan way to reject the president's desire to transfer dangerous terrorists to communities here in the united states.
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the president signed all these prohibitions and his attorney general recently confirmed that it is illegal -- illegal -- for the president to transfer any of these terrorists into the united states. so we'll review president obama's plan, but since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in u.s. communities, he should know that the bipartisan will of congress has already been expressed against that proposal. so, mr. president, on one final matter, the signs of the season are all around us. volunteers are knocking on doors, caucuses are caucusing, votervoters are vote, countless ballots have been cast already in places as diverse as council bluffs, nashua, and mete myrtle
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beach. americans will have the too unts to do the same next -- have the opportunity to do the same next week. it's campaign season. we're right in the middle of it. and one of the most important issues now is this: who will americans trust to nominate the next supreme court justice? presidential candidates are already debating the issue on stage. americans are already discussing the issue among themselves, and voters are already casting ballots in the case of the democratic leader's constituents on this day. one might say it is an almost unprecedented moment in the history of our country. it's been more than 80 years -- 80 years since a supreme court vacancy arose and was filled in a presidential election year. and that, mr. president, was when the senate majority and the
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president worke were from the se political party -- the same political party. it's been 80 years. since we have divided government today, it means we have to look back almost 130 years to the last time a nominee was confirmed in similar circumstances. that's back when politicians like mu mugwamps were debating policies like free civil and a guy named grover ran the country. think about that. as senators, it leaves us with a choice. will we allow the people to continue deciding who will nominate the next justice or will we empower a lame duck president to make that decision on his way out the door instead? the question of who decides has been contemplated by many, including our friends on the other side of the aisle. we already know the incoming
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democratic leader's view. the senior senator from new york didn't even wait until the final year of president george w. bush's term to declare that the senate should reverse the presumption of confirmation and not confirm a supreme court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances. we also know how the current democratic leader feels about judicial nominees from a president of the other party. here's what he said. "the senate is not a rubber stamp for the executive branch. nowhere in the constitution does it say that the senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote. it says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the senate. that's very different than saying every nominee receives a vote." well what about the views of the top officer at this body, the president of the senate? joe biden was a senator for many decades. he was a loyal democrat.
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he developed enduring friendships in both parties, and before becoming vice president, he served here as chairman of the judiciary committee. let's consider what he said in circumstances similar to where we find ourselves today. it was an election year with campaigns already underway, a president and a senate majority from different political parties, just like we have today. and here's what appeared on page a-25 of "the washington post." senator joseph r. biden, chairman of the judiciary committee, has urged president bush not to fill any vacancy that might open up on the supreme court until after the november election warning that any election-year nominee would -- quote -- "become a victim of a -- quote -- "power struggle of control over the supreme court." biden said he would also urge the senate not to hold hearings on a nomination if bush decided
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to name swufnlt the article continued, quoting then-senator biden. "if someone steps down, i would highly recommend the president not name someone, not send a name up," biden said. "if he did send someone up, i would ask the senate to seriously consider not having a hearing on that nominee." and then this: "can you imagine dropping a nominee after the three or four or five decisions that are about to be made by the supreme court into that fight, into the caldron of the middle of a presidential year," biden went on. "i believe there would be no bounds of propriety that would being honored on either side. the environment wroo be so supercharged and the so prone to be able to be distorted. whom ever the nominee washings good, bad, or indifferent," he added, "would become a victim." as the current chairman of the judiciary committee pointed out yesterday, senator grassley, biden went even further here on
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the senate floor. he said that, "it does not matter how god a person is nominated -- how good a person is nominated by the president. it is the principle be, not the person that mattered." biden said some of our most heated confirmation fights have come in election years but also re-miewrnded senators when presidents exercised restraint and withheld prosecute making a nomination until after the election. one of them was abraham lincoln. it offers an example others may choose to consider. president obama, like lincoln, once served in the illinois legislature. it is a place he returned to just the other day to talk about healing the divide in our country. here's what he said. "it's been noted often by pundits that the tone of our politics has gotten better since i was inaugurated. in fact it's gotten worse. one of my few greets is my inability to reduce the polarization and meanness in our
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politics." well, this is his moment. he has every right to nominate swurntion evesomeone, even if dl plunge our initial a bitter struggle. that certainly is his right. even if he never expects that nominee to be actually confirmed but, rather, to wield as an election cutting edge l, he -- election cudgle. he can let the people decide and make this a legacy-building moment rather than just another campaign road show. whatever he decides, his own vice president and others remind us of an essential point: presidents have a right to nominate just as the senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. in this case, the senate will withhold it. the senate will appropriately
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revisit the matter after the american people finish making in november the decision they've already started making today. but for now, i would ask colleagues to consider once more the words of vice president biden. here's what he said. "some will criticize such an decision and say it was nothing more than an attempt to save a seat on the court in the hopes a member of my party would be permitted to fill it but that would not be our intention, mr. president. if that were the course to choose and the senate could not consider holding hearings until after the election, instead it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway -- and it is -- action on a supreme court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over." that's vice president biden when he was chairman of the judiciary committee in a presidential election year. fair to the nominee, essential to the process, a pragmatic
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conclusion. the words of president obama's own number two, what else needs to be said? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. the presiding officer: on behalf of the entire senate, we acknowledge the prayer of the chaplain today regarding claire mccaskill. claire mccaskill, it's known now, has breast cancer. she feels comfortable with the diagnosis. she's in a place where they render great care, st. louis, state of missouri. we're hopeful and very confident that she's going to be just fine, but our thoughts are with her, recognizing the senate, the
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number of people who have been stricken with cancer of one kind or another. without belaboring the point, breast cancer is personally very devastating not only to the patient, of course, but the family that is -- doing everything they can in a compassionate way to support their loved one. and we know joe, her husband, is terribly concerned. but i sent a message to him that the treatment of breast cancer is so much better than it was just a few years ago that we believe that claire will be okay. and we certainly hope that's the case. the republican leader mentioned a number of things, mr. president, and i'm not going to talk about all of them. but the one thing that i want to focus on just for a minute, we
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have something that is devastating moving forward and throughout this country, and that's the poison of opioids. these products that come in the form of medicine prescribed by doctors has really been devastating, sweeping the country. i of course am glad that we're moving forward on dr. califf. he's a fine man. he'll do a good job as head of the food and drug administration. but we're going to move to some legislation dealing with these poisons, and i would hope that everyone would appreciate the fact that we around here do too often celebrate the passing of legislation that really doesn't have much to do with reality. the only way we're going to do a better job of fighting the scourge is to have some resources to help people who have responsibilities to do something about that. it means we'll take up the
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opioid bill maybe as early as next week. we need to devote real workforces, not just -- devote real resources, not just lip service, to this important problem. i know the republican leader is doing his best to try to make a good picture here as to why he's made the decision that the senate's not going to confirm any supreme court nominee that the president puts forward. i heard one statement by the former chair of the judiciary committee this morning say it doesn't matter who he puts up, we're not going to vote for him yen -- anyway -- or her whatever the case might be. but the facts of my case are distracting and wrong. he can read all the statements of the senior senator of new york and the vice president, but never were any nominees held up. in fact, he -- you don't have to go back to grover as he
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indicated to find a similar situation. let's talk about ronald, a more recent president. president reagan in 1988, the last year of his presidency, put forward the nomination of anthony kennedy to be a supreme court justice, the last year of his term. and what did we do? we took it up, and he was confirmed. now there's lots of time to do things. biden's statements -- vice president biden's statement was made in the middle of the summer of the year that he spoke, but there's so much time left. we have 333 days left in president obama's term of office, so there's plenty of time to get the work done, because average days to confirm
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justices, 67 days. so i think we should be able to squeeze out of 333 days, 67 days. i don't want to burden everyone with facts, but sometimes they get in the way of some of these ridiculous diversions from what our job should be. when senator biden was chairing the judiciary committee in 1991 and 1992, george w. bush's term, we confirmed 120 judges. certainly that hasn't been the case in the last few years because the republicans basically opposed all judges, and now this new direction toward making sure there's no confirmation of a supreme court justice is obstruction on
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steroids. but this is really a pivotal moment for the republican party and this republican senate. the republican party of abraham lincoln and theodore roosevelt is transforming before our eyes, abandoning its last vestiges of decency and unconditionally surrendering its moral compass to donald trump and ted cruz. gone are the days of levelheaded ness and compromise. the republican party turned bipartisan into a dirty word. behind closed doors my republican colleagues like to express disappointment at the direction the party has taken but never, ever would they say anything publicly because these extreme elements in their party who seem to be running the party would criticize them. republicans should think long and hard about this simple fact. if they follow the course set by the republican leader, every one
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of them will be responsible as trump and cruz for the debasement of the republican party. he will join them in what they've done to the party. it will be a new and a much worse republican party. clearly senator mcconnell's absolutely falling that lead of extremists trump and cruz. there is no clearer response than the republican leader's response to the supreme court vacancy. certainly there's no better example of that, the republican leader's response to the recent supreme court vacancy. in the aftermath of justice scalia's passing, the senior senator from kentucky could have announced his intent to fill the senate's constitutional responsibility and invited the president to send a a well-equal fied candidate to the -- well-qualified candidate to the senate for consideration. but that's not what he did.
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instead the republican leader announced he will deny president obama's constitutional right to send a nominee to the supreme court despite all precedents set and by so doing he'll leave the supreme court in a state of uncertainty. senator mcconnell something leading the cost to obstruct and cheapen the presidency at all costs regardless of the damage it does to our democracy. doesn't that sound familiar? it sounds like something donald trump would do. that's because that's exactly what donald trump urged senator mcconnell to do. at a republican presidential debate in south carolina ten days ago, mr. trump said of the supreme court vacancy -- and i quote -- "i think it's up to mitch mcconnell and everybody else to stop the nomination. it's called delay, delay, delay." close quote. donald trump. that's exactly what the republican leader is doing: delay, delay, delay.
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333 days isn't enough to do the work that we ordinarily do in 67 days. it's disappointing that the senator from kentucky takes his marching orders from extremists like donald trump. it's a pretty stark change from what senator mcconnell used to believe. he used to loathe this radical tea party faction of the republican leader party. according to an account, this was in "the new york times," the republican leader once referred to tea party republicans as -- and i quote -- "those idiots. those people come up here and have never been in office and know nothing about being in office." close quote. yet today he's meeting with these same republicans. he's meeting with the house freedom caucus, the same republicans who worked with ted cruz to shut down the government. and they shut it down. it seems as though the republican leader now subscribes to this new radical
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republicanism. but even though this extremist brand of politics sells in presidential primaries, mainstream americans categorically reject it. yesterday public policy polling released a survey of independent voters in pennsylvania and ohio. not democrats, not republicans, but a large swath of america who are now independents. these numbers should serve as a wakeup call to the republican leader and his party. 70% of voters in ohio believe a new supreme court justice should be named this year. more than 60% of independent voters in pennsylvania believe a new supreme court justice should be named this year. the american people are telling the republicans in the senate that they reject this obstruction of the supreme court nominee. unfortunately, the republican leader is listening to donald trump and the junior senator from texas. he's not listening to mainstream america.
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he's not listening to the few voices of reason coming from his own party, even from his own senators. yesterday the senior senator from maine, a republican, told cnn -- and i quote -- "for my part, et it's clear that the president can send up a nominee. it is the duty of the senate under the constitution to give our advice and consent or withhold our consent. i believe we should follow the regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee that the president may send to the senate." close quote. mr. president, the precedent has been in this body that even in the judiciary committee, if there's a hearing held and the person is not reported out with a majority vote, it comes to the floor anyway. senator leahy, the long-term chair of the party -- i'm sorry -- of the judiciary committee, president pro tempore
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of the senate, ranking member of the judiciary committee now, will come and talk about this this morning. but the quote i just read for senator collins, she is not alone urging the republican leader to follow regular order. a sitting senator said the same thing and i'm not going to read what all of them say, but there is a small nucleus of republican senators who believe strong that what mcconnell is doing is wrong. the republican senator from indiana, senator coats, is quoted as saying -- quote -- "if the president nominates someone which is his choice i think that person deserves a hearing if that person is obviously not someone nominated for political purposes." even former colleagues agree that the president's nominee deserves a fair shake. the former republican senator from indiana, dick lugar, is urging senate republicans to do the right thing and honor their constitutional duty. he served here for more than three decades and here's what he
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said yesterday -- and i quote -- "i can understand the reluctance given the controversy that surrounds all the debate that has already occurred, but that is not sufficient reason to forego your duty." close quote. but perhaps former republican senator from maine, olympia snowe, said it best -- and i quote -- "i believe the process should go forward and be given a good-faith effort." close quote. good-faith effort, it's a phrase we hear often but it's absolutely crucial to american democracy. our constitution was constructed with the expectation that elected leaders would act in good faith. that's how our government operates. it should. under republican obstruction that has not been the case. i ask my republican colleagues, whose side do you want to be on? whose voice do we listen to? these voices of moderation and reason coming from within your own party or the shrill voices, the shrill, shrill voices of
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trump and cruz? there is a -- there is not time to vacillate. right now the republican leader is leading his conference straight to the side of donald trump and ted cruz. but it's not too late to change course. reject the extremist approach propagated by the likes of donald trump and ted cruz will only hurt our country. put aside this obstruction and work with president obama to fill this crucial vacancy on the supreme court. do your job. all we're eg saying is do your . do your job. would the chair now announce the schedule for the rest of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume executive session to consider the following fume nation, which the clerk will report. the presiding officer: nomination, department of health and human services, robert mckinnon califf of south carolina to be commissioner of food and drugs.
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mr. inhofe: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: it's quite a discussion when we talk about the confirmations. it is one of the responsibilities of this body -- that this body has that the other body does not have. in the case of the -- a united states supreme court vacancy, however, during an election year, this is actually -- this has actually been i think some 80 years since they've actually filled a vacancy, as opposed to waiting until the next -- after the next election. i am concerned today, though, about another confirmation, the v.a. i.g. nominee named michael mismissile has been nominated. i have a hold -- to explain what that means, when you have a hold, it doesn't necessarily
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mean that you don't approve of the nominee, but it does mean that there's one reason or another that you don't want to go ahead and confirm that person. that happened in the case of a nominee to be v.a. i.g. michael missile. actually, i'm not placing a hold on him because of dwishes in him, but dwishes in the office of the i.g. today what i'm announce something i'm lifting that hold. that means they're free to go ahead and have this nominee move forward. i think that's the right thing to do. at the mis miss v.a. filth, thes been little or no change in the care. my office is working on oklahoma veterans with linlted access to care. i wrote the v.a. i.g. in 2016 simply requesting that the v.a. i.g., inspector general, to
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oklahoma facilities and to do so with an outside entity such as the joint commission. now, there's kind of an attitude sometimes with individuals not wanting outside help, kind of an assuanassum on this that i don'- assumption that i don't need their help. it's time for our v.a. facilities in oklahoma to be held to those same standards as private hospitals, and i believe it'll take the aid of an outside group to make this happen. right now they are not meeting that quality. since placing a hold on mr. missal, the i.g.'s office has committed to investigating oklahoma's v.a. facilities with the oversight of an outside entity. and i've also -- and i also have that commitment from michael missal that dole that. and i a-- that he will do that.
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since the v.a. reform bill passed -- it passed congress this last september, it was a good bill -- it is clear that our facilities in oklahoma have continued business as usual. i haven't seen any noticeable difference in the performance, in the treatment of our veterans since the passage and the activation of that bill. i believe the impending investigations will show that it's going to require a change in the management level to bring about lasting improvements for veterans' care. that's why i along with my junior senator from oklahoma, james lankford, have introduced senate bill 2554, the veterans' a fairveteransaffairs accountabt this legislation is critical to providing the best treatment for our country's veterans, imilding upon the comprehensive plan of the 2014 v.a. reform bill.
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our legislation grants v.a. leadership at the regional level and the -- the authority to fire and to demote individuals who -- staff that is working in these facilities. i think that a lot of them thought the reform bill did that, but it didn't. it also allows directors of the veterans regional chapters to contract with an outside entity to conduct investigations for their v.a. medical facilities. now, as i've worked to address the many concerns i have with oklahoma's v.a. facilities, i have come to trust the leadership at the regional level. we had one individual who's come in is ralph gigalotti. he doesn't have the authority do what this bill would allow him to do. now, not only were intermediate surgeries suspended due to what
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they have now uncovered but also the chief of staff has been temporarily removed from his position. this process, however, revealed that our regional directors are not presently empowered to address staffing concerns in the facilities they oversee. we've seen this in the state of oklahoma numerous times. our legislation peels away the layers of bureaucracy and allows the directors at each of the regional areas to play a larger role with improving the v.a. system as a whole. as we all know, freedom isn't free. many of our veterans have paid the prices with scars, some visible, some may go unseen, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, depression, and traumatic brain injuries. it's -- in my great state of oklahoma, there are more than 37,000 military families that
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call our state home. on behalf of 00, i say we are humbled by the immeasurable dedication of each and every one of them. and i think it's government's duty to honor the promises made to our veterans in return for their sacrifices and i urge our colleagues to remember that. i can remember what i was in the army. commitments were made to me when a decision was made -- actually mine was not a decision because it was compulsory service at that time, which i think we ought to go back to -- but, anyway, we -- i think this is going to be good and this is going to give us the resources and the capability of correcting the problems as we see them. for that reason, i am lifting my hold today on mr. michael missal and his nomination will move forward. with that, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont.
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mr. leahy: mr. president, this past weekend, the nation honored justice antonin scalia. he was laid to rest after serving on the supreme court for nearly three decades. marcel and i were at home in vermont when we learned that justice scalia had passed and, frankly, we were stunned by the news. i did not often agree with justice scalia, but he was a print jurist with a deep commitment to our country and the constitution and we enjoyed a friendship for decades. he will be remembered as one of the most friewn influential decn modern history. while his family and all should have been -- had a chance to mourn his passing, i was shocked in the media wake of his death senate republicans moved quickly
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to shut down the constitutionally mandated process to fill the vacancy left on the supreme court. within hours of his death being announced, they declared they would oppose any effort to confirm the next supreme court justice this year. now, i have served in this body longer than any member here. and i've heard some shocking things during that time. but i'm surprised by the political crassness of these statements. before a nominee had even been named, some republicans reflex civil decided to prematurely reject anyone -- anyone -- nominated by the president. this impulsive rush to judgment runs completely contrary to how this body has always treated nominees -- always treated nominees -- to the highest court in the land. the republicans should not allow
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the hyperpartisan rhetoric of the campaign trail to trump one of the senate's most important constitutional duties. i've talked with the president and i know he will fulfill his constitutional duty. he will nominate an individual to bring the supreme court back to full strength. and of course he should. and the president has already begun consulting with members of both parties in the senate. but after a nomination i has ben made, we in the senate should get to work and do our jocks, -- and do our jobs, the jobs we are elected to do. i was all over my state of vermont last week. vermonters i spoke with last week reflect americans across the country. they are tired of partisan political games. they're chipping away at the foundation of our constitutional
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democracy. i heard this from both republicans and democrats in vermont. as oliver goodnuff wrote, "an extended supreme court because the senate was unwilling to actually do their work would -- quote -- "seniorly i--quote -- a constitutional embarrassment." i ask unanimous consent that a copy of his op-ed be included in the record. officethe presiding officer: wit objection. mr. leahy: thank you. we must not let that dysfunction infect the supreme court. the supreme court is an independent, coequal branch of government that was designed to be above politics. the next nominee to the supreme court deserves full and fair
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consideration by the senate. that includes a timely hearing and then have an up-or-down vote. now, i'm worried that even before president obama took office and ever since then, even after he was reelected by a 5348 vote plurality, there is a been an unrelenting and cynical campaign by some hyperpartisans to de-legitimize the president's authority. there are the birthers and there have been and still are spurious slurs of all kinds. outside of this body, the efforts to undermine president obama's constitutional authority to fill the supreme court vacancy draw some of their vehements and venom from these dark corners. but every one of us took an oath
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of office, every wurc one of usd we're sworn to uphold the constitution. we're swr sworn to uphold our constitutional duties. less us not be intimidated to v.a. void our sworn duty. let us act for the good of the american people and forked good of this great nation. now, some have justified their call for unprecedented obstruction by claiming that it's because the american people need a voice. give me a break. the american people have spoken. millions of americans, an overwhelming majority of vermonters, voted in record numbers in 2008 and again in 2012 to elect president obama. in doing so, they granted him constitutional authorities for all eight years of those terms.
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you don't elect a president for one year or two years or three years. you elect a president for four years at a time. and just saying that president obama is a lame duck president does not make it true. in fact, the next election is not -- at the end of this year, in november. the american people expect those they elected to do their jobs for their entire terms. that means both in the senate and in the white house. they don't expect senators to say, well, we can't vote on anybody this year because it's an election year. we'll collect our full salary, but we're not going to vote on anything. the american people don't like that. now, it's rare that a vacancy on the supreme court arises during an election year. it is just false to say that
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justices do not get confirmed in presidential election years. more than a dozen supreme court justices have been confirmed in a presidential election year. i think one of those i voted on, democrats led the senate during president reagan's final year in office, and we voted for president reagan's nominee and it was confirmed by a democratic-led senate during the president's final year in office. he received a hearing and a confirmation vote. it would be the height of hypocrisy to say we shouldn't apply the same process with a democrat in the white house and republicans in control of the senate. we can't say we'll follow our constitutional duty and do our work if we have a democrat-controlled senate and a republican president, but we can't do it if it's the other
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way around. now some republican senators have acknowledged the next supreme court nominee to receive a fair hearing, but the process gets in there. i have served on the judiciary committee for 36 years. during my time on the committee, we have never refused to send a supreme court nominee to the full senate for a confirmation vote, even in those cases where a majority of the committee opposed the nomination, we still reported the nominee to the full senate. and once reported to the full senate, every supreme court nominee has received an an up-or -down confirmation vote during my years in the senate. we have to uphold this bipartisan tradition for the intersection supreme -- next sue court nominee because so much is at stake.
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merely holding a hearing with a full committee process and a confirmation vote is insufficient for a supreme court nominee. it would be a charade and an avoidance of our constitutional duties. if republicans refuse to uphold their constitutional responsibility to consider the next supreme court nominee, i believe it harms our constitutional system of government. if they succeed in deliberately holding open a seat on the supreme court for more than a year, they'll be intentionally disabling the court's ability to fulfill its constitutional role. and republicans will be harming the supreme court for more than a year. justice scalia once wrote the supreme court with just eight justices risked the possibility that the court would find itself unable to resolve the significant legal issues
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presented by the case. the legal issues before the supreme court are significant. the importance of a single vote in the court cannot be overstated. one vote in the supreme court decides landmark cases concerning our campaign finance laws, clean water, air policies, marriage equality, voting rights americans deserve a fully functioning supreme court. mr. president, i've traveled all over my state. i've traveled all over this country. i've talked with republicans and democrats alike. and what i know from my fellow americans that makes me so proud, they show up for work and they do their jobs. americans don't have the luxury of telling their bosses that instead of doing their jobs, they would rather delay, delay,
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delay. if they did, they'd probably be fired. well, the united states senate shouldn't tell the american people we're not going to do our jobs. we'll delay, delay, delay. the stakes are too high. the american people actually expect us to show up for work and do our job. so let's get to the work, do the job the american people sent us here to do. maybe we may want to re-read our oath to uphold the constitution. it requires no less. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that mara greenberg and colleen bengoa detailees of the judiciary committee be granted floor privileges for the 114th
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congress. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask my full statement and the op-ed piece i referred to in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i don't see others on the floor about to speak. i will yield the floor when we do. you know, we've allowed this whole process to become far too partisan. i'm a lawyer, a former prosecutor. i've argued cases in state court, in federal courts, in federal trial courts and federal appellate courts. when i've gone to federal courts, i've always thought the beauty of this, whether republican or democrat nominees, i thought i could get a fair
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hearing. i thought it a great honor to go there. people come from other parts of the world, they talk about our federal judiciary as an example for them. i recall when a country that had been under dictatorship changed to a more democratic form, and some of their people came to my office and asked about our judicial system, and they said is it true that in the united states of america people can sue, actually sue their government? i said it happens all the time. and they said, well, is it true that sometimes the government loses? i said it happens all the time. they said, then, do you replace the judge when that happens? i said no, they're independent. it was like a light bulb going on when they realized what a difference we are. think of the image we send to the rest of the world as well as
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300 million americans if we say no, we're going to politicize the supreme court, a court that is supposed to be the final arbiter on constitutional questions. look at what it says to them and say, yes, we have time to take more recesses this year than i think the senate ever has, that i can ever remember. but we don't have time to do the job we're elected to do, the job we are paid to do, and vote on, have a hearing on and vote on a supreme court nominee. mr. president, the american people, they have a job. they can't pick and choose when they'll bother to show up. and you can't say i know this is
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what i was supposed to do in this job, but i don't feel like it. or i have a partisan reason not to do it. i'm going to sit this out. see me next year, and i may do my job. nobody would accept that. well, that's really what is happening. the republican leadership is saying, no, we want to sit this out. we don't want to do our work. we don't want to do our job. see us next year. maybe we'll then. maybe we will then. this never happened. it never happened in an election year. we had at least a dozen supreme court vacancies during an election year, and a dozen times the senate, no matter who was president, came together and handled the nominee and got them confirmed. why did senators do that in the
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past? probably because they figured they had been elected, they were being paid by the american people, it was part of their job, and so they show up and do their job. are we now going to change what has been the precedent ever since the beginning of this country and say, oh, we're better than that, we don't have to do our job. keep paying us; we don't have to do our job even though we've taken an oath to uphold the constitution and do our job. even justice scalia has said that would be wrong. you shouldn't have eight members on the supreme court. so let's actually show up, do the job we were elected to do, do the job we are paid to do.
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do what every other american has to do. they have to show up for work. they have to do their job. they can't say i can't -- i donl like it this year. see me next year. by the way, send me my paycheck. that's not the american way. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i rise today first to praise and echo the words of the senior senator from vermont, our ranking member on judiciary, in urging our republican colleagues
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to give a fair and full consideration of a supreme court nominee. i particularly want to praise my friend, the ranking member, for his eloquent remarks, for his leadership of the committee when he was chair, and as ranking member. now my friend from vermont is absolutely right. just as the president has a constitutional responsibility to name a nominee to the court, the senate has a constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on that nominee. frankly, it is the senate's job to consider supreme court nominees, and the american people expect the senate to do its job. we are telling senate republicans, america is telling senate republicans: do your job. plain and simple. my friend, the chairman of the judiciary committee, should commit to holding hearings. the distinguished majority
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leader should commit to holding a vote. it's been a long-standing precedent of the senate to consider supreme court nominees in a timely manner, even in election years. justice pitney in 1912, brandeis and clark in 1916. cardozo, at a time when america was more divided than now, 1932, the middle of the depression, the great election between roosevelt and hoover. they put in cardozo in that last year. murphy in 1940 and of course kennedy in 1988 were all confirmed. justice kennedy was confirmed in the last year of a presidency with a republican in the white house and democrats in control in the senate. that's the mirror image and the most recent chance we have to compare how a democrat's acting, how a republican's acting. all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who were here voted that way. now i know, mr. president, today
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our republican colleagues point to what senator biden said. they pointed to what chairman leahy has said. they point to what i said, and democrats. there are equal quotations that senator mcconnell and senator grassley and others have said. each voicing a different view than maybe is being voiced today. but none of those were held up, and you can have all the competing quotes you want. they amount to nothing. the american people are strong, democrats and republicans, in telling senate republicans, do your job. so the bottom line is very simple: toirks say that there to say that there will be no hearings, no vote, no consideration whatsoever, that's not doing your job. that's quitting before you start. senator leahy said it well.
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imagine someone showing up at work imagine, average american if you show up at work and you say -- you were to say, i don't want -- i'm going to take a year off. pay me. your boss wouldn't stand for t well, our boss, the american people, is not standing for this. because it'll be over 300 days before a supreme court nominee is filled a, at best. the kind of knee-jerk political obstruction the american people have grown so frustrated with in the congress is what our republican colleagues are saying. if republicans truly respect the constitution, they should follow it and consider a nomination from the sitting president rather than playing political games. instead, they are once again threatening to bow to the most extreme right-wing voices and engage in the kind of political obstruction that brought us a
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three-week government shutdown that cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs and took $15 billion to $20 billion out of the economy. in 1913 -- sorry, in 2013, after the hard right didn't get its way in its fight to undo the affordable care act, they wage add war to shut down the government. republican leaders listened. they probably knew it was wrong in their heads, but they listened. and what happened? after three weeks with their tails between their legs, the leadership had to say, we have to open up the government, even though we haven't repealed the affordable care act. the now junior senator from texas had urged that course, and they were foolhardy to follow. the now junior senator from texas is urging the course now of no hearings, no vote, and i would tell my republican colleagues -- and to his credit,
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senator mcconnell has said, we have to get the senate working again -- that this is a foolhardy course, and it will not stand, it will not last because these american people are telling senate republicans, "do your job." now, republicans say the american people should have a voice in choosing a supreme court justice. well, guess what? president obama won reelection by a large margin in 2012. all of the issues, or many of the issues they bring up were there then -- security, the affordable care act. there was a referendum on all these kinds of things. and the people spoke loudly and clearly on november 6, 2012, when they elected the president to another four-year term. that's four years, as called for in the constitution -- not three years, as some of my republican friends like to say now. if republicans get their way, we would have a 4-4 gridlock
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supreme court for a year that would tie the court and large parts of the country in knots. and let me say, if we have a tie in the supreme court decision, the decision has no presidential -- precedential value. you get gridlock and confusion. america doesn't want gridlock. they don't want gridlock on the floor of the senate. they don't want gridlock on the floor of the house, and they don't want gridlock in the supreme court. the american people expect the senate to do their job. they are tired of obstruction and my way or the highway politics. again, i'd say, our friend, the junior senator from texas likes to quote the constitution. he likes to walk around carrying the constitution. that's great. i'm all for that. i'd like him to show me the lines in the constitution that say in the last year of the president's term he doesn't have the power, the right to nominate. of course he does.
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and yet the republican majority, at least by i.n.s. substance now, is taking away that -- is at least by it's stand stance ns taking away that. i believe every member has the right to vote "no" if they think the nominee is out of the mainstream and i'll be the firt to admit, "mainstream" is defined differently than different people. but hearings are amazing things. they open up the candidate, if the candidate is being open and honest, and whatever one thought of the hearings in the last four yearnominees to the supreme cou- two under president bush, two under president obama -- got bipartisan votes and passed. and so this idea of not having a vote is wrong. i urge -- plead for the sake of
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our constitution, for the sake of getting our country moving again, i plead with my colleagues on the other side to do their job. that's what the american people want, plain and simple. so it's time for the senate to do its job. it's time once the president nominates for our republican colleagues to have hearings in a careful, thoughtful way. they don't have to rush the nominee through, no dilatory tactics. but they don't have to rush hum or her through, and then there should be a vote. mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i ask consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, on february 13, the nation was shaken by the news in the supreme court antonin scalia had passed away. justice scalia served on the nation's highest court for 29 years, and he was a major figure on the american legal landscape. justice scalia was described by judge richard pozner of the seventh circuit as "the most influential justice of the last quarter century." over the years i've come to know justice sc scalia.
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we certainly disagreed on many fundamental issues, but even those who disagreed with justice scalia on legal matters still admired him as a person. justice ruth bader ginsburg, no ideological ally of justice scalia, wrote after his death, "we were best buddies." she described him as "a jurist of captivate being wit with the talent to make even the most sober jurist laugh. we were different in our interpretation of text but they were one for the institution we serve. my thoughts and prayers clearly go with his family. as surprised as i was by the news of his passing, i was amazed at how quickly the senate jorlg, senator mcconnell of ken kernings issued a press release saying -- quote -- "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."
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it was within 90 minutes of the press report of the justice passing. this statement clearly came pat time when most people were reflecting on the loss of the supreme court justice. just like that the conversation shifted to the -- from the passing of an american legal giant to an attack on president obama's authority to fill his vacancy on the supreme court. now, what does the constitution tell us about filling a vacancy on the supreme court? you know, there are very few oaths you take in life, and as members of the senate, we swear each time we are sworn in to a term here to uphold and defend that constitution. what does the constitution say about a vacancy on the supreme court? full gay to article 2, section 2, it is explicit and very simple. the president -- quote -- "shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint judges of the supreme court."
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end of quote. so the president, under the constitution, has an express responsibility to submit to the senate the nomination of a person who is qualified to serve on our nation's highest court. and then of course the senate has a job to do, give that nominee a fair hearing and a timely vote. this is our responsibility, constitutional responsibility as united states senators. this is what we have been elected to do. aside from voting on a declaration of washings i believe there's no greater responsibility than voting on the confirmation of a supreme court nominee. i serve on the judiciary committee and it's been my privilege an honor to consider the nominations of four of the current supreme court justices. there is no question that we have the time remaining to meet our constitutional responsibility in a thoughtful, careful way. it is now february of 2016. we're almost a year away from
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january of 2017 when president obama will officially leave office. the republican leader would have us leave a seat on the nation's highest court vacant for at least one year. not since the civil war has the senate taken longer than a year to fill a supreme court vacancy, and it certainly shouldn't happen now. usually it takes the senate about two months to consider a supreme court nominee. senator leahy, the ranking democrat on judiciary, said on average it is about 67 days. so we have more than enough time to do this in a thoughtful and responsible way, even during presidential election years, the senate has confirmed supreme court justices. it happened history of a dozen times. most recently, 1988 when justice anthony kennedy was confirmed by a 97-0 vote in president reagan's final year in office. president reagan was leaving office, republican president.
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an election was coming. he submitted a name, justice kennedy, to the supreme court, and a democratic-controlled senate approved it 97-0. seso to argue this has never happened before is to ignore history, and even recent history. in the past senate republican leaders have said to the confirmation process should move forward with as little time as a month before an election. consider the presidential election of 1968. on june 13 of that year, chief justice earl warren informed the president he wanted to step down. on june 26 -- june 26 of the election year -- johnson nominatedassociate justice for it is a. president johnson had already announced he would not run again but senate republican leaders did not call president johnson a lame duck. and questioned hit his rate to put forward nominees. everett dirksen of my state of illinois said on july 13 of that
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year, "i find that term lame duck as applied to the president of the united states as an entirely improper and offensive term." republican senator dirksen referring to the lame-duck status of president lyndon johnson, democrat. the senate gave the president's nominee a prompt hearing in the judiciary committee. as it turned out, the hearing ended up uncovering a range of ethics concerns about justice for it is a. and the republicans filibustered his nomination. fortas subsequently withdrew. on september 3, same year, election year, just a month before the election, "the new york times" reported that senator dirksen said there was still time for the president to submit a new name and rush it through the senate before the congress adjourned. republican leader said even with a month left, try to fill the vacancy. this was a month before the presidential election. where are the leaders like everett dirksen in today's republican party, senators
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willing to roll up their sleeves and get to the work of considering nominees on their merits so the supreme court can do its work? we have a constitutional responsibility, as does the president. make no mistake, the supreme court needs a full complement of justices on the bench. when the court has an even number as it does today, 4-4, important cases are increasingly likely to end up in a tie vote. when that happens in a case, the ruling of the lower court stands and it's like the supreme court never heard the case at all. major legal and constitutional questions are constantly brought before the court. when the court is frozen at an even number of justices, many of those questions go unresolved and millions of americans who are impacted by these questions have to wait. that's not fair to the american people. that's why historically the senate has moved to fill vacancies on the court and that's why so many americans are troubled by senate republicans' call for a one-year hiatus in filling the supreme court vacancy.
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former justice sandra day o'connor said in an interview last week she disagreed with the idea of waiting for the next president to appoint a new justice. she said we need somebody there now to do the job. let's get on with it. i agree with justice o'connor. when president obama submits a nominee, which he'll do in coming days, the senate needs to do its job, its constitutional responsibility to give that nominee a fair hearing and a timely vote. republican colleagues can choose to vote for or against the nominee. that is their prerogative. but they should not simply duck the vote. we weren't elected to this job to ignore important issues. we were elected to cast votes on important issues. this is too important an issue to simply ignore. when it comes to giving the president's nominee a fair hearing, i certainly hope that the senate republicans don't adopt the donald trump position. when asked last week about the president's nomination, mr.
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trump, as he is want to do gave us a juicy quote. "i think it's up to mitch mcconnell and everybody else to stop it. it's called delay, delay, delay." i'm sure the senate republicans were not happy with that statement by trump but he did speak for a number of people who believe that is the right strategy. stop the president from using his constitutional authority. stop the senate from accepting its constitutional responsibility. i hope my republican colleagues don't follow mr. trump's lead and try to stop president obama's nominee through endless delays. no one's going to be fooled if senate republicans spend weeks haggling over unreasonable document requests or swamping the nominee with endless questions. mr. trump has made it clear that delay, delay, delay is simply a strategy to stop the seat from being filled. if republicans delay in an effort to run out the clock we will know it. the american people will know it. the american people want us to act. they want us to accept our constitutional responsibility. it's time for us to get down to
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work and do our job. the senate can't afford to sit on its hands for one year and leave the supreme court hanging in the balance. when president obama names a nominee, i urge my republican colleagues to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: thank you, mr. president. i come to the floor to express my serious concerns with the f.d.a.'s actions on opioid pain relievers and my concern that they have not sufficiently addressed what we are seeing as an epidemic in my home state of new hampshire, the implications of prescribing of opioids and ensuring that we take a very strong public health approach towards these pain relievers.
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i know that my colleagues, senators markey, and manchin and blumenthal have been on the floor previously to discuss the concerns that they share with the f.d.a. as well, and i want to thank them for their leadership on this important issue. i think what's important to understand here is what we are facing when it comes to heroin, the drug deaths that are occurring in my home state of new hampshire, the connection between people who are misusing prescription opioids and then becoming addicted to heroin and then the deadly use of a drug called fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. and when you bring this all together, we have a situation with opioid abuse which includes painkiller abuse, heroin use, fentanyl abuse and it is killing
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people in new hampshire and across this country. across the country approximately 30,000 people died of heroin or prescription opioid overdoses in 2014. and as we come to receive the 2015 numbers, unfortunately, if the experience is anything like my home state of new hampshire, the numbers are going to be much larger than 30,000. because in new hampshire, every corner of my state has been impacted by this. i had the privilege of serving as attorney general before i came to the senate, and so i dealt with many drug issues as attorney general. in fact, i had a drug task force that reported to me. we dealt with the scourge of meth, cocaine, other illegal drugs that have caused addiction and people that struggle with addiction.
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obviously also alcohol is something that people struggle with when it's misused. but i've never seen anything like this. and i talked to my law enforcement officers. i talked to my first responders and what they are dealing with. in 2015 in new hampshire, we had over 400 -- 400 -- overdose deaths. and those 400 deaths are a situation where you've got a combination, many of them, hundreds of them of heroin and/or fentanyl. and this was a dramatic increase over 2014. in 2014, we had 320 deaths. and, by the way, that was a 60% increase from the year before. and this is just unfortunately not stopping. it is the single most important public health and safety issue facing the state of new hampshire right now. but i know new hampshire is not alone.
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certainly working with my colleagues like rob portman in ohio, i know that this is hitting places like ohio. working with sheldon whitehouse in rhode island, this is hitting rhode island. or amy klobuchar in minnesota. this is hitting so many different places in our country. that's why i know senator markey from massachusetts, is concerned about this. and senator manchin who was on the floor earlier, from west virginia, this is about our quality of life in this country and ability for people to live full lives and about our public safety and about our children, most of all. just a headline from "the union leader" over this weekend, "fentanyl, other drugs suspected in three manchester deaths." we had three deaths in new hampshire in our largest city, within 24 hours, and that was from a combination of heroin and fentanyl, those three deaths. so we lost, according to
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assistant fire chief daniel goonan, in just 24 hours, these overdoses claimed the lives of a 23-year-old man in manchester, a 29-year-old woman, and a 34-year-old man just in a 24-hour period. in fact, what our first responders are seeing, i did a ride-along with the manchester fire department. i saw. i was there less than an hour, we went to an overdose, and i saw the firefighters and their emergency personnel bring someone back to life using narcan, c.p.r. and narcan, if we did not have that drug, the over 400 that we have in new hampshire, i can't even tell you what the numbers would be because not only did i do a ride-along with the manchester fire, i did it with the police too. we went to two overdoses in an hour and a half. i saw them bring those individuals back to life. lest we think that this is something that happens on some other street or in some other
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neighborhood, i can assure you that this can happen to any family, and that's something that we need to understand. and that was really brought home for me from a great, wonderful family that i met, and that's doug and pam griffin, who lost their beautiful daughter courtney and their wonderful -- and they're wonderful, wonderful people. i think about what our first responders are facing. this same article i just talked to you about over the weekend, unbelievable -- twice, twice the fire department in manchester have revived a woman who was four months pregnant, working on her in front of her young children. the overdose that i went to, i'll never forget because the firefighters came into the room and there was a young man on the ground. and they administered the narcan and brought him back. but you know who was in the corner? a crib with a baby. and the firefighter grabbed the baby and was bringing the baby
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over the father laying on the ground. and so this is having such a tremendous impact, having an impact on those who are struggling with addiction, but all their families and children around them and the future generation. so just to quote the assistant fire chief from manchester from this article who basically said, it is more deadly than we have ever seen. and so that is why i've been proud to work with my colleagues and proud to work with senators whitehouse and portman and klobuchar and so many others in the comprehensive addiction and recovery act. and i thank the members of the judiciary committee for voting that important piece of legislation out of the committee. and i look forward to us taking that up on the floor. but right now, pending on the floor, we have an important nomination for the f.d.a., and that is why i come to the floor today. because if you look at what
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we're addressing here, we're concerned about heroin and fentanyl. but there is a connection, a very important connection for us to understand, unfortunately. and it's also why i've been such a strong supporter of prescription monitoring programs. the opiates that are prescribed that samsa found four out of five individuals who turned to heroin started with prescription opiates and misusing prescription opiates or overusing those and transitioning to heroin because heroin is cheaper, unfortunately, on our streets. so it's very important that we have the f.d.a. engaging on this issue very aggressively with our medical community, that the f.d.a. take a prominent role in ensuring that what they are saying is this is the appropriate use of prescription opiates and this is, in my
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humble opinion, the f.d.a. needs to take a much more aggressive role than it has in recommending the appropriate uses and engaging the medical community and the pharmaceutical community, very importantly, on this discussion, this public health crisis that we are facing . we have come together as a body on this issue, and i think it's important that we have been working on this on a very bipartisan basis. but just to talk about the importance of the f.d.a. and the leadership that we need there, in 2013, we saw the f.d.a. approve zohydro, a powerful, pure hydro codone drug without an abuse deterrent formulation. and that's important, an abuse deterrent formulation, so that it can be, it will be used for its intended purpose and not chopped up or otherwise abused. but yet the f.d.a. approved disee hydro, this -- zohydro
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without abuse deterrent formulation despite the fact that its own advisory committee voted against approving the drug by a vote of 11-2. and one of the issues that i know -- i see senator marky coming to the floor, and i appreciate his leadership on this. one of the things that i know has troubled senator markey, senator manchin, myself as well, last year the f.d.a. approved oxycontin for use by children as young as 11. and when they did that, they did not have the advisory committee or use an advisory committee before taking that step. and so i would say i certainly appreciate, because i've had the opportunity to sit down with secretary burwell on this issue and learn more about the f.d.a.'s action plan that is issued. but unfortunately, i believe the agency has to go further than
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it's going. and the example that i would say is that the issuance of the recommendations for the children as young as 11 with oxycontin, without an advisory committee on something so important seems, to me, just doesn't pass the commonsense test. so i would ask the f.d.a., let's stay that. let's make sure that we have an advisory committee look at this issue carefully, and then reissue it. because to me it seems important that we have that guidance and the careful, thoughtful approach of the advisory committee. you know, what troubles me, of course, is we hope that they would take the advisory committee's recommendations, unlike what happened with zohydro, unfortunately. so we need leadership right now in the f.d.a. and i have concerns with that we are not going to be in a position where we get the strongest leadership we can
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have, and i hope that we have a nominee pending on the floor. these concerns are very, very important, and i hope if he is confirmed that he will be aggressive on this issue, that the f.d.a. will take a stronger leadership role on opiates and understanding that they have a very important role when it comes to this public health concern, but right now i'm not satisfied with where we are, and i believe there is so much more we need to do, and that is actually why yesterday i voted not to go forward with this nomination because i haven't heard this clear statement, i haven't heard what the leadership plans are on this issue, and while i appreciate some of the steps that health and human services have taken, those steps to me need to be strengthened and very much strengthened to ensure that, as
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i look at the f.d.a.'s action plan, it pledges to make the use of advisory committees more frequent, but it should require the use of advisory committees for all opioid pain relieveers. not just when we decide we want to use it. this should be consistent, given that we know, unfortunately, that the data is there of the connection between misuse of opioid pain relievers and the connection to those who then unfortunately turn to heroin with a deadly combination often of phetynol which is often killing people in this country. i would like to thank senator markey for his leadership on this issue. there isn't a place i go in my state where i don't hear from a mother a father, a sister, a brother, a grandmother, a grandfather, a friend about someone who lost, lost a loved
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one, lost someone that they care about because of heroin, opioids , phetynol, the deadly combination that is killing people. we have an opportunity not only in the important work with the comprehensive addiction and recovery act and more resources to address prevention, treatment, support for our first responders, but the f.d.a. has a very important role and we need stronger leadership there and greater engagement of our medical community on the best prescribing practices for opioids. and to me this is an opportunity where i would like to hear stronger leadership. i would like to hear a much more aggressive stance from this f.d.a. and this issue -- i think of all the issues that we -- you know, we struggle with, the thanks that we disagree on in this body. heroin, phetynol, they don't
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care whether you're a republican or a democrat, i can assure you, an independent or a libertarian, because these drugs are taking everyone's lives. so as i think about all the issues we can come together on, this is one about our public health, about our public safety, about our quality of life, and it requires all of our leadership. there's nothing partisan about this. and i hope that we will see stronger leadership from the f.d.a. i hope that we as a body will build on what the judiciary committee did and bring to the floor the cara bill that many of us have worked hard on and support each other's efforts to do all that we can to end this public health crisis and ensure that none of us have to run into the families of people in our state that we represent that are losing people they love to heroin or phentynol or misuse of
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opioid prescription drugs. this is devastating. i know we can make a difference here. this is something we can make a difference on in this body. so i thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. mr. mr. markey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: mr. president, i want to follow on with the discussion which senator ayotte from new hampshire was bringing to the senate floor. what she is saying is just so accurate in terms of the pervasive nature of this opioid opioid-driven epidemic, pandemic in the united states of america,
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and it's time for us to come together in a bipartisan fashion to deal with what is now the great medical storm sweeping across this country. there has been a quadrupling of opioid-related deaths just in the last 14 years in our country. this is something that has to be understood. i heard senator ayotte mention it, but you can't say it enough, that 80% of all people in the united states who die from heroin overdoses begin on prescription painkillers, opioids that have been given to them by physicians. say that again. 80% of the people who die from heroin overdoses started on prescription pills but they got
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addicted to the prescription pain killer. it deals with the same receptors in the brain. it creates the same kind of need in the brain. and when people get addicted to prescription pain medicine, it's a very short step ultimately to a product which is much less expensive, heroin, on the streets of the united states. this epidemic has to be dealt with and it has to be dealt with where it starts, and it starts at the f.d.a. it starts at the food and drug administration. it starts with the agency that approves these drugs for sale in the united states of america. yes, the f.d.a. stands for food and drug administration, but over the last 20 years, it really stands for fostering drug addiction. and it has to end. that's sea the nomination right now of dr. robert califf to be the new head of the f.d.a. gives
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us an opportunity to talk about this issue, to talk about where it all starts, how it began and what we are going to have to do in this body to reverse this trend, which last year led to the death of 30,000 people in our country, and again i say to you that between 2000 and 2014, the heroin overdose death rate has quadrupled in the united states of america. so this is something that's recent, it's related to the f.d.a., and we have to now have an honest discussion about the role that agency is playing because we have become the united states of oxy. we have become a united nations of 5% of the world's population that consumes 80% of the
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prescription pain killers in the world. and this overprescribing, this consumption of oxy, percocet down the line has led to this epidemic, this contagion that is killing people on a daily basis in our country, that otherwise would never have even contemplated using heroin, using any of these other more dangerous drugs. so that's why we're out here. that's why i am recommending a no vote on dr. robert califf. the f.d.a. has a chance to change its policies. thus far it is saying that it will not change its policies. in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions
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for opioid pain killers. that's enough for every single adult in america to have a bottle of these pills in their medicine cabinet. and you should just understand that as we talk about this, that the molecular composition of oxycontin is very similar to heroin. in fact, oxycodone is the sole ingredient in oxycontin. oxycontin really stands for oxycodone continuously in the bloodstream of the patient who is taking these pills. it creates this sense that you're able to deal with the pain. it creates this sense that you
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are being taken care of, but if it's not handled correctly, over time, it then creates an addiction. and that addiction then leads to once you're off these pills to be out on the street and buying the heroin or buying the oxy that you need in order to continue this habit. so we just have to start to deal with the issue very realistically in terms of this pathway that has been created into the minds of millions of people all across this country. 1,300 people died in massachusetts in 2014 of the 30,000 people who died in our country on this issue. we have the f.d.a. going back to the year 1996 accepting the misrepresentation of the pharmaceutical company perdue which represented to the f.d.a. that oxycontin in its original
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formulation was abuse deterrent, meaning that since it was time releaseed inside of the patient, that therefore it was abuse deterrent and it could be prescribed safely to people all across our country. well, it turned out that not only was that a misrepresentation to the f.d.a. but perdue phrma subsequently was fined millions of dollars and its executives punished for the misrepresentation that they made to the food and drug administration. that's a brief 20 years ago, but that's pretty much where it all started. that's the original sin, accepting this whole notion of abuse deterrent. now, let's go to the f.d.a. in more recent times. in 2012, there was a new opioid that the f.d.a. had to consider for approval. that new opioid's name was
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zohydro. now what the f.d.a. did was they impaneled 13 experts to examine that drug for the f.d.a. when those 13 experts concluded their examination of the drug by an 11-2 vote, the expert advisory panel voted no, do not allow this new zohydro drug out onto the marketplace. they said that the standards for abuse are too low. the standards to deal with addiction are too low. the standards to deal with a diversion of the drug, too low. what did the f.d.a. do in 2012? it approved zohydro for sale in the united states over the objection of the advisory panel that had voted 11-2 against it, and these are experts. moving forward, the f.d.a. decided to reexamine what it was going to do, and so when it was
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considering tajinik, when it was considering hyzingla, it decided to solve the problem by having no expert advisory panels, which it would convene to examine the impacts of that drug before it got approved. that's a good way to solve the problem. just accept the representations of the company that it had abuse deterrent in it, theand you don't have to worry because you won't have to talk to experts on the outside again. and so those two drugs got approved. and then in august of 2015, there was an application by perdue pharma once again -- that company's name just keeps coming back into the equation -- they wanted approval to sell oxycontin to children ages 11-16. now, mind you, the actual
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standards at the f.d.a. require an outside expert panel to look at approval for opioids being sold in america if it's controversial, if it could have a huge social impact in our society and it specifically says in the f.d.a.'s own guidelines if pediatric dosing, if what the proper dose for a child is involved, then the f.d.a. should have an expert panel. what did the f.d.a. do? the f.d.a. decided no expert panel would examine the appropriateness of having oxycontin being prescribed for children ages 11-16 in our country. no expert advisory panel. which brings us to the nomination of dr. robert califf.
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we are now in a process where we're examining his nomination, his qualifications. i leave aside his own personal qualifications. it's not a debate really over dr. califf at all. it's a debate over the agency, because the agency is saying, even today, even as we will be voting on dr. califf's nomination, the f.d.a. is saying that they will not change, they will not convene expert outside advisory panels to look at this new generation of opioids with, quote, unquote, abuse deterrents built into them to determine whether they are actually appropriate for being put into our society. and so today is the day to really ghin debate. this nomination is the occasion that we can use in order to debate what has gone wrong at the food and drug administrati
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administration, because if we don't start there, if we don't start with a brand-new definition that gets created for abuse for addiction, for what the standard should be for the use of these opioids, then this issue is just going to escalate and escalate and escalate until we're losing a vietnam war's worth of people every single year in the united states. this is a pharmaceutical industry-created problem. this is a physician-created problem. this is an f.d.a.-created problem. it is created by men and women. it can be solved by men and women. this is not zika. this is not ebola. this is not some disease that you can't really point to who it is that's responsible for it. this is us. this is our country. this is our culture. this is who did it.
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we did it. we created this problem. 5% of the world's population consuming 80% of all opioids. crazy. i mean, really ... it's crazy. so we have to finally come to the recognition that this is no longer some inner city heroin epidemic. now this disease knows no age barrier, no racial, no income, no geography, no employment, no barriers at all. it's spread across every single segment of the american population, top to bottom, no discrimination whatsoever. and so for us, we just have to decide what are we going to do in order to make sure that we put the proper safeguards in place?
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so senator manchin and i, senator ayotte, senator sanders, senator blumenthal, other senators have been raisings these questions. to the credit of the senate judiciary committee, they are considering legislation to bring out here on the floor, and i thank senator whitehouse and senator portman and senator shaheen and ayotte and senator grassley and leahy for their work on that legislation, but that legislation does not include anything on this issue, which i am talking about right now. this has to be solved by the f.d.a., and that's why i put a hold on this nomination, saying that they will not get this nomination out here on the floor until they change their policies, until they change their policies. we're in the eighth year of this administration, and the policies
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still remain in place. abuse deterrent is really a contradiction in terms. it's real lay contradiction in terms. if you take these pills, you're a compensate terka carpenter, yn ironworker, you got a bad back and you take these oxycontin pills and you just keep going month after month after month, you're increasing on daily basis that you're going to become addicted to these pills. we've all heard these stories over and over again, the pathway in from these family members who come into our offices and they talk about the pathway in that their child, their husband, their son took, and it all starts with the same story. they have given the prescribed pills. and right now the dry is saying, don't worry, there is an abuse
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deterrent. well, tell that to the family members. it is a contradiction in terms, like jumbo shrimp. there is no such thing. you need to just be realistic about what this drug represents once it's consumed over and over and over again by people in our country who think that the doctor has given them a pill, given them a bottle that's going to help them. and that's one of the stories i think that we all hear over and over again from family members. they say that they question themselves. could they have done more themselves to help their family member before they became addicted? and the common theme from each of them is, you have to assume that when a doctor is giving you a bottle of pills for your family member that it must be good for them.
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it must be good for them. and it turns out for 30,000 people just in 2014 it wasn't good for them. and this number is just going to continue to escalate because we haven't put tough enough standards on the books in order deal with these issues. and by refusing to convene expert advisory panels to come in and to create the guidance which is going to be needed in our country going forward, we are going to have a continued flood of opioid deaths that could have been stemmed if we had dealt with this issue in the proper fashion. so this is not a hypothetical concern. the policy announced last week by the f.d.a. would not have guaranteed an advisory panel for
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oxycontin on the market today. the f.d.a. must change its decisions not to seek expert advice against the risk of addiction before it approves any and all opioids. so i want to tell a little story. it is a story about maybe one of the five greatest basketball players to ever come out of the state of massachusetts. his name is chris herin. and chris became a boston correctly particular, the greatest basketball player in fall river history, drafted in the first round by the n.b. a, went to the same college i went to, boston college. i want to give you an excerpt from remarks he recently made here in d.c. at the unite to face addiction rally on the national mall. here's what chris herin.
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"i truly believe what it comes to education of our children we need to start educating about the first day. at 18 years old on the campus of boston college i was introduced to cocaine. i promised myself one time, just one line that. one line took me 14 years to walk away from. despite myself, at 22, my dream came true. i was the 33rd pick in the nba draft, but that same year i was introduced to a little yellow pill, a 40 milligram oxycontin that cost a $20. that 40 milligrams turned into 1,600 milligrams a day, and that $20 became $20,000 a month oxy habit. and just two years later that pill turned into a needle understand that needle stayed -- and that needle stayed in my arm for the next eight years sms i
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often say if you can't find it in your heart to have empathy for someone who is battling an illness, then you news know that he or she has a mother, father, son, or daughter that wants them back. just one pill, lives impacted. some recover, many are lost. close quote. another story, caitlin, "i have survived a fatal opiate overdose. i spoke to my 27-year-old brother for the last time. less than 30 minutes after our final conversation, he passed away from an opiate overdose. he was 16 years old when he first encountered the demon that consumed the better part of his adult life. sadly, that same demon ultimately killed him. injuries from a dirt bike accident left him with two broken arms, a knee injury, and what felt like an unending
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supply of prescription opiate painkillers. after his bones mended, he was left with an untreated, gaping, open wound that would never fully heal itself, and opiate addiction. my brother paint add picture of how easy it was for hims are as a student athlete to call his doctor and request refills nor his pain pill prescriptions. when he no longer had injuries to substantiate a prescription, he turned to illegal farms of opiates in both pill and intravenous form. unfortunately, the damage to his brain had been done. there are many i facets to what may cause someone to become addicted to opiates and there are equally as many angles of attack before this is substantial progress to a viable solution. mr. senator," she wrote in the letter, "i am writing to you because i am a surenvironment i have lived through my first fear by knowing that i can a voice in
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helping prevent future deaths caused impi opiate addiction. as you convene to debate the fitness of dr. robert califf's nomination for head of the food and drug administration, please ask the senate to reflect on his time as deputy commissioner, as second in power at the f.d.a. he has a chance to do something about these issues. it is time for a change in culture at that agency." and a third letter, a final letter. it's written by a steven jesse, from maldon, massachusetts. here's what he says. "i am writing to you as a longtime maldonian and a father of a 33-year-old daughter who passed away in 2015 of a heroin overdose. stephanie overdosed on thursday two days prior to her death and was released by the hospital at 11:39 p.m. onto the streets. we've experienced this firsthand many times. thank god for chief campnello to
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picked up the phone and talk towrksd talked to stephanie and assisted us in every a.q.i. way they could to get her into treatment. everybody else just assist said sorry, there's nothing we can do. i believe that our medical community along with the pharmaceutical industry are grooming and developing drug addicts and putting them right into the hands of the cartels and the drug dealers. way too many prescriptions are written for more narcotics than are necessary after surgeries with no follow-up. many of those who are pre-disposed to addiction either by genetics or coexisting mental health issues are easy prey for those drugs that begin as legally prescribed. once they are aaddictd and can o longer afford the medically prescribed form of the medicare, they fall into illegal drugs and from there too often the addiction has taken control of their lives. the pharmaceutical industry alone along with our med
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community has to prescribe these highly addictive narcotics much more carefully. and offer less addictive medication wherever possible. most patients take these narcotics for just a couple of days after the surgery but are provided a much longer supply where they can easy fall into the hands of the addict. our legislators and government officials cannot be tied to the desires of the pharmaceutical lobbyists. qulings "so this is the cry that's coming up from every person in america. just individuals saying how did this happen to my family? how could that accident with the broken leg or the back pain turn into an opioid overdose? how could it have happened? well it happened because the medical community and the pharmaceutical industry have not put the protections in place for us to be able to deal with it. let me give you this number.
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this is a crazy number, it is a crazy number. over the last 15-20 years, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of prescription opioid pills that have been allowed to be sold in america. so i'm just going to ask people who are listening to this, pick a number. how many 10-milligram prescription opioids were allowed to be made in america last year? just pick a number, for -- we have 300 million people in america. how many of these pills were allowed -- or given the permission to be made by the pharmaceutical companies? here's the answer. 14 billion. can i say that again? 14 billion opioid pills for our country. the numbers are out of control.
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the overprescribing is out of control. we have to find a way to reduce dramatically the amount of drugs that are being sold legally in our country before we ever reach illegal, you have to start with legal. and that's the problem because the drug enforcement agency, the agency responsible for deciding how much each pharmaceutical company can manufacture each year doesn't even announce how much each company is given permission to manufacture. instead, they just announce the gross number of total opioid materials that can be put into pills in our country each year. does anyone really understand this in america that that's the process, the f.d.a. allows the company to sell it, then it goes
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over to the d.e.a., then the d.e.a. picks a number of pills that can then be sold, and then physicians are outto prescribe these pills, but this is the f.d.a.'s own number. listen to this. the f.d.a. asked for voluntary guidelines to be put together for physician education so that they know what they're doing with these opioids. pick a number in your brain as to how many physicians have voluntarily accepted medical education on the consequences of prescribing opioids. pick a number. here's the correct answer. 10% of physicians. that's it. 10%. on something that's so catastrophic, something that is creating an epidemic in our country, you would think that this was mandatory, the national level had created some kind of mandatory education. it hasn't happened.
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is it mandatory in medical schools across america that they receive education as to what the consequences are? of the prescribing of opioids? not at all. and so who would think that a physician would have to be trained in how to handle pain? i mean, a physician is only dealing with the issue all day long, every single day. you would think that there would be some understanding then of what the consequences were of the medicines that they were prescribeing. no courses in medical school mandated. no courses after you have graduated and are practicing medicine and now you are licensed by the d.e.a. to prescribe opiates, no courses. so as we move forward here on the legislation that's going to be coming out on the floor of the senate, i intend to make an amendment. senator blumenthal and i tried to make it in the judiciary
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committee and we're going to be making it out here on the senate floor requiring the d.e.a. to require mandatory education for any physician that wants to prescribe these drugs. that's the minimum, the minimum that the medical profession should have to accept as a responsibility before they are allowed to prescribe these drugs. there's another amendment which i'm working on with senator paul of kentucky, and that's an amendment that's going to increase access to medication that can help people to deal with their addictions, and again that's a classic example of a democrat and republican working together on these issues. senator ayotte and i have an amendment that would create a good samaritan protection for any american, any family member
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that wants to aply narkan to a family member, the antidote being applied to them. senator ayotte and i are working on that amendment. we're trying to find ways where legislatively we can act. this should have happened at the agencies. this should have happened in the medical professions. we shouldn't be forced to debate this out here on the senate floor, but it is absolutely indispensably necessary for us to take this action. this is the epidemic of our time. the death rates now in the age group that is affected by this epidemic are now declining at the same rate as they did during the war in vietnam. we haven't seen anything like this since the war in vietnam,
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the deaths rates. 30,000 people, quadrupling in 14 years, escalating on a daily basis. it's time for the senate to take real action on this issue so that we can deal with it. up in gloucester, massachusetts, we had a police chief who saw that something had gone wrong. chief campanella. he said that incarceration doesn't work, and instead treatment should be substituted. so beginning last june what chief campanella said in gloucester, massachusetts, is that if you come in and you're an addict, you've got a problem. you come into the police station, you bring your drugs with you, we're not going to arrest you, we're going to put you into treatment immediately, no arrests. 400 people have walked into that police station in gloucester, massachusetts, in just eight
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months, 400 people, shifting the paradigm from arrest to treatment. 800 more people, 800 total across the country as city after city, town after town adopts this model have now accepted that as a better route for them in their lives to just turn themselves in at the local police stations. he has partnered with a man named john rosenthal. john rosenthal is an activist in our state, and he helps to fund this program. last wednesday night, tragically , john rosenthal's own nephew nathan huggins rosenthal, age 34, died of an overdose in calgary, in canada. and my heart goes out to the rosenthal family because
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obviously they were committed to dealing with this issue, pioneering ways to have addicts be able to have a place where they can go, and yet in john rosenthal's own family, his nephew, his nephew overdosed just last wednesday night. as senator ayotte was saying, there is no neighborhood immune. there is no family that is completely protected. this epidemic has been created by pharmaceutical companies, by physicians, by the agencies responsible to deal with it, and it is now time for us to put in place the protections which are needed to deal with it. let me just give you an opioids 101 just so you can understand how we get to this. what are opioids? how do they work? and why do they lead to heroin abuse? so here's how it works. it starts with a seed pod of the
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opium poppy. we get the morphine, a naturally occurring opiate pain reliever from that pod seed. the morphine interacts with so-called opioid receptors that are found in high concentrations in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. taking opiates can increase the levels of dopamine in the brain's reward areas and produce euphoria or a rush of pain relief and relaxation. in fact, morphine which was first identified in the early 1800's is named after morpheus, the greek god of dreams. in 1895, the bayer corporation, the bayer corporation in germany introduced a new cough suppressant marketed as a safer alternative to morphine. this new wonder drug was called heroin. in the 1920's, drug manufacturers began making fully
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synthetic analogues to morphine. they were called opioids. these drugs contain the same basic chemical framework as morphine. they have exactly the same mechanism of action in the brain. they share common chemical features that allow them to bind to the brain's opioid receptors, and they all are considered highly addictive. these drugs vary widely in potency. that is, the amount of the drug required to reach the same level of pain relief and sedation as morphine. oxycontin, for example, is 150% as strong as morphine. heroin is also an opioid. they share the same fundamental chemical structure. heroin binds to the very same receptors in the brain and produces the same euphoria and sedation, and heroin is plagued by the same addiction potential. heroin is classified as a
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schedule i drug, the most dangerous class because it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and addiction. so this is the pathway between opioids and heroin and why that pathway is very short. it's all about the chemistry because oxycontin has the nearly identical molecular constitution as heroin, and over time the brain, the receptors are saying i need to continue to have that fix. and thus we have this epidemic where 80% of all people in the united states who are dying from heroin overdoses started on prescription opioid drugs that had been prescribed by their physicians. physicians should have to be educated. the f.d.a. should have expert advisory panels to give the
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strongest possible guidance to the pharmaceutical companies. that's what's missing in this equation. it starts there. we need a debate on $1.1 billion for more treatment and more education. we're going to have that debate out here on the senate floor. these local families, these local groups, they're heroes, but heroes need help, and it's time for us to fund those programs in the same way that we funded the ebola crisis and the same way we're being asked to fund the zika crisis. well, we have a crisis right here in america ourselves, but if we don't deal with the issue right from the beginning at the f.d.a., at the d.e.a., at the a.m.a., we're not going to solve this problem. we're just putting medical facilities in place to deal with the consequences of having no policy. so this is our great opportunity to have a debate in our country,
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and i can't thank the members enough for beginning to deal with this issue on a serious basis. but we can't be afraid of the pharmaceutical industry. we can't be afraid of the american medical association. we can't be afraid of the bureaucrats in these agencies that say oh, mr. -- or miss senator, we are the experts. you don't know what you're talking about. well, first let me tell you this. the people of the united states don't trust the experts any more in these agencies. they want more accountability. they want other experts to come in to check those experts, to ask the tough questions on the behalf of the american people, and that's why i have a hold on dr. robert califf's nomination for the f.d.a. because right now the f.d.a. is saying it's going to continue business as usual,
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and that's just wrong. that's just plain wrong. it has to start there, and the signal must come from this administration. so i thank all of the members for -- for this discussion, for where we are today and where we're going to have to go in the months ahead, but i don't think we should end this year without a fundamental change that has taken place in our society in its relationship. and i will just add one final issue, and that's the issue of how many pills, how many pills a doctor can prescribe initially to a patient. we're now debating that issue in the state of massachusetts. governor baker has been saying that it should only be three days' worth of pills. one of the counterproposals is seven days of pills that can be used by the patient. but i do know this -- we have to start here because right now doctors are handing out bottles of 60 to patients who only need
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a week's worth or three days' worth. when you leave a dentist's office, you don't need 60 days' worth of pills for your wisdom tooth that have been removed. when you have got some pain that you just got from playing a softball game and you twisted your back, you don't need a bottle of 60 or 30. you might need a few pills for six days or seven days but you don't need 60. having that 60 in your medicine cabinet is the beginning of the problem. i thank governor baker for what he's doing on this issue. they haven't resolved it in massachusetts. i think we have to debate that here in the halls of congress as well. they're all related, how these pills get into the blood system of our country. and so, again, i thank all of the members for their consideration of this issue. mr. president, i yield back the balance of my time.
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mr. president, i also doubt the presence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: i ask the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: mr. president, i have unanimous consent requests for committees to meet today, 13 of them, during today's session of the senate. they have been approved by the majority and the minority leaders. therefore, i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: i also i ask unanimous consent that the senate stand in recess as if under the previous order. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: thank you. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess one final
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matter, the signs of the season are all around us. volunteers are knocking on doors, caucuses are caucusing, votervoters are vote, countless ballots have been cast already in places as diverse as council in places as diverse as council in myrtle beach. nevadans are making their voices heard today in america with over a dozen states have an opportunity to do the same next week. it's campaign season. we are right in the middle of it. one of the most important issues now is this. you will americans dress and nominate the next supreme or justice? presidential candidates are debating the issue on stage and already discussing the issue among themselves and voters are already casting ballot. in the case of the democratic
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leaders can issuance on this very day with this issue very much in mind. one might say this is an unprecedented moment in the history of our country. in more than 80 years since a supreme court vacancy arose and was filled in a presidential election year. and that, mr. president was in the senate majority and the president worked for the same political party. it's been 80 years. since we have divided government today, it means they have to look back almost 130 years to the last time the nominee was confirmed similar symptoms chances. that is back when politicians were debating policies and a guy named grover ran the country. inc. about that.
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as senators, it leaves us with the choice. will we allow the people to continue deciding who will nominate or will we empower them to resonate to make the decision on his way out the door instead. the question of who decides has been contemplated by many, including our friends on the other side of the aisle. we are denote the incoming democratic leaders view as the senior senator from new york didn't even wait until the final year of resident george w. bush's final term that the presumption of confirmation and not confirm a supreme court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances. we also know how the current democratic leader feels about nominees brown a president of the other party. here is what he said. the senate is not a rubber stamp for the executive branch. now he

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