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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  March 2, 2016 4:00pm-6:01pm EST

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treatment for people that need it. the l tragedy -- and i talked about this this morning. the tragedy is when someone is ready to change their life and ready to try to defeat this awful disease, and they can't find anyplace to give them treatment. i was at a detox center in portland just last week. they're turning away 100 people a month, from a detox center. not even a treatment center, but a detox center, because they don't have the beds. so i'm delighted that we're working on this bill. i'm delighted that we're passing it. i think there is a lot of good in it and it is in fact a bipartisan bill, but to venture up to the edge of this problem and then step away because we're not willing to pay for what in my mind is one of the most serious emergencies we've faced since i have been in public life is disappointing, surprising and
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it's just -- it's a great -- it's a great missed opportunity for the country. so i join my colleagues in -- in regretting the decision that was just made. i think it was an opportunity where we could have spoken as one to realistically, realistically attack this scourge that is devastating our people. we are losing lives. we are squandering treasure. and we're breaking hearts. and the only way we're going to be able to solve this problem or at least make a dent in it is to provide the wherewithal to the programs throughout the country that are struggling manfully and mightily to confront the problem and defeat it. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: i thank my colleague from nevada for yielding to me for a moment to speak about the legislation before us, which is legislation to address this horrible problem we have now got in all of our states of the addictions that are caused by heroin and prescription drugs. about 100 people will die today. from overdoses, and that's just the tip of the iceberg because there are so many other people whose lives are being ruined, families being torn apart, communities devastated, and this legislation was drafted by senator whitehouse, myself, other members of this body over the period of the last few years, including five summits we had here in this congress to bring in experts from all over the country on prevention and education, treatment and recovery, dealing with the law enforcement side and the importance of having narcan available, also helping get prescription drugs off the bathroom shelves. i'm sure we had drug monitoring programs. it's a comprehensive approach. i will say i disagree a little
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with my co-author, my colleague from rhode island saying if we could pass this bill, there would be no funding for it somehow. there was a huge increase in funding, as everyone knows at the end of the year for opiates. in the judiciary committee where we had some jurisdictional issues, we worked hard to draft the legislation so that if we could get it enacted this fiscal year, that's between now and september 30, there would be funding to help us to be able to accomplish what's in the legislation. however, as my colleagues know, this is an authorization bill. what does that mean? it means it's a bill that directs how funding will be spent. it's not a spending bill. now, having said all that, as senator shaheen knows, i supported her efforts to add additional resources over and above what could be spent this year on cara because i believe this is such an urgent problem, and i believe that it does rise to that level of being an emergency. that's saying a lot. i'm a fiscal conservative, but that means it's not paid for by
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offsetting other programs. it's just additional funding because it is such an urgent need. we've done this on other occasions with health care emergencies when we have something like the ebola crisis. i think this is a crisis, too. so i voted with senator shaheen today. i'm a cosponsor of her amendment. i support it, but i don't support the efforts of some who say somehow there's no money in here. this is an authorization bill. this is the first step toward getting the money. not just this year but into the future. that's the point. back in the house, i was the author of the drug-free communities act. 19 years later, $1.3 billion has been spent in support of the drug-free communities act, helping to create over 2,000 community coalitions, including in just about every state represented in this body. was that a spending bill? no. it was like this. it was an authorization bill to direct the spending based on a lot of research and effort, evidence-based practices we know would work. that's what this is. this is taking it to the next level. and specifically directed at the
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points that my good friend from maine just mentioned about treatment centers being filled, detox centers not having room for someone to go to be able to get the detox and then to get into treatment. these are real problems in our communities right now. that's what this legislation is meant to address. not just by an appropriation for one year, but by changing the law for the future. and if we do this and do this right and 19 years in this legislation, we will spend even more than we spent on the drug-free communities act. it will be well over $2 billion that will have been spent that would not otherwise have gone through this legislation. just as senator whitehouse said he strongly supports this bill because it is evidence based because we spent the time putting the time and effort into making sure it would be money well spent, this bill is really important. i appreciate the support of my colleagues, senator shaheen, senator king, senator whitehouse. senator whitehouse and i have been at this for a few years together. it's the right thing to do for our country at a time when we do
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face a crisis. and again, i will support the additional spending because i think this is so critical. but let's not go forward with this sense that somehow this doesn't matter. this does matter in a very big way. this is the necessary first step, and in terms of this year because we increase funding dramatically, at the end of the year for this fiscal year, not one penny of that has been actually outlaid, by the way. it's been appropriated but there is no outlay yet. i believe that anything we could get done this year, getting through the house, getting through the senate, the president signing it, would be funding that we could use for these important care programs, just in the next seven months of this fiscal year. but certainly we should right now, as i have done and as senator whitehouse is doing and others are doing, go to the appropriations committees and say with regard to next fiscal year, let's be sure that we have the entire bill funded. and again, i would support even additional funding beyond that. but at a minimum, let's get this
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done. this is an opportunity on a bipartisan basis to actually get something done to help people who are crying out for our help. communities that need our help. families that are being broken apart and need our help. so i appreciate the fact that senator shaheen made her best effort today. she was right in my view, but let's also continue to work together to get this legislation passed with whatever funding we can add to it, that's great with me, but let's get this bill passed to ensure that going into the future we are directing this funding effectively and increasing this funding to help those that need it most. again, i appreciate my colleague from nevada, and i'm sorry to take so much of his time. i yield back. mr. whitehouse: before the senator deports? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i would like to end this conversation on a happy note after what i consider to be a very unhappy vote and that is to express my appreciation to senator portman for his collegiality and his work over many years to get this bill to
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where it is now on the senate floor. i express my appreciation to him, too, for voting for senator shaheen's amendment. i express my appreciation to him for publicly pledging to work as hard as we can together to get funding for this bill and to the appropriations process that is under way right now. and i look forward to working with him on all those endeavors. i do believe that we did miss a big opportunity because senator shaheen's bill, had it passed, would have flooded a lot more money a lot faster into the solution of this problem. with that, i will yield. mr. heller: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. mr. heller: mr. president, thank you, and i want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this particular piece of legislation. i know there is a lot of passion behind this, and there should be, and i do believe at the end of the day, mr. president, there will be an appropriate authorization on spending levels so we can get this bill passed, it's something that i support. i also want to thank the chairman, chairman grassley, ranking member leahy and all those that have been involved in this particular topic of
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bringing opioid abuse to the forefront. opioid abuse is an issue that every member of the senate hears about when they go home. for many nevadans, substance abuse is an issue that hits close. it's an issue i read about in constituents' letters and far too many calls come in on this issue to my office. like many of my colleagues, i've heard from those who are struggling with addiction or who have lost a loved one to this epidemic. in my home state of nevada, there were 545 drug yoid deaths in 2014 a-- drug overdose deaths in 2014 alone. i have heard countless stories from young nevadans who have experienced addiction themselves or seen their friends slip into this scary spiral of abuse. i recently met a young man from reno who was advocating on behalf of multiple friends who he had lost to heroin overdoses. he said he started off experimenting with leftover pain killers in his friends' parents' medicine cabinets.
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eventually the pills were gone. the group of friends started experimenting with harder and cheaper drugs. and some of their friends fell into the juvenile court system after being caught with illegal drugs. unfortunately, the court system wasn't equipped to adequately treat their addiction, and they slipped back into their old habits. the young man from reno has now had to go and has gone to multiple funerals. i'm glad that he had the courage to tell his friends' stories. opioid abuse and addiction has stolen the lives of far too many nevadans, and it's time we do something about it. i know my colleagues hear the same stories in their offices also on a daily basis. in 2014, opioids were involved in almost 30,000 american deaths. that means more americans now die each year from drug overdoses than they do from car crashes. the unfortunate reality of
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opioid abuse has become a major public health concern and something needs to be done. we know this epidemic hits all ages, all socioeconomic levels, all races and all genders. opioid often starts with treating legitimate pain needs, but there are two groups of nevadans who are extremely important, and i have focused my efforts today on these two very important populations -- our veterans and our seniors. first i have two amendments that improve access to treatment for our nation's veterans. my first amendment, heller amendment number 3346, would include veteran service organizations in the pain management best practices interagency task force. giving d.s.o.'s a -- v.s.o.'s a seat at the table on this task force will help us better understand the unique circumstances our nation's veterans face that drive them to use opioids in the first place. my second amendment, the heller amendment number 3351, would allow veteran nonprofit organizations to be eligible for
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grants from the building communities to a recovery program. the building communities and recovery program is designed to pool community resources to help those affected by opioid abuse seek the proper treatment to recover from these highly addictive pain medications and avoid slipping into a cycle of chronic drug abuse. including veterans' nonprofit organizations in this grant program will allow places like veterans' village in las vegas to access more resources to treat the service men and women in our state. as a member of the senate veterans' affairs committee, i'm concerned about how opioid abuse impacts america's heroes. some of these veterans are in severe pain due to injuries they sustained during service to our nation, and numerous strens have reached out to my office for help when the v.a.'s policies are negatively impacting them. as we debate the comprehensive addiction and recovery act, it is critical for congress to ensure v.s.o.'s have a voice.
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these organizations understand the unique challenges veterans face with opioids and how to resolve these issues, and that's why i have filed two amendments to allow this important stakeholder to come to the table and help reduce opioid abuse. i encourage my colleagues to accept these amendments and would like to continue to work with the bill managers as we find a path forward on them. the senior population is another group of nevadans that face unique circumstances on how they become dependent on opioids. they are prescribed opioids to cope with chronic pain and discomfort after surgery, and obviously rightfully so. in fact, about 40% of nevada's seniors are on some type of opioid, but opioids have qualified -- qualities that make them highly addictive and prone to abuse. pain is a highly complex issue, and there are many barriers to pain management. just recently, i had a constituent reach out to my office because they were being denied access to a life-saving
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opioid pain medication for the very -- for a very rare and serious condition. fortunately, we were able to help resolve the situation, but it was disappointing that this nevadan had to go to such extremes to receive the treatment that they deserved. no doubt, congress should play a role in addressing opioid addiction and this epidemic, and i think there are ways to accomplish this goal while assuring seniors in nevada and throughout the u.s. continue to receive the care that they need. one of those ways is to permanently repeal medicare caps on therapy services. right now, current law places an annual per beneficiary payment limit of $1,880 for all outpatient therapy services. i firmly believe if patients had better access to physical therapy, they would not be as dependent on highly addictive pain medication. seniors would also have a higher quality of life by treating the sources of the pain and rebuilding their strength.
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with proper access to care, seniors would be able to enjoy a happy and healthy retirement rather than cope with the pain through highly addictive medication that only masks their discomfort. senator cornyn and i have been working on a responsible alternative to the medicare's therapy cap and i believe that more work needs to be done to ensure these proposals will solve the problem and assure that these seniors have access to the therapies and treatments they need. right now, the cap has been lifted until march of 2017. we have until early next year to come up with a permanent solution to the therapy cap issue, and i have no doubt that senator cardin and i will be able to deliver results for seniors across this country. the american people want us to put partisan politics aside and come up with solutions to the problems that we see every day. cara is an example that congress can and should come together to
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solve these problems. the epidemic of opioid abuse has reached a serious point in our debate. i believe the comprehensive addiction and recovery act is a step in the right direction, and i encourage my colleagues to pass this important legislation, and i'm hopeful that we can do it this week, showing nevadans and all americans that we're serious about addressing this problem. mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: mr. president? sr. the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today to talk about the supreme court vacancy for the second time on the floor but i did want to thank the cosponsors of our bill, senator portman, senator whitehouse, senator ayotte and then senator shaheen for her really strong amendment that i think would have made such a difference if we could get some immediate emergency funding. as we know, there's other important provisions in this bill, especially the work that
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i've focused on with prescription drug monitoring. this simple idea that when i talk to doctors, they're never sure if this is someone who's actually abusing the system or not. they want to do well. they've been trained to do well, to get people out of pain. but so often there's not a lot of monitoring about what's going on. and this is going to help to get the states to start doing their work. and i want to thank again senator whitehouse, portman, ayotte and shaheen for their work on this bill. i come today, as i said, to talk about the supreme court. last wednesday i led a meeting of the steering and outreach committee on the supreme court and the senate's constitutional responsibilities. we had the opportunity at that meeting to hear from four distinguished law professors on the constitutional implications of the current vacancy and to put some historical and constitutional context about the
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choice before us. i'd like to share some of those insights with my colleagues. first of all, jamel green, who's a professor of law at columbia law school, looked to the original intent of the framers of the constitution, noting in that the framers did not contemplate the use of the senate's advice and consent powers solely to run out the clock on a presidential appointment. as hamilton speculated in federalist 76, rejection of a nominee -- quote -- "could only be made" -- "could only be to make place for another nomination by the president." the critical point made by professor green, which was echoed by the rest of the panel, is that inaction is not an appropriate response when the constitution says that the president shall nominate and that the senate has a duty to advise and consent. in fact, professor gerhart from the university of north carolina
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at chapel hill noted that the only time when members have truly abandoned their constitutional duties and left this position open was during the civil war. you think about that. the senators before us in this great chamber, they have been even before we had this chamber, when they were meeting in other places, we have been through world war i, we have been through world war ii, we have been through the vietnam war, we have been through civil rights tumult. and always the position was filled and not left vacant for that year time period. you have to go back to the civil war. another common theme that we heard from all of the panelists is that the proposed inaction by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle is without precedent in our nation's history. in the last 135 years, no president has been refused a vote on a nominee for an open seat on the court. the senate has confirmed more
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than a dozen supreme court justices in presidential election years, including five in the last 100 years. so it's not like you have to go way back in time. five of them were in the last 100 years and probably the most oft sighted example is the example of president reagan appointing justice kennedy, nominating justice kennedy in his last few years in the sena senate, he nominates justice kennedy, it's a democratic senate and the democratic senate confirms. and not just confirms, confirms unanimously. another member of the panel was professor jeff stone. he is a professor at the university of chicago law school, actually my professor, my evidence professor so i always enjoy asking my professors questions now that i'm a senator as opposed to when they used to ask questions of me. he was, of course, a former colleague of justice scalia.
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in fact, justice scalia, when he left the university of chicago to be appointed to the bench, he actually gave his papers and all of his notes to professor stone. while they had some different political views, without a doubt, he had admiration for professor stone and professor stone had admiration for justice scalia, as he has written since his death. well, after reviewing the history of supreme court nominations, professor stone concluded that -- and i quote -- "despite all the fuss and fury over the supreme court confirmation process, the plain and simple fact is that the senate always defers to the president as long as the president puts forth nominees who are clearly qualified and who are reasonably moderate in their views and this is true even when the senate is controlled by the opposing party." "in short," he says, "nominees
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who are both qualified and moderate are confirmed, period." and i think he's using as an example -- he knows we know there have been nominees who have been turned down by the united states senate in the past, including in the recent past, but the point is they got a hearing and they got an up and down vote. there are cases when people withdrew their name. there are cases when the up-and-down vote was not in their favor. but they were always moved forward. though we have been accustomed to a certain level of partisanship in congress, professor stone pointed out that the nomination process for supreme court justices has remained in large part a bipartisan process. again, people may vote differently but as a member of the judiciary committee and a relatively new member in both the confirmation process for both justice kagan and justice sotomayor, i can tell you that those hearings were very civil. at the time, senator sessions was the ranking member. as senator leahy was the chair.
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and those hearings, people asked the questions they wanted to, they went on for a number of days and then we had a final vote and then we came to the senate and all was done. as you know, i think the longest justice who's currently serving the longest time from the nomination to the confirmation was actually 99 days. that was justice thomas. and so we've always had a process that has worked. and while the result has sadly become more partisan, although there have been -- were a number of republicans that voted for the recent nominees, it has been more partisan over time when you look at that majority vote or the unanimous vote that justice kennedy got. the process itself worked and that is very important to the functioning of the senate. the fact is we may have a very difficult atmosphere around us politically and sometimes right here in this chamber. but we have tried to keep our dignity and move forward with our processes and we find ways to work together and we treat each other with respect. and for me, that's a lot about what this is about, this process
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for a nominee. yes, it is about what the constitution says. yes, it is about respecting history. yes, it is about not leaving a vacancy on the third pillar of our government when, in fact, our only job as senators is not to determine what happens in those cases or what the individual decisions are but is to fund that court and make sure that there are vacancies that are filled in our advise and consent function. but it even goes beyond all of that for me. it is about how we function as a body, that we keep to our processes, that we move legislation and that we move nominees and that we respect our traditions and we respect the senate and we respect each other. looking beyond the constitutional duties of the senate and the historical precedent of the senate considering supreme court nominees, we have had the opportunity to hear on our panel, as i mentioned, as well as from a number of others about the importance of filling a vacancy on the supreme court. professor green, who i mentioned
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before, and others noted that this inaction would leave the court for two full terms without the ability to resolve closely contested cases. they don't get the easy cases on the supreme court. that's not why they're there. that's not why they're called the supreme court. they get the tough cases. they get the cases in the gray area, where the lower courts are in disagreement and you can't figure out what to do and they are the decision-maker. professor green went on to say on our panel, the supreme court has multiple responsibilities but one of its main core functions is to resolve those disagreements -- and he was referring to among the lower courts -- and the vacancy at issue here leaves the law in a state of uncertainty. the people of this country have enough uncertainty to deal with. of course, because of our democratic functions, we do not know who our next president is. there's a lot of -- of blame and a lot of finger pointing going on throughout our political system right now. there's a lot of uncertainty.
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there's uncertainty with the way our laws have worked. but one of our jobs i figure is to put some certainty in people's lives. we did that with the budget at the end of last year. we did that with the transportation bill last year. we did that with a number of pieces of legislation that were passed on a bipartisan basis. and now it is our job to not leave the entire legal system in a state of uncertainty. former justice an dra day o'connor has also spoken out and when asked about republicans waiting a year to consider a nominee, she said -- quote -- "i don't agree. i think we need somebody there to do the job now and let's get on with it." in fact, former president ronald reagan, who nominated justice o'connor to the supreme court, said in 1987, every day that passes with a supreme court below full strength impairs the people's business in that crucially important body. he made that statement around
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the same time he nominated justice kennedy, who was confirmed, as i noted, unanimously by the senate, controlled by the opposite party in the last year of a presidency. that's our closest and most recent example. confirmed in the last year of the reagan presidency by a democratic senate with a republican president. we now have a democratic president who's not running for president again -- he can't -- in the last year of his presidency with a republican senate. the critical importance of filling this seat is clear and it is not something that we can wait for over a year. not since the civil war have we had a vacancy for over a year. and may i add, there is plenty of time for the senate to consider and confirm a nominee. is it convenient? no, it is not convenient. there's a lot going on. it is an election year. but things happen. unexpectedly justice scalia died and many people who knew him well, like my law professor in chicago, miss him.
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but he died and that means that it triggers a duty on the part of the president and on our pa part. the senate, in fact, has taken an average of only 67 days, about two months from the date of the nomination to the confirmation since 1975. this means that if the president offers a nomination this month, that nominee should receive a vote in the senate by memorial day. and if for some reason that doesn't happen and if the hearings take longer than we think, i would put one other day forth. we could finish this by the 4th of july. and for those that love the constitution, that is certainly a good holiday and end date. looking at the text of the constitution, the precedent of the senate and the importance of the circumstances, the matter is clear. it is the duty of the senate to thoughtfully consider the president's nominee to the supreme court and anything less than that disregards our oates
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of office -- our oaths of office. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i want to associate my remarks with the senator from minnesota and just say, you know, it is so clear what the constitution sa says. it says that the president shals shall -- nominate and then the senate will advise and consent. that's clear. the president's going to nominate so are we going to wait around for a whole year without giving our advice and/or consent? in other words, just do your job.
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so i thank the senator for her comments. mr. president, i have a very touchy subject to talk about again about the ongoing takata airbag fiasco. it is now a recall fiasco. to this point some 26 million of these airbags that are in the center of the steering column that we drive around with right in front of us or in front of the passenger seat or on the sides, side airbags, some 26 million of them have already been recalled. a little over a week ago i spoke about this continuing customer
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confusion over this recall if fiasco. well, for the sake of the safety of our american consumers who happen to be drivers in these vehicles with these takata airbags, we need to end this confusion. and i think the process has to begin with having the national highway traffic safety administration nhtsa for itzhak nip, to -- for itzhak nip, to take a hard look at whether they need the process of recalling all takata airbags with ammonium nitrate-based inflators. now, ammonium nitrate seems to be the problem. it's a compound -- it's a chemical compound which is ignited when you have a
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collision and within less than a second it inflates with gases the airbag that is to save our lives. but what has happened, what is supposed to save lives has been killing lives because the explosive force is so great, it is starting to shred the metal housing and that is sending pieces of shrapnel right into the driver or to the passenger. and a week ago when i showed the senate one of these airbags and then i showed them a piece of metal that became in effect shrapnel like a grenade only this piece was that big that had killed a lady in orlando, florida. as a matter of fact, when the police got to the intersection
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where she had a collision and the airbag deployed and they got there and found her in the car, they thought it was a murder because her neck had been slashed, but in fact it was this exploding airbag with such force that it shredded the metal. in this case it was a piece that big. well, so on february 10 i sent a letter to the nhtsa administrator mark rosekind asking him to do two things. first, i asked him to use his authority to phase out the production of the new takata ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators and to do it as soon as possible. with all that we know about these things, they should not be used, this ammonium nitrate should not be used as replacements for the old takata inflators and certainly
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shouldn't be used in the new cars that are produced and sold to consumers. second, i'm asking in this letter to seriously consider a total recall of all takata ammonium nitrate-based inflators that are currently in vehicles. and my goodness, that is a big number. that is potentially another 90 million units just in this country alone. and that could be as much as 260 million worldwide, but with all the manipulation of data and the serious safety lapses that our staff on the senate commerce committee has detailed in two separate reports, i think it's something that we should seriously look at, potentially a
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big number of recalls of this ammonium nitrate-based inflator that is currently in vehicles. now, i want to say that administrator rosekind, this senator supported his nomination, and i think he's done a number of things to try to improve nhtsa. but i was not too pleased with his written response to my letter that i received from him on february 26, just a few days ago, because in my letter i'd asked him to provide me with a total number of inflators that takata could supply under existing contracts with ought makers -- with automakers. he didn't sup plight that -- he didn't supply that. will takata continue to produce millions of these things?
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we don't know. we don't know the answer. and are consumers today basically getting a newer version of the old version that has been so defective? no answer to that either. in other words, are we going -- are we going to replace and old live grenade with a new live grenade? i also ask in the letter of the administrator to consider an accelerated phaseout of the production of new takata ammonium nitrate-based inflators. in his letter he declined. as to the request for nhtsa to look at a larger recall of takata ammonium nitrate-based
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airbags, administrator rosekind declined to call for a larger recall. and he based that statement on the fact that most of the takata airbags that have not been recalled contain something called decicant which removes the moisture and is supposed to stabilize the ammonium nitrate in the inflator. that decicant is there because moisture is considered to be the culprit that causes the ammonium nitrate to be defective in its explosion. so decicant is supposed to remove that moisture and it's supposed to stabilize the ammonium nitrate. the exact quote in his letter is
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-- quote -- "in fact to date nhtsa is unaware of any inflator rupture in the testing or in the field of a takata inflator causing chemical decicant to counteract the effects of moisture. " end of quote. he's unaware of any inflator rupture using the chemical decicant. mr. president, that statement is not true. on october 15 of last year general motors recalled about 400 vehicles for takata side airbags with the chemical
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decicant. tporlg in that testing nobody was injured. but that wasn't correct information given to the commerce committee. and nhtsa finally admitted their error to our staff on monday of this week. so why did not nhtsa seem to know about it beforehand? this really raises serious questions when a regulator doesn't even seem to know bits own data. nhtsa had that data. and as a result it continues to raise questions about who is really in control of this recall. is it who ought to be nhtsa? or is it the manufacturer of the
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defective airbag, takata? so, mr. president and senators with the deaths and serious injuries that have occurred as a result of these defective airbag s, they've been in florida but they've been in many other places. the last one was in the carolinas in december and a ford driver is dead as a result of it. many other parts of the country. i can tell you that this senator and many of the members of the senate commerce committee are not going to sit quietly and wait for this to get sorted out in good time. lives are at stake. so we're going to keep pushing until all consumers who have vehicles with takata airbags get
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answers and get help. i wish i didn't have to bring this to the senate floor, but in the safety and sake of consumers, we have to. mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence 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 if hawaii. a senator: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: mr. president, i rise to speak on the texas case heard by the united states supreme court, the whole women's health case. this morning i joined hundreds of pro-choice advocates on the
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steps of supreme court in advance ever the oral arguments. ms. hirono: they came from all parts of the country with signs such as "don't mess with access" and "respect my fundamental human dignity." the lead-up to this case was texas law h.b.2 that imposes unnecessary medical requirements on the state's clinics that provide abortion services. according to the american medical association and the american college of ob/gyn's, these requirements are not necessary to protect the health of women seeking these services. rather these onerous aoe streubgss known as tar -- restrictions known as targeted regulations of abortion providers or trap laws have only one purpose: to deny abortion services to women. three-quarters of clinics in texas will close if this law is upheld leaving nearly a million
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women without adequate access to reproductive services. by making the false claim that restrictions like those passed in texas will actually protect women's health, opponents of abortion hope to conceal their true agenda, which is putting an end to abortion and women's reproductive choices. the texas law is just one more example of a litany of legislation and other attempts to limit a woman's constitutionally protected right to chose. astacks on reproductive rights, violence at clinics and numerous attempts in congress to roll back progress on women's health care, continued in 2015. since roe v. wade was decided, state legislatures have passed hundreds of laws to chip away at a woman's right to choose. in the last four years alone, states have passed 231
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anti-choice laws. among the most invasive are those requiring ultrasounds of women seeking abortion care. and some of the most ill-conceived laws require providers to give medically unsound -- unsound information to scare women seeking abortion care. laws which are not based on medical science and opposed by medical practitioners do not protect a woman's health, no matter how loudly or how often these arguments or these claims are repeated. they are lies. lies repeated do not become truths. and while these restrictive laws impact all women, they impact minority and lower-income women most. for example, the texas law will result in the closure of more and more provider clinics. women in texas will have to travel farther and farther to
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get to open clinics. women who have limited resources to travel for needed services or cannot afford to take time from work to travel these long distances are the most negatively impacted by these laws. why do women need to be protected from being able to access the reproductive services that they need and choose? fundamentally, what is the point of a right -- a constitutional right -- if one is unable to exercise that right? i cannot think of any other constitutionally protective right that has seen so many restrictions placed upon it, except perhaps the right to vote. but that's a subject for another speech. it is more than ironic that while many of my anti-choice colleagues vehemently vehicle out in support of constitutional rights, when it comes to women's bodies and reproductive choice, they are all too willing to set aside their constitutional
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principles to invade those fundamental rights. neither congress nor the states have a right to do that. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: the senate? a quoruthe senate is in a quoru, is that correct? the presiding officer: that is correct. mr. isakson: i ask that the senate quorum call be lifted. officer sph without objection. mr. isakson: i am into the lawyerment i am a politician. i was a businessman before elected to the senate. i have watched with interest the debate since the death of antonin scalia about what the senate should do and the country should do in terms of filling that vacancy in terms of its timing. the constitution tells us what to do. the constitution tells us the president shall make an appointment or a nomination to fill that vacancy. the senate shall offer its advice and consent. there's no deadline, there's no trigger date, there are no other
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rules, no other guidelines. there have been a lot of historic debates over whether or not a president -- nomination for the supreme court should be made in the last year of a presidency. on both sides of the aisle. interestingly enough, though, if you read the history, sometimes it's the republicans saying they shouldn't, and sometimes it's the democrats. if you really go back and look, we've all said the same thing. it just depended on whose ox was getting gored in the politics of a particular day. i love joe biden, a personal friend of mine, a great vice president, was on the foreign relations committee, which the presiding officer served on today. i did a little research on what joe had to say. in the last year of the bush administration, on the 29th of gunge, then-senator biden made two statements. the first one is the following. "it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is under way -- and it is -- action on a supreme
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court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. that is what is fair to the nominee and is central to the process. otherwise, it seems to me we will be in deep trouble as an institution." listen -- take that quote and apply to the current temporary time we're in today. we're in a political unknown territory. yesterday was super-tuesday. 15 states went to the polls. we have newcomers getting the most votes, old-timers getting the most vote in one primary. women men, women, conservatives, liberals. we don't know who our president is going to be, what party they're going to be from. when they are lacetted and when they're sworn in in january of incomes year, they will be the president's united states' most elected and appointed by the people of the united states of america. the supreme court is the ultimate arbitrator of what the executive branch and the legislative branch do. it's only appropriate that the supreme court majority, as it is cast, be made up of nine people,
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five of whom are in the minority, who were appointed freely, judged for their best political acumen and legal acumen and best for the interests of the country. i don't think going to the current president, president obama, who is in the last term o--last year of his term, is the right way to do it. i think for us to say the following cloosh the president of the united states who is elected in november and sworn in next january will be the president of most people. that's the president who should make the nomination and the sna the that should make the confirmation. i want to urge my colleagues who have argued about going ahead and moving forthrightly and quickly on filling the antonin scalia place, to think about this: the senate next year will be a new senate. it won't be this senate. there are lots of us up for reelection. i may not be here. i don't know who will be here. i am trying. don't know who will be here. we don't know who the president will be. each of us have our pick. we hope it is our president. we hope it is the man or woman
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that we want. but we don't know that. but we do nay the first tuesday in november we're going to elect a new president. in january that president is going to be sworng in. it's going to be their opportunity if he would watt to make the nomination for whoever will fill antonin scalia's place. it will be the new senate's place to confirm him. the senators who is -- that is the person who should make that appointment. that is the senate that should make that confirmation. think about this. ronald reagan p.o. interred fiscaantonin "nino" scalia. the next person appointed to make his place may serve 30 years as well. at that takes us to 2045. that's a long timeway. shouldn't we take the most contemporary elected president making that appointment real estate than one that is going away? i think it is right to take the president most recently elected, make them make the nomination,
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take the newest senate, let them make the confirmation and do what's right for the american people. it is not a republican thing. it is in the a democratic thing. i respect colleagues both sides of the aisle. we've all made the same statements just depending whether it was our president or the other guy's president. whether it was our senate or the other guy's senate. i quote again from joe biden in the same speech he made on the 25th of june in 1992. "others may fret that this approach would leave the court with only eight members for sometime, but as i see it the cost of such a result is quite minor compared to the cost of the nominee that the president, the senate, and the nation would pay for and the price they'd have to pay most assuredly will be a bitter price and a bitter fight. no matter how good the person is to be nominated president, it would be wrong." vice president when a united states senator faced a time like we face today said look, it's best to look to the future for the appointment, the next president for the nomination,
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the next senate for the confirmation and throoct tiewch of the court because it is the supreme court that will decide the fate of legislative action and executive action. it is only right that we have the best, most contemporarily appointed court that we can have. the only way is to make sure the next president thacks ma appointment. it is not a republican thing. it is not a democrat thing. it is a political thing. we are all politician politicia. all of us have said the same thing. it just depends on which one ever us is in charge at the time whether we spoke like joe imiden as a republican or joe biden as a democrat. i commend fiscal l fiscal for being a great certificate can't -- i commend antonin scalia for being a great servant. he will be missed. somewhere out there there is another antonin scalia waiting to be nominated. i don't know who that is. i want thb them to be found by the next president of the united states confidence next january by this senate. that's the right person, the right way. i would submit that's the way we
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recommend we do it. i yield back the balance of my time and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. early today i joined a number of my colleagues at the supreme court, outside the supreme court
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to work with advocates who were gathered there, thousands of people, including many, many young people, and looking into their faces, i realized that for them roe v. wade is history. but my mind went back to 1974, the year after roe v. wade, when i was a law clerk to justice blackmun. and i heard similar voices from the serene contemptlative chambers of justice blackmun and thought then -- in fact all of us thought then that roe v. wade would settle for all time, at least for the next decades, the reproductive rights of women in
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the united states of america. and we were wrong. we were wrong that the law would be settled, that rights would be protected, that roe would be accepted and that privacy would become enshrined as a matter of constitutional law, or at least accepted politically. we were wrong. and today in a historic case, the united states supreme court heard argument on a challenge to the basic, fundamental right of privacy with practical implications that will alter the lives of women in texas, where the case rose, and throughout the country.
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i know firsthand from my experience as a law clerk, but even more so in the decades since as an advocate for reproductive rights, women's health care, as united states attorney, as a member of the connecticut general assembly, first as a member of the house and then in the state senate, and as our state attorney general, working and fighting to enshrine in state law the rights protected by roe v. wade and then protect them from physical threat and intrusion at the clinics where those rights were made real. those rights do nothing if they are unprotected. if women need to travel hundreds of miles, if women need to leave their jobs and their children
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for days, if women have no access to those rights, they are unreal then. and that is the metafact of the law that is underchallenged in the case before the united states supreme court. whole women's health vs. hellerstedt. that law, hb-2, in effect so restricts the availability of reproductive rights in practical, real terms as to place an insurmountable burden for many women on the exercise of those rights. those rights are prevented from being real for them, for countless others.
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and they will be put out of reach for countless women across the country if this law is not struck down. and that's what we're asking the supreme court to do. to strike down this law that under the pretense of protecting women's health imposes restrictions that deny rights, rights to privacy that are basic to the human condition. they are constitutional rights. but nothing is more basic than the right to control your own body. nothing is more essential than protection of rights to decide when to have a child. these issues of control over
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one's body involve control over one's faith, rights of privacy and power to make basic life decisions. and that's what it means to have a right of privacy. it is the right to be left alone , as one of our supreme court justices said. the right to be left alone from unwarranted and unnecessary government intrusion. and the supreme court will have to make a judgment about whether the burden placed on that right is justified by the supposed protection of women's health. anybody familiar with this case knows that that supposed reason for these laws that require many privileges for doctors or particular widths of hallways in clinics are a ruse, a pretense. in fact, a falsehood.
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so, my view is the outcome should be clear in this deliberative battle before the court. but the ramifications, the practical impacts are severe for those women in texas who would have no access to reproductive health care and for women around the country. because the simple, stark fact is since 2011, state legislatures have enacted 288 laws like the one in texas designed to restrict access to reproductive rights. we're not talking about a situation limited to texas. it's state after state, legislature after legislature, these rights would be restricted by similar laws. and that's the reason that i have introduced the women's health protection act, to stop
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this invasion. it is truly an invasion of a woman's reproductive right. the measure i've introduced would in effect strike down such measures, prevent them so as to reduce and hopefully even eliminate the costs and the time required for litigation challenging them in state after state, like what happened in texas. where women have been denied the certainty and assurance, basic security of knowing that this care will be available to them because of the continuing litigation, the costs of lawsuits and the time-consuming tension and controversy that arise with them. the arbitrary, arcane restrictions imposed by the
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texas law concerning admitting privilege requirements and building specifications are unrelated to health and safety and clearly create an undue burden on women's right to choose. that's the legal principle, the core tenet that needs to be upheld by the united states supreme court. i joined with a number of my colleagues, in fact led the amicus brief to the supreme court that urges that to reach the right result here and strike down this law. my hope is that the outcome will not only be right for texas and the women of texas and the people of texas because the right of privacy is not guaranteed only to women, it is to men, and the decisions that
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women make affect families and children as well as their spouses. i hope that the supreme court finally does what roe v. wade was thought to do. a clear bright line test that will prevent states from intruding with these pretense, ruse laws, supposedly protecting health when in fact all they do is restrict the right of privacy. i'm proud to join with my colleagues in fighting these attacks on women's health care, but i hope that the clerks, as i once was in the supreme court, will look from those windows today and think to themselves that this case will in fact
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finally settle these issues, finally give women the assurance and security they need. there is no need to keep returning and relitigating these issues. there is no need for this body to consume time and energy on defunding planned parenthood. there is no need for these kinds of repeated battles over rights that should be secure and unchallenged in 21st century america. rehashing these fights simply cost us in time and other precious commodities what we should be spending on jobs, economic progress, veterans, national security, investment in
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infrastructure and investment in our human capital, college affordability. all the pressing issues, those and others of this day are what should occupy us on this floor and occupy us as a country as we move forward, hopefully guaranteeing that the rights in roe will be real for every american woman. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. i note the absence 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 west virginia. politburo manchin: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? i ask to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. manchin: i rise today to speak in support of the comprehensive addiction and recovery act of 2015, which is bipartisan, i might add, and to discuss several amendments that i have introduced. mr. president, our country is facing a prescription drug epidemic, and today is a good step towards addressing this crisis. this is a crisis that i have been dealing with since my days as governor of the great state of west virginia. opiate abuse is ravaging my state of west virginia, as with many other states. i know you have the same problems in utah, mr. president. our state has been hit harder than any other state in the country. drug overdose deaths have soared more than 700% since 1999. we lost 627 west virginians to opioids last year alone.
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61,000 west virginians use prescription pain medication for nonmedical purposes in 2014. this includes 6,000 teenagers, but our state is not unique. every day in our country, 51 americans die from opiate abuse, and since 1999, we have lost almost 200,000 americans to prescription opiate abuse. the facts that we have in the bill in front of us, mr. president, are simply this -- it's an important first step, which i have just said. it will authorize 77.9 million in grant funding for prevention and recovery efforts, which we need, expand prevention and educational efforts particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers and aging populations. it also will prevent the abuse of opiates and heroin and promote treatment and recovery. it will expand the availability of naloxone to help in the
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reversal of overdoses and to save lives. it will expand disposal of unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children. it will also launch an evidence-based opiate, heroin treatment and prevention program to expand best practices throughout the country. it will strengthen drug programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion. while the bill is a good start, mr. president, and addresses quilt problems, there is more that needs to be done. i have a few amendments i want to speak about and explain that i think will improve the bill by changing the f.d.a.'s mission statement, it will be providing grants for consumer education and requiring prescriber training. first of all, i firmly believe, mr. president, that we need cultural change at the f.d.a., and that is why i introduced the changing -- the changing the culture of the f.d.a. act as an amendment to this bill. this amendment would strengthen the action that the f.d.a.
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recently announced that they were committed to taking into consideration the public health impact of approving opioid medications. now, mind you, what they said is that they were committed to taking into consideration. i don't think that's much of a change and it's definitely not a cultural change. it's a movement in the right direction, which i acknowledge. but by solidifying this commitment in the agency's mission statement, we ensure that the agency oversees the approval of these dangerous drugs and cannot waiver from their stated goals. the language in my amendment is similar to the language in the f.d.a.'s current mission statement regarding tobacco and we all know the devastating effects of tobacco. the mission statement says simply this, mr. president. "f.d.a. also has the responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors." now, if we think it's that's
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serious that we put this in a mission statement for tobacco, why can't we do it for opioids? tobacco kills hundreds of thousands of americans every year. and we have rightly recognized that this is a public health crisis. however, opiates kill 51 people every day just in 2015. this, too, is a public health crisis. it is simply ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, that the f.d.a. has treated opiates like any other drug up for approval. to date, the agency has failed to consider the devastating public health impact of the repeated decisions to approve dangerously addictive opiates. we have seen that in their resistance to rescheduling hydrocodone, their approval of zohydro against the advice of their own advisory committee, and the refusal to consult an advisory committee on other dangerous opiate approvals, including -- including their decision to allow the use of oxycontin in children as young as 11 years old.
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opiates are simply different than many other types of drugs that the f.d.a. oversees. as i noted before, they have killed almost 200,000 people since 1999. 200,000, mr. president. and have ruined the lives of countless others. the f.d.a. must be held accountable for their actions, and like our efforts to protect the public, particularly children, from the dangers of tobacco, the u.s. congress must take action to ensure that the f.d.a. does, in fact, do what it has promised to do and take the devastating public health impact of opiate addiction into account when approving new drugs. we're just putting it on par with tobacco, that's all. just in your mission statement, you have more of a responsibility than just passing it through. it was a business plan. my second amendment, mr. president, also relates to the critical role the f.d.a. plays in addressing the opiate epidemic. it would require the f.d.a. to
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seek the advice of its advisory committee before approving new opiate medication. these are experts, scientists. these are people that know the makeup and the composites of the chemicals and what they do to human beings. if the f.d.a. approved the drug against the advice of the advisory committee, that means if they do not take the recommendation by their own experts and they wish to put this drug on the market, approximate the agency would be required -- the agency would be required to submit a report to us, the people's representatives, to congress justifying that decision. the approval is delayed until the report is submitted. tell us why you won't take the advice of your experts. and why do you even subvert and basically pay no attention? the f.d.a. plays a critical role in addressing the opioid epidemic as the agency overseeing the approval of these drugs. under the agency's own rules, the f.d.a. is supposed to convene an advisory committee of scientific experts when a matter of significant public interest, highly controversial or in need
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of a specific type of expertise. with 351 people dying -- with 51 people dying every day from an overdose of prescription opioids, it is cheer that the approval of opiates -- clear that the approval of opiates needs the recommendation of the expert panel and adhere to the recommendation with regard to apreug dangerously -- approving dangerously addicting opiates. mr. president, you recalmr. pres unfortunately truly hasn't happened. it took three years from getting reschedule, from a schedule two to a schedule three, zohydro, vicodin. these are the most widely prescribed opiates. cook us three years -- took us three years what should be a three-week turnaround. taking these from a three to schedule two, which took over a billion pills off the market, they come right back and they
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recommended a drug called zohydro. this drug, by their expert panel, had basically advised 11-2 not to put this drug on the market. they failed to seek their council's advice. and their concerns of the safety of this drug. since that time, two extended release opiate medications, targanike, hyzing and morphobon, have been approved without any advisory meeting at all. and let me give you my reasoning on that, why i think this happened. there was so much pushback on zohydro from governors and senators and congress people of putting this high-powered drug on the market against the advice of their own council that they didn't want to go through tha that -- that again. so basically they just skipped it altogether and brought these drugs right to market. they also approved oxycontin for use in children as young as 11
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without seeking the advice, again, of the pediatric advisory committee. this is a dangerous precedent and it must stop. i'm encouraged that the agency's recent announcement on opiate approvals that the f.d.a. has finally agreed that the approval of these powerful drugs must be subject to an advisory committee. i am very concerned, however, the f.d.a. intends to continue to exempt, i say, mr. president, to exempt abuse deterrent opiates from this process and has not promised to abide by the advice. they say they will take it under consideration. they're not bound to take the advice of the advisory committee. while abuse deterrent formulations which are harder to crush or liquefy have a role to play in reducing the impact of this epidemic, these drugs are no less addictive than terrible opiates. in addition, in the real world, we've seen these so-called abuse deterrent properties easily overcome. the tragic h.i.v. outbreak that
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we saw in scott county, indiana, last year occurred after hundreds of people in that community shared needles to shoot up opana. they used the same needle to shoot up opana, something that should not have been possible if it were truly abusive deterrent. this amendment would solidify the f.d.a.'s new commitment to seek the advice of its advisory committee when approving opiate medications and would strengthen it by extending that commitment to all opiates. and by holding the f.d.a. accountable if the agency does not listen to its own experts. this is such a reasonable request, it's such a reasonable amendment to protect the people in all of our states. it is a commonsense measure that would ensure that the f.d.a. is fully considering the public health impact and the many lives lost as a result of these dangerous opiate medications. another one i have is the mandatory prescriber education. this epidemic is one that needs to be fought on all fronts, but
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most importantly, we need to fight it on the front lines with the prescribers, which is precisely what my third amendment seeks to do, mr. president. it requires medical practitioners, our doctors, the people that we trust, it -- it basically requires them to receive training. you would think that they're getting training on these now but they don't. you can ask any doctor. there's no specific training going through school at any other time on the safe prescribing of opiates prior to receiving and renewing their d.e.a. license to prescribe controlled substances. that's all we're saying. this training must include information on safe opiate prescribing guidelines. the risk of overprescribing opiate, pain management, and the treatment of opiate dependent patients. this is something only the doctors can do. these are the people writing on the prescription pads, sending them to the pharmacist and fulfilling all of our prescriptions.
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so we're asking for them to have that type of training, required training when they get their d.e.a. license and when they renew their d.e.a. license for continuing education. this epidemic is one that needs to be fought on all fronts but most importantly we need to fight it on the front lines with the prescribers. according to the national institute of health, more than 259 million prescriptions were written in 2012. think about that. 259 million prescriptions were written in 2012. just in the united states, for opiate painkillers, just for the painkillers. that equals one bottle of pain pill for every adult in the united states of america. we are the most addicted country on the planet of the earth. population of less than 5% of us lives in this great country of ours. we consume 80% of the opiates produced in the world. produced in the world. the other 6.7 billion people
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don't use what we use. why? that's a 400% increase in the number of prescriptions since 1999. in a little over a decade. 400% increase that we're pumping more pills out thinking this is what's going to cure america. this increase has come without a corresponding increase in reported pain. people aren't complaining any more about pain, they're just getting more pills. but it has come with a corresponding 400% increase in overdose deaths. so if overdose deaths are related to the increase of pills we're putting on the market, don't you think we ought to do something? it's pretty simple. i hear too many stories from my constituents that they receive significantly more pain medication than they need to treat their pain. and those extra pills increase the risks of addiction for individuals and are dangerous for our society if diverted. you can go get your teeth worked on, you can get a tooth extracted and you'll get 30 days of pain pills. you might need one or two days. it's ridiculous. i hear from physicians
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themselves who will tell you that they do not receive enough training. these are doctors telling us it's not in there basically education as they're going through their medical school. on prescribing these drugs. or even after they leave medical school, there's no continuing education demanded about this. until we ensure that every prescriber has a strong understanding of safe opiate prescribing practices and the very great risk of opiate addiction, abuse and overdose deaths, we will continue to see too many people prescribe too many of these dangerous drugs which can lead them down the tragic path of addiction. finally, mr. president, we must improve our consumer education efforts. my fourth amendment would establish consumer education grants through sam shah to raise awareness about the risk of opiate addiction and overdose. 2.1 million americans are addicted to opiates. 2.1 million americans are addicted to opiates.
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many of these individuals began their road to addiction with a seemingly innocent prescription and little or no warning about the danger from their physicians. they weren't told that they could be addicted. they weren't told that they would be hooked and change their life forever. or it began when a friend offered a pill that they thought couldn't be that dangerous because the doctor had given it to them. well, here, i've got something that will help you. try this. and it gets starred. there is -- started. there is simply too little understanding about the dangers of these drugs and too many people get sucked into opiate addiction because they don't understand the risk and because the people close to them don't know how to recognize the signs of addiction. or know how to access the resources to help their loved ones. it's the silent killer. it's the one that we all keep quiet. every one of us. every one of us in america knows somebody, either in our family, immediate family or extended family or close friend, that's been affected. but we say nothing. misuse and abuse of prescription drugs costs the country an estimated $53.4 billion a year
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in lost productivity. people that can't function, can't go to work, basically drawing off of their unemployment or off their insurance. medical medical costs and criminal just costs. you name it and you talk to any law enforcement, anywhere in the united states of america and they will all tell you a minimum of 80% of the crimes that are reported that they have to go and serve are drug related. 80%. so the cost is probably even higher than that. this amendment provides $15 million a year to help prevent these costs in the first place and it makes sense. that's $15 million. oh, that's a lot of money. yeah. let me tell you this, mr. president. as a society we regularly invest efforts to prevent unnecessary deaths. we already have done that and we continue to do that. 30,000 people died in car accidents in 2013. 30,000. and we invested $668 million in motor vehicle safety and
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accident prevention. that's more than $22,000 per death that we've invested trying to prevent people from getting killed in automobile accidents, driving safely, dui, the whole thing. with 28,000 people dying of prescription drug overdose in 2014, this funding represents an investment, the $15 million represents an investment of $500, $500 per person, a life we could save. we spend $22,000 trying to prevent accidents in automobiles. opiates all we're asking for is a $500 investment to try to save their life. we've got to put our priorities where our values are and we can do that. the grant class would be authorized under this amendment would help those on the front lines of this terrible epidemic provide their communities with the information that they need to help stop the spread of opiate addiction and help people seek treatment. this funding will better enable
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us to educate individuals about the dangers of opiate abuse. practices to help prevent opiate abuse, including the safe disposal of unused medication and how to detect the early warning signs of addiction. i would venture to say that most parents do not know how to look the a their children and know that there's a chance that they may be addicted or getting addicted. it's sometimes too late. it will help us save lives by raising awareness about the dangers of prescription opiate medication, to prevent opiate addiction in the first place and ensuring that loved ones know how to help when a friend or family member becomes addicted. mr. president, this amendment that we're asking for, this amendment that i'm asking for is one that really makes sense. if we can't educate the public, then we have little chance of ever curing this epidemic. now, we've had a lot of talk about the funds and how much money we're spending, and we just had a final amendment that i would like to address as the great need for funding to pay
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for substance abuse treatment. well, i strongly agree with my colleagues who supported senator shaheen's amendment to provide $6 when u.n. million in funding which we desperately need to support federal programs that work to prevent opiate abuse and provide the much needed treatment. and if you look at the amount of money it's costing for incarceration, all of the lost time, all of the drug-related crimes that's committed, it would have been an investment well made. but i know that there's people that believe differently. in 2014, mr. president, 42,000 west virginiaians, including 4,000 youths sought treatment for illegal drug use but failed to receive it. there was no place to get it. in your state, my state, people are looking. they want -- sometimes they're looking for this and there's no place to put them. if you dr. day courts or drug courts in your state, they will tell you they have no place to put them. there's no place to get the treatment to cure a person who is truly looking for a cure.
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this is unacceptable, mr. president. there are people that recognized they need it. they begged for it. they were turned away because there weren't facilities, beds or mental health providers in their community. but we spend money every year building new prisons all over the country and we have a backlog and an overcrowding prison population. we know from long experience that when a person asks for help, that's our opportunity. if we turn them away, they'll never come back. they just don't when they're turned away. that is why i'm want toking introduce this amendment -- wanting to introduce this amendment and i would like a very vigorous discussion on it. mr. president, we have tobacco which we know is very dangerous and kills people. it's harmful. and we spent a lot of money trying to prevent people from using it and young people from starting to use it. and we even tax it. we tax it so basically we can deter the use of it. we have alcohol. we know alcohol can be very addictive and basically it ruins people's lives.
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we know that. and we tax that, mr. president. we have nothing on opiates, nothing. what i would be asking for is a consideration of a one cent, one-cent fee on every milligram of opiates that are produced, one penny. one penny per milligram. this fee would be levied on the pharmaceutical company and the money raised would be used to create a permanent funding stream to strengthen the substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant. i know, mr. president, so many people are saying we're not going to pass any new taxes. i understand that. we are really at a crunch. we basically have cut back our military struggling, every part of the programs that we think near and dear to our states and the people in our states are having trouble. i'm not asking to take away from another one. i'm asking that this one penny, one penny per million game of -- milligram of opiates that are produced in this country would give us permanent funding to put
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in the treatment centers we so desperately need. i don't know of any other way to do it and a more compassionate way. we do it for cigarettes. we do it for alcohol. we have opiates killing more than all that. and i'm just asking for that dialogue, that consideration. it could be something, a bipartisan movement because this killer, this silent killer of opiates doesn't have a partisan home. it's not democrat arpbsdz it's -- and it's not republican. it's not independent. it's killing americans, all of us. the substance abuse treatment and prevention block grant goes to the states to pay for critical substance abuse treatment programs. the new funding raise which based on past opiate sales -- i'm basing it on past opiate sales could be anywhere between one and a half to two billion dollars a year and all the states would be able to participate. every state would participate in these moneys available. they could be used by states to establish new addiction treatment facilities and improve access to drug courts, operate support programs for recovering addicts, care for babies born
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with neonatal abstinence syndrome or meet any other treatment need that your state or my state my face. these treatments save lives and strengthen communities and we're losing a generation, a whole generation. opiate producers have made billions of dollars selling their drugs over the past several decades. i'm not here railing against the pharmaceuticals. they do an awful lot of good for our country and save a lot of lives too. this one doesn't. this has been proven a killer. this amendment asks them to contribute a small portion of their profits to pay for this treatment. everybody says they'll pass it on of the don't worry, you'll be paying more. this is one time, mr. president, one penny, one penny a milligram, that's all we're asking. for the 2.1 million americans who are addicted to their products, my amendment also provides exemptions. i'm talking about the exemptions now because i know people are going to say what about our veterans? what about those in severe chronic pain? what about those who are terminally ill? well, we have basically
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exemptions built in this amendment for those people that are not going to -rb put in a hardship. this is a cost, mr. president, if we look -- i don't know of any other way to fix it. i really don't. i know people have taken pledges, not going to do this, not going to do that, not going to consider it. you a out to consider the damage it's doing to erbg in. i'm not asking for any other program to be sacrificed. i think this is responsible, all i'm asking is one penny. i'm pleased the senate is addressing this epidemic. we have the cara package in front of us. i appreciate that. i know that we all have a great passion of trying to cure this. this is how we need to work to solve the major challenges in our country it faces. i'm glad to see we're going through regular order. we have amendments we're able to put on and talk about them. i think it's worthy to have these discussions. we must provide the critical resources needed, and i think that we have a solution to that,
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mr. president. i hope that we can have that discussion. i hope that all of us can have an adult discussion about how we save americans, how we save our families, our children, and the next generations to come. i really look forward to working with all of my colleagues and with you, mr. president, to see if there's a better way that we can strengthen and make a piece of legislation even better than what it is. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. a senator: thank you, mr. president. i appreciate the comments from my friend from west virginia and his work on this issue that has hit west virginia and particularly southeast ohio kind of first and hardest, but has spread to so many other places and caused so much heartache and so much family disruptions, not just for the young man or woman
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in the case of young people who are addicted but the whole family. mr. brown: as the mother of a teenager said to me in warren, ohio, one day that this is really a family affair, i'm pleased to see bipartisan support for finally tackling the opiate addiction epidemic. it's touched every state, every community, almost every community in our country. 2014 more people died from drug overdoses than any year on record. 2484 in ohio. that's a record number of prescription drug overdoses and record 11 77 overdoses related to heroin. people often start with pain medication, sometimes overprescribed pain medication which will in far too many cases lead to heroin addiction. heroin is cheaper to buy on the street than people can get oxycontin or oxycodone or perk seat or any -- percocet or any
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number of morphine pain -- legal pain medications. these numbers mean that in one year alone 2500 ohioan families lost a loved one to addiction. what those numbers don't account for are the thousands of other families and hundreds of other communities who continue to struggle with opiate abuse. it should not be easier, should not be easier for americans to get their hands on opioids than it is for them to get help to treat their addiction. it should not be easier for americans to get their hands on opioids than it is to get help to treat their addiction. addiction is not an individual problem. it surely is thought a character flaw. as many people, half a generation ago like to say it was when it was people that didn't look like them, but the fact is it was not a character flaw then. it's not a character flaw now. it's a chronic disease. when left untreated it places a massive burden on our health care system in a terrible, --
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and a terrible, terrible cost on families who have an addicted family mechanic. when -- family member. when we think about this epidemic, we have in our minds a young worker who turned to painkillers after a bank injury or car accident, someone who started with oxycodone maybe as a party drug and then turned to heroin. but this problem is bigger than that. our national conversation forgets the hundreds of thousands of seniors who often are given unsafe and did you politic stiff prescription -- duplicative prescriptions for opioids. it's not uncommon for seniors to be treated by multiple specialists and physicians. doctors may not know they're prescribing tkup politic stiff -- duplicative painkillers meaning this doctor prescribed a painkiller, maybe oxycodone, oxycontin, vicodin or another. this other doctor may have done the same thing and they weren't communicating and didn't know. seniors find it difficult to manage all of their different prescriptions far too often. take, for example, ohioan dennis michaelson. i met him at the institute of
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aging last august. he's one of the estimated 170,000 medicare beneficiaries, recently battled addiction to pain medication. he was prescribed pain medication by his doctor to manage chronic migraines. when his primary care doctor sought to wean him off the medication, he with end to other doctors and pharmacists to obtain the opioids. he was eventually arrested, charged with felonies for tampering with prescriptions. he's since recovered and is an advocate for reform to address the prescription drug epidemic. after hearing his story, it strikes me that if a patient with legitimate and sometimes complex medical needs winds up getting pain medication from several different doctors, you can see how that would happen, none of those doctors know about one another. the system's failed the patient. it's why i work with senator toomey from pennsylvania to introduced stopping medicare abuse and protecting seniors act. i was proud to see this body supported as an amendment today. we already have a proven tool to
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address the problem of patients getting duplicative opioids from multiple doctors and pharmacists. it's called patient review and restriction programs. but despite their success in state medicaid programs and commercial plans, these programs aren't available in medicare prescriptions under current law. that's the purpose of the toomey-brown amendment and what we're trying to fix. it will -- the amendment will ensure the small number of seniors who receive high doses of addictive opioids from multiple doctors get those painkillers from one doctor and one pharmacist. it is what we did on so-called medicaid lock-in so that people who were abusing the system on purpose or more likely those who sort of fell into this trap and went from doctor to doctor, pharmacist to pharmacist in some sense, doctor shopping or pharmacy shopping, that that practice would end. we've done the same thing now with so-called medicare lock-in. it will save taxpayers $100 million over the nex

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