Skip to main content

tv   US Senate  CSPAN  April 28, 2016 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT

12:00 pm
thank you, madam president. i yield. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. height -- ms. heitkamp: least anyone think they are immune or this is only in the tropics, i don't think anyone would think they are from the tropics. i hold up the first noted case of an american woman infected by zika. she was traveling, probably bitten by a mosquito, somehow with contracted the zika virus. she will now live in fear that the baby she is carrying will suffer the birth defects that we know are associated with this potential pandemic. where's the answer for her? the answer that the north dakota epidemiologist gave for her, which is good advice, is don't travel anywhere where we have zika virus infections. i guess she is not leaving her
12:01 pm
house, because the way this is spreading and the way this is moving, that will be everywhere in the united states of america. and once it is -- it migrates and once it moves, what's going to stop it? and who's going to stand on the floor of the united states senate and take responsibility for the lack of action? for the lack of responding to this public health crisis? that's why we're coming here today. this isn't about politics. this isn't about a public health emergency. we need resources, we need answers, we need tests, and we don't need to rob from other potential pandemics like ebola to get this done. there isn't a citizen in the country who wouldn't say this is an obligation of the government to protect their people. we anticipate, we anticipate in puerto rico, a territory of this country, a lot of people travel
12:02 pm
to and from puerto rico. one in five people in puerto rico will be infected by the zika virus. do they know it? probably not. frequently, no symptoms come with the infection. so now we have to respond. now we have to do what's right. and people will say it's not -- we can take this in regular order. that's what i hear is happening over in the house. they want to take this in regular order. well, if it is a regular problem, why has the state of florida declared a state of emergency? in february, this is not new, it's estimated that florida will continue as the -- as the zika virus migrates, continue to be the next big place of infection. what does that mean to florida? not only does it mean that you have created huge insecurity for the families, particularly young women, the age of our children who are now thinking about
12:03 pm
having babies, you create a huge insecurity. if the answer is don't have babies, how many generations do we have to go? we don't know. that's the problem. we don't know. there is no test. there is no way to verify at this point, no rapid test. so when we look at this and we look at the effect that it's having not only on our families and on family decisions, but you look at the effect that it is having on tourism. we all know that the caribbean depends on tourism dollars to have stable governments. we all know that florida is heavily dependent on tourism. people in my office have already canceled plans for caribbean vacations. people i know have already canceled plans to go to florida. because they're afraid. what happens when everybody is staying home because they're afraid? this is not something that we can play politics with. this is something that should
12:04 pm
unite all of us. we should all be coming together. and if you don't like the president's plan, tell us what's wrong with it. tell us what you need to change. tell us what your experts, contrary to the experts at c.d.c. who have arrived at this plan, tell us what your experts think needs to be changed and what level of accountability you need. this morning i understand the argument isn't that we shouldn't spend the money. the argument is there is no accountability. tell us what accountability. come together. let's solve this problem. let's rise to the occasion here in the united states senate when confronted with this virus, let's come together. let's show the people that we can respond. and i don't think that i'm exaggerating the potential health care effects. the world health organization has declared it an emergency. conservative governor in florida has declared it an emergency. and certainly for this young north dakota woman, it's an emergency. she needs to know and her family needs to know exactly how
12:05 pm
this -- this virus is transmitted and what she can expect going forward. and so she is just one of -- i think one of the first cases. my great friend, the senator from washington. not exactly the tropics in the state of washington as well also has two -- one case, and we don't know how many more. we don't know how many more. and so i am pleading let's not wait. let's treat this like the emergency it is. let's do what we need to do to protect american families, particularly young women of child-bearing age who are going to be devastated in this happens in their family. and so let's do the right thing. let's come together. if there is a problem with the proposal, let's debate what that proposal should look like. let's bring it to the floor, offer amendments for accountability. why are we waiting? someone needs to answer that question, not just to me but to the american family and the american people.
12:06 pm
with that, madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: madam president, i come to the floor today to join my colleagues because i share their very real concerns about the impacts of the zika virus on families in new hampshire, also not a tropical state, the impact on people across the country here in the united states and also on people around the world. you know, as has been pointed out, we have seen reports from regions with active mosquito-borne transmission of the virus, place the like brazil where they are about to host the olympics, and people will be traveling there from all over the united states, from all over the world. we have seen those stories of women who have had children with severe birth defects, with microcephaly as a result of their exposure and their
12:07 pm
contracting of the virus during pregnancy. and we've also seen impact on adults. the connection that seems to be there and i think we're still waiting on definitive research but the connection on adults between guillain-barre syndrome and the zika virus is also very real. and while fortunately in america in most cases that can be treated, the reality in a lot of places around the world and for some people it causes severe paralysis and sometimes even death. so this is not just something that affects pregnant women, but there are also concerns about who else might be affected by this virus. as we have heard from north dakota, as we have heard from other states, as mosquito season arrives in this country, we can expect additional zika cases,
12:08 pm
transmitted often by mosquitoes from tropical areas that people contract when they are traveling, but we know that this mosquito is coming to america. in new hampshire where neither of the two known mosquito vectors currently live, we have already had three cases of zika, with about 150 possible cases that are still being tested. now, two of these cases were acquired as the result of traveling to zika-impacted regions, but the third was contracted because of sexual transmission of the disease from a partner who had been traveling. last week i chaired a roundtable on zika in concord, new hampshire, in our capital. we had representatives who are looking at what might happen with the virus and are planning for an outbreak, which we hope we can avoid.
12:09 pm
so we had doctors from the state, we had the state epidemiologist, we had the director of the state lab, we had people who are working on mosquito control, and they talked about how over the last several months they have been getting more and more questions about zika, particularly from women who are planning to have children in the near future and for pregnant women and their families or women and their partners who are beginning to think about starting a family. the threat of zika, as senator heitkamp pointed out is very real. we had one of the doctors and obstetricians at that roundtable who reported that many of her female patients are canceling vacancies that they had planned and that some of her patients whose husbands are in the military who are stationed in zika-infected countries are concerned about how to protect themselves and what they need to do when they return. we heard from folks at our new
12:10 pm
hampshire department of health and human services who talked about the importance of increased access to family planning and contraceptives, and the zika outbreak's impact on the need for those services. it gives us a new lens on the importance of making sure that women and families have access to this health care. we need to make sure that all women at risk or diagnosed with zika have access to comprehensive, patient-centered contraceptives and preconception counseling. we also heard from the folks involved with mosquito control. what they told us is that there are two mosquitoes who can spread the zika virus, that we know of at this time. one of those is a mosquito who is only in the tropics, who we are never going to see in northern new hampshire and in northern new england, but the second mosquito we have already
12:11 pm
found in connecticut and massachusetts, and the mosquito control folks said that unlike the usual spraying for mosquitoes, which is in wetland areas and swampy areas in new hampshire, that this is a mosquito who, as secretary burwell has described it, can breed in as little as a capful of water, capful of water. they are mosquitoes who eat -- bite people four times in order to get a meal, so they spread very fast. and what we heard from the mosquito control folks who were at this meeting was that they are encouraging people to looking at places in their yards where water might collect in small spaces, in wheelbarrows, in paint cans, in places that we wouldn't normally think about mosquitoes growing.
12:12 pm
they also encourage people to think about protecting themselves, when you're going out, about covering up, wearing long sleeves, wearing slacks, wearing socks. when you're outside at a time when mosquitoes might be around. the other concerning thing about the zika mosquito is that it also is active during the day. it's not like most of the mosquitoes that we see in new hampshire which are active at night. this is a mosquito who is also active during the day. so we need to be taking action now. i listened to the head of the state lab in new hampshire talking about the challenge of getting results from the lab for people who had been tested for zika, and he said, you know, sometimes because we have to send out the labs that we don't have the capacity in new hampshire to do the analysis that's required, we're still
12:13 pm
looking for a test that can definitively determine if somebody has had zika in the past. he said something as small as the ability to ferry the samples and the results back and forth to a lab is one of the things that we need so we can get answers so we know how to act. the folks who are trying to get information out to the public talked about the need to have support so that they could get information out both to the medical community and to individuals about the importance of what individuals need to do to take action. and they said very directly to me, as i said, you know, i appreciate that this is something that we need to work with you on in washington, they said, you know, we don't have the resources to respond to this in the way that we need to in new hampshire. and for those people who would say don't worry, you know,
12:14 pm
you're exaggerating, this is never going to come to new hampshire, well, that's what they told us about the west nile virus, and that's what they told us about triple e, and we have had deaths in new hampshire in recent years from both of those viruses. so i think we need to act on this. i know that there has been an agreement in the appropriations committee among the appropriators on both sides of the aisle. it's been a bipartisan agreement to help get a supplemental funding bill to the floor to address this, because in new hampshire what i heard is that we need help. we need you in washington to help us. and if we're concerned about the cost of this, just think about what our inaction will do. what if we have an outbreak and we have people who -- we have thousands of women as they do in brazil who have been infected and who have had babies with microcephaly. what are the health care costs
12:15 pm
to people who might have been infected by the zika virus with guillain-barre syndrome, with other birth defects as the result of being infected during pregnancy? so this is a bill that we can't afford to wait on. we need to address this. if folks are not willing to do it because it's the right thing to do, they ought to be willing to do it because it's the cost-effective thing to do. madam president, i hope we can get together. i know people on both sides of the aisle are concerned about this. we need to come together. we need to address this. it is a pending public health emergency and we've got to respond. thank you very much. i yield the floor. ms. hirono: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: madam president, i rise to join my colleagues in raising awareness about the zika
12:16 pm
virus and the need to pass the president's emergency appropriation request to get ahead of this crisis in the making. some question the need for this emergency appropriation request. perhaps those who believe that funding the president's request is a waste feel that we are not at immediate risk, but you've heard my other colleagues talking about how this is an impending crisis. so while zika may not seem like a threat in the united states now because we have not hit peak mosquito season, the mentality is irresponsible. zika is ravaging south america which is having its summer right now. zika is on the move. the mosquito that is the main zika carrier is already in 13 states and another mosquito also capable of spreading the zika virus is in 30 states. as families travel this summer, they will be moving in and out
12:17 pm
of states and countries impacted by zika. so to my colleagues who aren't worried about the spread of zika right now, it's time for all of us to wake up. with summer comes mosquitoes, including, of course, the mosquito carrying zika. and we must do all we can to ensure that zika does not gain a foot hold in the united states. let's act, not react, to this zika threat. this means funding the president's $1.9 billion request for zika. hawaii knows firsthand the impact of vector borne diseases like zika and of the resources and efforts it takes to contain an outbreak. seven hawaii residents have already been diagnosed with zika. one mother with zika has an infant born with microencephaly. on top of that hawaii has been
12:18 pm
dealing with an outbreak of a fever spread by the same mosquito that carries zika. the denge outbreak began in september and only yesterday were we able to go 30 days without a new denge case. the unique location of hawaii means it serves as transit location for many pacific island nations where zika outbreaks occurred in the past. places like french poll knee shah. we know this disease can migrate and migrate quickly. that's why we have to get ahead of it. having the administration shift ebola funding around is not the answer. that is akin to robbing peter to pay paul. what will we do if ebola also has a resurgence this summer in shift money back from zika? the united states is in a strong position compared to many other countries to fight zika. we have in development vaccines,
12:19 pm
blood screenings, cleaning tools and research that will be game changers. when the president sent his $1.9 billion request to congress, he laid out how the funding would be spent or used. it would go toward vector control, public education campaigns and vaccine development. it would toward the work of companies like hawaii biotech which is racing to complete work on a vaccine. we must fund the emergency request so federal agencies that stand on the battle lines of combatting disease can do their work. we must also strengthen vector control programs and emergency preparedness programs. it's imperative that we give our communities the tools they need to fight zika. time is still on our side right now, but time is running out and we must act quickly. let's come together to ensure that zika does not become a full-blown public health emergency in the united states.
12:20 pm
let's fund the president's request. i yield the floor. ms. heitkamp: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: madam president, i rise to discuss this public health emergency. i'm honored to be here with senator murray and mikulski and heitkamp and hirono as we look at this serious crisis facing our nation, and that is the zika virus. the world health organization has declared that zika is spreading explosively and will affect nearly all countries in north and south america. the virus has already infected nearly 400 americans who have traveled abroad from 40 states, including my home state of minnesota. over 500 people in puerto rico have the disease. nearly all of them contracted the virus locally. these numbers will only continue to grow as the warmer months bring more mosquitoes that transmit this disease. in fact, researchers calculate
12:21 pm
that 60% of the people in our country live in an area that will likely be affected. zika is a rapidly evolving mosquito-borne virus. most infected patients develop mild flu like symptoms that last for a week. however, the virus has devastated consequences for growing families. researchers have confirmed what many feared was true: a pregnant woman infected with zika is at risk of giving birth to a child with microencephaly. this heartbreaking lifelong condition results in newborns with abnormally small heads. these children will need increased access to health care and developmental services, speech, occupational, physical therapies. there is no known cure for this disease or even standard treatment for this condition. it is crucial that physicians have the knowledge and tools essential to diagnose and care for pregnant women who may be infected with zika. it is crucial that moms with zika and children with
12:22 pm
microencephaly have access to the services they need. it is crucial that we take steps now to ensure that our health care system and all levels of government are prepared for the imminent spread of the zika virus. we are here today to continue to stress the urgent need to ensure our country is as prepared as possible to mitigate the spread of zika and respond to outbreaks of this virus. the administration submitted a request for nearly $2 billion in emergency funds to provide immediate support. this is about research. this is about a vaccine. this is about therapeutics and diagnostics. this is about a medical health crisis that primarily, but not only, affects women and children. and that is why the women democrats of the senate have gathered here today to speak out, to speak out and say this is a crisis that must be funded. this is a crisis that must be
12:23 pm
responded to. and simply because it mainly affects women and children right now, and we have no idea what other effects it will have, this is no reason to shirk our duties in the congress and not fund this. our foremost duty is to protect the health and safety of americans. zika is a rapidly evolving disease with severe public health implications. i ask my colleagues to support this effort. we cannot afford to delay action. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. ms. mikulski: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: madam president, i rise to take the floor as the vice chair of the appropriations committee. and really urge that we adopt an urgent supplemental request to deal with the zika threat here. this is real. it's been two months since the
12:24 pm
administration sent to congress an emergency supplemental. we can't wait any longer. the mosquitoes are here. they're actually here. they're here in the united states of america. and i've said first with wit and now with deep concern, you can't build a wall to keep the mosquitoes out. the mosquitoes aren't going to pay for this. we need to act, and we need to act now. this is a compelling public health crisis, and we can do something about it. we take an oath to defend all americans against enemies foreign and domestic. this is about to be a self-inflicted wound on our own people because of our failure to act with no reliable tested public health interventions on
12:25 pm
mosquito control. we've got to take action to do this. and why? because as of april 20, there have been close to 900 cases confirmed in the united states of america. we already know that they are in three states. c.d.c. knows that it is going to come to at least 30 states in our own country. and it will have incredible consequences, particularly to women. now i have heard over the years many eloquent, poignant and even wrenching speeches about protecting the unborn. and they have been deeply moving. we've tried to always find common ground on this. but if you are really for defending the unborn, you've got to pass this supplemental.
12:26 pm
there are women all over the united states, particularly in these three vulnerable states, there are women in puerto rico who are wondering if they're already pregnant, what is their situation. there are young women and not so young women who are concerned about getting pregnant at the same time bitten by a mosquito for which there are sparse resources to do mosquito control. now we want to build fences to keep out illegal aliens. okay. we want to bomb the hell out of isis and terrorists. we should because we're worried that they're coming at us. in many of those instances these are problems that have been difficult to solve. this is not difficult to solve. this is about mosquito control. and i am very concerned that we are just sitting around, that
12:27 pm
when all is said and done more is getting said than gets done. we are talking about an emergency supplemental. now, the appropriations committee has a very clear set of criteria for what is an emergency. first of all, it has to be urgent. well, the mosquito season is here. it has to be unforeseen. this was unforeseen. and it's temporary. it's mosquito season. it is a confined season. and we can do something about it. and we must do something about it. it will have a disproportionate impact on pregnant women and the unborn, children born with the most horrendous, heartbreaking birth defects. you know, i'm of the generation that was the polio generation. my mother wouldn't let my
12:28 pm
sisters and i go swimming until after june 20 because somehow or another it was in our faith st. john's day and we thought the water would be warmer. maybe the saint blessed the water. god bless the saints. but god bless people like dr. salk and god bless america that funded the salk vaccines. i remember children in iron lungs. children in iron lungs to be kept alive. children with braces and then walked with these very difficult canes. and some of them bear -- those who survive bear this the rest of their life. look at what we're facing here. and we know it. this is not unknown nor is it unmanageable. it will be a national disgrace if we don't act. now in my own home state, i have a republican governor, governor larry hogan. and guess what?
12:29 pm
governor hogan is acting. this isn't about democrats or republicans. governor hogan acted. he declared april 24 through the 30th zika awareness week and he's ordered his health department to coordinate educational events with local health departments. they also spent $130,000 of state money to develop 10,000 transmission kits to begin to deal with this. my republican governor has taken action. then also in anne arundel county, the county that's the home of the state capital, again, headed up by a republican county executive, they received 850 kits. they're going to have town hall meetings to talk about health and agricultural -- with agricultural officials on prevention in mosquito control. republican governor, republican county executive acting. then there's a county called howard county where the health
12:30 pm
department is planning to distribute 450 kits to obstetric and gynecological practices to protect pregnant women. again, a republican county executive working with his administration is taking action, spending local money when this is a national problem. so i'm saying this because my own governor is acting, these county executives and men in baltimore city with a democratic mayor. she listened to the warnings coming from the world health organization, the c.d.c. and the bloomberg school of public health in baltimore and has again taken action where baltimore is now spraying and taking mosquito control efforts and so on, spending over $500,000 of local money for which we don't have a lot.
12:31 pm
so hello, maryland is acting. we need to act. so i say this because we're spending local money to deal with the national and international problem. so please, let us now whatever differences we have with other bills, please let's take up this urgent supplemental. madam president, i yield the floor and i know the republican -- the majority leader is here. mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that at 1:45 p.m. today, the senate agree to the motion to proceed to the motion to reconsider the cloture vote on amendment number 3801, the motion to reconsider the cloture vote on the amendment number 3801 and the senate then vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the alexander substitute amendment number 3801 upon reconsideration. the presiding officer: is there
12:32 pm
objection? without objection. mr. rubio: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. rubio: madam president, two topics i want to talk about today, actually three. but i wanted to begin with the zika virus. a few weeks ago, i went back to florida on a friday and i sat down and met with officials from the department of health from florida. i met with leaders from puerto rico on the health sector. i met with doctors that live in miami-dade county and also officials of miami-dade county. they are freaked out about the zika thing. i don't know any other term to use. if they are freaked out, then i'm very concerned about it as well. and that's why i do support fully and immediately funding the situation, and i have asked our colleagues to do so as quickly as possible. i can only speak -- i want to speak briefly about the florida experience with this. and there is two things that are deeply concerning and then i will speak about some of the things we should be doing. first, the summer months are upon us. anybody who has been in florida in the summer, particularly -- summer has already started basically in florida if you go
12:33 pm
outside. the spread of mosquitoes as a threat virtually everywhere in the state is massive. it's just a way of life. and the notion that there is this very deadly disease that we're still learning about, by the way. just a few weeks ago, they said zika only impacts a small population of people, a very significant population of people. we're learning that this disease impacts whoever it touches. you don't have to -- first of all, you have to be symptomatic -- you don't have to be symptomatic to spread it. there are multiple ways. in florida alone, we have had two cases of sexually transmitted. by the way, it's just a matter of time before someone in florida gets bit by a mosquito. it's just a matter of days, weeks, hours before you will open up a newspaper, turn on the news and it will say someone in the continental united states was bit by a mosquito and they contracted zika. and when that happens, then everyone is going to be freaked out, not just me and not just for the people that work for the health department in florida. this is going to happen. there are way too many mosquitoes to avoid it. the second that miami-dade in particular but a lot of florida is a transit point for all of latin america.
12:34 pm
for example, one of the places most impacted by zika is brazil. this summer there is an olympics in brazil. there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people that cross through florida to get to brazil and back on top of the normal number of travelers. it is just a matter of time. it is not a question of if. it is a question of when. so i look at this from the senate perspective and say we are going to fund this. we are going to spend money on zika in washington, d.c. number one, because we should. it is the obligation of the federal government to keep our people safe, and this is an imminent and real threat to the public safety and security of our nation and of our people. so the money is going to be spent. and the question is do we do it now before this has become a crisis or do we wait for it to become a crisis? and maybe that crisis happens in august when everyone is back home doing their campaign stuff or maybe it happens on monday when everyone is back home doing whatever they do on recess. and then you're all going to get pulled back here to deal with this immediately. i want to know what you're going to say to someone when you say hey, this zika thing has been in the news for months.
12:35 pm
now there is a case, and it can be any state in the country, any state in the country. oh, it's only in certain states that are warm. that's not true. it can be in any state in the country. i want to know what people are going to say when this happens and they ask what did you do about it? well, i had real problems, i wanted to make sure this and that. this is a serious thing. people's lives are at stake here. by the way, this is now emanating into all sorts of other threats. it was mentioned earlier about guillain-barre. we know the birth defects are very significant. do you know what the cost effects are going to be of all this? do people know what guillain-barre is? it is a debill waiting and often fatal disease. the cost of treating that is extraordinary. it's possible at the end of the day $1.9 billion isn't even enough. we don't know but we have to start. number one, we don't have a commercially available plan to test for zika. you can't just go to quest diagnostics and get a zika test. it doesn't exist. if florida, if you want to get a zika test, you have to go through the state department of
12:36 pm
health. number one. number two, a lot of people are not being tested because they are not a pregnant woman so they don't think they have to be tested. false. if you have traveled, i don't care who you are, how old you are, if you have traveled at this point where there are mosquitoes in significant amounts, you probably should be tested, if you have traveled abroad into these danger zones because you can transmit it. you can be carrying it and not see manifestations of it for a while. there is no commercially available plan. they talk about mosquito control. mosquito control, they have only been trying that for thousands of years. mosquitoes have outlasted everything. it's important. it has to be a part of it. one of the two mosquitoes that spread zika is resistant to pesticides. it has become resistant to the pesticides. that's why there needs to be new technologies developed. there are some innovative ways out there to cut down on the mosquito population. there is an innovative program now that is trying to start a pilot program in the keys. that should be a part of this conversation. researchers are pretty confident that this kind of disease, given its pathology, they can find a
12:37 pm
vaccine for it. maybe not next week, but they can find a vaccine for it. but you know what? the government has a role to play in basic research that allows the private sector to commercialize that and make that possible. i understand that we want this money to be accountable. i believe that, i do. i think the administration should come forward and say here is our plan, here is where every penny is going to be spent. we should hold them to account. i think this should be dealt with with a sense of urgency. because i honestly believe -- i don't believe, i know it's just a matter of time before there is a mosquito-borne transmission. by the way, does it really matter how you got it, whether it's a mosquito or sexually transmitted? you have zika. it acts the exact same way once you have it. but it's just a matter of time br there is a mosquito-borne transmission in the continental united states. i also, not that anyone here has said that, but i have heard others say there is no cases of it yet transmitted from a mosquito in the united states. that is false.
12:38 pm
puerto rico is in the united states. puerto ricans are american citizens. by the way, they travel in huge numbers to and from the united states. many are moving here. many work here during the week and travel back on the weekends. this is a catastrophe in puerto rico right now, which is a united states territory and its people are american citizens, and they are facing a catastrophe right now on this issue. so i hope that there is real urgency about dealing with this. i understand this is not a political issue. there is no such thing as a republican position on zika or democrat position on zika because these mosquitoes bite everyone. and they're not going to ask you what your party registration is or who you plan to vote for in november. this is a real threat, and it is not just the tropical states. they may feel it first, but any state that has any significant travel, which is basically all 50 states of the union in a country where people travel extensively across the country and around the world, we are going to face the zika problem in this country this summer and fall. and i just -- my advice to my colleagues is we're going to deal with this, and i hope we
12:39 pm
deal with it at the front end, because not only is it better for our people, it's better for you. you're going to have to explain to people why it is that we sat around for weeks and did nothing on something of this magnitude. the second topic i wanted to -- mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: if the senator would just yield for a moment before he goes to his second topic? i want to thank the senator from florida for joining the women of the senate here today to bring attention to such a critical issue and to extend our hand. we want to work with you, we believe this is an emergency, we want to deal with it quickly and appreciate your comments and your support this morning. mr. rubio: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. rubio: thank you, and i appreciate your advocacy and i do look forward to working with you on this as well and hopefully we can get a result on this. you know, there is going to be recess now. that means ten days people go back to their home states. i hope during the next ten days when we come back a week from monday, they will say we have got a plan that we're going to be able to vote on and vote on it quickly. i also on a separate topic would
12:40 pm
like to call attention to a remarkable group of advocates who are bound together not by a common race or religion or political ideology but by the common hope of one day ridding the world of a rare disease named duchenne muscular dystrophy. duchenne affects mostly boys, almost exclusively at a rate of about one in 3,600 individuals. its primary symptom is the steady deterioration of muscle mass beginning early in childhood. by the age of 12, most boys with duchenne have lost the ability to walk. they eventually become paralyzed from the neck down. i'm sad to say there is currently no cure for duchenne and the average life expectancy is around 25 years. i am personally a parent of four children. that includes two boys. and i can only imagine, perhaps i can't imagine, that's how difficult it is, what it must be like to have a child receive this diagnosis. few are called to do more for
12:41 pm
their child than to show greater courage in the faifs of the adversity that m.d. poses than a parent helping their child battle duchenne. i was recently inspired and humbled a few weeks ago to meet a young man struggling against this disease. his name was austin. and his dad joe was a hero in more ways than one. joe helps austin combat duchenne and he does it alone as a single father. by the way, he also serves as an active duty member of the united states air force. austin is 12 years old. i was immediately impressed when i met him. i knew how difficult it must have been for him to travel all the way up to washington from his home in tampa, but this is the embodiment of courage that people living with this disease show every day. so joe shared with me a few of the strugglings they face. he told me how austin is unable to attend school full time because he needs hours of daily physical therapy to stimulate his muscles. he told me how austin is quickly losing the ability to walk, and
12:42 pm
how he now needs help getting in and out of his wheelchair and with other daily tasks. he needs help with eating. joe told me how he spends hundreds of dollars each month on over the counter drugs that are not covered by insurance, and he spends hours every friday attending doctors' appointments. joe shared the dreams he once had when austin was born, dreams of being the proud father in the bleachers at the little league game or cheering loudly and waving a big foam finger, but duchenne, he tells me, he has even more reasons to proudly cheer austin on, although the reasons are different. he cheers when austin is able to get out of bed without help or is able to walk to the rest room. these are moments of great pride to joe when he sees just how resilient austin is in the face of this disease. joe and be austin traveled to washington as part of a coordinated effort to witness and participate in f.d.a. action related to duchenne. as advancements in medical science continue targeted therapies to treat duchenne are being developed and tested and
12:43 pm
each one, even the ones that fail, are providing us greater insight into the way the disease operates and how it might ultimately be defeated. the last couple of weeks in particular have brought about an extraordinary display of strength from joe and austin and thousands of other parents, children, family and friends who engage in activism on behalf of those with duchenne. this monday, scores of advocates from around the country attended a hearing of the f.d.a. advisory committee which welcomed them and spent almost an entire day listening to their testimony. what this committee was listening to was the results of a clinical study on a small group admittedly because this is a small group of people that have this disease, so any clinical trial is going to have a small number of people. not the same as you would have for another more common disease. so this f.d.a. advisory panel was meeting to decide whether or not they were going to allow this testing to expand and this drug to be more available. and it should have reviewed this in the context of a law that was passed in 2012. it's called the food and drug administration safety and
12:44 pm
innovation act. call it fdsia for short. this gave the f.d.a. the authority to consider the perspectives of citizens when evaluating a drug. it gave the f.d.a. the authority to listen to the people taking the drug and decides whether it works or not, not just to look at the clinical study. this also provides real flexibility when evaluating drugs for life-threatening illnesses such as duchenne and it included multiple provisions to address the challenges of the rare disease-patient community, which is by definition small. meaning clinical trials have a more difficult time finding enough participants to meet the f.d.a.'s usual requirements. because when it is a rare drug, usually if it's a drug for cancer or something like that, you have tens of thousands of people that you can do a trial from. when it's a rare disease, you have a harder time to find enough people to test it on the way you would on a normal drug. and on top of that, on top of the perspective of the less number of people, it's also a disease that's fatal. in the end, all of these cases
12:45 pm
with duchenne end the same way, with a death, in a very predictable pattern. so they had a chance to meet this week and review this in the committee, and in the words of someone who was there, who has a lot of experience in interacting with government agencies and and bureaucracy, this is a word they used. they said it was jarring. this is from someone who says has been exposed to a lot of different bureaucratic agencies. i want to paint the picture of what that place looked like on monday. you had an entire community of parents whose kids have duchenne who are taking this experimental drug who are seeing their kids improve. they're seeing it. they know these kids better than any scientist, any doctor and anyone at the f.d.a. and they see these kids are doing better. they see this and they are begging with the f.d.a. panel, allow us to continue to give these kids this medicine. and make it available to other kids because in the end there's
12:46 pm
not been a single documented case of harm. no one using this experimental medicine has been harmed by it. number two, we, the parents are telling you it works because we see it in our kids. and number three, if you take it away, we're desperate. there's nothing left. they're going to die. it's very predictable. the committee ignored them. the committee ruled against them. and it did so because they applied basically the same standard to this drug as they did to a normal one. you didn't have enough people in the clinical trial. no, because there aren't enough people to do a clinical trial with. it is a rare disease. and the result is they have this ruling, i think the vote was 7-3. what's interesting is one of the board members was later quoted as saying based on all i heard, the drug definitely worked but the question was framed differently. what it means is the way the f.d.a. posed the question to this committee was not does whether the drug work or not but the question was the process. was this clinical trial, did it have enough people? was it conducted in the normal
12:47 pm
way, the way other drug tests are conducted? of course not because it's not treating a normal condition. it's one with a very small population. the committee spent almost the entire time focused on how the clinical study was designed and not whether it works. had the f.d.a., by the way, followed the law that was passed a few years ago taken that into account, the small patient population and likewise, they might have reached a different result. and so instead what's happening now is that these patients and these families are on the verge of losing not just access to the drug but other families as well. so i want you to put yourself in the position of one of these patients. your son has duchenne. your son is taking this experimental drug. you see how it has improved, how they are improving because you do not improve with duchenne. it is not one of these things where you get better worse, better worse. you get worse and then worse. it's a steady, predictable decline. imagine if one of those children are impacted by this disease and
12:48 pm
you know what the outcome is. it is predictable, guaranteed outcome. and they are taking an experimental drug and you know it's working because they are not declining. in many cases they are improving. and you are begging the f.d.a., please allow us to continue to give our children this drug, and they say to you no, we reject it because you didn't conduct the clinical -- the clinical trial was not conducted the way it is for normal drugs. and you understand the desperation of these parents. there's one last chance. the f.d.a. has the ability, the senior leadership, to override this decision and allow this to move forward. i personally hope that's what they'll do. in the end there is nothing -- the only thing to lose here is to do nothing. the sad story here would be for these parents who are already seeing benefits of it to lose access to this drug that they know is having an impact on their children. and no one has been able to prove to any threat that this drug poses to these children. this has been documented and i encourage people to go on.
12:49 pm
cbs has done a report on this, other entities over the last few days have done a report on it. the f.d.a. has a chance now at senior leadership to overrule this committee which didn't knock it down for purposes of safety or anything of that nature. they just said they didn't like -- the clinical trials didn't meet their standard -- and say these kids are going to die anyways if we don't do something. and here is a drug that is showing improvement and families that are using it are begging you to allow them to use it. thousands of people do not fly in from around the country or watch online for something that isn't working. if this stuff wasn't working these parents would not be so adamant about it. they see that it's working, they know people it's working for, and they are desperate to keep it or to reach it. listen to them. they know what they're talking about. they know they are the primary caregivers of their children, and they know improvement when they see it. and i hope that the f.d.a. will consider moving in a different direction. these parents deserve better. with that, i yield the floor.
12:50 pm
mr. tillis: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. tillis: when it comes to projecting america's power, i've said many, many times that north carolina is the tip of america's sphere. what our country calls it's a safe bet that the first responders will be united states marines from camp lejeune or paratroopers from the 18th airborne corps stationed down at fort bragg, the 18th airborne is america's global response force. when called units of the 18th airborne can be anywhere in the world within 48 hours. because of this unique mission, yew tphaoegs to -- unique to fort bragg, pope army airfield is the busiest tactical airfield in the armed forces. unfortunately, pope is also the home of the shortest runway in the army. if the 18th airborne is put on alert, c-5 and c-17 aircraft are needed to launch the force and
12:51 pm
they can't depart fully fueled from -- with a full load of paratroopers and equipment off of the airfield. the current pope army airfield runway only provides 8,500 feet, but if you're going to take off at a c-5 or a c-717, you're -- c-17 you're going to need a minimum of 10,500 feet and for a c-5, 11,500 feet. the refueling feed is already stressed. the c-17's, c-5's used to carry out the global response force mission have to actually leave pope army airfield with full of equipment and paratroopers but only about 60% of their fuel capacity which requires them to either go to charleston, south carolina, or began -- or gander, newfoundland to continue their mission. one stop coming out of pope at
12:52 pm
newfoundland costs $17,000 pepper hour. if 53 aircraft -- that's roughly the number required to outload the heaviest brigade combat teat gander and that fleet would cost about $2 million because they can't be fully loaded when they take off from pope army airfield. this refueling stop adds also two and a half more hours to the time on the mission, and the mission objective is to be anywhere in the world within 48 hours. prior to the last round of brac, stepbgdz the pope runway to accommodate fully loaded c-17 and c-5 aircraft was air mobility command's number-one airfield project. the united states air force also said that it was their number-two project. however, this has fallen off the army's priority list and i'm not sure why. madam president, extending the pope runway to abg come daylight the airlift -- accommodate the
12:53 pm
requirements of the 18th airborne corps is a national priority. i'll be offering an amendment during markup which requires the army to report to the senate their plans to extend the runway at pope and whether or not it is a top priority for the army. i think our paratroopers need to know it. i know our taxpayers need to know it. and more than anything, i want to make sure that we deploy the proud men and women from the green ramp at pope army airfield. we do it, load it, and ready to go wherever they need to go in the united states or around the world. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: madam president, thank you. i'm rising today to talk about an issue that affects us in ohio but affects retirees all around the country. let me just start by saying this, if hundreds of thousands of retirees were getting their social security benefits that
12:54 pm
they had worked for cut by as much as 70%, there would be an uproar nationally. people would consider it totally unacceptable. it would be a top news story every night. people would say okay, these retirees played by the rules, did everything right and yet they're seeing these big cuts. how could this happen? yet that's exactly what's happening to about 400,000 members of the central states pension who are facing this fate of cuts up to 70% as soon as july 1 of this year. and again, these are people who worked hard all their lives and put money into the pension system, assuming it would be there, made their financial plan based on that, and now they're suddenly finding massive cuts. some 20%, some 40%, some as high as, again, 70%. it's time for the senate to
12:55 pm
address this. to come up with a fair solution. the central state's pension fund consists mostly of union truck drivers, and they have seen their pension funds severely decline. that's why we're in this situation. the pension suffered big investment declines during the great recession, as did other pension funds. one difference is they missed the market rebound because they had a large population of new retirees, and they had to withdraw large sums from their pension for those payouts. so one of the largest pension funds in america is in trouble. it would be projected to go bankrupt in about a decade and that bankruptcy could be so large that it would have a very negative impact on this larger fund called the pension benefit guaranty corporation, pbgc, that ensures the fund. we don't want that to happen because that could leave, of course, hundreds of thousands of
12:56 pm
retirees with severely reduced pensions or no pension. so something has to be done. math is math. i understand that. by the way, the central states retirees understand that. they know there's a problem. but i've got to tell you, the way congress and the president have dealt with this is totally unacceptable. this is what congress did. the house of representatives worked on a proposal. it was crafted in the house, not in the senate. it allowed the pension to possibly avert bankruptcy. i say possibly because as i'll talk about later, even this proposal doesn't mean they're going to avert bankruptcy. but they did so by cutting the benefits of current retirees substantially, severely in some cases, again by as much as 70%. they then took this proposal, it's called the multiemployer pension reform act or mpra. pension reform act, mpra, they took it and they buried it inside of a $1 trillion spending
12:57 pm
bill which, frankly, nobody read because it was one of these last-minute bills. it was an end of the year spending package, an omnibus spending package, they call it, and put this in, sent it to the united states senate and members of the senate were told this is an up-or-down vote. there were no hearings in the senate. there was no transparent process. i remember about a year and a half ago when this happened we were told if the senate didn't quickly pass these near unprecedented pension reforms with no hearings, no opportunity for amendments, no opportunities for amendments on the floor of the senate, that the spending bill would fail. this, to me, is washington at its worst. you bury something in a spending bill that has nothing to do with the spending bill -- in this case a pension cut -- and then you basically try to blackmail lawmakers into voting for it by saying if you don't vote for this, the whole bill goes down. i voted against it, as did other
12:58 pm
members here in the senate, but it passed. of course, president obama quickly signed it into law and suddenly these retirees were sent notices saying you've got this big cut in your pension. and look, i agree the status quo is not acceptable. -p i think over time it would lead to pension bankruptcy and something has to be done. difficult decisions are necessary. but mpra was an unfair remedy because it didn't go through a transparent process and didn't give workers and retirees a sufficient voice in their own future. they did not have a voice in crafting the reforms because of the way it was structured. so after months of meeting with ohio workers -- and we probably have 47,000, 48,000 ohioans who are affected by this. after meeting with retirees, after meeting with other stakeholders, including the administration, i introduced what was called the pension accountability act. basically it gives more persons,
12:59 pm
retirees a voice in this process. right now mpra does allow there to be a vote by workers and retirees. but for these large plans, the vote's tpho*pbl -- nonbinding. there is a vote but it doesn't count. even if participants vote 100% against the reforms it wouldn't stop it from going forward. that's crazy. that's certainly not democratic. additionally, the vote is designed unfairly. here's how it works, if a retiree or worker chooses not to take out a ballot and vote it's automatically counted as a "yes" vote for the plan. imagine how that would work in u.s. presidential elections or other democratic processes. that's not how it works. if you submit a ballot, you should be counted. the onus to submit a ballot, it shouldn't be counted. the pension accountability act fixes these two problems. it makes the retiree and worker
1:00 pm
vote binding. this will give workers and retirees a seat at the table and the majority vote would be required for any pension cuts to go forward. second, it makes the vote fair by counting the ballots as they should be counted. not counting unreturned ballots as an automatic "yes" vote. these commonsense reforms gives the workers and the retirees more leverage. it gives them a fair shake, because their vote is going to be needed in order to implement these pension changes, they are going to have a seat at the table to find the right balance. again, we know these pensions are in trouble and some changes are necessary to prevent bankruptcy that could leave some families with nothing. so let the process play out. if the businesses, the unions, the workers, the retirees can craft a solution to win a majority vote, more power to them, but let's give everyone a seat at the table and let these retirees have a vote. the goal should not be to stop all pension reforms.
1:01 pm
if they continue its road to bankruptcy, then everybody loses. but the goal should be to say to those affected you have a say in thousand these reforms are designed. it brings accountability. it opens the lines of communication on both sides of the bargaining table to come up with a fair solution. there are some other proposals out there, one in particular. i think the pension accountability act has a much more realistic chance of enactment because i do not police chief a massive tax increase is viable. and by the way, it's the only reform proposal with bipartisan support. in fact, between my bill and the house companion legislation, we have nine democrats and nine republicans. in the meantime, for the reasons i have discussed, the department of the treasury should not accept central states application. they should reject this proposal to cut benefits up to 70% for some of the retirees as we've talked about. by the way, even if if all the applications positive market assumptions play out, there are
1:02 pm
still we are told a 50% chance that the pension goes bankrupt anyway. so this doesn't exactly inspire confidence in this plan, and i think they should go back to the drawing board. and by the way, i'm open-minded to other solutions that would provide funding from inside the multiemployer pension system. there are different ideas out there, we should talk about them. let me finish with a story about a guy i have gotten to know -- i got to know through this process. his name was butch louis from westchester, ohio. butch was a star baseball player in high school. he was actually drafted out of high school by the pittsburgh pirates. but instead of going on to a career in baseball, he heard the call of duty and he volunteered to join the united states army. and to serve in vietnam. he became an army ranger. he was seriously injured while rescuing fellow soldiers. he was sent home with a bronze star and a purple heart.
1:03 pm
when he came home, butch reunited with his high school sweetheart, rita, started a family, and he started working despite his injuries. he spent 40 years as a truck driver. the lack of shock absorbers in those old trucks hurt his knees a lot, the knees that had been injured in vietnam in battle. ultimately required 37 surgeries. but he kept working. he never complained. he sacrificed for his family and for their pension to the point of foregoing pay raises, vacations, other benefits to guarantee that he had a sufficient pension for retirement. and they planned on it. like you would. or anybody would. he finally retired a year ago. butch was surprised when he received a letter in the mail saying that his pension would be cut by 40%, the pension that he
1:04 pm
was depending on. so after all those years of work and sacrifice, his pension would be deeply slashed. butch felt betrayed, and i think that's understandable, and he organized with his fellow retirees an effort to try to defend those pensions, and that's how i got to know him. he came to washington, d.c., to meet with me here. i also met with him in ohio. i listened to his story. i listened to his wife rita who is very articulate, and we addressed different ways to try to save his pension. he is one of the reasons we came up with this legislation. this past new year's eve, feeling this stress, butch became ill and he died of a massive heart attack. he was 64 years old. so his wife rita is left to pick up the pieces. she has now lost her husband. her own dad is battling stage four cancer. she is looking at a 40% cut to her survivor's benefit. she is preparing to sell the
1:05 pm
house that she and her husband butch saved a lifetime for. she is wondering what her future is going to be. she is a very strong woman. she has worked tirelessly to save for these pensions, and now she is fighting to make sure her husband, all the hard work that he put in was not in vain. so this is who we're fighting for. think about butch lewis when we think about what we should do. think about rita and 400,000 other members of the central states pension fund. these are people who played by the rules. they worked hard and yet they face in their retirement, in their retirement years possible financial ruin through no fault of their own. this is why we need to pass the pension accountability act. we have attempted to offer it as amendments on previous legislation here over the last couple of months. we're going to continue to do that. we're not going to give up. i would hope that this united states senate and the house
1:06 pm
would see that by giving people a voice, it gives them leverage and we can come up with a better and a more fair solution for everybody. thank you, mr. president. i yield back my time and -- yield back to the gentleman from north carolina. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. tillis: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, april is genocide awareness and prevention month. as we remember all those who have lost their lives in the wave of terrorist violence sweeping the world, i call on my senate colleagues to join the effort to make real the words never again by cosponsoring senate bill 2551, the genocide and atrocities prevention act. islamic extremists are waging religious war so severe that the pope of the catholic church and the patriot remark of the greek orthodox church came together, and i quote, whole families, villages and cities who are
1:07 pm
brothers and sisters in christ are being completely exterminated. their churches are being bar barishly ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. it is with pain that we call to mind the situation in syria, iraq and other countries of the middle east and the massive exodus of christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminateed and in which they have lived together with other religious communities since the time of the apostles. we call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of christians from the middle east. in raising our voice in defense of persecuted christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence -- end quote. on february 4, a nearly unanimous european parliament
1:08 pm
passed a resolution declaring isis is committing genocide against christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. sadly, the united states, in keeping with the president's desire to lead from behind, only recently decided to call it genocide in the face of the religious cleansing taking place in the heart of the middle east. isis vows -- and they have said this publicly and on social media -- that they will break our crosses and enslave our women. they're speaking of christians. and they place -- and they will place a black flag at the top of st. peter's basilica. at the other end of the middle east, we have iran. iran is launching test missiles with the words death to israel at the tip of the ballistic missile in hebrew. we would do well to remember the words of an israeli prime minister who said when someone
1:09 pm
tells you they want to kill you, believe them. if you think it's a problem that's over there, think again. terrorism reaches our shores. it has devastated some of the great cities of the world like london, paris, brussels, madrid and bali. as a result of conflict, there are now a record 60 million displaced persons, men, women and children. that is more than at the height of the displacement of world war ii. responding to the dire needs of those fleeing violence has driven a 600% increase in global humanitarian aid over the past ten years from $3.5 billion in 2004 to $20 billion in 2015. i have actually seen the human cost in refugee camps along the turkish-syrian border. i was there a couple of weeks ago, not 30 miles away from the
1:10 pm
syrian border in turkey. these were muslims fleeing isis and a blood-thirsty dictator who unleashed chemical weapons on his own citizens. mr. president, in the 1980's, then-ambassador to the united nations jeane kirkpatrick took up the cause of preventing genocide. with the memory of chairman mao's killing of 100 million still fresh in her mind, her attention was turned to africa where she saw the first stirrings of genocide on the continent and then to cambodia where pol pot murdered over a third of his nation. she urged president reagan to sign the convention on genocide and president reagan did just that. president reagan said, and i quote, we gather today to bear witness to the past and learn from its awful example to make sure that we're not condemned to relive its crimes. the genocide convention is a
1:11 pm
howell of anguish and an -- howl of anguish and an effort to prevent and punish future acts of genocide -- end quote. i believe congress has an important leadership role to play here, and we can help ensure that america has the tools to combat genocide and atrocities and combat violent conflict. that is why i joined senator cardin in introducing the genocide and atrocities prevention act. as a senator from north carolina, i also have a special reason for supporting this legislation that has the potential to fuse diplomacy, intelligence and foreign aid, in turn prioritizing government action to prevent future atros sities working together. it's important to me because my state, as i said earlier today, is at the tip of the sphere. when diplomacy fails, it's the 82nd airborne and special forces from fort bragg or united states marines from camp le jeune that are going to go
1:12 pm
resolve the conflict. we want to avoid those conflicts. we owe it to them to do better by putting partisanship aside and by taking up proactive steps to avoid sending our service members into harm's way to confront a conflict that may be able to be prevented without firing a single shot. silence is the greatest enemy of freedom. silence led to the devastation of jews in europe. but from the ashes of the holocaust came the state of israel and the vow never again. as the first president bush reminded us, the words never again do not refer to the past. they refer to the future. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, i come to the floor this afternoon with great regret. having to raise the issue of the
1:13 pm
pending nomination of the secretary of the army. mr. eric fanning has been nominated to be the secretary of the army. we've held hearings in the armed services committee, and his name has been on the calendar for confirmation. now, -- and my friend from kansas who is here on the floor with me -- and he is my dear friend for many years, despite his branch that he chose to serve in the military -- has been objecting to the confirmation of mr. eric fanning as the secretary of the army. mr. fanning -- which is his right. mr. fanning is a -- had a
1:14 pm
distinguished career. he served as special assistant secretary of defense and white house liaison. he served as deputy under secretary of the navy and deputy chief management officer of the navy. the senate confirmed him and he served as under secretary of the air force, including six months as acting secretary of the air force. he served as chief of staff to his secretary of defense dr. ash carter, and later served as acting under secretary and acting secretary of the army. and in 2016, he served as a special assistant to the secretary of defense. he comes from a military family. he has two uncles who graduated from west point who were career army officers. he has a career army uncle who is a career air force officer and a cousin who flew helicopters in the marine corps. another cousin was an army ranger. he has senior executive leadership experience in all three military departments and has pursued efficiencies and transformation in every part of
1:15 pm
the department of defense. his most recent experience is acting under secretary and secretary of the army has given him a solid understanding of the challenges currently facing the army and the need to sustain a ready army that will, as he said at his confirmation hearing, deter enemies, assure allies, build partner capacity and be ready to respond when the nation calls. one of the obligations in some respects obligations, that we as senators have is the role of advise and consent, and that is an important role, but we also, as senators, understand that elections have consequences, and, therefore, although it is not written down anywhere, that when a president is selected by the american people, then that president should be given the benefit of the doubt as to the
1:16 pm
person that the president -- the pen or persons that the president wants on his team his or her team. then i.t. our job to make the decision -- then it's our job to make the decision, i believe, whether to confirm or deny confirmation based on our view of the qualifications but with the presumption that we would confirm someone rather than the presumption that we wouldn't, because when the american people choose their leader, the president of the united states, then it seems to me it's our obligation, unless there's reason not to do so, that the president have the team that he selected around him. i'm stating the obvious. and mr. fanning is clearly qualified. he's performed well in the hearing before the senate armed services committee. my friend from kansas has
1:17 pm
objected to mr. fanning being confirmed by the senate, and i will let him describe his reasons why, but as i understand it, because the senator from kansas does not want the detainees from guantanamo transferred to the state of kansas. i have assured my dee -- i have assured my dear friend from kansas that the armed services committee will not approve of the transfer of detainees to the united states of america unless there is a plan and one that can assure the american people that there are appropriate circumstances surrounding that transfer, if it should ever take place. the administration, after 7 1/2 years that i have been dealing with them, has no plan, and i can assure the senator from
1:18 pm
kansas that the defense authorization bill, which i soon will be taking -- made into law, will again prohibit the transfer of detainees from guantanamo to the united states of america until there is a plan that is approved by the congress of the united states. that's our obligation and our role. now, to add to that, mr. fanning has no role to play. he has no role to play in this decision making, as to whether we transfer detainees from guantanamo to the united states of america. so when we consider nominations, we should be considering the role and mission and responsibilities of that nominee and, frankly, i say to my dear friend from kansas, he has no role to play in that whole scenario that i describe.
1:19 pm
so i would urge my friend -- i would in the strongest possible way that i could -- to work together with me as we have over the last seven and a half years on this issue of guantanamo to sit down together and give the benefit of your expertise as we bring the defense authorization bill to the floor the last week in may is what it's scheduled, tawngdz about guantanamo. -- and talk about guantanamo. and i can assure him that the overwhelming majority of the armed services committee and i'm sure a majority here in the united states senate -- i'm totally confident, i can u.a.e.k assure him that we will have in the defense authorization bill a prohibition from transfer of detainees to the united states unless there is a plan that is approved by the congress of the united states.
1:20 pm
now, finally i understand that the from kansas -- that the senator from kansas is very concerneconcerned about this isd has been for a long time. no one understands better than him as a former member of the united states marine corps and its obligations to preserve the safety and the security of this nation. so all i can say is that the united states army needs this man, mr. eric fanning's leadership. it is not fair to the men and women of the united states army to be without the leadership of a secretary of the army. mr. fanning is eminently qualified, eminently qualified to assume that role of secretary of the army. so i would urge my friend and colleague to allow me to -- to not object to the unanimous
1:21 pm
consent agreement that i am just proposing. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session to consider calendar number 477, the nomination of eric fanning to be secretary of the army, that the nomination be confirmed, the the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate then resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. roberts: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: reserving the right to object, i want to make certain that my colleagues understand my position on this matter. my hold on eric fanning's nomination is not in relation to his capabilities, his expertise, or his character, and it's certainly not intended to bring undue stress to our united states army. rather, my hold on the nominee is to protect the security of the united states and more especially the people of kansas.
1:22 pm
i will be more than happy to vote for mr. fanning once the white house addresses my concerns regarding the president's efforts to move guantanamo bay terrorist detainees to the mainland with fort leavenworth, kansas, the intellectual center of the army very high on the list. i have been clear, honest, and flexible with the white house. i am simply asking that they communicate to me with all those who have reviewed fort leavenworth already know. that fort leavenworth is not a suitable replacement for the detention facilities at guantanamo bay. the white house has not reciprocated. mr. president, i have prepared lengthier remarks on my position in this matter. i request at this time unanimous consent to proceed for fiveadditional minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. roberts: mr. president, the senior senator from arizona,
1:23 pm
our distinguished chairman of the armed services committee and my friend, has made a very impassioned plea for me to remove my hold on the nomination of eric fanning to be secretary of the army. i want to make it very clear, as a veteran, a marine, i support the nominee for this post. kansas is the proud home to two army posts -- forenwot leavh, the intellectual center of the army, where the commandant staff school is located, and fort reilly, home of the big one, two proud posts with two rich histories. i want the army to have a very highly qualified secretary rkt just as much as the distinguished senator from arizona, but it is due to my deep respect and concern for our men and women in uniform at fort leavenworth and those who live and work in the region that has compelled me to issue my
1:24 pm
hold on the president's nominee in the first place. as i have stated publicly from the beginning and personally to mr. fanning, former army secretary john mccue and defense secretary ash carter, my quarrel is not with the nominee but with the president. president obama continues to insist that he will close guantanamo bay detention facility before he leaves office, transferring the remaining detainees to the u.s. mainland with fort leavenworth under serious consideration. quite frankly, this is a legacy item for the president. after much study and review, i can name you countless reasons why this plan is wrong. and it's also illegal. the president's own cabinet has acknowledged this, the secretary of defense, the attorney general have publicly stated current law prohibits the transfer of gitmo detainees to the mainland, and
1:25 pm
yet the president seems to be undeterred. he continues to insist it will be done, even if he has to resort to executive power in defiance of the law and the will of the congress. so i have been left with very little choice to do what i can as an individual senator to block the transfer of detainees to phot leavenworth p. -- to phot leavenworth. i understand and i share the concerns of the distinguished senator, but if there's any anger, any kernings any frustrations, they should be directed at a white house that intends to ignore laws written and introduced by the senator from arizona himself. we should be speaking today not about my attempts to protect the people of my state and phot leavenworth, we should be speaked about a white house that ignores the national defense authorization act and every appropriations bill passed in this chamber since 2009. we should be concerned that a white house that wants to bring this terrorist threat to our shores without so much as an
1:26 pm
intelligence assessment as to the risk and benefits of such an action to our citizens at home or to our men and women in uniform. and until -- an intelligence assessment regarding these concerns does not exist. the administration is responsible for refusing to come forward with a real plan to relocate prisoners instead of a weak an rather veiled attempt to honor a campaign promise, which is the only way to characterize the actions to date. just days ago, i received the most recent classified report from the department of defense on moving the detainees from gitmo. this report, far from clearing up any concerns, made it even more apparent to me that it's virtually impossible to safely relocate terrorists to fort leavenworth. the assessment is there. all i'm asking is for the twhows assure me fort leavenworth is not a viable alternative. cities and towns across america are holding their collective
1:27 pm
breaths while we await the white house's judgment as to where to house these detainees. for those of us in the crosshairs, we are left with very few options to fight a president that is willing to break the law. with this hold, i have used one of the tools -- programs the only tool-- --perhaps the only tool aforwarded to me as a -- aafforded to me as a u.s. senator other than a filibuster, and i will continue to do everything i can to retain my tobltionz protect the united states. it is what kansans expect and have demanded of me. if the white house calls and assures me that terrorists held at guantanamo will mott come to fort levin worth i will gladly rethrees mold -- gladly release this hold immediately. we just had a conversation with the white house this morning in the hopes that this could be worked out. the white house simply would not give me that assurance. but make no mistake, i remain
1:28 pm
adamantly opposed to placing detainees anywhere on the main land. the distinguished senator from arizona knows that. i think he shares those views. however, if the plans and studies from the administration rule out fort leavenworth as an option, all they have to do is tell me. i yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: is there objection to the request from the senator from arizona. mr. roberts: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: is not sphrr arizona. mr. mccain: first of all, mr. fanning has nothing to do with the issue. so we're shooting a hostage that is being held that has nothing to do with the decision making process. if we inaugurate a practice here of holding nominees over an issue that is not related to those nominees, we are abusing our power and authority as united states senate. second of all, the senator from kansas knows that he cannot have
1:29 pm
the president call him. then he would have to call 99 other senators, who would then hold up nominees because they have not been assured that the detainees will be relocated to their states, according to any plan that the president may come up with. so what we're doing here is we're telling a nominee, who is totally qualified, totally imminently qualified for the job that that person cannot fulfill those responsibilities and take on that very important leadership post because of an unrelated issue that has nothing to do with mr. fanning. that is not the appropriate use of senatorial privilege. what it is, if we set this precedent, if we go along and every senator -- 100 senators adopt the practice of saying, i
1:30 pm
don't want the president to pursue a certain course of action, and so, therefore, i'm going to hold hostage his or her nominees until they take a certain course of action, that is not the role of advise and consent. that is a distortion of advice and consent. let me say i will be coming back to the floor on mr. fanning's nomination. it's not fair to him. he's an american citizen. he has served for years in the service of his country, at least since 2009 that i can see. he shouldn't be held hostage to a policy decision that the senate -- the full senate will act to prevent that action. the full senate, i tell my colleague, as we have the last several years, we will prohibit
1:31 pm
the transfer of detainees from guantanamo until the president of the united states comes forward with a plan that is approved by the senate. if a plan came forward that contained the movement of the detainees to fort leavenworth as the senator from kansas is worried about, then the united states senate would say no, would say no. so unfortunately here we have seen the senator from kansas take a nominee who is fully qualified in every aspect. he passed through the senate armed services committee by voice vote and holding him hostage to an action that he has no ability to take. he has no ability to determine nor is it in his area of responsibility as secretary of
1:32 pm
the army to determine a policy on guantanamo. so if we're going to set a precedent here, i ask my friend from kansas, that if we don't like a certain policy or anticipated action by the president of the united states on some -- in some area, we will, therefore, hold up a nominee for an office which they are not in any way related to. that is not the right way the senate of the united states of america should behave. mr. roberts: would my friend from arizona yield? mr. mccain: sure, i would be glad to yield to my friend. mr. roberts: well, if this is a bad precedent and all that the distinguished chairman of the senate armed services committee has said it is with regards to my actions, there has been a precedent before this time. the year was 2009. and this issue came up. obviously it was a campaign promise by the president. a lot of concern, a lot of frustration, a lot of anger.
1:33 pm
and i decided at that particular time what on earth could i do to stop this to move detainees to fort leavenworth which i again stress is the center of the army, think eisenhower, think mcarthur, think petraeus. bad fit, 16,000 people in leavenworth have signed a petition to say no to the detainees. back then in 2009, john mccue, a wonderful congressman, a great friend to me and a great secretary of the army, was being nominated. i took the very same action. i would tell the distinguished senator from arizona, and put a hold on john. i called him up. i said john, very some bad news and some good news. he said, well, give me the bad news. i said somebody here in the senate has put a hold on you. and he said, who on earth would do that? i said it's me. and he was a little stunned.
1:34 pm
i think a lot and would probably make the same statement and speech that the senator from arizona has given. i said but not to worry, all that has to have happen is the administration gave me assurance it can be vocal, it can be -- i don't expect them to write it down that the detainees would not be moved to fort leavenworth. john went to work, tried to carry that message to the administration. i'm not saying that eric fanning should do that but john mccue did. and it wasn't very long after that that the legal counsel from the white house, and i won't get into names here, but called me and assured me that that would be the case. i immediately lifted the hold. so there is a precedent in 2009 and it worked. again, i really regret my hold on eric fanning's nomination is not in relation to his capabilities, his expertise or character, and certainly not intended to bring undeuced
1:35 pm
stress to our united states army. i understand that. but when you are faced with a situation like this and the situation could be further explained by a call that i just received prior to the distinguished senator coming to the floor. the white house knows this. we had a very frank conversati conversation. and the conversation pretty well ended up, i can't give you that assurance but we won't surprise you. i.e., if we have an executive order and we're moving detainees into fort leavenworth, we'll certainly tell you. so i can't -- i can't release this hold as i did in 2009. i don't think the statute of limitations is here with regards to the previous assurance i got from the white house. if there is, maybe it's because that's when the legal counsel left and all of a sudden we're back to where we are. so the ball is in the white
1:36 pm
house's court. all they have to do is give me another call and indicate that things will be fine. i'm not telling them what language to use or anything else. and i might add that there are two other senators that are very concerned about this, senator tim scott of south carolina and the distinguished senator from colorado, cory gardner. and i thank the senator for yielding. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: just quickly, facts are stubborn things i say to my friend from kansas. the reason why there hasn't been the movement of detainees because the action of the senate armed services committee in the defense authorization bill prevented such a thing from happening. it has nothing to do with any hold or not hold that the senator from kansas had. let's be very clear about that. and whether eric fanning is confirmed or not, it does not change the situation one iota,
1:37 pm
not one iota. and i assured the center from kansas that the senate armed services committee and i know enough about my committee that they will be passing again as we have the last several years a prohip big on the movement of -- prohibition on the movement of detainees until there is a plan. in 2009, whenever it was, i am sure that they had no plan at that time because they came to see me and i told them to come up with a plan. so the senator's actions have nothing to do with whether the president closes guantanamo and transfers them or not. and the senator's action right now has nothing to do with whether the president of the united states will decide to close guantanamo by executive order and move them to leavenworth. there's nothing he's doing with holding this nomination that would in any way inhibit the president from acting. the only thing that will inhibit the president from acting is the senator from kansas aye vote on
1:38 pm
the defense authorization bill which will be on the floor the end of may, which we'll have a prohibition for the transfer of those detainees. so i would hope that my dear friend in kansas would understand that what we need to do is get a defense authorization to the floor, get it in conference with the house and get it to the president's desk. and that's the best way he can keep any movement of detainees to kansas, to fort leavenworth. and at the same time the president of the united states may, despite your hold on mr. fanning, may act by executive order. nothing you're doing by prohibiting mr. fanning from being confirmed to a post that he is well qualified for, to lead the united states army will have any effect whatsoever on an executive order by the president of the united states.
1:39 pm
mr. roberts: would the senator yield again for one last comment. the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: every senator listening to this, every person listening to this should understand with the summation that th the senator has just gin what an outstanding chairman of the senate armed services committee he has been and what a stallworth he has been for our men and women in uniform. there have been a lot of great chairmen in the senate armed services committee but none so well qualified as the senator from arizona. his remarks are right on point with regards to his point of view. his remarks sing, if you will, on behalf of our national defense. he is a great friend. he's a personal friend. i respect him more than he knows, and i appreciate him. i think he mentioned eric
1:40 pm
fanning to be secretary of the navy. that might be an alternative. at any rate, i want to thank him for his remarks, but if this has no bearing on anything, why did the white house call me just before we came down here trying to work it out? and saying that in 2009, okay, that they did let me know that fort leavenworth was not those being considered. and as i say again, there's no statute of limitations, i don't think, except oh, well, by the way, we're going to change our mind and a couple of campaign assurances by the president saying, well, we could always use an executive order, not to mention his press secretary. so if there is nothing to bear here, this doesn't have any relationship to the issue at hand, why did the white house call? and say oh, well, we'll make a decision down the road but we won't surprise you? and i shouldn't even be talking about this with regards to the communications this morning. so i just disagree with my good
1:41 pm
friend. and i thank him for his leadership. and i thank him for his position. were i in his position, probably i would be saying the same thing. mr. mccain: could i just finally say, mr. president, that i hope my dear friend from kansas, we're about to go into a week-long recess, would do as he always does and that is contemplate and communicate as he does with the people of kansas who have honored him for so many -- so much time here in the congress of the united states, and maybe hopefully we can work this thing out with a certain knowledge and my assurance that i am 100% confident that the senate armed services committee will report a bill that will become law, that prohibits the transfer of detainees from guantanamo to anywhere in the united states of america until there is a plan that is approved by congress, and i want to give him that
1:42 pm
confidence. his passion that he has displayed here is ample evidence for why the people of kansas hold him with such affection and respect. he is fighting in his -- what he believes is in the best interest of the people that he represents so well and honorably. i hope that he will have the opportunity as we go into recess next week to talk with his constituents and to think about this and think about my assurance that we will not -- we will not approve of the transfer of detainees from guantanamo unless we -- unless it's in compliance with a law that we will pass. i thank my colleague. i know the senator from tennessee is waiting and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: mr. president, within a few minutes we'll be voting on whether to cut off debate on the energy and water appropriations bill.
1:43 pm
i hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will vote yes. this is a bill the senator from california and i have worked carefully with members on both sides of the aisle on. more than 80 senators have made contributions to the bill. we considered 18 amendments on the floor. this is a bill that's about half national defense and about half essential services. these include dredging harbors, building locks and dams. these include our 17 national laboratories, keeping us first in the world in supercomputing. it is within the budget control act and it is a part of the budget that is flat. in other words, it's the part of the budget that's reasonably under control, not the part that's not. it's also the first time since 2009 that this energy and water appropriations bill has had the opportunity to go across the floor in the regular order.
1:44 pm
it's the earliest appropriation bill that's been considered by the senate since 1974. senator mcconnell and senator reid picked this bill because they thought senator feinstein and i could work with members of the senate to establish a model for how to deal with the remainder of the appropriations process, and we hope that proves to be true. we've run into one issue, a that's an amendment by the senator from arkansas regarding iran. that's a provocative amendment. i understand that on both sides of the aisle. and the president cares about it as well. but i worked hard to get senators a right to offer germane amendments. some senators have chosen to withdraw their amendments in order to keep the bill moving along, but senator cotton has a right to offer his amendment on the bill, and i support his doing that. he's been eminently reasonable. he's offered to modify it. he has offered to do it at
1:45 pm
another time. he's offered to vote it at 60 votes or to vote it by voice vote. and so far we've not had any agreement. if we do not succeed today, i'm going to keep working with senator feinstein, the democratic and republican leader, and with senator cotton in hopes that when we come back next monday, we'll have a suitable solution and we'll vote still again on finishing the energy and water appropriations bill. mr. president, i ask consent to speak for two more minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: over the last year and five months the white house has threatened 87 vetoes. that's about one every week and a half. if we shut down the senate and stopped our work, every time the president threatened to veto, we'd be here about three or four hours every monday afternoon. when the president -- when we say to the president your budget's dead on arrival, he is
1:46 pm
sends us his budget any wait a minute the way to handle a veto threat is to say the way we did with the national defense act which is to say, all right, mr. president, if you want to veto it, you may. we sent it to him, he did. it came back and the offending provision was taken out. a better way to do it might be the president says i'll veto the education bill. we worked with him. we sent him a version that he could sign. my plea with my friends on the democratic side as well as the republican side is let's don't let the white house lead us around by the nose and tell us we can't consider a bill just because there's a veto threat. we should consider the bill. we're a coequal branch of government. do what we think we ought to do, defeat it or pass it. then if the president chooses to veto it, that is his constitutional prerogative. and most of the time if we know that's going to happen, the offending provision comes out. so i urge a "yes" vote. i hope it succeeds.
1:47 pm
if it doesn't, we'll be having the same exact vote a week from next monday when we come back and i'm going to do my best to help that succeed. the presiding officer: under the previous order the motion to proceed to the motion to reconsider the cloture vote on amendment number 3801 is agreed to, and the motion to reconsider is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators in in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate do hereby move to bring to a close debate on h.r. 2028, an act making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending september 30, 2016 actio. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is is it the sense of the senate that debate on amendment 3801 offered by the senator from tennessee,
1:48 pm
mr. alexander, as amended to h.r. 2028 shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
1:49 pm
1:50 pm
1:51 pm
1:52 pm
1:53 pm
1:54 pm
1:55 pm
1:56 pm
1:57 pm
1:58 pm
1:59 pm
2:00 pm

21 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on