tv U.S. Senate Confirms Jeff Sessions Takes Up Tom Price Nomination CSPAN February 7, 2017 8:30pm-10:31pm EST
praop are there any senators in the chamber -- the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the ayes are 88, the nays are 3, the sergeant at arms is so instructed, a quorum is present. the question before the senate -- the question before the senate is whether the decision of the chair to hold the senator from massachusetts in violation of rule 19 shall stand as the judgment of the senate. is there a sufficient second? there is a sufficient second. the clerk will call the roll.
the presiding officer: on this vote, the yeas are 49, the nays are 43. the decision of the chair stands. as the judgment of the senate. the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i yield one minute to the senator from maine. mr. king: mr. president? the presiding officer: parttory inquiry. the presiding officer: the senator will state his inquiry.
mr. king: would one senator callincalling another senator ar during debate on the senate be a violation of rule 19? the presiding officer: in the opinion of the chair, it wouldment. mr. king: thank you, mr. president.
i yield back. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senate majority leader. mr. mcconnell: senator warren was giving a lengthy speech. she had appeared to violate the rule. she was warned. she was given an explanation. nevertheless, she persisted. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from california. ms. harris: i move to the senator from massachusetts be permitted to proceed in order.
the presiding officer: on this motion, the yeas are 43, the nays are 50. the motion is not agreed to. the democratic leader. mr. schumer: mr. president, if the average american heard someone read a letter from coretta scott king that said what it said, they would not be offended. they would say, that's someone's opinion. that's all.
it seems to me we could use rule 19 almost every day on the floor of the senate. this is selective enforcement and another example of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle escalating the partisanship and further decreasing comity in the senate. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, i have a question, i guess, it's in the nature of a parliamentary question, and that is whether it would be in order to ask unanimous consent that the letter from which senator warren read be put into the record as a confirmation that she was in fact accurately reading from the letter, that it be added as an exhibit in the "congressional
record"? the presiding officer: the text of the letter is in the record of the senate, as the senator was reading it. -- in her testimony. mr. whitehouse: the text of the letter, as she read it, but not the complete letter -- the presiding officer: the senator may ask consent. the presidinofficer. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that the complete letter from which senator warren read be made a part of the "congressional record" to show that she has in fact read from it. the presiding officer: objection is heard. a senator: mr. president? mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, this is fascinating. i would say to my colleagues, i've served here longer than any
member of this body. been here 42 years. i've been here when democrats were in the majority and when the republicans were in the majority. the democratic presidents and republican presidents. i never, ever saw a time when a member of the senate, who asked to put into the record a letter, especially by a civil rights icon, and somebody objected. it's always been done. i've had letters that people have asked to put in that are contrary to the position i might take. of course i would not object. therthey arellowed to do that. -- they're allowed to do that. i've seen members from members on -- i've seen letters and members on both sides of the aisle have debated back and
forth, and the other side would put in letters that were contrary to their opponent's positions, and of course nobody objected. don't let the senate turn into something it's never been before. i would hope that cooler heads would prevail and we go back to the things that made the senate great, made the senate the conscience of the nation, it is a should be. i have never once objected to a senator introducing a letter, even though it took a position different than mine. i've never known a republican senator to do that. and here we're talking about a letter from a civil rights icon. mr. president, let's not go down this path. it's not good for the country.
it's not good for the united states senate. it's not good for democracy. and it sure as heck is not good for free speech. i admire the senator from rhode island. he is a man of great integrity, a man who was attorney general of his state, u.s. attorney of his -- in his state. his croix was something normally accepted -- his request was something normally accepted automatically. i would hope senators would reconsider. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. mr. crapo: mr. president, i'm the one that expwerd the objection. -- that entered the objection. let me say to my good friend who just spoke, i agree with him 100% that we should get back to what made the senate great. we have rules around here, and the rules are very clear, that
you don't impugn another senator. now, you can't do that in your words and you can't do it with writings. you can't hold up a writing that impugns another senator and say, well, this is what somebody else said. i'm not saying it. but that's okay. it is not okay. it is a violation. rules, and we should get back to what made it senate great, and that is staying within the rules, staying within civility, and not impugning another senator whether it is through words or whether it's through writings. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator florida. mr. rubio: i have a parliamentary inquiry. first question, mr. president, my understand pg of the rules -- the ruling of the chair was based on the advice of the parliamentarian, is that accurate, mr. chairman? -- mr. president? on the advice of the parliamentarian that the rule had been violated?
the presiding officer: no. the chair sustained the ruling of the majority leader on his own. mr. rubio: okay. the second question that i have, mr. president, is, is the rule -- does the viewl sigh that anything that -- does the rule say that anything that impugns a senator, directly or ink directly, is that an accurate reading of the rule? the presiding officer: senator, you are correct and i will read the paragraph. this is rule 19, section 2. "no senator in debate shall directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator." mr. rubio: thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president?
the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: parliamentary inquiry. the presiding officer: state your question. mr. merkley: if a member of the senate is being considered for nomination and we're exercising our advice and consent power and if there is factual conduct in that individual's background that is presented on the floor that is uncomplimentary, would presenting the facts of that conduct in the process of debating an individual be considered in violation of rule 19? the presiding officer: the rules make no distinction between those senators who are nominees and those who are not. that rule does not permit truth to be evidence of a slight or to be a defense of a sleight.
mr. merkley: mr. president, just to make sure i understand that clearly, if we are considering a nominee who happens to be a senator and we state factual elements of their background -- for example, conviction of a crime that is inappropriate conduct in the past -- stating the factual record about an individual would be considered in violation of rule 19? the presiding officer: each of these cases will be decided by the presiding officer in the context at that time. mr. merkley: just to clarify, if i could. therefore, the point is that something can be absolutely tr true, as perhaps a point that was made earlier, a statement can be true in a letter that is presented, but even if it's true and accurate for a person under consideration for nomination, it would still be in violation --
in other words, the fact that an individual is found in violation of rule 19 doesn't mean that the statement had to be false, it could have been a true statement? the presiding officer: you are correct, senator. mr. merkley: thank you. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant republican leader. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i just want the record to be abundantly clear. the language that resulted in the vote that we had invoking rule 19 was related to a quotation from senator ted kennedy that called the nominee a disgrace to the justice department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position. that was the quote our colleagues wanted to -- our colleagues want to try to make this all about correspondent cot
king and i it is not. i think the correct context should be part of the record. a senator: parliamentary inquiry? mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: it is my understanding -- i was not there -- that there was a warning over senator kennedy's letter, but the actual ruling was based on coretta scott king's letter. is that correct? the presiding officer: yes, that is correct. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: pursuing senator merkley's hypothetical, if it came before the senate that a member of the senate who was a nominee seeking the advice and consent of the senate to the position was, for example, in fact a horse thief and we found the fact that he was a horse thief to be relevant to whether
or not he should be confirmed, say, to the department of interior, which has authority over lands, does the ruling of the chair mean that it would not be in order for the senate or for senators to consider what in my hypothetical is the established fact, that the senator was a horse thief? as we debate his nomination here on the floor. the presiding officer: once again, the answer is the same, that each of these will be -- each of these decisions will be made at the time and in the context in which they occur, and the decision of the chair is subject to a vote of the senate. and an appeal. mr. whitehouse: well, i guess, mr. president, what i don't understand is that we have
fairly significant responsibilities under the constitution to provide advice and consent. and it appears that the ruling of the chair has just said that when a member of this body is the subject of that advice and consent, then derogatory information about that person is not in order and is a violation of rule 19 on the senate floor, and with that being the ruling, i don't know how we go about doing our duties. are we supposed so simply blind ourselves to derogatory information, discuss it privately in the cloakrooms, not bring it out onto the floor of the united states senate, this supposedly great debating society that actually has a constitutional responsibility to discuss both the advantages and the deficits of a particular nominee? the presiding officer: in each case, it is the opinion of the
president, subject to the final vote by the senate to support or not to support the president's motion -- or the president's decision. mr. whitehouse: so the precedent going forward is that any senator who discusses derogatory information that is a matter of public record, that may even include criminal behavior by a senator who is a candidate for executive appointment that requires advice and consent is at risk of being sanctioned by this body by a simple partisan majority of this body under rule 19 if they raise those issues on the floor? the presiding officer: it is not necessary for a point of order to be raised under rule 19, but
if the point of order is raised, then it will be -- an opinion will be made and it is subject to a vote of the senate. in the matter previously described. mr. rubio: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. rubio: i have some -- first, a parliamentary inquiry about these were the continuing rules of the senate that have been in existence previous to this time and have carried over into this session, is that correct? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. rubio: the reason i ask that, mr. president, is the following. look, i think we all feel very passionate about the issues before us. i have not been here as long as senator leahy, whose service here is quite distinguished and a long period of time. i truly do understand the pagz people bring to this body. -- the passions people bring to this body. i, too, like to think i am passionate about the issues before us. this is an important moment. it's late. i doubt very many people are paying attention. i wish they would, though,
because i think what's at question here is perhaps one of the very reasons why i ran for this body to begin with. and maybe it's because of my background and where i'm surrounded by people that have lost freedoms in places where they are not allowed to speak. one of the great traditions of our nation is the ability to come forward and have debates, but the founders and framers and those who established this institution and guided it for over two centuries understood that that debate was impossible. if in fact the matter became of a personal nature. let me begin by saying i don't believe that was necessarily the intention here, although that was perhaps the way it turned out. but i think it's sponsor for us to -- it's important for us to understand why that matters so much. i want people to think about our politics here in america. i'm telling you guys i don't know a single nation in the history of the world that's been able to solve its problems, when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country. this is the most important country in the world, and this body cannot function if people are offending one another, and that's why those rules are in
place. i was not here when secretary clinton was nominated as a member of this body at the time, but i can tell you that i am just barely old enough to know that some very nasty things have been written and said about secretary clinton, and i think the senate should be very proud that during her nomination to be secretary of state, despite the fact that i imagine many people were not excited about the fact that she would be secretary of state, to my recollection and perhaps i'm incorrect, not a single one of those horrible things that have been written or said about here, some of which actually did accuse her of wrongdoing were ever uttered op the floor of the senate. i happen to remember in 2004 when then-senator kerry ran for president some pretty strong things were written and said about him. i was here for that vote when he was nominated and confirmed to be secretary of state, and i don't recall a single statement being read into the record about the things that had been said about him. and i want everybody to understand at the end of the night, this is not a partisan issue. it really is not. i can tell you this with full
confidence, if one of my colleagues on this side of the aisle had done that, i would like to think that i would have been one of the people objecting, and here's why. turn on the news and watch these parliaments around the world where people throw chairs at each other and punches and ask yourself how does that make you feel about those countries? it doesn't give you a lot of confidence about those countries. i'm not arguing that we're anywhere near that here tonight, but we're flirting with it. we're flirting with it in this body and we are flirting with it in this country. we have become a society incapable of having debates anymore. in this country, if you watch the big policy debates that are going on in america, no one ever stops to say i think you're wrong, i understand your point of view, i get it. you have some valid points, but let me tell you why i think my view is better. i don't hear that anymore. hear's -- here's what i hear automatically, and let me be fair from both sides of these debates. immediately, immediately, as soon as you offer an idea, the other side jumps and says the reason why you say that is because you say you don't care about poor people, because you only care about rich people, because you're this, that or the
other. and i'm just telling you guys, we are reaching a point in this republic where we're not going to be able to solve the simplest of issues because everyone is putting themselves in a corner where everyone hates everybody. now, i don't pretend to say that i am not myself from time to time in heated debates outside of this forum. i have been guilty of perhaps hyperbole. and for those, i'm not proud of it. but i got to tell you, i think what's at stake here tonight and as we debate moving forward is not simply some rule but the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before us. and i just hope we understand that because i have tremendous respect for the other chamber, and i understand that it was designed to be different, but one of the reasons why i chose to run for the senate and, quite frankly, to run for re-election is because i believe that i serve with 99 other men and women who deeply love their country, who have different points of view, who represent men and women, who have different views from the men and women that i may represent on a given issue and who are here to
advocate for their points of view, and never impugning their motives. one of the things i take great pride in, i tell this to people all the time, is the one thing you learn about the senate is whether you agree with them or not, you understand why every single one of those other 99 people are here, because they're intelligent people, they are smart people, they are hardworking people, they believe in what they are saying and they articulate it in a very passionate and effective way. and i understand when i see my colleagues stand up and say something i don't agree with, i try to tell myself look, i don't understand why they stand for that because i know why they are doing it, because they help people who believe that. and i am so grateful that god has allowed me to be born and to live and to raise my family in the nation where people with such different points of view are able to debate those things, in a way that doesn't lead to war, that doesn't lead to overthrows, it doesn't lead to violence. and you may take that for granted. i'm telling you that right now all around the world tonight, there are people that if they stood up here and said the things that we say about the
president or others in authority, you go to jail. and i'm not saying that's where we're headed as a nation. i'm just saying don't ever take that for granted. and the linchpin of that is this institution. the linchpin of that debate is the ability of this institution through unlimited debate and the decorum necessary for that debate to be able to conduct itself in that manner. and so i know that tonight is probably a made-for-tv moment for some people. this has nothing to do with censoring the words of some of the great heroes. i have extraordinary admiration for the men and women who led the civil rights effort in this country, and i am self-conscious enough and understanding to know that many of the things that have been possible for so many people in this country in the 21st century were made possible by the sacrifices and the work of those in that movement that came before us. this has to do with the fundamental reality, and that is that this body cannot carry out its work if it is not able to conduct debates in a way that is
respectful of one another, especially those of us who are in this chamber together. and i also understand this. that if the senate ceases to work, if we reach a point where this institution, given everything else that's going on in politics today where you are basically allowed to say just about anything, for i have seen over the last year and a half things said about people, about issues, about institutions in our republic, but i never thought i would see ever, ever if we lose this body's ability to conduct a debate in a dignified manner -- and i mean this with no disrespect toward anyone else. i don't think anyone came on this floor tonight saying i'm going to be disrespectful on purpose and turn this into a circus. but i'm just telling you, if this body loses the ability to have those sorts of debate, then where in this country is that going to happen? what other forum in this nation is that going to be possible? and so i would just hope everybody would stop and think about that. i know i have only been here six years so i don't have a deep
reservoir of senate history to rely on. but i know this. if this body isn't capable of having those debates, there will be no place in this country where those debates with occur. and i think every single one of us, to our great shame, will live to regret it. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i don't want to prolong this much more. i would just in light of what my friend from florida said, reread what i said earlier. if average americans heard someone read a letter from coretta scott king that said what it said, they would not be offended. they would say that's someone's opinion. that's all. it seems to me we could use rule 19 almost every day on the floor of the senate, as my colleague from maine so poignantly and pick -- piquantly exhibited a few minutes ago. this selective enforcement and another -- is another example of
our colleagues on the other side of the aisle escalating the partisanship and further decreasing the comity of the senate, which i treasure as well. this was unnecessary. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i take umbrage with what the majority -- the minority leader said. i sat here and listened to the distinguished senator from massachusetts who went on and on and on, and much of her remarks were criticizing a fellow colleague in the senate. i don't know about the other side, but i find it offensive for either side to be criticizing, as was done here tonight, a sitting member of the senate. i'm absolutely astounded that the democrats, my friends on the
other side, have taken to the -- the desire to defeat jeff sessions. i have been here a long time, and i have to say that i have known jeff sessions even before he came here, and i have known him since he has been here, and, yes, i differ with him on a number of issues, but i would never say things about him like have been said by my colleagues on the other side. i would think that we had all take some stock of what we're doing here. jeff sessions is a very fine person. think of his wife. she is a really fine person. jeff has been here 20 years.
he's interchanged with almost all of us. sometimes you agree with him and sometimes you disagree with him, but he's always been a gentleman. he's always been kind and considerate of his colleagues. i capital name one time when he wasn't. and yet we're treating him like he is some terrible person that doesn't deserve to be chosen by the current president of the united states to be attorney general of the united states. i think we ought to be ashamed of ourselves, i really do, on both sides, and frankly, frankly, we've got to get to where everything is not an issue here. i know some of my friends on the other side, and i have chatted and they are not happy with the way this body is going, and with good reason. everything doesn't have to lead to a gut fight on the floor, but
that's where we're going, and, frankly, there is an awful lot of politics being played here, sometimes on both sides, but to have -- look, i happen to like the distinguished senator from massachusetts. i think she is an intelligent, lovely woman in many ways, but i've got to tell you, i listened to her for quite a while, and she didn't have a good thing to say about a fellow senator here. and i frankly don't think that's right. if we don't respect each other, we're going down a very steep path to oblivion. i would hope that both sides would take stock of these
debates. we can differ. we understand that the democrats are not happy with the current president. we're happy with him. we can differ on that. and we can fight over various issues and so forth. but to attack a fellow senator without reservation, seems to me, the wrong thing to do. it may not have risen to the level of a violation of the rules, but i think it comes close. i sat here and listened to most of it and, frankly, i don't think there the distinguished senator from massachusetts is right in any respect. i've been here a long time and i've seen some pretty rough talk from time to time, but never like we've had in the last cupel
of months here -- couple of months here. i admit it was tough for the democrats to lose the presidential election. most people thought that hillary clinton would win. i was not one of them. i thought there was a real chance because i know a lot of people would not say for whom they were going to vote, and i think correctly interpreted that that they were going to vote for donald trump and the reason they were is because they were tired of what was going on. they were tired of what was hurting this country. they were tired of the little fights we have around here. i think we have to grow up and i suggest all of us take stock in ourselves and see if we can treat each other with greater respect, but i have to say i represent it -- as much as i
like the distinguished senator from massachusetts -- i resent the constant di die con diatribe fellow senator. i don't think any of us should do that to them either. we can differ and argue, we can fight over certain words and so forth, but i'm appalled at the way that democrats have treated jeff sessions. i found jeff sessions, having worked with him for 20 years, and have disagreed with him on a number of things, to be a gentleman in every respect and to present his viewpoints and -- in a reasonable and decent way. i would hope that my colleagues on the other side would consider voting for jeff sessions or at
least treating him with respect. i admit i think some of this comes from the fact that they are very upset at donald trump and it's easy to say why. he won a very tough, contested election against one of their principal people. that's hard to take, maybe. that doesn't justify what's been going on against jeff sessions. we ought to be proud that jeff has a chance to become attorney general of the united states. he's going to be -- that's the thing that really bothers me. everybody on the other side knows that we have the votes to finally do this, and yet they are treating it as though this is something that they have to try and win which they are not going to win. and in the process treating a
fellow senator with disdain. it's wrong and we don't take stock of ourselves and -- i'm not accusing my colleagues of not being sincere, but they've been sincerely wrong. i'm personally fed up with it. now, if we want to fight every day and just go after each other like people who just don't care about etiquette and courtesy, i guess we can do that, but i think it's the wrong thing to do. i hope all of us will stop and take note of what's been going on, and on both sides, start trying to work together. i know it was tough for my democrat friends to lose the presidential election. i know that was tough, and they didn't think they were going to,
and, frankly, a lot of us didn't think they were going to. i did think that, but, then again, i was one of two senators who are supported donald trump, and in my opinion, with very, very good reason. the fact is that we have to treat each other with respect or this place is going to devolve into nothing but a jungle, and that would truly be a very, very bad thing. i'm not perfect so i don't mean to act like i am, but i have to say that -- that all of us need to take stock and need to start thinking about the people on the other side and need to start thinking about how we might bring each other together in the best interest of our country and how we might literally elevate the senate to the position that we all hope it will be.
madam president, i love all my colleagues. there's not one person in this body that i don't care for and love. i disagree quite a bit with some of my colleagues on the other side and even some of my colleagues on this side, but that doesn't mean i have to treat them with disrespect. madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: madam president, i first wanted to say a first word about the senator from massachusetts and her passion and what she has brought to this chamber. while i know she's not been allowed to complete her remarks today, i know that will not silence her and we look forward to hearing from her tomorrow and many days in the future on so many topics. i also want to just say about
something about my friend from utah. we have worked together on so many bills. i've seen firsthand that he means what he says about treating this chamber with the dignity that we all deserve in the -- and the american people deserve. also, i was especially impressed by the words from the senator from florida. when i see the leader and the democratic -- the democratic leader over there talking in the corner now, i think that's a good sign because i have never seen a time when the senate is more important, as the senator from florida was mentioning. this is a moment in time where the senate will not just be a check and balance, but it is also a place for compromise. the one thing that i would differ slightly from my friend and colleague from ewe yo utah,s not just about democrats responding with surprise or anger with the election of a new
president. there have been a lot of thing said in the last few months calling judges, so-called judges, some of the discussions and compares sons to foreign leaders and -- comparisons to foreign leaders, things we heard from the white house and the order issued, some of our republicans expressed a lot of concern about, that the senate wasn't involved and lot of law enforcement wasn't involved. there are reasons a lot of people's passions are high and there are reasons that are good ones. there are reasons -- i hope people will see that in perspective for the reason why people are reacting the way they do. as for senator sessions, or the senator from alabama, as i will call him for the purposes of these remarks. i have worked well with him. we have worked together on adoption and trafficking, and i am proud of the work i have done with him. we have also gone to the state
of the union together every single year and i value his friendship. i came to the conclusion that i couldn't support him, not for those personal reasons, but because of some of the views that essex pressed in the past -- expressed in the past in his record in the violence against women act, his views on immigration, his views on issues relating voting rights. i think manny of my colleagues, -- many of my colleagues, especially those on the judiciary committee, feel the same way, that this wasn't personal but we simply had a deep disagreement with some of his views on certain issues. today i thought i would focus on the voting rights issue. i spoke earlier about violence against women. i think that's a good place to start as we work together going forward. we've seen an attack on america's election system. 17 intelligence agencies talking about the fact that a foreign
country tried to influence our election. i know the senator from florida himself said this time it happened to one candidate, one party, and next time it could be another party, another candidate. so this idea of voting, this idea of the freedom to vote is the core to our democracy and one of the most important duties of the justice department -- and that is the office for which the attorney general would run -- is safeguarding voters access to the ballot box. this issue is important in my state. we have the highest voter turnout of any state in the country in this past election and part of the reason we have such good turnout is that we have such good laws that allow for people to vote. it allows for same-day registration. we make it easy for people to vote, we don't make it hard.
and, for me, that is one of the major, major duties of the justice department, and that is to enforce our voting rights. i'll never forget when i traveled to alabama in the last few years with one of the leaders, congressman john louis, who is one -- was one of the 13 original freedom riders. in 1964 he coordinated the efforts for the mississippi freedom summer, recruiting college students from are around the country to join the movement, to register african-american voters across the south. people from my state -- people from every state in this chamber -- went down there for that march. on march 7, 1965, congressman louis and 600 other peaceful protesters attempted to march from selma to birmingham to protest violence against civil rights workers. as they reached the crust of the bridge, they saw a line of troopers blocking their way. at the end of the bridge, those
peaceful marchers were attacked just for calling for the right to vote. and john louis' skull was fractured and he still bears that scar to this day. the weekend that i went back there was the weekend that the police chief of montgomery actually handed congressman louis a badge and publicly apologized for what happened to him that day, 48 years later. but as moving as that apology was, with we still have a duty to make sure that those sacrifices were not in vain. we also need to make it easier for people to actually vote and -- and that is promise still unmet in america over 50 years later, whether it's lines at voting booths or whether it's laws in place that make it harder to vote. i look at this differently having come from a high-voter turnout state, a state where we
have same-day registration. when you look at the other high-voter states that have the same -- iowa is not a democratic state yet they have a high voter turnout and people participate and are a part of that process. new hampshire, vermont, the states are truly split, but what we want to see is that kind of participation. a couple of months after i was in selma, the supreme court handed down its decision in the case of shelby county versus holder. in this decision the justices found that a formula in section 4 of the voting rights act was unconstitution hra. this formula was used to decide which states and localities needed to have federal approval to any changes -- to the voting rights law. according to a report by the brennan center for justice, following the shelby county
decision, 14 states put new voting restrictions in place that impacted the 2016 presidential election. three or states also passed restrictive voting measures, but those were blocked by the court. so the harm is very real and serious and we can't sit by and just let this happen. specifically we need a department of justice that will vigorously enforce the remaining sections of the voting rights act and the voter registration act and the vote america right many states are not complying with the national voting registration act. without a department of justice that makes the enforcement of these laws a priority, the rights of voters will continue to be infringed. congress also needs to take action through legislation to make right what came out of that
supreme court decision. effectively throwing out the preclearance provision of the voting rights act just doesn't make sense. as justic in fact congressman sense hen brenting who sponsored the reauthorization in 2006 called for congress to restore the voting rights act. as he put it, the voting rights act is vital to america's commitment to never again permit
racial prejudices in the electoral process. another issue that i wanted to focus on this evening, which i raised in senator sessions hearing is the fundamental importance of freedom of the press. my dad was a newspaper reporter and up until a few years ago, he was still writing a blog, so i'm especially sensitive and concerned about maintaining the press' role as a watchdog. the role of journalist is critical to our nation's democracy, that's where our founders enshrined the freedom of the press in the amendment. what we are seeing in the last few years in our country, what concerns me is the assault on democracy. we have the voting rights issue with people unable to vote with lines with restrictive voting laws passed to find ways to allow more people to vote, the outside money in politics, you
have recently some of the things being said about judges and now you have to somersault on this notion of the freedom of the press. thomas jefferson said that our first objective should be to leave open all avenues to truth, and the most effective way of doing that is through the freedom of press. this is still true today. freedom of the press is the best avenue to truth. in fact, these values are more important now than ever, at a time when people are not exactly valuing the freedom of the press. i believe there are two distinct roles journalists will hold that congress must preserve and strengthen in the coming years. the first is providing the people with information about their government. sometimes this is as simple as covering the passage of a new law, a public forum. this work doesn't just lead to a better informed public. it also leads to important actions.
thanks to excellent reporting from across the country, americans have been energized in the past -- for instance, just a few weeks ago when there was an attempt to gut the office of congressional ethics over in the house. that came out. people were outraged. it was reported on and they backed off. the second role we must preserve is journalists' responsibility to be fact checkers. they research, they provide context and when they need to, they correct. we need the newspapers and media to stand up for what's true and what's factual. unlike what was recently said dpsh not in this chamber -- the press cannot simply keep its mouth shut. the american people deserve the truth and we are all relying on journalists to keep digging for it. i take this personally and seriously. in senator sessions' hearing, i asked him whether he would follow the standards now in place at the justice department, which address when federal
prosecutors can subpoena journalists or their records and serve to protect reporters engaged in news-gathering activities. the previous two attorney generals both pledged not to put reporters in jail if they were sumly doing their job under the law. the senator from alabama did not make that commitment, and when i asked him about this in his hearing, he sthaid he had not yet studied those rules. he also did not make a commitment when i later asked him to do that on the record. the senator from alabama has also raised concerns in the past abouts prking journalists -- about protecting journalists from revealing their sources, including opposing the free flow of information act when it was considered by the judiciary committee in 2007, 2009, and 2013. so at this time when our freedom of the press has been under attack at the highest level of government, i believe that it's critically important that our justice department continues to
function as an independent voice that will protect the ability of journalists to do their job. last, i want to take a moment to focus on the importance of the antitrust division at the department of justice. as ranking member of the antitrust subcommittee, i'm concerned about the state of competition in the marketplace. i'd like to just take a few minutes 0en this issue. did i ask senator sessions about this at his hearing, and he said he was committed to an independent division in the justice department and to continue that work without outside influence. i continue to believe that this issue will be important because of the massive amount of mergers we're seeing. the legal technicalities behind our antitrust laws will not be familiar to most americans, but effective antitrust enforcement provides benefits we can all understand. when companies vigorously compete, they can offer
consumers the lowest prices and the highest-quality goods and services. senator sessions has stated that he will support the independence of that division, and i want to make clear how critical that is. it is absolutely essential that our next attorney general enforces our antitrust laws fairly and vigorously and that that person protects the integrity of the antitrust division's prosecutorial function from inappropriate influence. this is because vigilant antitrust enforcement means more money in the pockets of american consumers. the attorney general can do this by identifying and preventing competition problems before they occur, like stopping a merger that would allow few dominant players to raise prices, or when a merger is allowed to move forward, putting conditions in place to protect competition. the next attorney general will also be able to stop price fixing cartels that hurt
scwiewrms by art -- that hurt consumers by artificially pricing goods. last year alone the justice department obtained more than $1 billion in criminal antitrust fines. anticompetitive practices have serious impacts on consumers. for example, pay-for-delay settlements that keep cheaper generic drugs from coming onto the market. estimates suggest that limiting those sweetheart deals would save billions over ten years and save american consumers billions on their prescription drug koftds. that's why senator grassley and i worked on bipartisan legislation to give the federal trade commission greater ability to block those anticompetitive agreements. our preserve access to affordable generics act would increase consumers' access to cost-saving generic drugs. the bottom line is this: antitrust enforcement is needed now more tharch.
we are experiencing a wave of concentration across industries. just last year, then-assistant attorney general for antitrust bill bear, a lifetime antitrust practitioner, said his agency was reviewing deals with such serious antitrust concerns that they should never have made it out of the corporate boardroom. not only did antitrust violations mean higher prices for americans and less innovation, but the indirect effects are equally troubling. there is concern that undo scwentration of -- concentration of economic power will exacerbate economic inequality. there's also concern that concentration can hurt new businesses, stifling innovation. why would you innovate if there's just one or two firmser? only effective antitrust enforcement will prevent those harms. and effective enforcement can occur only if the department of justice makes enforcement decisions based on the merits of the individual case rather than
politics. traditionally, the white house has not interfered with antitrust enforcement decisions but recent reports indicate that the president has discussed pending mergers with c.e.o.'s during on-going antitrust reviews. some companies have also publicly reported their conversations with and their commitments to the president. in both senator sessions' hearing ans in a follow-up letter i raised this issue from him. the senator from alabama said, it would be improper -- this is a quote -- "to consider any political, personal, or other nonlegal basis in reaching an enforcement decision." that is the correct answer. i plan to rigorously protect the antitrust division's prosecutorial integrity to make sure that antitrust enforcement is principled and done right. antitrust and competition policy are not republican or democratic
issues. a merger in the ag industry could have an effect on farmers in iowa, as the presiding officer knows. these are consumer issues, and these issues could not be more important to all americans. we can all -- we can all agree that robust cometion is essential to our free-market economy and critical to ensuring that the consumer pay the best prices for what they need. i want to switch gears and -- conclude today by speaking about the president's executive order regarding refugees. especially those from muslim countries, which has caused so much chaos across our country over the past several weeks. while i knee senator sessions was not involved in writing with the executive order, it's very important that going forward, obviously, that the attorney general and the department of justice's office of legal council have a responsibility to
review the president's executive orders and ensure that the order is legal and done right. i actually sent a letter with senators durbin, whitehouse, franken, coons, and blumenthal and we asked senator sessions what he would have done if the president's executive order ca e across his desk. i've long advocated for thorough vetting and have supported strong national security measures. i believe that the number-one focus of government, the number-one priority should be making people safe. and while working to strengthen biometrics and other security measures is a good goal, this is not the way our government should work. an order should be put out there without properly vetting it and figuring out the effect it would have, the effect it would have on a 4-year-old girl who's in a refugee camp in uganda. that happened. in my state a mom who had two children, a somali mother, it
was in a refugee camp. she got permission to come over to our state and to our country as a refugee. but she was pregnant and when she had that bash, that baby did not have permission to come with her. so she had a so fee's choice. does she leave the baby in the refugee camp with trends and go to america with her two other daughters or do all of them stay in the refugee camp in uganda? she made a decision that she would go with her two oldest girls, that that would be the safest thingfor them. for four years she worked to get to child left behind in the refugee camp to america to be reunited with her sisters. the baby was to get on a plane, who is now 4 years old, to get on a plane on the monday after the president's executive issue -- executive order was issued. the 4-year-old could not get on that plane. senator franken and i got involved. we talked to general kelly.
he was more thank generous with his lifetime and they made an exception and 49-year-old is now in minnesota. -- and it the 4-year-old is now in minnesota. but it should not take a senator os intervention, as many of my colleagues know, to get a 4-year-old who is supposed to be united with their family, something that we did at lutheran services in minnesota. if senator sessions is in fact confirmed as the next attorney general, these are actual issues that he's goings to work on. and beyond that it we have the issue of how people in our country are afraid. we have 100,000 somalis in hin minute. we have the biggest somali population in the country. a man who works for me started with my office ten years ago. he's been our outreach to the somali community. he was just elected to the
school board, to the school board. we have somali's elected to our city counsel. they are part of the fabric of flief our state. congrescongressman emmer, who ay took the seat held by michele bachmann, is the cochair along with congressman ellison. we have not seen this as a democratic issue or a republican issue in our state. we have welcomed these refugees. we are the -- have the second-biggest population of mung of in the united states of america. we have the biggest aroma population much we have the biggest siberian population, one of the biggest populations of people from be burma. we have 17 fortune 500 companies in our state. and when the treeftion come oifer, they are legal workers, a major part of our economy. so it is no surprise that during the last year when we've heard the kind of rhetoric we've heard, people have been concerned.
not just the refugees themselves, not just their friends and family, but a lot of people in our state. the churches have gotten involved, all kinds of -- every decome to nomination in our state has gotten involved to stand up for the muslim population. why? because they've all heard the stories. one of the most memorable stories was from a family i heard about when visiting with some of our muslim population in minneapolis. this was a story of two adults who had been in our state during 9/11 and during 9/11 george bush stood up and said this isn't about a religion, this is about evil people that did evil things, but it is not to indict a religion. the republican u.s. attorney at the time went around with me, the elected prosecutor, and met with the muslim population an assure them they were safe and told them to report hate