Skip to main content

tv
Trump Administration
Archive
  U.S. Senate Confirms Linda Mc Mahon as SBA Administrator  CSPAN  February 14, 2017 9:59am-12:38pm EST

9:59 am
the night u.s. senate is about to convene. to convene. two boats at 11 eastern this morning. went to confirm what wrestling entertainment linda mcmahon to be the new administrator and
10:00 am
another vote on a revolution regarding checks for senior citizen. later today, the senate may turn to the nomination of representative michael mulvaney to be the white house budget director. confirmation vote on that expected tomorrow and several more cabinet nominations to come later this week. live now to the senate floor here on c-span2. in, dr. barry b, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. accept, o lord, our thanks and praise for all you have done fr us. we thank you for the splendor of creation, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. we thank you for work that
10:01 am
demands our best efforts and for the satisfaction of a job done well. as our lawmakers strive to please you in working to fulfill your purposes, inspire them with your spirit to glorify you in their thoughts, words, and actions. lord, endue them with courage and loyalty whether their duties are large or small. give them an eternal perspective on the myriad issues they face. we pray in your great name. amen.
10:02 am
the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of americ, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
10:03 am
majority leader. mr. mcconnell: over the past several weeks, we've seen unprecedented obstruction from our colleagues across the aisle. it's made the confirmation of this president's nominees the slowest in modern history. i.t. left -- it's left several key departments without a permanent secretary at the helm for far, far too long. what's the point of the needless delay? what's the point? our friends are slow-walking votes, not changing outcomes. we took several important steps last night to move the nominations process forward. we confirmed steven mnuchin as treasury secretary, after eight years of failing economic policy, stagnant growth, and a tough job market, it's clear we need a new direction to get our country back on track. we need a new direction on regulations, smarter,
10:04 am
pro-growth. we need a new direction on taxes, simpler and pro-jobs. and we're going to accomplish either of those goals, we're going to need new leadership at the helm of the treasury department. secretary mnuchin has real-world understanding of the private sector. he's ready to work with both sides to get the economy moving. second, we confirmed dr. david shulkin as secretary of veterans affairs. the debt we owe our service members and their family members extends far beyond any program or benefit the government can provide. but through the v.a. we should be doing everything we can to fulfill our commitments to veterans and their families. like the more than 300,000 veterans who call kentucky home. secretary shulkin will be tasked with overseeing that our veterans in kentucky and across the nation receive quality and timely care.
10:05 am
it is a heavy burden, but he seems up to the task. the chairman of the veterans' affairs committee, senator isakson, has a well-deserved reputation for working tirelessly on behalf of our veterans which makes it notable that his committee voted unanimously to recommend dr. shulkin to the full senate, and the full senate just confirmed him unanimously, too. haven't seen much of that lately. i'm confident that secretary shulkin will work with congress to build on the progress we've already made in improving accountability at the v.a. i took the procedural steps necessary last night to allow us to confirm the rest of the nominees on the calendar, like representative mick mulvaney, who can help get our nation back on track fiscally. scott pruitt, nominator for administrator of the environmental protection agency, who can bring much-needed change after eight years of heavy-handed, job-killing regulations. wilbur ross, nominee for
10:06 am
commerce secretary, who can help promote job creation and economic growth. representative ryan zinke, nominee for interior secretary, who can help improve our nation's land use. dr. ben carson, nominee for housing and urban development, who can help reform h.u.d. to better-serve the american people. and governor rick perry, nominee for energy secretary, who can help guide us toward smarter energy policies that grow our economy and strengthen national security. beginning with representative mulvaney, we can get each of these nominees confirmed soon. with cooperation from across the aisle, we can put them to work for the american people even sooner. we'll be able to put another important nominee to work. just this morning one who understands how to help businesses flourish i. i'm confident that the president's pick to lead the small business administration, linda mcmahon will prioritize
10:07 am
growing jobs over growing government bureaucracy. in so many states including mine, that's a welcome change from washington. small businesses help drive america's economy and they help drive kentucky's economy as well. almost half of all the private-sector jobs in kentucky, about 700,000, come from the more than 340,000 small businesses across the commonwealth. these small businesses not only grow the economy, they also serve important roles in our communities. ms. mcmahon, who built a company from the ground up, understands that many challenges small businesses can face. she's certainly come a long way from sharing a desk with her husband and lease ago typewrit typewriter. i commend her for her willingness to serve her country and look forward to confirming her later this morning. mr. durbin: mr. president?
10:08 am
the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: the democratic leader, senator schumer, is likely to come to the floor soon, and i will certainly defer to him under leader time. but i'd like to ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, november 8, 2016, was not just election day, it was a day that will live in cyber infamy because it turns out that one of the leading enemies of the united states, the nation of russia, was directly engaged in the presidential campaign that resulted in the election on november 8. this is not speculation. it is a fact. based on conclusions that came from 17 different intelligence agencies that confirmed this reality. this is the first time that we can point to where a foreign
10:09 am
power has tried to influence the outcome of a presidential election in the united states. their goal was clear: to elect donald trump, to defeat hillary clinton. they hacked into computers, they released information on a selective basis, they created fake news stories, they used wikileaks, everything within their cyber power to influence the outcome of the election. that was the reality. this morning we were awakened to the headline that president trump's head of the national security council, general michael flynn, has resigned. that is an incredible blockbuster of a story. and that was the reasoning for his resignation? it turns out that he had a conversation, a direct conversation, with the russian ambassador to the united states, and that conversation included references to sanctions which president obama was imposing on russia because of their
10:10 am
involvement in our election. what led to his resignation, of course, was that he misled both the vice president and the president about that conversation. when the facts came out, he was forced to resign. this is not business as usual in washington. what we are dealing with here is in fact an historic event, a powder keg in history had this comes to the united states and its security. the of course question is, will this question of the united states, this branch of our government, respond? will we initiate thorough investigations, as the the to t- as to the involvement of the russians in that campaign and specifically any involvement with any presidential campaign during that time? 20 years ago when i was elected to the senate, there was an investigation initiated by the republicans at the suggestion -- the suggestion -- that the chinese government had played some role in the clinton-gore
10:11 am
campaign. the government affairs committee of the senate was entrusted with the responsibility to do a thorough investigation of that allegation and fred thompson, the senator from tennessee, was the chairman of that committee with john glenn, the ranking democrat. the hearings went on for weeks, ultimately for months, and then there was a formal report issued and no evidence -- credible evidence was found of the suggestion. but it was taken that seriously by the republican-led congress that the chinese may have been involved in a democratic presidential campaign. how seriously is the republican congress take the allegations and the statements from our intelligence agencies that the russians were involved in this last presidential campaign? it is time for us to have an independent commissioner beyond congress look into this and give us solid answers. we need to appoint people to
10:12 am
head this commission of the stature of general colin powell, sandra day o'connor, who served on the supreme court, who are credible people to lead this effort and this investigation and give america the trunnel. -- the truth. mr. president, a week or so ago, "the new york times" published the results of a recent poll that asked americans what other nations they consider to be our closest allies and worst enemies and the results weren't surprising. canada topped the list of our best allies. enemies including iran and russia and china. which makes me wonder why president trump in the span of a week managed to insult and hang up on the telephone call with the prime minister of australia and then go on national news to once again defend vladimir putin in light of what i have just said earlier. just a few days later, it's revealed that his national security advisor, general flynn,
10:13 am
the one who was fired by the previous administration, was in fact speaking to russian officials as a private citizen before president trump took office. monday we learned that former acting attorney general sally yates, who president trump abruptly fired, had warned the white house that general flynn had misled senior administration officials about his communications with the russian ambassador and warned he was potentially vulnerable to russian blackmail. understand what i've just said. the man who was picked by president trump as his top national security advisor misled the president and vice president about a telephone conversation with the russian ambassador and in the opinion of our top law enforcement officials left himself vulnerable to russian blackmail. in the last days of the obama administration, then-director of national intelligence glams
10:14 am
clapper, c.i.a. director john brennan shared yates' concerns and concurred with her recomme recommendation to inform the trump white house. now that general flynn has resigned, leaving an already chaotic national security council in even greater disaray, perhaps this isn't all that surprising anymore, but it certainly should be. this president has a troubling habit of lashing out at everyone and anyone involved in a perceived slight, a dangerous and unbecoming behavior when dprantsed the privilege to be -- granted the privilege to be president of this great nation. the number and range of those attacked or insulted by twitter is so significant, i wouldn't even start to list them. but it is important to note the list includes republicans, democrats, labor leaders, businesses, retired generals, and others in almost every conceivable category. actually one look at list, and you quickly realize that the only unifying factor is not
10:15 am
about putting america first or america's image but protect ago deeply fragile ego. listen to this excerpt from a vast list. those who have been attacked by president trump. president george bush, president george w. bush, speaker paul ryan, florida governor rick scott, federal judges, former new hampshire john sununu, nato, major league baseball, macy's department stores, european leaders, britain, germany, new jersey, the king -- the "today", collin powell, president of the united steelworkers local 1999, abc news, nbc news, fox news and every other media outlet seemingly. now that we're in the category of those who have been attacked, we can't leave nordstrom's off the list. the president even insulted the former governor of south carolina and then chose her to
10:16 am
be u.n. ambassador. in fact, there are hundreds upon hundreds on this list, a list that keeps on growing. so if you make any criticism or joke about president trump, make any perceived slight, run a department store that doesn't carry his daughter's products, lead a labor union, do just about anything, be prepared for an attack by a trump twitter. except if you happen to be the former communist k.g.b. official who now leads the one nation that actually recently attacked our nation. that would be vladimir putin. how is it possible? mr. president, russian president putin launched a cyber attack of war on the united states. he interfered in our election and tried to affect the outcome and pick the winner. the evidence is overwhelming and has been available in increasing amounts over the last several months, and yet we have a president who not only denies the russian attack and has a strange infatuation with president putin but is also
10:17 am
suggesting policies that dangerously puppet those of putin. it is now revealed that trump's national security advisor, general michael flynn, lied about discussing sanctions with the russian ambassador immediately after the obama administration announced new sanctions for the attack on our election. not only have general flynn and the white house suddenly remembered the facts differently, but more dangerously did flynn's conversation undercut u.s. sanctions, especially after russia's assault on our election? and who instructed general flynn to have these suspiciously timed conversations with the russian ambassador? it's deeply troubling to imagine what might have been insinewated in those -- insinuated in those talks, but given the blinders this president has shown regarding president putin so far, i worry about a suggested or head of sanctions from russia for little in return. quite simply, you don't make america great by selling out to a former communist k.g.b. official. you only negotiate with such a dictator from a position of
10:18 am
strength, not denial or naivete. mr. president, so what's been the response to the cyber attack of war on that america? flynn's dalliance with the russians and the dangerous disarray of the trump national security council from the party of ronald reagan who knew the communist mind pretty well, near silence. the party of ronald reagan has spoken zero times about the russian attack or flynn's actions on the floor of the senate since early october. i waited for the republican senate leader this morning to raise the obvious front-page story across america about the resignation of president trump's national security advisor and not a word was mentioned. compare this to the 36 times republicans have come to the floor to talking about stripping health care away from millions of americans in the last several weeks. even president trump's new attorney general who brazenly changed his tune on russia, once having joined the trump campaign, said he had not yet
10:19 am
read intelligence reports on the russian attack, a position even more stunning in light of the recent reports of sally yates' warnings. yet incredibly his colleagues were ready to confirm him to the highest law enforcement position in the land. i see the democratic leader here, and i want to yield the floor to him, but i will close by saying this. are we going to have a fulsome, honest, independent investigation of the russian involvement in this election campaign? we know that it happens. 17 of our intelligence agencies confirm it. we also know that an investigation is under way by the federal bureau of investigation about this campaign and the involvement of the russians, and we know as well now that because of the conversations of our national security advisor with the russian ambassador, he was forced to resign in the first four weeks of this administration. this calls out for a thorough investigation. the republican party in congress which spent hours and days and weeks and months in
10:20 am
investigations involving hillary clinton should at least acknowledge the gravity of this matter and bring this to a full investigation, an open and public one that can be trusted, an independent investigation that stands up for our basic democracy and does not allow an evasion of the russians or any other -- an invasion of the russians or any other country into our democratic process. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. schumer: i thank the -- the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i thank the democratic whip for his remarks, and i will have much more to say on the circumstances surrounding general flynn's resignation as national security advisor later today, but this morning i rise to speak about the nominee on the floor, representative mulvaney to be the director of o.m.b. now, each nominee, mr. president, each nominee that comes before this body seems to be another indication of a cabinet whose ideology is so far
10:21 am
removed from the american mainstream and whose ethical conduct is more questionable than any other in our nation's history. representative mulvaney is a demonstration, walking demonstration of both shortcomings in this cabinet. first, on his views, they are way out of touch with most americans, with average americans. representative mulvaney has been a consistent ideological warrior against crucial safety net programs like social security and medicare. he said it plain as day. quote -- "we have to end medicare as we know it. medicare as it exists today is finished." unquote. that's from his mouth. and president trump appoints this man head of o.m.b., one of the most powerful agencies in the government. not only has mr. mulvaney advocated for cutting benefits, he wants to jack up the retirement age for medicare to 67 and for social security he
10:22 am
wants to raise it to 70. after the confirmation of representative price to lead h.h.s. last week, the confirmation of representative mulvaney will be the launch of week two of the republican war on seniors. mr. president, let's be clear. these are fringe positions, way out of touch with how most americans feel about these programs, and if -- just proof, when our republican colleagues go back home to campaign, not one of them says raise the age to 70. i don't see republican ads saying that. they say they're going to protect medicare. well, where are they now? you can't go home and campaign one way and then vote for mulvaney who wants to do the opposite and hurt our seniors, a war on seniors. literally, tens of millions of americans rely on these programs and don't want to see their
10:23 am
benefits cut. millions more are on the cusp of retirement and know that it's deeply unfair to move the goal posts on qualifying for these programs. changing the rules in the middle of the game to hurt those who have spent their whole lives working and are now looking forward to receiving social security and medicare. that's what most americans voted for, whether they pulled the lever for secretary clinton or mr. trump. candidate trump promised that he was -- quote -- not going to cut social security like every other republican, and i'm not going to cut medicare or medicaid -- unquote -- but then he turns around and nominates a man to o.m.b. who has relentlessly argued the opposite. he nominates a secretary of health and human services just to prove with all our republican colleagues voting for him, none of us, who has also argued that. so if people think that donald
10:24 am
trump is going to be a defender, i saw the aarp ads, i'd like those ads to mention the nominations of mulvaney and of price. if people think that donald trump is going to be a defender of social security and medicare, these nominees seem to indicate a far different approach. candidate trump didn't run as a far-right conservative. he ran as a populist against both establishments, but both representative mulvaney and representative price were plucked out of the very conservative wing of a very conservative house caucus and will be placed in charge of the budget and every american's health care where they can effectively wage war on seniors. they have been plotting throughout their careers. and unfortunately both the o.m.b. director and the secretary of h.h.s. have hundreds of ways that don't go through the congress of undercutting medicare and social security, medicaid in
10:25 am
particular. they can undercut them in a whole variety of different ways, and given their ideology and given their career, that's just what they will do. so, mr. president, the nomination of these two men are exhibits a and b that president trump plans to run his administration from the hard right rather than follow through on his populist rhetoric that defined his campaign and frankly is what elected him. if he had run on the campaign views of his nominees in these two, he might have gotten 100 electoral votes, might have gotten 100 electoral votes. second on ethics, again, this cabinet is not only challenged on their views so far away from what the average american believes, but it is the most unethical cabinet that i have ever seen nominated, at least in my lifetime. representative mulvaney is unfortunately an example of a
10:26 am
cabinet member that is too far compromised by potential conflicts of interest and other ethics challenges. it's been disclosed that rep mulvaney neglected to pay $15,000 in taxes on a household employee. a similar revelation sunk the nomination of a former member and leader of this body, senator tom daschle. senator daschle was attacked by the republican side on this issue relentlessly. he withdrew his nomination. representative mulvaney hasn't withdrawn his nomination and we haven't found a peep -- heard a peep out of the republican side. on the same very similar transgression that was disqualifying at least to our begins for representative daschle. nor has the nominee for secretary of labor withdrawn his nomination. he has a similar situation. the fact that the republican majority is proceeding on both
10:27 am
of their nominations is a dangerous abandonment of public ethics. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. and under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination: small business administration, linda e. mcmahon of connecticut to be administrator. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 11:00 a.m. will be equally divided in the usual form.
10:28 am
mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. durbin: mr. president, later today we are going to consider an effort under the congressional review act to change america's background checks system when it comes to the purchase of firearms. for months, i have been listening to president trump and republicans talk about gun violence in the city of chicago. it is a heartbreaking reality. more than 4,300 people were shot in chicago last year. over 400 so far this year. and it's not just chicago. the american medical association has declared that gun violence is a public health crisis in our nation. so what is congress doing to
10:29 am
save the lives in chicago and across the nation from gun violence? what is the senate doing to protect people from being shot? nothing. instead, the republican congress is trying to weaken one of the gun laws on the book, the nix improvement amendments act. this was a law passed unanimously by congress after the virginia tech massacre and signed into law in 2008 by president george w. bush. this law says that every federal agency needs to let the f.b.i. nix background check system knowing the agency has people who fall within the legal prohibitions on gun possession. everyone agreed we needed to get these records into the nix system, especially records about those who are seriously mentally unstable, such as the virginia tech shooter. that man had a history of mental illness, but he was able to buy guns and kill 32 people because his records were not in the
10:30 am
background check system known as nix. there is a long-standing federal prohibition on gun possession by those who are suffering from mental illness. this prohibitiol stabbed that the late justice antonin scalia cited it in the supreme court heller decision in a decision presumptively lawful with the second amendment. there have been tragic cases where people with serious mental illnesses used guns to cause great harm. the newtown connecticut shooter showed signs of severe mental health problems that went untreated before he killed 20 students and 6 educators at sandy hook elementary school. the tucson arizona shooter who shot congresswoman gabby giffords and six others was diagnosed afterwards with schizophrenia. mr. president, it was nine years ago today when a gunman
10:31 am
who had been diagnosed and treated for mental illness killed five people and injured 17 in a classroom building at northern illinois university in dekalb. about two-thirds of shooting deaths each year are suicides. last year there were more than 21,000 suicides by gun. the national lives on mental illness reports that -- quote -- "about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness." mental illness is in fact a challenging issue for our society. i worked to expand treatment and coverage for mental illness, including through the affordable care act, one of the most important single laws we've ever passed to address mental illness. i wish those who are trying to repeal this commonsense gun safety regulation would drop that effort and join us in stopping this repeal of the affordable care act. we need more and better services
10:32 am
for people with mental illness. the reality is that the gun laws on the books are narrowly drawn when it comes to mental illness. and so is the rule of being asked to repeal today. current federal law says that a person who has been -- quote -- "adjudicated as mental defective" an exact quote from the law, is prohibited from mental defectivive. the phrase mental defective is defined in the law as determination by a court, board, commission or other lawful authority that a person as a result of marked subnormal intelligence or mentales illness, incompetency or disease, number one, is a danger to himself or others or, number two, lacks the mental capacity to manage his own affairs. the 2008 nics law directed federal agencies to send their federal records to the nics
10:33 am
system. last year the social security administration issued a rule to implement this law after concluding that certain determinations by the social security administration qualify as an adjudication of mental defectiveness. let me explain what the s.s.a. rule says. under this rule, starting in december of this year, later this year, the social security administration will begin sending to nics, which is the body of gathered information and records for background checks before the possession of firearms, they'll be sending to nics, name, date of birth and social security of the people who meet each of the five criteria. the person must be between the ages of 18-65, have filed a claim with s.s.a. for benefits based on disability, have been diagnosed with a serious long-term mental disorder, have been determined by s.s.a. to be disabled and unable to perform
10:34 am
substantial work because of the mental disorder, and have been subject to determination by the social security administration that the mental disorder is so serious that the person needs to have a representative appointed to manage the person's benefits. this is not a situation where the social security administration would notify nics because a person can't balance his checkbook. there must be a serious debilitating mentally diagnosed mental illness involved. the rule is prospective only. current social security benefits are not subject to it. the rule is predicted to cover about 75,000 americans once it takes effect out of the estimated ten million suffering from serious mental illness. i might adhere for the record, i do not want to suggest that every person who has any form of mental illness is a danger. in fact, exactly the opposite is true. but we do know that those who suffer serious mental conditions
10:35 am
many times are engaged in violent conduct and many times with horrible results when they have firearms. the rule that we're being asked to repeal on the floor of the senate provides for advanced notice of the social security administration determination and the right to appeal through an administrative process and court. a person can obtain relief from the firearms prohibition by having health care providers and character witnesses submit statements that the person is not a danger to himself or others. everyone claims -- every politician it claims -- theaments -- that he wants to keep deadly firearms out of the hands of those who are mentally unstable. senator john cornyn, the senior senator from texas, said in march 2013 -- and i quote -- "if there was a common thread in virginia tech, tucson, aurora and niewnt massacres, it was the mental illness of the
10:36 am
shooter. we should refocus our effort to make sure that the current background check system works to screen out the dangerously mental ill, a statement made by a republican senator from texas. reasonable people can disagree over whether the s.s.a.'s rule gets it exactly right. there are mental health groups that have concerns about it, and i respect that. but using the congressional review act is a blunt tool. instead of fixing the rule, the congressional review act would repeal the rule and -- listen to this -- permanently bar the social security administration from adopting any substantially similar rule. so it likely would bar the social security administration from ever implementing a rule to submit mental health records to nics in the future. if there are problems with this rule, they can be addressed by fixing it. but the republican response is always repeal first. and this time the rule that doesn't start until december and its repeal would preclude the
10:37 am
social security administration from even fixing or positively changing it. we had disputes over the process the department of veterans affairs used to submit names of people with mental illness to this same nics background check system. last december we fixed it on a bipartisan basis. we passed language in the 21st century cures act to ensure a person could have his own doctor and lawyer involved in due process. if the social security administration rule needs fixing, we can fix it too. but this congressional review act is a sledgehammer, not a tool to fix it. we are being asked to vote today to ban an agency permanently from complying with the nics law that we enacted in 2008. we're being asked to undermine the gun laws that are on the books. i urge mile colleagues to listen to the opposition of this resolution of disapproval. read the letter from the u.s. conference of mayors who say that the social security administration rule -- quote -- "is critically important to the fabric of our nation's
10:38 am
background check system." read the editorials in newspapers across the country that oppose repealing this rule. i ask consent to include the editorial from the chicago tribune. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: i read similar editorials from the "st. louis post-dispatch," "the new york times" and more. now listen specifically to the pleas of gunshot victims and their family members. listen to patrick corellas of chicago, whom i met. he was shot in a classroom nine years ago at northern illinois university by a man who had serious mental illness. he wrote to me, and he said, "i was shot in my classroom by someone who was mentally ill and was able to obtain guns and a lot of ammunition because the background checks weren't strong enough. rolling back some of these background check doesn't make any sense and would allow more people to get through the loopholes." listen to janet delana of wellington, missouri. she wrote to congress and here's
10:39 am
what she said. my daughter colby, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who lives at home with her father and i receives monthly disability payments for her mental illness. in 2012 she used the money from her disability check to buy a gun at a local gun dealer. because she was ill and suicidal, i contacted the gun dealer, her mother writes, and begged him not to sell my daughter a gun. however, my pleas were ignored. the dealer sold her a gun anyway because colby passed the background check. an hour later colby shot her father to death and tried once again to take her own life. she's now in an institution for life and my husband is gone. janet said -- and i quote -- "this s.s.a. rule is vital. i'm very concerned this resolution would preclude the social security administration and possible even other agencies from enhancing any future regulations on this or related
10:40 am
matters." mr. president, we have a public crisis when it comes to gun violence. in chicago and in communities across the nation. we have a responsibility to do what we can on the federal level to reduce that violence and protect our citizens from getting shot. voting for this resolution of disapproval today would be a step backwards. it would weaken the gun laws on the books and make it easier for severely mentally ill people to get guns. on this, the ninth anniversary, of a shooting at northern illinois university in dekalb, it is unthinkable that we are going to try to revoke a rule which would keep guns out of the hands of those who should have no business owning them. let me conclude with this statement from bloomberg business news magazine. it's a statement that was recently published in their edition several weeks ago -- quote -- "advocates for the mentally ill caution it
10:41 am
shouldn't be equated with a caution for a penchant for violence. they're right but america's tragic experience from the shooting in virginia tech in 2007 to newtown, connecticut, in 2012 shows the folly of dismissing the years. in recent years republicans prioritized instant gratification for anyone who desires to buy a gun. last year the n.r.a. spent $50 million on the campaigns of trump and six g.o.p. senators. n.r.a. leader wayne la pierre wants to pay back. the obama rule established a process for establishing only social security beneficiaries who would be prohibited from possessing guns under existing law. it required beneficiaries to be notified of the prohibition and provided means to appeal the determination in court. it would safeguard individual rights but offend the fundamental principle that drives the n.r.a. and thus republican gun politics. they believe anyone should be able to get a gun at any time for any reason and bring that
10:42 am
weapon loaded anywhere. mr. president, common sense dictates that we be careful to keep guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them. i sincerely hope that gun owners across my state and across the nation -- and i respect them and their constitutional right -- will understand that reasonable limitations on the possession and ownership of firearms is in the best interest of protecting their second amendment rights as well. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: i ask to speak on the republican time for up to ten minutes with five minutes reserved for senator risch on the nomination of linda mcmahon to be serve as administrator of the small business administration. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. shaheen: thank you. today in just a few minutes the senate will be voting on the nomination of linda mcmahon to serve as administrator of, i believe, one of the very important agencies within the federal government that sometimes doesn't get the
10:43 am
recognition it deserves, and that is the small business administration. and before i begin my remarks, i want to take just a minute to acknowledge the good work of two previous s.b.a. administrators: karen mills and maria contrera sweet. both served in these important roles during the obama administration and particularly during the financial crisis, really served as a lifeline for so many of our small businesses. so i want to thank these two leaders for their tireless work. when i was first elected to the senate in 2008, one of the reasons i joined the small business committee was its reputation as a place where you could work across the aisle and get things done in a bipartisan way, because supporting small businesses is not a republican or a democratic issue. it is an american issue. that dynamic was on display at mrs. mcmahon's confirmation hearing where not one but two of her formal rivals introduced her.
10:44 am
senators blumenthal and murphy, both of whom ran very spirited campaigns against mrs. mcmahon and both of whom defeated her actually, testified to her passion for small business and her qualifications for this new responsibility. and after the hearing, the small business committee reported her nomination to the senate favorably by a vote of 18-1. i want to thank my colleague, chairman risch, for working with me during this process and ensuring that the nomination was thoroughly vetted. while i've opposed a number of president trump's nominees, i want to take a few minutes to explain why i will support linda mcmahon for this important position. my home state -- new hampshire -- is a small business state. more than 96% of our employers are considered small businesses. according to the s.b.a.'s office of advocacy. but small businesses aren't just important in new hampshire. they're really the engine that
10:45 am
drives our national economy. small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in the united states. they are also leaders when it comes to innovation producing 14 times more patents than large businesses. but unfortunately, like so many of our larger businesses, many of our small businesses still have not fully recovered from the great recession. and for our economy to continue to improve, we need to level the playing field for small business and unleash their potential. that's why the s.b.a. and its programs are so critical. last year alone, the s.b.a. packed more than 70,000 loans to small businesses, supportin sup9 billion in lending and nearly 700,000 jobs. the s.b.a. also helped small businesses win more than $90 billion in federal contracts, providing counseling to more than a million entrepreneurs and
10:46 am
helping many small businesses reach foreign markets. mr. president, i was in the state senate in new hampshire in the recallly 1990's when we experienced a recession that closed five of the state's seven largest banks and put so many of our small businesses into bankruptcy. the one federal agency that helped keep our small businesses going in new hampshire during those very dark years was the s.b.a. so i have seen very directly what a difference s.b.a. means to businesses in new hampshire and across this country. now, as part of the confirmation process, i was able to work with my colleagues on the small business committee to really look into mrs. mcmahon's background as a successful entrepreneur as well as her vision for the s.b.a. and i was pleased to learn that mrs. mcmahon shares my vision for a strong s.b.a. that will
10:47 am
support america's entrepreneurs, and i was particularly pleased to learn that, unlike some previous reports, that she opposes efforts to merge the s.b.a. into other agency. so she does not believe it should be part of the department of commerce. maintaining the s.b.a.'s independence and keeping the administrator of s.b.a. as a cabinet-level position is essential to ensuring that the voices of small businesses are heard in washington. we also need to make sure that the s.b.a. programs are valued in this administration. we've seen what can happen when s.b.a. does not receive the respect it deserves in the white house. the george w. bush administration cut the s.b.a.'s budget dramatically by 32%, more than any other agency during those years. we can't afford to repeat that mistake. entrepreneurs across this country, from rural communities
10:48 am
to inner cities, rely on the s.b.a. and its programs. now, i could cite countless success stories, but let me just note one example i recently heard in new hampshire. from julie lapham, founder and chief sales officer of a start-up called pops up. it is a family-owned business that provides a new popcorn product. her inspiration for her product was her mother who was diabetic. julie wanted to give her mother more options than the microwave popcorn you see in the grocery store. she create add product that doesn't use chemicals, plastic or silicone. her popcorn is environmentally friendly and sourced from american farms that don't use g.m.o. products. as a start-up, julie faces a lot of challenges, getting funding
10:49 am
to expand their business, keeping the books -- figuring out how to market her products. large companies have the resources to figure these things out. but julie needs a level playing field to compete, and that's where the s.b.a. and its resource partners come in. julie wrote, and i quote, "we often feel vulnerable because we are self-funded and need to master all aspects of running our business: marketing, manufacturing, selling, and accounting. close quote. so julie has been working with advisors at the sdbc. they or the in every state and they are resource partners who provided counseling to julie and also provide counseling to small businesses like julie's across the country. i don't think there is a week that goes by when we're not stopping by each other's offices, e-mailing, or talking on the phone, says julie. "i can honestly state that we
10:50 am
would not have a chance at success without the on-going support and encouragement of the sdbc." now, i am a sure that my colleagues in the senate aware of similar s.b.a. success sphoars in their own states -- success stories in their own states. we all know that this agency plays a vital role in our economy. for our economy to thrive, we need to focus on ways to further strengthen the s.b.a. so that it can increase opportunities for entrepreneurs to start new ventures and help existing small businesses grow. and that's especially important in largely rural states like new hampshire where it can be harder to get a loan or counseling. entrepreneurs like julie need a strong administrator who understands the value of programs like the small business development centers, and they need someone who will be their voice in washington and bring out the best in the s.b.a. during the confirmation process, mrs. mcmahon pledged that she shares this view and wants to
10:51 am
strengthening the role that s.b.a. plays in assisting our nation's small businesses. in fact, she said she was passionate about small businesses. so for these reasons, i intend to support her confirmation today and i look forward to continuing to work with chairman risch as we support s.b.a. in the coming years. thank you, i yield the floor. mr. risch: mr. president? the presiding officer: is noter from idaho. mr. risch: mr. president, first of all, let me say thank you to my friend and colleague, the ranking member of the small business anden entrepreneurship committee. we have worked together successfully on several projects and i have no doubt that we will continue to work together to benefit small businesses and entrepreneurship here in america. i rise today to support the nomination by president trump of linda mcmahon to head the
10:52 am
s.b.a., the small business administration. linda mcmahon has a strong, bipartisan support, which is rare here in washington, d.c., these days. at the confirmation hearing, mrs. mcmahon was introduced by, endorsed by, and spoken well of by her two connecticut senators, senators blumenthal and senator murphy. perhaps for the first time in history, you had a member of the opposite party supported by the two senators from that state from the other party. but most importantly, she had run against both of those people. and so they had been adversaries previously, but they were here -- they appeared before the committee to enthusiastically endorse her as the head of the s.b.a. and as president trump's appointee. senator blumenthal said "she is an excellent fit for this agency
10:53 am
based on her experience and her expertise as a business leader." senator murphy stated, "i will never question whether she is the experience and the determination necessary to lead this great agency." these are strong endorsements by people of the other party for a person who has been nominated by president trump. this is an important agency. it is not a particularly large agency, but certainly service is one of the, if not the most important sector of our economy. it's important to note that these two colleagues of ours came and supported mrs. mcmcmahon before the committee. for those people who have been watching what's going on in this city since the election, particularly as regards to the appointment by president trump of his cabinet, as he's attempted to fill this cabinet and seen the obstructionism that
10:54 am
has taken place as he tries to fill that cabinet, knows that this city has become a caldron of anger, bitterness, and acrimony since the states came together and selected donald trump to be the president of these united states. so it's good for a bipartisan effort on one of these cabinet members, and linda mcmahon is that person. linda mcmahon is not a bureaucrat. she's about as far from that as you can possibly get. in 1982, she and her husband took over a small business, and it was -- and turned it into a family birks and has operated it since 1982. of particular importance was her description of how she and her husband got there and their struggles as they started with a small business that actually
10:55 am
failed. and her description of that and her feelings about that and how she and her family struggled with that, i think, built the character that they needed to start the business that they did in 1982. and they took that business from 1982 from a small, very few employees and family only to what is now a publicly traded company with a global brand. mrs. mcmahon has the experience in the small business world, both from her struggles at the beginning to her great success, as she worked through making this business succeed, to actually understand what small businesses go through. in meeting with her and discussing with her how important what we do on the small business committee, i can tell you that she shares the
10:56 am
passion that i have about what we can do with the small business and entrepreneurship committee and indeed all committees in the united states senate, and that is get the government out of the way while americans attempt to build a business. she shares the passion that i have with reducing to a bare minimum the regulatory structure that has grown up in america today and is really stifling businesses at all levels but particularly businesses at the small end of the scale. we all know that when the government enacts a regulation, which happens all too frequently and hourly every day, several hourly every day, and they are laid down in front of businesses, a large business really has substantially less difficulty dealing with those. now, large businesses will tell you that's the largest challenge that they have today, most significant challenge that they
10:57 am
have, and that is overcoming the barriers that are put in place by the government as they attempt to succeed and as they attempt to do business. but when a regulation is laid down, a large business has an army and a fleet of lawyers and compliance officers and accountants that can work through these regulations. if you're a small business and you're fixing lawn mowers in your garage and you get a 30-page questionnaire from the government that has significant implications for what's going to happen to you, it is very, very burdensome and cuts deeply into the progress you're trying to make as a small business and provide for your family. so we have an operation within the small business administration which is called the office of advocacy, which has been the office -- i have been on the committee, which all the time i have been here in the senate, has attempted to grow
10:58 am
and strengthen its independence. and the purpose of the office of advocacy is to stand up whenever the government acts in a way that affects small businesses and say, wait, stop, think about this, look what you're doing, and look how this is going to affect business and particularly small business in america with the regulations that you are attempting to impose. linda mcmahon shares my passion in that regard. i have every reason to believe she's going to assist in strengthening that particular division within the small business administration. so based upon her qualifications, based upon her view of small business andent entrepreneurship, based upon their experience in small business and in growing small business and based upon what i think perhaps is going to be one of the only bipartisan efforts we make to construct the cabinet
10:59 am
or assist the president in constructing his cabinet, i would strongly recommend and join my colleague the ranking member in urging all members of the senate to support linda mcmahon in this effort. and in her confirmation. and with that, madam president, i will yield the floor. and i note the absence -- i yield back all time. and i would yield back all time. thank you. the presiding officer: all time is yielded back. question is on the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote: vote:
11:00 am
11:01 am
11:02 am
11:03 am
11:04 am
11:05 am
11:06 am
11:07 am
11:08 am
11:09 am
11:10 am
11:11 am
11:12 am
11:13 am
11:14 am
11:15 am
vote:
11:16 am
11:17 am
11:18 am
11:19 am
11:20 am
11:21 am
11:22 am
11:23 am
11:24 am
11:25 am
11:26 am
11:27 am
11:28 am
11:29 am
11:30 am
vote: the presiding officer: the yeas are 81, the nays are 19. the nomination is tkweurpl -- is confirmed. under the previous order the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order the senate will consider the following nomination which the clerk will report.
11:31 am
the presiding officer: the majoy leader. mr. mcconnell: the senate is not in order. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. under the previous order, the motion to reconsider -- the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table and the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action. mr. mcconnell: i move to proceed to legislative session. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion. all in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it.
11:32 am
the motion is agreed to. mr. mcconnell: i move to proez to h. -- i move to proceed to h.j. res. 40. the presiding officer: which the clerk will report. the clerk: joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5 united states code and so forth. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion to proceed. all in favor say aye. all opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it, the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the joint resolution. the clerk: h.j. res. 40 joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5 united states code and so forth. mr. grassley: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. the senate will be in order. mr. grassley: before i speak on the issue before the senate now, i would ask unanimous consent
11:33 am
that floor privileges be granted this congress for darren tko*d, detailee from the -- dod d detailee from the secret service and the detailee from the department of justice. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: today i come to the floor to address my colleagues about the bipartisan resolution of disapproval that i introduced on january 30, along with senator crapo, and 24 other cosponsors. this resolution now has 32 cosponsors and this resolution of disapproval is absolutely necessary. the resolution is a procedure, as we know, under the congressional review act for repealing executive branch
11:34 am
regulations. the regulation at issue in this disapproval resolution was issued by the social security administration under president obama. this regulation unfairly stigmatizes people with disabilities. if the regulation is not repealed, it will allow the agency to very unfairly deprive social security recipients of their second-amendment rights. the regulation would result in disability recipients being reported to the national instant criminal background check system as ineligible to own a firearm, and thus, have their second-amendment rights
11:35 am
violated. now, this is essentially a national ban -- gun ban list. the agency accomplishes this by doing two things -- determining if a person has a disorder on a vague quote, unquote, mental disorder list, and, two, appointing a representative payee to manage benefit paymen payments. this process has been in place for years to merely assign a representative payee. that's merely someone to help a recipient with their finances who was authorized to deal with the bureaucracy on the behalf of that social security recipient. now it is being used to report
11:36 am
beneficiaries to a list so that they cannot buy or own a gun. and, of course, once on that list, individuals are prohibit prohibited, as i have already inferred, from purchasing, owning, and possessing first time, thus, violating second amendment rights. the regulation is flawed beyond any kind of repair. it results in reporting people to the gun-ban list that should not be on that list at all. it tkpr deprives those peep -- it deprives those people for their constitutional rights, and in a very important way, violating their constitutional rights without even due process. under current federal law, one
11:37 am
must first be deemed mentally defective before being reported to the gun ban list, however, the mental disorder list in this regulation is filled with vague characteristics that do not fit into the federal quote, unquote medically defective standard. the disorder list is inconsistent with the federal mentally defective standard. more importantly, the list was never designed to regulate first time. as such, -- firearms. as such, it is improper to use it for that purpose. many of the disorders on the list are unrelated to gun safety. for example, the disorders list
11:38 am
includes eating disorders, disorders that merely impact sleep or cause restlessness, and even disorders that could cause quote, unquote, feelings of inadequacy. because the second amendment is a fundamental right, the government must have a very compelling reason to regulate, and the regulation must be very narrowly tailored. it's unfairly steug -- it unfairly stigmatizes people then with disabilities. the government is essentially saying that a person with a disability, such as an eating disorder, is more likely to be violent anded should no longer -- and should no longer be allowed to own a gun. there is no evidence to support
11:39 am
that general idea, and consequently, people being denied constitutional rights without due process. and if a specific individual is likely to be violent due to the nature of their mental illness, then the government should have to prove it. pretty basic constitutional law. the government should have to prove if you're denied a constitutional right. the national council on disabilities -- and that happens to be a nonpartisan and independent federal agency -- has said this, quote, the rule stigmatizes a group of people who are not likely to perpetuate the kind of violence the rule hopes to address. furthermore, it deprives a much broader class of individuals of a constitutional right that was intended by federal law.
11:40 am
end of quote. in addition, the american civil liberties union has said, and i quote, we oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. there is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee and a propensity towards gun violence. under of quote by the american civil liberties union. the consortium for citizens with disabilities -- and that's a coalition of 100 national disability groups -- that consortium shares the same concerns about regulation, and i
11:41 am
quote from them -- the current public dialogue is replete with inaccurate stereotyping of people with mental disabilities as violent and danger, and there is a real concern that the kind of policy change encompassed by this rule will have unfounded assumptions. in other words, unfounded assumptions about who might be disabled or not. mr. president, i ask that these letters be entered into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: some of the supporters of the new gun ban have brought forth arguments to try and discredit the other side. they have said that repealing the agency rule will allow the
11:42 am
mentally ill to acquire first time. let me tell you why that is not true. under this regulation the social security administration never ever determines a person to be mentally ill before reporting them to this gun-ban list. it does not provide due process before reporting them to the list. once the agency places a person on this disorder list, it then moves to assign a representative payee. but that is a very flawed process as well. the former social security administration inspector general said the following last year in testimony before a committee
11:43 am
about assigning a representative payee -- a very short quote from the inspector general. it is not a scientific decision. it is a personal opinion. end of quote. now, it's quite obvious, under our constitution of due process, that the personal opinion of a bureaucrat cannot be the basis for taking away a person's second-amendment rights. further, a june 2015 internal social security report found significant shortcomings tph-p the representative -- in the representative payee process, name will that, and i quote from the social security report. the social security capability
11:44 am
determinations were undeveloped, undocumented, and insufficient *r sufficiently -- and insufficiently documented. end of quote. a very legitimate question can be raised. how can any of us be comfortable allowing our fellow citizens to be subjected to such a process -- a process that leads to the violation of constitutional rights? the regulation does not then require a formal hearing at any point. federal law, and other regulations, require that a formal hearing take place. 18usc-4 requires adjudication before depriving someone of the right to own a firearm due to mental illness.
11:45 am
there can be no adjudication if there is no hearing. a 1986 federal register notice said, quote, the legislative history of the gun-control act makes it clear that a formal adjudication is necessary before firearms disabilities are incurred. end quote the obama administration knew that fundamental rights required constitutional due process. at the bare minimum, that requires a hearing. yet in this rule no hearing is being afforded to that individual that will eventually have their constitutional rights abrogated. and of course that out to be considered not only a travesty
11:46 am
but a travesty on the constitution as well. the constitutional due process is entirely nonexistent because there is absolutely no opportunity for an individual to challenge the proceedings against them. the american civil liberties union has echoed the same concerns, and i quote from the aclu. the rule includes no meaningful due process protections prior to the social security administration's transmittal of the names to the national instant criminal background check system database. end of quote from the aclu. the second amendment is very much being tossed aside without a formal dispute process to challenge the actions before a
11:47 am
constitutional right is abridg abridged. on these facts alone, the regulations should be repealed, but there's yet more. the regulation fails to establish that a person is a danger to themselves or a danger to others before taking away the constitutional rights that the second amendment allows. if a right -- if a rule premised on safety is to have any credibility, one would obviously think that the government needs to prove a person is dangerous, but this rule fails in that regard because it does not require the agency to find a person is in fact dangerous. the second amendment is a fundamental right requiring the government to carry the burden
11:48 am
showing a person has a dangerous mental illness. this regulation obviously and simply does not achieve that requirement. to be clear, however, if this regulation is repealed, federal gun prohibitions will still exist. individuals who have been determined to be a danger to themselves or a danger to others will still be prohibited from purchasing firearms. also individuals who are found to have a dangerous mental illness will be prohibited from purchasing a firearm. also a person convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence will still be prohibited from purchasing and owning and possessing a firearm.
11:49 am
the same for those involuntarily committed to a mental institution. so, mr. president, as government expands, liberty contracts, and it follows that with the expansion of government, power is centralized here in this island surrounded by reality that we call washington, d.c. rather than throughout the american people. and often with that centralization of power the centralization of power that you see in this regulation by the social security administration, fairness does not necessarily follow. this obama era regulation is a perfect example of government wielding too much power.
11:50 am
the power to deny people due process, the power to deny people their constitutional rights under the second amendment. the process i described here is extremely problematic and it calls for doing away with this rule by passing this resolution of disapproval. it is not clear that any of these disorders a person is labeled with has anything whatsoever to do with the person's ability to responsibly own a firearm. and there is insufficient due process to ensure that a person actually has a given disorder that would interfere with their safe use of a firearm. notably, even a representative payee has been assigned --
11:51 am
notably, even if a representative payee has been assigned, the individual still maintains the capacity to contract. thus, the government is subject to a very low threshold to report names to the gun list and no burden of proof being necessary. by contrast, under this regulation, those who are reported to the list must prove the negative. they've got to positive that the government's wrong. they must prove in a sense approving the government's wrong, they must prove that they are not a danger in order to get their name off of that gun ban list. for the government to shift the burden to the citizens whose rights it is depriving is clearly unfair.
11:52 am
it's not only unfair, it's unconstitutional. the failure to determine a person mentally ill or that person being a danger to self or to others is a material defect to this regulation. and so is the failure to afford constitutional due process. there is no reasonable basis under this regulation to justify abridging that very important, fundamental constitutional right. and that is why this regulation must be repealed through the passage of this resolution of disapproval. i yield the floor. can you wait a minute. i ask, mr. president, unanimous consent that the senate recess from 12:30 to 2:15 today. the presiding officer: is
11:53 am
there objection? mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, the senate is considering h.j. res. 40, disapproval of misguided social security administration regulation. that infringes on many americans' second amendment rights. as a cosponsor of the senate companion to this resolution which was filed by chairman grassley, i would like to add my voice to that of the many advocates including the national disabilities rights and network and groups like the national rifle association who worked to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners who have expressed support for this important legislation. i would also like to express my appreciation to chairman grassley and others for their leadership on this issue. this ill-advised regulation not only stigmatizes individuals with disabilities, it also violates the second amendment and due process rights of many americans and it should be repealed. as a long time supporter of
11:54 am
americans' constitutional right to keep and bear arms, i was deeply troubled by this regulation which allows the social security administration to report individuals they considered in the words used in the regulation to be -- quote -- mentally defectives -- unquote -- to the national instant criminal background system or nics if they have -- quote -- mental impairments -- unquote -- receive disability benefits and receive them through a representative payee. when someone receives benefits through s.s.a.'s representative payee program, s.s.a. field office employees have deemed them unable to manage their finances. however, s.s.a.'s representative payee program itself is by many accounts infectively administered and you don't have to take my word for it.
11:55 am
as recently as 2013, the government accountability office identified that s.s.a. -- quote -- struggles to effectively administer its payee program. unquote. there are unexplained and large discrepancies across various regions of the country that s.s.a. serves in numbers of beneficiaries who are assigned by s.s.a. field offices to be in the payee program. yet despite these known gaps and discrepancies, s.s.a. apparently thought that this system was sufficient to determine whether some beneficiaries should be afforded a constitutional right. well, that's -- let's be clear. under s.s.a.'s rule, individuals who were not found by s.s.a. employees or any other competent authority to be a danger to themselves or others but rather simply need help managing their finances will be prohibited from legally purchasing a firearm.
11:56 am
while we all want to make sure that the nics system works effectively to prevent violent criminals and those who actually do pose a threat from purchasing firearms, this regulation is exceedingly overbroad. moreover, it is not at all clear to me that s.s.a. employees in field offices should be put in charge of deciding who can legally purchase a firearm. of course the bureaucracies in s.s.a. who were prodded by the obama administration to write the rule say that they will create some sort of internal structure to allow beneficiaries to appeal the decisions of s.s.a. employees. of course that means that s.s.a. would need to construct a new costly adjudication system to review decisions that its employees are not well equipped to make in the first place. this is particularly strange
11:57 am
given that it is standard practice at s.s.a. to decry the agency's funding levels while also claiming that it is already unable to adequately serve its beneficiaries due to budgetary shortfalls. all of this does not add up. the s.s.a. is at all not equipped for this decision making. moreover the standards that would apply under the regulation for s.s.a. to report a beneficiary to the nics represent a luch lower bar than the one anticipated in the applicable federal statutes to determine the eligibility to purchase a firearm. that being the case, we need to pass chairman grassley's resolution of disapproval which has already been approved by the house of representatives with bipartisan support. i encourage my colleagues to join me in voting in favor of this resolution and i want to thank my friend from oregon for allowing me to go forward on
11:58 am
this short senate remarks. i yield the floor. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, i listened carefully to my colleagues on the other side, and i want to make sure people really understand what this debate is all about. this debate is about background checks. it's about mental health. it is not about taking away constitutional rights. and i'm struck, mr. president, and i hope the distinguished president of the senate has taken part in a lot of these debates as well, is whenever there is a discussion about guns in the united states senate, senators get up and says we shouldn't be debating guns. we ought to be debating mental health.
11:59 am
that's what we're talking about here today. mental health and colleagues were talking about background checks. the fact of the matter is you can go into town hall meetings in any part of america and you will hear extraordinary support for the whole idea of background checks. background checks as i indicated is right at the heart of this morning's debate. supporting background checks is not some extreme, far out position to hold. in fact, opposing background checks is the view that's way out of the mainstream of american political thought. a recent poll found that 92% of gun owners supported expanded
12:00 pm
background checks. let me just repeat that. 92% of gun owners, gun owners in america, support expanded background checks. as the courts continue to interpret the language of the second amendment, one matter has been made clear. background checks are a constitutional part of the exercise of those rights. so what i'm going to do is describe what this is all about, but i want to -- as we get going -- make sure that people understand that fundamentally this is about background checks, it's about mental health. it is not about taking away somebody's constitutional rights. so here's how the proposal under
12:01 pm
discussion works. if there is an individual with a severe mental impairment that means that another person, perhaps a family member, is in charge of their social security benefits, then the background check is to be informed by social security that the person with a severe mental impairment is ineligible to buy a gun. now, the fact is you can always talk about tailoring the rule in a slightly, you know, different way. it's critically important that individuals who wind up in the background check system are not treated unfairly. but the fact is anyone who
12:02 pm
thinks that they have been unfairly affected by this proposal can appeal and they are most likely going to win as long as they are not a danger to themselves or anyone else. and if the social security administration says no, that person has the power to take their case to court. so what we're talking about here is, in my view, not about democrats, republicans, -bt liberals and -- republicans, liberals, and conservative, we are talking about plain old unvarnished common sense. we want to stop shootings by those who are in danger of hurting themselves or other
12:03 pm
persons. the rule came out last year, but it goes back to the shootings at virginia tech and sandy hook. what the previous administration sought to do was to find some commonsense gun safety steps that could be taken under laws on the books. i want to emphasize this as we well, mr. president. because whenever we talk about guns, as senators always say, let's use the laws on the books. we don't need to chase new laws and the like. so the administration sought to use the laws on the books -- the previous administration -- to prevent the horrendous acts of violence that have so scared our country in recent years. and i know the distinguished
12:04 pm
president of the senate knows something about that from his own state. so i hope my colleagues will oppose the resolution. i think we're all aware here in the senate that whenever you have a -- an issue that even touches on guns, everybody goes into their corners. they go into their respected, you know, corners. my own view is, and i represent a state with a great many gun owners. i've had more than 750 town hall meetings at home. a lot of them involved debates about guns and overwhelmingly in a state like mine where there are a lot of gun owners, gun owners support make sure --
12:05 pm
making sure there are background checks, they want to address this as a mental health issue, and gun owners overwhelmingly say that they've just had it with congress doing absolutely nothing when it comes to practical, commonsense gun measures like background checks. they just look at what goes on in washington, d.c., and i've had so many, you know, gun owners. this comes up, not just at town meetings, but we have an icon n our state, fred meyer, a store -- i think i've had a chicken in every fred meyer in the state of oregon -- people
12:06 pm
come up and talk about issues like this in a fred meyer. and they say, why in the sporld can't there be -- in the world can't there be democrats and republicans who just can't come together and do something to make our country a little bit safer. that's what this is all about, mr. president. i'm not here to say that this mesh is a panacea, that somehow this is a magical aoe hr*eubgser -- elixer that will reduce gun violence in america. that wouldn't be right and certainly not how i see these, you know, debates. i see this as addressing a commonsense, practical measure relating background checks and mental health. i listened to my colleagues -- my friend from the finance
12:07 pm
committee, senator grassley, and if members of the senate feel so strongly that this particular rule needs addressing, then there ought to be a debate. the senate, democrats and republicans, get together, figure out how to improve the rule, but what's important is that's not going to be possible if this resolution passes. if this rule is struck down under the congressional review act, it wouldn't just scrap this particular background check, it would salt the earth. it would prevent this issue from being addressed for quite a number of years. i'm going to close, mr. president, by talking a bit personally for a minute about why i feel so strongly about
12:08 pm
this. my late brother, jeff, who passed at 51, suffered from schizophrenia, a serious mental impairment. he started to withdraw in his teens, his condition just got worse over the next few years. and we were close. he was just a couple of years younger than me. i watched a continuing odyssey that jeff went through of various mental health tpa silts, -- facilities, run-ins with the law on the street. and i'll say to the president of the senate, that not a day went by in the wyden household when
12:09 pm
we weren't worried that jeff was going to hurt himself or somebody else. and that was the reality for the wyden family and that is a fear that i know is seen in households all across the country day in and day out. my brother received benefits from public programs while he struggled with a mental impairment. my dad wrote a book about it because we were so hopeful at one time. he wrote a book called "conque "conquering schizophrenia." he thought there was a breakthrough drug known as alanz api ne.
12:10 pm
but we always knew it would be a big mistake if jeff wyden could buy a gun, he would have been a danger to himself, he would have been a danger to others, and i don't think americans should have to carry that burden and experience that kind of worry that comes along with the danger that we felt week after week for years in the wyden household and that i know other families across the country feel as well. the president of the senate wasn't in the chair when this began, and i started off by way of saying, you know, to me this is about background checks, it's about mental health. it's not about taking away
12:11 pm
people's constitutional rights. but i can understand why other people would have a difference of opinion. that's what the senate is about. that's what the senate is supposed to do, debate these issues. if somebody says, well, there's a better way to do this, to improve it, count me in. count me in to talk with colleagues, the president of the senate, and others about it. but you oppose this resolution today and you close off that door, you preempt that possibility because of the way the congressional review act actually works. so i urge my colleagues to oppose this. this is what the senate says it wants to do when we talk about guns. i wish i had a nickel, in fact, mr. president, every time the senate talks about guns, i wish i had a nickel for each time a
12:12 pm
senator gets up and says: we shouldn't be working on guns, we ought to be working on mental health. that's what this is about, mental health and background checks. i urge my colleagues to oppose the resolution, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. i've heard my republican friends tell those of us who want the laws of this country changed to protect our constituents against gun violence, that what we should focus on is enforcing the existing law. that we don't need any new laws, all we need to do is focus on enforcing the existing law. senator wyden said he wish he had a dime he has been told that our focus should be on background checks, i wish i had
12:13 pm
a dime every time republicans told us to focus on the existing law. yet, i would also be a rich man every time republicans come down to the floor and try to undermine the existing law, try to rewrite the existing law to make it harder in order to enforce it. the appropriations act is, on an annual basis loaded up with riders that ham spring enforcement agents -- ha hamstringed with enforcement agencies. the c.r.a. we have before us today will make it harder for the federal government to do what we have told them to do for decades, which is to put dangerous people and people who are seriously mentally ill on the list of those that are prohibited from buying guns. that's the existing law. the existing law says that if you are convicted of a serious crime or you have a serious
12:14 pm
mental illness and you have gone through a process by which a determination has been made by a government agency as such, that you should not be able to buy a weapon. why do we have that law on the books? why have we come together as republicans and democrats to say that people with serious mental illness or people who have been adjudicated of violent crimes shouldn't be able to have weapons? the evidence tells us over and over again that if you -- that if you have committed a violent crime, you will commit another one. as we have seen these mass shooters walk into places like sandy hook elementary school or a movie theater in colorado or a classroom in blacksburg, we know that people with serious mental illness this country can go buy
12:15 pm
a very powerful weapon and do great damage with it. now, that does not mean that there is an inherent connection between mental illness and violence. in fact, we know the opposite to be true. if you're mentally ill, you're probably more likely to be the victim of violence than you are to be the perpetrator of it. but we do know that in this country, given the fact that weapons are so easy to come by, people with mental illness, serious mental illness who have an intersection with visions of violence often do great harm. so we made a decision, a collective decision as republicans and democrats that if you have a serious mental illness, you probably shouldn't be able to go and buy an assault weapon. that's what the law says. section 101 of the nics improvement act is entitled "enhancement of requirement that federal departments and agencies provide relevant information to
12:16 pm
the national instant criminal background check system." that is a piece of legislation that both republicans and democrats supported, and it commands that federal agencies provide relevant information to the criminal background check system. what's relevant information? well, a.t.f. defines those that should not be able to buy a gun as one who lacks the mental capacity to manage his own affairs. so there's the existing statute. the existing statute says relative agencies should forward information to the criminal background check system on individuals who are prohibited from owning guns and that is defined in part as individuals who lack the mental capacity to manage his or her own affairs. and that is exactly what the regulation that was proffered by the obama administration the end of next year does. it says that individuals who have filed a claim for disability, who meet the requirements of one of social
12:17 pm
security's mental disorders listing of impairments, have been found to be so severely impaired that they are unable to work, and they have been found with due process of being incapable to manage their own benefits and have had a representative appointed to them to manage their disability benefits, that those individuals meet the definition of someone who lacks the mental capacity to manage their own affairs. and so if you are supporting the c.r.a. today, then you are undermining the ability of law enforcement to do their job, to enforce the law as congress has passed. and so spare me this rhetoric about passing no new laws, we should just focus on enforcement. once again with this c.r.a. you are undermining the ability of the federal government and of law enforcement to enforce the
12:18 pm
law. and let's be clear about what the danger is here. it is correct to state that there is no inherent connection between being mentally ill and being dangerous, but the risk here is not just that an individual is going to buy a gun and use it themselves. the risk is that someone who can't literally deposit their own paycheck probably can't or likely can't responsibly own and protect a gun. i could sit here for the rest of the day and recite to you the number of times that a gun that was owned by one individual got used in an accidental shooting, got taken illegally, stolen from their premises and used in a crime. the danger of an individual who has severe mental incapacity is
12:19 pm
not just that they are going to take that weapon and fire it but that they're not going to own, keep and protect it responsibly. if you can't manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect you are going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm. and we're talking about a very limited group of individuals here who, by the way, under the regulation, have due process to contest the determination. first of all, they have an the to contest -- an ability to contest the decision by social security that they shouldn't be able to manage their own financial affairs, and then the regulation secondarily gives them the ability to specifically contest their limitation on gun ownership. so there is full ability for the individual or for the family to contest this limitation, which
12:20 pm
makes it completely constitutional, this nonsense that this is a restriction of a constitutional right, the heller decision which does hold that an individual has the right to gun ownership also makes it explicit in justice scalia's opinion that there are limitations on that right, and that the scalia decision itself lists as one of those conditions the restriction of gun ownership by people who are seriously mentally ill. so the law is clear that federal agencies are required to upload information on to nics of those individuals who cannot manage their own financial affairs because of mental illness. the supreme court is clear that this is entirely constitutional. so why are we doing this? why are we having a debate about
12:21 pm
rolling back the criminal background check system when 90% of americans support it? i'm just going to tell you no matter what state you live in, you go sit down with your constituents and you tell them that you voted to allow people who are seriously mentally ill to be able to buy guns, you're not going to get a lot of takers. it's not because people don't have compassion for people with mental illness. i worked for the last two years to pass the most substantial mental health reform act that this body has seen in a decade. i've spent as much or more time than anybody in this chamber advocating for the rights of people with mental illness and for their treatment, but i also understand that when people are so mentally ill that they can't manage their own financial affairs, they probably shouldn't buy a gun. that's a small class of people. and, mr. president, what makes me so angry about this is that i
12:22 pm
have no idea how to go back to the people that i represent in connecticut and tell them that in four years since the massacre in a small town elementary school, that not only has congress passed no law, made no change in statute to try to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of would-be shooters but that today we are doing exactly the opposite, that the response to the epidemic of mass shootings in this country is to make it easier for people with serious mental illness to get guns, how do i explain that to people in connecticut? how do the folks representing areas where shootings are a regular occurrence explain that congress has done nothing to
12:23 pm
address mass shootings, to address the epidemic rates of gun violence in our cities, and yet we think it's so important to undermine criminal background check system, not strengthen it, undermine it in the first month of this new administration, this new congress we're rushing through this repeal of a commonsense regulation. that is deeply offensive to the majority of americans who think that we should be strengthening the criminal background check system, not undermining it. 90% of americans think we should have universal background checks. not only are we not listening to them, we are undermining the criminal background check system today. i get that the gun lobby is pretty powerful in this place. i get that they have stood in the way of changes in our
12:24 pm
criminal background check system that are supported by 90% of americans. but even i wasn't cynical enough to think that they had so much power that they could get congress to roll back, to undermine the criminal background check system in the wake of this continued horrific level of gun violence all across the country. senator wyden is right. the danger in this is not just that it has the immediate impact of undermining the criminal background check system but that it potentially blocks our ability to get this right in the future. we don't know what the precedent for c.r.a.'s is because we haven't done them before. what we know is it says you can't pass any regulation that is substantially similar to the regulation that you legislated on. what does that mean in the context of keeping people with
12:25 pm
serious mental illness off -- on the criminal background check system? does that mean that we can't ever legislate or regulate on the narrow issue of individuals who have had their right of financial affairs restricted through social security or is that a broader prohibition that limits the administration's ability to regulate on strengthening of the criminal background check system in a much more comprehensive way? you're playing with fire here because this is a precedent that we knew nothing about. you're playing with fire because you're potentially limiting the ability to ever get this issue right in the future when 90% of americans want us to work together on it. so i understand that this issue is a sensitive one. having spent my entire career working hand in hand with
12:26 pm
committed advocates for people with mental illness, i understand the danger of conflating mental illness with violence. but this is a narrow category of individuals who by definition fit the parameters in existing law for those that are supposed to be on the nics system. and for all the things that we disagree about on gun policy -- i don't suspect we're going to get a meeting of the minds this congress whether all gun sales should be subject to background checks. i don't suspect we'll figure out a way of working together to restrict high capacity assault weapons. i thought at least on keeping the background system that we have and the existing law, the existing law says that individuals who lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs should be included on
12:27 pm
the list of those that are prohibited from buying weapons. and today we are undermining that existing law. we are undermining the enforcement of current statute, something that republicans have said over and over and over again they are not interested in doing. i would strongly urge my colleagues to vote against this measure. i thank the floor for the time. i yield back. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent -- i have four requests i should say for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i would ask that they be approved. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. thune: i would also ask unanimous consent that i be able to complete my remarks before the senate breaks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, yesterday we began yet another
12:28 pm
week of considering cabinet nominations here in the senate. our fourth week to be precise. and we still have a long way to go. if anyone is wondering whether this is a normal confirmation process, mr. president, the answer is no, it's not. historically senate practice has been to quickly confirm a president's cabinet nominee. president obama had six nominees confirmed on his first day as president and nearly all the rest within the first two weeks. in this tradition of speedy confirmation goes back a long way. by the point in every presidency since president eisenhower's, most if not all of the president's cabinet nominees had been confirmed by now. between 1881 and 1933, every incoming president had all of his cabinet nominees confirmed on day one. what's the reason for this? well, historically senators of both parties have recognized that cabinet officials play an
12:29 pm
essential part in getting an administration up and running and doing the business of the american people. once the american people elect a president, the thinking historically has gone it's only right the president be given the advisors he needs to do the job that he was elected to do. that is until now. this year democrats decided that they had enough of timely cabinet confirmations, that they had enough of bipartisanship. since president trump was inaugurated democrats have done everything they can to drag out his cabinet nominations, and you don't have to take my word for it. here's what politico had to say, and i quote, senate democrats are slow-walking the installation of trump's cabinet to a historic degree. they are voting against trump's cabinet picks in unprecedented numbers. that's from politico. two weeks ago "the washington post" published a piece entitled "trump's confirmations really are taking longer than his
12:30 pm
predecessors." democrats, the post noted, have tried to slow the process invoking arcane parliamentary procedure to force delays and boycotting committee meetings to prevent votes. end quote. mr. president, for a party that has spent a lot of time complaining about obstruction, democrats really are taking it to new heights. the senate has had to spend so much time confirming nominees, we have had little time for legislative business. we still have a long way to go to finish confirming the president's cabinet unless, of course, democrats decide to stop obstruction. democrats are not accomplishing anything with their delays thanks to the rules change they put in place back in 2013 -- that was something engineered in 2013 where they broke the rules to change the rules -- but thanks to that rules change they
12:31 pm
can't actually prevent president trump's nominees from being confirmed. the only thing they can do is delay the challenges facing american families. mr. president, democrats may not like president trump, but it is high time they get used to the fact that he's the president. democrats are not helping anyone from are preventing the president from having a fully functioning administration. it is time to allow the senate to move forward with the business of the american people. mr. president, in addition to cabinet nominees, the senate will be considering another key nomination in a couple of weeks and that is judge neil gorsuch's nomination to the supreme court. i met with judge gorsuch last week and it confirmed my opinion that president trump could not have made a better pick for the court. by now i think judge gorsuch's qualifications are well known, his exceptional intelligence, his gift for the written word,
12:32 pm
his outstanding resume, and most of all, his clear understanding of the proper role of a judge. in his remarks at the white house after accepting the nomination, judge gorsuch spoke of a judge's obligation to follow the law as they find it and without respect to their political beliefs. a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge. judge gorsuch has said those words more than once. why? because a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is likely making decisions based on something other than the law. and that's a problem, mr. president. the job of a judge is to interpret the law, not write it. to call the balls and strikes, not to rewrite the rules of the game. everyone's rights are put in jeopardy when judges step outside of their role and change the meaning of the law to suit their personal opinions.
12:33 pm
but, mr. president, judge gorsuch soepbt just understand -- doesn't just understood and a judge's responsibility, he lives it. he's won respect from liberals and conservatives to following the law where ever it leads even when he doesn't like the results. here is what an acting solicitors general for president obama had to say about tkpwupblg gorsuch. i quote, i have seen him up close on the court and on the appellate committee. he brings a sense of fairness and decency to the job. i, for one, wish it with -- it were a democrat choosing the next justice, but since that cannot be, one basic cry taoerpb should be para -- criterion should be paramount, is the nominee someone who will stray beyond the constitution and the laws. i have no doubt that if confirmed, judge gorsuch would
12:34 pm
help to restore confidence in the rule of law. his years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence, a record that should give the american people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him. again, mr. president, those are not the words of a republican. that's what neil cotyale, a former solicitors general had to say about judge gorsuch. one of the democrats' favorite attackic is to accuse republican nominees to be extremists. no matter how hard they try, i don't think they are going to have much success with that tactic against judge gorsuch. when liberty after liberty attest to his fairness and impartiality it is pretty hard to pretend he is anything but an excellent pick for the supreme court. and then there are the stats
12:35 pm
from his time on the tenth circuit. last week "the wall street journal" report and again i quote, judge gorsuch has written some 800 opinions since joining the tenth circuit court of appeals in 2006, only 1.75% drew dissents from his colleagues. that makes 9 the 8% of his -- 98% of his opinions unanimous, even on a circuit where judges were picked by democrat presidents. it was a divided circuit court in terms of composition. let me repeat the last line. 98% of his opinions were unanimous, even on a circuit where seven of the 12 active judges were appointed by democratic presidents. when 98% of your opinions are unanimous, it is pretty much impossible to argue that you're somehow outside of the judicial
12:36 pm
mainstream. very few of judge gorsuch's decisions have gone to the supreme court, but when they have, they have been almost universally upheld, often unanimously. so i wish democrats luck in portraying judge gorsuch as an extremist. i think they are going to have a very uphill climb. mr. president, both liberals and conservatives realize that judge gorsuch would be a terrific addition to the supreme court. i hope that the senate democrats will listen to consensus in favor of his nomination and abandon their threats of obstruction. democrats spend a lot of time talking about the importance of confirming a ninth justice to the court. well, now they are going to have a chance to confirm an outstanding nominee. i hope that they take it. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: will the
12:37 pm
senator withhold his suggestion? mr. thune: i will withhold my suggestion. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess

11 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on