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tv   U.S. Senate Debates Deputy Attorney General Nomination  CSPAN  April 25, 2017 9:59am-12:30pm EDT

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♪ ♪ >> the u.s. senate is about to gavel and for debate on rob rosenstein. all senators privately encouraged to go to the white house tomorrow for a briefing of
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north korea. also discovered that name runs in the background extension. life to the u.s. senate here in c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain dr. barry black will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. o god most high, we know not what a day will bring forth, sorrow or joy, but our eyes are on you. sustain our senators in their work.
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give them the wisdom to repay your grace with the currency of their gratitude. lead them to bear the burdens of the marginalized and so fulfill the law of love. teach them anew the meaning of faith, hope, and love. give them even tempers that can meet upsetting things with calm serenity. lord, keep them from being ashamed of that which they should be proud and proud of that which they should be ashamed.
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we pray in your powerful name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., april 25, 2017. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable ben sasse, a senator from the state of nebraska , to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader pipe yesterday, the senate confirmed former georgia governor sonny perdue to lead the department of agriculture. mr. mcconnell: mr. mcconnell: we took the next step of advancing rod
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rosenstein to serve serve as deputy general. i look forward to confirming mr. rosen seen so he can -- rosen seen so he can get to work without delay. we'll be able to advance the department of labor nominee mr. acosta. he has an impressive background that will serve him well as he leads the department on issues that can support america's employers and employees as well as the overall economy. i'm pleased that mr. acosta has outlined his commitment to ensuring that the department of labor encourages rather than hampers job growth. a welcome change after eight years of job killing and opportunity destroying rules and regulations under the obama administration. i encourage my colleagues to support his nomination so that we can begin this important work to help create jobs, enhance work force development, and support middle class workers. as we advance these nominees, senators are also continuing
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discussions on government funding legislation. these talks have been part of a bipartisan, bicameral process from the start with appropriators continuing negotiations over the state work period. i look forward to more productive conversation with senators, our house colleagues in the white house so we can get this important work done quite soon. now, on another matter entirely, many decades ago, historic tragedy befell a continent and unimaginable horror visited a people. behind cold steel gates and huddled boxed car, man's capacity for cruelty reached grim new frontiers. an inhuman campaign of extermination by an inhuman regime not only took aim at the jewish people but also tore deep at the collective bonds of our humanity. the holocaust continued to run deep in our history and our humanity. it must never be repeated.
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it also must never be forgotten. and today the president of the strongest nation in the world will again join with survivors in the capitol rotunda to help ensure it never is. today's days of remembrance ceremonies serves as yet another reminder of the itch measurable suffering inflicted upon millions of innocent men, women, and children during the holocaust, especially the jewish people. it also serves as a reminder of our responsibility as free people to stand against evil and to defend those who were persecuted. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume executive session to consider the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination,
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department of justice, rod jay rosenstein of maryland to be deputy attorney general. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 12:30 p.m. will be equally divided in the usual form. the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: i will yield the floor if the democratic leader arrives. till his arrive, i would like to do two things. first join in the comments made by the majority leader, senator mcconnell, relative to holocaust remembrance. this is the day when we gather in the rotunda each year to remember the atrocities of world war ii which included holocaust and the victims, so many of the jewish people as well as polish people. the list went on and on of those who were -- gypsies. this was an ethnic cleansing,
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the worst ever seen in the history of this world. we remember this day as we should. mr. president, on a separate issue, before us now is the nomination of rod rosenstein to be the deputy attorney general of the united states. the deputy attorney general oversees the day-to-day operations of the department of justice in any circumstance. this is an important position and requires a nominee with experience and dependence, management skill and good judgment. especially true today. many of us question whether attorney general sessions was the right person to be the chief law enforcement officer of the united states of america at this moment in history. unfortunately, many of the actions of the new attorney general since he was confirmed have not erased these concerns. the attorney general has already begun making dramatic changes at the justice department, including critical issues, like criminal justice, civil rights immigration, and funding for crime prevention. just last week attorney general
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sessions disparaged a federal judge from hawaii who issued an order blocking the trump administration's muslim travel ban. the attorney general sessions said, and i quote, i really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the pacific could issue an order that stops the president of the united states from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power. end of quote. senator mazi hirono, my colleague on the senate judiciary committee and the junior senator from hawaii pointed out that hawaii was granted statehood in 1959 and called the attorney general's comments insulting and prejudiced. also last week attorney general sessions called into question the status of the deferred action for childhood arrivals program also known as daca. when asked about daca, attorney general sessions said, and i quote, we can't promise people who are here unlawfully that they're not going to be deported, end of quote. mr. president, that's exactly what daca does. it is a commitment to young
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people who are brought to the united states as children and grew up in our country that they'll be protected from deportation on a temporary renewable basis. attorney general sessions' statement is contrary to his own administration's policy. as established by president trump and homeland security secretary john kelly who have primary responsibility for immigration enforcement. the last confirmed nominee for deputy attorney general was sally yates, veteran prosecutor, u.s. attorney from georgia. miss yates displayed sound judgment as deputy attorney general. she was unafraid to speak truth to power. miss yates became the acting attorney general at the end of the obama administration and when president trump signed his unconstitutional muslim ban executive order on january 27, sally yates told the white house she could not defend the order in court because she was not convinced it was lawful. miss yates was then fired by president trump for disagreeing with him.
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however, multiple federal courts agreed with miss yates' position and blocked this unconstitutional executive order. time and history have proven miss yates correct. we need a deputy attorney general like sally yates, highly competent with the independence to say no to the president and to the attorney general when necessary. rod rosenstein has served as u.s. attorney for the district of maryland since 2005 under both democratic and republican presidents. i do not question his experience or his competence. as a member of the senate judiciary committee, i look closely at his nomination. i asked him many questions in the hearing. sent some follow-up letters and i appreciate he's been forthcoming in his responses. he has pledged to be an independent voice and has committed that he will not recommend any changes in the justice department policy until he evaluates it, discusses it with appropriate officials and determines that a change is warranted. i expect he'll be confirmed and
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upon confirmation, mr. rosenstein will immediately be tasked with responsibility over critically important issues where he'll need to display both sound judgment and independence. four come to mind. the first is the ongoing investigation into russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election to help the trump campaign. what russia did in our election last year was a cyber act of war against our democracy. it is imperative that we get to the bottom of what happened to make sure it never happens again. i've called for an independent bipartisan investigation into russia's election interference. the republican majority in the house and senate have resisted this call. instead republicans in congress have referred this matter to the intelligence committees of both houses. perhaps hoping that it will fade away behind closed doors. i hope the intelligence committees will step up and conduct an investigation worthy of the importance of this issue. but when it comes to potential
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criminal acts involving russia's election interference, the responsibility to investigate falls solely on the justice department. attorney general sessions has had to recuse himself from the investigation because of his work for the trump campaign and his failure to disclose his context with russian officials. that means the deputy attorney general now has the responsibility over this investigation. it's incumbent on mr. rosenstein to ensure this investigation is conducted with independence, diligence, and integrity. i believe appointing a special counsel is the best way to ensure this. i hope he will make that appointment. if mr. rosenstein does not appoint a special counsel, the spotlight will be on him personally to make sure the investigation is conducted properly no matter where it leads. i hope he exercises good judgment. this investigation is too important to get wrong. the second issue that will require independence and good judgment for the deputy attorney
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general is the justice department's threat to withhold federal funding to prevent violence across america, including the city of chicago. the trump administration's message has been confusing to say the least when it comes to federal efforts to prevent violence. on the one hand, president trump in the middle of the night tweets chicago needs help. send in the feds. but then the administration threatens to cut off critical funding for violence prevention under programs like jag unless cities agree to turn their local police departments into deportation forces. it's pretty obvious. cutting off federal violence prevention funding will hurt the cause of violence prevention. don't take my word for it. ask any law enforcement leader. listen to what the international association of chiefs of police said. and i quote. penalizing communities by withholding assistance funding to law enforcement agencies and other critical programs is counterproductive to our shared
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mission of reducing violent crime and keeping communities safe. it's no secret the attorney general is fixated on immigration, but we need the deputy attorney general to ensure this fixation does not undermine the important ways the justice department and local law enforcement cooperate to reduce violent crime. this administration can't call itself a law and order administration and then do something like cut the funds for violence prevention when police chiefs across america say that is just wrong. the third area of criminal -- critical importance is criminal justice policy. today our federal prisons are 30% overcapacity and runaway prison expenditures are undermining important public safety priorities, like crime prevention, drug courts and addiction treatment. the largest increase in federal prison population has been nonviolent drug offenders who are then separated from their families for years on end as a result of inflexible mandatory
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minimum sentences. this has a destructive effect on communities and erodes faith in america in our criminal justice system. congress needs to pass legislation to reform our federal drug sentencing laws but the justice department's policies for nonviolent drug offenses also can help. under the obama administration, the smart on crime initiative directed federal prosecutors to reserve stiff mandatory minimum sentences for individuals convicted of serious offenses. this initiative has been very effective in focusing the department's limited resources on the worst offenders and assuring that people convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses are not subjected to the same mandatory minimum penalties. attorney general sessions has signaled that he wants to eliminate that smart on crime initiative and certainly those of us who listened to his opposition to criminal sentencing reform are not surprised, but as deputy
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attorney general, mr. rosenstein will share a task force on crime reduction and public safety that's been established by the president. this gives him an important voice. i hope he will work to ensure the department's charging policy reserves stiff mandatory sentences for only serious violent offenders. mr. rosenstein will also be responsible for determining the fate of the justice department's efforts to work constructively with state and local law enforcement to protect civil rights and improve community police relations. in particular, mr. rosenstein should continue negotiations to pursue police reform in chicago backed up by an enforceable consent decree. the former u.s. attorney in chicago, zack fardin, felt strongly a consent decree was needed to address the systemic problems we face. mr. rosenstein has shown more openness to using dissent decrees than secretary sessions.
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i hope mr. rosenstein will look carefully at this issue in chicago and respect the decision of mr. fardin and the career d.o.j. professionals who spent over a year investigating this matter. mr. rosenstein also would be responsible for reining in the attorney general's worst instincts on immigration. it is no surprise to any member of this chamber that when the issue of immigration came to the floor, the leading opponent on immigration reform was senator sessions of alabama. i believe he offered 100 amendments to the immigration reform bill that passed the united states senate. he has spoken out over and over again his opposition to immigration reform. the attorney general has already directed federal prosecutors across the country to make immigration cases a higher priority and look for opportunities to bring serious felony charges against those who cross the border without authorization. federal prosecutors understand this is not the right approach. listen to paul charlton, u.s.
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attorney from arizona under the bush administration. according to him, this new director will overburden the federal courts already struggling to handle the volume of immigration cases. he said, and i quote, prosecution and incarceration do not adequately address the real need, which is reform of the integration laws. let me conclude. i see the democratic leader on the floor. there are a number of critical issues that will require sound judgment and leadership for the next deputy attorney general. i hope mr. rosenstein will approach these issues with professionalism and integrity that has earned him bipartisan praise as u.s. attorney in maryland. i hope he will be willing to speak truth to power and to stand up to the president and attorney general, if necessary. i'll support mr. rosenstein's nomination. i hope we can work together constructively on the important matters facing the department of justice. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: first, let me thank
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my friend from illinois for always his thoughtful and good words. i agree with his sentiments on mr. rosenstein, who i will support as well. now, first, mr. president, i want to say that it's really good news that the president seems to be taking the wall off the table in the negotiations we're having on an appropriations bill this week. it would remove the prospect of a needless fight over a poison pill proposal that members of both parties don't support. on a bill as important as one to keep the government open, it's -- it's a dangerous prospect for the administration to push so hard for such a flawed, incomplete and unthoughtout proposal on a must-pass spending bill. it could tank what would have been productive, bipartisan, bicameral negotiations between the leaders in both houses. if the threat of the wall is
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removed, as i hope is the case, our negotiations can continue and we can hopefully resolve all of the outstanding issues by friday. make no mistake about it, there are other important issues to resolve. no poison pill riders, above all. and the ratio of defense and nondefense spending in terms of increases above the baseline. on the nondefense side, minors is very important on our side, getting permanent health care for these miners who have struggled their whole lives. the issue of cost sharing where six million people could lose their health care because it would become unaffordable. and the issue of puerto rico, which is struggling so, are among those that we feel are important as well. and there are other issues to resolve as well, but i'm hopeful we can address them as the week
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moves forward. poison pill riders are something that could really hurt the bill, and we don't want that to happen. now, on another matter, mr. president, as we quickly approach the 100-day mark of the trump presidency, it's a good time to look back on what this administration has accomplished and has not accomplished. one thing is clear. this president has either broken or failed to fulfill many of the promises he made to working families during the campaign. this morning, i'd like to focus on one area in particular. this president's promises to working people on jobs and the economy. one of the president's key rationales as to why he would be an effective president was that he was a good businessman who could create jobs and get the economy moving much faster than anyone predicted. but on the major issues of jobs, outsourcing, buy america, trade,
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key economic issues that help job growth in america, that help working families, president trump has made scant progress during his first 100 days and broken several core campaign promises he made to kick start the economy for working families. on jobs, president trump said he was going to be, quote, the greatest job president that god ever created, unquote. but have we seen one significant piece of legislation that would create jobs from this president? what about infrastructure, for instance? that's something that would create tons of good-paying jobs and candidate trump talked about it a lot when he campaigned. he promised to fix america's crumbling infrastructure, pledging a $1 trillion plan to do it. but we haven't seen any details of any plan yet. no comprehensive plan to rebuild
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our infrastructure has been introduced by any republicans in congress. so we democrats came out with our own trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, taking what the president said in his campaign. the bill would create 15 million good-paying jobs, going to the working families of america. we haven't seen any proposal or gotten any response to our proposal from the president. the only thing we've seen from president trump on infrastructure is that he's proposed multibillion-dollar cuts to vital transportation programs in his 2018 budget. saying one thing in the campaign, infrastructure jobs. doing exactly the opposite -- cutting infrastructure jobs in his proposed budget for next year. on outsourcing, candidate trump lamented the fact that so many companies were shipping u.s. jobs overseas, promising, quote,
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we're going to stop it on day one. it's so easy to stop. while president obama used regulatory measures to stop inversions in their tracks of a company in new york, pfizer, it was so wrong to try to invert. president trump has just signed an executive order to review those rules and potentially undo them. the exact opposite of what he campaigned on. this is astounding. he's going to prevent jobs from going overseas. president obama put in regulations that have stopped virtually stopped inversions, companies moving their headquarters overseas for tax breaks. and president trump directly in contradiction to what he's talked about over and over and over again in his campaign says now let's review those rules and possibly undo them. it's just hard to comprehend. hard to comprehend.
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president trump said his policy would be buy american and hire american, and he's had a bunch of little rallies where he talks about this. but he's refused to insist that pipelines and water infrastructure be made with american steel. if he was serious about stopping outsourcing, he would demand that senate republicans put senator baldwin's bill requiring infrastructure to be made with american steel on the senate floor. if we increase water and sewer, it's one of our biggest infrastructure proposals, american steel would get a huge boost if they had to buy american steel. senator baldwin has a bill that does it. president trump has not gotten any action. he ought to tell leader mcconnell, tell speaker ryan he's for that bill, and they should bring it to the floor and with a lot of democratic votes, probably every one, just about, we can pass it. on afraid, -- on trade, another
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crucial issue for the american worker, maybe the issue that president trump garnered the most support for from working families. well, he's made some big promises, but he's either broken them or failed to deliver in his first 100 days. he pledged to hold china accountable for its rapacious trade practices which have robbed millions -- robbed america of millions of jobs and cost trillions of dollars of wealth. he said china was, quote, world champion of currency manipulation and pledged to maim it a currency manipulator on day one. now president trump has done neither of those things, and he's broken his promise to name them a currency manipulator, and he's backed off his promise to get tough with china on trade in general. mr. president, this is an issue i'm passionate about, and i didn't agree with president trump on a whole lot of issues, but when he talked about china in the campaign, i said i am
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closer to president trump on how we treat china than i was with president obama or president bush, and i thought it would be one of the areas where we would make real progress -- i'm so excited, i dropped my microphone. and i thought it was one of the areas, mr. president, that we could make real progress, and instead we have seen a u-turn. china, not a currency manipulator when he said over and over again they were. and they are manipulating their currency. now, i know all the free trade pundits get up and say, yeah, but now they are not reducing the value of their currency. they are doing the opposite of what they did when they made it easier for them to export. but they're still manipulating it. it still doesn't float. and sure as we're sitting here, if china's advantage to once again devalue the currency so they can have more exports and unfair advantages over american workers, they will do it in a minute. and furthermore, had he called
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china a currency manipulator, it would have sent a shot across china's bow. for years, frankly, under democratic and republican administrations, china has gotten away with economic murder. they steal our intellectual property. they don't let good american companies into china. they buy american companies to get their technology. and then produce it in china and try to export it here. and they have over the years manipulated the currency to their advantage, among many other things. they're hurting us. probably nothing has done more to hurt american jobs than china's rapacious trade policies. and president trump is nowhere to be found. in fact, doing the opposite of what he promised on trade. so instead of sticking up for hardworking, middle-class americans by trying to create jobs and get tough on both trade
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and outsourcing, president trump has spent the last few months looking out for powerful corporations and the special interests he repeatedly campaigned against, breaking promise after promise to working families. it's a shame he's taken this route. on issues like infrastructure, outsourcing and trade, we democrats agree with many of the things candidate trump was saying. but he's nowhere to be found to work with on these issues. president trump could have chosen to spend his first 100 days working with us democrats on these issues, finding compromises, consensus to fulfill his promises to working america. instead he spent the first 100 days governing from the very hard right, refusing to seek democratic input on any major legislation. that's not how you get things done here, and that's why the president has so little to show for his first 100 days.
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we democrats are prepared to work with them to give the middle class and those struggling to get there a much-needed boost, but the president and republicans in congress need to start reaching out and meeting us halfway. as i've told the president many times, if he governs from the middle, if he's willing to work with both parties to get things done, we might be able to compromise on some of the really important economic issues where we've had these values for a long time -- the ones i just mentioned. but if the president and republicans in congress continue their my way or the highway approach, the next 100 days will be just like the first. a lot of broken and unfulfilled promises and very few accomplishments from this new administration. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. cantwell: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, president trump is expected to issue an executive order directing the department of interior to review all of our national monuments issued over the past 20 years to see whether those monuments should be reduced in size or repealed. mr. president, it's clear to me that many of us know the value of our public lands, but i am questioning whether our president understands that trying to illegally roll back these national monuments are some of the most treasured lands in our country and is something we should not do. the shortsighted move is a pretext to attacking the
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designation of the bears ears national monument in utah, sacred to five tribes, the bears ears intertribal coalition and a breath-taking sight for all americans who come to experience what is the unbelievable unique beauty of the west. whether they are there hiking or climbing or vacationing, it is a special place. but president trump's executive order is expected to go even further than just bears ears. reviewing any designation in the last 20 years, threatening the question of the san juan island or the hanford risch national monument and the creation of other sites around the united states and threatening our economies. time and time again, the trump administration is pushing for policies that are harmful to our recreation economy, a disaster for our pristine places and set a terrible precedent for future conservation efforts. the antiquities act is just one of our nation's successful conservation laws.
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it was signed into law in 1906 by president theodore roosevelt to designate devil's tower in wyoming as our nation's first national monument. in 110 years since its enactment, the antiquities act has been a very useful tool by 16 different presidents, eight republicans, eight democrats, to designate more than 140 national monuments, including, as i mentioned, the san juan islands and hanford risch in the state of washington. nearly half of all our national parks, including the national icon such as the grand canyon or olympic national park were first designated as national monuments under the antiquities act, so it is a very helpful tool to making sure we preserve these special places. i will note, too, mr. president, that only 4% of all federal land in the -- 4% of all land in the united states is set aside this way, for federal designation.
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so of all the entire country of the united states, we are asking that 4% of the land that are these unique, special places be preserved for the american public and not turned over to special interests for oil and gas mining. i also think it's important to know that the antiquities act gives the president the authority to make sure that these monuments are designated because from time to time there are those who do not believe in these special places. i note that when the grand canyon was being considered, an editorial in that time period editorialized, quote, the idea of protecting the grand canyon represents a fiendish and diabolical scheme. now, i don't think that's what americans think today about the grand canyon, nor do they think that it was something that hasn't enriched the lives of millions of americans over the years or added to our economy and tourism. so i find it ironic that the
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same people think that the designation of bears ears is somehow a fiendish and diabolical scheme. well, what i know is that the president is wrong to think he can use the an particular yit wisconsin act in -- antiquities act in reverse. in 1938, an attorney general opinion was issued stating that the president did not have the authority to use it in reverse, so i think any attempt by the trump administration to modify or revoke earlier national monuments proposals is without the legal authority to do so. but i also want to make sure that we're talking about how important and how special bears ears is. it is a monument of true significance. it encompasses 1.3 million acres of beautiful desert hills, mesas, sandstone canyons in southeastern utah and is home to some of the most spiritually significant lands of local tribes, and the best rock climbing in the world. bears ears encompasses native
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american archaeological sites, dating back at least 13,000 years, and the area is covered in rock and petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and artifacts. so if nothing else, those expression placings should be preserved. it is also special to many of the early inhabitants of that asian the navajo tribe, the ute tribe, the hopi tribe and the zuni tribe. they are important to these areas for ceremonial hunting and fishing areas. it also continues to be one of the richest pail on-toll logic resources in our nation with fossil records dating back thousands of years. so it is easy to see how important and why it's important that this special place was designated. in addition to its historical and cultural significance, bears ears is also a world-class
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recreation resource visited by rock climbers all over the world. it's also visited by hunters and hikers and canyoneers and mountainbikers and an entire conservation community. that is why the outdoor retail industry, which had previously located its twice-annual event in utah, decided after two decades that they were pulling out. that's right. they are pulling their $40 million to the utah economy out because they are against the efforts by many in utah to oppose the bears ears monument and try to get the president to reverse the antiquities act and then sell off that federal land for oil and gas exploration. i was so proud to see the outdoor industry take such a bold step. companies like rei, patagonia, black diamond, outdoor research
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really made a big and bold statement. they decided that if the state was going to attack the very economy that was so important to their jobs in recreation that they were going to do something about it. and so i agreed when the salt lake tribune told, quote, said, who we are and where we are headed, we need leaders with better appreciation with the gifts god has given everyone, not just people in utah, end quote. so what's ironic and sad is at the same time the trump administration is ways and meaning war on public lands and fighting imaginary ones like the war on coal, we have new data on just what an economic engine the recreation industry is. just made, the outdoor industry association released a new report -- released a new report. today the recreation economy generates $887 billion in
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consumer spending every year. that's up more than $2 i billion from $646 billion the last time the study was done a few years ago. so what does this tell us? not only do more americans enjoy the recreation on our public lands, that an economy has been built around it and it continues to grow and thrive with new products, new services, and more comfortable and innovattough ways to enjoy -- and innovative ways to enjoy the outdoors. and the recreational economy is responsible for 7.6 million jobs in this country. again, that's a growth of 1.5 million since the last time the report was done. and meanwhile the trump administration seems perfectly content to do the bidding of these coal and natural resource industries instead of focusing on these jobs and these recreational opportunities that are booming. in fact, the clean energy
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economy is now supporting more jobs than fossil fuels in 26 states and the district of columbia. so it is an economy that exists in many being many parts of our country. so on top of that effort to try to gut these issues and use the antiquities act in reverse, the president is also expected to gut some of our key investments in science and innovation that are also helping us grow in new ways. i will tell you that pollution is not an economic strategy. we cannot turn the economy of the past into a hope for the future. what we need to do is make sure we're paying attention to the unique resources that these special places represent and the great heritage of both republican and democrat administrations who have done great work by designating places like the grand canyon. i hope that all my colleagues
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will realize that this is a futile effort and that these special places do not belong to us. they do not belong to the people who are here on the senate floor. they belong to generations and generations and generations and generations of americans. so for those great presidents, republicans and democrats, who made those decisions and created those special places for all of us, thank you, and i hope that some future generation will be standing here thanking us for the protection of bears ears and all the national monument designations that have taken place over the last two decades. i thank the president. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. peters: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. peters: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. peters: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to acknowledge and honor michigan farmers. agriculture is a vital part of michigan's economy. in fact, michigan is home to more than 51,000 farms that contribute over $100 billion to our nation's economy. michigan is also the second most diverse agricultural producer in the nation, growing more than 300 commodities, including a significant portion of our nation's milk, corn, cherries, cucumbers, and much more. last week i had the pleasure of visiting the echeck dairy farm. it was incredible to see firsthand how this family-run dairy has grown from a small farm of just a few dozen cows to a large dairy
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operation with 700 cows and seven full-time employees. today the echeck dairy works with the michigan state university extension program to help mentor new businesses and farmers who are just starting off with their own small dairy operation. michigan's farmers and farmers all across our country feed our country and people around the globe, and we must do what we can to support them. our agricultural businesses rely on the ability to access the resources they need to keep growing, creating jobs, and contributing to our economy. access to these resources can be especially challenging for new small farm operations that are just getting started, including those small farms that make up 82% of michigan's agricultural producers. small farms are just starting up. or if they're facing tough economic conditions will struggle
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to find and secure affordable credit. that is why i'm working across the aisle with senator tillis to urge congressional appropriators to fully fund the farm agency program as congress considers funding bills for 2018. the farm service agency works to guarantee and deliver small-dollar loans to the small farms that need them the most. when a farm has no other options, farm service agency loans and guarantees can help farmers cover urgent operating costs like feed, seed and fertilizer to get them through the season. without these loans, farmers could lose their ability to purchase equipment and other necessities for the planting season and could be forced to curtail their operations. currently more than 2,300 farms in michigan have farm service agency loans totaling over $630
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million. across the country last year, the farm service agency made guaranteed, guaranteed a total of 39,650 loans totaling $6.3 billion. it is critical that farm service agency funding reflect expected demand for loans so small farms can continue to have this crucial lifeline. this program is in such high demand that just last year, the farm service agency ran out of money to finance its operating loans, including more than 1,000 loans that had already been approved for small farmers. this led to a backlog of loans and farmers were forced to wait for months until congress passed emergency funding to get the loans they needed for their day-to-day operations. access to capital is critical across a range of businesses, but it is incredibly important to our farmers. they can lose out on an entire
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growing season if they can't buy the equipment and the supplies that they need while they wait for congress to fund the farm service agency. today ensuring the farm service agency has sufficient funding is even more critical, especially following president trump's proposed $4.7 billion cut to the u.s. department of agriculture. like our small businesses, students and families, america's farmers deserve to have affordable loan options, and they deserve our attention and our support. i urge my colleagues to join me in asking for a robust farm service agency funding so we can continue to support our farming communities as they support and sustain us each and every day. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i'd ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as we come back into session after a two-week state work period, i think we need to take stock of what we have been able to accomplish working together during the last few months. through the efforts of the administration and by working with congress, we've been able to greatly lessen the regulatory
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burden on many american job creators, something sorely needed while our economy has been bumping along roughly 2% growth of our gross domestic product since the great recession of 2008. we also confirmed a ninth supreme court justice and we've seen strong credible action against people like the terrible assad regime in syria. but it's important to remember as folks continue to judge the current administration and its foreign policy in particular how we got here, and what this white house inherited after eight years of the obama administration. as president obama left office, he left in his wake fires burning around the world. there's no better example than the middle east. president obama celebrated the arab spring as a testament to the power of a democratic voice,
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but he did little to help our partners across the middle east and north africa find stability and prosperity. along the way he made the world a lot more dangerous for all of us by his inaction. or in some cases by his actions. libya is one of the most tragic examples. under president obama's watch, without coming to congress but instead going to the united nations for a resolution, under president obama's watch the country fractured after he helped launch a poorly conceived military campaign that helped depose ma moammar company daffy with no plan on what -- qaddafi with no plan on what to do after. despite all the criticisms of president bush's 2003 invasion of iraq, he learned very little from it. and terrorists, including isis, jumped at the opportunity to fill the vacuum in libya. later the american consulate in
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benghazi would be attacked resulting in the death of four americans, including ambassador christopher stevens. that was the result of president obama's failed strategy in lib libya. to the east as 2016 came to a close, syria was embroiled in even more disarray, more bloodshed, and more violence than when the civil war initially broke out. president obama promised the world now e inowe infamously tht should the syrian government use chemical weapons that at that point a red line would have been crossed. we know how that turned out and so do the citizens of syria and so do, importantly, other thugs, autocrats and dictators around the world. red lines crossed but not enforced. while president obama's threats went unanswered, russia became
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golder -- bolder in its support of assad as it became clear the united states would not intervene. and now in light of years of inaction by the previous administration, we have a refugee crisis in the middle east and throughout europe. millions of people displaced both internally and externally across europe. we have a war criminal leading the syrian government who has repeatedly used chemical weapons indiscriminately killing civilian, including children, in a region even further from any measure of stability than when president obama took office. but instead of developing a strategy, instead of listening to his own military and national security leadership, president obama and his team perversely operated -- opted, excuse me, to strengthen our adversary iran. the ill-conceived gcaop deal -- the state sponsored terrorism as
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a future of nuclear power. it released billions of dollars in sanctions relief to the regime, and it empowered our enemy to engage in even more terrorist activities abroad than around the world. the bottom line after eight years of the obama administration, our foremost enemy in the middle east became stronger, not weaker, and on top of all that, president obama pushed aside our strongest ally in the region, israel, time and time again to appease nations working against us. s that's simply not -- that's simply not how the united states should operate in its leadership role around the world. i can go on and on about the policy failures of the last administration with respect to the middle east, but it's not the only region in worse shape. under president obama's watch, russia invaded crimea and
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eastern ukraine. it repeatedly threatened nato member states and ramped up its use of propaganda and cyber espionage to influence and undermine public confidence in free and fair elections both here in the united states and in europe. along the way our allies in europe were cast aside rather than being assured of our support, all with russia's mounting aggression close by. in the pacific china continued to advance its regional dominance by making claims to islands disputed by our allies going so far as to convert sand bars and reefs into island military bases, some with 10,000-foot military capable runways right there in the south china sea. finally, north korea continues to develop and test its nuclear and ballistic missiles capabilities with the threat of soon being able to use both to reach the continental united
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states. north korea carried out four nuclear tests during the obama administration. that's simply unacceptable. the truth is, mr. president, after two terms of inaction, after no coherent strategy and leading from behind, our allies and partners around the world were requesting the -- questioning the commitment and power of the united states and our ability to defend our national interests around the globe. so i personally am thankful for what we've seen president trump accomplish so far, even in a short period of time. his tough but honest discussions about america's role in the world are appreciated not only by those of us here at home but by our allies and friends around the world who have been hungry for american leadership. when assad crossed the line, the entire international community deemed abhorrent president trump
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unlike president obama took action. unfortunately president trump has inherited foreign policy predicaments created by the action and inaction of his predecessor around the world. my hope is that president trump will continue to work with the great team he's assembled to make sure the united states interests are put first and that america continues to exert its leadership role around the world. the truth is a strong america and an america that leads is a stabilizing and peacekeeping influence around the world. just the opposite is also true. as america retreats, there is no other country that can fill that leadership vacuum. it's inherently destabilizing and it's an invitation to bad actors around the world to take advantage of that power vacuum. so i look forward to working with the administration as well as all of our colleagues here in the congress to help keep
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americans safe by making clear that we will back up and support our allies and partners abroad and send a powerful message to those who threaten our interes interests. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the calling of the quorum be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: before i speak, i have a unanimous consent request. i have five requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders, so i ask consent. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: okay. i support mr. rosenstein's nomination to be deputy attorney general. not only is he very experienced and an accomplished attorney, he served in the justice department for almost three decades under five different presidents, but he served as u.s.
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attorney for the district of maryland under both presidents bush and obama. i think that's a very rare record of service. during his nominations hearing to be deputy attorney general, mr. rosenstein promised us that he would, quote, work to defend the integrity and independence of our justice department to protect public safety, to preserve civil rights, to pursue justice, to advance the rule of law, and to promote public confidence. end of his quote. however, many members have mentioned that they're concerned about the f.b.i. director's announcement of an investigation of russia, and during his
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nomination hearing, mr. rosenstein was repeatedly and repeatedly asked if he would commit to appointing a special counsel to handle any investigation in that matter dealing with russia. now i was impressed with his unfailing commitment to independence when he answered these questions so rather than prejudge investigations before he knows the facts, he unwaveringly promised to make decisions only after thoroughly reviewing all the relevant information of any particular case. he committed to not prejudge the situation before he knew the facts, and he committed to conducting every investigation with
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independence. i personally believe that mr. rosenstein possesses the necessary independence to conduct any investigation of this type. he told us that he never met with russian officials, nor has he spoken to the president or the attorney general about this matter in any way. and he spoke in great lengths about his career-long commitment to independence and to conduct his work free from political concerns. in fact, we already know that he was -- he has a well-known reputation for independence. so we have this very good example. in 2012, attorney general holder specifically asked mr. rosenstein to handle a special investigation
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into the leaks of classified information because of, and i'd say solely because of his reputation for independence and impartiality. when republicans suggested a special prosecutor might be appropriate, members of the judiciary committee assured us that none was necessary precisely because mr. rosenstein was at the helm of the investigation. one member of the committee described him as a scrupulous man -- quote, unquote -- and independent -- quote, unquote. there was -- continuing to quote -- no reason to believe why he cannot work with the f.b.i. and assemble a very strong prosecution team where warranted.
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end of quote. mr. rosenstein is still scrupulous and still independent as he demonstrated it at his q&a with members of the committee. if mr. rosenstein could conduct an investigation with independence because holder asked him to do it, then he could certainly do it now. furthermore, mr. rosenstein comes with high recommendations from a bipartisan list of former attorneys general and deputy attorney deputy attoy attorneys general, and he comes with high recommendations from his home state senators current and former, and probably all of those fall into the category of being democrats and so that ought to give further weight to his independence, particularly when you have a republican president and democrat
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senators are expressing those views. i want to quote one former senator mikulski, whom we all know wrote the committee and told us that he will be a, quote, strong, experienced leader at the justice department who is fair and committed to the equal application of our laws. and in these polarized times, now more than ever, we need a strong, experienced leader at the department of justice who is fair and committed to the equal application of our laws. i hope the senate will confirm rod rosenstein for this position important. end of quote from former senator mikulski of maryland. the other maryland senator, our colleague now, senator cardin,
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described all of mr. rosenstein's professional accomplishments when he was introducing mr. rosenstein at the hearing. he said, quote, what impresses me the most, he has done this in a total nonpartisan manner. end of quote. and then senator cardin concluded by saying, quote, i think mr. rosenstein is the right person at the right time to be deputy attorney general. end of quote. finally, james cole, who happens to be president obama's deputy attorney general, wrote to inform the committee that mr. rosenstein will respect the need for the department, quote, to not only enforce the
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laws, but to also maintain a level of independence that enables it to have credibility in the eyes of our citizens. end of quote. from all i see and know about him, i believe mr. rosensp his promise for integrity and independence. he promised us if he is confirmed as deputy attorney general, quote, all investigations under my supervision will be initiated and conducted in a fair, professional and impartial manner without regard to political considerations. end of quote. it seems to me that we can't ask for anything more from any appointee to be this important position of deputy attorney general. so i urge all my colleagues to join me in voting to confirm
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mr. rosenstein to be deputy attorney general. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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