tv U.S. Senate Confirms Deputy Secretary of State Nomination 94-6 CSPAN May 24, 2017 9:59am-12:00pm EDT
ladies and gentlemen, your armies fy '18 request seeks to satisfy the objectives and the themes laid up previously in this briefing and restated on this final slide. they do for your attention, and i welcome your questions at this time eric yes, sir. >> you mentioned you are moving counter towards updating legacy platforms and away from the new start. it's at the ground mobility vehicle and the firepower vehicles? last year new start were supposed to i guess priorities for infantry brigades, are those gone? has a? >> they are not conduct they are just not a new store in in goal for this year. >> sounds like you're focusing a bit on a lease of the things you mentioned -- >> one of several 2010 budget hearings with covered briefings as well but you can find them at c-span.org for this one search army budget. we will take you live tedious senator capito in to resume debate on the nomination of
the senate. the chaplain will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. .gracious and loving god, you continue to give us reasons for rejoicing in your love and grace. we praise you for the beauty of the sunrise and the glory of the sunset. today, guide our lawmakers with your wisdom and love, empowering them to
strengthen men and women on life's journey. lord, help our senators to remember that nothing is impossible for you, for your grace and might hold the galaxies in place. .lord, we are grateful for your presence in this chamber, our nation, and our world. .use us all for your glory and for the good of those in need. .continue to do in our lives exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we
can ask or imagine. .we pray in your merciful 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, may 24, 2017. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable tom cotton, a senator from the state of arkansas, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g.hatch, president pro tempore.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell:
a new report released last night from the department of health and human services reveals startling new numbers showing just how substantial premium increases have been under obamacare. according to that report, average annual obamacare premiums have increased by nearly $3,000 since 2013, the year that most of the health care law's mandates and regulations actually went into effect. in other words, it's now clear that average obamacare plans on the exchanges more more than dod from 2013 from 2013 until now. that's an increase of 105%, or nearly $3,000, and these figures are based on the obama administration's own data.
but these exorbitant costs are just one part of the problem. to say nothing of the shrinking choices of insurers offering plans on the obamacare exchanges across the country. last week our colleague from iowa, chairman grassley, came to the floor and shared with us the story of the tacoma narrows bridge, a bridge in washington state that was, as he put it, set to fail from the very beginning. he told us how the bridge was built on a flawed design, how it self-destructed and how it eventually collapsed. much like that bridge, he said obamacare is becoming its own bridge to nowhere with no insurance plan on its exchanges. boy, he's right about that. as time goes on, more americans are finding themselves with fewer obamacare insurance options to choose from on the exchanges. take a look at the map behind me, and you'll see what i mean.
on this map, fewer choices. the number of insurers on the obama exchanges in 2017. what does it reflect? in more than 1,000 counties across 26 states, families have only one -- just one -- obamacare option to choose from in the marketplace. obamacare customers in five states have only one insurer left on the exchanges. and as a recent article predicted, insurer choice in the a.c.a. marketplace could hit an all-time low next year, in 2018. so let's let that sink in for a minute. families across the country could experience an all-time low when it comes to their choices for obamacare plans next year. in other words, things are likely to only get worse. still, despite all the news reports and the studies and the personal stories shared by
constituents, some of our colleagues simply refuse to face the realities of this failed law. consider what we saw just yesterday when a group of democratic senators held a press conference essentially advocating for the obamacare status quo in rural america. but in case our friends missed it, i want to share a recent headline which reveals what obama's status quo has actually meant for families in these regions of the country. here's what it read: "rural shoppers face slim choices, steep premiums on exchanges. rural shoppers face slim choices, steep premiums on exchanges." the article went on to cite a study showing that obamacare customers living in less populous areas of the country in 2017 frequently had just one or two insurers from which to pick and often faced significantly
higher premiums than did people in more urban areas. much like that dilapidated bridge chairman grassley described, obamacare is self destructing all around us. we know things are likely to get worse unless we move beyond the failures of obamacare. in his home state of iowa, more than 70,000 people are facing the harsh reality that they may be left with absolutely no options -- none. only obamacare individual -- on the obamacare individual market. zero. many virginians recently learned they could also have fewer choices on the obamacare exchanges next year. in fact, people in 27 of the state's 95 counties could have just one option for coverage through the obamacare marketplace in 2018. tennesseans in 16 counties are in a similar distressing situation as they too are likely to have just one choice when it
comes to signing up for insurance through the obamacare exchanges next year. so these are just the latest developments in obamacare's dwindling options which over the years have continuously pushed too many people off their plans and left them with fewer choices. take one knoxville, tennessee, woman who recounted her experience in a recent news article. in 2015, she signed up for an obamacare plan with one major insurer, but by the end of the year that company pulled out of the marketplace, leaving her to find a new plan. in 2016 she was forced to sign up for an obamacare plan with another insurer. again, at the end of the year that company, that company left the marketplace as well. and now in 2017, she signed up with yet another obamacare plan
with yet another insurer. and you guessed it. at the end of this year that insurance company will also exit the obamacare marketplace leaving the tennessee mom to find an alternative option one more time. unfortunately, mr. president, her story is not unique. as insurers on the exchanges continue to propose premium increases and announce their intentions for participation next year, we can expect even more troubling news to roll in. these families deserve relief from obamacare, a failing law with limited, even nonexistent choices which continue to shrink on the collapsing marketplace. these families deserve relief from obamacare, a failing law with skyrocketing premiums which have risen by double-digit rate increases all across our country. these families deserve relief from obamacare, a failing law with mandates which require
people to buy plans even they aren't -- that aren't right for their families, even if there are no suitable choices to pick from, even if they are too expensive to actually use. how much more? how much more will it take for our democratic colleagues to realize that we have to move beyond the failures of obamacare? the only way these families are going to get the help they need and that so many have called for as is if we actually take action. the republican senate has been clear that we aren't okay, we aren't okay with standing by and allowing the system to crash completely, dragging down even more families along with it. we know that just like that collapsing bridge, obamacare wasn't built on a sturdy foundation, nor were its policies truly built to last. just like the bridge, it may have looked really good from the outside. we all remember the lofty claims
our democratic colleagues made about the law. but it never ever lived up to the fanfare. i know it's a disappointing reality for our friends across the aisle who championed the failed health care law. we know it's not the outcome they had hoped for. but the status quo is simply unacceptable. we expect the congressional budget office to release an updated score of the bill the house passed later today. it's a technical, procedural step beyond likely reiterating things we already know, like that fewer people will buy a product they don't want when the government stops forcing them to. the updated report will allow the senate procedurally to move forward and work and draft its own health care legislation. so whatever c.b.o. says about the house bill today, this much is absolutely clear, the status quo under obamacare is completely unacceptable and
totally unsustainable. prices are skyrocketing. choice is plummeting. the marketplace is collapsing. and countless more americans will get hurt if we don't act. no one should be comfortable with that. i know i'm not. and i certainly hope our democratic colleagues aren't either. so instead of continuing to hold press conferences in what ultimately can only be described as a defense of the obamacare status quo, i'd ask our democratic colleagues to come to terms with the situation americans are facing, to stop the empty rhetoric, to join us in finally helping those who have been hurt by this failing law. now, mr.
president, on another matter, as the senate continues to process nominations, i'd like to take a moment to say a few words about one for the united states court of appeals
for the sixth circuit, whom we'll confirm this week. judge amul r. thapar served with distinction on the united states supreme court for the eastern district for a decade. having previously served as u.s. attorney for that same district and as assistant u.s. attorney for several years before that. he was the first south asian american to become a federal judge. and once he's confirmed to the sixth circuit. judge thapar will be only the second south asian american to serve on a federal circuit court. the american bar association has given him its highest rating, unanimously well qualified. that meant the group that rated him was no one who didn't give him a well-qualified rating, which is the best they could give any nominee. i certainly couldn't agree more with that characterization. judge thapar is an excellent jurist. i know he'll make a great
mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. now, yesterday, former c.i.a. director john brennan testified in the house intelligence committee that he had
growing concerns about russian interference in the final months of the 2016 election, adding that an investigation into potential collusion between the trump campaign and the kremlin was well-founded. he issued very strong words. coming from a very careful civil
servant from the intelligence community, mr. brennan's testimony should further compel congress and the special counsel to pursue the full truth. what mr. brennan said was happening gets at the very core of our democracy. the free and fair elections of our representatives. americans of all political stripes should be outraged by what putin and the russians did during the 2016 elections. as former director brennan said, in america, quote, we cherish the ability to elect our own leaders, without outside interference or disruption, end of quote. so again, i expect the senate intelligence committee will continue its bipartisan investigation into these events. i expect that special counsel mueller will help us all get to the bottom of this. we must make sure he is not interfered with.
and finally, i expect this body will hold up a high standard for the next f.b.i. director. he or she should be someone who is nonpartisan and independent, a director's director, a prosecutor's prosecutor, not a politician of either party. amidst all the furor, we cannot lose sight of the most serious part of this investigation, the scope of russian interference in our elections and if they colluded with representatives of an american campaign in the process. that's really serious stuff, really serious. we must per sue that investigation with vigor, no matter who might stand in the way of it. on the budget, mr. president, yesterday morning, the trump administration released their 2018 budget. the document is stunning in its cruelty. it takes a sledgehammer to the middle class, the working poor
while lavishing tax breaks on the very wealthy. they may not have intended it, but the trump budget is a compilation of all the broken promises this president has made to working americans. in his budget, president trump has broken promise after promise after promise to working people without any shame, without any remorse, without any explanation. the president promised to increase infrastructure investment, but his budget actually cuts more money from infrastructure programs than the new money it puts in. the president's proposal to slash american infrastructure investments is a job-willing, 180-degree turn away from his repeated promise of a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. president trump's campaign promises on infrastructure are crumbling faster than our roads and bridges. and i want to ask the trump
administration how can we expect that our going to be real about a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan when your budget cuts infrastructure dramatically? right now. don't you think it adds up? to us, it does, and it makes us very dubious of any attempt to do infrastructure by this administration. we hope we're wrong, but the budget is a document that tells where the real truth is in terms of administration beliefs, and they sure as heck by this budget don't like infrastructure. the president has said that education was the civil rights issue of our time, but the trump budget calls for over $3.2 billion in cuts to higher education, eliminates programs that forgive loans for public service jobs like teachers and doctors, eliminates subsidized loan program that helps lower the cost for college.
college students of america, look at the president's budget. see if he's on your side. he sure as heck isn't. the president said he would save social security, medicare and medicaid without cuts. have to do it. those are his words. but the trump budget slashes social security by $72 billion and cuts medicaid by hundreds of billions. in in addition to the more than $800 billion trumpcare took from medicaid in the house bill. all in all, it's a $1 trillion broken promise on medicaid. and remember, america, medicaid is a program that affects the poor -- that's a good thing -- but much of the money goes to help the middle class, elderly people in nursing homes, families fighting opioid addiction. so, bottom line, this is another broken promise to the middle
class trump made in the campaign. the budget breaks promise after promise after promise the president made to what he called the "forgotten america," the men and women of america. well, this budget forgot the men and women of america. the budget depends on fantasy math to make all the cuts work. the trump budget takes a quantum leap into a new dimension of budgetary fairy tale. not only does it assume growth as a way to balance the budget. no economist thinks we can achieve 3% frog in the near term. but the trump budget double-counts and double-dips in a way we have never seen in any budget before. you see, the trump budget
includes the assumption they'll pass "deficit-neutral tax reform." in order for it to be deficit-neutral, they have to assume the economy grows fast enough to make up for lost revenues. but, at the same time, the trump budget assumes that growth will pay for tax cuts and help pay down the deficit -- both. take the estate tax as an example. president trump has proposed eliminating the estate tax in tax reform. yet the trump budget assumes that the government will take in more than $300 billion in estate taxes over the next ten years. in other words, part of the budget says, we're getting rid of the estate tax. part of the budget says, $300 billion that the estate tax brings in is counted to balancing the budget. never seen anything like it. if an accountant did this, moises -- i don't know accounting standards in detail -- but they'd be kicked out of the accounting professional.
in short, as benjamin appl applm points out, president trump is proposing to balance the budget in part by simultaneously increasing estate taxation and eliminating estate taxation. let me read that. this is a reporter for "the new york times." not some politician of a political party. quote, president trump is proposing to balance the federal budget, in part, by simultaneously increasing estate taxation and eliminating estate taxation. the goal, the nerve, the fact facts-be-darned attitude in this budget is appalling. what they said on the estate tax is a complete contradiction. the government cannot take in money from a tax that no longer exists. where are our fiscal watchdogs on the other side of the aisle when they do stuff like this?
everyone knows presidential budgets contain some degree of flexibility, but what the trump budget does is a quantum leap that would make an accountant blush -- if they could stay in their professional after doing this. the budget is a total fantasy, a deeply unserious proposal to congress. members of both parties are right to reject it. i applaud many of my republican colleagues for speaking out against this proposal. and, again, what will happen -- my guess -- is democrats and republicans will ignore the trump budget, because it is so harsh on the middle class and because it is so -- such an accounting nightmare, and we'll do our own budget and we'll probably produce something pretty good for the american people, like we did in 2017 -- as long as donald trump and the white house stay out of it. health care --
finally, mr. president, health care. the republican attempts to repeal and replace the affordable care act, combined with the trump administration's refusal to commit to making key cost-sharing payments that help keep health care costs low for working americans, has created large uncertainty in our health care system. this uncertainty has already caused insurers to flee the marketplace or proposing rate increases for next year. a spokesman for the america's health insurance plans -- the insurance industry's main group -- again, not a politician -- quote, they said, we need swift action and long-term certainty on the cost-sharing program. it is the single-most destabilizing factor in the individual market and millions of americans could soon feel the impact of fewer choices, higher costs, and reduced access to care. my republican colleagues, remember, if you continue to
allow the president to do this, if we don't make cost-sharing permanent, the system will deteriorate. and guess whose back it will be on? yours. yours, my republican friends. you're in charge. and when people get a bad health care bill, you can blame anyone you want. you're in charge. fix it. refusing to guarantee the cost-sharing payment is nothing short of sabotage, and the repeated attempts to pass trumpcare will only make things worse. the white house ought to step up and say once and for all that they will continue to make the cost-sharing payments permanently. and republicans in congress ought to drop their repeople efforts and -- repeal efforts and instead work with us on stabilizing the market and improving the health care system. now today the congressional budget office will release its
analysis of the house republican health care bill, trumpcare. i remind my colleagues how unusual it is for a c.b.o. score to come out nearly three weeks after a bill is passed. it's like test-driving a brand-new car three weeks after you already signed on the dotted line and paid the dealer in full. republicans in the house were so worried about how bad the c.b.o. score might be, they rushed trumpcare through. no hearings, no debate, no score. never mind that this legislation remakes one-sixth of our nation's economy. it has life-and-death consequences for millions of american families. republicans were haunted by the ghost of c.b.o. scores past, so they went ahead without one. now, when the c.b.o. analyzed the first version of trumpcare earlier this year, it concluded that 24 million fewer americans would have health insurance if it became law.
we also learned the bill would gut medicaid, crush seniors with higher premiums, and would increase out-of-pocket expenses for americans of all ages with higher deductibles and co-pays. given that there were few differences between the first and second versions of trumpcare, we can expect that today's c.b.o. analysis will likely show many of the same grave consequences as the first one did. only now, of course, trumpcare includes a new amendment that allows states to opt out of the requirement to cover people with preexisting conditions. it's hard to imagine such an amendment would make c.b.o.'s score any better than the last, but it could certainly raise a the love new questions -- a lot of new questions. does the deal that the freedom caucus got with the second version of trumpcare violate the rules of reconciliation? will the house have to change the bill and take another vote -- yet another vote on trumpcare? we know they don't want to do that.
we also don't know the answer totothese questions. all these open questions demonstrate how reckless it was for republicans to vote on this bill without properly vetting it first. i yield the floor. i yield the floor to my good friend,
the senior senator from vermont, the former and hopefully future senate pro tempore president. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. and, under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the sullivan nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of state, john j. sullivan of maryland to be deputy secretary. mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask consent to proceed as in
morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, yesterday we received president trump's first budget submission. he calls it a new foundation for american greatness. well, that might get an award for fiction, but it couldn't be further from the truth. instead of building a foundation for the american people, it pulls the rug out from under them. this budget has to be understood as something more than just a photo op with a spoken on the cover of the budget. you know, the president's budget
displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the rule of government of, by, and for the people and supporting the middle class, in lifting up the most vulnerable among us, and serving our values and interests as a nation. it proposes to cut nondefense discretionary spending by over $1.5 trillion. that's $1,5 00,000,000,000 over ten years, including a $260 billion cut by 2027. that would be a 40% cut to nondefense programs in ten years. that's not only shortsighted, it's irresponsible and unrealistic. we should be supporting opportunity. we should be creating jobs, not eliminating them.
this country needs jobs. don't cut jobs, create jobs. we should be caring for our veterans. we should promote our health and the environment. these are important to all people. it doesn't make any difference what political party they belong to. we shouldn't be recklessly slashing vital lifelines to the american people. now, sequestration has had some devastating consequences for both defense and nondefense programs. these consequences are going to last a generation. but the trump budget would only extend and deepen those problems. we're leaving for the memorial day break, but i would ask members on both sides of the aisle, let's sit down as soon as we get back in june. let's have republicans and democrats work together as the senate is supposed to and
negotiate a budget deal based on parity. we did this in 2013. we did it in 2015. it worked well. and such a deal would allow the senate to provide appropriations bills that reflect our true and enduring values as a nation. now, the trump budget proposes over $1.7 trillion in cruel and unsustainable cuts to important mandatory programs that provide a safety net of health and nutrition programs to those who are struggling most in our communities. can you imagine in the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth we are going to cut out programs to help the people most in need? much of the cuts in the trump budget come from the medicaid program. the president doubles down the dangerous problematic changes in
cuts in the trumpcare bill. not only would it make it harder for low-income families to receive health coverage from medicaid, but the proposal also cuts nearly $6 billion from the children's health insurance program, which would force near-poverty children off of health insurance. i know my own state of vermont -- not a wealthy state, a small state -- but when we start programmed to make sure -- a -- but when we started a program to make sure children had a health care, it was costly at first. in the long run, it saved us all a great deal of money because we ended up being rated every year as the first or second healthiest state in the nation. you've got to have people healthy from the time they're children up through. you can't suddenly say, oh, we're going to spend a fortune when you're an adult on illnesses that could have been
taken care of as chin. -- as children. then the president's budget proposes significant cuts to the supplemental nutrition assistance program. that supports food assistance for individuals and families in need. how does the president expect to make america great again if there are hungry children in our schools? every parent knows a hungry child cannot learn. how can we be the greatest country in the world if we don't offer a helping hand to the most vulnerable among us? it has been and continues to be my goal that we complete the appropriation process in the senate the way it's supposed to be done. each of the 12 appropriations bills deserve debate and a vote up or down on the senate floor. republicans and democrats vote for the things they support and vote against the things they oppose. that's in the best interest of
this country. i know chairman cochran shares this goal. as vice chairman, i will work with him to do this. but this budget is an obstacle, not a pathway, to meeting this goal. the president's budget proposes not bipartisan -- in fact, i'm willing to bet if you put the president's budget on the floor today and asked for a vote up or down, even though the republicans are in the majority in the senate, it would not pass. because it doesn't make a hint of a gesture toward true bipartisanship. appropriations works best when you have bipartisan cooperation. it's also because it's not in the best interest of the country or the real priorities of the american people, and that's why it would not get even enough republican votes to pass. it's unbalanced. it's needless and provocative.
it's appallingly shortsighted. rural america, including rural states like vermont, is missing in action in the president's budget. his budget eliminates key investments in rural communities, leaving them without federal partnership support for everything from infrastructure, development to affordable housing. programs that preserve the environment, provide food for the elderly. its a compilation of broken promises to working men and women with struggling families, it frays the lifeline to help vulnerable families lift themselves into the middle class. this vermonter does not find that acceptable, and i doubt if others do. it eliminates the low-income home energy assistance program, we call it liheap. that would leave thousands of vermonters out in the cold and thousands throughout this
country. the government should not be in the business of saying to families, okay, you've got a choice. it's 10 degrees outside. you either heat or you can eat. you can either have enough warmth so that you don't freeze to death or you can have food so you don't starve to death, but you can't have both. we're the most powerful, wealthiest nation on earth. what a choice to force on people. in my own state, liheap, vermont received more than $21 million to help households in all 14 counties across our state. it's a vital lifeline, especially important in rural communities. we can't slash investments in our rural communities.
we can't abandon federal support for cleaning up lake champlain, by eliminating the sea grant to geographic programs. that will be foolish. it would waste investments we already made. it would mean the money we put in cleaning it up would end up being lost and we'd have to start all over again. it's a large and denew -- dynamc ecosystem in lake champlain, the largest body of water in the united states outside of the great lakes. it is a treasure, but you can't stand stand. we don't want it to become polluted like other bodies throughout our country. either you advance or you slip behind. and once you start slipping behind, it becomes an escalating matter. in fact, the budget is full of
cuts that advance the administration's antiscience almost know nothingism agenda. it eliminates scientists, shuts off funding for research and cures in everything from alzheimer's to cancer. mr. president, you can't say to people who are studying or trying to find a cure to cancer or so many other diseases, we're going to cut your money for a few years and turn everything off, and send the scientists home. but maybe in a few years we might give you money again. you can't do that in medical research. the university of vermont is going to lose millions of dollars for valuable research, research you can't pause and hope to resume. we are so close to finding a cure for most kinds of cancer, just as we did years ago in polio. are we going to turn that off? are we going to say to the
american people, we want to have a sloganeering budget, so, sorry, maybe when your grandchildren come along, maybe someday somebody will restore this science and we'll find a cure for cancer. the budget for climate change eliminates all the environmental protection agency climate programs, from volunteer incentives to programs that seek to prevent damage in public health and environmental quality. climate change is very real. we're at a critical moment. now is not the time to turn back the progress we've been making. the president promised jobs, jobs, jobs. i would love to see jobs, jobs, jobs in this country, but under his budget an estimated four million people, including veterans -- including veterans -- would lose access to employment and training services next year.
four million americans would lose that promise of a job. he would eliminate almost $4 billion from pell grants. you don't create jobs by denying young people access to affordable higher education or by slashing job training. cutting the state department's budget on more than 30% shows a clear lack of understanding of the vital role of soft power in our national security. as the secretary of defense said, if you're going to cut the state department's budget this way, you better give me money to buy more bullets because i'm going to need them. the budget would eliminate lifesaving nutrition programs. it would impede our ability to promote stability in increasingly volatile regions of the world. you know, america is not made safer by failing to feed the
hungry. defense secretary mattis had experience in the military. he's now our secretary of defense. he said soft power is fundamental to our national security. that's been said by secretaries of defense and military leaders in both republican and democratic administrations. so i would just note, mr. president, the trump budget would have serious harmful consequences for our economy, for working families, and those who are struggling, for our environment, for our health, for the seed corn of cutting-edge scientific and technological research, and for our national security. this is foolish. it's not acceptable. you don't turn these things on and off in order to make a sound
bite. sound bites don't make america strong. sound bites don't continue the greatness of america. tough choices keeps america great and helps the american people. so i would remind the white house that the power of the purse rests with congress. as vice chairman of the senate appropriations committee, i intend to exercise that power. and i'll work with chairman cochran in laying a bipartisan path forward. i would also note, mr. president, and i would ask consent to put in the record the statement on international family planning. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: i would note the importance of it. we had a man i admired greatly
in this body, the republican chairman of the senate appropriations committee, mark hatfield. strongly anti-abortion, but an honest and good man who said we had to have these family planning programs, because without them the number of abortions skyrocket. the number of deaths at birth skyrocket. and we have higher birthrates, 95% of which occur in the poorest countries who cannot feed or provide jobs for their people. let's not again -- let's not make policy by sound bite. let's make policy by what is best for our country, best
respects the values of america, values that we try to demonstrate throughout the world. we also try to demonstrate to our own country, no matter where you are, whether you're republicans or democrats or independents, whether you're poor or rich, rural or urban. let's work on what is the best of america, not a budget that tries to polarize america and sets one group against another. mr. president, i suggest -- i see nobody else seeking recognition. i would note this table i have on the floor showing how we can can -- we have a balance of
putting money in the border wall and the pentagon at the cost of clean energy, climate change, education, infrastructure, middle class, civil rights, labor unions, nutrition programs, child nutrition and community investments. well, if we want to spend $40 billion on a wall that will make no sense and have the taxpayers pay for it, easy. let's vote it up or down. i don't think the american people want it. they'd rather see that money spent on programs that educate people, that create jobs, that improve science and finds cures for cancer and others. not for a wall that we will pay for, that nobody else will pay
for. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call: mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call.
mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that all postcloture time on the sullivan nomination expire at 3:00 p.m. today and that if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table and the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. a senator: i would ask the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. fischer: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to discuss problems that affect almost every aspect of our everyday life. no matter who we are, where we live, our level of income or any other distinction that might be possible to make. these problems have to do with america's surface transportation system. like most nebraskans, i believe that infrastructure is a core duty of the federal government.
it represents investment in our economy, public safety and national security. in the senate, much of my work has been focused on removing unnecessary obstacles to the flow of goods, materials, and most importantly people along our nation's surface transportation networks. through legislation and with executive orders, we can lower the coefficient of fiction on these systems. we can lower that enough that people and products can get where they need to go quicker and at a lower cost. i have been proud to support several pieces of legislation to do just that. in 2015, congress passed the fixing america's surface transportation or the fast act. it was our first long-term highway bill in more than a decade. as chairman of the surface
transportation subcommittee in the senate, i was glad to help steer it to final passage. i'm also proud to have authored a significant number of its provisions. for example, the bill includes a new national strategic freight program that provides every state with annual guaranteed funding. because of the freight programs, states will have greater flexibility to work with key stakeholders and local officials to develop strategic investments in transportation. the program funnels transportation funds to states and allows them to decide on their terms how to use it. by dedicating funding for rural and urban freight corridors, the program enhances the flow of commercial traffic and it increases safety on our nation's roads. the true beauty of this program is that it offers states the
opportunity to make critical investments to best meet their specific geographic and their specific infrastructure needs. nebraska can elect to invest in a rail grade crossing or truck parking lot along a rural road. california could choose to invest in on-dock rail projects at our nation's largest port complex located just outside of los angeles. it works for all states without leaving any behind. the fast act was an important first step, but there is more to be done. president trump has spoken frequently about the need to invest in our transportation infrastructure. just yesterday, the administration released a set of principles for reexamining how we do that. i'm encouraged to see these proposals that will give states
greater flexibility to develop our infrastructure, as well as reduce unnecessary regulations that delay these very important projects. the proposal also talks about providing long-term solutions, something that i have long supported. this is critical for states to develop, construct and maintain infrastructure. last week, at a senate environment and public works committee, we heard an update from transportation secretary elaine chao. she committed to working closely with congress as we continue to develop commonsense solutions for our infrastructure needs. she outlined some of the proposals the department of transportation is reviewing to include in this infrastructure package. during that hearing, mr. president, -- you were there as well -- the secretary told me
that she is committed to working closely with my colleagues and me to develop a national infrastructure policy. i also brought up the issue of delays, due to burdensome regulations like the national environmental policy act that permitting process that directly affects nebraska projects. to address these delays, the nebraska unicameral unanimously passed legislation that would have allowed the nebraska department of roads to assume the nepa permitting process. a letter has been sent to the federal highway administration to begin that implementation of this program, and that could take up to 18 months to complete. i asked the secretary for an update on the progress of the application, and she assured me that the department is following it closely. she said, we know the issue. we are tracking it, and we will
continue to pay attention. furthermore, secretary chao explained that the administration will not specify any list of projects in an infrastructure plan. states know their transportation needs best, not the federal government. the larger role states have from start to finish in developing their own infrastructure, the more they can direct funding to the projects that directly affect their citizens. for the benefit of families across america in both our urban and our rural areas, we need to look for out-of-the-box soluti solutions to en sure that our infrastructure is up to date. that's why i've introduced the build u.s.a. infrastructure act, which looks to solve two major challenges for our transportation system. the first is the near-term
solvency of the highway trust fund's expiration of the fast act in 2020. the second is a lack of flexibility for states in starting and finishing major transportation infrastructure projects. according to the march 2016 congressional budget office projections, by the year 2026, the highway trust fund will face a cumulative shortfall of approximately $107 billion. meanwhile, we see construction costs climbing. the rise in the use of electric and alternative-fuel vehicles is causing trust fund revenues to fall. heavy federal regulations continue to eat away at that purchasing power of the highway trust fund. america needs a new plan to
successfully meet the looming highway trust fund shortfall and to strengthen our transportation system. the build u.s.a. infrastructure act gives us a plan. for five years following the expiration of the fast act, this legislation would direct the u.s. treasury to dedicate approximately $21.4 billion in customs and border patrol collected fees and revenues to the highway trust fund. now, c.b.p. revenue collections on freight, cargo, and passengers include tariffs and duties taxes and user fees at u.s. land, water, and air ports of entry. the c.b.p. revenues from these sources amounts to nearly $46 billion in the fiscal year 2015.
because of their nature as charges on freight and travelers, customs, duties, and fees closely abide by the user pays principle that we look at in transportation funding. and according to c.b.p., the agency only utilizes $2 billion of that revenue for its operations. so the diversion of revenue would not negatively impact c.b.p.'s operating budget. by using an existing revenue stream, which has a transportation nexus, we provide stability to the highway trust fund without increasing fees or taxes. and that, mr. president, is sound policy. the build u.s.a. infrastructure act also offers greater flexibility to states so that
their limited highway dollars can go further for them. i served eight years in the nebraska legislature. i know our states, our counties, our cities face real challenges in starting and completing infrastructure projects because of excessive procedural costs, delays, and really that overall lack of transportation funding. according to the congressional research service, major federal highway projects can take as long as 14 years to complete from start to finish. it took less time to build the panama canal, and we did that more than a century ago. greater flexibility, improved collaboration, and more autonomy can help states begin and complete their vital
infrastructure projects in less time, which means lower cost. the build u.s.a. infrastructure act would let them do that through the state remittance agreements. this legislation would offer states more flexibility and control of infrastructure funding by establishing a new partnership between them and the u.s.a. federal highway administration. under this arrangement, states are permitted to enter into voluntary remittance agreements, whereby they can remit 10% of their federal-aid highway dollars in exchange for state purview over design, permitting, and construction aspects of federal-aid highway projects. the state remitted money to the federal highway administration would be deposited into the highway trust fund to help further address its growing
deficit. it would give states breathing room as they work to bring in projects on time and on budget. i am so confident in this bill because i've seen these concepts work at the state level. as a state senator in the nebraska legislature, i introduced the build nebraska act. it directed a quarter of each set of sales tax revenue toward maintaining nebraska's road and bridges. because of it, more than $1 billion will be available to meet nebraska's infrastructure need over the next 17 years. i also introduced legislation that tasked the nebraska department of roads with developing the federal funds purchase program. in exchange for giving up a portion of federal transportation dollars, nebraska
counties and their towns can no receive funds with more reasonable regulatory requirements. because of this program, major nebraska transportation projects like the long-standing bridge replacement in buffalo county and a major arterial street in south sioux city, they are up and running. mr. president, investing in infrastructure means so much more than just adding a few lines to a map. it means connecting our families and delivering goods and services. in nebraska's case, it means feeding the world. with persistence and prudent planning, we can build for the future. we can give greater economic opportunity to rising generations. we can connect communities family to family, town to town,
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, i'm happy to announce that soon i'll be introducing legislation that reauthorizes several critical provisions to help fight human trafficking. and bring us one step closer to ridding our country of this heinous crime. the abolish human trafficking act is chiefly a bill about getting human trafficking victims the help they need by focusing on ways to support them as they rebuild their lives. to me, this is one of the most shocking things about this terrible crime, that one of the things that victims of human trafficking need most is a safe place to live. because without that, they won't be able to escape the people who have enslaved them. nor would they be able to begin the steps to the long road to recovery. this legislation reauthorizes the justice department's domestic trafficking victims fund which we established when we passed the justice for
victims of trafficking act, the bill i authored that was signed into law last congress. this fund really like a crime victim's compensation fund, this fund proifs critical resource -- provides critical resources to help victims get the services they need to recover. part of the fund is financed through fines collected on convicted traffickers. it's a clear way we can use these fines to do some good. last year the fund provided almost $5 million in victim services by reauthorizing it, it can continue to serve more victims. the bill also empowers victims by permanently reauthorizing the human trafficking advisory council, a group of survivors who annually advise the government on ways to combat this crime and lend a hand. so this bill goes a long way to help victims who should be at the forefront of any of our conversation about human trafficking. but there's also no question
that our nation's law enforcement officials need more support to track down the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice. certainly law enforcement needs more training to better equip them to serve victims, too. this bill also does that. it requires the department of homeland security to implement screening protocols across law enforcement antitrafficking task forces. one of the hardest things about human trafficking may be in fact being able to identify that it's occurring when it occurs right in front of your eyes. this training will impact the work of law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. that way law enforcement at every level of government can learn how to better spot trafficking victims and will have the adequate training to connect victims to the services they need in order to recover. the legislation will also direct the department of health and human services to continue a
pilot program to train health care providers about human trafficking. health care providers, after all, are likely to come in contact with human trafficking victims as well and they need to know the telltale signs that will alert them so they can report this to the appropriate authorities. i've noted before that so much of the battle here is about educating professionals, but not just professionals. i would say all of us as ordinary citizens need to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking. sadly, i learned a few years ago when the super bowl was held in texas that one of the premiere trafficking events in the nation each year is the super bowl. sad and as tragic as that sounds. so there's a role for all of us to play as regular citizens in identifying the telltale signs of human trafficking, and then when we see something wrong, to say something about it so that hopefully they can be
investigated. two pie -- to pilot programs like this one, i hope more people will better understand it and more people who understand trafficking and its warning signs, the more we can do to help those trapped in this modern day slavery. the legislation will also give law enforcement more resources to target criminal street gangs who profit from human trafficking. they view human beings as just another commodity that they can make money from and going after criminal street gangs who profit from human trafficking is really important. and we would also enhance the penalties for several human traffic-related offenses as well. finally, the abolish human trafficking act will improve and update the national strategy to fight human trafficking across the country by requiring the department of justice to add a demand reduction component. mr. president, this will build on legislation passed in the last senate by a vote of 99-0.
the justice for victims of trafficking act. and i know by reading the newspaper and watching tv, people think that nothing happens here in washington that is truly nonpartisan or bipartisan in nature. well, this is an example of why that's wrong. certainly this is a cause that every member of the senate can get behind, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to pass this legislation soon with similar strong bipartisan, literally overwhelming bipartisan support. i'm grateful to our friend and the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, chairman grassley, for his focus on doing all we can for victims of human trafficking. in addition to his support for the abolish human trafficking act, i know he also plans to introduce complimentary antitrafficking legislation, the trafficking victims protection act. i'm hopeful that both bills will
be considered soon so we can prove the senate is united in our opposition to human trafficking and so we can lend more support to the victims who so desperately need it. 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: