tv Senate Session Part 1 CSPAN September 6, 2017 9:59am-12:21pm EDT
always want to thank the full committee ranking member miss lewis for her continued leadership. we have our work cut out for us, we're only here for a season. members of congress come and go, but while we are here we have a charge from the people of this great nation. i'm reminded of a poem by the anonymous poet, god's minute. i have only a minute, only 60 seconds and forced upon me, can't refuse it, didn't seek it, didn't choose it. i must suffer if i lose it, give account if i abuse it. just a tiny little minute, but eternity. >> coming to a close the u.s. senate about to gavel in. lawmakers will be spending the morning on general, and house
with hurricane harvey response money and debt level increase and the senate is likely to consider later this afternoon and senators will be meeting behind closed doors to be greeted by top defense. and take a break while they meet for the party lunches they'll be discussing policy. live coverage of the senate here on 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. almighty god, our refuge and strength, a very present help in turbulent times, thank you that though evil seems to prosper, you continue to guard and guide us with your loving providence. lord, the challenges that our lawmakers face require more than human wisdom. please shower our senators with your wisdom, directing them through life's complexities to your desired destination. remind them daily that human life
is as fleeting as fading flowers and withering grass. may they find peace in the knowledge that you love and accept them unconditionally. keep them always in your care doing for them more than they can ask or imagine. we pray in your holy name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our 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., september 6, 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. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: congress has a number of pressing issues to address in the coming days. there are three critically important things before us that need to be done very quickly: pass disaster relief legislation to allow us to rebuild from harvey and prepare for future disasters headed our way, like irma. avoid a default, and of course keep the government funded. these are the president's
immediate priorities. these are my immediate priorities and they are critically important to establishing credibility and stability, as our country continues to recover from one record-setting storm and prepare for yet another. harvey has already unleashed more rain than any other single storm recorded in the continental united states. irma has already forced the entire state of florida into a state of emergency. i'd like to repeat two quotes i shared yesterday that are even more relevant now, given the further approach of irma. this is the president's budget director. given the need for additional spending as a result of disaster response and initial recovery from hurricane harvey, the administration continues to urge the congress to act expeditiously to ensure that the debt ceiling does not affect
these critical response and recovery efforts. that's the budget director. that's because, as the treasury secretary explained, if congress appropriates the money but i don't have the ability to borrow more money and pay for it we're not going to be ail to get that money -- able to get that money to the states when they need it. the need for certainty now is incredibly important. i've been having conversations with the democratic leader on my view of the way forward on these issues, and this morning he and i along with house leaders from both parties will head to the white house for a meeting to discuss the issues further. it's good to see that congress has already made steady progress already. i want to again thank the president and his theme for working close -- and his team for working closely with us to enshould you are that families are able to get the help they need and for working with us to begin the lapse in government service that could get in the
way of that help being delivered. as we work on these immediate priorities, members will also continue working on other critical items like tax reform, national security and filling vacancies across the federal government. we've clearly got a lot to do in the coming
weeks and months but we'll all keep working to tackle these issues as soon as possible. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 12:30 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. mcconnell: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: i rise today -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. gardner: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. i would yield to the gentleman from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: i would now ask unanimous consent that i be given the leader's time and the senators from colorado and virginia wish to follow me. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr.
speaker. yesterday the trump administration made a terribly wrong decision to terminate the daca program. dreamers came to this country through no fault of their own and they know of no other country than this one. they serve in our military. they are a boon to our economy. all they want is to live, work, and contribute to this country, like generations before, they want to be americans. as so many people do, because we are such a great country. congress has the ability, i believe the responsibility, to act, to protect those dreamers before the programs completely terminate in six months. why not do it right now? president trump has called on congress to act, so why don't we? i'd ask my friend, the majority leader, and speaker ryan to put a clean dream act on the floor of both chambers in september.
every democrat's ready to vote for that legislation. we know many republicans in both chambers would vote for it as well. it would likely pass without much fuss. but, mr. president, if we can't get that to happen, we will add it to vehicles that are moving, legislative vehicles, until we get it done. it is that important to us. and to america. we could solve this problem tomorrow, letting -- rather than letting the fear of deportation hang over the heads of 800,000 dreamers who are studying, working, some in the military, serving in the united states today. so i'd like to again say to leader mcconnell and speaker ryan put a clean dream act on the floor. a bipartisan vote. this body and i believe the house is ready to pass it.
now, mr. president, in a short time, leader mcconnell, speaker ryan, leader pelosi and i will head to the white house to meet with president trump. we have a lot we need to get done this month. an extension of government funding, raising the debt ceiling, passing aid for the victims of hurricane harvey and protecting the dreamers. so far, we democrats haven't heard much in the way of a plan to accomplish all these goals from the republican leadership who hold the majority in both houses of congress as well as the presidency. i hope that the changes -- i hope that this changes this morning, and i look forward to hearing the president's plan and the republican majority's plan for accomplishing all these things that congress must accomplish in september. i yield the floor. mr. gardner: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado.
millions of lives on the korean peninsula. last year alone, north korea conducted two nuclear tests and a staggering 24 ballistic missile launches. this year, pyongyang already launched 21 missiles during 14 tests, including the two tests 6 of an intercontinental ballistic missile that are reportedly capable of reaching the u.s. homeland. during his six years of rule as the north korean dictator, kim jong-un has launched more missiles than his father and grandfather combined. patience is now not an option in the shadow of kim jong-un. our north korea policy of decades of bipartisan failure must turn to one of immediate bipartisan success with pressure and global cooperation resulting in the peaceful denuclearization of the kim jong-un regime. as vice president pence stated during his visit to south korea in april, since 1992, the united states and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized korea peninsula. we hope to achieve this objective through peaceable means, but all options are on the table. i believe u.s. policy toward
north korea should be straightforward. the united states will deploy every economic, diplomatic and if necessary military tool at our disposal to deter pyongyang and to protect our allies. the time is not on our side. the international community needs to finally and fully join together to completely isolate this dangerous regime. as a first step, north korea should immediately be kicked out of the united nations and any multilateral institutions from which they derive the benefits of global recognition. next, the united states security council should enact a new resolution that imposes a full economic embargo on north korea that bans all of pyongyang's economic activities, including petroleum resources. these economic tools need to be combined with robust military deterrence, including potentially imposing a u.s.-led international naval blockade of north korea in order to ensure a full enforcement of united nations actions. we must also continue frequent show of force exercises by the
united states and our partners in seoul and tokyo, enhanced missile defense activities and assurance of u.s. nuclear deterrence to our allies. kim jong-un must know that any serious provocation will be met with a full range of u.s. military capabilities. the road to peacefully stopping pyongyang undoubtedly lies through beijing. i am continuing to call on the administration to block all entities that do business with north korea, no matter where they are based, from conducting any financial activities through the u.s. financial system. china is the only country that holds the diplomatic and economic leverage necessary to put a real squeeze on the north korean regime. china accounts for 90% of north korea's trade, including virtually all of north korea's exports, and despite china's rhetoric of concern from 2000-2015, trade volume between the two nations has climbed more than 10-fold, rising from 488 million in 2000 to
$5.4 billion in 2015, hardly the sign of cracking down on the rogue regime. beijing is the reason the regime acts so bold and with relatively few consequences. china must now move beyond an articulation of concern and lay out a transparent path of focused pressure to denuclearize north korea. a global power that borders this regime cannot simply throw up its hands and be a solve themselves of responsibility. -- and absolve itself of responsibility. the administration is right to pursue a policy of maximum pressure to north korea and we have a toolbox to ramp up sanctions track, a track that has hardly been utilized to its fullest extent. last congress i led an enhancement act which passed the senate by a vote of 96-0. this legislation was the first stand-alone legislation in congress regarding north korea to impose mandatory sanctions on the regime's proliferation activities, human rights violations and of course its
most malicious cyber behavior. according to a recent signals, north korea sanctions have more than doubled since north korea sanctions enhancement act came into effect on february 18, 2016. prior to that date, north korea ranked eighth behind ukraine, russia, iran, iraq, the balkans, syria and zimbabwe. but even with the increase after the sanctions bill passed last congress, north korea today is still only the fifth most sanctioned country by the united states. so while congress has clearly moved away from the obama administration's inaction to at least some action, the trump administration has the opportunity to use these authorities to build maximum leverage with not only pyongyang but also with beijing. i'm encouraged by the actions the administration took in june to finally designate a chinese financial institution, but this should just be the beginning. the administration with congressional support should now make clear to any entity, any
entity doing business with north korea that they will not be able to do business with the united states or have access to the u.s. financial system. a report released in june by an independent organization known as c-4-ads, identified over 5,000 chinese companies that are doing business with north korea today. these chinese companies are responsible for $7 billion in trade with north korea. moreover, the c-4-ads report found 10 of these companies control exports to north korea and that was just in 2016. one of these company, one of those ten, they alone control nearly 10% of total imports from north korea. some of these companies were even found to have satellite offices in the united states. enough is enough. according to recent disclosures from 2009 to 2017, north korea used chinese banks to process at
least $2.2 billion in transactions through the u.s. financial system. this should stop now. the united states should not be afraid of diplomatic confrontation with beijing for enforcing existing u.s. law. in fact it should be more afraid of congress if it does not. as for any prospect of engagement we should continue to let beijing know in no uncertain terms that the united states will not negotiate with pyongyang at the expense of u.s. national security and that of our allies. instead of working with the united states and the international community to disarm the madman in pyongyang, beijing has called on the united states and south korea to halt our military exercises in change for promises of north korea suspending its missile and nuclear activists. it is a bad deal. the donald -- the trump adminisn was right to reject it. the united states and our partners must demand that pyongyang first meet the
denuclearization commitments it has agreed to in the past, promises it has already made and subsequently chose to brazenly violate. president trump should continue to impress with president xi that a denuclearized agreement is in both nation's interest. our commander of the pacific command recently said we want to bring kim jong un to his senses, not to his knees. but to achieve this goal, beijing must be made to choose whether it wants to work with the united states as a responsible global leader to stop pyongyang or bear the consequences of keeping kim jong un in power. in july i introduced legislation with a bipartisan group of cosponsors called the north korean enablers accountability act. the number of the bill is 1562. this legislation takes the first steps towards imposing an economic embargo on north korea including a ban on an entity
that does business with north korea. our legislation specifically singles out these ten of the ten largest chinese importers of north korean goods we talked about earlier and sends a very clear message. you can either do business with this outlaw regime or the world's largest economy. i urge my colleagues to support this legislation in order to finally put real pressure, maximum pressure on this regime and its enablers wherever they are based. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: mr. president, i want to thank my friend, the senator from colorado. since his time in the senate he has been aning -- an advocate of more diligent policies against north korea and i appreciate his comments here this morning. mr. president, i want to welcome all my colleagues back
to the capitol. obviously we have a busy time in front of us, and i would appreciate a moment of just personal privilege to thank my colleagues, including the senator from colorado, who reached out to me in the wake of the horrible events four weeks ago in charlottesville, virginia. i appreciated the messages of support for the charlottesville community and for the bipartisan condemnation of the white nationalists and antisemitic activists who chose my state and the home of the author of the declaration of independence to show the world their hateful, misguided and violence. i have partnered with my fellow virginian senator kaine and with senators gardner and senator isakson and others on a bipartisan basis to create a resolution condemning the hatred and violence we saw displayed in charlottesville. our resolution condemns the white nationalists and white
supremacists, the kkk and the antisemitic groups. the resolution also honors the memory of heather hyer and the two police officers who lost their lives in charlottesville. our bipartisan resolution also calls upon the donald -- upon te donald trump administration to actually counter efforts with the core of nato response and draws upon all the resources of our federal government. mr. president, our nation is better than the violence we saw in charlottesville on august 11 and august 12. our nation also deserves clear and unequivocal condemnation of racists and discriminatory attacks on our nation's leaders. we are introducing the
resolution today and i encourage my colleagues to show their support to the people of charlottesville and people of the commonwealth by cosponsoring this initiative. i also stand today, mr. president, in solidarity in support of the residents of texas and louisiana as they recover from epic and deadly storms and flooding. as a former governor, i know well the devastation and loss brought by natural disasters and the ongoing challenge of helping people bound in recovery. the top obligation of elected officials at the local, state and federal levels is to do all we can to keep our people safe and to be present and supportive in helping them get back on their feet after a disaster. as we work towards dealing with the victims of harvey, we also express concern about the coming challenge faced by the next
hurricane, irma, which today or tomorrow will hit the u.s. virgin islands and puerto rico and by the weekend may make landfall in florida. again, thoughts go out to those potential victims in advance. mr. president, i want to come to the floor and speak on the issue that has consumed more of my time and energy than my time in the senate than any other and that is the state of our nation's finances. as a member of the budget committee and the finance committee, i wanted an opportunity to speak about the looming convergence of several important fiscal deadlines. the government's ability to continue borrowing money -- so-called debt celling, a little bit of an oxymoron since the debt ceiling is augustaing payment for -- is augustaing payment for bills that already
incurred. the budget year runs out on september 30, at the end of this month. meanwhile, the white house continues to talk about working on comprehensive tax reform this fall, even though, at least to date, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, the senate republicans, are making it pretty clear we're not going to actually do a major tax reform because we're going to have to rely on a more modest approach, an approach that will only require 51 votes. that ends up sounding to me that what may end up coming from the majority will be more of a tax cut than simply tax reform. in mid-july president trump told an interviewer, quote, after health care, taxes are going to be easy. well, we'll see. making the numbers work, getting the incentives right, making the appropriate trade-offs rather than being as easy as the president says,
comprehensive tax reform last done in 1986, actually was more like solving a rubik's cube. how this body chooses to act in the face of these deadlines, the debt ceiling, the end of the budget year and tax reform will tell us a lot about the fiscal priorities of the house and senate leadership and the priorities of the current administration in responsibly addressing america's long-standing fiscal challenges. so even though we're just back from recess, let me share with you what i believe are some very hard truths. first, nondefense discretionary spending made up only 16% -- 16% -- of our 2016 budget. by contrast, mandatory programs, medicare in particular -- made up 39%, a total of 63% for
other mandatory programs included. and on a going forward basis, social security and medicare will make up 51% of spending growth over the next ten years. half of all future spending growth on automatic pilot. the truth is we cannot dramatically boost military spending, cut taxes, invest in infrastructure, and leave our two largest spending programs -- medicare and social security -- untouched in any type of fiscally responsible way. that means we'll have to make dramatic cuts. the truth is where will those dramatic cuts come from? nondefense discretionary spending. that means people who work for low wages or otherwise struggle by, all of those programs will be on the chopping block. for example, in his fiscal 2018
budget, the president proposed eliminating funding of the appalachian regional commission. in my mind, this is the height of hypocrisy. the president did extraordinarily well in parts of my state and a part of appalachia. he promised a renewal to folks who used to work in the coal mines. well, his first budget instead of offering renewal and hope slashed one of the most successful long-term bipartisan supported programs, the appalachian regional commission that has invested in millions of community throughout appalachia over the years. as well, the president's fiscal 2018 budget completely eliminated a program that helps struggling families heat their homes during the coldest months of winter. again, all those cuts come out of the nondefense discretionary spending which in english really means education, support programs, roads, r&d, all
those programs will be subject to cut within the current budget fiscal outline. here are some additional facts. our national debt is approaching $20 trillion. and debt held by the public as a percentage of the g.d.p. is the highest it's been since we emerged from world war ii. the federal government spends more money than it collects in revenue. we work in the only place in america where occasionally people high five each other because the deficit on an annual basis got down to $400 billion or $500 billion. what other place in the world will operate with those kind of economics? in 2029. every dollar of tax revenue will go to programs on automatic spending, those mandatory programs i mentioned earlier like social security, medicare, medicaid. all good programs, the truth is if you don't look at those programs as well for reform, we
don't understand that we need to also invest in roads and infrastructure and other support programs. that means by 2029, every dollar we spend on those programs for roads, education, research and also defense will be borrowed money. the truth is we have a very inefficient and outdated tax structure. let me be the first to acknowledge that. acknowledge that the goals of tax reform are efficient. better efficiency, more transparency, those are goals i can endorse. it hasn't been updated in more than three decades. the truth is on both sides of the aisle there is bipartisan agreement that we need tax reform. i think we can all agree that we have a backwards tax system. as a matter of fact, in many ways we have the world's combination of worst. we have an incredibly complicated tax system with on
the business side the highest corporate tax rate in the world. yet, if you look at the revenues that we collect -- i'm not talking about just business taxes but individual taxes as well -- if you look at the revenues we collect as a percentage of our overall economy, where would you think america lands? if you listen to many, you think america must be the highest tax state in the whole work. if you look at the h -- 34 industrial nations, the united states of america, state, local and federal taxes combined, we are 31st out of 34. i hear many times colleagues on the other side of the aisle, for example, complimenting germany and other countries and some of their systems on training and infrastructure, i'm not suggesting we move to their tax system. but they raised their g.d.p., 5%, 6%, 8% of their g.d.p. in
taxes than we do. i'm not saying we should duplicate europe but if we're going to compare apples to apples, we have the most complicated system, yet we rate at the bottom of the barrel. and the fact is because there is blame on both sides of the aisle, this $20 trillion of debt did not emerge overnight, this has been growing for 50 years, so both political parties bear plenty of responsibility. the challenge right now is not only our annual deficit, which is the subject of a lot of discussion when the deficit was over $1 billion, but in a sense even though the deficit is down down, what we have to grapple with now is that the accumulated debt -- so even though those of us who may not have been here for decades, we have to bear the responsibility of those who went before us, the accumulated debt in our country is $20 trillion. we've not felt the full effects
of that debt because since 2009, we've had the advantage of record low interest rates. but as we've seen from the fed and as we've seen from many people on both sides of the aisle who are encouraging the fed to go ahead and raise interest rates, that luxury of not having to deal with the debt service of our accumulated debt, those days will soon be behind us. what does that mean? well, it means that had when -- not if, but when interest rates go up, in financial terms what's called 100 basis points. in opening are issue what's called 1%. when interest raitt rates go up -- when interest rates go up 1%, the federal government will be charged an additional $160 billion a year in annual interest payments just on that accumulated debt.
$160 billion for every on one-percent ries rise in interest rates. a spike in interest rates, 3% or 5% which we saw in earlier times in our country. i don't think that will happen. basically it would bankrupt the federal government. basically it would bankrupt the relative increase, that comes before we pay social security, before we pay our military, before we pay for roads. that comes right off the top. that $160 billion is more than we currently spend on the department of education and homeland security combined. that's not an obligation we can avoid. as i mentioned, here's the truth: fiscal discipline should not depend on who sits in the white house. fiscal discipline should not depend on who controls congress.
the truth is, many of us were involved in the so-called gang of six that advocated the simpson-bowles plan a number of years back -- not perfect but would have gotten us out of this challenge. the truth is every day, every month, every clear we wait to address the -- every year that we wait to address the structural imbalance, the problem only gets worse. the tools that we have in plain old balance sheet terms -- i was a business guy longer than i've been in politics -- means that the cuts will have to take place. the reforms that will be required to take place or the amount of revenues that will have to be raised only makes it more difficult. as i said, neither party comes to the issue of the deficit and the debt with clean hands and frankly memories in this town are conveniently short. in the coming weeks as we head
towards the possible convergence of tax reform and a government shutdown, here's what i'd urge my colleagues to pay attention to. first, the white house and my senate colleagues should avoid using rosy scenarios just to make the proposals look fiscally responsible when they aren't. over the next decade, congress budget office, congress' official scorekeeper -- we acknowledge again, no matter who is in charge, everybody likes to blame the c.b.o., but they are our ref reese. the c.b.o. has said, they expect our g.d.p. growth to average a little above 1.8% per year. i hope we can do better. that's what the referee says. the trump administration, the budget is based on seven straight years of 3% growth. that's a great aspiration. any responsible business would not base their assumptions of
their budgets on a going-forward basis, subjecting our referee to c.b.o. and plucking a number out of the air. why do they do it? well, those rosy and unrealistic assumptions allow the administration to claim a fictional $3 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next ten years. that's the differential of 1.2% additional growth seven years straight. the administration in their proposal then uses this fake revenue -- cloaked additional tax, spending cuts, under the banner of fiscal responsibility. that's wrong, irresponsible and no responsible organization or business would take those actions. second, the administration cannot shift costs to others and then claim it as savings. look no further than when the trump budget does with federal programs for the poor. over the next decade it calls
for slashing more than $600 billion from medicaid. that's just within a budget. that doesn't include the additional cuts to medicaid that were proposed in their ill-fated health care reform. the truth is, medicaid, as a former governor, i am aware of this real time, medicaid is a partnership between the federal government and the states. so a $6 billion cut at the federal level is has a direct impact on state medicaid responsibilities t simply squeezes the bloom forcing the states to either dramatically up their share of medicaid or dramatically cut back services. third, the administration claims their tax reform plan would pay for itself and stimulate so much economic growth that it won't add to the deficit. this may be the most scurrilous claim of all made by the administration. here's the basic problem. the truth is at least what the
trump proposal has put out so far really has little to do with comprehensive tax reform. instead it is a two-page wish list of tax cuts, a wanna be of every group that wanted to get its interests advanced. ronald reagan's 1981 tax cut provided short-term stimulus but then deficits bloomed and president reagan had to raise taxes in 1982 and 1984. likewise, president george w. bush's tax cuts in 2001 sand 2003 provided that quick-sugar high but ultimately had little impact on economic growth. instead, the bush tax cuts produced large deficits of trillions of trillions of dollars, moving us from a budget
surplus on an annual basis that he inherited when president obama came in the deficits were approaching $1 trillion a year. fourth, paying for tax cuts with deficit spend something a really -- spending is a really, really bad idea. it will make reaching any responsible fiscal goal that much more difficult. also studies show that tax cuts that add to the deficits are worse for growth over the long term than those that are paid for. and actually can reduce growth over time. so any lawmaker who says they support not paying for tax cuts should also have to explain why they think adding to our national debt, a national debt that already stands at a record high, a national debt that's already at $20 trillion, a national debt that when interest rates will go up, which they will, will end up sucking out $106 billion a year in
additional -- $1260 billion a year -- $ $160 billion a year i fifth, it would be foolish to try to balance the budget by shortchanging investments this athat actually strengthen our economy and our competitiveness over th the long term. the budget proposals that we've seen from the administration and the house republican leadership takes a meat cleaver to a couple of key theirs actually government should be investing more in: research and development, education, workforce training, and infrastructure. as a former business guy, as somebody who invested in more businesses, created public companies, was a venture capitalist for more than almost two decades, i looked at businesses and i based my willingness to invest whether they had a good plan in terms of investing in the workforce,
investing in their plant and equipment, and investing in staying ahead of the competition. for a government, that means workforce investing in education, investing in plant and equipment, that means infrastructure, staying ahead of the competition, that means investing in research and development. well, let's put it like this. i would never have invested in a business that spends less than 10% of their revenues on those critical investments. that's not the way for our country to make responsible investments either. the truth is, the trump proposals take our investments -- current investments -- education, infrastructure -- way less than 10% of our total revenues. finally you mr. president, we can achieve fiscally responsible and bipartisan tax reform. i will actively look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on these
reforms. there is no area that i've spent more time o i think i bring something to the table as both a former governor but as somebody who built businesses for more than two decks. i would also strongly suggest that nothing could help our economy more than a responsible making sure that we don't simply salute when our deficit is only $4 billion or $5 billion a year but when we bring that deficit down. those are challenges before us. new mexicin many ways, the out-e before us. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:.
quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, it's been one week since hurricane harvey hit the state of texas. and though the rain has now stopped, the damage continues, and much of the water that's moved through houston is now moving downstream to rivers and bayous and areas south of houston, and people are still being, their lives are still being disrupted. and unfortunately, more and more bodies are being found as the water has receded in places that have been flooded. so eight days ago harvey's wrath was still being felt, but of course we're still counting the cost. and as one lady in houston told my staff, she said normal is a long way off.
it's more than just days we're counting, though, as families return to their homes and piece their lives back together, the numbers keep rolling in. the numbers are how we keep track, and i want to mention a number of numbers that i think will help all of us understand the magnitude of what has occurred. the numbers will help us wrap our heads around what this disaster has meant for not only texas, but for the country. the largest numbers are the toughest. not the toughest to swallow. i'll get to those in a moment. but simply to comprehend. they are the ones that make your jaw drop, like 27 trillion. that's the number of gallons of rain that harvey pummeled on texas and louisiana. 27 trillion. 2.7 million, that's how many
lee lee tears of water have been provided by fema since last friday. parts of beaumont are without water or subject to a boil water notice. there is a another number, one million, the number of cars reportedly destroyed by the storm. one million cars. 40,000, that's the number of homes that harvey has permanently wrecked. at least that many are still, even today, inside shelters still living off cots or convention centers or inside government-funded motel rooms or living with friends and family. next come the middle batch of numbers, slightly smaller and more manageable sum. some of these actually come as relief. some of them remind us why writer walter percy, a native
of louisiana used to say that hurricanes as terrible and life altering as they are sometimes give us hope because they draw people closer together as neighbor helps neighbor. 4,200, that number are the number of pounds of flour that the employees went through at el olio restaurant in southeast houston. the bakers were trapped inside their kitchen for two days during the storm, so what did they do? they do what bakers always do. they bake. in this case they baked a traditional mexican pastry for flood victims. their ovens were on all night for their neighbors. one young girl on twitter praised the bakers as angels. they gave people what they needed most perhaps during this storm, and that is a sense of normalcy.
2,731 -- that's the number of cattle, horses and sheep that various ranchers and helicopter pilots like ryan ashcroft saved in places like besoria county and are inside makeshift stables, fairgrounds and parking lots. 2,731. animal rescue has been a crucial part and a difficult part of the equation in communities affected by the storm. and of course in the shelters that senator cruz and i visited, they had to make accommodation for pets because people wouldn't leave their cat or dog on the floods unless they could bring their animal with them. we've had to make some accommodation, and they have, and that's made it easier for people to leave their flooded homes. and there's another number -- 200. that's the number of soaking
wet, stranded houstonians that jim mcinvale and his staff rescued in their delivery truck. those of us from houston know jim as mattress mack. he's in the furniture business and he opened up his giant furniture show rooms as shelters. they provided portable showers and an inventory of brand-new beds and sofas for folks to sleep on who had nowhere else to sleep. getting rest couldn't have been easy, though, not when so many displaced people were thinking about the storm and its consequences, still feeling the dampness in their clothes and remembering the pounding rain and wondering, just wondering what they were going to do to get on with their lives. 132, that number represents the speed in miles per hour of the most punishing wind gusts
recorded in port aranses on august 25. it's hard to imagine that eight times faster than a charging bull. in the days ahead we need to remember how strong the storm really was, and i brought a few charts here to help remind us of that and the aftermath. this is a picture outside of houston. i visited a synagogue in a place called meyerland in the houston area where they had literally been flooded three years in a row, and now this is one of the members of that congregation who invited me to come to her home so i could see all the, all the damageed dry wall, furniture and other items that are on her front wall and have been pulled out of her house. well, finally we come to the last set of numbers, the
smallest ones but in many ways the most painful, the hardest to forget. numbers like 45. that's the angle in degrees of bent electric poles i saw at rockport when i toured the destruction of the home last week. other electrical poles laid on the ground. the town smelled of gasoline, even natural gas leaks which we smelled in the rockport area. and of course the ground was littered with broken glass and strewn books and things like that. boats in the marina had been tossed about and smashed, their sails ripped to shreds and local residents had mostly fled. here's a, another picture of that damage in rockport, texas. harder still, though, is the
number 25, which is the years andrew passok lived before he tragically stepped on a live electrical wire in ankle-deep water on august 29. as a resident of houston, andrew was an animal lover and he was trying to locate and save his older sister's cat when he stepped on an electrical wire and lost his life. we of course offer our condolences to all those families who have lost loved ones, including andrew's, in their time of grief and we pledge to remember him and all of the flood victims in our prayers. sadly, andrew was joined by 59 others who lost their lives. as i said earlier, that number continues to grow each day as the waters recede, as we find people who did not leave their home perhaps because they were elderly and unable to get out, living alone, for example.
and so we expect that number to get even higher, sadly. six is the number of family members samuel salvador lost when a van he was driving was tossed by a strong current into the bayou. as with andrew's family, our thoughts and prayers go out to samuel during what i'm sure has been a dark and trying week, one nearly impossible to make sense of. for each story of loss, each family that is hurting, there are many others, other reasons for hope as we embark on what is a long road to recovery. consider five, the number of bed-ridden elderly patients from cypress glenn nursing homes that required special boats to get them out, boats with generators that could power their life support systems. we're grateful to good samaritans like dan leblock from port arthur. doug barns jr. and robert boaty
for managing this operation which was no easy task. here's a picture of those gentlemen. volunteers with no special expertise in search and rescue, these gentlemen saved more than 100 patients. finally, mr. president, the number i'll end with is zero. that's the amount of complaining done by a gentleman named jim rath who exemplifies the texas spirit. his house was destroyed two years ago, and he had just finished rebuilding it when harvey hit and destroyed it again. was he shaken by this course of events? well, sure he was. but did he complain? no, he did not. of all his lost possessions, mr. rath said, quote, the main thing is this is just stuff. close quote.
then like other texans are doing now, he rolled up his sleeves, with saws and jack hammers, already moving forward. zero is also the amount of time we have to waste here in congress. the texans i know aren't just sitting around waiting for government or for government aid. but that doesn't mean we should twiddle our thumbs here in washington, d.c. we have got to act. that's why i'm working with senator cruz and the entire texas delegation in crafting an aid request that addresses flood relief but without imposing burdensome mandates or regulations. as peggy noonan wrote in the "wall street journal" this week, this measure needs to be tight and specific. she said there should be no larding up or loading it down with extraneous measures. this is an emergency. that means we have to act and act with dispatch. i applaud the house of
representatives for moving quickly today to approve an initial $8 billion down payment on disaster relief. and i urge my colleagues in this chamber to follow the house's lead and expedite passage for this first tranche, this down payment on what will surely be a more expensive list of costs. and we're going to continue to work with governor abbott and the team back in the state to make sure that federal, state, and local actors are all on the same page. but right now let's quickly send texas a down payment. let's show that we're actually serious. i was gratified by the outpouring of e-mails and texts. even the presiding officer reached out, and i appreciate that. people expressing their concern about what was happening in texas. and we -- and i appreciate that very much. but now we need to demonstrate
that those weren't just words and follow them up with concrete action. as we all process the numbers from the storm, i believe the important one today is zero, the amount of time we have to lose. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cruz: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cruz: mr. president, i rise today in support of heroes, in support of unity, and in support of love and compassion. i thank the senior senator from texas for his heartfelt remarks and leadership during this time of crisis, and i thank leaders across the state of texas and across the country who are
standing with the people of texas. texas is hurting. this hurricane, hurricane harvey, is unlike anything we have seen before. i grew up in houston. when you live in the gulf coast, you are used to this. when hurricane alicia hit, we had a tree come down in the front yard. harvey is different. it is unlike anything we have seen before. it is being described accurately as a 1,000 year form, something that -- storm, something that occurs every 1,000 years. harvey started out as a category 4 storm hitting south texas, hitting rock port, port aranz us
all of which i visited. those communities were devastated by category four winds that destroyed homes, schools, county courthouses, took down wires and power and took down sewage. as i visited each of those communities, you drive down the street and you would simply see home after home that had been obliterated by hurricane winds. i remember talking to the mother of a high schooler at rockport high school who doesn't know where her son will go now because the school was largely destroyed by the hurricane. she said how much the kids wanted to graduate from their high school, but their high school is badly damaged right now. but harvey wasn't finished after making landfall and wreaking
destruction. it then turned north and east and moved over the city of houston and just sat there -- sat there dumping rain day after day after day after day. i was home with my wife and kids. i live in houston. for every day of those rains, it should kept coming and coming and coming. it's actually what made harvey different. we're used to getting hit by a hurricane, and then it leaves and goes and repair the damage an pick up the pieces. harvey didn't have the good graces to leave. it sat there and dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain, over 50 inches, which is typically as much as houston receives in an entire year fell in four days. we saw flooding in parts of the city that had never flooded. i went out in an air boat just
north of the addict's dam in houston riding through a neighborhood with water up to the roofs of houses. an ordinary suburban neighborhood, you could see children's toes -- toys -- children's toys floating in the water. you could see holes in the roof where either people had taken an ax either tbroac get out -- broken out to escape the rising waters. we took a boat down clay road, a fairly large road in northwest houston. i know clay road well. i became a christian at clay road baptist church. clay road is completely under water. it looks like you're in the middle of a like. you look out and see nothing but
water as far as the eye can see. i rode with a local person and the road was so high you didn't know you were passing over cars submerged beneath you. as we went down the road, we saw an alligator swimming across clay road. the scope of this disaster defies words. it's ot one community or two -- not one community or two community or three communities. it is over 250 miles stretching from corpus christi all the way to louisiana. the houston area alone, the flooding is massive. neighborhoods where there's a real possibility every single home will have to be knocked down and rebuilt, every single government building will have to be knocked over and rebuilt.
on the airboat i saw the county courthouse up to the roof in water. i saw a local l.d.s. church up to the roof in water. i saw a gas station, six or seven cars still parked outside. the water was right at the roof of the cars. it shows you how fast the water rose. they were parked at the gas station and stopped for last-minute supplies and the water rose and they couldn't get out. they are still in the parking lots, yet the water is at their roofs. at that gas station was a neon sign flickering open as you looked out over the vast expanse of water. the damage continued hitting beaumont, orange, and into
louisiana. all of those communities i visited in the past two weeks had massive devastation. texas is hurting mightily. yet, as i said, my remarks today are not about pained suffering. they are not about death and loss of despair. they are instead about hope -- hope that begins with the heroes of harvey. we saw, over the last two weeks, incredible illustrations of bravery over and over and over again every day every hour every minute. there were the first responders, the firefighters and police officers and e.m.s. who risked their lives, including tragically, sergeant perez of the houston police department who lost his life in this storm.
went to go to -- he went to go to work and his wife pleaded with him not to go to work, it's it too dangerous out there. he said i have to go. he couldn't go to his regular duty station. all of the roads were flooded. so he looked to go to another duty station to report to and tragically he got caught in high-rising water and drowned. there were the coast guardsmen who flew in in choppers and dove into wild water to save people's lives. i spent a lot of time in the last two weeks visiting with the men and women of the coast guard. what incredible heroes. i flew in choppers with them around the ship channel and talked to coast guard swimmers. you want to talk about a tough
bunch of heroes -- the swimmers, almost every one of them, ripped, are the guys who know their way around a weight room. who in hurricane winds and waters will dive off of a chopper and swim to someone in distress. many times the person in distress, their first instinct is so grap the -- grab the swimmer and so the rescuer has to be strong enough to get that person in the basket and pull them up to a chopper. in the last two weeks i visited with person after person who was pulled off the roof of their home by the coast guard into a chopper. the national guardsmen -- national guardsmen, i spent a lot of time thanking them over the last two weeks. we had national guardsmen,
14,000, called up in the state of texas. national guardsmen from 41 states across the country came flooding in. that was part of the story of these heroes. these first responders, there were a great many texans, but there were people from all over the country. when i drove through a small town on the gulf coast devastated by hurricane winds, i stopped at the fire department unannounced to thank the firefighters. i actually met a couple of firefighters. they were not the local ones. the local ones were able to go home and get sleep after several days of no sleep at all. a couple of california firefighters jumped in their truck and traveled east to get to texas. down in rockport at the fire station there there was a whole line of fire trucks and as you
looked at the doors, they had the name of a different city. each one said, i can help and jumped in their fire truck down to texas. the outpouring of love we have seen has been extraordinary. now, mr. president, it wasn't just the first responders who were so extraordinary and we will never -- we cannot overstate the gratitude that texas feels for those heroes of harvey, but i'll tell you the most powerful of harvey, i believe, are the thousands of air -- ordinary men and women who stepped up to save their neighbors, that went and grabbed a boat or jet ski or anything that could float and went into harm's way to pull people out of
life endangering situations. hundreds and hundreds of red necks in fast boats. texas at its very finest. mr. president, as an alaskan, i can promise you you would have been at home with the read -- red necks in bass boats. they fearlessly helped people. the emergency operation center had an entire wall with posted notes. they put out a call if you have a flat bottom boat, we need your help. hundreds of calls began coming in. they put it on post-its with the name and cellphone. the emergency center operated as
a dispatch where a 911 call would woman -- would come in and they would pick up and call someone's cellphone and said your neighbor needs help, can you be there? hundreds upon hundreds risking their lives to save their neighbors. texans helping texans. we had louisiana that sent the cajun navy. over 100 boats. they would go in, save people and cook jumbolia. s that neighborly love. i met people who would come from fort worth, lub lubbock -- lubbock from east texas from illinois, from alaska, from new york. i was at the shelter that was
setup where an individual, a new york firefighter, a big guy -- he told me he was serving in the new york fire department on september 11. he said when naive hit -- he told me when 9/11 hit new york, he said that the love that new york received across the country made a profound impact on him. and he said now when there's a major natural disaster, he just gets in his truck and heads down and helps. he said, that's my way of saying thank you for what the country did on 9/11. he wanted to be down at harvey to pull people out of harm's way and say thank you. all i could do was simply give him a hug.
that heroism was happening every day and every hour. we all mourn the loss of life. there are tragic stories, heartbreaking stories, whether it is sergeant perez or the young mother in beaumont who gave her lifesaving her little girl. her little girl was pulled from her dead mother's chest floating in the water just minutes before being lost forever. as tragic as it is, that little girl will always know the love her mother had for her. the story the senior senator from texas just told of the van in houston that took six to their death, two elderly grandparents dealing with alzheimer's disease and four children, all lost their lives in that bayou.
those tragedies we mourn, but i'll tell you we celebrate also. this disaster easily could have seen a death toll ten times higher, 100 times higher. there were recorded over 51,000 people saved by search and rescue missions. roughly 2,000 pets saved by search and rescue missions. one of the things the first responders told me over and over again is you better be able to take the pets because there are a whole lot of people who as the water is rising, if you're not willing to take fluffy or fido, they'll stay in the rushing water. and so we celebrate the bravery of all those who risk their lives to save others. in any disaster there are three phases. there's phase number one, the active crisis where search and
rescue is the only priority, saving lives. and let me say the city of houston, the state of texas, we saw a asked nation across levels of government i've never seen before, of the city officials and the county officials and the state officials and the federal officials all working hand in hand seamlessly, not engaging in the bickering, not engaging -- there were no party lines. there were no republicans. there were no democrats. there was no black, white, or hispanic. there were texans and americans saving the lives of each other. and you saw government working seamlessly together, not having the turf wars that in other contexts might so easily shut down getting anything done. simply saying how can i help, what can i do, what else do you need. after the search and rescue is over, after the saving of lives, there is the next phase, and
that phase is relief, providing relief to the people who have lost everything right then. we have roughly 260 shelters that have been stood up across the state of texas, wonderful, private organizations. the red cross has done a phenomenal job. the salvation army has done a phenomenal job. churches have done an incredible job. private, nonprofits have done an incredible job. individual citizens. mattressmack who owns gallery furniture, a friend of mine, a terrific entrepreneur. opened up his furniture stores as shelters and said come on in. you need a bed? we happen to have a furniture store full of beds. not only that, he sent out his delivery trucks to pick people up in harm's way. at one of the shelters last week, i visited with a woman, an older woman who was on oxygen,
and she uses a walker. she described how her house began filling with water. and she walked out of her house in waist deep water pushing that walker. mr. president, my mom uses a walker. i know how difficult it is to get around when you're mobility impaired. i cannot imagine how difficult it was for her pushing through the waist-deep water fleeing for her life. she was picked up by a gallery furniture delivery truck, picked up and taken to the shelter. i called mack and told him that story. told him just one story of the lives of he was saving, and that's just one example of the heroes that stepped forward for their community. anheuser-busch shut down beer production to deliver more than
155,000 cans of water. now, you know we are in a time of miracles when anheuser-busch isn't producing beer. but that's the sort of generosity of spirits. one of the state officials who was helping lead the disaster relief called academy, they had a warehouse in -- just west of houston out in katie. he said how many boats do you have in the warehouse. he dead we want them all. great. come take them. they're yours. dps sent trucks. they bodied up the boat -- they ledded up the boats and sent the boats out to rescue. j.j.wahn, a great football player who i hope a year from now is wearing a super bowl range ring. launched a charity effort
raising over $10 million on twitter just saying let's help people who are hurting. shelters that were stood up, the n.r.g. center where i've spent ?angts time. one morning i was helping serve breakfast. we were serving oatmeal. a fellow standing to my right, i turned to him and said thank you for being here. something i tried to do a lot of is just thank people. i don't think you can thank people enough in the midst of crisis. thank you for being here. thank you for helping other folks. and he just began laughing. he said, you know, i got to be here. my house is under water. he said i'm staying here. this is the only place i have to sleep. and yet he was up at the food line helping serve others. two gentlemen i met at that same shelter, i asked them as i stride to ask everyone how are you doing, how is your home doing, two different gentlemen told me, well, i don't have a home. i'm homeless. one said i sleep under the
bridge. both of them were volunteering. both of them were sweeping the floor. so they weren't just taking shelter but even in the midst of distress, they were helping out keep the facility clean and care for the needs of others. earlier this week i was at port arthur. port arthur is relatively low income community in texas, heavily minority, was hit very badly by the storm. devastating floods in port arthur. i was at an african american church helping give out food and supplies to people who'd lost everything and visiting a line of cars as people were driving up. would you say to each person, what do you need? and they'd need some water. they'd need some food, some diapers, maybe some dog food or
cat food. several things were amazing. one, almost to a person i've heard at least a hundred times in the last two weeks, when you talk to someone who's lost their car or lost their house and you say i'm so sorry. we're praying for you. we're with you. over and over again i heard people say, you know what? there are people a lot worse off than me. i may have lost my home but at least i've got my life. at least i've got my kids. it's powerful to hear over and over again when you try to comfort someone and they say look at everyone else who needs it more than i do. but at the same time when you would hand -- someone would come in, a young mom would come in. you ha ndz her for packages of diapers and she would say no, i just need one. give it to someone else who needs that.
i heard that at relief centers in port arthur, in beaumont, in victoria, in rockport, in houston, that same message over and over again. there's someone else who need it is. at that church in port arthur, there was a couple both of whom who had lost their home, lost everything, and they had been from dawn to dusk at the church volunteering and helping others. they said actually helping others is how we're getting through this. there are also some moments of joys. i visited with two little boys who were in their home and the water rose to waist level. they had to be rescued. i think it was by boat. and i asked them, i think they were about 8 and 10 years ld on. i asked -- years old. i asked them, was that scary? they laughed. they said, are you kidding? we got to swim in our living
room. those moments of laughter and joy i think are important, even in the face of fear and death and destruction. the unity we're seeing has been remarkable. and then the third and final phase will be rebuilding. and rebuilding is going to be a project that's going to take days and then it's going to take weeks and then it's going to take months and it will ultimately take years. the scope of this devastation is massive. there are multiple estimates that this may prove the costliest natural disaster in u.s. history. and having seen firsthand the scope of the disaster, the thousands of homes and businesses and the -- destroyed, i can readily believe it. and i'm here to say texas is coming bac eowe is coming back.
we're going to rebuild in east texas. i visited with the mayor of a small town whose entire town was destroyed. every home, every building was under water. her home was under water. and i'll tell you, the mayor just in tears. the whole town was gone. and she said, if we rebuild. and i was there with several firefighters and police officers, the county judge. we all hugged her. we said there's no if. we will rebuild. we will come together. we will stand as one. and questio -- and we will rebu.
we are seeing incredible generosity from texas. and we are seeing leadership. i want to commend leadership at every level of government. i want to commend the president, president trump, for his leadership during this crisis. i have spoken to the president multiple times throughout the course of this storm from the very first call, right when the storm was about to make landfall. his message was consistent. he said ted, whatever texas needs it's got. the answer is yes. when the governor asked for a declaration, disaster declaration, the president signed it while the governor was still on the phone. the president convened a week ago a cabinet meeting via teleconference and instructed every cabinet member whatever the state needs, give it to them fast. be there. every resource we have, make it available. i began to see cabinet member after cabinet member picking up
the phone and calling, whether the secretary of health and human services saying all right, on the health side, what more could we be doing? how could we be helping the people in hospitals that are being evacuated? on the education side the secretary of education, how can we help the kids whose schools have been flooded? secretary of energy, former governor of texas, rick perry, secretary of h.u.d. focused on the massive housing challenges and of course the director of fema who's been down in texas repeatedly. the federal government leaned in with all the resources with a swiftness that i've never seen at the state level let me say governor greg abbott has done an extraordinary job. he is a close friend and mentor, but he has led the state. when we had crises playing out. when the city and county officials in houston told me they didn't have enough emergency response vehicles, enough choppers, enough boats, enough high-water trucks, within hours the governor and the
federal government were able to flood the region with assets, with manpower, with national guard, with d.p.s. troopers, with coast guardsmen so that those thousands and thousands of rescues could happen. at the local level, all across texas, county judges -- one county judge in east texas when i visited with a few days ago, he just buried his mother. his mother had died right before the storm. the storm was such that she couldn't be buried in the midst of the storm and so was in the funeral home until just a couple of days ago he was able to put her to rest. and yet he was out there leading the effort. mayors, county judges in houston, mayor sylvester turner, harris county judge ed emmitt, one a democrat, one a republican and yet working seamlessly as one. that unity has been powerful.
and in the next stage of rebuilding we will have resources available. they're going to be very, very significant state resources. my office is working very closely with governor greg abbott to mobilize the state resources and make them available and then at the federal level. i commend the leadership in congress and the administration for responding swiftly with the relief mandated under statute. the relief efforts are being led by the texas delegation in the house and by senator cornyn and myself here in the senate, and we will see, i believe, strong bipartisan support for the federal relief needed to help people come out of this. but texas will rebuild. we will come out stronger, and it will be through that same spirit, that same fearlessness, that same compassion and love
and unity that brought us through the crisis, that saved thousands of lives, that same spirit will help us rebuild even stronger. let me finally say to all the men and women across the state of texas and across the united states and across the world who have been lifting us up in prayer, thank you -- thank you for your prayers. i was at the church in port arthur visiting with family after family hugging women and children and men who had lost everything. the message of comfort i tried
to give them was -- when you go to bed tonight, you are not alone. you are being lifted up in prayer by people across texas, across the country, and across the world. you are going through this journey surrounded by prayer warriors. the day before yesterday, my family and i, we went to a home in missouri city, a -- where the flooding she lost everything. we helped her clean her house and tear down the sheet rock. my two girls, car line and katherine took part in it. caroline can wield a mean hammer when it comes to taking out sheetrock. but the experience is neighbor helping neighbor as this woman grieved the loss of priceless
memories, she also held on to special and wonderful memories. one thing we found was a note she had written to santa claus as a 9-year-old, that was saved. another was a lock of hair when she was 3 that had been preserved in an envelope, that was saved. what i shared with her was the same thing i shared with texans suffering across the state -- you are not alone. america stands as one. today there are no democrats, there are no republicans. on other days there may be issues that divide us. we'll continue to debate tax policy and everything else but
today we are all americans, we are all texanss. we are standing as one. that is the spirit that built our nation and it is the spirit that will rebuild texas and louisiana after this disaster. and let me note, it is also the spirit that has us standing in unity with the people of poart puerto rico and the caribbean and harm's way as irma bears down upon them. our hope is that storm will dissipate and turn away from people, but whatever happens, if there is to be yet another major storm hitting america, know that we will stand united with those in harm's way. we will stand as one and united we can overcome everything. with that, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum.
the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: madam president, i ask that the quorum call be eviscerated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. tester: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise today to talk about a different natural disasters that ravaging -- disaster that's ravaging the state of montana. every corner of montana has experienced wildlifes. we are -- wildfires. we are experiencing a historic
drought. red indicates very severe and it gets less from there. but the fact is there is a large portion of land along our northern tier that is experiencing incredible drought and montana is in the middle of it all. nearly all of our great state is under historic drought conditions with dry grass, high winds and dry lightning storms, it is not wonder that we currently in our state have nearly 30 high-priority fires raging as i speak today. just last week, we had over 40 new fire starts in montana. it doesn't count the ones that were currently existing, 40 new ones. over the last month, i traveled around the state and have seen with my own eyes the fires that are sweeping across montana. all montanans are dealing with
smoke-filled air often in highly hazardous conditions. you can see the chart here of the smoke. it has been incredibly debilitating, eye frankly i. have -- quite frankly. i have heard stories in the eastern two-thirds of montana took the shoes off horses for fear that the shoes would cause fires in the dry grass. some had to flee due to evacuation notice. many had to leave their homes with keepsakes and sprinklers on their roofs. and children in sele lake, a
little down in western montana, saw their first day of school canceled due to fire danger. i might add, the smoke was incredible and it has been for the last month. more than 900,000 acres have currently burned. the state of rhode island is 770,000 square miles. one fire alone burnt 270,000 acres,s that larger than -- acres, that's larger than the city of new york. as i stand here today, more than 600,000 acres continue to burn, active fires on 600,000 acres. firefighters have spent $220 million to get a handle on the wildfires in montana.
we have seen a 77% increase in more acres burned this year than last year when the federal government spent $1 billion in fighting fires. we have 70% more fires burning this year than last year around last year we spent more than $1 billion fighting fires. the bill will be huge this year. in montana, we have tragically lost the lives of two brave firefighters, trenton johnson and brent withhem. they selflessly and courageously put their lives on the line protecting their great state. we have seen pastures burn, fences turn to ashes, structures crumble before our eyes. in fact, the glacier national park, the hotel was built back in 1913, was ungulfed in flames
and destroyed. hopefully it will be rebuilt, but the truth is you do not rebuild a chalet that was built in 1913. it is gone. the historic lake mcdonald mcdonald -- lodge stands in the path of flames. montana's forests, national parks, and agricultural industry are the backbone of montana. as the fires rage, montana feels the economic impact. tourists stay home, ranchers lose grazing land, cattle that survive the fire go hungry, river guides stay off the smoky water, and montana's economy suffers. montana has been fortunate to have many brave men and women working together to fight these fires. folks have collaborated at all levels of government to try to
fight mother nature, but we all know that mother nature bats last. whether it's the floods in houston or hurricane irmas that threatening -- hurricane irma that's threatening florida, we cannot deny our climate is changing. over the past ten years, we have seen 100-year storms every few years. we have seen hurricanes repeatedly besiege the gulf and east coast, historic droughts are becoming common, and water shortages are routine. unprecedented disasters are becoming the new normal and is putting a strain on our government on our economy and on our citizens. climate change is real and we can't continue to sit on the sidelines. we have to take proactive steps to keep it at bay. it's costing taxpayers and it's altering our way of life and our
economy is suffering in the process. since hurricane sandy in 2012, we spent more than 100 -- $100 billion in supplemental disaster relief. let me say that again. since hurricane sandy back in 2012, not that long ago, we spent $100 billion in supplemental disaster relief. that is in addition to what congress has budgeted for disaster relief. that is $100 billion that we could use to serve our veterans, rebuilding our schools and bridges and roads or paying down the debt. but as our climate changes before our eyes, congress continues to bury its head in the sand. we are left mortgaging our children's future to pay for disaster relief today. and look at the money that we're going to spend on wildfires this year or look at the funding that
we are going to send to texas or louisiana. i will tell you that i am all for sending help to those folks. i will be making sure that the folks in this body understand that we also have to give resources to folks along the northern tier, especially montana, because fighting fire is expensive and it's dangerous and drought has dramatic impacts on our agriculture economy. i am very thankful we have folks like this gentleman on the front lines fighting fires, trying to direct mother nature and those fires in the way that they will do the least amount of damage. look, we have heard a lot about the good folks, the heroic folks down in houston. we have seen the generosity, heroism, the fighting spirit of texans. as i traveled around noona, i
have seen -- montana, i have seen that kind of heroism. i saw young men and women spending their summer fighting fires in forests. i have seen communities opening their doors and sending aid from across the state. i have seen seamless collaboration between federal, state, tribal, and other agencies to mitigate the disaster. this isn't a contest of devastation and misery, it is a testament to the american spirit. no matter what mother nature throws our way, we are going to need to work together to overcome it. saving lives and property when disaster strikes is a fundamental pillar of government. it is not a democrat or republican issue. it is an american responsibility. the country's faith in
washington, d.c., is at an all-time low of. i am confident we can ensure that the victims of harvey get the relief they need and the states that are burning and impacted by drought like montana have the resources they need to protect their economy and way of life. as congress works to get resources to the folks devastated by harvey, i hope we can all take a page out of the american people's book and work together, work together to get resources not only to the folks devastated by harvey but the folks in montana and the folks across the west that have been impacted so greatly by drought and wildfires. i'm asking each and every one of the folks who serve in this body to look at the photos and stand with the people of montana as they fight for blue skies and fresh ironce again -- fresh air
once again. we need the resources. we don't need a delay. we need to send them quickly because lives and property and a thriving outdoor economy are at risk. in the meantime, i would ask your prayers for all the folks who have been impacted by disasters, including the folks from the treasure state as we endure the drought and these terrible fires. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. and request a quorum call. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. a senator: i ask unanimous consent to vacate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. flake: madam president, i have six requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. flake: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate stand in recess until -- as if under the previous order. the presiding officer: without objection. the senate is in recess until 2:15 p.m.
host: our first guest of the morning is representative al green, democrat from texas. he represents the night district, which includes houston. .ood morning to you guest: it includes houston as well as missouri city and saffron so we want to make sure that we include them as well. host: when it comes to houston though, give us a status report of how the city is faring post harvey. guest: the mayor has indicated h