tv U.S. Senate 11082017 CSPAN November 8, 2017 9:59am-12:00pm EST
have an amendment, open debate and discuss the issue. yeah, it will be spirited at times, but i hope it leads us to a result that actually helps to do the things that we were elected to do. to give our constituents, the people we represent, the chance to have a better life, to give middle class families a little relief as they're facing this middle class squeeze. to help grow this economy, from the middle out, from the bottom up, from everywhere, to be able to give us the ability to say once again, that america is that shining example, that beacon of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world. that's what this is about and let's not blow this opportunity. let's get it done. let's get to the president's desk for his signatures before the end of this year, and let's make good on the commitments we've made to our constituents to help create a better economy and a better future. i field back. i yield back. >> those were remarks from earlier this week.
today there will be nominations and senate will look at the president's pick for the labor relations board and awaiting action in epa nomination for assistant administrator of the air and radiation office. now to live coverage of the senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. god, our father, help our lawmakers this day to do your work faithfully and well. prepare them to be sober-minded and filled with your spirit, accomplishing tasks that receive heaven's approval.
lord, keep them from deviating from integrity, as they strive to ensure that their conduct rightly represents you. may they live lives of holiness and goodness, being as kind to others as they would wish them to be to them. lord, prepare us all to stand before you in peace, without spot or blemish. as we pursue your peace on earth, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. we pray in your holy name, amen.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: the republican national is continuing its important work on behalf of the american people. we're moving
forward on legislative priorities that will benefit hardwork being families throughout the country. we're also continuing to confirm president trump's nominees throughout the federal government. last week we continued our momentum with the confirmation of well-qualified and talented individuals to serve in the federal judiciary. this week the senate is considering multiple nominations to important agencies. yesterday we confirmed officials to the department of defense and to the department of justice. soon they'll get to work for the american people. next the senate will vote to confirm peter robb as the general counsel of the national
labor relations board. as i said yesterday, mr. robb's experience in employment law will help return the nlrb to its role as an impartial arbiter of labor disputes instead of a political cudgel for left-wing special interests as it was under the obama administration. then we will turn to another qualified individual who will help undo some of the damage of the obama administration, william wehrum, president trump's nominee to be the assistant administrator for e.p.a.'s office of air and radiation, who will put his experience to good use for our nation. the office of air and radiation is one of the most important parts of the e.p.a. unfortunately, under the previous administration, it was also one of the offices with the most significant overreach. this one office was responsible for 95% of the annual regulatory burdens that the e.p.a. forced
onto our economy, according to one report, reportedly costing the economy at least $41 billion -- this one agency. so this is an office in desperate need of new leadership from an individual who understands thousand implement policies in a balanced way rather than with extreme regulatory overreach. mr. wehrum is the right person for the job, with more than three decades of experience in environmental policy. he understands the issues before the e.p.a. and how to address them. he's even worked in this particular office before, serving as acting administrator from 2005 to 2007. mr. wehrum has earned support from many different corners. his former boss at the e.p.a., jeff hole many stead said there is no -- jeff holmsted said there is no better person to fill this position.
marcus peacock said wehrum's understanding of the clean air act is second to none. even the natural resources defense counsel, not exactly a right-wing organization, had this to say about this nominee's previous experience at the e.p.a., noting that he achieved important air pollution reductions. wehrum, holmsted and the e.p.a. deserve credit for these substantial public health and air quality achievements. nominees like mr. wehrum will continue to work with this e.p.a. to undo the damage that the obama administration's overreach in a reasonable manner. for instance, obama's obama's s office of air and radiation was responsible for the regulatory scheme which threatened to push -- to punish coal families and ship middle-class jobs overseas. when administrator scott pruitt came to kentucky last month, he announced the official
withdrawal of that rule. unlike the previous leadership of the e.p.a., administrator pruitt actually cared enough to come to my home state and hear directly from the men and women impacted by the agency's regulations. he is someone who will work with us to protect our environment and save kentucky families from harmful regulations. mr. wehrum will work with administrator pruitt to help continue this trend at the e.p.a. i look forward to the senate advancing his nomination. now on another matter, members of the senate are continuing to work hard to deliver much-needed tax reform for families and small businesses. yesterday senators, members of the administration, and tax reform advocates met here in the capitol to discuss a mutual vision for relief. they shared the goals of simplicity, fairness, and economic growth. these are the same goals that i have. they are the same goals the house wrote into its
legislation. they are the same goals the president asked us to consider. and, most importantly, they are the goals shared by many americans across the
political spectrum. so we're working together to get this done. that is once-in-a-generation opportunity, and it will help us create jobs and boost the economy while closing special interest loopholes at the same time. we can do all of this through tax reform. today the house ways and means committee will continue to mark up its legislative proposal. i'd like to once again commend chairman brady for the good work on the house plan. the hearings this week are building momentum to accomplish our goals for the american people. soon the senate finance committee, under the leadership of senator hatch, will release its own plan for tax reform, workinworking through an open committee process. it will soon bring legislation to the floor. i am exceedingly grateful to chairman hatch for his continued leadership of the finance
committee. as we continue to advance tax reform, i would urge our democratic colleagues to join us. in recent years many prominent democrats have expressed support for tax reform. since then, the need for tax reform hasn't changed at all. the american people haven't stopped hurting, either. the only thing that changed was the president. so i hope our colleagues will put partisanship aside and work with us in a serious way to help us deliver real relief to families. i hope they'll help us take more money out of washington's pockets and put more money i in
the pockets of the middle class. that's the aim of this effort. we're going to keep working until we accomplish it. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the robb nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, national labor relations board, peter e. robb of vermont to be general counsel. mr. flake: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator arizona. mr. flake: mr. president, the senate foreign relations committee had a very important hearing last week regarding the 2001 authorization for use of military force, a law that served as the legal underpinning for the war against al qaeda and the taliban. i'm grateful for our witnesses, secretaries mattis and tillerson, for making themselves available to members of the committee and for the straightforward and honest answers that they provided for us. now, as we get -- as we've gotten further and further away from the 2011 attacks that resulted in the panel of the
2001aumf, i've urged congress to take a fresh look that the authorization. when four soldiers died recently in niger, i think most americans, and even some members of congress, were shocked to learn that we even had troops in that country. our troops were not there under the auspices of the 2001 aumf, but considering that they were reportedly ambushed and killed at the hands of an islamic state affiliate, questions have been raised about where our forces are and when they are at war with terrorists versus when they are simply conducting train-and-equip or other missions of that sort. it was encouraging that nearly every member of the foreign relations committee was in attendance where the witnesses testified that the administration believes that it has ample authority to prosecute the war on terrorism and does not need a new aumf.
i can't say that i was surprised to hear this testimony. no administration, republican or democrat, will ever willingly concede or cede the broad authority given to the executive branch three days after the september 11 attack, if they were to say that we need new authorization, they would concede that they hadn't been acting with authorization all this time, so they're never going to say we need a new aumf. what has surprised me is that there are members of this body, the senate, who are content to let this 16-year-old authorization remain in place. some have even suggested that any updates to the aumf can be made using the appropriations process. are we really going to start using policy riders on annual spending bills to approve of sending troops into harm's way? we rarely even vote on individual spending bills
anymore. let alone controversial policy riders to those spending bills. are we truly willing to leave it to the members of the appropriations committee to update a law that has put our service members into harm's way, particularly those of us on the authorizing committee, the senate foreign relations committee? i hope that we more jealously hard our prerogatives than that. our inaction on updating the 2001 law has already relegated the role of the senate in authorizing force to that of a cog in feedback loop. i would hope that we in the senate ought to aspire to be more than that. for 16 years congress has been all too willing to let successive administrations use those broad authorities to address new threats and to deploy u.s. troops in new plac places. beyond afghanistan our troops
have deployed all over the world, to places like yemen, the philippines, somalia, and libya to fight al qaeda and its affiliates. we've also sent forces to syria and back to iraq to defeat isis, a group that didn't even exist in 2001. now, we need to fight terrorism overseas, and i'm not suggesting that the u.s. should shy away from these battles. to the contrary, i believe congress should do its duty in supporting these missions by voting to authorize them. in the 16 years since the passage of the 2001 aumf, approximately 300 members of the house who voted on it are no longer in that chamber. in the senate, only 23 senators remain in their seats today, those senators that voted on the original aumf. that leaves approximately 70% of the entire congress that has never cast a vote to authorize military force abroad, and yet
over the years, deployments have continued to new places, combating new foes. the u.s. is strongest when we speak with one voice. therefore, congress must have some buy-in on these missions. our allies and our adversaries need to know that the war on terrorism has the support of congress. more importantly, our troops need to know that congress is behind them. i know the concept of passing a new updated aumf is a tricky one. this is not a conventional war against a sovereign nation in which victory is easily defined. instead, we're fighting an ideological enemy that has no sovereignty, and which over the years has moved all over the world, resulting in many splinter factions that can change their name at any time with ease. this new kind of war requires a new kind of authorization, one that allows congress' continued
buy-in and increases its oversight. right now, we have neither of these. now, after working on this issue for several years, senator tim kaine and i have introduced legislation that we think gets us in the right place. our bill would authorize the use of military force against al qaeda and the taliban and isis. it authorizes force against affiliates to those groups and requires the president to report to congress when he initiates force against a new group he designates as being associated with al qaeda, the taliban, or isis. military operations can begin as soon as the president has notified congress. there is no time-lapse required. if congress doesn't agree with the president's designation, our bill allows a 60-daytime frame during which any member can bring a resolution of disapproval to the floor under expediteed procedures, and adoption of such measure by both houses would result in the end of military operations against that group.
our bill adopts the same process with regard to geography, to allow congress to disapprove of military operations in a particular country. now, i recognize that traditional declarations of war and other authorizations of military force haven't referred to a particular geographic area in which operations can take place, but all of our previous military engagements were against sovereign nations with armed forces, not terrorist groups that can pop up in any country at any time. if congress is going to authorize the use of force, we ought to know which countries the u.s. troops are operating in. now, requiring the president to notify congress when he begins operations against one of these terrorist groups to a new country is an important check on the executive branch to ensure there is no overreach, and the bar for disapproving the president's decision is high, appropriately so. it would require two-thirds of
the house and the senate to disagree with the president on his decisions with regard to new associated forces or new countries. right now, congress has very little to say over who or where our military fights. the only option available is to cut off appropriations, and history has demonstrated that simply is not realistic or appropriate. the most recent example of this, as some of my colleagues will recall, was in 2011 when the obama administration joined the nato operation to help rebels in libya topple moammar qadhafi. the administration never made the case to congress as to what u.s. interests were served by u.s. involvement, and as a result, many members on both sides of the aisle publicly opposed our intervention in libya. and yet when the clock ran out on the time constraints set forth in the war powers
resolution, congress did not turn off appropriations, because you can't just pull the plug when you have -- underneath service members when they're in harm's way overseas. the, quote, turning off appropriations, unquote, simply hasn't worked in the past, and it's not likely to work in the future. we need real congressional buy-in and oversight over a conflict that has morphed considerably since 2001, and which we are now being told is morphing onto a new continent. s.j. res. 43 gives us just that. i should note the bill also includes a five-year sunset. a sunset is not intended to serve as a notice that the war on terrorism will end in five years. it's there to require a new congress to put its skin in the game by voting on authorizing force. the administration has signaled its objection to this provision. they think that the war on terrorism could be undermined if
terrorists think that they just have to wait us out. i worry more that the lack of congressional buy-in undermines the war right here at home. 70% of congress has no skin in the game at all. we're free to criticize the president, whether the president is republican or democrat. that's not right. we ought to have responsibility here. we're the article 1 branch. we're the branch tasked with declaring war and authorizing the use of force. we shouldn't shirk our responsibility. we can't let history repeat itself and go for another 16 years without voting for the use of force against terrorists. that's why i support a sunset on any new or updated aumf. now, perhaps the best feature of the flake-kaine measure is that it is bipartisan. that is an essential feature. i think we can all agree that passing an updated aumf along
party lines is perhaps the only worse thing than letting the status quo remain. mr. president, i commend the chairman of the foreign relations committee, chairman corker, for signaling that we will move ahead with the markup of a new aumf. i think that flake-kaine is a great start, but i'm under no illusion that in the process of putting a bill together that can garner widespread bipartisan support, i don't think that will be an easy one. but the longer we wait, the higher the risk becomes that we will render ourselves irrelevant when it comes to authorizing force. that is a risk with the senate that congress should not take. with that, mr. president, i yield back.
less work and less pay, fewer good-paying jobs for workers. average folks are having a harder time keeping up with the ever-rising costs, as the rich get richer and corporate stocks soar. our economy would surely benefit from the kind of tax reform that gives small businesses and working americans a break, while asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share. and fair share doesn't mean they are doing something illegal. it simply means as wealth goes up and so much money aglom rates to the top, that for the good of the society, the wealthiest should pay more. unfortunately, the republican party have decided to pursue a partisan tax bill that would spin our economy even further out of whack. lavishing tax giveaways on the wealthy and corporate america, while raising taxes, raising taxes on millions of
middle-class families over ten years. a "new york times" analysis found that next year, the house republican tax plan would cause taxes to go up on one-third of all middle-class families. those were families who made, i believe it was between $56,000 and $150,000. one out of three right in that middle-class, upper middle-class group is going to pay more in taxes, while those at the highest end get huge breaks. by 2026, taxes would go up on nearly half of all middle-class families. i want to salute somebody i almost never agree with, senator cruz. at least yesterday he had the courage of his convictions and to say middle-class people, no middle-class person should pay more, even in new york and california. so -- but that's not the case with this bill.
large numbers of people throughout the country pay more. large numbers of middle-class people and people struggling to the middle class pay more. so when speaker ryan says that under the house plan, quote, everyone enjoys a tax cut all across the board, as he did yesterday, he's fibbing. i really want to use the "l" word, but to be nice, i won't. but speaker ryan, explain to us how you can say with a straight face, quote, everyone enjoys a tax cut all across the board. every independent analysis and the more honest republicans say that some middle-class people, a good number of middle-class people get a tax increase. so leader ryan, speaker ryan, take it back. start telling the truth about your bill. we know you're under pressure, but you have always been an honorable man, and this tax bill is tying you into a pretzel when
it comes to telling the truth about it. now, look at what is done here. the personal exemption, which benefits large families, is gone. yes, the standard deduction is -- the standard deduction doubles. but if you have four, five, six children, you still pay more even before they start whacking your state and local deductibility or your college loan deductibility or your health care deductibility. stunningly, the dedication for catastrophic cally high medical expenses is also gone, meaning that among the hardest hit under this plan would be some of the most vulnerable taxpayers. eight million americans deduct their out-of-pocket medical expenses because they are over 10% of their income. they plan their finances around this deduction. these families have someone with
a chronic condition. maybe it's an elderly parent who has dimes. maybe it's a family with a young kid with cancer. i met a lady at the airport yesterday. her name was bridget. i don't know who she was. she came over to me pleading, sadness in her eyes. she said my son needs an orphan drug. it's very expensive. if i can't deduct the expenses, i don't know what i'm going to do. i won't be able to afford the drug. how can our republican colleagues be so heartless and cruel? yeah, i know you want to reduce taxes on corporations, but why do you have to do it at bridget's expense? why do you have to do it at bridget's expense? and, of course, the house bill takes an ax to state and local deductibility. a bedrock middle-class deduction that affects nearly every state but hits high tax states like virginia the hardest. any house republican who watched
the returns in the virginia elections last night must be shaken by the overwhelming democratic turnout in suburban areas, and according to pollsters, the number one issue was health care, and this deduction goes. but overall, suburban virginia said no to the republican way. suburban families will be the ones hit hardest by the elimination of state and local deductions, in states like virginia but also in washington, new jersey, california, illinois, minnesota, colorado, be and just last night, mr. president, we learned from reporting that the senate bill is likely to go even further regarding this state and local deduction, full repeal. there are some from my state in new york who are saying, well, we have a compromise. a, the compromise still
eliminates three-quarters of the deduction, but b, that compromise is going bye-bye. the senate's going to get rid of it. you can be sure it won't come back in a conference committee. so i say to my house colleagues, particularly those from suburban districts, stop the elimination of the state and local deduction now before it's too late. and if it happens and you vote yes on this bill, you will be to blame. there's no way to duck and cover behind the compromise any longer because the tax writers made it clear they want to repeal it entirely in the senate. and because of the stricter senate budget rules, the senate language is likely to win out over the house language. make no mistake about it, a full repeal of the state and local deduction is coming down
the pike one way or the other. voting to advance the g.o.p. bill is a vote to fully repeal state and local deductibility. and i say to my republican friends from all those suburban distributors where a high percentage of people use the state and local deduction, if you think the results in virginia and new jersey were terrible for you, wait until you pass a bill that raises taxes on large swathes of middle-class families in your district. now, mr. president, the debate over the state and local deduction is illustrative of the central problem my republican friends have with their tax bill. every time you pull in one direction and change something to solve a problem, you have to push in another direction and you end up creating a new one. it's like pushing on a balloon. just this morning speaker ryan said the phaseout of middle-class deductions would
never happen. quote, they're only there to, quote, game the senate rules. well, if there is no phaseout, the real cost of the bill will be much higher. i say to my senate friends who have talked about making sure we don't let the deficit go out of control, that ryan is saying that we're going to let the deficit go out of control and game the senate rules because the phaseout of middle-class deductions won't happen. if there is no real phaseout, real cost of the bill will be much higher. a tough pill to swallow to anyone in this senate on the republican side who believes in deficit reduction, who believes about $1.5 trillion -- their rule -- is about as high as you can go. and all of this is because our republican colleagues are rushing this bill through.
something like this takes care, it takes hearings, it takes discussion, it takes experts, it takes affected groups all weighing in. that takes awhile. that's how it's supposed to work. that's how the founding fathers wanted it to work. that's how we did it with the last successful major reform bill in 1986. i was there. i know. to rush a bill of this magnitude through the congress in a span of a few weeks with only one party doing the work is reckless , it's irresponsible and will lead to a very bad result. it's why our republican colleagues have such problems. so i repeat my plea to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. take a step back. consider doing reform the right way -- tax reform the right way. bipartisan, through the committees, input from both sides. we've shown as in health care, my friend from new hampshire is on the floor, was one of the leaders in that, that when we
try, we can work together. earlier this year we came to a good budget deal. senators alexander and murray put together a reasonable compromise on health care. we can do it again on tax reform. we democrats want to do real reform. but our republican friends must abandon this partisan, secretive reckless process that will lead to no good for them and for the country, and come to the table with democrats. and one final point on the matter, republicans repeatedly promised that the $1.5 trillion reduction in the corporate tax rate proposed by the ryan ryan-mcconnell tax plan will leave the average american family to receive a $4,000 raise. yet corporate profits are already at record highs, wages are relatively stagnant. calling us skeptical that sharing corporations with new tax brackets that will result in them having even more money will
end up creating higher wages for workers. what it will create far more likely is a another round of stock buy-backs and dividends which benefits corporate c.e.o.'s and the wealthy by and large. you don't have to take it from me. david marburker, executive c.e.o. at conagra, this is what he he told shareholders this fall, from the c.f.o. of conagra, in terms of of if there is a corporate tax reduction and there's more cash, we bounce back to our capital allocation. more stock buy-backs. republicans think a corporate tax without guardrails will boost wages, and we disagree. and later this morning democrats will urge our republican colleagues to put their money where their mouth is and prove us wrong. we'll be offering an amendment that would snap back taxes to the old corporate rate if
corporations actually fail to boost their workers' wages. it's that simple. put your money where your mouth is. the only thing you're hanging your hat on on this bill which so hurts so many middle-class people is everyone will get a big wage increase. because we're reducing the corporate rate. we challenge you, accept our amendment. it's the rate if corporate wages don't go up, corporate decrease in taxes is repealed. we're simply telling republicans don't write checks to corporations that their employees can't cash. if republicans fail to support this amendment, they'll confirm that their tax bill is a farce. they really don't believe it when it comes to boosting wages for working americans. and one final word on the nomination of mr. robb to the nlrb. the nlrb protects workers' rights to form or jown unions,
bargain collectively with their employees or act for mutual protection. it is not clear to me from reviewing mr. robb's background that he believes in the mission of the agency. in his experience as an employment lawyer he has defended in age and sex discrimination charges, class action wage claims. mr. robb's law firm's website brags did defeating union organizing at the millstone power organization in connecticut. he was the lead counsel on the notorious reagan-era case which decertified the air traffic controllers union. that resulted in president reagan firing 11,000 air traffic controllers and barring them from federal service. the general counsel for the nlrb sets the priority cases and determines when to bring charges against employers. it's a crucial role. peter robb's record shows he is not up to this job, that he
will not defend workers in an agency designed to defend workers. i'll be voting no and urging my colleagues to do the same. and
i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: mr. president, it's hard to read or to listen to the news these days without hearing about russia's interference in our american democracy. hearing about its influence peddling, about the misinformation that it's been spreading on social media. well, i have bipartisan legislation that would address an aspect of this. this legislation is cosponsored by senator todd young, and it's legislation that would give law enforcement the tools that they need to create greater transparency about foreign individuals and entities that are operating in the united states in the interest of other governments. and it would make it easier for the public to better track
information they're receiving, particularly from governments that are hostile to the united states. this bill would give the department of justice necessary authority to investigate potential violations of the foreign agent's registration act, which is also known as fara. we've heard a lot about that. this was legislation that was passed during the 1930's as there was fear about the rise of naziism and hitler in germany and the effort to spread propaganda in the united states. this would allow the american public to clearly trace where information is coming from and who is paying for it. i think in this age of misinformation, that's especially important for the public. at a time when our law enforcement officials, foreign policy experts, and leaders continue to grapple with the extent of russia's intrusion into our democratic elections,
this legislation is more urgent than ever. the need for this legislation is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by the case of russian propaganda networks like r.t. america and sputnik international. both networks continually propagate and share content and programming that's designed to very subtly confuse and influence audiences worldwide. and if you've ever listened to either of those channels, you will know that there's just this subtle difference in how they present information. but in the united states, r.t. america is available on cable tv's across the country. it's considered to be one of the most high-profile assets in vladimir putin's vast $1.4 billion propaganda machine. according to an assessment made public by the u.s. intelligence
community in january, r.t. is the kremlin's, and i quote, principal international propaganda outlet. end quote. and it's integral to russia's information warfare operations across the globe. the kremlin selects the staff for r.t. and slowsly supervises r. it's coverage, including disinformation and false news stories designed to undermine our democracy. if you have any question about that, watch r.t. here. it's on the cable network here in the d.c. area. r.t. news has publicly boasted that it can dodge our laws by claiming to be financed by a nonprofit organization and not by the russian government. well, recently the department of justice asked r.t. america to in fact register as a foreign agent. r.t. rejected an entirely reasonable request from the justice department to respect our laws.
they refused to register. and how did we respond? well, we continue to allow r.t. america to spread its disinformation and false narratives. this is unacceptable. we responded that way because we don't have the teeth that we need in the law to be able to enforce it. and that's what my legislation with senator young would do. that's why it's so important. it would strengthen fara by giving the department of justice authority to compel foreign organizations to produce documentation to confirm funding sources and foreign connections. this new investigative authority was requested by the department of justice and is supported by the government accountability office, the sunlight foundation and the project on government oversight. this is a good government piece of legislation. in fact, if this authority were
in place today, the authority that we have in our legislation, the justice department could immediately investigate r.t. america and publicly expose its ties to the kremlin. in the absence of such authority, all the justice department can do is to ask r.t. to voluntarily adhere to fara regulations and hope that the propaganda outlet complies. what are the odds of that? pretty slim. clearly based on r. it's refusal to comply with fara, the kremlin is well aware of the limitations that are inherent in our law. now as we wait for this commonsense legislation to move forward, the kremlin, r.t. america, sputnik continue to wield their harmful propaganda and attempt to influence the american public. since the publication of the intelligence community's january report on russia's interference
in our 2016 presidential election, we've learned that moscow spent millions of dollars buying ads on social media sites and search engines often using the very clips that had been aired by r.t. on its youtube channel. last week representatives of american social media companies testified before congress and illustrated the lengths that the crem -- kremlin went in order to deceptively spread propaganda all seemingly without a trace or clear indication about the origins of these ads and r. it's -- r. it's news blasts. the misinformation included reports ran by r.t. news on supposed u.s. election fraud in voting. so they spread and they clearly intended to spread confusion about our election in 2016 to try and encourage people to
believe that our elections don't work, to undermine our election process. they talked about machine vulnerabilities. they claim that the results of u.s. elections could not be trusted and did not reflect the people's will. and, sadly, too many people saw those stories and believed they were real. these are just not -- are not just random examples of fake news. these stories are part and parcel of a broader influence campaign designed and directed by the kremlin's leadership and peddled by government-funded trolls in st. petersburg and other front organizations.so ina is building up its military force, its navy, it's ability to operate in space, its missile program, it's also built up its propaganda campaign in ways that undermine our -- are designed to undermine western democracies.
if we don't pay attention to this, then shame on us. we are, of course, a resilient democracy. we are confident that our values and institutions will prevail in the free marketplace of ideas. and our constitution, unlike russia, protects the right of individuals and organizations to spread russian viewpoints, disinformation, and even outright lies. but no organization, including r.t. america or any other front outlet for a country that is hostile to the united states, has the right to conceal a foreign funding source and thumb its nose at the requests from our department of justice. the american people have a right to know if r.t. america is a russian propaganda organization that takes its direction from the kremlin. they have a right to know who's funding those programs and what kind of misinformation they're spreading. to that end, i urge my colleagues to put an end to the
kremlin's charade by supporting the foreign agents registration modernization and enforcement act. let's give the department of justice the tools it needs to investigate and expose r.t. america and to fight back against the kremlin's interference in our democracy. thank you, 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:
mr. boozman: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be rescinded and that i be permitted to speak as if in morning business for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. boozman: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to commemorate the courageous service and selfless sacrifice of our nation's veterans. honoring our veterans is one of the greatest privileges i have as a united states senator, which is why i often attend celebrations in arkansas to acknowledge and salute some of the grave men and women that have served our nation in uniform. i recently had the pleasure of -- to recognize the service and valor of 15 arkansas veterans during the arkansas military veterans hall of fame induction ceremony.
the class of 2017 inductees came from all across arkansas. these veterans served in conflicts ranging from world war ii through the war on terror. together, they have earned some of the nation's most prestigious honors and commendations, including the purple heart, bronze star, distinguished flying cross, legion of merit and silver star medal for gallantry. i also had the opportunity to present three arkansas veterans with the medals and commendations they had earned when i attended a veterans day celebration in fort smith, arkansas. i'm proud of the work that we do to obtain the service medals and recognition that these heroes have earned. we also have worked hard to honor the efforts of mr. erol sevier of eureka springs, arkansas, as he strives to
promote the role of joint service aviation cadets in the 20th century. mr. sevier, an air force veteran, operates the aviation cadet museum, which is the only museum in the united states that exists exclusively to celebrate teamwork, collaboration, patriotism, and courage of the individuals who trained for and fought in the national aviation effort from 1917 to 1965. as we recognize our veterans in honor of the sacrifice and heroism of those who have been called to serve, we must recommit ourselves to fighting on their behalf. as a member of the senate veterans' affairs committee, i'm committed to honoring the promise made to our veterans. we've made tremendous progress during this congress. in june, president trump signed the v.a. accountability and whistle-blower protection act. this strengthens accountability
at the department of veterans' affairs by allowing the v.a. to dismiss bad employees while protecting those who expose wrongdoing. we are also continuing to improve the choice act. early this year, we hosted listening sessions with arkansas veterans to obtain their input on the strengths and the weaknesses of the program as congress continues to expand access to adequate health care options for veterans. in addition, we enhanced post-9/11 g.i. bill benefits to increase educational opportunities. i'm proud to have played a role in crafting this law, along with my colleague from oregon, senator wyden. i'm pleased that he could join me on the floor to recognize the importance of the provision we have championed for several years to fix an oversight to -- that prevented combat-injured members of the national guard and reserve from receiving the same g.i. bill benefits as
active duty military members. this is a great example of senators on both sides of the aisle working together to get things done. fixing this clear oversight in the law that unfairly penalized wounded and injured service members from accruing educational benefits they rightly earned while in recovery was a priority for both of us. because these men and women deserved better. to correct this injustice, we introduced legislation earlier this year as well as in the last congress, and i'm pleased it was included in the comprehensive g.i. reform bill that was signed into law this summer. while we have made improvements, there is still more that needs to be done, including the expansion of v.a. services for female veterans. i encourage my colleagues to support the deborah sampson act to address these concerns, and i
urge v.a. secretary shulkin to implement reforms written into the bill that don't require congressional action. our work must continue. today my colleague from indiana, senator donnelly, and i will introduce legislation to allow veterans who served in thailand during the vietnam era the opportunity to prove toxic exposure in order to qualify for v.a. benefits. mr. president, let me take one more opportunity to thank our veterans and their families. this country made a promise to our veterans that we must live up to, and i'm proud to be able to work for them to assure we follow through with our commitment. the men and women who have put their lives on the line in defense of our country deserve our undying gratitude. they also deserve our support when they transition back into civilian life, which is why we must support efforts to improve their health, their ability to serve, their education needs,
and pursue their dreams just as they fought to make that possible for their fellow americans. that sentiment is shared throughout this chamber. for all our disagreements in washington, we truly do come together in support of our veterans. that is one area of agreement. i thank senator wyden for his leadership to ensure equal treatment of education benefits for wounded guardsmen and reservists. i was very proud to work with him in support of this effort and look forward to working with him in the future. as guardsmen and reservists are called to defend and protect our nation exactly like active duty members, so it's only right that they receive the same g.i. bill benefits. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
mrs. fischer: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to recognize the men and women of the nebraska guard. for more than 150 years, the nebraska national guard has been protecting our state and keeping our nation safe. established in 1854, the guard predates the founding of the state of mbenga by 12 years, and those that serve in its ranks today, they carry on a proud tradition. whenever the nation calls, nebraska guards men and women have been at the leading edge, responding in times of military need and national crisis. when the shadow of fascism spread across europe in world war ii, nebraska's 134th infantry regiment was there to bring the light of democracy back to the continent. liberating the french city of st. leaux from nazi occupation. when terrorists struck on
september 11, the nebraska national guard was there to answer the call. in the time since, over 10,000 nebraska guard soldiers and airmen have deployed to fight the war on terror and serve in defense of our nation. that means that in the last 16 years, there have been only three days when every nebraska soldier and airman was at home with their loved ones. saying no is not part of the culture of the nebraska national guard. when the nation calls, there is no hesitation. they go where the mission requires them to go. at this very moment, you can find nebraska's soldiers and airmen deployed all across the globe, protecting our great nation. whether it is the dozens of guards men and women who are currently conducting detainee operations at guantanamo bay or those preparing to deploy next
year to key positions in the pacific and the middle east, our guard stands ready to answer the call. the guard is also playing an important role in working with our allies abroad. since 1993 the nebraska national guard has been linked with the czech republic through the state partnership program. as eastern europe emerged from the heavy hand of communism, the nebraska national guard was there working side by side with their military to collaborate, share, and assist, forging a lasting bond that remains strong to this day. this year marks the 25th anniversary of that partnership, and we are all extremely proud of the work our guard is doing to help bring our democracies together. that spirit of service extends to their operations here in the homeland as well.
when hurricanes so tragically struck our neighbors in texas, florida, the virgin islands, and puerto rico, the nebraska guard was there to help. the numbers speak for themselves. in texas, they rescued 461 people, delivered 142,000 pounds of cargo, 6,000 pounds of bottled water, and 1,000 pounds of medical supplies. during hurricane irma, 102 members participated in an aviation task force for support operations. right now 58 soldiers and air men are providing assistance to the virgin islands and puerto rico. the scope of their response to these disasters is a testament to their dedication and showcases the flexibility of the
guard's mission. whether it is responding to domestic emergencies, overseas combat, or reconstruction missions, these men and women are there to respond with speed, efficiency, and strength. one of the most impressive things about the nebraska national guard is that these are regular, everyday citizens who decided to answer the call to serve. they are our neighbors, our friends, our spouses, sons and daughters, ordinary nebraskans from every background who decided to put on the uniform and make a difference. and that's why i'm so honored to have a group of the nebraska national guards men and women visiting washington today. i would like to take this opportunity to personally thank them, their families, and loved ones who support them, and all of our national guard
soldiers and airmen for their good service. the nebraska national guard has seen a lot of change in its history, but one thing remains the same. they stand ready to serve. thank you, mr. president. i would yield the floor. mr. wyden: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, one of the great privileges of this job and the honor of representing oregon in the united states senate is seeing the way oregonians of all backgrounds and beliefs come together to celebrate those who wear or have worn the uniform of the united states military. when it comes tohonoring our veterans, oregonians and so many across the country think in terms of patriotism, not politics, and certainly not partisanship. there's not a democratic or a
republican way to support our veterans. there is an american way. so i was very pleefsed recently -- pleased recently to join senator moran and senator tester to introduce bipartisan legislation that would expand the presumption to veterans exposed to agent orange in the korean demilitarized zone. the v.a. currently presumes that veterans who served in the korean d.m.z. from 1968 to 1971 were exposed to agent orange, but there's evidence that veterans were exposed to toxins all the way back to 1967. our bipartisan bill would extend the presumption date back, making it easier for veterans to apply and be able to receive care and benefits. it is a good bill. it is a bipartisan bill. and as we head to veterans day,
i want to make it clear i'm going to do everything i can to make this bill lawsuit. i also want to take a few minutes given the fact we'll all be home this weekend to discuss another bipartisan piece of legislation that's important to the welfare of our veterans and a proposal that recently became law. a few years ago, mr. president, i learned that wounded members of the national guard and reserve were losing out on benefits under the g.i. bill for time that they spent in rehabilitation and recovery. these are men and women who put their lives on hold to go serve our country abroad. and when they suffered injuries in the line of duty, their time spent recovering didn't count
toward g.i. bill benefits even though they did it for active duty service members in the same situation. i think it's an understatement to say that is certainly a real head scratcher, to not stand up for our guard and reserve to make sure that they are not losing out on benefits under the g.i. bill for the time they spend in recovery and rehab. so in effect, the federal law was adding insult to injury by robbing wounded guardsmen of benefits they should have been receiving all along. estimates show that more than 20,000 service members across our country were affected. so i approached our friend and colleague from arkansas, senator boozman, and he graciously agreed to team up with me. and senator boozman made it
clear that a fellow from arkansas and a fellow from oregon were going to team up, leave the politics behind, and fix an injustice. so we brought together a bipartisan group. we worked with the veterans' affairs committee. and we were able to get the bill across the finish line. so as of now, wounded guardsmen and reservists will get the education benefits they rightly earned. and i want especially today, when people are asking about the divisiveness and polarization that now consumes so much in a political debate, i wanted senators to know that i really appreciate senator boozman always trying to be constructive and be a problem solver. and this is one problem that is getting solved. the law will also apply retroactively, meaning that
eligible veterans who already lost out would be made whole. and because it is so counter intuitive for service members to lose benefits for being wounded -- just think about that one. service members losing benefits for being wounded. many of our veterans haven't learned that they were missing out. they just never knew they were missing out. so that's why i'm very pleased -- and i know senator boozman is, that our law applies retroactively to all services after the 9/11 attacks. i think it's also true up here that success has a thousand parents and if i thank everybody on both sides of the aisle for all the work that went into this important bill, we'd be here until supper time tonight, mr. president. but i do especially want to thank our colleagues, senators
markey and mccain. they lent important support along the way, as did chairman johnny isakson and ranking member jon tester, and representative mark decano of california has been an exceptional advocate in the other body. i also would like to give a special thank you to major steve warren, a department of defense fellow in my office at the dawn of the process. he is considered a real rock star in terms of working for veterans. he did so much to bring this injustice to light and then worked diligently toward a solution. and i think it is pretty much the judgment of everybody involved that without steve's inspiration and perspiration, it's hard to see this injustice being fixed and our even being here today as we head to veterans day to talk about it. so i close by way of saying that
in this time of partisan rancor and the back and forth that consumes so much of the political debate in washington, i think what we have shown with this piece of legislation and its importance that our veterans continue to be a unifying force. and this goodwill comes from a deep respect for the all-volunteer force and for the sacrifices made by military families. it also stems from an appreciation for the role our veterans play in so many communities. in oregon, our vets are small business owners, they're coders, mill workers, they're educators. they help students at the youth challenge program. and they help us fight fires. and suffice it to say this year those fires were big, they were
long, they were brutal. and we saw fires nobody could have even believe could happen such as the one that jumped the colombia river. so it doesn't mean that congress, even with this legislation always gets it right with respect to veterans. we have a whole lot more to be done particularly ensuring timely access to top quality health through the l -- d.a. and make sure guardsmen in the service get treated fairly and equitably. i want to say this again on the eve of our taking time out specifically to honor veterans, although in our state we believe that every day is really veterans day. and i just want to renew my pledge to the people of oregon that i and my staff will keep working until our vets receive the care and treatment they've earned.
and we hope the success of our g.i. bill fairness law demonstrates what can be done when the congress sets aside all this business of trying to point score on partisanship and puts veterans first. with that, 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:
murmur mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. murmur i ask unanimous consent that the -- mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: i come to the floor to do what the trump administration has failed to do, to stand up for working families and fight for an economy that works for all. on the campaign trail president trump made promise after promise to workers. he promised to put them first
and bring back good-paying jobs to their communities. since day one of his presidency, we have seen him do just the opposite. his administration has rolled back protections for workers and families and prioritized corporate profits over working families security. he has put forward nominee after nominee and put other interests ahead of families. like william aaro -- warem has worked to undermine the core mission of the office he would oversee. he's the nominee who has demonstrated a willingness to side with protecting big business instead of protection for our nation's most valuable resources and whose independence is truly in question. unfortunately, mr. president, when looking at president trump's record as a businessman,
those decisions don't come as a surprise. president trump spent decades as a real estate developer cheating workers and contractors out of their hard-earned pay. he refused to allow his own hotel workers to join together to advocate for better working conditions and wages. president trump's economy is one where the workers bear the burden and those who live in gilded towers get the benefit. last week democrats rolled out an ambitious agenda to reform our labor laws to once again empower workers to join together, make their voices heard, and fight for better wages and benefits. currently it is extremely difficult for workers to seek justice when corporations violate their rights, and if we want to rebuild the middle class, we've got to change that
because workers' right to organize and join unions helped to build the middle class we have today. for many workers in the 21st century joining a union helped them climb the economic ladder. but over the past few decades our economy has worked in favor of corporations and those at the top. and corporate management and special interests have undermined workers right to collect lively bargain, we have seen a decline in unions across the country. thatallowed people like president trump -- mr. president, the preamble of the national labor act clearly states it is the policy of the united states to encourage collective bargaining, to give workers a voice, allow them to
speak up for fair wages and safe working conditions. and it is the responsibility for the nlrb to ensure workers' rights are protected so they are not taken advantage of. the nlrb gives workers the opportunity to file charges against corporations when they are illegally fired or retaliated against for exercising their rights. because president trump's own businesses have had complaints filed against them numerous times, it's so critical that the board is independent and committed to that core mission. so, unfortunately, mr. president, i have serious concerns about mr. robb's commitment to that core mission and to supporting workers rights so that more families, not fewer have financial security. mr. robb has spent most of his career as a corporate lawyer representing big business and seeking to limit the rights of
workers that are guaranteed under the national labor relations act, the very law he's now asking to be in charge of and enforcing. he has defended companies against age and discrimination charges and unfair wage and hour claims. if he is confirmed, mr. robb would have the sole decision making power as to which cases are brought before the nlrb. and given his long history of defending corporations, i don't believe workers can trust him to act with their best interest at heart or to stand up to president trump and his vision of an economy that works for those at the top but undercuts workers' wages and safety and rights. so, mr. president, i will be voting no on mr. robb's nomination, and i urge my colleagues to do the same. i know every single one of my colleagues has spoken to working families in their state who feel left behind today, families who
work full time, saving what they can, struggling to make ends meet. it's time that we stop prioritizing corporate profits and start focusing on those workers and our middle class. we can only strengthen our economy if we give workers a voice in it. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i'd ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as the world now knows, there was a tragic shooting in sutherland springs, texas, last sunday that took the lives of 26 innocent people and injured 20 more. on monday evening there was a prayer vigil for those victims where the community gathered to pray and to pay their respects to the deceased. there's two people in particular who were in attendance that i want to highlight. stephen willeford and johnnie langendorff.
i mentioned them yesterday and perhaps you've seen them on the news, but i've been thinking a lot about them lately in addition to the tragedy, this was really one of the things that gives you a little hope amidst the terrible circumstances. stephen of course is the man who responded to the shooter's rampage by grabbing his rifle and running toward the church first baptist. johnnie drove the truck that chased the gunman down at high speeds. in typical texas fashion, these two gentlemen don't consider themselves to be heroes, but i consider them to be heroes. they said they were just doing what needed to be done. johnnie said it was act now, ask questions later, that kind of deal. i think we in washington should take more of our cues from people like johnnie and stephen. we should show courage and track down anything that's not right and do our very best to fix it.
in particular, stephen willeford -- maybe you have to be a texan or alaskan to really appreciate what he did -- from what i read, he was an n.r.a. certified shooting instructor. he apparently heard the shooting at the church, grabbed his gun, and came there and basically ended up stopping the shooter from killing more people. he apparently had enough accumulated ammunition to do a lot more damage than he did, but thanks to the intervention of this concerned citizen, this person who is willing to put himself in harm's way and who actually shot the shooter and discouraged him from doing more, but for its actions a lot more people would have died on that terrible, terrible sunday. the police can't be everywhere all the time, and that's one reason why in my state and
around the country we believe that citizens ought to be able to defend themselves under appropriate circumstances. well, we now know that the gunman was court martialed by the air force and convicted of serious domestic abuse. under the current federal law, this should have prohibited him from ever even purchasing a firearm. the fact that it didn't means we need to figure out why the federal law wasn't followed and make darn sure that the relevant information is always uploaded into the background check databases. there were multiple errors, human and systematic errors that prevented -- that should have prevented this shooter from ever even buying a firearm. he unlawfully purchased four firearms that he wasn't legally permitted to purchase. federal background checks did not turn up his air force convictions for domestic
violence, for a felony by fracturing the skull of his stepson as an infant. because these convictions weren't uploaded on the nics federal database, i plan to introduce legislation and i've been talking to a number of colleagues on both sides of the aisle that are interested in providing a solution to this problem, but we're going to introduce legislation to ensure that all federal departments and agencies, including the department of defense upload the required conviction records. my legislation will also encourage to the greatest extent possible under the constitution that state and local governments do the same. we all remember the terrible shooting that occurred at virginia tech a few years ago by a person who had already been adjudicated mentally ill by the state. but because the state did not upload that into the federal database, when he went to buy a firearm there was no hit, no
disqualifier that appeared that would have prevented him from buying that firearm in the first place. we need to make sure those systems work every time. what sutherland springs has exposed is the federal government's failing to comply with the reporting requirements. this is unacceptable and it must change. yesterday general david gol goldfein, the chief of staff of the air force came by my office and i'm grateful to him for that. i told him this must have been one of his worst days when he found out that the air force had by its failure somehow failed to notify the federal authorities that this individual was disqualified for buying a firearm. and he appropriately expressed grave concern over the fact that the gunman's convictions were not sent to the nics database, and he pledged to get to the root of the problem. and i believe him. it's worth noting that we've tried to address similar
problems before, and we can do it again. in 2015 i introduced a bill called the mental health and safe community's act that addressed a related issue, and that was the failure of state and local authorities to upload valuable mental health records into this same nics database. i think there's a bipartisan willingness in this chamber to work on problems inherent in the sharing of these records, and i hope my colleagues will join with me in supporting this new legislation once it's introduced. we're shooting for the first part of next week. because we owe it to the men and women and the families of sutherland springs to make sure that our laws are enforced and that individuals like this shooter with a history of violence do not gain illegal access to firearms. mr. president, on a separate and unrelated note, i want to address the work that the house,
ways, and means committee is currently engaged in and what we will be doing in the united states senate to reform our overly complex, burdensome and self-destructive tax system. and i think there's a lot of momentum gathering each day. yesterday senator mcconnell, the majority leader, commented on our once in a generation opportunity to overhaul our tax code. to accomplish this goal both in the house and the senate, we are moving forward on different proposals. this week the house, ways, and means committee completed its first to days of discussing the house bill unveiled last week called the cut -- tax cuts and job act, the tax cuts and job act. at the same time the senate finance committee is continuing its work, too. chairman hatch will continue to guide the committee through an open process and members will have the chance to engage in productive discussions and debate. that will start once the
chairman's mark or the base bill is released hopefully by later this week, that perhaps as early as next week we will begin the process in the senate finance committee of marking up that bill. senators offering amendments and voting on it. and once both houses of congress have completed their work, my hope is we can get this bill on the president's desk by christmas. some of our colleagues across the aisle have instead of contributing to the solution to this overly complex and self-destructive tax code have been lobbying insults from their partisan bunkers, even though many of them have endorsed many of the aspects of the plans in years past. for example, early on it was interesting, there was criticism of our desire to make our global tax system more competitive so that more businesses will move their manufacturing facilities back to the u.s. and so we could stamp more of their products
made in america creating more jobs here. well, it's ironic as they were criticizing us for giving tax relief to businesses, that people like president barack obama back in 2011 endorsed the very same concept not to mention the ranking member of the senate finance committee, senator wyden and the democratic leader, senator schumer. all of them have endorsed similar proposals yet were quick to criticize our proposal doing exactly the thing that they themselves had previously endorsed. so unfortunately, our democratic friends are quick to criticize our plans not just because they disagree with them on the merits but simply because it's our proposal and they're not interested in working with us across party lines. this is really ashame and a lost opportunity. people are crying out for democrats and republicans to work together in the best interest of the country. and unfortunately, our
democratic friends are simply ignoring the urgency of the situation. the stagnation of american workers' wages and couples finding it harder to start families or once they do, pay for a college education. as my friend, the junior senator from florida, senator rubio, wrote a few days ago in "the new york times," it's more than time to reconcile our social contract to the realities that working families face. the tax code has not been comprehensively overhauled since 1986. now some of us are trying to, the swamp is fighting back. and it's important that we win this fight against the swamp, the special interest groups that try to come in and protect the various special interest tax provisions that make our code unnecessarily complicated and force us to look for additional revenue from other sources because they want to protect theirs at the expense of the