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tv   U.S. Senate 11142017  CSPAN  November 14, 2017 10:00am-12:31pm EST

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department. and a vote time has not been announced and the mine health and safety administration and rece recess 2:15 and we expect to bring you statements before they gavel back in. now to 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. eternal lord god, as the waters fill the sea, let america be filled with people who know you.
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help our citizens to live for your honor. increase our faith, hope, and love that we may receive your promises. lord, be merciful to our nation, for you are our hope. today inspire our lawmakers with the music of your wisdom that they may bring hope out of despair and joy out of sadness. teach them to celebrate even in the darkness, because you are the god who saves us. give us all the strength to not become weary in doing what is right, knowing that in due
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season a bountiful harvest will come. we pray in your great 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, november 14, 2017, to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable ben sasse, a senator from the state of nebraska, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g.hatch, president pro tempore.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: tax reform represents our best chance today to get the economy living up to its true potential, and its once-in-a generation opportunity. the last time major tax reform happened was more than 30 years ago. in the years since, our country, our economy, and the global marketplace have changed in profound ways. moreover, the lingering economic challenges of the last decade only compound the urgency to get this done. jobs went overseas, wages didn't grow like they should have, hardworking families worried if they'd be able to send their kids to college or save for retirement. it's clear that families and small businesses had a rough go of it during the obama economy. they deserve relief. they deserve the chance for something better. tax reform is an important way
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to help get the economy, jobs, and opportunity moving again in a serious way. listen to this small business owner and franchisee from lexington, kentucky. she wrote to my office expressing the need for tax reform. with the rising cost of doing business, she wrote, and the government regulations that have been imposed on small businesses over the past several years, we desperately need tax relief and competitive rates. the current high tax rate that i pay, she continued, reduces the amount of earnings i can invest into my businesses, into my employees, and into my community. for small business owners in kentucky and throughout the country, we want to make it easier to grow, invest, and hire. for families everywhere, we want to make taxes lower, simpler, and fairer. in short, we want to take more money out of washington's pockets and put more money in the pockets of the middle class. that's why we're pushing tax
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reform. yesterday the senate finance committee began to mark up its tax reform legislation. the meetings this week represent the next step in a year's long campaign which included dozens of hearings and significant input from both sides. chairman hatch said yesterday, first and foremost, this legislation will provide much-needed tax relief to american workers and families. it reduces rates across the board, particularly for those in the middle class who have struggled to get through the past eight years of economic stagnation. and indeed, under the finance committee's proposal, the typical american family of four earning the median income could see a tax cut of nearly $1,500. as these hearings continue, i'd like to once again commend chairman hatch for his leadership of the committee and his commitment to regular order. as the tax proposal advances through an open process, members of finance committee
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will consider many of the hundreds of amendments that have already been filed on the bill. once the committee completes its work, the bill will come before the full senate. along with our colleagues in the house, as well as president trump and his team, we will continue to push for tax reform to fulfill important shared goals for our country. we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are committed to getting this done for the american people. i hope that our democratic friends will join us. as i've said before, until very recently our colleagues on the other side of the aisle used to support many of the ideas included in this bill. the underlying ideas haven't cheangsd. -- changed. the urgent need for tax reform hasn't changed. the only thing that has really changed is the occupant of the white house. so i hope that senate democrats can put aside partisanship and work with us in a serious way to deliver this much-needed relief to small businesses and the middle class. now on another matter, in addition to the other work being
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done by the committees, the senate is continuing to confirm qualified and talented nominees sent to us by the president. yesterday we confirmed an important official for the department of transportation and today we'll confirm another. then we'll advance the nomination of david zatezalo to serve as the assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, a position of particular importance in my home state of kentucky where mining supports thousands of good jobs. zatezalo spent a lifetime working in the mining industry. he began as an underground coal miner, worked his way up through the ranks to most recently lead a lexington, kentucky-based mining company. he knows about various levels of the business, which will be an important asset as he works with operates, miners, and inspectors to ensure that mining operations are safe for our nation's mine workers.
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having begun his career as a coal miner himself and having later managed and operated a number of mines, mr. zatezalo has a keen understanding of the challenges and risks sometimes associated with mining. and his firsthand experience will serve him well in his new role. as assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, mr.e responsibility to reduce workplace accidents and promote safe and healthy workplaces for miners. i strongly support his nomination to serve in this role and i would ask my colleagues to join me in advancing this nomination. mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, would you like to announce the business of the senate. 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 bradbury nomination which the clerk will report.
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the clerk: nomination, department of transportation, steven gill bradbury of virginia to be general counsel. mr. durbin: mr. president, i ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, it was 16 years ago when i introduced a bill known as the dream act. the purpose of the dream act was to give to undocumented young people brought to the united states under the age of 18 an opportunity to go through a background check and to earn their way to legal status. 16 years ago. the bill passed the senate at various times. it passed the house never quite in the same year at the same time. now we face a crisis. literally a crisis involving hundreds of thousands of these young people across america. it was just september 5 when the president of the united states announced that he was going to eliminate daca. daca was the executive order of president obama which allowed these dreamers to come forward, pay a filing fee of about $500
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or $600, submit themselves to a criminal background check and after that background check, if they cleared it, to be given a two-year allowance to live in the united states without fear of deportation, two years at a time, and the legal capacity to work. that was what daca was about. 780,000 young people did it. they came forward, they surrendered their information about themselves and their families. they submitted themselves to criminal background checks and they ended up getting the protection of daca. they went on to go to school, to go to work, to become teachers and engineers, to go to medical school, to do things that really mean that they'll have a future in this country that will be of benefit to them and to all of us. so president trump said that program will end on march 5 of 2018, and he established a deadline for those who were going to see their daca
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eligibility that would end during that period of time, a deadline for them to renew. the deadline was october 5. and it meant that they had to come forward with the filing fee, go through -- at least apply to go through the process again. now it is quite a hardship on many of these young people to come up with the money for the filing fee and to realize that the clock was ticking in a very meaningful way about their ability to protect themselves. and so many of them stepped forward and asked for help from family, from churches, from friends to come up with the filing fee to make sure that they renewed their daca eligibility in time. let me tell you what happened. what happened to some of them who went through this process. here's one case. on september 14, allison baker, a lawyer for legal aid
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society in new york, sent one of these young person's application to renew this permit that would let him stay and work in the united states legally as part of daca. the date september 14 should be remembered because the deadline for filing was october 5. to be sure, just to be sure, this lawyer sent this renewal application for this young man by certified mail. back in the day when i practiced law that was one way to make sure you had written proof of when you actually mailed something far in advance of a deadline. tracking data from the united states postal service showed the envelope arrived in chicago on september 16. mailed september 14, arrives in new york -- it mailed. arrives in chicago september 16 on its way to a regional processing warehouse of the
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united states citizenship and immigration service. the agencies that administers the program known as daca. then the packet started circling the chicago postal system in a mysterious holding pattern. from september 17 to september 19 it was in transit to destination, according to the postal service. then its tracking whereabouts disappeared until october 4, where once again the postal service assured the sender it was, quote, on its way. close quote. on october 6, the day after the deadline, this certified application which was sent on september 14, arrived. and the application for this 24-year-old man was rejected by our government. he wasn't alone. we know at least 33 other cases
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just like this. congressman louise gutierrez of my state of illinois told the story of another application renewal september on september 13 for an october 5 deadline. it arrived on october 6 as well. another sent paperwork on september 21. it wasn't received until october 9. what congressman gutierrez said is very obvious. because somebody else did not do their job correctly, we are taking innocents young immigrants and making them deportable. that is unacceptable congressman gutierrez said. what does the u.s. postal service have to say about what i just read to you, the two or three cases? on thursday in a rare admission from a federal agency, the u.s. postal service took the blame. david partenheimer, spokesman for the post office said there had been, quote, an
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unintentional mail processing delay in the chicago area. remember what i'm saying here. young people undocumented and applied successfully and been accepted into the daca program, the president announced he's going to end the program, and those -- many of them had to re-sign up, renew by october 5. they did it. they mailed it. their application didn't arrive in time. well, it doesn't take a big leap of faith or intelligence to realize what should be done. clearly, this agency should be giving these young people a chance. once again, they have done everything they can think of to comply with the law and trust our government. they trusted our government to give them daca status to allow them to stay in the united states, and they trusted the postal service in a matter of two weeks to be able to deliver a letter. yesterday, i spoke to the uscis
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director francis cissna, and i asked him about this. and i said to him, there must be a way for us to acknowledge the obvious. these young people in good faith did everything we could ask of them to comply with the law, and now they have been rejected. now they are subject to deportation because the postal service didn't do its job. and i asked him are you prepared to at least reconsider this decision and to give them a chance to renew their daca status? he said he was aware of the situation and that it was being considered at the highest levels of the department of homeland security. mr. president, i raise this issue because real lives are at stake here. these are real people. these are young men and women who are doing everything they can think of to become part of america's future. they're hiring lawyers, they're raising money, they're filing
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the documents that are asked of them in the hopes that they can stay in the united states of america, and the system is fighting them every step of the way. in this situation, this is totally unfair. our government's better than this. our people are better than this. our values are better than this. and i'm pleading with the department of homeland security and those who are seeking positions in that department to show some common sense and a little bit of heart when it comes to these young people who are simply trying to make a future for themselves and a better united states of america. mr. president, i ask consent that the next statement i make be placed in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, this week, republicans in congress are determined to barrel ahead at full speed in a rushed, partisan effort to pass a tax plan at any cost. mr. president, make no mistake,
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for working families in illinois and across the united states, this is a mistake. preliminary analysis from the nonpartisan joint committee on taxation revealed that by 2019, more than 13 million americans who make less than $200,000 a year will experience not a tax cut but a tax increase under the senate republican plan. that number jumples from $13 million to $21 million by the year 2025. and in my state, taxpayers at every mcbracket in illinois are going to see their taxes increase for this tax reform that's being pushed through at the last minute of this session. 14% of the middle fist of taxpayers in illinois, those who are the very definition of middle income, will see an average tax hike under the senate plan of $1,400. so much for a tax cut.
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it's a tax increase. mr. president, imron about taxpayers in your state, but in my home state of illinois, a $1,400 tax hike is a gut punch to a working family. that's not all. further analysis from the center for budget and policy priorities show that in addition to the millions of households which will see their taxes rise under this senate republican plan, 53 million households -- that's 40% of all households earning less than $200,000 per year, would see no significant tax change under the new plan. let's be clear. if you're a middle-class family listening to that and you're thinking you might want to take your chances under this republican plan, please look at the facts. even if you're one of the lucky ones who manages not to pay more under the republican tax plan, make no mistake that when this plan blows a $1.5 trillion hole
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in our nation's deficit, it will be working families who end up paying the bill. when republicans fake -- republicans' faik math indeed -- fake math indeed falls short and the budget is skyrocketing, the republican budget has already identified how they will pay for these tax cuts in the future. are you ready? they are going to do it with an additional $470 billion in cuts in medicare benefits. medicare. they're paying for a tax cut for wealthy people by reducing the benefits paid out under medicare to retired americans, and another trillion dollar cuts in medicaid. remember medicaid? that's the program, the major expense of that program is to maintain the lives and health of two-thirds of americans who are in nursing homes. so the republicans want to give a tax break to the wealthy.
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they're going to ask seniors who have retired to pay more or receive less for medicare and make a dramatic cut in medicaid as well. there's no hiding. congressional republicans have made clear that one way or another, working families in america are going to pay for what they call tax reform. at the heart of the republican playbook for how to bankroll massive tax cuts for the wealthy few and the largest corporations is the elimination of three vital tax breaks for working families. the house republican plan will be voted on this week. they are dead set to get this done in a matter of days. and they're going to eliminate in the house plan the medical expense deduction. what does that mean? it means if someone in your family is diagnosed with a serious illness, god forbid cancer or whatever it is, and your family ends up incurring massive debts, making sure that that person survives, if you incur those debts, you currently
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can deduct them from your taxes that you pay, but the house republican plan eliminates the deduction. 350,000 or more in my state of illinois use the medical expense deduction. their medical bills are that high. the republicans in the house eliminate that deduction. that isn't going to help working families. it puts them at risk of bankruptcy. the number one reason for bankruptcy in america, medical bills. the house republican tax plan makes it tougher. more than 370,000 -- i said 350,000. more than 370,000 illinoisans claim an average of $10,000 deduction for medical expenses, for hospital care, long-term nursing home care, prescription drug costs. that's just wrong. and there's more. the house plan also eliminates the student loan interest deduction. think about that for a second. here we have 1.5 million young people in illinois paying off student loans. you know what they face.
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$20,000, $40,000, $60,000, $80,000 in debt. some of them are still living in their parents' basement because of their student loans. we give them one little break, do you know what it is? the deductibility of the interest on student loans. and yet, here come the republicans to eliminate that deduction. why would we ever want to make it harder for these students and their families to pay off that mountain of debt that they incurred going to college? but that's part of the so-called republican tax reform. they also include the one provision that i know my colleague from new york, the democratic leader, feels very intensely about because our states share the same problem. this compromise proposed in the senate eliminates the state and local property tax deduction, for state income tax, sales tax, and property tax currently in new york and illinois and many other states. we hold to the basic principle, americans should not have to pay a tax on a tax.
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unfortunately, the republicans in the senate believe they want to change that. the net result of that is to increase dramatically the burden that so many tax-paying families already face. we have seen increases in our state income tax. we face regular increases in property taxes. this is the one deduction that gives these families a little bit of help and republicans are eliminating it. it was a week ago when i had a press conference with the realtors in my state and the home builders who were dramatically opposed to the elimination of this deduction and other changes that are being made when it comes to purchasing homes and homeownership. they have told me that if you want real economic growth in illinois or any state, you start with people building and buying homes. sadly, the republican approach when it comes to tax reform refuses to take that into consideration. we need to stand up for working families in our states of illinois and new york and across this nation. this tax reform plan has been proposed by the republicans who are determined to get it done in
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just a matter of a few days and is going to be damaging to so many, and it's not going to help america grow. middle-class families are going to pay for the costs of giveaways to the wealthiest taxpayers in america. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: first, let me thank my dear friend, colleague from illinois. as i have always maintained, he is one of the most articulate and eloquent members of this senate on either side of the aisle, and it's a joy to listen to him. not the subject, but the way he articulates it. a subject we're interested in but not happy about, which is the tax bill. now, first, senator mcconnell, he always comes out and he says i hope democrats will join us in our -- in the tax reform bill. mr. leader, mr. republican leader, we want to join you, but that doesn't mean you write a bill behind closed doors and
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then say support it. the way we have done tax reform successfully in the past, i was there in 1986, is democrats and republicans sat down together and came up with a bill that maybe a few in each party wouldn't support, but the mainstreams of both parties would. it avoids the secrecy. it also avoids one or two members saying unless i get this, i'm not going to be for the bill, which pulls the bill in many different directions. so, mr. leader, yes, democrats do want to join us, but it is totally disingenuous, not honest, of you to say that without letting us sit at the table, without letting us see the bill. so let's knock it off. you want to do a bill, just republicans, fine. you tried it with with health care. you're trying it with tax reform. it's a lose-lose.
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you will either not pass the bill or you will pass the bill that was enshrouded in secrecy that will have so many problems that every republican who votes for it will regret it. now, yesterday's markup in the finance committee indicated the same thing. the markup of the republican tax bill wasn't the actual bill. it was, quote, a preliminary draft. how do we know it wasn't the real bill? well, today the finance committee has notified us that instead of continuing the markup as usual, the committee will recess after a morning session because the republicans are not ready with their placement bill, the real one. this is crazy. the president who doesn't know what's in the bill, we all know that, have said an arbitrary deadline, and our republican colleagues to meet that deadline
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are sacrificing the integrity of the process and the quality of the bill. we are two days into a markup, halfway, and democrats haven't even seen a real bill yet. in their desperate rush to get this bill through congress, republicans started by marking up a bill that's not even the one they intended to pass. it's a bait and switch. it's the perfect example of the problem with rushing a bill of this magnitude through congress. republicans can't keep up with their own reckless break-neck pace, and they're going to have to delay the markup. this same problem is going to repeat itself over and over again on issues of greater complexity and consequence. what happens when republicans realize their new international tax regime encourages scores of new tax havens and avoidance
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schemes? what happens if the independent analysts say that their new loophole for pass-through businesses doesn't have enough guardrails? what happens if the house and senate are unable to reconcile their disparate approaches to slashing state and local deduction? now, "the new york times" this morning, i commend all my republican colleagues to read it. they identified new potential problems in this republican tax bill. problems that the writers hadn't thought about, but corporate lawyers by the dozens, by the scores, by the hundreds will find a way to walk through these loopholes, even though our republican colleagues didn't intend those loopholes to exist. and you can be sure for every one of these loopholes, these misadventures, that the "times" identified, there are five or ten more lurking in the print, in the fine print.
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the only question is whether our republican colleagues find them now or find them out later when it's too late after the bill passes. so this idea of rushing through a bill of such enormous complexity, sunlight is the great fermenter of this type of legislation. if it lays out there for a little while, people come in and say this is wrong or that is wrong. that will be individuals, pundits, the companies that our republican friends are trying to help. they'll say, well, wait a minute, this doesn't quite work because no one's had a chance to really see it, examine it and let it stew. and now we're asked for other significant changes. what happens, as we have seen every few days, president trump tweets asking the republicans to change the bill, and this time they repealed the top rate.
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this has enormous consequences for american families an american industries. president trump's crazy idea to repeal the individual mandate as part of this bill would boot, according to c.b.o., 13 million people and cause premiums to skyrocket all to pay for a bigger tax cut at the top bracket, the wealthiest people in america. what a toxic idea. are any republicans going to go home and campaign on that? we're going to get rid of the individual mandate, kick 13 million people off health care, raise premiums so we can lower the top rate when no one but the hard right is clamoring for it. income distribution is a problem in america. we all admit, we have different -- we all admit we have different solutions for it. i didn't hear a clamoring in the 1990's to lower the top rate
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even among those who pay it. they know they are doing well. wealth has gone up in america and it has ee glom rated to the top. that's not what we need. but it's a toxic idea and yet republicans may have to consider adding it to the bill to placate a restless and uninformed president who we all know knows very little in this bill, he just tweets. our republican colleagues, instead of ignoring the tweets, pay attention to too many of them. yesterday the nonpartisan joint commission on taxation said they would not be able to be able to analyze the effects of the republican tax bill in the time they planned for it. we're not having j.c.t., nonpartisan, respected for decades, analyze the bill before we vote on it in the committee and maybe on the floor. again, the republican leadership in the house and senate will ask
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their members to vote on a major bill without knowing the consequences. in no world is this proper legislative procedure. no party has done this before, democrats, republicans, wigs, anti-federalists, democrat republicans, federalists. we've never seen this before. it's so wrong. it's one of the things that -- we see so many things that ail this country, and i have to say a lot of them stem from the top, from the president, and yet our republican colleagues are still fearful of ignoring him, of not listening to ideas they know are ludicrous. the rush is because my republican friends, fearful of the president and his self-imposed deadline, are trying to hide the bill that would transfer even more wealth
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to the super wealthy while raising taxes on millions of middle-class americans. now, according to the joint committee on taxation, of all taxpayers making less than $200,000 a year, 13 million would see a tax hike in 2019 and 30 million would see a tax hike by 2027. ryan and mcconnell said that we will not see a tax hike. they had to back off. for those who do get a tax cut, the average is so small to what folks at the top are getting. americans making $40,000 to $50,000 get an average cut of 8$0,000, 100 times more than what working families get. you could say that's because the wealthy are richer of -- richer.
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that's not what we need. the wealthy are getting wealthier. they are fine. middle-class people's median income is going down. it is harder for the middle class. it shouldn't be it's okay for them to gets dz 500 and the wealthy to gets dz 50,000 we ought to direct the tax cuts at the middle class. trump's organization had an ad on tv. they said wealthy people's tax rates remain the same while middle class get a tax cut. that is false advertising. when you compare apples to apples, the wealthy get a much larger cut than middle-class people. the longer this bill is in effect, the worse it is for the middle class. to stay within deficit numbers, the j.c.t. confirmed that under
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the revised house bill, entire middle-class income taxpayers will see an increase. the leaders say that this will not happen because congress will extend the tax breaks in perpetuity. if that is true, all the debt hawks should pay attention. there is a gigantic cost to the bill if we make the tax cuts temporary in this bill and make them permanent. the scores will say this these bills blow a $1.5 trillion hole. if a bunch of breaks and deductions that are now temporary are made permanent, as the speaker says they will be, the real cost will be hundreds of billions, if not trillions more. all those who care about the
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deficit should worry about this. we need corporate america to rely on a permanent change, but you cannot do a permanent change without blowing a hole in the deficit so you do a temporary change. there is a simple solution, which if democrats and republicans work together they can do. close loopholes, lower the top rate and keep the corporate reduction permanent. my guess is most corporate leaders would prefer that. they would prefer less of a tax decrease and more permanence because you can't build a factory if you know that the decrease is going to vanish. we shouldn't be rushing through such an ill conceived backward bill, breaking the fine traditions of this body, busting the deficit, breaking the back
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of millions of middle-class families, making the funding of defense far more difficult when there is so much agreement between our two parties on tax reform. on health care, hard to agree, diametrically opposed visions, but on tax reform that's not true and our republican friends are bullocking this up. they had to do it through reconciliation and without democrats and the result is a very poor product that most americans don't like and even more will not like as they learn more about it. we all want to reduce the burden on small businesses, we all want to encourage companies to locate jobs here. we could put together a bill that does those things. this bill doesn't. so if republicans turn their backs on this deeply flawed approach, my commitment to so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, who i
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know are squirming about this bill, is we will come together and put a good bill together that a majority of both parties can support -- both parties. that's how it ought to be done. now, one final note, the asia trip. as president trump returns from his week-long trip to several asian nations, it's worth ask: what did america get out of his trip? did he forcefully confront the chinese leaders about our imbalance and unfair trade system where we play by the rules and the chinese do not? nope. he said china's behavior was not their fault an blamed american -- and blamed american leaders instead for china's trade abuses. even if he believes that, what's the point of saying it? he's encourage china to do what they are doing all along, letting them off the hook, because, why? xi gave him the red carpet?
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i have never been so ashamed of a foreign trip in years. it is so inside out. we attack our friends and the people who have given us the most trouble, china and russia, we molly -- that is so bad for the future of this country. did president trump engage the various regional powers in a project of great importance, curtailing and containing the rogue northern korean regime? no. he settled for insults on twitter far below the dig knit yif the office. then ep comes back and brags about what a great ceremony, how well he was treated. x.i. played the president. he played the -- xi played the president. every american should be embarrassed. i heard one commentator said that this trip cemented china as
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the leader of the world, not because they have more wealth or greater intellectual ideas or better people, but because xi is dominating and smart and the president, so susceptible for flattery is demeaning the united states and its role in the world. and then, adding insult to injury, he seems to have a love for dictators. in the philippines where a strongman leader is engaged in killings, does trump admonish him? no. he lectures and unsettles our allies while emboldening our adversaries by treating them with kit gloves. all they have to do is say a few kind words and the united states
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will drop the interests that our people are so dependent on. all in all, president trump's trip to asia was a colossal flop and embarrassment. he seemed far more interested in pomp and circumstance, red carpet, flattery of foreign leaders than advancing vital american interest in a region that is increasingly looking to china for leadership. after the president's performance, those countries are going to turn more to china. at least they have strength and direction even though china will take advantage of them for sure like they've taken advantage of us. it's a sad state of affairs, mr. president, when the simplest of strategy of flattery can derail a foreign trip and undercut american influence in the world. president trump was played for a fool by china's leaders and he enthusiastically accepted the
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role. the president of the united states, this great, grand country that we love is supposed to be the single strongest voice for our interests. if he won't stick up for america, her interests and values on the world stage, who will. i yield the floor and yoat the absence of -- and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call: a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. mr. risch: are we in a quorum call? i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. risch: mr. president, thank you. i rise today to speak about the tax reform issue and the tax reform effort that is front and center for this congress and for all americans. particularly, i want to point out the fact that congress has not undertaken this difficult task, and for anyone who has been involved in this, they now realize how difficult it really
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is for over 30 years. and in the years since the last major overhaul, congress has by patchwork added numerous carveouts and special interests, passed short-term tax extenders which make planning for families and businesses very difficult, and generally contributed to a tax code that today is extremely complex, burdensome, and unpredictable. my colleague from idaho, senator crapo, always says that we couldn't have done worse if we set out to intentionally do worse. many of my colleagues and i have heard story after story from our constituents who say the same thing. the tax code makes it hard for families and business, especially small businesses, to comply and plan ahead, let alone grow and prosper. this conversation hasn't gone away, so clearly the system as it stands is not serving the american people as it should. it's imperative for the continued growth of the american economy that we simplify the
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system, reduce complexity, and create certainty. tax reform will bring relief to american families under the plan released by the senate finance committee, middle-class americans will see a benefit in the form of a lower tax bill, which means more money for households to bring home. in addition to keeping more money in the pockets of hardworking americans, the senate plan nearly doubles the standard deduction, increases the child tax credit to help families with the very real costs associated with raising a family, and preserves an existing tax credit to help care for elderly family members. this tax plan would also make it easier for individuals and families to avoid a time-consuming and expensive tax-filing nightmare by simplifying the tax code and eliminating the deductions. the aim of this entire exercise is to make the tax code simpler, fairer, and easier to comply with, reducing the burden on
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taxpayers, and creating an environment that enables families and businesses to thrive. tax reform will help grow small businesses. as chairman of the senate small business committee, i have focused on highlighting small business issues in this tax reform process. ranking member senator shaheen and i held a bipartisan hearing in june to talk about the tax policies that would most benefit small businesses across the country. as a result, we sent a bipartisan letter to the senate finance committee who was drawing this bill, outlining the policies we determined which were most important. the top line issue was the need to address the individual tax code along with the corporate tax code. most of the nation's small businesses are organized in a way that they pay taxes through the individual code. it's amazing that they managed to create the majority of new jobs in america, despite facing
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this higher tax rate, with the added burden of spending time and money away from their businesses to comply with this complex tax code. thankfully, ranking member shaheen and i are not the only ones who heard this message, and lower rates for small businesses is part of this conversation. small businesses have identified tax policies that work for them. along with changes that would be made to help more of them across the country. just two of the examples are the cash method of accounting and thon 179 expensing. cash method accounting is simpler -- is a compler way for small businesses to keep their books and section 179 expensing allows a small business to immediately deduct the cost of investing in their business up to a given level. both of these commonsense policies will reach more business owners in tax reform. i'm encouraged by the plan the senate finance committee released last week. and the process they are
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undertaking this week to move this bill forward. with tax reform, we have a real opportunity to make changes that will have a tangible, positive impact on the american people, and create an environment for our nation's job creators to prosper. i'm excited to see the kind of job creation that will result from the changes we're considering, and i look forward to working with my colleagues to make this a reality. mr. president, thank you, and i yield the floor. i'd suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. a senator: i ask that we dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: my colleagues, cholera is a truly awful way to die. it is a manmade disease, a
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man-caused disease that this world could easily eradicate from existence. you become so dehydrated, you vomit so much liquid, your body dispenses so many nutrients, so much water through unending diarrhea that your body is thrown into shock. you literally die from vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes over the course of hours, sometimes over the course of days, sometimes over the course of weeks. inside yemen today by the end of this year there will be one million people diagnosed with cholera. this is a hard image to see. i'll replace it with that one. one million people will be
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diagnosed with cholera. thousands and thousands inside yemen today are dying because of this disease. there is a humanitarian catastrophe inside this country that very few people in this nation can locate on a map of absolutely epic proportions. and this humanitarian catastrophe, this famine, one of four famines across the world today is being caused in part by actions of the united states of america. and it's time that we do something about it as a body. as we speak today, the saudi-led coalition that has been engaged in an incessant two-year long
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bombing campaign in yemen is blockading yemen, not allowing any humanitarian relief, not allowing fuel or food or water to get into the country. the coalition's blockade has grounded u.n. flights. it's prevented humanitarian workers from flying in and out of the country. it's barred ships from delivering lifesaving food, fuel, and medical supplies. a 25,000 metric ton world food programmeship is currently, as we speak, being denied access to the port. hospitals and aid organizations inside yemen are shutting down as we speak today because they do not have enough fuel to continue operating. vaccines will run out in the
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country by the end of the month. prices for food and medicine are spiking such that they are unaffordable to the majority of yemenis. 2,000 people have died because of cholera alone. thousands of other civilians have died because of other humanitarian nightmares, including a lack of access to the medical system. i mention that the blockade is being run by the saudi-led coalition. the united states is a member of that coalition. for two years the united states has been aiding the government of saudi arabia in a bombing campaign of the houthi-controlled areas of yemen. that bombing campaign has caused
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this outbreak of cholera. why is that? the bombing campaign deliberately targeted the electricity grid of yemen in and around senaa. the water treatment facility runs on the electricity from that grid, and so as you can read in a lengthy story in "the new york times" from two days ago, the country now no longer has the ability to treat water that goes to its capital because the saudi-led bombing campaign has knocked out electricity, because the fuel that has helped temporarily run the water treatment facility is no longer available either because the saudi-led bombing campaign has targeted the infrastructure that allows for fuel to be delivered.
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so today the water is undrinkable, it is toxic. and yet because there aren't other supplies of water, millions of yemenis are ingesting it, are eating food that is also toxic, because of the inability to treat water, because of the flow of sewage and feces throughout the capital city is and almost a million people have contracted cholera. that bombing campaign that targeted the electricity infrastructure in yemen could only happen with u.s. support. it is the united states that provides the targeting assistance for the saudi planes. it is u.s. refueling planes flying in the sky around yemen
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that restock the saudi fighter jets with fuel, allowing them to drop more ordnance. it is u.s.-made ordnance that are carried on these planes and dropped on civilian and infrastructure targets inside yemen. the united states is part of this coalition. the bombing campaign that has caused the cholera outbreak could not happen without us. the official position of the state department with respect to the blockade which was imposed by the saudis about a week ago is that they should end it at least for the purposes of allowing into the country humanitarian resources. that has not happened. as i mentioned, there is literally a world food programme ship waiting to get into the
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capital to help families like this. and though that may be the official position of the state department, we clearly aren't articulating that position to the saudis because the saudi blockade, which happens with u.s. military support, continu continues. maybe that's because the state department and the white house are simply operating on two different planets. while on his trip to asia, president trump said that he has full confidence in the saudi king, that he knows what he's doing. well, let me tell you what he's doing. he is using starvation and disease as a weapon with of war, which is in contravention of international human rights law. you cannot use starvation. you cannot intentionally cause this kind of disease in order to try to win a military conflict.
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and so maybe the saudis did know what they're doing, but what they are doing is a gross violation of human rights law. and it would be one thing if the united states was a mere observer, but we are a participant in this. this horror -- and i'm sorry; it's hard to see -- is caused in part by our decision to facilitate a bombing campaign that is murdering children, and to endorse a saudi strategy inside yemen that is deliberately usin using diseased starvation and the withdrawal of humanitarian support the as a tactic. last night the house of representatives passed a nonbinding resolution making clear that there is no legal authorization for the united states participation in the
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saudi-led campaign against the yemeni people. importantly, the resolution also made clear that there are multiple bad actors in yemen today. the vast majority of cholera cases today -- upwards, i think, of 80% -- are in houthi-controlled areas. but the houthis do not have clean hands and their patrons be, the iranians, do not have clean hand. there have been human rights abuses, attacks on civilian targets by the houthi forces as well. and the iranians should stand down immediately, as should the saudis, as they continue to whip up this proxy war between regional powers that is killing civilians inside yemen. but without u.s. leadership in the region, there is no hope for
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that standdown to happen -- for that stand-down to happen. in the obama administration, at least secretary kerry was personally, actively engaged in trying to bring some resolution to the war inside yemen. but since president trump took office and secretary tillerson became secretary of state, there is zero u.s. leadership on this question. we don't have an assistant secretary of state for the middle east. we don't have any envoy for this crisis. all we have is a president who says that the saudi government knows what it's doing. that kind of unconditional endorsement of intentional humanitarian pain, it's un-american. we have stood up time and time again for human rights all
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across the world. we have been the people who deliver humanitarian salvation to people who are at risk of disease and famine and death. and instead of rescuing the people of yemen during this moment of blockade, we are contributing to the deterioration of the quality of life inside that country. the saudi blockade needs to end today, and a partial lifting of the blockade is not enough. the coalition this morning did say that they are going to allow some humanitarian access to the ports they control, but we need access to the ports near where the majority of the population actually lives -- hudata and salif. allowing access to the ports that the saudis control, which are not the ports where the majority of humanitarian aid flows through, is not
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sufficient. it will not do the job. medicine, vaccinations will continue to dry up. price spikes will continue to go through the roof. the cholera epidemic will continue. we have a responsibility as a nation to ensure that the coalition, of which we are a part, is not using starvation as a weapon of war. this is a stain on the conscience of our nation, if we continue to remain silent. i hope the senate takes the same action that the house does. i hope that we make clear that there is no legal authorization for the united states to be part of a war inside yemen. congress has not given the authorization for this president to engage in these military activities. and, by the way, the civil war inside yemen has aided the
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enemies for which we actually have declared war against. al qaeda is getting stronger inside yemen, because as more and more of the country becomes ungovernable because of this war, al qaeda is moving into that territory. isis, against which we have not declared war but we are engaged in active military activity in the region against, is getting stronger inside yemen, too. and so even if you don't believe that there is a humanitarian imperative attached to the united states' withdrawal from this coalition, there is a national security imperative because we are just strengthening the most lethal elements of the extremist element worldwide. i know many other members of this body on both sides of the aisle feel strongly about this as i do. we are not going to get leadership on this question from the administration. they have given a blank check to the saudis. they have turned a blind eye to this epidemic inside yemen, an
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epidemic that is getting worse by the day since the saudi blockade began. leadership will have to come from this body. we need to make clear to the administration they do not have the authority to participate in this military coalition. we need to press the administration to tell the saudis to end this blockade. we need to start using our ability as appropriators and authorizers to send messages to the saudis that this kind of conduct cannot continue. we have tools at our disposal to lead as a congress on this question, the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe happening right now as we speak, getting worse by the hour inside yemen. this congress, this senate cannot remain silent. i yield the floor.
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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 new hampshire. ms. hassan: i ask that we vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. hassan: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to oppose steven bradbury's nomination to serve as general counsel at the department of transportation. mr. president, the general counsel position at d.o.t. oversees and makes critical judgments about legal work that impacts public safety, development, and innovation that drives our economy. but, unfortunately, mr. bradbury's previous actions during his time at the department of justice show that
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he lacks the judgment and commitment to our shared values that are a prerequisite for any lawyer privileged to serve the people of the united states of america. during his time as the acting head of the department of justice's office of legal counsel, mr. bradbury was one of three primary lawyers who helped lay the groundwork for the bush administration's defense of what they described as, quote, enhanced interrogation techniques. the so-called torture memos that mr. bradbury helped write were used to justify the bush administration's decision to use torture that included extreme sleep at the bring pacing -- deprivation, cramped confinement and waterboarding. he helped find legal loopholes
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that were an affront to our values. and he failed to fulfill the special responsibility that all lawyers have for the quality of justice in our legal system. mr. bradbury's past government service reflects a lack of sound legal judgment. in fact, a 2009 review by the department of justice raised questions about the objectivity and reasonableness of the conclusions found in the memos he authored. rather than standing up for our values and laws, mr. bradbury deferred to the wishes and pressure of the president he was serving. furthermore, mr. president, during his confirmation hearing, when referring to his legal justification for these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, mr. bradbury stated -- and this is a quote -- if i had my drutters, i wouldn't have engaged in having to address those issues.
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closed quote. if mr. bradbury preferred to not engage in tough legal questions at the time, then he should not have been serving in the office of legal counsel. and he should not be confirmed fofor a general counsel position now. by definition, the job of general counsel is to deal with difficult legal questions. mr. president, it's clear that mr. bradbury is unwilling to provide the sound legal judgment and impartiality necessary for this role. he has demonstrated in the past that his legal analysis is flawed. he lacks a commitment to america's values. and his actions have had truly dangerous implications for our nation. i will oppose this nomination and i urge my colleagues to do the same. thank you, mr. president.
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i yield the floor. and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. blunt: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: may we suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: senator klobuchar and i are here to talk about national adoption month. i think we're starting a little
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bit late so by unanimous consent, i'd ask that we be allowed to extend our closing time by that same number of minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: mr. president, it's good for both of us and our colleagues to be thinking this month about adoption month, to recognize the celebration of national adoption day which will occur this saturday. i have the real privilege of serving as cochair on the coalition of adoption with senator klobuchar from minnesota. it's an opportunity for not only for us to work together in a bipartisan way but an event we were at just the other day, i was told that the adoption caucus, house and senate, is the biggest caucus of either body and the biggest caucus of the congress. and, of course, it should be. it's built on the idea of kids to have the need of a family and
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that there are families out there that want to adopt kids, and whether that's nationally, domestically, or internationally, we really work hard to try to make that more possible. our house cochairs have been great to work with. senator klobuchar and i are working on several pieces of legislation right now to make it easier for families to adopt and to make sure adoptive families have the support they need to stay strong. one piece of legislation we're working on is the adoption tax credit refundability. it's a little outside the norm of the discussion of simplifying the tax code, but i was pleased the other day to have some important evidence put on the table when the chairman of the house ways and means committee who, by the way, is an adopted father of two sons and an advocate for adoption and for kids, when this was not in the
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house bill, when the current adoption tax credit was in the house -- wasn't in the house bill, he said one of the reasons it wasn't there is so many families that adopt kids don't pay income tax because of the low level of their income. i thought, that's exactly what senator klobuchar and i were saying that should be a refundable credit as well as a credit, but i'm glad to see the current credit back in the tax bill that the finance committee is looking at now. but we want to continue to look at not only the current credit but expanding that. according to the department of health and human services, one-third of all adopted children live in families with annual household income at or below 200% of the poverty level. because of that, the tax burden is low. they don't pay income taxes and the adoption tax credit isn't as
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helpful to those families as it is families that actually have income tax to credit against. more than 400,000 children now in the united states are also in the foster care system, and more than a hundred thousand of those 400,000 kids are ready and waiting for families that they can call their own. lots of other children need to be in families all over the world, but we can be looking carefully at the children in our system now. we both looked and others have joined us in looking at the foster care system, of ensuring that a behaimple health -- behavioral health screening happens within 30 days of getting into the system because often when you get interest the system, it's often because of
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unavoid aibl challenges families face and kids should never have to face. so that early evaluation of what is going on there can really make a difference in how foster kids are dealt with in the system and how they get ready as a hundred thousand of them are now to leave the foster care system and be adopted. before i turn to senator klobuchar, i just want to mention some kids right now that are on the missouri heart gallery, it's called. more than 1,200 missouri children are in need of permanent homes. missouri heart gallery is a place to look, as we approach the end of this year and see -- the story of some of these kids. brandon, for instance, who's 12, loves to play games. lego sets are his favorite toy. he likes to smile and give hugs. he probably hasn't gotten enough
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hugs in his life up until now, but it is possible to try your best to catch up with kids that need hugs. he needs a stable and loving family. he's often playing outside. it would be wonderful if he was playing outside a house that he knew or a home that he knew was the permanent home for him. shania and shanay are sisters who hope to be placed together. they hope to have a chance to maintain contact with their aunt following placement. shania loves dancing and cheerleading. her favorite color is green. she hopes to be a scientist one day. shanay's favorite hobby is singing, and she makes friends really easily between her dancing and singing skills that she shares with her sister. both of these girls would really bring a lot of life and vitality into what you would hope would be their family forever. brandon, that nay ya -- shania,
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shanay are in need of permanent, loving homes. this is a time when we ought to be thinking not only about the obstacles to adoption, the things that encourage adoption, but also how we can make the support system for both adoption and foster care and adoption out of foster care work better. so i know my colleagues will be eager to join senator klobuchar and me in marking november as national adoption month and by passing our resolution today. and i'd turn to my friend from minnesota, senator klobuchar. ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, first of all, i would like to thank senator blunt for his leadership. we've worked side by side on these issues for so many years. i am really pleased, as he noted, that there's been a lot of focus on this issue of the
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adoption tax credit not only how it needs to be fixed in any tax bill and make sure that it is maintained but in fact it should be expanded on. and i thank him. we've both been advocating for that. so my state, one of the reasons i'm so involved in this issue is that we have historically had a lot of adoption in minnesota. with international adoptions we have one of the highest rates of international adoptions in the country. we have families that have opened their hearts to kids from vietnam, to guatemala, to nepal, to haiti. and i have had the opportunity to witness the power of adoption firsthand when i served for eight years as the county attorney which is the largest prosecutor's office in our state. and we also have civil jurisdictions so one of the things that i worked on was speeding up the amount of time it took for foster kids to get out and into permanent homes. and i was able to see firsthand those loving parents who would
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do anything to bring these kids into their families. when you see it internationally, it just breaks your heart if that goes on for years and years and years. right now domestically over 425,000 children are living without permanent families in our foster care system. over 110,000 of these kids are eligible for adoption. so one of the reasons why senator blunt and i come together today is to make people know that, yes, there is international adoption -- so important -- but there are also kids right here in america that would love to be taken in by a family, and that's part of the theme of our adoption month for the country. we've tackled a number of issues over the last few years, along with former senator landrieu of louisiana. one of them was the international adoption simplifying act, which was a big help in terms of making sure that older children weren't left
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behind when the younger siblings were adopted, and i worked on that bill with senator inhofe and then senator blunt and landrieu and i introduced the accuracy for adoptees act, which helped greatly to ensure that families don't have to fight with foreign authorities to get their kids' documents changed and we're also work on, of course, some of the international issues now because of the slowdown in international adoptions and the work that we can do there, and we look forward to working with the state department and other agencies on that. one of the things -- this is the best part of our jobs -- is when you help a family in your home state with an adoption. a recent one we had where i got to visit the family in the western suburbs of minnesota was they had for years been waiting to adopt an ethiopian -- two ethiopian boys, actually, and we worked really hard on this
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because the halt to the adoptions out of ethiopia affected more than 200 american families. one of them was dave and katie norton. because of the work that was done and the push that was made, a number of these kids came home to their families, and i got to swing on a tire swing, senator blunt, with these two rather fun boys who like every day to put on year bicycle helmets, just because they think it's cool and they wear them around the backyard and we had a great time with them, and there are other children, and it makes you realize how close to home this is and how pleased we are to welcome these kids to american families. so, with that, that's what national adoption month is all about. l we want more kids to be able to swing on those tire swings. and so we will continue to work both with the foster care system as well as the international adoption system to make this a reality to more -- for more and more orphans across the world.
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thank you, senator blunt, for your leadership, and we look forward to working on this issue for many years to come. mr. blunt: thank you, senator klobuchar. senator klobuchar and i will continue to worth this. -- to work on this. we're glad that it's so well-received. these issues are issues that our colleagues pay close attention to. whether it's domestic or international, we're going it continue to find ways to open the doors of more houses and get access to more tire swings. so i look forward to that work. mr. president, i also ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of senate resolution 331 submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 331, expressing support for the goals of national adoption day and national adoption month and so forth. the presiding officer: is
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there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. blunt: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: around mr. president, i have 10 requests for committees to meet today during today's session of the senate. they have been approved by the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. blunt: and i notice the -- i would ask unanimous consent now that the senate stand in recess as if under the previous order until 2:15 p.m. today. the presiding officer: without objection. the senate stands in recess the senate stands in recess
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[inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the judiciary committee will come to order request objection the chairs authorized to declare recesses at any time. we welcome everyone to this mornings hearing on oversight of the department of justice. i will begin by recognizing myself for an opening statement. good morning. today we welcome attorney general jeff sessions, the judiciary committees annual department of justice oversight hearing. mr. attorney general, if you're a long distinguished career in
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public service. your continued that service by leading the department of justice, an agency that by its very nature is prone to controversy because of the publics varied opinions of what it seeks come what it means to seek and obtain justice. however, we could understand the department you lead must have the confidence of the american people even when your decisions are not always well received. your first year leading the department of justice has not been without difficulty, which is expected at the outset of a new administration. while much has been done to correct the improper political engagement by the department of justice under the obama administration, more work must be done to ensure that department is operating to impartially administered justice. our last doj oversight hearing was beyond disappointing. attorney general loretta lynch gave the least wholesome and least transparent testimony that i can recall in my time in congress. it was plainly a disservice to the american people.
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ms. lynch failed to respond substantively to nearly every question posed by members of this committee. before ms. lynch, eric holder became the first attorney general in history to be held in contempt by the house of representatives for his own stonewalling with regard to document connected to the reckless operation fast and furious. i expect mr. attorney general that you will be more willing to candidly answer questions from members on both sides of the aisle. you are going to a question afr question today concerning your knowledge of our involvement with russia and its alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. whether it concerns your work on behalf of now president trump during the campaign or your service in the senate, i suspect this would be a constant refrain from my friends on the other side of the aisle. while i understand your decision to recuse yourself was an effort by you to do the right thing, i believe you as a person of
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integrity would have been impartial and fair in following the facts wherever they lead. i have chosen as chairman of this committee to let special counsel robert mueller do his job, free from undue political influence to get the same time,, however, this committee will do its duty and conduct oversight of the department of justice. to that end we sent two letters to you, one in july and another in september, , calling on you o name a second special counsel to restore the public's confidence in our justice system. numerous matters connected to the 2016 election remain unresolved. to date the department has not appointed a second special counsel. consequently this committee had no choice but to open our own joint investigation with the house oversight and government reform committee to review doj and fbi's handling of the investigation into former secretary hillary clinton and her mishandling of classified information. as we said earlier this year, it
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is incumbent upon this committee in oversight capacity to ensure that the agencies we oversee are above reproach and that the justice department in particular remains immune to accusations of politicization. whoever is attorney general, the justice department must evenhandedly administer justice. you have recused yourself from matters stemming from the 2016 election but there are significant concerns the partisanship of the fbi and the department has weakened the ability of each to act objectively. i look forward to reading your thoughts on this and what steps you are taking to remove politics from law enforcement. however, these investigations are but a few of the many important issues we need to discuss today. for instance, which is overwhelmingly reported that u.s. a liberty act out of committee last week. this bipartisan legislation would reauthorize section 702 of
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the foreign the foreign intelligence surveillance act. the administration has chosen to oppose any reform of the law. i understand the desire for a clean reauthorization of this vital program. however, i believe this is a miscalculation that risks further eroding trust in our intelligence apparatus. we hope we can work with you now that the u.s. a liberty act which we authorized a law that is vital to our nation's battling against terrorism of protecting american civil liberties has been reported out of the committee. this is especially important giving the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in the united states. as we all know not to weeks ago eight people were killed and almost one dozen injured when an ice is inspired jihadist trope i rented pickup truck into a crowded bicycle path near the world trade center in new york. the terrorist threat is real and ongoing. we cannot afford to play politics with national security. i also look for to continue to work with you on ethics reform
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our nation's criminal justice system. there is bipartisan support to do this in congress and with your help we can make changes that crack down on violent offenders while also doing more to rehabilitate federal prisons and curb abuses in the system as well as excessive punishment. to your credit since you assumed leadership of the department of justice there has been a significant increase in the prosecution of firearms offenses in the united states. four years i have lax enforcement of the gun laws already on the books. enforcing these laws is the most effective way to combat violent crime in our cities and neighborhoods. under your leadership the number of defendants charged with unlawful possession of a firearm has increased by nearly 25%. the number of defendants charged with armed drug trafficking has increased 10%. i commend you for your focus on these prosecutions because they will help make our streets
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safer. there are many other medicine which we share common ground. especially when it comes to rectifying the failures of the obama administration. for example, earlier this year the house passed legislation to ban settlement payments to non-victim third parties following your policy directive to shut down the use of such mandatory donations. these reform initiatives followed a concerted effort by the obama administration to use settlements to benefit its political allies. we commend your efforts to combat illegal immigration, protect our citizens from criminal aliens, and to fight back against so-called sanctuary cities. more than two years have passed since kate steinle was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. we have addressed this issue head-on by moving legislation to combat sanctuary cities, and find and remove criminal gang members. mr. attorney general, our country is at a crossroads. our constituents are greatly concerned that our justice
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system does not work for them. under your leadership the justice department has taken stride to mitigate the harms done in the prior administration. i implore you to work with us to continue that trend and i think you sincerely for your appearance here today. i now recognize the ranking member of the committee, the gentleman from michigan, mr. conyers for his opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. top of the morning. in the ordinary course of business, any one of a dozen topics related to the department of justice would be worthy of its own hearing. and to be clear i would rather spend our time today discussing the upkeep the criminal justice system, the enforcement of civil rights, and the work we must all do to ensure access to the ballot box.
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instead, we must spend our time debating the troubles of the wayward administration, how the attorney general conducts himself before congress, how president trump undermines the integrity of the justice system, now the department continues to ignore the oversight requests of this committee. although this is the attorney generals first appearance before the house, he's already made three visits to our colleagues in the senate. at his confirmation hearing, he testified that he did not have indications with the russians. last month he testified that a continuing exchange of information between trump's surrogates and

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