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tv   U.S. Senate 12072017  CSPAN  December 7, 2017 10:00am-12:01pm EST

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announce his resignation. at 12:30 they'll vote on interior nominee and may take up a funding bill through december 22nd. current funding expires tomorrow. the house is considering the two-week extension this morning. now to live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. today's opening pair will be offered by father steven e. bose, executive director of boys town, boys town, nebraska. the guest chaplain: lord god, in these troubled times of fires, floods,
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hurricanes, terror attacks and mass shootingses, help us to rely on your strength to envision and build a stronger, more secure america. give us more visionaries like father edward flanagan who founded boys town on december 12, 100 years ago. father flanagan was an irish immigrant who lived the american dream and taught us all that even the most troubled child could grow up to be a useful citizen if given half the chance. he saw the best in the kids that others rejected as useless. help us, but especially each of our senators, to see the best in those who have different political or social views so we can, together, build an america that enables and calls forth the best in its citizens. amen.
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the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., december 7, 2017. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable luther strange, a senator from the state of alabama, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. mrs. fischer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mrs. fischer: mr. president, i rise today for -- to thank
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father bose from boys town for delivering our opening prayer this morning. the work he does to help at-risk youth across america is awe aspiring and i'm proud to say he's a nebraskan. boys town is a special place and it's located in the heart of our country. in the late 1910's, while ministering to the homeless of omaha, father edward joseph flanagan became interested in young people and their struggle to grow into responsible, productive adults. he wanted to help them improve their lives and he soon founded boys town on december 12, 1917 as an orphanage for boys. a few years later, father flanagan purchased overlook farm on the outskirts of omaha which soon became known as the village of boys town. he knew that children would thrive if given love, a home, and a purpose. his message that every child deserves a loving home and a
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chance to create a positive future for themselves is one that resonates across social boundaries. today boys town is one of the largest nonprofits in the country serving underprivileged and at-risk children. father bose's leadership at boys town is a tribute to father flanagan's mission to build better communities by promoting stronger families. for nearly 100 years, boys town has worked tirelessly to nurture troubled children and heal broken families. every year the organization helps more than two million children and families across the united states. boys town also has a renowned school which offers a year round traditional academic curriculum that focuses on helping students, especially those who are behind in their school work. it helps children in difficult circumstances find success in
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the classroom and also to get back on track towards graduati graduation. the school's motto echoes that of the organization as a whole. he ain't heavy, father. he's my brother. i believe that motto is a great explanation of why we're celebrating boys town's 100th anniversary next week. for a century through terrible depressions, horrible world wars, droughts, snowstorms, boys town has served as a glimmer of hope for many who are looking for help. i don't think father flanagan would be surprised to learn that boys town has grown to include 12 regional headquarters across our great nation or that his charity, it really has become a jewel of nonprofits. his outlook created a firm foundation for helping our communities and it's one that
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father boes continues to build on. mr. president, that deserves to be celebrated. i'm happy that on july 6, 2015, the boys town's centennial commemorative coin was signed into law. this bill authorized the secretary of the treasury to mint $5 gold coins, $1 silver coins and half-dollar coins in honor of boys town's 100th anniversary. adorned with designs and sayings that capture the spirit and mission of boys town, these coins can act as good reminders of those who once helped us. i hope they also serve as encouragement to improve our communities and think about those who are less fortunate. i wish father boes continued success going forward. we in the senate are all rooting for him. boys town exemplifies the spirit of america and it is the pride
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of the state of nebraska. i'm honored to be its senator. i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i want to thank our colleague from nebraska and our guest this morning for reminding us of the wonderful story of boys town. we were discussing the movie in the late 1930's starring spencer tracy and mickey rooney and to learn what's happened to boys town since then. so thank you so much, senator fischer and our guest for bringing us up to date on the latest on boys town. mr. president, i understand there's a bill at the desk due a second reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the second time. the clerk: s. 2199, a bill to authorize appropriations for border infrastructure, construct, and so forth and for other purposes. mr. mcconnell: in order to place the bill on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14,
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i would object to further proceedings. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will be placed on the calendar. mr. mcconnell: so, mr. president, in addition to our important work on tax reform and to fund the government, this week the senate is continuing our efforts to confirm president trump's nominees to his administration. soon the senate will consider the nomination of joseph balash to serve as assistant secretary of interior for land and minerals management through his career in both state government and as the alaska commissioner of natural resources and his service here in the united states senate. mr. balash has shown his talent and passion for affordable sources of energy and environmental protection. the alaska department of natural resources manages one of the largest portfolios of land, water, oil, gas, renewables, timber, and minerals in the world.
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mr. balash's leadership of the department required collaboration with many diverse stakeholders and a dedication to the protection of alaska's natural beauty. he worked closely with the interior department as the commissioner and he has the skills necessary to fulfill his leadership role at the department. as the assistant secretary, mr. balash will be responsible for many of the interior department's critical functions, including the management of all federal lands and waters, the management of their associated resources, and the appropriate regulation of surface coal mining. i look forward to working with mr. balash on many of these issues, especially those important to the coal miners in my home state of kentucky. i would urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this nomination. now, on another matter, yesterday the senate formally voted to join our colleagues from the house to consider our tax reform bills in a conference
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committee. it's another important step toward delivering much needed relief to the men, women, and families we represent. now the committee members will reconcile the differences between the bills. and when they finish their work, members of both chambers will have the opportunity to pass this tax reform legislation and send it down to president trump. as i've said before, tax reform represents the single most important thing we can do right now to grow the economy and boost middle-class families. it will also incentivize businesses to bring investment and jobs home and keep them here. we want a tax code that works for hardworking american families, one that can bring opportunity, help create new jobs, and keep more money in workers' paychecks. that means a typical family of four earning the median income can see a tax cut of approximately $2,200. this tax reform plan is our way of helping families get ahead and plan for their future.
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it's taken a lot of hard work to get to this point and i'd like to thank my senate colleagues and my friends in the house and the trump administration for their efforts to fundamentally rethink our tax code. i look forward to the conference committee's report so we can complete our efforts and deliver relief to those who need it most. now, on one final matter. the senate must act before the end of the week to pass a clean short-term funding bill to maintain critical operations of the federal government. our colleagues in the house will send us the noncontroversial provision soon and then we'll have an opportunity to consider it. i would urge my colleagues to join me in voting to pass it. the short-term continuing resolution will provide us with the time we need to complete discussions on a long-term solution. it will also provide certainty to states to continue funding the children's health insurance program. later today speaker ryan, leader schumer, and pelosi will
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continue to discuss an agreement to fund the federal government. i look forward to working with colleagues in a serious, bipartisan way to address a number of the priorities of our nation in the coming weeks. i hope all members will join me. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 11:00 a.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. mcconnell: i subject the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. first, i'd like to talk today about year-end business. congressional negotiators are making good headway on the budget deal that would meet our commitments to our military and also our urgent priorities here at home. i hope this progress continues this week. unfortunately, the progress here in congress is in stark contrast to the rhetoric coming from the white house. president trump suggested yesterday again that, quote, a shutdown to happen, unquote. if a shutdown happens as the president seemed to be rooting for earlier in his tweet this year, it will fall on his shoulders. his party controls the senate, the house, and the presidency. nobody here wants to see a shutdown. we democrats are not interested in one. that's why we're working with our republican colleagues in
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good faith to resolve all of the issues we have to solve before the end of the year, and it is in this spirit that leader pelosi and i will go to the white house this afternoon to discuss all of the issues before us. now, it's no secret that one of the major sticking points, if not the major sticking point in the negotiations, is funding levels for programs that invest directly in economic growth and the social safety net for the middle class. democrats are pushing for sorely needed funding to combat the opioid crisis, to shore up pension plans, to support veterans' health, relieve student loan debt, build rural infrastructure. without a budget agreement that lifts spending caps on both defense and economic development in a fair and equitable manner, programs i have mentioned and so many others, medical research comes to mind, could see their
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funding cut. our veterans deserve better. people seeking recovery from opioid addiction deserve better. hardworking pensioners deserve better. we must do both things. support the military and programs that create jobs and growth here at home in equal measure. both are very important. i know there are some on the far right who say all the jobs programs and economic growth programs are unimportant. some on the far left who say the military are unimportant, but most of us, democrat and republican, believe both are important. so the idea that both are important has been the basis of successful budget agreements going back several years, including the agreement we reached last april, where the military side and the domestic job economic growth side were treated equally.
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unfortunately, it appears that the freedom caucus, a rather small block of hard right house conservatives is trying to derail another successful parody agreement. according to press reports, the freedom caucus is pushing for a very short-term extension of fundings for jobs and economic development, while pushing for a long-term extension and a large increase for funding and defense. that's a ruse. it's designed to slash funding and will slash funding for education, health care, infrastructure, and scientific research, all the things the freedom caucus against the will of the overwhelming vast majority of americans doesn't want the government to fund. so make no mistake. the freedom evacuation is gearing up to hurt the middle class on the budget, just like so many republicans way beyond the freedom caucus did with their tax bill.
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just like on the tax bill, we democrats are going to defend the middle class because they need our help, too, and they have been forgotten by our republican colleagues throughout the year. but this time, the freedom caucus' actions, if they had their way, could lead to a disaster. speaker ryan must stand up and tell the freedom caucus no, they cannot be allowed to hold hostage productive bipartisan budget negotiations with outrageous demands that hurt the middle class. if speaker ryan lets them have their way, it will cause a shutdown. it will be on the freedom caucus' shoulders, leader ryan's shoulders, and the president's shoulders because such a bill could not pass either the house or the senate. we're giving them fair warning right now. not right at the deadline. finally, let me say a word about
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the dream act. earlier this week, my friend, the senior senator from illinois, came to the floor to update the senate on the progress he's making. with his negotiations with the senate republicans on agreement that would provide a significant investment in border security in exchange for the dream act. as i have said in the past, democrats support real border security. we'll be happy to join with republicans to pass legislation to secure our border for the dream act -- to secure our border in exchange for the dream act. those talks continue to make good progress. i hope we can make an -- reach an agreement soon. now, mr. president, a word on the special counsel. over the past few weeks i've continued to hear republican lawmakers and partisan media hosts attack the integrity of special counsel mueller in a shameful display meant to undermine his investigation into the trump campaign and russia.
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spuriously attacking robert mueller, one of the most respected and trusted civil servants in our country, is the surest route to losing all your credibility. i'd remind everyone on the right who are trying to muddy the waters on the mueller investigation, robert mueller was a career prosecutor who served both republicans and democratic administrations in the most trusted of roles. he was appointed by president trump's own deputy attorney general. it defies credulity -- might we have order, mr. president? it defies his credulity to lambaste him as partisan or biased. he is as straight a shooter as they come. but this is bigger than one map, mr. president. the attacks on special counsel mueller and his investigation erode faith in the rule of law, the bedrock principle at the heart of our civic life.
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if independent investigations into matters as grave as foreign interference in our elections succumb to intimidation and partisan slander, we'll be no better than a third world country. rule of law will be gone -- at least for the president of the united states, something americans have always treasured for centuries. what has defined american democracy is an unyielding faith in the rule of law. it's power to check our people as well as our presidents. special counsel mueller is the rule of law at work in our 21st century american democracy. intentionally and spuriously impugning his integrity -- not because he's done anything wrong but because they don't like what he's doing; very partisan, very biased, very one-sided is their view -- undermines our rule of law enforcement because what has defined american democracy is an
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unyielding faith in the rule of law, it's power to check our people as well as our presidents. special counsel mueller is the rule of law at work in the 21st century democracy. intentionally and spuriously impugning his integrity or smearing his efforts as partisan is not only inaccurate but damaging to a core ideal in our country -- the independent and impartial rule of law. we must loudly reject the strident voices who engage in these attacks on both the ends of pennsylvania avenue. finally, mr. president, on the issue of taxes, with the passage of the republican senate bill last friday, the republican party has shrugged off its history as the party of tax cuts and become the party of tax deduction hikes on the middle class. the republican tax bill will end up raising taxes on millions of middle-class families to pay for corporate welfare. as our republican colleagues
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march us toward an enormous corporate tax cut, we've seen numerous companies start to announce plans to buy back more of their stock -- not create jobs, but buy more stock, which of course benefits the c.e.o. because the stock price goes up. t-mobile has announced a $1.5 billion in stock buybacks. mastercard, $4 billion. bank of america, $5 billion. just this morning, three or four more companies announced hundreds of millions of dollars worth of buybacks. these companies, i would say to president trump, i would say to my republican colleagues, are not announcing new investments in their workforce or wage increases -- like republicans promised they would. they are announcing stock repurchasing programs that benefit their wealthy investors. the tax bill will also saddle the next generation of leader ls
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with larger deficits and debts, limiting our ability to make the kinds of investments we need to be making in education, infrastructure, and scientific research -- a far surer path to good-paying jobs and raising wages than giving corporate america already flush with cash even more stock buybacks. and for the same reason, those increased deficits, republicans are now coming back and saying they want to slash social security, medicare, and medicaid, making it even harder in america to access affordable health care and retire with dignity. speaker ryan admitted it yesterday. he said, quote, we're going to have to get back next year to entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and deficit, and he specifically mentioned medicare. they first create the deficit by these huge tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations and individuals, and then they take it out on the middle class by saying, oh, we have no choice
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but to cut medicare. what is the matter? i'd hope the american people will see this. i hope some of the news channels and radio commentators will note this, since those are the people who listen to them. and, by the way, that's only what we know about the bill. it was muscled through the chamber with such haste, we're finding errors and consequences every day. in yesterday's "politico," a former tax official in bush's tax reform department was quoted as saying, the more you read the republican tax bill, the more you go, holy crap, what's that? that's his words. we will be dealing with the unintended consequences for months because the bill is moving too fast. that is a republican former tax official in president bush's treasury department. when we were debating the affordable care act, a process
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that took over a year, the esteemed majority leader admonished we need to slow down and get this right. the tax bill, by comparison, spent hardly two weeks in the house and three weeks in the senate, and it is a lot worse for the average middle-class person. so i'd say the same thing to the majority leader he said to us -- slow down and get this right. there's no need for this hastily considered, highly complex, hugely consequence conventional -- consequencal tax bill. i believe the way to do it is through an open, transparent, and bipartisan debate. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland is recognized. mr. cardin: mr. president, thank you very much. on december 10, this week, we
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will celebrate international human rights day. it's the 69th anniversary of the united nations' adoption of the universal declaration of human rights. it provided inalienable rights for everyone in this world to be entitled to basic human rights regardless of their religion, regardless of their race, of their color, their gender, their language, their politics, their national origin, their property wealth, birth -- whatever. you're entitled to basic human rights. the declaration further goes on to say that ignoring or contempt of human rights have been among the principal causes of the suggest of humanity. -- of the suffering of humanity. well, that's clearly been the case throughout the history of the world, and it's still relative today -- very relevant
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today. the interesting thing about the declaration is that it acknowledges that we all have responsibilities. so this is not just a country responsibility. we as citizens of the world have an obligation to challenge when human rights are violated anywhere in the world, that that is our responsibility. it is interesting, one of the responsibilities i have as the ranking democrat on the -- as the senate ranking democrat on the helsinki commission, which is the organization that monitors our participation in the organization for security and cooperation in europe, that declaration, the helsinki accords, which were intended into this 1975, is an acknowledgment of basic human rights, that it's the responsibility of all the participating countries to adhere to basic human rights. but the helsinki accord also makes it very clear that any member country of the osce has
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the right to challenge what is happening in any other country. so we have a responsibility as global citizens to speak out on basic human rights -- when basic human rights are being violated. i also point out this is one of the basic tenets of america's strength. our values embodied in our country, embodied in our history is a respect for human rights, and it makes america the unique nation it is. yes, we are looked upon as a global power because of our military and economy. but i must tell you, the real trademark of america, the real value that we give to the international debate, is the fact that we bring a commitment to basic human rights and values as part of our d.n.a. and that has been very much demonstrated in so many ways. mr. president, i'm proud of many of our accomplishments on behalf of international human rights. america's leadership on trafficking in persons -- and there have been democrats and republicans who have taken the
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lead on this to make it clear that we won't tolerate modern-day slavery. and we took the lead on that. the congress took the lead on that. we passed the trafficking in persons report. we now monitor activities in every country in the world, including the united states, in order to protect against modern'd modern-day slavery. i'm proud of first the magnitsky statute, now the global magnitsky statute, that says that if a country does not hold accountable their gross violators of human rights, we won't give them access to our banking system or the ability to visit our country. and when we passed that law, other countries followed suit. we have europe that's enacted magnitsky statutes, canada has enacted it, individual countries have. so we show leadership. the world follows and we have effective tools to say that we will stand up and live up to our commitments to enforce human rights. what we do obvious is to put a -- what we do often is to put a
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spotlight on those human rights offenderrightsowe -- defenders. that's what we did with regards to human rights defenders in china, in so many places around the world. quite frankly, one of the principal functions of our mission around the world is to be there to speak out for the basic human rights, to speak out in support of the universal declaration of human rights. and i'm proud of our foreign service officers who carry that mission every day in every country around the world. and when potential nominees for ambassadors come before our committee, the senate foreign relations committee, we question them as to their commitment to support american values on human rights and what they will do in the country that they will be representing america in order to advance those causes. so this is part of our responsibility based upon the united nations' declaration, but
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it's also part of what we need to do in order for us to stay safe, because we know that there's a direct correlation between a country's respect for human rights and the a violence, the amount of conflict, the amount of ininsurgency that takes place in that country. so it's in our national security interest, in addition what we do, that's right as a nation as a global citizen. mr. president, we have challenges today. we have autocratic leaders around the world that are violating every day the human rights of their citizens, and we need to help lead the international community. we see attacks on journalism and the right of free press, was it is in many places in the -- whereness many places in the world not safe to comment on what's happening. the lgbtq community has been
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attacked in many parts of the world. human rights leaders are being imprisoned in many parts of the world. we need to stand up for their rights. and in trafficking in persons, senator corker and i just recently put a spotlight on what's happening in libya, where they actually have slave auctions -- slave auctions -- that are taking place, where people are being sold. we can't be silent about those types of activities. or in our own hemisphere, what's happening in venezuela, where we have a government that's denying its own people the right of access to international humanitarian aid. people are dying in hospitals because they can't get medical supplies. we need to speak out about that. and many of us have come to the floor to talk about the challenge we have as global citizens on the amount of refugees and displaced persons that we have. we have numbers now that we haven't seen since the end of world war world war ii of -- ofr
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i, of people who do not have a home. the most recent mass number left burma because of the persecution of muslims, are now in bangladesh in horrible conditions. we all have a responsibility to lee spond. the number of refugees from syria. there is huge numbers and it requires u.s. leadership. mr. president, this has been a bipartisan commitment in this -- in the senate, been a bipartisan commitment in the congress, but i must tell you, i am disappointed by president trump's failure to lead on this issue. he recently visited asia. what an opportunity that would have been to bring up the human rights struggles, whether it's in north korea, which is the worst country in the world on human rights, china which has significant challenges, particularly on its religious minorities but also on the right of its people to have economic freedom. there's major problems in china.
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problems in philippines with their president, what he does in regards to extra judicial killings. and the president hardly mentions human rights at all during his trip to east asia. he embraces leaders like mr. putin of russia who is a gross violator of the rights of its own people. the president of the philippines who i already mentioned embraces those types of leaders, president trump. we should be pointing out that mr. putin should be held accountable of the violation of human rights. president derte should be held accountable for the killings under his watch. the united states should be bringing these issues to public attention. then the president's immigration policies. we have always been the leader in the world effort to welcome those who have been pergs cuted in other -- persecuted in other
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countries, that we -- we talk about our historical commitment to welcome the masses to be free. that's america. now we're closing our borders to refugees, refugees that are being persecuted. we say to the country -- do we say to the countries in the middle east open up your borders to the refugees in syria or open up the borders from that region but the united states, we can't handle a few number? we need to have a much stronger policies. we're now talking about people who have been long-term americans, they only know america as their only home, the dreamers, or those under a temporary protective status because they fleed the gang violence in el salvador or honduras and we're now telling them you're no longer welcome in the only country you know, america. the president needs to lead on this because it's our global
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responsibility and it's the interest of our country. yes, this is human rights day coming up this week. let's rededicate ourselves to fight on behalf of human rights globally. that's our responsibility. it's who we are as a nation. it's who we are as global citizens. and i urge my colleagues to remember the words of john f. kennedy when he says, here on earth god's work must be our own. and that is true. let us carry on the work of respecting the human rights of all people in the world. thank you, mr. president. with that, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the role. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. strange: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. strange: i would like to request the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. strange: mr. president, i rise today to address my colleagues in this chamber for the last time. after nearly a year in this chamber, i am both its newest member and the next to depart. as such, i have both the
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optimism of a young student and a balance card of a man in the arena. today i'd like to offer some observations from the perspective of my unique circumstances. my fellow senators and i come from different places, we were raised differently and we live differently. in coming to serve in the world's greatest deliberative body, we have carried different notions of america. there is, however, one reality that transcends our individual experiences. in this chamber, we're each humbled by history. the senate has been a forum for some of the great debates of our republic. it's been shaped and been shaped by citizen legislators from every state in the union. we're awed by the strength of an institution that has weathered great challenges and the wisdom of those who first envisioned it. as i rise today in that spirit, i'd like to shed some light on a page of senate history that bears great significance to our current political climate. mr. president, as you know, across the hall behind you is a
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space that's known as the marble room. in a building that's home to so many, so many breath-taking historic sites, this alcove has a singular beauty and a story worth telling. as part of the 1850's expansion of the senate's chambers, the marble room began as a public gathering place, and it's been frequented over the decades by politicians and protesters alike. when the union army camped on the grounds of the capitol, soldiers even used its fireplaces for cooking. for over 60 years, the marble room was steeped in the life of the american citizen. it hosted meetings with advocates, constituents, and the free press. it became a very tangible example of our nation's experiment in representative government. in march of 1921, it took on a new equally important purpose. the space was reserved by the rules committee as an escape for senators from the crowded halls of the capitol, and the
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windowless, smoke-filled rooms where they often had to gather off the floor became the place where senators of all stripes would come to catch their breath and take their armor off. some would nap, some would eat lunch, read the newspapers. they all would end up forming bonds that rose above politics. today, the marble room is almost always empty. this emptiness symbolizes something that worries me about today's politics. it's likely both a symptom and a cause of the partisan gridlock that often dominates this chamber. the story of that room, the interplay between the citizens and institutions, between prague in atism and principle is the story of the senate, and in some ways the story of republican government in america. mr. president, what was once an incubator for collegiality and bipartisanship has become a glaring reminder of the provisions that we have allowed to distract us and the business of the american people. we each remain humbled by the history of the marble room. we stand in awe of the traditions of this hallowed
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body, but too often we fail to let this history be our guide through today's political challenges. mr. president, my time in the senate has reinforced for me what it means to balance principle and pragmatism, to serve the people of my state honorably and it has taught me how to navigate turbulent waters in washington. i imagine that our predecessors who spent time together in the marble room wrestled with similar questions. after all, the issues we face today are not all that different. this body has been strained before. it's bent, but not broken. finding lasting solutions to our nation's problems doesn't require reinventing the wheel. our forefathers have done it before, and they have done it right across the hall. mr. president, i spent my early years growing up in sillicog, alabama. it is about 40 miles outside of birmingham. my first town was known as the marble city for its swath of high-quality stone it sits on.
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32 miles long and as much as 60. their marble is widely recognized for its pure white color and its fine texture. here in the nation's capitol, we're surrounded by it. it's set into the ceiling of the lincoln memorial, the halls of the supreme court, and it was used by a renowned sculptor to create the bust of abraham lincoln that's on display in the crypt downstairs here in the capitol. sillicog marble is used in deep history. it's used to inscribe important landmarks. it ensures that memories of the past will stand the test of time to inform the decisions of the future. in a small house in the marble city, i was raised by a family that instilled in me a deep and abiding reverence for history and tradition. my only uncle, a west point graduate, was killed in service to our country in world war ii and was ironically born on the 4th of july. so as you can imagine, mr. president, i didn't need to
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observe parades and flags and fireworks to understand the sacrifice people have made to preserve our freedom. i just had to look in my mother's eyes on her only brother's birthday to remember that sacrifice. through its service and sacrifice, my family understood the blessing of living in america and the price of passing its freedoms on to the next generation. thanks to this generation, the greatest generation, i grew up strong in alabama. at a young age, i was introduced to the boy scouts of america, as many of my colleagues were. from volunteer troop leaders to the older scouts i looked up to, the boy scouts created an environment of selfless service. as a scout, i learned to appreciate the institutions of american society and my role as a citizen in it. by the age of 13, i was an eagle scout traveling to washington, d.c., on a school trip to see this great experiment in representative government up close. as i tell every young person who comes to see me, that made a big difference in my life, and i hope it will in theirs. mr. president, i often wonder if
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we all approached our duties here with the wide-eyed wonder of a chile or young student on a field trip whether we couldn't maybe accomplish a little more in congress. of course, the strength of this body and the remarkable foresight of our founding fathers runs deeper than an elementary school civics class or a trip to washington. for me, the next pivotal moment came as an undergraduate student at tulane university in the spring and summer of 1973. i know many of my colleagues won't be surprised to know that i played basketball in college, and there is a reason why i'm the tallest senator in history as i come to understand it. but in between practice and part-time jobs, i did find time to watch the newly formed senate select committee on presidential campaign activities begin its investigation of the watergate scandal. in that moment, our nation stepped into uncharted territory. the strength of our constitution was tested like never before. with the pursuit of justice -- would the pursuit of justice
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overcome politics? what the institution of the presidency be forever changed? what are the responsibilities of citizens in a republic when a republic's institutions are tested? it was during that spring semester of 1973 that i began to understand the tremendous power of the rule of law. it is guarded by representatives who swear to protect, preserve, and defend the constitution of the united states. when my basketball-playing years ran out, it was this realization that led me to go to law school. my new game would be learning the ins and outs of this system that ensures that the rights of our founders envisioned. my new team would be my fellow classmates and students who would go on to practice law and serve our nation at all levels. mr. president, so many of our colleagues, as they know, the path from practicing law to writing it is well traveled. i was fortunate to travel it with the help of some of alabama's most dedicated and finest public servants. as a young attorney, i first met one of them for breakfast in the cafeteria of the department of justice.
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in those days, you could go to the department of justice without having to show an i.d. i quickly discovered after i had gotten my breakfast that i had forgotten my wallet. so jeff sessions had to pay for my meal. he has continued to pay it forward to this day as a dear friend and mentor and of course is now the attorney general of the united states of america. mr. president, jeff sessions is a gracious statesman and a man of principle, and it's not far-fetched, in my opinion, to say that some of his temperament rubbed off on him from our state's senior senator and my dear friend, senator richard shelby. and i so appreciate his presence here in the chamber today. over 30 years ago, i was introduced to then-congressman shelby by my friend, court-martialer secretary of the senate joe stewart, a person who revered this institution. as a young lawyer, i learned from a man fast becoming a legendary legislator. he would become one of my most treasured friends, sharing many days hunting together in the fields of alabama and elsewhere and many more stories shared
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here in the halls of the capitol. together, jeff sessions and richard shelby represent the finest alabama has to offer to the nation. following in their footsteps here in the senate is an honor i will forever treasure. the example of these men inspired me to get involved in public service. as the attorney general of alabama, jeff sessions set an example as i think the most influential and revered senator in our state's history, richard shelby has guided the way with an unparalleled reverence for the rule of law. so, mr. president, i spoke earlier about the balance of pragmatism and principle, and in doing so, i had my friends in mind when i was elected attorney general of the state of alabama in 2010, i drew heavily on their examples of principled, conservative leadership. mr. president, in this body, we are tobacco often convinced that standing for deeply held principles is incompatible with prague pragmatism. in the six years i served as attorney general, i learned that this could not be further from
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the truth. serving my state in that capacity required balance above all else. i know the presiding officer, having been an attorney general, will understand that. i had an obligation to the people of alabama who elected me to fight for the conservative victories they were counting on, but i also had a solemn duty to rise above politics and follow the law and truth wherever they led. make no mistake, during my two terms as attorney general, i took every opportunity to defend the constitution and the people of alabama against federal government overreach. in other words, defending the rule of law in the constitution, the oath we take. together with other states' attorney general, i worked to protect farmers and ranchers from an e.p.a. rule that would turn fields into a regularly regulated ecosystem. we stood up to threats against religious liberty and the second amendment, and we the took the fight over illegal executive amnesty all the way to the united states supreme court. on these and many other issues, we stood for the rule of law and
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we won. mr. president, i don't have to prove my commitment to conservative principles. at the same time, i have a record of upholding the rule of law even when my own party goes astray. i have the scars to show for it, believe me. over my six years in the state capitol of montgomery, i assembled a nationally renowned team of prosecutors behind a common goal -- root out public corruption. this pursuit led to the conviction of several corrupt public officials in the state of alabama, including a county sheriff complicit in human trafficking, the first successful prosecution of its kind in decades. my team took on panama's -- alabama's republican speaker of the house for ethics violations and removal of him from office and a prison sentence. as you might imagine, mr. president, we didn't make many friends in the political establishment by doing so. but we shored up public trust in our representative government. for their commitment to fighting public corruption, my team has been recognized by the national association of attorneys general as a gold standard.
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i personally had the opportunity to address my former colleagues from both sides of the aisle who are focusing on the same goal in their states. more than any fleeting partisan achievement, it is work like this of which i am the most proud. when faced with crises, we rose to a calling higher than politics. after the tragic deepwater horizon water spill devastating ecosystems along the gulf coast, i was appointed as coordinating counsel in the gulf coast states in that historic litigation. our team, working together with others, won the trial and negotiated a multibillion-dollar settlement for our state and other coastal states. our work in that spill case built consensus and it found common ground. it brought together the answers to fiscal conservatives, environmental advocates, and we deserved results because it was the right thing to do. while the victims of the alaska oil spill, which the presiding officer is well familiar with,
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had to wait many years for a settlement and resolution, we were able to deliver justice and set a gold standard. after all, mr. president, the institutions our foundered laid out in the constitution are only as strong as the people's belief in their strength. when america no longer trusts that its representatives are remaining true to their oaths, the entire system loses its value. as the most recent senator to take that oath, i remember the feeling of the bible under my left hand. i remember reflecting on a verse it contains that has brought me peace in times of challenge. proverbs 1921 says many are the plans in a man's heart. it is the lord's purpose that prevails. i remember raising my right hand here in the well where so many others have gone before, many of whom likely found it difficult to discern exactly what the lord's purpose was in that moment. each of them came to this body p in the face of significant
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national challenges. some faced violent conflict, others an economic crisis. our forebearers would not be surprised about the issues before this body today, but i do believe they would be surprised by the emptiness of the marble room. the policy challenges we face are not new ones. this body debates a budget resolution every single year. many years it also faces questions of war, conflict overseas, and at least once a decade it seems we face some tectonic shift in the economy. as a lifelong student of history, i am reassured by the grave crises that have been addressed on this very floor. in this chamber, the post civil war senate ensured that the nation stayed the course of healing and reidentification. in this very -- and reunification. in this very chamber, the senate put partisanship aside and
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guided the creation of a new 20th century world order. this struggle, the civil rights struggle, is held vividly in the memory of my home state. in the early 1960's my elementary school in birmingham, alabama, was segregated. by 1971 i was taking to court with three young black men to play for the state basketball championship. as our nation evolves, the traditions of the senate demand that this nation meet each new challenge armed with the will of the american people. as i watch with the rest of the country, it was on this floor that the senate restored faith in our institutions by delivering justice after watergate. it was a real pleasure for me as a lawyer later in life to get to meet fred thompson, who served in this body and was the counsel
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for the minority on the watergate committee and to seat role he set as a senator as well and to call him a friend. the idea that chaos, mr. president, and upheaval that we see today is unique, it just falls flat in the face of this monumental history. pundits and politicians alike with too quick and easy to talk in super laives, but chaos and change are nothing new. the senate was designed to endure and rooms of marble are built to last. studying that senate history puts the issues of today in perspective for us. but it also sheds light on the true challenge of our generation. a newer, more serious threat to the future of this institution and its traditions. l you see, the senate was designed to accommodate conflict and profound disagreement. it was not, however, designed to tolerate the entrenched factionalism that dominates
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today's proceedings. it was not designed for the people's representatives to hunker down in private rooms, emerging only long enough to come to the chamber and cast votes. there are 100 seats in this chamber. each one was contested and hard-earned. but they're rarely all occupied. the less time we spend in the same room, the easier it becomes to view our colleagues on the other side of the aisle as obstacles instead of opportunities. what do i mean by opportunities, mr. president? i believe our generation of leaders will be judged by history on whether we strove to heal the divisions of this body and our nation. in pursuit of that goal, every member of this body has an opportunity to grow in understanding. and yet it steams me compromise has become -- and yet it seems to me compromise has become a dirty word in our politics and it is a serious threat in our hopes of advancing meaningful policy, in my view. it seems that reasonable americans understand that.
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some understand what we're called to do better than we do. a farmer, mr. chairman -- i see the chairman of the agriculture committee here, a dear friend -- maybe put this better than i could. he said -- a wise farmer in alabama said, when wyoming sends me to the store to buy a dozen eggs and there are only a half a dozen left, i come home with a half a dozen. i believe we have the power to come home with half a dozen here and maybe even -- we have the power to be a profound source for good. compromise was baked into the this institution. there is an understanding that no one branch and no one partisan faction will ever get all at once all the time. from the very beginning, compromise allowed our nation both to -- to embrace both the republicanism of thomas
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jefferson and the federalism of alexander hamilton. the very structure of this body is the result of the connecticut compromise of 1787, which accommodated proponents of both equal and proportional representation. the authors of this very pragmatic solution, roger sherman and oliver ellsworth, are depicted on the wall right outside the senatey. not far from the marble room where their example of finding common ground would be practiced for decades to come. mr. president, in the shadow of these founding debates, political voices today are arguing louder and louder about smaller and smaller things. it is easy for those outside this chamber to insist that they know what should be done, and as long as we remain so deeply divided, those outside voices will always win. when i leave the senate, i hope to have lived up to the words of a dempsey, voice -- a different
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voice e on april, if 1910 in a time of great change in this company, agency the united states was coming to define a new world order, president teddy roosevelt delivered a fame as passage. he said, it's not the critic who counts. it is not the man who points out how the strongman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. credit belongs to the montana who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat, who comes short again and again wows there's no effort without error and shortcoming, but who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the greater devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cautious who had the best nose in the end and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while enduring greatly so his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who
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know near the victory nor defeat. here our makers like it did at the time of roosevelt 107 years ago, when we have each left this great body, i know we would like to be remembered as men and women in the arena, as people who spent themselves in worthy causes. i'm convinced the worthiest cause we can join today is a return to the collegiality, the pragmatism and, yes, dare i say the compromise the morning business room. -- of the marble room. as i lever the senate, i am indebted to so many, to those who have helped me become the man i am today, to the colleagues who have welcomed me as a partner in the people's business -- and they were so kind to take time to be here today in the chamber -- and to the great state of alabama which i have had the immense honor it to severability i thank every day for the blessing of my wife and my children and grandchildren, who are here with us today. being reassured every day by their love and support that is made my work here and throughout
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my life o i thank my staff in alabama and here in walkers many of who are here joining us, who have risen to the task serving our great state through troubling times. their tireless dedication reminds knee there is a really bright future ahead for my state and for this institution. i thank the staff of the senate here on the floor, all of the people here on the floor and in the cloakrooms, the u.s. capitol police, and all of those who preserving and protect and defending this hallowed institution. i thank each of my colleagues for the privilege of joining them in service shall the friends and working partners i found here in the senate give knee great hope that in the right hands this experiment in representative government will long, long endure. i thank the men of principle who have served alabama with honor for years before me. i especially thank my friend richard shelby for his friendship and his guidance during my time here in the senate. finally, mr. president, thank the people of my state. alabama is a beautiful place
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with millions of hardworking, good people who call it home. as i look back on my career, i'm most proud of the last seven years i have spent working on their behalf, both in -- montgomery and here in washington. in preparing my remarks today, i spent a lot of time in the marble room. i reflected on the stone that built it and the bedrock of my hometown. i thought about the lawmakers who frequented it years ago. i thought about the challenges they faced, their own principled stands and pragmatic negotiations. most importantly, i thought about the common ground they found there, off the record and away from the cameras. this space represents an opportunity to once again find a balance, a balance between principle and pragmatism. that balance would reflect the very american spirit here in the senate, which is defined by balance. the zeal for adventure that won the west and put human footsteps
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on the face of the moon is balanced by a reverence for tradition and our founding principles be, individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. the entrepreneurial drive that built great cities and today drives innovators to ask what's next is balanced by a solemn remembrance of the struggle and sacrifice that have paved the way. the senate is a sacred place that was designed to embrace the spirit of america, to lose the art of balance and compromise in this body is to lose something essentially american. if we cannot find shared cause, shared purpose in the quiet corners in the space across the haling, then we may never find it here on the floor of the senate, where critics are so quick to point out how the doers of deeds could have done them better. as i prepare to leave this esteemed body, i urge my colleagues who will face many more challenges ahead to take these words to heart for the sake of our nation, i urge them
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to return to the marble room. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i on behalf of all of our colleagues, want to thank the junior senator from alabama for a really extraordinary farewell. due to the unusual circumstances of his arrival, his service here regretfully is limited to roughly a year. but i know all of our colleagues share the view that the senator from alabama has made an extraordinary commitment, made an extraordinary difference for alabama and for the nation during his time here, and i know i also express the views of all off colleagues, we will miss him greatly.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: mr. president, i rise as a member of this great body to say thank you for our good friend from alabama for serving. it's such a shame that you have so many good people in this body and some really, really, great people in this body who are sheer for such a short -- who are here for such a short period of time. to have a person like senator strange come before us and be part and try to make a difference, i truly, truly enjoyed his speech based on bipartisanship, which is what we're all here for. and to see how we have digressed to the point where there's very
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little bipartisanship that goes on and in knowing that we can make that change and make a difference. and i want to thank the senator. it's always been a way to be around him. hayes such a way and such a shall he has such a way and such a demeanor about him. his congeniality and wanting to make this place the way it's supposed to work and the way they told us it did work. with that, i say, senator, i'm grateful i got to know you. i'm grateful that you passed through these doors for all of us to call you our friend. i'm sad that you're not staying. i know there's bigger things in store for you. i really know that your life is going to be blessed. and with that, you've blessed us by being part of us for a period of time. thank you, senator. the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: thank you, mr. president. i have had the unique privilege of knowing senator strange,
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luther, in that i have the privilege of being the chairman of the all-powerful, sometimes powerful senate agriculture committee. i hope that every senator will read your comments, sir. i think perhaps every senator in their heart wishes, like you do, that we could get along better. for better, for worse, i think we represent the balkanization in this country, but we come here with the hope that, yes, through compromise, yes through working together we can represent our people in a much better fashion. your remarks are, i think, really hit the nail on the head there in terms of what we should be doing. but we do that on the agriculture committee.
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and when luther first came to the senate and asked to be on the agriculture committee, i knew right then he was a special person and would be a special senator. a lot of people get sentenced to the agriculture committee. it's a pleasant sentence really when you do that work. and i have been privileged to be the chairman in the house and in the senate for quite a few years. we won't get into that. but you asked to be on the ag committee. and so when we try to put together a farm bill, it is our responsibility, both the distinguished ranking member, senator stabenow, and myself to travel to various states and say okay, we've said to the farmer, the rancher, the grower and say what do you think? and listen to the farmer first,
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knowing if you are fair to the farmer, they are the backbone of the nation. much underappreciated so much in our society today. so in going to kansas, michigan, montana, i said, you know, i haven't been down south. i'm going to alabama. and i'm going to go down there where our newest member who wants to be on the ag committee and has already demonstrated his affection not only for the committee but his commitment to represent farmers and growers and ranchers in alabama. so we planned an event, and we were going to listen to every commodity group, every farm organization, every farmer that wanted to come in and talk to the chairman and the new member of the ag committee. this was a special day for me. as sometimes happens, planes don't fly. planes fly to atlanta, but they
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don't fly from there, which was the case when we were going down the night before, before we had this opportunity to visit with a lot of folks in alabama. and then if you try to find a rent car at that time of night it's a little difficult. we finally found a rent car after about the third or fourth rental car opportunity, and then we drove to atlanta -- pardon me -- montgomery. if you drive from atlanta to montgomery, people don't usually recommend doing that. but i will tell you from about 1:30 in the morning until about 4:00, it's an easy drive. and then you get to montgomery, and you get to that square there that they have in montgomery where they have a statue of hank williams. so the first person to welcome me in montgomery, alabama, was hank williams. being a country and western aficionado, or at least a fan, i thought that was very special.
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so we went down and saw hank. i saluted him, and then we went off to the hotel. of course the hotel had gimb -- given up our hotel reservations, so that posed a little bit of a problem. they finally made -- we made some accommodations, for me at least, but it didn't have a bed. it was an office room. and then i finally figured out it was a wall bed, and pulled the wall bed down, but there were no sheets and pillowses. so i just sort of slept in my wardrobe, so to speak. then i said i can't speak. it's getting to be 5:30, 6:30, and we were starting off at about 7:00 in the morning. i came down the elevator. as it happened, the elevator door opened up, and across from me there was luther and he was on the other side. he said how'd you sleep, mr. chairman? i said, well, as well as could be expected.
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finally i told him what happened. well, after all of that, i had probably one of the best days in my service in the senate in visiting a state that i had not visited before and talked with every commodity group, every farm organization represented. we went out to many different farms. i learned firsthand that peanuts is now a big export factor to china. if we're going to be making friends with china, or at least getting to a situation where we have a better relationship with any country, as you know, agriculture can be a tool for peace. and it is a stabilizing factor. it becomes a national security situation. we've talked about this at length. i must say that i was very impressed with the folks that i met there and the respect that they had for you, luther, for
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wanting to be on the ag committee, obviously for your record as attorney general and public service. and to a person, they were committed to you and thanking you for your service on the agriculture committee. so wherever you go, whatever you do, i know you're -- you will continue to fight for your farmers. and as you know, we're going through a pretty rough patch. personally, i want to thank you for your friendship. and personal i want to thank you for the message that you gave to all senators here, which i think should be mandatory in our quest to see if we can't achieve a better situation here in working together to fight problems. the senator from west virginia and i feel the same way. and i know that, i know whatever that you're going to do, you will do so with dignity and with respect and with strong leadership. thank you, my friend.
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i yield back. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i want on the record how much i enjoyed serving with the senator from alabama. he has lent a great deal to this institution, to this body during his short time here. i'm sad to see him go. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session as if under the previous order. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of the interior. joseph balash of alaska to be assistant secretary. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be one hour of debate equally divided in the usual form.
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the time will be charged equally.
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. a couple months ago, i felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. we were finally beginning to listen to women about the i was in which men's actions affect them. the moment was long overdue. i was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all
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across the country and in every part of our society. then the conversation turned to me. over the last few weeks a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. i was shocked. i was upset. but in responding to their claims, i also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. i think that was the right thing to do. i also think it gave some people the false impression that i was admitting to doing things that, in fact, i haven't done. some of the allegations against
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me are simply not true, others i remember very differently. i said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and -- evaluated on their merits. that i was prepared to cooperate fully and that i was confident in the outcome. you know, an important part of the conversation we've been having the last few months has been how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women. i am proud that during my time in the senate i have used my power to be a champion of women and that i've earned a reputation as someone who respects the women i work alongside every day. i know there's been a very
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different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but i know who i really am. serving in the united states senate has been the great honor of my life. i know in my heart that nothing i have done as a senator -- nothing -- has brought dishonor on this institution, and i am confident that the ethics committee would agree. nevertheless, today i am announcing that in the coming weeks i will be resigning as a member of the united states senate. i, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that i am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the oval office and a
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man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the senate with the full support of his party. but this decision is not about me. it's about the people of minnesota. it's become clear that i can't pursue the ethics committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them. let me be clear. i may be resigning my seat but i am not giving up my voice. i will continue to stand up for the things that i believe in as a citizen and as an activist, but minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day. there is a big part of me that
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will always regret having to walk away from this job with so much work left done, but i have faith that the work will continue because i have faith in the people who have helped me do it. i have faith in the dedicated, funny, selfless, brilliant young men and women on my staff. they have so much more to contribute to our country, and i hope that as disappointed as they may feel today, everyone who has worked for me knows how much i admire and respect them. i have faith in my colleagues, especially my senior senator amy klobuchar. i would not have been able to do
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this job without her guidance and wisdom. and i have faith, or at least hope, that members of this senate will find the political courage necessary to keep asking the tough questions, hold this administration accountable, and stand up for the truth. i have faith in the activists who organized to help me win my first campaign and who have kept on organizing to help fight for the people who needed us, kids facing bullying, seniors worried about the price of prescription drugs, native americans who have been overlooked for far too long, working people who have been taking it on the chin for a generation, everyone in the middle class and everyone aspiring to join it. i have faith in the proud legacy of progressive advocacy that i
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have had the privilege to be a part of. i think i've probably repeated these words 10,000 times over the years, paul wellstone's famous quote, the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard. it's still true. it will always be true. and most of all i have faith in minnesota. a big part of this job is going around the state and listening to what people need from washington, but more often than not, when i'm home, i am blown away by how much minnesota has to offer the entire country and the entire world. the people i've had the honor of representing are brilliant, creative, hardworking, and
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whoever holds this seat next will inherit the challenge i've enjoyed for the last eight and a half years, being as good as the people you serve. this has been a tough few weeks for me, but i am a very, very lucky man. i have a beautiful, healthy family that i love and that loves me very much. i'm going to be just fine. i'd just like to end with one last thing. i did not grow up wanting to be a politician. i came to this relatively late in life. i had to learn a lot on the fly. it wasn't easy and it wasn't always fun, and i'm not just talking about today.
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this is a hard thing to do with your life. there are a lot of long hours and late nights and hard lessons and there is no guarantee that all your work and sacrifice will ever pay off. i won my first election by 312 votes. it could have easily gone the other way. and even when you win, progress is far from inevitable. paul wellstone spent his whole life working for mental health parity and it didn't pass until six years after paul died. this year a lot of people who didn't grow up imagining that they'd ever get involved in politics have done just that.
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they've gone to their first protest march or made their first call to a member of congress or maybe even taken the leap and put their names on a ballot for the first time. it can be such a rush to look around a room of, full of people ready to fight alongside you, to feel that energy, to imagine that better things are possible. you too will experience setbacks, defeats and disappointments. there will be days when you will wonder whether it's worth it. what i want you to know is that even today, even on the worst day of my political life, i feel like it's


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