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tv   U.S. Senate 12142017  CSPAN  December 14, 2017 9:59am-12:00pm EST

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who say-- >> going on in other countries, france or other countries, they have a fair amount of nuclear that you're aware of. >> i think for the countries that do engage in reprocessing, it's a fairly stable process they've developed and i'm not aware of them proposing any dramatic changes to it. it's pretty stable and known, i think the basic process was developed in the 1970's and i think it stayed essentially the same. >> all right. thank you. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. that is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. and next on c-span2 we take you live to the u.s. senate floor. on today's agenda, the nomination of a former texas solicitor general to serve on the u.s. court of appeals,
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based in new orleans. now live floor coverage here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. o lord our god, we are grateful for your marvelous works and power. keep us from becoming
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weary in doing what is right, as you remind us about a harvest of blessing is certain. give strength to our lawmakers and bless them with your peace. we praise you that you are the strength of our lives and we need not fear for the future. as you guid guide our senators h your wisdom create in them a hunger and thirst for righteou righteousness preparing them to be filled with your divine nourishment. lord, thank you for not withholding blessings from those who walk
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upright. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: 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: under the previous order, the
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leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, james c. ho of texas to be united states circuit judge for the fifth circuit. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized. mr. mcconnell: today the senate will continue another historic week confirming more of president trump's impressive judicial nominees to the federal
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bench. steven grasz confirmed, don willett confirmed, and soon we'll add james ho to the list by confirming him to serve on the fifth circuit court of appeals. he's an exceptionally well qualified nominee whose career in public service and the private sector have earned him respect from both sides of the aisle. the former democratic mayor of dallas supported his nomination calling him among the most brilliant appellate lawyers in the united states. when we vote to confirm mr. ho, we'll be adding another fair and impartial judge to the federal bench. by doing so, the senate will take another important step to ensure that the federal judiciary fulfilled its proper role in our constitutional system. each of them will be an asset to our nation's courts. under chairman grassley's leadership, the senate judiciary committee has done outstanding
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work to move these judicial nominees to the floor. i'm grateful for his efforts and i would urge all of my colleagues to join me in voting to confirm mr. ho soon. now, on another matter, our nation faces myriad threats from around the globe. it's the senate's responsibility to provide the service chiefs with the resources to train and equip our war fighters. and provide them with the resources they need to keep us safe. the diverse challenges posed by iran, china, russia, north kor korea, isil, al qaeda, and its affiliates span the spectrum in war fighting and our force must be trained and prepared on sea,
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air, and land and in cyberspace. these challenges were only compounded by the obama administration's focus on reducing the size of our conventional force. withdrawing our forward presence and placing unrealistic reliance upon allies and special operations forces. in stark contrast to the previous administration, this republican-led congress and trump administration have taken the initial steps to rebuild our military. mr. president, i'm having some difficulty with my voice this morning. i'm going to ask that the balance of my statement be included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from kansas is recognized. mr. moran: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: mr. president, thank you very much for the recognition. i come to the floor today to speak about business that is important to kansas and important to country, but especially important to the providers of health care for children and the children and their families who receive that coverage and care, and that's the medicaid chip program. it was established back in 1997.
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i want to call to the attention of my colleagues the importance of us acting here in the next several days in regard to reauthorization extension of that chip program. it has helped provide coverage to children of low-income families in my state, and those are individuals who would otherwise be left without any insurance, and most likely in every case the funds necessary to cover health care costs for the well-being of those young men and women. this program is funded through a multi-year authorization that requires congress to take action each time the program reaches the end of that authorization, and that end of that authorization occurred on september 30, now several months ago, and while i have been assured in my state that there is sufficient funds to get us through the end of the year, i get concerned, in fact the
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belief is that we may have enough funds to pay for our insurance program to march. that certainly is probably not the case across the states, and we need to respond, we need to act within a few short days. certainly i hope that this is an issue that is addressed as the continuing resolution that funds the federal government expires on december 22. as we respond to that circumstance, we ought to respond to the expiration of the chip program that occurred on september 30. waiting to reauthorize that program already has created, but if we waited any longer, it would create even more unnecessary burdens for families of more than nine million children that are currently receiving health care through that program. temporary funding measures have kept the program solvent since the program expired, but again now is the time to act to provide some certainty and to make sure that the funds continue to be available. in kansas, in the absence of
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that, that would be leaving about 79,000 children without coverage or other good options. many of our nation's best children's hospitals serve a great deal of patients through that chip program. we are fortunate in our area to have children's mercy hospital in kansas city, and, again, those hospitals and other providers rely upon that chip program to pay their bills as well. with all the costs associated with health care and with the inability of people to pay, the burden then falls upon hospitals and others to figure out how they survive. i would tell you that in kansas, almost every hospital, 127 of them in our state, continue to hang on by a thread, and some may not survive. this is another opportunity for us to strengthen and provide certainty that a mechanism will be in place that when they provide care to children of medicaid families, that they will be reimbursed.
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that benefits all of us in our health care delivery system and provides more stability and more certainty in these challenging times for health care providers across kansas. the house of representatives -- and i'm happy that this occurred reauthorization. they did their bill. it's now time for the senate to act. our committee, the finance committee, has taken its actions, but this bill is still pending on the floor of the united states senate. at this christmas season, at this holiday time, parents should not have to wonder what they will do in the absence of this insurance program that allows their children to receive routine care, but in many instances lifesaving care. continuing to delay action on this bill is not in the best interests of the american people. it would be nice, it would be appreciated by americans to see the united states senate work on a program that has broad bipartisan support, but still for some reason can't get across the finish line.
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that finish line, i suppose, was september 30, but i would say that finish line is now, the end of the year, and specifically december 22 with the c.r. expiring at that point in time in time for congress to take action in that regard. my plea on the senate floor this morning is for congress, for the united states senate to take legislative action, reauthorize this program, provide certainty, and care for our country's children who are without this program in very significant jeopardy of having absence of health care. mr. president, i appreciate the opportunity to address the united states senate, and i yield back after noting the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president. and i don't want to break up the conversation between two fine gentlemen. the presiding officer: the democratic leader is recognized. mr. schumer: are we in a quorum call, mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: i need to adjust this. okay. well, now we're on, first, mr. president, on the year-end negotiations. now, negotiations are making headway, that's good, but many issues remain to be resolved. we need to provide funding for community health centers, chip, and areas hit by disasters. we need to pass a bipartisan deal to pair the dream act with border security, and pass a budget deal that fully funds both our national security and our economic security in the
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common parlance known as parity. if we don't lift the spending caps for defense and also urgent domestic priorities, jobs, the economy, both will come under the specter of scwais -- there has been parity between defense and nondefense for the three last budget negotiations. that's how it ought to stay. that's what averted shutdowns. unfortunately, it appears that the freedom caucus in the house, which doesn't represent the mainstream of america or even the mainstream of republicans, is trying to derail another successful parity agreement. unfortunately speaker ryan, as he is doing far too often to the country and his party, is following their lead. last night the house posted
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what's called a krom any bus -- comnibus an extension for -- ar long- -- a long long-expansion and will hurt health care and scientific research. all things the freedom caucus doesn't want the government to fund against the will of the overwhelming majority of americans. at this late hour it's also an unfortunate waste of precious time. earlier this week 44 senate democrats sent a letter to our republican colleagues explicitly warning them that democrats could not support such an approach because 60 votes are needed to advance a spending bill here in the senate, house republicans should have known not to waste everyone's time with a partisan spending bill
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that could never pass the senate. the cromnibus is nothing but a spectacle by the hard right who don't want government to spend money on anything, and it is a perilous waste of time as the clock ticks closer to the end of the year. it's time for our republican colleagues, especially in the house where the freedom caucus is like the tail wagging the dog, to get serious about working with democrats towards a real parity agreement. every hour the house spends on the cr omnibus is an hour that we waste. if speaker ryan forces to go forward with the cromnibus it
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will fail in the senate and we can get back to an agreement that will fund the defense and middle class. speaker ryan has gone along with this three times in a row. i think he was speaker for two of those three and chairman of the ways and means committee on the third. right now speaker ryan is pursuing a dead end strategy. instead we urge him to continue to work with democrats on a bipartisan, long-term agreement that will keep the government open and fund our major priorities, both defense and jobs and the economy on the other side. by the way, even on the other side of the ledger are things that affect our security like the border, the f.b.i., all these kinds of things are funded on the nondefense side, and you've got to have security in every way in this
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terrorism-ridden world which we live in. now, a word on the republican tax bill. on both process and substance, it appears that the republican conference committee is making all the mistakes that the republicans made when they passed it their bill in the first place. even though there is still not a final agreement on the text of the tax bill, republican leader propsed a vote as early as monday of next week. i'm not sure my colleagues have enough time to read and digest the bill that passed a week ago, let alone the many changes. it is the same rushed process as before and can only result in mistakes and unintended consequences that could wreak havoc on the economy. why are our republican colleagues rushing this bill through? i think they are ashamed of it.
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every day people know about the bill, the more they don't like it. just polling data today shows the popularity of the bill continues to plummet and a poll out today said not only do people not like the bill, but those who vote for it would be affected at election time. the poll today asked people if they were -- more or less likely to vote for a congressman who voted for this bill to vote for a senator who voted for this bill, and the public -- many of the public said they would be less likely to vote for a congressman who votes for this awful bill. the public knows it's awful. why? well, they know that republicans are doubling down in this new proposal on the core mistake of their bill by tilting it even further in favor of the wealthy. you though -- you know, i saw on tv this morning the guy from the club for growth and the guy
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from -- i forgot the name, but another group. these are narrow, narrow groups with very little support funded by the hard-right group of billionaires who want to see their taxes cut. they don't even talk about what is in the bill. they try to talk about it's a job creator, but they dare don't say, like so many of my republican colleagues don't say, how disproportionately it goes to the upper income and not the middle class. and amazingly enough, behind closed doors, they made a bad bill even worse. one of the most significant changes made by the conference committee would be to lower the top tax rate 2%. let's help those millionaires get a lower tax rate than they have now. they are doing so poorly. this is crazy -- crazy. there are a lot of wealthy
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people in america. god bless them. i don't resent their wealth, but they don't need a tax break. on the other hand, there are hundreds of millions of struggling middle-class people, they could use that kind of money, and yet millions of people in this bill who are middle class, upper middle class, struggling to be middle class get a tax increase. why not use the money instead of raising the money for the higher income people, use it for the middle. despite the concerns about raising middle-class taxes, making the bill as unpopular as i just mentioned, despite the concern about raising middle-class taxes, the one big thing that republicans go back and change is to lower the top rate, the rate paid by the wealthiest of americans even less. they lowered it to be even less.
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when it comes down to a choice between the middle class and wealthy, middle class and big corporations, the republicans just instinctively in a knee-jerk way choose the wealthy and powerful over the middle class. that's why they are struggling. i believe that's were president trump's numbers are as low as they have ever been. people are getting a feel, a smell that president trump talks about the middle class, but when he acts, like in the tax bill, it's to help the most powerful. i see dick blumenthal is coming to the floor and i believe he will talk about net neutrality. again, help the big cable companies and corporations and make it harder for the middle class when it comes to cable service and the cost of cable. now, republicans claim that lowering the top rate is an attempt to address tax here,
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that would -- tax hikes that would cut the state and local deductions. but reducing the top rate only helps the wealthy. they are already the prime beneficiaries of the tax plan. i have a feeling that president trump was hearing from his wealthy friends who pay a lot in state and local taxes, a lot are in my home state of new york, and decided, i'll lower their taxes more. 99% of state and local deductions are taken by americans with incomes under $1 million. more than half of taxpayers taking the salt deduction make less than $100,000. it does not help the 99% of taxpayers, it only helps the top 1%, but this is what it seems the president and our republican colleagues in the house and senate keep doing.
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as i said from the start, eliminating or cutting the state and local deduction would hurt the middle class across the country, it would raise taxes on millions, lower home values for millions more, and gut our state and local programs, education, law enforcement, infrastructure, none of those programs were addressed in conference. instead the richest americans will likely get an even bigger tax break. mr. president, there's no reason to rush the bill through the senate. last night, as our presiding officer so knows, we had an election in alabama. this chamber is waiting for the seating of a new senator. shouldn't the people of alabama have their voice in the senate present for a vote on the tax bill. again, i ask my friend, the majority leader, slow down and wait for senator-elect jones to arrive before voting on the tax
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bill. democrats waited for scott brown in 2010. now that the shoe is on the other foot, republicans don't want to do the same. it is the right thing to do and will give every senator and the american people more time to considering the legislation. finally, mr. president, a word on the f.c.c.'s vote on net neutrality. we depend on the internet to spur innovation and job creation. our economy works best when innovators, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes compete on a level playing field. net neutrality says that everyone deserves the same, fair -- same fair access to the internet. consumers, small businesses, students, everyone from the elderly couple using skype to talk to their grandchildren half a country away to the startup companies working out of the founder's basement, everyone deserves the same access to, and
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quality of internet, as the same big corporations. when i grew up in brooklyn, my father owned a small exterminating business, if someone down the street had a better rate, he would have been outraged and the law would protect him. we don't limit phone service to hand-picked stores, we shouldn't reserve high-speed internet for a favored few corporations either. but now president trump's appointed chairman of the f.c.c. ajit varadaraj pai is on the ledger of limiting net neutrality, bringing an end to the free and open internet that has enabled so successful companies and created so many jobs. our internet is the envy of the world. why are we changing it in a way that could harm it? if net neutrality is eliminated, the internet may resemble a toll road with the highest bidders
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cruising along highest fast lanes while the rest of us inch along on a traffic-choked public lane. we could be forced to purchase internet packages paying for more popular sites. it's hard to imagine an entrepreneur building the world's next revolutionary billion-dollar country while she sits in a bummer to -- bumper to bumper traffic lane. it is hard to consume that they will get a good deal if premium services is offered to premium customers. again, president trump talks one way, acts another. talks like he's helping the middle class, he's fully supportive of the f.c.c. and his hand-picked chairman hurting the middle class and helping the big interest when it comes to the internet. chairman pai and the trump administration are once again siding with the corporate
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interest against consumers and small businesses. once again the trump administration is picking c.e.o.'s over citizens just like the tax bill and now on net neutrality and thwarting the desire of millions who have asked the f.c.c. to keep the internet free and open to everyone. the ameri the american people have spoken. i hope, i hope chairman pai and president trump are listening. i yield the floor. before i do, mr. president, i want to thank my friend, the senior senator from connecticut, for his valiant and strong struggle to keep the internet free and open and available to the little guy and gal equally as it is to the big shots. i yield the floor. mr. blumenthal: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: mr. president, i want to thank the senior senator
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from new york, our minority leader, for his very powerful and eloquent remarks on net neutrality. he has been a leader in protecting consumers in so many areas, and this one is preeminently important. we are here on a day when the f.c.c. may well repeal the net neutrality order. i spoke at length about it yesterday and i am struck by the mockery that the f.c.c. will make of consumer protection if it proceeds with this very misguided and mistaken course. it is a course that will be reversed, i believe, in the courts if it is followed. and it should be reversed in this body as well. it is profoundly important to the future of the internet, to access, and affordability, to
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innovation, to our economy, to job creation. the open and accessible internet is part of our lifeblood economically and culturally in this country and part of what makes america great is the freedom of access and innovati innovation. i want to talk today on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the sandy hook massacre in my state of connecticut about one of the saddest days of my life, one of the worst days of my public career. when i went to the elementary school in newtown, connecticut, along with a number of my colleagues who will be speaking today as well congress woman
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este and senator murphy. in the judiciary committee just moments ago, senator feinstein circulated a framed copy of the front page of the daily news of wednesday, december, almost to the day. that front page has photographs of the 20 beautiful children who were lost in that unspeakable act of terror and horror. they are 20 wonderful human beings who would be 11 years old today. their great teachers were killed
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as well. having valued and known their parents as friends and fellow advocates in the effort to achieve commonsense measures against gun violence, i know how deeply that pain is still felt. the healing is far from over. the grief remains. prayers and thoughts go every day to the loved ones who lost those children and educators. prayers and thoughts are not enough. never have been after any of these massacres, never will be after any of the mass killings or the one-by-one deaths in our communities, 90 every day in this great country.
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gun violence kills 90 people every day, 150,000 have perished since sandy hook. so as we commemorate this awful day five years ago, let us rededicate ourselves to action, honor those victims with action, honor all victims with action. it is never too soon to honor the victims with action. on that front page of the daily news, there is a line that says new york's hometown newspaper. new york wasn't the hometown to those sandy hook victims but america felt that sandy hook is every town in america and it is indeed a quintessentially an
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american town filled with wonderful people who hugged and grieved together that day. that night in the st. rose of lima church and in the days following when there were calling hours and funerals one after the other, it seemed like they would never end. and in some ways they have never ended because for those families, those losses are still real and urgent. and for us the task of honoring those 20 beautiful children and six great educators ought to be real and urgent, even more so today than it was then.
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that day we prayed in the st. rose of lima church. i said to the congregation, the whole world is watching. the whole world was watching. the world is watching america to see whether we will act. we are not the only country with mental health problems. our rate of mental illness is no greater than any other developed industrial country, but our rate of gun violence is off the charts compared to other countries. there is no excuse for it. there's no need or rational explanation for it. and as we prayed and grieved then in the wake of that senseless, horrific tragedy, congress turned its back. it turned its back on those
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courageous and strong families who came here in the weeks following talking to our colleagues across the aisle and on this side asking for commonsense measures, background checks, and there was a bipartisan measure then to extend background checks and achieve other gun violence prevention measures which unfortunately failed on this floor to gain enough votes. we had 55 but we needed 60. and from the gallery on that day, someone shouted shame. december 14, 2012, will be forever a stain on our nation's history. that day will forever be a black
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mark on the united states of america. but so will the day that those common sense measures were rejected in this chamber, that shame was richly deserved on that day. congress saw the photos of those innocent babies, those wonderful children. it saw their grieving parents. it saw the lines of terrified and traumatized children on that day being led to safety out of their elementary school. it saw the war zone that the school became when that mass killing turned it into something that no teacher, no educator ever could have foreseen.
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those educators helped to save lives, and congress saw and heard the stories about how brave educators sought to shield their children from the bullets coming from that assault weapon on that day. but unfortunately the vice-like grip of the gun lobby and principally the n.r.a., let's be very blunt about who is leading that lobby, prevailed. and in the 1,825 days since the sandy hook tragedy, despite the 150,000 people who have perished from gun violence since then, congress has chosen inaction. it has disregarded public safety and the clear will of the american people. it has heeded instead the
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campaign contributions of the gun lobby and it has failed to act. it has been complicit in the continuing scourge of gun violence but its inaction. it has been complicit in those deaths. it has been an aider and abettor in effect to the 90 killings each day as a result of gun violence. and shame on congress if it fails to act now. so today i am not just heart broken, i am furious. i am angry beyond words about congress' complicity about the inaction we have seen, about congress' abject failure to take commonsense steps that will protect the american people, about its failure to meet this public health crisis with the kind of action that the american
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people deserve and need. if 90 people every day were perishing from ebola or some contagious disease, even the flu, there would be an outcroix, an out-- outcry, an outrage, and we would be clamoring to do something. here the solutions are self-evident. none of them is a panacea. none a single magic solution to this problem. and the trap raised by the gun lobby that none will necessarily deal with the mass killing that just happened is indeed a trap we should reject. the ban on bump stocks might have prevented las vegas but not charleston. the closing of the loophole, 72-hour loophole that permits purchasers to bye a gun if the
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background check has not been completed within 72 hours might not have prevented las vegas but it would have prevented charleston. dylan purchased a gun only because he was able to circumvent the background check as a result of that 72-hour loophole. the ban on certain kinds of high capacity magazines might not have prevented san bean dino -- san bernardino or orlando, but it would have helped to prevent sandy hook. we will never know whether any of these measures would prevent every one of the killings that we cite, but each of them can save lives. and if we save one life, we will have saved the world. shame on congress for allowing
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this tragic anniversary to be followed by so many more. sutherland springs, las vegas, orlando, charleston, and in each and every one of our communities every day, none of our communities is immune from this scourge. it is truly a public health crisis. i'm hopeful that there may well be a crack in the ice of partisan paralysis emerging. i'm proud to be part of a very powerful bipartisan alliance involving our colleagues, senators scott, cornyn across the aisle as well as senator murphy and senator -- other senators on this side of the aisle. i'm hoping that we can make modest but crucial improvements to the national instant criminal
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background check system. the nic system should be fixed. it will provide incentives and encourage states to do better reporting. right now there are immense gaps in reportin reporting in the std even in the federal government which is why, in fact, perhaps sutherland springs occurred because of the failure to report by the air force a domestic violence conviction by court marshal that would have barred the shooter there from obtaining lawfully a weapon had it been reported accurately. the fix nic bill would ensure federal and state authority comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the background check system. this step is the least we can do, not the most, but the bare minimum. and while there is broad support
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for this modest but significant measure, the republican leadership in the house is already attempting to sabotage it by linking it and pairing it with a truly dangerous concealed carry reciprocity act. that act would sabotage as well the laws of states like connecticut who seek to protect our state. it would in effect provide that permits from other states be treated like driver's licenses. no matter how lean yant or even nonexistent the provisions may be for obtaining permits in those other states. it would eviscerate rights of state like connecticut to protect our citizens with higher standards. these basic measures to prevent gun violence have no threat
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whatsoever to gun ownership. they ensure that people who are a danger to themselves or others and convicted criminals and others already bar -- barred from buying weapons will not be permitted to carry a lethal firearm. i respect the second amendment. it's the law of the land. no firearm should be taken away from law-abiding citizens, but the idea that there is nothing congress can do to make a difference and save american lives is unacceptable and false. it's a political cop-out, resoundingly rejected by the vast majority of americans. 95% of americans want background checks applied to all purchases. they overwhelmingly favor fixes to the present background check system that made the oversight
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of purchases more accurate. and they favor commonsense measures that will protect innocent human beings like the 20 beautiful children, six great educators lost that day in sandy hook. when i feel most discouraged and disgusted, i think of those families. i think of the parents of olivia engel. i think of the parents of all of those beautiful children and wonder, as i am sure they often do, what lives they would be leading today, what olivia engel
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would be doing on this day filled with sun and beauty. in connecticut this morning, it snowed. at 6:00 or 11:00, snow would still be a wonderful thing, never to be taken for granted by any child, and this holiday, all of the wonder and beauty of this holiday never to be taken for granted by a 6-year-old or 11-year-old. the possibilities and opportunity, the dreams and hopes shattered on that day lost forever. i was at the calling hours for one of the children killed at sandy hook. a gut-wrenching moment, every
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one of them, and i spoke to the mother of one of those children, and i told her that when she was ready, i said when you are ready, we should do something about gun violence, and she said without hesitation, through reddened eyes and cracking voice, i'm ready now. i'm ready now. america should be ready. america is ready. this body should follow america's lead. honor with action. if nothing else is remembered of that day five years ago, let us honor with action those strong and courageous families who have
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suffered this unspeakable horror and still unimaginable grief and who have come here in years past to ask us to honor with action the victims and survivors and loved ones of sandy hook and of all gun violence horrors in this country. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i thank the senior senator from connecticut for his words. the senator from connecticut is a former prosecutor.
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he knows law enforcement backward and forward. i can only imagine the grief felt in his state. as a neighboring new england state, i recall the vigils and the people coming to pray and the sadness from what happened in our neighboring state of connecticut. but as so many have said, we express our grief, and we should. we have to do what the senator from connecticut and others have suggested actually taking some steps to stop these things, so i applaud him for what he said. and, mr. president, let me speak on another issue. this week, we voted on three circuit court nominees, circuit
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court one step below the supreme court. all three of these nominees are extreme. one is objectively unqualified. the fact that we're so quickly casting floor votes on these troubling nominations, all of whom were reported out of the judiciary committee just a week ago is a symptom of the republican leadership's willingness to abandon decades of senate tradition, decades of tradition by both republican and democratic leadership so that this body can serve as a rubber stamp for president trump's nominees, so that the senate will not be the conscience of the nation for the check and balance that it is always designed to be. instead, put it into a rubber stamp for the president. let me just begin with a couple
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of things. don willett, sitting justice of the texas supreme court. now, that should mean something. sitting judges have an obligation to exercise good judgment, not say anything that would lead individuals to question their impartiality. the question i ask nominees all the time, can somebody who comes in your court look at you, and whether they are a republican or democrat, plaintiff, defendant, ridge, poor, whatever, can look at you and say well, at least this judge is going to show impartiality. maybe i win, maybe i lose, but it won't be because the judge wasn't impartial. when you look at this sitting justice don willett, he fails the standard of impartiality. a few weeks ago, i questioned him about his tweet, telling a
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young transgender woman who is interested in playing softball to, quote, go away, a-rod. now, the justice, justice willett claimed that this tweet was in jest. let me say it again. a sitting justice telling a transgender teen to go away sends an unmistakable message to marginalized vulnerable communities. you're not all welcome in my courtroom. that's not a laughing matter. it's not the first time that justice willett has worn his bias on his sleeve. as an aide to george w. bush while he was governor of texas, he objected to the then-governor, governor bush, declaring a businesswoman's week. he opposed the proclamations, mention of glass ceilings, pay
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equity and sexual discrimination harassment. he dismissed these very real barriers to women in the work force as hype. he was basically saying then-governor george w. bush was wrong to recognize the fact that women do face discrimination in pay equity and harassment. for these and other reasons, i seriously question his judgment or that he would be seen by people coming into his courtroom as impartial. then we have james ho, another troubling nominee. his views on social issues are not surprisingly extreme. he has even offered he have iew sieve praise for jeff battier, another trump nominee who has publicly proclaimed that transgender children are part of
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satan's plan. and even as a judge, he complains about the supreme court. remember, these judges are supposed to follow the precedent of the supreme court. he complains about the supreme court's decision. he said that's going to lead to people marrying their pets. i don't think any legal scholar anywhere from the right to the left would agree with that interpretation. and mr. ho praised the judge who said they are protecting and enforcing the civil liberties of every texan. well, not every texan. just those he agrees with. and of course this race to confirm mr. ho is zipping
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through here. it means we will not fully vet him for this lifetime appointment. when he served in the justice department's office of legal counsel, he offered a memorandum that was citing one of the shameful torture memos, these forrure memos that turned out to be a blot on the conscience of the united states. now, mr. ho has refused to answer questions about that, answer questions about his involvement despite the fact that the torture memos are now very much in the public domain. unfortunately, these kind of nonanswers are considered sufficient as of late since republicans are more interested in rubber stamping president trump's judicial nominees than asking serious questions of them as a co-equal branch of government. i cannot believe that any republican leadership would
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allow a nominee of a democrat who had been involved in the drafting of a key and controversial memorandum to be confirmed unless they are willing to answer questions about it. of course, we did have steven grasz of the american bar association unanimously rated as unqualified for the federal bench, unanimously rated as unqualified. in 40 years, i have only seen that a very few times, and those people never went through. you know, they had exhaustive review. they had 200 interviews about mr. grasz. and the a.b.a. concluded he could not separate his personal beliefs from his duties as a judge, which of course should be a fundamental obligation of a judge. this is almost unprecedented to have a rating like this.
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to have at least a qualified rating from the a.b.a. is a basic qualification for a nominee to the federal bench. certainly, republicans always insisted on that if it was a democrat nominee the person. republicans made it very clear that if a democrat nominated somebody who got an unqualified rating -- i don't recall it happening, but if they did, it made it very clear that person would never be considered. well, here's somebody who is declared not qualified and yet they whipped him through. you know, you'd think that qualified would at least be the bottom line for a nomination.
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you'd think that whoever is present they are going to nominate somebody could at least hit the threshold of being considered qualified. now, republicans are now casting aside the a.b.a. because they adisagreed with him on this and they say it's a bias institution. they say they oppose him because of his opposition to abortion. well, that's absurd. the a.b.a. has rated 56 of president trump's nominees as qualified, and let's not dilute ourselves. anybody who would think that they would never get out of the white house if they did. so that argument, like so many others used to support these
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extreme nominees, the argument doesn't pass the laugh test. now, as the longest serving member of the united states senate and former chairman of the judiciary committee, i have spoken up about the steady erosion of the norms and conditions. the committee has processed unvetted extreme nominees who will not answer questions at an unprecedented rate. president trump will have four times as many circuit court nominees confirmed in his first year than president obama. now, the reason president trump has four times as many circuit court nominees confirmed his first year than did president obama is because republicans are removed -- have removed any guard rails on our confirmation
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process. the guardrails that they insisted on when there's a democratic president, no matter how careful the democratic president was in picking that person, they had to have these guardrails, and i thought, actually, the guardrails made sense. the second you have a president who nominates extreme judges, we don't need the guardrails anymore because president trump would never make a mistake. the nominees have had hearings scheduled before we even get the ratings, ultimate many circuit court nominees are regularly stacked on a single panel, something that republicans insisted should not be done when there's a democratic president and now, unfortunately, the chairman, who is a friend of mine and a man i respect, has reversed his own blue slip
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policy. he's begun to advance nominees without favorable blue ships from both home state senators. that's the first time this has been done with -- since the last two presidents. i fear we're doing lasting damage to our nomination process. i fear we're making the advice and consent process a complete laughable exercise. the three nominees on the senate floor this week are evidence of that. i'm going to vote on each of them. i'm going to vote no on each of them, one, because they are not qualified. they are not -- they are certainly not qualified by the standards -- i voted for many, many, many republican nominees. i may disagree with them philosophically but they were
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qualified. just like i voted for many democratic nominees. these are not qualified. they are extreme. i want the standard that i have always asked for, that whoever you are that when you come into a courtroom, you can look at a judge and say, okay, whether i'm a plaintiff or defendant, rich or poor, facing the state or facing a respondent, no matter my political background, i'm going to be treated fairly. i win or lose my case on the merits, not on the judge's bias. we're closing our door to that. we're closing our door to it when the president of the united states turns the selection process over to an extreme political, partisan group --
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political partisan group and then asks republicans to rubber stamp it. i respect my republican colleagues, but i can't imagine any of them ever standing for a democratic president doing anything like this. i wouldn't. i wouldn't. i wish they'd bring the senate back to where we should be, where we can be, and the country is better off when we are. mr. president, i yield the floor and ask for the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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ms. warren: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: mr. president, two days ago -- are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. ms. warren: i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president. two days ago the go- --
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g.o.p.-controlled senate confirmed leonard grasz to the court. he earned a rating of not qualified to the american bar association. the a.b.a. reached that conclusion, in part, after speaking to many of mr. grasz's peers who expressed concerns, and i quote, that mr. grasz's strongly held social views and political allegiances would make it possible for him to have an unbias and open mind on critical issues. those individuals have ample reason to be concerned. among many of his appalling views, mr. grasz believes that discrimination against l.g.b. -- lgbt q is okay. he opposes reproduction rights.
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he was confirmed to a lifetime appointment as a federal judge who will make life-changing diss -- decisions for millions of of americans. another g.o.p. judge confirmed do the senate don willett doesn't fall far from the tree. mr. willett isn't shy about his radical right-wing views. he has bragged about being the most conservative justice on the texas supreme court. mr. willett believes that judges should be able to easily overturn state and local laws that protect workers, including minimum wage laws and laws that allow workers to unionize. this view is so out of the mainstream that other conservative judges, including chief justice john roberts and judge robert bork have rejected. it he has ruled to limit the
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rights of same-sex couples, mocked transgender individuals, demonstrated hostility to working women, including pay equity and sexual harassment. he has ruled against efforts are -- against discrimination in the schools. he has a stunning disregard of the issues that impact millions of americans. the truth is that mr. grasz and mr. willett are not unique. they are a few of the many nominees whose records show that they cannot fairly and impartially dispense equal justice under law. right now the g.o.p.-controlled senate is executing a breathtaking plan to fill our court with right-wing radical nominees like mr. grasz and
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mr. willett. it is a plan that has been long in the making for years republicans have worked hard-in-hand with billionaire right-wing groups to ensure that our courts advance the interests of the wealthy and powerful over everyone else. first, after president obama was elected, republicans stopped mainstream judges from filling vacancies on federal courts. they didn't stop the nominees because of the qualifications or records. the republicans stopped those nominees because they didn't want judges who cared more about justice than about protecting the powerful. and then, once the filibuster was gone and republicans had gained the majority in the senate, they shroud the judicial -- slowed the judicial nominations process to a crawl. the courts then became overloaded with cases. finally last year republicans took their assault on our
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judicial system to new heights, refusing to consider any nominee put forward by the president to fill a supreme court vacancy. they threw the constitution and senate precedent right out the window to advance their radical agenda. it was shocking and shameful. now there's a republican president who is committed to tilting our courts further in favor of the rich and the powerful. republicans are looking to fill our courts with judges who share that commitment no matter how unqualified they may be. this week the senate will vote on one more of those judicial nominees, james ho, a man, like mr. grasz and mr. willett, will look to have our courts more to the powerful. he has argued that there should be no limits on campaign
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contributions -- none. democracy for sale. according to mr. ho the recent government is so corrupt isn't because there is too much secret money slithering through the political system but because government makes it too hard for the big donors to succeed in the private sector. tell that to the working families, students, teamers, and small businesses that will be -- teachers and small businesses that will pay higher taxes to give the fat cat donors higher tax cuts. mr. ho has defended discriminates against lgbtq. mr. ho defended texas ban on same-sex marriage. more recently he heaped praise on a federal district court nominee who among other disgusting statements said that transgender children are part of satan's plan. here's another troubling aspect of mr. ho's record, his view on
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whether torture is legal. while mr. ho worked in the justice department, he authored a memo relating to the treatment of prisoners of war. that memo was cited in one of the torture memos that became the basis for the bush administration's illegal practice of torturing terror suspects. mr. ho refused to fully answer questions regarding his involvement in what ultimately became the bush administration's policy on torture, information that every senator should demand to see before we vote on his nomination. grasz, willett and ho, just about all of trump's judicial nominees have a lot in common. they will put powerful interests before the rights of workers, before the rights of women, before the rights of the lgbtq
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individuals, people of color, religious minorities, and pretty much everyone else. and their radical right-wing views mean that in their courts it will be easier for giant corporations and the wealthy individuals to get relief and harder for everyone else to find justice. that's the perverted upside down justice system that every member of this congress should be working to fix. now more than ever we need judges who will stand up for equal justice for all, not just for the rich and the powerful. the records of the nominees before us this week show that they cannot meet that standard. that's why i voted no on the nominations of mr. grasz and mri will be voting no on mr. ho. and i urge my colleagues to do the same. mr. president, i yield. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president i'd ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as the presiding officer knows, today i will be introducing a resolution joined by the junior senator from alaska, the presiding officer, and the senior senator from arizona, senator mccain, as well as senators risch, inhofe, rubio, tillis and strange. the purpose of this resolution is to expressly declare that congress is unified in its
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common nation of the intransigent behavior of the democratic people's republic of korea. north korea, as the world knows, has been dangerously pursuing its nuclear weapons capabilities for a long time. since dictator kim jong un took power six years ago, he has ordered at least four nuclear tests, including the september debt -- detonation of what his regime generally agree was a hydrogen bomb. despite great efforts made by the united states, including a recent executive order by our president, north korea's history is a -- as a bad faith negotiator continues unabated on the world stage. it obstinately violates diplomatic norms and human rights as will and was designated as a state spror -- sponsor of terrorism. we simply can't afford to wander
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naively down a path of appeasement when lessons learned over a half century laid bare north korea's behavioral patterns. they exposed the regime's to cooperate with the world community and simply denuclearize. our resolution asserts that the united states as well as the united nations security council and our regional allies should continue to implement the strictest sanction regimes possible, required to change the bad behavior. of north k of north korea. further, we have to continue to exhaust every reasonable diplomatic option to achieve the complete vary fireable and irreversible dismantlement of north korea's ballistic missiles and nuclear programs. the president has constitutional responsibilities to protect the united states, but it emphasizes
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a congressional authorization is necessary prior to committing u.s. forces to sustained military -- to sustain military operations on the korean peninsula. of course, we hope that the worst outcome, open military conflict, will never come to pass. but as it continues to increase its nuclear yield in ballistic missile capabilities, north korea has become one of if not the single greatest threat to peace in the world. as the resolution makes clear, the u.s. must continue to take all necessary precautions through a mix of diplomacy, economic sanctions, and contingency planning. our focus should be on exerting as much pressure as we can on north korea to end its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. i hope our colleagues will join us in passing this resolution in short order to send a very
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important and clear message about the gravity of the threat and the severity with which we are confronting it. mr. president, on a separate and happier note, today is a great day for our nation's federal judiciary. yesterday afternoon we confirmed justice don willett who currently serves on the united states supreme court -- excuse me -- the texas supreme court who has been nominated by president trump to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit. and soon we'll be voting on jim ho, former solicitor general of the state of texas who's also been nominated to the fifth circuit court of appeals. these are simply two outstanding nominees and reflect the best of texas. their fathers, lawyers, scholars, public servants and
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active participants in their communities. i want to take a moment to discuss each of their unique stories as well as their sterling records of professional accomplishment. don willett was raised in tulti, a small town outside of dallas, texas. he was adopted at a young age and raised by a single mom for most of his life. she must have been one heck of a lady because her son went on to achieve great things from those humble beginnings. he attended baylor, undergraduate school and duke law school. he clerked on the same court to which he's been nominated and now confirmed, the fifth circuit court of appeals. he worked in private practice and served governor and then president george w. bush. that's not all, though. he went on to work at the department of justice's office of legal policy and later served as deputy attorney general of texas before his appointment to the texas supreme court. he was elected to his full --
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first full term in 2006 and reelected in 2012. while serving on my state's highest court, justice willett was recognized for his excellence by the texas review of law and politics which named him as its distinguished jurist of the year in 2014. justice willett's confirmation now is good news and perhaps the best news for him personally as he will no longer have to run for election as he has had to do as a member of the texas supreme court because, of course, his appointment now is for life tenure. jim ho's story is no less remarkable. jim was born in taiwan and his parents immigrated to new york when he was a toddler. jim learned english by watching "sesame street." when he was young his parents moved to california where jim later attended stanford before moving on to law school at the
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university of chicago. as an adult in his professional life, jim has clerked for judge jerry smith on the fifth circuit, the district court to -- the court to which he's been nominated and will be confirmed and later clerked for justice clarence thomas on the u.s. supreme court. jim has worked in a variety legal capacities in the private sector but also served as the civil rights division and the office of legal counsel at the department of justice. it's when he was at the civil rights division that i first met jim and i offered him a job on my judiciary committee staff where he served as my chief counsel. later serving as solicitor general, he had the highest win rate before the united states supreme court of any person who has served in that role. when i was attorney general of texas, we created this position of solicitor general because we had line lawyers who would literally handle cases for state
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agencies who would handle those cases all the way to the supreme court and really didn't have the experience or training as an appellate advocate that we needed to speak with a single voice for the entire state before the federal courts. but jim held that role and performed with distinction. and as i've said, was enormously successful in his appellate advocacy. jim also bears the distinction as the first asian american solicitor general of texas and he has taught as an adjunct professor at the university of texas and has published in numerous scholarly journals. simply put jim ho and don willett are two stars in the texas legal firmament. they were vetted by a bipartisan texas evaluation committee appointed by senator cruz and myself as well as the white house counsel's office and the department of justice. and i'm glad we're now elevating them to the federal bench. i want to commend the president
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on these comment nominations, and i thank my colleagues for their votes to support these two exceptionallily qualified men. mr. president, i yield the floor and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. reed: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i would ask that the calling of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, as republicans in both chambers rush to conclude their secret negotiations on the final details of their tax bill, i want to make clear to my colleagues what should be obvious about this legislation. we may not yet know the results of all their horse trading leading up to the final legislation, but the american people are watching this process. and it's plain to see that should this republican bill become law, republicans will have knowingly and deliberately made worse the most dangerous threats that we face to our economy and our national security. and worse yet, they will have drained the public coffers that our children and children's
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children will need to take up these challenges. we all know what these challenges are. we face unprecedented income and wealth inequality that threatens to stifle the mobility of the american dream. there's also declining productivity which has kept middle-class wages stagnant and bred economic anxiety for too many parents wondering if their children will attain a higher standard of living, much higher they hope than they have done so. and we have a surging deficit from decades of trickle-down economics and unpaid wars that if left unaddressed could apply huge pressure to our ability to keep our most basic promises to the american people, not to mention meeting our obligations as a world power. to families watching what is going on in washington right now, the republican end game appears to be to invite fiscal crisis with irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations and then because we already have given trillions of dollars away in tax cuts to the
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man -- social security, medicare, medicaid and other vital programs in order to pay our bills. we know this is the road that this bill sets us up upon and the american people certainly see this coming so let no one who votes for this bill say that they did not know the consequences of their actions. this will not be remembered as tax reform but rather as a serious mistake to be corrected in the future. how do middle-class americans know that republicans did not write this bill for them? because they have watched republican economics rig the tax system in favor of the wealthy and corporations for years. even as income and wealth inequality have reached historical levels, they took the republicans at their word when republicans promised that the bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 which skewed tax relief for the top 1% over the

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