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tv   U.S. Senate 12202017  CSPAN  December 20, 2017 2:59pm-5:00pm EST

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on a different subject, talking about keeping promises. and that is other people whorl o are counting on us to be able to act in order to get their health care. we've had 81 days since the funding lapsed, the funding ended for the children's health insurance program and community health centers. now each state is a little different, so because of the various combinations of funding, that didn't mean everyone lost care immediately right after that. some are now, there are three states this month, there are others in the first of the year and so on. but i just received, literally just a few moments ago a notice from our state saying that in january it's very likely if we don't act, that families in michigan are going to get a notice that, what we call my child, which provides health
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care for 100,000 children in michigan, of working families -- these are families that don't qualify for health through medicaid or other assistance. they're working but maybe at work they're getting health care but it doesn't cover their children. or maybe they're not getting health care and they want to at least be able to cover their children. that's what my child is all about. it's been 81 days since the september 30 deadline that p stopped the -- that stopped the federal funding from going forward. nine million children nationwide, 100,000 children in michigan. in addition to that, community health centers across the country serve 25 million patients every year, 300,000 of those are veterans, 7.5 million
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are children. i had the opportunity last friday to visit one wonderful facilities, one in flint and one in western wayne county. and to see the great work they do and to talk to some of the people that were there to get care, people are counting on community health centers and they are counting on the children's health insurance program in order to be able to make sure they have the care that they need for themselves and their families. it's important that we act. we could act right now. this is bipartisan. we passed a bipartisan bill out of the finance committee in september before the deadline. i want to thank our chairman, senator hatch, our ranking member, senator wyden. i was pleased to join with them. we passed it out of committee
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with only one no vote. we have bipartisan support to get this done. senator blunt and i have offered a bill that is bipartisan and has had support of 70 members of this body signing a letter saying, continue community health center funding much our plan all along was to pass the children's health insurance bill out of committee in september and add health centers and then pass before the deadline and take away the anxiety and worry and fear that families now have about what's going to happen. every day that goes by people are worried about what's going to happen. are they going to be able to take their child to the doctor, be able to get their asthma treatments, handle their juvenile diabetes, cancer treatments, or the normal things that happen to kids every day. so i would urge us to take a few
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moments, like today, i'm not sure if there will hb any votes today -- if there will be any votes today. we could take today and pass children's health insurance and community health centers and let families across america know that they are going to be able to have the medical care they need for themselves and their children coming into the new year. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mrs. gillibrand: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. gillibrand: thank you. mr. president, i rise to speak about an urgent crisis that congress must solve now for nearly 800,000 dreamers in this country. i am proud to represent new york state in the u.s. senate, and one of the things i'm most proud of is that my state is home to
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tens of thousands of dreamers, tens of thousands of young people who have never known any other country as home but this one. when president trump announced that he wanted to end the daca program, it was one of the most inhumane actions of his entire presidency. let me be clear about what ending daca will do. ending daca will force thousands of dreamers to lose their jobs. it will force them to go into hiding them. it will force them to have to make the unimaginable choice between either stay here undocumented or being forced out of the united states. so i ask my colleagues, are you really okay letting that happen when you personally have the power to prevent it from happening right now? attacking dreamers like this goes against our most basic values as american, our most
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basic sense of right versus young and i know this chamber is divided on how to fix the broken immigration system. for -- for a moment forget about ideology and think about the young people who have spent their entire lives here. they are waiting and wanting to see if the government has -- if the congress has the ability ability to stand up. we have to lead. we are have to protect our dreamers and we need to pass the tract. and most of us, we should never allow our dreamers to be used as political pawns. we should do what both parties have said is the right thing to do which is to pass the dream act. this is a matter of basic human rights and human dignity. it's about people lives, and i'm not going to compromise on that. mr. president, are you willing to compromise on that. we need to fix this problem and we don't have a lot of time to
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do it. every week that congress refuses to take action more dreamers lose their daca status. very soon we are going to have it to pass a long-term spending bill just to keep the government running, but the republican leadership has not yet committed to including a provision in the bill to protect our dreamers. so, mr. president, i want to say this very clearly: if my republican colleagues refuse to do the right thing and protect our dreamers in the upcoming long-term spending bill, i will vote no. i will ask my colleagues to join me in this fight. i will ask all of them to see that this issue is not a political question, it's just a basic question of whether or not we are a country that protects children. i'm never going to compromise when it comes to our dreamers, not when their lives are literally hanging in the balance. time is desperately running out
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so i urge my colleagues to do what is right. we must protect the dreamers. i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, it's an historic day for our country. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: mr. president, it's an historic day for our country, for the united states senate, for the congress, as we speak at this very moment the president of the united states is about to sign the bill we passed on the floor of the
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senate last night, an agreement on the conference report, one of the largest tax reforms in the history of our country, certainly the largest since 1986. it's historic in many other ways because we're fighting wars overseas. we're dealing with terrorism. we're looking at the economic climate for the future and trying to inspire our country to be better and be everything it can be. we're talking about all those types of things and we're getting ready for christmas. we're busy about lots of things but there's one thing you should never be too busy to to do and that's pause and stop and say thank you, thank you to someone or some entity or some institution that has made a difference in your life or the life of your country. i don't often come down here on points of personal privilege. i do it but i don't often do it. when i do do it, it's special for me, and i think it's hopefully special for the people i'm talking about. a good friend of mine is retiring from the southern company in the next few months. his name is jim mccool. most of you probably don't know
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jim mccool. jim is one of those people some people refer to as a lobbyist, others refer to as a professional advocate. i refer to him as my good friend. i met him in the 1980's. he had started his own formal wear business, sold that business, went to work for the city power, one of the southern compancompanies. later worked as a liaison for southern company, georgia power, for alabama power. i got to know jim over lots of ways. first of all, when i was in the state senate and the statehouse in georgia. on the industry committee, worked on issues dealing with electric utilities. i didn't know anything about those. i was a real estate broker. my knowledge of electricity was when i threw that switch i want it had to come on. once it got beyond that, i didn't have any knowledge about it. but jim was one of the people that didn't say this is my company's position, we want you to do it. he said what is it about my company's position that i can
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help explain for you to make a decision? he never ever asked me to do anything for him or anyone. he always offered to give me the information i needed to make the decision for me. that's not a rarity in that profession but something the average person doesn't think of when you hear lobbyist or professional advocate. but jim mccool is, has been and always will be very special. he takes his job seriously, his company seriously, and his country seriously. jim and his wife kathy raised three great sons. they're proud of their dad, he's proud of them. i've seen him in enough situations with his family to know his family comes first with jim mccool. golf, unlike what most people think, is not first. it's only second. southern company is third. i played a lot of golf with jim mccool and that's why i put that in there. over the years i've worked with jim on many, many projects. now we're working on a nuclear production tax credit in
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addition to the tax extension bill which hopefully will pass in the united states congress after the first of january, to continue the construction and completion of units three and four, in georgia. for me ironically this is such a special moment because i worked on one and two when they were built in the early 1980's and jim was an advocate at that time mississippi power, later joining the southern company team. jim and i have watched the vogel go from a dream and aspiration for the southern company to a reality in terms of units 1 and 2 and if we get our work done soon units 3 and 4 will be on line and for a long time after we're gone, georgia will have reliable, safe energy from a renewable source called nuclear. and we'll continue to be a pioneer and leader in the southern united states. so when i heard jim was retiring, obviously i knew it was a special moment for him and his family, and i wish him all the best, and i know he's going to do great. i started thinking back on all
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those times we were working on all those issues that had such an impact on his job and his employer and for me, my state and his state. jim never wavered in his commitment to doing the best job he could possibly do and always representing the best interests of his company, never losing the best interest of those that were served by his company, his customers. so on this day today when the president of the united states science major sweeping tax reform, we approach christmas for all families, i rise on the floor of the united states senate to take note of jim mccool from the state of mississippi, employee of the southern company, professional advocate, father of three, husband to a great lady. jim has gone the long way down the long road and he's done it with style, with class, and he's delivered every single time. washington doesn't have a better advocate working in this town than jim mccool and we're going to miss him, but i'm going to play a lot more golf
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with him in the years ahead because he's going to have more free time than he's got right now. i wish jim and his family the best. i thank him for all he's done as georgians. mr. president, i yield back and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. i have one request for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. gardner: mr. president, i rise today to note this congress' historic achievement in reforming the nation's tax system for the first time in 30 years. i congratulate the hardworking teams, the staffers, and others from the budget, finance, energy committees, and their colleagues in the house for the work that they have done. it's not easy to modernize a tax code that has languished for over 30 years. many groups have worked for a long time to solidify their special benefits, and they don't want to see those perks or special benefits go away. many others just don't know how to work things under the status quo and think that that must be
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the only way to do work is to find a new status quo that represents the old status quo. reforming the tax code is not easy. but it's important. it's important to america's economy. it's important to america's working families. it's important to colorado. it's important for a lot of reasons. for instance, right now, we waste six billion hours and $263 billion just to file our taxes every year. after this reform, 92% of taxpayers will take the standard deduction. that simplifies the code, cuts those hours, and eliminates wasted dollars. but perhaps most importantly, it will shake our economy out of its slow-walking recovery. while there are booming areas in our colorado, undoubtedly colorado front range represents some of the best examples of booming areas in our nation, there are many areas of the country that haven't seen the growth that have quite frankly been left behind. they haven't seen their wages go up for a long time. in fact, "the denver post"
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published just a couple of days ago two stories about wages yesterday. those stories point out that median wages in colorado in 2016 were still below the levels of 2007 and even 2000. while i appreciate these reports, the fact is we knew it wasn't anything unheard of. it certainly isn't new to those coloradans who live outside of the front range that they haven't seen their wages grow. it's a reality that they have been dealing with for far too long. over the years, wages have become detached from corporate profits. prior to 1990, this chart is a good example of what has occurred. prior to 1990, a 1% increase in corporate profits led to a greater than 1% increase in worker wages. but from 2008 to 2016, a 1% increase in corporate profits led only to a .3% increase in wages. what you can see right here is the corporate rate over time. you can see in 1990, 1986, the u.s. rate remained here at 35%
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for that high, what is today for at least a little bit longer, the highest statutory tax rate in the world when it comes to business rates. you can see all these oecd nations that have dramatically dropped theirs beginning in 1990 and going down through today. that's what's happened. over that same period, our once-competitive corporate tax system has gotten more and more out of date. our corporate tack rate today, as i said, is about the same as it was 30 years ago, 35%. meanwhile, the foreign countries, germany, france, italy, even socialist greece have lowered their tax rates. now america has the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world and europe has an highest rate around 18.5%. so american businesses have shifted their work overseas. new factories were built in poland, not pueblo. new offices opened in dublin, not delta. with new opportunities, american wages stagnated. the empirical data on this is
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clear. we have another chart to talk about this. high-tax countries see anemic wage growth, well under 1% a year, but lower tax countries see much stronger growth. you can see on the red line, this line represents highest statutory corporate rate in the world. the ten countries with the highest statutory corporate rates. they have less than 1% wage growth. you can see the lowest statutory corporate rates, countries that represent the bottom ten statutory rates in the country have wage growth at 4% a year. that's clear data. growth between 1% and 4%, low-tax countries. make no mistake, america is on the red line because we have an out-of-date corporate tax code. an out-of-date tax code that we have begun to address. lowering the corporate tax rate has historically had support on both sides of the aisle, including something that president obama had said back in 2011. state of the union address. joint session of congress. but suddenly over the last couple of months, that's not the case anymore. sadly, i suspect that opposition
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to tax cuts has more to do with partisan politics than the merits of the proposal. but whatever the reason, instead of reaching out and working together, we have heard a parade of horribles. it will run up deficits and only benefits the wealthy instead of investing in workers to make more profits, businesses will just hoard their money. we have even heard that provision after provision will literally kill people. as we heard objections get more and more outlandish, including the biblical end of times, we heard the critiques get even more petty. we heard the other side use procedural rules to complain about the title of the bill. but what we haven't heard is how those opposed to this bill would solve the wage problem. they don't have a theory about why wages have stagnated or a vision for how to get them moving again, but we do, and we passed it last night, and this reform will start to move wages again. this reform makes our corporate tax rates competitive again. it removes the incentive to invest abroad rather than right here at home. it's no surprise that the business roundtable, the chamber of commerce, the national
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federation of independent businesses, the organization that represents small businesses across this country, the national retail federation, the national association of home builders, and the american farm bureau federation all support this bill. in fact, you can see this small portion of a pile, a stack of letters i received from hundreds and hundreds of farmers across the state of colorado writing to my office, saying i would like to join colorado farm bureau to support tax reform that works for colorado's farmers and ranchers. hundreds of people saying please help reform our tax code, cut our taxes. these letters came from real coloradans. people across all four corners of the state who know how important real reform is to them. these groups know that this reform, -- these individuals know that this reform translates into more growth for the american economy, higher wages for american workers. the tax foundation has estimateed that this reform will bring 339,000 new full-time equivalent jobs, increase g.d.p., and raise workers' wages.
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i have heard a lot of doubt about that part. i have heard a lot of people say there is no wage growth going to occur, there is no money that will come from these greedy corporations, but look at the news today. because today companies across america have started to respond already to this pro-growth tax reform. just hours ago, at&t announced that it will invest an additional $1 billion in the united states in 2018. and it will give more than 200,000 of its u.s. employees a bonus of $1,000. all because of the tax relief bill that we have been working on. that we passed today. similarly today, boeing announced that it will make a $300 million investment in charitable giving, worker training, and education and infrastructure and facility enhancements. both of these companies made it very clear that these investments, over a billion dollars in investments, $1,000 to 200,000 employees in the united states are because of the tax bill that the house passed today, that we passed early this
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morning. there's more on the way. but the business side isn't the only way it brings relief to american families and is certainly not the most important. the reforms we have made on the personal side will deliver relief to americans across the nation. a family of four earning the immediateian income of $73,000 will see their tax bill go down by $2,000. that's nearly 60% this year from what it was last year. a single parent with two children and an income of $52,000 will see a tax cut of nearly $1,900. in a nation where too many people can't pull together $100 in 24 hours, these tax reductions alone are an enormous benefit. these are real benefits to the american people. although there may be some naysayers in washington who apparently have plenty of money, but to people in colorado, people in the west, people across this country, that's a big deal. these are benefits to real people. i'm glad to be a part and honored to be a part of delivering this real relief. i'm also proud to have done this in a way that protects -- or creates many provisions that are
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especially important to colorado. we have made it easier to take advantage of the medical expense deduction. we have expanded the child tax credit and 529 programs. we have protected other education provisions like the student loan interest deduction and tax breaks for america's teachers. we have made sure our farming co-ops are treated fairly. we have made sure our growing brewing and distilling industry are treated fairly as well. we have made a dent in the unfair death tax, and that is a big deal for the hundreds and hundreds of farmers and ranchers who have contacted my office. we have ended the obamacare individual mandate. no longer will the people in colorado who earn less than $50,000 be subjected to a tax fine, a penalty by the i.r.s. simply because they can't afford an unaffordable obamacare policy. and we have helped ensure america's energy security by opening up new resource opportunities in a responsible manner, making sure that we simultaneously ensure that colorado's renewable energy industry continues to flourish by making sure that today's credits for wind, solar, and
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refined coal are still available. that's what we did in this legislation. mr. president, this is a historic reform. i'm proud to be a part of it. i'm proud to have voted for it. we can already see today that as a result of the work that we have done, americans are seeing the benefit. mr. president, i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: are we presently in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. whitehouse: may i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. i'm here now for the 190th time to wake up speech to talk about an issue that falls at the intersection of climate change and jobs and consumer power and protection. you would think that a policy
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that simultaneously reduces the carbon emissions responsible for climate change and boosts american industrial competitiveness and puts thousands of dollars back into the pockets of american consumers would be pretty universally popular. unfortunately, you would be wrong. the corporate average fuel economy standards known as the cafe standards set a minimum threshold for the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks that are sold in the united states. in 2011, the major automakers here in america, ford and g.m. and the others, enthusiastically endorsed voluntary new fuel efficiency standards which would gradually increase the fuel
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economy for their cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon on average by 2025. so think about that for a second. in 2011, average fuel economy for these vehicles was stuck below 30 miles per gallon. the cafe standards hadn't budged in years. as a result, our automakers had stopped innovating to make cars more fuel efficient. they didn't have to make them more fuel efficient. and when gas prices soared in the mid 2000's, it was consumers who were on the hook. today, thanks to the voluntary agreement that was reached by the automakers, the cafe standard is presently over 40 miles per gallon for cars and over 30 miles per gallon for
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light trucks. consumers have already saved $42 billion at the pump because of those increased fuel economy standards. consumers who purchase a new car in 2025 on average will save about $8,000 on gas over the lifetime of that car because of those new fuel economy standards. but, of course, it's not just the consumers who win under the new cafe standards. the environment also wins. already, the american auto fleet's increased average fuel economy has resulted in 195 million fewer metric tons of carbon emissions. and of course with the carbon emissions come all the rest of the pollution out of a car's
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tailpipe, so it's a big environmental benefit. over the life of the cafe standards program, total carbon emissions reductions should total six billion metric tons. this is huge because transportation is now the largest source of carbon emissions in the united states. carbon emissions from cars and light trucks account for almost one-sixth of the nation's total. if we are to be successful in keeping the average global temperature increase under two degrees celsius, the upper bound beyond which scientists tell us the consequences of climate change will likely be irreversible, then we've got to significantly reduce auto
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emotions -- emissions. that is part of the paris agreement. from businesses here to all the carbon emissions savings and efficiencies to reach our paris goal right here. and of all of this, power sector, industrial sector, efficiencies, home sector, all of it, this gold wedge right here represents the piece of it that we achieve by meeting these cafe standards. so it's pretty important to meet those standards if we're going to hit the paris climate goals, and it's pretty important to hit the paris climate goals if we don't want to condemn our children and grandchildren to a very hazardous future.
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here's what's strange. the exact same set of industry players that voluntarily signed on to and supported the stronger fuel efficiency standards just four years ago through their trade association are now working hand in hand with e.p.a. administrator scott pruitt. when something bad is happening for the environment, you can almost always find him around, to weaken them to voluntarily undo what we promised the american people. following the election of donald trump, the auto alliance, the tray group that represents ford, general motors, toyota and volvo claimed that the very same standards that the automakers supported just a few years
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before now reflected an extraordinary and premature rush to judgment. end quote. shortly after pruitt came into office, the alliance asked him to revisit the standard. by the way, just before i gave this speech, i googled up auto alliance and went to their website and hit the search and look at climate change and it wasn't found on their website. so the alliance, when pruitt came in, asked him to revisit this cafe standard that their member companies had all agreed to. pruitt, already as oklahoma's attorney general, has been notoriously compliant to
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industry. he gladly complied. now, the auto alliance has a long history as the trailing edge of the automotive industry, opposing seatbelts, opposing airbags, and opposing catalatic converters. now in the polluter-friendly trump administration it if seems a tempting chance to sell more gas guzzlers. but is that smart? over the long term does this risk actually consign american automakers to global irrelevance? we sell these cars on an international market. let's look at what the international market is moving too. countries around the world has realized that the auto future lies with alternative sources of power, electricity or hydrogen
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fuel cells. i just got a chevrolet volt, an electric car. not only is it good for the environment, it is a fun car to drive. it is a great vehicle. china, the world's largest car market, recently announced that by 2025, 20% of new cars sold there must run on alternative fuels and it's on its way to an eventual total ban of the sale of gasoline and diesel cars. that's where the biggest car market is headed. the europeon union is the third largest. the netherlands announced that all cars sold must be emissions free. france and the united kingdom will ban sales of new gasoline
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and diesel-powered cars starting in 2040. norway, while not a member of the e.u. is very much a part of that economy, are even more ambitious. by 2025, all new cars sold in norway must be emissions free. moving on to japan, the world's fourth largest car market. it has more electric charging stations than gas station -- stations. india announced that all new cars sold there by 2030 must be electric or hybrid vehicles. so with the entire world moving towards cleaner, newer technology and innovative vehicles, why does this automotive lobby group, the auto alliance, suddenly want to
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renege on the promise its members made to the american people to raise and abide by those cafe standards? we should hope that our business leaders would be honorable enough to keep their word. that's a fairly basic proposition. but if the future of the industry lies with ever more fuel-efficient cars, hybrids, electric cars, fuel-cell cars, why would the auto industry in america be furiously lobbying the trump administration to go backwards, breaking your word to go backwards doesn't seem to make sense, even from a business point of view. electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles represent the future of the auto industry. china and other countries get this. the chinese are trying to poach our electrical engineers to develop their automotive
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industry so that it can one day beat ours. meanwhile, executives at our automakers are scheming with pruitt to head back to the past, to get out of the promise they made to build more innovative fuel-efficient cars. investing in the technologies of the future will help ensure that the electric vehicle revolution that is on our doorstep doesn't leave america behind, doesn't leave american innovators behind, doesn't leave american workers behind, doesn't leave american automakers behind. a mid-term review of these cafe standards found that the automakers already have the technology to meet the new standard and that tt new standard will save -- and that the new standard will save their
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customers money. it's to the benefit of their customers to keep going with the cafe standards they agreed to. another analysis, an independent analysis by the nonprofit organization series found that the cafe standards provide automakers and their suppliers certainty, certainty they need to increase investment in the cleaner technologies that are necessary for the long-term health of the industry and with that certainty that leads to increased investment, the increased investment leads to jobs. mr. president, this ought to be a no-brainer, a policy that protects consumers and the environment while promoting innovation and making american countries more competitive in the global market should be something that we can all agree on.
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but there's also a simpler, more old-fashioned principle at stake here. keep your word. keep your word. ford, g.m., and the others told the american public that they would compete for car buyers business by delivering quality, energy-efficient vehicles. that's what they told the american public, and they said it voluntarily. this wasn't forced down their throat through a regulatory proceeding. this was a voluntary agreement that they signed up for and were enthusiastic about at the time. they should keep their word. why is that asking too much of american corporate leadership? keep your word.
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how basic a principle is that? they should stop their trade association lobbying to water down the cafe standards promises that they made. it's a recurring problem around here, mr. president, i think as many of us have noticed, that the trade association is tiewcially -- usually the trailing edge of the industry, it's like the worst voice of the industry. shore the case here where the trade association for our auto automakers are breaking their promise, a simple one, that the technology is already there to achieve. so even if up don't care one wit
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about climate change, even if you laugh that off, even if you go down the trump road that it's a chinese hoax, we still ought to be honoring those cafe standards for american jobs, for american ingenuity, and for american innovation. thanks, mr. president. i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cardin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i take this time to talk about two matters of human rights, which i know the presiding officer has been very much engaged with as an active member of the senate foreign relations committee, and i want to share this information with our colleagues. this month marks the fifth year anniversary of the 2012 sergei m itniski act, today with the five new sanctions designations, many of those who strive for a future governed by the rule of law can claim a small victory over oppression. a hope that today's news will provide justice for the family of sergei and those who continue
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to fight against corruption and human rights abuses across the country. the mcniski list includes 49 names, it shows the accountability that human rights should play in american foreign policy. most know about his death. he was a young lawyer in russia representing a company, discovered corruption, did what any lawyer should do, reported it to the authorities, as a result he was arrest. he was tortured, denied medical care and died in prison. as a result of that legislation was introduced. i was proud to sponsor it with my good friend senator mccain. it was enacted into law, as i said, five years ago. it holds those that perpetrate these violations of human rights accountable by denying them the right to visit our country, visa
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applications and using our banking system. this list includes you'lla myavova fire in roles in the mcniski case and arab for gross violations of human rights. i appreciate the work of officials at the treasury and state departments for their work in investigating and designating these important case. andre pavlov is a russian lawyer who played a central role in orchestrating the false claims used in the $230 million tax fraud that sergey magnitsky. his dix thisaddition to the lisg overdual. the former wife of pavlov reportedly played a role helping
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to facilitate the fraud uncovered by sergey magnitsky. alexa played key roles in the 2006 theft of the $107 million in taxes paid by ram gas and in the theft of the $230 million in taxes paid by helper damage. i understand in both tax thefts shell companies used forged bank back dated contracts to obtain judgments against companies which paid significant amount of taxes. a renowned human rights abuseer has brutally run the republic of chechnya for ten years. under his rule gay men have disappeared. he destroyed any semblance of the rule of law in the republic. over the course of his time in
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power, there have been credible allegations of him directing assassinations deployed across russia and europe. human rights groups have documented many cases of torture and extra judicial killings by forces under his control. and a prison warden and head of the branch of the chechnyan internal affairs ministry, earlier this year officials reportedly set up concentration camps for gay men under his control. he certainly belongs on this list. mr. president, since 2012, senator mccain and i have conducted rigorous oversight to ensure robust implementation of the magnitsky law. in 2016, we wrote to the state department with certain suggestions for inclusions on the list relevant to the death of sergei magnitsky. we expressed concerns that the allegations of torture against gay men and other human rights
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violators should be investigated. i am pleased they took action responsive to our inquiries and i just want my colleagues to know that i do believe this administration has conducted the review on the magnitsky list the way it should have been, keeping in close contact with our, members of the united states senate. and i think the results speak to the quality of work that was done in this year's list. american values are our interests. as a country, we must remain steadfastly committed to the principles e embedded in the magnitsky law. the american people expect u.s. policies makers to advance these principles in all aspects of our diplomatic relations. i welcome today's announcement and expect the first publication this week. as the president is well aware we recently passed the global magnitsky law that applies similar standards for human
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rights violations globally. that list should be made available, we hope, sometime this week. mr. president, on a second subject i want to talk about today on human rights deal with the collapse in venezuela. i come to the floor to speak about venezuela's growing humanitarian tragedy and accelerating economic collapse. late last june here on the senate floor i described venezuela as a nearly failed state where authoritarian leaders profit from links to corruption and drug trafficking while the venezuelans people are subjected to human rights abuses. disturbingly, the situation has only deteriorated since the time i was last on the floor talking about the circumstances. with venezuela's humanitarian crisis growing daily, conditions facing venezuelan children are particularly dire. this week "the new york times" published a heartbreaking investigation about venezuelan
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children dying of hunger which states,, and i quote, parents go days without eating shriveling to the weight of children. women line up at clinics to avoid having children they cannot feed. boys leave home to join street gangs that scavenge for scraps. crowds of adults storm dumpsters after restaurants close. babies die because it's hard to find or afford infant formula, even in emergency rooms. mr. president, that's in our hemisphere in venezuela. the catholic relief organization has determined over 50% of the children are suffering from nutritional deficiencies. the project -- they project that 280,000 venezuelan children could eventually die of hunger without an urgently needed humanitarian response. at the venezuelan -- as
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venezuela collapses from hunger the hospital system is collapsing. more than half the nation's operating facilities no longer function or have sufficient supplies. disturbingly international relief organizations have found that over 60% of the venezuelan hospitals don't even have potable water. amidst this crisis conditions, venezuelan president maduro repeatedly denies the existence of his country's humanitarian crisis. he has even taken the unprecedented step of setting up a party controlled distribution system referred to as collapse and his government uses food as a tool of political patronage. the result is that the united states and our partners in the hemisphere now confront a situation where the maduro regime would rather see its people go hungry than accept the foreign assistance that venezuelans desperately need.
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this manmade tragedy is absolutely unacceptable. and today i have written to ambassador nikki haley, our ambassador to the united nations, to urge her to call an emergency special session of the united nations security council to evaluate which united nations mechanisms, including u.n. security council resolutions, should be pursued to alleviate the humanitarian suffering inside venezuela. as humanitarian concerns mount, human rights abuses of venezuela are rampant. last month the united nations high commissioner for human rights told the united nations security council that this year venezuelan security forces systematically resorted to the arbitrary detention of more than 5,000 protesters. a more recent report by human rights watch and a venezuelan nongovernmental organization, documents held venezuelan security forces have subjected
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political opponents to torture involving electric shock and asphyxiation. in response, louise magro, secretary general of o.a.s., convened a series of hearings to receive testimony and ascertain whether members of the venezuelan government have committed crimes against humanity. they should be referred to the international criminal court for prosecution. these efforts deserve our attention and our support. against this alarming backdrop, we require no explanation for why the united states has received more asylum requests from venezuela than any other nationality for the two years straight. these challenges will only grow as venezuelan economy continues to collapse. the country is in a selected default on its bond. hyperinflation and rapid concurrence devaluation are ravaging family income.
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this week the country's parallel exchange rate reached 12,000 times the official rate, meaning that the average venezuelan now earns less than $10 a month. the reasons for this collapse are simple. venezuelan economy is plagued by endemic corruption and gross mismanagement. as this calamity grows, senators need to be aware that venezuela eventually will need a major i.m.f. program that will well surpass the $17 billion intervention that ukraine required in 2014. the international community will have to respond, which will also include of course the united states. we also need to recognize that russia and china are now major stakeholders in venezuela in our hemisphere and will be at the table as the international community copes with the pending collapse. russia in particular is playing geopolitics with the situation.
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refinancing venezuela debt, offering loans in returns for financial stakes in u.s.-based citgo, securing stakes in venezuelan oil industry and expanding its influence in our hemisphere. in response to these growing challenges, the trump administration has applied greater pressure by imposing targeted sanctions against a number of individuals, including president maduro. with this designation, president maduro has joined the list of heads of state on the u.s. sanction list including the likes of north korea kim jong un, syria's president bashar al-assad, robert mugabe and panama's former president nor ray goa. president trump is blocking new bonds involving the maduro regime. the bond market has been one of the last lifelines for the maduro government and investors are right to lose trust in
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venezuela's ability to pay its debt. we must recognize, however, that the situation alone will not resolve the challenges the people of venezuela are facing. we need a comprehensive strategy that utilizes all elements of u.s. diplomacy. we must provide critical foreign assistance to help mitigate the humanitarian crisis and bolster essential support for human rights and democratic civil society. in may i introduced s. 1018, a bipartisan bill that lays out a comprehensive strategy for u.s. policy. my bill includes humanitarian assistance and funding to protect and promote human rights and democracy. it also includes a more aggressive approach to tackling the academic corruption. earlier this month the house of representatives approved its version of this bill. it is time for the senate to act. while i see an opportunity for bipartisanship in the senate on u.s. policies towards venezuela, i must say that i was alarmed by president trump's
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statement in august about a potential military option. such cavalier comments are not helpful. and once again call into question whether he has the temperament and judgment for dealing with serious national security challenges. we must rise to the challenge in venezuela as a great nation bringing our full diplomatic resources and skill to bear and avoiding stooping to mere saber rattling. mr. president, i urge our colleagues to take on this challenge. help the people of venezuela who are suffering from this humanitarian crisis and allow america's pulpit to be used to help resolve this problem in our hemisphere. with that, mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: mr. president, i rise -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. warner: i ask that the proceedings of the quorum be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. warner: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today concerned about the threats to the special council's critical investigation of russian interference in the 2016 election. over the last several weeks, a growing chorus of irresponsible and reckless voices have called for president trump to shut down special counsel mueller's investigation. at first these calls came from the fringes of our political discourse. those who would refuse to put our country and our security before base political instinct. early -- instincts. earlier this year, many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle were right to push back on
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these misdirected calls and urge that the special counsel be allowed to do his job without interference. however, in recent weeks, those voices seem to be growing in t stridency and volume. just this weekend one major news organization suggested that special counsel mueller could be involved in a coup against the president. one has outrageously alleged that the fix was in against donald trump from the beginning. those statements are reckless. they are inappropriate. and they are extremely worrying. they are at odds with the president's own lawyers who have pledged to cooperate with the special counsel. beyond being irresponsible, the seemingly coordinated nature of
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these claims should alarm us all, particularly since in recent days these baseless accusations have been repeated by several members of the house of representatives. i believe that is up to every member of this institution, republican or democrat, to make a clear and unambiguous statement that any attempt by this president to remove special counsel mummer from his position or -- mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authoriti authorities. these truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed. let's take a moment and remember
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why special counsel mueller was appointed in the first place and why it remains so critical that he be permitted to finish his job without obstruction. recall last spring we were all reeling from a series of confounding actions by this president beginning with the firing of f.b.i. director jim comey on may 9. mr. comey was fired just two months after publicly revealing the f.b.i.'s ongoing investigation of the trump campaign and as we would find out later, after several attempts by this president to improperly influence director comey. try to put yourself back into those dangerous days. director comey's dismissal was met with confusion and widespread condemnation. we needed a stabilizing action from our nation's law
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enforcement leadership. we needed some certainty that the facts would be found and brought to light regardless of what they were. eight days after mr. comey's firing, trump appointee and deputy attorney general rod rosenstein appointed robert mueller to oversee the investigation into, quote, any links and/or coordination between the russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of president donald trump and, quote, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. his appointment reassured americans that there will be a full and thorough law enforcement investigation. the announcement was met with support on both sides of the aisle and received nearly universal praise. in fact, many of the same people
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who are attacking him today praised mr. mueller's appointment just months ago. indeed, there's much to praise. the fact is that robert mueller has impeccable credentials as a man of the law. he's assembled a team that includes some of the nation's best investigators, and he's leading the investigation with the professionalism it deserves. mr. mueller is a dedicated vietnam war veteran and a lifelong republican appointed to his current role by deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, also a republican. in fact, all of the major players to date in this investigation, former director comey, current f.b.i. directo dr ray rosenstein and even attorney general sessions who has had to recuse himself are all republicans. the charges that some have made
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that somehow democratic political bias have crept into this investigation are baseless given the makeup of the leadership team. in recent weeks much has been made of some political opinions expressed by an f.b.i. agent during the election last year. this specious line of argument conveniently ignores the fact that as soon as mr. mueller learned about these comments, he immediately removed that agent in question from the investigation. if anything, this incident only adds to mr. mueller's credibility as a fair and independent investigator. mr. president, i stand here as the vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee. we are in the midst of our own investigation into russian incursion. and i'm proud of the way the chair -- that chairman burr and our committee has taken on this
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very difficult task. we've made tremendous progress uncovering the facts of russian interference in our elections. our committee's work helped expose the dark underbelly on many of our social media platforms. we successfully pressed for the full accounting of russian cyber efforts to target our state electoral systems. and despite the initial denials of any russian contact during the election, this committee's efforts have helped uncover numerous and troubling high-level engagements between the trump campaign and russian affiliates, many of which have only been revealed in recent months. we've got a lot of work to do yet, but our committee has gone out of its way to ensure continued bipartisan backing for this effort. and i'm committed to seeing the
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effort through. however, it should be very clear that our committee cannot and will not stand as a substitute for mr. mueller's investigation. as chairman burr and i have noted on numerous occasions, the f.b.i. is responsible no determining any criminal activities related to this inquiry. as such, mueller has already moved to indict two individuals and has negotiated two additional guilty pleas. there's an investigative path -- this is an investigative path reserved solely for law enforcement, and it is essential that it be permitted to go on unimbued. the country no doubt remains severely divided on the question of the last election. however, the national security threat facing us today should demand that we rise above
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partisan differences. no matter the political divide, surely each of us and all americans should want to know the truth of what happened during last year's election and no doubt we all want to know that as quickly as possible. now, the president has long called the investigation into the russian meddling into the 2016 election a witchhunt. and he's done much to discredit the intelligence community's unanimous assessment of russian interference in our election. the failure of this white house to lead a whole of government approach to prevent this type of election interference in the future either by the russians or some other adversary defies understanding. the president's refusal to accept the intelligence community's assessment and his play dants disregard for en-- blatant disregard for ensuring that russia never again
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infiltrates our election process has been unnerving and cause for significant concern. in recent days, the president has said he's not considering removing special counsel mueller, but the president's track record on this front is a source of concern. i'm certain that most of my colleagues believe that will he wouldn't fire jim comey either. firing mr. mueller or any other of the top brass involved in this investigation would not only call into question this administration's commitment to the truth but also to our most basic concept rule of law. it also has the potential to provoke a constitutional crisis. in the united states of america, no one, no one is above the law, not even the president. congress must make clear to the president that firing the
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special counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and ?angt consequences -- and significant consequences. i hope my concerns are unfounded. in many ways, i hope i would never have to make this kind of speech, but there are troubling signs. it is critical that all of us as elected officials and as citizens speak up against these threats now before it's too late. thank you, mr. president. with that i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. franken: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: are we in a quorum call? i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. franken: i rise today to deliver the second in a series of 21 floor speeches that i -- the second in a series of floor speeches that i offer as i close out my time in the senate. this evening -- or this afternoon, i want to talk about america's relationship with telecommunications and technology companies and what that means for their access to essential services and for their privacy. when i entered the senate in july of 2009, then-majority leader harry reid asked me to serve on the judiciary committee. i pointed out that there are a lot of lawyers in the senate and that i wasn't one of them, but he said that he needed members with my perspective on the
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committee. i wondered how my background could possibly serve me on judiciary, but it did almost immediately when in december of that year, comcast announced its intention to acquire nbc universal. i happened to know a lot about the effects of media consolidation because i used to work in media when powerful corporations are permitted to acquire other powerful corporations, it's the american consumers who are left facing higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse service from their telecommunications providers. i question why an already powerful company should be allowed to get even bigger and thus extract more leverage over consumers and the businesses reliant on its platform. and it was through my work on comcast-nbc universal that i learned about the rising costs
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of internet, phone, and tv services, as well as the importance of preserving net neutrality. i also became interested in how giant telecommunications companies as well as ever-evolving tech companies were treating the massive troves of user data that they were collecting on a perpetual basis. i believe that consumers have a fundamental right to know what information is being collected about them. i believe that they have a right to decide whether they want to share that information and with whom they want to share it and when, and i believe that consumers have a right to expect the companies that store their personal information will store it scurrile. i also believe that all americans deserve affordable access to high-quality telecommunications services, services they depend on to
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communicate with the world, to get an education, to find a job, and i believe that the internet should remain the open platform for innovation, economic growth, and freedom of expression that it has always been. perhaps it was a complex nature of these issues or even the financial incentives to turn a blind eye, but when i came to the senate, very few members of the senate, congress, were talking about commercial consolidation or commercial privacy or net neutrality, issues that have gained much-deserved attention in more recent years. whatever the reason for other members' hesitance, i felt it was incumbent upon me to get into the weeds on these issues so that i could be a leader in the senate and ultimately address concerns -- the concerns of ordinary minnesotans. that's why when the interests of
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the american consumer clashed with the desires of powerful telecommunications and technology companies, i have always tried to put the public first and to fight on their behalf by shedding light on corporate abuses and using all the tools at my disposal to curb them. again, it is through my rork on the judiciary committee and more specifically my work on media and technology policy that i believe my perspective from my previous career has been of most value. comcast' proposal to acquire nbc-u immediately made me uncomfortable because i had seen their motives for this deal before. in 1993, during my 13th season at "saturday night live," the big three networks, nbc, cbs, and abc, pressured congress to change the rules that had previously prevented them from
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owning any of the shows that they aired in prime time. the purpose of the rules had been to prevent the networks from prioritizing their own shows over others and otherwise harming competing programming. unsurprisingly, after the rules were repealed, the networks, contrary to their guarantees to their assurance that they had given congress, they began giving the shows that they owned preferential treatment. now, at the time, "seinfeld" which aired on nbc and was not owned by nbc, had been done before -- it had been produced before the rules had changed," seinfeld" was the number one show on television, which made the thursday nighttime slot following "seinfeld" the knows valuable real estate on
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television. and i watched as shows that eventually wound up in that premium location were all owned, at least in part, by nbc. so when i became a senator, one of the first major deals that i opposed was comcast's acquisition of nbc universal. as in the case of at&t's current bid to buy time warner, this deal was about giving one company the ability to control both the programming and the pipes that carry it. i knew from my time in the media that a combined comcast-nbc-universal would have strong incentives to favorites own programming over that of others, and restrict competing distributors from accessing that programming. i knew that these incentives would hurt competing content
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creators, inhibit the free flow of information, and ultimately harm consumers. unfortunately, i was not wrong. in the years after its acquisition of nbc-universal, comcast repeatedly violated the terms of its agreements with the f.c.c. and the department of justice, favoring its own news programming over its competitors in comcast's channel lineup and failing to live up to its promises regarding offering an affordable stand-alone broadband package, racial diversity in programming. they did not live up to their promises there and online video distribution. and because merger conditions are extremely difficult and costly to enforce, competition and consumers were harmed in the process. comcast's behavior in the wake of acquiring nbc-universal was
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one of the major reasons i then opposed its proposal to turn around and buy time warner cable a couple years later. it was also one of the major reasons that i believed that that later deal was ultimately dropped after objections from the f.c.c. and the department of justice. for a long time in the senate, it was a lonely battle. for over a year, i was the only senator to oppose comcast's proposal to buy time warner cable, a deal that would have given the combined company 57% of the broadband market. but advocates and ordinary citizens raised their voices, and together we were able to stop the deal. most recently, i have led my colleagues in scrutinizing at&t's proposed acquisition of time warner, and i have once again called on regulators to move to block the deal for the
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inevitable harm it will cause to competition and consumers. i have been proud to lead these efforts, and i leave here in a much different environment than when i arrived. i know that there are strong voices in the senate that will carry on the fight when i am gone. these efforts to slow down and halt media consolidation are part of a very important larger development we have seen in our country. in recent years, there has been a resurgence in the american public's and in turn congress' interests in combating corporate consolidation. when i first entered the senate, i wasn't sure that most americans understood what was at stake when these powerful companies wanted to combine. vertical integration and antitrust laws sounded like obscure, almost boring topics, but more and more americans are
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getting educated about these issues, and more and more members of congress are working to get washington focused on how they affect the real lives of real people. now, just look at the fight for net neutrality. for many of the same reasons that i opposed comcast's acquisition of nbc universal, i have long supported strong net neutrality rules to ensure that the internet remains a level playing field where everyone can participate on equal footing. free from discrimination by large internet service providers like comcast, verizon, and at&t. net neutrality preserves the internet as the engine for innovation that it has always been. it allows businesses of all sizes to thrive, even when they are up against the largest, most profitable corporations. here is just one example that i
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found useful in explaining net neutrality. in 2005, three guys set up shop over a pizzeria in a strip mall in san mateo, california, where they launched the now ubiquitous youtube. video-sharing websites were in their infancy, but these guys already faced competition from something that preceded it called ongoing video. but google video wasn't very good. because of net neutrality, youtube was able to compete with google, with google video on a level playing field. the giant internet service providers treated youtube's videos the same as they did google's. and google couldn't pay them to gain an unfair advantage like a fast lane into consumers' homes.

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