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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  January 9, 2018 9:59am-12:26pm EST

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[inaudible conversations] >> this news item from just a short time ago on the hill. the congressional budget office has drastically lowered its estimate of the cost to renew health insurance program for low income children. likely making it easier for lawmakers to agree on a plan for extending the program. in the letter sent to senate finance committee chair orrin hatch, cbo said that financing the children's health insurance program or chip would cost about $800 million over the next ten years. and that's far lower than analysts' original estimate of 8.2 billion. funding for low income 9 the million income children, in the fall.
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and they're looking at how to fund the program. you can read more at the hill.com. the u.s. senate is about to meet and they may speak about chip. a district judge confirmation and work on others may follow. now live coverage of the u.s. senate. the chaplain: let us pray. o' god our help in ages past, our hope for the years to come, enter the hearts of our lawmakers today and give them pure hearts. enlighten and illuminate their minds that they may know you, who are the way, the truth, and the life. when they are tried, refresh them; when they are lonely, cheer them, when they are tempted, strengthen them, and when they are perplexed, guide
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them. help them so to live that they will be prepared to see your face in peace. make our senators positive people who are ex peck betant of your -- expe ctant of your best, radiate through them so that america will remain a shiny city on a hill. we pray in your merciful name. amen. 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
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and justice for all. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., january 9, 2018. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i here by appoint the honorable ben sasse, a senator from the state of nebraska, who will perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
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the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: yesterday i mentioned that already one million americans, and counting, will receive raises or special bonuses thanks to the historic tax reform law that congress passed and the president signed just last month. for example, darden restaurants, which employs 175,000 people,
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will invest $120 million in its most important assets, its employees. at&t announced that 2,000 employees would receive $1,000 bonuses. in turning point -- in kentucky, turning point, will give out bonuses. similar plans have been announced across the kund and in a -- country and in variety of industries, workers are receiving more beneficial retirement contributions. and the employers said it was tax reform that made this possible. how is all of this happening? how is it happening? after all those who were intent on opposing tax reform painted
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an apocalyptic picture. in the house, it was -- here in the senate my friend the democratic leader said there was nothing about this bill that suits the needs of the american worker. fortunately, a majority in the house and a majority in the senate knew better. we know that the economy is not a zero-sum gain. we know it is completely backwards to think that american businesses need to lose in order for american workers to win. to the contrary, in the 21st century economy, americans are all in this together. when our economy grows stagnant, when taxes and regulations make it harder for our companies to compete with foreign ones, that -- that is when wages fall flat and job opportunities dry up. but when washington gets out of the way and cuts back regulations and modernizes the
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tax code, when we give businesses more flexibility to invest and expand, then, as we are already seeing, workers reap the benefits. this is not some partisan talking point. as one economist wrote just before we passed tax reform, it's the consensus view -- the consensus view that lowering corporate income taxes would raise the wages of workers. tax reform became lalas than bhowntsdz ago -- bhowntsdz ago. and thanks -- one month ago. and thanks to tax reform, as the chart points out, a million american workers, and counting, are getting a bonus or raise. that's what's happening, and this is just the beginning. raises and bonuses aren't the only way that tax reform is
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providing a big help to those like the kentuckians i represent. it will help americans keep more of their own money and send less to washington. we reduced marginal rates, we doubled the standard deduction creating a zero tax bracket. zero taxes on the first $24,000 a family earns. we increased the child tax credit. we expanded the deduction for medical expenses, and the tax cuts and jobs act repeal the punitive individual mandate tax penalty amount the heart of obamacare. that law penalized hardworking americans twice, first by failing to create health insurance options to meet the needs of working families and imposing a fine on families who didn't want or couldn't afford the coverage.
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by zeroing out that unfair penalty, we repealed a core piece of obamacare and restored families flexibility to choose health insurance that works for them. the result of all of this is significant savings for middle-class american families. a typical family four earning a median family income will keep $2,000 more than they would have otherwise sent to the government and workers will see a difference in their paychecks as soon as february. less of their money will be deducted and sent to the i.r.s., more will be deposited in their own bank accounts. mr. president, the early impact of this tax reform legislation is quite clear. job creators and entrepreneurs are more optimistic. more than one million americans are already getting raises and bonuses and the groundwork is being laid for a more powerful, more competitive u.s. economy that attracts more investment
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and creates more homegrown jobs. it's no surprise that historically tax cuts have enjoyed bipartisan support. this time, unfortunately, none of our democratic colleagues chose to vote for this once-in-a-generation tax relief, not one in the house or the senate. i'm proud that majorities in congress were able to pass this bill so the president could sign it into law. a million americans, and soon to be many more, will be grateful. 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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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: are we in a quorum? the presiding officer: we are. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: now, mr. president, there are a number of outstanding matters before the senate that must be addressed by january 19. we must pass an extension of
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government funding. we must reach a deal to lift the spending caps to spare devastating cuts to our military support and funding for urgent domestic priorities. we must extend the children's health insurance program and community health centers and the 702 fisa court program. we must pass disaster aid. and we must resolve the future of the dreamers. some of these issues, particularly chip and fisa, could have been dealt with by the majority a long time ago. there are bipartisan majorities that would have voted to extend those programs, but the majority leader chose not to put them on the floor because they were busy pursuing a partisan, favor-the-wealthy tax bill. some of these issues still require further compromise. it's no secret that we haven't come to final agreement on the spending caps. both democrats and republicans want our troops to have the resources they need to do the tough job we ask of them. at the same time, we democrats
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want to make sure we're making the right kinds of investments in the middle class. the whole campaign was about the middle class. now we're going to abandon them because there are such needs for defense? the two are not mutually exclusive. we don't believe they are. and our republican colleagues have sort of lost their grip on saying, well, we can't increase the deficit after a $1.5 trillion cut, mainly for the wealthy and powerful corporations. so we're fighting hard to make sure we're making the right behind of investments in the middle class. that's why we're pushing hard to raise the spending caps on the domestic side, so we can do more in the fight against the opioid crisis, so we can do more to help our brave veterans get quality health care, so we honor the promise made to over a million pensioners who contributed to and earned every penny of their pensions. these are all very important issues. ask a mom or dad whose kid is
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addicted to opioids whether that can wait. ask a pensioner who is so nervous that he or she will not get enough dollars to retire on and feed themselves. ask a veteran who has been waiting online for health care because the veterans administration is not fully funded for the health care needs of our veterans. they all think those are just as important. not more, not less, than funding defense, and we will stand firm and strong that both are important, that both are important. and the only argument our colleagues seem to have against us, it increases the deficit, as i said, they lost all claim to that one with the tax bill. now, teamsters, carpenters, and miners have worked their entire lives under the expectation they could retire with a sense of dignity afforded by a modest pension. this is the one our colleagues seem to be just adamantly opposed to.
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let them go home to their miners, to their teamsters, to their food workers and tell them you don't deserve a pension even though you paid the kind -- the kind of pension you need even though you paid in every month. we can't just shrug our shoulders and do nothing. we ought to fix it. my friend the majority leader thinks defense is important but the other is not. we believe, we democrats, both are important and we must and should do both together. surely the deficit again can't be the problem after adding over $1.5 trillion in red ink. so let's make investments we know are essential in our military and in our middle class. we also have to make sure the disaster package treats all our states and territories fairly, that california and puerto rico and the mountain west and the u.s. virgin islands get the aid they need, just like texas and louisiana and florida. we have to reach agreement on a new health care package that admits the new reality of our
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health care system. the republicans repealed the individual mandate in their tax bill, an act that will raise premiums and lower coverage. the old health care compromise legislation was crafted before the republican tax bill. patty murray has said under new circumstances we need a new proposal. we can't just enact the previous alexander-murray because of the change our republican colleagues made to the health care system. and then of course there's the daca issue. that's going to require further compromise. there are many republicans in this chamber who want to enshrine daca protections into law as every democrat does, just as there are many democrats who would pass additional border security measures into law, smart, reasonable, practical border measures. a deal on this issue can be reached if both parties are committed to good-faith negotiations. the problem thus far has been president trump's insist sense
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on -- insist ens on a completely ineffective and absurdly expensive wall as part of any deal from daca. in fact, we learned this morning in a stunning "new york times" article by ron nixon that the trump administration is proposing to cut back from smart border security measures to pay for a border wall. i ask unanimous consent that the article by mr. nixon in "the new york times" be placed in the record alongside my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: according to the times which review internal budget guidance from the o.m.b., the trump administration would cut or delay funding for border surveillance. they'd cut or delay funding for radar technology, patrol boats, and maybe most crucially customs officers, all to ask taxpayers to pay for the wall. funding to upgrade surveillance aircraft extremely effective at stopping illegal crossings at the border, particularly drugs,
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denied. funding to hire new customs officers denied. funding for video surveillance with infrared cameras in areas with high incidence of border crossings cut to, quote, offset the costs of presidential priorities. unquote. what an absurd proposition. security experts have testified for decades that effective border security includes a variety of technologies and resources, drones, infrared sensors, customs and border patrol agents, officers, and in some places secure fencing is appropriate. we agree with that. these were all ideas included in comprehensive immigration reform. that the trump administration would cannibalize funding for these smart border security measures to pay for a wall that won't work makes no sense. he said he campaigned on it. oh, no, mr. president.
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you campaigned on a wall that mexico would pay for. we're waiting. but again, to take away the things that are needed to protect the border for a symbolic and ineffective political jes gesture? wrong. there's nothing to this but politics. president trump is fighting for an empty symbol rather than smart policy that will actually produce better security at our borders. we democrats are willing, able, and eager to work with our republican colleagues and the administration on smart, effective border solutions. as i've said, there may be a few places where a secure fence makes sense, but a medieval wall that you can't see through across the length of the southern border will not make us any safer. walls can be scaled over. walls can be tunneled under. as i've been told, there be
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many, many tunnels under the wall in san diego, some of which have not been detected. there is also the issue of eminent domain. the federal government would have to conscript hundreds of square highs of land from american citizens to build a wall. the administration still hasn't produced plans for where to put it and, of course, president trump promised once again that mexico would pay for it, not taxpayers. if you can read anything into the election, it was for that. polling data shows that a majority of americans don't believe the wall is the right thing to do. it's not responsible to insist that american taxpayers pay for an absurdly expensive and ineffective border wall or elsewhere the government shuts down. if the president goes down that path and insists on the wall or shuts down the government, which he said back in september, make no mistake about it, a government shutdown will fall entirely, entirely on his
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shoulders. if president trump can find a way to get mexico to pay for the wall while american taxpayers pay for things that really make a difference to secure the border, he should reveal that to the american people. but until that time, democrats will work with our republican colleagues on smart border security, effective border security just as we fight to protect the dreamers. 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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mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: 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, just over two weeks ago, president trump signed a historic tax reform bill into law. some not really knowing what was in the bill and people who were determined to find fault with it
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were, let's just say, a little skeptical at first. they wondered what this whole thing was about and who would actually benefit. but now the verdict is starting to come in. many folks are pleasantly surprised for the first time in a while knowing that actually congress and washington, d.c. has produced something that will make their life better. they are appreciative because they are seeing the immediate consequences. in response, more than 100 countries have announced they will give wage increases, increase their charitable contributions, and will give out bonuses to their employees. one million americans are receiving money they previously didn't have thanks to passage of the tax cuts and jobs act. but it's not just about bonuses, of course. we expect that once the i.r.s. updates the with holing
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wages, -- withholding wages -- withholdings, wages will go up. one senator said, with this tax reform the proof will be in your paycheck. families can spend that extra money any way they wish, of course, that's the point. they can spend it on projects long delayed, they can spend it on their kids. they can give it as an allowance or some modest compensation for jobs performed or people may figure out they want to save for a rainy day. the number is pretty shocking about how many americans are living paycheck to paycheck and who cannot sustain a $400 loss in income and make it work for them. this will provide a little bit
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of cushion for a rainy day. they can donate it to the house of worship. they can help a neighbor or friend who has fallen on hard times. in some places we're learning that families will enjoy lower utility rates based on what gas and electric companies are doing for their residential customers in light of their new tax savings. in places like michigan, montana, minnesota, kansas, kentucky, and south dakota, the utility companies in those states are looking at the tax deductions of those investor-owned utilities and how that will calculate into the rate of return that they are guaranteed under the law. but it looks to me like it will be good news for consumers, that lower heating bills will be the result during chilly times of the year and lower air
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conditioning costs and other electricity costs when the spring and summer come around. so it's encouraging to see this sort of, perhaps unexpected consequence of tax reform but one that will directly benefit consumers. this is real and it's significant and it's like priming our economic pump, a little push here and a pull there because of tax reform and all of a sudden the entire engine of the american economy is chugging along and will soon be running at full speed. in texas, you can hear the economy humming along healthily, and we should listen -- we should listen to the voices of the job creators like one in an area between austin and san antonio called rush enterprises. they specialize in commercial vehicles and they reported last
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month that they plan to give each of their 6,600 employees a $1,000 bonus after president trump signed the tax reform bill into law -- $1,000 each to 6,600 employees. the chief financial officer of rush enterprises talked about the additional savings the company would incur as a result of the deduction in its tax rate which fell from 35% to 21%. he said, you have a choice, we could have kept it and stuffed it in the company bank account or coffers, or share it with the people. we chose to share it with the people because it is the right thing to do. well, i couldn't be prouder of that demonstration of the great texas spirit, employers paying it forward. this gentleman went on to say that his company believes that tax reform will be beneficial, not only for his office and his
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employees, but also for his community and for overall economic growth. to him it's about the bigger picture. that is not the only place where companies are paying it forward. a telecom joint, at&t, headquartered in dallas, tx and american airlines and southwest airlines, have responded in similar fashion, offering bonuses to hundreds of thousands of their employees and promising to make significant capital investments in the if future and update their fleet of aircraft all with the savings that they will incur as a result of this tax cuts and jobs act. meanwhile, a restaurant company that owns a chain of popular establishing houses in -- steak houses in texas and elsewhere will use the low rate in taxes to provide customer service and provide additional benefits to
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their employees. the restaurants will be spending a significant amount of money to make sure that the dining experience is more worthwhile, hopefully providing not only jobs to the people who prepare the food but those who serve it and the vendors who sell it. well, not only will this legislation have the effect of improving a waiter's or waitress' salary, but the effect -- this demonstrates, i think once again, about how tax reform is far-reaching, perhaps in ways that we didn't necessarily think about, but this is what happens when people get to keep more of the money they earn. they spend it in a way that improves their quality of life and improves their security. in texas, hopefully our economy will continue its steady
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dissent. texas was rated number two in the country, we don't like to be number two in anything, mr. president, but we have been at the top five of this list for 11 straight years because it is because of our lower taxes, fiscally conservative approach to spending and common sense approach that makes it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to succeed. when they succeed it means that people can do the work that provides them the means to support their family and improve their quality of life. we call that the texas model, although it is not particularly unique, you would think it would be common sense. but as they say here in washington, d.c., common sense is not all that common. nationally the situation is looking up too, in part because the trump administration shares this texas approach, the u.s.
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economy added two million jobs in 2017, and unemployment is at a 17-year low. consumer confidence is at an all-time high since it was first recorded. i believe it was about 16 years ago. over the last two quarters the economy has grown by more than 3%. that's up from roughly 1.9% during the previous administration and people are excited to see the economy continue to improve in 2018 thanks to tax cuts and other regulatory reform and a government that is no longer hostile to private business and job creation. i'm glad to hear how many positive steps have been taken over the past few weeks in response to tax reform, but it's early, as i pointed out, it's only been a couple of weeks. i look forward to hearing many more such stories in the days ahead. i intend to spend this next year
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when i travel around the state of texas to look for the small businesses and individuals who will benefit from this important piece of historic legislation, and i look forward to coming back to the floor of the united states senate to continue to share the stories of this success. letting people keep more of what they earn, having more take-home pay, improving their standard of living, and making the united states more competitive in the global economy, rather than see businesses and investments move overseas, let's see that come back home, which i believe we will see in droves, and the american people will be better off for it. mr. president, i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: would the senator withhold briefly? mr. cornyn: i will. the presiding officer: measure is -- morning business is closed. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, william l. campbell,
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jr., of tennessee to be united states district judge for the middle district of tennessee. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i now note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: thank you. the clerk will now call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. a senator: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: mr. president, every day in america, the greatest nation in the history of the world, children, young women and teenagers are sold for sex. that's not a proud fact about america, but it is the stark reality. every day in america young women, children, and teenagers are trafficked in large part because they are advertised now
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on the internet. in open, visibly and obviously, even though code words may be used, sometimes doctored photographs, they are sold for sex because the traffickers are able to do so using the internet. we're here to stop it. we're here to stop the trafficking, and most important for today, here to stop the advertising. in support of a measure known as the stop enabling sex traffickers act, sesta, we have a strong bipartisan coalition. this bill is about as bipartisan as any bill is.
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i worked together with my colleague and friend, senator rob portman of ohio, on this legislation from the very beginning. we have been joined in this effort by two democrats and two republicans. senators mccaskill, heitkamp, cornyn and mccain. we are passionate about this effort, and so are the colleagues who have joined us, because it is about those victims. those children, teenagers, young women who are sold for sex, trafficked on the internet. and we want tpo -- to give those victims a voice and a day in court, a right of action, a defense against this absolutely
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heinous, atrocious, inhumane crime. it is a crime. it can be prosecuted. but the victims deserve a day in court and a voice as well. and that is the fundamental, core purpose of this legislation. it is about the victims. and we have been joined in this effort by advocates for those victims. sex trafficking survivors themselves and a dill -- diligent bipartisan coalition of colleagues. in fact, more than 60 of our colleagues have joined as cosponsors, and we're now at a critical milestone for this bill. we have reached a point of momentum that makes this bill unstoppable if those survivors are to be heard and heeded.
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and i urge my colleagues to do exactly that. sesta is really the product of shareholder consensus. it has the support of every major human trafficking organization, of law enforcement, and of all the major tech companies. in essence, sesta would simply clarify the section 230 of the communications decency act, was never intended to protect websites that facilitate sex trafficking. it will assure that those survivors get their day in court, and it stands in stark contrast to a measure in the house of representatives that has been approved by the relevant committee there which
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would fail in that effort. websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking should be afforded no protection under the communications decency act. they should be given no harbor or implicit approval, which is what the legislation now does. and the house bill, unfortunately, would fail to give those survivors and victims their day in court and the voice that they so desperately need. now, senator portman and i -- and i'm proud to be joined with him today on the floor -- have championed this cause as a result of what we have seen and heard. in fact, going back almost a decade, when i was attorney general of the state of
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connecticut, i saw firsthand the way that websites can facilitate knowingly sex trafficking. i saw firsthand how challenging it was for law enforcement to develop cases against sex traffickers and employ antitrafficking laws given the constraints on their resources, especially when those sex traffickers were able to use the internet to reach their customers. my experience combatting sex trafficking as attorney general at the state level led me, working with senator portman, to colaunch and cochair the senate caucus to end human trafficking to help find solutions to this problem and others around the world where children and teenagers and others are sex trafficked and victimized. i concluded as a state attorney
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general that facilitating sex trafficking must face repercussions, and i was joined by the national center for missing and exploited children who reported and have reported since the numbers. for example, an 846% increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking, from 2010 to 2015, a spike found to be, quote, direct ly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex. we have heard some of those instances. some of the histories and the stories of these young people. in 2012, a 15-year-old girl ran away from home, and over the next two years pimps trafficked
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her for sex through these ads. as a result, she was raped over 1,000 times while she was moved from one site to another with the aid of the internet. in 2010, another 15-year-old girl ran away from a residential program. a pimp began to traffic her for sex by posting online ads. and as a result, she was raped 900 times over the next two years. these two young women and a third mustered the courage to tell their stories and bring a lawsuit against backpage.com. it's the website that has profited most prominent from these online ads. these advertisements emphasize in fact graphically the survivors and victims, youth and
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other characteristics in trafficking them for sex. and yet the courts, understandably and perhaps rightly, have held that backpage.com and these internet sites generally have no legal responsibility. the first circuit court of appeals found that backpage.com was immune from civil liability because of section 230 of the communications decency act. websites that facilitate sex trafficking unconscionablely and intolerably are now immune from legal action by survivors. that is unacceptable in america. no matter how terrible the harm may cause, no matter how horrific the consequences to these young people, they are protected by a shield from moral
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and legal responsibility. in a sense, these women were victimized as much by backpage and the internet as they were by the pimps who more directly sold them. and so senator portman and i, through sesta, would complement complement -- implement three key reforms. number one allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly exploit their victimization. number two clarify it is illegal to knowingly facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws. and, third, enable state law enforcement officials -- not just the federal department of justice, but state law enforcement as well to take
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action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws. if websites are not knowingly facilitating sex trafficking, they have nothing to fear from the law. if websites are doing their best to avoid facilitating sex trafficking, they have no worry about their liability. but if they knowingly facilitate, they ought to face survivors and victims in court, and they ought to acknowledge and recognize their legal and moral responsibility. now, i want to be very blunt with my colleagues here about the house bill. because my feeling is we owe it to those survivors and victims
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not just to give them nice words and rhetoric, but real rights. congress must not only pass an online sex trafficking law, it must pass real sex trafficking internet protection. and unfortunately the house judiciary committee recently passed legislation that fails to accomplish that goal. my colleagues, don't be fooled. the house bill is in no way an adequate alternative to sesta. it is, unfortunately, completely insufficient in protecting survivors and victims, and giving them that day in court and that voice that they now lack. the difference between the house
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and senate bills are stark and clear. like night and day. the senate bill gives victims of trafficking their day in court. the house bill does not give a single survivor or victim access to justice. it fails to open the courthouse doors. it leaves them shut. in fact, it may even deny victims and survivors their right to file legal action. the senate bill has the support of every major human trafficking organization as well as all the major stakeholders. the house bill is supported by none. zero. no major group. in fact, 47 organizations and more than a dozen survivors and family members recently sent a letter calling for the house
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bill as presently written to be rejected. i strongly urge my colleagues to join this bipartisan group of more than 60 of us who are supporting sesta to help pass this essential legislation as soon as possible. we owe it to those survivors and victims. we owe it to ourselves. we owe it to america. thank you, mr. president, and i'm proud to yield to my friend and colleague who has joined in this effort and has been such a steadfast champion, senator portman. mr. portman: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, first i want to thank my friend and my colleague, senator blumenthal, for his commitment to this issue. we started this caucus to end trafficking six years ago, and during that time period there's been some significant progress made here in the united states
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senate and in the house. we've been able to pass legislation to help crack down on trafficking. i will tell you unbelievably in this century, in this country, sex trafficking is increasing, not decreasing. so despite our good efforts -- and we've increased the penalties on those who purchase sex from underage children, we have changed the dynamic as how the federal government, h.h.s., looks at this issue to change these, again, girls who get engaged and get trapped into the system, to treat them like the victims they are rather than as criminals. we have done more to increase awareness of this issue. we have required that for missing kids, which are probably the most vulnerable of all, that there be a photograph provided and other identifier which unbelievably for the most part there was not prior to that. so we have made some progress.
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senator bluhm it that you will and i have written -- senator blumenthal and i have written legislation to help contractors overseas who engage in human trafficking and our tax dollars go to that. and why? senator blumenthal talked about this. the main reason you sea an up -- see an uptick is because of the dark side of the internet. you quoted a statistic, 860 reports of sex trafficking over the last several years. and the reason that was true is you saw the emergence of these companies like backpage.com, which has probably 75% of the commercial sex traffic on one site and the ruthless efficiency of the internet get engaged in this issue. so we have got to address this
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issue. here's the tragic part of this. not only are more and more lives being ruined, more and more heartbreaking stories, but it's because of a federal law that provides immunity to these websites, so it comes right back here, right to these desks, right to this congress, right to us as legislators, to fix this problem, not try to smooth it over, but to actually fix the problem, which is that some of these online trafficking sites are immune from prosecution because of a federal law. it was a well-intended law. it was written 21 years ago, i think, and it's the communications decency act. ironically it was put in place, in part, to make it a crime to send pornography to kids online, but it's been twisted and used
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by these trafficking sites to provide them the ability to say, you can't touch us. you can't go after us. part of what the law says in trying to promote the internet is that if you post somebody else's material on your site, you're not liable. all we're saying is if you know that this involves trafficking, and senator blumenthal talked about his experience as a prosecutor, and this is a high bar, then you can't get away with this. and the standard we use is the federal law. so we allow victims to have their day in court that they can't get now. the stories are just really sad. let me tell you one. we spent 18 months investigating this in the permanent subcommittee on investigations, and what we learn was truly tragic. you had girls who were
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trafficked on these sites. in one case a mom testified her daughter had gone missing for about 10 weeks, as i recall. missing. this is a 14-year-old girl. what would you do as a parent if your daughter was missing for 10 weeks? you would go crazy. she tried everything. and somebody said, there is this website called backpage.com. she did and she was aghast by what she saw. she was relieved by one thing which was a photograph of her daughter who was still alive. so picks up the phone and calls backpage.com and said, i just saw my daughter. she's been missing for ten weeks. i saw her on your website. thank you for trying to take down the ad for trying to sell sex online.
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you know what the backpage.com operator said, according to this mom? she said, did you pay for the ad? she said, no, i didn't pay for the ad. that's my daughter. he said, well, then we can't take down the ad. we can't take down the ad. now, what kind of evil is behind that kind of a business practice? well, we learned, as we increasingly dug into this issue, that it's all about profit. you can imagine this is a very profitable business, and profits came first to the point that people would place ads with backpage that indicated that it was for an underaged girl and backpage then would get to the purchaser of the ad and say, you know what? you need to change the ad a little bit. you need to edit out the word,
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school girl or cheerleader or lolita. so they knew these ads were being run by advertising these underaged girls. they not only ran the ads, they sanitized the ads first. you know, that shouldn't happen in this country. it shouldn't happen anywhere in the world but certainly not with a federal law providing protection to organizations like that. that's all we're saying. we want congress to pass a law that says, you know what, if you engage knowingly in facilitating this kind of activity, you're subject to liability. you have to be held to account. is that too much to ask? senator blumenthal talked about it as a federal prosecutor. we allowed state prosecutors to go after these sites, which they cannot now. they have to use the fer
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standard. we're not -- federal standard. we're not trying to create a new area of law. it is a federal standard created by this body. so now when they go to court, they say, sorry ma'am. one said that a sacramento judge basically invited our legislation. he said to congress, you know what, the way that law reads, even somebody who exploits women and children online has immunity. congress, this is your job. so that's all this legislation does. now, senator blumenthal talked about the house legislation. there was strong house legislation that was introduced. it still bears the same h.r. number, and then it was changed in the judiciary committee. look, i -- i'm glad that there's more awareness and consciousness about this issue and the house
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and senate want to act, but let's not water this legislation down. let's not take away this core element of our legislation that says under the communications and decency act that we should have the opportunity to allow people to sue -- allow prosecutors to go after these evil websites many we can setup new causes of actions. that's fine. we can do more things in this body. over the last five or six years we passed a number of important bills that tried to raised consciousness and try to help on this issue. but you know what? if we don't deal with the internet part, we will continue to see an increase which is a stain on our national character. that at this time in our nation's history we are seeing an increase in people being sold for sex online often underaged.
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another story came, not from testimony before the permanent subcommittee where we spent 18 months studying this, but came before the commerce committee, and senator blumenthal was there for part of this. this woman came forward -- by the way you could have heard a pin drop in that wind when she talked -- and talked about her 16-year-old daughter who was sold on backpage.com. she was sold to a man who murdered her on christmas eve 2016. and what this mom said was my daughter never should have been on that site. that should never be allowed. she's right. it should never be allowed. how can we allow that to happen? so senator blumenthal and i introduced this legislation. we had 24 cosponsors almost right away.
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it was bipartisan from the start. this is not a partisan issue. as of today we have 64 cosponsors now. these are thoughtful members including the presiding officer who have looked at this legislation and heard the arguments from both sides. by the way, the other side of the argument is by the tech communities, somg of whom support -- some of whom support this legislation, some of whom do not. but those who support it, i don't get it. this is narrowly crafted this to issue. we're not trying to affect the freedom of the internet, just the opposite. if you don't start cracking down on this obviously crime against humanity, which is what i believe trafficking is, i think you're going to see much, much broard legislation to -- broader legislation to deal with the internet. this says, if you're violating
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the law on trafficking and you're doing it knowingly, you're assisting it, you have to be held liability and -- liable and held to account. we have a good samaritan provision that says if a website wants to clean up its site, they are protected. the good guys should be protected. we want them to clean up their site. we want to be sure that we continue to have freedom of the internet, but we don't want to allow -- no do i think it was -- nor do i think it was intended to allow -- criminal activity to occur that affects our children, our constituents over the internet without any sense of accountability or responsibility. it is narrowly crafted. it is focused on a real issue that affects real people. on friday i was back home in ohio. i was at a drug treatment center and i had the opportunity to meet with some of those who are
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recovering addicts, and as often happens when i'm in those kind of settings, you know, it turns to what kind of treatment options are out there for trauma? why? because there's a link between opioids, particularly heroin, fentanyl, and trafficking. so as has been told to me many times by some of these women, sometimes underaged, senator, this has moved -- trafficking has moved from the street corner to the eye phone -- iphone. from the street corner to the cellphone, and that's a reality. and i met a woman on friday who was going through treatment, and
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part of it is to treat the trauma that's associated with this. drug treatment is one thing, but the trauma associated with sex trafficking, repeated rapes, which, of course, makes it a deeper and more difficult road to recovery. i believe she will recover. she has a great attitude. she gets it. she will have to focus on it p and dedicate -- on it and dedicate herself to it. this is a real issue in our communities today. it is affecting every single state in this body. we cannot continue to ignore the reality that while the internet has brought a lot of good things to us and the internet has helped our economy to grow, there is a dark side, and this dark side of the internet is why we think it's so important for us to address this issue,
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address it now so that that next mom who is out there right now wondering, where is my daughter? these gone missing. won't find that she has been advertised online to multiple men, that her life is forever changed. she will never achieve her god-given ability in life. if this law passes, i'm convinced it will help. it will help to avoid the reality today which is that these websites act with immunity. they don't care and they are not going to care until we make them accountable. this month is human trafficking, human slavery month, january. president trump just wrote a beautiful proclamation about it
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and it was a call to action. president obama did previously. thursday is the day in which a lot of the advocates will be here in town taking about this -- talking about this issue. i urge my colleagues to please, sign up for this and please let's bring it to the floor for a vote. this should not be dragged out. let's deal with it. we have spent years studying this. we know what the issue is. we know what the problem is. to my house colleagues, let's work together to actually solve this problem. and for those in the tech community who continue to oppose this legislation, i ask you to look into your hearts and think about the impact this is having on families all across the country. yes, we all want a better world, and that's part of what many of these internet companies are professing to want.
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and many of them, by the way, have spent considerable resources infighting trafficking. but if you don't get at this issue, it's moved from the street corner to the smart phone. if you don't get at this issue, i don't believe we will see the progress that all of us desire. thank you, mr. president. i yield back my time.
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the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i have five requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the minority and the majority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. thune: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is not. mr. thune: mr. president, the beginning of a new session of
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congress provides a good moment to look back at the previous year and take stock of the challenges ahead. and today what i'd like to do is just take a few minutes to talk about the national security challenges facing our country and the importance of equipping our military to meet them. mr. president, by the end of the obama administration, our military was facing a serious readiness shortfall. the obama administration's failure to prioritize defense had left our armed services with manpower deficits and delayed the acquisition of 21st search tury -- century weapons and equipment. military effectiveness had been compromised by a culture of micromanagement in the obama administration that seriously hampered the ability of troops and commanders to respond to conditions on the ground in a timely fashion. but within days of his inauguration, president trump made clear that all this was going to change. and you can look at the
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situation that we faced in the middle east, mr. president, and the time frame that i'm referring to right here and the amount of ground that was held by isis. that is in january of 2017. well, just a week after his inauguration, president trump issued a presidential memorandum on rebuilding the military. he directed a review of our military's readiness and he set out an action plan to address manpower shortfalls, maintenance backlogs, acquisition costs and delays and other drains on our military capabilities. president trump also acted to free up military commanders to make decisions and to respond to conditions on the ground. the fruits of his commitment to rebuilding our military and trusting our military leaders are already evident. most notably in the significant gains made against isis in 2017. mr. president, if you look at the chart i just showed from
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january of 2017 and then you look at december of 2017, in terms of territory held, isis has been routed. in the first 11 months of the trump administration, over 15,000 square miles were liberated from isis control, exceeding the total area freed in the preceding two and a half years. isis has lost over 98% of the territory that it once held and it hasn't gained any back. just a month ago, iraqi prime minister al abad di declared his country, and i quote, fully liberated, end quote, from isis. in syria isis has lost control of its strong holds and now only remains in small pockets of the country. all told in the last year, more than 5.3 million people have been freed from the grip of
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isis, more than double the previous gains. families who have spent years fearing for their lives are seeing a chance for stability, peace, and order. if this year has shown us anything, mr. president, it's that we can trust our military to do its job and deliver results. president trump delegated tactical authority and permitted our military to take action when action was needed. military leaders credit this tactical authority for the significant gains made on the ground. mr. president, the swift rise of isis was enabled in part by the obama administration's shortsighted desire to withdraw from the fight against terrorism in the middle east. the withdrawal of u.s. troops on a timeline the obama administration announced to our enemies left a power vacuum in the region, and isis stepped in to fill the void. this is a mistake that we cannot
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repeat. while we've made tremendous strides against isis in the last year, we cannot simply take these winds -- wins and let our guard down. we know that isis and other dark actors can operate in the shadows of the internet and social media using their extensive networks to recruit and influence other would-be attackers in the united states and around the world. as chairman of the senate commerce committee which chairs -- or shares jurisdiction, i might add, over some of these matters, i am committed to looking at what steps we can take to thwart terrorist rhee criewtment and plan -- recruitment and planning efforts to keep americans safe. i'm holding a commerce hearing on what social media companies can do in this fight. mr. president, while we focus on combating terrorism, we cannot forget the conventional threats faced by our nation and our allies. i mentioned gains against isis in syria but there remains the
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alarming challenge of growing iranian influence there. syria provides a convenient land bridge to connect iran with hezbollah in lebanon which is well on its way to being a proxy for the iranian army. and, of course, we continue to see the deadly consequences of iran's continued smuggling of arms to houthi rebels. iran is a serious threat to stability in the middle east and to our allies there. we need to keep that in mind as we consider the failed iran nuclear deal and the ongoing protests in iran. mr. president, we also have to stay focused on the threat posed by north korea. south and north korea reestablished communications and just met to discuss the upcoming winter olympics in south korea. they announced that in addition to north korea sending a delegation to the winter games, the two countries have agreed to hold military talks, but north korea said it will not discuss its nuclear program at this time. mr. president, i think north korea's nuclear program has to
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be addressed as a condition of any lasting peace. in the united states -- and the united states should lead its allies in making that crystal clear. while the talks are a notable development after two years of no communication between the two countries, we obviously need to be weary of north korea's motives. we'll have to see what actions follow and if the talks lead to any substantive steps by north korea to dismantle its nuclear program. president trump and ambassador haley have made it clear that north korea must abandon its dangerous ambitions and increase sanctions of providing additional pressure. we should make no concessions without fundamental progress. of course, this will require cooperation from china to help exert pressure on north korea and uphold u.n. resolutions. china has sought to tip the regional balance in its favor by objecting to the installation of
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missile defense platforms that would defend the united states and our allies against north korean missiles. meanwhile, it's been simultaneously expanding its own military continuing to develop islands and international waters and exercising economic coerci coercion. president trump's national security strategy correctly acknowledges both china and russia as challengers to american influence, interest, security, and prosperity. i've spoken on the senate floor more than once to denounce russia's continued annexation of crimea, it's subversion of iew vainian sovereign in its efforts to undermine nato not to mention its continued denial of attempting to meddle with our election. mr. president, both the conventional challenges that our nation continues to face and the persistent threat of radical terrorism underscore the
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perennial need to ensure that our military is the best prepared, best equipped fighting force in the world. i've said it before and i'll say it again. if we don't get national security right, the rest of what we do here is just conversation. we have to, mr. president, be able to defend our country and our allies. yes, investing in our national security and restoring our military, especially after years of neglect, will come at a cost. as army chief of staff, general milly has said the only thing more expensive than deterrence is actually fighting a war and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting one and losing one. mr. president, the next few weeks the senate will have a chance to vote, to increase funding for our troops and to take real steps to restore our
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military readiness. i hope my colleagues across the aisle will work with us. if there is any issue, any issue, mr. president, in this chamber that should be bipartisan, it is this one. it's not an exaggeration to say that the security of our nation, our ability to live as a free people depends upon the chen sth of our military. it is time to make sure that our military men and women have the resources that they need to defend our nation. mr. president, i yield the flo floor. mr. president, i don't yield the floor just yet. i would ask unanimous consent that the senate stand in recess as if under the previous order. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until senate stands in recess until
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>> the senate recessing for their weekly party lunches. lawmakers will be back at 2:15 2:15 p.m. eastern for confirmation vote on the nomination of the middle tennessee district court judge. about to limit debate on another district court nomination. senate leaders may also speak shortly before to 15 people eastern and we plan to have live coverage of that if it takes place. now to hearing from this morning on opioids. a senate committee heard from a journalist and author was written a book about the development of the epidemic and what may lie ahead. >> the senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions will please come to order. today we turn our attention again to the opioid crisis. the nation's number one public health challenge. our witness today is sam

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