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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  February 27, 2018 10:00am-12:22pm EST

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court. confirmation vote is likely later today. senators may work on the omb deputy director nomination. more nominations are expected this week. now live to the floor of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. today's opening prayer will be offered by rabbi seth frisch, from historic congregation kesher israel, rabbi frisch: we look to you today, you who remembers all that we have forgotten, and you who are the eternal source of all blessing. we stand before you on the eve of the biblical festival of purim, a joyous time in which we
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read from the ancient and sacred scroll of ester. it is in the scroll we read at first of a certain darkness, a darkness which would come to envelope the entire nation over which ester would reign as queen. it was queen ester who became frightened when the plan revealing a plot to erase the sacred remnants of her people, along with the fundamental teachings of her faith came to light. and yet, it was ester who, when confronted by the impending darkness, was able to bring the plot to an end, allowing her people to emerge from the shadow of this horror and live freely, without fear, celebrating life itself in the light of their new found freedom.
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and now, standing here today before you on the eve of the festival, we too ask that you remember us for life, instilling within us a greater love of freedom seeking both peace and prosperity for all the inhabitants of this great nation. and yet, dear lord, we would be remiss if we were not to remember those who have sacrificed much, those who have suffered and paid dearly with their lives, allowing for us a life of freedom without fear, worshiping as we choose, and continuing to bask in that greater light of your eternal love. teach us now and forever to celebrate our differences, unify us to preserve and admire those
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differences among us with respect and dignity for all. lord, we ask you to bestow your blessings today upon this assembly and upon the nation which it serves. bless all the inhabitants of this land with both prosperity and lasting joy. yivarechecha adonai v'yishmarecha. god bless the united states of america and may god bless us all. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. the president pro tempore: i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., february 27, 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 benjamin sasse, a senator from the commonwealth 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 tame is reserved. morning business is closed. the senate will proceed to executive session. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, elizabeth l. branch of georgia to be united states district judge for the 1 -- eleventh circuit.
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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the dc circuit leader. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: after calendar number bien, -- columbine and so many to name, the nation convulsed, we talked about gun
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safety laws po prevent more -- to prevent more names and places from being added to the list. each time we talked this government did nothing. now, in the wake of the tragic shooting at stoneman douglas high school that took the lives of another 17 americans, we must try again to pass meaningful changes to our laws to keep our children safe. that's our duty, and there are many things we could and should pursue. yesterday, i suggested that comprehensive background checks would be an excellent and necessary place to start. it doesn't make sense that we allow anyone, regardless of their criminal history, felons, or a history of mental illness, to walk into a gun show or go online and buy a gun, no questions asked. there's no sense in that. when i wrote the brady law back
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in 1993, gun shows weren't popular. we didn't have internet sales to worry about at the time because there was no internet. these loopholes grew and grew and grew over time. now it's hard to know the exact number because we don't record the number of guns at gun shows -- sold at gun shows or online, but about one-fifth of all gun sales happen without a background check. it's likely that criminals and others up to no good, they don't want to be detected and go through a background check. it is outrageous that so many guns are sold with no background check whatsoever, whether you're a felon, adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abuse. we should close the loopholes and close them now. comprehensive background checks.
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not something here or there, but comprehensive background checks are supported overwhelmingly by the american people. later this morning, in 15 minutes, i will meet with several of the students, the brave, courageous students, from stoneman douglas high school, and i want to hear what they have to say. these brave students, whether at the florida statehouse or on national television, have spoken out with eloquence and grace. they are changing the way this country thinks about this issue. i hope, i pray, they compel us to do something significant because we cannot settle for half measures, not after what happened in florida, not after so many tragedies. the fix nics bill is an idea that has wide support in this
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chamber. but it is tiny. it is a grant program that addresses one specific issue. now we have a whole hoes of issues to address -- a whole host of issues to address, not just one. fix nics was named by the senator from texas after a particular tragedy in texas where a member of the air force was not qualified to get a gun, but the air force failed to send the information to ncis. -- nics. we should not aim our gun legislation simply at one past tragedy. we must look to the future. what will prevent future tragedies? comprehensive background checks will. the fix nics bill will not. so let's not set our sights too
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narrow and squander this moment. let's try for significant, bipartisan legislation that will make a real difference in keeping our children safe. now, even as our caucus discusses what legislation is best and in our leadership meeting we had an outstanding discussion this morning, i look forward to working with our republican colleagues to see if we can get something real done. now, mr. president, on another matter, today senate democrats will be introducing our legislation to reverse the f.c.c.'s repeal of net neutrality. it has the support of every single democrat and one senate republican, senator collins, from the state of maine. i tell all my republican colleagues this c.r.a. is the best way to undo the terrible decision to repeal net neutrality. it's an important debate. at stake are two opposing
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visions of the future of the internet. for its entire history, the internet has been free and open, accessible to all americans. it's been a true public good, just as our highways are. whether you are on main street or wall street, you got the same internet. whether you were a consumer or a big corporation, you got the same internet. whether you were a teacher in a wealthy school or an underresourced school, you got the same internet. the equality of access has driven innovation and entrepreneurship, and so much of what we value in the american spirit and the american economy. it's the american way. net neutrality rules were put in place to ensure that the internet remains that way, open, equal access to all. no matter who you are, how much money you had, how much power you had.
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but after repeal by the republican-led f.c.c. has opened us to an entirely new universe where internet service providers, the big boys will have the authority to sell quality internet to the highest bidder. that means they could restrict customers' access to their favorite websites by forcing them to buy internet packages or pay more for premium services. big companies could pay to get faster internet service, while start-ups and small businesses and average americans are left in the slow lane. everything from netflix to amazon prime to spotify, streechg television, sports and movies could be slower if you don't pay up -- streaming television, sports and movies could be slower if you don't pay up. public schools could be at a significant disadvantage. start-ups looking to get their businesses off the ground but
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aren't large enough to negotiate faster internet delivery with i.s.p.'s might never take off. our start-ups in new york are scared to death of the elimination of net neutrality. and they have created hundreds of thousands of jobs in my city and millions throughout the country. an internet without net neutrality is a tail of -- tale of two internets where the best internet goes to the highest bidder and everyone else loses. we have an opportunity to save the internet with our c.r.a. which would reinstitute net neutrality rules that keep the internet just the way it is now. democrats believe the future of the internet must be as free and open as in the past. that's the start-up founder living in her parents' basement, and she should be able to compete with the world's largest corporations. that's the young student in an
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underserved school district, and he can find all the information he needs online. that's every american who should be able to afford easily accessible internet. if we start degrading the internet, it could dramatically hurt our economy and our equality in america, something we are all striving for. right now, unfortunately, only one republican has signed up for the fair, open vision of an internet that we need and want to keep. all we need is one more, and on this net neutrality day of action, i urge all americans to contact their senators and demand they sign up with us to save the internet. now, finally, a word on the republican tax bill. when president trump and congressional republicans were trying to sell their tax bill,
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all you heard about, it's going to be a boon to workers, stimulate investments in new factories, raise wages, create jobs. well, it's a few months after the tax bill, and the promises have not been backed up by the evidence. now the evidence is flowing in that corporations are spending the lion's share of the benefits they reap from the tax bill, not on workers but on goosing their own stock. here's a headline from monday's "new york times." quote, trump's tax cuts in hand, companies spend more on themselves than on wages, unquote. the article goes on to document how the republican tax bill has unleashed a wave of share buybacks and stock repurchasing programs, things which help out rich executives and shareholders but don't accomplish much for everyday american workers. you're the c.e.o. of a company, you are judged by whether your stock's going up. the quickest hit on that is buy back your shares, reduce the
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number. it doesn't help your workers, doesn't help american productivity. it helps your bottom line, mr. c.e.o. that is so wrong. and that we did a huge tax bill and put ourselves in deep debt so that so much of the money can go to corporate executives, not improving the actual performance of their company but just raising the value of their stock by buybacks, that is so wrong. the article in "the new york times" documents how the republican tax bill has unleashed this wave of share buybacks and stock repurchasing programs, which as i said help out rich executives and shareholders but don't accomplish for everyday workers. rather than investing in new equipment to research, raising wages, providing better benefits, raising productivity which we're so short of here in america right now, corporate america is using the trump tax cut to give itself a raise.
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here's morgan stanley, hardly a left-wing company. morgan stanly -- at morgan stanley, the analysts surveyed a bunch of companies, and the companies surveyed say they would pass only 13% of the trump tax cut savings on to workers. in comparison to the 43% that will go to share buybacks. for manufacturers, we all care about manufacturing, it's even worse. they expect 9% to go to workers, 47% to go to share buybacks. republicans made a conscious decision to give corporations and the wealthiest americans the lion's share of the tax cuts and promised it would trickle down to everybody else. unfortunately, trickle down never works. corporate america is doing best -- corporate america is doing what's best for corporate
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america, and working america is getting left behind. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, a few years ago, an author named malcolm gladwell wrote a book called "the tipping point." he really spelled out in the course of history when something occurs which changes people's thinking, actions. it is a precipitous moment where what has been done for so long stops, is reevaluated, and a different course is followed. the clear question we have in america today is whether we have reached a tipping point when it comes to gun violence. it's only been 13 days, 13 days since the tragedy in parkland, florida. and look what's happened since. of course, outrage, sadness, mourning for the families that lost these wonderful students,
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teachers, and administrators, but beyond that, these high school students, 17, 18 years old, some even younger, have really become a national voice, a powerful voice on the issue of gun safety in schools. i often wondered when this moment might occur or whether it would occur. there has been such a long litany and string of mass shootings, massacres. it's sad to say there was a numbness setting in when terrible things occurred in places like las vegas, in texas, in other states. you wondered is that -- is that the event? is killing those innocent children at sandy hook elementary school in connecticut, will that be the tipping point? will america finally say enough? it appears on this day, 13 days after the tragedy in florida, that we are near or at a tipping point when it comes to gun safety. some of it is very personal.
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two weeks ago, after this occurred, my 6-year-old granddaughter said to her mother that she had been warned in her first grade classroom that if a shooter should turn up at the school firing a gun, first she should stay away from the windows, and second she should lie down on the floor. i can't tell what you a profound impact that had on me as a grandfather, to think that my little first grader, this beautiful little girl was worried about the moment when somebody would walk in her classroom and juwan tonally try to kill -- and just wantonly try to kill the teachers and students who were there. i can't believe any person believes that the second amendment to the constitution, the right to bear arms, envisioned that possibility. i'm sure it didn't. i'm sure our founding fathers -- and we can debate it the rest of the day what their words
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actually meant -- never envisioned that an american citizen's right to bear arms could somehow translate into violence against so many innocent people, as it has over and over and over again. last week, i was in chicago. i was joined at a press conference by representatives at the martin luther king jr. community center on the south side. we stood together, victims of gun violence and myself, at a press conference. advocates in the illinois council to combat gun violence have been working for years against the scourge of gun violence in illinois. i stood with patrick correllis who was injured on february 14, ten years ago at a mass shooting at northwestern university in dekalb illinois. but a new group came to join us. a girl from parkland, florida,
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francine brown. she graduated in 2009. she is currently a college student at kent college of law. she is one of dozens of stoneman high school graduates in the chicago area, which includes the first baseman for the chicago cubs, anthony rizo. hundreds if not thousands nationwide who have joined together in the aftermath of the february 14 mass shooting that killed 14 stoneman douglas students and three staff. these young men and women have come together to speak up and urge their lawmakers to do something about the nation's epidemic of gun violence. the message is starting to resonate. when francine brown was speaking last wednesday, students across the schools in the chicagoland area were walking out of class in solidarity with stoneman douglas students. they were all calling for commonsense gun reform. these students don't have time or patience for political games in washington or springfield. they have seen their friends, kids just like themselves, get
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shot in the classrooms and neighborhoods. they have had enough. fran machine brown said, and i quote, it's not supposed to matter what side of the aisle a politician sits. we're supposed to all protect the future for our children. i couldn't agree more. these students and young people across the country are changing the debate about gun violence. they are making it clear how absurd it is for lawmakers in this chamber, across the rotunda, or in state capitols to do nothing when americans get shot every day in their neighborhoods, churches, nightclubs, concerts, and schools. there are fellow politicians in washington who ignore the overwhelming majority of americans who want commonsense gun safety and listen instead to paranoid, bullying gun sales lobbyists. remember, the national rifle association and its allies oppose virtually anything that hurts gun sales. they fight against proposals that might reduce gun sales, and
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they try to roll back laws on the books that limit them. that is their agenda, but it's not america's agenda. corporate america is starting to walk away from the n.r.a. it is no longer a source of pride that they are doing business with the national rifle association. just the opposite. we are seeing company after company end relationships with the n.r.a. because of its increasingly unhinged and hysterical rhetoric on the issue of gun safety. corporate america, some of the biggest corporations in our nation, realize that the n.r.a. no longer speaks for responsible gun owners. when will congress realize this? we know we need to act to keep our children safe. there is no single reform that could stop every shooting. we know there are gaps in our gun laws that make it easy for criminals, abusers, troubled children, and mentally unstable people to get guns. even military-style assault
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weapons with bump stocks and high-capacity magazine clips. we need to close these gaps, and that requires the republicans who control congress to stand up to the n.r.a. and do something that the n.r.a. might not like. for starters, our republican colleagues can take up legislation that the leader of their party, president trump proposed last thursday -- here is one of the president's infamous tweets. i will be strongly pushing comprehensive background check, with an emphasis on mental health. raise age to 21 and end sale of bump stocks. congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue. i hope, the president tweeted. i hope as well. there are proposals that americans broadly support. let's do something. of course the n.r.a. is opposed to most of these. we expect it. they might have some negative impact on gun sales. but as the gun sales lobby now
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in charge of writing bills for the senate and the house? deferring to the n.r.a. is the reason we've reached this moment in history. remember, the senate has held one gun vote since president trump came to office and it was a vote to prevent mental health records from the social security administration from going into the f.b.i.'s gun background check system. that's the only vote since the trump administration took office. it's the only thing we've done. roll back a law on the books on mental health and background checks. that was a giveaway to gun lobby which claims to support enforcing the laws on the books but actually tries to roll back those laws if it means helping lift their sales. let's show the students at stoneman douglas and across the country we hear them. i hope we show that reducing gun violence is a priority. i call on my republican colleagues to join the democrats in a bipartisan effort to treat
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the issue of gun safety with the same sense of urgency that the american people believe is necessary. if republicans gave a fraction of the effort to gun safety that they have to other issues, we could get this done and done quickly. there are plenty of reforms we can pass that are completely consistent with the second amendment that would save lives, even president trump for the time being has said he supports them. so let's get started. not a giveaway to the gun lobby. let's work on closing loopholes. let's have universal background checks. over 90% of the american people believe we should keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and mentally unstable people. i also believe that we should have those who are subject to protective orders for domestic violence should be disqualified from buying a gun. i would say that those who are on the terrorist watch list that we do not allow to fly on airplanes because of fear they could do harm to others
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shouldn't be allowed to buy guns in the united states. i want to add a provision in there that straw purchasers, the girlfriends with no criminal record who buy the weapons to give to the boyfriends with a long criminal record ought to have the book thrown at them. i want to thank the victims and advocates who worked for many years to help reduce this epidemic of gun violence. i want them to know that i stand with them. i hope that we can all stand with them on a bipartisan basis. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i heard the remarks of our colleague from illinois, and i, too, hope we can get past the rhetoric and the talking points of the past and actually do something meaningful when it comes to public safety and
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address these terrible tragedies like the one that occurred at stoneman douglas high school in florida just two weeks ago. but we're not going to do it by trotting out all of our laundry lists of requests and say it has to be all of this or nothing. because when you say here in washington and particularly in congress i want everything on my list or i want nothing, one thing is for sure. you'll end up with nothing. and that simply is an unacceptable outcome, particularly when it comes to the public safety crisis manifested here most recently at stoneman douglas high school in florida. we know that there were many, many failures. you might even call this a systemic failure when it comes to the children at stoneman douglas high school. first and foremost, why didn't federal and local law
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enforcement follow up on threats and warnings? this young man, the shooter who took the lives of 17 people, he telegraphed in very clear, unmistakable language what he intended to do. but the very people that we trust and entrust with public safety at the federal and state level did not respond. we know the alleged shooter was expelled from school for disciplinary reasons. we know that deputies in broward county received at least 18 calls warning them over the course of several years, 18 calls. we know about the disturbing youtube post where the shooter basically said what he intended to do and did in fact do later. and we know that the f.b.i. received many disturbing tips from citizens about the imminent
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danger posed by the shooter. another question is whether mental health officials could have done more. we know that this young man had a long history of violent outbursts. in 2016, we're told that he reportedly attempted suicide by drinking gasoline. he'd been accused of verbal slurs against racial and religious minorities. we know florida has a state law, like some have advocated at the federal law, but a state law that permits forced hospitalization of people in mental health crises. but it seems in this particular case, mental health workers concluded that this individual was stable at the time they examined him. why and how was that determination made and why is that -- does that stand in such
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stark contrast to the picture that we've been able to draw as a result of all of the information that we've received since this terrible shooting? if law enforcement, public health workers, school officials were communicating and coordinating effectively, would they have made the same decisions in this case? could they have made a difference in the outcome? well, i think we need the answers to those questions. but there are two other questions that we need to answer as well. one is why and how did the shooter have access to firearms in the first place. and why didn't the school's armed resource officer intervene once the shooting began? all of us are angry at the fact that this shooting happened, but that shouldn't tempt us into easy solutions that at the end
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of the day would not make any difference in the outcome. they wouldn't do any good. that's what we tend to get here in congress when we have hard issues like this, easy solutions, talking points that lead to no effective action. and we can't let that happen here. as one columnist put it last week, we can't fall victim to the politics of false hope. the most frequent refrain i hear in washington after some tragedy like this occurs is we need to do something. well, we need to do something effective, something that would change the likely outcome. we may not be able to protect every citizen against terrible tragedies like this, but there are things that we can do which make things better and that will be effective in changing the outcome and i believe in saving
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lives. real solutions require a look at why the local f.b.i. and law enforcement failed to respond to multiple warnings. i asked one police officer about this. he said, well, in america, we can't arrest somebody for precrime. in other words, we can't arrest somebody for an offense that they didn't commit yet. it is perhaps a flaw that's unfortunately exposed in our system when we can't anticipate who might commit these terrible offenses and stop them before they commit the act. and that is a feature of our law enforcement system. but this isn't just another job for law enforcement. there's a lot more people who can contribute to a solution here and preveents these incident -- prevent these incidents from happening beyond simply law enforcement who are by our very constitution
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structured to investigate and prosecute crimes that have already occurred, not to stop them in the first place. i think it's a fair question to ask is what is the role of social media in preventing mass violence. when you have people basically telling us what they're getting ready to do and posting those on social media and nothing seems to happen as a consequence, it strikes me that something is terribly wrong there. what is the responsibility of these platforms. well, we know that congress has said, for example, you have a responsibility to police your platform from things like child pornography. in other words, they can't be totally oblivious to the things that are being posted on these social media platforms. they have a responsibility to intervene in some cases. and maybe it ought to be in more
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cases. what options currently exist to reporting disturbing content online? i believe in the youtube video case it was somebody who actually saw it and was disturbed by it and then reported it to the f.b.i. it was not even youtube itself that identified it. of course, they would be in the best position to identify it immediately. it was some third party who happened to see it and was disturbed by it and contacted the f.b.i. and tragically it was never followed up on. but how often are these popular platforms forwarding reports to the police or federal authorities when people actually threatened to commit acts of violence? if there are holes in the reporting protocol, we should close them. that's why i think this is a systemic failure when you look at mental health providers, when
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you look at law enforcement officials, when you look at the schools, when you look at the social media platforms, when you look at all of this together, i think it begins to give us some ideas about things we can do that may end up saving lives. and we should do them. members are discussing, of course, many ideas which always happens after a tragedy like this. and i'm open to a conversation with anyone who shares my desire to take effective action to prevent another one of these tragedies. but there is one proposal that's already been introduced that's won bipartisan support and has brought together advocates from all sides. it is really a unique piece of legislation because there's not many times that i can think of where people who are strong
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second amendment advocates and people who believe there ought to be more controls imposed on guns can come together and find consensus, to find common ground. but we have on a bill that i introduced to strengthen the background check system called the fix nics act. it may take a long time to answer all the questions raised by the tragedy in parkland but one step we can take right now is to pass the fix nics bill. this has the unique quality of causing our colleague from -- the junior senator from connecticut and me to cointroduce this bill. we couldn't be more ideologically different. he's a democrat. i'm a republican. but we have come together on a bill that does enjoy broad bipartisan support that i believe will save lives. this, of course, was introduced
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in the wake of the shooting last fall at a small community near san antonio called sutherland springs, texas. as we will recall, a deranged gunman with a criminal record and a history of violence and mental illness opened fire during a sunday morning church service killing 26 people and wounding 20 more. tragically, to add to the tragedy that already occurred, this murderous criminal conviction records were never uploaded in the f.b.i.'s national instant criminal background check system. so when he went to purchase firearms, he lied about his record and there was nothing in the criminal background check system to show that he'd lied and denied -- and thus deny him the opportunity to purchase the weapons. this failure to enforce our background check law allowed this shooter to walk into a gun store, pass a background check and illegally purchase a firearm. this bipartisan legislation would tighten the national
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instant criminal background check system. it's supported by people all across the political spectrum. and it's even cosponsored by the democratic leader, senator schumer and supported by every town for gun safety. it's brought together all sides in the gun debate, leaders on the republican side and democratic side alike. understand current law, mentally ill individuals and persons convicted of violent crimes are prohibited by law, by current law of purchasing or possessing firearms. this is to make sure the laws are enforced and criminal history information is uploaded into the nics database by state and federal authorities. for years our colleagues across the aisle have said they want reforms that will help stem the tide of gun violence perpetrated by dangerous criminals. well, this is their chance. this is our chance. it's our chance to show the nation that we refuse to accept
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shootings at schools and churches as the new normal. and we can do that. we can start doing that by passing fix nics this week. senator schumer, the minority leader, said yesterday he wants to wait even though he's a cosponsor of the fix nics bill. he's a cosponsor of the bill but he says he wants to wait. he wants to wait and debate other ideas he knows are controversial and can't pass. of course, that is his right as united states senator, but as i said earlier, if our attitude is i want everything on my list or nothing, we're going to end up with nothing. and i for one am not willing to go home and look my constituents in the face and say we had an opportunity to pass legislation, the fix nics bill that will save lives in the future, will make sure that existing laws are
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enforced, i'm -- i won't go home and tell them that in good faith we've done everything we can in ow power to -- in our power to save lives by passing bipartisan legislation that could pass today if it was put on the floor and voted on by a supermajority of the united states senate. so i would implore our democratic colleagues to change course. let's do the art of the possible. that's what politics is, the art of the possible. let's do what we can immediately to pass fix nics and build from there. i'm willing to work with them. the president is willing to work with them on things like bump stock, the mental health failure. try to make sure our schools are safer, make sure social media platforms report threats of violence to law enforcement officials so they can be followed up on. there's a lot of other things we can do, but the one thing we can do this week before we go home is to pass the fix nics bill and
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to send it to the house and then to the president and sign it into law. it will save lives. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell? mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: the senate will soon vote to confirm another fine candidate to serve on the federal bench. yesterday afternoon we voted to advance the nomination of judge elizabeth branch for the 11th circuit court of appeals. judge branch has sat on the georgia court of appeals since 2012. this follows a fine career that spanned both private practice and public service. judge branch has previously answered the call to serve at the department of homeland security where she worked as associate general counsel and then at the office of information and regulatory affairs.
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her record and qualifications are well known. our colleagues on the judiciary committee reported her nomination favorably by an overwhelming vote confirming this worthy nominee will be a further credit to the outstanding work of chairman grassley and the members of the committee. i would encourage all my colleagues to join me in voting to confirm elizabeth branch today. let's continue to fulfill our constitutional responsibility and confirm the president's outstanding judicial nominees. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: 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 indiana. mr. young: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. young: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of the following nomination -- executive calendar 387.
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the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: department of agriculture, william northey of iowa to be under secretary of farm and agricultural services. mr. young: i ask consent, mr. president, that the senate vote on the nomination with no intervening action or debate, that if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, that no further motions be in order, and that any statements relating to the nomination be principled in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. the question occurs on the nomination. all those in favor say aye. all those opposed say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table and the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action.
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mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, 200 years ago this month, a man was born into slavery in a cabin not far from here, in maryland. the child knew his mother only briefly. they were cruelly separated when he was young. he knew his father only by the rumors. he didn't even know the exact day of his birth. yes, even his birthday, that for many of us foundational aspect of identity, was denied him by the cruel mastery of slavery. this slave was whipped and beaten. his days were filled with toil. his nights were filled with restless turning on a packed dirt floor. that is not where the story ends. no, it is only the beginning of
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the incredible life of frederick douglass. the great abolitionist, orator, and one of the greatest americans ever to live. as douglass would later write in his memoirs, you have seen how a man was made a slave. you shall see how a slave was made a man. for all its terrible might, its bloodhounds and its implements of torture, slavery was not built to withstand frederick douglass, just as it was not built to withstand the universal desire for freedom that lies within the heart of man. the first step to freedom, douglass knew, was education, so he taught himself to read in secrecy because slaves were punished for learning to read. around the time he was 12, he got hold of an old textbook called "the colombian orator."
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little did douglass know, but around that same time, the same textbook was being studied on the illinois prairie by a young man named abraham lincoln. in that textbook, douglass found speeches by george washington and benjamin franklin, men who revolted against tyranny to claim their liberty. he also found in this book a fictional dialogue between a slave and his master where the master brought forward the whole argument on behalf of slavery, all of which was disposed of by the slave. this exchange, douglas wrote, gave tongue to interesting thoughts of his soul. it kindled his burning conviction that slavery was wrong and he must escape it. from that moment on, douglass was a grave threat to the very institution of slavery itself. he was free in his own mind. douglass' journey from the tomb of slavery to the heaven of
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freedom would go through many dramatic twists and turns before its conclusion. when a notorious slave breaker tried to beat him for disobeying orders, douglass wrestled him into submission. he insisted on being treated as a man, and from that day forward, he was never whipped again. douglass' first attempt at escape was a failure, thwarted at the last minute by a betrayal of confidence. he did not fail a second time. in 1838, traveling in disguise under an assumed identity, douglass took a steamboat north to the blessedness of freedom. at this point in the story, you might expect douglass to fade from history, to enjoy a modest, tranquil life with his wife and his children. but no, the former slave who taught himself to read through the words of sis irowe -- cicero and washington went on to be history's most eloquent witness against slavery.
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he denounced the bloody institution in a thousand speeches, and from the pages of his own abolitionist newspaper, "the north star." and he denounced slavery firmly from inside the american tradition. like many radical abolitionists, frederick douglass was at times profoundly ambivalent about his own country. indeed, there was a time in his early adulthood when he affirmatively hated the united states, preferring this union to union with slave holders. but -- with slaveholders. but frederick douglass later came to a different conclusion about america. when he read the nation's founding document, he did not find codified defenses of slavery. to the contrary, he found that the compromises the founders had made to slavery were meant to under mine that institution over time, not to sustain it.
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what douglass found in the founders was quite different than what he had expected to find. their message, he later said, is we the people, not we the white people, not we the citizens, not we the privileged class, not we the high, not we the low, but we the people. douglass was an activist, yes. a militant, yes, who led recruiting drives for black soldiers during the civil war. but for all of his righteous anger, he did not want to cast aside the principles of his country. douglass knew the most powerful antidote within justice was found within the american tradition, with its insistence on natural rights for all men. from the first, douglass wrote, i saw no chance of bettering the condition of the freedman until he should cease to be merely a freedman and should become a
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citizen. the liberties of the american people are dependent upon the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box. without these, no class of people could live and flourish in this country. mr. president, frederick douglass has many lessons to teach us if we are willing to listen. i'd like to highlight just one more, which i think is especially relevant to us today. at the end of his famous autobiography, frederick douglass contrasted two societies, the slaveholding society he was born into, and the northern society where he was reborn in freedom. the slave society he described was built on force and fraud. its religion had been perverted to serve earthly idols. its families were torn apart at the auction block. its workers toiled to no reward.
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this society had been poisoned by its rejection of the american creed, beits insistence that all men are not created equal. indeed, it had become an authoritarian society that policeed movement, association, even intimacy. and for what? to protect a hideous falsehood. the free society douglass described was different. here a man could hold an honest job, and he worked because his work was rewarded, not because he feared punishment. here a runaway slave could make a name for himself, rising to a position of esteem in his community through his service. here a family could put down roots and flourish. those are two very different societies guided by very
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different beliefs. one is a weak community, hiding behind a show of strength. the other is a strong, free community with absolutely nothing to hide. today we are blessedly free from the institution of slavery, but our communities have their own problems. the american family is in crisis. our prisons are full, and our pews are empty. heroin and opioids enslave millions. many more are killed before they even get the chance to live. yes, we have our own battles to fight, mr. president. in too many ways, we have fallen short of the high principles upon which our nation was built. that ultimately is why the legacy of frederick douglass is so very important.
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he implored his generation to heal itself of its greatest disease. he calls upon us to do the same. thank you, mr. president. 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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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator for ohio. mr. portman: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. portman: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding the provisions of rule 22, all postcloture time on the branch nomination expire at 4:00 p.m. today and the senate vote on the nomination with no intervening action or debate. finally, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table and the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. portman: mr. president, i have five requests 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. portman: mr. president, i now ask unanimous consent that the senate stand in recess as if under the previous order. the presiding officer: without
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objection. the senate stands in recess the senate stands in recess
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tomorrow members of congress will take part of the sermon on the late reverend billy graham. he will live on in the u.s. capitol rotunda. live coverage begins at 11 a.m. eastern also on c-span. >> monday on c-span's landmark cases we will explore the civil rights cases of 1883 of the supreme court decision struck down the civil rights act of 1875, a federal law that granted all people access to public accommodations like trains in theaters regardless of race. explore this case. watch landmark cases live monday at nine eastern on c-span,
12:21 pm or listen with a free c-span radio app. order your copy of the landmark cases companion book at cases. for an additional resource there's a link on our website to national constitution center interactive constitution. >> former congressman russ carnahan and donald manzullo and the wise talk about their expenses in public service and being in the public eye of balancing family lives. the uris association of former members of congress and the national archives host this event. >> good evening and welcome to the theater here at the national archives. i'm the archivist of the united states and is a pleasure to welcome you here this evening, whether you're here in


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