Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  February 28, 2018 12:44pm-2:45pm EST

12:44 pm
telling us? simple answer. >> yes. this is an fbi decision that we speedy i know it's an fbi decision. i'm asking you was was involved in making that decision? >> in the decision i've been a part of in our newest building commission we work with very well following the last hearing and i to say relationship we have with gsa since mr. matthews has got theirs better than it's ever been in my 25 speedy i asked a predictable question. >> haply they give you an answer. >> no input at all from the white house, no input from the white house? >> this -- >> no input from the white house? yes or no? >> not on this decision, no. >> the entire hearing repairs tonight at eight eastern. it will also be and you can listen with the free c-span radio app. >> flag flying at half staff for the u.s. capitol for the reverend billy graham who was lying in on it in the capitol rotunda today. public during the last from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. eastern today.
12:45 pm
the u.s. senate is about to gavel in at 4:30 p.m. eastern a confirmation vote on the nomination for the deputy director of the office of management and budget. about to advance the judicial nomination. more nominations expected tomorrow and friday. live coverage now of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty god, we praise and thank you for the gift of this wonderful day. your wondrous works can be seen in the world around us. even in the storms of life, you keep us steady and filled with peace.
12:46 pm
continue to use our lawmakers for your glory. make them the people who live to honor your name. give them strong minds, brave hearts, true faith, and ready hands. make them willing to stand for right though the heavens fall. challenge them to become salt and light to their generation, daring more boldly and venturing more widely to ensure that your will is done on earth even as it is done in heaven. we pray in your great name.
12:47 pm
-- and lord, we thank you for the life and legacy of your servant, evangelist billy graham. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
12:48 pm
12:49 pm
the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
12:50 pm
mr. schumer: thank you, madam president. now, yesterday i met with a group of survivors from the stoneman douglas high school in parkland florida. two weeks after losing classmates, friends, teachers, these kids have not given themselves over to grief or cynicism. they organization -- organized and resolved and are committed and inspiring. we just went to the observance of billy graham's death in the capitol rotunda, and he would have said, men of the cloth would have said, instead of cursing the darkness, these kids are lighting a candle, which is a beautiful thing to do. as i was sitting with them, i remember meeting with the young people who survived the shooting at the pulse nightclub.
12:51 pm
i remember sitting with the parents and kindergartens and first graders killed at sandy hook elementary. i still ache for them and their parents. parents who had presents stashed under the christmas tree that were never opened. all of them, the students of stoneman douglas, parents from newtown, the families of the victims of orlando, las vegas and columbine and every day gun violence across the country, all of them are calling on us to act. the massacre of children must end. the time has come to make meaningful changes -- meaningful changes -- to our laws to keep americans safe from the epidemic of gun violence. and let me tell you, the students of stoneman douglas won't stop until we achieve
12:52 pm
meaningful change. they know small measures won't get the job done. that's why they told me, every one of them, that the fix nics bill is not close to enough of what we need to do. fix nics has wide support in this chamber, i'm a cosponsor. but it is just the first tiny step that addresses one specific issue. we have a whole hoes of other issues -- host of other issues to address. we need to close the gun show loophole and that online sales go through background checks so that felons or spousal abusers can't get guns. over 90% of america agrees with that, but our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are so afraid of the n.r.a. that they
12:53 pm
can't even embrace universal background checks which 90% of america supports. the n.r.a. is doing it. we need to stop writing bills that only address the last shooting and start making laws that prevent the next one. when you have a sick patient, you don't treat one symptom, you cure the disease. that's what universal background checks does. fix nics, it would be a good thing to do, but it's a tiny step when we need a giant leap. it can't be the only thing we do. in fact, the only reason it didn't clear this chamber already was because the republican senator from utah objected to it. such is the vice script that the ideologues from the gun lobby have on the entire republican party. they are so against what america
12:54 pm
wants. they are so against what rank and file republicans want. even on something as limited as fix nics, the gun groups find a way to get in the way. now, i believe the priority of this chamber should be to pass universal background checks. that would accomplish what fix nics does and a lot more. president trump has said, quote, that he would push strongly comprehensive background checks, unquote, in the wake of parkland. well, we democrats are calling on him today to keep his word. we sent him a letter and we're asking to support existing legislation, bipartisan legislation, that close the loopholes that allows anyone to purchase a gun at a gun show or the internet without a background check. these loopholes make no sense. leaving these loopholes unclosed would be as if we checked
12:55 pm
someone's i.d. at the liquor store but not at the bar. that's what you could say about fix nics. if would be as if we checked someone's i.d. at the liquor store but not at the bar. we should have the same checks across the board. so today i call on president trump to come out in support of legislation that would close dangerous loopholes in our background check system. the n.r.a. vehemently opposes that, but i say to president trump, show so leadership, buck the n.r.a. they are way out of touch with the american people, with gun owners, and with rank-and-file republicans. i say to the president, show some leadership, buck the n.r.a., and endorse these policies and you can break the gridlock and get something meaningful done. one other matter because i know my colleagues from north carolina are waiting, and i
12:56 pm
salute them for being here and praise a former member from their state who just passed, billy graham. but on one other matter. the commander of the u.s. cybercommand testified that putin's efforts to interfere with the elections has not stopped. according to several roberts kremlin-linked bots continue to release misinformation on social media. admiral rogers said that president put inn has come to the conclusion there is little price to pay and there are he can continue this activity. clearly what we have done, said admiral rogers, has not been enough. unquote. he is absolutely right.
12:57 pm
it's extraordinary, confounding and dangerous how little the trump administration is doing about putin's campaign to undermine our grand democracy. president trump refused to punish putin after he took office despite the consensus view of 17 american intelligence agencies that putin interfered in our election. he will not pass sanctions that passed this congress with only five dissenting votes combined in the house and senate. yesterday when my friend, the senator from rhode island, asked admiral rogers if the trump administration had directed him to counter russian meddling, he replied no. a hostile foreign power continues to interfere with our democracy and is planning to
12:58 pm
interfere in our next elections and the president of the united states is hardly lifting a finger. it was as if they were planning for war. cyber attacks, manipulation of newspapers is another way that hostile powers attack us. people have to wonder why president trump is so soft on russia, so unwilling to criticize president putin and so slow to stand up for america and protect our democracy. finally, one final word on a pending judicial nomination, marvin quattlebaum. for the benefit of the senate, i'd like to know the only current nomination is up -- nomination of quattlebaum is up is because two senators from south carolina refused to have a blue state. it's their right as the home
12:59 pm
state senators to not return a blue slip was respected by the democratic majority, chairman leahy in 2013, unlike the republican majority which has twice ignored the blue slip precedent and confirmed judges without the approval of both home state senators. their blue slips were respected during the obama administration and think long and hard about continuing to ignore them. second, the nomination of marvin quattlebaum speaks to the overall diversity of president trump's selections for the judiciary. mr. quattlebaum does not replace one, but two scuttled obama nominees who were african american. 83% of president trump's were
1:00 pm
male, 92% were white. that represents the lowest share of nonwhite candidates in three decades. it is long past time that the judiciary starts looking more like the america it represents, having a diversity of views and experience on the federal bench is necessary for the equal administration of justice. after years of improvement, the trump administration, like in so many other areas, is taking a giant step backward, this time when it comes to diversity of their nominations. i'll be voting no on the quattlebaum nomination. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: madam president, i rise with my colleague from north carolina and my colleagues in the united states senate and the american people today to honor the life of a north carolina lynnan, billy graham, a
1:01 pm
man whose life has literally reached millions around the globe. reverend graham's grace marker on his grave will be inscribed this way, and i quote, preacher of the gospel of the lord jesus christ. and as the son of a minister myself, i'm uniquely aware of the sacrifices and the responsibility that come with this calling. and indeed, this is a calling that reverend graham fulfilled honorably and nobly, bringing hope and comfort to millions around the globe. reverend graham is someone who was shaped by his roots on a north carolina dairy farm, who committed his life to jesus christ at the age of 15 and who lived the commitment with faithfulness for the next 84 years. he was married for 64 years to ruth bell graham and the father of three daughters, two sons, and now 19 grandchildren.
1:02 pm
and as his casket was laid in honor in the rotunda, i all of a sudden realized that one of those grandchildren is a graduate of west point, one of my nominees, and a soon to be lieutenant colonel in the u.s. army. and it was certainly good to see him. reverend graham preached almost 215 million in more than 185 countries and territories on six continents. he prayed with soldiers on the battlefield in korea, in vietnam he preached in poor villages and in britain's windsor castle and provided counsel for every president from harry truman to barack obama. he also stood up for what was right, denouncing segregation and oppression, preaching jointly with the reverend martin luther king jr. in the 1950's and lived a life of integrity and of honor.
1:03 pm
he spoke words of comfort and hope at the national cathedral following the september 11 terrorist attacks, reminding america that god is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. reverend graham will be deeply missed. i send my condolences to his children, his grandchildren, and the numerous great-grandchildren. yet, graham himself said, and i quote, my home is in heaven. i'm just passing through this world. today we honor the life that he lived, his faithfulness to the calling, and his impact on millions of individuals around the globe. and if i may take just another moment before my colleague from north carolina speaks, i want to read you some remarks that were made by individuals who played an important role in american
1:04 pm
history. president bill clinton, he said some were pressuring graham to segregate his audience by race but he refused. clinton remarked graham would counsel the crusade rather than preach to a segregated audience because everyone deserved a chance to hear god's word. president obama said this in condolences: billy graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many and who with wisdom and grace gave guidance to generations of ph-rpbs and i would say -- of americans and i would say americans to come. last, martin luther king jr., he said, and i quote, had it not been for the ministry of my good friend, dr. billy graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been successful as it has been. unquote. madam president, the country mourns the loss of dr. graham, but the country understands the impact of his life.
1:05 pm
that life as a servant of god to preach his word to everyone that he could find. and a career of 84 years, he exhausted the opportunities that were given to him and proudly affects generations that have yet to be born by the work that he did as a disciple of our lord jesus christ. i yield the floor. mr. tillis: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. tillis: thank you, madam president. i want to thank my friend and colleague, the senior senator from north carolina, and his words about reverend billy graham. i will only add a few comments. mine at one level are very personal. i was telling someone just yesterday that i have two very distinct memories of times with my father. one of them was watching walter cronkite and the other one was watching billy graham. i was talking to my morale earlier this week and she -- it to my mother earlier this week
1:06 pm
and she talked about how much she liked billy graham. i remember sitting on the floor with the console on watching him preach the word of tkpwotd. when you lose somebody precious like billy graham, it is a very sad time. but in his case, america's pastor brought so much joy to everyone's lives that he it really is a celebration. earlier senator burr and i got an opportunity to offer our condolences to the graham family. what was remarkable in the faces of every one of them was maybe a hint of sorrow, but really just a fullness of joy knowing what their father did when he was on this earth and now what he will do in the kingdom of heaven. so i think today is a day we should all look back and ask ourselves could we actually come anywhere close to living the kind of life that this man lived. ministering in some 180 countries, over 200 million people actually attending some
1:07 pm
of his just unbelievable celebrations of the gospel, and then touching the lives of hundreds of millions of people, billions of people like me that are watching on tv. the graham legacy is something that's going to live on for generations, and i'm happy to be a proud senator from the state where he was born. in fact, i only live about 20, 30 minutes from where he lived his early years. and i look forward to going to the funeral on friday to celebrate his life and celebrate his legacy and celebrate the many lives that were changed because he brought the word of god to them wherever they may be on this planet. so, madam president, thank you for the opportunity to speak about america's pastor. to the graham family, all of them, the sons, the daughters, the children, the grandchildren, god bless you all. and thank you for sharing the gift of your family member with so many people across this great nation and across this world. senator burr, thank you for your kind words.
1:08 pm
thank you for your leadership in moving forward with the resolution honoring his life and legacy. madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: madam president, on behalf of senator tillis and myself, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to consideration of s.j. res. 53, submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s.j. res. 53, joint resolution honoring the life of william billy f. graham jr. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. burr: i ask unanimous consent that the joint resolution be considered read a third time and passed, the preamble be passed, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection?
1:09 pm
without objection, so ordered. mr. burr: i thank the president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
1:10 pm
1:11 pm
pwaufps quorum call:
1:12 pm
1:13 pm
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you very much, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. murphy: i'd ask that we dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: thank you very much, mr. president. colleagues, i hope we rise to the moment before us and get something done to try to make this country safer over the course of the next week or two.
1:14 pm
i'm going to be glad to go and join the president in a few hours to hear more about his thoughts on how we can put the safety of our kids ahead of aepbl -- any political considerations and try to figure out how to make sure that parkland is the last. as i have told some of the kids who have come into my office from parkland, the ripples of grief will never ever end there. in newtown, connecticut, that place has been fundamentally changed, when you lose that many young lives in a short period of time, there is no true recovery. and unfortunately, parkland will find that as charleston did, as orlando did, and so many before them. but we need to remember that while the country tends to pay attention to the epidemic of gun
1:15 pm
violence when there is a mass shooting, this is an epidemic that doesn't take a day off. yesterday likely 80 to 90 people died from gunshot wounds. the majority of those were suicides. that is an epidemic in and of itself. a chunk of those were accidental shootings, another chunk of those were gun homicides. but the rate of gun death in this country has no parallel anywhere else in the world. there's not another first-world nation that has the rate of gun violence that we do. in fact, it's not even close. the rate of gun violence in this country is 20 times, 20 times higher than the average in the oecd. so we've got to rem -- we have to remember this can't just be about school shootings. you're much more likely to die from an accidental gun shot than
1:16 pm
you are in a school shooting. and so we've got to be comprehensive in our approach, which is why the fix nics act just didn't good enough. i'm proud that senator cornyn and i, and many others in this body, came together to put forward a piece of legislation that will improve the background check system. it will make sure that more people that shouldn't buy guns aren't able to buy guns, but it's a relatively modest -- not relatively, it is a modest change. in fact, it's really just about making sure that people that are in law enforcement and inside the nics system comply with existing law. it doesn't actually add any new background checks. it doesn't solve the gun show loophole. it doesn't solve the internet loophole. my hope is that we can bring this bill before the senate, but that we is can also bring
1:17 pm
forward other measures that will have bipartisan that will do ten times more than fix nics to keep the country safe. let's make sure that everybody who buys a gun in a commercial sale prove that they are not a criminal or mentally ill. let's talk about what indiana has had about taking away guns from those who show doing harm to the people around them. let's have a conversation about whether we think it's right for people to be able to walk into schools with a gun equipped with a 30-round or 100-round magazine. i don't know if any of those measures will get 60 votes, but i think we owe it to the american people to not limit people, to not shut down debate
1:18 pm
in the united states senate chamber. i know it's probably a care skiy -- a scary thing for some republicans that votes are changing. some of my republican colleagues are thinking about supporting things today that they might not have supported before. and because minds are changing, it behooves us to make sure that we have a full debate on the floor of the united states senate. so i'm supportive of the bill that senator cornyn and i have worked on. i hope that it can become the foundation of a much more comprehensive set of measures that we take a look at the in the coming days and i think you've got to pay attention to where the american public is on this issue. i understand that polls shouldn't dictate all of the decisions that we make here. we pay attention to public opinion. we respond to it more often than not, but it doesn't guide every
1:19 pm
decision we make here because public opinion changes. but on this issue it has been a slow and steady bill. the number of americans saying that the united states congress bears responsibility for the epidemic of mass slaughter in this country because we have not changed a single gun law except to make them weaker since sandy hook. remember, the only thing this body has done on guns since sandy hook is allowed hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people to get guns. it was signed by the president last year. record numbers of americans want us to take action. 90% of americans want us to pass background checks. apple pie isn't as popular as background checks today. no other public policy we are considering gets a 90% approval rating than universal background checks. let's listen to them. i encourage senator mcconnell
1:20 pm
to not limit debate, to not constrain the senate. let's use this week and next week to try to come up with a set of measures that we can debate and have up-or-down votes on, and let's hope in the meantime the president flushes us what he is or and against. the president tweeted that he is for comprehensive background checks. later today we will find out if that is true. comprehensive background checks means to close the loopholes that exist. hopefully the president can lead us to conclusion that is something much more than fix nics, as my colleague from florida who has lived through the last several shootings in his state remarked, fix nics is not enough. i hope we can build upon it in the coming days. thank you, mr. president. i yield.
1:21 pm
mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i understand there is a bill at the desk that is due for a second reading. the presiding officer: the senator is correct. the clerk will read the title of the bill for a second time. the clerk: s. 2464, a bill to improve border security and so forth. mr. cornyn: in order to place the bill on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14, i would object to further proceeding. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will be placed on the calendar. mr. cornyn: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, as my colleague from connecticut is -- was here in the room and mentioned the bill we have been working on together, the fix nics bill, i want to remind all of us what the motivation was, at least on
1:22 pm
my part, what was the reason and i thank my colleague and the majority leader and those who cosponsored this legislation. it was just a few short months ago when someone murdered 26 people worshiping in a small church just outside san antonio in sutherland springs. he had lied on the background check when he was asked if he was a convicted felon, whether he was honorably discharged from the military, or whether he was convicted of domestic violence. he lied. if he told the truth, he would have been prevented from buying the firearms and perhaps he would have be persuaded or slowed down and maybe not have committed that terrible atrocity
1:23 pm
where 26 people lost their lives and 20 were injured. i come to find out the air force, which had convicted him of those two offenses, domestic violence and the felony, they failed to upload the information that was required in the national criminal background check system. if they had, then he would not have gotten away with lying because the f.b.i. background check system would have revealed the truth. i can tell thank you that i have the utmost confidence that if the fix nics law were in effect at the time that he was attempting to purchase those firearms, in all likelihood, he would have been prohibited from purchasing those guns. and i would conclude from that lives would have been saved, and lives that were changed forever
1:24 pm
because of the terrible injuries that the other 20 received, that their lives would not have changed in such a terrible way. i told myself at the time, i said i can't go to another church service -- we went to the church that met in a tent just down the street from the church where the shooting took place a week after the shooting. the pastor and his wife who lost their teenaged daughter were there. the wife was distraught, as you can imagine. the pastor summoned a power that is greater than human power to preach that day. and it was emotional, it was inspirational, but it's a terrible tragedy. and i told myself that day that
1:25 pm
i would never wish to look another family in the face and say that we failed to do everything that was -- that was within our power to prohibit or to stop something like that from happening again, and fix nics, as i think people who are familiar with it understand, basically takes the laws that currently exist and make sure that it's applied and people like this shooter at sutherland springs can't lie their way out of it and get access to firearms and ruin people's lives in the process. so i realize it may not be as comprehensive as some people would like. the problem is around here if you ignore the things that you can agree on and just look to fight about things you can't agree on, nothing ever happens. no problems ever get solved. and i think a good place to start would be to pass this
1:26 pm
bipartisan fix nics piece of legislation. and i hope our colleagues would consider -- i understand they have a different view on some apects of -- aspects of guns, but what we had here was a catastrophic failure. we had a systemic failure. the school system failed, the mental health authority failed, law enforcement failed. our society failed to provide the tools to identify people who cry out, in essence, on social media like this youngman did on you -- young man did on youtube did when he said he was going to shoot up at a school. the f.b.i. didn't follow up on it and nothing ever happened. looking back on this particular young man, he was sending
1:27 pm
signals out on a regular basis that he was a ticking time bomb and people were going to get hurt and potentially die, as they did. so i would hope that rather than leave here this week with nothing to show for our efforts, we would at least agree to pass what enjoys broad bipartisan support and to perhaps prevent another shooting like that occurred at sutherland springs. the president made clear, thinking now about the las vegas shooting, that he believes bump stocks awd to be regular -- ought to be regulated by the bureau of firearms and tobacco. i agree with that. so those are two things that we could do, perhaps, that might save lives in the future. but to just say it's not enough, we want to do more and to fail to do what's within our grasp, which we can agree to, to me
1:28 pm
seems like a bizarre way of doing business, and i think it's an abdication of our responsibility. i don't want to see another family whose lost a loved one as a result of one of these mass shootings that might be prevented by some action we might take on fix nics or the bump stock matter. there are things we need to do. we have done some things like tried to address the mental health challenges that people like adam lanza's mother had. adam lanza, the sandy hook shooter was obviously mentally ill, but he wouldn't accept the treatment that his doctor prescribed. what we did last december durin the obama administration passed something called the 21st
1:29 pm
century cures act, which included a bill that i sponsored, called the mental health and safe communities act, which encouraged the use of patient out-patient treatment. for example if adam lanza's mother couldn't get her son to take his medication, she could go to court and require him to comply with his doctor's orders and take his medication. again, i'm not suggesting any one of these in isolation or a panacea, but there are things that we can do step by step, bit by bit to reduce the likelihood that these terrible mass shootings occur in the future. mr. president, on another note, we heard some great news yesterday in terms of our economy. consumer confidence has jumped
1:30 pm
to a 17-year high. optimism continues to surge as employers and payroll services across the country continue to implement the reforms to our tax code that we passed last december and the -- in the tax cuts and jobs act. what's more the treasury department released the new withholding tables that went into effect earlier this month and reflect the changes passed as part of the tax cuts and jobs act. i got a call from someone close to me. i'll leave it at that. i don't want to embarrass her. who said that she opened her paycheck, and she had $240 more in her paycheck than she had in the previous month as a result of the tax cuts and jobs act. she was ecstatic. she didn't regard this as crumbs. she thought it would make a positive difference in her life.
1:31 pm
and i think many americans are having the same experience, seeing an increase in their take-home pay even in the month of february. like i said, for some it's several hundred dollars extra each pay period, money that can be saved for a rainy day or invested for their retirement or future, or could be used to pay for a child's education or put new tires on your car. a married couple with two children making about $75,000 a year will see an estimated tax cut of approximately $2,000. and that's just on the individual side. what we're seeing across the country is greater than just what's happening to single families and households, though. it's good to see at the microlevel or at the personal level, so to speak, what the impact is, but we've also got to see the bigger picture in terms of our economy and the jobs created, the investment
1:32 pm
opportunities and the way to grow our economy. and the tax cuts and jobs act has had a profound impact on just that. so far at least 417 companies have announced new investments, pay raises, bonuses and charitable contributions. they have added new employees training and increased contributions to pensions and 401(k) retirement accounts. according to the white house, more than 4.4 million workers have been positively affected. it's no wonder why the tax law is becoming more and more popular as people have learned more about it. and even the "new york times" has had to agree that the public is learning to love the tax cuts and jobs act because of the positive impact on hardworking americans' lives. i see the wide-ranging effect of the tax cuts and jobs act in my
1:33 pm
state thanks to a competitive tax system, for example, fort worth based companies like american airlines paid large bonuses to their employees. at&t in dallas paid $1,000 to more than 200,000 men and women across the country that have worked for that company. just as important, at&t announced $1 billion in capital investments which could create as many as 7,000 jobs. but texas also proves the effects of tax reform are more than just a onetime only impact. waste management based in houston has already paid bonuses to drivers in landfill workers. but it's c.e.o. emphasized in an interview that the company will continue to spend money on its people beyond 2018. exxonmobil headquartered in las
1:34 pm
colina will expand in west texas. encore, an investor-owned utility, will issue future refunds to customers on their utility bills. and walmart, which is the largest employer in texas increased starting wages and expanded parental leave and offered financial assistance to employees who choose to adopt. it's not just the big players, though. small businesses are doing the same thing. in corpus christi, i visited with the owner of gromer's seafood who plans to expand distribution facilities serving thousands of restaurants statewide. america's bank in corpus christi too something projecting it can lend an additional $120 million as a result of the tax cuts and jobs act. that's money that can go, lend to small businesses to grow or start a new business.
1:35 pm
in san antonio, my hometown, cox manufacturing will begin construction of a new 8,000 square foot plant and in amarillo in the pan handle of texas happy state bank made news to go with its name which is higher hourly pay. and in lumberton, texas, women running an engineering company called leak sealers paid tax savings forward to employees calling on other businesses to do the same. our colleagues here in washington who voted against the tax cuts and jobs act made a big mistake. i think they're beginning to realize that now as the good news is rolling in, and they've mostly kept quiet in terms of the criticism they lodged against the tax cuts and jobs act as we were debating it because they can't deny the facts. they can't deny what's happening all across america as more take-home pay, people with more
1:36 pm
jobs, more investment, more money being invested coming back home from overseas and generally being a very, very positive piece of legislation. some have said the tax cuts we passed just help job creators, giving crumbs to others. that was ms. pelosi. but that's not true. individuals will benefit from lower rates across the board. they'll see an increase in the standard deduction and the child tax credit too. and one overlooked part of law will help bring jobs to distressed communities, creating opportunities zones in every state. that's something our colleague, senator scott, championed and made sure was part of the bill. so, mr. president, amidst our pain and anguish and the horror of terrible incidents like that that occurred in parkland, florida, there is good news to
1:37 pm
be found. but it's hard to focus on the good news when our constituents are looking at us and asking what we're going to do to make sure that the next potential mass shooting is prevented, that we've done everything in our power to try to stop it. i'm not sure we would be able to stop all of them, but we can stop some of them. and we can make sure that incidents like that that occurred in suggest the -- in sutherland springs that somebody who is already legally disqualified from purchasing a firearm doesn't get their hands on one. well, we know that -- we know what we have to do, and what i'm asking all of our colleagues to do, including the democratic leader, senator schumer, who is a cosponsor of fix nics, along
1:38 pm
with the republican majority leader, let's do this. let's pass this bill. we can do this in one day, give people an opportunity to debate it and vote on it. if we keep looking for the perfect and make sure that the perfect is somehow the enemy of the good, we'll end up with nothing. we can't end up with nothing. america deserves something, something that will make a difference to people in parkland, florida and sutherland springs deserve better, and i believe that fix nics is the best place to start. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that my intern jonah harris be granted privileges to the floor for the balance of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: mr. president, we just heard a whole lot about the tax bill the republicans passed. it basically works like this: we
1:39 pm
borrow from our children $1.5 trillion and we give that money to the richest americans, and then when there's a little bit of help for middle-class workera little -- we say well, that's really cool. i like that we're doing a little for the middle class, but i don't like the fact that for every dime to help a middle-class worker, we gave away $1 to the richest americans. in other words, america has been robbed in the biggest bank heist ever and then justified by distributing a modest amount to our workers. but even then they included a provision that will drive up the premiums for health care by more than 10% next year on top of whatever rises are driven by the drug companies. and so whatever modest gain there is for the middle class is wiped out by more expensive health care in america. and so we hear these big sophisticated arguments, oh, well, you know, a worker here or
1:40 pm
there got a bonus and a worker here or there got their wages increased. what they don't tell you, that they gave $1 trillion to the richest americans. why not? why not be honest about the whole entire scope of this tax rip-off, borrowing from our children to help the richest americans. as one house member, here's what this is all about. it's about the fact that my rich donors won't vote for me and won't support me in the next election unless i vote to give them all this money. that's what happened here. and it's not okay because we see the consequences. we have a budget that attacks the foundations for families to thrive. it takes $1 trillion out of health care. that $1 trillion went to the richest americans. then the president goes to the budget, takes $1 trillion out of health care. takes money out of affordable housing. housing is a very important foundation for families to
1:41 pm
thrive. so health care and housing, and it attacks public education. and quite frankly, because all those resources were taken off the table that could have been invested in infrastructure, jobs in america, it also undermines the concept of a living wage job, the principle that nobody who works full time in america should live in poverty in america. but the majority has conducted the biggest bank heist in history, and they come to the floor and defend this time and time again without sharing the honest facts with the american people as i have just shared them with you. so let's turn to another attack, another attack on workers. our whole entire constitution had a theme, had a mission statement, and that mission statement was we the people. government of, by, and for the people. my colleagues might be surprised
1:42 pm
to discover the constitution didn't say we the privileged, we the wealthy, we the well-connected, we the powerful, because they bring bill after bill to the floor of the senate that is exactly government of, by, and for the wealthy and the well-connected. and now we see the supreme court is getting in on the act in this effort to undermine the ability of workers to organize, to get a fair share of the wealth that they create. former president jimmy carter once said every advance in this half century -- social security, civil rights, medicare, aid to education, one after another -- came with the support and leadership of american labor. well, he was absolutely right. but i'd also add a few more things to the list. eight-hour work days, the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay,
1:43 pm
the minimum wage, family and sick leave, health and safety working standards. when workers organize, they have fought for better conditions for every american, better pay, better safety, better fair working conditions. and america's a better nation because of it, a much better nation because of the men and women of the labor movement who fought tirelessly to ensure that our country lives up to that we the people vision statement. and thanks to their work, an honest day's work means an honest day's pay for millions of americans. but this is exactly what the supreme court is poised to undo. all the powerful and the privileged, they want even more squeezed out of the workers, so
1:44 pm
they have spent years, decades really demonizing and attacking the ability of workers to organize. now during the three decades after world war ii, workers got a fair share of the wealth that they were creating. their wages went up as productivity went up, and it turns out this was good for business as well because workers who have a paycheck are able to buy products, and then the company can sell more. as the companies do well when the people get paid fairly. but that concept is about to be undermined in a massive way with an attack on what are called fair share fees. when workers organize and they bargain for better benefits, there's a cost of developing that organization and conducting those negotiations. and every worker who benefits chips in a share under fair share fees. everyone in wins, so everyone
1:45 pm
contributes. now this is not about contributing to political activity. this is not about contributing funds that are distributed to causes. this is simply the cost of the negotiating process. and this foundation that for a group to be able to negotiate successfully, people have to share in that effort, has the right to organize, has been embodied in law for well over a half century in a case called abud versus the board of education. it doesn't work if you create a strategy for workers to free load. i'm reminded of a story that i read as a very young child just learning to read and it was about the barnyard and it was
1:46 pm
about some member of the community baking bread and asking for all the other help from the other animals to make this aspect of the bread or that aspect and they all said, no, not interested in helping, and then at the end when the bread was baked, all the animals in the barnyard wanted their share. they wanted a share of it without having contributed a thing and that system is what the supreme court is trying to foist on america, undermining the fundamental right to organize, allowing freeloaders to create a situation where you can't afford to represent the group. well, that undermines the success of our workers to get a fair share of the wages that they create -- of the wealth that they create, undermines their ability to negotiate for a
1:47 pm
safer workplace. and, again, this is not about political activity. this is simply about the function of the group in representing -- and representing it in negotiations with the owner. that's the case in illinois where mark janice works for the department of family health care. he works for the state of illinois and the county of municipal employees. he's not required to be a member of the union, but mark janice says, i want all the benefits that are produced by the union organizing and negotiate on my behalf, but i don't want to share any of the costs. everyone knows that if -- if people are p given a slip, -- are given a slip, if you will, a permission slip, to not share in the cost of organizing, you undermine the ability to organize. it's a fundamental part of it.
1:48 pm
you negotiate together, you benefit together. so he's challenging that portion of the contract. and the powerful and privileged titans of industry have waged a campaign against the workers of america. they are excited about this. don't worry, the koch brothers are in control. we have certainly seen their control in the u.s. senate. that certainly bears on the case before us. they invested vast sums in 2014 and they supported push campaigns in arkansas, louisiana, north carolina, iowa, colorado, alaska, and they turned those seats in favor of folks who supported the koch brothers, took a majority of this body, and then what happens in -- what happened in 2016? well, there was a vacant supreme court seat, and we've all taken a pledge here to support the constitution. we have an advice and consent
1:49 pm
responsibility, but the majority leader came down here and said, we're not going to do our responsibility on advice and consent on any nominee from president obama. none. it doesn't matter who the nominee is, we're not going to do this. why? because the koch brothers said, don't allow a debate or a vote on a nominee from president obama. now, the majority leader said, this is justified because it's an election year. so let's look at american history. 15 times in election years there's been a vacancy on the supreme court, all 15 times, previous to 2016, the senate debated and the senate voted. there were members of my colleagues team across the aisle here who thought we should honor that responsibility of advice and consent.
1:50 pm
you can vote somebody down, you can vote somebody up, but we should have the debate, we should have the vote. as soon as they said -- there was one word there should be a vote, they had their chain yanked. that's why the koch brothers are known as the puppet masters of this body right here in which i stand right now. when they say jump, the majority says, how high? that certainly came to fruition in 2016 when they refused to exercise their constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on a nominee for the supreme court. and that was done so that the empty seat could be passed on to the next president. the first time in the u.s. history a u.s. supreme court seat has opinion stolen and passed on to the next president.
1:51 pm
the first time, the only time. well, what has this resulted in? this results in a supreme court that now has been selected that we know four people sat on one side of this issue and four sat on the other side, and then you have essentially an illegitimate process for denied justice, a justice by every indication is willing to join the other four in attacking the foundation of the right to organize in our nation, a right to organize, envision in the constitution, in the we the people constitution, not we the powerful, not we the privileged, not we the wealthy, and not we, the well connected. now, mr. janice is being represented by the national right to work foundation. let's call it the right to freeload because that's what it is. you don't contribute your share but you get all the benefits. it reminds me about the conversation about citizenship in america.
1:52 pm
people talk about the rights of citizenship. there are responsibilities to citizenship too. there's a responsibility to be part of a group when you bargain for wages. that's paying your fair share. paying your fair head start, the heart -- fair share v. the organizers. now, we've seen the right to freeload bills pass with the influence of the titans across this country in state after tight. well, here's what we know. in those states that protect the constitutional vision of the right to organize, workers earn over $5,000 a year more than in the other states. right to freeload states, those workers earn a lot less and that's apparently why the owners
1:53 pm
of those areas love that so much. they can sweez more out -- squeeze more out of the workers. the freeload states have higher mortalities, they support public schools less than other states. so this is a mistake to have a court assemble through an illegitimate process of stealing a supreme court seat, proceed to gut the constitutional right to organize and assault the workers of this nation just to put more zeros on the bank account statements of the millionaires and billionaires and titans and wealthy powerful americans. so let's have a remedial course in this chamber about what our nation and our constitution are all about.
1:54 pm
they were not about coming here, getting elected by the wealthiest americans to serve the wealthiest americans. it was about coming here to form laws that serve we the people. thomas jefferson made this point again and again. he said if you concentrate power to the few, you will get power for the powerful. you will get decisions from the powerful. he said you will never get the will of the people if you concentrate power. he called on every voter to have an equal voice, not just vote, but an equal voice. let's remember jefferson. let's remember that our forefathers put together this document so that we wouldn't have government by the few and the powerful, such as they have in europe, but this would be different here in the united states of america where we would try to forge laws that gave all families the opportunity to thrive. we can see the impact that the reversal of this principle has
1:55 pm
had. we spent last year spending half of it on a health care bill, or versions of the health care bill, designed to rip health care from 22 million to 30 million americans, depending on the version. and then the other part of the year on a tax bill designed to borrow $1.5 trillion and deliver the vast amount of it to the wealthiest americans. that is government by and for the people. excuse me. that is government of, by, and for the powerful. let's return to government by and for the people. thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: i wish to spend a few minutes to talk about your fellow north carolinian billy graham. it is very appropriate that you're in the chair as i do this, and some of my colleagues
1:56 pm
will follow as we recall the life of billy graham, sometimes called america's people, sometimes called america's pastor. he went to heaven last year, and what a 99 years he's had. he lies in honor in the rotunda of the capitol. only three prior citizens have been granted that honor. civil rights champion rosa park and in 2005, two capitol police officers who died in the line of duty, officer chestnut jr. and detective john gibson were there. somebody observed this morning while we were in the rotunda of the capitol that he's there surrounded by friends that he made during his life, president eisenhower, president ford, president reagan, dr. martin
1:57 pm
luther king all are memorized with -- memorized with a statue and a bust in the capitol. and so billy graham is sort of right at home today with people he made friends with during his life, gave advice to during his life but never really seen uniquely as his ministry. his ministry where for people ever where. i might mention who president truman -- i stand behind one of the desks he used when he was a senator from missouri -- he was somebody who billy graham met with. and president truman held with his faith when billy graham said, could we pray, i think it was president truman who said, i guess it wouldn't hurt anything. and that was the first opportunity that billy graham
1:58 pm
had -- to pray with the many presidents he prayed with. billy graham's parents were dairy farmers, like mine. president trump said that there was a prayer meeting that in 1934 on the graham farm that billy graham's father made the place available to have a prayer meeting and that the focus of that prayer group of leaders from the charlotte, north carolina, area was to pray that god would send a leader who would take the gospel around the world. probable nobody at that -- probably nobody at that prayer group had any sense how close they were to somebody who was just about to begin the process to do that. this was the year that billy graham became a christian. from that point on he would say, and this is his quote, he said, my purpose in life is to help
1:59 pm
people find a personal relationship with god which i believe comes through knowing christ. that's the end of a quote that his view in so many times in so many different ways, that was the simple statement that defined his life. five years after that, in 1939, he was ordained and became a pastor. he was passerring at a church in illinois while he went to college at wheaton college. wheaton college education was important, but maybe the best thing that happened there, i'm sure he would say the best thing that happened there was he met his wife ruth bell. they were married for 54 years. it was a partnership. as one person went all over the world, the other person raised five children and took care of things at home and on rare occasions were able to go with him. his mom and dad were
2:00 pm
missionaries. all five of their children were in the rotunda of the capitol today and in their own way in each case have pursued the work that their parents felt was so important. reverend graham didn't just preach the gospel from inside the four walls of the church. i think we probably -- it was a rare occasion when he preached in a church as opposed to the places that he preached all over the world. los angeles in 1949 he spoke to 350,000 people over eight weeks there. he began to call those efforts crusades and eventually 200 million people, over 200 million people would hear the message from him directly, in person. millions more would hear the message from television and print and movies. by the way, i read recently take
2:01 pm
billy graham, a young, handsome guy was offered a movie contract not too long after that 1949 los angeles crusade. he said that was not his job and he wouldn't do it for a million dollars a day. his work was clearly understood by him. he shared christianity with more people directly than any other person in the history of the world. in our state, 1953, he led his first crusade in missouri in st. he returned in 1973 for another st. louis crusade and to celebrate his 55th birthday. the post dispatch reported that the revival's opening night had 20,000 people and 4,000 people were in the choir most of the nights that that st. louis effort occurred. he made several trips to kansas city.
2:02 pm
in 1967, the heart of america crusade in kansas city, drew 364,000 people and the then-mayor of kansas city, ilis davis made reverend graham an honorary citizen and gave him a key to the city. he returned to kansas and missouri many times during that work. 1959 he came to my hometown, springfield, missouri. i was pleased to read just recently that he said it reminded him the -- owe the ozarks reminded him of his native north carolina. spoke to a crowd in 1982 at eadvantagtheuniversity. this was inside for 2,200 people. he brought the gospel to nearly 215 million people. despite his wide recognition, he was always known for his
2:03 pm
humility, speaking with a person on the street or the president, his main purpose was for them to share his sense of the importance of knowing his lord jesus christ. he had a message of grace, not justice. god could forgive anything. god would forgive anything. and nobody gets to heaven based on their works. they get to heaven based on their understanding of the grace of god. he defended civil rights for african americans. he insisted from the early 1950's on, actually from the beginning of his crusades, that they would be integrated. he was a friend of dr. martin luther king. in 1957 he invited dr. king to speak at one of his revival meetings. he later bailed dr. king out of jail. dr. king said that, quote, had is not been for the ministry of my good friend dr. billy graham,
2:04 pm
my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been. that's the end of dr. king's quote. he spoke about critical issues. his faith inspired him to build bridges fo. for decades he was always included in the gallop organization's ten most admired men in the world. 61 times, more than anyone else in the history of that poll. he led a remarkable faith-filled life. he touched many lives. in fact, if there's no objection, mr. president, i'd like to include in the record this article yesterday from -- or earlier in the week. it's february 23, "wall street journal" from george w. bush talking about the impact billy graham had on his life. and i thought my favorite line in that article when george w.
2:05 pm
bush's father was president, his father was gone. he and his mother, barbara, were having dinner at the white house. they began to argue a little bit about what it took to get to heaven. and so mrs. bush decided, we'll call billy graham and ask him what it takes to get to heaven. if anybody would know, billy graham would know. and according to president bush, here's what -- here's what billy graham said to them. quote, george and barbara, i believe what is written in the new testament but don't play god. he decides who goes to heaven, not you. we can spend a lot of time arguing about lots of things, but a grace-filled life, a life built on the fundamental principles of the gospel, is a life that we have benefited from, we recognize uniquely today, and i'm glad to be here with my colleagues on the floor as we talk about this great life and the impact it had.
2:06 pm
the presiding officer: without objection, the article will be printed in the record. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: i too, want to join my colleague from missouri, senator blunt and others today, to pay tribute to the life of billy graham. we lost last week, mr. president, a man of great faith and at the end of the gospel of matthew, jesus gives his disciples the great mission which he says therefore make the nation dissighs piples, baptizing in the name of the father, holy spirit. if any one man, it may be said to have fulfilled that charge, it was billy graham. over a ministry that spanned more than 60 years, billy graham truly made disciples of all nations, preaching the gospel in the united states and around the world. in the days since his death, many have remembered billy graham as a spiritual advisor to
2:07 pm
several presidents, which he was. but neither his association with presidents, nor the famous of this world ever distracted him from his primary purpose, which was making sure that the good news of christ reached everyone. from china to south africa to russia to australia, to his home state of north carolina and his countless appearances on television, video, and the internet, billy graham labored tirelessly for the gospel. i think it's fair to say, mr. president, that no one in our lifetime has lived a life of greater impact for the cause of christ. i remember as a young child growing up in my home state of south dakota when the crusades would come on and we would turn them on along with my parents and you had billy graham, you had george beverly shea, cliff barrow, and the message of hope, the message of grace, the message of redemption that came across so clearly. it impacted so many people not only here in the united states but all around the world.
2:08 pm
and it was great to hear michael w. smith today saying that great -- singing that great song "just as i am" that was always offered at the end of every billy graham crusade as an invitation for people to come to know the lord that he knew. my wife, kimberly and i were privileged to sing in the choir for the crusade here in washington. neither of us will ever forget. he reminded us that ultimately there is one thing that matters in life and that is serving life. since the days of his life, many people have repeated one of billy graham's quotes which he paraphrased the american evangelist dwight l. moody. i think it sums up billy graham's message pretty effectively. some day you will read or hear that billy graham is dead. don't you believe a word of it. i shall be more alive than i am now. i will have just changed my address. i will have gone into the presence of god. end quote. mr. president, i remember in
2:09 pm
that 1986 crusade there was a story that was written. presumably "washington post." in which he was interviewed and i remember and i'm paraphrasing. the question was asked what he wanted to be remembered for, what he wanted his epitaph to be when he died. he said i preach the gospel of christ, that i had opportunities to do other things, but that i never deviated. mr. president, he never deviated. billy graham has departed this life and we mourn but i'm confident that right now he's rejoicing in the presence of the lord. in the book of acts it talks about king david. it sez he served god -- it says he served got easy purpose for his generation. i think it can be said billy graham 2r50u8ly serve -- billy graham truly served his purpose for many generations of people. so many have been impacted by his life and his very
2:10 pm
consequential ministry. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, america has lost today or the world has lost today a great man in billy graham. but as he said, senator thune said in his own remarks quoting billy graham, don't believe for billy graham. he has not gone anywhere except to be at the right hand of the father, god in heaven. he's left home in heaven for his entire life, 99 years, he witnessed on behalf of that place called heaven. his father, god, to try and take his message around the world and to the people of the world. i spent a lot of time working with young people. when i do, i work with them many times in my church. i've taught sunday school for 30 years. it's a hard challenge sometimes trying to figure out what it is you're going to do to get through to people, especially young people. i learned from billy graham that the best way to teach people
2:11 pm
about god is to witness for god. billy graham was the pree eminent witness -- preeminent witness for faith there ever was. we all can turn on tv tonight and find a tell evangelist who for a $25 go nation will send you a bible across and tell you you're saved. that's not true. you may be saved from him but you haven't been saved with jesus. billy graham lived the kind of life to teach all of us we should respect and understand and honor what jesus christ stands for and what christianity means and we should live the life as an example to others, what it's like to be a christian. in the sadness of the loss of billy graham, i'm reminded of the book of these lowsians and -- these lowsians. two of the shortest versions in the bible, he says rejoice ever more and pray without ceasing. i think we're in that period of time right now in terms of billy graham's life. we should rejoice for the great service that he gave to all of
2:12 pm
us, the great message he brought in his crusades around the world. we should pray without ceasing that the world will continue to be blessed by god and by people, great people like billy graham and those who will follow him. and that we will do in our small way the witness that we need to do to see to it that we are see dimeles -- deciples for that faith and for jesus christ. for me coming to the floor darks i have an important -- floor today, i have an important task. witness of evangelism is about other people taking the message for other folks. back in my home state of georgia, in my neighborhood in east cobb county is a man named henry holly. i want in my few minutes left honor henry holly because he's an interesting individual. he's a former -- although there's no such thing as former marines. he was a marine for 22 years and met dr. graham. he so ims pressed dr. graham that he asked him to join his
2:13 pm
crusade. he said i can't do it right now. very two more years. billy graham said if you come at the end of those two years, i'll put you on the team. he joined the team of billy graham. he became his asian representative. in fact, today henry is the last of the original billy graham team left alive on this earth. henry's 90 years old living in east cobb county and witnessing every single day for all that he learned from dr. graham. and for what billy graham crusade meant to him. they set up crusades in south korea, all over the world. henry has been in and out of north korea more than anybody in this country. he goes there with is a mayor continue -- with samaritans to help people op prosed, taking the message of jesus christ, working to do everything he can to improve the plight of people who are oppressed and depressed by a rogue regime. henry is one of the finest people i've ever known. i know when dr. graham passed
2:14 pm
away, henry was not sad but happy because he'd always talked about knowing ultimately billy graham's place in heaven would be his just reward. henry would not wait that he could join billy graham there so they can be together again. i know henry is probably watching. if he isn't watching, somebody will tell him about me mentioning his name. i'm doing it to honor henry but also honor bill bring yaim. the one on one passing of the world -- billy graham. the one on one passing of the word from me to someone else, dr. graham to someone else is the way christianity was built over the years and will continue to be preserved in the years to co. as we honor in the united states senate and united states of america, the great man, a great leader, a man of god and servant of god, i am just so thankful i had the opportunity to be in this chamber on the day we honored billy graham and his life. i'm so happy that i had the ability and opportunity to know his servant henry holly and be
2:15 pm
one of those along the way that henry helped to live a more response and love -- responsible and loving life. i yield back my time and defer to the gentleman from oklahoma. mr. lankford: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: mr. president, it was an exceptionally moving service in the rotunda today. for a man to be able to lie in honor in the rotunda and for the nation to pause for a moment, for the leadership of the house and senate and both sides of the aisle and the president of the united states to all stop and for a moment look at a wooden casket as simple as it was and remember the legacy of a man who gave his life telling people that jesus loves you, a remarkable day. it's not a common day in the united states senate and the house to be able to break in the middle of the day to be able to
2:16 pm
go to the rotunda and just contemplate this simple fact: there is a god that you can know who loves you. it's interesting to be able to think back on some of the legacy of dr. graham. he's been to oklahoma many times. in 2003 i had the opportunity to be the chair for the youth night of that mission. it was a moving night and a lot of people there, as there were in all of his events. that night to the students over there -- and there were thousands and thousands of teenagers there -- that night dr. graham unpacked a message about solomon, a person who had everything. and he challenged them for this person that had everything to say but he always came back to all these things were vanity. really at the end it's knowing god that's going to matter. he challenged people of power with that message and i'll read it.
2:17 pm
he said people like power and prestige. solomon, he said, had more power than any man in his generation. no nation dared defy him. but he looked upon all his mighty military power and he said that even power brings no sense of fulfillment or joy or peace. the bible talks about another power, the kind of power that helps when a crisis comes. second timothy 1:7, dr. graham quoted. he said god did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. then he said this, jesus christ said all authority on heaven and on earth has been given unto me. then he quoted paul's words, for i am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of god to salvation. many students responded to the simple invitation to be able to know the god who doesn't give you power, but he is power.
2:18 pm
if you ask most oklahomans what was the moment they remember most about dr. graham coming to oklahoma they would say it was in 1995 after a federal building was stkroeubd after a terrorist event. dr. graham was there after that tragic event on oklahoma and on the nation. he gave a message to oklahoma city, to oklahomans and the nation. towards the end of his sermon, he said this. he said this event also reminds us of the brevity and uncertainty of life. it reminds us that we never know when we're going to be taken. i doubt that even one of those who went to that building to work or to go to the children's place ever dreamed it was their last day on earth. that's why we each need to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to god. ites ironic that this terrible event took place three days after the churches of this city were filled with people
2:19 pm
celebrating easter. just one week ago today. and throughout the world the eastern -l orthodox churches celebrate easter on this day as easter always brings hope to all of us. for the christian, the cross tells us that god understands our suffering. for he took upon himself at the cross all our sins and all our failures and all of our sufferings. and our lord on that cross asked the question: why? my god, my god, why has thou forsaken me? and he received his answer. he knew to redeem the world, to save you and me from our sins, to give us assurance that if we die, we're going to heaven. he was saying from the cross, i love you, and i know the heartaches and sorrows and pain that you feel. easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the hope of the empty tomb. it tells us that there is a hope for eternal life, that christ has conquered death, and it also
2:20 pm
tells us that god is triumph over evil and death and hel. this is our hope. and it can be your hope as well. dr. graham ended this have conversation by saying my prayer for you today is that you feel feel the loving arms of god wrapped around you and will know in your heart that he will never forsake you as you trust him. this is a significant day for oklahomans, to begin the healing process together. it's quite remarkable to have america's pastor laid to rest. dr. graham would assure all of us the same hope that he experienced, that he shared with as many people as he possibly could was not unique to north carolina. it wasn't unique to his family. it wasn't even unique to
2:21 pm
america. but it was god's great affection for all people, and the offer of that love that could turn around a heart like his could turn around the heart of a nation, could turn around the heart of all people. it's a good day to remember. it's a rare moment for us to be able to stop and pause the way that we have today. itit leaves a significant messae that should not be forgotten. with that, mr. president, i yield back. mr. wyden: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: for the elite, the powerful and well-connected, the republican tax law has turned out to be manna from washington. the benefits of the tax law are about as one-sided as it gets, and middle-class americans come up on the losing end. it sure is one-sided when the price of admission for any middle-class tax relief is an
2:22 pm
investor handout big enough to pay wall street in gold. democrats pushed for a tax cut that was centered on the middle class, but republicans turned their one-sided wish list into law. it sure is one-sided to have a massive tax handout to multinational corporations, a lower top rate for the fortunate few, a massive tax cut in the estate tax that touches only the wealthiest while working families get handed only temporary relief. those are the policies that are the essence of the republican tax law. yet the american people hear over and over again that the benefits of the proposals are going to work their way to the middle class and that those folks would get bulging wage
2:23 pm
increases. so i'd like to start by getting a few facts straight. first, just a few hours ago corporations across the $200 billion mark in stock buybacks this year. these stock back bow unanimous unanimous -- bonanzas drive up the investment portfolio for c.e.o.'s and high fliers, and they're now coming in at a rate 30 times greater -- 30 times greater than worker bonuses. they're on pace to double the amount from the first quarter of last year. now there was a whole lot of happy talk about the republican tax bill last winter, but i don't remember -- and i sat through a lot of markups in the finance committee and debates on this floor. i didn't hear anybody say that there ought to be a stock buy
2:24 pm
back stimulus act. the wealthiest 10% of earners own 84% of all the stock held by americans. so when it comes to these buy backs, a huge majority of families are on the outside looking in. all the moms and dads who balance the rent, the groceries, the cost of gas and electricity don't get much of anything out of a corporate handout that gets swallowed up by these buy-back bonanzas for big-time investors. second, when you talk about tax cuts producing massive stock buy-backs, you're talking about sending huge amounts of cash overseas directly into the pocket of wealthy investors. that's because more than a third of all u.s. corporate stock is owned by investors outside of the country. so under the republican tax law,
2:25 pm
american taxpayers are on the hook borrowing billions and billions of dollars to make wealthy foreigners even wealthier. we heard a whole lot about how working families were going to get lifted up in portland and topeka and san antonio, but the reality is the folks who are getting enriched are in beijing and moscow and panama city. finally, you don't have to take my word for it that these corporate windfalls overwhelmingly benefit those at the top. 14 years ago the federal government gave corporations what's known as a repatriation holiday, a big tax break to bring back cash from overseas. and what the american people heard back then sounds pretty familiar today. corporations were going to invest in workers and equipment, and the money would trickle down to the middle class. that didn't work out either. 90% of the corporate cash
2:26 pm
windfall went to goodies for investors and c.e.o.'s. once again, mr. president, very, very one-sided. it's not even two decades later, and the pher are still -- the american people are still being fed the line about how their one-sided tax plans are going to deliver bulging paychecks to the middle class. a few weeks ago treasury secretary mnuchin came to the finance committee. he was asked who really benefits when the republican tax bill showers all this cash on multinationals. he said, and i quote, even if there are share buy-backs, that capital is recycled back into the economy. it doesn't just sit in banks. it goes back to the economy. mr. president, that sounds an awful lot like trying to put new spin on the failed theory of trickle-down economics. in my view, middle-class families are sick and tired of being told to wait for the
2:27 pm
benefits to somehow trickle down to them. from the get go, our message on taxes was that if senators were interested in real middle-class tax relief, we'd be at the head of the line to work on it. i've been involved in a bipartisan bill. on this side, we were ready to go for a bipartisan approach, focusing on the middle class. instead, republicans moved at breakneck speed to pass a one-sided bill that would fatten the accounts of the wealthy, the powerful and c.e.o.'s around the world. it is time for the treasury secretary to stop peddling this old huckster line that somehow all of this is going to work out for the middle class if they just wait long enough. that's not going to work because this bill was never about middle-class folks. you see it in the numbers. you see it in the fact that what
2:28 pm
the middle class gets is temporary. but now we know while middle-class families keep waiting for the promises to come true, these stock buy-back bonanzas, these investor windfalls are just going to keep rolling on in. now, mr. president, i want to make some brief remarks on another subject. mr. president, mr. russell vought is nominated to be the deputy director of the office of management and budget. my view is he has radically misguided budget priorities. he's long opposed bipartisan compromise. and i'm especially concerned about his well-documented history of inflammatory rhetoric. if confirmed, he'd be the point person in charge of the president's budget. he's on record supporting an extreme fiscal strategy, one that would really threaten the full faith and credit of the country by engaging in debt
2:29 pm
ceiling brinkmanship. but i also oppose mr. vought's nomination because of his extreme votes on the budget and refusal to reach across party lines. so we have an obligation, an obligation to look at his extreme views and especially his vitriolic comments that he made and to consider them among the recent examples of individuals who made similar comments and were deemed unfit for service. carl higby, a trump surrogate during the 2016 campaign, was appointed as chief of external affairs at the corporation for national service. he resigned from his taxpayer-funded post in shame after his history of hateful and bigoted rhetoric was brought to light. that history included saying he didn't like muslims because he
2:30 pm
hated their religious ideology, and flatly admitted he was proud to be a racist if it meant being against muslims. reverend jamie johnson was appointed last april to lead the center for faith base, a neighborhood of partnerships. he too resigned in disgrace after media reports drew scrutiny to his use of racist rhetoric during a 2008 interview he said, and i quote, african americans turned america's major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual prom skewty. he also said extremist terrorist groups were representative of all people of the muslim faith. for a person taking a job intended to promote partnerships, it was certainly important to call his job performance into question. william bradford was appointed to lead the energy department's
2:31 pm
office of indian energy. he resigned after the media drew attention to comments he made calling for the military to target muslim women and children and equating american colleges to jihadi training camps. none of these individuals, mr. president, resigned because of their religion. the united states, and i feel this so deeply, every person is free to practice the religion of their choosing and hold any and all beliefs. the reason these three individuals resigned from their positions was because their intolerant comments cast serious doubt on whether they were capable of working on behalf of all americans. and that brings me to mr. vought's nomination. he has a lost history of using inflammatory rhetoric to demonize his political opponents.
2:32 pm
any just instinctual seems to -- he said if republicans failed to beat back the forces of the left, we'll, quote, lose our country to tyranny. addressing a group of conservative activists in 2014, he said the left increasingly elects ideological storm troopers to congress. after he was nominated, the american civil liberties union criticized his nomination because he had previously claimed that muslims had a deficient theology and flatly stated that all muslims stand condemned. when i met with mr. vought, i asked him to clarify his inflammatory rhetoric. i always think it's important to give somebody a chance to break from the past, and i hope to hear a softer approach. he chose to stand by what he said and in fact he doubled down. so i want to close with this. in my view, nothing should have
2:33 pm
changed in the time continues mr. higbie, reverend johnson, and mr. bradfor bradford -- this incendiary, vitriolic is disqualifying. one of the first requirements of nominees for public office is to respect americans from all walks of life. this is true when you're talking about a position like the budget deputy director which holds enormous influence over the federal budget. mr. vought has a claire documented record -- clear, documented record of disrespecting and demonizing those who think differently than he does. he consider that disqualifying. the administration may tolerate those who spew vile rhetoric and maybe they believe it's right to reward them with powerful roles in government but the senate does not have an obligation to let the standards of decency and tolerance degrade in this manner. for this reason i oppose the
2:34 pm
vought nomination, and i yield the floor. mr. reed: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor to give the first of several speeches on russia's hybrid operations against west. today i want to highlight one aspect of the ongoing destabilization effort, the kremlin's malign financial influence. it's clear that we need a comprehensive strategy to counter russian aggression. particular focus should be devoted to reducing secrecy in our financial system. it is a imp is pal fact -- simple fact bad actors need money to conduct their activities yet our current financial system's opaqueness serves interest to violent forces. greater transparency will make it harder for the kremlin and its cronies to exert malign financial influence on our shores. the lack of transparency in our system is problematic for our banks here at home, the global nature of our financial system
2:35 pm
means that foreign actors can take advantage of our -- for their own gain which has implications for our national security. i've looked at this issue through the lens of my work as ranking member of the armed services committee as well as my service on the banking committee and the select committee on intelligence. money laundering and other financial crimes are among the tools deployed by russia as part of the kremlin's larger influence campaign which has been used against the united states and our allies and partners to advance the strategic political goals of russia. these activities are being used as weapons which threaten u.s. national security. the kremlin's use of malign financial influence is subtle and is part of a larger coordinated operation of hybrid aggression biff the kremlin -- by the kremlin using a broad spectrum of military and nonmilitary tools at its disposal. russia recognizes that for now, its military capabilities are
2:36 pm
limited relative to the united states and nato. and it will seek to avoid a direct military conflict with the west. instead, russia deploys tactics that leverage its strengths and exploit our systematic vulnerabilities. as laid out in the russia security strategy, it includes weaponizing tools and resources across government and society. the russian strategy states, i quote, interrelated, political, military, military technical, diplomatic, economic, informational, and other measures are being developed and implemented in order to ensure strategic deterrence and the prevention of armed conflicts. this description generally defines what is called russian hybrid approach to confrontation below the threshold of direct armed conflict. a method that has been developing and escalating since the earliest days of putin's
2:37 pm
rise to power in russia. the main tenets of the kremlin's hybrid operations are information operation with cyber tools which people commonly think of as hacking, propaganda and disinformation, manipulation of social media, and malign influence which can be deployed through political or financial channels. as a nation, we are beginning to unpack what happened in the 2016 presidential election. with respect to certain aspects of russian hybrid operations. for example, we are learning how the russians combined hacking operations with the release of information timed for maximum political damage. we also learned more about russia's manipulation of social media with the kremlin-linked cyber armies. we have yet to understand the depths of how the kremlin has used money as a weapon and how it has harmed our national security and our democracy. for this aspect of its hybrid arsenal, russia is using money as a tool of warfare to exploit
2:38 pm
the vulnerabilities of our democratic institutions to its advantage. the russian system of corruption financial influence rests on putin's domestic power structure. the putin regime is fundamentally a kleptocracy where corrupt leaders use their power to corruption their country's people and natural resources in order to extend their personal wealth and power. putin has systematically forced kleptocratic conditions by exploiting state funds and resources to reward a group of close associates commonly referred to as oligarchs. many of these associates have a personal connection to putin and have gained their positions of power or fortune due to their relationship with him. often these political and personal relationships were forged in child hood, early adothood or during putin's days in the k.g.b. and st. petersburg government. in exchange for wealth,
2:39 pm
privilege and often impunity, this group of putin's cronies are readily deployed to act on behalf of kremlin interests. as russian collar -- scholar and journalist detailed, oligarchs finance the black ledger, money that goes not through the budget but is needed by the state to finance elections and support local political figures, for example. funds lead the state budget of procurement orders and come back as off-the-books cash to be set however the kremlin see, fit -- sees fit. russia's clept mattic system reinforces russia's power in several ways. he controls the state coffers. second, he can outsource projects of financial influence which provides him with access to private wealth systems and gives him plausible den niebility if the project -- deniability if the project has a
2:40 pm
nefarious aspect. finally, this system allows him -- oligarchs who have enriched themselves through a corrupt deal or commit a crime through state sanctions. not only has putin been able to use corruption to protect his power base at home, he has supported his system through hybrid warfare. the kremlin has studied the gaps in western study and leverages the oligarchs' wealth through the system of power putin created to buy our influence, destroy our markets, and war:our democratic institutions. as the center for strategic and international studies report, the kremlin playbook notes, corruption is lubricant on which this system operates. concentrating the exploitation of the state resources to further russia's networks of influence. a byproduct of this malign financial influence is the use of ill-gotten gains to further
2:41 pm
fuel the cyber corruption and fund other aspects of the kremlin's high braid aggression. as i mentioned, putin and his inner circle often deploy these financial blue tactics through an oligarch. these need-years are not officially affiliated with the government and appear to operate independently which makes them harder to defect and -- detect and gives the kremlin plus aibl viability. the tools of war are warrants of physical destruction. under putin's tactics of financial malign influence, the tools are the same as any large-scale criminal organization, offshore tax havens and banking centers, shell companies, money laundering with the addition of russian majority-owned state banks. russian malign financial influence and the proceeds from this activity are harming our national security and corrupting our democratic institutions.
2:42 pm
as ascribed in the kremlin playbook, the mechanisms of russian influence are designed to thrive in western democracies because they use western rules and institutions and exploit their systematic weaknesses. and these tactics appear to be updated versions of similar tools used against us in the past. as russian expert brian whitmore wrote, in many ways, russian corruption is the new soviet communism. the kremlin's black cash is the new red menace. he further described this threat as a web of opaque front corporations, murky energy deals, and complex money laundering schemes which ensnare foreign elites and former ready-made kremlin lobby. let's think about that for a second. the kremlin is buying off foreigners to do its bidding within their own societies and the way they are buying influence is obscured through exploiting western banking laws
2:43 pm
and international financial systems. we have no way of knowing who this money is going to or what it's buying. russia is using our blind spot to advance their political and strategic goals and in the process corruption and war:our -- and warp our institutions from within. let's take a look at how they're doing it. one way the kremlin is asserting malign financial influence is through personal relationships established by oligarchs or through other kremlin-linked business executives. as vice president biden and former deputy assistant secretary of defense michael carr pen ter warned in a recent article in foreign affairs, this arrangement gives the kremlin enormous leverage over wealthy russians who do business in the west and over western companies that do business in russia. moscow can ask or pressure such business people and companies to help finance its subversion of political processes elsewhere. one oligarch who used this method is olag aposka.
2:44 pm
he has been a close putin ally for decades. he is transparent about how his wealth was deployed as a tool for the kremlin stating, if the state says we need to give it up, we'll give it up. i don't separate myself from the state. i have no other interests. he served as the benefactor for a variety of political activities that advanced kremlin interests. according to "the wall street journal," this financial backing included paying paul manafort who later became trump's campaign manager a $10 million a year -- $10 million, rather, to advance kremlin interest in ukraine, georgia, and montenegro. investigations from nbc news, "the new york times" found that he fronted manafort an estimated $60 million for other business ventures and loans, moving the funds through shell companies in cypress and the cayman islands. a


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on