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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  March 19, 2018 2:59pm-7:21pm EDT

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any innovative programs use particularly ways to engage younger people are going to inherit these problems from their parents to help them do so successfully? nancy? >> first of all we have broken that engages youth leaders in conflict countries around the world called generation change which is fundamentally equipping them with some of the key tools and skills and knowledge base that allows them to mediate and facilitate conflict in their own communities and states. we believe very strongly at usip that peace can be, how to build peace can be learned, and it is essentially very practical with skills that are often lost, especially in countries that are going through sometimes generations of conflict. angeles -- >> we are going to break away from the end of this event to get your life to the floor of the u.s. senate. they are coming into start their legislative work. the senate working on a bill
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designed to prevent online sex trafficking. also a vote to limit debates scheduled for about 6 p.m. on that. before that vote at 5:30 p.m. he will vote to confirm the commissioner for customs and border patrol. government funding expires friday so there is expected to be some kind of action on a bill to extend funding possibly through the end of the fiscal year which ends in september. live coverage of the senate now 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. most high god, you are the great king of the earth. nations must submit to your
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sovereignty, for you hold the hearts of national and global leaders in your hands. may our lawmakers remember that you can show them a way out of any difficulty, empowering them to not give up. remind them that the tests they face are similar to what other generations have experienced, and that you will enable them to prevail as you have done in the past. lord, thank you for your faithfulness, mercy, and love. we pray in your great name. amen.
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the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865, which the clerk will report.
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the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 339, h.r. 1865, an act to amend the communications act of 1934 and so forth and for other purposes.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: this is the start of another busy week here in the senate. we have a lot to accomplish for
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the american people. this week we'll take up an omnibus that builds on the bipartisan funding agreement we reached back in february. it will provide our armed forces with stable funding they need to meet emerging challenges. among other important matters, it will also strengthen our fight against the scourge of opioid addiction, an issue the president has declared a public health emergency and is continuing to address today up in new hampshire. first, we have several concrete opportunities to make america safer and more secure. first, we'll vote on the confirmation of kevin mcaleenan, the president's nominee for the commissioner of the u.s. customs and border protection. kevin mcaleenan is a 16-year veteran of the c.v.b.
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his nomination carries the unflinching support of a bipartisan group of leaders and was thoroughly vetted in committee. ensuring our national security means steady control over what and who comes across our boaferreds -- borders. later this week the senate will turn to another important matter related to america's safety and secure. we'll take up legislation to combat the evil of sex trafficking. keeping children safe from exploitation has been a key focus for several of us going back some years. in 1984, i advocated the missing children's assistance act. in the 1990's, i created a national data base and screening system to identify abusers. in 2003, i joined a number of members on missing and exploited
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and runnaway children. the senate passed the justice for victims trafficking act. this week it's time to build on those achievements and take another step. it's time to confront the reality that trafficking has largely moved from the street corner to the smart phone. from 2010 to 2015, the national center for missing and exploited children saw reports of suspected child sex trafficking increase more than eight fold p. last year more than 8,500 cases were reported to the u.s. trafficking hotline. part of the problem is the communication law that is being used to protect internet sites that use sex trafficking. we will make sure that they are held accountable for these heinous crimes.
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senator portman has worked long and hard on this subject. he helped assemble a broad bipartisan coalition. i urge everyone to join me in voting to advance this legislation later this afternoon. one final matter. the good news about tax reform keeps piling up. u.s. consumer confidence hits 14-year high. that's right, tax reform is contributing to a dynamic, growing economy, and americans are taking notice. in fact, according to the wall street journal, optimism improved markedly for households in the bottom one-third of the income distribution. the next time that my friends across the aisle say it is just helping the big guys, it is a political talking point. in the real word, businesses large and small are thriving.
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in kentucky, goodwood brewing company has crunched the numbers and expects a tax reform savings of $30,000. they plan to purchase new equipment and hire more employees. according to the c.e.o., the tax reform is offering a significant benefit, hardly crumbs. last wednesday, president trump visited a boeing manufacturing facility in st. louis to hear how tax reform is helping those americans. for boeing workers, it means a new $300 million investment in workforce development, training, philanthropy and workplace improvement. the president didn't just hear from the hometown crowd. bonnie brazel works in the cafeteria in the college of the ozarks in southwest missouri. bonnie made the trip to tell
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president trump that i work at the cafeteria in the college of the ozarks alongside the hardworking students and am grateful for the bonus. i put my savings in retirement. renee said, this bonuses could not have come at a better time. her daughter was gravely ill, but out of the country, renee's tax reform bonuses allowed her to fly to her daughter's bedside. brandon fister is working at mid-am steel. the tax reform helped him to pay for his son's surgery. the senior senator joined democrats in a party-line vote to block tax reform and keep washington's foot on the break of -- brake of our economy.
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when democratic leaders called these historic middle-class tax cuts crumbs, the senior senator from missouri followed suit and called them scraps. i'm proud that republicans, including missouri's junior senator, stood up for the middle-class families who deserve to keep more of their own money because we did, bonnie, renee, and brandon -- brandon and millions of hardworking americans are reaping the benefits. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: flop. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: i had he had ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. officer without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i'm pleased to learn that senator cory booker, our colleague from new jersey, is the 73rd cosponsor of the fix nics background system bill that i've introduced and that i hope will be passed out of the senate soon. this bill is to fix the national instant criminal background check system, which if it had been working the way it was designed to would have caught
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the shooter at southernland springs, thus perhaps saving the lives of 26 people who lost their lives in that little baptist church outside of san antonio and 20 more who were shot and will suffer those wounds the rest of their lives. but today the news brought us the fact that apparently there had been a recommendation that nicholas cruz, the shooter in parkland, florida, that mental health professionals commit him for involuntary treatment. but apparently that never materialized. that was the recommendation but it never actually happened. if it had happened, his name would have, under the current law, been included in the florida upload of background check information that would have prevented him from legally buying a firearm. and so we can begin to see the
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different data points that begin to paint a picture of the sorts of things that we could do here in washington, d.c. to save lives in these future mass shooting events. we know the president has said to the department of justice he wants bump stocks banned. of course, that was the instrument used to kill dozens of people in las vegas and injure 851 more. so by addressing things like the background check system, improving mental health response, eliminating the bump stock which takes a semiautomatic weapon and makes it operate essentially like an automatic weapon, by providing assistance to our schools so that they can harden them against potential attacks, you can begin to see a picture of the sorts of things that we ought to be doing to prevent future mass shootings like we saw most recently in parkland,
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florida. and it's simply our responsibility to make sure that we do everything we humanly can. i know after these horrific events, people throw up their hands and say we need to do something. well, we need to do something that matters and that will save lives in the future. and i think we now begin to have a picture of the sorts of things we can do starting with the passage of the fix nics background check system. it's the only piece of legislation i know that has 73 now cosponsors with senator booker of new jersey being added as the 73rd today. it's the only bill that i know of that has that kind of broad, widespread support, and that will actually, if implemented, will siev -- will save lives. this week we'll be discussing another important subject, one that perhaps would not -- do not
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want to hear about or rather they prefer that it not exist at all because it is a manifestation of evil. the subject is online sex trafficking, and unfortunately, it happens? the shadows of our society. today the internet and other forms of technology have made certain forms of predatory, perverted behavior easier to engage in without getting caught. the legislation we're voting on this week aims to protect our children and provide justice to victims of human trafficking and to make sure federal laws do not protect profiteering web dough b domains where sex trafficking occurs. the sex trafficking act or sesta would allow sex trafficking victims have their day in court by limiting lyle bity protections for -- liability protections for those who knowingly facilitate online sex
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trafficking. it would allow state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute providers that violate federal sex trafficking laws. i'm proud to be one of the original cosponsors of this legislation and work on it with my colleagues to get it to this point today. it was introduced last summer after a two-year inquiry by the permanent subcommittee on investigations which culminated in a report. the report found not only that sex trafficking has run rampant in certain online spaces but also that websites have tried to cover it up. well, no longer. last fall the senate committee -- senate commerce committee unanimously approved sesta and the house passed it last month, and this week is our turn. senator portman, the junior senator from ohio, has been this bill's greatest champion since its inception. he has been informing us time and time again of the ways sex
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trafficking has moved, as he likes to say from the street corner to the smartphone. he spoke on the floor earlier this year and reminded us even as technology develops and gives us new opportunities to learn, to innovate, and to connect with another one, it is not an unalloyed good. in the wrong hands by the wrong people, it can be misused. as senator portman urged us, we need to shine a light on to the dark side of the internet, an area he called a stain on our national character. he's absolutely right, of course. the buying and selling of young people for sex is a moral scourge and how we respond is a measure of our national conscience. in the committee's investigation, one website in particular came up over and over and over again and that's backpage.com, which was spoke for perhaps three-quarters of
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all child trafficking reports, three-quarters. it eventually became clear that even though that site was actively helping sell young women for sex and even though the victims and their families were suing backpage in response, none of the lawsuits were successful because of what some people are coming to believe is an outdated immunity for technology providers under a federal law known as the communications decency act. courts have repeatedly emphasized that the broad reach of one section of that statute protects websites that help to buy and sell underage girls for sex. judges across the country have said it's up to congress to change the law and now it is our time to do just that. the original law was intended to protect free speech, which of course is important. i, of course, like all of our colleagues am a firm believer in the first amendment but free speech is no license to engage in illegal activity.
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free speech can't be used as an excuse to offer young people into sexual servitude. and the internet cannot be a safe place for terrorists and child sex traffickers. at last count 67 senators have joined this effort as cosponsors. we're joined by antihuman trafficking advocates, law enforcement organizations, state attorneys general, the civil rights community, faith-based groups and tech companies like facebook and/or cal. we've all -- and oracle. we've all made clear we stand behind sesta. i hope our colleagues will join me in voting for this important legislation this week and ensure that websites and online platforms can be held accountable for facilitating sex trafficking. mr. president, on another matter, this week the senate may vote on a privilege resolution
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offered by three of our colleagues, the junior senators from utah, vermont, and connecticut which would direct the president to cut off financial support and other support for the saudi-led coalition in yemen. this, of course, is a proxy in many ways between iran that's intervened in a civil war in yem 9/11 and not -- yemen and not only to allow the saudis the means to defend themselves against incursions and attacks by the houthi iranian-backed rebels but also to facilitate our relationship with the saudis is important in terms of antiisis and anti-al qaeda effort with cells of those organizations located in yemen, too. our support, of course, is already narrowly circumscribed, our support for the saudi-led coalition in yemen.
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january mattis, our secretary of defense has described this as the alternative to putting american boots on the ground. we operate by, with, and through our allies by providing logistical support, intelligence, and in technical advice. currently it takes the form of intelligence sharing, military advice and logistical support such as air-to-air refueling. this is very clearly noncombatant support, at least as traditionally defined and historically known and it's meant to improve processes and procedures and increase compliance with the international law of armed conflict, the very support we're providing, mitigating civilian casualties and deteriorating humanitarian crisis brought on by the iranian-backed houthis. i know the poifer has been leading the charge -- the presiding officer has been
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leading the charge of addressing the humanitarian crisis which is mind boggling, to be sure. contrary to the resolution, sponsors' claims though, the u.s. military is not engaged in hostilities in yemen as that term is historically been understood and applied. since it is not in direct conflict or exchanging fire with houthi forces. of course, we all share a concern with what's at stake in yemen and saudi arabia and the gulf region but also about civilian casualties which this resolution creates problems with. almost everyone is aware that yemen has been suffering from a severe humanitarian crisis for years but were we to remove u.s. targeting and logistical support from the saudi coalition, the humanitarian situation could get even worse than it has already been. both political parties have recognized the important role the united states plays in support of our partners' efforts
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to push back against the malign forces that have been coalescing in yemen. in fact, president obama was the one who first implemented the refueling and logistical support policy that remains in effect today. in 2016, senator menendez, now the ranking member of the senate foreign relations committee, criticized the international community's failure to address the iranian-fueled conflicts that included support to a houthi insurgency that helped topple the internationally recognized government of yemen. senator menendez went on to say, i have a sense that we are creating a permissive environment. i agrees with senator menendez that we should not abandon our partners and leave a permissive environment, a vacuum, a void for bad actors to fill. if there's one lesson that i thought we learned after 9/11
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when 3,000 americans were killed, when two planes were hijacked -- actually three planes were hijacked, two went into the world trade center and one into the pentagon and one landed in pennsylvania because the passengers on the plane overwhelmed the hijackers. but what we learned is what happens in the middle east does not stay in the middle east. and what had happened in afghanistan is that the taliban had provided a safe haven for osama bin laden and al qaeda and they used that safe haven to train and export their terrorist attacks against countries around the world that primarily against the united states and that's what happened on 9/11, 2001. that's why we can't allow a safe haven in yemen not to mention the fact take iran continues to use proxies in places like lebanon, syria, yemen among others to try to fight the united states in a low-grade war
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that's been going on literally since 1979. i should mention iraq as one of those countries as well. but it's precisely because of the delicate and desperate situation in yemen that i'm making the argument that any consideration to withdraw u.s. troops from fulfilling their limited auxiliary role in this conflict would have broad impacts on our global partnerships and counterterrorism efforts. it is not a decision to be made in haste or decision to be made lightly. therefore, i believe the idea serves the careful consideration of the committee of jurisdiction, the senate foreign relations committee. if the senate takes this vote without adequate preparation and deliberation and passes this resolution, we lose that chance for careful consideration. we lose the chance to have the senate foreign relations committee issue a thoroughly
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researched and deliberated recommendation to the entire senate. even more troubling is the prospect that this resolution could set a precedent, one in which a few members prefer policies prioritized over the normal senate procedures and more thoughtful committee deliberation with unintended global impacts. yemen is not the only place that we're addressing challenges to peace and to our country by, with, and through allies without americans engaging in direct hostilities. so this would have unintended global impact. secretary of defense james mattis' voiced his concerns over this resolution in a leader to congressional leadership, he said new restrictions on the u.s. military could increase civilian casualties, jeopardize our partners cooperation on counterterrorism efforts. atop of that list would be the
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saudis and emiratis among others and other people are watching as well. and it will reduce our influence in the key region. he warned a withdrawal of our noncombat support in yemen could embolden rebels in the area and enable further missile strikes in the saudi area and threaten missile lanes in the red sea, one of the key choke points for international commerce right there on the western border of yemen. all this combined could stoke the embers of an even tkpwraeurlt -- greater regional consequence in the middle east with unknown consequences. more importantly it would damage u.s. credibility and strengthen iran's position in yemen and throughout the middle east more broadly. i hope our colleagues will think soberly and thoughtfully about this resolution and insist that a fulsome debate take place
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where it belongs initially, and that is within the senate foreign relations committee. i've talked to senator corker, the chairman of that committee. i think he will speak for himself, but i think he certainly believes that the committee can help the senate make a good decision after giving the committee an opportunity to have hearings and to consider all of the intended and unintended consequences of this resolution. i know our colleagues who have offered the resolution mean well and their intentions are good, but sometimes, particularly in the area of international conflict and just global interactions of different countries, that sometimes our actions beget an unintended consequences, and i think it's good to be safe in the first place and to take this matter to the senate foreign relations committee where i have every confidence that senator corker as the chairman and ranking
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member menendez can guide the members of that committee through a process that will help us in the end make a better decision. mr. president, i yield the floor, and i'd 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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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: i'd ask that we dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: you thank you,
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madam president. madam president, it's been 32 days since the tragedy in parkland. i think that senator nelson may be coming to the floor very soon. but, frankly, every day since there has been a series of tragedies all across this country, on average 90 people every single day lose their lives to gun violence. there has been, over the course of the last year, a mass shooting on average every single day. most of them aren't covered in the newspaper, but there is an incident in which four more people are shot on average more than once per day in this country. of course, it is now more than five years since the devastating tragedy in my state where 20 first graders lost their life. this is personal, deeply personal to all of us here in this chamber. it became very personal to me
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last week when my six-year-old came home from school to tell me about his active shooter drill. he's six. he's in kindergarten. and in his kindergarten class, they have a small, little bathroom in the class that all the kids use. he explained to me that for their active shooter drill, all 25 kids in his classroom -- a whole bunch of five- and six-year olds -- were shoved inside this tiny, little bathroom together, crunched together shoulder tpo -- to shoulder and the door locked. imagine how frightening that would be to a six-year-old child. even if they all didn't completely understand why they were there. he said to me when he got home that night, daddy, i didn't like it. that shouldn't be in the most powerful, affluent country in the world, that our children have to go through that.
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never mind those that have actually had to face down someone with a gun inside their classroom or inside their school. and what is devastating to the parents in parkland and in sandy hook, what's devastating to the parents in baltimore and in new hafrpb and -- in new haven and in chicago is we refuse to have a debate on the senate floor about how we can help address this epic mass slaughter, this gun violence epidemic in this country. and i have been taking pains over the course of the last six months to try to reach out across the aisle and find common ground with my colleagues on some commonsense legislation about changes to our gun laws. i'm proud to have worked with senator cornyn on a small bill that would encourage states to comply with existing law, the
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fix nics act, now has over 60 republican and democratic cosponsors here, enough so that it could overcome a cloture motion. but i'm coming to the floor today to ask that we come to an agreement, republicans and democrats, by which we can have a debate, an open debate for the american public to see on the issue of gun violence before we break for a two-week easter recess. we're going to go back to our states and have a wonderful time with our friends and with our family while many others continue to grieve all across this country, and many others will enter the ranks of those who grieve because during the 14 days that we will be away, thousands of people will die from gunshot wounds. and so i just can't imagine that
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we would make a decision to go home at the end of this week without having had a debate on the senate floor for the american people to see about how we can try to respond to this cry, this call from the american public to do something these kids have been amazing. literally hundreds of thousands of children walking out of school last week. hundreds of thousands more students and their parents will be here in washington for marches and 600 other marches all around the country this weekend. the polls tell us over and over again that nine out of ten americans want us to take bold steps forward. record numbers of american citizens believe that the laws as they exist today are not sufficient. this isn't a controversial issue outside of washington. it's only controversial here inside this chamber. but if we remain silent, if we
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refuse to have a debate on the senate floor, we are failing the people that sent us here. and so i'm coming to the floor today to propose a very reasonable path forward such that we can have a debate and some up-or-down votes on proposals this week. of what i understand, there's still a lot of discussion happening with respect to the budget. obviously we have to get that done by the end of the week. but it's not ready yet, so we have time this week to have a short but meaningful debate on the issue of guns. and so here's what i'm proposing. i'm proposing that we have a unanimous consent agreement whereby we can have a time limited debate. i would suggest perhaps not more than six hours.
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and at the end of that period of time we have six votes. three votes that are propounded by the democratic side, three votes on measures propounded by the republican side. i think it's no secret the amendments that senate democrats would offer, we would want to see a vote on universal commercial background checks to make sure that commercial sales of guns are subject to background checks. that's something that president trump said he was for at the white house, has encouraged the congress to work on. let's have an up-or-down vote on background checks. i think democrats would clearly want to see this bipartisan compromise that's been worked out by senator blumenthal and senator graham with respect to protective orders, red flag orders come before the chamber. it simms polymakes sense -- it simply makes sense that we do
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what florida is doing, pass a law that allows for law enforcement after a viable court process to take away weapons temporarily from someone who poses a threat. the problem in florida was even if they had done something about this young man, they didn't have the legal ability to take his weapons away, even if he had made these kind of threats in public. florida's correcting that with their new law. we should do the same at the federal level. on our side, there's also interest in talking about the kind of weapons that are legal and the kind of weapons that are not. i'm a believer, of course, that there's a class of military-style tactical semiautomatic weapons that are best not in the hands of civilians. and obviously that issue divides our side too. so if that were to come up for a vote, you'd have democrats for it and democrats against it. on the other two measures, you will have republicans for it and republicans against it. republicans are for universal background checks. some aren't.
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there are many republicans on record being for these protective orders. there are owes who won't for it. but the american public will have no idea, our constituents will have no idea what we're willing to do and what we're not willing to do unless we have a debate. and this is our last chance before we go home. so what i'm proposing, i think is reasonable, is practical, and is viable. we can get it done. six total amendments to the fix nics act, time limited, perhaps only six hours. we could be in and out of that debate in a day. i've talked with my leadership about it. i'm confident that democratic leadership would support that path forward, and i propose it to republican leadership tonight as we enter this week as a means of having this debate that the american public so badly needs. the alternative is unthinkable.
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going home, letting over a month pass since parkland, since this outcry for action from kids across america, and not even attempt to get something done here. i understand this issue is still difficult. i don't understand why my republican colleagues won't support something like background checks, which is supported by 97% of americans. it's pretty hard to find anything in america that's supported by 97% of americans. apple pie, grandma probably doesn't get 97% approval ratings in this country. but universal background checks does. i'm frustrated that my republican colleagues just don't, you know, come to the floor and agree to pass something that has just mind-blowing universal support in the public. but what's more offensive is that we don't even try. what's more offensive to me is that we don't even make an attempt to put these measures on the floor of the senate and let them be voted up or down.
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i don't want the gun lobby to have ao veto power over the legislation that gets passed here. but even worse than that is for the gun lobby to have veto power over what we even debate. a total of six amendments, a total of six hours of debate. i would argue that that is insufficient to meet the moment, but i get it, that time is running out, that there's not a lot of interest from some members of the republican side to enter into this debate. so we are, we are very willing to have a short time-limited debate to see what we can get consensus on and what we can't get consensus on. and then whatever moves out of this building, whatever amendments get passed, then we live with it and live to fight another day. it's been five years since the tragedy in my state. now 32 days since parkland.
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i don't think we should wait a day more, one day longer, before we have an open debate on the senate floor about how we as those entrusted with the safety of our children do something about the epidemic of gun violence in this country. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you, madam president. we are in morning business? the presiding officer: the senate is considering a motion to proceed to h.r. 1865. mr. tester: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise today to reflect on -- on the landmark legislation that this body passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last week. it isn't every day that folks in congress can work together in a
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bipartisan way to get something done that will benefit main streets across rural america. but last week that's exactly what we did, and i'm very proud of that effort. and there is a big thank you to the chairman of the banking committee, chairman crapo and his ability to listen, his commonsense perspective, his patience. it would not have happened without those qualities that chairman crapo exhibited. i also want to single out three senators that worked very, very hard on this bill and there are a number of others who did as well. i will get into senators heitkamp, donnelly, and warner. they did yeoman's work in bringing the view of the challenges that our banking industry has out there, and
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coming up with solutions for those challenges and coming up with consumer protections to put into this bill to move it forward. there were many, many others. there were 17 or 18 sponsors on the democratic side of the aisle. but a special thank you to senators heitkamp, donnelly, and warner for that advocacy, input, knowledge, and expertise and their ability to work to get things done. people have asked me, senator tester, why did you write this bill? well, i was a part of the folks who wrote this bill for good reason. the financial crisis, remember very, very well what then secretary of treasury paulson came in this 2008, i believe it was, and said we were on the cusp of a financial meltdown in this country. i remember some of the free and
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irresponsible activities that were done in the financial system. i remember bringing regulators in front of the banking committee and ripping up one side and down the other as to why we got into this situation. in the end we came up with a bill called dodd-frank, and dodd-frank was put together after a lot of public input and a lot of hearings and it was put into effect to really regulate the folks that got us into that situation that we had at that moment in time when we had banks that were too big to fail and folks that were doing no-doc and low-doc loans. we had foreclosures coming out everywhere. we put the regulation in, and one of the things that we heard when we put that regulation in, dodd-frank, was that it was a big bill. that it was going to need to be
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changed, adapted, however you want to put it moving forward. that bill, i believe, was passed back in 2009. and so now here we are eight or nine years later and we look at dodd-frank and see that in some cases it's done exactly as was intended, especially for the larger banks. some could argue there's more work to be done there, but one of the negative things that happened from dodd-frank is that some of the regulation bled down on to our local community banks and credit unions. and this is particularly concerning to me because i come from a very rural part of this country, a small town that when my grandfather homesteaded, they had all sorts of different options when they marketed their
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grain. when folks took over in our town, i believe there were five grain elevators there. in the 1940's and 1950's and late 1970's when charlotte and i took over there was three and today there is one. you ask yourself why does that have anything to do with the banking industry, john? it's consolidation. the consolidation didn't happen overnight. it took decades. it ends up with less competition in the marketplace when it comes to selling your grain. that same thing could be adapted to what's gone on in our community banks over the last eight or nine years where they have been bought up by bigger banks. because the bigger banks will tell you they have to be bigger to be able to compete with the regulation that's been put on them. so they were bought up, and the same thing will extrapolate out over time. those folks who say, well, this
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isn't necessary because banks are making a lot of money. look, banks may be operating today, but they are looking into the future, as any good business does, and they are saying to themselves, do i really have what it takes to stick around? and they are selling out because of it. because they can see the writing on the wall. and this will result -- there's no if, ands, or buts, it will result in less consumer choice, less consolidation, making the bigger banks even bigger, and really helping the folks who caused the crisis in 2008, ultimately, the biggest of the big banks. we've seen a consolidation in grocery stores, grain elevators, even bars. the truth is it is all due to one single thing, and the
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consolidation on the ground is not just due to regulation, technology has its impact, a moving population has its impact too. but as i looked at this five years ago, i said if we don't do something to tweak dodd-frank, we're going to end up in a situation where we don't have consumer choice to buy that house or expand that business or start new business as entrepreneurs do. so, as a policymaker, i thought it was my job to look ahead to the next generation that's going to be out there in rural america, whether it's a main street small business or whether it's a farm or whether it's a family that's working for a business, and that's why i helped write this bill. because from a rural america perspective, it was the right thing to do and it was time to do something for the next
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generation, for our kids and our grandkids so that they could have the kind of opportunity that, quite frankly, my folks and my grandparents have given to my generation. i'm not the kind of person who will sit back on the sidelines and complain about stuff over a cup of coffee. when we see a problem, my folks taught me to work to try to fix it. i see a problem, and there is little doubt in my mind that if we would not have done what we did last week to give regulatory relief to community banks and credit unions, things would have continued to get worse in rural america, and they still may get worse in rural america, but at least we did what we needed to do to try -- in this body to try to change that. now, there are some out there that, for whatever reason -- i
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haven't been able to figure it out yet -- are spreading misinformation about this bill. maybe it's just the day we live in. so let me set the record straight about this bill. this bill does not help the wall street banks. it does not. those that say it does are not correct. this bill does not set us up for another financial crisis. in fact, the authors of the original dodd-frank -- i'm going to give a quote from them from chris dodd and barney frank, both smart guys that i admire. they wrote this. as the authors of the drorng re -- dodd-frank law, we want everyone to know that senator tester helped to write this as some people claim. they went on to say that john knows montana and the challenges facing rural america. while we did not agree with every part of this bill, it helps credit unions and community banks across montana
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while keeping protections in place designed to keep us from another financial crisis. that's why it is called dodd-frank from chris dodd and representative barney frank. the other thing it does not do is it does not leave banks unregulated. there's implication by some that this deregulates 25 of the 40 largest banks. that implication, to me, is that now they are no longer regulated. the fact is all of the banks hire regulators for safety, soundness, and, quite frankly, this does not leave banks unregulated. they still have plenty of regulation to go through. in conclusion, i would just say the bill we passed last week does several things. i believe it will increase access to capital, particularly in rural america. i think it makes the regulation fit the risk while still continuing to crackdown on risky
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behavior. it's got great consumer protection components to it. and last, but certainly not least from my perspective, it's good for rural america. madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: thank you. i rise today to bring to my colleagues' attention an issue that is important to millions of individuals who understand that american's citizenship is something that ought to be treasured. the american people understand that our citizenship is a blessing and shouldn't be given away cheaply. unfortunately, for too many years this body has witnessed the perversion and degradation of a program that sells -- yes, we sell citizenship to some
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people. this program originally had a good purpose. in return for investing money in underserved areas and creating good-paying american jobs, immigrant entrepreneurs could eventually become u.s. citizens. sadly, in the last decade this program has been hijacked by big moneyed new york city real estate interest related and the real estate roundtable to be specific. these developers now take almost all the foreign investment from this program, and for the last few years, they've actively prevented this body from enacting any reforms and needed reforms. for those not aware, i'm talking
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about the eb-5 regional center program. for years i've been fighting to reform this corrupt, scandal-clad program, and fighting it in a bipartisan way. i've been fighting to protect our national security to ensure foreign investment is going to the most deserving areas and to make sure that america's citizenship isn't sold at rock-bottom prices in order to feed the addiction of new york interest to cheap money. but no matter how hard i fought each and every time that we tried to reform this program, these same moneyed interest have used their political influence and political connections to block any meaningful reforms. this is sickening and it is
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exactly why most american people question what sometimes we do near washington, d.c. after more than three years of trying to fix this broken scandal-plagued program, i've finally come to the conclusion that it can't be fixed, and since it can't be fixed, the eb-5 regional center program need to be terminated. let me explain to my colleagues and directly to the american people exactly how i've reached that conclusion. several years ago i started working with then-ranking member leahy of the judiciary committee on reforms to the eb-5 regional center program. through the hard work and dedication of our staffers, we discovered the program riddled with fraud and corruption and poses a real and serious threat
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to our national security, and i will explain some of those things that we discovered. first, investments can be spent before business plans are approved. next, regional center operators can charge excessive fees of foreign nationals in addition to their required investments. next, none of the jobs created have to be direct or verifiable jobs, but rather are indirect and based on estimates of economic modeling again, not knowing for sure if jobs are created. next, investment funds from foreign sources are not adequately vetted. gifts and loans from anyone are acceptable sources of funds from
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foreign nationals. next, there is no prohibition against foreign governments owning or operating these regional centers or projects, so let me emphasize that's right, foreign governments can own businesses that sell our citizenship. now, think about that. another problem is regional centers don't have to certify that they comply with security laws. there are no -- next, there are no required background checks on anyone associated with the regional centers. now, just take this example. one need look no further than the indictment last september of two chinese fraudsters who stole more than $50 million in foreign investment and managed to sell
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u.s. citizenship to individuals on the chinese government's most wanted list. next, gerrymandering continues in rural and -- and rural and urban areas as a result lose out. there is no transparency on how funds are spent and who was paid and what interests are told -- are investors are told about the projects that they invest in. so the list can still go on and on and on, but i have given you jm some -- just some examples. i could literally speak for hours about the corruption of the program. faced with this appalling list of fraud, corruption, and national security loopholes, for three years i have been working with senator leahy and our counterparts in the house of representatives to produce real
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eb-5 reform. our staffers have spent countless hours, nights, and weekends meeting with congressional colleagues and industry stakeholders to hammer out a compromise that is fair to all sides but our offers have constantly been rejected by the big money industries related and real estate roundtable, every single time, not just this time as we reached a compromise with vast differences of views to start out, but still end up with a compromise and somehow these powerful interests are able to stop, step in, and stop it. so this time has been no different than at least three previous times we have gotten
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this far. so let me explain how we have been doing this. for the last year, my staff, along with chairman goodlatte of the house judiciary committee, senator cornyn, and senator flake. these teams have worked around the clock to produce an e.b. reform package. everyone made numerous concessions in order to reach a compromise, and after more than 20 meetings and of course countless hours of drafting, we produced a reform package that was fair to all sides. our forms would have reauthorized the regional center program for six years, providing the certainty that industry has long said it craves. our compromise would have permanently set aside 3,000
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visas for rural and underserved urban areas and would have increased the minimum investment amount to $925,000 in recognition of long-standing industry concern, we agreed to reduce the investment's differential between nonpriority areas and priority areas to a mere $100,000. finally, we would have implemented a host of badly needed integrity measures that would have cracked down on investment fraud, cracked down on foreign corruption, and cracked down on bad business practices. our reforms had the unanimous support of invest in the u.s.a., the largest e.b.-5 trade association.
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our reforms had the support of the eb-5 rural alliance, a group working to make sure that rural america has a fair shake at attracting eb-5 money. and why is rural areas such a high concern? because quite frankly, way back in the 1990's, that was one of the goals of the eb-5 program to help economic investment in rural america. but these reforms weren't acceptable to the big money new york industry stakeholders who currently dominate the program. and because big money interests aren't happy with these reforms, we have been told they won't become law. so i have laid out a lot here. letting it sink in for a minute, in spite of the fact that
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reforms were agreed to by congressional offices and had the support of the largest eb-5 trade association, they won't become law because a few eb-5 businesses with lots and lots of money and lots and lots of political power have used their political connections and influence once again for the third, maybe even the fourth time, over a period of that many years to reach some sort of reform on a program that we have demonstrated. i shouldn't say we have demonstrated. we have repeated what the f.b.i. and national security people, people in the justice department have said about the shortcomings of this program. i said at the beginning of my remarks i finally realize this program cannot be reformed, and i have to say this for my present ranking member, senator
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feinstein. she has been telling me that for three or four years. forget about reforming it. you ought to do away with it. the regional center program is simply too corrupted to be saved, and it needs to be ended. the american people deserve better than what we're seeing as a result of hardworking members of the house and senate trying to reform this program and getting nothing done. so what happens here at the last minute? it will get stuck into an omnibus appropriation bill to extend it again for a period of time with the same bad practices that are going on. why does that have to happen when it's so obvious what's wrong? i yield the floor.
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mr. nelson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: i ask unanimous consent that senator wyden and i be allowed to speak for up to five minutes each prior to the vote. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. nelson: mr. president, this saturday, students from marjory stoneman douglas high school in parkland, florida, are going to lead hundreds of thousands of americans all around the country, calling for commonsense gun control measures at the march for our lives. since this terrible shooting in florida, in parkland, it was on valentine's day, we have seen students all across the country say enough.
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this is a movement. it cannot be stopped, and frankly, we owe it to the students, the next generation, to get this right in the policies and the laws that we adopt. just a few weeks ago, i went to one of the students' homes in parkland, a group of them. we talked. indeed, just last week, a number of the students came to the office up here in washington. it is amazing at 15, 16, and 17 years old, these students are looking to us, us here in this congress to at a minimum consider legislation that could have prevented the slaughter
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that happened in parkland just a month ago. in florida, we have witnessed these students march on the state capitol and demand action. the legislature listened in part. they did some changes in the law like age 21 to buy an assault rifle. that's the same age in florida law that you can't buy a handgun until age 21. so it was a small step, but it was a step in the right direction to address the problem that we are confronting. but we need to do more, and i am so grateful to the resilience of these students, the power of their voice, and the strength of their activism moving lawmakers
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in washington and the state capitals all across this country. the students, the parents, the teachers, all of them we have asked what do you want? they say, obviously, we want commonsense things. we can start with universal background checks in the purchase of a weapon. that would then allow universally if you have a background check, you couldn't go to a gun show where there is not a federally licensed dealer and acquire a weapon without having a background check. why is having a background check a commonsense thing to do? because you not only pick up someone with a criminal record, you pick up someone that would have a restraining order for whatever reason, it could be mental, it could be domestic
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abuse. you would pick up somebody being on the terrorist watchlist or you could pick up someone that had been on the terrorist watch list that was not. that was the case in the killer in the orlando pulse nightclub shooting. so clearly, that's a commonsense thing to approach this problem. there's another commonsense thing, and that is get these military assault rifles with the long, what i call the banana clips. it's clips that are shaped like a banana or even straight ones that hold 30 rounds. you know, there are state laws in the country that if you're going to hunt wild game, there are certain restrictions on the number of shells or bullets that
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you can put in your gun. my goodness. why wouldn't you want to say that there was a limitation on the number of bullets in a clip instead of these long clips that have 30 rounds? it was even in the shooting out in arizona that our colleague, congresswoman gabby giffords was one of the victims. it was when the gunman was reloading with another clip that he was tackled to the ground. otherwise, there would have been more people that would have been harmed that day. and so it is another commonsense thing that people are asking for and that these students are bringing to light as they argue
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this case that they don't want to be in a school where they have this kind of violence that is threatened. the students, the teachers, the parents just want our schools and our communities to be safe. and as we have seen across the country, we've had too much violence with these military-style weapons. nightclubs, churches, movie theaters, outdoor concerts -- it goes on and on. and what the students want is to feel safe. and some of the students, what they have witnessed is unimaginable because the velocity of a bullet fired in an assault weapon compared to the velocity of a handgun is three
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times the velocity or speed of the handgun bullet. mr. president, i ask consent for one additional minute. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. nelson: and, as a result, when that bullet hits its target, it is nine times the energy that is hitting the target of what a handgun bullet does. they built a movement now that inspired student walks across the country, and in just five days they are inspiring marches across the country. and the future is bright because of these students, but it's up to us to make sure what happened in parkland never happens again. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, in a
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few minutes, the senate will vote on the nomination of mr. kevin mcaleenan to serve as commissioner of u.s. customs and border protection. as the ranking democrat on the committee on trade policy, i am particularly interested in working with mr. mcaleenan on an issue that is of long-stan long-standing bipartisan concern, and that is tougher, smarter enforcement of america's trade laws. mr. mcaleenan is a longtime public servant, and he has been aware that the finance committee has put in many hours over the last few years to guarantee that this agency has tough, new tools to fight trade cheats and protect our workers. it is vital that those tools be
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put to good use because their trade-related mission -- defending american jobs from trade ripoffs -- has too often gotten short shrift. doesn't matter what kind of trade deals you sign or laws put on the book if you aren't serious about enforcing them. and that's where their trade mission comes in. in my discussions with this nominee, it is clear he understands that when it comes to trade, this country has got to do trade done right, and tougher trade informs is especially important. i'll close with a mention about another issue that this agency has seen over the last few months, and that is the onslaught of americans being stopped at the border and forced to unload -- unlock their personal electronic devices for
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inspection. it clearly innovate vades their personal privacy. senator paul and i have introduced bipartisan legislation on this. there's bipartisan legislation in the other body -- that recognizes that law enforcement should have to get a warrant before searching a device at the border, and it comes with strong protections to let americans know when and how they consent to having their devices searched. in my judgment, this is just common sense, particularly because the u.s. supreme court has already ruled that digital is fundamentally different. they did that when they ruled that law enforcement needs a warrant to search a phone after an arrest. so we are going to keep pushing for our bipartisan legislation, and, in the meantime, we need to
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work with this agency on this critical issue that ensures once again that this country recognizes that security and liberty are not mutually exclusive; that you can have policies that do both. and i want to continue to engage with him, if confirmed, to make sure that the constitutional rights of law-abiding americans do not disappear at the border. he is, as i indicated, a public servant with many, many years of experience. and with that, i support his nomination and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of homeland security. kevin k. mcaleenan of hawaii to be commissioner of u.s. customs and border protection. the presiding officer: under
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the previous order, all postcloture time is expired. the question occurs on the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: have all senators voted? any senator wish to change their vote? if not, on this confirmation the yeas are # 7. the nays are 19. the yeas are 77. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table, the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action. under the previous order, the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the motion to proceed to calendar number 339, h.r. 1865, an act to amend the communications act of 1934, and so forth and for other purposes. signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865, an act to amend the communications act of 1934, to
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clarify that section 230 of such act does not prohibit the enforcement against providers and users of interactive computer services of federal and state, criminal and civil law relating to sexual exploitation of children or sex trafficking or for other purposes shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: have all senators voted? does any senator wish to change their vote? on this vote the yeas are 94, the nays 2. three-fifths of the senators duly sworn having voted in the affirmative, cloture is agreed to. cloture having invoked on the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865, the senate will resume legislative session on consideration of the motion to proceed.
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, we just had a vote here in this chamber on a very significant piece of legislation. it was the motion to proceed to it. it was passed with good republican and democrat majorities, both sides of the aisle supporting moving to this debate, and because we have cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, i feel confident that we'll get to an end point, and we must. this issue of trafficking human beings is something that the senate must stand up for, particularly because there is a federal law that now permits
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trafficking online that otherwise would be considered a criminal act. so i want to talk a little about that legislation tonight. we probably won't the final vote i'm told until wednesday. some of the information i'll provide tonight will be setting the reasons -- the basis for doing this legislation and then between now and wednesday we'll have the opportunity to hear more about the specifics of it, what's happening online and how the united states senate can step in and provide the legislation to remediate what is an obvious problem to anybody who looks at this issue. human trafficking is such an egregious crime. we all, i hope, agree with that. it is also a very lucrative crime. $150 billion a year is the estimate. that's probably second only to the drug trade in terms of the amount of money involved. and think about this. this is selling human beings. the u.s. senate has taken steps
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in this body in a bipartisan way over the past six or seven years to focus on this issue, and i certainly commend my colleagues for that. senator richard blumenthal, a democrat, and i as a republican started a bipartisan caucus to stop human trafficking about six years ago, and we started with two of us. now there are a couple dozen. there are many members who are engaged, involved in this. over those past six years, the senate has pass legislation to increase the penalties on those who buy children for sex. we increased the federal penalty. we have helped to stop international trafficking by u.s. government contractors overseas with legislation that was signed into law. l we've helped with regard to finding missing children by requiring for the first time that those missing children have a photograph attached to them. unbelievably, until that legislation, most kids in my home state of ohio and other state whose go missing do not
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have the information provided to law enforcement and others, people who work in shelters, people who are in the juvenile justice system, to be able to find those children. why is that so important? because as you can imagine kid whose go missing are sometimes the most vulnerable to being trafficked. we've also passed legislation to improve the data on trafficking. there's legislation that's called the sex trafficking data and response arctic which we passed in this body to provide better information about this problem so we can come up with better solutions by understanding what's going o it's in the the shah dose. it's, as i said, very profitable but an illicit activity. shows that legislation was critical. the primary sponsor was senator wyden. he will be on this floor probably over the next couple days about the concerns he has about the online legislation we have. but i want you to know that senator wyden has been out front
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on opposing trafficking through this sex trafficking and response act. we also worked on federal law, treating these children as are victims. deal with what it is as you can imagine a very traumatic situation of course related to drugs. so drug treatment and it is something that i think is perhaps the most important thing that we can do is to understand that these are victims who in order to get back on their feet need to be taken from the criminal justice system and put into the kind of treatment that they need. despite efforts here in the senate and by others around the company, b -- around the countr, by the way, to deal with this, unbelievably, today as we stand here in this country, we see an
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increase in one type of trafficking, and that's in sex trafficking. and you might ask, how could that be possible? we passed all this legislation to help. we've got increased consciousness about the issue. people are more aware of the problem and certainly there's consensus that this is something we ought to crack down on and yet it is happening. and i will tell you what the experts say. they say it is happening for one simple reason, and that is because more and more women and children are being sold online. the ruthless efficiency of the internet. so that's where this legislation focuses, and it focuses there because that's where we see the problem. traffickers are using the internet to sell women and children, and we have a responsibility to act, and if we don't act, loafed -- we'll allow a federal law that was passed any body 21 years ago and i think inadvertently has created
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part of the problem by shielding these websites. so i'll talk more about this later in the week as we get into the specifics of our legislation and why it would address the problem. but the bottom line is we've got a real problem. the anti-trafficking group polaris recently received its 2017 report. the report illustrates the true nature of the crisis. this is the heat chart put up by polaris. it shows the locations of cases reported to the national human trafficking hotline last year alone in 2017. as you can see, and this explains why you see such a strong bipartisan support for our legislation, this is happening everywhere, every state in the union. and, unfortunately, it's increasing, not decreasing, just by all of the efforts locally and even here at the federal level. the national hotline that polaris runs -- and i hope to be at that hotline, by the way, later this week, as they're opening a new facility and expanding what they're doing --
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but they experience add 13% increase -- they experience add 13% increase in reported cases nationwide just last year. we're seeing actually an increase. in my home state, 371 cases reports to the hotlines across the country. there are hotlines handled 8,079 cases in 2017. these are only the cases that are reported. that doesn't mean that there aren't many, many more cases out there that are not reported to the hotline. in the ten years that he have this a operated, human trafficking reports have increased 842%. i chair a group called the permanent subcommittee on investigations. a couple years ago being interested in this issue we started to talk to some of the experts around the country. i was meeting with people back home particularly the victims of trafficking a and some of the
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survivors i kept hearing the same thing from everybody, whether the advocacy groups, whether law enforcement, whether it was the social service agencies helping to treat these women and girls, particularly dealing with this trauma we talked about earlier, that one thing we kept hearing was the word "backpage." that's just one website. but it seems there were a the love people being trafficked on that one website. i was hearing this back home where these women and girls were say, rob, this has moved from the street corner to the spoken and backpage was where i was trafficked. the national have the for missing and exploited children receives from the public involved backpage. 75 of the reports. another anti-trafficking organization called shared hope international says service providers working with child sex trafficking victims have reported that more than 80% of their clients were bought and
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sold on backpage. so we talked earlier about how lucrative this business is. but one website seems to have practically monopolized this. with that knowledge in 2015, the permanent subcommittee on investigations, led by ranking member claire mccaskill from missouri, and myself, conducted an investigation. we spent 18 months researching this. we looked at every angle of this issue and specifically we looked into how backpage operates. it wasn't easy. because backpage was not willing to cooperate, as you can imagine. we did find the company was far more complicit in these crimes than we had previously thought. we subpoenaed backpage for their company documents. they refused to comply. and when you refuse to comply with a subpoena around here, normally you can kind of tell people, well, if you don't comply, we'll bring the full
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weight of criminal law down on you. they still wouldn't comply. we had to come to the floor of the senate to enforce the subpoenas. it hasn't been done in 21 years around here. fortunately, when we made our case to our colleagues here, everyone in the senate said yes, let's be sure that they do comply by taking this to the criminal justice system. so we did. and we thought, we'll win case in the district court level. we did. and that'll be it. no, they appealed that. we won a case in the circuit level. we thought that was it. no, they appealed to this. they did not want to supply these documents. they did not want to testify. finally we took it all the way to the supreme court of the united states and the supreme court agreed with us told them that they had to comply with the threat of criminal sanctions if they did not. having won that we then found ourselves in special of over one million pages of documents. they flooded us with ultimate documents. our lawyers did a good job going
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through it. through our investigation we found what some of us had kind of thought might be the case, which is that this company was actually complicit -- in other words, they knew what they were doing. they were knowingly facilitating criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and children. they actually coached traffickers on how to edit the adult classified ads to post so-called clean ads for these illegal transactions. and then of course they covered up evidence of those crimes in order to increase their own profits. in 2006, as an rather, backpage executives instructed staff to edit the tax of adult ads -- not to take them down but to edit them, which is how they facilitated this. by 2010 backpage executives had 00 form formal process in place of both manual and automated deletion of phrases in ads. this is an e-mail from one of backpage executives in 2010.
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it says, i'm attaching a spreadsheet with the most current list of coded items to be stripped out. e-mail me your list by the end of the day. thanks. in other words, they were telling these people who were posting ads, oh, you damages say this word ar that word because then law enforcement will know we're engaged in selling underaged girls online. so they told them to edit these word out. it's unbelievable what kind of words were stripped out of the ads? allowing sex trafficking 90s to stay up without violating those proposed rules? these are the kinds of words they took o teenage, little girl, school girl, cheerleader was one of them. for those of you who are literary types, lolita -- a novel about an underaged girl and an older man. fresh. so -- amber alert.
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this is the kind of people we're dealing with here. once these incriminating words were removed, the post could then go on the website and thos how backpage coached the treasury, on thousand get away with their crimes. this didn't stop the ad ads. even though they knew it was illegal activity, they only edited it to try to hide it. it didn't change what was advertised, fact that these were underaged girls. and of course this did nothing to stop the criminal activity. it facilitated it knowingly. the scientific -- why would backpage go out all this? profits. this is a very profitable enterprise. so what is the cost of these crimes? the cost is the human dignity, trauma. the cost is far more than money. it's suffering and sometimes human life. i've heard stories of this. i know my colleagues in the
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senate have heard stories about it. that's why they are there's so much support for it. these stories are heartbreaking. imagine for a moment that your daughter is missing. she is been gone for several weeks. she's 14 years old. and someone say, you ought to look on this website called backpage. and so you do. you look on backpage. you're a mom. and you find your daughter. this is the story of kubiiki pride. she told her story bravely before our permanent subcommittee on investigations. she told us the details. we were able to use that as part of our investigation to be able to come up with a response, a legislative response. but she said she actually told backpage -- she called them and said, i found my daughter. she's been missing for weeks.
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she's on your website. thank you for taking down the ad and helping me to connect with my daughter. as you can imagine, these were sexually explicit photographs of a 14-year-old girl. she didn't know if she was alive or dead so she was excited to find her. but appalled. what about backpage say in we can't take down the ad because you didn't pay for it, did you? of course i didn't pay for it she said. it is my day. -- it's my daughter. that's the level of evil we're talking about here. this is another story and another brave individual who is he a come forward. this is nicole, the mom, and j.s. nicole also bravely testified in front of the committee on investigations. j.s. was a 15-year-old, ran away. loved her family. wrote them actually a five-page letter saying how much she loved them but chose to leave the
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safety of her family and home and heed up in a homeless shelter for teens. a 22-year-old woman posing as a teen there, by the way, approached her and said, i can help you make some money. introduced h introduced her to a pimp who then sold her on backpage. for more than three months she was sold online multiple times a day. finally an undercover police officer posing as a customer rescued her. thankfully he did because for so many other girls, the story goes on and sometimes end in a very tragic way. this is yvonne ambrose. yvonne actually testified before the commerce committee, and did a beautiful job as a mom talking about her heartbreak and her tragic encounter with backpage. yvonne got a call on christmas
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eve 2016 that every parent dreads. and it was about her daughter desiree. the call said that her 16-year-old daughter had been murdered after being exploited and sold for sex on backpage.com. so one of the backpage customers apparently was the one who murdered her beautiful daughter. yvonne is holding desiree's memory, kubiiki and nicole are fighting for justice by working with us to try to hold these websites accountable. these are only three examples tonight but there are so many others, so many that i have that will i have experienced back home, again heartbreaking stories. one girl said she started to be trafficked at age 9 by her father. others have told me of not having parents at home and being
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in foster homes and then leaving the foster homes either when they're emancipated at age 18 or earlier and the horrible situation they found themselves in. i've had the opportunity to meet with survivors in the cities around ohio and dayton at oasis house in akron, toledo, akron, cleveland. the majority leader of these young women, the majority tell me the same thing, backpage. usually drugs are involved as well to create the dependency. unbelievably for years these websites have gotten away with this because when the parents like yvonne or kubiiki or nicole file a lawsuit for damages to try to stop what's going orks they're told we are -- going on, they're told we're immune. when the prosecutors in these local communities step up and say, how could this illegal
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activity be going on? this is illegal to do on the street corner. certainly it's illegal to do online. the judges say we're immune. so again we'll get into this later as to why that happens, how it happens, and what we are doing about it in this legislation. i look forward to that discussion. i look forward to the debate here on the senate floor as to how we came up with a very targeted, very specific approach to this that doesn't interfere with the freedom of the internet at all, but it does stop activity that never was imagined, that when congress passed a law 21 years ago, was never imagined that it would permit this kind of criminal activity online. tonight i want to thank those families who had the courage to step forward, tell their stories publicly, channel their grief into something constructive which is to come up with a legislative solution that helps to address this problem so that
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the next 14-year-old daughter, 16-year-old daughter does not find herself in these same horrible situations with all the trauma and all of the heartbreak that our ca can -- that occurs. justice cannot be seen but its absence can be felt. and that's what's happening now, an absence of justice. those who have been trafficked online only see the websites that knowingly facilitated it prosper and escape legal consequences. that has to stop. to me that's an injustice. so i look forward to further debate again this week. i look forward to the vote on wednesday. if we can pass the stop enabling sex traffickers act, we will make a difference. we will save lives. we will save women and girls and boys from going through this
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traumatic experience and enable them instead to achieve their god-given potential in life. thank you, mr. president. i yield back. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, i've come to the floor tonight to discuss america's role in the crisis in yemen. i have here a picture of the fractured remains of buildings, people fleeing through those buildings, a small child probably in her father's arms. this represents the challenge of the bombing that's going on in that nation. i'm here to discuss america's role in that bombing and the fact that we need to debate here in the chamber how it is we've come to the point to be supporting this bombing when the warp powers act clearly says we should not be. what our founding -- when our
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founding fathers wrote our constitution, they designated the president, the commander in chief. but they gave congress, the house and the senate the sole power to declare war. article 1, section 8 states unequivocally that the congress shall have the power to declare war. it is only congress that can take our nation from peace to war. if one has any doubt about that, consider the words of jay madison himself, the father of our constitution. quote, in no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature and not to the executive department. now, the clearly stated responsibility in our constitution was reinforced by the 1973 war powers resolution
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often also referred toes a the war powers act. now, that particular piece of legislation stated out as its purpose the following. it is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the intent of the framers of the constitution of the united states and ensure that the collective judgment of both the congress and the president will apply to the introduction of the united states armed forces into hostilities. it goes on to say, the constitutional powers of the president as commander in chief to introduce united states armed forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement hostilities clearly indicated by the circumstances are exercised only -- and that's a critical word -- only pursuant to a declaration of war, a specific statutory authorizati
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authorization, or a national emergency created by an attack upon the united states. now, that picture that i showed you showing the fractured remains of buildings and people fleeing that bombing in yemen, that activity is not taking place subject to a declaration of war by this body. we've done no such thing. nor is there any specific statutory authorization for our assistance in that. nor is there a national emergency created by an attack upon the united states on which that is justified. so tomorrow this chamber will take up this issue and we'll be voting on a resolution put forward by our colleagues, senator sanders, senator lee, senator murphy, calling for the
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removal of armed forces, our armed forces in this role of supporting saudi arabia in its war against the houthis. now, there are two basic components of our presence in yemen. and those are very distinct and not to be confused. the first is counterterrorism efforts in which we are directly engaged against associated forces of al qaeda. and this is a role that stems from the authorization for the use of military force that we did pass in this chamber in 2001. now, members may come to this floor and argue about whether that initial authorization for the use of military force involving al qaeda in afghanistan has been stretched beyond recognition. i would argue it's been stretched substantially and perhaps beyond recognition. but that is not the issue that
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we are debating this week. this week we are addressing the central issue is of whether our involvement in supporting saudi arabia in its role, its war against the houthis in yemen has violated our constitution and the war powers act. and we have to confront and face how our assistance is contributing to a vast humanitarian crisis in that country. we may not have boots on the ground in support of the saudi war against the houthis, but we're very involved and as we judge whether or not this involvement is violating the constitution and the war powers act, we should turn to section 8, the interpretation of the
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joint resolution and it says, authority to introduce united states armed forces into hostilities or into situations where involvement hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances shall not be inferred from any provision of law, including any provision contained in any appropriation act unless -- this is the key -- unless such provisions specifically authorizes the introduction of the united states armed forces into hostilities. very clearly the interpretation is joint resolution says there's no room here to be participating in hostilities, that is a war, even in a supporting role, unless it's been specifically authorized by congress.
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now, this part, this interpretation of the joint resolution section of the war powers act goes on to say, for purposes of this joint resolution, the term introduction of united states armed forces includes -- and you see the language here -- the assignment of member of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged. so there is the key fact that was laid out when we passed the war powers act. but this war powers act doesn't just address to us directly confronting, directly engaged in hostilities or directly confronting an enemy on the
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battlefield. it includes these provisions, these provisions of commanding, coordinating, participating in the movement of or accompanying military forces of a foreign country. so let's take a look at exactly how we're involved. because there is no question that we are coordinating and participating in the movement of the saudi forces. now, the administration comes back and says, yes, but we're not directly bombing the houthis. we're not directly putting boots on the ground. but it's clear the war powers act includes coordinating with, participating with, supporting, partnering, if you will, with a foreign country involved in such a war. we are very involved. first, we're involved by
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refueling saudi planes enroute to bombing the forces of the houthis in yemen. that's pretty direct involvement, and it goes to that language which says participate in the movement of those foreign forces. if we are refueling their planes enroute to bombing, the houthis, we are participating in the movement of their military forces, a plane, a bomber is a part of a military force. second, we are providing intelligence and, thus, supporting very directly this war of the saudis. third, we are selling the weapons to them that they are using in this war on the houthis. and fourth, we are providing targeting assistance. we have even established a joint combined planning cell, operation center, to conduct military and intelligence activities in partnership with
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saudi arabia. here's why this matters so much. it has a huge impact on the lives of the people in yemen. it's very possible the planes we refuel are responsible for conducting a series of three airstrikes last month killing civilians, killing five civilians, wounding 14 more including four children, as well as parpldz trying to pull -- paramedics trying to pull survivors out of the rubble after that first strike. or that the planes we refueled played a role in the strike on a hotel last august that turned the building's sealing black with the charred blood of 50 farmers who were staying in that building. and we know that the bombs we've sold to the saudis are killing yemeni civilians. it's time for us here to reckon
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with that fact. now a lot of americans may not even know we're involved in this war. it's not been so widely discussed, and there are so many things going on across the planet at this time, so much going on in syria, for example, that perhaps americans in general are not paying attention. but we should be paying attention because of the carnage that is occurring. 10,000 civilians have been killed since this conflict began. the great vast bulk of those civilians dying from airstrikes conducted by saudi arabia that we are supporting through intelligence and targeting assistance and refueling. and then the consequences of
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that bombardment, the result is just a tremendous humanitarian crisis. the saudis have been involved in blockading ability to get humanitarian supplies into yemen, food, medicine, and fuel. this has resulted in what the united nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs mark wolcock has warned could become, and i quote, the largest famine the world has seen for many decades. end of quote. seven million yemenis are on the verge of starvation because of this war that we are involved in and the related saudi blockade of food and medicine.
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about every day 130 yemeni children die from extreme hunger and disease. 130 a day. one of the factors that is killing people is cholera. since october of 2016, roughly a year and a half ago, a little less than a year and a half ago, one million yemenis have contracted cholera. more than 2,000 have died from it. it is the largest cholera outbreak in recorded history. let me say that again. a million yemenis have contracted cholera, and it is the largest cholera outbreak in recorded history. so seven million yemenis on the verge of starvation, a million have contracted cholera. so many are dying because of
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this war that we are involved in so the death and destruction in yemen is unimaginable, and the united states needs to take a hard look at the role we are playing, a role we are playing in violation of our constitution and in violation of the war powers act of 1973. that's the issue that we're going to be discussing here on the floor. i say to my colleagues, i know that there is some popularity in saying, well, let's not look at that humanitarian crisis and our role in it. let's just look at the relationship we have with saudi arabia and know that they have helped us in other cases. for example, the war on isis. let's know that they're a good customer for many of our
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products, for many also of our military products. but i say to you, my colleagues, this issue is bigger than simply a good marketplace or a good relationship with saudi arabia. this goes to our involvement, our culpability in the deaths of thousands, thousands of yemenis and 130 children a day through bombs falling on them, through hunger and starvation, through cholera. it's hard for me to think about this young child in this picture, this young yemeni who clearly is the victim either of cholera or starvation or some other consequence of this conflict. but imagine 130 of these children dying every day.
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it is our responsibility to honor the constitution, and it's our responsibility as humans on this planet to wrestle with the fact that our involvement is contributing to this vast humanitarian disaster. let us not abdicate our responsibility on the basis of friendship with another nation, the fact that they are a good market for our products, the fact that we think we maybe a future partner in some other. we have a detective responsibility in -- a direct responsibility in war and peace that we have not fulfilled. and this week with this coming resolution, tomorrow is the point that we must wrestle with this. and let us wrestle with it and honor the constitution and give some integrity to the 1973 war powers resolution. thank you, mr. president.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senate majority leader. mr. mcconnell: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that cloture on the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865 be vitiated and that at a time to be determined by the majority leader in consultation with the democratic leader, on wednesday, march 21, the senate proceed to the consideration of h.r. 1865. further, that the only amendments in order be wyden amendments numbers 2212 and
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2213. finally, that there be up to four hours of debate concurrently on the amendments and following the use or yielding back of that time the senate vote in relation to the amendments in the order listed with a 60 vote affirmative threshold required for adoption of each amendment. the bill be read a third time and the senate vote on passage of the bill as amended, if amended, with no further intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that following the resumption of the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865 on tuesday, march 20, senator sanders or his designee be recognized to offer a motion to discharge s.j. res. 54. further, that there be up to four hours of debate equally divided between the opponents and the proponents of the
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resolution, and that following the use or yielding back of that time, the senate vote in relation to the motion to discharge. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. so ordered. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to executive session for the consideration of the following nomination -- executive calendar 471. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: nomination, department of commerce, nazakhtar nikakhtar of maryland to be an assistant secretary. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent 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 related to the nomination be principled in the record. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection.
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the question is on the nomination. all those in favor say aye. those opposed say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate resume legislative session for a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the appointments at the desk appear separately in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the committee on the judiciary be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 3731 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 3731, an act to provide overtime pay for employees of the united states secret service, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. the committee is discharged. the senate will proceed.
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mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the grassley substitute amendment at the desk be considered and agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed, and that motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. provided. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that when the senate adjourn today, it adjourn until 10:00 a.m. on tuesday, march 20. following the prayer and pledges, the morning business be approved, the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day and that morning business be closed. i further ask that following leader remarks, the senate resume consideration of the motion to proceed to h.r. 1865. finally, i ask that the senate recess from 12:30 until 2:15 to allow for the weekly conference meetings. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: so if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order. the presiding officer: the senate stands
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