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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  March 22, 2018 4:30pm-6:31pm EDT

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risk their lives for a country that does not recognize their legal status. 900 of them are in that circumstance. many of them have done amazing things in their lives. i've come to the floor and told i think over 100, i think maybe 110 stories of these dreamers. they're amazing young people. they're resilient. they're talented. they're promising. they're exciting. and yet they're not legal in the eyes of the law in america. so we tried. we tried to make sure that there was a way to protect them when the new president came to office. president trump had said very clearly in his campaign that immigration was a big issue. ep said a lot of things -- he said a lot of things. some of them were inflammatory. but interestingly enough, he said several times the dreamers are different. these young people are different. he told me personally, senator, don't worry about it. we're going to take care of those kids.
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i believed him. i was hoping that he would find a way to either embrace the dream act or extend daca so these young people would have their chance. on september 5 of last year president trump made an announcement. it was an announcement with attorney general sessions, and what he said is this is the end of daca. this is the end of protection for these young people. by march 5 of this year, 2018, the program will no longer exist. now he said to congress, do something about it. he challenged us to pass a law. the march 5 deadline was looming. young people were falling out of the protection of daca status. their lives were uncertain. some of them quit school. they just didn't think there was any future or hope for them. some of them faced the prospects of losing their job when they lost daca protection. but that was the reality.
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and there we sat with that march 5 deadline looming, a deadline which we knew was important because that was when all protection and all renewals would end for many, many thousands of these young people. a number of us took it up as a challenge. six of us, three democrats and three republicans, we sat down for months to try to write the new daca law. and then there was a breakthrough. january 9 of this year president trump called about 24 or 25 democrats and republicans, house and senate members to actually come to a meeting in the white house in the cabinet room. and it was an interesting meeting. it was the fourth time i'd ever spoken to president trump. and he invited me to sit right next to him. a little surprising that a democratic senator would be allowed to do that but he invited me to. and we spent an hour with the
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television coverage constant where we discussed this issue, and the president said some things which were encouraging about what we could do to solve this problem, a problem which he had created when he eliminated the daca program. he said many things during the course of that meeting. he said we're going to do daca -- i quote him now -- and then we can start immediately on phase it two which would be comprehensive. close quote. he was referring to other immigration measures. and then he said, quote, we do a phase one which is daca and security. and we do phase two which is comprehensive immigration. end of quote. the president added that as part of any immigration bill, he wanted to end the diversity visa lottery, a separate issue, and change our long-standing laws that have allowed families to stay together and eventually be reunited as americans. he referred to believing as chain migration.
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-- he referred to this as chain migration. when the president made that offer to solve the problem which he had created when he eliminated daca, several of us came back to capitol hill and said we've got to get this done. we labored quickly and made some tough decisions. democrats giving on some issues, republicans giving on others. we came up with a bipartisan bill. just what the president asked for. we called him. it was two days later, on january 11. i know; i made the call. i said, mr. president, we have a bill. senator graham, republican of south carolina, and i as well as four other senators have come up with a bipartisan bill. he said bring it down to the white house. don't waste any time. i want to get this done. that was at 10:00 in the morning. we were scheduled, we went to the white house at noon. by the time we arrived it was pretty clear that something dramatic had happened in the meantime because someone in the white house had invited five other members of congress from
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the republican party, all of whom opposed our effort. the meeting was pretty well stacked against us. i won't get into the detail of the meeting. it's been widely reported, but at the end of it president trump rejected a bipartisan approach to solve this problem. it wasn't the only time he rejected the bipartisan approach. senator schumer and leader pelosi had offered him a similar approach before, saying we can work together. it appeared they had an agreement, but it evaporated in a matter of hours. we know as well that there were offers made of bipartisan approaches. senator mccain and senator coons offered a bill that was on the floor of the senate here. it was a good bill, not exactly what i wanted by any means but at least it solved the problem. it was vehemently rejected by the trump administration. all in all there were six
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different bipartisan proposals offered to president trump to solve the problem he created by eliminating daca. he rejected every single one of them. he sent to the floor of the senate a bill offered by senator grassley of iowa. senator grassley's bill embodied the president's approach to this. now understand the senate's score card here. there are 51 republican senators and 49 democratic senators. so when the president called his own bill, one of our senators, senator mccain, was away ill. but there were 50 republican senators and 49 democrats who voted on that day. how many votes did the president's proposal get? the president's immigration proposal. 39. the president got 39 out of 50. it was kind of a shock that the
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president's own party didn't support the president's bill, at least not all of them. and no democrats. when we offered our bipartisan plan, the one i supported, the mccain and coons plan, it ended up with 54 votes. eight republicans joined to have a bipartisan measure. but it wasn't enough. 54 votes won't do it on an issue like this. it takes 60. so we have nothing. nothing. and what it means is that in the eyes of the law for the time being, these daca-protected young people have no legal protection, save one other element. while we were debating the courts were also involved. two different federal courts issued an order to the trump administration and said stop, don't do another thing, don't deport these kids. in fact, allow them to renew
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their daca status. senator -- former senator sessions, now attorney general, filed an emergency effort before the u.s. supreme court to stop that decision, and the u.s. supreme court rejected it. so now today there's at least been a postponement of deporting the daca young kids. we don't know if that postponement will last a week, a month, a year. there's no telling. it's a pending court case. that is the only thing that is stopping the deportation of these 780,000 young people. that's it. the obvious question is, well, why did you stop? if you failed to meet the march 5 deadline, why didn't the congress, why didn't the senate, why didn't the house continue the effort to try to solve this problem? isn't that what you were elected to do, mr. senator? the answer obviously is yes, we should. but we haven't. and that's why i come to the floor today.
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we have this 2,000-page bill that does not solve the daca problem. we have this 2,000-page bill which addresses every subject imaginable, but doesn't address the looming deadline that we face in america where one court decision away from hundreds of thousands of young people being deported. what do the american people think of this idea? undocumented people, not here, recognized by law. i'll tell you what they think. 85% of the american people believe we ought to do what's right and fair for these young people. they support the dreamers and they support giving daca protection. 85%. 60% of those who voted for president trump say we should do it. we should fix the daca problem. but we have failed again. we have failed to do what the president challenged us to do as he continues to reject every bipartisan proposal that has been brought before him.
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every one of them. i'm going to be making a unanimous consent request when this is over. i think i know how it will end. any single senator can object and stop the protection of these daca young people, and one is prepared to do it. it's my understanding that he is going to demand that we instead pass the president's immigration plan which received, remember, 39 votes. not even all of the republican senators supporting it. it wasn't bipartisan in any way. there are provisions in the president's plan that are just plain wrong and even 11 republicans realize that and voted against it. so here we are at this moment with an important bill, with many positive aspects of it for all of america, including my state of illinois. and yet there is one critical element still missing. we have failed to include a provision to solve the daca problem created by president
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trump. his refusal to accept any bipartisan compromise to this moment leaves us empty-handed and these poor young people struggling to figure out what their lives will be. last week i was in chicago for what i have referred to as high holy days in chicago, the st. patrick's day weekend. pardz and parties -- parades and parties and breakfasts and lunches. i skipped one of the breakfasts to go out to loyola university school of medicine. the reason i went out there is it's called match day at medical schools. it's when the graduates at medical schools apply for their residencies. residency of course is a continuation of their education leading up to their becoming actual practicing physicians. it's a huge day in each of their lives. they've gone through college. they've finished medical school, and now they wait for that letter that gives them a chance to finish their medical education. i wanted to be there because six of the graduates at the loyola
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college of medicine are actually daca. they were young people who are extraordinarily talented from all over the united states who were given the chance to go to medical school, and here they were in a situation waiting to see if they could become doctors. it turned out that because of our failure, because of the president's removing the daca program, our failure to pass a replacement, two of them have their residencies in doubt because a residency is a job. it's a big job. you don't just work 40 hours a week. sometimes 60 and 80 hours a week. it's a big undertaking. these young people without daca protection cannot legally work in america, and, therefore, found it next to impossibly to find hospitals and universities that would take them and allow them to complete their medical education. that's the real-life consequence of our failure to act. that's the real-life consequence of our failure to include in this omnibus bill or any bill to
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this point a solution to the problem created by president trump. that's why i'm going to make this unanimous consent request. it will in fact pass the dream act, solve this once and for all, create a law that protects these young people and others in similar categories. one that's been offered on a bipartisan basis in the senate and one which i believe should be passed immediately. i ask unanimous consent that the committee on judiciary be discharged from further consideration of s. 1615 and that the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. i further consent that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. tillis: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. tillis: thank you, mr. president. reserving the right to object. first i want to thank senator durbin for 17 years work on this issue and highlighting the reality that there are so many people who came here through the
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decisions of their parents, not the decisions on their own that i for one believe deserve a path to citizenship. in fact, i felt so strongly about it i did something i don't believe any republican-only bill has ever done before. i filed a bill with senator lankford to provide a path to citizenship not only for the 690,000 who enrolled in the daca program, to some 1.2 million. i believe we need to come up with a solution to this problem and i thank stkpoeub -- senator durbin for his dogged tenacity on this issue and i believe if we continue to focus on it that we will succeed. i need to set a few facts straight. i know the majority leader is in the chamber and i will keep my comments brief. i was in that january 9 meeting as well. and in the january 9 meeting we had a very, it was an extraordinary meeting, and most of it was on tape. but in the reality, in the january 9 meeting we walked away with an understanding that there were four pillars that we were going to build a bipartisan bill
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on. and the president looked to the whips and the minority and the majority, and he said you guys get together, produce a bipartisan bill, and i'll support it. the goal the goal was to go out and have everybody get together with the diverse interests that were in the room and come within that bipartisan bill. now, you got to talk about bipartisan. a bipartisan bill is not just a bill that gets democrats and republicans on t a bipartisan bill is a bill that gets up to 60 -- at least 60 -- republicans and democrats on it. so about a month ago we came down to the floor, we had four bills. there was no open debate. it was just an up-and-down vote. that's why it failed. it also failed when president obama was in -- when note a single republican vote was necessary. president trump did not create in problem. it was the inaction of congress
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and even a democrat-controlled presidency and super--controlled congress that couldn't solve this problem. the bill that we had, we had three democrats voted. 39 votes, democrat, that was a bipartisan bill but it was bill that didn't get 60 votes. hypocrite that we'll continue to work -- i hope that we'll continue to work on this bill so that we can provide certainty to the daca population. they deserve a path to citizenship. the president deserves to look the american people in the face and say that he's secured the border and made the homeland safer. i think we can work on issues that can get this solved. so i'm going to actually -- i think that senator durbin -- both of us know where we're going to go today. i look forward to working with you. let this be the congress where we actually solve the problem. at this time i ask unanimous consent that the senator modify his request so that the senate resume consideration of h.r. 2579.
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i further ask that the pending amendments be withdrawn, with the exception of the grassley amendment 1959, and finally i ask that the grassley amendment be agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed, and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. durbin: reserving the right to object -- officers the presiding officer: is there objection to the modification? mr. durbin: reserving the right to object, mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, i thank the senator from north carolina, and i believe he does have a genuine interest in this issue. i attended several our meetings to discuss a bipartisan compromise and i -- compromise and i hope we can continue to do that. in the meantime what he's offered is the grassley approach, which was president trump's immigration approach, which limited legal migration to the united states so members of families that wanted to be reunified, some of whom have waited 10 or 20 years to rejoin
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their families in the united states, unfortunately it also included the $25 billion wall, which may be the price that has to be paid to spare these young daca dreamers. but i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. is there objection to the original request? mr. tillis: i or, mr. president. i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. ms. collins: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: mr. president, i ask consent that when the senate proceeds to the consideration of the house message to accompany h.r. 1625, the omnibus appropriations bill, that the collins-alexander amendment at the desk be considered and agreed to. the presiding officer: is there objection? mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: reserving the right to object, i do want to take a moment to talk about how we got this moment and why i am
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hopeful that despite the republican leader's decision to once again scuttle bipartisan negotiations on health legislation, we can do what patients and families want -- that is to strengthen health care and lower the premiums next year. mr. president, chairman alexander had said that in september every democrat in the senate was ready to pass the original alexander-murray legislation, and he is right. we wanted to work with republicans to undo as much of president trump's health care sabotage as possible because of how it is hurting families and forcing them to pay more for care. unfortunately, senator mcconnell blocked our bipartisan agreement because he wanted to pressure his caucus into supporting yet another harmful republican repeal bill. that trumpcare bill failed, mr. president, and i was again hopeful that after it did, week make progress on our bipartisan
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legislation. instead, senate republican leaders opted to do the exact opposite. they jammed through a terrible tax bill that actually raises families' premiums p to pay for tax cuts for massive corporations. but even after that, mr. president, i and democrats were still at the table and ready to do what we could to stabilize markets and lower families' health care costs. so, mr. president, imagine my frustration when at the very last minute, just days ago, republican leaders once again made clear they didn't want to lower families' premiums; they didn't want to stabilize the healthealth care system that ase house republican said they never supported anyway, and senate republicans opted instead to surprise democrats with a new, last-minute, partisan proposal -- so-called stabilization bill -- that included poison pills that republicans knew democrats
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would never agree to. mr. president, the partisan bill that republicans surprised us with would undermine access to karr for people with preexisting conditions -- care for people with preexisting conditions by writing president trump's junk plans rule into law and by taking way protections included in our original agreement with chairman alexander to make sure that the sickest patients don't find themselves in a dramatically more expensive market. and, mr. president, this partisan bill also pulled the most worn page out of the republicans' playbook -- making extreme political a, tax deduction on women's health care. this would take huge steps beyond current law making it so that women can't even buy abortion coverage using their own money. from the start of negotiations last fall, i made it abundantly clear i will not allow women's reproductive freedoms to become a political football in these conversations. but i also made clear i understood, like it or not, that
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current prohibitions on taxpayer funding for abortion services would apply to our agreement. but that's not what this is, not at all. and i think it was made pretty clear when republicans surprised with us this last-minute change in a press release without inviting any democrats to even join. because, mr. president, i believe -- and i think most people would agree -- the massive expansion of restrictions on women's access to safe, legal abortion that we see in this partisan bill has nothing to do with lowering families' premiums or making health care work better in our country. that's not something that was in our original deal that had bipartisan support. and it's not something that should be in this bill now. mr. president, i'm extremely disappointed we've reached this point. but it does not mean i'm giving up on getting this done. i know many republicans have said this is the end of the road for bipartisan negotiations in health care, but it is only if they choose that route. today i'm laying out what i hope
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republicans and democrats will ultimately be able to agree on. this is legislation that includes current law prohibitions on taxpayer funding for abortion. what senate democrats and republicans agreed was acceptable months ago. it would make strong steps to lower premiums and make health care more affordable for patients. and it would uphold protections for people with preexisting conditions. as so many republicans and democrats have said we need to do. mr. president, we are frustratingly close to an agreement, and i still do believe we can get there. this shouldn't be about the blame game. it should not be about pointing fingers. this has to be about getting results. so i hope republicans and democrats will join me in supporting the amendment i'm offering today, and even if they don't, i hope we can get back to the tabled and resume talks. i truly believe that are republicans who want to do the right thing for patients and families, even if their leadership is determined to
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avoid a real debate and a vote on the so-called obamacare bailout. our work last fall shot showed we can work an agreement when we put aside partisan politics and focus on what's best p for our families. i am ready to get back to work to get that done. so i object to the pending unanimous consent request and i do ask unanimous consent that when the senate proceeds to the consideration of the house message to accompany h.r. 1565, the omnibus appropriations bill, the murray a.m. that is now at the-esque did be considered and agreed to. the presiding officer: the objection is heard to the first request. is there objection to the request from the senator from washington? mr. mcconnell: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. mcconnell: this has been a very disappointing moment. senator collins is asking to
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pass an amendment that would not seem to be terribly controversial. as we've heard my colleagues state this afternoon be, the alexander-collins-nelson proposal would lower health insurance premiums dramatically in some cases for american individuals and families. this assistance would be especially helpful to the middle-income -- middle-class families whom obamacare has hit the hardest. so why do i would colleagues -- so how do my colleagues propose accomplishing this worthy goal? through another top-down, one-size-fits-all scheme cooked up here in washington? nope. their legislation is designed to encourage new thinking and creative policymaking at the state level through the expansion of section 1332 state innovation waivers and high-risk pools. it would end the practice of
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silver-loading, which unnecessarily costs the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. and it includes hyde amendment language that has been commonplace, commonplace, for decades. going back to the 1970's. preventing taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. apparently that commonsense provision is suddenly just a bridge too far for some of our friends across the aisle. for months my colleague from maine has led a bipartisan effort to bring common sense back to americans' health care. along with senator alexander, she's brought together senators with different viewpoints and made real progress toward fixing the glaring failures of the current system. it's especially disappointing that their efforts are being blocked precisely when they stand the greatest chance of helping millions of americans.
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it's not entirely surprising that my colleagues across the aisle are happy to talk the talk about lowering premiums for working families but refuse to actually walk the walk when given the golden opportunity. but it sure is disappointing. mr. president, i ask that i be added as a cosponsor to the collins-alexander amendment. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i understand that the senate has received a message from the house to accompany h.r. 1625. the presiding officer: majority leader is correct. mr. mcconnell: i ask that the chair lay before the senate the message a company h.r. 1625. the presiding officer: the chair lays before the senate the
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following message from the house. the clerk will report. the clerk: resolve that the house agree to the amendment of the senate to the bill h.r. 1625, entitled an act to amend the state department basic authorities act of 1956 to include severe forms of trafficking and persons within the definition of transnational organized crime for purposes of the rewards program of the department of state and for other purposes, with an amendment. mr. mcconnell: i move to concur in the house amendment to h.r. 1625 and send a cloture motion to the desk on the motion concur. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. 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 concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 1625 signed by 16 senators as follows -- you. mr. mcconnell: i ask that the reading of the names be dispensed with. the presiding officer: officer is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask that concur in the house amendment to
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h.r. 1625 with a further amendment. cleric mr. mcconnell moves to concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. h.r. 1625 with a further amendment numbered 217. -- 2217. mr. mcconnell: i ask that the reading be dispensed with. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask for the yeas and nays on the motion to concur with amendment. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. mr. mcconnell: i have a -- the presiding officer: yeas and nays will be -- the clerk will report the second-degree amendment. cleric mr. mcconnell proposes an amendment numbered 2218 to amendment number 2217. mr. mcconnell: i ask that the reading be dispensed with. officer without objection. mr. mcconnell: i move to refer the house message on h.r. 1625 to the committee on appropriations with instructions to report back forthwith.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will report. cleric mr. mcconnell moves to refer the house message on h.r. 1625 to the committee on appropriations to report back forthwith with instructions with an amendment numbered 2219. mr. mcconnell: i ask for the yeas and nays on my motion. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays are ordered. mr. mcconnell: i have an amendment to the instructions. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from kentucky mr. mcconnell proposes an amendment numbered 2220 to the instructions of the motion to refer h.r. 1625. mr. mcconnell: i ask the reading be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask for the yeas and nays on my amendment. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays are ordered. mr. mcconnell: i have a second-degree amendment at the desk. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from kentucky mr. mr. mcconnell: proposes an amendment numbered 2221 to amendment number 2220.
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the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: mr. president, the senator from washington knows the deep respect i have for her and we have worked together on some important legislation in our committee that has differences of opinion including the 21st century cures legislation, no child left behind. but i have to say with all respect that the last seven months on working with the democrats and senator on trying to fix the affordable care act as they asked us to do has been the most frustrating and disappointing in my 16 years in the senate. for example, she made three points. one is that democrats were unhappy that we reduced taxes and repealed the individual mandate. we know they're unhappy about that and we know that it raised individual rates somewhat, maybe as much as 10%.
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okay, that was last year. so what are we supposed to do? not work to reduce rates? so we continued to work to reduce rates, and according to the oliver wyeman experts the propose senator collins and i put on the floor which is basically a combination of bipartisan proposals would reduce rates by up to 40% taking into account what we did in the tax bill. the c.b.o., congressional budget office, said up to 20%. so that's the first point. our proposal -- i mean i understand the democrats don't like to cut taxes. and they don't like to get rid of the individual mandate which was a tax on poor people. but you have to get over that at some point and say okay let's cut rates and we have a proposal to cut rates on plumbers and songwriters. so that's not a very good excuse to block this rate decrease. number two, the distinguished senator from washington said that the collins alexander
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proposal interferes with preexisting conditions. it does not only someone who read the bill carefully could think about that for a moment. we deliberately made sure the proposal we're presenting does not disturb the health benefits, which most of us would like to do -- most of them does not, so it doesn't. it does not change the preexisting condition requirement. it does codify the proposals that the president made on short-term insurance, at the suggestion of democrats who are afraid the president might be able to do some things. so what we were trying to do is limit what he could do and say the states have the responsibility, and to make sure the consumers knew what they were buying. after all, the short-term plans which democrats don't like, can only be done if states choose to do them. they were afraid the president
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might do them, so we made sure he couldn't. so that's not an issue. and then the third thing, in terms of the hyde amendment. now the hyde amendment is a very simple amendment. and usually when you oppose something, you stand up and say, look, this is the reason i'm opposing it. you may disagree with me or you may not, but this is my reason. this is the only reason the democrats are blocking this 40% rate reduction. they said so. publicly and privately. that's it. that's the only reason. they don't like applying the hyde law to health insurance in this bill. and if they don't, fine. that's their prerogative. i respect that. i don't question their motive. i don't question their right to do it. i would just like for them to stand up and say that's what they're doing. and if they can explain to the american people what sense that makes. because we've been working for seven months to develop this proposal that includes two parts
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which are fundamentally the alexander-murray proposal that senator schumer said every single democrat would vote for. and the other part is three years of reinsurance at $10 billion a year. that's it. those are bipartisan ideas. and the only issue is shall we also apply hyde to it. what we have planned to do for the last several months is put it in this bill that we're vote on today, the omnibus bill, to which the hyde language has applied since 1976. what that means is the hyde language is a compromise. it says you may not use federal funds for elective abortion, but it makes clear that states, individuals, churches, nonprofits, they may pay for elective abortion. that's the compromise. so, mr. president, we counted them up. the hyde language applies to more than 100 federal programs that democrats will be voting on
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today. so democrats will be voting on today applying the hyde language to the national institutes of health. but senator murray is saying they can't apply it to a 40% health insurance rate reduction. they'll be voting to apply the hyde language to community health centers, but she's saying no, we can't apply it to a 40% health insurance rate reduction. they're going to be voting to apply it to federal employee health benefits program. that's all of us who get insurance, all the federal employees. but we can't apply it to a health insurance rate reduction. we're going to apply it to federal family planning grants under title 10. but for some reason we can't apply the same law to a health insurance rate reduction. i could go down that list. i did earlier. i won't the whole thing but it's the v.a. global health programs, ryan white school based health centers. democrats have voted for hyde protection hundreds of times. what democrats are arguing is that when they had 60 senators
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here and president obama and a speaker of the house named pelosi, they passed the affordable care act and they watered down hyde for purpose of the affordable care act. they want that language. no republicans ever voted for that language in the senate. democrats have voted hundreds of times for hyde. so how can we continue -- how can we expect to make any progress in fixing the affordable care act if democrats won't apply the hyde language to any funding under it? i don't see any prospect for it. so i don't like the insinuation that i've walked away from anything. with most of the republicans who are usually willing to work with democrats, i spent hundreds of hours. i walked over to the senator on the night we failed on repeal and replace and said let's do something. we had long discussions. we had hearings to which half the senate came. everybody was just cheering. it was like going to summer camp. why don't we do more of this?
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so we did it and we came up with something that the democratic leader said everybody could vote for over there. then they got mad about the tax cut. okay, you can be mad but not forever maybe. so we've come up with a cure for that. we got a 40% rate reduction despite what we did in the tax bill. all we want to do is to apply to this health program the same health program that every democrat who votes for this bill will be applying to every other health program today. so if they won't do that, how can they stand up and say they expect to make progress on fixing the affordable care act? i don't know any way to do it. i'm as willing as anybody to try to work things out here, but i'm no magician. and i greatly respect the senator from washington and enjoy working with her, but on this issue i think we've reached an impasse. they have yet to give us any language at all that applies to hyde language. all their suggestions are saying we want to do what we did when we had 60 senators, a president of the united states, and nancy
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pelosi as speaker. well, they may want to but that's the one time that ever happened, and here we are today, no one objecting on the democratic side. should i offer an amendment to take the hyde language out applying to the national institutes of health? why don't they offer to take it out of family planning grants under title 10? that should be just as offensive as applying the hyde language to health insurance. i don't understand this, mr. president. and they're making, scrambling around all day. staff has been putting out memos. making up things. they're misleading, misreading. they're making excuses. there's only one reason. they're blocking a 40% health insurance rate decrease for the plumber who's making $60,000 paying $20,000 for his insurance. we could cut that $20,000 insurance to $12,000 over the next three years. that person is hurting, and we're, and democrats are blocking that. they'll say we'll apply hyde to
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everything else but not to the rate decrease for that plumber. i don't understand it and i don't see any way to make any progress on it as long as they take that position. ms. collins: mr. president. mrs. murray: mr. president. ms. collins: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i want to make three points in response to the objection that was raised by my friend and colleague from washington state. first is timing. according to the senator from washington, we have all the time in the world. mr. president, regrettably, that is not true. starting next month insurers are beginning their calculations on what rates they are going to charge for insurance policies on the individual market next year. they are also making the decision of whether they're going to even sell in particular
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counties across this country. there's already not much competition. so the time is urgent for us to act. those rates get approved by the state insurance commissioners and they are published on october 1. so the idea that we have tons of time to take care of this problem is just not accurate. and indeed, as senator alexander, the chairman of the help committee, just said, the help committee has spent months on these concepts, has worked really hard on these issues, has had extensive hearings and round tables and discussions. and the one thing we do not have is time. and that is why the national association of insurance commissioners has urged us to act on this bill.
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second is the concept that somehow this bill has brand-new concepts in it. mr. president, the only thing that is new is the amendment that was just filed by the senator from washington state. i have no idea what is in that. it was not shared with me. to my knowledge, it was not shared with the senator from tennessee. i have no idea whether it covers cost savings reductions that help our lowest-income people pay their co-pays and deductibles. i have no idea what it does to silver loading where insurers jack up the prices of silver plans in order to draw down more federal dollars. i have no idea what it does on a whole variety of issues because i've never seen it, by contrast
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the language of the collins-alexander proposal was shared with the minority. and indeed i've had several discussions with the senator from washington state about the language. and all of the concepts in our bill have been debated. hearings have been held on them. they have been talked about extensively. they are not new. there is a change in the reinsurance provisions which i authored with my friend and colleague, the former state commissioner of insurance from florida, senator nelson. and that is we added a third year to the reinsurance. i would have thought my democratic friends would be thrilled with that. a third year. and we added, and that was at the suggestion, i would say, of congressman costello and
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congressman walden in the house. and we also put a federal back stop so that every state can be assured the benefits of reinsurance in the next year, even if they haven't had time to file the application for a waiver under section 1332. again, that's a concept that my democratic friends were pushing for us to include. it was one that i, frankly, had reservations about. but that is in there. so those are two changes in the reinsurance that our democratic colleagues, i would think would be applauding because it helps to drive down rates. and third, i hear from my democratic colleagues that this is an enormous change in the
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application of the hyde amendment because it applies to commercial insurers. that's just not true. the hyde amendment already aplace to the federal employees health benefits program. that is the insurance program for 8.3 million americans who are federal employees, spouses, or family members of federal employees, or retired federal employees. 8.3 million. mr. president, how do you think that program is administered? the answer is it's administered through commercial insurers like blue cross blue shield, united insurance, and many others. it is -- this is not the first time. and the language actually for the federal employees health
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benefits program is more strict than what is in the bill that we have proposed. so the idea that this is some new approach is just not had accurate. the federal government spends about $1 trillion on health care through various programs -- it's share of medicaid, makers of the v.a. programs, the children's health insurance programs, the tricare program, the federal employees' health benefit plan -- so about $1 trillion. guess what? that's 100 times more than the amount that is covered in this bill, 100 times more. so this is not a new concept in
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any way, and the reinsurance provisions and the cost-saving reductions have been discussed for months in the help committee, both formally in hearings, where by the way there was widespread support for them, and in informal roundtables and in senator-to-senator discussions. make no mistake about the stakes here. if we do not act -- and it appears due to the objection on the democratic side that we are not going to act -- insurance rates will go up on october 1, and that is going to hurt everybody who has to buy insurance, who wants to be
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insured and has to buy through the individual market because they don't get insurance through the workplace. that's going to hurt very low-income people. that's also going to hurt those who receive no government help at all and do not have employer-provided insurance because they're self-employed. why don't we want to take advantage of this opportunity to decrease insurance rates by as much as 40% over the next two years? you know how welcome that would be by the people in my state of maine? maine is a low-income state. we don't have microsoft headquartered in the state of maine. we are a low-income state. we need insurance rates to fall,
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and this bill would do it. and all of our -- the well-respected health insurance premium says that rates would fall. and oliver wyman says that 3.2 million more people would be insured. surely, surely this should be a goal that we can all embrace, mr. president. i yield the floor. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington state. mrs. murray: mr. president, let me say to my colleague, the chairman of our committee, the senator from tennessee, through the chair that i greatly respect the repour that i have with him -- the rapport that i have with him, the working experience that i have with hither all the bills that we have worked on and will continue to work with him. i want him to know that i will
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it into do that because i believe in legislating and i know he does as well. so i share that respect and to the senator from maine through the chair, i would also say that i have a great deal of respect for the senator from maine and her passion and goals on this as well. i say to both of them that this is an issue that i care about deeply. i would not have sat down with any one of them to work on a bipartisan solution to the dilemma that we found ourselves in throughout the last year as repeated. decisions were made that undermind the ability of people to afford quality health care and the marketplace that was increasingly seeing uncertainty. and i believe in those goals and i know they do as well. i remain committed to getting them done. i agree time is everything, and we've been working on this since september. and i regret the actions that have taken that we were not able to put forward this in october or december and we are here now
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at this point. but i will say that the language that has been added, obviously and clearly there is a real divide on how it is read, how it is interpreted and how it could be applicable. that is our objection. and i say to my colleague -- my chairman through the chair as well that we had offered him language on friday that did indeed deal with the hyde amendment. no one here said we cannot have that. but we have language that exceeds, in my been dish know that is not shared on the other side, but in my opinion extends well beyond into the private marketplace where i think it is a line that the american people would not support and i certainly can't myself. and in addition the other language that is here dealing with people's ability to protect their preexisting conditions and other language, we clearly have a divide on how that's interpreted. but that does not preclude our ability, if we agree on the goal
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of stabilizing the marketplace and ensuring that we can do the c.s.r. payments, that we can do the reinsurance program that the senator from maine has championed, rightfully so, and i hope that we can all agree that from moving on from here we can returning to that bipartisan proposal, not partisan proposals, and move to get this done. and i thank the chair and yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: mr. president, first of all, i think the discussion led my senator alexander and senator collins on the cost-sharing has been very helpful and shows the impact that that would have if we went forward with it. but i want to talk about the funding bill itself. you know, this -- the first and foremost bile thing this bill
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does is it makes the critical investments to keep americans safe. it's the largest annual defense increase year to year in 15 years. it provides a pay increase for those who risk their lives in service to us. when we send our men and women who are willing to do that job into harm's way, we ought to do everything we can to be sure they have every possible advantage. we don't want americans to be in a fair fight. we want americans to be in an unfair fight because we have stacked the fight in favor of people who are defending us. and we've lost a lot of the advantages we had over the last ten years. we clearly have not funded the military at the level that it needed to be funded. we haven't provided the training dollars. we've let the equipment get old, and i'd like to think that i have consistently been on the other side of that debate, but
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what we see happen when we lose that advantage, we lost 80 personnel this year -- last year, 2017, in accidents, in training accidents, in other accidents where people are asked to do too much for too many hours without enough training on the kind of equipment they're going to be using. we had 80 people lost in those accidents, four times as many people as were lost in combat. and we can't continue to let that happen. that's what this bill does. it turns the page after a decade of inadequate funding, a decade of diminished readiness, a decade of training that wasn't what people should have been expected to have before they were expected to do the things that we asked them to do. this bill makes the equipment better, it strengthens our military defense, it strengthens our missile defense, funds new
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weapons systems, and invests heavily in measures designed to counter threats like isil and north korea. it begins to upgrade u.s. military strength with funding increases for shipbuilding, for aircraft procurement, and maintenance -- and some of those airplanes that we make, the growlers and the super hornets in missouri and lots of small suppliers are part of that readiness chain that is jeopardized when we decide we're not going to keep our equipment up to date or repaired. this bill -- the pay raise forbe the military men and women that they deserve, it also deals with veterans. we have in my state 500,000 veterans. i'm proud to see that this bill provides a record level of veterans administration funding, but it also continues down the path of being sure veterans have more choices. there's no reason to drive by
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three hospitals that are really good at something that the veterans hospital you're going to may not be so good at. you know, there are some things that the veterans hospitals should be better at than anybody else. they should be better at posttraumatic stress. they should be better at i.e.d. attacks where eyes and limbs are hurt. always the veterans hospitals have been as good as anybody on prosthetics, when people have lost legislative session, lost arms. that's part of what veterans uniquely are like to have happen to them more than others. there's no reason to assume that he should be so good at kidney dialysis or open-heart surgery. there's every reason to assume that if they want to go somewhere that is good at this, that's closer to where they live, they should be able to do that. mr. president, this bill funds either the construction or the repair and backup of almost 100 miles of the wall that the
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president talked about at the border. it provides the money to keep guantanamo bay detention facility open. it has the fix nics component that says that particularly federal agencies -- this is the shock to you and me and others as we've looked into this -- so many of the problems with reporting to the background check system have been federal agencies and military failing to report the kinds of things that clearly would be reported if they'd happened in a civilian environment. fix nics does that. it provides some incentives for states to figure out how to make their reporting better. this includes the hatch and klobuchar safe schools language that talks about how to stop school violence, early intervention, military mental health awanes, something in my state at least we've been something forward-leaning on something called mental health
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first aid where teachers and others who work with young people are not turned into psychiatrists or psychologists but in a fairly intensive but short period of time given some of the key things to look for, to then try to connect that young man or woman with the kind of help they need. the equipment that could be available for better securing schools would be available in new ways under this bill, if we pass it. some of that's in the education area that i'm on that subcommittee with you. the labor, the health and human services, the education components of the bill are strong. l what we're doing for the third year straight in health care research and until this year, mr. president, every time we made that new commitment to health care research after 12 years of no increase at all, we
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did that out -- with no new money. it was purely prioritizing this as an important thing, and with this year's bill, the bill we will pass today, we will have restored the 22% that the n.i.h. lost in research buying power in the previous 12 years, where not a single new penny went to health care research beyond what they had had before. and whether it's alzheimer's or cancer or the brain initiative, we just simply know a lot more than we knew a dozen years ago about the human genome, about the individual impact of cancers, about getting your own system more aggressively fighting back by sort of amping up your own system's response. your system, mine -- we have a response to those cancerous attacks, but usually pretty quickly overwhelmed by the cancer itself. it doesn't have to be that way.
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and that's because research has led the way on that. this bill is not perfect. i could go through the bill. every one of us could go through the bill and find something in there that we individually don't like. that's part of the legislating process. and going back to my earlier comments, it's a different decision to be made when you decide, i am absolutely committed to defend the country, but i'm going to find something in the bill that funds that i can be against so even though i can be for defense, i don't have to explain anything i'm not for. you know, i'd rather we brought these bills to the floor one at a time. i'm lucky, i hope, fortunate to be on the special committee that was just ape pointed to -- appointed to figure out a way to make the budget and appropriation process work in a way that we have the last time that we have all of this in one
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bill. it didn't used to be that way. it's been that way for about tern years -- ten years now. every member needs to be able to amend these bills and be able to bring them to the floor one at a time or two at a time and put them on the president's desk as we pass them, not have one big bill and have no real impact on what's been in that bill on a vote on having it changed. not perfect. it's not right for health care professionals that didn't want to be part of a particular procedure that generally would be a life-ending procedure because of their personal conscience and faith belief, you would have thought that would make it in this bill, but it didn't. i would be much happier voting on this bill if it was there,
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but it's not there. i can find things that i would like to see in the bill. i can find things that are in the bill that i'd prefer not to see us go forward with, but that's the process of democracy. it's the process of legislating, and so you have to look at the alternatives before you. if we're going to make the kind of commitments to our national defense and the men and women who defend us that this bill makes, if we're going to make the kind of commitment to health care research or school safety that this bill makes, the choice is to vote for the bill before -- sometime before the continuing resolution runs out tomorrow, to vote for the bill or to think of how you could have done this in a better way. i think we can all think of better ways to do this, but moving forward here, it's important that we made a commitment to the opioid crisis that we're seeing in the country. more people die now with drug
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overdoses than die with car accidents. drug overdoses have become the number one reason for accidental death in the country today. we've got $1.5 billion of flexible spending in the states as part of the $3 billion being spent to fight the opioid crisis in the next year, and about 15% of that $1.5 billion is going to go to the states that have the biggest problem. there will be some allocation to every state because every state has a problem, but some states have a bigger problem. and for the first time we are factoring in with the good advice of senator shaheen, senator capito, and senator portman, and others, we're factoring in a way to get more money to the states that have the big problems. there's also money at the national institutes of health to look at research and both new
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ways to respond to drug overdoses so more people survive the overdose and research and different kinds of dealing with pain so that people don't get addicted to things that they are addicted to now and either die with those overdoses or move to even more dangerous drugs and people who don't die with an overdose can see their life crumble in front of them even if they are fortunate enough to recover from the addiction that they have become part of. this is a national crisis. this bill views it as a national crisis and so whether it's a domestic crisis like -- like opioids or an international crisis like our failure to defend ourselves and the way that people who defend this would expect us to be willing to do, this is a bill that overall deserves to be voted for. i intend to vote for it and i intend to start tomorrow trying
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to have a bill next year that not only comes to the floor in a different way, but also corrects the problems that think think could have been better served in the bill we have before us today. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. inhofe: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senior senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call in progress be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: mr. president, and i ask unanimous consent i be recognized for such time as i may consume. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: thank you very much. you know, this is going to be kind of a strange statement to make. i have a great regret i'm going to have to vote for this bill when it comes up, and i'm talking about the spending bill,
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and i don't like it. i've spent a lot of years, since i have been here, i have been ranked with three of the most conservative members every year more times than anybody else have. i was looking at this and listening to some of my colleagues who are concerned about the spending and no one is more concerned than i am about the spending. we've got a problem though that nobody -- a lot of people don't understand. i've been on the senate armed services committee for -- well, actually, 24 years in the senate and i was on the same committee in the house before that. and i've never seen anything like this. we went through things back in the carter administration where we had a hollow force and then ronald reagan came along in 1980, and we rebuilt our military. everybody knows that. they knew what was happening. a hollow force is not good.
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a hollow force means you can't fight. you can't really fight a war. certainly we can't do two simultaneously as been our policy for a long period of time. this hasn't happened since then, since 1980, but i chaired one of the subcommittees. this is the end of the obama administration. it was still the obama administration. and the vices, that is the four vices of the services that we have, they all said the same thing, we are in a position now where we have a hollow force like we had in the late 1970's. it's something that the -- the public doesn't know this. our press doesn't talk very much about this. they talk about all the problems that ring the bells and sell the newspapers and all of that, but they don't want to talk about the military, and this is a reality of what we're faced with right now. i've got quotes. general dunford is the chairman
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of the joint chiefs of staff. he said, quote, we are losing our qualitative and quantitative edge in america. that means we have two great forces out there, one russia and one china, and they are passing us up. you know, right now we have in both china and russia in their artillery pieces they have on tanks, mr. president, they can fire eight rounds a minute. you know how many rounds we can fire with ours? four rounds a minute. we got ourselves in a position where we had our ground brigades of the united states army -- this is at the end -- the last administration -- of our ground brigades, only 30% of them could be deployed. now, i don't like to sound like i'm being partisan when i talk about barack obama. i respect him in one area, and that is he was admittedly a very proud liberal, and proud
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liberals don't care that much about a defense system. they think if all countries will stand in a circle and hold hands and unilaterally disarm, all threats will go away. and so we went through that and people didn't seem to care. there's this myth that somehow we're stronger than anybody else. that the equipment we have is better than anybody else. during that same time frame in our air brigades, only 30% of those were. the marines who use the f-18. of the f-18, 62% of the f-18's couldn't fly because one of the things you're doing when the military goes down, the first thing that goes down is -- is maintenance and then, of course, you have -- you have modernization, and that's where we got weighed down behind. so don't take my word for it, and unfortunately, right now we have 27 members of the senate armed services committee, they understand this.
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they know where we are in this. but a lot of the other people don't. they have other interests. if they had a strong interest, they would probably be on the committee and they are not. look at secretary mattis. our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare, air, land, sea, space, cyberspace, and continuingly eroding. america has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. that's secretary mattis. he's the secretary of defense. army general allen said, we had most of our modernization programs on life support for the last several years, currently our modernization is 50% of what it was in 2009. this is a good one too. the navy admiral moran said, this is not just me saying this, this is where i got the information. he said for our entire hornet
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fleet -- a hornet is an f-18 -- we have 62% that are not flyable, more than half. we are double where we should be in nonfliable aircraft. general walters i can tell you today we cannot fight two conflicts simultaneously. that's supposed to be our policy at minimum, ever since world war ii, that we have the capability of fighting on two fronts simultaneously. we can't do it. general wilson, 50% of readiness today across the air force, we're the smallest air force ever. in 2016 when we bottomed out at 310,000. you know, i can go on and spend a lot of time talking about this. but i can't find anyone in the military who disagrees. that should be a foregone conclusion if our own military, they're the ones that are responsible for protecting my 20 kids and grandkids from enemies.
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i just got back from the south china sea. we have a lot of really good allies there. we've -- we have the philippines, south korea, gawm owe guam, japan, taiwan. they've always been our top allies there. you know what's happening, mr. president, in the south china sea? you've got china out there doing something totally illegally. they say they're reclaiming land. they're not reclaiming because they don't have it to start with, but they're creating land that's out there in the seaways that we need to defend america and for our commerce to keep our commerce going, and they are building islands. they right now are up to over 3,000 acres of island. this is china we're talking about. what are they doing on this? they have runways. they have rockets. they have military equipment. there's nothing on there except military equipment. it's almost as if they're preparing for world war iii.
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so where are our allies? we talked to our allies. they're embarrassed because they're not sure whose side they want to be on. in fact, it's almost as if they put this in on purpose where you have the secretary of defense or the administrator of defense, whichever these countries i mentioned, on one side saying well, the threat is not all that great and the other one saying yeah, you've got to do something because the world is coming to an end. they're all taking both sides of this issue. it's fascinating. it's almost like they got together and are doing it by design. has this ever happened since world war ii in our country? no, it hasn't. that's where we are right now. so we have the problems that are facing our military and that they're very real and it's -- it's something that's got to be fixed. now, this bill corrects a lot of these things. we have the defense now up to 700 billion. the last request it was -- that came from president obama was
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$500 -- i'm going from memory. i think $548 billion. this is $700 billion. we're rebuilding. we're trying to address the threats of both russia and china. by the way, i ought to mention there's one other threat in that same area where we were and that comes from north korea. i'm sure everybody knows who kim jong-un is. he's the head guy of north korea. and something happened on november 28. on november 28 he fired a rocket that had the range that would reach the united states of america. reach certainly here where we are today. some people in the country say that can't be true. all they can say they reached out into two areas of disagreements. yes, he has the range to reach us but he couldn't carry a pay load. we don't have any idea what payload is on this rocket. let's assume there's no payload
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at all. that would be a matter of days before you make that up. they say he couldn't reenter. rebring is always the problem -- reentry is always the problem you have. you have to have some level of accuracy to reenter. what difference does it make if they have a weapon that will take out a city the size of st. louis. it doesn't really matter where it lands. that's a hollow argument. the power there is right. i have to compliment or president. i hesitate doing it this way because a lot of people don't understand. remember when kim jong-un made the statement. he said aha, november 28, i've shown i can reach the united states of america. therefore, you know, i have a button. i can press it and i can take out an american city, words to that effect. now, instead of just a policy of
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appeasement that we had for eight years prior to this president coming in, this president said, yeah, and i've got a button that's bigger than yours. ours works. yours doesn't and we'll blow you off the face of this earth. that doesn't sound very diplomatic, does it? it's not. that's what is good about this president. he's not afraid to stand up and be strong. the policy of appeasement doesn't work. it has never worked throughout time. what happened? hours after he made that statement to kim jong-un, he called -- un called south korea and said, you know, we've changed our mind. we'll send some people down to the winter olympics. wow, that's a major change. i can remember saying that in one of our committee hearings and even our own intelligence committee said, well, he didn't really mean it. it was just a matter of days after that that he called and said we want to negotiate, sit down, talk to president trump. we want to -- and we'll even put things on the table, like
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denuclearizing. this is going to happen. so that's another threat. again, what i'm trying to get across is, those threats are there. that's something in my opinion is actually working. but, anyway, in this bill we have the $700 billion. we have $61 billion over the enacted levels of fiscal year 2017. we have 2.4% pay raise for our kids out there. we have 11.5% for missile defense. one of the areas i was most critical of the last budget that was put together by president obama was missile defense. if there's ever any time in the history of this country we've got to have missile defense, that's t. they're out there right now. they have the capability. they have missiles that will reach us. we need missile defense. we have ground-base interceptors. i was in alaska the other day. they have 44 ground-base interceptors up there. what's interesting about that is, we had 44.
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the last president came in. he knocked that down to 32 i think it was. as soon as we looked at it and came in, we went back to 44. now we're looking at 20 more. is that going to give us the redundancy to protect my 20 kids and grandkids of something coming in? well, it's a lot better than it was and we're getting all kinds of new equipment in order to try to knock down. the big mistake we made in this country when we were planning to put ground-base interceptors in poland and the czech republic and a radar there that would protect the eastern half of the united states and western europe. that was already started when obama came in office, his first year he pulled that program down. one of the persons that i've always liked over there was the president. i can remember so well, i was over there and we said we have to have your cooperation of the
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czech republic to protect america. he said are you sure? if i do this and i outrage russia, they're going to be angry and take every step against us that you can, that you won't pull the rug out from under us? i said absolutely not going to pull the rug out from under us and that's the first thing obama did when he got in office. that's the problem -- the threat is there. we're trying to meet the threat. this bill meets that threat. it gets us back into the amount of money that should have been left in missile defense. it's in there right now. we have another $11.5 billion for missile defense. it's a 44% increase over 2017. the budget now -- the total budget is going to be $238 billion. that's to offset the losses on maintenance and o.n.m., that has created the problem we have.
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also this budget we're going to be voting on, this is a big budget, we're getting criticized, those of us who are going to be voting for it. the liberals all like it. they like to spend money. conservatives don't. i don't like to do it. but that's what is all in this bill. 57,000 -- over obama's 2017 cut. so anyway, the -- this is why we absolutely have to do this i look and i see. it would be nice if we had the comfort of believing america is still the strongest out there and that we have all the -- everything that we need and we don't. so let's look at what we're going to be doing. the army from the high point of 566 soldiers during the surge in 2007 obama reduced it to just 460,000.
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the brigade combat teams, 33% of them didn't work. the aviation combat teams, they didn't work. and we're on a road to recovery on this because we did a supplemental. we all remember that. but it's this budget that's going to bring us back that we will end up having our military in the position that the american people think it's in right now. i was on a tv show just a few minutes ago. and they said, you know, with all this debt that's coming with this thing and you're talking about the military, isn't that a good trade-off? i said you can't trade off something when you see the threat that's out there that's unprecedented in the history of this country and you have 20 kids and grandkids. no, that's not a good trade-off. i'm hoping those individuals who are conservatives -- i can't imagine that anyone on the senate armed services committee who deals with these issues on a daily basis won't want to get in there and let's make america
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strong again. we can do it. but if we don't vote for this, it's not going to be done. that's my great fear that i have. so i would hope that the conservatives out there -- i know a lot of us -- ratings always take place. you cast a vote and they say that's spending a lot of money. we're going to rate against you. again, if the trade-off is defending america, that's the one thing we should be doing. boy, i would give anything if we could just pull that element, all that we're doing for the military out of this budget and do that individually. let me stand up here and read the riot act about what's happening in this country, the debt that's accumulating. but unfortunately we don't have that option today. we got one vote we can do and that's going to be the vote we're going to do hopefully tonight. i'm not sure when it's going to be. i just ask my colleagues to understand the threat that faces our country, the greatest threat in my opinion that we've ever had. with that i yield the floor and
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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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the presiding officer: the senator for delaware. mr. carper: mr. president, i would ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: thanks very much. mr. president, we're here today to discuss what we call an omnibus bill, and i know that omnibus is another funny-sounding word that we use sometimes here in washington, but it simply means a bill that covers a lot of topics. there are provisions in the omnibus legislation that deal with everything from homeland security to the environment to veterans and science, just to name a few. it's particularly fitting that we're discussing an appropriations bill that covers such a wide range of topics as i come to the floor to recognize the service of a member of our staff who has worked on most of the policies covered in the omnibus legislation, maybe all of them, maybe all of them. gabrielle babkin, who is seated to my left, will probably wish that i wasn't doing this right now, but there is no doubt that
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she deserves to be recognized for her more than 20 years of hard work in the united states senate. for as long as i have known her, gabrielle has been an incredibly gracious person, kind, easy with praise, making sure that her own staff and the staff across the aisle were appropriately recognized for their efforts. now i think she deserves some recognition of her own. to all the young staff members who may be watching this right now or to those who aspire to be staff members of the senate someday, i would present gabrielle babkin as a shining example of what it means to be an exceptional staffer and a true public servant. every now and then we hear the term nameless, faceless bureaucrat. this is not a nameless, faceless bureaucrat. this is a beautiful public servant. she works tirelessly, really believes in making government work better for the people that it serves.
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gabrielle and i first started working together back in 2014 when she came to lead my team on the senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee when i served as its chairman. then a little over a year ago, she seamlessly transitioned to her current role as staff director on the environment and public works committee for the minority. this encapsulates just a fraction of her service. for over a decade, gabrielle has served as an appropriations staff member to former senator barbara boxer of maryland. i think she was like the number two person in barbara's appropriations team. she started on the appropriations committee's veterans' affairs and housing and urban development subcommittee and then moved on to the commerce, justice, and science subcommittee where she handled everything from nasa on the one hand to bay, chesapeake bay grasses on the other. before that, she served the late
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senator from new jersey, frank lautenberg. she worked on the house side for congressman frank pallone, also from new jersey, and also served on the senate budget committee. she has worked on everything from blue crabs to the hubble telescope to cybersecurity in central america. those who know her will confirm that few people can shift between issues and committees as gracefully as she has while also delivering results every step of the way. the day-to-day functions of the federal government are possible because there are people like gabrielle babkin who toil away behind the scenes, making sure important work gets done for the american people. she has been a tenacious and effective leader on my staff, but she also has what i like to call the heart of a servant. even as the boss gabrielle is in the trenches when things get rough, things get tough or hectic around here, she always takes time to make sure that those who work hard for her are doing okay. her incredible work ethic
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combined with her humility means that she can be briefing members of congress on complex policies one minute and helping an overwhelmed junior staffer staple packets the next. it's just who she is. and no matter how stressful her high-pressure career in the senate was, gabrielle never let it take her away from her most important job, and that's being the mother to three young men, who are up here in the gallery tonight -- henry, will, and charlie. she has always said to me, my most important job is being a mom. she is a darned good one. all of her family are up here in the gallery. not all of them, but the most important ones, her three sons and her husband, josh, of how many years? 20 years. and her sister, erin. i understand not just a sister but a great friend, a great
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aunt, just a wonderful support system for gabrielle at times when she has needed that. i want to thank these three boys. i want to thank josh for sharing your mom and your wife with all the people of our country. i want to thank erin for just being a terrific sister and supporter. a few years back, gabrielle brought her oldest son henry to our staff party at the buena vista in new castle, delaware. i was talking with henry at the time. i asked him to tell us one thing his mom had taught him. henry told us that his mom tells him all the time that as long as he tries to do his best in everything that he and his brothers do, that's always good enough for her. think about that. as long as he and his brother do their best that's always good for her. she wanted to make sure they did their best and she has always given us her best. for all these years, 20 years and counting.
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i am immensely grateful to gabrielle for her service to this institution, for her service to the american people and indispensable counsel to me over the past years i've been fortunate h enough to work with her. i would like to say to work for her. she is a great boss and a wonderful, a wonderful friend. i've learned a lot from her and just treasure her and her friendship. while we're sad to see her go, i'm excited for her new adventures to come. i wish her, i wish her family, her husband josh, her boys all the best in this next chapter of their lives. i know her boys are her biggest fans and are proud of the work that she's done here in the united states senate. i promise you, she is going to keep making you guys proud. i'll close with this, mr. president. every now and then we meet people throughout our lives and sometimes we're fortunate enough to work with them. people are just a joy to be with. people who make our days
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brighter and our workload lighter. and i know i speak for many people when i say that gabrielle is just that kind of person. we had breakfast today in the senate dining room, and the, when we walked out of the senate dining room, we passed so many people going through the capitol, the capitol building, going back to our office in the hart building and the dirksen building. and so many people that she knew, people who knew her by name. i'm the only person who calls her tkpwhrab -- gabrielle which is her real name. everybody else calls her gabby. she's gabby to them. you'll not find -- sometimes people in senior positions, leadership positions whether they happen to be elected or members of our staff, sometimes they forget where they came from. they're not maybe the same person they were when they started.
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she's probably smarter. she started out really smart but she's gotten even better in form, just a more knowledgeable member of our time as time has gone by. but when she started out -- i'll go back to when i interviewed her for the position of staff director on homeland security and governmental affairs committee when i was chairman. we talked about growing up, talked about going to college and her influences as a young woman. it turns out she went to school in the midwest. i think it starts with a b, i think it ends with a y. it's called bradley. it's in pea -- peoria. i said did you ever work while you were going to school? i worked to a couple of jobs while going to ohio state. and as it turns out she worked while she was going to school full time at bradley. and not that she volunteered this, but i found out later on that she worked full time and
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she worked full time for several of those years that she was an undergraduate. and carried a full load and worked full time. i think at the social security administration and carried a straight 4.0 average. i think that's amazing. and as soon as she said that, i thought i should be working for you, sister. but she's let me work with her, and we've had a great time and i think a great run. and i know i speak for the other members of the environment and public works committee to have an opportunity to see staff and members, democrat and republican, a chance to see her handiwork and the magic she brings to the committee, she had a good one-plus year as staff director on the majority when i was privileged to chair homeland security. and everybody from tom coburn, my colleague from oklahoma and a bunch of other people certainly know her work and salute her. the navy, when people do
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especially a great job. we have two words they say and they are bravo zulu. i say those words this evening to gabrielle. we have the saying when people are ready to weigh anchor and sail off into the sunrise and go on to their next challenge or their next assignment, we like to say fair winds and a following sea. fair winds and a following sea. i say those words this evening somewhat reluctantly but i do it with a great deal of affection and respect. gabrielle, we love you and we'll miss you, and we will leave the light on. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. leahy: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator for vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, we're at an interesting time. we've had months of intense negotiations, sometimes lasting all night, throughout weekends. we've had very tough choices. we've had some very good-faith compromises. in other words, we've actually handled legislation the way we should. we've reached a bipartisan agreement to fund the government for this fiscal year and to make renewed investments in the american people and to protect our national security. the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill has $1.3
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trillion in discretionary spending. that includes $700 billion for defense programs to support our men and women in uniform. $600 billion in nondefense programs to help us invest in america and support our working families. the bill has critical resources that are dedicated to combatting the opioid epidemic, to rebuilding america's infrastructure, to improve health care facilities for our veterans, to improve access to affordable care act for all americans, to ensure the security of our elections, to support advances in scientific research, and to invest in rural communities across the country. mr. president, here in the senate every senator has rural parts of their state, and this
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should be good news for every senator. the investments will be made in those rural communities. these investments would not have been possible without the 2018 bipartisan budget agreement. that lifted the budget caps on discretionary spending. it lifted the caps for defense by $80 billion and for nondefense by $63 billion. it provided relief from the severe cuts in both defense and nondefense, known as sequestration. the consequence of the 2011 budget control act which mandated sequestration has been devastating to our military and domestic priorities. this bill is a long-awaited step toward reversing those cuts but also allowing us to reinvest in the american people. i wish the president would actually read what's in the bill
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because he's calling these investments in our country's priorities a waste. can you imagine investing in the priorities of the united states of america a waste? this morning he tweeted that they were dem -- i assume he means democrats -- giveaways. i'd ask, mr. president, is it a giveaway to provide medical care for the seven million veterans who rely on the v.a.? i would ask is it a giveaway to help the family in rutland vermont heat their home during a dangerously cold winter so they can afford their groceries? i'd ask is it a giveaway to finally take the opioid crisis seriously by making investments in research and treatment and prevention? the president slammed our efforts for budget parity.
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he shamelessly held press conferences to tout initiatives only made possible by this agreement including sizable new investments to counter the opioid epidemic even though it is critical we put money in for that he's now saying of course it was his idea. well, a budget is where you set your priorities. the president made clear in his budget his priorities do not rest with the needs of hardworking middle-class americans. and the bill rejects many of those areas where the president wanted cuts on the needs of hardworking middle-class americans. instead the bill sets a vision for the future of our country. we invest not only until the wealthiest among us, but in middle-class families, those who are struggling to make their way, to make their community
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better. we dedicate $18.25 billion to begin rebuilding our infrastructure. the american society of civil engineers gives our country's infrastructure a d-plus. a lot of countries have much higher. this was the collective grade for the roads, bridges, dams, drinking water, wastewater, public parks and schools on which we all depend. that's not acceptable, not in this country. and this bill as an important long overdue step toward bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century. the bill takes the opioid crisis seriously by investing $3.3 billion into law enforcement and health care and community efforts that we know will help rid our country of this scourge.
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the time for sloganeering and sound bites is over while preferred substance over slogans. now is the time for real effective, meaningful investment in ending this epidemic has arrived. marcelle and i have met with too many vermonters as we go around our state who are impacted by opioid abuse, too many neighbors and friends who are struggling to get the help they need or to help those in need. i'm glad that when i return to vermont i can say that we heard them and we delivered. and this bill strongly rejects the partisan package passed by house republicans in september which would have recklessly slashed funding for domestic priorities


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