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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  April 12, 2018 1:15pm-3:16pm EDT

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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. a senator: mr. president, i ask for a voiding of the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. markey: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, scott pruitt is the administrator of the environmental protection agency.
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he is charged with running the agency and ensuring its mission. there are serious questions about mr. pruitt's leadership, but we'll get to that later. today the senate is preparing to vote on the nominee to be the second-highest ranking official at the environmental protection agency, andrew wheeler. and as the number two at the environmental protection agency, andrew wheeler deserves the kind of scrutiny that reflects a position one step away from being the administrator. andrew wheeler has spent years protecting the coal industry. first, from here in the senate where he worked to prevent passage of climate legislation. then as a lobbyist for murray energy, one of the largest coal
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companies in america that has led the fight by the coal industry to undo the progress that we have made on climate policy. andrew wheeler's coal credentials are without equal. he is, without question, a member of the coal industry's hall of fame. he was even present in march of last year at the meeting when murray energy c.e.o. bob murray presented energy secretary rick perry with the now infamous secret plan to save the coal industry. sadly, i am concerned that andrew wheeler's background means that he will never understand that saving coal is not the job of the environmental protection agency. it is the e.p.a.'s job to regulate coal, to protect public
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health and the environment, to prevent particulate matter from filling the lungs of children in our most vulnerable communities, when more than 7,500 people die every year from the pollution from fossil fuel power plants, to reduce the harmful carbon pollution that is causing climate change, to end the toxic coal mining practices that are poisoning our waters and our communities. the corporate special interests who have work with the trump administration and forced americans to breathe dirty ail from fossil fuel come biewtion are exactly what we don't need to be the head of the environmental protection agency. they are at the same time the companies that andrew wheeler
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has represented. andrew wheeler has made a career of promoting the policies that make our air and our water dirty and that endanger the public's health. now with environmental protection agency administrator scot pruitt -- scott pruitt, we must have real concern about who will be number two at the e.p.a. whose on deck to take over if scott pruitt has to leave? whose going to be sitting there in the chair as the administrator to make these decisions about clean air, clean water, about the roll which -- role which coal plays and polluted our environment. who will that be if scott pruitt were to be removed from his position or resign from his position? and, by the way, that is a position which i strongly
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support that he be removed, that he resign, but that would then lead to the consequence that andrew wheeler would most likely be the new administrator of the e.p.a. this individual would then be in charge of the environment of our country, in charge of it, the coal industry would have their person running the environmental protection agency. that is unbelievable. that is the -- the dream of the coal industry that finally, after all these years, they get the guy to be in charge of the environment as the country and the world are moving in just the opposite direction. now, would he have been vetted for that role as the head of the e.p.a.?
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absolutely not. he's out here on a snoozy thursday afternoon with his name out here to be considered, with the galleries empty of either public citizens or the press paying attention to the debate, where the consequences of this decision that the united states senate is about to make a decision of historic magnitude. this man is the coal industry. if you google the word coal, his picture comes up. coal, which has declined from 50% of all electrical generation down to 30% over the last ten years. why? because utilities in america are moving towards wind, they are
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moving towards solar, they are moving towards energy conservation, they are moving towards natural gas which is half the pollutants of coal. the coal industry has met its maker in the marketplace. the utilities themselves have moved toward cleaner sources of electrical generation in our country, and the only way they can stave off this revolution in their minds is to have a coal industry representative be the head of the environmental protection agency. talk about the foxx guarding the -- the fox guarding the chicken coop, talk about some upside down bizarro world where all of a sudden at the environmental protection agency, the one agency that has
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contributed to the greenhouse gases in the last ten years, they now have someone next in line to take over the entire pea pea. -- environmental protection agency. so scott pruitt is under siege. we have not asked mr. wheeler about his readiness to lead the e.p.a. or how his policies would be different from those of mr. pruitt. we don't have any reason to believe his views are any different than mr. pruitt's. does he agree with the policy direction mr. pruitt has taken at the agency? does he agree with the ex osh dent cost associated with the questionable activities that mrs head of the industry? there is a lot that andrew wheeler has yet to answer to if he were to take over as the head of the environmental protection
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agency. which brings us to the embattled e.p.a. administrator, scott pruitt himself. mr. pruitt's leadership at the e.p.a. has made that agency as toxic as a superfund site. administrator pruitt has consistently undermined the core mission of the e.p.a., to protect the environment, to protect the health, to protect the safety of all americans. he has put the interests of the fossil fuel chemical and auto industries above the needs of the public's health. perhaps the best example of scott pruitt's war on good, bipartisan policy is his full frontal attack on fuel economy admissions standards. last week administrator pruitt and the trump administration began the process of rolling
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back these historic standards. in 2007, i worked on a bipartisan basis to enact a provision in the energy law that increased our nation's fuel economy standards for the first time in 32 years. it is one of the laws that i am most proud of. i was then serving in the house of representatives and i was able to work with nancy pelosi, able to work with john dingell to push through that measure, and over here in the senate, dianne feinstein, working with senator stevens and others were able to bring together, again, a consensus that changed the direction of fuel economy standards in our country. they had not been increased in 32 years because of the grip, the vice-like grip that the auto
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industry and the oil industry had on public policy making with regard to pollution over the preceding 32 years. it was a tragedy, it was a disgrace, it was harmful to the health of americans, to the national security of americans, to the economy of americans, but yet they had the power to do it. but this world changed for the first time in 2007, and then building on that law in 2009, the environmental protection agency and the department of transportation began negotiating an historic agreement with state regulators, automakers, labor unions, and the environmental community, and in 2012 the landmark emissions standards of
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25.5 gallons of 1999 got placed on the books and consulting with states and auto manufacturers and other experts, the e.p.a. and the national academies of sciences have proved beyond a doubt that the existing standards are appropriate. automakers are meeting these standards more quickly and at a lower cost than predicted. these fuel economy standards are technically feasible, economically achievable, and they have revived the competitiveness of our auto industry which has added 700,000 new jobs since 2010 and sold a record number of vehicles in 2015 and again in 2016, but scott pruitt is threatening american consumers, our national security, and our climate by trying to slam the breaks and make a u-turn on this critical
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policy. we cannot allow scott pruitt to put us in reverse on these strong standards. but it doesn't stop there. time after time scott pruitt has undermined the core mission of the e.p.a. to protect the environment, to protect the health, to protect the safety of all americans. the litany of scott pruitt's sins is a big oil wish list, repealing the power plan, withdrawing from the paris climate accord, weakening the clean water act and allowing more toxic pollution into our streams and our wetlands, loosening standards for hazardous pollutants like mercury, arson and lead. with scott pruitt as the head of the e.p.a. more children will get asthma, more people could
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die. he has shut out the public from the e.p.a. rule makings and decisions, and during his tenure, the e.p.a. has hidden countless thousands of pages of publicly funded reports on climate science and other subjects from -- subjects from the e.p.a.'s webpage. it is now emerging that he has betrayed the trust of americans by having ethnically questionable behavior while the head of the e.p.a. his insistence on undermining ee environmental policies is unacceptable. it is impossible to have any confidence in him to lead this agency. it is time we issue an eviction notice, changed the locks, kick scott pruitt out of the e.p.a. it is time for him to go.
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but amidst this dark cloud, it is up to the senate to ensure that anyone who is going to be responsible for overseeing our nation's environmental policy is properly vetted for that position. with more questioning, more -- without more questioning and examination, we do not know if andrew wheeler is that individual. ultimately, i cannot vote for a lobbyist for the coal industry to lead the agency that is tasked with making sure that carbon pollution is regulated. and so that's the decision that we're being called upon to make here. it's like a shadow confirmation vote for the next administrator of the e.p.a. it's an attempt to slip by at
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the end of the week with members of the senate wanting to get home the nomination and confirmation of a man who stands for just the opposite of what the credentials of a candidate to run the e.p.a. should be. we've got a massive wind revolution in our country. we have 260,000 people now working in the solar industry in america. there are 50,000 coal miners, 260,000 people in solar, 100,000 people in wind, and most of the wind and solar jobs were created over the last ten years, which direction does president trump go? which direction does scott pruitt go? which direction will andrew wheeler, the heir apparent to scott pruitt go?
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it goes to coal and not wind, not solar, not renewable energy, not this greatest creation of blue collar jobs in two generations in a single job sector. 2% of all new workers in america last year were solar workers who got hired, and they are good jobs, but who are they? they are electricians up on the roof, they are people who are carpenters. they are putting to the the equipment. they are blew-collar workers, high paying, secure -- blue-collar workers, high paying, secure, long-term jobs. the president, however, looks to the coal industry with 50,000 coal miners and says, i'm going to put in place a man who is committed to protecting that industry while destroying coal and by destroying rather the wind and the solar and the
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renewable industry in general and by saying to the automotive industry, you do not have to any longer increase dramatically the fuel economy standards of the vehicles which we drive in this country. elanmusk, all of these smart people in our country who are reinventing the way which we drive, they are being told, the standard is too high. the goal we are going to roll back those. that's andrew wheeler. that's donald trump. that's what the debate is on the floor. it's a debate about the future of our country. it's a debate about the future of our planet. it is about the future of the direction which we are going to be heading in. are we going to be looking at the world in a remember view mirror back to technology of the 19th century coal or are we going to be looking toward the future? and that future is one of solar and wind, renewable energy, al
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all-electric vehicles, a revolution that protects the planet. protects our security by backing out of imported oil from other countries. the fuel economy standards in our country that are on the books right now that scott pruitt and donald trump want to roll back, back out three and a half million barrels of oil a day that we never have to import from opec, from the middle east. you know how many barrels of oil we import each day from the middle east? three and a half million barrels of oil. that should be our goal. the president right now is debating whether or not he should have more missile strikes into syria in the middle east. what would be the impact in iran? what would be the impact in saudi arabia? but meanwhile simultaneously out here on the floor we're debating a nominee who is going to be the hand picked successor to scott pruitt to water down these fuel economy standards, to water down that protection which we're
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giving to young men and women that they won't have to go over to the middle east in order to protect those ships of oil which come into our country. and that is just morally indefensible when we know that these revolutions are moving, that they're creating jobs, that they're working. so that's why this nomination here today goes right to the heart of the future of our country and the future of our planet. that's who andrew wheeler is. he represents the worst of what this trump administration is trying to do to our country. we should be the leader, not the lagger. we should be the point of light for the planet. going to a goal that we know can then be exported around the rest of the word. that's what the 21st century should be all about.
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that children have to look back in the history books to find that there ever was a time when we were burning coal that was polluting the lungs of children and the planet when we had a chance to move towards wind and solar and renewable energy and all-licall-electric vehicles. that should be our goal. that's why i urge in the strongest possible terms a rejection of his nomination. we should be having a full whennen blown debate -- a full whennen blown de-- full-blown debate, not this truncated process that's being imposed upon us today. this is just plain wrong. this nomination is too important. this is the heart of what the green generation in america want us to debate. which way are we going? backwards or forwards? which way are we going, towards a clean planet or further
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polluting of the planet? pope francis made it very clear. one, that the word is dangerously warming. two, that it is being caused largely by human activity. and three, that we have a moral responsibility to do something about it as the principle polluter over the last hundred years. number four, those who are going to be most adversely affected are the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, and we have to do something about it. that's why a no vote today is correct because andrew wheeler is going to take us in the wrong direction, just the opposite of where pope francis urged us to go. and so with that, mr. president,
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i yield back the balance of my time. and i will yield the rest of my time to senator carper. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. van hollen: thank you. i want to start by thanking my colleague from massachusetts for the clarity and passion he brings to this debate. i, too, am here to strongly oppose the nomination of andrew wheeler to be the deputy administrator of the environmental protection agency. before i talk about mr. wheeler, i want to join my colleague in massachusetts in talking a little bit about scott pruitt and the current management over the e.p.a. because the people of our country rely on a strong, effective, and healthy e.p.a. to keep our air clean, to keep our water clean, to make sure that
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people are not living among toxic substances. and we need strong leadership there. in the state of maryland, the e.p.a. is also important to protect a great national and natural treasure, the chesapeake bay. the bay states include many of those states in this area, and we have made great progress over the years through the e.p.a. chesapeake bay program. because it was recognized many years ago that when you have a bay like the chesapeake where multiple states feed into it so that when you see pollution in pennsylvania or maryland or delaware or virginia, it ends up in the bay, you need a national response. you need something like the e.p.a. to bring people together. and that is why the e.p.a.
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chesapeake bay program was created. and yet we now have a director of the e.p.a. in scott pruitt who doesn't recognize the vital and unique role the e.p.a. plays in protecting the chesapeake b bay. and we know that because if you look at the budget that scott pruitt and president trump submitted to the congress, they zeroed out funding, dee zeroed t funding, a big goose egg for the federal e.p.a. chess beak bay program. s that -- chesapeake bay program. that's would they did in year one. then when senator cardin and i and others said this is a real important effort. it's had bipartisan support in the congress. it has bipartisan support among the governors of all the chesapeake bay states. well, then they said, okay, we'll just provide 10% of the moneys that have been provided for that program.
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this is a $73 million a year program. it actually needs more to achieve its full effectiveness. but administrator pruitt and president trump provided only $7.3 million in their budget which would devastate the bay program. fortunately, this senate and the house of representatives on a bipartisan basis continued full funding for the chesapeake bay program in both the past two years. i want to thank my colleagues for recognizing the vital importance of that, not just to the bay states but really to protecting a national treasure. i guess it shouldn't be surprising that scott pruitt's first budget zeroed out funding for chesapeake bay protection. back when he was the attorney general of oklahoma, he filed an amicus brief in a case that
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would have neutered the ability of the e.p.a. to actually enforce the pollution protection standards in the chesapeake bay. we can set forth all sorts of standards. we can set forth all sorts of restrictions in terms of pollution that can flow in the bay. but if you don't have the ability to enforce it, it means nothing. it means people can pollute with impunity. and scott pruitt telegraphed to all of us, even before he took the current job, that he didn't care about enforcing pollution standards in the chesapeake bay. we've also seen other recent actions where it's clear he has a disregard for adequate protections for clean air and clean water. the senator from massachusetts was just talking about the recent proposal to roll back the
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auto emission standards. auto emission standards that are essential to addressing the challenge of climate change, that are also vital to making sure we have energy independence, and standards, by the way, that would save consumers a whole lot of money that would otherwise be going to the oil companies and the gas companies. in fact, those new emission standards would save the average american family $300 per year. apparently, mr. pruitt, president trump want to see those $300 come out of the pockets of american consumers and go right into the bank accounts of big oil companies. maybe not surprising giving the very, very close relationship between administrator pruitt and the koch brothers who worked very hard and overtime on his
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confirmation to be e.p.a. administrator president because with administrator pruitt, they're getting the policies they want, policies that are not good for the health of the american people but very good for the bottom line of the koch brothers and some of the biggest oil companies in the country. and the chesapeake bay and rolling back the auto emission standards are just two examples of a record that fails the american public when it comes to the environment under this current e.p.a. i also want to talk about the work environment today at the environmental protection agency. because my state of maryland is the home to many terrific public servants, federal employees including many dedicated employees of the e.p.a.
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and you can listen to them but you can read about accounts in many of the publications we've seen about the incredibly low morale at the e.p.a. mr. president, leadership starts at the top. and scott pruitt has taken an agency with strong morale and let it -- and led it down the tubes. i guess it's not surprising since he's been seeking to cut the e.p.a. team, the professionals there, by roughly 20%. and i should say he's talking about cutting those folks who are working every day on behalf of the american people at the same time he's increasing the number of political appointees at the e.p.a., people who really do nothing more than the politics for the administrator. so increasing the number of high-paid political appointees
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while proposing to cut by 20% the e.p.a. workforce that looks out for the american people. and already -- already under his directorship, 700 employees have left the agency either because they found it a hostile place to work or were actually forced out. so i do find it ironic that the agency that is supposed to protect the country from toxic pollution has created a toxic environment under its own roof. beyond my concerns about how we actually -- how he actually manages the staff and concerns about undermining protections for the chesapeake bay and other environmental efforts, we have seen a total disregard for basic public ethics from the current administrator.
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his conduct is not appropriate for a public official and he's violated the public trust time and time again. it seems every day now you open a newspaper or look online and you can find another example of the current administrator abusing the public trust. and so we have to ask ourselves whether or not andrew wheeler is going to be someone who at the e.p.a. addresses those serious problems that we have with the current administrator. how will he help stabilize the situation? will he be any kind of counterbalance on these important issues? and the clear answer from the record is no.
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in fact, the clear answer is that mr. wheeler would just reinforce the worst instincts of mr. pruitt. you might say he's a carbon copy of mr. pruitt. and if you look at his history, the history of mr. wheeler, you find a very cozy relationship. between the nominee, mr. wheeler, between mr. pruitt, the current administrator, and an army of lobbyists for the coal industry. in fact, mr. wheeler, as we've noted, has been a lobbyist for that industry, and if you look at his relationships, you find that, as he was advising murray energy, murray energy was at that time a top donor to scott
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pruitt's super pac. this is before mr. pruitt became the administrator of the e.p.a. he had a super pac. and murray energy, for whom mr. wheeler lobbied, was one of the top donors to that pruitt super pac. and the relationship between pruitt and wheeler and bob murray gets even cozier when we see that bob murray was a co-plaintiff in eight of the 14 lawsuits that pruitt brought against the e.p.a. before pruitt became the administrator. so i want to get this right. you have mr. wheeler, who was the lobbyist for mr. murray, and mr. murray joined with pruitt in filing eight of 14 lawsuits against the e.p.a. so you can see we have a very cozy relationship there and one which will only reinforce -- not
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counterbalance -- mr. pruitt's worst instincts at the e.p.a. and among those challenges is the question of climate change. you know, just yesterday in the environment and public works committee, we had a hearing. we had a hearing on using federal incentives to have more carbon sequestration, to try to take carbon out of the environment and a carbon recapture technology. what was interesting, mr. president, was every single one of the witnesses -- those called by the majority and those called by the minority -- every one of them, when asked whether or not climate change represented a serious threat, answered yes, and all of them acknowledged that human activity
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was contributing to that climate change. every one of the witnesses right down the table. it's also interesting that that legislation, which has bipartisan support, uses taxpayer dollars, and if you combine -- and combined with the tax measures that we passed recently creates tax incentives for carbon capture. so we are agreeing on a bipartisan basis to use public funds for the purpose of reducing carbon pollution. the only reason to do that would be if we agreed that carbon pollution represents a threat. i'll tell you who believes carbon pollution represents a threat? the u.s. military. i represent the naval academy. a little while back i went out there and talked to the head of the naval academy who talked about the fact that even today sea level rise was creating
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threats, and you can actually see the results of sea level rise at the flash flooding down in annapolis, maryland, which is the home to the naval academy. just one small example. and yet if you look at the record and statements of mr. wheeler, you find just another person with their head in the sands, and that is not the kind of person that we should have as the number two at our national environmental protection agency. so, mr. president, i was looking to see if the number-two appointment might provide some kind of counterbalance to mr. pruitt, and, unfortunately, everything we find shows not only that they had this prior very cozy relationship --
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lobbyist and attorney general and a lot of coal industry companies -- but on all of the issues that are important to protecting the health of the american people, you've got a deputy nominee who's actually going to take us in the wrongs direction. so i urge my colleagues to oppose the nomination of andrew wheeler. and i yield the remainder of my time -- postcloture time to mr. carper, and i see that mr. leahy is on the floor. thank you, mr. president. mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i thank the chair. mr. president, i'm a proud vermonter. my family has been there for over 150 years. i look at vermont setting an
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example yesterday for the congress. a democratically controlled legislature, a republican governor, and a rural state with a strong gun-owning tradition and very few gun laws, workinged together to -- worked together to debate and forge and enact meaningful commonsense gun laws. yesterday governor scott, a republican, signed into law three bills that expand background checks, raise the age to purchase guns to 21, create extreme risk protection orders, and ban bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. vermont did that. other states were also acting.
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it makes me wonder why congress can't do its job and follow the example. in vermont, this was a debate about what the people of the state could do to keep their communities, schools, and citizens safe. we had some very difficult conversations in my home state, difficult compromises were made, and for the republicans and democrats in our legislature, these were difficult votes. in our state, as in every other, there are honest differences on this and many other issues. vermonters made their voices heard, particularly a brave new generation of student activists inspired by their peers in parkland. and this isn't the first time that our small but brave state has stepped in and stepped up to
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tackle difficult but significant issueissuesissues. on july 1, vermont became the first state to offer to same-sex couples the same legal rights and responsibilities of traditional marriage. david motes, a pulitzer prize waning, wrote a book about this. ted whitmer writing in "the new york times" book review said this in his book review. near the end of "mr. deeds goes do town," the actor by gary cooper. in helping to push a war up a hill saving a swimmer who is drowning. obviously life isn't quite that simple. this would take time. but in the long run, the
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question will be answered in the vast middle, the vast middle where most americans live and where they privately decide what is right and wrong. i note that the governor signed the bill. the table outside in front of the statehouse where people opposed and people who supported could stand and see what he was doing. at that bill signing, governor scott spoke as well about civility and public discourse. in a democracy, civility is more than a virtue. it's foundational for the democratic process to work, something all of us -- all of us -- in both bodies of the
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congress and at the other end of the pennsylvania avenue should remember. so here is some of what the vermont governor said. today in america too many of our fellow citizens on both sides of every issue, not just on guns, have given up on listening and deciding to no longer consider other opinions, viewpoints, or perspectives. our national dialogue has been reduced to angry, hateful social media posts that you can either like or not, with no room for conversation or respectful disagreement, and where facts and details no longer seem to matter. we'd be naive to believe that the way we treat each other on the one hand the rise of violence are exclusive to one another. the governor concluded, quote,
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these things are hurting our nation. if we can reduce the polarization we're seeing across the country, we can diminish some of the anger at the root of these larger challenges. and this point -- and this must be part of our ongoing pursuit to reduce violence and make our communities safer, unquote. he's right. those are vermont values that draw from time-tested american values. three weeks ago students from schools across this country led millions of fellow americans of all races and backgrounds in marches against gun violence. on that saturday morning hours before the march in washington, i met hundreds of vermonters who came to the nation's capital. my wife marcelle and i hosted a
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meeting with them. they were here to lend their voices to what has become a national outcry for commonsense reforms to reduce gun violence. thousands moralelied in our capital city of montpelier, in rutland and other vermont towns for a ban on military-assaul military-assault-style rivals and high-capacity magazines, for universal background checks. so if you have a long felony record, you're not going to be able to buy a weapon. for laws that keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill and those who seek to do us harm. i have rarely been more inspired than when i was listening to the eloquence, the clarity, and the indignant frustration and the
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poignant speeches of these students. to hear their stories, to hear the loss and grief, and the unsettling and unyielding fear resulting from not knowing whether your school will be next. i'm reminded again of the appalling number of school shootings and the other daily tragedies caused by guns. the lasting fiscal scars and trauma that gun violence has had on children, families, and neighborhoods and cities and towns, every state in this country. how can one not feel that our generation has failed miserably to deal with the epidemic of gun violence? how can one not feel the gun lobby and others reflex civil oppose -- reflex civil oppose all efforts at gun reform, no
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matter how commonsensical? commonly exploited loopholes our gun laws allow practically anyone, even those who are criminals or those who openly intend to do us harm, to buy one or ten or 50 guns -- guns that can shoot as many rounds per minute as you can pull the trigger or even more with the assistance of readily available accessories like bump stocks? what have we done to stop it? not nearly enough. over a period of many years, i've introduced or cosponsored or advanced in the senate judiciary committee many pieces of legislation to stop it. this includes legislation to close background check loopholes, loob holes that allow criminals with records of violent crimes to buy weapons to ban military-style assault
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rivals, to shut down the black market to buy firearms. we've gotten them through committee and sometimes through the floor of this body, but each time the gun lobby has prevailed, blocking these efforts from going further, just as they've blocked the efforts of others here would dare to take steps to reduce gun violence. the institute institute -- the s are right. they just don't want thoughts and prayers. they don't want us to stand up and say oh, what a tragedy. now we say a prayer. goodbye. they don't want their teachers to have guns and the teachers don't want to. they don't want just a ban on bump stocks. they want real meaningful change. they say enough is enough.
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columbine, virginia tech, newtown, rosemont, parkland. these are school shootings that made the front pages. but there are hundreds of others. 18 school shootings in the first three months of 2018 alone. as horrific as that is, it's only part of the problem. every day an average of 318 people in america are shot, murdered, suicides, suicide attempts. every day 318. that's an epidemic. we need to treat it like one. the sole of our country -- the soul of our country is under attack. can you hear is in the students' voices. i am probably the only member of this body who has gone to murder scenes, who has been there in the middle of the night. see a child that's been murdered, shot to death and know i'm the one that had to order the autopsy.
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i had investigators from my office when i was a prosecutor notify the parents the child is not coming back. i have seen so many people shot to death. i still have nightmares about them. these are not just statistics. these are real. and those who hold up the second amendment as somehow justifying their opposition to commonsense gun control laws could not be more wrong. none of the tragedies that those students, our schools, our communities, our country experiencing today is the price we must pay for the second amendment. none of the proposals in congress threaten an individual's right to own a gun. nor would the bill signed by governor phil scott. any such argument is nothing more than basic fearmongerring. i have heard the n.r.a. and some
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of its defenders ridicule the students for speaking out, ridicule them for talking about -- seeing their fellow students shot. mr. president, if you have seen somebody who's been shot to death as i have on many occasions, you do not forget that. that was over 40 years i was a prosecutor. there is hardly a day that goes by that i don't remember some of those scenes. and when high priced lobbyists or on pundits go on national tvo belittle teenagers who saw their classmates get gunned down in the classroom and have the courage to speak for those who die, then money and politics is glaringly apparent. those children will never forget
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what they saw. i know. i know they won't. it reminds me of how the first and loudest voices in favor of using military force are really those who've actually experienced combat themselves. i wonder how many of those who represent the gun lobby have experienced what those students went through. or seen people been shot to death as i have. and worse yet, as those children did, see it when it happened and seeing it knowing those are friends of theirs. as much as i shutter to remember what i saw, it was nothing compared to what they saw. the only solution i've heard offered by those who oppose reform is to put more guns in the hands of good people. i'm a gun owner.
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i know we do need well trained, well-equipped police officers. i strongly support school resource officers. and we should invest more in our police. but police armed with assault rifles at every school, every movie theater, and every church, on every street corner in america, at every shopping mall, at every museum, is that the solution? is that the united states of america we want? we should talk to the police. we find the police across this country support stricter, commonsense gun safety laws. it is congress' job to regulate when regulations are needed. and we have a responsibility to do so when so many american lives are at stake. let's use the power we have to
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do what the constitution requires of us and what the american people overwhelmingly are asking us to do. the students who organized these marches have challenged us. president trump, your party controls the congress. members of congress can act or they can continue to make excuses or remain silent and hope that this issue goes away. but i can tell you these students aren't going to go away, not the students i've met. not the students whose determination is in their eyes and in their voices and their every move. so it's time for you, president trump, and for this congress to do right by these students and by all americans who are asking their leaders to stop gun violence.
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follow vermont's example. support comprehensive, commonsense gun reform legislation just like you said you would when you met with members of congress of both parties after the parkland shooting. keep your word. do what you said you would do. but this time follow through. fight for it so it passes and sign it. and listen to the words we heard yesterday in montpelier, vermont. stop this shouting on either side. have people sit down and talk about what the american people really want. what the american people really need. listen to each other but then let's do it. let's do it. i think it can be done. i know that any killing is
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terrible. but as a parent and a grandparent, i don't know how anybody can think of having a child or grandchild have to witness such a horrible thing. it should stop. mr. president, i yield the balance of my time to the senator from delaware, mr. carper. i yield the balance of my time to you. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware has been yielded two hours as provided by rule. ms. collins: mr. president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. and my thanks to the senator from delaware for allowing me to speak for up to 12 minutes. mr. president, i rise today to discuss three bipartisan bills that i've introduced this week to combat the vast and growing opioid epidemic. i want to begin by first thanking the chairman and the ranking member of the senate help committee for their leadership in putting together a comprehensive bill to address opioid addiction and abuse. the help committee has held seven bipartisan hearings on opioid issues since october, and i commend the committee's leaders for crafting a bipartisan framework, the opioid crisis response act, that the
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committee intends to mark up later this month. my hope is that the three bipartisan bills that i'm about to describe will either be incorporated into their more comprehensive legislation or approved separately. mr. president, last year in the state of maine, 418 people died from overdoses, a record number, and an 11% increase compared to the year before. just this past weekend, there were nine overdoses in one night alone largely as the result of fentanyl-laced heroin. fortunately, first responders were able to save those individuals.
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it's clear that we need to take an all o all of the above approo tackling this crisis. this means more support for education and prevention, treatment for recovery services, and law enforcement effortses. no single focus will be sufficient to combat this cris crisis. mr. president, the first bipartisan bill that i've introduced with senators hassan, capito, baldwin, and warren is the safe disposal of unused medications act. our bill would address the problem of unused prescription painkillers when a person is receiving hospice care at home. currently, hospice staff are not allowed to dispose of unused
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medications, including powerful opioids, even after the patient has died. as a result, these dangerous medications with a high risk of diversion, theft, and abuse are frequently left in the deceased person's home. mr. president, i've heard stories about criminals who actually scan the obituary pages to figure out when the family will be away at the deceased person's funeral so that the crimes can target that time to break into the family's home to steal these dangerous drugs. our bill would allow certain hospice staff and emergency medical services personnel, such as paramedics, to dispose of these potentially addictive
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medications once the patient dies. registered nurses and physicians involved in hospice care cannot only happen families who are dealing with difficult end of life issues but also they can assist them by making their home safer by disposing of dangerous leftover medications. all of these drug disposals would be documented in the patient's clinical record. our bill would also allow the drug enforcement agency to develop regulations permitting hospice staff to dispose of drugs if a patient's plan of care has changed and the patient no longer needs the medications. the disposal of unused prescription drugs is key to making sure that they do not
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fall into the wrong hands, and this bill would help to solve that problem. mr. president, one way that families struggling with addiction are finding support is through peer-to-peer recovery groups. the second bipartisan bill that i've introduced with senator shaheen is the opioid peer support networks act. this would foster the creation of peer support networks also known as communities in recovery. the bill would provide them with the resources and training they need to be successful. in peer support networks, individuals and families battling addiction help one another stay on the road to recovery and to assist with
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employment, education, housing, health, and overall well-being. last year i visited the bangor recovery network known as barn in maine. it is a volunteer-led organization that provides support to individuals recovering from addiction. barn is a model for peer-led counseling and brings hope, recovery, and healing to those struggling with substance abuse. individuals who are themselves in recovery can make that critical connection to others facing addiction, which in turn can make the recovery process sustainable and reduce the stigma of addiction and treatment. yesterday the senate help committee on which i serve heard
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from three experts about the legislation that the committee is developing. jessica nickel, the founder and c.e.o. of the addiction policy forum, toiled, quote, peer-recovery support specialistists are a key spokeno i can maaing sure that we are providing the services that are needed for folks that are in recovery or those that need treatment. the opioid peer support network would bring critical training and assistance to these on-the-ground peer-to-peer networks and help build up these important recovery support systems. finally, mr. president, the community action opioid response act, which i've introduced with
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senator klobuchar, would provide competitive grants to help community action agencies and community action partnerships known as caps in my state, help with opioid misuse and addiction problems by low-income individuals and their families. our bill would support a wide range of activities such as treatment and recovery referral, direct services for children and their caregivers including their grandparents, and two-generation antipoverty models that respond to the needs and barriers that are facing both parents and children. the caps, mr. president, are uniquely positioned to help take
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on and be our partners in the opioid crisis. they can leverage their current programs, community relationships, and existing infrastructures to respond to the unmet needs resulting from the opioid epidemic, but they need more help to do so. caps in my state have told me about how the opioid crisis has affected their programs and how they are thinking innova innovay to improve the services that they provide. for example, the waldo cap in belfast, maine, uses its transportation services to bring 175 people a week to drug treatment programs. that's 175 people who otherwise might lack the transportation
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necessary for them to receive the treatment services needed for them to cope with their addiction. penquist has found that some clients don't access treatment because they can't find transportation for their children to safe child care settings. in york county, the community action agency has partnered with the sanford police department to deliver access to medication-assisted treatment for clients struggling with opioid addiction. our bill would give these cap agencies additional resourcesouo develop the wraparound services that make it possible for treatment to succeed, for
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recovery to take hold. mr. president, tackling the opioid epidemic, both its causes and its consequences, takes a multipronged approach. the three bipartisan bills that i've introduced provide additional ways to respond to this growing problem. i urge my colleagues to join me in supporting them, and i look forward to their enactment. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. cassidy: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cassidy: mr. president, today i want to honor the life and sacrifice of one soldier in particular, u.s. marine corps lance corporal taylor conrad, who was 24 years old and was from central louisiana. our military men and women deserve recognition.
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they sacrifice time away from family and friends, put themselves in harm's way to advance our country's interests. every day they risk their lives to secure our safety. in the case of taylor conrad, along with three of his fellow marines, he tragically lost his life last week when their helicopter crashed in a training mission in california. a central high school grad washings he exemplified the quality of a good marine -- tough, compassionate and wanted to help others. in high school, taylor played football and was an accomplished powerlifter. he also volunteered in the best buddies program matching students with schoolmates in the special ed program. a teacher said, the one thing that made taylor such a special friend with our kids is he didn't approach them in a way that he felt sorry for them. he approached them in a way
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where he truly wanted to be their friend. the school's athletic director said taylor's love for those who need the most is something i will never forget. there was one child who would never speak except with taylor he would laugh and that was the effect taylor had upon others. after school taylor decided to serve our country but joining the marines. he went on to become a ch-597 crew chief. one who served with taylor had this to say. he was the gold standard. he pushed everybody. he cared about everybody. i wouldn't be the marine i am now if it was not for taylor. our hearts go out to everyone who's life was touched by taylor, especially praying foyer his family, including his daughter born just last october. their loss is great. hearts are heavy. i want them to know that louisiana and our entire country mourn with them because our loss is great, too. when they lost a brother, a son,
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and a dad, we lost a good man, a great marine, and a fellow american. thank you. mr. president, i ask that these remarks appear separately in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cassidy: mr. president, i'd like to speak about nominations for the u.s. department of education and the approval of those -- or i should say the lack of approval. mr. president, it is no secret that democrats in congress hate president trump. for months they've held up his nominees for key positions in the government. now, the strategy may serve their hatred of president trump, but it is harmful to our country. one example of this is that the nominee for the federal railroad
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commission was held up months after he had been approved unanimously by the committee of jurisdiction for his appointment in the federal government. it is a resulted there are multiple fatal crashes in the railroad system of which republicans were on a trip when one of them occurred that may have been prevented had there been leadership in that railroad commission. now, we have a sense that there can be a consequence of this kind of unremitting whatever trump proposes we're going to oppose no matter just because it's trump. but then we see the consequences when folks die in railroad accidents. i'll note after the last set of fatalities that hold was lifted and the nomination was allowed to proceed. now, sometimes it is not so clear that the damage is occurring from this kind of whatever trump proposes we shall oppose. in one of these cases, it
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involves a multiple -- a multiple of these involves the department of education. one is mitch zias. president trump nominated general zias october 2017, now over six months after his nomination, we still do not have a deputy secretary of the department of education. general zais is qualified for the position. he served as south carolina's elected state superintendent of education, president at newbury colleges a commissioner on south carolina's commission on higher education. he served his country honorably and faithfully in the u.s. army for 31 years, again retiring as a brigadier general. a little known fact about the general, he has diselection, why an issue that affects 20% of our nation's population. he knows the first -- he knows firsthand the struggles of
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dyslexia and how with the proper evidence-based resources our children with dyslexia can learn to read and have a successful future as any other. now, ensuring children with dyslexia have the resources they have to succeed is a legislative priority for me and also for general zais, as he indicated when he was finally confirmed. democrats have imposed 30 hours of debate on nominees they support by forcing cloture votes. they have forced more cloture votes in the first year of the trump administration than in the entire first terms of the last four presidents combined. mr. president, these delay tactics have consequences. just as they did for the rail system, they do for the education of our children. and it is a tragedy that democrats are blocking -- are playing games with our children's future. one example -- and not very good example, not good for that's affects -- the national
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assessment of educational progress or neap, released our nation's report card. our children have not made gains in reading or math. only 40% of fourth grader gradee considered proficient in math and only 36% were reading at grade 4 levels. mr. president, this is unacceptable. if a child learns to read in grades one, two, three, after that she or he reads to learn. if you can't read by fourth grade, you may never be able to read to learn as effectively as you need to succeed in today's economy. but democrats hate donald trump so much, they would remember risk a child not learning to read than to have their future -- and have their future prospectives dimmed than to ease a prove a trump nominee. the time is now to stop the obstruction. let's put our children's educational needs first and confirm the remaining nominees
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that serve at the u.s. department of education. this is not about donald j. trump. this is about the chimp our country who if they don't learn to read and do math proficiently shall have a future which is less than it should be. and that should be a bipartisan concern. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. carper: mr. president, i rarely rise three times in the same day to speak, so this is a special day for me, maybe for the senate. but i want to assure my colleagues that the concern that many of us have been expressing today about the current chaos at the environmental protection agency, the nomination of andrew wheeler and actually andrew is the person who could predictably replace as e.p.a. administrator. but in any event, concerns that we've heard voiced today are not
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ours alone. editorial boards around the country, including those from newspapers in republican-leaning states, are expressing concerns regarding e.p.a. administrator scott pruitt's recent slew of ethical lapses. we're charitable and call them lapses. but these failings by mr. pruitt that andrew wheeler will be expected to address if he's confirmed by the senate. i can assure the citizens in all those states, the editorial boards of all those papers and all my colleagues here today that the environment and public works committee would not consider the nomination of andrew wheeler with these ethical failings in mind. mr. wheeler has been nominated to serve as the individual who will oversee the day-to-day operation of an e.p.a. currently in chaos. we have had no opportunity to ask mr. wheeler about the
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administrator's questionable behavior, nor have we had a chance to ask him how he plans to right his ship that has so clearly lost its way. i am sober but not shocked to read what people who have their fingers on the pulse in their communities have to say about the current leadership in the environmental protection agency. it's truly maddening and actually deeply sad to see these indictments of an agency that we in congress vested with the responsibility to protect our children, support our elders and ensure a world in which we and all the life around us could thrive. so what are the newspapers saying about the leadership of the environmental protection agency these days? as a kid growing up in virginia, never read the virginian-pilot, this is what they say in a newspaper down in virginia called the virginia-pilot.
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they had this to say. on april 6, 2018, a week ago, the headline of the editorial, e.p.a.'s pruitt a terrible choice. this is what they went on to say. short of nominating an actual oil derrick or a landfill to the post, president donald trump couldn't have done worse than tapping scott pruitt to lead the environmental protection agency. it went on to say and yet it's unlikely that his sin ter approach to managing the e.p.a. will be pruitt's undoing. rather, it's almost certain to be a comparatively banal brand of corruption that is infuriatingly commonplace in the highest echelons of the trump administration.
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the editorial goes on to say having the director of the environmental protection agency wholly uninterested in protecting the environment is a national embarrassment. americans deserve much better than the worst option available. close quote. the next quote comes from charleston, west virginia, and it's from the "west virginia gazette" focused more on a favorite presidential theme. and i quote, donald trump campaign crowds love to chant "drain the swamp." if there's ever a political swamp creature, it's scott pruitt, picked to head the environmental protection agency. close quote. on the issue of pruitt favoring
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his oklahomans on his staff. the charleston gazette goes on to say, i'm going to quote again, despite the white house telling him not to give large raises to two employees, i think one raise was $29,000. another was, i think, $56,000 for a year, despite the white house telling mr. pruitt not tpo give large raises to two employees who followed him from oklahoma to d.c., mr. pruitt did it anyway. he used a loophole in the safe drinking water act that is supposed to let the e.p.a. hire quickly and in an emergency, not give taxpayer-funded raises to political lackies. close quote. nor did the administrator's security concerns pass muster, as the "charleston gazette" editorial stated, and i quote again, pruitt is very clearly worried about his security. he has tripled the size of his security detail. it's the first e.p.a.
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administration to have 24/7 security. again, at taxpayer expense. that security detail includes some e.p.a. agents who would otherwise be investigating environmental crimes rather than prosecuting their snowflake boss. the newspaper's words, not mine. the editorial goes on to say pruitt's predecessor, gina mccarthy and lisa jackson who were demonizing repeatedly by west virginia politicians among others, flew coach with a much smaller security presence. close quote. the charleston, west virginia, editorial concluded by noting, there are many reasons why scott pruitt shouldn't be leading the e.p.a. primarily, that he doesn't seem to believe in science and is more interested in helping big business than, you know, protecting the environment. but his obvious belief that taxpayer money and resources are given to him for his personal
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benefit is a big reason as well. go down to texas. "the houston chronicle" weighed in with this. i don't know if you have a poster on this one but here we go. this is what they said in the "houston chronicle." this was also april 6, this month. the headline of the editorial, the time has come for e.p.a. administrator pruitt to resign. the editorial reads at least in part, on the next episode of the trump administration's reality show the latest character the president needs to vote off the island is environmental protection agency administrator scott pruitt. indeed, it's hard to figure out how pruitt has survived so far into the season. the host of this show says he wants to drain the swamp, but the e.p.a. boss is so deep in the muck, he could play the creature from the black lagoon. and then the "houston chronicle"
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concluded, and i quote, pruitt seems destined to become the next character cut from trump's chaotic reality show. dropping this bad actor cannot happen fast enough. close quote. and even in mr. pruitt's home state, some people are fed up with his antics. one of those is the tulsa world. they editorialized in this way, again on april 6. and i will quote. the headline here is with a controversial agenda, e.p.a. administrator scott pruitt must live p above suspicion. in part the i had toerl reads -- the editorial reads some of the latest accusations are embarrassing. he should have known better and may pay a heavy consequence for them. the paper goes on to write from the first day in office, from the first day in office, pruitt has been under the microscope of scrutiny from those who disagree with the president's thinking on
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environmental issues. and if that's not entirely fair, it also should have been obvious to pruitt that he would have to live a life that was above suspicion in ways that have nothing to do with money. he could not afford to fly first class. the second oklahoma newspaper, "the edmond sun" had more advice for the president along these lines. donald trump has never -- donald trump has never needed help miring himself in controversy. that's true p before he ever moved into the white house. but he could do himself a favor and gain some begrudging respect from detractors by drop kicking scott pruitt to the curb. the fact that he defied a white
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house decision should by itself make pruitt ripe for termination. staffers and cabinet members far more critical than pruitt have been shown the door. trump should cut him loose and get rid of the rope and scissors he used to make the snip. under the best of circumstances and even in the most accountable administrations, consideration of the nominee to serve as e.p.a. deputy administrator is a huge responsibility for this body. as the "miami herald" rightly points out, there is no normal circumstance and surely not a normal e.p.a. -- this is no normal circumstance and this is surely not a normal e.p.a. that mr. wheeler would enter. he would have to be ready for a job that none of us can say at this time that he's ready to tackle, cleaning up a huge mess at e.p.a. as the "miami herald" notes, and again i quote, the flurry of
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ethical questions surrounding the environmental protection agency administrator scott pruitt is now a blizzard. a blizzard. the emerging picture of a chief environmental officer not only fighting along sides as he moments oil and gas interests but arrogantly betraying the public trust. the "miami herald" concludes and i will quote again, time and again trump has accepted arrogance and incompetence on his staff as long as loyalty remains beyond question. close quotes. meanwhile, akron, ohio. in its editorial entitled "deep in the swamp at the e.p.a." april 8. the "akron, ohio, beacon journal" notes some folks in the white house knew how bad scott pruitt was. and i quote the akron, ohio beacon journal. john kelly showed the right
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instincts. according to news accounts the white house chief of staff advised trump that scott pruitt, administrator of the e.p.a., needed to step down in view of his ethical misdeeds and spending excesses. and the "beacon journal" concludes again, i quote, scott pruitt should go. this is not about policymaking. dismaying and damaging as the direction of the agency has been. the problem is his conduct in office. pruitt has abused the public trust in the way he has spent taxpayer dollars, in the perception that he invites. apparently mr. pruitt is not showing folks in the show-me state what they want to see in an e.p.a. administrator either. the st. louis "post dispatch" in an editorial on april 7, 2018, pointed out, and i quote, there
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are many good reasons why president donald trump should fire scott pruitt as administrator of the environmental protection agency. top on our list are his multiple failures to do his job protecting the environment. he's gone so far as to say that if global warming is real, that might be a good thing. close quote. you know what? i wholeheartedly agree with the "st. louis dispatch." in conclusion, mr. president, i share these editorials because i think they illustrate the situation that mr. wheeler faces should he be confirmed. and that is a very difficult situation. as the number-two person at e.p.a., mr. wheeler will be responsible for filling the agency's mission and doing so in a way that earns, once again, the public's trust. he has a long way to go to regain that trust, and
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mr. wheeler will have a herculean task in front of him to help the administrator to do so should he be confirmed today. i reserve the balance of my time. and, mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: and the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
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