tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN April 19, 2018 10:01am-1:59pm EDT
create in us clean hearts and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. lord, we thank you for your life-giving spirit, flowing through us to reinforce our faith, hope, and love. inspire our senators. give them truth in their innermost being, a sense of dedication in their work, and a spirit of cooperation that they may labor together for the good of this land that we love. may they strive to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you. we pray in your great name.
amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., april 19, 2018. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable cindy hyde-smith, a senator from the state of mississippi, to perfom the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore.
mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: we all know the grief the opioid crisis produces
-- broken families, stolen opportunity, lost loved ones. this epidemic has been especially severe in my moment state of kentucky -- in my home state of kentucky, claiming lives at a record pace. in light of this urgent problem, many a. proud congress is fighting back. we've passed substantial bipartisan legislation to give communities the resources they need. the most recent government funding bill provided billions of dollars of additional support. but the work to end the suffering continues. one of the most heartbreaking
facts is the skyrocketing number of infants who are born dependent on opioids. defenseless children start their lives suffering from addiction. that's why in 2015 i sponsored, along with senator casey, the bipartisan protecting our infants act. as the first law to specifically address prenatal exposure. it reviewed the subject of opioid abuse in prenatal and infant patients. our bill tasks the secretary with developing strategies to fill the gaps in opioid research and programming and provide recommendations for preventing further harm to expecting mothers and newborns. now it's time to build on our success and better protect vulnerable children. so today i'll introduce the
protecting moms and infants act. this legislation directs the secretary of h.h.s. to report on the implementation of the strategies developed in the previous bill. it would have the centers for disease control and prevention develop educational materials to better inform doctors and expecting mothers about opioid alternatives. and it authorizes increased funding for a competitive federal grant to help organizations address this particular part of the opioid crisis. this bill continues our yearslong effort to protect the most vulnerable. i want to thank senator casey and my colleague from kentucky, congressman brent guthrie, who is sponsoring companion legislation over in the house. medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and many others across kentucky are working every day to bring an end to the misery of the opioid epidemic. this legislation will continue that fight, and i would urge my
colleagues to support it. now, madam president, on another matter, yesterday we voted to advance jim bridenstine's nomination to lead nasa. jim is a decorated pilot and combat veteran. his tenure in the house of representatives testifies to his understanding of the issues facing today's space program and to his advocacy of nasa modernization. but is as often the case, this well-qualified nominee has waited too long for a vote. nasa has been led by an acting administrator for a record 15 months. so i hope my completion will join me in voting -- so i hope my colleagues will join me in voting to confirm jim bridenstine today. i'd like to say a few words this morning about mike pompeo, our c.i.a. director and the president's extraordinary choice to serve as secretary of state. in recent days, the world
learned director pompeo had undertaken initial conversations with kim jong-un directly -- easter weekend -- to discuss denuclearizing the korean peninsula. obviously he has the confidence of the president, engaged in the most sensitive undertaking one could imagine in today's world, and yet so many on the other side are suggesting they have reservations about this outstanding nominee. pursued with clear-eyed realism and clear objectives, this is a worthy effort. north korea has been a perplexing problem for president after president after president,
and mike pompeo is on the point of this effort, which hopefully will finally lead to some outcome. although every commander in chief has insisted that it would be unacceptable for north korea to obtain an icbm, it is this administration that finds itself having to actually achieve that objective because time has run out. so, as a matter of policy, it would be hard not to be encouraged by the fact that they were actually -- there were actually talks, direct talks, under way. based on director pompeo's impressive record at the c.i.a., the north currency undoubtedly view him as credible, determined, and insightful. isn't that what you want in a secretary of state? the quiet nature of these discussions reflect how serious
they were. the mission also speaks to mike pompeo's future as secretary of state. here's a man who, through mastery of the daily briefings he receives, counsel on our nation's most sensitive activities, and proven leadership in returning our c.i.a. to aggressive gathering of foreign intelligence, has inspired the confidence of not only the national clandestine service but, very importantly, the commander in chief. hallmarks of mike's leadership are listening, trusting career staff, acting decisively, and treating everyone fairly. i've recently heard some critics claim that the trump administration places too little emphasis on diplomacy. in truth, the public statements of secretary mattis, former secretary tillerson, former
national security advisor m mcmaster have signaled a clear preference for aggressive, realistic diplomats sis over potentially risking american lives. i've heard secretary mattis say over and over again that the last thing he wants to do is use the military. he wants to bide time so diplomacy can work. but, regardless, in confirming mike pompeo as secretary of state, the senate can ensure the nation has a chief diplomat who enjoys the complete confidence of the president. isn't that what we should all want, regardless of party? those who claim to want a larger role for diplomacy should match those words with action and vote to approve him. what would be a better example of diplomacy than just what we were talking about -- the visit to north korea? direct conversations with kim
jong-un. we all know mike's resume -- graduate of the u.s. military academy and harvard law school, served as a u.s. army officer on the house intelligence committee and as director of the c.i.a. in my view, mike pompeo is unoaaniquely qualified -- uniquely qualified. i can't imagine -- it's hard to imagine a better choice for secretary of state than mike pompeo. now, one final matter. we've been talking all week about a big philosophical difference between democrats and republicans. tax reform has thrown it into stark relief. on the one hand, the democrats' governing philosophy is about
consolidating as much money and power as possible right here in washington, d.c. under president obama, we watched democratic leaders turn every challenge the country faced into an excuse to raise taxes and impose regulations. our dear friends on the other side are the party of taxation, regulation, and litigation as well. we saw who wins under this top-down philosophy and who loses. america did not recover quickly enough from the great recession. and the unimpressive growth we did see during the obama administration was extremely uneven. according to one study, nearly three-quarters of the job growth and 90% of the net population growth from 2010 to 2016 went to metropolitan areas with more
than one million residents. now, the occupant of the chair and myself represent a lot of rural and small-town folks. they didn't benefit from whatever job creation there was. it went to the big cities all across america. so in the wealthiest coastal cities, there was some improvement. but the simple fact is that democratic policies left the rest of the country behind. in small towns, smaller cities, and rural areas, opportunity dried up, paychecks stayed flat, hope for a more prosperous future began fading. that's what president trump and this republican congress were elected to change. our governing philosophy is very different. we think more of the american
people's hard-earned money should be left in their own hands to spend or save as they see fit. we think government needs to give workers and job creators some breathing room. we think every american community deserves to flourish. so we passed record-setting ro rollbacks of harmful federal rules that had thrown a wet blanket on the economy, and we enacted sweeping tax reform to help families and reignite growth. so what are the early results? consumer confidence hit a 14-year high, jobless claims a 45-year low -- jobless claims a 45-year low. millions of americans receiving bonuses, pay raises, and new benefits. 90% of wage earners expected to see lower income taxes than last year. 90% of wage earners lower income
tax rates than last year. so the philosophical difference is especially different in states where one senator decided to let all these things happen but the other senator tried to stop it from taking place. bonnie brazil tried to tell president trump that she is saving her bonus to save for retirement. in west virginia, sean ferrell said he is using his expanded 529 for school for his children. at some point the democratic senators, those states that i just mentioned, will have to explain why they voted to stop all this from happening. they'll have to tell bonnie and sean and chelsea that they agree
the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: thank you, madam president. are we in a quorum? the presiding officer: yes. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed
with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: it's good to see you back in the chair the second time, madam president. now, let me begin by addressing the administration's ongoing efforts to secure a diplomatic deal in north korea. to achieve the denuclearization of the korean peninsula. it's a worthy, ambitious goal. indeed, we should all root for a diplomatic solution to the decades-long conflict. it is undeniable, however, that this meeting is fraught with peril. my primary concern is that the president and his penchant for spur of the moment decision-making could lead the
united states into danger in one of two ways. my first concern is that the president, without a clear or coherent strategy, will buy a pile of magic beans, accepting an agreement, any agreement that allows him to declare victory. we know what he will say. the greatest compromise ever. greater than versailles, greater than anything. talking is good. but it's very far from an agreement to disarm. president trump should not accept a deal that doesn't include concrete steps to verifiably roll back north korea's nuclear and missile programs, including those that threaten our allies and partners. so that's one concern, that the president accepts any agreement because he is just so eager to tout that he was a great dealmaker and made an agreement, even if it's a rotten agreement for america. my second concern is that the -- and it's sort of the opposite.
my second concern is that the president, without a disciplined or coherent strategy, will walk away from a bilateral meeting if he doesn't get everything he wants. there is also the possibility that the president will walk away from an agreement after the fact if he decides later he is unhappy with it. we have seen him do that on so many occasions. as someone who has negotiated deals with the president, i know it's a very real possibility. now, you say these are opposite possibilities. they are in a certain sense. takes too little, walks away because he didn't get everything. but they are all underlined by one coherent fact. there is no strategy, at least apparent to just about everyone. the president seems to operate on a whim, saying something one day, another thing the next. and when there is no coherent strategy, each of these dangers is too real. either scenario could leave relations with the rogue state worse and more dangerous than
before. now, the president said last night at mar-a-lago that he would leave the meeting with kim jong-un that wasn't fruitful. mr. president, this is not like a business deal. there is a very real danger to walking away from a meeting with a nuclear-armed dictator. it could risk serious escalation. if the united states is seen as the one walking away from talks, we should be under no illusions that china, russia, and others won't follow suit. so we all want to see negotiations with north korea succeed. if it's true that north korea will take its demand for u.s. troops to leave the korean peninsula off the table, that's a good step. our commitment to the korean people, our alliances with korea and japan are not subject to negotiation. but i repeat if these talks are going to truly succeed, the president and his team require a coordinated strategy, something
this administration hasn't been able to show with respect to russia, syria, yemen, the middle east, and other hot spots around the globe. on another topic. i have come to the floor for several times over the past month to document the number of ways in which this administration has signaled a willingness, perhaps a desire, to interfere with special counsel mueller's probe into russian interference in the 2016 elections. beyond troubling statement from the white house press secretary and the president's allies in the media, president trump has publicly mused about the firing of the special counsel, so while i appreciate that the majority leader believes the president would be wrong to fire the special counsel, i believe it's a real mistake not to pass legislation to protect the investigation, and i sincerely hope leader mcconnell considers, reconsiders his
refusal to entertain bringing such a bill to the floor. it's a bipartisan bill. i have talked to members on both sides of the aisle who were worried of a constitutional crisis, and we all know the consequences of presidential interference in the russian probe and how dire it would be for the rule of law fundamental to our democracy, and the constitutional crisis that it would create should be avoided at all costs. unfortunately, there are substantial evidence that the president has thought about firing the special counsel more than once in the past and may do so well in the future. the bipartisan legislation introduced by senators graham, coons, tillis, and booker has no real down sides to it. it would simply provide a legal avenue to restore the special counsel if existing d.o.j. regulations are breached and he's fired for political reasons. so what is the reason not to do it?
why not head off a constitutional crisis at the pass rather than waiting until it's too late? the rule of law is fundamental to the functioning of our democracy. why even flirt with the prospect of a president challenging the very nature of our system of government? so i would urge my friend, leader mcconnell, to think twice about this. think not simply of his responsibilities to his party. not simply to doing what the president might want, but to our country and our constitution. and if you think of it in those terms, i think it's inevitable that we would want to pass this legislation. and that's because the rule of law is fundamental to the functioning of our democracy. to flirt with the prospect of a president challenging the very nature of our system of government is a real mistake. so i hope the judiciary committee moves forward with a bipartisan bill. i hope there is no attempt to water it down or create a back
channel for political interference in ongoing investigations. it's clear that several republicans, including chairman grassley, senator tillis, senator graham, and others, see a need to
pass this legislation. let them prevail upon the republican leader to reconsider his position. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: madam president, yesterday the -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. nelson: madam president, i ask for consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. under the provision ordered, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, national aeronautics and space administration, james bridenstine of oklahoma to be administrator. mr. nelson: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida is recognized. mr. nelson: thank you. it's hard to believe, but the
entire island of puerto rico yesterday descended into darkness. an excavation happened to hit a main line that cut out the electricity of the entire island. three and a half million people, an island that is not a small island, it's a large island, it was a total blackout, and now 24 hours later a large number of the people on the island are still in the dark. tomorrow marks seven months since hurricane maria made landfall in puerto rico, and yet puerto ricans are still dealing with constant setbacks and unreliable power. this is just simply
unacceptable. senator rubio and i have asked the senate energy and natural resources committee to conduct an additional oversight hearing on the overall hurricane recovery and to get to the bottom of this. i understand that this hearing will likely take place next month. but in the meantime this is a widespread power outage. it is just the latest example of why so many people who were forced to leave the island after the storm, they haven't been able to return home even though they want to. and yet, despite all the island's ongoing troubles, the federal emergency management agency, fema, said this week
that it's going to terminate the transitional shelter assistance for more than 1,600 families across the u.s. and 600 of them are in my state of florida. well, it just doesn't make sense. far too many of these displaced families that want to go home but obviously here's another example, a total blackout of the entire island, they can't go home, far many of these families, the only thing keeping a roof over their head right now is the fema program. and it's transitional -- and its transitional housing assistance. and what that means is they are either in hotels or motels, in some cases apartments where fema is providing them temporary shelter because they have been displaced from their homes, in
this case the island of puerto rico. storms like hurricane maria did this to the island of puerto rico. and we have a responsibility to provide them with all the assistance that we can. so senator rubio and i sent a letter to the fema administrator and to governor mosao, the governor the puerto rico urging them to work together to extend this vital program. and at the very least, because there's so many of these families who have children in school to extend it to the end of the school year so the family doesn't have to be uprooted while their child is still in school. i'm happy to report that
governor rossello has indeed made that formal request to fema, and the deadline is tomorrow. hopefully fema is listening to the governor and to the pleas of senator rubio and me as well, because students and families have had endless disruptions and need some semblance of stability so that they can finish out the year. the hard fact is this, the situation in puerto rico is far from over. these are our fellow u.s. american citizens. they need, they desperately need our help. we should be providing them with all the help we can.
now, madam president, i want to speak on another topic. tomorrow marks another somber occasion as well because eight years ago the news ticker came across our television saying that an oil rig in the gulf of mexico was on fire. the coast guard was on the scene and workers were missing. it was a tuesday night. it was nearly midnight on april 20, 2010. by morning light we knew that 11 men would not be going home again. for 87 days oil gushed into one of the most productive marine environments in the world.
the study showed that the oil impacted the deep water corals and the fish at the bottom of the food chain, all the way from the bottom up to the dolphins and sea turtles at the top. here is just one example, madam president, of -- this is in one of the bayous. you can see the marsh grasses in the distance. you can see the oil as it's coming up, and it's just literally covering everything. they did studies on fish that would be in a bayou like this. a little fish that's about as big as this, it's called the killee fish. l.s.u. professors did this study
and they compared them to the bayous where there was not this kind of oil. compared it to similar killee fish. what they found over time is the little fish in bayous like this, they were stunted. they didn't reproduce. they mutated. it's because of this, nearly five million barrels of oil gushed for three months. and a lot of it is still out there. some of it's down at the bottom where that well was in that well head on the sea floor below the rig. it's a mile deep. we worked as one gulf community,
in a bipartisan way. we passed legislation. it was called the restore act, to send a message that there were going to be fines and penalties. under the clean water act, so many barrels of oil, a figure and then the culpability of the oil company that allowed it to happen. a federal judge did and extended a trial over several years and came up with that fine and that penalty. and that restore act said that that money that was going to be assessed against the oil company, it was going back to the gulf of mexico region. and it was going to aid in the economy and in the environment. and when you have this kind of
impact, you can't imagine, but there was another impact. the winds caught that oil slick and started sending it east from louisiana. and it got over to the white sugary sands of pensacola beach and destin and tar balls as far east as panama city beach. but the photographs of pensacola beach completely covered in tar and oil. and those photographs went around the world. and what was the result? our guests, our visitors, our tourists for an entire season thought the beaches of all of the gulf of mexico beaches on
florida were covered like pensacola beach was, and they didn't come for an entire year. so not only did you have an environmental effect like this, you had an economic effect like the loss of tourist revenue and the hotels and the motels and the restaurants and the dry cleaners, and the little newspapers, and all the ancillary businesses that depend upon a $60 billion a year tourism industry in florida. and still i'm afraid that the oil industry hopes that we have all forgotten all of this. this month the media released documents from 2016 in which b.p. claims that an oil spill can be a welcome boost to local
economies. can you believe that? this oil spill was in 2010. and in 2016 we have just uncovered documents that b.p. claimed that an oil spill can be, quote, a welcome boost to local economies. end of quote. how outrageous and how arrogant a statement. i can assure you that the coastal communities of florida vigorously disagree, and i bet you the coastal communities that had to put up with that in their bayous would disagree vigorously as well. all that progress, and yet the industry is relentless in
wanting to take us backwards. they still want to open up florida's beaches and offshore to drilling. and we have to fight it every day. one thing that we also have going for us is the gulf of mexico off of florida is the largest testing and training area for the united states military in the world. this senator just climbed into an air force jet to fly part of the training profile for young pilots knowing that they have restricted airspace. that was out of tyndall, out of eglin air force base. the testing and training designee for all of the
department of defense. we have a range that goes from the pan handle of florida all the way south in the gulf of mexico off of key west. in one angle shot they can shoot sophisticated long-range weapons 600 miles to do the testing. and big oil is trying to roll back now some of the basic safety rules that were put in place after the disaster to prevent another tragedy. it's happening in front of our eyes. so two years ago they say that an oil spill can be a welcome boost to the local economies, and today they are rolling back safety environments that were put in place in the aftermath of
11 people being killed on the deepwater more rye does on oil rig. today they are rolling that back in this administration's agencies. that's why i'm joining senator cantwell and other colleagues today in filing legislation to codify these sensible safety measures, like those designed to update the standards for blowout preventers and a requirement for a third party to certify the safety mechanisms. let me explain what a blowout preventer is. it didn't work in the deepwater horizon oil spill. a mile below the surface, the wellhead where it comes out of the earth, there is a thing called a blow joust preventer.
so -- a blowout preventer. so a blowout in this deepwater horizon, there is a blowout that was supposed to safely cut the oil line, pinch it and stop it from flowing. it was faulty. it did not work. and so there have been new standards for blowout preventers. and today, from 2010 to 2018, eight years later the oil industry is trying to roll back those safety requirements that were put in place in the aftermath of spilling five million barrels of oil into the
gulf. you see the fight that we have almost every week. we can't allow the department of interior to take us backwards in time and expose our beautiful beaches and our tourism-based local economies as well as our military to another deepwater horizon-type catastrophe. and if we don't watch it and if they keep pushing back these safety rules -- and that's the return of filing this -- and that's the purpose of filing this legislation today with senator cantwell. if we don't watch it, we're going to be right back in the same place we were eight years ago. eight years ago to the day tomorrow that we had that all of experience.
senator from florida. mr. rubio: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. rubio: madam president, we are on the nomination of congressman bridenstine to be the new administrator of nasa, and i want to tie it into what i'm going too talk about in a moment. because it comes down to presidential appointments and the problems we're running into here with regards to it. i was not enthused about the nomination. nothing personal about mr. bridenstine. nasa is an organization that needs to be led by a space professional. a few weeks ago the acting administrator resigned -- or i should say retired, and his last day on the job is the 30th. so it leaves us with the prospective of this incredible agency with a vacancy in its top job and we're on our second acting administrator. if you do the math, even if congressman bridenstine were to withdraw, by the time it worked its way through the
administration, the committee process, the floor, the way thins are going, we could be into february of next year. there is no way nasa can go that long without a permanent administrator. so you make these decisions always under the context that a president should have significant discretion in picking the team. whether you liked it or not, millions of americans last year voted for the president. he was elected, and he has a right to govern and in four years -- less than four years now, two and a half years, the american people will have a chance once again through our democratic process to opine on whether or not they want him to have a second term. our job here is to provide advice and consent, which is here to analyze these nominees and determine whether or not we want to support them, and my view of it is -- and it has been the tradition of the senate for the entire distance of the republic -- that we give great deference to the president on choosing qualifications. we want to make sure that people are qualified, that there's nothing about them that would
disqualify them. and it is my view that the important -- that the more important the job, the more discretion the job deserves. that's why i decide to support secretary tillerson. in the lower -- when you get to the subsecretaries and the like, i think that discretion diminishes. and it's what led me to decide to support congressman bridenstine despite my reservations. and it is what i hope will lead my colleagues at least a sufficient number to support the nomination of mike pompeo to be the secretary of state. let me read you some of the previous votes we've had here in the united states senate. all but one of them predate my service. collin powell was confirmed by a voice vote, which is almost unimaginable in the 21st century senate. but in 2001 on the 20th of january by unanimous voice vote, he was confirmed as the secretary of state. a few years later in 2005,
condoleezza rice was confirmed secretary of state by a vote of 85-13. still 13 noes but nonetheless 85 yes. not everyone who vote the for here was happy with her nomination. one of the people thattest haved for her, i believe, was future president barack obama. hillary clinton was confirmed by a vote of 94-2 and i promise you that a significant number of the members on my side of the aisle may have respected secretary clinton but strongly disagreed with her and her views on a number of issues but nonetheless felt that the president deserved to have his nominee. when she resigned, her replacement was then-senator kerry who was the chairman of the foreign relations committee with whom i had significant policy disagreements in the senate. yet i along with 95 other members of the senate supports his nomination and he was confirmed. well now we have the acting
director of the central intelligence agency, a man who is clearly qualified, a graduate of the u.s. military academy, a person who has served this country in uniform, served this country in congress, successful in the private sector, has served as the director of the central intelligence agency. we learned over the last couple of days he has incredible -- the president has significant trust in him, so much so that he was willing to send him privately to begin the process of setting the stage for perhaps the most important short-term diplomatic engagement in country will have with north korea. and by the way, the most important thing you want in a social security of state is someone -- in a secretary of state, is someone the president has confirmed in. mike pompeo clearly has that. yet we face the prospect of significant opposition to the point where there are questions about whether it will pass in the committee, although i think he will pass on the floor. and i just think that's something i hope people will
recalibrate brought in their thinking. i don't think you have to agree with mike pompeo. you don't have to think that he's the person you would have picked. but you have to recognize that you are not president. none of us here are the president. the president deserves to have a team of people that he trusts and can work with and are qualified. i don't believe anyone can argue that mike pompeo is not qualified. he is more qualified than the person who he would replace in terms of experience in this field. and i just hope that people understand that and are willing to be a little bit flexible about this. i understand the interest groups are ginning up. listen, we have the same thing on our side of the aisle and full disclosure and candor when president obama was the president, there were interest groups on the right of center who constantly pressured congress to oppose everything, not just legislation but also nominees. i assure you that i did not get a lot of love mail when i decided to support secretary kerry or senator kerry at the time.
but it was the right thing to do because he was qualified and that's what the president wanted. that's why i hope that that's what we will do in this case in confirming him because this nation faces some very significant -- significant -- challenges in foreign policy that need to be immediately addressed, and we simply cannot do that without a secretary of state. for me, that became quite apparent this weekend. i happened to travel to lima, peru, for the summit of the americas. the vice president traveled on behalf of the president because of the situation in syria. mr. sullivan was there and did a great job. we had no secretary of state at the summit. the key issue and one that i think secretary pompeo -- director pompeo, if confirmed as secretary, could help with is the situation in venezuela. now, i understand that the headlines are dominated by
events in the middle east and by the geopolitical and economic and trade. i do want to take a moment to speak about something i have been speaking about for the better part of four years and one that i know that director pompeo knows well, we've talked about it extensively, and that is the growing catastrophe that is venezuela. to begin, i want to say clearly that we should care about it simply because that catastrophe has become a threat to the united states and to the region. what do i mean by that? first, the regime in control is a state sponsor of drug trafficking. it is very simple. what i mean by that is this -- drug trafficking that works, enjoy the protection of the venezuela government. in fact, one of the concessions, literally one of the contracts that the maduro regime gives its cronies and loyalists is drug trafficking networks.
so a drug trafficker who wants to move coca out of columbia and into europe will find the right general or the right individual in the maduro government and that individual will ensure that their plant is not shut down and that in fact the military and the government organisms, the government of venezuela, the government of maduro protects them, facilitates them. the people who are supposed to be stopping them are helping them. it's a racket. it resembles organized crime. that is what maduro does. and as we have seen an incredible surge in coca production in colombia to historic levels in the last couple of years, it is headed here to a nation that is already struggling with an opioid crisis. we are about to be flooded with cheap cocaine once again and a significant amount of it will be trafficked into this country with the aide and the assistance and the -- with the aid and the assistance and the support of the dictator in veterans'. that is a -- dictator in
venezuela. that is a threat to the united states and the region. number two, he is a threat to the united states and the region because he has triggered a migratory crisis that is destabilizing all of venezuela's neighbors, primarily colombia, which is each day absorbing tens of thousands of people fleeing starvation and rampant disease. unlike anything we have ever seen absent a natural disaster in this hemisphere. and it is destabilizing countries that are already struggling. colombia is already struggling to try to deal with drug trafficking groups that are in many parts of that country more powerful than the government in some areas, and the demobilization of the farc and other terrorist group called the e.l.n. on top of that, we have invested along with our colombian partners millions and millions of taxpayer money to help colombia which on the decade ago was on the point of being a failed state to help them to succeed. they are among our best allies in the world, and certainly if
not our best, one of the best, top allies in the western hemisphere, they are being destabilized because they are be a absorbing tens of thousands of migrants a day who are fleeing not just political oppression but starvation, starvation. health care experts are telling us that children in venezuela today will not fully develop physically to their full potential because they are malnourished today. infants, newborns dying in cribs and in hospitals because of a lack of medicine, because of a lack of food. these are images that we are used to seeing in other parts of the world, and it breaks our heart when it happens somewhere else. this is happening in our hemisphere, and it is all man made in one of the richest countries in the hemisphere. the most oil-rich country on the planet. just a few years ago, one of the most prosperous economies in the entire region. people are starving, and they are starving because of a man made crisis -- man-made crisis, because the maduro regime uses
food as a weapon. number one, one of the other concessions it gives the cronies of maduro is if you are a loyalist, he puts you in charge of food distribution. what does that mean? that means you can cipher the limited food into the black market where you can make an exorbitant profit. obviously, you will take some for yourself so your family gets to eat. and then they have the sick process where in order for you to get food from the government, you have to show up with your i.d., your government-issued i.d. in venezuela. they know who the government supporters are and they know who isn't. they know who turns out to vote and who doesn't. in a fraudulent election, by the way. ultimately they will manipulate it as they have done before. they know how you voted because they monitor the machines. if you support the government, you get food. if you don't, you don't get food. that's why he doesn't want food coming in. the third is we are engaged in this -- what i believe is global competition or battle between
authoritarianism and democracy. the rise in the threat of growing authoritarianism in turkey and the philippines, obviously china and russia. and in this hemisphere, it's venezuela. and venezuela is openly attacking the regional democratic order, openly. they have basically canceled their constitution. they have tried to replace the democratically elected national assembly. they have removed the legitimate judiciary branch and replaced it with loyalists of their own. and fourth, there is a growing body of evidence that the maduro regime provides a platform for the enemies of the security of the united states. that includes russia and hezbollah. the spillover effects are undermining our efforts and the efforts of our regional partners to promote democracy and human rights and stability in our own back yard, in our hemisphere. that was apparent last week at the summit where a growing number of countries, argentina, brazil, peru, are making
incredible strides and continue to build upon the democratic structures they have in place. the peruvian president recently had to resign after a previous president resigned because rule of law is working. in brazil the same thing. they are going to have elections this year in mexico and brazil and colombia. these will be legitimate elections. they may elect someone that agrees with us 50% of the time. they may elect someone that agrees with us 90% of the time. but they will elect someone. and yet in stark contrast to that is basically the coup d'etat that's occurred in venezuela where a small group of people have canceled the democratic order, at least tried to. in all this, there is great news and bad news. that is for the first time in recent memory, the democracies of the region have come together to act on it. it began with the so-called lima group which is a collection of countries that collectively make up the overwhelming majority of the economic power and the population size of the hemisphere. they have long banded together to criticize the democratic order. we're not even officially a member of it, but they have been supportive of the moves made by
this administration to target maduro. well, last week at the summit, all the members of the lima group, plus two, the bahamas and the government of the united states, issued a joint statement rejecting the sham presidential vote on may 20 in favor of free elections and strongly urging the venezuelan dictatorship to release all political prisoners. the problem is as i met with members of civil society and the illegitimate -- and the legitimate elected members of the general assembly in veteran swale is, is we are at a point now. statements and communiques are fine, but the time to act is now. people are dying. they are starving to death. the humanitarian crisis alone compels us to take action. so the question people pose to me is what can we do? some of the traditional ideas that people roll out there, additional sanctions, sure. but there is more that can be done and i want to quickly highlight what i hope will be the three things that happen. the first is -- well, let's
decide first on a forum. the ideal forum to deal with this is an organization, a multilateral organization created specifically for the purpose of defending democracy in the western hemisphere. that's called the organization of american states. it is a group of 34 nations, and it was designed to deal exactly with this. sadly, a small -- and i mean a very small minority of some of the smallest countries in the o.a.s., particularly in the caribbean, who frankly have been bribed and/or compromised from voting against the maduro regime, because either they continue to receive cheap oil at dwindling amounts or their leaders in this government or the previous one basically stole the money and the oil and now the venezuelans know it and they will release it publicly if these guys break from them. a small number of these countries representing less than 10% or 50%, maybe even less than 10% of the population of the region, have banded together to prevent the o.a.s. from expelling venezuela, a
dictatorship, from the o.a.s., an organization of democracies. i don't think we should give up on the o.a.s. we should continue to try at the o.a.s. to be the forum from the plan i am about to outline, but if that doesn't work, there has to be an alternative. the alternative i believe should be the lima group plus at least one, the united states. and what i hope will happen is that the lima group will meet before or shortly after the may election, that it will be a meelg of -- meeting of treasury ministers, foreign ministers or both, which is why we need a secretary of state to be there, to chart a regional approach on a way forward to venezuela. and here is what i believe that regional approach should be. number one is collectively we must announce that we are going to continue to increase in a multilateral way the pressure on the maduro regime, and the way we should do that is by coordinating these national level sanctions that target maduro criminal regime elements.
target these drug traffickers, target the people that are trafficking the food and controlling the food distribution for their own purposes, targeting the shell companies that they are using to make money and store their money and hide their money. if all these nations did that, encompassing the u.s. financial sector, the brazilian, colombian, the panamanian banking sector which would be critical on this, they would provide increasing pressure on that regime and on maduro loyalists to break. the goal is to maximize the pain felt by these corrupt, oppressive, and illegitimate government officials. the second thing we need to do is we must address the humanitarian crisis that is spiraling out of control. as i said already, three to four million venezuelans have already fled their country to escape starvation, depravation, violence. neighboring states are bearing the disproportional burdens, and they need help in doing so. i think we need to continue to provide that assistance. but ultimately, the answer to venezuela's future is not outside of venezuela. it is inside of it. that is why it is my hope that
the priority of this new group, the lima group plus at least one, the united states, would be to open up a humanitarian corridor that allows food and medicine to go inside of venezuela. and it can be distributed by a nongovernmental organization. put the catholic church in charge or the red cross. it can't be the maduro government. they will steal it. in fact, they won't even allow it. the maduro regime won't even allow humanitarian aid to come in. for them, one, they would lose the leverage of using food and medicine against their people. two, it would have to acknowledge that they have a crisis. we must do all we can to force that humanitarian -- that avenue to open, that we can deliver food and medicine to the people who are dying and starving and dying of simple diseases for lack of basic medicine. it's critical that the people of venezuela know that food and medicine and international aid is ready to be delivered into their country, putting up the pictures of the trucks and the warehouses, all of this food and all of this medicine is ready to come in. and the only thing standing in
the way is the corrupt, evil government that today has empowered itself of your nation. and the third thing that we need to be doing as part of this plan is preparing to help rebuild the free and democratic venezuela after maduro leaves power. and the third thing that i hope that this gathering will reach is a consensus and an agreement that we will set up the equivalent of a venezuelan marshall plan that includes development from the inter-american development bank, significant contributions from the united states and our partners to help go in and rebuild the disaster and the catastrophe that the maduro regime will leave behind. we also need to help empower the legitimate institutions. when we talk about the venezuelan opposition, what we need to understand is these are not rebels in a mountain. these are the national assembly elected by their people. it would be as if a parallel senate was created and we were no longer paid salaries or staff, often no longer allowed
to meet, and our laws were no longer given the force of law. that's what's happened. the national assembly is there. we need to support them. we need to make clear they are the legitimate representatives of the venezuelan peel. the only legitimate leaders in government today, along with some of the governors who were legitimately elected under the venezuelan constitution. they are having a problem by the way. when they show up at our embassy in venezuela, they are being denied visas to travel abroad. at a minimum, we should be granting them visas to travel abroad, recognizing them as fellow parliamentarians who have a right to speak on behalf of the people of venezuela. the other thing we need to do is cooperate with a real equivalent of a supreme court, many of them who are now in exile but who continue to meet. that is their credible and legitimate judicial system. we should be cooperating with them and helping them. they have all sorts of information about corruption that implicates venezuelan activities in the united states. i'll close with this. the dictatorship in venezuela knows and the people that sur
ownd maduro know that they are on borrowed time. it is our obligation to expedite that. not through a military intervention. not through just simple unilateral sanctions, which i support and we're prepared to continue to do, but ideally through an international, multinational regional effort in which the united states is a partner with our allies in the region to continue to pressure the regime with sanctions, to deliver humanitarian aid inside and outside of venezuela, and to create the mechanisms to rebuild that country's institutions and its economy. this is an opportunity for regional leadership. in a time where democracy and authoritarianism are in conflict all over the world, this is an opportunity to deliver a decisive blow to authoritarianism in our hemisphere, and it cannot happen with america alone. but it cannot happen without american leadership. this is the plan i hope that we
will pursue. this is the method i hope we will use. but to do it, we need a strong leader at the department of state to be a catalyst for all of us, and it is why i urge my colleagues to rally in support doing something about venezuela, and one of the best ways you can do that right now is to confirm mike pompeo as the next secretary of state. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. mr. schatz: thank you, mr. president. nasa is a science agency. its mission is to advance science, aeronautics, and space exploration, and to enhance economic vitality, and stewardship of the planet. that's the mission. that's why past nasa administrators have been accomplished leaders in the fields of government, aviation, and science. the nasa administrator in president obama's administration was charles bolden.
he has a master of science degree. he was an astronaut and a commanding general in the united states air force. president george w. bush had two administrators during his presidency. michael griffin was a physicist and an aerospace engineer who helped to design missile defense technology satellites early in his career. sean o'keefe was an engineer in the navy who worked on nuclear submarines. before leaving nasa he served as deputy director of o.m.b., secretary of the navy and comptroller for the department of defense. daniel golden was a mechanical engineer who had previously been a vice president at a space and technology company. he was nominated by president george h.w. bush and served under presidents bill clinton and george w. bush. richard truly served as vice admiral in the navy before he became the first former astronaut to head the space agency under president george h.w. bush. so the reason we are having a
robust debate about mr. james bridenstine to lead nasa is that this is the first time in history that we have someone without similar qualifications to run such an important agency. jim bridenstine, the nominee that we are considering, served as a navy pilot, and i thank him for his service. but that does not qualify him to run nasa. just because you know how to fly a plane does not mean that you have the skills and experience to lead the federal government's space agency. and i'm not alone in that opinion. a nasa consultant wrote that mr, quote, significant knowledge and experience with how nasa works or deep technical knowledge in aerospace systems. there are a lot of things that a nasa administrator has to do, most of it is governed by law. and i expect that anybody who is confirmed will follow the law. but the most solemn, the most
serious responsibility that the nasa administrator has is final launch authority. a launch is the culmination of thousands of people's work over many years. if something goes wrong, we could lose a payload that's worth millions of dollars or is in fact irreplaceable. people could die. that's why this job requires someone with good judgment and an understanding of all of the elements that go into a space launch. and that's why we've always had nasa administrators who have demon -- demonstrable expertise in these fields. it's frightening to have a leader who has made a career out of ignoring scientific expertise. james bridenstine is a climate denier with no scientific background who has made a career out of ignoring science. now i also don't have a scientific background, but i
defer to scientists. i rely on the scientific consensus. and the scientific consensus is not what mr. bridenstine says which is that it's sort of difficult to tell how much climate change is attributable to human activity. the consensus is that climate change is caused primarily by human activity and jim bridenstine doesn't say that that is true, and that is terrifying. forget our views for the moment about what kind of energy picture we think america should pursue. this is about whether you're going to rely upon people who actually know things or you're going to rely upon your own politics and your own ideological. and when you have final launch authority, you better rely on science. during his confirmation hearing, mr. bridenstine testified that he did not know about the scientific consensus on climate change. he suggested that there were other contributing factors that played more of a role. but the fact is this, almost
every climate scientist, 97% of all climate scientists have concluded humans are the primary cause of climate change. there are two explanations for his answer. either mr. bridenstine has not bothered to read up on the scientific consensus, on the most pressing scientific issue of our generation. or he does not agree with that scientific consensus. either explanation makes him unqualified to run nasa. i want to end by reading a few quotes from one of my republican colleagues. my colleagues said that nasa is, quote, the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics, and it's at a critical juncture in its history. he also said that any nasa administrator would need to have the respect of the people who work there, from the leadership and a scientific perspective. he also said that mr. bridenstine would add to the
phreut advertiseation of -- politicizeation and nasa at this critical stage in its history can't afford that. i agree p with my republican colleague, and i urge every member of the senate to give nasa the leader that it needs and to vote no on this confirmation. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, later today this body will vote to confirm my friend jim bridenstine to be the next nasa administrator. in that position he'll be in charge of rebuilding a space program, one that reflects the pioneering spirit and determination of the american people. i've known congressman bridenstine for a long time, and i know he's just the man for this really important undertaking. let's review his record. the record shows that jim bridenstine's service to our country is matched only by his eagerness to press the
boundaries of sky and space. jim bridenstine is a veteran navy pilot who flew combat missions in iraq and in afghanistan. he logged 1,900 flight hours over his nine years of active service. and he's still a lieutenant commander in the u.s. navy reserve. following his military experience, jim bridenstine worked as the executive director of the tulsa air and space museum. he even owned a team in the ambitious but short-lived rocket racing league. since his first term in congress six years ago, congressman bridenstine has served on the house science, space, and technology committee. from that position, he's been a thoughtful leader on american space policy as it relates to national security, commerce, and weather forecasting. the name of his latest bill on these subjects speaks to jim bridenstine's ambitious vision
for the future. the american space renaissance act. if ever there were a need for a renaissance in space, it's now. because who can deny that ever since neil armstrong's fateful one small step in 1969, america has in some respects been retreating from space. just 12 years separate the start of the space race from man's first foot fall on the moon and it's been almost 50 years since then, and it's unclear that we could go back to the moon if we wanted to in a short period of time. as vice president pence pointed out recently, we've not sent an american beyond low earth orbit in 45 years. in a humiliating reversal of sorts, america now relies on russia to carry our astronauts to the international space station because we shuttered our own space shuttle program in
2011. in other words, after america won the space race and after america won the cold war in one fell swoop, we gave away the distinction of manned space flight to the second place finisher. nasa's decline and disrepair is a great tragedy, but it's not all i see when i survey the horizon. and i know this is true of congressman bridenstine as well. i see no reason why america, with all of herring knewty and might -- her ingenuity and might cannot be the dominant leader in space once again. i see plenty of areas where this transformation is already underway. in government, president trump has signaled his commitment to american leadership in space by relaunching the national space council, which met for the first time last fall. outside of government, private enterprise is pressing the boundaries of commercial space
flight every single day. in the deserts of utah innovators like orbital a.t.k. are pioneering generations of rocket engines and space superiority capabilities. yesterday the world watched in awe as a spacex rocket planted a planet hunting nasa satellite into orbit. it's mission complete. the rocket booster piloted itself back to earth for reuse, landing nimbly on a drone ship floating out in the atlantic ocean. achievements such as these prove that americans are still awed, still star truck by space exploration and the opportunities it presents. a new era of leaders can restore this sense of ambition in government. in the halls outside this chamber, the senate has a constant reminder of the importance of the space program. i refer of course to the commemorative mural this body
commissioned in the wake of the challenger disaster. the mural depicts the crew looking expectantly, hopefully off into the future. behind them is a shuttle, the shuttle that carried them to heaven. and the world is in their hands. the challenger 7 gave their lives in order to advance america's space program. they knew the risks greater practically than those associated with any other profession on earth or beyond it. but they also knew the mission was worth it because it contributed significantly to their nation and to all mankind. what will it say about us if we fail to carry on the mission they undertook? if instead of exploring the infinite frontier we remain here below passing the torch of exploration to some other power. i don't want to contemplate that
future, mr. president. i don't want to believe that the american people do either. claiming our rightful place in the stars will require an effort spanning many years and several presidential administrations. we can begin that undertaking today by confirming a leader with a remarkable record of service to our country. a vision for the american space program that is big, not small. and a genuine faith in his country that is as boundless as the heavens. that man is jim bridenstine. let's confirm him. let's confirm him today. i urge my colleagues to confirm jim bridenstine without obstruction, without delay. thank you, mr. president.
mr. corker: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. corker: mr. president, thank you for acknowledging me and letting me speak today on behalf of our nominee to be secretary of state, mike pompeo. i did not know mike pompeo well. as a matter of fact, i'm not sure i ever met him until he was nominated. and i just want to say to people in this body, i don't think anybody would view me as an
apologist in any way for the administration. i view mike pompeo as a highly qualified nominee. i spent a lot of time with him privately on the phone. he did, i thought, an excellent job in his hearing. and we've had a tradition here of confirming people to important positions. just to give a little history, john kerry was confirmed as secretary of state. republicans and democrats, 94-3. obviously john kerry, my friend, no doubt had been involved in partisan activities. he had run for president. someone no doubt who i'm sure had said things that people did not agree with. secretary clinton was confirmed as secretary of state by a vote of 94-2. no doubt exactly the same case; i'm sure said things that many republicans, when she was a political person as united states senator or running for
president, that people disagreed with. condoleezza rice was confirmed as secretary of state by a vote of 85-13. and colin powell was unanimously confirmed as secretary of state. so we've had a history here of the last secretaries of state to be overwhelmingly confirmed. i realize we're in an atmosphere where that will not be the case. i realize my democratic friends feel like in supporting pompeo they are basically -- it's proxy for support of the trump administration policies, which many of them abhor. i understand that. i just want to say there will be a few democrats that i believe will support him, and i want to say to people in this room, our president has a very entrepreneurial tendencies. he talks to people on the phone
at night late. he comes in this the morning sometimes with differing points of view than he did the day before. we had evidence of that with syria. one day we were going to leave syria and then general mattis came in. i would argue to people here that michael pompeo has served the nation so well. he graduated first in his class in the united states military academy at west point. he served as a calvary officer, about a trolling the -- patrolling the iron curtain. he served with the seventh squadron. after leaving active duty, he graduated from harvard law school having been editor of the harvard law review. mr. president, sometimes we meet
people in life that are just sharper than they are, they had an incredible educational background and i can't imagine accomplishing some of the things he accomplished in life. i know you have served thankfully, you served in our military, mr. president. people who have typically who have served in the military have more respect for diplomacy than those who have not because they understand that their diplomatic efforts, if successful, is the thing that keeps our men and women out of harm's way. they know that. pompeo's committed to that. he saw, by the way -- he saw -- he was there at the iron curtain and understood what diplomacy did to free people and keep conflict from occurring. i know he's highly committed to that. we had cultural issues at the
state department, there's no question. i think everyone understands that. we had a former secretary of state, someone who i had a good relationship with, you know, no doubt there were some things left undone at the state department. we've got a lot of positions that are unfilled, and all i can say is that i know that our nominee is highly committed to filling those positions. we have cultural issues there as a result. there's no question . with we acknowledge that. mike pompeo, as head of the c.i.a., every month sits down with c.i.a. employees in a casual setting where they call him mike and they talk to him about what's going on. he's a person who knows how to build culture. he has done so at the c.i.a. he understands the importance of the professionals who have committed their lives just like the foreign service officers at the state department to the
c.i.a. we have someone who i know is going to build culture, we have someone who i know is committed to diplomacy, and let's just talk about where we are in the world today. we have crises in the world today. we have issues with north korea, syria, with russia, concerns about some of the things china's done, pakistan, afghanistan, iraq. who in the world could possibly know more currently about where we are than our director of the c.i.a. i can't imagine there's a person in washington that has more current knowledge about the threats, the people involved in those threats, the people that we can use to help us deal with those threats than the director of the crate c.i.a. -- c.i.a. there could be no one more knowledgeable to step in and deal with the kind of issues that we have dealt with around the world. look at north korea, just
recently, he was the person -- we know the back channels to north korea has always been through intelligence. he was exactly the right person to be there to talk and do the precursor work needs to be done, many others need to be involved, secretary of energy, secretary of defense, many other people, obviously. but director pompeo was exactly the right person to go and demonstrated his ability to be dealt with with respect. so, again, i -- i will be leaving this body in eight and a half months. it has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve here, as i said to my republican colleagues i said yesterday at lunch. i think the cal better of those in the -- caliber of those in the united states has risen since i have been here. i think we have the best group of senators that we've had since i have been here. i -- it pains me to know that my
friends know on the other side of the aisle that this is a qualified person. this is a person that's demonstrated excellence in his life -- incredible excellence. he served his country. he's been in the private sector. he served in this body. he was a congressman. and now he has served with distinguished -- he distinguished himself with his service as director of the c.i.a. by the way, any position, and -- and i know many of my democratic colleagues have lavished him with praise because of the way that he has built an excellent culture there. so i hope, mr. president, that members on the other side, over time -- we're going to have a vote on monday night in the committee. i hope that we're able to send him out of committee to the floor, and i hope that the
members on the other side of the aisle that have not yet said how they are going to vote will think about the circumstances that we're in today. and feel like that they can support a highly qualified secretary of state because they know that having someone like him giving advice to the president, leading diplomacy, making sure that state department with the great professionals that we have there is -- is given the ability to do what it does best by leveraging their efforts around the world. i hope that people will think about this and realize that we're much better as a nation having mike pompeo as secretary of state than not having him as secretary of state and will vote aye on the floor. with that, mr. president, i thank you, and i yield the floor.
mr. lankford: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: mr. president, i rise to be able to talk with this body about the nasa administrator. later today we're going to have a vote which is extremely important for the future of nasa and the future of space exploration. what we're going to do with our satellites, what we're going to do on climate issues and weather, all related to nasa. jim bridenstine who is a friend, oklahoman, oklahoman's first district is the president -- is the person the president has tapped to be the next nasa administrator. he's months and months gone through process, gone through committee hearings, gone through all kinds of support. the committees he served in in
the house of representatives in a bipartisan letter with wide majorities to the senate saying we've worked with jim bridenstine. he's exceptionally knowledgeable about issues on space. he's a great choice and they sent that letter over from the house to the senate. multiple individuals have written letters in support of jim bridenstine, including sean o'keefe, who is the former nasa administrator, buzz a aldren alo sent extensive support for jim including a remarkable op-ed and the support for him. we've had multiple different groups that are space related that have sent all kinds of information and endorsements about jim bridenstine and in leading nasa and being the next administrator. all the support from around the country and multiple individual, former nasa administrator, former astronauts, individuals that have risen up but i still have people that bump into me and say i don't know who he is. i get that. he's a congressman from tulsa,
oklahoma. let me tell you just a little bit of background so he'll get some perspective on him. jim bridenstine began his naval career flying the e2c hawk eye off the u.s.s. abraham lincoln. as a u.s. navy aviator, he had 333 carrier landings. 1,900 flight hours total. while in active duty, he transitioned to the f-18 hornet, flew the naval strike, flew for top gun. he served in afghanistan, served in iraq, he served in our drug interdict work in central and south america flying there. he has had a pretty remarkable naval career. he graduated from rice university which is no simple thing to do but graduated from rice university with a triple major when he finished up rice university. he has an nba from cornell university. he's extremely smart. he's extremely engaged.
and he's been very attentive to the issues of space. serving the house of representatives, he's made his focus space, in research, in trying to be able to realign nasa into mission focus. what some have said that nasa has some ways lost its focus for what they exist for, jim bridenstine has been very passionate in trying to get nasa back on focus with a big vision and a big mission. he's done with that multiple different bills he's worked through but also done that in trying to articulate to the space community why this is so extremely important that we have a good solid, functioning nasa in all of its areas of operation. he has the support of our delegation. he has the support of many in the space industry. he has the support of former nasa administrators. he has the support of former astronauts and he should have the support of this body today. we'll vote on him at 1:45. nasa's acting administrator is in the process of retiring right
now. not only should jim be here, but we should have not taken this long to actually get to this spot. eight months this has taken to get to a vote on a nasa administrator. let's get him on his task and let's get him going. we need him in this spot and i think he will do a fine job. it's not just my opinion. it's folks if all over the country that have risen up and looked at him clearly and said he's the right person for the job. mr. president, i do want to make one additional statement as well. we're in the process of talking about a secretary of state. i've been very interested there's been all this debate about mike pompeo. mike pompeo is a friend. he and i came into the house of representatives together and served in the house together beginning in 2011 and got to know him for who he really is. i've been amazed at the smears in the press and the attack on his personal character. every time i read one of those, i think this is a person who has
never met mike pompeo. the best way to evaluate mike pompeo is not just his background, small things like graduating first in his class from west point, his military service, his time in professional business, his time serving as a house member, the excellent work that he has done over the last year leading our c.i.a., the cool hand that he has been in the middle of the chaos of trying to be able to deal with all the issues right now in washington, d.c. those are all good marks to be able to look at him. quite frankly one of the things that i would want to come back to is to say meet him. for those of you that doubt that are in this body, that are willing to read a media story at some point that have taken one thing he said at some point out of context, i encourage you to meet him and actually have that conversation. you're going to find a find leader who is dedicated to help our nation, who's done if on the -- done it on the battle field, done it as a representative, who's done it as the director of the c.i.a. and will do an
incredible job helping us diplomatically worldwide in the state department. i'm looking forward to supporting his nomination, not because i'm a republican and it's a republican nomination. because he's a quality individual that genuinely wants to help the country. i think will uphold extremely well the history we've had in diplomacy in the united states. with that, mr. president, i yield back. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: mr. president, let me just wholeheartedly agree with our senator from oklahoma on pompeo as well as the comments he made on jim bridenstine. i would like to deviate just a little bit, though, and remind people this is april 19 and this is the anniversary of what could be characterized as the greatest domestic terrorist attack in history. it was in our state of oklahoma, afterle alfred p. murrah office
building. 168 people were killed. many of those were very close personal friends of mine. 850 others were wounded and i remember so well of being there at the time. second core runnians -- corinthians reminds us not to lose heart and through our inherent strength and selflessness, oklahomans united together to support our neighbors and rebuild our city oklahoma standard. today we remember the victims. thank first responders and continue to pray for oklahoma and the families and friends who have lost loved ones. i agree wholeheartedly with the comments that have been made about jim bridenstine. i was on the committee that went through confirmation. i've never heard so many things. one thing they all had in common was, none of them knew jim bridenstine. my associate talked about a smear campaign.
i've never seen a smear campaign like that. i've never seen so much hatred and for no reason at all. i think the two of us know jim bridenstine well. in fact, he holds the first congressional district in the state of oklahoma. that was my seat. i held that seat for eight years. and of course i've gotten to know him very well since that time and the things that have been said about him, i just -- again, the one thing they have in common, they just don't know him and haven't learned to -- didn't want to know him. so we have an administrator i think is going to do a good job. the best thing i can do now because i think senator lankford has said it better than i could is just to quote -- make two quotes. one is from the 2015 space news. they named him one of five space leaders making a difference. and then mention was made of
buzz aldren. there's no one better known in that community than buzz aldren. this is him speaking. we heartedly support the president's nomination of mr. prizen stein as the next nasa administrator, wish him godspeed during the senate confirmation process. we encourage you to join us in uniting the space community and our nation behind this nominee so nasa with return to its job of boldly exploring the final frontier. couldn't say it better than that. so i leave with you with that recommendation by buzz aldren. i yield the floor.
ms. klobuchar: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i come to the senate floor today to remember a minnesota icon, and that would be prince who we lost two years ago. prince was a one-of- a-kind artist. i grew up with his music. i was our superstar next door. he made "purple rain" a household name and brought fame to minnesota's music scene. minnesota loved prince and prince loved minnesota. he was born in minneapolis in
1958 and developed an interest in music at an early age. he wrote his first song at 7 years old and recorded his demeo tapes at sound studio. with seven academy awards, he pioneered the minneapolis sound that emerged in the late 1970's and 1980's and influenced music for decades to come. from timmy tahn and even beyonce, so many artists have been influence by his music. he released 39 studio albums, five number one billboard hits and 40 singles in the top 100 songs. in 2004, prince was inducted in
the rock 'n' roll hall of fame and six years later he received a life time achievement award. despite his success, prince never stopped calling the state of minnesota home. he lived in our state and never lost the sense that he was a beloved son, neighbor, and minnesotan. he wrote songs about the minnesota sports scene, including the one for the national football championship. when the minnesota links won their third basketball association championship, prince held a concert in their honor. when prince passed away on aprid millions of fans and a legacy of music that touched hearts, opened minds, and made people all over the world want to dance. i'm proud to talk about his
achievements as a cultural icon, and i'm proud to call his home minnesota my home. prince reminded us all that there's a world waiting for us after this life, a world of never ending happiness where you can always see the sun or night. i'm sure that's where prince is today. on saturday, that anniversary, purple will rain again. madam president, i also rise today to discuss senate resolution 463, a resolution passed by the senate yesterday that will allow senators to bring and their fant children on to the senate floor -- infant children on to the senate floor. several of my colleagues will join me to discuss the importance of passing this resolution, and i would like to take a moment to thank some of them because without their hard work and support this resolution would not pass. of course, there's senator
duckworth herself, the person who did all the work in more than one way. this is her second child, she's 50 years old, and she is a pillar of strength. he paved -- she paved the way for future senators who will have children while in office. she may be first but she will not be the last. i'd also like to thank senator durbin, her colleague from illinois, for helping her get this done. women may be leading the charge on making workplaces more friendly but there are men like senator durbin who have our backs. i would like to thank the -- finally, thanks to chairman blunt and leaders schumer and mcconnell who helped ensure this got to the floor quickly and passed. chairman blunt and i lead the rules committee and we worked together well for a very long time, and i welcome him back to the committee. i come -- i came to the floor
earlier this week to discuss the importance of this historic resolution. it's historic for a number of reasons. first, it is very rare for the senate to expand floor privileges to new groups of people. in fact, it's been decades since we did that. you have to go back to the late 1970's. in fact, there has not been any expansion of who is allowed on the floor since 1997 when a service dog was allowed. that's a long time ago. i've had a lot of interesting questions about this, including would senator duckworth's daughter have to abide by the senate dress code. she will not. she will not have to wear pants or a skirt. she won't wear a senate pin. that would be dangerous. she can wear a cap if she wants. another question, what would happen if weep want to have ten babies on the floor. i think that would be delightful if we had ten babies on the floor. i don't believe we are in any
imminent danger of that happening, but i think it would be exciting to have ten new moms and dads. the other thing that is historic, senator duckworth was the first u.s. senator to give birth while in office. more women are running for office and so it is inevitable that more women senators will have children while in office. this new role applies to men and women. one of the exciting things about this is that senator duckworth was very clear that she department just -- didn't want this to be just about her. she thought to the future and saw that we would have more women senators. sticking together means recognizing that we have a lot of work to do outside the halls of congress and the women senators across party lines have stuck together, but we know this fight doesn't end here. we have just -- we are just an example for the country but there are so many bigger things
to do. the truth is too many american moms aren't in position to change the rules which is why it is so important for those of us who are in positions of power to be champions of change, to able to look at ar archaic rules that were in place hundreds of years ago. if we really want to do something for the rest of america, we have to pass some work-family friendly policies, like paid maternity leave, like making it easier for workers to he get child care. those are the kind of things that will matter to all america, but today we set an example for one mom and one baby and we look forward to meeting her on the floor. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. peters: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that sean
wylan, a fellow of my staff be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. peters: madam president, i rise today to express my concern about the nomination of congressman jim bryan to be the nasa -- bridenstine to be nasa administrator. he does not have relevant qualifications. there is a importance of this position to our nation. i am keeply concerned about this nomination because it is further evidence of a much deerp problem. i am -- deeper problem. i am concerned this administration does not respect science, especially science in government institutions. let's look at the data. the office of science and technology policy has four positionings requiring political
appointment, including the director who serves as the president's chief science advisor. the president has made zero nominations to ostp and has taken significantly longer than any other modern president to name ad visor. let's -- advisor. let's look at it compares to past administrations on both sides of the aisle. canada, nixon, clinton all named a science advisor before they took office. carter and reagan and george h.w. bush chose one in the first year, and president bush chose one in june of his first year of presidency. when comes to this, president
trump is not normal. you could say this administration is an anomaly. this is the same president who flirted with anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and regularly suggested that climate change is a hoax. i'm not saying his lack of a science advisor is causing the president's ill-informed views, but i am saying, indeed, there is a very clear correlation. it's not just the top science positions that are empty or filled by unqualified nominees either. a talk radio hoes -- hoes and political professor was nominated to be the chief scientist at the department of agriculture. science may be interesting to all of us here in the senate but it doesn't have much to do with agricultural science of the 43 nominations the administration has made to science-related
positions, almost 60% do not have advanced degrees in science or health-related fields. a white house that does not respect science will hold our nation back. we have historically been a leader in science and it has unleashed trillions of dollars of economic growth and created millions of jobs. investment in research and development has been the reason for the growth of our country and economy. this administration's disregard for science risks creeding that to -- ce ding that to china. i do not believe the chinese government is pouring money into scientist research just out of intellectual curiosity. they know it will be the biggest driver of competitiveness and economic growth in the 21st century. madam president, in addition to
strong funding for basic research, we need smart, qualified individuals providing leadership across the american scientific enterprise. we need qualified leaders and scientific experts at n.i.h., o.s.f., and we need them at nasa. nasa has upwards of 18,000 employees, 80,000 contractors and a budget of $20 billion. nasa is also in charge of keeping our astronauts safe and inspiring a generation of young minds as we face a significant shortage of stem professionals. nasa's science and research needs a champion who understands and promotes the nuaunces of work being done by their team. in short, nasa needs a -- needs
an administrator who will be driven by science and not publics. from nasa to the usda, i can't help but reach the conclusion that this administration does not prioritize science, and this needs to change. i urge my colleagues to vote against mr. bridenstine's confirmation today. i urge the administration to wake up and make science a priority in the white house and across the executive branch and start nominating respected scientists to the remaining vacant positions. madam president, i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
mr. cornyn: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: madam president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are crch i would ask unanimous consent -- mr. cornyn: i would ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: i have request for committees to meet. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. cornyn: madam president, the senate is expected to vote this afternoon to confirm jim bridenstine of oklahoma to be the nasa administrator of the national space administration. for more than 15 months, our national space agency has been without permanent leadership. th -- this is far too long, especially considering the important work that nasa is undertaking. the agency is currently working within the commercial space industry to resume launches of
american astronauts to the international space station rather than have to rely on the russians to transport american astronauts into space. additionally, teams at nasa are developing the space launch system, or s.l.s., and the orion capsule, components of a rocket system that's the most powerful one built since the saturn v that sent neil armstrong to the moon. it will pave the way to hopefully one day landing astronauts on mars. having a permanent administrator in place is important not just so the agency itself can function but that -- so nasa can have an impact on our entire country. having appropriate leadership means nasa could continue to benefit texans who work there with jobs and opportunities to research, collaborate, and innovate across disciplines. the administrator is charged with selecting the directors at each of the agency's space
centers around the country. this, too, is important. one reason is because at johnson space center in houston dr. dr. ellen ochoa, the current director, is stepping down next month after years of distinguished service. it is critical that we have a competent replacement for her and ensure a seamless transition for after she leaves. part of the way we do that making sure this nominee is confirmed today. we are justifiably proud of johnson space center. the j.f.c. heads the manned spaceflight center for nasa. j.s.c. employs roughly 10,000 people and virtually all u.s. astronauts pass through it at one time or another to receive training. currently j.s.c. is involved in developing the orion capsule, which i spoke of a moment ago.
169 companies are collaborating with nasa on its launch, creating nearly 800 jobs, not all of them just in the houston region. in fact, in multiple locations around the country the commercial space industry is growing rapidly. in 2014 the midland international air and spaceport became the first federally licensed facility by the f.a.a. for both airline flights and commercial spaceflights. that's just one of several examples. meanwhile here in washington we have to continue to do our part supporting u.s. space exploration. last year i was proud to have my legislation called the manifest act, signed into law as part of the nasa reauthorization, and i hope to collaborate on similar legislation in the future with colleagues. if we want to keep pushing toward that final frontier, our first step is to ensure that we
have a strong administrator at helm, and that's why i intend to vote to support the nomination this afternoon. madam president, i want to the switch gears on another issue. i have spoken quite a few times recently about u.s. relations with china, both the opportunities and the concerns that we should have. last week i held a hearing in the finance subcommittee on international trade, customs, and global competitiveness to examine the challenges that u.s. businesses, manufacturers, and service providers face when they're trying to access the chinese market. the president spoke about this issue in his state of the union when he called for reciprocity. in other words, we expect to be treated as well as we treat chinese investment in the united states when we and our companies invest in china, but that's not happening. i've also been spending a lot of time looking at the long-term
national security implications that china poses to our country, which is why i'm proud to join my colleague -- our colleague, the senior senator from california, senator feinstein, who recently introduced legislation which will strengthen the process by which the committee on foreign investment in the united states, otherwise known as cfius, weighs profit risk. it wasn't originally designed to address today's rapidly involving technology as well as the threats to our technological edge, particularly when it comes to dual-use technology that is important for national security reasons, and the committee's current jurisdiction and the staffing is both too narrow and inadequate in order to address these evolving threats. china in particular has proven adept at circumventing the current cfius process. it exploits gaps and creatively
structures business arrangements within the united states to evade scrutiny. that could mean that there would be no scrutiny of those transactions on national security grounds, which is a troubling situation that our bill, the foreign investment risk review modernization act, or fir ma, is meant to address. the weaponization of trade and the use of coercive industrial policies are tools that china has been using for some time, and it's imperative that we give cfius the full authority it needs to ensure our advantage in the u.s. military know-how and technology are not stolen from us and used against us. it's important to note that in the wake of some critics' flawed objections that my bill does not try to address all or even most outbound investments. rather, it addresses a narrow subset. joint ventures where critical intellectual property and
know-how are transferred. this is a threat, too, to our american industrial base or jobs here in america. if somebody can acquire both the intellectual property and the know-how to make that technology in china, obviously those are jobs we won't have here in the united states. it's true these technology transfers are already sometimes covered under current export controls, but the problem is the harm to our national security is occurring in spite of those current export controls, so we need to do more. we need to step up to the challenge. export controls are not an adequate solution to the situation we're now dealing with because of their inherent limitations. for example, the intellectual property that is at the heart of many of these joint ventures implicates technology that the commerce department has in fact decontrolled -- that is, removed from the relevant export control list. one last point i need to
emphasize is that currently joint ventures are often carefully structured to circumvent this review process. these joint ventures are essentially aquiizations by another -- acquisitions by another name, which is why cfius should be able to review them for national security risks. met me be clear, though. foreign investment is a good thing. these joint ventures are not inherently bad. but we do know that china has used them strategically as a vessel for its activities to try to undermine our national security edge and jobs here in america. foreign actors know that cfius under normal circumstances would block their attempt to acquire certain business units outright, so they have been very creative in structuring transactions to obtain the very same industrial capabilities by other means. to address the national security risks, what we need is an
upfront u.s. governmental review informed by our intelligence assessments of the foreign partners that are involved. we need to ask whether these foreign partners are affiliated with the chinese military, for example, or some other potential adversary. in china there is no separation between public and private is being terse because the communist party sits atop the entire government of china and is basically infiltrated within -- embedded, i should say, within all of these chinese companies. so they have an all-of-government strategy focused at beating the united states economically and militarily. i believe that the opponents of the reforms that i've just talked about are trying to perpetuate the status quo as long as possible, not to protect our national security interests but just the opposite, so they can bolster their bottom line regardless of its potential
negative effects on the rest of our country and on our national security. we simply cannot afford to wait while china whittles away at our technological advantages. the time to act is now. our national security demands that cfius and export controls be made to be interlocking and mutually reinforcing, rather than simply relying on export controls to address these national security risks would be foolhardy. if we want our country to object retain its technological advantage and remain the top superpower in the world, enacting this bill is an essential piece of that. after all, if china supplants the u.s. as national only the top economic but military superpower in the world, the repercussions will be enormous. we simply have not faced that situation where the u.s. armed forces were not the most
powerful military in the world since before world war ii. and it's dangerous, as that war pointed out, when you have countries building their military, acting more belligerently and inviting retaliation. so let's not start now. the bipartisan bill that senator feinstein and i have filed has been endorsed by the white house and is supported by the current secretaries of defense, treasury, and commerce as well as the attorney general of the united states. so let's not hold it up any longer. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. heller: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. mr. heller: madam president, today i rise to honor major steven del bagno, a u.s. air
force pilot who was killed when his f-16 fighter falcon crashed at the nevada test and training range. at just 34, major del bagno's life was cut too short. but his life i have leadership and service to our country will be privileged by those who had the privilege -- will be preserved by all those who had the privilege of knowing him. i'd like to begin by saying that my wife lynn and i offer our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. we join the thunderbirds, necessarily list air force base -- nellis air force base in mourning this loss. he graduated from utah state valley university. he received his commission when he graduated from maxwell air force base. he was in his first season with the thunderbirds.
the thunderbirds are also known as america's ambassadors in blue. they are an elite team of fighter pilots. only 325 officers have had the honor of wearing the distinguished thunderbirds patch and they are the best of the best. in june of 2017, nellis air force base announced that major del bagno was the first f-35 pilot to serve with the thunderbirds. he served as the team's slot pilot and through thunderbird 4. he was called major del bagno an integral part of that team. prior to joining the thunderbirds, he was a civilian throughout instructor, a corporate pilot, a sky writer, and he was a banner-you to pilot. he logged more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft and that included 1,400
hours as an air force pilot. in his free time he enjoyed snowboarding, water sports and spending time with his family. he was laid to rest on april 15, 2018, at a memorial service at his alma mater in santa clarita, california. more than 1,000 people attended the memorial, joined together in commemorating his life. a true testament on his impact on the community. during the service, his friends, family, and fellow wingmen offered loving tribute about his skill, passion for aviation and pride of being a member of the air force. ilene block, a former guidance counselor for the school, said that steven was always giving back and said that he often visited the high school to talk to students about his love for flying. his name will soon be added to a wall of heroes at saugus high school. the thunderbird commanderrer said that major del .
h.bagno lived to fly and inspire the next generation. he will be remembered as a at that momented fighter pilot and a great friend. selfless, driven, caring, mentor, an inspiration, a big dude with an even bigger heart, brother -- those are the words that major del bagno's fellow thunderbirds used to describe him. if a video tribute, one said, cajun, you had this way of immediately making people feel special, interesting, and included. the world needs more of that. and now your memory is going to inspire all of us to be a little bit more like you. and and hopefully we'll make you proud. we miss you and love you. mr. president, the loss of major del bagno is an enormous tragedy that will -- that has struck the heart of the thunberbirds, nellis air force base and every life that he touched. major del bagno's life is a reminder that we are indebted to the men and women who answer the
call for service to this country and stand guard training and preparing each day for when duty calls. it's a reminder of what they give up, what they risk when they bravely step up to the plate so that we can remain an extraordinary and free nation. it's also a reminder of the families like the del bagnos who have lost a loved one and paid a price beyond measure. they deserve our lasting support. madam president, i urge my colleagues to join me in paying tribute to the life of major del bagno and his unbounded determination that has set him apart. these are people whose character embodies the american spirit, the people who truly humble us, inspire us through their unwavering commitment, the people who represent the very best that this country has to offer. i'd like to close with this in a video honoring major del bagno's memory, the thunberbirds talked about how he would talk about teaching kids to play a
thunderbird. there was footage of major del bagno responding to a question about advice for kids who wanted to be a pilot in the air force. he talked about the five p's of success. this is what he said. find your passion. find your purpose. be persistent in your pursuit. be personable, so humble, credible, and approachable, and then it will all pay off. people are going to tell you no along the way. it's just a test of your resolve. if you really want it, go out and make that known. i'm confident that major del bagno's legacy will inspire the next generation of fighter pilots as well as nevadans and americans around the country for decades to come. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. madam president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. casey: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: i would additionally ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, madam president. i was on the floor today to first and foremost congratulate senator duckworth on the new addition to her family, which we're anticipating seeing a new baby, and now we can be able to meet that child right here on the senate floor, but we do want to commend and salute senator duckworth, of course, long before today on her life of service, remarkable courage and sacrifice, and our nation owes her a debt of gratitude, not just for this recent news about her resolution, but also about her great service to the country. but this resolution isn important step forward for the
united states senate in terms of the people who are permitted to be on the floor, and we're glad that we have such consensus to make this possible for the youngest among us to get to the floor. it's also one way to demonstrate our nation's commitment to families and policies that allow children to get off to a strong and smart start to their lives. so many of us have worked on those policies for many, many years, whether it's making child care more affordable or paid family leave or flexible work arrangements or so many other priorities. so i hope we can use this opportunity to continue to work together to benefit our nation's children, and we're grateful to be part of that effort. mr. president, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: mr. president, i also ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. i rise to talk about syria, all of the horrors that we've been seeing over not just months, but years. and i think as many people around this nation as well as people within the, or in the international community or whether they are in refugee camps in turkey, jordan and lebanon, they could also be in bombed-out neighborhoods in damascus or aleppo. so many people around the country or across the world are wondering what will president trump do next in syria. are we any closer to a
resolution of this terrible conflict that will allow the syrian people to relikelihood their lives -- people to rebuild their lives. more than seven years passed since the syrian people began protesting the assad regime's brutal rule. and that might be a terrible understatement. the ongoing conflict continues to have a direct impact on national -- u.s. national security interests. in the seven years, almost 500,000 syrians have been killed. half a million syrians killed. and more than 12 million have been displaced from their homes. sometimes that means they leave their home and go to another community, another place within syria. but of course many, even maybe even most have gone to another country. it's hard to comprehend that because that's a little more than half of the population of syria. so just imagine if half of the
more than 300 million americans were forced to leave their home because of a war, because of bombings, because of the brutality of a regime. that's what's happened in syria. half the population displaced. half a million killed. this is a conflict that began rather modestly but courageously. a group of young people scrawling graffiti on the walls of local buildings in protest of their own government's repressive policies. this was in the context of a movement of young people across the region, meaning the middle east, standing up against autocratic governance. the syrian regime cracked down brutally, and of course we all know that the conflict escalated from there. i remind my colleagues of the genesis of this conflict because
so much has happened over the last seven years. and the path towards a resolution remains unclear. i have said before and will say again today that i believe as most analysts do that there is no purely military solution to the conflict in syria. and though the russian and iranian influence has always been present in damascus, it's grown exponentially as the u.s. has ceded our leadership role on this issue. beginning with the obama administration, i've urged the executive branch to articulate a clear policy towards syria, to empower our diplomatic and defense officials to demonstrate u.s. leadership on this issue, and to resist -- to resist -- ceding our regional influence to adversaries like russia and iran. we cannot afford to ignore the carnage in syria at the hands of the assad regime and their
backers, namely, of course, the iranians and the russians. the u.s. vision and u.s. leadership is needed. following the illegal, immoral and appalling gas attack that killed more than 80 civilians in april of 2017, the u.s. military executed stand-off airstrikes against the syrian -- against syria regime military targets, a proportional response to a heinous attack on civilians. but i'm also encouraged at the administration -- i should say encouraged at the time at the administration to address the syria conflict. then nothing happened. well, i guess not nothing. in the year since then the president has disempowered and now replaced secretary of state tillerson, failed to take
decisive action in implementing sanctions on russian entities enacted by overwhelming majorities in the house and the senate, and he's continued to confuse our allies with his policy making by tweet. this week i attended a briefing on this issue conducted by a number of administration officials, principally by secretary mattis. i was impressed with his goal of developing a cohesive syria strategy. however, i remain concerned that no clear strategy has yet emerged to promote u.s. national security interests in the region, to advance the national security of our allies like israel, or to protect the innocent syrians being targeted by their own government. this lack of a consistent and considered strategy has given
bashar al-assad the political space to continue to commit war crimes. and that what they are, war crimes. just one day after president trump announced, again on twitter, that the u.s. would soon be withdrawing from syria, assad's forces committed another heinous chemical weapons attack on a town that had already been suffering under siege by russian-backed -- by the russian-backed syrian army. at least 56 civilians were killed in 24 hours. and now of course we all know that last week the united states, the united kingdom and france responded with missile strikes against three syrian chemical weapons development and storage facilities. but again, we've not heard what the administration plans to do next to work with our allies and partners on the humanitarian and political aspects of this
conflict. over the last several years russian, iranian and turkish leaders have met to discuss the future of syria. we all saw that picture, mr. rouhani, mr. erdogan and mr. three adversaries of our government. sometimes we work with them, but on most days, at least two of the three, the russian and iranian leaders are adversaries. and certainly mr. erdogan has been back and forth between an adversary and having an alliance with us on some issues. but that picture was very disturbing. are we going to allow those three to dictate policy not just in syria but in the middle east? those three. i don't think so. i don't think that's what american policy should be. so by failing to engage in these
negotiations, the united states has ceded control of the outcomes to states with national interest often in direct conflict with our own. the russian government has made clear that they believe that all syrian territory must return to the assad regime's control before political reforms can be considered. the iranian regime has made clear their objectives, their objective -- single hrar -- is to -- remain in control of territory from iran to beirut. this is unacceptable. assad's continued presence in damascus is and will remain a recruiting tool for terrorist groups in the region. his regime enables groups like isis to grow and metastasize while iranian forces supplied tens of thousands of arms to hezbollah fighters who pose a clear threat to israel.
at different points during the last 15 months we've heard many conflicting reports of this administration's syria policy. at one point it was reported the administration would endorse a political transition plan that leaves bashar al-assad in power for at least another four years. at another point secretary tillerson said the u.s. would retain a long-term military presence in syria for combat operations, surge, quote stabilization, unquote, assistance to opposition controlled areas, and, quote, rally the syrian people and individuals within the regime to compel assad to step down. unquote. we've also seen the president say we're withdrawing from syria, and most recently conflicting reports of whether the u.s. will levy new sanctions on the russian entities that enable and support the murderous
assad regime. so a lot of mixed signals there by different officials over the course of these, i guess 15 months since the administration started. meanwhile russian and iranian adversaries have been clear and consistent in their policies. protect their syrian puppet, bashar al-assad, as long as it's politically expedient. the russians and the iranians don't give a damn about the syrian people or regional stability. in fact, instability -- instability -- serves their interests. they fuel and feed the regime. they advise and equip assad's army and security forces. and in the case of russia, block the united nations from holding the regime accountable. mr. president, the continued political turmoil in damascus coupled with continued besiegement of the syrian people will lead to long-term
instability in syria. the u.s. military should be commended, commended for its leadership in the international coalition fighting against isis and for supporting local and regional forces in retaking iraqi and syrian territory from terrorist control. centcom commander general votel testified in march of 2017 -- and these are important words that he spoke -- quote, we will defeat isis militarily. however, a lasting defeat of this enemy will not be achieved unless similar progress is made on the political front. instability all but guarantees a resurgence of isis or the emergence of other terrorist groups seeking to exploit conditions to advance their own ends. unquote. so said the centcom commander.
we should listen to his words and take action in accordance with those words. the administration must continue to lead the international community in humanitarian assistance to the syrian people and accelerate support for programs that promote good governance, rule of law, basic services -- basic service provisions in communities liberated from isis control. while we believe partners in the region should also contribute more generously, we should lead by example by robustly funding relevant accounts in the fiscal 2019 budget. i'm also thankful for the brave americans who have volunteered their skills and their time to help the people in syria survive -- literally survive. i think in particular the
syrian-american medical society -- sirn american medical society, -- syrian american medical society. these courageous volunteers stepped in to fill the gaps left by the international community. i have to say risking their own lives virtually every minute they are on the ground. more seven years since the conflict began, the situation in syria remains critical and u.s. leadership is needed more than ever. although i too express concern with president obama's serious strategy, a year and a half in the trump presidency, it is no longer sufficient to blame the previous administration. i urge president trump to present a strategy for syria that protects american national security interests in the region, pushes back against
iranian and russian influence and aggression, and finally, empowers the syrian people in their pursuit of a stable, secure, and prosperous future for their country. thank you, 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:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. burr: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. burr: i rise today because what is on our schedule next week. next week the senate will consider the nomination from the president of his secretary of state, mike pompeo. this is one of those times where i want to compliment the
administration on a great pick. mike pompeo is a great leader. mike as a teenager decided he wanted to go to west point. and not only did he graduate from west point, he graduated from west point top of his class and went into one of the least likely places, the calvary and was a magnificent leader within the united states army calvary. he went on to harvard law school and he earned his law degree but he didn't just stop there. he was invited to be part of the harvard law review which is a very special cadres of individuals. he left and started an aerospace company, as many know, a very successful business. and after that, he believed that community service was important. he ran for the united states house of representatives for the state of kansas where he served
three terms in great distinction. and he was tapped all of a sudden to be the director of the c.i.a. at one of the most challenging times to be involved in intelligence, much less to be the director of the c.i.a. well, i think by all accounts, those of us who serve on the intelligence committee, those people within the intelligence community but more importantly our partners around the world in a very short period of time have gained unbelievable respect for mike pompeo. it is tough for me to believe that this is not a nomination that we're passing out like the last two secretaries of state. john kerry, senator hillary clinton. 94-2. on both of them. now, i was here.
i'm pretty sure i supported both of them. and it's not because i politically aligned with them. it's because i inherently believe that a president has the right to pick his nominees and for those nominees to serve. and that short of something that is a disqualifier that the united states senate finds in their backgrounds, the president should have the authority to have that person serve. well, i've just described to you the background of mike pompeo. somebody's going to be hard-pressed to show me anything that's a disqualifier other than politics. and this institution has shown that politics never plays a part of nominations. whether we're in charge or whether the other side is in charge, regardless who is at the white house. but this institution has been bogged down because nominations take weeks.
we passed nobody under unanimous consent. everybody is a challenge. it makes you wonder why people like mike pompeo would in fact go through the process to be confirmed. let me remind my colleagues, we just confirmed him for his post. so he's already been confirmed to serve in the administration in one of the most challenging jobs, the c.i.a. director. and for some reason people now find him that he's not qualified to be the secretary of state. what could it be other than politics that comes into play? i'm here to attest to my colleagues mike pompeo is a good man. he's a good husband. he's a good father. he has been a great leader. and i would say as a member of
the united states senate with the charge of confirming nomin nominees, this is the type of people that we pray will be sent by the executive branch to us to confirm in a row. so i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, you may have differences with positions he's taken in the past, but for god's sake, do not question his qualifications to be a great leader. he's proven it. do not question his background from a standpoint of education or his commitment to the country because he's passed the hardest test in education and more importantly, he passed the most important test in patriotism. he has served his country with distinction. my hope is and my plea is with my fellow colleagues that they will allow mike pompeo to serve additionally his country but
this time in the role of secretary of state. i urge my colleagues to support him. i yield back the time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: i ask unanimous consent to be allowed to speak for one minute. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. gardner: i rise today to recommend and urge my colleagues to vote for jim bridenstine, director of nasa. we'll be voting on this nomination momentarily. jim bridenstine has incredible experience and incredible resume, incredible mission before nasa. we need somebody with a mission. we need somebody who actually has an idea of where we should take our great space mission. somebody who has commercial experience, somebody who has government experience, somebody should has management service and, yes, somebody who has experience within the industry itself, and that is jim bridenstine. jim has bipartisan support, support in the house. my fellow democrat congressman ed perlmutter from colorado said
that jim bridenstine will be an excellent nasa administrator as well as a dozen other democrat members of the house of representatives. he has the understanding, background, capability, and, more importantly, the drive and desire to do an excellent and outstanding job at nasa, and i urge my colleagues to vote yes. look, you just heard our colleague, richard burr, talk about director pompeo's nomination to secretary of state -- as secretary of state. blind partisanship cannot be the only reason that drives votes in this chamber. whether it's the secretary of state or the director of nasa, i urge my colleagues to vote yes, put partisanship aside, and start moving these nominations, doing what's right for this country. i urge my colleagues to vote yes on jim bridenstine. i yield back my time. the presiding officer: the question occurs on the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll.