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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  May 10, 2018 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

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a coffee. everyone else stay put. >> the u.s. senate about to gavel in to continue debate on appeals court nominations. senate lawmakers look at three nominations to confirm michael brennan for the 7th circuit and to limit debate on joe carson for the 10th circuit. at 1:45 eastern a vote to limit debate on john al bandion for the 6th circuit. and setting up possibly four new judges this week. now new coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer.
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the chaplain: let us pray. god of hope and love, through all the length of changing years, your goodness never fails. help us to know that to embrace your counsel is the way to find the road to abundant life. sustain our senators. empower them to walk blamelessly and honor you by doing what is right. prosper the works of their hands, and use them to help our nation and world, reflect the greatness of your kingdom.
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may their mouths speak wisdom and their hearts possess a knowledge of your holiness, as we pray in your holy name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: madam president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: madam president, let me begin this morning with gratitude to secretary of state michael pompeo. overnight he completed a sensitive diplomatic mission and returned home from north korea
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with three freed american prisoners. the families of these three men and the entire country are so grateful. this episode offers just one more example of the complex, relentless foreign policy chal hengs that couldn't -- challenges that confront our country. clearly our country was fortunate that the secretary of state was able to conduct his responsibilities from day one, leadership and expertise matter. yesterday our colleagues on the intelligence committee heard from gina haspel, president trump's selection to head the central intelligence agency. she showcased the poise and judgment of a 33-year career with the agency. our testimony confirmed what her gold standard resume and her support from seasoned security leaders had already told us.
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gina haspel has the experience, talent and unique skill set to excel in this important job at this important moment. since 1985 she served the nation in clandestine operations around the globe. true to the best traditions of intelligence, many have rawded conscious lauded her. her nomination carries the full-throated endorsement of the most respected national security leaders. today, more than ever, the value of her insights and experiences cannot be understated. her career encompassed the cold war and ongoing global war on terror. in a moment when our national security demands excellencecy in each of these areas, great power
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competition, and counterterrorism alike, ms. haspel stands uniquely ready to assume the responsibilities of c.i.a. leader as the most qualified candidate in the agency's history. as the intelligence committee considers her experience, we will all sleep better at night knowing that gina haspel is on the job. on another matter, today the senate continues our work to -- yesterday we confirmed kurt engelhardt to the first circuit by a significant margin. the nominee before us, michael brennan, is similarly qualified. his nomination carries bipartisan support from the people who know him best, including the endorsement of 30 peers in wisconsin. in the words of one such colleague, mr. brennan possesses the mind, heart, and soul of a
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great jurist. not too surprising then, the american bar association has awarded mr. brennan its highest rating unanimously well qualified. i look forward to voting to confirm mr. brennan later today and later we'll be voting to advance two more circuit court nominees, joel carson and john nalbandian. each possess their own set of sterling qualifications. each come recommended widely by those who work closely with them and each deserve to be confirmed by this body and take their place on the federal bench. our friends across the aisle aren't making it easy, but despite the historic obstruction, this senate will do what it takes to process and to confirm the president's fine nominees for these important posts. on one final matter, later today president trump is visiting the
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great state of indiana, he is joining hoosiers to celebrate the new jobs that republicans are delivering to indiana and all over the country. after years of democratic policies that made life harder for job creators, the united states of america is officially open for business once again. surveys show that since president trump and this republican congress were elected, the percentage of small and independent employers feeling confident about expanding their businesses has nearly tripled. the amount that employers spend on wages, salaries and benefits for american workers grew more in 2017 than in any calendar year of the obama administration. and the number of americans receiving unemployment benefits is its lowest -- the lowest since 1973. let me say that again. the number of americans receiving unemployment benefits
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is the lowest its been since -- it's been since 1973. richard nixon was in the white house back then. republicans have focused like a laser on getting washington out of the way and more job opportunities, higher pay, and greater prosperity are already reaching middle-class americans. my colleague, senator young, has been sharing some of the great news that awaits the president when he gets to indiana. he's heard from constituents like donald from nobleville. donald said, quote, i don't consider myself rich, but comparing next year's tax changes to last year's income, i will pay over $1,000 less. everyone benefits with the new tax cuts. a bloomington resident named kathy said this about the tax reform bonus. we never had this happen. tches -- it was much appreciated. first farm's trust is investing
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more in development for communities that serve with 34 branches all across indiana. there are stories like these written all over the country largely because republicans rolled back job-killing regulations and cut taxes significantly for working families and for small businesses. now, oddly, madam president, our democratic colleagues can't bring themselves to admit that this is a good thing. they can't bring themselves to admit this is a good thing. even when the facts show that our growing economy is making life better for middle-class americans, they try to shrug off the facts and fall back on the old rhetoric, even when people like donald and kathy explain how tax reform is helping them, democrats scoff at their finances saying that multimillion dollar tax cuts are just crumbs.
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crumbs? well, maybe in new york or san francisco, but in kentucky, where i come from, working families don't see their tax cuts, bonuses and pay raises as crumbs. i have a hunch it is the same in indiana. so it's curious that only one of indiana's senators voted to give hoosiers these tax cuts and these new job opportunities. indiana senior senator voted in lockstep with democratic leaders to block tax reform from ever taking effect. instead of working with republicans and the president to keep the new prosperity coming, he and his colleagues have chosen to obstruct and resist on nearly every subject. just the other day, the democratic leader in the house declared sheep lands on repealing the tax reform. that is the democratic of the u.s. house. campaigning on repealing tax reform, tax cuts vursus --
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versus tax hikes. fortunately for hoosiers and kentuckians and all the communities growing again after years of at if i, republicans will defend the american people's tax cuts and defend their new jobs. the presiding officer: under the previous order, 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, the judiciary, michael b. brennan of wisconsin to be the u.s. circuit judge for the seventh circuit. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. schumer: madam president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: are we in a quorum? i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: well, madam president, later today, the senate will vote on the confirmation of michael brennan to the seventh circuit. over the objection of one of his home state senators, senator baldwin, who has not returned a blue slip on his nomination. it's an abject breach of senatorial courtesy that both parties have long respected. in fact, the seat mr. brennan will fill on the seventh circuit has been held open for six years by the senior senator from wisconsin, senator johnson, via the same process, the blue slip. when barack obama was president, when patrick leahy was chairman of the judiciary committee, we
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democrats obeyed the blue slip, and it led that seat to be vacant for six years. now that the shoe's on the other foot, the republican majority will ignore the blue slip rights of a democratic senator, even though they fervently believe that we ought to listen to the rights of the republican senator of wisconsin, and this -- their actions, the republican leader, arose one of the few remaining customs in the senate that forces consultation and consensus on judicial nominations. in the grand scheme of things, the vote may seem for my colleagues on the other side like a small one. one judge for one circuit court. but in truth the vote on mr. brennan is part of a death by a thousand cuts of grand traditions of bipartisanship and comity in this united states senate. i know all too well there's plenty of blame to go around and on both sides of the aisle. but if we don't take a step back
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now, the senate will soon become either a rubber stamp or a graveyard for presidential nominees rendering our advise and consent nearly meaningless. i understand the pressure from the leader on the hard right. they want judges who are not bipartisan. they wanted a judge in this case who did not go through a bipartisan judicial panel that has always sent us judges from wisconsin, composed this package of democrats and republicans. two were sent but instead brennan was sent up who couldn't get through the panel. so this is so wrong. this goes beyond what we have seen done before. when leader mcconnell changed the rules on the supreme court which we didn't, many on the other side, i understand, said that's tit-for-tat because democrats changed the rules on the lower courts. but the blue slip tradition has always been obeyed. we didn't change that. we could have. we could have stuffed through our nominees with no republican
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input. we didn't. and so i would hope for the sake of comity, that one or two of my republican colleagues would stand up and vote against mr. brennan's nomination, not because of his beliefs which they may agree with for all i know, but for the sake of the senate, the grand tradition of the senate, for the rights afforded to every senator to consult on judges from their states, minority or majority, and for most of all, the traditions that have held this body together for more than two centuries and separated it from the more partisan chamber on the other end of the capitol. now, on another matter, north korea. early this morning, the three american hostages who were being held in north korea were returned home. it was great to see them come home, be back in america, back with their families. it's a wonderful thing. but the e exultation of the
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president and others of the greatness of north korea doing this evades me. we can't be fooled into giving the north korean regime credit for turning americans that never should have been detained in the first place. american citizens are not diplomatic bargaining chips. so while we celebrate the return of the three americans for the sake of their freedom and their families, we should not feel like we need to give kim jong-un anything in return. it is so troubling to hear president trump say that kim jong-un treated the americans excellently. kim jong-un is a dictator. he came prishesly detained american -- capriciously detained american citizens, robbed them of their freedom, didn't let them go home to their families. their release should not be exulted, it should be expected. it is no great accomplishment of
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kim jong-un to do this. when the president does it, he weakens american foreign policy and puts americans at risk around the world. if other of our -- if our adversaries look at what the president has said in reaction to kim jong-un, why shouldn't they detain american citizens and get a huge pat on the back when they release them? it's like so many of the president's foreign policy actions. quick, not thought through, related to show and to ego. when nations -- if our adversaries from iran to china who already hold wrongful americans think they can get something, praise, standing, diplomatic concessions by unlawfully detaining americans in their country, you can bet they'll try. these are bad people. the leaders of these dictatorships like iran. so i caution the administration.
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we're all rooting for diplomacy to succeed on the korean peninsula, but we cannot sacrifice the safety of american citizens around the world in exchange for an illusory veneer of peace. i worry that this president in his eagerness to strike a deal and get the acclaim and a photo op will strike a quick one and a bad one, not a strong one, not a lasting one. president trump and secretary pompeo must seek strong, verifiable, enduring commitments from north korea to disarm. now, on oil prices and iran, earlier this week, the president exited the iran deal. we all know that. even as someone who opposed the deal, which i did, because i thought it was flawed, i thought if president obama and secretary
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kerry had waited longer and given the sanctions more time to bite, we would have gotten a much better, stronger deal. i still believe that. but once the deal is in place, it seems to me that we should be focused not on undoing this de deal. we don't want a nuclear iran, one of the reasons i opposed the deal, but there's no report from anybody, including our own intelligence, that iran's violating that part of the deal. but in the meantime, iran's doing some very bad things. they're not a country that we should admire or respect in any way, the leadership anyway. they are dealing -- trying to develop an icbm. they are creating havoc with the houthis in yemen. and worst of all in my opinion, the greatest immediate danger, the iranian revolutionary guards are in syria, right near
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israel's border and hundred fs not thousands of rock -- hundreds, if not thousands of rockets, deadly rockets that iran gives to hezbollah, a militant terrorist organization, they placed in yemen. that's the greatest danger to israel. that's the greatest danger to peace in the middle east and down the road the greatest danger to the united states, at least in the next several years. so what we should be doing is not undoing this deal right now but creating new sanctions, telling iran you continue giving missiles to hezbollah, you continue sending troops to iran, you continue your stuff with the houthis and developing missiles, we're going to put additional sanctions on you. that to me is the smartest thing to do, the thing that most is in need now given america's and the world's security needs. but we need our allies to do it.
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sanctions don't work when they're unilateral. we learned that with south africa years ago with appar tie. -- apartite. only when the sanctions became broad and enacted by many nations did they have an effect. same thing here. so the united states by pulling out of the agreement and really getting our european allies' noses way out of joint, makes it far harder to enact new sanctions on what i perceive to be the greatest dangers we face. and there's one other thing americans should realize about pulling out of the iran deal. and that is it affects gasoline prices across the country. according to the u.s. energy information administration, gas prices will rise over the summer and the average american family can expect to pay $200 more this
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driving season than last. and the iran deal is certainly some part of that. for middle-class families, $200 this summer is more than the tax break that they'll get if they get one at all. when president trump makes rash decisions without the consideration of the consequences and no coherent strategy which is what's happened here in iran. the american people pay the price in many different ways. security, the lack of ability, declined ability to go after the greatest dangers iran faces, and money out of their own pocketbooks with an increase in gasoline prices. one of the ways americans will pay for president trump's unthought out decision to exit the iran deal will be at the gas hump this summer.
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-- gas pump this summer. to repeat, i didn't think the deal was a good deal. i'm still proud i voted no, but at this time in this place for so many reasons, pulling out precipitously without our allies involved does not achieve -- does not achieve the goals we need to achieve and hurts americans in different ways. finally, on prescription drugs. tomorrow the president will give a speech on another important topic in american health care. the high cost of prescription drug prices. he's right to give that speech. americans suffer from the highest prescription drug costs in the developed world. on average americans pay over $850 a year on prescription drugs compared to an average of $400 across 19 other industrialized nations. remember, that's on average. if you're sick and there's one
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specific new drug on the market for your condition, you could be paying in the tens of thousands of dollars per month for that drug. sometimes that new drug isn't much different from one already on the market and hasn't been proven to be more effective. sometimes pharmaceutical companies intentionally corner the market on a drug and raise prices by absurd percentages. we saw that with mr. shrekly. and there's no cop on the beat to stop the shreklys of the year. it hurts seniors and the infirmed and regular middle-class families every day. so we ought to do something about it. that's why democrats made lowering the cost of prescription drugs a central pillar of our better deal agenda. we proposed there should be greater transparency from companies when they are proposing to increase the price of their drugs. we proposed allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug prices and to
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establish an office that would go after the most egregious companies and actors that are raising prices of drugs for no reason, a price-gouging enforcer. if we were in the majority, these priorities -- these policies would be our top priorities. hopefully, president trump will get on board. in fact, i agree with a lot of what president trump has already said on the issue. he said that the drug companies, quote, are getting away with murder. in his state of the union he said one of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. prices will come down. president trump's rhetoric here focuses on a problem that we have to address. and we hope sincerely that tomorrow he follows through on that rhetoric with a tough and detailed plan to achieve what we both wish to achieve. but so far, president trump has taken little action to bring
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down the price of prescription drugs. he installed a former top executive of pharmaceutical company alex azar to be secretary of health and human services and now six months before the election, without consulting democrats or republicans on the hill, he'll give a speech tomorrow on his plan to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. we welcome the newfound attention. we sincerely hope the president outlines a clear and strong plan in detail about how to attack this incredible problem. another hat and no cattle speech won't get the job done. moret rick, more -- more rhetoric, more half measures won't move the needle. we need to do something bold and effective to bring down the outrageous cost of prescription drugs and we democrats have a good, strong proposal. we hope he'll embrace it. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: madam president, are we currently in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that the pending quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you, madam president. as a personal matter, this is the first time i have seen you presiding in the senate. it is a nice sight, and i welcome you. i'm here today to talk about the eroding and perhaps even vanishing tradition that we
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refer to in the senate as the blue slip. people don't necessarily know what a blue slip is, but there has been a tradition with respect to united states attorneys, local united states district judges, united states marshals, and the seats on the united states circuit courts of appeal that are by tradition associated with a particular state. with respect to all of those nominations, there has been a tradition that they require the approval of the home state senators. and the mechanism for that approval is called a blue slip, and there actually is a blue slip. and the tradition in the senate judiciary committee that was very rigorously enforced most recently by chairman leahy when he was chairman is that a nominee for one of those offices
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does not get a hearing and cannot proceed without the blue slip of the home state senators. i want to commend the ranking member on the judiciary committee, senator dianne feinstein, and the great work that she has done on the minority report that she led that describes the history of the blue slip and the extent to which what we are doing today is a break with that tradition. what provoked this is the nomination of michael brennan to proceed without a blue slip having been returned by his home state senator, senator baldwin.
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obviously this signals a disrespect for the local senators with respect to the office for which they heretofore had a blue slip. it also represents a very significant shift of power in washington from this body, from this chamber to the oval office, which is a little bit unusual. politics come and politics go, but it's rare for a political body like the senate to willingly and willfully emasculate itself to some degree and transfer all of that power
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down to the executive branch and to the oval office. i think there's a quite significant price to be paid for this choice. and representing rhode island, we are in the first circuit court of appeals. there is one seat. we're not a very big state. we just have one seat on the first circuit court of appeals, united states court of appeals for the first circuit, more properly, that is denominated as the rhode island seat. it's now occupied by a terrific judge, the honorable rosiery thompson, who senator reed and i
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had a very significant role in getting appointed to that position. should she step down, that vacancy would ordinarily be seen as the rhode island seat on the united states court of appeals for the first circuit, and we would expect that we would be consulted and that our blue slips would be honored with respect to a nominee that the president, whichever president, wished to push through. without divulging too many confidences, i will say that there was some considerable back and forth with the obama administration in order to have senator reed and i get the
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assurances we needed that judges that we approved of were appointed. what i can't figure out is how the tradition of circuit court of appeals seats having an affiliation with a particular state survived this decision to stop honoring blue slips for circuit courts of appeal. every single senator in this chamber represents a state that lays claim to a certain seat or a certain number of seats for the big states on our circuit
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courts of appeal. but the only thing that undergirds that is the blue slip, the notion that there is a rhode island seat on the first circuit or a texas seat on the fifth circuit or a new york seat on the second circuit or california seats on the ninth circuit or an alaska seat on the ninth circuit doesn't exist in the constitution. it doesn't exist in law. it exists by virtue of traditions of the senate. and the only tool that gives that tradition any teeth at all is the blue slip. so what happens if we on a categorical basis decide that
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circuit court of appeal nominees are no longer subject to the home state blue slip? at that point, there is no method for assuring that there is any home state affiliation for that seat whatsoever. a future president could choose to put a new york judge, a tennessee judge, an alaska judge into the so-called rhode island seat on the first circuit. and contrarily, if an alaska seat, so-called, an alaska seat on the ninth circuit opened up, a future president could put a rhode islander into that seat. because the only mechanism preventing that from happening
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is the fact that we honor each other's blue slip. that is the only mechanism that protects this long tradition that the seats on the united states circuit courts of appeal are associated with particular home states. so in this mad rush to get circuit judges confirmed, a rush that has completely overwhelmed this body, that has just completely stampeded the tradition of the blue slip, one of the prices that we will pay is that there is no longer any mechanism to enforce that any seat on any circuit court of appeals in this country has any association with any state.
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i have been joined by my distinguished colleague from massachusetts on the floor. massachusetts is a bigger state than rhode island. massachusetts has several seats that the massachusetts delegation would claim as the massachusetts seats on the first circuit, if and when an opening should occur in those seats. but with no blue slip, how does that stay a massachusetts seat? how do we have any voice in this whatsoever if there is no blue slip. we could easily end up in a situation in which all these circuit courts of appeal have been greatly nationalized. i think there are more than justice lawyers who would happily pull up stakes and travel to another location. the distinguished presiding
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officer from alaska and i have had conversations about the enormous reach of the ninth circuit. that already takes quite a lot of traveling. for a lawyer to have the distinction of being able to be a united states court of appeals judge, so let's say you have to pull up stakes and move from texas to rhode island. therethere are plenty of lawyero would do that. so i just urge my colleagues, as we undo this blue slip, think about where this road ends. because a few years from now, if there is a president of a different party and there are circuit court nominees who come up, our republican colleagues who have supported the abandonment of the blue slip will have no objection and no complaint, no legitimate objection and no legitimate complaint if seats that are
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nominally the alaska seat, the massachusetts seat, the rhode island seat on the circuits gets given simply to somebody else. there is no mechanism to prevent that if we don't honor the blue slip. that entire tradition falls right behind the collapse of the blue slip for the circuit courts of appeal. and of course it is a massive transfer of power from this body to the oval office, which is obviously fine with our republican friends now, given the identity of the person who is in the oval office, but that's not forever, and changes like this are forever. so we need to think this through. and i will close by saying this. why is it that we would behavior in such a peculiar way with respect to the institution that we love and serve as to
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basically disable ourselves with respect to local control over circuit court of appeal nominees and transfer that entire power down to the oval office. why would we do that? this is peculiar behavior. when you look to the heavens and you see peculiar behavior from heavenly bodies, you look for an explanation. one of the reasons we know that dark stars, that black holes exist is because they create peculiar behavior in the heavenly bodies around them. so what might be the dark star that is causing the peculiar behavior of the united states senate in willfully disabling its own power and authority with respect to nominations for circuit courts of appeal? what could explain the otherwise
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inexplicable dismantling of our own tradition and our own authority in this area? i submit that a $17 million -- actually $17.9 million donation that was brought to bear on the nomination of judge garland, the obstruction of that nomination, and the subsequent nomination of judge gorsuch from one donor. one anonymous donor put nearly $18 million into an effort to manipulate that process. now, that's not what's going wrong with the courts of appeal, but it's a signal of powerful political interests out there seeking control over judicial nominees. what other reason would an individual donor anonymously spend nearly $18 million, and
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that's just one donor. there is plenty of anonymous money flowing into operations that seek to get specific types of people into roads. and my concern is that it is the power of special interests that is the dark star that is causing the senate to undergo this deformation of its traditions, this relinquishment of our individual power as senators and our group power as a branch of government. it is special interest power that is driving this. there are special interests who would like, as a gun lobby, to be able to go into a court and know that they have a judge who is predisposed in their favor. there are special interests like antichoice groups who would like to go into court and know that they have a judge who is
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predisposed in their favor. the actual very dark money forces that are meddling in our politics are desperate to show up in court when the question of dark money is litigated and have a judge who they know is predisposed in their favor, and business interests that seek to disable, diminish and hobble courts and juries and provide people arbitration alternatives to their constitutional right to go to court and to face a jury of their peers, they are very interested in seeing to it that when they appear in court on those issues, they have a judge who they believe is predisposed in their interests. i cannot think of another reason why the senate as an institution
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after all this time would unilaterally disable itself, would unilaterally emasculate itself with respect to the role of the selection of our circuit court of appeals nominees. and i think that this is a day that we will come to regret because that first step to get judge brennan confirmed may seem very attractive and appealing to a great many of my colleagues, but once you have crossed that rubicon with that first step, there is no path that i can see that protects the right of individual senators to assert an interest in a specific seat or a number of seats on the circuit courts of appeal. i think we have more or less taken an irrevocable step toward
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nationalizing the appointments of all circuit court of appeals nominees, and we will look back at this day and say what fools we were. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president. i want to start by thanking my colleague from rhode island for both his powerful analysis of the influence of money on the selection of our judicial nominees and also for his point about the blue slip and the implications of what this means for an independent judiciary. he has been a strong voice on this for a long time, and i think his speech on it was extraordinary and something that i hope everyone listens to and pays attention to. mr. president, we're facing an unprecedented attack on our courts. this week, once again, senator mcconnell has scheduled confirmation votes on a slate of
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extremist judicial court nominees, nominees who have demonstrated that they are not committed to the principle of equal justice under law. in this administration, senate republicans have been working at break-neck speed to jam our courts with pro-corporate, narrow-minded elitists who will tilt the scales of justice in favor of the rich and powerful and against everyone else, and they are willing to bend and break and change every rule in the book to do it. their latest strategy is to ignore the blue slip. for over a century, home state senators have played a critical role in the judicial confirmation process by using something called a blue slip to determine whether a judicial nomination should move forward. the senate judiciary committee has historically refused to move forward on a nomination without a blue slip from both home state senators. in fact, during the obama
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administration, senate republicans insisted on maintaining that rule, refusing to move forward on any judicial nominee who did not secure blue slips from both home state senators. they even stretched the rule beyond all reasonable bounds to stop fair-minded main street nominees from being confirmed. but now that donald trump is in the white house, republicans have changed their tune. in order to force extremist nominees onto our courts, they are willing to toss the blue slip right out the window. michael brennan, president trump's nominee to serve on the be seventh circuit court of appeals, is just the latest example. even though mr. brennan did not receive a blue slip from both home state senators, senate republicans moved forward on his nomination. perhaps the ultimate irony is that when president obama nominated another candidate to fill this very same seat,
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mr. brennan penned a strong defense of senator johnson's decision to withhold his blue slip. now that the shoe is on the other foot, those principles have now magically disappeared. let's be clear here. there are plenty of reasons for any senator to be concerned about mr. brennan's fitness to serve on the federal bench. i'll just mention a few. mr. brennan has mocked millions of hardworking women who have faced sexism and obstacles to advancement. he has dismissed the idea of a glass ceiling. mr. brennan has defended a wisconsin law that added unnecessary barriers to women who were seeking access to abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. mr. brennan supports criminal sentencing policies that slap low-level offenders with long jail sentences and exacerbate the problem of mass incarceration in america. and it gets worse. mr. brennan believes that it's
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a-okay for judges to refuse to follow binding court precedent when the judge just thinks it's incorrect. now, that is extreme. but senate republicans have shown, they just don't care. they are willing to do whatever it takes to hand our courts over to moneyed interest. and there are many other radical nominees who are also in line. i want to take some time to talk about one of them, but i think it's important to explain just what's at stake here. in 2015, i was honored to join thousands of marchers to commemorate the anniversary of bloody sunday. on that chilly march morning 53 years ago, hundreds of nonviolent voting rights advocates, including many poor and rural african americans who had been systematically shut out of the -- systemically had been shut out of the political
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process marched to montgomery to demand equal access to their constitutional right to vote. as they crossed the edmond pettis bridge, the marchers, including any friend congressman john lewis came face to face with a wall of state troopers armed with billy clubs. the troopers had one message for the marchers, turn back, don't fight this fight. it's not worth it. fully aware that they were putting their lives on the line, the protesters decided it was worth it. they held their ground. as the protesters fell to their knees to pray, they were brutally attacked by those state troopers. as television footage and pictures of the brutality of that day ricocheted across america, the country was forced to grapple with an ugly truth. in a country that is supposed to be a beacon of democracy, many citizens had systematically been
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stripped of the fundamental right to vote. the march set in motion the signing of the voting rights act of 1965, a landmark law that banned racially discriminatory voting practices. now, i wish i could say that the fight for voting rights ended that day, the day that president johnson signed that law, but it didn't. even today powerful forces combine to strip americans of their lawful right to vote. states have passed restrictive voter i.d. laws, purging voter rolls, limited opportunities to register, and erected other barriers to the political process all with the same goal, to make sure that people who wouldn't vote for them wouldn't get a chance to vote at all. federal courts have been on the front lines of that battle. citizens have sought justice by asking the courts to strike down laws that make it harder for people of color, low-income
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people, the elderly, the disabled, or others to vote. the judges who sit on those courts have one duty, to uphold equal justice under law. the senate must determine whether federal judicial nominees are prepared to meet this obligation. thomas farr, the nominee for the eastern district of north carolina clearly fails that test. instead of standing up for the rights of all people to vote, mr. farr has been the go-to lawyer for powerful interest that have worked to stop people of color and marginalized groups from exercising their right to vote. among the most appalling parts of mr. farr's resume is his work for jesse helms, the former u.s. senator and shameless bigot. helms made his views on civil rights and equal treatment clear. he opposed renewal of the voting rights act. he led opposition to commemorating martin luther
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king, jr.'s birthday as a holiday. he called lgbtq individuals disgusting, weak, and morally sick retches. and he supported the apartheid regime in south africa. senator helms led some of the most blatantly racist political campaigns in modern history. to drive down black turnout, for example, his campaign mailed over a hundred thousand postcards to homes in predominantly black neighborhoods threatening those individuals could be criminally prosecuted if they voted. helms' most infamous campaign ad was a television spot that showed white hands crumpling up a job application with an nouner saying that the person needed that job but it was taken by a minority. these ugly appeals to racism were a core part of helms' campaign. and mr. farr was right by his
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side serving as helms' campaign lawyer. but mr. farr's troubling record doesn't just end there. in recent years he has played a central role in resisting antidiscriminatory efforts in north carolina. in 2013 the supreme court dismantled a key part of the 1965 voting rights act in its shelby county v. holder ruling making it easier for states to enact discriminatory voter laws. after shelby county, north carolina's republican-led legislature wasted no time in restricting voting rights, searching for ways to make it harder for african americans in the state to vote. north carolina legislators requested data about voting practices broken down by race, identified laws that helped african americans vote, and went about gutting each one of them. in just three legislative days,
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the state legislature rammed through an omnibus voter suppression bill. it included a voter i.d. provision that specifically excluded i.d.'s that african americans disproportionately used. it eliminated the week of early voting, it ended same-day registration, eliminated out-of-precinct voting and stopped preregistration for 16 and 17-year-olds. these were all, every one of them, practices that helped boost african american voter turnout. the bill was challenged in court by faith groups, by civil rights groups, and by the u.s. government. where was thomas farr? where was he? well, he was on the other side defending the discriminatory law. the federal appeals court rejected mr. farr's argument. it concluded that north carolina legislature had intentionally discriminated in passing its voting laws, targeting african
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americans with, quote, surgical precision. that case represents just one of many times that mr. farr has defended powerful interests who discriminate against and harass those less powerful. i'll mention a few more. when north carolina redrew its district lines in a way that diluted the vote of african americans, mr. farr defended it. when the car rental company avis was sued for discriminating against african american customers, mr. farr was there once again defending discrimination. time after time mr. farr has defended racial discrimination. he has also defended discrimination against workers, discrimination against women, and discrimination against lgbtq individuals. for example, mr. farr defended an employer who created a toxic work environment for female employees, instructing them to
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wear skirts to attract clients, commenting that women belonged in the home instead of the workplace, and telling one woman that he would help her pick up her panties from the floor. and he defended the discriminatory north carolina law that prevents transgender men and women from using the bathrooms that reflect their gender identity. anyone paying attention to judicial nominations knows that powerful interests are working to capture our courts. they've been having a field day in this administration, and i've come before this chamber on many occasions to oppose radical pro-corporate nominees hand picked by those powerful interests. thomas farr is one of those radical, pro-court nominees. he's one of them but he set himself apart even from many of the terrible nominees that the trump administration has forced through the senate because mr. farr has directly worked to
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dismantle one of the most precious and fundamental rights of our democracy, the right to vote. in a state that is over one-fifth african american, the eastern district of north carolina has never had an african american federal district judge, not a single one. but the senate held up two thoroughly qualified african american women for this same seat, two women who would have sailed through the senate if they could have gotten a vote. but they were held up so that a republican president could fill the vacancy and now president trump has nominated someone who has spent much of his career defending discrimination against african americans. talk about rubbing salt in the wound. equal justice under law is a cornerstone of american democracy. but that promise cannot be fully realized if we allow individuals
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like mr. farr to secure lifetime positions on our courts. someone who thinks that states should be able to make it harder for americans to vote based on the color of their skin or the likelihood that they will vote for a particular political party should be automatically disqualified from a federal judgeship. i urge my colleagues to vote no on mr. farr's nomination. the integrity of our courts is at stake. thank you, mr. president. i yield and i suggest the absence of a quorum -- oh, i yield. mr. flake: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i rise today to fulfill a promise to continue to advocate for a solution that would address the critical issues of securing border -- securing the border and protecting young immigrants impacted by an uncertain future, those who are a part of the daca program. last month i again offered legislation to extend the daca program for three years and to
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provide three years of increased funding for border security. the so-called three for three program. i think this is a way that we can reach a compromise on this issue that will do two important things. one, provide much needed funding to secure the border. being from a border state like arizona, i certainly understand that. we need a more secure border. we need additional resource, including barriers and technology and manpower. and this legislation would provide that. at the same time, it would provide protection for those kids numbering about 800,0000,00 much more eligible as well who face an uncertain future because we haven't been able to extend or to make permanent this program. these are kids, by the way, who
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are brought across the border through no fault of their own when they were about average, i think median age of two and a half or so. i'm sorry, i think 6 years old median age. but it's not their fault that they were brought here this way. but they are for all intents and purposes american, everything without the papers. many of them graduated from college now and face an uncertain future in the job market. many of them are in school looking to continue that education. many of them have served in our military. we've got to do right by them and do what's good for the country as well. and i think this legislation would do that. unfortunately, some of the colleagues here have repeatedly chosen to block the measure. i'm first to admit that this solution is far from perfect. we need to do a lot of other aspects with immigration reform.
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we need to address long-term labor needs as well as a more permanent solution for those who are here illegally, who weren't brought across the border as children. but this is a compromise that can pass. given the action the last couple of days in the house where you have a group of house members, republicans and democrats, looking to force that body to finally take action on this, it's time again to have the senate make another attempt. therefore, i seek unanimous consent that the senate would proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 300, h.r. 1551. i further ask that the flake substitute amendment at the desk be considered and agreed to, the bill as amended be considered and read a third time and passed, and that the motions to
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reconsider be considered made and laid pan the table -- laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard.
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the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. tillis: thank you, mr. president. i have three requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. tillis: thank you, mr. president. a couple of weeks i started the first of what would be a weekly spao*ebg to what i think is a travesty of justice in turkey. i want to talk about a pastor, a presbyterians minister from tphaorbl who lived -- from north carolina who lived in turkey for 20 years, has done his best to
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bring the word po people who want to hear it. unfortunately he's been swept up in a coup. he's been swept up in the emergency powers of turkey. he's been in prison for 580 days. i went to turkey about six weeks ago to visit pastor pwrupb son in prison -- brunson in prison because i heard about being in prison for a year and a half and for much of that time in a cell designed for eight people and had 21 people in it, he was indicted. i heard that he was afraid that the american people was going to read that 62-page bogus indictment with some of the phreupl is -- flimsyiest charges that you can imagine. about two months ago he got indicted. he said to his wife and friends that he was afraid the american people would read that indictment and turn their back on him. it was important for me to travel over there and tell him
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face-to-face in that turkey prison that's the last thing that's going to happen. we're going to continue to work for every day that he's in prison. i'm going to come to the senate floor, other members are every week for as long as he's in prison and we're going to make sure that the american people and the turkey people know what's going on and send a very clear message to the leaders of turkey, this is an unacceptable way to deal with a nato ally. it's a horrible way to deal with somebody who is only guilty for standing up a church in issu issue mir. it opens up to a street that's in a residential area. they let anybody come in. they open their windows. they actually even talk with the police about security matters so that they know what's going on. but it's just a small church. and all he's trying to do is provide aid and comfort for those who want to seek it. every once in a while he goes to syria or other parts of turkey and tries to provide aid and comfort to the those who need it.
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syrian refugees or anyone else. and a part of the charges are actually related to that. if you provide aid and comfort, food to a kurdish person, in turkey today you may be considered a terrorist o or a cp plotter. that's what he's been charged for. i went to this church on my second trip. i went back and i spent is it hours in a turkish courtroom to hear every word of the testimony from secret witnesses that pastor brunson didn't get to face about the horrible things that he did. one of the charges was that a witness saw one night for four hours a light on in one of the rooms of the church. here's the problem with that charge. that's the room. it doesn't have a window. so unless they had x-ray virginia, there's no possible way they could have observed that. but it became weighty testimony in the courtroom.
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it's a kangaroo court. i want to continue to say, if you don't know kangaroo coct there is eight definition. it is just a trumped-up theater that bears no resemblance to anything that you would ever see in american jurisprudence. let me give you another idea of the level of absurdity of the charges. pastor brunson's daughter posted how much she enjoyed a meal with friends, and it turns out that the prosecutor thought that this particular meal was something that was enjoyed by people who participated in the movement. and, there was, her father must somehow be associated with the coup attempt. these are actually serious discussions going on in a turkish courtroom. i wasn't able to make it back to turkey on monday, but i understand that basically the same thing happened, but it got worse. on monday they decided that when pastor brunson and his defense attorney had asked that ten
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other witnesses testify on his behalf, they weren't allowed to testify because they were "suspects." they weren't convicted. they'd apparently been charged, they're considered to be charged but in turkish jurisprudence standards, enough to be suspect is enough to prevent you from actually help defend someone who is on trial for 35 years for a 35-year extent he's been in prison for 585 days. he's lost 50 pound. he is struggling to he keep his wits about him. and he is doing an extraordinary job and his wife noreen is as well. i believe this is a miscarriage of justice. don't travel to turkey right now. if you're thinking about making a trip to turkey, make sure you don't eat this meal and for go goodness sake if you do, don't post how much you enjoyed it, because you may be considered a ghoulennist. too take a picture with people down the street whose
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ethnicities you don't know because they may have you as someone suspected of plotting a conflict of interest that's the reality of turkey today. i can't guarantee the safety of north carolinians because i have actually yet to speak with people in their state department, in their foreign ministry who actually understand the absurdity of what's going on in turkey today. i hope that get back to a better position. but until this man is released and others who have been falsely charged have treated fairly, i am going to have to come to the senate floor each and every week we're in session to make sure that the american people know what's going on in turkey and to make absolutely certain that the people like pastor brunson whoer in prison know that they have people in the u.s. senate -- in fact, 66 members -- who have signed a letter trying to -- 66 senate members. that's a big lift in the u.s. senate to get any 66 members to agree on anything. but to have them send a very clear message that we're
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watching and there will be consequences if this man is wrongfully imprisoned and could potentially spend the rest of his life in turkey. i should also have mentioned earlier that i wanted unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy with my friend and colleague from oklahoma. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. tillis: with that approval, i would like to pass it over to -- and thank senator lankford for the hard work. he's been aware of this issue from day one, and for his hard work and collaboration on it. senator lankford, thank you. mr. lankford: senator tillis, thank you. mr. president, thank you for acknowledging our time. this is a serious conversation because this is a nato ally. dr. andrew brunson has been in turkey now 24 years. 23 of these years he served as a pastor and a humanitarian worker. he took care of providing food and clothing, pastoral ministry to anyone who would come, just like anyone does. that's not an issue in turkey for decades because they have been open to all faiths and
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religions and have prided themselves on being a facing nation that recognizes -- on being a nation that recognizes all religions and ethnicity. at least that was the old turk can i. and literally under dr. brunson's feet, turkey shifted from where they were to we don't recognize them anymore as a nato ally. in october of 2016, dr. brunson was called by the police department there, assuming it was an immigration issue. he and his wife went because they had gone multiple times to the police department to be able to renew their visa and keep up to date. they had a great relationship with the local police department and all the authorities because they had been there for two decades and had developed great friendships. so they went to check in. but this time instead of just checking in again for an immigration issue, they took them into custody, without any charges and held them for a year with no charges. and then eventually presented these trumped-up charges that
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they've laid out there that are absolutely absurd. how a christian minister is somehow cooperating with a muslim in a coup in turkey is absurd on its face. but all of the crazy accusations from secret witnesses that would appear by video with their faces blurred out making some accusation that they had seen or they had heard, allowing no one to actually ask them questions, and just as absurd on that is not allowing dr. brunson to be able to bring any witnesses in his defense. there have now been two hearings that have been just this style. dr. brunson not allowed to be able to bring anyone to speak on his behalf. all of these trumped-up witnesses that come with blurred-out faces with secret testimony that they can present to be able to come back and present some sort of thing they would consider evidence that we would never allow in any court
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and quite frankly no one would take seriously these accusations. in 2016, after dr. brunson be in in jail for a few weeks, i withent to turkey and visited with the minister of justice. at the time they said we have some information. we're going to work this out. we're going to allow the process to be able to go through the court system. but we will rapidly go through this process. now a year and a half later we're finding out there never was any evidence. there never was an issue. and we're still dealing with an american being held hostage by a nato ally. i thought i would never say this sentence, but i would like to see turkey follow the example of north korea and release american hostages that they're holding. now, when turkey, a nato ally, is behind north korea in how they're handling humanitarian
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issues, turkey has moved to a very bad spot. and it's not a place that they need to stay. turkey has been a friend and an ally. we've worked together against terrorism, we've worked together in economics. but i join senator tillis in the statement he just made. i would discourage anyone i speak to -- and i have -- to travel to turkey at this point because if you're doing business in turkey, you cannot guarantee the safety of your employees any longer. if you're traveling to turkey, you cannot be guaranteed safety anymore. because of the emergency powers that are currently being used in their legal system, they can sweep up anyone for any accusation, hold then for any length of time. that is not just theory. that is being proven by a pastor being held for a year and a half in turkey with false charges. i would highly recommend no one does business in turkey at this moment. just for the safety of your employees and the people that upled work with.
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turkey has not just done this. they've also turned toward russia, pursuing russia for their air defense systems. as a nato ally, that is unheard of to be able to say that they're going to have nato equipment, but then they're also going to go to russia for part of their equipment, that shows the turning of president erdogan. congress is not going to sit back on this. senator shaheen and i have already put language out for the foreign ops bill that would specifically identify those individuals, the judges in the court, the officials that are holding pastor brunson, the officials in the city jail, and in their national government that are specifically holding those individuals to apply a sanctions directly to the individuals that are holding an american pastor hostage. senator shaheen and senator tillis and i have already put forward a piece of legislation blocking turkey from maintaining or purchasing the f-35.
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they are a nato ally and they should have example is to that, but they're not acting like a nato ally and we don't know where they're going, and it would be a mistake for the united states to give our best technology to somewhere that we don't know where it's going to go and how it's going to be used in the future. just this week the house resolutioned their national -- the house released their national defense act. in the base text they have a provision that would block all defense sales to turkey until we get more information about what's happening in the future and what direction turkey is going. that is a reasonable precaution to take in a nation that is rapidly shifting away from democracy and towards a free court, free speech, and freedom of religion. they're losing humanitarian values there. and we should address that and respond to that. and we are. it's not just what we might do. it's what we are doing currently to try to respond to this issue.
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the state department continues to be able to apply diplomatic pressure. but we've moved past a time when diplomatic pressure needs to be applied. it's time to apply economic pressure and pressure on how our partnership is going to work long term. we want power ally back. the thank you can i that we used to know, that -- the turkey that we used to know, that we cooperated with, and maintained that long-term friendship with. we'd love to be able to maintain that long-term friendship with an ally that has historically stood with us and we with them. but we cannot recognize who turkey is anymore. a good first step for them would be to follow the lead of north korea and release our hostages out of their jails. i yield back to senator tillis. mr. tillis: thank you, senator lankford. i withent to turkey. i spent nine days, met with business leaders, met with president erdogan.
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i hosted a delegation to talk about how north carolina and turkey could build stronger economic advertise. we both have textile and furniture industry. as senator language ford said, the turkey of today bears no relationship to that turkey i visited about seven years ago, the turkey i visited a few weeks allege. i'd like to be talking about how we help turkey take the fight to the terrorist organizations that are threatening their homeland. i'd like to work more with turkey as we have this week to identify isis leaders, detain them, and make that region safer. i'd like to be a member of the senate armed services is committee -- i sit right next to senator sullivan -- fighting for additional n.d.a. provisions that underscore our commitment to turkey. but now i am ape at a fork in the road. right now i've only got one position to take.
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that is to put turkey on notice for their bad actions as a nato ally and for their bad actions towards american nationals in the country of turkey. so i'm with senator lankford and senator shaheen and other senators. when we do our markup on the national defense authorization and talking about in terms of -- instead of talking about how do we strengthen our relationship for the -- for their part of manufacturing the joint strike fighter and what are the time line to actually have our tow ally -- our nato ally have f-35's within their military base. now i've got to start talking about whether or not they should have it at all. i've got to start talking about what are the implications of a russian missile defense system in annoy tow country -- in at that nato country. i've got to start talking about what the future of our relationship is with a nation that is actually for the first time in nato history holding american hostages, a nato ally.
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so i've got to take things in a different direction. because it's my responsibility as the colead of the senate nato observer group, as the senator from a state who has a citizen in prison for 580 days. i have no choice. so, mr. president, thank you for the time today. i'll be back next week and i'll be back every week until we see justice served for pastor brunson. thank you, senator lankford. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: all postcloture time has expired, and the question occurs on the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:

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