Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  June 28, 2018 1:29pm-3:30pm EDT

1:29 pm
is still saying that they are ending this transitional shelter assistance. this decision to stop providing assistance to these families has many of them very scared. they're scrambling to try to figure out what they're going to do to find an affordable place. we've reached out to churches, we've reached out to other charitable organizations to try to help them to afford the deposit, even where they have the income now from one or both spouses working two jobs to be able to afford the apartments. and so what we've been trying to do with this legislation, now rejected by our republican friends, is we've been trying to
1:30 pm
urge the agency to do the right thing, use existing law, activate it. you did it for new orleans. why not now for puerto rico? thn that many of these families find themselves in is a situation that no family should have to go through. i suspect that what we are going to see come sunday, the news organizations in florida will chronicle that some of them will be living in a car or going down to a homeless shelter. some of them have lost everything because of these storms. too many are still unable to find work or to find affordable
1:31 pm
housing and especially the security deposit. for many of them, the only thing that they have is the help that fema is providing, but that's only good for two more days. as we have tried and the senator from wisconsin at the direction of the republican leader has said, they are not going to let this legislation come up. these folks are not looking for a handout. they just need a little help getting back on their feet after the storms took everything from them. the fact that fema has put an arbitrary deadline on this aid rather than trying to work with the people, it defies logic. fema's t.s.a. program is critical, and it has been critical to provide for them,
1:32 pm
and while i recognize that the t.s.a. program was a temporary fix, you just can't end the temporary fix when people are being thrown out on the streets. and that was the attempt to force fema to act by this request to pass the legislation that would force them to act, and that's why this senator has asked the unanimous consent request. the second unanimous consent request that this senator asked for was to activate a housing program of additional section 8 housing. florida has used up its meager allocation, and this would have given additional section 8
1:33 pm
housing for those among the least north gnat of us. i want to thank my cosponsors blumenthal, warren, markey, gillibrand, harris, and baldwin for their understanding of this situation and signing on as cosponsors with me, and, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
1:34 pm
1:35 pm
1:36 pm
1:37 pm
1:38 pm
1:39 pm
1:40 pm
1:41 pm
1:42 pm
1:43 pm
1:44 pm
1:45 pm
quorum call:
1:46 pm
1:47 pm
1:48 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham:i ask to terminate
1:49 pm
the quorum call. i rise today to speak about a problem that's growing and needs to be confronted or we'll regret our decision to lay down in the face of russian aggression and syrian aggression inside of syria. mr. president, as you well know, we've been trying to find a solution in syria for quite awhile and were able to reach an agreement about decompletion zones in southwestern syria where basically the parties were disengaged and we reached a settlement with the russians, u.n. resolution 2254, to create some space, to stop the fighting and killing, and what have we found? in recent days the syrian regime has intensified military operations within the southwest syria deescalation zone negotiated by jordan, russia, and the united states.
1:50 pm
the russian air force is flying in this area, and we're doing nothing about it. the bottom line is if we allow russia to get away with this and assad to get away with this it's going to hurt us everywhere else in the mideast. and when president trump meets with president putin july 16, i hope he will bring this up. the question is are we going to let putin walk all over us? had eight years of that, kind of tired of it. six thousand civilians have fled their homes. a lot of them have been killed in this area where we reached agreement with russia, jordanians and the world at large, these people were assured under this agreement they would not be bombed and slaughtered anymore. now the bombing and slaughtering has started anew. so they're going to look at us and everybody in the region is going to look at us as all talk
1:51 pm
and no action. the united nations is going to be seen as week. i like a strong president. i appreciate what president trump has done to rebuild the military. i like the fact that we're talking with north korea to avoid a conflict with north korea. but i also like the fact that the president told north korea we're going to stop your nuclear program or your missile program. we'd rather do it peacefully but it's going to stop. you're going to stop threatening the united states. we'll try to make it a win-win. we've taken the fight to isis in a effective way. there are a lot good things to say about our military and foreign policy under president trump, getting out of the iranian deal which was terrible. all good. well, it's about to erode in a big way. if we let russia and assad violate the agreement that we negotiated and they don't pay a price, then it's going to hurt our standing everywhere and it's going to embolden russia and assad even more. this is a nightmare for syria -- excuse me -- for israel.
1:52 pm
syrians who have suffered enough at the hands of assad and russia. it's a nightmare for the kurds. and it really affects our standing in the world. when this meeting happens in july 16, i think, in finland, i hope the president will bring this up if it's not resolved before then. because, mr. president, president trump, if you let putin get away with this, assad get away with this, then good luck everywhere else in the world. we've had eight years of letting bad people get away with bad things. i hope you will bring it up and bring it to an end because our words should matter. thousands of people have been displaced from the homes. hundreds have been killed in violation of an agreement we signed, i think, last year. secondly, the meeting with putin is a good thing. you have to talk to your enemies, your friends, and everybody in between. national security advisor bolton had it right. there are things we can work with russia on and there are things we can't. russia is an enemy.
1:53 pm
they're not a friend. they're an enemy of democracy, but you have to talk to your enemies as well as your friends. we do have some common ground, maybe even in syria. russia has had bases in syria for a long time. i don't mind that they continue to have bases. i don't want to turn damascus over to the iranians and i don't want syria to be run by the russians. i want syria to be run by the syrians. when it comes to our election, there was a statement today by the president that russia denies meddling in our election. you're right, mr. president, they deny it but they're lying. so when you meet putin and he says we had nothing to do with it, i would take the opportunity to show him why we disagree. when you meet with putin, i would explain to him what happens if you continue to meddle in our election. not only did they meddle in the 2016 election -- i'm not alleging they changed the outcome. i've seen no evidence of
1:54 pm
collusion between the trump campaign and the russians. but i'm 100% convinced that it was the russians who stole the democratic e-mails, democratic national e-mails and podesta's e-mails. it was the russians who took out ads all over the country pitting one american against the other. the bottom line is russia did interfere in our democracy. they're doing it everywhere else in the world. and when they say they didn't, they're lying. and president trump, if you don't bring this up, it will be a huge mistake. and if you don't push back against the lie, it will be a huge mistake. as to what they're doing now, i hope president trump will tell president putin, we know what you're doing, and you better knock it off because you continue to do this at your own peril. if we have a face-to-face between president trump and president putin, and there's not a clear understanding by president putin that we've had it with your interference in our
1:55 pm
democracy and your destabilizing the world at large, then that will be a huge mistake and a great opportunity lost. there are areas we can agree with the russians and there are places we can work with the russians. but to have a good relationship with russia, you have to have an honest relationship with russia. and here's the honest relationship with russia: putin is no friend of democracy. he interfered in the 2016 election. and he's going to do it again in 2018. and he really is not a republican or a democrat. he hates us equally. mr. president, remember the dossier, this piece of garbage that was collected in russia about fortunately agent paid by the democratic party. where do you think they got that information from? do you think putin would hesitate one minute to undercut you if he thought it was in his interest? he will do what's in his interest. and when the pain is too great, he will back off.
1:56 pm
so i'm counting on you, the american people are counting on you, president trump, and the world is counting on you to set the record straight when it comes to putin's interference in democracy, including ours. and i hope he understands after this meeting is over with, he continues to go down this path at his own peril. and if we don't make it painful, he'll keep doing it. we're doing a lot of good things in terms of pushing back against russia, but not enough. because if we were doing enough, they would not be interfering in the 2018 elections, and they are. finally, as to whether or not they did it, every intelligence agency we have under the obama administration, now the trump administration, says without equivocation the russians interfered in our election. it wasn't some 300-pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere. they stole the e-mails. they gave it to wikileaks. they're trying to divide us. they're not a friend of republicans. they're an enemy to all of us.
1:57 pm
mr. president, use this opportunity though clear up the record and set it straight when it comes to russia's interference in our democracy. find common ground where you can and make sense to work with the russians and syria. it makes sense to work with them in north korea. it makes no sense to believe the lie or make them believe that we believe the lie. and the lie is they didn't interfere. with that, i'll yield the floor. and notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
1:58 pm
,
1:59 pm
quorum call:
2:00 pm
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, are we in a quorum call. the presiding officer: we are. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today to talk about the 2018 farm bill and the importance of passing this bill. i the want to chang chairman roberts -- chairman roberts and ranking member stabenow for having a clearly bipartisan
2:01 pm
bill. senator mcconnell and senator schumer have been dedicated to moving this bill to the floor. under chamber roberts and ranking member stabenow's leadership, they passed a bill out of the committee on a nearly unanimous 20-1 vote and included almost 70 amendments before getting it to the floor this week. the agriculture committee and the farm bill are models of how we can work across the aisle on tough legislation and legislation that affects every americans, whether it's the farmers and ranchers growing the stock, the conservationists that rely on the wetlands or the families that rely on access to healthy foods. this is an important bill. i hear it every day from people in my state whether they are fishermen or hunters or farmers
2:02 pm
or rural community leaders, and they understand that we do not want to be a country that becomes dependent on foreign food. we don't want that to happen. in minnesota, we produce a lot of food. our economy is diverse from north to south and east to west, whether it's corn, soybeans, hogs, turkeys in the western part of state, wheat and ka nola in the northwest or dairy and cattle in the central and southwest. as a state we are number one in turkeys. yes, mr. president, that is true, minnesota is number one in turkey and sugarbeets. we are number two in hogs, number three in soybeans. but the prices farmers received when selling these goods has declined since 2013. the forecasts is net farm income to fall another 7% which would
2:03 pm
represent the lowest lel since twic. -- 2006. this is creasingly -- increasingly centered. minnesota sent $7.1 billion agriculture protects to markets around the world. our soybeans and dairy go to china, pork to canada, beef to south korea and corn and poultry to mexico. these exports are a crucial part of our economy and the unknowns on trade and the threat of tariffs, especially from allies with allies like canada and what we've been seeing there, and i hope that we will have a reasonable approach with our allies going forward. well, those headlines are having real impacts on many farmers' bottom lines. finally, no matter where the farm is located or what crops that they grow almond farms in
2:04 pm
minnesota face weather risks. this spring many farmers and ranchers were delayed getting into the fields because of an april blizzard. the uncertainty out there in the countryside makes our work on the 2018 farm bill even more important. what do i like about this bill? first of all, it continues to affect and improve the tools that help our farmers deal with risk. the improvements included in the commodity title will ensure more consistent payments across counties in the agricultural risk coverage program and more access to risk management tools like crop insurance. it also replaces the margin protection program for dairy producers and has additional funds for the dairy risk program. this is a challenge in my state and many others many we also have started a vaccine bank for the first time. something that senator cornyn and i worked on. i want to thank him.
2:05 pm
he's here in the chamber, senator cornyn of texas, to thank him for his leadership in working on this vaccine bank that we started that will help us with avian flu and h1n1. conservation, senator thune and i worked together on several provisions in the conservation title of the bill to help farmers get more out of their land and we worked to increase the c.r.p. cap to 25 million acres and to fix a loophole in the conservation sod saver program. a number of amendments, i see senator stabenow is here on the floor. i want to thank her again for her leadership and the leadership in helping us because michigan, just like minnesota, understands how important agriculture-based energy, bio-based manufacturing, and clean energy technology programs and initiatives are. those amendments were all included in this farm bill. i truly appreciate it as well as
2:06 pm
the work that senator hoeven and i did to increase access to credit while having better data for borrowers. in these times of uncertainty in agriculture, we need to work to strengthen the farms in rural communities that sustain us every day, whether it is hemp in kentucky, whether it is hogs in iowa, whether it is sugarbeets an sweet corn in minnesota. this farm bill is about our nation's future and adjusting what is working, a bill that meets the challenges ahead and be sure that we are investing in the farmers and workers in the midwest and not the oil cartels of the middle east. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: thank you, mr. president. before the senate from minnesota
2:07 pm
concludes, i want to just thank her for her amazing leadership as one of the members on the agriculture committee. she not only made a significant difference as it relates to energy and as she talks about bioenergy and the bio-based economy. she has been a real leader there as well as in conservation as well as in the commodity titles and local foods an all of the ways -- and all of the ways that this bill has come together. i just want to thank the senator from minnesota. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. kennedy: mr. president, i would like to call up my amendment number 3383 from the language proposed to be stricken by amendment number 3324. i am joined -- the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from louisiana, mr. kennedy, proposes amendment number 3383 to the
2:08 pm
language proposed to be stricken by amendment number 3324. strike section 103 and insert the following. section 4103, work requirements for able-bodied adults -- mr. kennedy: mr. president, i ask for consent that the reading of the amendments be waived and for the opportunity to make a few remarks about my amendment. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. kennedy: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'm joined in this amendment with senators cruz and lee. i want to thank senator roberts and senator stabenow for their hard work on this bill. the farm bill is a must-pass bill. it's important. i realize that. america was born on a farm. 70% of the cost of this bill, mr. president, has to do with food stamps and i am pleased to have the opportunity for us to discuss a way to improve our food stamp program.
2:09 pm
as i said yesterday, i don't want to take away food stamps from people in need. i do want fewer people to need food stamps. i'm very proud of the fact that in our country, if you're hungry, we feed you, if you're homeless, we house you, if you're too poor to be sick, we pay for your doctor. but the best way to continue the food stamps and our other social programs is to make sure that they are efficient and that we save as much money as we can from those who will abuse the program to really help those in need. this amendment will make responsible changes to the snap program by updating photo identification requirements related to electronic benefits transfer systems in the food and nutrition be act and it will also take a very important step, mr. president, of requiring work requirements for able-bodied adult individuals without dependents. we're not talking about someone
2:10 pm
with kids or taking grandpa out of the nursing home. and it would require state agencies to operate work activation programs for eligible snap participants. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cruz: mr. president, i'm proud to join with senator kennedy and senator lee in offering this amendment. the farm bill has many good and important elements in this that benefit our farmers and ranchers who are a critical part of our economy in my home state of texas and across the country. a major portion of the bill is the food stamps program. it provides important support for people who are in need. but at the same time we should not be trapping people into dependency. the amendment that i joined with senator kennedy and senator lee strengthens the work requirements for those receiving
2:11 pm
food stamps. much of the country lives in areas without work requirements. 33 states have waivers on the work requirements. 28 states have partial waivers and five states and the district of columbia have total waivers on work requirements. that's not right and it's led to a troubling development. in recent years a rapidly growing food stamps recipients have been able-bodied adults between 18 and 39 in prime working ages who have no children to support. this population has risen from one million recipients in 2008 to 25 million in 2015. as a senate, this should be a bipartisan proposal. we should come together to include work requirements to get people back in the workplace, providing for their families, and i urge our colleagues to support this amendment.
2:12 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: mr. president, i rise in opposition to the amendment. and i want to just step back and look at the reality of snap and the food assistance program today. the farm bill is two kinds of safety net. it's a safety net for farmers and a safety net for families. the good news is because the economy is doing better, we're going to save over $80 billion in the next ten years on the food and family side because the economy is getting better and people don't need temporary help and they are going back to work. the chal for us is that in -- the challenge for us in this bill is that we have a lot of farmers in this bill because we have seen prices drop by 50% and weather challenges. so number one was an amendment in search of a problem. number two weeks already have work requirements. let's make that very, very clear. despite things that have been said before, we already have work requirements in the snap program.
2:13 pm
now 75% of those who get food help are senior citizen, people with disabilities, children, and chairn parents. 7 -- and their parents. of the 75%, they are required to work at least 20 hours a week, and if they do not, then the most they can receive is up to three months worth of food help in a three-year period. now the amendment essentially would limit and change that for people. for instance, it would subject parents of children as young as 1 year old to work requirements, but there's nothing for training or support for child care. in the underlying bill we funded ten states to do efforts to help those to be able to get into full-time employment who have extra challenges. we added eight more states to that. that's the positive way to do it. not just saying moms and children as young as 1 years old
2:14 pm
have to meet a work requirement. this is used in high unemployment areas like tribal areas. basically what is being said is that we shouldn't trust states. i think from all the time from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, we hear about state block grants and supporting states, this goes in the direct opposite direction taking away for states to be able to ask for waivers in high unemployment areas. it also slashes work exemptions that states use to cover special populations like veterans. it would incentivize states to cut people off with snap by forcing states to have unrealistic state -- it would cut the amount of time, as i mentioned you have to work 20 hours a week otherwise you can receive no more than three months of food help in a three-year period. this would say three months is too much out of three years and
2:15 pm
it would take it down to one month. finally, this, and that is the kennedy provision specifically requiring household members to have -- show picture id.'s to purchase food. this is strongly opposed by the food marketing institute, the national grocers manufacturers, it would impose new liabilities on more than 200,000 stores, including small businesses who participate in snap would be now liable and responsible for what happens under this provision. it would create barriers for seniors, people with disabilities who rely on caregivers to purchase their groceries and others that require on someone else to get them their food assistance and homeless individuals, including veterans without i.d.'s might be denied food as a result of this provision. mr. president, i would urge and
2:16 pm
join with the chairman, distinguished chairman who will be making a motion to table this. we will have the opportunity to thoughtfully address these issues in the conference committee. this amendment in my judgment would undermine what has been a very positive bipartisan effort to get a farm bill done. in fact, would stop us from being able to complete this bill. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: i thank i owe an apology to many of my republican colleagues. if i could call for regular order, please. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mr. roberts: i owe an apology to many of my republican colleagues and hope i can get their attention. we talked about the need for a farm bill. we talked about how we're in a rough patch in agriculture and how to fix all part of the
2:17 pm
country and all regions, all crops and we have crafted a farm bill in a bipartisan way with most of the titles. i have not talked enough to stress what we have done with regards to the snap program in terms of reform. and efficiencies and solving that bonus program that was full of errors prompting the i.g. to fine several states. bear with me. i want to go over some of these -- some of this progress that i think that you'll be interested in. and i thank my colleague for his amendment. it would modify the work requirements under snap as has been indicated, require a photo i.d. with the use of a snap card. i understand the intent of work and work card self-sufficiency. the best thing we've done is seen the economy improve and
2:18 pm
people have jobs and can get jobs and actually get off of food stamps. i understand the intent is for pro-- to promote work by broadening the applications of the requirements. our bill would focus more on employment and training in the work requirements. the point i'm trying to make, is in addition many of the provisions of the amendment are duplicative of current law and regulations would create significant administrative burdens for the department of agriculture and state agencies, something we don't want. our bill is focused on more accountability in the employment and training programs to get folks back on the path to employment. ten states have pilot programs. taking a look at exactly how they can accomplish this goal, eight more we deal with in this bill. that's 18 states where we have pilot programs where we can actually make progress. and that is by states innovating by adopting state pilot programs that i have just mentioned.
2:19 pm
we authorize new state innovation employment and training pilots. i just basically addressed that. we make sure state work programs consult with local employers when setting up and evaluating a training program. that means we're much more specific and we set up a process for groups of employers and nonprofit stakeholders to conduct their own training programs account for snap participants with minimal regulatory burden. so we're achieving regulatory reform at the same time and getting basically nonprofit stakeholders to come in and actually take part. that's a good thing. these are all things that will provide the tools to states to people, to employers, and to nonprofits that will get people working again. i urge my colleagues to support my motion to table this bill and then we can find the appropriate balance in getting people working again. obviously, we point out this
2:20 pm
issue is going to come up again when we go to conference if we can get a bill, if we can at least keep on the bipartisan track to get a farm bill done. again, i appreciate the well intentioned effort to combat fraud in snap, but i am in opposition to this amendment along with the independent groceries -- grocers, ipt stores and retailers all across the country. current law allows states to have a photo on e.b.t. cards but most states have concluded the cost of putting a photo on the card would outweigh savings from fraud prevention and for the few states that have opted for a photo on the card, the photo e.b.t. card has created so much confusion at the register for many retailers since e.b.t. cards are shared by many people within a household, it's a problem. i share concerns about the snap program integrity. the bill already includes several provisions that would improve the integrity of the program, such as the use of increased data matches across the program. these are efficiencies i haven't
2:21 pm
talked about to my republican colleagues. i know that the ranking member certainly has made her caucus aware of that. therefore, i respectfully urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment. i move to table the kennedy amendment number 3383 and ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
2:22 pm
2:23 pm
2:24 pm
2:25 pm
2:26 pm
2:27 pm
2:28 pm
2:29 pm
vote:
2:30 pm
2:31 pm
2:32 pm
2:33 pm
2:34 pm
2:35 pm
2:36 pm
2:37 pm
2:38 pm
2:39 pm
2:40 pm
2:41 pm
2:42 pm
2:43 pm
2:44 pm
2:45 pm
vote:
2:46 pm
2:47 pm
2:48 pm
2:49 pm
2:50 pm
2:51 pm
2:52 pm
2:53 pm
2:54 pm
2:55 pm
2:56 pm
2:57 pm
2:58 pm
2:59 pm
vote:
3:00 pm
3:01 pm
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? seeing none, the ayes are 68, the nays are 30. the motion to table is agreed to. mr. roberts: mr. president?
3:02 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: thank you, mr. president. we're getting very close to finalizing the farm bill on a bipartisan basis. we just have some u.c. requests that we're going over. stay tuned. i hope that members will understand that when we have a vote, this vote was over 60 minutes. there were some commentary during this. i understand that. but certainly we can do better than that in behalf of our farmers, ranchers, and growers and the great state of texas. at any rate, thank you very much and we'll be back to you just as quickly as we can. i know people have very important schedules to meet. i would yield to the distinguished ranking member. ms. stabenow: thank you. mr. president -- the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: just to join with chairman roberts, we are very close to a final u.c. and to the final vote. we would ask folks to stay close and we hope that we will be able to begin that process shortly with everyone's support and indulgence. so thank you.
3:03 pm
mr. roberts: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk should call the roll. quorum call:
3:04 pm
3:05 pm
3:06 pm
3:07 pm
3:08 pm
senator mr. president? mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: mr. president, request proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i ask and ask unanimous consent that privileges of the floor be granted to members of my staff, allison nichols, sterling againwitch, michael mc cambridge, and ceilia butlered and jonathan slithe for today and tomorrow. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i would like to take a few minutes while we have an
3:09 pm
interlude here with the farm bill to speak with my colleague, senator sullivan, about the nomination of an alaskan in my view an extraordinary alaska. she has been nominated to serve as the assistant secretary of indian affairs at the department of interior. it is my very strong hope that ms. sweeney can be confirmed to this position before we leave for the 4th of july recess. i see no reason why this body should delay the confirmation. i want to give just a little bit of background and share with my colleague, senator sullivan, some of the attributes that we're talking about here. ms. sweeney, truly a noncontroversial nominee. she's got support across the political spectrum t she was reported out of the committee on indian affairs by a voice vote. there was no dissent. she is endorsed by the national
3:10 pm
congress of american indians. she enjoys strong support across indian country, not only from alaska natives up in our state but truly across indian country. she is inupiaq. she is a very distinguished leader, respected among indigenous peoples, not only here in the united states but abroad, understand is and is truly imminently qualified for the position. let me just share very briefly the history of how we got here. it has been many months -- many, many months, and i think it's important to know the process that she has gone through. the president indicated his intent to nominate ms. sweeney on october 16 of 2017. she -- we received here in the senate her nomination about a week later, and from there she entered into this frustrating,
3:11 pm
bureaucratic purgatory is probably the best way to describe t it. so i mention to you that ms. sweeney is an inupiaq from the north slope. and like every other alaska native that was born before december 18 of 1971, she is a beneficiary of the alaska native claims settlement act. and under that legislation, ms. sweeney received 100 shares of stock in the arctic slope regional corporation, one of the 13 corporations that has been created by congress. ms. sweeney also inherited some additional shares from her mother, who died in 1996. the alaska native claims settlement act prohibits ms. sweeney from disposing of those shares. why is that? these are not shares that are like shares in i.b.m. or general electric. these shares are her birthright, her birthright as an alaska native. the department of the interior
3:12 pm
has concluded that her continued ownership of those shares creates no ethical impediments to the discharge of her duties. no ethical impediments to the discharge of her duties. none whatsoever. she's also entered into an ethics agreement into which she will recuse herself from matters involving the arctic slope regional corporation where she served prior to her nomination. really, there is no conceptual difference between ms. sweeney's service for her native corporation and the service of her predecessor, assistant secretaries for indian affairs, who all came to the office after serving as elected tribal leaders. so in that -- those instances, none of the predecessor to ms. sweeney were disqualified from confirmation for tribal service and she certainly should not be either. ms. sweeney's corporation manages lands that are set aside
3:13 pm
for native people. so do nearly all of the federally recognized tribes. and her corporation engages in a number of successful business activities that parallel those engaged by federally recognized tribes in the lower 48. voting membership in ms. sweeney's corporation is limited to native people, just like membership in the lower 48 tribes. the governing body of her corporation is constituted entirely of native people, just as the governing bodies of the lower 48 tribes. so there is really no -- there is no valid reason, certainly no valid reason to delay confirmation of tara sweeney to the post of assistant secretary for indian fairs. -- indian affairs. this is an agency that i think those of us who have been involved on the indian affairs committee, as i have for my entire ten your here in -- tenure here in the senate, know that leadership in this critical
3:14 pm
agency for our first peoples is absolutely, absolutely a priority. there is so much that needs to be done within the agency. the bureau of indian education, which ms. sweeney will oversee as an assistant secretary, has earned a place on the government accountability office's list of high-risk programs for the 115th congress. so one of her challenges right out of the get-go is to improve the bureau of indian education. , you know, when you think about the responsibilities that you have as assistant secretary to not only address the education issues, the health safety issues, the really life and well-being of our native peoples, she's got a lot of work to do. so leadership at the top is going to require a handful of things, the first is steady leadership and a strong commitment to lead. and you just can't get to
3:15 pm
leading the agency until you've been confirmed to the position. the second thing that has to happen is to ensure that the agency is staffed and has the resources to care for our native children. the third is to have an action plan that identifies the root causes of the agency's problems. and to identify real solutions. fourth is the formulation of corrective measures and to validate the work and finally to democrat strategy progress -- demonstrate progress that the agency has overcome some of these issues. mr. president, i can tell you for a fact that tara sweeney is ready. she is ready. she has been teed up to do this literally her whole life. she has gone through a rigorous process. she has been overwhelmingly endorsed by native people across the country, those she would serve in this capacity. she knows that there are significant issues and problems
3:16 pm
within the b.i.a. that need to be addressed, that are going to be difficult. and she has said in front of us and to those of us who know her well, she said i'm not afraid to kick down doors, i'm not afraid to stand up and speak out loud for the people that she will serve. i know that she takes these responsibilities very, very seriously. i know her leadership skills. i know her managerial skills. i will have no doubt that she will do everything in her power to overcome these deficiencies that the g.a.o. identified. but i also will be clear that there will be no progress within the agency until one of the single most important positions to indian country is permanently filled with an assistant secretary. mr. president, i know we're having challenges moving through nominees on this floor right now, but i would ask my colleagues, i would urge my
3:17 pm
colleagues, look at tara sraoe ni's -- sweeney's credentials. look at her background. look at how she has come to this place. she is not a controversial nominee. shoos well qualified. she did extremely well at her hearing before the indian affairs committee. indian country is united in support of her. i would just ask that for the good of the first people in this country, that they have that leadership at the top to come in and address so many of these serious issues that face them today. so let us come together with this nominee, move her through the process in a prompt and expedient way. i will close with one last comment before turning to my colleague, and that is of the 12
3:18 pm
previous assistant secretaries to the b.i.a. over the years, 11 of those 12 have moved through confirmation here in the senate unanimously without even a vote. only one was required to have a vote. as i recall the outcome in support of that individual, it was 87 votes in favor. so this is not a controversial position. this is not partisan in any way. this has to be an individual that is willing to bring together peoples, our first peoples and those of us at government levels to work together to address the very, very real and serious and significant concerns that we have. tara sweeney is just that person, and i would urge colleagues to please, please let's advance her quickly and expeditiously across the floor
3:19 pm
of the united states senate. and i would turn to my colleague who has worked very, very hard and who also knows ms. sweeney to be an extraordinarily capable alaskan. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: i want to thank, mr. president, my colleague, senator murkowski from the great state of alaska, our great state, talking about someone we really care about but someone who is going to do really important things for the entire country. for the entire country. you know, senator murkowski talked about tara sweeney's background. when she held -- when we had the confirmation hearing in indian affairs, i had the honor of introducing her and she did fantastic in that hearing. republicans, democrats all agreed. and when you look at her background, she's a leader. she is a leader. you can read her resume. you can see all the things that this young woman, relatively
3:20 pm
young woman has accomplished. senator murkowski mentioned some. she was, for example, the cochair of the alaska federation of natives. that's an elective position in alaska. almost 20% of our population are alaska natives. she was one of the youngest cochairs ever in that incredibly important organization. she was the chair of the arctic economic conference. she has also served in leadership positions at her alaska native regional corporation, the national congress of american indians, and she is ready to lead an organization that needs to be led, needs leadership. so she's clearly qualified. and, mr. president, sometimes there can be confusion in terms of the laws that this body passes. well, in 1971 the congress of the united states and the
3:21 pm
president of the united states signed the alaska native claim settlement act, what we call ancsa back home. as senator murkowski mentioned this set up not reservation systems like we have in the lower 48 but a very innovative approach to alaska native claims for their lands. 44 million acres of state and federal land went to the possession and ownership of the first people's of alaska. very innovative. and we created, this body created alaska regional corporations, village corporations of which all our alaska native people are shareholders. my wife is a shareholder. my daughters are shareholders. that was mandated by the congress, by the congress. this body. and yet when tar with a sweeney
3:22 pm
has -- when tara sweeney has gone through her confirmation process, the federal government seemed to wake up to the fact that alaska native individuals owned shares in these alaska native corporations that congress created, and time and time again they started to seemingly almost hold it against her. let me give you a little bit of the timeline of delays senator murkowski mentioned. she was nominated by the president to serve as the assistant secretary on october 16, 2017. that's eight months ago, almost nine months ago. and first her nomination went through a very long process through the office of government ethics. again, because of the birthright shares that she is entitled to as an alaska native, because congress told them that. so there was confusion. again, a lot of people didn't know what this was. and there was even at one point the sense that she couldn't have
3:23 pm
the job until she sold her shares. but she can't sell her shares. as senator murkowski said, it's not like owning i.b.m. or microsoft. and certainly we were saying if that was the precedent, you would rule out an entire class of people, great people, our constituents from serving in the federal government. so that couldn't be the precedent. so she has worked through this with the office of government ethics, which is completely cleared her with regard to how she is going to manage these shares and recuse herself from anything her regional corporation has before her position, which, by the way, historically has almost never happened. she said she would do this in writing. that satisfied the office of government ethics. her nomination was held on may 9, where she again committed to recuse herself from matters that pertain to her regional
3:24 pm
corporation. on june 6 she was unanimously voted on the senate indian affairs committee. during the confirmation hearing she several times said what was in her o.g.e. report, that she's going to recuse herself. and in that hearing, as i mentioned, members on both sides again asked for assurances that she would recuse herself from issues pertaining to her regional corporation, and again she provided assurances in writing after the hearing. mr. president, you're starting to see a pattern here. i'm not sure there's anyone who's gone through senate confirmation recently who has had to reassure and reassure and say she's going to recuse herself again and again and again on an issue more than tara sweeney has. it's pretty remarkable when you think about the fact that the reason she has these shares is because this body voted to
3:25 pm
create the act in 1971. and yet there's amnesia. there's amnesia all over this city. and certainly in this body. well, once again it looks like, as we're trying to move her to the floor, that there's been another demand for another assurance and another letter on this same issue. so once again ms. sweeney has provided that. she's provided that. and i certainly hope that my colleagues, whoever is demanding this are going to say you know, i think that's enough. if this very highly qualified person owned i.b.m. or microsoft or something like that, this would have been done and over. she would have recused herself. and yet somehow because she's an alaskan native shareholder, there seems to be cause for
3:26 pm
additional and additional delay. and i think that's sad. and i certainly hope that's not intended to somehow focus on making it more difficult for an alaska native to serve in such an important position. i hope that's not what's going on here. but the pattern is starting to get a little bit difficult to endure. so, mr. president, i think further delay, as senator murkowski mentioned, it's certainly a disservice to someone as qualified as tara sweeney and not reasonable. as i mentioned, she's been waiting for months. every time there's been a demand mate on her, she does -- demand made on her. every time there is a letter asking her to reassure something she's reassured several times, she does it. but there's delay. that's not good for the delay. it's not good for trying to get good people to serve in the federal government, as we all want. but as senator murkowski also underscored, further delay is
3:27 pm
not good for anyone who is an alaskan native or an american indian or somebody who cares about them, like we do. because right now the most important position in the federal government, the assistant secretary for indian affairs at the department of interior, which will be headed by someone who is immensely qualified, and tara sweeney is not filled. and as senator murkowski mentioned, there is so much work to be done. and this woman is a leader. she will get on it. she will get on it to help alaska native people, to help lower 48 american indians. and we all know there's significant challenges on reservations in some of the alaska native villages. and we need a leader, and we have the leader. we have it. we have her. so i am really concerned if there's going to be any more
3:28 pm
delay. what this body should do is confirm her right now. senator murkowski and i are getting ready to ask at a certain point today before the senate moves to recess for the july 4 recess for unanimous consent. as far as i can tell, almost every senator in the entire united states senate knows that this is important. so i'm certainly hoping all my colleagues are not going to ask for further delay. i'm certainly hoping they're not going to ask for further delay somehow relates to her being an alaska native. that would be highly inappropriate. and we can move this nomination forward for confirmation today so that tara sweeney can get to work for some of the most important people in this country who have been without a leader of this position for way too long. so i certainly encourage my colleagues, everybody here to clear this unanimous consent request when we make it and that
3:29 pm
we get her confirmed today. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: i come to the floor to talk about the nation's first line of defense against hunger. the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or snap. since day one in the senate, i have fought to pass a farm bill that stands up for north dakota's farmers, ranchers and low-income families. in 2014, we passed a strong farm bill which i helped write, negotiate, and pass. and since then i have been working on the next farm bill. now the senate is incredibly close to passing the next farm bill which we crafted with strong support from democrats and republicans. this important bill shows that the senate can work to find compromise and support the american people. a key component of any farm bill is the safety net for farmers and ranchers during tough times, like crop

2 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on