Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  December 13, 2018 11:29am-1:30pm EST

11:29 am
recent weeks about my close friendship with senator flake, whose political beliefs differ very widely from my own. yes, senator flake is a staunch conservative, and if you took a scorecard of the things on which we voted the same or believe the same, there would not be a ton of overlap. but he's also a patriot. he's a patriot who deeply loves our country and is willing to work across the aisle to stand up for the values and principles that have made our nation the greatest on this earn. our friendship stems from a foundation in similar experiences and similar world views formed at the same time. we are almost exactly the same age. as you heard in his remarkable farewell address, time spent in namibia, zimbabwe and africa truly shaped him has a man. and at just about the same time, i was spending time in can inia and south africa, having very similar experiences.
11:30 am
this period in our young lives shaped our sense that this democracy is special, is important, is worth fighting for, and requires greater sacrifice of us than might be obvious here in the comforts of the united states. it's because of these shared experiences we urchth the -- understand the ways when our democracy is dysfunctional, when the world sees gridlock, especially today, especially on the continent we've both come to know and love in africa that there are competing models for how to organize a society that are rising in their visibility and their confrontation and their competition with our own. we know democracy matters. and believe we have to fight for it. we respect each other. we listen to each other. and over the years i've been blessed to have the chance for us to work together. at a time marked by division and partisanship, senator flake rightly recognizes that we need
11:31 am
to get back to a point where compromise is rewarded rather than punished, when we work together to do what's right rather than what is just politically expedient. senator flake has spent his career doing just that, unafraid to stand up for what's right, even when it's hard, even when it's inconvenient, even when it might go against president or party. he deeply respects our rule of law and has been willing to take risks for it. he's worked towards broad bipartisan immigration reform, stood up for the independence of the federal reserve. he's helped pass legislation to promote free and fair elections and political and economic reforms in zimbabwe where we have both traveled together twice as well as a dozen other countries. and he has come and stood on this floor time and time again to demand a vote on legislation, to protect the special counsel, and prevent an imminent constitutional crisis. he has taken risks and opened
11:32 am
his heart in a way determined to help us come together rather than be torn apart and for that i am eternally grateful. whether meeting personally with world leaders or fighting for the people of arizona here on the senate floor, advocating for new policies in committee, senator flake's courage and conviction has always been evident and his service as a senator stands as a model and a challenge for many of us in this chamber. i look back fondly on our six years serving together. i was chair of the africa subcommittee on foreign relations when he first arrived and he succeeded me in that role. that has given us opportunities to flee from elephants in mozambique and dine with dictators in in zimbabwe to advance democracy in a continent we've come to love. we've been to a dozen countries as we tried in a bipartisan way to advance american interests in
11:33 am
places in the world. his leadership, his engagement, his deep respect and admiration for the people of africa will be sorely missed in this chamber and impossible to replace. for me personally, i will miss his humor, his friendship, his kindness, and his leadership. i know him as a decent, ernest, -- earnest, kind man, a great husband and father who loves nothing more than his talented wife, cheryl, and his children, tanner and dallin, austin, alexis and ryan. he's also been blessed with a very talented staff who have worked tirelessly and been great partners in legislation and in service. my high view of his character comes, i will remind you, in this divided context despite differences in our states, in our backgrounds, divergent voting records and faith backgrounds but all of that is wrapped up in a shared commitment to eadvantage lies --
11:34 am
evangeli se for democracy. senator flake has exemplified how washington and this senate should work, particularly when it comes to respecting each other, holding true to our core values and principles and defending them here and around the world yet listening to each other and being willing to trust each other. i only wish i had the blessing of senator flake's partnership in this chamber for six more years. but it gives me hope thinking of the impact he will undoubtedly have on our country and world in the years to come. i know he has so much more good left to do, and i look forward to supporting him in whatever path he chooses to accomplish that goal. i want to close with some words senator flake himself spoke on this floor more than a year ago in announcing his decision to retire rather than seek reelection. he said, and i quote, to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. we must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts
11:35 am
and shared values, comity and good faith. we must argue our positions fervently and never be afraid to compromise. we must assume the best of our fellow man and always look for the good. until that day comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it because it does. senator flake, thank you. thank you for being unafraid to speak out for what is right, what is true, and what is just, and to risk friendship with this junior senator from a much smaller state on the other side of the continent. thank you for your service and your friendship. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: mr. president, i'm pleased to be here this morning to join my colleagues in saluting the public service of our friend senator jeff flake. in his remarkable book "the
11:36 am
conscience of a conservative ," senator jeff flake offered these words that applied to both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum. rather than constantly pursuing partisan advantage, he wrote, the better path always is to break out of rigid, ideological thinking, to listen to the reasoned arguments on both sides, and to use your best judgment. mr. president, reason and courage have defined senator flake's 18 years in congress, 12 in the house of representatives, and six here in the senate. throughout these years of service, he has always been knowledgeable, insightful, and
11:37 am
dedicated to america and its values. it has been a privilege to work closely with him on many vital issues. senator flake has always been willing to take on the most difficult challenges and offer constructive solutions as his work on immigration reform demonstrates. as my colleague from delaware has said, he is unafraid. he will take on any challenge no matter the consequences. as chairman of the senate aging committee, i've appreciated his commitment to the well-being, safety, and security of seniors across the nation and in his beloved home state of arizona. senator flake was especially helpful in our committee's
11:38 am
examination of international criminal cartels that were using unsuspecting american seniors as drug mules to smuggle narcotics across international borders, not realizing the cargo that they were carrying. senator flake has been an outstanding leader on the foreign relations committee as chairman of the subcommittee on africa and global health policy. his firsthand knowledge of issues from his early mission work in south africa and zimbabwe has helped to guide his efforts. i was proud to have been a cosponsor of a bill that he authored with senator coons to combat the wildlife trafficking crisis which became law in 2016. in fact, it was on a
11:39 am
congressional trip that i first met my friend jeff flake, and i remember thinking he was so fascinated. he knew so many things of which i had very little knowledge. he talked about his time in africa and i'll always remember -- and this will bring a smile to his lips as well -- when he told me that the words for describing it being very cold outside were the equivalent -- they sounded like buy a coat. and i'm sure that i've ruined the pronunciation but he's nodding fir affirmatively but ie always loved that and will remember that. when senator flake announced last year that he would not seek reelection, he offered these words on the senate floor.
11:40 am
we must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity, and good faith. we must argue our positions fervently and never be afraid to compromise. we must assume the best of our fellow man and always look for the good. i think it's significant that those words resonated both with the senator from delaware and with me. and i'm sure with many others. senator jeff flake always gave his best, and he always helped us find the good. i join my colleagues in wishing him, cheryl, and his family well
11:41 am
and in expecting many more contributions from this leader of many gifts and determined principles. thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:42 am
11:43 am
11:44 am
11:45 am
quorum call:
11:46 am
11:47 am
11:48 am
11:49 am
11:50 am
11:51 am
11:52 am
mr. lankford: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: is the senate currently in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is. mr. lankford: i ask the quorum
11:53 am
call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lankford: mr. president, there's been a lot of conversation about yemen. yemen is in a civil war, a brutal civil war with a lot of civilians killed and a lot of damage to the country's interior. of the 30 million -- of the 30 million people that are living in yemen, 22 million currently need humanitarian assistance. we have over 8 million people that are what's called at risk of severe starvation. it is the largest cholera outbreak in the world right now and their currency has plummeted in value. we have over 2 million people that are internally displaced just inside the country, that literally can't live at their house because of the war is around their house and they've had to flee from that spot. 2 million people. it's a terrible situation. but while this body is arguing about supporting, not supporting the saudis, should we be around it, should we not be around it,
11:54 am
our ambassador, the leadership of the u.n., our united states military, who this body is arguing we shouldn't engage in help, is currently putting people at the negotiating table in sweden. and for the past week our military that this body is saying shouldn't be engaged has actually been the prime mover in getting all the same players to the table to negotiate. in just the last few hours, the secretary-general of the u.n., with the rebel leadership, with the legitimate leadership of yemen in the civil war, have stepped up to make major announcements. the first major announcement they've just released within the last hour was that they have committed to halting fighting around the seaport so humanitarian assistance can get in. now, the houthis have actually dominated the seaport appeared taken all the income -- and taken all the income from the seaport in order to support their fighters. their income is coming from the
11:55 am
port because they've taken the port over. now the u.n. is going to run the port. that's a dramatic shift. revenues from the seaport will be deposited into a central bank so when the rightful government, when this is all resolved will actually give back to the people of yemen. there will be a release in fighting, a pullout in the major city around the seaport there. they've agreed to they're going to actually have a secondary meeting next month to be able to work out the final details to actually shut this down. so while this body is arguing about who should we take sides with -- the iranians or the saudis -- and that's really what this body is arguing about -- we're actually actively pushing the players to the table to resolve this. this is the worst possible moment for this body to start arguing about whose side should we be on. now, i'm fully aware that the saudis' humanitarian history is
11:56 am
deplorable. the whole world prays them because they -- the whole world praises them because they now allow women to drive. we're in that bawd bad -- we're in that bad of a situation. i'm fully aware of the murder of khashoggi. the saudis have been the only entity that have also done humanitarian aid into yemen to be able to help assist this. the united states by the far is the largest donor to what's going on in the humanitarian crisis in yemen. but the civil war is not our problem. this is a proxy fight between saudi arabia and iran that's being fought right on saudi arabia's southern border in yemen. we don't -- we shouldn't take sides in this other than to stand up against iran's aggression, as they have moved into iraq, as iran has moved into syria, as iran has moved into lebanon. we don't want to see iran dominate the entire region. that destabilizes the region. but we do want to be able to bring peace to this region.
11:57 am
so what should we do in this situation? i think we should speak with a very clear voice about the human rights violations of saudi arabia and call them out to be a part of the civilized world. but i think punishing the innocent civilian casualties in yemen is the wrong way to do it. we should speak out on the issue of khashoggi. we should speak out for human rights in the entire region, but we should stand up to say, what can we do to be able to stop the fighting and protect civilians there. the best thing that we can do is to be able to be engaged with the saudis, not selecting targets, not refueling their jets -- we've already stopped all of that -- but to be able to be a presence there. we forget as americans most of the world does not try to protect civilians in battle like we do. most of the world just carpet bombs and destroys cities. you want a good example? look at syria right now, year after year of barrel bombs and
11:58 am
chemical weapons where americans are out. we're not advising. and the destruction that's happening to the civilians -- if we want to see even more of that in yemen, then let's back us out entirely. if we want to give iran the upper hand, then let's tell them through this body, we don't support the saudis anymore, we support the iranians, who started this civil war in yemen. the best thing that we can do is to give the peace negotiations the opportunity to be able to finish and to be able to go well. to support in every way that we can the protection of civilians in that region and to be able to make sure that we're assisting with our advice on how to be able to protect them and how to be able to move forward. that's the best thing that we can do, not arguing about whether we're going to pull out or not pull out or engage in yemen or not engage. let me be clear. yemen is not our fight. that civil war is not our fight.
11:59 am
but in the ungoverned spaces of yemen, there's a group called al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. they use those ungoverned spaces and they use the cover of the civil war to be able to actively recruit worldwide. the most aggressive part of al qaeda that is directly pointed at the united states and planning attacks, in orchestrating attacks, in putting out information for lone wolf individuals all over the world how to conduct attacks on airlines or in cities or in bus terminals, all of that originates from al qaeda in the arabian peninsula in yemen. so while the civil war off to the west is not our fight -- though we do want to protect civil want and we do want to get humanitarian aid -- it is absolutely our fight to take it to al qaeda in the arabian
12:00 pm
peninsula. the rightful leader in yemen has i have goin' us the authority to take the fight to the terrorists in his own country because he doesn't want al qaeda in his country either. as long as we're working with hati as the rightful leader, has given us the go ahead. and we should for our own security. so i understand the politics of this, and i understand the messaging saying that we shouldn't have all of these things and give this picture of us pulling out of yemen for humanitarian reasons. but the fact is the humanitarian assistance is going in because we're there. the fact is we're helping reduce civilian casualties in that area, not increasing them. and the fact is the terrorist group al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, the most aggressive group against them from al qaeda, lives right there in yemen and we should be able to take the fight to them before they bring it to us again. these are difficult issues. there's no simple solution to
12:01 pm
any of these, and i get that. and it's a very messy civil war. but the last thing that we should do is just pretend our disengagement protects civilians. this -- it does not. mr. president, i've a unanimous consent request that's coming up that is currently in conversation to try to figure out how to be able to bring it to the floor as well. i see there are some other speakers here on the floor that are ready to be able to speak. i'd like the ability to be able to yield the floor to others that want to be able to speak and be able to speak again in a moment on a unanimous consent request. with that, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today in support of the pending resolution to end u.s. support forked saudi-led coalition's military action in yemen and to reiterate my previous calls for our country to respond more clearly and more
12:02 pm
forcefully and with moral purpose to the murder of jamal khashoggi by holding the saudi government accountable at the highest levels. before my remarks on this resolution, i wanted to speak about another important matter before the senate, and that is the blue water navy vietnam veterans act, which i urge my colleagues to take up and pass this congress. i thank senator gillibrand and a number of other leaders for her work on this bill. i have cosponsored it along with more than 50 of my senate colleagues. this important legislation would ensure that thousands of navy veterans exposed to agent orange during the vietnam war and their families are able to receive the benefits that they have earned. when our soldiers signed up to serve, we made a promise to provide them with the health care and benefits they deserve
12:03 pm
when they return home. the men and women who have served our country in the front lines should not return home to find themselves left waiting at the end of the line, left waiting to get the health care they need or the benefits they've earned. this bipartisan legislation has already passed the house of representatives. it is time for us in the senate to do the same and maintain our commitment to our veterans. and i do want to thank the presiding officer for the work that we are doing together in a somewhat related area, and that's the area of burn pits, a modern-day version of what many of our soldiers experienced during the vietnam war with agent orange, we have something going on right now where our soldiers who were stationed next to these major expansive burn pits have come homesick. and it is the same principle with agent orange. and i really appreciate the presiding officer for bipartisan, for his support for the bipartisan bill we are leading, given that we have
12:04 pm
many good veterans that have come home with health problems from both alaska and minnesota. so turning to the pending matter, i would like to join those of my colleagues who have spoken in support of this bipartisan resolution. i've come to the floor before on this issue because it is so important. it is time for congress to speak with a clear voice in opposition to u.s. support for the saudi-led coalition's operations in yemen. we must make clear that we will not turn a blind eye to civilian casualties as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis that continues to devastate the country of yemen and its people. with this resolution, we can end u.s. support for saudi-led military action in yemen. this is an important step. it demonstrates that congress will perform its constitutional duty in authorizing military
12:05 pm
action and demand that our policies and actions are consistent with our values. in light of the bipartisan support for this resolution, which of course includes senator sanders and senator lee, i would also like to mention that former senator franken from minnesota has been involved in this as a leader when he served in the senate. in light of the bipartisan support for this resolution, the administration should more forcefully advocate for a meaningful political process to end the fighting. following the war in yemen and the horrific murder of mr. jamal khashoggi, i am concerned that this administration lacks a comprehensive strategy for dealing with saudi arabia. i have also been deeply concerned that the president continues to ignore human rights violations, the suppression of dissent and the death of thousands of civilians in yemen
12:06 pm
in order to maintain good relations with the saudis. yes, we have an important alliance with saudi arabia, an important trade relationship, but that doesn't mean that you don't stand up when you see the kind of horror that we have seen in yemen and when you see the kind of human rights violations we have seen in the death of mr. look no further than how the president has repeatedly dismissed his own intelligence community's assessment of the murder. this is after reports have made clear that the c.i.a. believes with high confidence that this murder was called for at the highest levels of the saudi government by the crown prince. his response stands in stark contrast to the founding principles of our democracy. and if the president refused to defend these values, then congress must. this is not who we are as a country, so i call on my
12:07 pm
colleagues to join me, and i am so glad we have bipartisan support for this resolution in defending our values. but this is not all we should do. i support the comprehensive bipartisan legislation introduced to ensure effective oversight of the u.s. policy on yemen and demand meaningful accountability from the saudi government. this legislation includes provisions to suspend weapons sales to saudi arabia and impose mandatory sanctions on people involved in the death of mr. khashoggi. while i support the recent decision to support u.s. area refueling, the decision of the administration, for saudi coalition aircraft as well as the sanctions that the administration imposed on 17 saudi officials, this falls far short of the forceful response that our democratic values require. in addition, i have previously voted to limit arms sales to
12:08 pm
saudi arabia and i will continue to oppose the sale of certain weapons, particularly offensive weapons, to the kingdom. these are steps that we can and should take. while there is no question that we have common interests with saudi arabia and that saudi arabia has been our partner, these facts do not require our country to completely sacrifice our values. the civil war in yemen has now raged on for almost four years, resulting in widespread destruction in the country in one of the worst humanitarians cree cease in the world. -- crises in the world. more than 22 million people, half of them children, are in need of assistance, and 8 million people in the country are on the brink of starvation. the country's sanitation system, electrical system, and other critical infrastructure have been destroyed, leading to the most serious cholera outbreak in half a century.
12:09 pm
the ongoing violence has hindered the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid, including food and medicine. finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict is both a humanitarian imperative and critical to stability on the arabian peninsula. the united states has a long history of being a global leader in providing humanitarian aid and we cannot just stand by and put our heads in the sand as this crisis continues. our response to the fighting and the humanitarian catastrophe in yemen must demonstrate that the united states foreign policy and global leadership will always be rooted in our values. it must show that we will not overlook violation of human rights, whether by saudi arabia or by houthi rebels in yemen. i urge my colleagues to join in supporting this very important
12:10 pm
resolution and to really show the administration, to show the country and to show the world that this congress is actually fulfilling its obligations and constitutional duties. this is a very important moment for the united states senate. thank you, madam president, and i yield the floor.
12:11 pm
mr. durbin: madam president? the presiding officer: the assistant minority leader. mr. durbin: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: no, we are not. mr. durbin: madam president, i rise today to address one of the most sad, the saddest and one of the most depressing issues of the moment, and that is the
12:12 pm
drug epidemic which faces america. the reality of this drug epidemic is felt in every corner of this country. there is no suburb too wealthy, no town too small, no place in this country that hasn't been touched by the opioid and heroin epidemic. but the centers for disease control put out a statement this morning that's important for us to truly understand this drug epidemic. what the centers for disease control said was that fentanyl has become the deadliest drug in the united states. they reported wednesday that fentanyl was involved in more deadly drug overdoses in 2016 than any other drug. there were a total of 63,632 drug offender deaths in 2016 -- overdose deaths with fentanyl involved in 29% of those cases. by comparison, fentanyl was involved in only 4% of drug
12:13 pm
fatalities just seven years ago, in 2011. that year oxycodone ranked first. it was involved in 13%. lawmakers are struggling to deal with the sweeping opioid epidemic, and the c.d.c. data shows that the problem goes further than the overprescription of opioid drugs. from 2011 to 2016, cocaine consistently ranked second or third during the study period the age adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin more than tripled as did the rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine. why do i bring up this issue of fentanyl? because if you're discussing border security in america, you're talking about a number of things. you are talking about those who would assault our borders for a variety of reasons. you're talking about people who present themselves at our borders for a variety of reasons. let me try to make several
12:14 pm
concessions here that i think both parties agree. first, america needs border security. we cannot allow every person in the world who wishes to come to this country entry to this country. secondly, we know that people are trying to ship into this country things that are deadly and items that are contraband that should not be part of america. secondly, we don't want anyone dangerous outside of our country to knowingly come in this country. and those who are here undocumented, if they are dangerous to our country, should be removed. i hope that we would agree there is unanimous consensus on those two points. the third point i'm going to make and not dwell on at this moment is the fact that our immigration legal system is in shambles. it is awful. we currently are placing in tent camps on the border with mexico
12:15 pm
hundreds and hundreds of children because of a circumstance created by this administration which is almost impossible to understand or to explain. but i want to focus specifically on fentanyl, on this drug fentanyl that's coming in, which the c.d.c. has told us is the deadliest drug in america today. overwhelmingly, the deadliest drug in america today. where does it come from? much of the production is in china, but it's produced in other places, but most of it transits into the united states across that mexican border. so when we talk about border security and stopping the drug epidemic in america, let's be honest about it. building a wall from one side of the united states to the other does not stop the flow of fentanyl into our country. fentanyl is coming in through ports of entry.
12:16 pm
openings, legal openings in the wall. we heard yesterday from the experts that some 80% of the drugs that flow into the united states from mexico come through our ports of entry. they are not putting them in back packs and storming across the desert at night and trying to come across the rio grande. that may be a part of some effort, but when it comes to the deadliest of drugs coming into the united states, they're coming through our ports of entry. what can we do about it? well, the interesting thing that we can do about it is to look at the obvious. i asked one of the experts, mr. mcileanan, who is with the customs and border protection system. he does this for a living. i asked him last year, i said if i gave you a blank check and said make our borders safer with mexico, what would you spend it on? oh, he said, senator, the two things immediately -- technology and personnel.
12:17 pm
it makes sense. give me an idea of the kind of technology that you think would make america safer. well, he said there is something called a z portal. i had never heard the term before. a z portal is a scanning device so that if you drive a car or a truck across our border, it scans it, x-rays it, and can tell basically what's inside. if you're trying to smuggle people in the back of a semi truck, it will show it. if you have firearms, it will show it. it will show contraband that is not supposed to be part of the declared shipment that's coming into the united states. doesn't that sound like a good idea to try to make sure that anything entering this country has been scanned? well, it turns out that 98% of the railroad cars that come into the united states are scanned. good news. i wish it were 100%. but 98% is good. what percentage of other vehicles coming into the united states are scanned currently?
12:18 pm
18%. fewer than one out of five vehicles are scanned. and i asked mr. mcileanan when he appeared before our judiciary committee this week why not more? well, we need to buy more technology. we need to buy more scanners. so we can spot those who are trying to ship people or contraband or drugs into the united states. i said well, i looked at president trump's request for your agency, and he asked for $44 million for scanners. what would it take, mr. mcileanan, to have scanners to make sure that all of the vehicles coming into the united states are scanned? he gave me the number $300 million. that's a lot of money. but when you consider the cost of our drug epidemic and the deadly results of that drug epidemic, it is not a lot of money. and when you put it next to the
12:19 pm
idea of a $5 billion law, it is laughable that this administration is insisting on s laughable that this administration is insisting on a medieval wall when you are looking at the technology that is essential in stopping these drugs from coming into our country. that is the reality of what we face today. i would say to this president don't shut this government down over border security. make smart border security choices. listen to your pro formas. put aside your campaign speeches about a wall from sea to shining sea and listen to the pro formas who will tell you, mr. president, as they educated me, there are better ways to keep america safe than to build a god-awful wall. walls can be overcome by ladders and tunnels underneath, but this technology we're talking about is inescapable. when you bring your vehicle through these scanning devices,
12:20 pm
we know a lot more about what you're trying to do. and while we're on the subject. the hearing yesterday was about mexican drug cartels. some of the things that were told to us in that judiciary committee hearing were stunning. they estimate that the current economic activity of the mexican drug cartels is equal to the gross domestic product of mexico. what they are doing in creating this narcotic trade and exporting it to the united states is now surpassing the entire mexican economy's production of goods and services. breathtaking, isn't it? and it turns out that ten years ago, we identified mexican drug cartels as our greatest criminal threat at that time, and it still is today. how do they do it? how do they produce $2 trillion worth of narcotics trade in
12:21 pm
mexico at our expense? well, certainly the answer is obvious. we pay for the drugs. american dollars flow back into mexico so these cartels can keep in business, and something else always goes back into mexico. guns from america. 70% of the guns that were seized recently in mexico in a drug cartel raid, 70% of them had come from the united states. how did they get across the border? well, first, it's not legal to export guns across that border. and secondly, it turns out they buy them the same way they buy them in the midwest and come to chicago to shoot up our streets. they go to gun shows where there is no background checks, and they buy these guns in volume. they surreptitiously ship them across the border to the mexican drug cartels. so it's a circle. the narcotics come here.
12:22 pm
the money and the weapons go from here back to mexico. that circle is growing in size and intensity. so i asked an obvious question. do we check on the vehicles that are southbound out of the united states headed down to mexico? the answer is almost not at all. how are we going to deal with this drug epidemic, how are we going to deal with border security if instead of addressing these very real issues that directly impact the drug epidemic in america, we are sitting here talking about a wall? $5 billion for a wall. we vote, all of us have voted for the department of homeland security to build barriers where needed, to build fences. and they tell us they don't need a wall. they need a fence they can see through. we put money on the table year after year and i'll continue to
12:23 pm
because i think it's a smart thing to do to have a border that is actually secure. but this president is prepared to shut down the government of the united states, not for the technology that i have described to you, the successful technology that can reduce the flow of fentanyl, this deadliest of chemicals into the united states, not from the technology that could detect in these vehicles if they had a trailer full of people who are being smuggled in for whatever reason, no. this president is fixed on one issue -- a $5 billion wall. i hope that someone close to the president will sit down with him and explain the reality of border security. it goes way beyond a campaign speech. and there are plenty of votes, democrats and republicans, for border security that's smart and border security that will work. madam president, the hearings this week in the senate judiciary committee really told the story.
12:24 pm
i'm sure the president didn't follow those hearings, but i hope someone in the white house did and can convince him don't shut down this government to build a wall. appeal to congress on a bipartisan basis to give our government the resources to make america safe. if we could stop the deadly flow of fentanyl across that border, we will save american lives. we can do it. we know the technology that will accomplish it, and now all we lack is the political will to get it done. madam president, i'd like to make another statement and place it in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: madam president, i'm sorry i wasn't here earlier when he was on the floor, but i know that my friend and colleague, senator jeff flake, gave his farewell address to the senate. he will be leaving us soon. i wanted to honor him for his service in the senate, thank him for all the things we have worked on together. and put this statement in the record which i will read.
12:25 pm
when the political history of our time is written, i think that one of the most interesting chapters will be about my friend, senator jeff flake of arizona. i hope that history will be able to explain to me how one of the ideological sons of barry goldwater, who is, in fact, the father of modern american conservatism, how this ideological son named jeff flake came to be viewed as a suspect conservative in senator goldwater's home state of arizona. i have always found jeff flake to be a conservative with a conscience, and i have been privileged to work closely with him on some of the most important questions of our time. most people in observing washington think all we do is fight like cats and dogs and democrats and republicans never work together. it's not true. jeff flake and i were members of something called the gang of eight. we produced a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed on this senate
12:26 pm
floor overwhelmingly five and a half years ago. the other members in the gang of eight included our current democratic leader, chuck schumer, mike bennet, the senator from colorado, lindsey graham, senator from south carolina, bob menendez of new jersey, rubio -- senator marco rubio of florida, and that old iconoclast himself, senator john mccain. we met day after day and night after night to write an immigration reform bill. we fought like cats and dogs over some of the provisions, but in the end, we agreed. we came up with a compromise bill, and it passed overwhelmingly. we spent hundreds of hours together because we knew that america needed immigration reform. senator flake was a voice of conservatism in those discussions, but he was also a voice of conscience, compassion, and reason. i had to laugh at the description of my friend, senator flake, in an article in "the atlantic" magazine last
12:27 pm
year. the reporter wrote, and i quote -- flake doesn't relish criticizing other people, but when he does, it is usually in a fatherly tone of disappointment. he sometimes seems as if he just crash landed here in a time machine from some bygone era of seersucker suits and polite disagreement. country before party, that's the north star of jeff flake's political life. adhering to that principle may have made him a one-term senator from arizona, but it also made him an extraordinarily good senator and public servant. the problems jeff flake tried honorably to solve haven't gone away. they still demand our attention. if we can approach these challenges with the same principles and open-mindedness of senator jeff flake, america will be a winner. madam president, i yield the floor.
12:28 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. corker: madam president, i ask consent that the cornyn amendment number 4096 be called up as modified and reported by the member. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the clerk will report. mr. corker: i yield the floor. the clerk: the senator from tennessee, mr. corker, for mr. cornyn, proposes an amendment numbered 4096, as modified.
12:29 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mrs. mccaskill: it probably won't surprise my colleagues to know that i don't like much the idea of a farewell speech. i haven't spent a great deal of time contemplating it over the years i have been here. i'm not a big fan of the concept. but i want to respect the tradition, especially since i have witnessed so many senate traditions crumble over the last 12 years. so i will do my best to get through this without breaking up a traditional farewell speech in the united states senate is full of accomplishments and thanks. i'm going to skip half of that. i'm extremely proud of my body of work over 34 years of public
12:30 pm
service, but it is for others to judge, and i won't dwell on it today other than to say it is a long list and a tangible demonstration of the value of hard work. the wonderful barbara bush said, never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people, your family, your friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way. so rather than talk about what i've done, i want to speak a few moments about my family, and i have three different families i want to talk about today. my actual family, my family i like to call missouri, and my
12:31 pm
family here in the senate. first, my actual family because they are the most important. in the words of author andre moray, without a family, people -- i have been very warm. i have not trembled in the cold because i always had my family. my parents taught me that caring about the community around us was noble and good and that holding public office was an honorable endeavor, even though my parents were largely spectators and supporters and not candidates or officeholders. they just cared and they wanted me to care too. and at the risk of going down too many family stories, it may explain a lot that my mother --
12:32 pm
my dad fell in love with my mom when he saw her smoking a cigar and belting out "won't you come home bill bailey" at a party, and that my mother said i must say trick or treat and vote for j.f.k. when i was seven. and my father insisted that i not only learn the rules of football but that i also learn to tell a good joke and to learn to laugh at myself. my siblings -- my two sisters, my brother, they simply have been the port in every storm. my children, we have a large blended family of many children and grandchildren that is close and loving. i adore them all, but i need to
12:33 pm
specifically mention my three children, austin, nattie and lily. they were there from the beginning. toddlers sometimes sitting no so quietly when i gave a speech and amazing troopers in the almost decade of my career when i was a single working mom, hauling them all over the state on campaigns. they now have forgiven me for the missed field trips and the fact that i couldn't be the home room mom. today they have grown into amazing, strong adults who make me very proud. and yee-howdy, those grandchildren. i have 11, going on 12. i can't wait until they are all old enough to yell at them what my mom said to us when we were
12:34 pm
too slow getting to the car, last one in is a republican. and my husband joseph. how lucky i am to have him as my best friend. we were married 16 years ago after i was well into my political career and after he had achieved great success in business. he is proud and supportive of me always, but he certainly didn't bargain for the incredibly unfair treatment we got at his expense because of his business success. let the record of the senate now say what my republican colleagues did not during my campaigns. thank you, joseph, for your integrity, your honesty, your generosity, and your heart which has always directed you to do good as you do well. and then there's missouri moi
12:35 pm
family. i -- missouri moi family. i love my state. all of it. every corner of it. even the parts that aren't crazy about me. my honor to work for missourians has been immense, and i'm incredibly grateful to them for the opportunity i've had to get up every day and work my heart out in an interesting and challenging career of public service and so lucky to have made many, many good friends along the way. i'm excited that i will now have more time to them. david steer says family means no one gets left behind or forgotten, and that's how i feel about missouri. that's why my office has tried very hard to help everyone who has come to us for help, every veteran, every senior citizen caught in red tape no matter where they lived or who they were or what their politics
12:36 pm
were. and my staff family. madam president, i ask unanimous consent that my staff's name be entered into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. mccaskill: my staff here and in my previous jobs and many, many campaigns, richard box said it best, the bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other's life. they have been my rock, my come pass, -- compass, my inspiration and my coach. the best and the brightest, looking not for money or fame but just to make a difference. to my senate staff here today and watching and all the staffs of my offices of the prosecutors office, the auditors office, the
12:37 pm
county legislature, state legislature, i respect each of you immensely. as you go forth in the world, remember the mccaskill office motto. they could cite it for you right now if you asked them. if you work hard, you can do well, but if you're having fun, you will do great. we were happy and it made a difference. george bernard shaw said a happy family is but an earlier heaven. working with my staff was heaven. and, finally, to all of my fellow senators and all the many people who work here in the senate. i'd be lying if i didn't say i was worried about this place.
12:38 pm
it just doesn't work as well as well as it used to. the senate has been so enjoyable for me, but i must admit it puts the fun in dysfunction. peter morgan, an author said, no family is complete without an embarrassing uncle. we have too many embarrassing uncles in the united states senate, lots of embarrassing stuff. the united states senate is no longer the world's greatest deliberative body and everybody needs to quit saying it. until we recover from this period of polarization and the fear of the political consequences of tough votes. writing legislation behind closed doors, giant omnibus bills that most don't know what's in them, k street lobbyists knowing about the tax bill managers' package before even senators, that's today's
12:39 pm
senate and no amendments. solving the toughest problems will not happen without making the tough votes. we can argue -- argue about them and campaign on them, but we're not going to solve them without tough votes. it will not happen. my first year in the senate was 2007. we voted on 306 amendments in 2007. this year, as of yesterday, we voted on 36. that's a remarkable difference. something is broken and if we don't have the strength to look in the mirror and fix it, the american people are going to grow more and more cynical and they might do something crazy like elect a reality tv star president. i'm not kidding. that's one of the reasons this has happened.
12:40 pm
power has been dangerously centralized in the senate. we like to say, oh, we can't change the rules, just like the house. we're kind of are just like the house. a few people are writing legislation, a few people are making decision. we have to throw off the shackles of careful, open the doors of debate, reclaim the power of members in committee, and most of all, realize that looking the other way and hoping that everything will work out later is a foolish idea. and for gosh sake, debate and vote on amendments. but with all the problems i outlined, know i love this place and you -- almost all of you. you have filled my life with interesting work and unforgettable memories. we have argued, we have sang, we
12:41 pm
have fought, we have cried, and we have laughed together just like family. you are family. and i will miss you terribly. desmond tutu, a very wise man, said god's dream is that you and i, and all of us, will realize that we are family. that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion. thank you very much. i yield the floor.
12:42 pm
a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: madam president, as our colleagues show their affection for senator mccaskill, let me talk a little about my relationship with her and her service to our state. she chose not to do that, but she has served missourians at every level of government as a county legislator, as a state legislator, as an extraordinary
12:43 pm
prosecutor, as a state auditor when her particular talent to find out what was going on and point it out was maybe at its best use, 12 years in the united states senate. i know that claire and joe took their family on a vacation to a ranch in the west. i was thinking about her and it reminded me of a story i heard about a wrangler at one of those ranches who was perfect on an horse. and somebody asked, how do you get that good riding a horse? he said, fers of all, -- first of all, you get on the horse and you put your shoo-in the stir -- shoe in the stirup and sit easily in the saddle and you ride for about 30 years. if you paid any attention to either the last senate campaign in missouri or the one i was involved in before that, you
12:44 pm
heard about a -- a lot about 30 years in the case of senator mccaskill and i have about 30 years. about that long ago she was starting her second term in the missouri legislature, smart, well prepared, as she always is. i was the first republican-elected secretary of state in 52 years, and only a couple of years older than her. in fact, we never had much of a fight about who would be called the senior senator, because neither of us particularly wanted to be the senior anything at this point. but we began to work tght, claire was -- together, claire was smart, quick, funny, insightful. she was always well prepared. she was also, by the way, on my appropriations committee that i had to report to and the questions were always tough and usually i could answer them. we -- and even then i often
12:45 pm
wondered how somebody as smart and well prepared as claire could wind up on the wrong side of a big issue of the day based on my view of that issue of the day and we still had that the eight years we were here together. let me tell you, madam president, on anything that involved missouri -- i think you would have a hard time finding exception where we didn't get to the same place or we didn't get there quickly and where we didn't do everything we both could figure out to do to reach conclusion. today i was thinking, all week, is there any way i can get to st. louis where the property transfer will be made for the new n.g.o., the national geospatial west facility, $1.3 billion facility right where pruitt used to be, something new that will be the center of activity and something that was built at the site of a really bad government decision. and we worked really hard to get that done.
12:46 pm
i was thinking i'm going to do that until i found out it wasn't going to be next tuesday. it was going to be today, that senator mccaskill was going to give this speech, and i knew i needed to be here and wanted to be here for that. i would also say her staff, her washington staff is here, our staff in washington, our staff in missouri, to the best of my knowledge, have always worked closely on everything. they'd even be at meetings where one of them would be explaining why i voted the way i did and the other would be explaining why claire voted the way she did and they'd often ride together. that was the way we worked together on citizen concerns, on missouri concerns. that happened here as well. claire talked about her family. joe shepherd, a great friend of mine -- joe was helping me before he started helping claire but she totally converted him to
12:47 pm
her side of the aisle. but we are still good friends. claire's sisters of her family, i've gotten to know her sisters and appreciate her sisters the best, always there for her. occasionally will look just enough like claire that they could ride in a car in the parade and she could be in a parade somewhere else. claire's mom, the last person, a republican, i could absolutely hear her mom saying that. after i was elected to the senate, i was in the senate. i happened to see joe and claire's mom and went over to say hi and claire's mom said, well, i'd like to say it's nice to see you here, but based on everything i said in the campaign, i'd be two-faced. that was betty mccaskill. and i liked her for it. i was betty -- at betty mccaskill's memorial service during claire's campaign that year for her second election to the senate. she was at my dad's memorial
12:48 pm
service during my election campaign to the senate this time. and as claire and joe were leaving, claire said to me, what a perfect service for lee roy blunt. now, nobody in this body could say that like claire could say it. because she knew my dad. she knew -- family got up. we talked about my dad. but claire knew that was not just a bassing comment. -- a passing comment. it was knowing who we are and knowing who she is and what she knew about that. the -- of all the times we voted differently, we have a relationship without pretense. as much as you could possibly have between two members of the senate from the same state. but the best part of the last eight years, we've been friendly for 30 years, but in the last eight years, we've really become good friends. and, you know, old friends are
12:49 pm
hard to make. it takes a long time, say, 30 years to really make old friends. lie forward to our time together after you leave here. i have benefited from our time together while you were here. our state has benefited from your service in incredible ways at all levels. and even on the days we didn't disagree, i never doubted your sense that you were doing the right thing. it is an honor to be your friend. it's an honor to have worked for you. thanks for all you've done for the state of missouri. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from cal cal. mrs. feinstein: -- from california. mrs. feinstein: thank you very much. the last thing one does in life is not necessarily the best. i have come to respect claire mccaskill over a long period of time. i've watched her walk in a room and watched heads turn.
12:50 pm
i've listened to her upfront answering questions, no nonsense, direct, truthful to the very best of her ability. and i found in her a great sense of conscience. and she has this marvelous exterior. i think the interior is a little different. there's a sensitivity there that is very special, senator. i hope you never ever lose it. because it's what really gives you the ability to do what you do. and now i expect to turn on my television set, turn on my radio and hear you many, many times and take a lot of good advice and have a few laughs listening to you. but i just want to say thank you. you've represented your state
12:51 pm
well. you've stood tall. you've spoken out in our caucuses. you've let people know what you feel. you wear your heart on your sleeve. and you are one great woman. thank you, madam president. ms. collins: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, madam president. i stand here today with a heavy heart as we play trib -- we pay tribute to our friend and colleague claire mccaskill of missouri. senators represent their state and not surprisingly, they often reflect their state's heritage, traditions, and values. the people of missouri rightly prize their reputation as independent, straightforward,
12:52 pm
and trustworthy, qualities that define my friend senator claire mccaskill. to that i would add another quality that defines this accomplished leader from the show me state. like her inspiration in public service, president harry truman, senator mccaskill is feisty. in her two terms in the senate, senator mccaskill has demonstrate her belief that no party holds a monopoly on good ideas. it has been such a pleasure to work with her across the aisle on so many issues. she was always the best of partners, strong, strategic, determined, and she got a lot done. an issue that brought us together as leaders of the
12:53 pm
senate aging committee was the extensive bipartisan investigation we launched in 2015 into the extreme spikes in the prices of many prescription drugs. the findings of our investigation were appalling, and the reform legislation that we coauthored is producing results and spurring approval of lower-cost generic drugs and increasing transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. our work together on drug pricing uncovered the gag clauses that industry uses that can prohibit your local pharmacist from telling consumers if their prescription would cost less if they paid for it out of pocket rather than using their insurance. the patient right to know drug
12:54 pm
prices act that senator mccaskill and i coauthored and that was signed into law this october ends this egregious practice saving consumers money and improving health care. we also investigated numerous financial scams that attempted to rob seniors of their hard earned savings. once again working together we were able to get a new law passed that tackled this serious issue as well. and i will tell you there is nobody in this body who is more talented at questioning individuals who came before our committee who were trying to shave the truth or deceive or distract than claire miscaskill.
12:55 pm
she -- claire mccaskill. she as senator blunt mentioned was always well prepared. she was always insightful and she was always tough. i remember one hearing that we had where the g.a.o. was testifying before us. and sure enough, claire had read the entire g.a.o. report, not just the executive summary, the whole report. and thus her questions were so penetrating that she brought out information that never would have surfaced in that hearing. as missouri state auditor, a prosecutor, and a senator, claire mccaskill has always been a champion for accountability, dedicated to rooting out waste, fraud, and
12:56 pm
abuse in government programs. she has always been determined to get to the truth and to get to the bottom of an issue. during the damaging shutdown of 2013, she stepped forward as a charter member of our commonsense coalition to help restore the faith of the american people and to reopen government. i've worked so closely with senator mccaskill during her entire time in the senate, and i will miss her so much. she is a tough, no nonsense leader, a dedicated public servant, and most of all a good friend. claire, i thank you for your public service, and i wish you, joseph, and your family all the
12:57 pm
best in the years to come. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. a senator: thank you, madam president. i rise today as we all are to recognize a marvelous person in claire mccaskill. mr. tester: i'm going to go back to 2006 when claire was running for the united states senate and i was, too. the first time i saw her, it was on tv, on c-span. she was in a debate. and i thought to myself, my, oh my, this ladies' got skills. and because it's something that i do, i study people who are good and i try to steal as much as i can from them and there was plenty to steal in her ability to get to the truth. and then claire and jim webb and myself all won close elections
12:58 pm
in 2006 and showed up in this body. and those of you that didn't know webb, webb was maybe the most intense person i ever have met in my life and an incredible human being in his own right and became good friends with jim and claire, i can't tell you the first time we met but i can tell you when we met, it was like we'd known one another our whole lives. and claire had this ability to be able to -- and still has this ability. i want to talk in the future, not in the past -- to welcome you and make you feel good about yourself as you feel good about her. and we got to be fast friends. her and joseph and i are best friends in this body. in fact, when i got on the train a few weeks ago and i probably shouldn't have done this but it just happened, i happened to get
12:59 pm
on the train with senator-elect holly. i didn't know him. never looked at the debates this time around when i was campaigning. and he introduced himself to me and i'll probably owe him an apology for this but i said yeah, you just beat my best friend in the united states senate. because she is has been. -- because she has been. she's one of the reasons i can come to this body and really enjoy it. as everybody said before, she's smart. she is very articulate. and she has a heart. and those three things are qualities that serve one well in the united states senate. and i for one am going to miss her presence here and her ability to tell the truth in a way that you have to be hard of hearing not to understand what she says. because she has been a great senator over the last 12 years. she's represented missouri and
1:00 pm
because we all have those two letters in front of our name, u.s. senator, she has represented this country in an amazing way. and i, for one, will miss her but will make a point to make sure the relationship we developed in this body continues for the rest of our lives. thank you, madam president.
1:01 pm
mr. nelson: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. nelson: thank you, madam president. i just wanted to address the senator from missouri to tell her that she has been a wonderful, wonderful colleague. for this senator, as someone of more moderation in her politics, who comes from a republican
1:02 pm
republican-dominated state, she has negotiated the political winds so well and has always kept her eye on representing her state. this senator from florida particularly appreciates that, because being a democrat in a republican state is not ran easy task -- is not an easy task. and she has done it with such dignity, looking out for her people, looking out for the people that are voiceless. and i just want her to know that she has the appreciation of this senator from florida. i yield the floor.
1:03 pm
1:04 pm
1:05 pm
1:06 pm
1:07 pm
1:08 pm
1:09 pm
mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. mr. durbin: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, we've recently heard a farewell speech from my colleague and friend, senator clean air mccass claire mccaskill of missouri. i grew up across the river in a town of east st. louis, illinois. i feel a familiarity with missouri more than most residents of my state. we have great reminisce about
1:10 pm
our states. my boyhood hero was stan musial, stan the man. st. louis cardinal hall of famer. he retired in 1963 holding national league career marks for games played at-bats and hits. asked to describe the habits that kept him in baseball so long, he once said, get eight hours of sleep regularly, keep your weight down, run a mile a day, if you schuss smoke, smoke cigars, then cut down on inhaling. make at that point to bat .3000. clean air mis-caskill has always brought the same work ethic to work that stan musial brought to baseball. her batting average is considerably better than .300.
1:11 pm
five years ago senator mccaskill and i teamed up to suggest a name for a new bridge, a beautiful new bridge that spanned the mighty mississippi river between her state of missouri and mine of illinois. -- near st. louis. thanks to clair's leadership, it is called the stan musial bridge. it is a well-deserved fitting tribute to my boyhood hero and to fitting tribute to claire mccaskill's tenacity. clair is a bridge builder. she doesn't asked whether ideas do many from the left or right, she asked whether they will work. like her own political hero, harry truman, she is a strait talker and she can be a bulldog when it comes to demanding accountability for the people who pay for this government and those who rely on it. she has cast historic and heroic votes on the senate floor. she voted for an economic stimulus package that helped prevent a second great
1:12 pm
depression. one story about clean air mis-caskill seems especially telling. nearly two years ago she was ready to vote to confirm neil gorsuch, a trump appointee to the u.s. supreme court. in missouri, a red state, that was a pretty good vote for her politically. but when she met privately with then-judge gorbachev, she asked him about a -- with then judge gorsuch, she asked him about a case about a truck driver who left his truck briefly. she asked judge gorsuch, did you ever think about what you would do? judge gorsuch said, no. senator mccoos skill changed her vote to no. she is the kind of senator she is. her idea of govern something to spend money wisely, punish misbehavior, and give people what they need in order to get through their daily lives.
1:13 pm
she has been a voice for truck drivers and farmers and factory works and a lot of ordinary people who work hard. she's been a fearless champion of my dreamers. for that, i will be ever be grateful. her votes always were risky politically, but she never, ever flinched. i will forever be in her debt for her show of courage on that one issue, and incidentally she showed the same courage and compassion calling for an end to this administration's cruel policy of separating immigrant policies at our border. this past year she used her influence as ranking member of the senate homeland security and government affairs committee to investigate the causes of the opioid epidemic devastating america. that investigation showed how pharmaceutical companies knowingly sold dangerous and addictive painkillers in order to maximize profit. she worked diligently in a bipartisan basis to ensure passage of a law that will help
1:14 pm
combat that opioid epidemic and provide treatment for those addicted. and she's never, ever wavered in her efforts to protect americans with preexisting conditions. results, not just rhetoric. that's clean air mis-caskill. -- claire mccaskill. the approach stan musial in his last time, harry caray said, take a good, long look. remember the swing and the stance. we won't see his like again. as senator mccaskill leaves the senate, take a look. remember claire mccaskill and her personal brand of missouri courage. may we all try to be bridge builders, as she has been. mr. president, i yield the floor.
1:15 pm
1:16 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: mr. president, thank you. we all are surrounded by exceptionally dedicated young men and women who work side by
1:17 pm
side with us and really sometimes whose lead we follow on issues. our staff. and i am honored to have such a capable, dedicated, loyal staff to me, but more importantly to kansans and to americans. and today i want to take just a moment to recognize the contributions of a member of that staff: u.s. army captain mark bedren who spent last year working in my office as party united states army congressional fellowship program. before mark departs from my office and to return to the big army in the pentagon at the start of the new year, i rise to express my admiration, my appreciation to captain bedren for all the hard work and dedication in service to our nation. exactly a year ak when i first learned that he would be joining our office, our team, i called and welcomed him to the office and i immediately was struck by
1:18 pm
his determination and his sense of duty. since that first conversation with mark, i knew he would be an asset to our team, and he absolutely has never disappointed. mark's nearly nine years of service in the united states army have developed his leadership capabilities and shaped his perspective on the defense issues that are such national significance, making him a unique asset to our team as well as one who helps us work to serve kansans and as a member of the united states armed forces and their families. mark's assignments have taken him and his wife katie and their children elizabeth and patrick around the globe in service to our country. mark has completed 22 -- i'm sorry, two combat deployments encompassing more than 22 months in the kandahar province, afghanistan as both a rifle platoon leader during the
1:19 pm
afghani surge and as regimental battle captain overseeing most of the regional command south. he's also completed a peacekeeping deployment to the sinai peninsula in egypt where he commanded a rifle company supporting the multinational force and observers maintaining the treaty of peace between egypt and israel. mark planned and completed multiple missions supporting operation atlantic resolve in central and eastern europe as well. though mark is a native of new york and had never been to kansas prior to his working in my office, he immediately got familiar with issues that kansans face each day and made it a priority for him to spend time in kansas to see firsthand our way of life. following his trip to our military installations and equities in kansas, i was grateful to learn of his expwretions at each --
1:20 pm
impressions at each stop. like many who visit the military in our state, mark returned to washington, d.c. with an appreciation for the quality of life that kansans ensure that their service members have in our state, and we take care of their families. i appreciate mark noticing that, and it is so true. over the past year i've continually been impressed by mark's leadership. at every opportunity he's proven himself to be an important and fully integrated member of our office, our team. he's carrying out -- carrying that with equal weight and responsibility with my personal staff. his seamless communications and his skill in tackling issues big and small has been a great benefit to me. mark has exceeded all of my expectations and has demonstrated a commitment to excellence that has been nothing short of outstanding. though i'm sad that he will be leaving our office at the end of the month, i know he will serve the army well. next year in the budget liaison
1:21 pm
office where i'm confident he will be a highly effective ambassador to congress for the army. mark is one of the most impressive military officers i've had the honor of knowing and i hold him in the highest regard personally and professionally. he is a significant asset to our country and the united states army. mark represents the best that the army has to offer, and i know he will continue to benefit for the future of our nation. there is no group of people i hold in higher regard than those who serve our nation, and i want to reiterate my gratitude to mark and his wife katie, as an army family dedicated to serving our country. once again, thank you, mark, for all you have done for kansans this year. thank you for being an inspiration to me, causing me to work harder and care more. you have been a model of selfless service and leadership. our entire office, our staff here in washington,d.c., and our staff in kansas will miss
1:22 pm
you, all know how much you contributed to the cause. and i know that you will continue to do great things through the your army career and your life of service wherever that path may lead. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are in the. mr. menendez: mr. president, i come to the floor today to talk about the u.s.-saudi arabia relationship in the broader context of america's interests in the middle. i want to begin by responding to an op-ed by secretary of state pompeo published by "the wall street journal" in which he
1:23 pm
called the united states saudi arabia partnership vital. that statement reflects a distorted view of the united states-saudi arabia relationship that has permeated the trump administration in which the united states is somehow dependent on the kingdom of saudi arabia for regional stability and security cooperation. it's a view perhaps best articulated by the president's own unhinged pre-thanksgiving statement in which he suggested selling weapons to the saudis was more important than america's enduring commitment to human rights, democratic values, and international norms. or the president and secretary pompeo's continued incredulous insistence that we still don't know, that we still don't know whether the crown prince is directly responsible for the murder of jamal khashoggi. desperate to justify this myopic view, trump officials whimper
1:24 pm
that the saudi government's military operations in yemen are the only means to root out iranian influence and defend the status quo of u.s. support for the saudi-led coalition. put another way, these morally and blinded individuals believe that to advance america's interest in the region, there is no other option than dependence on riyadh and no other way than business as usual. so the united states should just stay the course, resigned to accept with a so-called vital partner, a government that lures a "washington post" columnist, an american resident with u.s. citizen children, to its consulate in a third country with the expressed intent of eliminating his dissenting views from public discourse in the most grusome way possible. i for one reject secretary
1:25 pm
pompeo's false choice. we can be tough on iranian aggression and we can continue our efforts to eliminate al qaeda and isis, and, yes, at the same time we can have a reality-based debate on the strategic utility of the u.s.-saudi partnership. our security interests and our values demand a debate. i believe that we can pursue an effective strategy to counter terrorism and iranian aggression while also demanding better from the u.s.-saudi arabia partnership. that means standing up for transparency, accountability, and truth when our partners flae american values, disregard international norms and take actions that undermine our broader strategic interests and run counter to regional security. the trump administration has cynically framed this vote as a
1:26 pm
binary zero sum choice. you're either for iran or you're for saudi arabia. well, my answer to that is i am for the united states of america. i am for america's security interests and i am for american values and i am for partnerships and alliances deeply rooted in both. i can't imagine that any one of my colleagues on either side of the aisle would put me in the pro-iran camp. i take a back seat to no one in the senate in taking the lead to end iran's pathway to a nuclear weapon and to end its nefarious promotion of terrorism across the world. to be clear, the vote on s.j. res. 54 is not about the totality of the u.s.-saudi relationship. it is a vote about whether u.s. support for the saudi-led coalition's actions in yemen are
1:27 pm
in our national interest. we do indeed have important security interests for the saudis. both of our nations benefit from cooperation in confronting threatening forces. yet we cannot sweep under the rug the callous disregard for human life and flagrant violations of international norms the saudis have shown. that's why as the ranking member of the senate foreign relations committee, i fully support the opportunity to continue to examine components of the u.s.-saudi relationship and determine whether that relationship requires a course correction. beyond saudi arabia, i do not want any of our security partners to interpret our relationship as a blank check. unfortunately, whether due to the president's possibly unconstitutional financial entanglements or his family's overtly, overly cozy relationships with the crown prince, this administration is putting the saudi government on a pedestal that stands above
1:28 pm
american values. they continue to extend a blank check to certain players within the saudi government, no matter how brazen their actions, rather than meaningfully seek to influence riyadh or shore that u.s. policy towards saudi arabia is properly balanced and in line with our strategic interests, not directed by the personal and financial motives of select individuals in our government. this refusal to stand up for american values to assert true leadership is part of the trump administration's willful adherence to a misguided understanding of the most effective ways to bring stability to the middle east. it is an outgrowth of the president's reckless, morally bankrupt approach to foreign policy and a love affair with authoritarian strong men. mr. president, i hope today to frame some critical questions about the u.s.-saudi
1:29 pm
relationship in the context of america's long-term interests in the region. let's start with taking stock of actions taken by saudi arabia over the last two years. the two years that according to secretary pompeo, the trump administration has been, quote, rebuilding the u.s.-saudi partnership while we here in the salons of washington are caterwauling about human rights. in june of 2017, a quartet of arab countries an announced a full blockade of a fellow gulf cooperation member qatar. the saudi led block justified this by accusing qatar of transgressions that while seriously concerning, are not unique to qatar or even to some members of the saudi-led block such as financial support or tariffs. this blockade tosses out des

10 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on