tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN May 8, 2019 11:30am-1:30pm EDT
under the previous order, the motions to reconsider are considered made and laid upon the table and the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: equal employment opportunity commission, janet dhillon, of pennsylvania, to be a member. the presiding officer: the question, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination -- the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22, do hereby bring to a close debate on the nomination of janet dhillon, of pennsylvania, to be a member of the equal employment opportunity commission. signed by 17 senators.
the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. is it the sense of the question that debate on the nomination of janet dhillon, of pennsylvania, to be men and women of the equal employment opportunity commission, shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
the presiding officer: have all senators voted? any senator wish to change their vote? on this vote the yeas are 52. the nays are 44. the motion is agreed to. the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. thune: mr. president, very eight requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. thune: mr. president, we reached a milestone last week with the confirmation of president trump's 100th federal judge. frankly, it's a milestone that should have come earlier.
and had this been another president, it almost undoubtedly would have come earlier. but unfortunately, the response to this president has been characterized by what the leader aptly referred to yesterday as, quote, unhinged partisanship. end quote. two and a half years on from president trump's election, democrats still can't get over the fact that they lost. somehow, my colleagues missed the section in government class where you learn that's what happens sometimes in democracies. sometimes you win, and sometimek it to my colleagues -- sometimes you lose. it's not fun. no one likes having their candidate lose. but that's what happens sometimes when you have free elections. now, mr. president, no one expects democrats to just sign on to everything president trump says or does. no one expects them to sign on to most of what president trump says or does. i certainly understand that they have philosophical disagreements with many of his policies.
i have been in their position. during my time in public office, there have certainly been presidents with whom i have disagreed a substantial part of the time. i like to think that i didn't reflexively oppose everything they said or did simply because they weren't my preferred candidate for the office. i'm fairly certain president trump couldn't eat a cheese sandwich without some democrat crying treason. well, let's step back a minute. maybe it's not that my democrats colleagues are reflexively opposing everything this president does. maybe it's not unhinged partisanship. maybe it's just that they disagree with every single word he says, every single thing he does, every single individual that he nominates, except in the case of nominees, at least, we know that isn't true. let's go back to those judicial nominations. democrats have engaged in a truly unprecedented amount of obstruction on president trump's judicial nominees. as of may 2, democrats had
forced cloture votes on almost 65% of president trump's judicial nominees. 65%. at the same point in president obama's first term, republicans required cloture votes on just 2.5% of his judicial nominees. 65% to 2.5%. but again, maybe that's because democrats have serious philosophical objections to these nominees, except they don't. because again and again, democrats have turned around and voted for the trump judicial nominees that they obstructed. one egregious example occurred in january of 2018 when democrats forced the senate to spend more than a week considering four district court judges, even though not one single democrat voted against their confirmation. that's right, mr. president. democrats forced the senate to spend more than a week
considering the nomination of four judges even though not one single democrat opposed their confirmation. these judges could have been confirmed in a matter of minutes by voice vote, but democrats forced the senate to spend more than a week on their consideration, time that could have been spent on genuinely controversial nominees or on some of the many important issues facing our country. as of april 2 of this year, democrats had forced cloture votes on 20 of the district court judges the senate has confirmed. ultimately, however, 19 of those 20 judges were confirmed by more than 68 votes. 17 of those 20 were confirmed by more than 80 votes. and 12 of those 20 were confirmed without a single vote in opposition. and yet, democrats obstructed all of them. mr. president, 100 judicial nominees confirmed is a solid milestone, but as i said before,
it's a milestone that should have come earlier and would have come earlier if democrats hadn't chosen to engage in a massive campaign of partisan obstruction. despite a lot of hard work by the judiciary committee and a robust pace of nominations from the president, the number of judicial vacancies is actually 25% higher today than it was when the president took office. and a near record number of those vacancies are designated as judicial emergencies. that shouldn't be the case, but thanks to democrats' knee-jerk obstruction, that's where we are. regardless of how much the democrats obstruct, though, republicans will keep moving forward. despite democrats' best efforts, we confirmed a record number of circuit court judges during the president's first two years, and we're going to keep working our way through the president's nominees, judicial and otherwise. we're committed to filling
vacancies in both the executive branch and the judiciary so that the american people have the fully functioning government that they deserve. perhaps someday democrats will decide to drop the obstruction and join us in the business of actually getting things done for the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i ask the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, the equal employment opportunity commission is charged with protecting workers and job applicants against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ace, disability, or genetic information. janet dhillon, the latest nominee to be a member of that board, has spent her career unfortunately doing the opposite. she has spent years advocating for corporations over workers and has a track record that puts her in direct opposition to the mission of the equal employment opportunity commission. for example, under ms. dhillon's leadership, the retail litigation center filed briefs in support of policies making it more difficult for employers to be held liable for harassment. i'm also concerned that
ms. dhillon has declined to answer whether she would uphold the eeoc's current position that the civil rights act forgdz employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. the eeoc is considering issues that are critical to protecting workers, including ongoing court cases to protect lgbtq workers from discrimination and improve paid data collection for women in in the work force. women on average make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. the gap is even higher for women of color. we need commissioners at the eeoc who will fight to close this gap, no matter your age, race, occupation, religion, sexual sexuality, you should be treated with dignity. ms. dhillon has not demonstrated that she will be a champion for these workers. in the past, we have always tried to move eeoc nominations in a bipartisan way, democrats
and republicans nominees confirmed at the same time, but for months, for reasons i cannot explain, my republican colleagues have refused to hold a vote on a democratic nominee to this commission. this obstruction has forced the eeoc to operate without a quorum, prevented them from conducting crucial business like issuing new policies, guidance, and regulations. this is another example of republicans changing senate norms and traditions when it comes to their quest for nominations. we're also seeing this week with votes on two second circuit nominees from new york who are being pushed through over objections by both home state senators. before this year, we have never, never seen a judicial nominee receive a vote without a positive blue slip from either home state senator. a blue slip is just a formal term. it is actually an approval by the senator of the nomination. by the end of this week, it will
have happened four times. in the state of washington, new jersey, now in new york. this is a terrible precedent. it could end up affecting each of our states. republicans appear determined to ignore traditions and common sense in their effort to confirm the highest possible volume of president trump's extreme nominees. i continue to call on my colleagues to change course. i think it's a mistake. i will oppose janet dhillon's nomination to be chairman of the equal employment opportunity commission. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the next statement be placed in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: last month, mr. president, on friday, april 12, i visited the port of entry in el paso, texas. it's known as paseo del norte. and a nearby border patrol station known as station number one. what i saw was heart breaking. the migrants who presented themselves at our border are
being detained in cramped cells known as hellaros, spanish for the word icebox. these are metal-sided detention rooms which the detainees complain are kept painfully cold. the sign above one door -- one of these detention room doors read capacity 35. i took a few minutes and counted the number of men in that cell. the capacity may have been 35, but there were over 150 men standing in that cell. one toilet. the large, heavy glass window on the cell gave me a clear view of the detainees. but for a few benches along the walls which accommodate a very small number, there is literally no room to sit or lie down. meals are provided to the standing migrants to eat in the cell. many wait for up to three weeks in this so-called icebox to be
transferred to an i.c.e. facility. next to it was a woman's cell that has a sign reading capacity 16. i paused and counted. about 75 women in this cell designed for 16, including nursing mothers with their babies. as our eyes would lock, some of the women would mouth the word help. just outside this building, hundreds of men and women and children were brought in from the border hours before to stand in long lines. these migrants at the end of a long, dangerous journey. and this preliminary process led them to a table where four officials were writing down information. the approach was clearly designed to be slow and it was clearly understaffed. i stood in line with translators speaking to those who were waiting. one was a young mother holding a 1-year-old child.
she told me of taking four weeks, one month, to escape honduras and to cross mexico to escape the narco gangsters in her country. another young honduran woman, pregnant and obviously close to delivering, stood patiently in line. the young father-to-be hovered behind her, holding two disposable diapers. the previous night they had come to our border looking for protection. i asked them why in her condition would she make such a journey. and she told me she was threatened with not only her death but the death of her infant if her husband refused to work with the drug gangs in honduras. as a result, she told me her family sold absolutely everything they had to pay for the transporters, also known as smugglers or coyotes, to transport them across mexico to our border. included in the omnibus
appropriation bill that we wrote this year was more than $400 million for humanitarian assistance at the border. mr. president, we can do so much more, even in the midst of our political debate, so much more to treat these desperate people in a humane way. i am story report that i do not believe the detention facilities we have for detained migrants could possibly pass any inspection by the international red cross. we are america. we are better than this. it's clear the trump administration's border security policies have failed. they have destabilized the region. they've encouraged more migration. and they're driving more families into the arms of human traffickers. the trump administration has shut down legal avenues for vulnerable families and children fleeing persecution. there was a program called the central american minors program under president obama. it was very straightforward. anyone seeking asylum who lived
in a country such as honduras could present themselves at the consulate, fill out the forms, and determine whether they were eligible for asylum. they didn't have to make a dangerous journey, liquidate everythinghe them, in desperation, went to present themselves at the borders. make no mistake, this is no invasion, as the president has described it over and over again. this is actually a person making
his or her way across that desert land and presenting themselves voluntarily to the first person in an american uniform. the president terminated temporary protected status for el salvador and honduras, which could force more than a quarter million people back to these countries, exactly the opposite of what we should be doing at this moment. and the president has proposed slashing humanitarian and security assistance to the northern triangle. that is illogical. the notion that we would cut off funds in these desperate countries that lack civil government, that are in control of the drug gangs, will make the situation worse. it'll make these people more desperate. the president is doing and saying exactly the opposite of what he should be saying. i understand his emotion. we see it regularly. i understand his anger. but someone who sit down and explain to him that he is making
the matter worse. each of these policy mistakes could be reversed by the president immediately. and let's not forget that just a few short months ago, the president shut down the federal government in his pursuit of taxpayer-funded border walls so he could fulfill a campaign promise. we all remember, of course, mexico was supposed to pay for this wall. that has been forgotten, i guess, by most, but not by those of us who have a memory of the last campaign. do you realize that while the government was shut down, the president also shut down the immigration courts? and not alog them to -- and not allowing them to meet, the immigration blog started grok, making the situation worse. every time the president's emotion takes place. when the president blocked asylum status to the triangle nations, he guaranteed more refugees will flee to our border.
when he talks about dumping these migrants in sanctuary cities, he shows contempt for these human beings and their plight. when he uses words like murderers, rapists, invasion, he appeals to base emotions of hate. at every turn this president has responded to this challenge at our border with threats and meanness that only make the matter worse. when attorney general barr is now busy trying to make the justice department the president's personal law firm, he is enthusiastically carrying out attorney general sessions' and secretary nielsen's legacies of failed policies. one year ago today, may 7, 2018, then-attorney general sessions made an announcement. he announced the department of homeland security was referring 100% of border cases to the justice department to be prosecuted under criminal
statutes, under what they characterize as the zero tolerance policy. the targets of those prosecutions included mothers seeking safety from gang violence and domestic violence. we know the result. i remember last july, mr. president -- i went to an immigration court in chicago. i didn't realize it was there. it was in the loop downtown in an office building. and one whole floor was dedicated to a u.s. immigration court. this was after the announcement of the zero tolerance policy. the hallways were packed with reporters there for the hearings. i went into the court before it started, sat down with the immigration judge who had been on the job for almost two decades. i believe she is a caring person whoens with ad to follow the law and do in a thoughtful, humane way. she asked me in i wanted to stay for the first docket call. i said i would. so i watched as she asked
everyone in the courtroom to take their seat for the two clients who would be called first. one of these clients had difficulty getting into the chair. marta, you see, was two years old. she wasn't old enough to climb into the chair by herself. she had been separated from her mother under this policy announced by attorney general sessions. so they lifted her up and put her in the chair and handed her a stuffed owl, which she clung to. she didn't understand a thing in that courtroom. the other client, though, was much more agile. he was able to get in the chair. his name was hamilton, four years old, and the reason he scrambled in that chair is he saw a matchbox car on the table. those were the first two clients in the zero tolerance in this chicago courtroom. can we possibly be proud of
that? those children separated from their mothers and fathers inen effort to deter others from coming to the united states. is that what it was all about? it didn't take long for president trump to abandon the zero tolerance policy. and after a few months, a judge in san diego, california, said that's t reunite those kids with their parents. turned out there were 2,880 of these children who had been separated from their parents. we couldn't match them up all with their parents again. over a is of them still in -- over 100 of them still in the system, unable to identify their families or be reunited with them. the president is going to return to that policy? really? really? that's what america is all about? snatching children away from their parents? those who are expert in the area, psychologists and doctors, tell us this could have a long-term, dramatic, negative impact on a baby. it's understandable.
i've seen cases and met the mothers where finally, after months, they were reunited. the child wanted nothing to do with her, a feeling that they had been abandoned by their parents. america is better than this. an inspection by the -- pardon me, an investigation by the inspector general of health and human services that i requested with senator patty murray now turns out that even before the announcement a year ago of zero tolerance, thousands of kids were separated by this same administration and we still don't know their plight. the federal judge in san diego has once again asked for a human accounting of what happened to those kids. now, i stand ready to work with my republican friends on smart, effective, humane border security. but we need the trump administration to drop the cruel campaign of targeting families and children.
focus on the real threats to america, the lethal narcotics that still flood our communities, 80%-90% of which come through ports of entry that we're discussing today. in the last congress, a comprehensive response was announced to the problem. if our laws are so bad and so welcoming to people who shouldn't be here, why is it that overwhelmingly these people are coming from three countries? they're not coming from mexico or other central american countries. there's something going on in these three countries -- honduras, guatemala, and el salvador -- that needs to be addressed. we need to crack down on the cartels and traffickers. make no mistake, our thirst and appetite for narcotics coming into this country has created a cycle of violence and death. as we purchase the narcotics and
send the drug money back to the cartels in central america and mexico, that money fuels their further efforts to export narcotics to the united states, as well as our export of firearms. 70% of the firearms recently confiscated in a raid in northern mexico of a drug cartel came from the united states gun shows. so in the name of our second amendment and not doing a background check, we are literally arming the drug cartels that are terrorizing the people in central america. we've got to put two and two together. we've expand third-country resettlement in mexico and other central american countries. we have to have in-country processing of refugees, and we have to eliminate the immigration court backlog. i'll be introducing legislation soon to achieve these goals. i'm willing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address this crisis at our border. mr. president, if there is no one else on the floor, i would
like to ask permission to add another statement in the record at a separate place. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you. mr. president, everyone knows that this sunday is mother's day, a day when we honor our moms, our step moms, our mothers in law, our grandmothers, and all the women who chose to love, sacrifice and care for a child. it is also a day when we celebrate new moms to be. i am happy to report to you that i am just a few days away from having a new granddaughter, which i'm really excited about. there's a lot of excitement and happiness in our family, and it will be intensified coming this sunday, mother's day. my wife and i have three beautiful kids. we now have five wonderful grandchildren with a sixth on the way. but there is perhaps nothing more exciting than learning of a new addition to your family, and there's perhaps nothing more sobering than the state of maternal and infant health care in this great nation. i can think of no better way to
celebrate and honor mother's day than to immediately commit on a bipartisan basis to enact change that will improve the health outcomes for new moms and babies nationwide. too often in our country new moms and infants, especially women and babies of color, are dying from completely preventable health complications. listen to this. the united states is one of only 13 countries in the world where the maternal mortality rate is worse today than it was 25 years ago. over the past 30 years, our maternal mortality rate has more than doubled. in the united states of america, with all of our hospitals and doctors a and medical knowledge, nationwide, more than 700 women die every year as a result of pregnancy. more than 70,000 experience severe, near-fatal complications. in my home state of illinois, 73
women die every year due to pregnancy-related complications. 70% of these deaths are preventable. these deaths impact women of color at significantly higher rates. black women in the united states are three to four more likely than white women to die as a result of pregnancy. in illinois, african american women are six times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. i had a press conference at the university of chicago hospital on this subject and one of the presenters had done even deeper research than we had in preparation. she reported to me something that really opened my eyes. this racial distinction bears no relation to poverty or education. an african american woman, well-educated, from a family with resources, is still just as vulnerable as those from a lesser position economically when can it comes in this racial
disparity. not only are we losing moms, we're losing babies. this is incredible. currently, the united states ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations when this comes to infant mortality. every year more than 23,000 infants die in this country, largely due to factors that in many cases can be prevented -- birth defects, preterm death, low birthweight, and maternal complications. and again the african american community is impacted more severely. in the u.s., babies of color were twice as likely to die. a racial disparity that is greater than the year 1850 in the united states. something has to be done. i've joined with congressman robert kelly of illinois and my friend and colleague tammy duckworth and we'd introduced mama's act. our bill would expand the length of time that a new mom can keep
her medicaid health coverage. currently medicaid only has to cover women for two months postal partum. our bill expands it to year. given it that 60% of maternal deaths occur in the weeks after delivery, it is imperative that new mothers be able to keep their health coverage longer. the mama's act would improve access to doulas. african american women often receive poorer quality care than white women simply because of the color of their skin. black women are not often listened to or taken seriously by health care providers. doulas can provide support for women whose voices are being ignored. to this point, our bill would also improve implicit bias and cultural competency training among health care providers. lastly, our bill would provide and improve hospital coordination and reporting on maternal health outcomes and
ensure implementation of services to improve care. my bill is not the only one on the subject. senator kamala harris introduced a bill to train medical providers to avoid racial bias. senator elizabeth warren l suggested giving hospitals a financial bonus for improvements. senator cory booker has a bill to provide access to hospital care providers and doulas. and senator gillibrand has a bill to provide hospitals with needed funding to develop and implement best practices. there is no shortage of ideas that would help improve maternal and infant health outcomes and yet unfortunately we're not considering them. we changed the rules in the senate a few weeks ago and the republican leader came to the floor and said we need more time for legislation. not much legislation going around the senate flaft few weeks. -- in the last few weeks. wouldn't it be nice if we had a good bipartisan bill that addresses in issue of maternal
and infant mortality in time for mother's day? there's still time tomorrow for the leader, senator mitch mcconnell to call this measure to the floor, and i hope he will. i'll close saying this, that the affordable care act continues to be a strong opportunity for people to have access to affordable quality health care and to make certain that the lawsuit that emanated from the state of texas and is now working its way through the federal courts does not take away protection for americans with preexisting conditions that continues to be a threat that we have to take seriously. and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. you know, mr. president, it is rare to find "the washington post," "the wall street journal," and "usa today"'s editors all in agreement. but they are all on the same page when it comes to senator sanders' radical scheme for a
complete takeover of health care in america. all three papers say that the democrats' single-payer plan, a one-size-fits-all plan for america, is a bad idea. and remember, it's not just senator sanders' plan. nearly every senate democrat who is running for president has supported this extreme proposal, as have 108 members of the house of representatives. the "post," the "journal" and the "usa today" are citing last week's report by the congressional budget office as raising a number of alarm bells. "usa today" calls it a pipe dream. the "post" charges senator sanders with deeply misrepresenting how difficult it would be to adopt single-payer health care for america. they call it costly. they call it complicated,
expensive. the c.b.o. projects in its report on a single-payer plan that government spending on health care would increase substantially. they go on to say to cover the massive cost of government-run care, the "journal" says income taxes would have to at least double. added to the expense of banning virtually all private insurance in this country. mr. president, there are 180 million working americans who receive their health insurance through work. outlawing private health plans would cause a serious disruption, forcing 180 million americans, working families, from their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. "the washington post" notes that these employer-provided plans cover most americans under the age of 65. the "journal" says that any savings would have to come from where the money is, which is
cutting payments to doctors and restricting care. restricting care. that restricts treatment as well as new technologies. lower reimbursement rates could drive many doctors from practice, shutter many small hospitals, and in my rural communities, in your rural state, mr. president, we are talking about problems in our rural communities all across america. the result would be longer wait times, lower quality of care. to quote "the post," no matter what senator sanders says, there is no medicare for all without trade-offs. and mark my words, medicare for all would soon become medicare for none. democrats' one-size-fits-all health care, one-size-fits-all health care plan would mean, mr. president, that you would pay more to wait longer for
worse care. pay more to wait longer for worse care. that's what one-size-fits-all health care looks like, mr. president, for americans, for people all across the country. so this single-payer plan means major tax hikes to cover massive costs. it means much longer lines for lower quality care. and it means the elimination of private health insurance for americans. it also means the end of the medicare program that seniors rely upon and so many depend on on a daily basis. that's where i want to focus some of my remarks today, mr. president, our seniors' health care needs and why it's so important to protect their medicare benefits that they have paid into over their entire working lives. there are seniors today, and there are 60 million of them who rely on the medicare program. medicare is nothing less than a medical lifeline. and yet, if democrats impose
socialized medicine on the entire country, seniors will quickly find medicare replaced by a massive new government-run one-size-fits-all program, a system that lowers the quality of care for them and makes it harder for them to get the care that they need. mr. president, these older americans have worked hard their entire lives, put in the effort, had each month or each week from their paycheck money deducted that went into paying for medicare. they have paid into this medicare system for decades. the average for a couple couplen america has paid in about $160,000 in terms of withdrawals from their paycheck over the course of their working lives. now, they deserve nothing less than what they paid for, that they paid into. for more than 50 years medicare has helped countless seniors live healthier, more productive
lives. does medicare face challenges? absolutely, there's no question about that. but still, ending medicare as we know it would not solve our health care problems. it simply makes them much worse and certainly for the 60 million americans currently on medicare. i've seen medicare's value as a doctor, practicing medicine in wyoming for decades, i saw firsthand how effective medicare is in helping patients receive the care they need. now as a senator, i talk with seniors back home in wyoming all of the time, listen to their health care concerns. the week before last i was at two different health fairs in wyoming where people can go for low-cost blood screenings, learn more about diabetes, about stroke, about heart disease, about proper diet, visiting with people in rawlins, wyoming, 1,500 people at the health fear. people in wyoming know me as a doctor first, as a senator
second. and above all, they count on me to protect their medicare. that's my concern with this one-size-fits-all approach that the democrats have been proposing because people in wyoming want to make sure that i keep medicare strong, keep fighting for them, because the current system allows them to get to the doctor that they need. and in wyoming, where people live far away, the hospitals aren't that -- are few and far between, we know that a program like this is certainly from the c.b.o. report last week, small hospitals will very likely close. you know, mr. president, almost 90% of medicare patients say they like the program, works well for them. nearly 90% approval. members of the senate would be astonished and happy with those sort of approval numbers for themselves, but it is a program that is working for them. and now what's being proposed by
the democrats is going to absolutely have devastating effects on medicare and our patients on medicare. we need to do more to lower the cost of care for all americans, bulb we need to protect -- but we need to protect medicare and put all of these new people on the medicare program is going to make it that much harder for our seniors who are currently on medicare. medicare partners with private health insurance to provide seniors to provide better care, it's a program called medicare advantage. mr. president, there are 22 million americans, seniors who are on this medicare advantage program. nobody forces them to sign up. they choose it simply because as the name implies, there are advantages to participating in medicare advantage in terms of preventive care, in terms of coordinated care. these are plans where for our seniors, they look at that and say, you know, that's right for me. it provides value for my money.
i enjoy what i get. so it's no surprise that since 2010, things came along and obamacare was passed, the number of seniors in medicare advantage has more than doubled because it's a good program for them. nevertheless, all 22 million people currently on medicare advantage would lose medicare advantage if the democrats one-size-fits-all approach to health care, which 108 members of the house cosponsored and which the senate democrat candidates for president are sponsoring, were the case. but that's what the democrats are proposing, taking away medicare advantage from 22 million americans. in january i joined a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to the centers for medicare and medicaid serviceses. ironically, mr. president, 6 of the 22 democrats who signed
this letter have now flip-flopped back to this far extreme left proposal to outlaw private health insurance in america. that's what they're running for president on and promoting today. medicare works with private insurers to make seniors' prescription drugs more affordable as well. this program is called medicare part-d. more than 43 million seniors participate in part-d plans. again, it's voluntary. so how do we know it must be a good program? because that many people see value in the l program and they have signed up for it. can we improve the prescription drug program? absolutely. we're working right now to lower prescription drug costs. we've already eliminated the gag order, where pharmacists can't talk to patients. we've done the right thing there. so why are the far-left democrats attempting to destroy private health plans?
i mean, it's astonishing, mr. president. why do they want to know -- do they want to end medicare as we know it? why do they want to turn medicare for our seniors into medicare for none? well, free health care may make for a catchy campaign h slogan, it is unfair to deceive the american people, especially our seniors. to quote the editor of the "wall street journal," voters should know sanders is promising miracles when what he'll deliver is poorer care for everyone. so here we have it, mr. president. the congressional budget office comes out with its study about what the impacts will be. "the washington post," "the wall street journal," "usa today," all of them say this is not right for america. let's be clear, all americans will pay a high price for
democrats' one-size-fits-all government-run health care scheme. and i actually think seniors may suffer the most. but it is clear to me, mr. president, that with a one-size-fits-all health care plan, people will pay more to wait longer for worse care. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. smith: i ask unanimous consent that abigail rajinsky, a fellow in my office be granted floor privileges for are the remainder of this week. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. smith: thank you, mr. president. climate change is the existential challenge of our times. i know this because i've seen the impacts of climate change in my state. and i know this because it's what our children who will live
with the consequences of a change in climate tell us. in a recent poll, half of americans -- half of americans age 18 to 29 describe climate change as a crisis that demands urgent action. so today i rise to discuss how the clean energy revolution can be the way we fight climate change and the way we create jobs and opportunity. and colleagues, in this global challenge, the united states can lead or we can follow, and i want us to lead. this morning, as a senator from an agricultural and high-tech midwestern state -- state from the upper midwest, i joined with representative ben ray luhaun, who represents new mexico, to introduce the clean energy standard act of 2019. our legislation would dramatically expand clean electricity and put the united states on a path to net zero
greenhouse gas emissions from the electric sector by the middle of the century, including an 80% reduction in missions -- emissions in 2025. colleagues, not so long ago, the united states was a global leader in tackling climate change. president obama took strong action to reduce carbon emissions are from cars, he introduced the clean power plan, and he provided the essential leadership that led to adoption of the international paris climate agreement, which commits the countries of the world to collectively hold global warming to well below two degrees celsius. unfortunately, our current president has moved unilaterally to undo these actions as if we can bury our heads in the sand and ignore the reality that a warming climate threatens our health, it threatens our financial stability, it threatens our very existence.
i regret to say it, for the most part the republican-led congress has gone along with president trump, and as he has ceded this to our competitors. and the result of this? our global competitors are happy to dominate in this field. this is quite interesting. klein has -- china has twice as much wind power as the united states. in 2018, china beat the united states on new wind installations by more than three to one. half of all new solar installations in the world happened in china. here at home, president trump's policies caused the solar energy industry to shed 20,000 jobs as the u.s. lags in fourth place on installed solar energy. fortunately, while washington wavers, there is a groundswell of support for clean energy at the local level.
when president trump moved against the climate agreement, americans responded with the we are still in industry. mayors, tribes, churches led the way, states followed and took action and last week the u.s. house of representatives pledged and passed legislation to renew our commitment to the paris agreement. there are now over 100 cities around the country which have committed to completely clean or renewable energy. four states and the district of columbia have policies to get them to net zero. in my home state, minnesota's governor has a plan for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. that bill passed the minnesota house by a 74-59 vote. to my colleagues in the united states senate, it's our turn as well. now, i believe that the best ideas come from people working at the local level to solve
problems, and i also think that the best ideas that can get done are those that bring people together across regional differences, political ideology and their own life experiences, and that's how our bill, the clean energy standard act of 2019 came to be. it builds on what is already working at the local level. as a clean energy standard, it has a bipartisan history. back when republicans and democrats were working together on bills to reduce carbon pollution, all the way back in 2009 to 2012, clean energy standard bills, like this one, had both democratic and republican cosponsors. this bill, today, is supported by labor groups, by environmental groups, and by utilities, an unlikely but strong coalition in these days of divisive politics. so the basic of this plans are simple. first let's start with electric utilities are and then improve from there. we know that many electric
utilities are shifting to renewables and clean energy because it is the most cost competitive thing for them to do and because it is what customers want. each you utility will start in a different place. so let's start there. our bill recognizes these regional differences and then asks each utility to improve from where they are. one size does not fit all. on the one hand states like idaho and washington are blessed with abundant hydropower and produce over 80% of their electricity from carbon-free sources. on the other hand four of our united states get less than 10% of their electricity from carbon-free generation. our bill asks each utility to start from where they are and improve from there. so utilities that start with a low amount of clean energy are asked to grow quickly but they slow down as they reach very high levels of net zero
electricity. the plan recognizes also that rural co-ops and municipal utilities face unique challenges and we accommodate that. the second thing about this plan is this. let's be ambitious. science tells us that we need to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of this century if we're to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. we desperately need some can-do american spirit and ingenuity and not nay saying. so this bill is ambitious. it would result in expected electric sector emissions reduction by 2085. and if the cost curve bends faster and the clean energy transition turns out to be even cheaper, reductions will happen even faster. third, let's be open to all solutions for a clean energy future. mr. president, addressing the challenges of climate change isn't easy and there is no one solution so we need to be open
to all ideas and approaches so long as they reduce carbon emissions. if we want an electric system that is not only zero emissions but also reliable and affordable, we can't afford to rule out any technology in advance. none of us knows in 2019 what is going to be the best way to run a reliable and affordable electricity system in 2050. what we do know is that we need to create strong clean energy incentives that the energy market will respond to and then allow all technologies to compete, and that's what this bill does. so here's what it could look like. most scientific models say in a net zero emissions grid, renewable sources like wind and solar will deliver the bulk of the electricity that we need. we know that a reliable grid needs energy source that's can be turned up or down when we need them. this means resilient, reliable electric grids that will be
built on a combination of hydropower, nuclear power, long-term energy storage, and fossil fuels if they are deployed with carbon capture. what will be the proportion of these energy sources in 2050? well, we can't know that today. but what we do know based on one leading model, is that an approach in our bill, that is open to all clean sources of electricity will be up to trillions of dollars cheaper than an approach that relies on hand picking technological winners or losers. colleagues, clean, reliable energy is important to my constituents in minnesota and i'll bet it's important to 0 your -- to your constituents as well. climate change requires a lot of good ideas. the clean energy standard act of 2019, which i introduced today, will get the electric power sector to zero. this bill is one of the steps
that we need to take to move our country and our world to net zero greenhouse gas emissions in a way that is fair and justin economical, but it's an important piece. in the electric sector we know a lot about how to make progress. thanks to innovations and good policies at the state level, electrician levels have declined in the next decade and now we need to keep that progress going and going faster. we need to continue and accelerate progress and expand the use of clean electricity in into other sectors. think about this. a clean electric grid can reduce carbon emissions in transportation and in buildings. electric vehicles can reduce carbon emissions. office buildings and homes can contribute to reduced carbon emissions when we have a clean electric sector. that is it what progress can look like. a few of my fellow republicans
in congress are moving beyond the head in the sand denial of climate change. these colleagues, i hope more of them, are looking for ways to spur energy by providing new funding for clean energy research. this is all well and good, but federal funding for clean energy research won't work all on its own. what drives adoption is a strong market signal that low-carbon sources of electricity will be valued by the market and that will be happening predictably as big -- as big utilities make more important capital investments. research money provides an important push to get innovation started in the lab, but for innovation to move from technology to be adopted at a scale and pace that we need, we muss be sending a strong, clear signal from the market that local-carbon sources of electricity are going to be valued. now, the clean energy standard act of 2019 does this and it is
a crucial complement to manhattan project efforts to spur technology innovation. these two are complements, but not alternatives. research without market incentives will not get us where we need to go. colleagues, climate change is real, and we need bold action to fight it. and if we did, when we do the united states can be the clean energy leader. this will be good for jobs. it will be good for our health, and it will be necessary for the survival of our planet. we can lead or we can follow and i believe we need to lead. this is it what our bill seeks to do by putting the united states in the forefront or reaching net zero carbon emissions in the electric sector. it is an economic imperative, economic imperative and jobs imperative. i don't care if you come from a state that gets 80% from clean energy or 10%. it has the endorsement of the
clean air task force and fresh energy in minnesota. it is supported by utility workers of america and united steel workers and bills that are acceptable to the environmental movement are rare but this is what we need to build a winning coalition to address climate change. we democrats understand that the climate crisis requires bold action and we understand that we need many ideas and many solutions, and i offer one today. and i challenge -- i urge my republican colleagues to do the same and to join us. join with us and help us find solutions to ra crisis that will shape the -- to a crises that will shape the world that our children and grandchildren will be living in. science shows us that the challenge is great but we can expand jobs and opportunity. that's the future that i want for my children and my grandchildren yet to be born. so let's get to work.
we don't have any time to waste. mr. president, i want to thank representative l uan for partnering with me and i want to thank senators whitehouse, kaine, and schatz. and i want to thank jeff bingaman of new mexico who first worked in a bipartisan way on a clean energy standard bill that was a template for our effort today. and i want to thank the scientists and economists who provided thoughtful analysis as we developed this bill, most prominently resources for the future and president obama, secretary of energy ernie monize. i am eager to get our policies moved forward. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, yesterday the senate judiciary committee held a very important hearing on how we can bring down prescription drug prices for american families without sacrificing the innovation that has made our country a world leader in new drug development. that's quite a challenging balance to strike. as i traveled my state, i've heard from my constituents about their increasing inability to get their hands on the medications they need at a price they can afford. not because no treatment exists, not because they don't have insurance, and not even because it's a pricey, brand-new drug. patients can't afford their prescriptions because the prices are going up at an alarming rate with little evidence or justification to back some of the price hikes. i heard from one texas pharmacies who was shocked by the dramatic price increase of
drugs that had been available for years. she told me about one popular antibiotic that once costs $8 for 1,000 tabs. she said now it costs more than $1,200 for the same amount. what's the justification for that? we're left to wonder and speculate. and that's part of the reason for the investigation being undertaken by the finance committee and other senate committees. these costs have been so overwhelming that some of my constituents will cross the border to go to mexico to try to buy prescription drugs there. a man from rockport, texas, told me that one of his prescriptions cost about $1,000 each month in the united states but if he drives a few hours to mexico, he can get what he thinks is that same medication from what he thinks is the same manufacturer for about $160. $1,000 versus $160. of course, what we don't know,
whether it's a counterfeit, whether it's not only ineffective to deal with the condition that he's taking the medicine for but whether or not it might poison him. this is a challenging issue with not easy answers. but i know one thing. i know my constituents are frustrated by these confusing price hikes. they don't understand the dramatic price differences from one retailer to another. and i've heard them loud and clear because i don't understand it either. we know that something needs to be done to rein in the high cost before medication becomes a luxury for only those who can afford it. since the beginning of the new congress, the senate finance committee has held a series of hearings to examine what is behind these rising costs. we've heard from all the major players in the supply chain and asked some long, overdue questions. now the senate judiciary committee has begun looking into how to bring these prices down,
specifically by stopping pharmaceutical companies who game the patent system. now patents play a very important role in our economy. they're recognized in the constitution itself. and when somebody discovers something new and wonderful that helps imprf all our lives, -- improve all our live, they're entitled to reap the benefits from it. yesterday dr. jim allison from m.d. anderson hospital was in to see me. he recently got the nobel prize for his research into immunology and into new treatments for cancer. over the course of our history, the treatments for cancer have been almost as tough as the cancer itself. whether it's surgery or radiation or chemotherapy. and what he's discovered thanks
to the grants by n.i.h. that have helped pay for the research, he's discovered a new way to use the body to turn on the cancer itself without the patient receiving additional drugs or radiation or surgery to deal with it. it's just amazing. so i do think that we need to continue to encourage that sort of innovation and research. and when companies do pour extensive time and fund intog that research and a patent allows them to recover that funding once the drug hits the market, that's a good thing, but, we're increasingly seeing some companies abuse this system in order to retain exclusivity over a drug for much longer than the patent would orderly provide and preventing more affordable generics or biosimilars from entering the market and competing. i think from what i've been told by some of the pharmaceutical industry, about 90% of the common prescriptions that we
take are now generic and they're pretty inexpensive, relatively speaking. i know that certainly is the case for me and i believe that that's likely true. but the 10% which are still branded, some of those drug prices go through the roof. and then you have an aberration like insulin that's been available for decades, which is still through some sort of a mystery, an opaque way of pricing still may cost somebody as much as $1,000 or $1,200 a month for their copay. that doesn't make any sense to me. because if we're trying to protect innovation, that argument no longer applies to a drug long ago discovered and essential to the life of diabetics. the chemical formula of the actual drug is not the only thing that can be patented. and that's part of the problem. manufacturers can get additional patents for follow-on inventions
or innovation which is a new manufacturing method or new formulation or a new application to a new and different disease. some of that i think is certainly understandable and should be protected. i don't believe that each of these additional patents is inherently wrong, but the reckless abuse of the system and the way they can be structured sometimes is. i'll be introducing a bill soon that aims to curb major drug companies' anticompetitive use of patents to prevent generics or biosimilars from entering the market to promote greater competition and lower prices. this legislation would properly define two terms to describe how drug companies are abusing the system and provide the federal trade commission with authority to take action. the first term it would define is product hopping which occurs when a company develops a reformulation of a product that is about to lose exclusivity and then pulls the original product off the market preventing reenry
or entry of a generic alternative. this may be by releasing a new formulation that's extended relief or extended release, i should say, over time. they can patent that and pull the original drug off the market and then it prohibits generic competition from entering the market against that original formulation. and thus maintain their exclusivity well beyond the intended period of time. the only purpose for doing this is not to deliver more effective drugs but to prevent that generic competition. one example is the drug namenda which is used by patients with alzheimer's. near the end of the exclusivity period, the manufacturers switch from a twice daily drug to a once daily drug. that move prevented pharmacists from being able to switch patients to a lower-cost generic allowing the company to continue to profit as a result of their
exclusive use of that patent. secondly, the bill would define patent thickets which occur when an innovator seeks multiple overlapping patents or patents with identical claims near when they are about to lose their right to exclusivity. companies that take advantage of our country's robust innovation protection in order to hang on to their monopolies as long as possible. one example is the drug humira which is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. it's commonly used to treat arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. abby vee, the manufacturer of humira has 160 patents and 240 patent applications on their drug which has been available for more than 15 years. 136 patents with 247 patent applications. there has to be a reason for that. this type of behavior makes it
very difficult for biosimilar drugs to come to market while the patent on the actual drug formula, the original one may have expired. there is still in this case hundreds of other patents to sort through. and frequently to litigate in terms of the validity of those additional patents. this artificial structuring of these multiple patents can delay the entry of generic or biosimilar competition for much longer than anybody ever would have intended, certainly longer than congress intended by giving patent protection. by defining product hopping and patent thickets as anticompetitive behavior, we would allow the federal trade commission to bring antitrust suits against the bad actors who deliberately game the system. and we would give them injunctive authority, not money damage authority but injunctive authority to make the system fair and operate as congress intended.
the second bill i'm going to introduce has to do with medicare part d, one of the most successful and popular pharmaceutical programs around. part d sponsors may voluntarily report fraud data to the center for medicare c.m.s. but they're not required to report the number of specific instances of potential fraud, waste, and abuse they identify or the actions they took to address these issues. my bill would implement recommendations for the department of health and human services office of inspector general to require plan sponsors to report that fraud and improve oversight of this important program. i've learned a lot about prescription drugs during these hearings, a lot about the wonderful life-saving innovation, the importance of preserving that period of exclusivity for people who invest in the research and develop these new life-saving drugs, but i've also learned a
little bit about some of the abuses which i've talked about here today. and the need for us to continue to work together to find solutions to provide texans and all americans who are struggling to cover the cost of the prescriptions with some relief. by eliminating some of these tactics used by pharmaceutical companies to delay and deter competition, we will increase the availability of generics and give patients greater freedom to choose a drug that works at a price they can afford. and by creating more accountability under medicare part d, we can bring tax -- prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for a broken system. while we're still working to find a solution to the multitude of problems and challenges we face in dealing with the pharmaceutical drug industry, one thing is abundantly clear. a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system is not going to work. indeed we need to make targeted
smart reforce which will bring down the costs of prescriptions and not the quality of the entire health care system. that's precisely what these two bills will do and i hope we'll be able to advance these pieces of legislation to promote more affordable medications. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: thank you, madam president. madam president, this week families across our country are preparing to celebrate mother's day and recognize the hard work that women do to support their families and build a brighter future in their communities. here in congress we should be working to help moms back in washington state and across the country. unfortunately, instead of looking for ways to support women, president trump has been pushing an ideological agenda that undermines their health, reproductive rights and
freedoms, and economic security. now when it comes to health care, president trump is working to sabotage the care moms and their families rely on. he changed federal rules to let insurance companies sell junk coverage that does not cover maternity care. and he's arguing in court to strike down protections for women and people with preexisting conditions in all plans insurers sell. instead of the planning program which has a history of bipartisan support and a tremendous track record helping women get critical, low-cost family planning and preventive health care services, president trump is chipping away at it and working to strip title 10 grants from planned parenthood which serves tens of thousands of women in my home state of washington each year and millions more nationwide. including mothers like shannon. shannon first went to planned
parenthood whether she was 18. -- when she was 18 for what turned out to be endometriosis. it's a condition that causes severe menstrual plan and can affect fertility. thanks to the treatment she received at planned parenthood, today shannon is managing her chronic pain and raising an adorable little girl. when i was in seattle a few weeks ago, another constituent, cindy, shared how a routine screening at planned parenthood saved her life by detecting cancer early on and giving her the head start she needed to beat it. today cindy is not just a survivor, she's a mother because she was able to get pregnant after she went into remission. we should be supporting providers that help women like them get the care they need, not burdening them with restrictions designed to force out planned parenthood or gag clauses that prevent providers from even
discussing a patient's right to a safe legal abortion. moms deserve better. unfortunately president trump's attacks on women's reproductive rights go well beyond his changes to the title 10 program. since day one he has been working to jam our courts full of far-right judges to appease extreme republicans who want to see roe v. wade struck down. when president trump nominated justice kavanaugh to the supreme court, we heard from women and men across the country concerned about what his confirmation would mean. countless women shared their personal stories about what life was like before roe v. wade and what the right to get a safe, legal abortion has meant to their families. so while republicans continue to pass -- press ahead with extreme harmful legislation like the bill that was just passed in georgia and president trump continues to tell outright lies meant to demoonize women and
their health care providers, people are going to continue calling out no es lies, calling out the attempts to turn back the clock and standing in solidarity with women across the country. president trump's harmful attacks on women's health care are hardly the only time he's ignored how his policies would hurt women and their families. he has also cruelly and unnecessarily separated hundreds of migrant parents and their children. like yolani. she is a mother who was detained in tacoma, washington, while her 6-year-old son was sent all the way across the country to new york. according to media reports, they were kept apart for almost two months before they were reunited, and their story is just one of so many pointless tragedies president trump's heartless family separation policy caused. moms deserve better, especially when there are so many other challenges the n