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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  July 9, 2019 9:59am-12:38pm EDT

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the ninth to the fifth spot. where does your favorite president rank? learn more about the lives and leadership skills of executives in c-span's "the presidents", available wherever books are sold or at president. s. . >> the house will be in order. >> for 40 years, c-span has been providing america unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events from washington d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind. created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. ... live on the senator floor.
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court of appeals judge for the ninth circuit. confirmation vote is expected later today. ... the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will open the senate with prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. our father in heaven, how great you are! today, lead our lawmakers in their work. may they be messengers of unity and hope. make them productive servants
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who strive to honor you. remind them to act with justice, love, mercy, and humility. may they speak words that bring life, as they seek to live with integrity. sovereign lord, strengthen our senators to seize opportunities that bring peace, hope, and freedom. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: madam president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: the senate is continuing to make headway in the personnel business. this week we're confirming a number of president trump's thoroughly qualified nominees to important vacancies in the federal courts and in the administration. as i've side, madam president, it's unfortunate for this institution that our democratic colleagues have made it their routine practice to require not just roll call votes, but cloture votes as well on noncontroversial nominees for lower-profile positions. regular cloture votes on district judges, cloture votes on assistant secretaries. later this week, a cloture vote on an assistant e.p.a. administrator. these are the sorts of important
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but lower-profile positions the senate used to quickly process on a voice vote. when these sorts of people were qualified, they were voice voted by senates of both parties for presidents of both parties. that was the norm. but new partisan hurdles won't deter the senate from doing our job. we'll continue to spend the time it takes to put imprsive, impartial men and women on the federal judiciary and give the president more than two years into his administration, finally, more of his team in place in the executive branch. yesterday afternoon, we voted to advance the nomination of daniel bress to serve on the u.s. court of appeals for the ninth circuit. mr. bress comes with strong credentials, the academic pedigree, the legal experience, and most importantly, a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law. so i'm glad we voted to advance his nomination yesterday and i
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would urge all of my colleagues to vote to confirm him later today. next we'll consider three district nominees, t. kent weatherle -- wetherell to the northern district of florida, damon leichty and ranjan and then we will vote on robert king to be assistant secretary of education and john pal ashe and peter wright. the president has called on them to serve in these important roles. the senate will give them the consideration and confirmations that they deserve. on another matter, fourth of july weren't the only things for american families to smile about last week. we received more positive news about the strong u.s. economy that american workers and job creators are building with a big
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assist from republican policies. more than 200,000 new jobs were created in june alone. the economy is overflowing with opportunities. american workers are in high demand and more and more previously sidelined individuals are getting to clock back in. the last administration's so-called recovery disproportionately helped a few major metropolitan areas, but it left whole communities and whole regions of our country more or less in the dust. not these days. the results are very different under republicans for-growth, for-policy agenda. now we're seeing a real, all-american recovery. as "the new york times" reported last week, only recently have the economic gains filtered down to black and hispanic workers, those with less education and others who have more barriers to employment. all kinds of american workers,
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all kinds of families, all kinds of small towns and smaller counties and smaller cities and suburbs. this all-american recovery is benefiting our whole country with job opportunities, wage growth, net investment and new optimism. two and a half years ago, madam president, republicans started out with a new philosophy, it goes like this, the american people can accomplish great things and build greatness if washington stays out of the way. we need to stop the government from create economic headwinds and create headwinds. we reformed regulatory reform and all kinds of policy geared towards workers and middle-class families earn more and send less to the i.r.s. the way the republicans see it, these ideas are actually no brainers. so as long as you believe in the promise and potential of
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american workers and small businesses, this is clearly the way to go and the results continue to speak for themselves. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserve. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, daniel aaron bress, of california, to be united states circuit judge for the ninth circuit. mr. durbin: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: madam president, if you're a bearable -- a baseball fan, and many of us, this is a big day, and i would like to reflect on an important issue for the fans of baseball across america. 35 million people ever year enjoy one of america's great summer experiences seeing the game in a major league baseball park. fans join their friends, family
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to eat hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, so much more. we sing the national anthem at the start of the game and take me out to the ballgame in the seventh inning stretch, started by harry cari. and others keep scorecards of r.b.i.'s and home run averages. there's another statistic seeing more and more attention lately, injury to fans. a bloomberg report indicated that 170,000 fans suffered injuries. some are hit by balls, others injured trying to escape being hit by a ball. this is far too many. on may 29, a 2-year-old girl was hit by a foul ball in houston's minute maid park, she suffered
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brain contusions, her skull was fractured. she continues to suffer seizures. what makes her injuries more disturbing is they likely could have been prevented had the safety netting behind home plate be extended. cubs outfielder, who hit the ball, was so devastated by the little girl's injuries that he could barely speak. one will never forget the image of his head bowed crying when he saw the damage that was done to this innocent little 2-year-old girl by a foul ball he had hit. what did he say afterwards? i would have put a net around the whole stadium. in the weeks following, we have seen more injuries in the stands, on june 10, a woman was striecd by a line -- struck by a line drive, two weeks later, a young ball hit by a foul ball in los angeles. a survey by 538 found that 13,000 more foul balls were hit
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in 2018 than 1998, and there is no way -- no way for fans to entirely protect themselves. here come that he's baseballs at 105 miles per hour off the bat. even if you're watching and attentive, you just can't protect yourself or the people you love who are watching the game with you. bryant gumbel made that point in his cable tv show on that very subject. but if fans can't do more, baseball teams can. in 2017, after a child was hit by a line drive in yankee stadium in new york, i wrote a letter to the baseball commissioner. i urged the league to extend safety netting at all major league baseball stadiums past the home plate to the far edge of each dugout. to their credit, the leagues did exactly that. it's now clear, however, that that's not enough. the little girl at minute maid park was ten feet beyond current
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netting. in june the chicago white sox became the first major league baseball team to announce it's going to extend netting to the foul poles. let me tip my hat to the owner of the chicago white sox for leading the way with this safety measure. the washington nationals, the texas rangers, pittsburgh pirates, they are all planning to do the same and the los angeles dodgers are conducting a study before making a protective strategy permanent. i commend all of these clubs for their leadership and commitment to fan safety. but i think we need more. we need a league-wide standard. last month my colleague from illinois, tammy duckworth, and i wrote to the commissioner calling for all 30 major league baseball teams to extend the netting. folks who complain say that it would create an obstructive view ignore the obvious, the most
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expensive seats in baseball are behind home plate and they don't complain. we should be reminded that the most expensive and popular seats have been behind netting for decades. in 2002, a 3-year-old girl named brittany cecil, died after being struck in the head by a hockey puck at a national hockey league game in columbus, ohio. the national hockey league responded quickly, ordering protective netting behind their goal. major league baseball should show equal concern for their fans. ensuring the fans of safety -- the safety of fans at baseball stadiums is a tradition that stretches back to 1879, when the providence grays put up a screen behind home plate to shield fans from the area that was called the slaughter pin at that time. the increasing number of fans hit by balls makes it clear that new safety standards are needed at ballparks.
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this week, today, we'll see major league's baseball finest players at the all-star game. baseball fans deserve the best too. i urge the commissioner and all baseball teams to extend safety netting at major league baseball parks to the foul poles. let's not wait until next season. increasing fan safety is a win for everyone. madam president, i ask that the next statement i'm about to make be placed in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you, madam president. if you ask the american people about issues they truly care about, let them volunteer what they think about, what they worry about, the number one item on the list is the cost of prescription drugs. we all know the problem. you reach a point where you need a drug or someone in your family needs a drug, and then you face the reality of what it's going to cost. if you're lucky, and you have a good health insurance plan that covers the cost, no worries, but
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for many people that's not the case. they have copays an deductibles -- and deductibles or sometimes no real coverage when it comes to the cost of prescription drugs. and, of course, the prices of these drugs are way beyond our control. we go to a drug store and you're shocked to learn that what sounded like a great idea in the doctor's office turns out to be a very expensive idea at the cash register. for some people it's an inconvenience, an annoyance, but for other people, it's a burden they just can't bear, they can't pay the cost, it's just too much. some of these drugs are just not minor additions to your life, they may be matters of life and death. and in those circumstances, what are you going to do? i'm reminded of people that i've met across my state of illinois, as i talked about this issue. one group stands out because there are many of them, people who are suffering from diabetes,
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and, of course, they know that using insulin and taking care of themselves is the way to have a good, normal life, but it turns out that the cost of insulin has gone up dramatically. did you know that insulin was discovered in canada almost 100 years ago, and the researchers who discovered this drug, this lifesaving drug for diabetes said at the time they were going to surrender their legal patent rights to sell the drug for a dollar. give it away for a dollar. do you know why? they said because no one should make a profit on a life-or-death drug. that was almost 100 years ago. but what are we faced with today? we are faced with a dramatic increase in the cost of insulin. a life-or-death drug. i've sat down with parents and their children and talked about what they go through to have enough insulin so that that diabetic daughter can survive.
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it's incredible. mothers in retirement go back to work to take a job to pay for the daughter's insulin. and the cost of insulin has gone up dramatically. in 1999, humalog, a very common form of insulin made by eli lilly, humalog ran about $39 a vial. what has happened to the cost of that drug in 20 years? it's gone up to $329. a dramatic increase on a drug that was discovered 100 years ago. but at the same time, eli lilly is selling that drug in canada for $39. $329 in the united states. why? because the canadian government has said to eli lilly that's the most you can charge in our country. we're going to fight for the people who live in canada to
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have affordable drugs. so let me ask an obvious question. who's going to fight in the united states for affordable drugs for our people? for those sons and daughters with diabetes. and not just for diabetes, but so many other conditions where life-and-death drugs are now being priced way beyond the reach of ordinary americans. do you know who is supposed to fight? we're supposed to fight for it. that's why we were sent here. members of the united states senate and house of representatives, to pass legislation to bring these under control. now, we have legislation coming forward from the senate help committee on the issue of health care, and many of us had hoped that that committee would use this opportunity to put in provisions to bring the cost of prescription drugs under control. unfortunately, with only one exception, the bill is silent on the major issues.
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the measures coming out of the senate judiciary committee where i serve don't go to the heart of the matter. they really won't make a big difference on the insulin scandal that we're now facing nor on the cost of drugs in general. i had a simple measure which i introduced with a republican senator, chuck grassley, last year. think about this -- have you ever seen an ad for drugs on television? if your answer is no, it's because you obviously don't own a television. you can't turn it on without seeing a drug ad, right? and if you watch during the day when many seniors are watching, it's one after the other after the other. i've said with amusement here we have even reached the point where we can not only pronounce but spell the word xarelto. we have seen those ads so often for xarelto and humira and other things, it just bombards us.
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why? they bombard us with the ads in the hope that consumers watching the tv ads will go to the doctor and say i need xarelto. well, xarelto is a blood thinner and there are other alternatives much cheaper. if you ask for that drug and the doctor doesn't want to get into debate with you and puts it on the prescription pad, guess what you have done? you may have the right drug for you at the moment, maybe, but you may have added to the cost of health care by putting the most expensive drug out as an option when another form will work just as well. with all the things they tell you about these ads, some of the things i think are the most amazing and amusing are claims like if you are allergic to xarelto, don't take xarelto. excuse me. how will i know that i'm allergic to it? after i take it, maybe. but those sorts of things and warnings about suicide and death and everything else come at us, but there is one thing that isn't included in those drug ads.
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the one very basic thing. excuse me, eli lilly, excuse me, how much does this cost? they don't tell you because it's shocking sometimes for them to tell you that some of these drugs cost thousands of dollars, and perhaps getting rid of that little red patch on your elbow of psoriasis isn't worth $5,000 a month, if you knew the price. so senator grassley and i put in the bill last year and passed it in the senate. how about that? it happens so rarely around here. we passed in the senate a bill which required the drug companies to disclose the actual list price that they list for the cost of the drug. passed the senate and it got killed in a conference with the house when the pharmaceutical companies came napped said we don't want to tell anybody what these drugs cost. so then i get an interesting call from the trump administration. notice i'm on the democratic side of the aisle so i'm
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surprised. dr. azar calls me from health and human services and says we like your bill. the president wants to make your bill a law. so we're going to pass a rule that requires drug companies to disclose the cost of pharmaceutical drugs on their ads. direct to consumer advertising has to tell the cost of the drug. well, that's progress. a rule in that direction. do you know what happened yesterday? in a federal court here in washington, the judge struck down that rule. the judge said, congress, you haven't given this administration or any administration the authority to do that on their own. you have to change the law giving them the authority or you have to change the law itself to require the disclosure of drug pricing. does that sound like a radical idea to people? that we would disclose to them how much these drugs cost on the drug advertising itself? it isn't unusual for people to list the cost of items that we buy every day. when it comes to lifesaving drugs, shouldn't we have that
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disclosure as well? well, i hope we will. i hope this bill that's coming to the floor will consider that as well as several other aspects when it comes to prescription drug pricing. for example, did you know that the veterans administration on behalf of the men and women who served our country actually negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies to have lower prices for the drugs that are used in v.a. hospitals and clinics? so they sit down with these same drug companies and negotiate lower prices for our veterans. good. our veterans deserve it. but why won't our federal government negotiate for those who are under medicare. why can't we use the same drug formulary in pricing for the v.a. when it comes to medicare? if we want to give our veterans a break -- and we should -- why wouldn't we give our seniors a break. i think we utah to have negotiated pricing on medicare.
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i think the drug companies will get along just fine. incidentally, they are pretty profitable today. and if we had that commitment for renegotiating for medicare to make a difference. and i also think we ought to take on this insulin issue head on, head on. a story on "60 minutes" recently talked about this heartbroken mother from minnesota whose son was on her health insurance plan under obamacare until he reached the age of 26. then he was on his own. he was managing a restaurant. he didn't have drug coverage, and he was diabetic. he couldn't afford to pay the $1,000 that was being charged for his insulin, and so he decided to ration the dosage himself. it cost him his life. he unfortunately died because he couldn't afford enough insulin at the high prices that are currently being charged. we can change that. we can come to the side of
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consumers across america, to families that are trying to keep their kids alive and many others. we can do that because we work in a place called the united states senate, but in order to do that, we have to act like senators. we have to say to the pharmaceutical companies i'm sorry. there comes a point where you pushed it way too far. there comes a point where we have to step in on behalf of families and consumers in america and speak up on their behalf. watch closely to see if that happens. the gentleman who is on the floor, my colleague from kentucky, will be the person who will decide that. senator mcconnell will decide whether we are going to challenge the pharmaceutical companies this year. remember how i started. it's the number one issue that american families volunteer to us. so is it important? yes. secondly, will it make a difference? you bet. not just in illinois but i'll bet in kentucky as well.
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many a family can step forward and talk about how tough it is to pay for these prescription drugs. do we have a chance to do it? you bet we do. there are a series of bills coming out of committee. in the next couple of weeks, we could bring this to the floor of the senate. wouldn't that be amazing if the united states senate instead of doing a handful of nominations of people you have never heard of ended up passing a bill, making a law that addressed the issue of prescription drug pricing in america? that to me is the reason we were sent here. and what i would like to see and hope to see is a bipartisan effort. we democrats are ready to stand up. there are certain things we believe in. first, we believe in keeping the affordable care act on the books. people with preexisting conditions shouldn't be discriminated against. families ought to be able to keep their kids on their health insurance plans until kids reach the age of 26. we're willing to fight for that even though there is a lawsuit this week, a lawsuit by the trump administration to do away with it. secondly, we believe we should negotiate prices under medicare,
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so that seniors get the price breaks that our veterans get today and many others do, too. and third we need to do something about the overpricing of these drug companies. not just price disclosure on the ads but changing patent laws to give american consumers a fighting chance. canada is fighting for canadians. when is america going to fight for americans when it comes to pharmaceutical prices? this is our chance to do it, and we can get it done in the next two weeks. who will decide that? the majority leader from kentucky, mitch mcconnell. he'll decide whether this comes to the floor, whether it's important enough to the people living in kentucky, illinois, new york, mississippi, or wherever. it's his choice. it's his power to make that decision. i hope the american people will reach out to him to encourage him to do that. madam president, i yield the floor.
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mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: are we in a quorum? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. schumer: thank you, madam
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president. madam president, yesterday i sent a letter to u.s. soccer that officially invited the u.s. women's soccer team to come to the senate to celebrate their outstanding world cup victory. happily, i heard that last night that mega rapinoe, one of the team's cocaptains and stars of the tournament had accepted our invitation. i greatly look forward to scheduling the time when these inspiring women can come to the nation's capital. what they have accomplished on and off the pitch is a credit to our nation. millions of young girls and young boys look up to these players. millions of women, sports fans or not, admire the light they've shown on the disparities between the men's and women's game, part of a broader fight for equal treatment and fair pay in the workplace for all women. so i believe that it would be a
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fitting tribute to this great women's soccer team to bring legislation to the senate floor that would make it easier for women to get equal pay in the workplace. the house has already passed a bill to do just that. i call on leader mcconnell again to bring that bill to the floor of the senate, particularly in light of the great victory of the women's team and the knowledge that they get paid much less than the men, even though they worked just as hard and bring at least in recent years even greater glory to the united states. wouldn't it be great if we could pass that bill while the women's national team was visiting the chamber? wouldn't that send a powerful message of our commitment to rooting out discrimination everywhere. i urge leader mcconnell to consider it. right now that bill lays in
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leader mcconnell's all too full legislative graveyard. perhaps this great victory might spring it free so that we could do something for women's equality. now on a much less happy note. this week billionaire jeffrey epstein was indicted in new york on federal sex trafficking charges. the newly released evidence of epstein's behavior involving dozens of children is sickening, is appalling, is despicable. epstein should have been behind bars years ago but unfortunately secretary of labor alex acosta cut epstein a sweetheart deal while acosta was a u.s. attorney in florida in 2008. while a federal prosecutor, acosta signed a nonprosecution agreement that will allowed epstein and his coconspirators
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to remain free and evade justice despite overwhelming evidence. mr. acosta hid this agreement from epstein's victims. no one can figure out why mr. epstein was able to persuade u.s. attorney acosta not to prosecute other than that epstein could afford hig high-powered, high-priced attorneys. as the "miami herald" editorial board wrote this morning, it was not just that acosta failed to get it right in 2008. the evidence suggests he didn't care to. accordingly, i'm asking three things. first, i am calling on secretary acosta to resign. it is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in secretary acosta's ability to lead the department of labor. if he refuses to resign,
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president trump should fire him. instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, acosta chose to let him off easy. this is not acceptable. we cannot have as one of the leading appointed officials in america, someone who has done this, plain and simple. second, i am calling on the department of justice's office of professional responsibility to make public the results of its review of acosta's handling of the epstein case. senators murray and kaine have called for these findings, but the justice department so far has stonewalled, has refused to make them public. this review cannot be kept in the dark, particularly given the new revelations and there should be hearings. and third, the president needs
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to answer for his statements he has made about his relationship with mr. epstein. in 2002, he said he'd known epstein for 15 years and he was, quote, a terrific guy who enjoyed women, quote, on the younger side. unquote. epstein was also reportedly a regular at the largo club for years. the president needs to answer for this and i don't recall is not an acceptable answer in this case, particularly since president trump appointed mr. acosta to such a powerful position. now on health care. today oral arguments begin in the texas versus united states and the fate of our entire health care system hangs in the balance due to this nasty, cruel
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lawsuit led by president trump's department of justice. if the courts ultimately strike down the law, health care of tens of millions of americans would be gone, gone. prescription drug costs high enough as they are would go up enfurther. protection -- even further. protections for preexisting conditions that affect much more than a hundred million americans would be eliminated. a mother or father whose child had cancer would have to watch them suffer because the insurance company cut them off, said we're not paying for this anymore. we cannot tolerate that. and yet president trump and his administration and 19 republican attorney generals filed a suit that would do just that. the case reveals the depth of the hypocrisy and cruelty of the republican position on health
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care. senate republicans come campaign season express unequivocal support for protections for preexisting conditions. but they have repeatedly blocked our attempts to have the senate intervene in this lawsuit and fight back against the trump administration's position which threatens to eliminate these very same protections. i say to my republican friends you can't have it both ways. you can't say oh, i want to protect people with preexisting conditions and then prevent us from doing something to actually protect them. instead going along, knees shaking with president trump's cruel lawsuit. and that's what every republican in this chamber -- just about every republican has done. president trump has issued himself also totally hypocritical, has issued a laundry list of quotes in
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support of protections for preexisting conditions. he talks all the time about bringing down prescription drug costs while his administration actively pursues this lawsuit which would raise the cost of drugs and eliminate protections for preexisting conditions. how much hypocrisy can america tolerate? it's mind bending. the hypocrisy is patently obvious. i don't care if you love president trump. you should be calling him out for this hypocrisy which will affect the vitality, god's most precious gift to us, the ability to live long and healthy and well. president trump is trying to take it away despite what he says to you, trump supporter. senate democrats will head to the steps of the capitol to highlight what this lawsuit
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could mean to average americans. my republican friends should take note. the american people are keenly aware of which party is trying to take away their health care. even if it happens through the courts and the trump-supported lawsuit, they will know that congressional republicans by their silence, their meek supine acquiescence are complicit in the unraveling of our health care system. and i believe the american people will hold them accountable at the ballot box if they don't change. finally -- no, next to finally. on election security. tomorrow the senate will gather for a briefing by senior officials of the defense law enforcement intel jeans community -- intelligence community on the threats facing our elections in 2020. russia has interfered in our elections. everyone agrees with that.
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and our administration is doing nothing to stop it from occurring again in 2020. so we need a briefing by law enforcement on how serious the threat is. they've said in public statements serious. and what we're doing to stop it. i am glad that leader mcconnell agreed to my request and has worked with us to schedule a briefing. it should dispel all doubt in this chamber about the need to take action ahead of next year's presidential elections. so i would say this. a briefing is important. a briefing is necessary, but it is by no means sufficient. we must then debate and adopt measures to protect our democracy and preserve the sanctity of elections. and even though leader mcconnell has finally agreed to have this hearing, leader mcconnell has so far been content once again, legislative graveyard, to have the senate do
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nothing, do nothing when it comes to one of the greatest threats to our democracy that a foreign power will reach in and interfere for its own purposes, not to help americans. bipartisan bills exist. we could put them on the floor right now. this is not a partisan issue. senators rubio and van hollen have the deter act. senators menendez and graham have the russia sanctions bill. but all these bills have languished, victims of leader mcconnell's legislative graveyard. and we have many more options beside when it comes to election security. legislation from senators klobuchar and warner, fine seen andwide -- feinstein and wyden, blumenthal and others. it's time we move on these bills. as we continue to negotiate appropriations bills, we should include significant resources for election security, nothing less than the vitality and faith in our democracy is at stake.
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and there are not two sides to this issue. a foreign adversary attacked our democracy. i expect that special counsel mueller's testimony next week will highlight once again that russia's efforts to interfere in our democracy were sweeping and systematic. what are we waiting for? what are we waiting for? for them to interfere again and for more americans, whether they be republican or democrat or independent, left, right, or center to no longer believe this democracy is legit? for 243 years since declaration of independence and certainly since the signing of the constitution a few years later we've had faith in this democracy, even when the outcome isn't what we want. but that faith is already eroding in good part because foreign powers can interfere in our elections. we cannot -- we cannot let that
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happen, no matter who you are, what your politics are, but leader mcconnell is standing in the way at what could eat at the roots of our democracy and eventually make this mighty oak, the american experiment fall. we don't want that to happen. the briefing tomorrow is a good step, but it's only one step. we need to take more. we need to act to prepare our democracy for the challenges ahead. and finally, this one -- i just felt it was important to point out. president trump amazingly attacked fox news in the last few days in a series of tweets for coverage he viewed as unfavorable to his administration. this is fox news, a news outlet
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that frankly is 90% or more on the president's side. their most popular shows seem to just be cheerleaders for president trump. to me it's the most biased newscast there is of the major news stations. not that any of them are free of any bias. and yet when president trump hears a small dissident tweet, dissident note from fox news, now he attacks it. what kind of thin skin does this man have? what kind of thin skin? it's worse than his thin skin. when a president can attack a news organization overwhelmingly friendly to him, with some of his leading advocates getting prime time space -- some of them go to his rallies -- it shows he
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really doesn't believe in freedom of the press. dictators -- dictate overs shut -- dictators try to shut down the press when they speak truth to power. and when president trump can even attack fox news because once in a blue moon it says something he doesn't like, that shows he doesn't deserve to be president because a president can protect our liberties whether he's under fire or not. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cotton: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i ask unanimous consent to end the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cotton: madam president, i want to call your attention to a story that is tragic but also heart warming -- heartwarming and uplifting. honorary colonel nemo, of kansas city, arkansas, passed away at the age of 5 from a rare form of cancer, neuroblatomo. he was a sweet, brave boy who liked to play with power wheels and toy guns. but for those who knew him, we'll remember oakley for an act of service that perhaps only a
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child could perform. oakley wanted to be an army man when he grew up. if you'd find him at the hospital, even in the advanced stages of his fight with cancer, wearing camouflage fatigues and a help. mr. heller: met -- helmet. he was -- his neighbors helped the nemo family to pay for his care. there were 20,000 prayer warriors on a facebook page entitled prayers for oakley nemo. mr. cotton: ultimately it was god's will that oakley should return home to him. he passed away on june 20. in light of his struggle and his dream of becoming an army man, oakley was named an honorary
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colonel in the national guard. in the days leading up to his funeral, his family made a simple request, that veterans and service members show up at the funeral to give oakley the proper send-off. word got around and dozens game. some were from nearby towns and most had never met this little boy, but it didn't matter, he was a soldier like one of them. soldiers from the arkansas national guard provided funeral honors for oakley. they presented oakley's mother shelby be a flag and a special i.d. tag with his name on it. oakley was sent off from this world like a true soldier to the moving tune of taps played by a military bugler. colonel nemo's tour of duty on this earth was brief, but he did
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teach an important lesson to all of us. at times some voices may express doubts about our military, but oakley reminded us, perhaps as only a child could, that being an army man, a brave proctor of our -- protector of our nation is one of the highest honors a man can be called. the veterans and military were there to honor him, but it was a double honor, but through his life and dreams, little oakley honored them. he looked up to his troops in life, now he looks down on them from above where he will remain in god's presence and our memory as a brave fighter against cancer, an inspiration, and, indeed, for all time an army man. mr. president, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from texas. a senator: i would ask consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, yesterday our friend from new york, the minority leader spoke her on the senate floor about the latest challenge to obamacare, the affordable care act which is being considered by the fifth circuit court of appeals this week. he's also -- if you request believe the press, going to have a press conference with the speaker and other notable democrats to talk about the danger of a court decision on the constitutionality of the affordable care act. as you might imagine, he painted a pretty grim picture of what would happen if the court were to strike down the affordable care act affirming the judgment of the trial court and of course he tried to place the blame squarsquarely on those of us ons side of the aisle. it's strange to me because blaming republicans in congress
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for a yet to be decided court case doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's pretty consistent with the message we've heard from our democratic friends. and if the minority leader is going to pick a bone with anyone, then i guess his complaint is really about the constitution itself. court cases are decided on a case-by-case basis based on what the law is. and of course the constitution is the fundamental law in the united states. so if a court ultimately holds an act of congress to be unconstitutional, it's because the constitution prohibits it and that's a consensus among all americans that the constitution shall be in vilable and dating back to the early 19th century the supreme courts made clear that is ultimately their job not to decide what the policy should be but whether the policy enacted by congress is consistent with the requirements
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of the constitution. so i find it pretty bizarre that in an hour the democratic leader will join speaker pelosi for a news conference to talk about coverage for preexisting conditions. i have no doubt that once again they'll try to blame republicans as the bad guys and somehow perpetuate this myth that republicans are opposed to covering people for preexisting conditions in their health insurance policy. they know that's false. they know that's a boldface misrepresentation of what our policy choices are in this body and in congress as a whole. if there's one thing that i think there is a consensus on in the health care field in congress, it is that preexisting conditions should be covered. in fact, there are pieces of legislation that i've cosponsored here in the senate that do that expressly.
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the logical fallacy of their argument though is the only way you can do that is through the affordable care act. well, as we know the affordable care act really has been a trojan horse for a whole lot of other policies that frankly are not particularly popular because it resulted in high deductibles and high premiums and making it harder and harder for people to afford coverage. it has also precluded individuals from picking the kind of coverage that best suits their families' needs at a price they can afford. so i just think it's important for the american people to understand what we all understand, including the democratic leader and the speaker is that what they are saying about preexisting conditions is false. they know it. we know it. and it can be demonstrated but
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yet they persist in saying it because they believe that people are either uninformed or naive or so partisan that they will not be guided by the facts but rather by the partisan rhetoric. here's the other strange thing in all this, mr. president. most progressive democrats -- we used to call them liberals. now they call themselves progressive. most progressive democrats have embraced medicare for all as a solution to our nation's health care challenges. well, as the presiding officer knows, medicare for all would be a recipe to bankrupt medicare which is traditional and legal and holily been a benefit -- and historically been a benefit earned and contributed to by seniors to cover their health care when they are 65 or older. so putting, dumping 180 million
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or so additional people who have private health insurance into medicare is really a recipe for bankrupting it. thus, undermining the benefit that seniors thought they were buying into during their entire lives. and here's the other irony i find. we heard that president obama, when he was trying to sell the affordable care act, he said if you like your existing health care policy, you can keep it. that's what he said. it didn't end up being the case, but that's what he said. but now our democratic colleagues have become so radicalized on health care that they are essentially saying if you have private health insurance that you like, you can't keep it. you can't keep it. well, this is a very strange
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place to work sometimes because people say things they know are not true hoping they can capitalize on people's ignorance or their partisanship. but the facts are as many have said before, stubborn things. and those are the facts, that there are other ways to cover preexisting conditions other than the affordable care act. and for a party that's embraced this idea of medicare for all, that wants to destroy privately held health insurance, it seems pretty rich for them to then blame this side of the aisle for wanting to destroy private health insurance that covers preexisting conditions. a january gallup poll found seven in ten americans have a negative view of our health care system and described it as being in a state of crisis oring
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having major -- or having major problems, which is to say that obamacare is not working as well as the advocates thought. and as we know, as i've said, it's not the only way to protect patients with preexisting conditions. earlier this year i cosponsored a bill introduced by our friend from north carolina, senator tillis, called the protect act, which would insure that no american would ever be denied health coverage because of a preexisting condition. now the democratic leader and the speaker know that, and yet today, presumably at 12:30 when they hold their press conference they will say all republicans are opposed to covering preexisting conditions because of this court case in the fifth circuit that has yet to be decided. but they're just gleeful that this provides, they think, some way for them to argue what they know is not true, that republicans are opposed to
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covering people's preexisting conditions. i believe that health coverage for these patients shouldn't hang in the balance of a court decision because ultimately it's our decision. and if we pass the protect act, it would finally codify what i hope every member of this body would agree on, that americans would deserve access to health care coverage. the protect act is one example of the countless bills working their way through the senate right now. in addition, in the senate finance committee we're considering a package of bills to reduce prescription drug prices, just as we have in the health, education, labor, and pensions committee and in the judiciary committee. the help committee has overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to reduce health care costs, increase transparency and eliminate surprise medical bills. and the judiciary committee last week unanimously reported out legislation that would keep pharmaceutical companies from gaming the patent system.
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now our colleagues or political candidates can go on tv and try to spin the obamacare system all they want, but we're going to continue to work hard to try to make real meaningful changes to make our health care system better. now on another matter, mr. president, we know that a record number of migrants are continuing to cross our southern border, and the impact on texas communities -- the state i represent -- has been overwhelming. detention centers are over capacity. customs and border protection officers and agents are pulling double duty as law enforcement officers and caregivers to children not because that's what they have been trained to do, but that's what they must do in order to take care of this flood of humanity. nongovernmental organizations and community organizations are unable to keep up with this pace
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of thousands of people coming across the border each and every day. before the senate recessed for the fourth of july, we finally, about ten weeks after the president requested emergency funds, we finally passed a bipartisan bill to send much-needed humanitarian relief. it included additional funding for the departments and agencies who have depleted their resources trying to manage this crisis and makes $30 million available for impacted communities to apply for reimbursement for charges that should be the federal government's responsibility and not local government. as i said, after some hand wringing and delay, the house passed this bill, the president signed it, and i hope my constituents back in texas who have been working tirelessly to manage this crisis will soon find some relief. it's important to remember,
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though, that depleted funding isn't the reason for the crisis. it's only a symptom of the larger problem. in other words, we're dealing with the effects, not the cause of the basic problem. without getting to the root cause, we're only setting ourselves up for failure, which means we'll be back here in another couple months having to pass another emergency appropriations bill for an additional $4.5 billion to try to deal with a problem that we can fix but we have refused to do so. sadly, this issue has become so politicized that few are willing to reach across the aisle and find solutions. and most of the proposals we've seen are ultrapartisan. the democrats running for president support things like decriminalizing illegal border crossing or providing free health care to undocumented immigrants, both of which are unpopular, unsafe, and completely unaffordable. the vast majority of americans
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oppose open borders and are already trying to struggle to manage their own bills, and certainly don't want to be burdened with the cost of people who enter our country illegally and don't pay taxes. we don't need these radical proposals to solve the crisis at our southern border. we need bipartisan solutions that can provide some real relief both short term and long term. if we want to get to the root of the crisis and avoid making emergency funding bills the norm, we need to get down to brass tacks and talk about real reforms that, one, will fix the problem; and, two, stand the chance of actually becoming law. right now there's only one bill to my knowledge that has bipartisan and bicameral support, and that's a bill called the humane act. i introduced this bill with my democrat friend in the house, henry cuellar, to address the humanitarian crisis at the
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border. first and foremost, the humane act includes important provisions to ensure that migrants in our custody receive proper care. it requires the department of homeland security to keep families together throughout court proceedings. it includes additional standards of care. beyond suitable living accommodations the humane act requires each facility to provide timely access to educational services and legal counsel. it would require all children to undergo biometric and d.n.a. screening so that family relationships can be confirmed and ensure that these children are in fact traveling with their relatives rather than human smugglers or sex traffickers. and in order to better protect children who are released to health and human services, this bill would place prohibitions on certain individuals who could serve as guardians. for example, no child should be
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released into the custody of a sex offender or human trafficker. i would hope we could all agree on that. in addition to improving the quality of care for those in custody, the humane act would improve the ways migrants are processed. it would require the department of homeland security to establish regional processing centers in high-traffic areas which would serve as a one-stop shop by which the process could take place. this was a recommendation from the bipartisan homeland security advisory committee and could alleviate the long wait times experienced by many asylum seekers. these centers would have personnel on hand from across the government to assist, including medical personnel and asylum officers. in addition to these changes, the legislation also includes provisions to make some commonsense improvements such as additional customs and border protection personnel and
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training for c.v.p. and i.c.e. employees who work with children. the act makes reforms to prove the quality of care for migrants. importantly it takes steps to address the flow of those entering our country by the tens of thousands each month. i spent a lot of time talking to folks who live and work on the border about the status quo and what we need to do to prevent this crisis from becoming even bigger. the most common feedback i get is that we need to close the loopholes that are being exploited by the people who are getting rich trafficking in human beings from central america across mexico into the united states. one of the most commonly exploited loopholes is something called the flores settlement agreement which was created to ensure that unaccompanied children aren't spending long
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periods of time in the custody of border patrol. it was and remains an important protection for the most vulnerable people found along our border and ensures they can be processed and released to either relatives or the department of health and human services pending the presentation of their case before an immigration judge when they claim asylum. but a misguided 2016 decision by the ninth circuit effectively expanded those protections from children to families. one thing i can say with some certainty is that human smugglers and traffickers are not fools. they're entrepreneurs, twisted and criminal to be sure, but they are entrepreneurs. they know how to exploit the gaps in our system and they know how to make money doing it. they know if an adult is traveling alone that that person can be detained for long periods
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of time before they are eventually returned home after presenting their case before an immigration judge. now rather than single adults arriving at the border alone, adults are bringing children with them so they can be processed as a family unit, thus, taking advantage of that expansion of the flores settlement agreement and draw out the process to the point where it overloads the system. they realize that they can bring a child, any child and pose as a family so they'll be released after 20 days never to be heard from again. we've seen a massive increase in the number of families apprehended. in may of 2018, roughly 9,500 families were apprehended. in may of this year, the number skyrocketed to more than 84,000. so in just one year it went from 9,500 to 84,000.
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now our legitimate families -- are legitimate families crossing the border? absolutely. but we know many of these people claiming to be related are fraudulent families using innocent children as pawns to gain entry into the united states. , something that nobody wants to talk about is that often these children are abused and assaulted along the way, and many arrive at the border in critical health. if we care about the welfare and the lives of these children, we cannot let these practices continue. it's unfair not only to these children but also to the american people and to immigrants who have waited patiently to enter the united states legally. for people to be able to game the system, move to the head of the line and break all the rules while doing it.
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the humane act would clarify that the flores agreement only applies to unaccompanied children. it would also provide greater time for processing and immigration proceedings to take place before a family is released from custody. eliminating this pull factor is an important way to stop the flow of those illegally entering our country because they know how to game the system. while the humane act will certainly not fix every problem that exists in our broken immigration system, it will be -- it is an important start. it's a necessary start. it's the only bill pending before the congress that is bipartisan and bicameral, and i would encourage all of our colleagues who are serious about our responsibilities to get to the root of this humanitarian crisis to join us and get this passed and sent to the president for his signature. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. kaine: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. kaine: mr. president, i rise today in support of the
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affordable care act and to discuss the devastating impact its potential elimination would have on rural families and rural communities. my state, virginia, has so many rural communities, and in that, i am with every other member of this body, and i want to talk specifically about them. the trump administration has sought for years to end the affordable care act using every tool available. they've worked on their front -- on that task here in congress to repeal it, sabotage it and even dismantle it in the court system, and today marks another milestone in that deeply troubling effort. the fifth u.s. circuit court of appeals will hear oral arguments in a case that could strike down the affordable care act in its entirety. if the a.c.a. were struck down, families in communities around the country would bear life-altering consequences and the health care system would be thrown into chaos. tens of millions of americans
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would lose health care coverage and protections for preexisting conditions, among the countless other consumer protections that have been put in place by the a.c.a. a umin of my colleagues are going -- a number of my colleagues are going to be on the floor this afternoon speaking about particularly aspects of this that trouble them. i want to focus on one in particular -- how important the affordable care act's medicaid expansion is to rural america and how much is at stake for those communities, should the a.c.a. be eliminated. medicaid expansion enables low-income rural residents to get affordable quality health insurance so they can get the care they need. it is often the case that insurance companies do not compete in the same intensity in rural communities because there's just not enough patientsment and so it's common in rural america for somebody wants to buy an insurance policy on the exchange, for example, to maybe only have one option. and so medicaid expansion has
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turned out to be a huge benefit for many low-income people living in rural america. many of those who are receiving insurance pursuant to medicaid expansion have been previously uninsured, and so for some, it's the first insurance that they've had in their life. a particular impact of medicaid expansion has not just been on individuals receiving that medicaid but on the hospitals that are sort of the health care and even economic pillars in rural communities. rural hospitals often have a difficult time making the finances work. again, lower patient volumes makes it difficult. but medicaid expansion has meant that care that they've been providing that in the past might not have been reimbursed at all, they're able to get at least a medicaid reimbursement, and that has meant a significant,
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significant financial benefit to these hospitals. mr. president, you understand this because your state is like mine where there's a lot of rural communities. rural hospitals are often the lifeblood of rural communities. they can be the largest employers in a town or a county. they're often places that do not just within the hospital walls but a tremendous amount of outreach outside the hospital walls on health care and other philanthropic -- you know, sponsoring the little league teams and doing the things that make it community a community. -- that make a community a community. so residents of rural communities need access to health care, but they also need access to jobs and good health care information. rural hospitals provide that. i've seen the impact of rural hospital closures in virginia firsthand. two rural hospitals in virginia closed in recent years because virginia did not expand medicaid initially. in the last year, virginia has
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done medicaid expansion. but before medicaid expansion was done, we saw hospitals closed in two communities in virginia -- patrick county, with ace south side virginia community on the border with carolina, and lee county, which is a far southwestern virginia county that's on the border of kentucky. lee county -- kentucky and tennessee, and two hospitals have closed in those communities. i got a letter from a mother in christiansburg, virginia, up near virginia tech. her name is robin. she wrote about the closer of the pioneer hospital in patrick county in 2017. she wrote this, my mother, who recently turned 70, still fiscal cliffs in patrick county, and we're approaching the point of either the family having to move back to patrick county to be here her or moving my mother to christiansburg where we currently live. my son has severe food ar
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letters that could lead to -- has severe food allergies, that could lead to anna fill la trick shock. i don't want to live somewhere without access to emergency health care. it seems inconceivable that this is the case in the rare in -- in the era in which we live now. please help get my home county back on the medical map to give its medicaid and its people a fighting chance. so blacksburg is probably an hour and a half to two hours away. a mother living in a county that now has no hospitals. she is turning 70, so she doesn't have access to care she needs. a mother is trying to decide, should i move back? but i have a son that has allergies. rural hospitals across the country are struggling to keep their doors open for a number of reasons. here is an amazing set of statistics.
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whether a state expands medicaid pursuant to the a.c.a. is a massively significant factor in rural hospitals' financial outlook and decision-making. without medicaid expansion, rural hospitals may be forced to cut vital services or even to close. here is the data point that really says it all -- since january of 2010, 107 rural hospitals have closed in the united states. 93 of those 107 hospitals were in states that had not expanded medicaid at the time of the closure. hundreds more rural hospitals are at risk of closure. rural hospital closures disproportionately occur in states that have not expanded medicaid. the success of the texas case would wipe out the a.c.a., including medicaid expansion, and deeply penalize these rural hospitals. a comprehensive 2018 study in health affairs found that
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medicaid expansion is associated with directly -- directly associated with hospital performance. and that expansion substantially reduces the amount of hospital closure. the study also found that going back to pre-a.c.a. eligibility for medicaid would drive even more rural hospitals to closure. so we think about robin's dilemma of a mother living in a rural area where the hospital is closed. if the a.c.a. is struck down and there is no medicaid expansion, this is going to be faced by in order and more and more rural communities across the country, and then that means this is a them that that's ultimately faced by individuals and their families. research from georgetown university's health policy institute indicates that the uninsured rate for low-income adults in rural communities fell three times as fast in states that expanded medicaid as compared to states that did not expand.
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turn that around, states that expand medicaid find that rural families have a dramatically higher likelihood of having insurance than those in rural areas where the states haven't expanded medicaid. i'm thrilled that earlier this year virginia after a multiyear battle finally announced that medicaid expansion was happening and in less it -- in less than a year after expansion, nearly 293,000 adults have newly enrolled in medicaid in virginia, many of whom never had health insurance before in their life. 293,000 adults in a state where the population is about 8.5 million. that is a significant number of people who have received insurance through medicaid expansion. they risk losing their eligibility if the administration is successful in its efforts to gut the a.c.a. if we care about rural residents
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and rural communities, there's a number of things we can do. first, we needs to stand up against the administration's attempt to end the a.c.a., including its medicaid expansion. i have now been in public life for 25 years, since i was elected to the richmond city council in may of 1994. i will say in all the elections i've been up or down, in all the various legislative and other battles, the single most dramatic moment in my life as an elected official was standing on the floor of this body at 2:00 in the morning when senator john mccain, fresh out of the hospital having been diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor, cast a vote, and by one vote we saved the affordable care act. i've never in my life experienced in the public realm something that was so dramatic and so consequential. we have to continue to stand up.
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i would have thought that vote might have moved us to a new chapter where we're talking about fixing and improving rather than about repealing, but that's not the case, as evidenced by the lawsuit today. but my hope is that we will resist efforts to sabotage and destroy and instead join together in efforts to improve. i joined with my colleagues to cosponsor a resolution allowing the senate legal counsel to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the affordable care act. the second thing we can do to help rural communities is focus on the 14 states that haven't yet expanded medicaid and provide them a clear path and an encouragement to do so. i'm proud to be an original cosponsor of something called the same act, which would extend the same level of federal assistance to every state that chooses to expand medicaid, regardless of where the expansion occurs. i think that's important. let's use the original medicaid program as an example. it was passed in 65, and it was
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not anings mandate. it wassance option. the last state, arizona, didn't join until 1972. there was a 17-year period between when the first state joined in the voluntary medicaid program and when the last state did. if this bill passes, states that choose to expand now, these 14 states, would make sure they get the full federal level of assistance, wasiq available to -- as was available to those states that initially joined. and that should help remaining states get off the sidelines. finally, we need to stained up -- stand up against administrative sabotage of the affordable care act. we shouldn't slash funding for enrollment, for outreach, for marketing. we should build on and improve and, yes, fix, because it's not perfect -- fix the to extend its program of affordable coverage to even more americans. that's why i've introduced
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medicaid acts, legislation to establish a public insurance plan that could be offered on the a.c.a. exchanges beginning in rural areas. my bill would also make the a.c.a.'s tax credits more generous, expand tax credit eligibility to additional families, and allow for an enhanced reimbursement rate in rural communities where low patient volumes often pose financial challenges to health care providers. in closing, the a.c.a. has meant the difference between life and death for many families across the country, and i run into them every day. i'm going to be standing with some senate colleagues on the steps of the senate in a few minutes talking about a youngster from winchester, virginia, who has a series of significant health care challenges that would essentially in the past have made him uninsurable because of a preexisting condition, but who now, because of that protection within the a.c.a., he and his family at least have the peace
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of mind of knowing that he can't be kicked off insurance or turned down for insurance because he happened to be born with a condition over which he had no control. if the were be to struck down, families and communities would suffer, and i think in virginia that would particularly be the case in our rural communities. and again i'm going to hold up this issue of our rural hospitals. we need to protect rural hospitals, not only because of the health care they provide but because they are employment centers and centers of community outreach and when we see the closure of rural hospitals everwhelmingly be in -- overwhelmingly be in states that have not expanded medicaid, that tells us how valuable that portion of the a.c.a. has been to stabilize the provision of rural health care. i will continue to fight to protect the a.c.a. and the health of my rural communities in virginia and elsewhere, and i encourage my colleagues to do the same. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor, and i note the absence of a quorum.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. thune: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i have five 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 received more good economic news on friday with the announcement that the economy created 224,000 jobs in june. unemployment remained near its lowest level in half a century. june marked the 16th month unemployment has been at or below 4%. that is a tremendous record.
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june also marked the 11th straight month that wage growth has been at or above 3%. before 2018, wage growth had not hit 3% in nearly a decade. friday's announcement was the latest piece of good news about the economy thanks to republican economic policies the economy has taken off during the trump administration. economic growth is up. wage growth is up. personal income is up. and the list goes on. and importantly the benefits of this economic growth are being spread far and wide. one of the distinguishing features of the economic expansion we've been experiencing is the way it's reaching those who have trailed behind economically. over the past three years pay hikes for the lowest income workers have exceeded pay hikes for the richest workers. huge numbers of new blue-collar jobs have been created. and minorities' employment situation improved substantially.
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the unemployment rate for asian americans, african americans and hispanic americans are at or near record lows. "the wall street journal" notes and i quote nearly one million more blacks and two million more hispanics are employed than when barack obama left office and minorities account for more than half of all new jobs created during the trump presidency. end quote. so where is all this economic progress come from, mr. president? two and a half years ago at the end of the obama administration cialtion the economic outlook wasn't too rosy. the economy was sputtering and american families were struggling. some were predicting that a weak economy would be the new normal. republicans, however, didn't agree with that. we knew that american workers and american businesses were as dynamic and creative as ever. but we also knew that burdensome regulations and an outdated tax code were holding our economy back and reducing the
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opportunities available to workers. and so when we took office in 2017, we got right to work on improving our economy in order to improve life for the american people. we eliminated burdensome regulations that were acting as a drag on economic growth and we passed an historic reform of our tax code to put more money in americans' pockets and to make it easier for businesses to grow and to create jobs. and now we're seeing the results. a thriving economy that is extending more opportunities to more americans. mr. president, for all the democrats talk about inequality, it's actually republicans and president trump who have done something about it. we've helped create an economy that is lifting up people across the entire economic spectrum. there's still more work to be done of course. for one thing, we need to make sure that the agricultural economy is able to catch up to the economy at large. but thanks to tax reform and
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other republican economic policies, american workers are doing better than they have in a very long time. it's unfortunate that the gains that we have made could be reversed if democrats have their way. democrats' plans from budget-busting government-run health care to free college all have one thing in common. they would cost a lot of money. and where would that money, where would the government get most of that money, mr. president? from tax increases. tax increases on businesses and tax increases on ordinary americans. thanks to the tax relief that republicans passed, the economy is expanded, pay paychecks have increased and more jobs and opportunities have been created. raising taxes would result in the opposite. fewer jobs and opportunities, a smaller economy and more families struggling to get by on smaller paychecks.
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republicans are determined to make sure that doesn't happen. and, mr. president, we are committed to building on the progress that we've made and to further expanding economic opportunity for all americans. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest -- i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: i raise today to speak about the crisis unfolding in hong kong over the past several weeks. hong kong is a very exceptional
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city. it boasts of a very robust free market economy that's thrived for centuries. it's got a very vibrant free press. it has an independent judiciary and a partially democratic election system. those freedoms combined with hong kongers natural entrepreneurial spirit and appreciation for individual liberty have made hong kong a jewel of the financial and business world, one of the freest places in asia and a great place to live for a time anyway, as i did back in 1991. the economic and political achievements are particularly impressive when you consider that hong kong is, after all, a part of china, which has neither a free economy nor a politically free society. back in 1997, the great britain transferred hong kong to china on the condition that explicit
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britain agreement, the condition was that hong kong's social and economic systems would remain unchanged under a one-country, two systems arrangement that would last for at least 50 years, until 2047. and the chinese government also made a pledge at the time, a pledge that go hong kong's legislative and executive leaders would be elected through, quote, universal suffrage. yet here we are 22 years later hong kongers still do not enjoy complete universal suffrage and hong kong has faced deep and persistent efforts by the mainland to erode the independence and the authority of hong kongers. on the surface, this ongoing crisis in hong kong was clearly caused by the hong kong government probably at the behest of the chinese leadership in beijing to pass a deeply unpopular extradition bill.
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this bill would diminish hong kong's independent legal system very dramatically and it would do so by allowing exposing individuals in hong kong, including hong kong citizens, foreigners, even tourists, exposing them to being extra dieded to china -- extradited to china. the accused would then face prosecution by an authoritarian government in mainland china that does not uphold the rule of law, nor does it practice the fear -- fair and impartial administration of justice, let's face it, the judicial system in china is controlled by the chinese communist party. some people are concerned that if this bill were to become law it would pave the way to chinese state-sponsored kidnapping of dissidents. it certainly would have a chilling effect on freedom in hong kong, a chilling effect on the ability of hong kong people
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to live their lives and express their views without the fear of political repercussions. it's simply a fact mainland china is a legal black hole, and hong kong's extradition bill would be a step to exposing hong kong residents directly to mainland china's opaque and often blatantly unfair legal system. so in response to this threat, the people of hong kong have for weeks poured into the streets calling for withdrawal of this bill and deeper democratic reforms. remarkably last month one of these protests, one of these demonstrations brought together an estimated two million hong kongers into the streets. now, that's just stunning anywhere in the world that two million people would come out to protest anything, but in hong kong it's truly staggering
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because the total population of hong kong is only 7.4 million. it's about one in four hong kongers were on the streets protesting. now just today the hong kong chief executive said that that bill is dead, but it has not been formally withdrawn, as i understand it. and i think the threat remains. it's also important to note that on a deeper level these ongoing protests are really a response to efforts by the chinese government to mainlandize hong kong. it's an effort in which political and cultural and even physical distinctions between hong kong and mainland china are meant to be diminished, the differences blurred, the distinction eroded. the extradition bill is just the latest example of the hong kong people struggling for the freedom, the democracy, the respect for human rights that they cherish, that they want to hold on to, that were promised
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to them when the handover occurred in 1997. and hong kongers really have a rich history of protest, and i think that history reveals their enduring grassroots desire for these freedoms that they have grown to love and cherish and for a democratic form of government that they deserve. back in 1989, the tiananmen square massacre that we all remember was just the 30th anniversary was just last month. on the eve of the massacre, once it was clear that the chinese communist government would respond to peaceful protesters would bullets and tanks, once that became clear, about 1.5 million hong kongers marched in the streets of hong kong in solidarity with the students in tiananmen square. in 2003, the hong kong leadership proposed an antisubversion bill.
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hong kongers rightly saw this bill as an attack on their freedom of peach and freedom -- free speech. the hong kong leaders that opposed it began doing it at the behest of man land china government. 500,000 chinese protested and forced the government to withdraw the bill. reform was made as to how the chief was selected. mainland chinese communitiist control over the election process in hong kong. one of the mechanisms they used to achieve it was that only candidates vetted by a committee of mostly pro-asian supporters would be allowed to seek the office of chief executive. well, in response to this undemocratic measure, hong kong
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students staged a campaign of civil disobedience and peaceful protest to oppose this effort. up to a half million people participated in the movement and students famously used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray that was being launched at them by the police. so much so that the pro-democracy protesters were quickly termed the umbrella movement. and all of these protests and these acts of civil disobedience make it clear that hong kongers want more freedom, not less freedom. and, mr. president, i think this matters. this matters obviously in hang congress, but it matters beyond hang congress. it matters to us. it should matter to us. because what's happening in hong kong is not just important for those residents but for the rest of the world. today the people of hong kong are fighting against an unpopular and unfair extradition bill. but they're really fighting for
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a future in which they can enjoy basic human rights, natural rights that everyone should have, including the right to free speech, the right to a fair trial, the right to be confident that your government will follow the laws of the society in which it exists, participation in a just and fair representative system of government, and if the chinese officials in beijing, the communist chinese who rule, have their way, they will extinguish these rights. if the extradition bill would become law, it would threaten all of those rights because of the chilling effect of the threat of being extradited to the lawlessness of the chinese judicial system. in some important ways, i think hong kong can be seen as a canary in the coal mine for asia. what happens in hong kong will at least set expectations, create a climate that will
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affect maybe what happens in taiwan over time, other asian nations that are struggling to for freedom in the shadow of china. the fact is, china itself is controlled by an authoritarian government, interested primarily in its own survival. that's the top priority of beijing's leadership. they've created a modern-day police state. they use mass surveillance, censorship, internet applications in order to control their own citizens. they've imprisoned over a million of their own citizens, the uyghurs in concentration cans. and china's authoritarian system threatens societies all over the world. a democratic hong kong is a direct threat to the government in beijing balls people across -- because people across china ask the question, why do hong
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kongers get to have more rights and a better life and more freedom than we have? that's the threat that the government in beijing is trying to extinguish. well, mr. president, we of course recently had the blessing of being able to celebrate our own independence day when americans reflect on our own struggle against tyranny, against an unjust government, and our successful effort to throw that off and establish this, the world's greatest, most vibrant, and freest democratic society. in many ways, the hong kongers are fighting for some of the very same values as our founding fathers did during the american revolution. i think it's important that we here in the united states not turn a blind eye to the struggle for freedom that's happening outside of our borders. i think it's important that americans continue to stand in support of the voices in hong kong that are calling for freedom, for democracy, respect
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for basic human rights. i'll do what i can in the senate to support the people of hong kong in their peaceful protests for their own freedom, and i call on my colleagues and this administration to join me. and i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m. recess: the senate back later this afternoon. lawmakers are expected to hold a confirmation vote for a circuit judge for the ninth circuit court of appeals.
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if confirmed he would be the 42nd circuit court judge in the 126 judge over all to be approved at the senate during the trump administration. also later today lawmakers planned plan to work on more u.s. district judge nominations. live senate coverage when the return at 2:15 p.m. eastern here on c-span2. right now we'll take you live outside the u.s. capitol were democratic leaders will be holding a news conference to talk about the latest legal challenge against the affordable care act. today the fifth circuit court of appeals in new orleans is hearing oral arguments about the rise, about the constitutionality of the aca come something senator tim king of virginia spoke about on the senate floor a short while ago. we will stay here live to hear from leader pelosi and senate leader chuck schumer.
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>> we're expecting to hear shortly from senate minority leader chuck schumer and house speaker nancy pelosi, talking about efforts to challenge legally in the course the affordable care act, the fifth circuit court of appeals in new orleans will be hearing a challenge to the case today. they will rule in the case the ap says appear to be destined for the supreme court, which has reviewed the law and its coverage of insurance protections for millions of americans before they say the ultimate outcome will affect protection for people with pre-existing conditions, medicaid expansions covering roughly 12 million people, subsidies that help about 10 million others afford health insurance. the ap writes today's arguments are the latest in a a lawsuit filed by republican officials in 18 states led by the attorney general in texas. it was filed after congress, which did not repeal the law,
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despite pressure from president trump, failed or reduced to zero the unpopular tax imposed on those without insurance. the reporting of "the associated press", ," the case being argued today in new orleans at the fifth circuit and we will hear shortly from congressional leaders. [background sounds]
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