tv US Senate CSPAN March 8, 2016 10:00am-12:31pm EST
bill authorizing sunday with opioid prescription drug abuse. lawmakers expected to recess today at 12:30 eastern for weekly party meetings and be back at 2:15 eastern. now lied to the senate floor god of grace and glory, you are the source of all life. you have challenged us to number our days, not our weeks, months or years. give us the wisdom to comprehend the brevity and uncertainty of our life's journey, motivating us to plan not only for time but eternity.
forgive us when we boast about tomorrow, forgetting that our times are in your hands. today, bless our lawmakers and their staff. remind them that they belong to you and that you will order their steps. as they wrestle with complex issues, help them seek your wisdom and guidance. empower them as stewards of your bounty to serve you and humanity, striving to be faithful in the vocation to which you have called them. we pray in your sacred 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. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: the junior t junior senator from new hampshire delivered a powerful address to our nation this weekend. she spoke about the need to tackle a heroin and prescription opioid epidemic that's majoritying not just her state, not just my state but communities all across our
country. senator ayotte correctly called this a life or death issue and talked about what she has been doing to address it. she also talked about important legislation the senate is considering that would help address the problem. i was proud to see the senate vote yesterday to advance the comprehensive addiction and recovery act. it's bipartisan legislation that colleagues in both parties like the junior senator from new hampshire, our colleague from minnesota and of course the lead sponsors from ohio and rhode island have worked hard to advance. i want to especially thank the lead republican sponsor of this bill, the junior senator from ohio, senator portman, for all the work he's done on this critical legislation. the same is true for the senior senator from iowa, senator grassley, who worked to move this bill quickly through the committee that he chairs. and let's not forget the
senators in both parties who worked with the bill managers to process the kind of amendments both sides agree would make a good bill even better. because of the dedicated leadership of senators from both sides of the aisle, we'll soon have the opportunity to actually pass this important legislation, and i would urge colleagues to join me in voting to do so. the comprehensive addiction and recovery act is important legislation that will help tackle this crisis at every level. it's a good bill. it enjoys strong bipartisan support, and it builds upon a foundation we laid just a few months ago when we appropriated $400 million to opioid-specific programs, money that still remains available to be spent. this bipartisan legislation also comes at a time when our nation needs it most. my home state of kentucky has been among the hardest hit by this epidemic. with more people dying from drug overdoses than car crashes.
as the junior senator from new hampshire reminded us in her address this weekend, these are not just numbers. behind every statistic and behind every headline is a life that has been lost, senator ayotte said. this is not a republican or democratic issue. it affects literally all of us. i want to thank her and the lead republican sponsor from ohio for their important work. i thank their colleagues across the aisle from rhode island and minnesota and the judiciary chairman from iowa as well. let's keep working together to pass the bipartisan cara bill and take another step toward ending this devastateing epidemic. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: under the republican leader's direction, this senate
continues to make history for all the wrong reasons. despite proclaiming the senate is back to work, republican leader's majority is on pace to become the least productive senate ever. by now, most americans are aware of the republican leader's decision to block consideration of the supreme court nomination that senator -- i'm sorry, that president obama will soon make, but the historic obstruction of the supreme court nominee is just the most recent and prolific example of the republican leader's abdication of his constitutional duties and that of the whole republican caucus. what is that to provide advice and consent to presidential nominations. since his party assumed the majority in the senate last january, the republican leader and his colleagues have ground the nomination to a halt. according to the nonpartisan congressional research service, the pace of judicial nomination being affirmed, this congress is the worst. to date, this
republican-controlled senate has controlled a total -- i'm sorry, mr. president. as of now, the republican-controlled senate has confirmed a total of 16 judicial nominations. that's about one a month. since the beginning of the year, we've confirmed just five judges. we have 11 judges pending on the senate calendar, and there would be a lot more, but the chairman of the committee is simply not holding any hearings. he canceled the committee last week. maybe they will have one the day after tomorrow. but simply the people in the pipeline that the president has nominated, they are not even holding hearings. so 11 judges pending on the senate calendar is really not definitive of the real problem we have in this country. but even on the 11, the republicans refuse to schedule votes. even on judges like waverly crenshaw from tennessee who is supported by the two republican
senators from tennessee. if the republican leader won't even schedule votes on consensus judges recommended by republican senators, how can democrats expect to vote on their recommendations? while the republican leader in the judiciary committee -- and the judiciary committee seem content to not do their jobs, the american people are being robbed of justice. there has been a spike in judicial emergencies. if there aren't enough judges to hear the cases that arise, it's deemed to be an emergency, because the judges there simply are unable to do the work that's before them because there is too few judges. when republicans can assume control of the senate last year, 12 judicial emergencies nationwide. now, mr. president, there is 31. one year later, 31. they are going up almost by the week. as i have indicated, that number will only grow as republicans continue to refuse to process important judicial nominations.
the obstruction is limited -- isn't limited to the supreme court nominees or just judges. not to fill the judicial emergencies. there are other things that we should be concerned about. take, for example, the banking committee. it's setting records for doing nothing. the committee has been operating under the leadership of the senior senator from alabama, and in that time the committee has not yet reported a single nomination. this is unprecedented. according to the congressional research service, which is a nonpartisan group, the banking committee has reported out at least one nomination every year for the past 50 years. not now. the only senate committee not to consider a single nomination last year. when asked why, he said he had other things to do. and what are those nominations that the senator has put a hold on? what position have gone unfilled as the chairman pursued his
political career with the primary election just having been completed? under secretary of treasury for terrorism and financial crimes. that is really important. two seats on the securities and exchange commission. we know that wall street needs to be monitored very closely. we have two seats that need to be filled, two seats in the federal reserve board of governors. we know how important that is. director of the u.s. mint. export-import bank board of directors. they really can't do their work now because they need to fill those spots. the assistant secretary of the treasury, inspector general, federal deposit insurance corporation and others. from the republican leader to his committee chairs and the rank-and-file, we continue to hear the senate is working again. this is just a figment of republicans' imagination. it's not working again. it appears the republican senate
isn't interested in doing its job. there is no longer seems to be a voice of reason coming from the republican side. isn't there a single republican who will stand against republican leader's nomination blockade? is there a single republican willing for an end to this historic obstruction? providing advise and consent to the president's nominees is constitutional duty. i say do their job. i would like the record to show that i am moving to a different place in the record, mr. president. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: what i am going to say now. mr. president, i have an article here from cnn. it's quite illuminating. let's see what i did with it. mr. president, when i was a boy growing up in the little town i
was born in, searchlight, we didn't have people of color, no one ever. so when i went away to high school, we did have people of color. not many, but certainly we had african-americans, we had hispanics, and it wasn't until then that i went to high school that i had a wonderful spanish teacher, marlon walker. i was able to visit with him when i went home last time. just to see him. he lost his wife colleen. he made such a difference in my life. but he was a fine man, a great spanish teacher. it's the first time i had ever heard anything about pinatas. what is a pinata? it's a -- it comes from -- traditionally they have them in mexico where they have a figure. it can be all kinds of things, but let's say it's a horse.
and you blindfold young people. they have a stick in their hand. they can't see, so they -- they know it's hung there. they have seen it before they were blindfolded, and they try to find that pinata so they can hit it because presents come out of it, things come out of that pinata. but boy, the pinata gets beaten until it starts dumping the little presents on everyone's head. so this article came from what happened on cnn would be illuminating for people to read. it's written by ted barrett, dated yesterday. when asked about presidential nominees to the supreme court, the assistant republican leader said they will bear some relation -- i'm sorry. some resemblance to a pinata.
think about that. they don't know who the nominee is, they don't know anything about the person, but they already have in their mind they are going to beat this person like a pinata. these are his words, not mine. direct quote -- "i think it will bear a resemblance to a pinata." think about that. he's saying republicans are going to do all they can to hurt this personal reputation, to beat on him like a pinata. he went on to say, and i quote -- "because there is no guarantee certainly after that time they're going to look as good as they did going in." think about that. think about that. i say to the american people refuse to meet with somebody they don't know, refuse to have a committee hearing on someone they don't know, refuse to have a vote on -- in the committee, a
vote on this floor, and now we're told by the assistant republican leader that it doesn't matter who it is, man, woman, old, young, it doesn't matter. it doesn't matter what their education is, what their experience is. they're going to beat him like a pinata. i think they've been listening to donald trump too much. the republicans need to stop and listen to this disgusting rhetoric they're spewing. they're going to treat somebody they don't even know like a pinata? now the republicans are acting like big, tough people threat ng to destroy the reputation of someone they don't even know who it is. they haven't seen them yet. this is vial behavior.
if the republicans continue down the path of destruction while working on this process, it's going to reverberate in the wrong direction for decades to come. they've got to get their senses back. i yield the floor and ask the chair to announce the business for the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour equally divided with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each and with the democrats controlling the first half and the majority controlling the final half. mr. reid: mr. president, i would unanimous consent the article i referred to dated march 7en -- march 7 be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will call the roll.
mr. durbin: i ask the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, several weeks ago, the untimely passing of supreme court justice antonin scalia created a vacancy on the supreme court, which now has only eight justices, and it called into question the constitutional responsibility of the president of the united states when such a vacancy exists and the constitutional responsibility of this senate. well, this morning in "the washington post," there was speculation about six possible nominees the president could send to the senate. it was speculation in the paper, and we don't know if any one of those would actually be the nominee suggested by the president, but it's very obvious and having spoken to the president personally on this issue, i know that he is carefully weighing the options. why will the president move
forward on this nomination? because the constitution requires it. the constitution requires it. in article 2, section 2, it says the president shall appoint a nominee to fill a vacancy on the u.s. supreme court. shall. not may. shall appoint. and the senate shall advise and consent to that nomination. so there are two constitutional responsibilities here. for the president to suggest a nominee and for the senate to act on that nominee. there have been instances in american history where argument could be made that that constitutional responsibility should be ignored or at least delayed. one that comes to mind dates back to 1942. on october 3 of 1942, a vacancy arose on the supreme court of the united states. on that day, justice names byrnes on the supreme court resigned his seat to become director of the office of
economic stabilization in the roosevelt administration. on january 11, 1943, president roosevelt nominated wylie rutledge, a kentucky native and a former dean of the university of iowa college of law to fill that vacancy. at this point in 1943, the united states was fully engaged in the second world war. when the president sent up this nomination, battles were raging in europe, asia, africa and the atlantic and the pacific. it was unclear whether we would prevail or the enemy would prevail. each day brought alarming, stunning news about developments in the war. three days after making his supreme court nomination, president roosevelt flew to morocco to join churchill and de gaulle at a cast is a blanca conference on the future of the war. at this conference, the allies
coordinated their strategy against the axis powers, decided to launch an offensive in sicily and in italy. on january 27, 1943, american bombers from the eighth air force conducted the first american air raid over germany. on january 30, japanese aircraft torpedoed and sank a cruiser named the u.s.s. chicago in the south pacific. 62 men lost their lives. over a thousand survived due to a daring and swift rescue. the nation was clearly engaged in war. there was every reason in the world for the president and even the united states senate to say this is no time to talk about a supreme court vacancy, but instead the president and the united states senate, even in the midst of world war ii, understood their obligation under the constitution.
the senate judiciary committee held a hearing for rutledge on january 22, 11 days after his nomination had been sent to the hill by president roosevelt. the committee reported rutledge's nomination to the floor on february 1 and he was confirmed by the full senate on february 8, 1943, 28 days after his nomination. mr. president, i wanted to put this set of facts on the record to make it clear there is absolutely no excuse for what the senate republicans are doing with the scalia nomination. there is no excuse for the senate republicans to ignore their constitutional responsibility, a constitution which they have sworn to uphold and defend. we're not in the midst of a war. we're in the midst of a presidential campaign, and that explains, that in and of itself explains why senator mcconnell just hours after the
announcement of the death of antonin scalia made it clear that the united states senate would not accept its responsibility under the constitution to fill this vacancy on the supreme court. it's a sad reality, that the republicans have made this decision and will leave the supreme court for up to a year with this vacancy. when was the last time the supreme court had a vacancy for over a year? it goes back to the civil war when we were at war with ourselves with thousands being killed on a daily basis. it was in that turmoil that we left a vacancy on the supreme court for over a year. and now the senate republicans point to the turmoil of a presidential election campaign as their reason for not accepting their constitutional responsibility. they make a vacuous argument that we should wait and pick a
new president. let this new president in his next term or her next term fill this vacancy. well, you know that is an empty argument because in the year 2012, in november of 2012, there was a presidential election. the two major party nominees were, of course, president obama running for re-election and mitt romney running on the republican side. in that election, the american people made a clear choice. by a margin of five million votes, they re-elected president barack obama, and they re-elected him for a four-year term. so it turns out that even in this year of 2016, barack obama is still the president of the united states. this may come as news to those on the republican side of the aisle, but he was re-elected for four years by a five million vote margin, and their refusal to give this president due consideration of his nominee is a rejection of that verdict of
the american people in that election. and so for the first time in history, we find a nominee presented by the president about to come to capitol hill and the promise of the senate republicans, they will not even hold a hearing, will not even consider this nominee and won't bring it to a vote. in fact, senator mcconnell went further. he said he would refuse to even meet, even meet with any nominee sent by the president. unheard of. unprecedented. uncalled for. an embarrassment. to this institution of the united states senate. i really call on the members of the senate judiciary committee, which i am proud to serve on, to step back and reassess the letter they signed two weeks ago. it was a letter accepting senator mcconnell's strategy, saying that they would not do their job. they would in fact walk away from their job, walk away from their constitutional responsibility. i would hope that they would realize that they are leaving a
mark in history which is indefensible, a mark in history which is unprecedented and one which sadly will leave the supreme court with only eight justices. the american people have spoken. they have chosen a president. the president has accepted his constitutional responsibility. the senate under republican leadership can do no less. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. a senator: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: i ask that i be permitted to speak for up to 15 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: thank you, mr. president. mr. blumenthal: i'm pleased to be here today to speak again in support of the comprehensive addiction and recovery act which
the senate will consider and i hope approve this week. it is a long overdue measure to address the public health hurricane, a crisis that we face in this country every bit as real and threatening as threats there abroad. in fact, i've come today just now from a hearing at the armed services committee where i had the opportunity to question some of our nation's leading military experts, including the head of our special operations command about the threat posed by illiss silt substances like heroin to -- illicit substances like heroin and the testimony was those substances when they come to this country follow the same route as terrorists and illicit arms and other military threats to this nation.
the bipartisan support for the measure before us today is a sign of the meaningful strides that this nation has taken, but much more is necessary to be done toward ending the epidemic of heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse. it is a danger to every community across the country, big cities and towns in connecticut, suburban and urban, every race and religion and ethnic group and demographic. it is poe -- demographic is potentially a victim. i heard from our colleagues across the country that this crisis truly has proportions on par with any of the tornadoes or floods or hurricanes that we've seen as natural disasters. abuse and addiction are
crippling communities around the country, shattering families, and imposing enormous financial and human costs. in my home state of connecticut, overdose deaths have steadily increased as they have throughout the nation and they now surpass automobile crashes as the leading cause of injury-related death for americans between the ages of 25 and 64. connecticut saw more than 700 overdose deaths in 2005, an increase of 80% to 90% over just a couple of years ago. so without a doubt we must act. many communities across connecticut and our country already have taken steps and have dedicated resources to stopping the epidemic of heroin
addiction and prescription drug overuse. i'm very privileged to welcome a number of those communities to the senate today represented by mayors from major cities in connecticut, mayor joe ganham of bridgeport, mayor oh leery -- o'leary of water bri, larry moran, along with officials from bridgeport, groton, manchester, new haven, south windsor, and the connecticut conference of municipalities. they are too numerous to name but i'd ask that their names be inserted in the record so it will be a formal part of today's proceeding. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: they have shown by their actions that they're willing to not only talk the
talk but actually walk the walk. i participated with mayor ganham just over the weekend in a public press conference nothing the truly extraordinary and excellent work by their drug task force to stop and apprehend and arrest and prosecute a major drug ring in the city of bridge port. i talked to mayor o'leary about efforts in waterbury and throughout his region, very responsible and effective action that he took as the police chief of waterbury, but we know that we're not going to arrest our way out of this crisis. law enforcement needs more effective support and resources. there is no way around the need for supporting and enhancing the operations of our local and
state and federal law enforcement officials. in fact, increasing the partnership and cooperation among them as was so dramatically shown by the successful law enforcement in the city of bridgeport last week against this drug ring. all have a role and all of their cooperation is necessary and all of us as i know from my career in law enforcement have a responsibility to support their work. but the bill before us also recognizes that we're not going to arrest or jail our way out of this crisis, and in fact it provides resources for treatment and services, better education of prescribers and doctors, a more effective means of delivering narcan which can
literally be a life saver bringing overdosed victims back if the brink of death, and what i've heard in round tables that i've conducted around the state of connecticut is the need for those additional steps, not focusing on any one of them but a multifaceted effort as this bill reflects. in the round tables that i've conducted, i've heard from law enforcement professionals, first responders, doctors, addiction specialists, elected officials, and many others, including recovering addicts and their families. their stories are rivetting and heartbreaking about the effects of addiction beginning with powerful prescription painkillers for routine surgery, broken ankles or wrists, wisdom
teeth that have been removed, overprescriptions of 20 pills, 30 pills when two or three would have been sufficient. and those pills then are the gateway to more serious addiction or they find their way on to the street where they fuel the addiction of others and lead to addiction to heroin which often is cheaper than the prescription pills. those stories that i've heard from around our state, stories from people struggling with addiction or who have lost a loved one to this disease add to the public record that exists. and that records includes a story that appeared just within the past week or so in the new london day. it tells about two childhood friend, nat and joe.
both of them struggled with heroin addiction, but they're now in recovery. between them they've lost several friends. a former girlfriend, a step brother to overdoses and each has siblings who have also become addicts. nat is now 27 and the father of two, and he said -- quote -- "i started taking pills when i was 19 or 20 and was stressed out when i was going through a custody battle over my son. somebody said to try one, and then i was taking them a couple of times a week and then every day. i was buying off the street. it was out of control. i got so that i couldn't work without drugs ," end quote. the same happened to nat's friend joe with percocet and he described how he took a few pills, liked the feeling and
rapidly began taking other drugs with friends, including oxycontin and heroin. another article in the waterbury republican american told the story of thomas opps who was prescribed oxycontin for an eye injury when he later suffered from withdrawal symptoms, he turned to heroin to keep himself from suffering. he explained -- quote -- "you never know what a street drug is mixed with but it's less expensive. someone mentioned heroin. i thought i could control it. end quote. thomas eventually overdosed but his life was saved by a brave state trooper named josh sawyer what was able to add machine ster -- administer narcan, naloxone. this drug can be a life saver if it is available to police as it
was in this instance and first responders and firefighters, but unfortunately its price has stay rocketed and it is increasingly in short supply. these stories from connecticut are hardly unique. our colleagues know they are happening in their communities. they know that overdose deaths are skyrocketing, that addiction is increasing, that the toll taken on their states and our communities is absolutely horrendous. during our round table in bridgeport last friday, a manager of the bridgeport community recovery center explained the obstacles that people afflicted with addiction face in trying to obtain treatment. and i'm quoting -- "insurers will dictate what they will and will not pay for.
you have to continually prove that this person is allowed to stay. you must make daily phone calls to plead your case." end quote. when treatment is made available, there should be no wrong door, there should be no harassing need to demonstrate the problem and the need for treatment. more availability of insurance and increasing recognition that addiction is not a stigma, it is an affliction, a disease -- every bit as much so as every other disease is -- and that supplies of the drugs that can help treat that addiction -- suboxone, he ca for example -- o
be made available. the legislation before us would provide more of those drugs, more treatment, more beds, but it is only a down payment, only a beginning. there is truly a need for recognition that we face a public health hurricane and that this crisis, a spreadin spreadig epidemic -- a spreading epidemic, will only become worse if we fail to provide assistance. as well as training for law enforcement and emergency responders in the use of narcan. it provides important recovery support services for those struggling with addiction. and it would strengthen existing federal programs such as the d.e.a.'s drug takeback program. it would provide more support for substance abuse treatment
services for incarcerated individuals. we know that a lot of people in prison today are there because of their addiction, and if they are to emerge successfully from incarceration, they need that support and assistance to break the grip of addiction. as important as this bill is, i agree with many of my colleagues -- and they've spoken on the floor -- that it is far less effective than it could be without the $600 million supplemental appropriation that i have advocated and urged and sought and fought to pass. i'm disappointed that senator shaheen's amendment, which i spearheaded and cosponsored here, was not included in this measure. and i will look forward and continue to fight for the
resources that are necessary to make this fight real. i want to thank all of my colleagues, including senator whitehouse and others, for incorporating a provision that i wrote -- a bipartisan provision -- with senator coats called expanding access to prescription drug monitoring programs act. this provision will allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to access information they need -- specifically, they will be able to access state prescription drug monitoring programs to consult a patient's prescription opioid history and thereby determine if a patient has a history of addiction or receiving multiple prescriptions from multiple sources. i know from my decade and a half of work in this area how
doctor-shopping and other abuses can in fact exacerbate this problem of addiction and prescription abuse. although nurse practitioners and physician assistants wrote over 7 million opioid prescriptions in 2013, few states permit them to consult and submit prescribing data to these important state databases. allowing these prescriptions to access more information about patient histories enables them to address potential addiction before -- i stress, before it becomes a serious problem. and i hope that this body will adopt a number of other amendments that i have proposed, including the one that senator markey and i have spearheaded, senate number 3382, prescribin r
education. prescriber education is crucial. in a round table i held at the yale medical school, a number of the docs told me that now, only recently, is there sufficient education and training and specific courses devoted to pain management and prescription discipline. many doctors now lack that education and our amendment would require that training as a condition for continued -- i ask for a few more minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. blumenthal: would provide as a condition that this training be conducted before any doctor receives a renewal of his or her license by the drug enforcement administration. and to help our veterans, an amendment that i have offered, number 3327, would eliminate naloxone co-pays for our
veterans. as ranking member of the veterans' affairs committee, i have seen how the opioid epidemic has affected our veterans. it is truly devastating. safe prescribing of opioids is vital because many veterans, especially returning from combat, have serious pain issues that must be addressed, but they must be addressed safely, with care and caution about the dangers of addiction. i appreciate our dedication to addressing this problem, and i hope it will be bipartisan and that our approval this week will match the urgency of this problem in communities around the state of connecticut and around this country. this problem and the solution is long overdue for action.
and i look forward to this next step -- only one of many that have been taken -- in aiding our law enforcers, our health care providers, public officials such as are represented today on the hill, and moving forward to address this problem. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will ryessume consideration of o s. 524. the clerk: s. 524, a bill to authorize the attorney general to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as the entire country knows, it was about a month ago that we lost
justice antonin scalia. our country is still dealing with the loss of this man whose contribution to our highest court and the health of our constitution cannot be overstated. he understood that the actual words in the constitution were important. he famously said that if the american people realized that whalt suprem--that what the supd on occasion was to substitute their value judgments instead of interpreting the constitution's laws, rather, to constitute their value judgments for theirs and those of her to elected representatives, they might well feel that their values were superior and preferable to those of an unelected life-tenured member of the united states supreme court. that's an important reminder.
justice scalia was known for expressing himself very colorfully and clearly, and he clearly was no fan of making it up as you go along. which, unfortunately, can happen when the supreme court chooses to substitute their values for those of the american people rather than interpret the law and the constitution. justice scalia was also a key figure when it came to making sure that the court policed the check of executive power on legislative power. in other words, he believed in the separation of powers and checks and balances. i don't think it is an exaggeration to say that justice scalia helped resuscitate our constitutional principles and inspired the next generation of lawyers and legal scholars and judges to care deeply about our
constitution, as originally written. because of justice scalia, our republic is stronger. now, i've listened and read of comments made by our friends across the aisle who are questioning our intention to allow the american people to help choose who the next justice on the supreme court is going to be by selecting the next president, who will make that appointment. it is abundantly clear that the constitution gives the president the authority to make a nomination, but it is just as clear that the constitution gives the united states senate the authority to determine how or whether to move forward with any nominee proposed by president obama. and there's ample precedent to support the decision made by senate republicans to withhold consent on the president's nominee and to allow the american people's voice to be
heard. that's not to say that it won't be a democratic president making that appointment, or it could be a republican president. we don't know at this early stage in the presidential election. but we do know that it would be improper to allow a lame-duck president to forever change the balance on the supreme court as he's heading out the door for perhaps the next 30 years. the and there's a lot of precedent for what we have decided to do. not since 1932 has the senate in a presidential election year confirmed a supreme court nominee to a vacancy arising in that same year. 1932. and you'd have to go back even further to 1888 to find an election-year nominee who was nominated and confirmed under divided government like we have today. so what senate democrats are actually insisting and the
president is insisting is that we do something we haven't done for 130 years. of course, the position that's being taken by senate republicans is not a new idea either. as a matter of fact, the democratic leader in 2005 said this. of course, this was when president george w. bush was president. he said, "the duties of the senate are set forth in the u.s. constitution. nowhere in that document does it say the senate has a duty to give presidential appointees a vote." senator reid was entirely correct. that's what the constitution says, as i mentioned earlier, that the president can nominate anybody he wants, but the constitution does not say that the senate is obligated to give a vote to that nominee. i would note, i read some of the
remarks that the democratic leader -- i read some of the remarks of the democratic leader this morning. and i want to say he was critical of a story that included my name and the word "pinata" included in the story, suggesting this was somehow a threat. i would be surprised if any person who actually aspired to be on the united states supreme court, a current judge or a legal scholar or lawyer, would allow themselves to be used by this administration in making a nomination to the supreme court for a seat that will not be filled during the remainder of president obama's term. knowing that they won't be confirmed and there's no guarantee that even if a member of the same political party as the president is elected president next year. there's no guarantee that that same person will be renominated.
so i likened the nomination process and confirmation process to a pinata, which is only to say that the confirmation process around here has gotten pretty tough. but i'm not going to be preached to by the democratic leader or by democrats who have been responsible for filibustering judges, creating a new verb in the english language -- "borked" -- when they blocked robert bork's appointment to the united states supreme court, when the democratic leader invokes the nuclear option, breaking the senate rules for the sole purpose of packing the d.c. circuit court of appeals with like-minded judges. -- so -- so that the president wouldn't have to worry about judges who might question his
overreaching authority of the constitution by issuing executive orders or otherwise circumventing the role of congress. this is a play book that has been written by the democratic leader and our colleagues across the aisle. do they expect us to operate under a different set of rules than they themselves advocated for? here's what senator reid's successor in the democratic caucus said in 2007. this was 18 months before president george w. bush left office. senator schumer, the senator from new york, said "for the rest of this president's term, 18 months, we should reverse the presumption of confirmation." i don't know what he's talking about. there never was a presumption of confirmation. but i guess he's assuming the deference some people show when the president does nominate a supreme court justice. we haven't seen much of that lately. this is what senator schumer
goes on to say. "i'll recommend to my colleagues we should not confirm a supreme court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances." essentially what senator schumer was saying was 18 months before president george bush left office, if there was a vacancy created, they would presume not to confirm that nominee. of course we know that vice president biden back in 1992, when he was chairman of the senate judiciary committee, said -- quote -- "the senate judiciary committee should seriously consider, should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over. thank you. this is what vice president joe
biden said in 1992. i see the distinguished chairman of the judiciary committee here on the floor, and i want to tell him how much i appreciate his steadfastness in supporting the decision that we have made collectively to allow the voters in november who choose the next president a voice in who is actually nominated to fill this important vacancy. and i wasn't in the room with chairman grassley and majority leader p mcconnell were there with the vice president and the president, senator leahy, the ranking member, and then harry reid, the democratic leader. but i've heard that the question came up, how can you do this? how can you not allow president obama to fill this vacancy? and i heard that it was pointed out to the president, to the vice president, to the ranking
member, and to the democratic leader that they were the ones who filibustered judicial nominees by a republican president. they are the ones that have created this environment in which what used to be fairly routine confirmation hearings have become so polarized. and, again, it would be foolish of us, i believe, to say, well, this is the policies that democrats when they're in the majority will employ when there's a republican president. but somehow to act aghast or surprised when we would say, well, if the rules are going to apply to you like this, then they ought to apply when republicans are in the majority and we have a democratic president. so now at the end of a lame-duck democrat president's time in the white house, all three of these
individuals -- the vice president, the democratic leader senator reid, the heir apparent to the democratic leadership, senator schumer -- all three of them are quick to criticize republicans on the judiciary committee insisting that different principles ought to apply. but that's hypocritical. it's the height of hypocrisy, saying, well, one set of rules apply to us and a different set of rules apply to you. but this is more than just about hypocrisy. this is really about an important principle. it's important to allow the voters in choosing the next president of the united states, make that decision and make sure their voice is heard rather than just 100 members of the senate. i don't know why that should be objectionable. so it's pretty clear to me, it's absolutely clear to me that senate republicans stand firmly behind the idea that the people should have a say in this
critical issue before or when they vote in november. because there is a lot at stake here. a lot. depending on who ultimately fills this vacancy next year, the next supreme court justice could tip the ideological direction of the court for a generation. for a generation. justice scalia served for 30 years. and thus, fundamentally reshape american society in the process. and given president obama's previous supreme court nominees, the question before the american people is whether they want someone with the same or similar ideology to dramatically change the current balance on the supreme court. because if president obama were allowed to nominate someone who were confirmed in the same mold as those he has already nominated and who have been confirmed, it would for a
generation change the ideological balance of the united states supreme court. and you have to wonder whether the real goal, much like it was when the nuclear option was invoked and we saw nominees to the district of columbia court of appeals, which some people call the second-most important court in the nation, when there was literally a packing of nominees on that court because they wanted to tip the ideological balance of the d.c. court of appeals. because most of the important legal decisions made which ultimately go to the united states supreme court go through that court. and i have no doubt in my mind that the president and his allies wanted somebody who was going to rubber stamp the president's actions. this court with justice scalia, i think has rebuked the president on numerous occasions when he overreached his authority, for example, on
recess appointments. we've seep an injunction granted by a district court in browns ville, texas, on the president's executive action on immigration, upheld by the court of appeals. the court often led by justice scalia has stood strong against attempts by the president to grab power for the executive branch, away from congress and, more importantly, from the american people. so at this critical juncture in our nation's history the american people should have a voice in deciding who selects the next justice on the supreme court. i and my colleagues are absolutely committed to making sure that they have that voice. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. murphy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut.
mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. i'm on the floor to speak on the same subject but before i do want to speak briefly to other subjects. first, a note, i notice online today that today would be dylan hockley's tenth birthday. dylan hockley was one of the 20 first graders that were gunned down in a flurry of bullets in sandy hook elementary school in december of 2012. dylan's mother, nicole, has become a crusader for this body to do something, anything, in the wake of that tragedy to lessen the possibility that it might visit another community. dylan was an amazing little kid, struggling with a fairly severe learning disability but loving every day that he went to school under the care of a great special education professional who died that day as well with dylan in that classroom.
dylan would have been ten years old today, in the three years since his death we've done nothing, absolutely nothing to honor his memory. second, mr. president, i want to just note that we are moving forward in the help committee on an important markup on a mental health bill senator cassidy and i have been working on for over a year and hope that it will eventually find its way to the senate and in some measure be a very partial answer, but an answer nonetheless, to this will epidemic of gun violence. we hope we'll be able to have that debate this year. but i would also note that we have a bill in the help committee that i think is a very important complement to the discussion we're having now on the opioid crisis across the country. my colleagues know there is a limit on the number of patients that providers can prescribe to
the most effective, least addictive of the heroin substitutes. as a physician, you can only take 100 clients to prescribe this drug. and if you're a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner, you're not allowed to prescribe. in connecticut, that's the biggest obstacle we have, is we don't have enough physicians who can prescribe this very effective drug and treat act, which is a bipartisan bill, removes that cap for physicians and allows for nurses with higher levels of training and p.a.'s to prescribe that drug as well. i would hope that the help committee will take up this bill as part of our markup next week. if it was up to me, we would include it as part of our mental health initiative and move it to the floor en bloc. the cara bill is really important this week, but let's be honest, there's no money in it. therethere's a bunch of new pros
but no new resources for us in connecticut to try to take on this fight. if we were to pass the treat act next week in the help committee and move it to the floor, that would be real tangible relief for communities in connecticut. it would mean more addicts coming out of detox would have access to true elements of recovery, in particular this very effective drug. and so i'm hopeful that the help committee will move on this bill next week, that we can bring it to the floor perhaps as part of this broader mental health package and in one fell swoop we can have some partial answer to the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country and a passage of the treat act or a version of it that, frankly, by itself might actually be more substantive than anything in the piece of legislation that's before us today. mr. president, i do want to spend just a few moments talking
about this crisis that is gripping the united states senate with respect to a vacancy that looks to remain for the next year on the supreme court. i've only been in the senate for three years. this is my first term, and i can't claim to hold any special status as a guardian of this institution which has stood the test of time for over 200 years. but i am a student of history, and i did choose to run to be a member of this body because of the enormous respect that i have for it and its unique role in the unique system of u.s. federal governance. and that's why i do believe that we are in a moment of crisis right now in which the republican majority is blocking president obama's constitutional responsibility to name a supreme court nominee, a ninth justice. i think this is a watershed moment for the united states senate, and i say that with a connection to a state that has had a particularly important
role in the creation of this body. right outside this chamber there is a relatively new painting above the door leading into the reception room of oliver ellsworth and roger sherman who remember delegates to the constitutional convention. they were the authors of what is referred to today as the connecticut compromise. roger sherman was the primary author of it. it's sometimes called sherman's compromise. this was the compromise that established the united states senate, established the premise that this body would be made up of two members from each state and that because of its six-year term, would be much more immune to the political tempest of the moment that often gribs -- grips the chamber down the road, that we would have the unique ability to rise above the partisan fray and make decisions that are in the best long-term interests of this country. frankly, that's been the best
traditions of this body, going back to the 1950's and 1960's when this senate led the fight to expand civil rights laws, or just two years ago when we were able to come together and pass an immigration reform bill with the presiding officer's leadership that i think will set the platform for resolving that issue in a commonsense way down the road. but the crisis that's gripping this place today, i fear, has no end because this new rule that's being established -- and i heard senator cornyn just talk about the ill wil ill illegitimacy toa nomination to the supreme court -- is one that will be difficult to unravel. if you accept that argument, then this senate will never again act on the nomination of a president in his second term.
a second-term president will be perceived, i suppose, by his lame-duck status to be illegitimate for the purposes of nominating justices to the supreme court, and by that argument likely illegitimate for purposes of nominating anyone to the supreme court, because he is a lame duck. and, thus, the people need to have their say in the next election. now, that's a radical transformation of the united states constitution and sets up perpetual crises in which for long stretches of time equally four years you will have eight or seven or six justicesment an- eight or seven or six justices. and so just simply accepting the senator by his word, we would be establishing a precedent for enormously long stretches of time the supreme court would have less than nine justices. this is about an unwillingness
to allow this president, a democratic president, to replace a justice on the supreme court while republicans are in charge. now, they say it is because it is the last year of his term or perhaps the last four years of his term, but if this really is simply about a democratic president replacing a justice on the supreme court who tended to be more conservative, then that precedent has no end either. i think republicans here are naive to believe that democrats wouldn't avail themselves of the same precedent at some point in the future and hold up nominees being offered by republican presidents. certainly, that's not our hope nor is it the stated intention of anyone on this side of the aisle. but once you cross that rubicon, i think it's very hard to come back. and you all of a sudden enter an
era in which there will be no senate that is willing to take up the nominee of a president of the opposite party. senator cornyn talked about how there's very little precedent for this. well, there's very little precedent because there are very few instances over the course of the last 100 years in which there has been a vacancy created in an election year. it's not because there is a history of senates blocking the replacement of the supreme court justice when a vacancy occurs in an election year. it is because the vincennes natureio -- it is because the ververy scenario we face has not acted. the only time a senate has not acted was, a, very lit in an election year and, b, with respect to the selection of a chief justice. the senate has taken action on every pending supreme court
nominee to fill a vacancy regardless of whether the nomination has been made in a presidential election year. over the course of our nation's history, there have been in fact 17 justices that have been confirmed in a presidential election year. and not since the civil war has it ever taken more than a year to confirm a nominee for a supreme court vacancy. the average, of course -- you've heard it over and over again -- has been 67 days from nomineeation to the final senate -- from nomination to the final senate vote. but what senate republicans are proposing is that this president, with over 300 days left in his term, will not even get the courtesy of a vote in the judiciary committee, never mind a vote on the senate floor; that this nominee will be rejected sight unseen. which is why all we think america is saying to senate
republicans is, just do your job. go through the hearing process, meet with the nominee, bring that nominee to a vote on the senate floor. there are lots of democratic senators that opposed clarence thomas when he was nominated, but that didn't stop him from allowing him to be brought to a vote on the senate floor. you can oppose this nominee once you take a look at their credentials, once you assess their suitability for the court, but do your job and show the respect for the institution of the presidency such that his choice will get at least a fair hearing in the judiciary committee and on the floor of the senate. and so i hope that as my two little boys start to learn more about the constitution, that the effect of our actions over the next year doesn't effectively
rewrite it and that pages need to be added to their textbooks to place caveats on the obligations of the president and the responsibilities of this body; that we don't all of a sudden create a new rule in which you only get a vacancy filled in the senate and the presidency happen to be of the same party or yo or you only gea vacancy filled when you make it in the first four years of your potential eight-year tenure. and lastly, mr. president, what i worry most greatly is the effect of this decision giving credence to the belief among some that this president is illegitimate. i don't think that's held by members of this body, but i do know that there are many in this country who don't recognize the legitimacy of this president. the and the way in which we -- and the wait in which we treat this office often gives purchase
to those arguments. you know, there's a standard of review that we've created for diplomatic agreements that we've never held previous presidents to. there is a furor over the executive actions taken by this president, even though previous presidents have taken similar executive actions, like on the issue of immigration, and have taken far more executive actions than this president has. and so i worry that by disrespecting the institution and not even allowing for meetings to be held between this nominee and members of the republican majority, that is we feed this belief that this particular president doesn't share the legitimacy of previous presidents. and so for all of those reasons, mr. president, i hope that we can just make a commitment to do our jobs and begin the process of considering the supreme court
nominee once the president makes this nomination. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. udall: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president, for the recognition. i semiconductor that privileges of the floor be grant -- i ask unanimous consent that privileges of the floor be granted to a member of my staff, lauren odius. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to talk about our drug crisis, the prescription drug crisis. every day someone in our nation dies -- a son, a daughter, a parent -- from a drug overdose. most are from prescription drugs, from opioid painkillers, drugs intended to bring comfort and too often bring tragedy.
oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxycontin -- we have an epidemic of these prescription drugs and the abuse of them. drugs that wreck lives, wreck families, wreck entire communities. in my home state of new mexico, we know this all too well. we have the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths. we are in a crisis, and it's getting worse. more new mexicans are dying from drug overdoses than ever before. it touches home, and it hits hard. one of those re-lost was a young man named cameron weiss. he was 18 years old, an athlete, a poet. then he became addicted to painkillers for the treatment of sports injuries. that led, as it often does, to heroin. within two years this promising young man, with his whole life ahead of him, was dead from an
heroin over--- overdose. his mom took her grief and put it to help for others. she founded a foundation to help other young people struggling with addiction. something tragic has to happen before change happens, she told tha albuquerque journal. when it comes to heroin, that tragedy happens all the time. most of us know young people like cameron. a similar story of another young life lost from heroin overdose was shared with me just last week. this young man's father, who visited my office, is a medical professional in new mexico, with all of the resources and knowledge available to him. he still was not able to prevent his son's tragic death last year at the age of 22. one of my own staff members who
was raised inia albuquerque lost four of his friends in high school. all four turned to heroin after abusing prescription drugs. one was his best friend, michael, whose life was cut short at 30 years old. we've seen this pattern time and again. a person becomes addicted to painkillers, then turns to another prescription or heroin, which is cheaper and ease certificate to get. it is a lethal combination and a downward spiral. we've all heard the numbers, and they are chilling. opioid-related deaths quadrupled nationally from 2002 to 2013. in 2014, nearly 40,000 americans died from prescription opioid and heroin overdose. more americans die each year from drug overdoses than from car crashes. addiction knows no boundaries of
race, of gender or background, but our hispanic and tribal communities in places like rio uriba county, more than five times the national average. this is year after year. just a few weeks ago, kotb reported on the toll that this is taking. generation after generation casting a long shadow over the beautiful espanola valley. a young man named ruf us said "growing up here, they'd say this was the heroin capital of the world l." end quote. for many prescription drug painkillers come first, then heroin comes later. according to kob, prescription groups report that 2 million opiate prescription were filled in 2014, double the number from
ten years ago. the abuse is so severe according to the sheriff, that "six and seven-year-olds are talk about grandma and grandpa being addicts. it is like a never-ending cycle." new mexico is on the ropes and so many other states are as well. i've listened to my colleagues from both sides of the aisle. the stories are heartbreaking. and, sadly, we are losing the fight. mr. president, this just is not about numbers. it's about families and communities torn apart and too often it is a story of looking for help and not finding it. we can change that, but it will take more than words, more thank -- more thanhandwringing and real money. rehab saves lives, not always. this is a tragedy all its own for some families.
but treatment certainly can't help when you can't get it. people are desperate, trying to get treatment, trying to get help. we see this every day, especially in rural states like new mexico. that's why we need to pass the comprehensive addiction and recovery act because this isn't just about addiction, it's about recovery, it's about giving hope to those who feel hopeless. i'm proud to cosponsor this bill and i want to thank senators whitehouse and shaheen for their leadership. cara will help states and local communities fight this battle for prevention, education, treatment, and law enforcement efforts. cara is a step forward, and we urgently need to move forward. we can't -- we can't keep falling behind. in spanish, c-a-r-a means "face." we should remember the faces, remember our loved ones. these are not just statistics.
that's why i've also introduced legislation to improve monitoring of prescriptions and for better referral of addicts to treatment services. it also directs the f.d.a. to review naloxone, which is an important lifesaving medication for over-the-counter use. mr. president, there's no doubt that we have a crisis. we can't just say what works. we need to pay for what works. our commitment has to be equal to the challenge, so i'm quite disappointed that last week we did not pass a key amendment for additional emergency funding. let's step up to the plate and get this done. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum, mr. president. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: mr. president, a couple of weeks ago a small agency in new york state took a very big and a step that i think is very l dangerous. the state board of regents said that it will start giving some illegal immigrants a license to practice medicine in the state of new york. now, this is a state agency that grants certificates and licenses for more than 50 different professionals, so you need this board's permission if you want to be a nurse in new york, a pharmacist, dentist or doctor and i think it's a terrible idea to grant licenses to illegal immigrants because doctors, den timpts, others are entrusted to
prescribe powerful medications and that's the point of the bill we're on right now. these include these very opioid pain killers we've been talking about the past few weeks. the senate right now is debating what we can do to help communities and families who are struggling with abuse of these drugs. i think a big part of the problem is that these powerful medications are just too widely available. and i can tell you that as somebody who has practiced medicine in wyoming for 25 years. i worry there are physicians and dentists who be maybe have been too free in prescribing opioids, very addictive medicines. there are pharmacists who maybe haven't been as careful as they could about making sure the drugs are used appropriately by people who come to pick up prescriptions and families across the country have been hurt by the use of these opioids including many in new york state itself. senator gym brand came to the -- gym brand came to the floor to talk about it. senator gillibrand talked about
opioids being overprescribed in new york. the question is why is new york state so eager to allow these drugs to be dispensed by people who we know already have broken the law? the legislation we're debating today tries to reduce the flow of opioids, to reduce the ways that they might be prescribed improperly. it includes language that would help states monitor and track prescriptions. that's a very important part of this legislation which i support. senator markey of massachusetts has actually offered an amendment that would do even more. it would tighten the process for registering people to dispense powerful drugs like these opioids. under the rules today, the drug enforcement drug enforcement administration registers doctors before it allows them to write prescriptions. senator markey's amendment says before anyone could get this registration they would have to complete additional training. we all want to make sure that people who have been handing out these medications can be trusted
to do it responsibly. we also have to be very careful about giving a prescription pad to someone who by history and maybe even their identity may be unclear. so i'm introducing an amendment to this comprehensive addiction and recovery act that will help us do this. this amendment actually takes the same approach as senator markey's does. it adds a simple requirement, a requirement that before the drug enforcement administration can register someone to prescribe and dispense these powerful addictive medications that this applicant must be able to prove that they are either a united states citizen or a legal resident. that's it. you know, there's actually a federal law already on the books that requires this. it was signed into law and passed by congress and signed by bill clinton in 1996. but there was a loophole in the law that allowed states, like
what new york is doing, states to come around later and exempt illegal immigrants from the requirement in their state. so new york is doing that right now through its board. you know, it's not the state legislature that's doing it in new york. it's not the citizens in new york who are doing it. they are not the ones who are saying they're willing to take a chance and loosen the standards of those who can prescribe these powerful addictive medications. this is being done and the decision is being made by a very small state agency acting on its own authority. i think thissing decision is much too -- i think this decision is much too important to be left to a small group of people in albany new york. i want to be clear this is not about immigrants. this is about the threat that comes from the misuse of opioid pain killers. it's about maintaining the standards of the law. my grandfather came to this country. he did it legally like millions of others. he followed the rules. he worked hard. he continued to obey the law.
we all know that this is a country of immigrants, and we know that america still proudly welcomes legal immigrants today. we also know that being a doctor is not like other jobs. when a patient goes to her doctor, she may literally be placing her own life in that doctor's hands. people need to have complete confidence that their doctor is ethical, honest, can be trusted with life-and-death decisions. so how can a patient have this kind of faith in someone who broke the law and is in the country illegally at this time? this action by the new york board of regents could seriously undermine the doctor-patient relationship and the trust that needs to be there. doctors are held to the highest possible standards. they need to be outstanding members of their community. in the state of new york, a doctor can actually lose their license if convicted of a crime. but what is it being in the country illegally? why would we nen give a license
to -- then give a license to someone who already knows that they have committed a crime by being in the country illegally? it makes no sense. as a doctor, i'll tell you these opioid medications are very powerful. they can be abused and they have been abused, especially if they fall into the hands of someone who is not up to the highest moral, professional and legal standards who is writing the prescription in the first place. we in congress have a responsibility to make sure that such dangerous medications can be given out only by people who meet the standards. i think it would set a terrible precedent if we allow people who are in this country illegally to begin prescribing these highly addictive drugs, but that's what new york wants to do. i don't think we can allow someone who has broken the law to serve as the gatekeeper for those potentially dangerous medications. we owe every american the peace of mind that the doctor treating their sick child is who that doctor claims to be and that
their doctor is in the country legally. the new york board of regents is ignoring, absolutely ignoring this important public health and public safety concern. if new york will not act to protect its people, then congress must. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: mr. president, i have eight unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and the minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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