tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN December 21, 2017 11:59am-2:00pm EST
illegally, he said, and i quote, we may never know the answer to that question. really? mr. president, this episode could almost be considered funny if the ramifications weren't so deadly serious. coback's voter fraud commission requested sensitive information about voters including the names, dates of birth, party registration and voting history from all 50 states. this is information that could lay the groundwork for disenfranchising scores of millions of eligible voters. which is why more than 40 states refused to comply with that request. at the same time the trump sessions administration dropped
the challenge further signaling protecting the right to vote will no longer be a priority of justice department, and it's all based on a lie. and not a lie president trump came up with. right-wing conservatives have been raising a false alarm about so-called voter fraud for years, despite the fact that no credible evidence has ever been produced demonstrating that it is a real problem. take the trump administration's attack on lgbt rights. these are lies, the lie that families led by a gay or lesbian couple don't provide a safe environment for children. the lie that allowing transgender people to use the appropriate bathroom opens the door to sexual assault. president trump didn't invent these lies, but he and his administration proudly repeat
them. take the attacks on science, especially climate science. we now have enough evidence to conclude that climate change is real and it's manmade and it is a threat to our nation's security and a threat to the planet. defense secretary mattis knows this, and yet for years so-called scientists funded by industry have been hard at work casting doubt on the well-established scientific consensus. a recent "washington post" report revealed that the trump officials have prevented our premier research health institution from using evidence based and science based in budget documents. president trump didn't launch the war on science, but now he's leading the charge. take health care. president trump promised that
everyone would have insurance. the analysis by the nonpartisan congressional budget office revealed that under the house republican health care bill, under their bill, 23 million fewer people will have health insurance than are currently covered today. to add insult to injury, the house bill would hit the most vulnerable among us. according to c.b.o. 14 million of the 23 million people who would have lost coverage under the house republican plan were medicaid beneficiaries. that's right. despite the candidate's assurances that, quote, everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they are now, unquote, they would have cut medicaid, a vital safety net that assures that
seniors, pregnant women, and families have access to the health care that they need. on top of that the republican plan would have be driven up the costs of premiums with older people experiencing the steepest increases. the health care debate has been predicated on highs -- lies, a lie that what planned parenthood does mainlly is abortions, the lie that the affordable care act is collapsing under its own weight when, in fact, the trump administration and republicans here in congress have been doing everything they can do to sabotage it. and then there's the tax debate. over the last year republicans have repeatedly claimed that they would advance policies designed to benefit middle-class families, not the wealthy.
president trump pledged not to forget the, quote, unforgotten men and women of our country. steech mnuchin promised that the -- steve mnuchin promised that any tax cuts for upper-income earners would be offset by getting rid of deductions that benefit the wealthy. that's what he said. let me quote secretary mnuchin. he said, quote, there will be absolute no tax cut for the upper class. but, again, madam president, 83% of the benefits in the republican tax bill go to the richest 1%. what he said just isn't true. even just the other day the white house press secretary claimed that president trump himself will pay more because of this bill.
you don't know for sure exactly what the effect will be on his finances because the white house refused to release the tax returns and claimed that he can't release them because they are under audit, but you can release your tax returns under audit. we know that tax bills for real estate developers like mr. trump and his family will save them millions and millions of dollars. i could go on and on. before i came to the senate i was known as something as an obsessive on honesty and public discourse. but as i leave the senate i feel -- i have to admit that it feels like we're losing the war for truth, and maybe it's already lost. and if that's the case, if that's what happens, then we have lost the ability to have
the kinds of argument that helped build consensus. and i see lamar alexander here. we have done that in the help committee -- in the help committee. thank you, mr. chairman, when we have done that. or at least help americans to make informed choices about the issues that affect their lives. what is to be done? who will stand up and fight for more honest debate? to insist that even though we have a different set of opinions, we cannot honorably advance our competing agendas unless we use the same set of facts. well, i hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will stand up for truth. the thing is i have spent enough time with my republican friends over the last eight and a half year to know that you are motivated by values just like democrats. i just hope that you will fight for those values forthrightly.
but at the end of the day it's going to be up to the american people, just like it's always been. we will always have the democracy we deserve, if not the government we want. it's going to take ordinary americans deciding to become more informed consumers of political news and opinion than deciding to be part of the argument themselves instead of just tuning out all the noise. and if they do, i know that we will get this country back on track. in october, 15 years after we lost paul, i took to the senate floor to remember him and celebrate his life. paul understood better than anyone i know the meaning and the power of publics, and i think -- publics and i think he would have a lot to say about where we find ourselves today. paul said, quote, politics is
not about power, politics is not about money, politics is not about winning for the sake of winning, politics is about the improvement of people's lives. even in the face of everything that is happening today, i still believe in paul's words. politics is about the improvement of people's lives. i know those words to be true because i know the american people believe in justice, equality, and opportunity, and i see evidence of that every day. i saw in january. more than four million people across the united states joined the women's march, standing in solidarity with their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives. i saw it later that same month after president trump issued an executive order seeking to ban travelers from muslim majority countries from entering our country when hundreds of lawyers responded to help and offer
their services to affected families. i saw it in may when a transgender boy in wisconsin who was discriminated by his school had the courage to take them to court and won. i saw it in september when tens of thousands of americans mobilized in opposition to attempts to repeal the affordable care act and succeeded in killing the bill. i saw it at the ballot box when voters in virginia and alabama resisted the temptation to give into anger and cynicism and instead exercise their right to vote. publics is -- politics is about the improvement of people's lives. the american people know that to be true and they fill me with hope for our future. thank you, madam president. ms. klobuchar: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota.
ms. klobuchar: madam president, if i could three minutes to talk about my colleague. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. klobuchar: madam president, you saw in senator franken's closing words here, the passion that he has for all the work that he has done in this chamber and for the people of our state, you saw the love he has for his family, for franni, and the love that he has for his stf, and they are not good -- staff. and they are not good staff, they are wonderful staff. when i think about the legacy that he will leave, one of them is that staff and the work he has done for veterans and health care with the medical loss ratio, one of the major achievements in the affordable care act, with the work he has done way ahead of his time for the lgbt, for the work he has done for his tribal communities. that was the number ask when he got to the senate was to be on
the indian affairs committee. that is not what other people ask for. he did that. the work that he did on bullying in schools for kids that had no one to have a voice, he gave them a voice, and the work that he did carrying on paul wellstone's work for those with mental illness. when i think about what i will miss about al, i will miss, first of all, how he defied expectations when he got elected. i think about all those headlines that i mentions in his book, that no matter what he did in the first few years in office, it will say things like al franken passes a bill, that's no joke, al franken gets elected, that's no joke. he defied ex expressations -- ex peck stations every day --
expectations every day. i remember the senators approaching him with bad jokes. another thing that i will always miss about al is the passion he had for his work. i think many people were captivated by the pointed questioning of witnesses and nominees in the last year, but it was that kind of focus that he took to all of his work when he would examine policies that he thought were good or bad, he never gave up on that. the other thing that i will greatly miss is sitting next to al in the judiciary committee where -- while he would do the serious work, he would never miss an opportunity to show me or senator durbin or senator whitehouse or anyone near him the latest pictures of his grandchildren and his family. or maybe the doodles that he did of senator grassley. the other thing that i will miss
greatly is the way that he would talk about paul wellstone, and today he managed to do it without crying, but so many times whenever he would talk about paul you would -- he would start to cry, and he would do it in private and he would do it in public because he understood the legacy that paul left behind and the burden that we have to carry it on. i know you heard in his last speech that when al leaves here, he will not be quieted in any way. his voice will be stronger than ever, and i think that last call of action that he left us with for a war in truth and truth in what we do and truth in politics is something that no one should forget in this chamber. it is one way that al's work
will live on. i will no longer be sitting next to him in judiciary, i know we will stay friends forever. thank you so much for your work, senator franken. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the assistant minority leader. mr. durbin: thank you. years ago a man aspired to be president. one of the leading political kol imnists said that his name stood for feather duster roosevelt. al franken's decision to run for the senate was met with the same sort of mockery. he's a median people -- comedian. he doesn't have the vision to be a lawmaker. you can't joke your way out of
the senate. the pundits were wrong about f.d.r. he was one of our greatest presidents during one of our darkest hours. madam president -- madam president, the doubters were al franken has been my personal friend for more than two decades. for the last seven years-plus, he has been my colleague in the senate, he has been a credit to the united states senate. a passionate advocate for his home state of minnesota, a defender of our constitution, and a determined fighter for justice. he became a better senator every year. his work in the senate has made life for millions of people better, in minnesota and far beyond. he and his dedicated staff can take pride in that fact. al franken has been, and i am sure will continue to be an effective champion for those whose daily struggles too often go unnoticed and unaddressed in the places of power.
and during his time in the senate, al franken has always been there when his senate colleagues ask for help. he was one of the most sought-after voices in our party. he never failed to pack a bag, catch a plane, and spend another night away from his family to help each and every one of us. 20 years ago, when i first met him, he was this well-known, successful comedian on "saturday night live" who happened to play the role of a fellow named paul simon, a senator from illinois who was my predecessor. paul simon invited al franken to come to mccand, illinois. it's not even close to chicago. and he agreed on a sunday afternoon to be there on behalf of my campaign, although we had never met. and he came. he limped onto paul simon's front porch, saying i twisted my ankle playing squash. i thought there is another
perfect example or reason he could have used to avoid this invitation, but he came anyway. we had a great afternoon and a terrific time with paul simon of "saturday night live" and the real paul simon and a senatorial candidate who was grateful for al franken's presence that day. mr. president, when people ask me to describe my politics, i say that i follow the gospel of st. paul. by that i mean i try to emulate three of my greatest political heroes who happen to share that name. the first, senator paul douglas of illinois, a champion of honesty, economic justice and civil rights, the man whom i had the good fortune of interning for when i was a college student. paul simon who i just mentioned, my predecessor from illinois. one of the smartest, most decent men i have ever met in any walk of life. and senator paul wellstone of minnesota, who has received many deserved tributes today. paul wellstone was a champion of
farmers and hotel maids, grocery clerks, cafeteria workers and everyone who works hard and struggles for dignity and enough money to just pay the bills. paul wellstone, as we have heard both from senator klobuchar and from al franken himself, is the man whom al franken chose to emulate in public life. as he said, paul wellstone's famous quote, we all do better when we all do better. a simple statement, a profound truth, and it's been the guiding light for al franken's senate career. senator wellstone died 15 years ago in a tragic plane crash. on the tenth anniversary of that terrible loss, senator franken wrote an essay about paul wellstone's legacy for "the atlantic" magazine. i want to read a short section from that essay. senator franken wrote one of paul's most famous quotes is this -- politics is not about power, it's not about money. it's not about winning for the sake of winning. it's about the improvement of
people's lives. that quote al franken said is often used to criticize those on the other side who seem to forget the human consequences of their political agenda, but progressives should keep it in mind as well. the big fights, war and peace, justice and liberty are important, senator franken wrote, but there aren't any small fights. where paul wellstone made the biggest impact, where his life resulted in the greatest improvement on people's lives was on issues that don't usually leave anyone's stump speech. mental health, domestic violence, homelessness among veterans. when future historians look bag at the legacy of senator al franken, i believe they will say here is a man who loved his state and his country, who worked hard to be a good senator, and who never hesitated to take up an important issue large or small. al franken and i served together on the senate judiciary committee, and over the years, i have watched him mature into one of the best, most insightful questioners on that committee. his questioning of supreme court
nominee gorsuch, now supreme court justice gorsuch, helped to expose the justice's troubling record of ruling against workers and families. it was a story about a truck driver who was in a deserted position on a roadway, freezing in the middle of the night, who finally got his day in court and the decision by judge gorsuch at the time. in my opinion, al's opinion, did not serve justice. many of us raised that issue. no one raised it more effectively than al franken. his probing questioning also exposed attorney general sessions for misleading america about his meetings with russians during the 2016 presentation campaign. he has been equally effective on the help committee. his questioning of future secretary of education betsy devos showed her to be unfamiliar with some of the most basic and important debates in educational policy and clearly
exposed the fact that she was unready to serve as our nation's leader of the department of education. i guess some people will seek elected office to make a name for themselves, but al franken didn't need to be a senator to achieve that. he already had a well-known name as an entertainer, radio host, and best-selling author before he entered politics. he and his wife franny had a good life, two great kids, and great -- wonderful children, grandchildren to follow. terrific is the word. he is always there to help me. terrific is the word of the grandchildren who would follow. when it came down to it, though, al franken wanted to do more than just entertain and more than be well known. he wnd to make a difference in the lives of others. more than anyone, as he said this morning, his wife franny inspired him. as he explained in his book, her family wasn't as lucky as a lot of us. her dad died when she was a young baby girl.
her mom raised five kids, did it on social security survivor benefits and a paycheck from a local supermarket. but every member of franny's family made it to the middle class because of social security, pell grants, the g.i. bill, and title 1 of the elementary and secondary education act. as al writes, and i quote, they tell you in this country you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. it's a great quote, al, and it deserves to be repeated. al went on to say, we all believe it, but first you have got to have the boots, and the federal government gave franny's family the boots. opportunity is supposed to be for everyone. that's one of the articles of faith emanating everything that al franken has done or sought to achieve in the senate. i'm going to miss my friend, al franken, my colleague and one of my fellow members of the senate judiciary committee. i am sorry that he's leaving under these circumstances, but he is going to be remembered, and he's going to have an opportunity to use his voice for others in the future. every person who has ever lived
has had moments they wish they could erase and words that they wish they could take back. in this life of both calm and stormy seas, we all draw strength from the healing power of redemption, and we can take heart in the knowledge that tomorrow is another day, with new opportunities to offer a helping hand and make our lives count. i'm happy to hear al franken say that while he may be giving up the senate, he's not giving up his voice in public life. i want to wish al, franny, and their great family the very best and thank them again for what they have given to all of us. madam president, i yield. mr. whitehouse: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: may i ask to speak for three minutes on behalf of my departing friend? the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: senator franken will shortly go on to his next chapter, which i hope will be
wonderful for him and for franny and for their family. i hope and believe that he leaves us with everyone's goodwill here in the senate. he certainly leaves with mine. al franken has been an unusually good senator, in part because he has such a good staff. and he has also to me been an unusually good friend, particularly in this hard town where you are supposed to buy a dog if you want a friend. we served together on the help and judiciary committees where he did great committee work. he stood out particularly for his talent on judiciary without even being a lawyer. i will miss him. the senate will come to miss him, too, i expect. he is a lot of things that you
want in a senator -- principled, innovative, hardworking, super smart, bipartisan, generous, caring. things will be different around here without him. it will be quieter on the floor without his big, bursting laugh. we will miss his presence on personal privacy issues, on monopoly power issues, on forced mandatory arbitration and championing lgbt kids where he has real passion and expertise. senate hearing witnesses who have been up to no good will breathe a lot easier knowing they won't have to face al
franken's pointed questioning. the senate secret santa, a franken legacy, that will probably continue. selfishly, i will miss franni's amazing homemade pies. as my friend departs, i am left at this difficult moment with this thought -- that i have been fortunate in the senate to have had a colleague to whom it is so hard to say goodbye. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: madam president, back in 2007 and 2008, a group
of us who had never run for congress or for the senate jumped into campaigns against an
incumbent in this body, hoping to fight for a vision of government of, by, and for the people. al franken was one of those individuals taking on an incumbent republican, norm coleman, and as i heard him on the campaign trail, i heard what we heard today in his speech -- a willingness to fight for that vision so embodied in our constitution of government that would provide a foundation for families to thrive, that would lift everyone up, not a government of, by, and for the privileged. not a government of, by, and for the powerful. it takes a lot of guts to throw yourself into the political world, but because he
did and because he won that campaign, we were able to advance a number of policies. and i must say that i shared
with al the experience not only of running against an incumbent republican but of not having results on election night. however, i only had to wait two days. i didn't have to wait the many months that he did to come and be part of this body. because he came, we were able to pass the affordable care act. my home state of oregon went from 15% uninsured to 5% uninsured. hundreds of thousands of people gained access to health care through the expansion of medicaid and through the health care exchange made affordable by the tax credits provided by that bill. in that bill, we were able to provide free preventative health care practices, and we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but we embodied that in the health care world. in that bill, we fought for
folks to be able to stay on their parents' policies to age 26. in that bill, we fought to say that if you have preexisting conditions, you wouldn't have to pay any more than anyone else would, creating the opportunity for health care for millions of people who thought they would never have a chance to have an insurance policy again. al franken threw himself into public life, won that campaign, made that happen, not just for the folks back home in minnesota, but for people across this entire nation. another such battle was the dodd-frank battle. again i doubt we would have been able to win that battle without him coming to share in that effort. i think about the fact that we had seen so many millions of families devastateed by predatory mortgages with exploding interest rates, interest rates that, upon presentation, started at 3% or 4%, but then two years later would jump to 9% or 10%, and a
family would end up in foreclosure. and the fact that we had wall street writing securities based on those mortgages that then disintegrated in 2007, 2008, and caused not just people to lose their homes but to lose their jobs, to lose their retirement, to be incredibly devastated to see their lifetime's work to become financially stable evaporate, destroyed, exploded. that cfpb portion has given ongoing efforts to take on predatory mortgages to be able to have families thrive, to have homeownership be a dream of homeownership and not a nightmare of homeownership. this, again, is a bill that passed because al franken threw himself that too that battle.
i -- the employment non-discrimination act -- senator kennedy asked me to take on and carry the torch to that bill which was a huge honor to me as an in-coming freshman, and i felt he was on my shoulder every day saying, why haven't you gotten it done yet? in 2013, i had been pushing hard for leader to get -- leadership to get it on the floor, and i thought what if we lost, but because al was here helping in that fight, we won that bill. we did not win it in the house because it wasn't put on the floor in the house. so it's unfinished business, fighting for equality. i know, as we heard today, as we heard al in his campaign in 2008 and as we heard al on the floor today, we have heard this fight
for a country of, by, and for the people. i know that we're going to hear his voice in that fight for many years to come. so, senator franken, thank you for being willing to put yourself in the public world, to fight for bill after bill that made life better for americans and better for americans in the years to come. thank you. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: will be the senator withhold? will the senator withhold? mr. merkley: yes. the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: madam president, we are quickly approaching the end of this year and i think it's a good time to reflect on what has been done this year. certainly the senate and the
trump administration have been able to do a number of things that are really going to have a significant impact for hardworking families. yesterday we sent the most significant tax reform legislation in more than three decades to the president's desk, had a chance to hear the president and others respond to that. i think the fact that the president at the end of that ceremony at the white house turned to the congress and said this is the work that you have done, and i think the members of congress appreciated that and showed a president who is constantly learning and constantly understanding how important relationships are here. i thought it was interesting, madam president, that we heard chairman brady, the chairman of the house ways and means committee said that there were three dates about to occur for america's economy and america's family, one was january 1, when
the new tax bill goes into effect and the wages that people are earning will allow more of their earnings to stay in their bill fold rather than the government's bill fold. january 1 is important. february 1, by then that's the time we hope all the new information is out to employers, and people are going to see in their february check more money than they saw in that same-sized check this year going home with them. this is about who is a better person to spend your money, you or the government, it's also a debate about whether the government is better off with higher taxes or more taxpayers, and, of course, better off with more taxpayers. and chairman brady said the other date is april 15 because that's the last time in the foreseeable future that families are going to have to deal with a tax code that they don't
understand, that they believe to be unfair, that they believe does not treat everybody equitably in how that code is applied. many of the special provisions will be out of the tax code. next april 15, probably nine out of ten taxpayers would have filled out an income tax form on a card about this big and for nine out of ten taxpayers, they are going to look at double the personal exemption from this year, that's $24,000 if you're a mared couple that you just subtract immediately, double the child tax credit up to $2,000. somebody said to me just yesterday said, you mean my son with his three children will be able to takes $6,000 off of whatever that tax bill will be
at the bottom of that form? the answer is yes. and if they didn't have that total at the bottom, that $6,000, those families get a credit to allow them to take money for other taxes they paid and take that home with them. so after a decade of historically low growth, a decade that defies virtually the entire of the -- the history of the country going back to 1789 where 3% has been the normal growth, less than 3% growth has been the norm, and now it looks like we may exceed 7% and get back to where the economy should be growing, and i think with the new tax bill we may exceed that. and most of people's concerns about a lot of the things in this bill will go away when the economy starts growing again.
buying power, almost 3% lower for families this year than it was in the 1990's. now, their wages may have gone up between now and the 1990's, but prices have gone up more, and it's time, madam president, to get our economy growing again and let families have more of the money that they've earned to spend on their family. if you're a family of four earning about $73,000 this year and $73,000 next year, next year your -- your tax is going to be $2,000 less than it is this year. if you're a single parent with one child earning $41,000 next year your tax will be $1,300 less than this year. i heard it on the senate floor by some that a few hundred
dollars a month won't matter, well, that's clearly somebody who doesn't know what $1,300 a month will matter. the bill will also provide missouri families and other families more jobs and more opportunities because we will be more competitive. we will have move our corporate tax rate -- it won't be the lowest, but it won't be the highest in the world. it will be in the middle. 20% is right in the middle of the countries that we compete with, at the time that 35%, but every other country has figured out that gives you a competitive disadvantage and they've all lowered their taxes as our corporate tax stayed the same. we are restoring our competitive decision and we are hoping --
and go ahead and trap the money that's overseas, whether it comes back or not. so i think it's safe to assume that somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 trillion will come back into our economy. there is more u.s. money overseas that would like to come home but wasn't going to come home if you took 35% out of it than any time before. there is more u.s. capital -- capital in this country than on the sidelines than any time before. you put that money into the economy, you put that $2 there will or so dollars into the economy, you make us the bes, safe -- best, safest, most predictable place in the world to invest money, and foreign investment in our economy, not their economy, will increase, and it's time for that to happen. this tax code will increase take-home pay immediately and make us more competitive and have jobs that pay more in the
future. you know, the rolling back of red tape, one of the reasons that our economy is growing fast ter than it has in a -- faster than it has in a decade, is that people have seen the regulatory overreach, more importantly, the president saw the regulatory overhere, the house and -- overreach, and the house and senate saw the overreach. other regulations like the totally ridiculous power rule that was proposed that in my state would double the utility bill in less than 12 years is not going to happen now. the waters of the u.s. that would have suddenly put the e.p.a. in charge of anything involving water is not going to happen now. the 50-plus percent increase -- the $52 billion increase in
getting something started that was the anticipated cost of waters of the u.s. is not going to happen now. chairman isakson was on the floor earlier, chairman of the veterans committee, talking about what we've done with our leadership. the veterans choice act allows veterans to get the care where they wanted rather than to be stuck in a system, whether veterans got care or not, it was more about the veterans administration than the veterans and competition and choice is in the process of ending that with good leadership at the v.a. administration being sure that happens. we were able to pass a bill that i sponsored, the high vets act, that is being implemented right now that hires vets, promote vets, give vets credit for the skills they learn in the military, and the department def labor has worked hard to put
that on fast forward and get that done. in the military, the military stability act means that families, for the first time, have the opportunity that they always hoped to have for the family to move a little earlier or stay a little longer if that works for education purposes or the spouse's education or career purposes. this is a step -- dramatic step, appreciating the fact that the strength of the military is in military families. we recruit generally in the military single adults, we retire from the military spouses and children. we are never perfect, but that's why we come back for the next session. there are things that could have been done better but there are so many things that have happened that haven't happened in a generation. i'm eager to go home and talk
about those. as i was on the radio yesterday morning and this morning doing this already. i know my colleagues are ready to. madam president, i would yield the floor. mrs. capito: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mrs. capito: thank you, madam president. i want to thank my colleague from missouri for highlighting a lot of the good work over this past year in the senate, touching on some highlights, i think, particularly in the veterans area that has a great impact across the country, something that we all joined together compassionately wanting to help our veterans and wanting to make sure that they get the
best care in the best way as quickly as possible, and i appreciate him highlighting that. i wanted to highlight the positive change that this republican majority has brought to the american people in the first year of president trump's administration. i'm going to talk about a few different things from my colleague from missouri, and you would expect that. i come from the state of west virginia and certain policies impact us differently, and so i think that's why having a time to talk about our accomplishments over the past year give us the ability to do. but i can't begin without talking about one of the biggest and boldest actions that we have taken this week and that is our pro-growth tax reform bim. throughout the -- bill. throughout the process i traveled across the state and heard from constituents, friends, and strangers about this effort. not only in the beginning did they realize what a difference this will make in your life, but
as my colleague said, when you move through this year and you start to see your paycheck change and bringing home more money because your rate went down or you begin to file in april and realize this is the last time i have to file this complicated thing, i'm going to be able to make it easier on mief. so families -- myself. so families, businesses and workers are counting on this relief. we also in west virginia, particularly i would like to highlight when asked how is this really going to help the bulk of the people in the middle-wage earning folks, middle-wage earning families. i like to highlight the fact and my state in particular, 83% of our tax filers don't take itemizations. they file with the standard ededuction. that's doubled now, doubled. double the child tax credit, as the gentleman from missouri
said. it goes right to the heart of the middle wage earning family, trying to make ends meet at the end of the day. so their predictions -- and we feel certain with the doubling of these deductions and this credit, that more people will file on a smaller form and also push that number maybe to over 90%. this year we also delivered on significant regulatory reforms, especially in the energy realm which is absolutely impactful in my area of the country. under the congressional review act, the senate has repealed 14 of president obama's very onerous regulations. i led the effort to enact a c.r.a. to fix the burdensome stream protection rule. that rule really threatened what was left of a coal region in our -- industry in our region. i kept say, let's balance this, let's balance this. under scott pruitt's leadership,
the e.p.a. has repealed the clean power plan, another onerous regulation with minimal benefit. we can do it better and i believe in this we will. for years i asked the obama administration, and madam president, we served on the same committee, asking the e.p.a. come to my state and see what the impacts are of the rules and regulations that you're putting forward. they never came. they never came. so several weeks ago this year the e.p.a. finally answered my calls and came to the state of west virginia, the state capital, charleston, west virginia, to listen to both sides of those who will be impacted by any regulations that the e.p.a. puts forward. we also reformed waters of the u.s. or the wotus rule which has severe impacts not only the mining community but particularly the agriculture community and other industries in and around this country. many parts of west virginia continue to feel the impact of
the devastating floods we suffered a year ago june. so with my service on the appropriations committee, i worked diligently with others to ensure that our community needs are met. that's the great thing about this country, and i know texas certainly and florida and other areas as they -- puerto rico, weave through these devastating weather-related and natural disasters, while all the sadness is occurring and all the destruction that you see, the one thing you'll appreciate is the ability for us to come together and help one another. i mean, the first person i met when i was going to see the floods had traveled five and a half hours with their church to come and help those who had been flooded out of their homes. so on the appropriations committee we were able to get more funding for damage to roads and other property and individuals so that west
virginians could get back to work and provide for their families. i also focused my efforts on ensuring that our state had the resources that it needs to night back against the continued devastation wrought by the epidemic. the c.d.c. either today or yesterday came out with a report and had a graph on it that showed the lines and different age groups on the number of deaths because of opioids. i mean, madam president, every line was going up. every line was going up. the state of west virginia has been particularly hard hit with this. we have the highest rate of opioid drug overdose deaths than any state per hundred thousand in any state in the union. so i worked with c.m.s., the new c.m.s., to try to help secure a medicaid waiver that would allow west virginians to expand substance abuse use treatment and also services for medicaid
members, expanded the ability for treatment to be offered to folks who have medicaid. i partnered with officials from the office of national drug control policy to hear directly from west virginians at a round table. we had the chief of staff also participated in roundtables at the white house. in honor of a west virginian, we saw the passage of jesse's law. it bolsters our fight by requiring h.h.s. to develop standards for hospital psz and health professionals about after patient's history with addiction. jesse grubb admitted she was addicted when she was in the hospital. she wasn't in the hospital for addiction issues. she admitted she had an addiction problem. she left with opioids. she didn't live another 24 hours. in her honor, senator manchin and i have worked hard to make sure it doesn't happen to another family. as west virginia continues to be ground zero for this epidemic, i won't stop my work for those who are suffering, including looking
at innovative solutions like we have at lily's place in huntington for the babies born drug exposed, again, an innocent victim of those rising lines i saw in the charts that the c.d.c. put forward. we've been working with law enforcement to make sure they have the tools they need to administer emergency assistance to those who may be overdosing, or build on telehealthpro ject -- projects that can help with substance abuse treatment. i always said we need a spectrum of solutions. as we look back, we've done a lot. as we look forward we have to do more. the problem is getting worse. we've also made i think tremendous success and impact in our quest to connect west virginia. i created a program called capito connect that would move high-speed internet connectivity into the rule parts of our country, into places like west virginia that are underserved. so through capito connect and my
go act, we've seen accelerated broadband access in west virginia certainly but in rural america. i was able to work with the usda to get our local communities a consortium to secure a usda loan to be able to move broadband to 9,000 more west virginiaians. so working with other agencies, not just moving on broadband but economic development projects. we've seen impacts in 45 of the 55 counties that i represent, but also be able to create an associated 1,400 jobs. so federal grants like these help not only our communities but our universities like marshal and west virginia university that provide great benefits to our communities. so these are tangible achievements over the last year, both more global as the tax reform, more local as in broadband deployment. the senate also plays an important role by giving advice
and consent on president trump's nominations and confirming them. this year republicans made significant progress to shake the judiciary and most certainly starting with the confirmation of our supreme court justice neil gorsuch. his strong record and straightforward approach are just what we expect from a supreme court justice, and i was proud to vote for his confirmation this year. we've also confirmed 12 circuit judges, the highest number during a president's first year since 1891. i'm pleased to say as of yesterday, we had confirmed both of our u.s. attorneys in the state of west virginia. i'm very grateful for that because this fight against opioid has to have the u.s. attorney's help, has to have the u.s. attorney's aggressive, not only law enforcement but also helping with treatment. this year i'm proud we've addressed a lot of america's concerns. we've tackled challenges head-on and delivered real results. i'm proud president trump's administration are listening to the needs of small states like
mine, west virginia, and working with me to deliver that relief. it's been an honor for me to host some cabinet members in the state of west virginia. didn't see that over the last eight years. secretary perry, secretary of energy, secretary mnuchin, secretary of the treasury, and also the secretary of labor. we went on a coal mine tour with secretary acosta. this helps them see the kinds of ups and downs of life in rural and central -- our central united states in appalachia in particular. so we've got lots we've got to do. we've got lots on our plate. i think it's always this time of year in my personal life, i look to look back at some of the great things that we've accomplished as a family or for those that i love or some of the things that have happened to us that maybe haven't been quite as good as we would have hoped. i also take this time to be grateful, to be a grateful person, to be a grateful
american, to be a grateful west virginian that we're so blessed with where we live and how we live and the bounty of our friendships. but i also take the time to look forward to what we're going to be able to do. so when i see tax reform kicking in next year in 2018, that's what i'm going to be looking forward to for so many hardworking west virginians, so many hardworking small business owners, so many people who have been waiting for years, decades in some cases for the kind of reform that we put forward. so with that i would like to yield back my time but first i would just like to say that i'm grateful to be serving with the two members that are in here with me today and wish everybody here and everybody who's listening in this country a very wonderful holiday season. tank you. mr. inhofe: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: let me just comment on this, on the senator from west virginia. one of the problems we have
right now is during the last administration, it was a war on fossil fuels but a war also -- which includes coal and nuclear also. some of the damage is already done. unfortunately, we can't come in with a ready fix now and assume -- because a lot of the generators out there had done field switching out of coal. you can't switch it back. so i'd say it was help coming not quite on time but nonetheless it's here now. let me just mention something that's very significant to me personally. i remember it was two years ago today i picked up the "u.s.a. today" and the "u.s.a. today" they singled out my state of oklahoma and said we're not treating our veterans right. and we were in shock at that time. in fact, the article detailed some really appalling things that were going on and were not going on in my state of oklahoma, and there are things that the inspector general reports during the obama
administration we had no way of knowing it. and our veterans -- we seem to have more per capita of veterans in oklahoma. one of the reasons we have five military establishments and oklahoma is a great place to live so a lot of them retire there. so they were not getting the help they need and were not getting the treatment to the highest standards that were available. and this isn't how we take care of veterans in oklahoma. so senator lankford and i and two of the house members got to work on this thing and talked to regional v.a. veterans administration leadership. and we talked to the veterans. we talked to whistl whistle-blod identified three key problems that we needed to fix. this is interesting because these are three problems in my state of oklahoma, but they'd be the same thing in nebraska or any other state because it's not just in our state of oklahoma. the first one was the v.a. couldn't fire bad employees. you know, this is always a
problem. you go into an organization. you find that things are not doing very well because there's one or two bad employees and yet it takes you a year before you're going to be able to get rid of these people. and despite having identified, it takes forever to terminate an employee. well, we fixed that in the summer -- this past summer when president trump signed the v.a. accountability act that included our language to allow the secretary of veterans affairs to immediately fire employees for misconduct or for poor performances. that was successful. we did it. that's history. and i have to say that during president trump's administration so far, he has used this firing authority for over 500 bad actors from the v.a. we're finally creating a culture of accountability in the v.a., which is really having positive results. now, that's the first reform.
the second one, too many veterans were forced to receive care from v.a. facilities that were hours away or didn't provide specialized care. now, this is a problem. a lot of these veterans, they don't have the capability of being able to move around and yet the care they -- and get the care they need. so they didn't have the choices. so we actually had to make a change and we did. we worked with the president and reauthorized a bipartisan v.a. choice program. now, the v.a. choice program was great because it allowed our veterans to actually have -- in those hard to reach areas, to get the high quality of health care regardless of where they had to travel to get it done. that was a success. then finally, after the "u.s.a. today" article, we requested and accredited third-party look at the problem at our v.a. facilities because the previous
reports from the obama veterans affairs inspector general failed to identify these as problems. they denied it. just like any bureaucracy, they don't like someone looking over their shoulder. so they said they were not going to allow a third-party accompany, the v.a. to look into the problem you have. some people are not aware of this, in the senate when there's someone who's nominated, we can put a hold on them and not allow them to go through confirmation, at least for a long period of time. at that time the president, our current president, had nominated a person to be the, the attorney general of that, of the veterans administration. we just put a hold on him until they agreed to allow someone to come in and monitor the evaluation that the v.a. was doing of their own bureaucracy
in oklahoma. and that worked except the problem with that is that was just a onetime authorization. we needed to do it for, make that a permanent part of our structure. i'm pleased to say that we did that when we signed the enhancing veterans care act, it permanently granted the visin, one of the director levels of the v.a., and the medical center directors the authority to request at their request an outside oversight in order to evaluate what they've done. it's just been very, very successful. it's important for the regional directors to have the authority because they have the best idea of the reality of care at their facilities. i appreciate the work of my colleague, senator james lankford, congressman mullen and congressman steve russell. it turned out to be a real good team. we were able to get these things done. and we're ready to, already
starting to see real progress in improving the veterans care in oklahoma and across the country. because as we are improving the system we had in oklahoma, that same system can be approved in nebraska or any other state. so we need to get our v.a. facilities from their current ratings to the highest standard. the highest standard rating is five stars. we're now up to three stars in oklahoma. we were at one star when we first discovered this problem on that fateful day two years ago today. the article in the "usa today." president trump will continue to be an important partner for oklahoma as we continue to improve our veterans care. his commitment to our veterans is only matched by his commitment to serve his members and our national security. you can't really segregate out and say we're going to take care of our veterans activities and
still say we're not going to allow our country to have the national security they fought so hard for. we saw that earlier this week when the president outlined his national security strategy, charting a new course for american foreign policy, leaving behind the failed policies of the obama administration. with his national security strategy, president trump has been clear he's committed to protecting the homeland, promoting american prosperity and advancing peace through strength. ever heard of that before? peace through strength. i'm one of the few old enough to remember the great president we had that talked about peace through strength and he had to rebuild a military after the carter administration that was actually as bad, or downgraded as our military as begun from the last administration. he asserted america's leadership in the free world, and we saw how under president obama military was forced to divert resources for priorities that
weren't even about defending america. he used the military to advance his liberal agenda. this led to wasteful spending on what they call the green navy, the green bullets, the idea that climate change was the largest threat to our national security. all that's changed and not a moment too soon. president trump is focused on what matters, rightfully taking out things like just worrying about climate change as opposed to rebuilding our military. and he is building at a very rapid rapist right now. we passed -- very rapid rate right now. we passed the bill, the defense authorization bill and made a great start on this. when the president came to office, our military was facing a readiness crisis. americans didn't really understand this. they didn't know. they had not been told this. we had a biased media that didn't allow this information to get out. as an example, our air force today right now is short 1,500
pilots, and 1,300 of those are actually fighter pilots. only 50% of the air force squadrons are trained and ready to conduct all their assigned missions. you have to repeat that. only 50% of our air force squadrons are trained and ready to defend america. the navy is the smallest and least ready it's been in year. they currently can only meet 40% of the demand from original commanders in the field, including only enough personnel to man six and a half of our nine-carrier air wings. a carrier air wing is something that a lot of people are not familiar with. it's approximately 75 combat aircraft, a carrier air wing. currently we have manned only six and a half wings and are 8,000 sailors short. this is an air wing. they have f-18's. they have e-a-18's.
they have f-35. the c -- they have c-2-a's. only a little more than half are ready. more than half the navy's f-18's are grounded because they are awaiting maintenance or lack of necessary parts. if you look at our marines, our mawrns are using f-18's and 62% of the f-18's won't fly. people are shocked when they find out about it. it's because we don't have the spare parts. we're getting busy on that and we're going to make sure that we correct these problems. the army has said only about a third of their brigade combat teams and one-fourth of their air aviation brigades and one half of their division headquarters are ready. a brigade combat team consists of seven battalions, 4,500
students. i wish i had time to come up with a chart on this, but this, the carrier wings, it's one that is, one that is absolutely necessary to get to full strength, and we plan on doing that. faced with the most dangerous threats i've seen in my lifetime, there are critical gaps in our military. we can simply not accept. i often say that i look back whistfully at the good old days of the cold war where we had two super powers, and the super powers were -- we knew what they had. they knew what we had. it's totally different now. you have countries like north korea who have demonstrated that they have the capacity now to reach an american city. we learned that on the 28th of november when they actually demonstrated that range with one of our continental united states cities. they tried to give us a little bit of comfort in saying we don't know that they would be
able to carry a warhead. we don't think they have the capacity to do that. we don't know that. that's not much comfort. they say they don't have the capacity to be accurate of reentry because of what a missile has to go through on reentry, that's not very comforting. the ndaa, the bill we passed, the president signed into law will be a big step in correctin the readiness shortfalls. i look forward to continue to work with him on this critical process. we have a committee that's already having hearings about the problems that we're having. we had one actually in the subcommittee hearing that i chair just this week. so we're busy correcting these problems. meanwhile back to our v.a. problems in oklahoma, we put two great new directors in the v.a. clinics and have a level of veteran care oklahoma is proud of. and only yesterday president trump signed the enhancing veterans act to ensure that we
continue to give our veterans the best care. they deserve it and they're going to get it. at the same time we're going to restore and rebuild the military as our nation's number-one priority. our troops deserve it, and they're going to get it. with that, i yield the floor. mr. scott: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. scott: thank you, mr. president. this week we took an amazing step towards helping middle-class families, working-class families by passing the first significant tax reform package in a generation. i wanted to take a few minutes to thank a lot of folks for their efforts, hard work and dedication to this process. at the member level, both leader mcconnell and chairman hatch did amazing work leading us through this process. i also had the privilege of working as part of the core four with pat toomey, john thune and rob portman over the past year developing this bill. and those three guys are some of the hardest-working members we
have. i also want to thank marco rubio for his dedication to improving the child tax credit as well as mike lee and ivanka trump. we were able to include my investing and opportunity act as a part of the legislation. this is legislation that will help distressed communities throughout the country. more than 15 million americans today live in those distressed communities and the investing and opportunity act can usher in trillions of dollars of investment to improve the quality of life and to create a spark in some of the most challenging areas in our country economically. i want to thank my house sponsor of the bill, pat tebury and democratic cosponsors, cory booker and ron kind. we could not have the gotten
this far without the hard work and dedication of the finance committee staff. i want to thank in particular jay, mark, jeff, and jen, as well as the entire finance team for their amazing work. i also want to take a few minutes to thank my staff. i have been blessed with an amazing staff here on capitol hill. one of the hardest working staffs i've ever seen. i want to start off by thanking my tax guru, shea hawkins, who has done a tremendous job of leading us through this process, fielding thousands of calls and responding to tens of thousands of e-mails. i would also like to thank my l.d., charles kobar for his dedication and his leadership through this time. my chief of staff, jennifer decaspar has done an amazing job of making sure that we stayed focus on the objective. the objective was not to simply
pass legislation. the objective was in fact to change lives where we live, to help the average american experience a little more hope, a little more opportunity by keeping a little more of their money. i also want to thank my director sean smith in making sure that we communicated effectively the message of hope and opportunity. and my scheduler, bree kelly, thank god for someone who can keep me moving in the right direction. one of the hardest jobs in washington is being a scheduler for a member and being a scheduler for this member is perhaps the hardest job of scheduling. my team worked diligently, long hours. but that's why we're here. we're here to work long hours, but to produce results
unparalleled results that will make the american people have just a little more confidence in their elected officials. finally, i have to thank the good people of south carolina. i was first elected to congress in 2010, and one of my first pieces of legislation was a tax reform act of 2011, february of 2011, to lower the corporate tax rate and to work on restructuring our tax code. since my first days in congress, i have been working on this issue. the good people of south carolina allowed me to serve as a senator, to be elected in 2014 and reelected in 2016. i will continue to make sure that my focus is back at home where the good south carolinians who elected me have given me a great privilege. i will focus on the fact that
our work, our dedication should be focused on those folks. the good news is during this holiday season we believe that this tax reform package will be an early christmas present. let me just say to all folks, no matter what side of the aisle you're on, no matter where you live in this country, we are blessed, truly blessed to live in the greatest country on god's green earth. merry christmas and may the good lord bless us with an am mading new year. with an amazing new year.
mr. sullivan: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, as we all know, more and more brave women are speaking out about the abuse that has been reported in the papers, abuse by the powerful in many cases, and i want to say at the outset that the country applauds these women for their courage in setting an example for others. now, some of the stories we've heard about involve sexual harassment, but they also appear, some of the other stories appear to involve even more serious crimes, domestic violence, sexual assault, which is an incredibly important issue that often gets underreported all across the country.
and with these news stories, i'm certainly hopeful that these kind of problems, the domestic violence problems we have in america are going to start to receive the attention that they need and deserve. just as we're seeing more men fired from jobs because of sexual harassment and assault, we also need to see more get the punishment they deserve in a court of law for violent abuse, and we need to make sure that victims are protected and they have an advocate, a lawyer who is on their side in these cases. mr. president, unfortunately many who are suffering from domestic abuse and sexual assault can't afford attorneys to file charges or, importantly, to even protect themselves and their family and their kids.
here's the big irony. when someone is charged with a crime, say a sexual assault crime, say an accused rapist, that person gets the sixth amendment right to counsel. under the u.s. constitution. for the -- but the perpetrator gets the right to a lawyer. what does the victim get? the victim gets nothing. no attorney, no right to an attorney. think about that, mr. president. an accused rapist gets a lawyer under the constitution. and the victim gets nothing. in fact, what they often get in terms of crimes are prosecutors, if it's a criminal case, who do a good job, but they're often looking to score a win rather than looking out for the victim and the survivor.
and if it's a civil case, survivors usually go without attorneys. now, mr. president, i believe this is wrong, and fortunately what we have been doing in this body is we have been working on this. we have had a bill to change that. senator heitkamp and i introduced a bill in the senate that was passed unanimously by this body several months ago and actually passed last congress as well called the pro bono work to empower and represent act. also known as the power act. congressman joe kennedy in the house has introduced a companion bill where it likewise has very, very broad bipartisan support. some of the most conservative republicans, some of the most liberal democrats, a broad array of support in the house just like it's had here in the
senate. when it passes through both chambers, the bill will be a robust first step in making more lawyers available, working on a pro bono basis for victims and survivors who can't afford representation. and, mr. president, there are thousands, tens of thousands who fall into that category, unfortunately. so what is the problem that we're trying to solve here? domestic violence and sexual assault happens every hour, every day, in every part of our country. according to a recent study by the center for disease control, roughly 25% of american women will be victims of domestic assault in their lifetimes. one in four. 25%. that is a horrendous statistic. every day in the united states, on average, three women are
killed by a current or former intimate partner, according to the national network to end domestic violence. it's also a shocking, horrendous statistic. and no place is immune. this kind of violence happens in small towns and big cities, on college campuses, suburban homes. this violence transcends political affiliation, race, socioeconomic status. now, mr. president, i know a number of my colleagues have watched -- i like to come down on the senate floor and talk about my state, the great state of alaska, and i like to talk about how many things are so wonderful about alaska. well, one thing that isn't wonderful about alaska is that we have the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual
assault in the country. this is certainly happening in my state, and it's one of the reasons i care so much about this issue. but it's happening in every state, every state represented by the united states. there is no solution to combat this issue of nationwide domestic violence, but experts do agree that securing a lawyer for victims is one of the best ways, if not the best way, to get victims and survivors out of their difficult situation, out of what often is a cycle of violence to get them shelter, housing, and medical care, and protective orders. studies have shown that when an abused victim is represented by an attorney, their ability to break out of the cycle of violence increases dramatically. one study found that 83% of victims represented by a lawyer
were able to obtain a protective order compared to just 32% in domestic violence situations when they weren't represented by an attorney. mr. president, not only would more legal representation help victims and survivors of abuse, but it would also help protect children. in these situations, children are often abused as well. paige hopson from anchorage is a survivor herself. she has been working years with thousands of women as an advocate for women who are trying to get out of abusive relationships but women who are also trying to protect their children. these are complicated and be often difficult issues in cases, but paige has said it's critical for both the safety of the mom and the kids to make sure they are represented by an attorney.
so what does the power act do? in every area of our country, every part of america is represented by a judicial district represented by a united states attorney. a united states attorney. in some states there's several u.s. attorney districts. in alaska there's only one. under the authority of the department of justice. utilizing this national framework of all of our different united states attorneys throughout america, the power act sets out a way to increase connections between lawyers and victims, between advocates and survivors. the bill which as i mentioned has already passed the senate directs each united states attorney to hold at least one annual event inviting lawyers and legal service representati representatives who want to provide their legal services and
pro bono time to empower victims by representing them. it also requires u.s. attorneys to plan and hold events with the focus on addressing these kind of crimes, domestic violence and sexual assault, in indian country and among alaska native populations, where some of the abuse in the lower 48 and in my state is very, very high. mr. president, here's the important -- another important point about the power act. it would not add a dime, not one penny to the federal debt. but here's what it would do. it would create an army of lawyers, thousands of lawyers, to defend survivors of abuse. now, think about that positive vision. think about that positive vision and goal.
what a great way for americans, especially attorneys, to rise up in a positive and constructive way in response to all the bad news we're reading almost daily about these issues, and show the better angels, the better side of our country. now, the model for this bill came from my state of alaska. as i mentioned, mr. president, we have the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in the country, something that no alas kang is proud of -- alaskan is proud of. when i was attorney general working closely with our legislature and our governor, we collectively and many of the victims advocacy groups, we launched a strategy called the choose respect campaign. the choose respect campaign. and what this did, it highlighted this problem in our
great state. we did public service announcements about how real alaska men choose respect. we changed the laws to make the penalties for perpetrators much harder, and we provided increased services for victims. one way we did that, what we did is we held what were called probono legal summits. i hosted these summits. we brought together lawyers and victims advocacy groups, legal services groups, and this actually worked, mr. president. it worked. by 2014 over a hundred cases in our state were handled by volunteer attorneys providing thousands and thousands of hours of volunteer legal assistance to victims of domestic violence and
sexual assault. now think about that. alaska has a little over 700,000 people and yet we had over a hundred attorneys come out, thousands of hours, just in our state with a small population. if we could take this model to 300 million americans, we literally would have an army of lawyers helping survivors with volunteer time and helping meet this significant, unmet need throughout our country. as i mentioned, mr. president, the power act passed unanimously in the senate. but unfortunately it's being held up in the house. in fact, ironically it's being -- it's stuck in the judiciary committee. the committee focused on bringing justice to americans.
it's stuck there. remember, this is not going to cost a dime and yet it's been stuck for months in the judiciary committee. kind of ironic. because these victims need help. and this bill will do that. but it's not only my bill -- it's not only my bill that's stuck in the veek in terms of -- in the judiciary committee in terms of bills that help vehicle sims and survivors of sexual assault. my colleague, the senator from texas, senator cornyn, has a very important bill. he came on the floor of the senate just last week to talk about it called the safer act which will help states ease the nationwide backlog of thousands of untested rape kits that currently sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the country.
there's thousands. ending this backlog could take perpetrators off the streets and again provide victims and survivors the justice they deserve. and we know that this would work. we know that would helpes. the safer act passed the senate under the leadership of senator cornyn. let me tell you the important issue that that bill focuses on, how important that is to the country. in my state, there are 3,484 untested rape kits, more per capita than any state in the country. anchorage, my hometown, has one untested kit for every 164 residents. in juneau, alaska, it's one for every 160 residents. the backlogs are all across the country. and as senator cornyn pointed
out in his speech, there are 2,000 kits that remain untested in his state, the state of texas. and in virginia, in virginia where the state legislature has made this kind of testing a priority, there are also more than 2,000 kits sitting on police shelves. the detroit free press recently reported on how in 2009 officials stumbled on more than 11,000 untested rape kits. after they raised enough money to get them tested, 817 serial rapists were identified. that's why this is so important. these kits once they're processed often give us the evidence to go after the
abusers, the criminals. so, mr. president, it's remarkable to me that both of these bills, the safer act that senator cornyn has champ yomped, -- championed, the power act are sitting in the house judiciary committee. victims are not getting justice right now with these bills sitting there. why on earth such bipartisan legislation that would literally end up helping thousands of survivors and probably bring to justice hundreds of criminals who commit these heinous crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence, why on earth would we have bills that have bipartisan support and little to no impact on the federal treasury be stuck
in the house judiciary committee? well, it's beyond comprehension so to my colleagues over in the house, let's move this. let's move these bills before the holidays. let's start focusing on bringing justice to people who really need it. mr. president, helping victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, it's not a republican issue. it's not a democratic issue. it's not a woman's issue. it's not a man's issue. it's an issue that affects all of us. it's an issue that affects all of us. and working together as senators, as members of the house, as americans, we should clearly unite in this cause that transcends pot ticks or idaho owe politics or ideologies because we can start changing the culture of abuse. that's what we've been trying to do in alaska, but it's going to
take a long time. it's going to take a long time. but we need to act. and i'm hopeful that my colleagues in the house, my colleagues particularly in the judiciary committee recognize the urgency of these kind of situations and are going to move the safer act and the power act out of committee and get it on the floor for a vote as soon as possible. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i want to begin by thanking my cloag, senator mark -- colleague, senator mark warner, for his powerful and eloquent remarks on the floor less than 24 hours ago talking about the threat that exists now, looming larger every day, of a constitutional crisis. it is a crisis that threatens the foundations of our democracy. it involves a potential
confrontation and, indeed, legal confiltration between the president of the united states and a special counsel to investigate wrongdoing. the special counsel was appointed to investigate the russian interference with our 2016 elections, the potential collusion between that russian interference and the trump campaign, and obstruction of justice to interfere with the ongoing department of justice investigation. the special counsel robert mueller was appointed pursuant to those justice department regulations because there was, first, a need for a criminal investigation, second, a
potential conflict of interest within the department that made a special counsel necessary, and third, a public interest in appointing a special counsel. none of the facts that justified, indeed required, the appointment of a special counsel has been controverted in any reasonable way by anyone since the appointment of that special counsel. but now a campaign of mistruth and misdirection has been launched against that special counsel investigation. it is a campaign that is calculated, concerted, and coordinated. it is calculated because it is
planned and premeditated, it is concerted in its con since tensey and -- consistency and vehmented and it is with commentators and individuals outside the government. the danger of a constitutional crisis is real and urgent and we must come together in the united states senate to face it and address it and deal with it. this body has come together in the past when america faced a foreign adversary seeking to do our nation harm. we have come together to hold our leaders accountable when they broke faith with the american people, and we have
come together when forces of dissension and miss correction have -- miscorrection have sought to undermined and weaken law enforcement and the rule of law. what is at stake here is nothing less than the rule of law. let's recognize what is happening. the president, in effect, is going down two tracks. on the one hand he is saying he has no present intention to fire the special counsel or to pardon anyone yet. he adds that word very distinctly. but the other track involves a coordinated and calculated campaign that is rising in
intensity and volume. the president's supporters, even in raising that volume, have reached extraordinary lows. let's remember, at first our republican colleagues appeared to recognize that robert mueller is imminently, indeed, uniquely qualified, for his important task. republican house members called him, quote a man of the utmost integrity, end quote, and, quote, someone we all trust, end quote. now we hear that the mueller investigation is somehow biased. one commentator known to be close to president trump suggested that the special counsel should not only be fired, he should be arrested. even members of congress who once recognized mr. mueller's
stellar record as a member of the armed forces as well as in his capacity as the f.b.i. director, as a prosecutor, as a public servant have impugned his integrity. indeed, they have begun to sow seeds of doubt. there is a chorus of defenders who have launched this campaign calculated, concerted, and coordinated to smear the special counsel, to impugn the integrity of the f.b.i., indeed, directly attack this great and important institution.
they have decided to do it in that concerted and coordinated and calculated way, and the president himself has said that the f.b.i.'s, quote, reputation is in tatters. an article that appeared today in "politico" describes an effort by house republicans in the intelligence committee to initiate a sustained attack on the d.o.j. and the f.b.i. the chorus of defenders describe routine law enforcement activities as a, quo, coup, and traffic in the kinds of conspiracy theories that we associate with fringe internet chat rooms. what is there justification -- their justification for this attack on the department of justice and the f.b.i.?
one of the f.b.i. agents expressed his political views in a private text to an f.b.i. attorney, but the special counsel took swift and decisive and deliberate action to remove that f.b.i. agent from the investigation. and more broadly, let's recognize the reality here. as a federal prosecutor the united states attorney for connecticut for four and a half year, and then as state attorney general for 20 years, i know -- and all of us who have been prosecutors know -- that investigators, like f.b.i. agents, have political views. some are on the right end of the political spectrum, some are on
the left. the mark of their professionalism is they leave them at home when they come to work. they part them at the door, not just because it is what they are taught and trained to do, they believe in unbiased law enforcement because they know that criminal investigations ultimately come down to facts and law. it cannot be based on political opinions and investigations that are biased by political opinions are doomed to disaster. and perhaps most important, there is not a scintilla of fact, not a shred of evidence that the special counsel investigation has been impacted in any way by any political view of any f.b.i. agent, or for that matter, anyone else in that
investigation. there's simply no evidence that political views have impacted the special counsel investigation and the simple fact that prosecutors know is that all such investigations must seek to uncover the facts and apply the law, and that is what special counsel robert mueller has done, and the proof is in the results so far. two powerful convictions that have shattered the trump presidency and two indictments that indicate this investigation is just at its beginnings, not at the beginning of the end, but simply the end of the beginning. these trials of the two
indictments will go well into next year as will the investigation. there will be more convictions and more indictments. i think can be pretty reliably be predicted to a near certainty. but beyond this investigation we all know in this chamber, certainly any of us who have been involved in law enforcement, know that public trust and confidence is essential. and the president himself has said he is, quote, a true friend and loyal champion for law enforcement and, quote, more loyal than anyone else can be. he has pointed out that law enforcement officials like our police and f.b.i. agents and d.e.a. and others, quote, rush into danger every day, and he
has criticized the folks who subject them to, quote, relentless criticism. he's promised to always stand with them. those promises apply apparently to law enforcement as long as they are not investigating him. the president has said he has no present intention to fire the special counsel, but he has far from ruled it out. and for anyone who thinks it would be too outside the bounds of normal standards, remembering that firing jim comey as f.b.i. director was regarded as unthinkable. it was unthinkable until president trump did it. and equally important, this chorus of defenders can undermine the mueller investigation even if mueller himself is never fired.
they can poison the well of public opinion, and indeed, a jury pool, they can sow seeds of doubt regarding the special counsel and his team, and they can lay the groundwork for firing robert mueller, as well as issuing pardons. let no one have any doubt, firing robert mueller would create a firestorm every bit as veevment as -- vehement as the saturday night massacre. it would evoke an outcry by the american people, but the time to make that fact clear is now, not just for this side of the aisle, but with unanimity and force on
both sides. that chorus of defenders may think or imagine they can prevent the special counsel from revealing his finding or reporting to the american people at the end of his investigation or they can discredit or demean those findings or they can undermine his credibility before a jury, but they are wrong because this body and our colleagues are committed to uncovering the truth, to pursuing it wherenever it leads -- whereever it yeedz -- it leads, but it must not only be a hope, it must be reflected in action, in real action that involves passing legislation that will send a message about this
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