tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN November 14, 2018 2:00pm-7:24pm EST
>> we break away from this record a program and taking live to the floor of the u.s. senate. today they were gone )-right-parenthesis policy, a final passage on a bill for policy and programs in about 15 or 20 minutes we are told. after that they move on to a nomination for the federal reserve board of governors. also we have heard word that senators jeff flake and chris coons might seek a floor vote this afternoon on their legislation that would protect the special counsel heading the russian investigation from being fired. live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain dr. barry black will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, thank you for the gift of fruitful labor. forgive us for the help
we might have given someone in need and did not give. use our lawmakers for your glory. may they not thoughtlessly think, speak or act in ways that wound or harm. grant that they will do nothing that would bring shame to themselves, grief to their families, or sorrow to you. thank you for the strategic role of the united states senate and your unfolding providence for our beloved land. help us all to be faithful to the destiny you intend for our lives.
we pray in your great name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the 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. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., november 14, 2018. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable shelley moore capito, a senator from the state of west virginia, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi.
mr. wicker: i'm going to say a word or two about the coast guard bill which is coming up soon. i assure my colleagues that when the leader comes to the chamber to make leadership remarks, i will certainly defer to him. but i cannot tell you how relieved and pleased i am that we are finally getting to the point of passing a coast guard reauthorization act. we have worked on this for some time intensely actually for three years, and i want to commend senator sullivan i have alaska and senator thune, the chairman of the commerce committee, for doing such great work on this. the coast guard reauthorization bill will allow us to let the coast guard continue to do all of the vital things they do to help the people of this nation. it will allow us to rebuild the
fleet, strengthen facilities on shore and refurbish the aircraft of the coast guard, all the while ensuring support for the highly trained 40,000 active duty members of the coast guard and some 46,000 people who serve in either the reserve, civilian, or auxiliary force of the coast guard. a lot of americans really don't have a complete understanding of the 11 statutory functions of the united states coast guard, and i will not go through all of those, except to say that these are vital to the united states safety and security. and just to mention in my own state of mississippi, after hurricane katrina, one of the first groups to come in and respond was the coast guard
living up to their motto of semper tyrannis, always ready. there were up to 60,000 people who needed saving. they did their jobs then. then the lifesaving work has continued in 2017 and 2018 with historic rescue recovery efforts for such disasters as irma, florence, maria, michael, and the list goes on and on. simply put, the coast guard is there when coastal communities are at risk. now, they are also there when it comes to organized crime and drug interdiction, another very important aspect of the coast guard. last week, the coast guard made news, the cutter dauntless returned to pensacola, florida,
following a $27 million cocaine bust in the eastern pacific. americans may only see the coast guard on the news because of big drug busts or in the aftermath of a hurricane, but these men and women also are in every corner of the globe, every corner of the globe, mr. president, protecting our national resources and our national interests, coordinating search and rescue missions, and saving lives, saving lives every day, every single day. so our hat is off to the coast guard and my hat is off to the leaders of this body who have given us an excellent reauthorization bill. in a single day, we might see the coast guard handling some 45 search and rescue missions, in a single day. or saving ten lives in a single day, or $1.2 million in property in a single day, ensuring the proper transport of $8.7 billion
in goods and commodities. at this time, mr. president, as i assured members when i began these remarks, it is my honor to yield to the distinguished majority leader for whatever majority remarks, leadership remarks he might want to make. mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i thank my friend from mississippi. we continue to work our new senators-elect who are in town this week for orientation, meetings, and votes on party leadership. yesterday evening, the democratic leader and i had the honor of toasting our future colleagues at our traditional bipartisan welcome dinner. it's quite a distinguished group. some of our new colleagues are talented legislators who will simply be relocating from the other side of the capitol. some are coming to the senate as
private citizens who built successful careers outside the world of politics. some have already served as statewide elected officials and are coming to washington for the first time. so it is our pleasure to welcome these future senators and congratulate all of them. speaking of looking ahead, just a few hours ago, our republican conference came together and chose the leadership team and it will serve for the 116th congress. our republican leadership team will feature faces both new and familiar. we are looking forward to our colleagues' trust and working as hard as we can to seize the opportunities that will lie before us this coming congress. it's my honor to have been asked by my colleagues to continue serving as leader. i can honestly say not a day goes by when i'm not humbled and honored by this opportunity to
serve my colleagues, the institution of the senate, and our incredible country in whatever measure i'm capable. i know that my friend, the democratic leader, feels much the same. i want to congratulate him on his own election as leader once again. i look forward to working with him and his colleagues to move the ball and to make bipartisan progress for the american people. now, on the work that's currently before us, we voted yesterday to advance important legislation that will preserve our national security, ensure our readiness, and expand economic opportunity. the bill before us to reauthorize the coast guard funding will ensure that the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way every single day have access to the resources they need. america calls on our coast guard to protect our ports and our coasts, to safeguard the shipping laips that enable american commerce, to stem the
tide of illegal drugs before they reach our shores, and to the brave and even -- to the brave, even the fiercest national disasters that save american lives. they always answer the call, they are always ready, so it's our obligation as a congress to keep the coast guard authorized and adequately resourced to do the job. when we pass the legislation before us, we will do just that, and we will do even more because this bill also includes important reforms that will streamline needlessly complicated government regulations and help communities and small businesses harness the great resource that is america's waterways. in my home state of kentucky alone, we have 1,900-plus miles of navigable waterways. they support 13,000 jobs. this bill includes a major
victory for those kentuckians and for americans in a number of other states. the vessel incidental discharge act will unwind the confusing, redundant tangle of rules and regulations that states the e.p.a. and the coast guard have all piled on to vessel owners and barge operators who are frankly just trying to make a living. with this legislation, that tangled mess will go away. it will replaced by a single, efficient, and uniform standard which the coast guard will enforce. it's a commonsense step, and it's something that has been thoroughly bipartisan. the legislation passed the commerce committee on a voice vote. it has actually been reported out several different times, including when the senate was controlled by democrats, so i look forward to delivering these important messages for the coast guard, for kentuckians, and for many more americans when we pass
this legislation later today. we will also vote to advance the nomination of michelle bowman to serve on the federal reserve board. ms. bowman brings experience as a community banker and as a banking regulator, currently serving as the state banking commissioner of kansas. her nomination comes before us in a year when the senate has taken substantive legislative action on behalf of america's community banks and the communities they serve. as we were reminded when we passed bipartisan reforms to dodd frank a few months ago, smaller lenders provide more than 15% of small business loans and nearly 80% of agricultural loans nationwide, so it's as important now as ever that these institutions and their needs are represented on the federal reserve board. by any standard, ms. bowman is very well prepared to serve in a seat designated specifically for an expert on community banking. so i urge each of my colleagues
to join me in voting to confirm another of the president's well-qualified nominees for federal service. mr. wicker: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi. mr. wicker: it is my understanding that the distinguished democrat leader will be coming in soon to participate in leadership time, but until such time if i might ask unanimous consent to address the senate on the coast guard bill for five minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: thank you, sir. mr. president, as -- as you entered the chamber and took the chair, i was explaining to members what the coast guard does, all the various vital activities they do to provide for the safety and security of americans. let me just tell you a few things that this bill does.
the distinguished majority leader was discussing this in his remarks also. this bill that we are about to vote on takes big steps in recapitalizing our vessel fleet. i'm proud to say that shipbuilders across the country, including in my state of mississippi, are building, rebuilding our fleet. in mississippi, we built six national security cutters that are currently operational. the seventh and eighth ships have been built and are scheduled to be commissioned next year. these ships are some of the most technologically advanced vessels in the world. the coast guard needs more modern national security cutters to combat transnational organized crime. these cutters make up the backbone of this effort, and as we know, the criminals who undermine our borders and our nation's social and political development are not contained by
borders. in addition, the coast guard bill recognizes the importance of national security cutters by authorizing multiyear contracts that will lead to procurement of a tenth, 11th, and 12th vessel. so we're making great progress there. these cutters are highly advanced patrol boats that can deploy independently for a number of missions along our ports, waterways, and ports. it does not overlook the shoreline infrastructure, with $170 million for these facilities. this includes steps to repair and replace its aging rotary wing aircraft. and it probably is going to help for me to have the microphone on my lapel. this is what happens, mr. president, when you divide your speech into parts and one parts two.
briefly, other provisions in the bill would clarify the coast guard's role in national security as a member of our armed forces, and they are -- and should be clarified as a member of the armed forces. establish an unmanned system program. help modernize the coast guard's health care system, and ship acquisition and conduct an advanced maintenance program for the polar star, our own heavy polar icebreaker, our sole icebreaker is now 323 -- 32 years old. this will allow us to pay more attention to the arctic. finally, let me stress to my colleagues and once again express appreciation to the leadership of the committee that we are finally passing a vessel incidental discharge act, known as vida, which provides
much-needed relief to our commercial vessel industry. this relief would come through a single science-based national standard for ballast water discharge and other vessel discharges. these discharges must take place. it's just a question of what the regulation is and how we take care of our economy and our environment. currently commercial vessel owners are obligated to meet standards from the coast guard, standards from e.p.a., and standards from 25 individual states. this can mean spending millions of dollars to install equipment which may or may not ensure the compliance of these regulations. such burdens have put a strain on u.s. businesses and u.s. commerce. this bill will give us one nationwide standard, lifting the
burden off of these businesses and lifting the burden off of people who would like to actually get out there and create some more jobs instead of comply with a myriad of various regulations. under vida, the coast guard would be the lead agency to enforce these regulations, but it will also do this in consultation with e.p.a. in other words, vida uses the expertise of both of these excellent agencies, the coast guard and e.p.a., and leverages the expertise of both agencies. it's quite an achievement. i see my friend from florida here. he may want me to yield on this question, but there's been a bipartisan effort, and the bipartisan vote yesterday was -- was quite gratifying. so, again, thank you to chairman thune. thank you to senator sullivan, and thank you to my friend on
the other side of the aisle for making this bipartisan, long-range effort finally come to fruition this afternoon. i will be delighted to yield to my friend. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: the senator made his comments yesterday and this is an example of where the senate can get something done. there were many twists and turns to the coast guard bill but at the end of the day we all came together in a bipartisan way to get it done, and i want to thank the senator from mississippi. mr. wicker: i reclaim my time and thank the senator from florida for making those points and for his leadership as ranking member of the commerce committee in this regard, and i would suggest that the vote coming up soon will be probably as lopsided as the one on cloture yesterday. that's a good sign. it took us a while to get there,
i say to my friend from florida, but we are there now and it is a great achievement for our economy and for the -- for the environment and for the coast guard as a whole. at this point, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the house message to accompany s. 140, which the clerk will report. the clerk: house message to accompany s. 140, an act to amend the white mountain apache tribe rights waterway right for the m.a.t. settlement fund. the presiding officer: the question now occurs on the motion to concur on the house amendment to s. 140 with amendment numbered 5440, as mod
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the yeas are 94, the nays are 6. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion: we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of michelle bowman of kansas to be a member of the board of governors of the federal reserve system, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of michelle bowman of kansas to be a member of the board of governors of the federal reserve system shall be
these have been approved by both the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as i country to the nation's capital from home back in austin, texas, so we can finish our work out before the end of the year, i wanted to relay some of the wisdom that i heard from working families and texans back home about their verdict on what we have done so far this year and actually even last year. i stopped by a couple of food banks, one in north texas and one in el paso, ahead of this year's upcoming holiday season, this is when they have the greatest demand on food from people who need -- either supplement their diet or depend on food banks to provide them their bisk -- basic sustenance. i also had a chance to visit
with a nobel prize winner dr. jim allison to discuss his groundbreaking work in cancer treatment. much of which was funded by money that we've appropriated to the national institutes of health that in turn makes grants for basic science and other research that comes up with life-saving cures, such as dr. allison has come up with. then i met with local leadership in the corpus christi area down on the gulf coast to discuss their hurricane harvey recovery process. it's been a little over a year since hurricane harvey hit, and of course many of those communities and many families are continuing to recover from that devastation. i also held a roundtable with local leaders and the drug-free communities council to discuss how local, state, and federal leaders can work together to fight the supply of illegal drugs coming into the country and support those who are in recovery from addiction.
and it won't surprise you that people had a lot to say. but their stories remind me that back here in washington, although texas is a long way away, about three hours or so by jet, folk, back home are -- folks back home are paying attention to what we're doing here. and i know some of that gets lost in the back and forth of the political campaigns just past. but there is one thing we have done that i think has been well received and that is since the voters gave us a republican in the white house and gave us republican majorities in the house and the senate, we put our foot on the gas pedal and we haven't let off since. and we've delivered concrete results for the american people, and they've continued to see gains under this administration. promises made and promises kept.
i'll start with the transformation of the federal judiciary. this is one of the most important jobs that the united states senate has under the constitution, to provide add vice and consent on executive branch nominations, executive branch in this case are article 3 courts. a historic number of judges who will interpret the law as written have been confirmed under this administration. that number is 84 and it includes the most ever appellate judges, the mid-level federal courts confirmed during a president's first two years in office ever. these are principled, experienced, highly skilled lawyers and judges who respect precedent and understand their critical but limited role under our system of government. their job is to interpret the law. they shouldn't rewrite it, which is one of the battle grounds we
fight when supreme court nominations come across the well of the senate floor. there are those who think that judges should be able to impose their views on the american people, even though they don't run for election and they have lifetime tenure, but that is simply not our system, and that's an imper miss in-- impermissible role to be played by a judge in my view. when it comes to judges, perhaps our two greatest achievements have been neil gorsuch and brett kavanaugh, both of whom have been confirmed to the united states supreme court. but as i say, we've confirmed 84 other federal -- total federal judges, including three on the fifth circuit court of appeals from texas. each of these nominees and now judges have brought great intellect, legal expertise, and impartiality, and goodwill to bear as they make decisions with their very distinguished colleagues.
then the first major -- we saw the first major overhaul in the tax code in 31 years that lowered rates for every tax bracket, doubled the child tax credit to help working families, and made our business tax scheme more competitive globally. all of this has allowed many of those employers to pass along benefits through bonuses and higher wages. we've also incentivized investment in economically distressed communities in every state through the opportunityies own program. some like to shrug of the benefits and jobs act calling the savings crumbs. that is what ms. pelosi called it but they're certainly not taking account of what i'm hearing from my constituents back home in text because the effects of tax reform are real and they're extremely significant to every american.
all employers have been able to provide additional benefits. as i said, some in the form of bonuses or increased pay, and those who have seen their pay remain the same have seen more take-home pay because their tax obligations have been reduced. one of those taxpayers i heard from in texas was a gentleman by the name of david tong from arlington, texas. that's halfway between fort worth and dallas. dave wrote to me to say the company where he's employed has increased the number of people -- the hours people were able to work. he said christmas bonuses have been promised, too, and the company's hired more people, bought more machinery based on the accelerated depreciation provided for under the bill and made long overdue repairs to their working place. now with the tax law changes in place, david says the guys down on the shop floor are taking home a little more in their
paycheck each week. he said all of this adds up and makes a huge difference in the lives of the guys on the shop floor. we've heard similar stories around the country because more than 700 companies, including many based in texas, have used the tax savings to benefit their employees and their customers. they've announced pay raises, as i've said, 401(k) match increases. we've actually seen seniors and people on fixed incomes have a decrease in their utility bills when their electricity is provided by investor-owned utilities because the reduction in taxes paid by those investor-owned utilities. so lower utility rates for seniors and those on fixed incomes. these developments are part of the reasons why the economy is thriving. since tax reform was signed into law, the economy has added more than two million jobs and unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1969.
1969. my state has a population that's roughly 38% to 48% hispanic yet hispanic unemployment sits at a record low of 4.4%. that's a big deal to my constituents back home. and joblessness for african americans has fallen to its lowest level ever, lowest level ever, under this administration. and then, of course, with more demand, with more money in people's pockets, more money to spend, there's more demand for goods and services. and so in october alone, the economy has added another 250,000 jobs, exceeding all expectations. as a matter of fact, the biggest concern i hear from employers now is they're looking for qualified employees who are able to perform the jobs that are now
available, and many of these are very well-paying jobs. but people are back to work. they're earning more. they're investing, and the economy is moving at full throttle. but it wasn't just the work of the tax bill. that was just part of it. part of it has to do with the increased confidence and optimism that people feel about their future as a result of the improvement of their economic circumstances. we saw that with the passage of bipartisan dodd-frank reform, we've also provided additional relief to our community banks and credit unions, so they're able to spend less money on red tape and more money invested in their local communities and their small businesses. we also know that regulation is important, but overregulation is a job killer. and we've rolled back overregulation that was stifling job creation and creating an environment -- and helped create
an environment that fosters job growth. our reforms have created a sakes of at least $50 billion for small businesses and entrepreneurs. that's why the economy is on fire. we've also done important things to help improve access to health care. we've repealed the independent payment advisory board provisions of obamacare and repealed the costly individual mandate, which slings was a tam on -- which essentially was a tax on poor people and middle-income people when they couldn't afford to buy the obamacare policies with all of the coverage that they didn't necessarily even want or need. but it added to the cost of the policy, and when they couldn't afford the policy, they were taxed by their own government and punished through the individual mandate. what we have exxon is to try to restore the -- what we have done is to try to restore the authority and the power of citizens themselves to make health care decisions for
themselves and their family that they want understand that they can afford. -- and that they can, by starting to re-create an individual market. to me, that's the best wait for us to offer choice and to keep provides down is to create an individual market, not for government to mandate a one-size-fits-all approach which is what obamacare did, forcing many young people to pay a lot more for their insurance to subsidize others who were covered by obamacare. we also addressed the public health challenges we face in this country in another significant way. the nation's drug addiction epidemic killed roughly 72,000 americans last year. 72,000 americans lost their lives to drug overdoses. nearly 50,000 of those were related to opioids, whether prescription drug or heroin or
fentanyl. it's left many families in disaray and overwhelmed medical professionals and emergency personnel in many communities. through the collaboration of about 70 bipartisan proposals, people say nothing bipartisan happens here, but thanks to 70 bipartisan proposals that were included in this landmark opioid bill, we were not only address the stemming the tide of drugs coming across our border but also trying to help those recovering from a drug addiction. the law requires screening of packages being mailed from overseas for substances like fentanyl that increases access to treatment for people with distance disorders, expands research into nonaddictive painkillers and provides more money for enforcement and interdiction. but healthy communities are also safe communities. in addition to the opioids bill, we took further steps to enhance
the safety of our communities and help deliver help to victims. with three new laws, we aim to reduce the backlog of testing drug kits so that perpetrators could be identified with near certainty and those wrongly charged could be exonerated. we also have assisted our law enforcement and prosecuting cold cases and eradicating the scourge of online sex trafficking. we didn't stop there, though. we kept communities' needs in mind and turned towards fixing our nation's outdated infrastructure. in october we passed a major water infrastructure bill that helps keep our communities safe by providing dams and levees and addressing the need for ink doctoring water, clean, safety drinking water. and addressing the underdevelopment of waste water systems across the country. but our work on infrastructure extended far beyond public water
systems. it also included passing the federal aviation administration reauthorization act that modernizes airport infrastructure, increases safety and boosts industry innovation. we also helped support our men and women in uniform, past and present, by passing a defense authorization bill, we gave our troops the largest pay raise in nearly 10 years and restored -- began to restore military readiness in an increasingly dangerous world. the national defense authorization act, named after our former chairman of the armed services committee, john mccain, ensures our troops have the resources, the equipment, and the training they need to defend our country and keep americans safe. and for our veterans, we passed the veterans administration mission act, again a bipartisan piece of legislation. access to health care had become a nightmare for many who
sacrificed so much for our country. we saw them met with difficulty in getting appointments because they were backlogged so much or that they had to drive great distances to get access to basic health care. and so we passed the v.a. mission act with an eye toward providing more accessible access to care in local communities. on that, mr. president, we did the -- beyond that, mr. president, we did the basic work of funding the federal government on time and through regular order. we haven't finished that job yet. we have until december 7 to finish the job, and i hope that we do. it's not a particularly flashy topic, but it's one of the most fundamental duties of the congress. so our record is clear, and the voters responded by rewarding the majority with an even greater senate majority in the next congress. but what we need to finish out
the rest of this year strong. we're adding to our list of accomplishments this week by passing a bipartisan bill to provide critical funding for the coast guard. our coast guard is made up of men and women who risk their lives to save others and protect our ports and stop illegal drugs from reaching our country. this bill ensures that they can continue that work with the predictability that they deserve. but moving forward, we have a significant to-do list before we break for christmas. would end to finalize the farm bill. we need to reauthorize a number of other bills and despite the large number of nominations we've been able to get done before we recess, there's still a huge backlog of many executive branch nominations. for some reason, after the 2016 election, our democratic colleagues decided they were going to obstruct or delay as many trump nominations to
executive agencies or on the bench as they could and, unfortunately, they've been too successful in doing so. but i'm confident that senate majority leader, senator mcconnell, will use the leverage of people wasping to get home at christmastime and thanksgiving to ensure that we get the maximum number of these noncontroversial nominees supported. these are people who will enjoy broad, bipartisan support if we can just get our democratic colleagues to quit the obstruction. mr. president, we just have a short time left to finish this congress strong, but the past two years have been an unmitigated success for the country. we've delivered on promises we made. we've put money back in the pockets of hardworking families. we enhanced community safety and fought for victims. we've modernized infrastructure and supported our men and women in uniform. and i hope we can continue this
momentum into the 116th congress that begins in january. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i come up to the floor this afternoon to speak about the coast guard reauthorization legislation that just passed the senate today. and i want to thank my colleagues for all their hard work on this important measure that literally has taken years to piece together. i want to thank chairman thune and ranking member nelson for working on this legislation and incorporating many of the things that people in the state of washington were interested in seeing as part of this comprehensive bill, and i certainly want to thank senator carper and the e.p.w. staff for working so hard on the majors provisions of this bill relating to balance last water and to -- to ballast water and to solutions they helped put forward this. bill includes many provisions important to our cost guard, environment, and shipbuilding community. it represents a true, bipartisan
effort to find solutions and put those solution action. our state, washington, is rich in its maritime history and its heritage. the coast guard is a large part of that. with so much coastline, rivers, and streams, the coast guard is so important. our state is home to fishermen, shipbuilders, tribes, trade operators, and a thriving tourism economy. so from places like cape disappointment and gray's harbor all the way to the columbia, our washington state coast guard work tirelessly to protect the northwest and our environment. in our state, there are more than 2,000 active duty coast guard and 192 employees and an impressive 869,000 -- 869 volunteer auction ailry members in the coast guard.
the coast guard plays an important part in the role of our fisheries. thousands of fishermen call washington home and thousands of washington state jobs are supported by the fisheries. while we usually talk about big assets on the floor like icebreakers and national security cutters, washington state is also home to stations. so, this bipartisan legislation, the coast guard legislation, has many provisions that i would like to talk about. i want to again thank my colleagues for their great bipartisan work on this legislation. that is that this legislation has many different solutions for many of the challenges that our agencies face. i want to thank again senator thune for working across the aisle on the various coast guard provisions that are included in this bill and i want to thank senator sullivan for helping to
cosponsor the authorization recapitalization of the cast gourd heavy polar icebreaker and the polar star. the poe stare decisis is homeported in seattle and is our only operational heavy icebreaker crucial for arctic operations. the language that we just passed improves the oversight of ships that pose a special risk in critical conditions in puget sound. and this is so important for us moving forward to have these types of assets and in these critical waters. this bill also includes language to strengthen paid family leave policies that were part of the coast guard's operation, as the coast guard moved forward meeting other branches in having paid family leave. the legislation including language that helped strengthen
the flexibility of the paid family leave. the coast guard families should not be forced to choose between serving their families and their country. this bipartisan deal also helps to protect good shipbuilding jobs at daca creek shipyard. i am a very strong supporter of the jones act and believe that it is important that we continue to have the jones act in the future. i also believe that we were able to work with the solution to save good family-wage jobs at the daca creek shipyard and aappreciate my colleagues working on the incorporation of that language. this legislation also worked collectively to address many different parts of the united states critical compromises that address the threat of invasive species and the threat they pose to our waterways. we worked hard on the solution, consulting with the state of
washington, and believe that this version, which does create regulatory certainty for maritime operators but does so while still protecting our environment, is critical. the bill allows the state of washington, which has a strong history of protecting our waters from invasive species, by allowing them to codify the west coast ballast water management practices, very important for us to protect our water ways for the future. it requires that most rigorous scientific standards are used to safeguard including the clean water act best available technology standard, so important to us in the northwest. the bill also creates tool for emergency response to invasive species so that they can be stopped before they take strong hold in our environment. and lastly, it includes a permanent fishing vessel exemption for incidental discharges who do not pose a threat to our environment.
all of these things are a part of a very comprehensive coast guard bill that tried to give us the best tools possible to continue to operate in our coastal areas of the united states, to have the right resources, to have the right oversight, to have the right assets and the right protection of our environment. again, i want to thank our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working so diligently to finally get this legislation over the threshold and on to the president's desk. the coast guard represents such a important maritime piece of our economy. i hope that our colleagues will realize that we need to give and help them with the resources and assets to do their jobs not just now in this legislation, but in many of the assets they will need moving forward. i also want to thank our coast guard fellow, lieutenant commander michelle rosenberg for her time working on this comprehensive legislation for the last several years.
again, mr. president, i thank my colleagues, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that we vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: thank you, mr. president. winter has arrived in pittsburgh. too mr. toomey: today 11 three-t
tall wooden stars of david -- they make up a sidewalk memorial in the city's squirrel hill neighborhood, and they will be brought inside the tree of life synagogue to protect this display of the city's grief from the snowstorm. pittsburgh, the jewish community, and our entire country were shaken by a horrific anti-semitic attack that occurred on october 27 during shabat morning services. members of three jewish congregations were present. the tree of life, dora hadash and new light congregations. 11 innocent people were senselessly slaughtered in the attack. six others were wounded, including four police officers who responded to the attack.
even within this act of evil, there were displays of amazing courage and humanity, of first responders who rushed into danger to apprehend the shooter and protect others. the jewish doctors and nurses who cared for not just the victims, but the shooter as well. like dr. jeffrey cohen, president of allegheny county hospital, who is actually a member of the tree of life synagogue, and he displayed an amazing, remarkable courage and humanity in visiting the shooter to ask him about his care and to try to make some sense of the attack. and after such an inexplicable event, all of us looked for the motivation of the perpetrator and asked why. well, let's be clear about what this shooting was about. it was a cowardly act of brutal
violence fueled by anti-semitism , a corrupt and repulsive ideology that really betrays our most fundamental values and distorts history. john adams had a interesting quote. john adams said, if i was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, i should still believe that fate had ordained the jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. they are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this earth. the romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the jews of the neff given religion -- given religious to three quarters of the globe and influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern. end quote. well, despite judaism's incredible contributions to
mankind and to our own country and our country's founding, anti-semitism is still far too prevalent. we can't ignore it. we must condemn it. we must challenge it. i think there's a lesson here from dr. cohen, whom i mentioned earlier. when asked how he could visit a patient with so much hatred, dr. cohen replied, and i quote, i thought it was important to at least talk to him and meet him. cohen explained, you can't on the one hand say we should talk to each other and then i don't talk to him. you know, i think dr. cohen's wisdom and insight and humanity could be useful for this body as well. i've spent a lot of time working with colleagues and others to try to find some commonsense solutions to address some element of the gun violence that plagues this country. too often, mr. president, it
seems to me we talk past each other rather than speaking with each other. now i know there are strongly held views on the second amendment, and i'm one of the senators who has strongly held views on the second amendment. i'm a strong supporter of the second amendment. but i'm also convinced there is common ground among people who have different views on the second amendment. in this session that we are wrapping up of this congress, we overwhelming little enacted legislation to improve nics, the national instant criminal background check system which is used to prevent the sale of firearms to people who should not have firearms. now think about that. we all agree that firearms should not be sold to criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. i have never heard any colleague in this body suggest that firearms should be sold to violent criminals or dangerously
mentally ill people. no. we all agree, as does our entire society, that these are people who shouldn't have firearms. and so we have a nics system that is designed, when it works well, to identify people who should not be able to have firearms because they are convicted criminals or dangerously mentally ill, or both. and we in this body recently passed legislation to improve the effectiveness of that nics system. well, since we all accept the premise of the nics system and we have in fact enacted legislation to combriewfer -- improve the e-- effectiveness of this system shouldn't we approve background checks? one measure i think ought to be a consensus measure and i know has bipartisan support, is that
we should cover using the nics system cover all commercial sales of firearms with a background check. this is just a commonsense measure that is entirely consistent and compatible with the second amendment. the constitution guarantees the right of law-abiding people to own firearms, but there is no such right for violent criminals and those who are dangerously mentally ill. i'm not the only one who believes that. none other than the very pro-second amendment justice, antonin scalia, wrote that it is completely compatible with the second amendment to have regulations like a background check. senator joe manchin and i have introduced bipartisan legislation that would address this loophole that would expand background checks. it's pretty simple. it simply says that all commercial sales of firearms, including those sales at gun shows and over the internet, need to be subject to criminal
and mental background checks. if you pass the background check, you get to buy your gun. but if you fail the background check, then you are exactly the kind of person we've all agreed shouldn't be able to get a gun. this is just common sense. and, by the way, he and i built into this legislation a number of provisions to allow law abiding gun owners to their second amendment rights. i hope my colleagues will join me in working to advance this bipartisan measure to keep our communities a little bit safer. i've never suggested that this would end mass shootings in america. that would be absurd. but it might make it a little more difficult for someone who doesn't belong owning a firearm to obtain one. mr. president, i know in our country many people feel a deep
sense of division. we saw it after the shooting at the tree of life. we see it sometimes in the debates here, including over gun safety. but this isn't the first time or even the worst time we've been divided. interestingly, the prescription drug's tree of life -- the pittsburgh's tree of life synagogue was founded in 1864 during the civil war. when i was in pittsburgh following the day after the attack i attended a beautiful memorial service just a few miles from the tree of life synagogue. the service was at the soldiers and sailors memorial hall. at that ceremony, catholics, protestants, muslims, people from every walk of life were represented, people from throughout the greater pittsburgh area united to support their jewish neighbors. it was fitting to gather at the soldiers and sailors memorials. this memorial was founded by veterans of the civil war in
allegheny county to honor and sacrifice -- honor the sacrifice and valor of those who were willing to die to save our country during that war. and the very first soldier, the first soldier from allegheny county to die in the civil war was a married salesman in his early 30's from pittsburgh. he died at the battle of williamsburg. his name was jacob brunn. he was jewish. that didn't matter to pittsburgh. the entire city turned out for his funeral. the entire city. as one historian put it, the city put religious and political differences aside to honor the man who was first to fall. mr. president, i hope the senate can also put aside some of our political differences and do something sensible. it's our duty and it would be a fitting act of remembrance for victims of mass shootings at the tree of life, thousand oaks,
sandy hook, and all the others whose deaths from gun violence have scarred our country. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 393, s. 269 s. 269 -- s. 2644. i ask that the substitute agreement be agreed to, the bill as considered be read a third time and passed and that the motions to reconsider be made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there
objection? mr. mcconnell: i object. the presiding officer: majority leader. the objection is heard. mr. flake: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i rise today to speak in defense of special counsel robert mueller and to defend the vital role he has played since may of last year in yet another act of service to his country in what has been a lifetime of distinguished service. for his trouble, mr. mueller has been accused repeatedly and without basis and fact of conducting a witch hunt in the course of his current investigation by none other than the president of the united states. and so, i would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about what special counsel mueller and his team have been investigating and why, as the point of this vital investigation seems to have been purposely confused and maligned by the white house in a rather alarming way.
at the end of these -- i'm sorry. as my colleague from delaware, senator coons, and i have made a unanimous consent request to bring this to the floor, but it has been objected to already. this bill is designed to do one thing, protect the integrity of the special counsel's investigation and spare it of any influence or interference from the executive branch, including from those who may be the subjects of that investigation. mr. president, the finding of mr. mueller's investigation are of utmost importance to the security of this country and to the well-being of our democratic institutions as well. in america, as we all know, no one is above the law. our doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the judicial system sets us apart from lawless countries and presidents do not get to
determine who gets investigated and who and what does not. for the record and for history this special counsel was appointed to thoroughly investigate the accounts on our electoral systems during the leadup to our election. how such an investigation can be the cause of controversy is beyond me. surely we all recognize that it is essential to recognize this new form of foreign aggression so that we might better defend america against such attacks in the future, right? one would think there would be unanimous national resolve to get to the bottom of such aggression from an enemy foreign power, especially a foreign power with whom we spent much of the second half of the 20th century locked in an ideological struggle with, especially in their new aggression towards us
as they targeted the institution that we have and they don't, free and fair elections. vladimir putin knows that he could not defeat us on the battlefield, and he knows that the ideas at the center of his former empire were soulless and bankrupt. so he wants to rob us of what makes the united states superior to his -- his goal is to turn us against ourselves and in doing so destroy our democracy. this is a matter of grave national importance. this is not a moment for our national leadership to be weak or compromised in any way. but some of us in washington have seem strangely incurious about just what the russian malfactors do in 2016 at the direction of vladimir putin. our president has been so incurious that at times over the past two years he's been eager
to accept putin's denials at face value. they have been in such a state of denial that the white house has not been aggressive at all in defending against future attacks. i defy any of us to name a threat so grave to which the government of the united states that we, all of us, including this senate, has responded so lackadaisical too. why is that? with the firing of the attorney general, and in my view, the improper installation of an acting attorney general who has not been subject to confirmation by this body, the pre now has this investigation in -- the president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it. my purpose is not to divide the president's motives and to sow
doubt been and curtail mr. mueller's investigation, if, as the president says, there was no one involved in the campaign, then this investigation, properly conducted, will discover and document that. but mr. mueller has brought dozen of indictments against russian nationals, and it is in the security interest of the united states to fully understand what they did to us in 2016. if the president doesn't understand this, we must. if he doesn't prioritize that, we will. we, all of us, talk much in this place about the defense of all that we hold dear. those are the words that we speak, all that we hold dear. what do we actually mean when they say those words? speaking personally, i can't think of values held more dear
than the independence of our judicial system and an electoral system free of malign influence, either foreign or domestic. when i think of the things that we must hold dear, those things are at the top of the list. it is our sworn oath to keep it that way. one further note on this unanimous consent that has just failed today. senator coons and i are prepared to make it again and again until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the senate floor. i have informed the majority leader that i will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the judiciary committee or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting confirmation on the senate floor until s. 2644 is brought to the full senate for a vote. thank you, mr. president. i yield to the senator from
delaware. mr. coons: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: mr. president, i first want to thank my colleague and my friend, senator flake, the senator from arizona, for joining with me today on the floor in calling for action on a balanced bipartisan bill to uphold the rule of law to avoid a constitutional crisis and to secure the ongoing position of special counsel robert mueller as he moves to complete his investigation. this is a critical moment. just a week ago today, president trump forced the resignation of his attorney general, jeff sessions, and effectively stripped deputy attorney general rod rosenstein of his investigation. an investigation, which i will remind you, the same day that he forced attorney general session's reservation. let's just take a step back to remember the bigger picture here. robert mueller, a career federal law enforcement leader, a
decorated combat veteran is leading an investigation into a foreign adversary's attack on our last election. this isn't about relitigating that election. it isn't about partisan politics. it is about protecting our democracy, about protecting what defines us as a democracy. yet, our president is now in a position to easily interfere with or even end the mueller investigation. compounding that threat is the person appoint as acting attorney general, matthew whitaker. i have separate concerns about mr. whitaker's novel legal theories, about whether his experience makes him an appropriate person to act as toarchl, whether his -- attorney general. whether his appointment is consistent with federal law. i will leave these concerns for another day. i think mr. whitaker area comments about a year ago make him a clear and present danger
to the independence of the special counsel. in an editorial last year, mr. whitaker argued mr. mueller is dangerously closing a line when examining the president's finances. he said if the investigation goes too far, then an attorney general could reduce special counsel's mueller investigation and it would grind to a halt. for these reasons and others i think mr. whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing the mueller investigation, and we cannot wait for that action. we are asking our colleagues today, we have asked our colleagues today, to take that simple yet critical step to protect the special counsel and future special counsels in future administrations by supporting the bipartisan special counsel and integrity act. this was crafted by senator graham, senator booker, myself and senator tillis, a bipartisan bill with senator flake and
senator grassley passed the judiciary committee in april. we had a hearing, markup, and a vote. it is ready for committee action. while i appreciate repeated assurances by the majority leader and many other senators of the other party that it is not needed because they are confident that the pre -- the president will take no inappropriate action to interfere with the ongoing investigation. why would we not look at this simple measure given the president's repeated statements and actions about the mueller investigation, why pose this risk when a simple vote on the floor of the senate could move this to enactment. the bill says if a special counsel is removed, that counsel has an opportunity to challenge it and a panel would determine whether the removal was based on good cause. and it preserves staffing, document materials of the investigation while that matter
is pending for that brief period. the bottom line is this. the special counsel legislation that we are urging protects the integrity of the special counsel and future special counsels, something that members of both parties from repeatedly and publicly said we value. it strengthens the rule of law and that no one is above the law and ensures that we are not back on this floor trying to unravel a constitutional crisis should matthew whitaker impede special counsel mueller's investigation. let me close by asking my colleagues who are listening to consider the fundamental principles that form our democracy, free and fair elections, respect for the rule of law, strong institution that's deliver justice impartially and transparently. it is because of these principles that the united states has grown from a fledgling experiment on the
fringes of world civilization to a strong, vibrant inclusive nation that is a beacon for the world and the most sustained and greatest democracy in the history of the world. but we cannot take these prince manies and we cannot take the -- principles and the institution of our democracy for granted. every now and then when founding principles are threatened we have to demand that officials put aside disagreements and come together to defend them. this is one such moment. i am grateful to my colleague from arizona about his statement. i am confident if given the opportunity to come for a vote this bill would get at least 60 votes, having spoken to colleagues on both sides of the aisle yesterday and today. i am puzzled why there are leaders who continue to have great confidence given the president's statements and actions. we should have taken that action today. i will continue to work tirelessly from my colleague
from arizona until we secure passage of this bill. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor to my colleague and cosponsor, the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: first of all, i want to give gratitude to the senators who spoke before me, my friend senator coons, my friend, senator jeff flake. i want to especially thank jeff flake his willingness not just to lead with words, but to make a commitment on the senate floor that he will not be voting on judicial appointmentings until this is -- appointments until this is brought to a vote. senator flake and senator coons pretty much said all of what i was going to say. so succinctly and candidly, i want to reiterate the moment that we're in and gravity of the moment we're in. this bill is not a partisan piece of legislation. it comes from a bipartisan effort that started many months ago when senator graham and i
started talking, senator tillis, senator coons started talking. it started many months ago, not just for this moment in history, but also understanding that we have a flaw in our system that understands that we do not have a check and balance of presidential power that puts them in a position where they are not subject to the laws of our lantsdz. this -- land. this legislation came from a bipartisan effort to make sure that we have appropriate checks and balances to prevent a kiewrnl crisis. it --le constitutional crisis. it is understanding that we should not be reactive but proactive in securing the great nation and our laws and our rules that we all cherish. and so to see a bipartisan bill worked on, crafted, compromised, brought to committee, be voted out of committee, to see a bill languish now without a vote, that i agree with senator coons
would get more than 60 votes, and would provide a reasonable check and balance. now, the urgency in this moment, and i agree this is a bill that's important for history, but the urgency of this moment senator coons has already gone over. we now have the firing of jeff sessions and jeff sessions was said to be fired by a president who literally said i would not have hired you if i thought you would recuse yourself, and replace with a person -- and senator coons read the quotes, that talked about the -- this investigation and what he would like to do. he called it a witch hunt, compromised himself now in the position that he's in. the idea that the integrity of this investigation, the idea that the urgency of the investigation will continue under his leadership is in question. that's why this billnecessary. and more than that, we are a nation that has been, is, and
will be under attack. all of our intelligence agencies have a consensus of conclusion that our democracy is under attack. we need to understand what happened, what is happening and how to prevent it from happening again and hold those people accountable. this has led to numerous guilty pleas. this legislation has led to numerous indictments and it should be able to run its course without interference. and so i just conclude in saying, there is an urgency to uphold an idea and principle that no one, not a congressperson, not ar senator, not a mayor, not a governor, no one in this country is above the law. and there is ample evidence of this body taking reasonable measured bipartisan actions to make sure we have the balanced government that was designed and intended by our founders.
this is a reasonable, modest check and balance on presidential power to ensure that no one, including the president of the united states is above the law. so i'm deeply grateful for senator coons, senator tillis, senator graham and especially for the leadership shown right now by senator flake in this important moment to avoid a constitutional crisis. mr. president, thank you. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i want to thank the senator from delaware, senator coons, and the senator from new jersey, senator booker, for doing this together with us and to make sure that we have this bipartisan piece of legislation here on the senate floor. it is not unremarkable that you have such a bipartisan piece of legislation passed out of the judiciary committee. we don't have very many bipartisan pieces of legislation coming out of the senate judiciary committee, but this one was by a vote of 14-7,
including the chairman of the committee. there's no reason why it shouldn't be brought to the floor. it was passed out of the judiciary committee on april 26. i should note that the judiciary committee has been busy sending things to the floor during the intervening time. in fact, since april 26 when this bill passed the judiciary committee, we have set 49 -- sent 49 nominations through to the floor that we have voted on and confirmed here on the floor. since that time -- actually voted on 50. that was one that was already in the queue. on the floor since this bill passed the judiciary committee, we have voted on 50 confirmations of the president's nominees. many of these nominees were blue slipped in democratic state,s, some in republicans.
we've been able to move on all of them. there's no reason we shouldn't move on this vital piece of legislation to protect the special counsel. now, when the leader said in april that there is no move on the special counsel, nobody is being fired, nothing to worry about here. if that was the case then, that certainly is not the case now. since then the attorney general has been fired and the oversight for this investigation which sat with the deputy attorney general has been rested from him and turned over to someone who has not received senate confirmation, someone who has expressed open hostility to the mueller investigation. does that not ring alarm bells around here? if that doesn't, what will? why are we so sang goodes -- so sang win about this. when we have the opportunity to
pass legislation to say protect the special counsel that received a bipartisan vote in the judiciary committee, we fail to bring it up on the senate floor. why? why do we do this to protect a man seemingly who is so incurious about what russia did during the 20 -- 2016 elections? why do we do that? do we have no more institutional pride here? do we more jealously guard our prerogative as senators than to simply let this go? what will it take? i'm prepared and i know that the senator from delaware is as well to bring this up as -- this up again. we'll bring it up again until we can get a vote on the senate floor. i hope in the next fiew days and -- few days and the coming weeks that the public will rise up and
say this needs to be done. a bipartisan piece of legislation that has passed the judiciary committee ought to be brought to the senate floor for a vote. we're not saying it has to pass, although we think it will. we're sure it will. it has overwhelming support. we're just saying bring it to a vote. bring it to a vote. and until we do, the 21 nominations that are in the judiciary committee waiting for a vote there will not receive a vote. nor will i give my vote to the 32 nominations that are sitting here on the senate floor. so this is important. this should be a priority. i thank the president and i thank the senator from delaware and i'll yield to him. mr. coons: i'll just conclude that i could not agree more with the comments from the senator from arizona, my friend and colleague. there come moments when we should step up and defend the prerogatives and the role of this body. this is one of them. i understand it may annoy, it
may displease the president for there to be a speed bump put in the way of interference with the special counsel, but this isn't just about the current special counsel. this is about taking department of justice regulations and making them statute. this is about providing a small modicum of protection for the groundless removal of a special counsel. this is something that as my colleague has said deserves prompt attention on the floor. we have a few weeks between now and the end of this congress, time when we could be taking up and confirming nominees, time when we could be taking up and moving other pieces of legislation, but you've heard a very clear position by my colleague that we won't be moving forward nominees in the judiciary committee and if just one more colleague joins him, we might well begin to prevent nominations from moving on the floor as well. to what end? simply to get a vote on the floor. simply to get an opportunity to be heard and for there to be a vote taken on this important piece of bipartisan legislation.
i'm grateful to my colleague for his work on this and for his stand today and i look forward to continuing working tirelessly with him on it. thank you, mr. president. with that i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. mr. reed: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: i would ask the calling of the ciewrm be suspended -- of the quorum be
suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reed: thank you. next week we'll mark of what would be the 100th birthday of senator claiborne who was born on november 22, 1918. this year appropriately enough, the date fell on thanksgiving or will fall on thanksgiving. we lost senator pell nearly nine years ago after a long struggle with parkinson's disease which robbed him of his mow bellty but not his -- mobility but not his spirit. he was stained by his beloved wife. a person who dedicated his life to selfless service to the nation, he would not want a commemoration of his seen tenry. he was not one to seek the limelight. moreover for him, his birthday, november 22, became a somber day for remembrance and mourning the loss of his dear friend
president john f. kennedy. but at a time when differences seemed more striking than our common cores and when there's a question of whether america's role in the community should be guided solely by narrowly defined self-interest or by our democratic ideals, it is helpful for us to recall the example and standard senator pell set. both his accomplishments and the civility he maintained throughout his career, he was worn into a family of great wealth and privilege yet claiborne pell never exhibited a sense of entitlement. at a defining moment in the history of our country and at a defining moment in his life, claiborne pell demonstrated that privilege and wealth was not a way to avoid the rigors of life. rather for him they offered the opportunity and responsibility to meet the challenges of the times with vigor and wisdom and optimism. as world war ii approached, claiborne pell with family
connections, poor eyesight and a high draft number could have easily secured a safe posting to ride out the war. instead before pearl harbor he decided on his own to enlist the coast guard and eventually sailed the dangerous north atlantic convoy runs. specifically, he chose to enlist not as an officer but as a seaman so he could get a chance at sea duty. the complete lack of regard for status or pretense which he showed in his world war ii service would continue to mark his public service and endear him to generations of rhode islanders. for 36 years claiborne pell did not simply represent rhode island in the united states senate, he represented the ideal of what a public servant should be. he said his motto or statement of purpose was to translate ideas into action and help
people. and that is what he did. 100 years after his birth and 58 years after his firth election to -- first election to the senate, millions of americans continued to be helped by his ideas translated into action. he believed that government had a critical role in providing opportunity, particularly the opportunity for a good education to every american. and he knew that there were unbounded horizons for the initiative, invention, and innovation of these well educated sons and daughters of america. truly they would continue and enhance the great endeavor that is america. he authored the legislation that established the basic education opportunity grant now noun as the pell grant -- now known as the pell grant. today roughly 7.5 million students rely on pell grants to help pay for college. he wrote the legislation that created the national endocuments for the -- endowments for the arts and humanities. to this day these agencies
support artistic, educational and cultural programming in communities large and small across the nation. fulfilling senator pell's commitment to strengthening and preserving our national cultural heritage for all americans. he led the effort to establish the institute of museum and library services helping libraries and museums across the nation transform their communities to access to information and opportunities for lifelong learning. according to the institute, people visit libraries over 1.3 million times in 2015 and 55 million student groups visit museums each year. the vision that he articulated in the early 1960's for high quality passenger rail service connecting the major populations on the east coast into a meeting lop liss led to the creation of amtrak and the northeast corridor.
decades later, it is interesting to see not only how much of his vision has been achieved but also how much of his vision is now reflected in ideas like elon musk hyper loop. touched by the death of two members of his staff who were killed by drunk drivers, senator pell authored the first federal antidrunk driving bill in 1976, four years before the founding of the advocacy group madd, mothers against drunk driving. senator pell's legislation became the motto for federal policy efforts to combat impaired driving by giving the states strong incentives to toughen their laws. senator pell was also deeply committed to america's role in securing world peace. his notion of a powerful america leading the world, not standing apart from it, and his notion that our values, our system and our commitment to human decency would prevail in the face of totally tearianism was wisdom of
the ages. in his service on the senate foreign relations committee, he espoused those views seeks to remind us our destiny would take us far beyond of what's simply a military operation or economic power might because of our ideals and commitment to creating a world community. senator pell's approach to legislating was unfailingly kind and civil. in his farewell speech to the senate, he laid out his guiding rules. in his words, first, never respond to an adversary in ad hominem terms. and in his sixth campaign to the united states senate, he never ran a negative ad or attacked his opponent personally. rhode islanders rewarded him with an average vote of 60% for each of his elections. second, always let the other fellow have your way. for senator pell, winning an
ally to achieve a legislative victory was more valuable than getting exclusive credit. third, sometimes half a loaf can feed an army. he lived by those rules. but he feared that our politics and our media were pulling us in the opposite direction. that is why he used his farewell speech to urge us to stay true to a practice of politics worthy of our democratic tradition saying if i could have one wish for the future of our country in the new millennium, it would be that we would not abandon the traditional behavior that are the underpinning of our democratic system, comity and civility, transcending differences of party and ideology have always been crucial elements in making government an effective and constructive instrument of public will. but in times such as these when there is fundamental disagreement about the role of
government, it is all the more essential that we preserve the spirit of civil discourse. those words ring very, very true and relevant today, as they did when he gave them in his farewell address. following in senator pell's footsteps, i am one who is in awe of his presence, his accomplishments and feel a deep responsibility to continuing his legacy. he forged an enduring bond with the people of rhode island. he puts ideas into action to help people. he was always civil and ready to find common ground. as we celebrate senator pell's 100th birthday, let us take inspiration from his spirit of service and collegiality. let's translate ideas into action and help people. mr. president, i know my colleague, senator whitehouse, is here and senator whitehouse is someone who knew well senator
pell and continues in the image and the spirit of senator pell by being someone who brings his great talents and skills to serve the people of rhode island and the nation with dignity, civility, and great energy. and with that, mr. president, i would like to yield to my colleague, senator whitehouse. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: lit me begin by thanking my senior colleague, senator jack reed, for calling us to the floor to reflect on and memorialize a truly splendid senator representing the state of rhode island, our friend and a great rhode islander, claiborne pell. i think my senior colleague does an exemplary job of following in senator pell's footsteps of decency, civility, and quiet determination in the seat that senator pell once held. i cannot claim to hold the seat
that senator pell once held, but i can claim to have the desk that senator pell once sat at, and if you look here -- right under where it says pastore, a rhode island senator in carved letters -- you see in very small letters, p-e.l.l and then ri. like anybody needs to know that claiborne pell was from rhode island. claiborne pell spent years, in fact decades, refusing to get involved in primaries. up it is up to the party, he would say. when i ran for attorney general, the first time i ran for elected office, i was in a three-way primary. and claiborne pell for the first time in his career endorsed me in that primary. more than endorsed me, he we went to a little park near his
house in newport, and he allowed me to film myself walking with him and conversing with him for my first commercial. well, you can imagine in a state like rhode island, when a legend like claiborne pell of the democratic party suddenly appears in your commercial in a democratic primary, let's just say it was not a good day for my two primary opponents. but it was incredible bring generous of claiborne pell. and i have always been very personally grateful that he broke a multi-decade tradition of staying out of primaries in order to launch my first political effort, and i hope that i've conducted myself since then in such a way that i never gave him or his family cause to regret it. as senator reed pointed out, one of the significant lessons from claiborne pell's career here in the senate was -- and it's one i think of all the time -- that that he looked behind the scrum
of the moment. there is always something going on here in the senate. there is always some fight or some issue that is on the front page of "the washington post" and that is on the news channels, that is always, always, always going on. and that bright, shiny object very often attracts an enormous amount of attention in this body. i suspect that senator pell paid less attention to that daily scrum than almost anybody who has served in the senate. he had a much more patient soul and steady and quietly and modestly worked away at his priorities. he used to make fun of himself for his interest in choo-choos. he would say choo-choo. we have amtrak in large part because of the work of senator pell. the pell grant is named after him because of persistent
leadership, making sure that such a grant existed. over years of work, he final will you got it done. it ultimately was named for him and it remains today an important part of how many young people here in the united states actually get to the college and towards their dreams. he fought for years to create a national endowment for the arts and a national endowment for the humanities. and those institutions still exist. they're still doing great work today. in rhode island we're very proud of sea grant. sea grant has programs in all of our coastal states. sea grant was the invention of claiborne pell and dean john ken naught from the university of rhode island. so you look back and you think of who the senators were at the time that claiborne pell served. and you know you can go through
all of these desk deficit reduction like i showed you, and there are lots of names of senators. and many of them are ones you never heard of. they were certainly important in their day, and their day is done and their names are no longer remembered. senator pell is remembered. he left lasting legacies like those, and he did it by quietly and patiently sticking with his priorities which he knew were rhode island's priorities and america's priorities. so he might not have been on the talk shows as much as other senators, he might not have been quoted in the front page of "the washington post" as much as other senators, he was not as attentive to the daily scrum of washington conflict, but, my good in when you look back at the legacy that he left that's still -- that still operates today, it is hard to find somebody of his era whose footprint is larger than that of
this shy, quiet, patient, civil, and persistent man. i would add to senator reed's comments about claiborne pell's philosophy a statement that he made to me that he made quite often, and he said, one of the things that you must learn in politics, sheldon, is how to let the other fellow have it your way. always let the other fellow have it your way. what does it mean to always let the other fellow to have it your way? what i take from that is that it means, you have to stand by your principles. you have to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself and for your constituents, but on the way to getting there, if you can give others credit, if
you can let other ideas join yours, if you can let other people have it your way, you are more likely to succeed. to this day, i still repeat that quote to new hires in my office, and the picture of claiborne pell that he signed to me is still right there at my -- on my bookcase where i see it every time i go and sit in the chair in my office. he was a remarkable and special individual. he was not your standard-issue united states senator. but the particular way he chose to go about his duties has left a larger footprint than most of his colleagues were able to leave. so i will leave with a memory of one of my final memories. senator pell was out of the senate. his illness had caught up with him to the point where he was
barely able to speak any longer. and his friend, ted kennedy, who sat in this space right here, at a different desk but right here in this spot on the senate floor, was sailing through rhode island and he called up senator pell and said, i'd like to take you out on my boat. and it was arranged that senator pell would go out on his sailboat. well, that required getting a wheelchair onto a sailboat over the tippy docks that senator kennedy's boat pulled up to. but, sure enough, we all grabbed a piece of the wheelchair, hoisted it up, and stood over and into -- you know, stepped over into the boat and set his wheelchair down in the cockpit of the boat. and senator kennedy started up the motor and drove it off down into newport harbor and then shut off the motor and then pulled up the sails. as the wind caught the sails,
the boat heeled over. this old coast guardsman, claiborne pell, smiled a smile that i will never forget, as the wind took the boat and we began to move out into narragansett bay. the only other thing that was really fun about that is because senator pell could barely speak any long, he was actually a perfect fit for the senator kennedy, who could basically not stop talking. and so there was this wonderful conversation with senator -- with ted kennedy and claiborne pell in which ted kennedy did all the talking for both of them. they both had a lovely time and they reflected on decades of friendship and service here together. and it was a real privilege to have a chance, as a very, very new senator, to share that moment with these two very different but mutually deloved lions of the senate. i thank my senior colleague
prosecutor organizing our ability to come here to reflect on our friend and colleague, claiborne pell. i think nobody better than he carries on those pell traditions. thank you, senator reed. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. reed: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: i would again like to thank my colleague, senator whitehouse, about his eloquent words about a great, great american, claiborne pell. if you ever want to feel truly beloved, embraced by a constituent, respect, and admired do what i did several times -- march in a parade with claiborne pell. pretend that he earned for you. with that, i would yield the floor. and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
mr. thune: mr. president, i know the perception out there is that often bipartisanship is dead, but the bill we just passed this afternoon, the coast guard authorization act, is a good reminder that we can still come together and get things done for the american people. the bill which is headed to the president's desk has been negotiated for almost two years. portions of this bill have been discussed for over a decade. it's good to see senators and representatives of both parties come together and compromise on such an important piece of legislation. mr. president, we celebrated veterans day earlier this week. as always, it was a powerful reminder of everything that we
owe to the men and women who keep us safe, like the men and women of the united states coast guard. this key branch of the military is responsible for defending our nation's waters. the men and women of the coast guard stand on the front lines preventing dangerous drugs, weapons, and individuals from entering our country by sea. and when disaster strikes in the form of storms and hurricanes, the coast guard is on the scene conducting search and rescue and carrying people to safety. we owe the men and women of the coast guard a tremendous debt of gratitude. and we owe it to the american people to ensure that our nation's coast guard guardsmen have the tools and resources they need to carry out their mission. this bill will improve maritime safety, security, and stewardship and gives the coast guard the authority that it needs to conduct its military and law enforcement mission the and authorizes the equipment it needs to react to national emergencies.
the bill also creates uniform national ballast water and discharge standards for commercial vehicles that gives industry certainty while ensuring the protection of our environment. it also reauthorizes the federal maritime commission and the national oceanic and atmospheric administration's hydro graphic services. the chairman of the commerce committee and i have been honored to work with dedicated committee members of both parties. i would like to personally thank the members of our committees for all their hard work this congress. special thanks on the committee go to senator nelson, the committee's ranking member; to senator sullivan and senator baldwin, the chairman and ranking member of our oceans atmosphere fisheries and coast guard subcommittee; and to senators fischer and peters, the chairman and ranking member of our surface transportation subcommittee. i'd also like to thank chairman barrasso and ranking member carper from the environment and public works committee; and chairman shuster and ranking member defazio of the house transportation and
infrastructure committee. they have been great partners, and i appreciate everything that they have done to help get this bill across the finish line. and finally i would like to thank all the staff from both chambers who worked tirelessly including many late nights and we and -- weekends on this bill. without their efforts the final product would not have been such success. on my staff i would like to especially thank nick rossi, adrian arnakis, fern givens, jason smith, patrick fuchs, andrew neely, allison grab, frederick hill and briana manzelli. on senator nelson's staff, kim lipsky, deven barnhart. sharon gonzalez raffi. from the i'm not and public works committee, richard
russell, mary francis repco, andrew rogers, kristof tuloo and jack pillman. i'd like to place the names of the staffers in our partner committees in the house who played key roles in this important legislation. on chairman shuster's staff individuals who should be thank include chris vissan, john rayfield, bonnie bruce, luke preston, and cameron humphrey. from the ranking member defazio staff thanks go to kathy dedrick and dave jansen. mr. president, i'm sure i left someone off this list and for that i apologize, but it just underscores the amount of collective effort that went into our work here. and i could also easily expand the list to include those at the coast guard and at the environmental protection agency who provided valuable assistance and technical expertise. we look forward to working with them on the implementation of this bill. mr. president, as i said
earlier, the coast guard reauthorization that we just passed is a reminder that we can work together and get things done for the american people, and it's a timely reminder given the election. last week the american people elected a democrat majority to the house of representatives and reelected a republican majority to the united states senate. if we're going to get things done in the new congress, we're going to need to work together. here in the senate, we have spent the past two years working on an agenda to expand opportunities for working families and to put more money in americans' pockets. but we've also worked hard to ensure that those who keep our nation safe have all the tools and the resources that they need. we're going to continue that agenda in the lame duck session and in the new congress. mr. president, i really hope that democrats will join us. we can work together to grow our economy, lift up working
families, and to protect our nation. but it's going to require democrats to make a choice. democrats have spent most of the past two years attempting to relitigate the 2016 election. losing elections is a fact of life in a democracy, but democrats haven't seemed to be able to let this one go. and over the past two years they focused most of their energy on knee-jerk opposition to anything republicans or the president proposed, even when they've agreed with us. they've routinely delayed confirmation of the president's nominees, and not just the ones they didn't like but even the ones they ended up supporting. they refused to work with republicans on an overhaul of our nation's burdensome outdated tax code even though democrats have supported many of the measures that ended up in the final bill. mr. president, obviously there are going to be times when the right thing to do as a member of congress is to oppose. we have a responsibility to say
no when we think a bill or a nominee would profoundly damage the country. but that's not what democrats have done. too many of them have made opposition not a tool to be deployed when needed, but their standard operating procedure. and so i say again, democrats have a choice. they can continue down the path of partisanship and opposition or they can decide to start afresh and to work with republicans. i hope that they choose the latter, and i look forward to working with my democrat colleagues in this new congress on the priorities that the american people sent us here to work on, to make our economy stronger, to grow at a faster rate, to create better-paying jobs, to raise wages in this country, and to give future generations of americans more opportunities at -- and a higher standard of living and a better quality of life. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence
a senator: mr. sproo the -- the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: yes. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: and to speak for up to 20 minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. it is hard, particularly for those of us from coastal states, to overstate the importance of the earth's oceans as a store house of our food, as a regulator of our climate, as a highway for our travel and trade, and as a source wonder, joy, and recreation. according to the organization for economic cooperation and development, oceans contributed 1 point -- $1.5 trillion to the global economy in 2010.
but climate change is putting this all at risk. i've spoken frequently here on the floor about the threat climate change poses to our oceans and of the warning signals blaring around the world. one of the most overlooked of those signals is the enormous amount of heat accumulating in the oceans. as cbs news reported last week, recent revelations have been particularly alarming and deserving of a big neon sign on broadway. my humble floor speeches may not be a big neon sign on broadway, but i do hope they shine a little light on the plight of our oceans. which ultimately is our human plight. we know that more than 90% of the excess heat trapped by our greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the oceans.
no dispute. not even by the trump administration. the federal government's 2017 climate science special report, a multiagency report by experts from noaa and nasa and the department of energy labeled as the united states most definitive statement on climate change science by "the new york times" found that the oceans absorbed more than 9zeta jewels of heat energy per year. what is a zeta jewel? a zeta jewel is a billion trillion jewels. a jewel is a measure of heat energy, joule, joules, so 9zeta is 9 billion trillion joules. that is more than 12 times the
total energy that human beings used globally each year, just to put a scale on what 9 billion trillion joules is. to get another measure of how much energy that is, visualize the power of a detonated hiroshima style atomic bomb. imagine its classic mushroom cloud erupting into the sky. imagine all of that energy from a hiroshima-style atomic bomb captured as heat, pure heat. now imagine four hiroshima-sized atomic bombs exploded every second, every second. that is the equivalent of the excess heat going into our oceans because of climate change, because of our carbon emissions. more than four atomic bombs
worth of excess heat energy is being absorbed by the oceans every second of every day of every year. that is a massive amount of heat energy and adding it to the oceans has consequences. the most direct consequence of all that energy being pumped into the seas obviously is increased water temperatures. global average ocean surface temperature is up around 0.8 degrees celsius or 1.5 degrees fahrenheit since preindustrial times. that is enough to throw off the delicate balance of ocean conditions that marine creatures rely on to survive. and within that global ocean warming are extreme ocean temperature spikes around the
world. these marine heat waves in the ocean were first identified and characterized in 2011. this is a newly described phenomenon that climate change has brought to our seas. although marine heat waves were first identified and characterized in 2011, they've already caused permanent damage in our oceans. the great barrier reef is the largest coral reef in the world. it stretches for 1,400 miles off northeastern australia, and it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. it is made up of corals. corals that can become heat stressed and evict the tiny algae that support corals and that give corals their bright colors. without the algae, the corals
appear white. so these events are called coral bleaching. in the summer of 2016, the great barrier reef was hit by the most severe marine heat wave on record. it caused the longest and worst mass coral bleaching event in history. and then another heat wave and bleaching occurred the next year in 2017. these unprecedented back-to-back bleaching events killed half of all the corals in the great barrier reef. if there is a wonder of the world, if there is a majestic feature of god's creation, it is the great barrier reef and we are busily wrecking it in this generation through carbon emissions. the prognosis for the rest of the world's coral reefs is grim.
the united nations international panel on climate change released a report last month finding that coral reefs will all but disappear from earth if we warm by 2 degrees celsius, which, by the way, is the goal we're trying to stay under through the paris accord. even if we stay under that goal, corals will suffer immensely. without any changes to our fossil fuel consumption, we are on track to blow by 2 degrees and hit 3 degrees celsius of global warming by 2 -- making oceans extinct. global warming is wreaking half job on fisheries. fish feed the world. the world health organization say fish are the main source of protein for around a billion people worldwide. the united nations food and cultural organization estimates that 60 million people are
employed in fisheries and aqua culture. well, across the globe and here at home, we're seeing dangerous shifts affecting the fishing industry. rhode island once had a booming lobster industry, but the lobster population is shifting north as our waters warm leaving rhode island lobster traps empty. the national oceanic and atmospheric administration reports, and i quote, the lobster industry in new york and southern new england has nearly collapsed. end quote. maine as senator angus king has often pointed out, is temporarily benefiting from the northern movement of lobster, but the lobster will keep moving north into canada as the oceans continue to warm. rhode islanders and other new england fishermen are also looking worriedly at declining shellfish populations. total landings for eastern oysters, northern cohogs, soft shelled clams and northern bay
scallops declined 85% between 1980 and 2010. the national oceanic and atmospheric administration's northeast fisheries science center identified warming ocean temperatures as the key driver for that decline. on the other side of that decline, of course, are the livelihoods of all the men and women in that industry. the accumulating heat energy in our seas is also causing them to rise. as water warms, it expands. this thermal expansion is responsible for around a third of the rise we have measured in sea levels. the rest comes mostly from melting ice. again thanks to climate change. global sea level has already risen over 8 inches on average in the past 100 years, more in certain locations, and the rate of increase is accelerating.
warming and expanding waters eat away at the large ice sheets in the antarctic. as the edges melt away, the glaciers behind them melt more quickly adding additional water to the ocean. the ippc warns that as the world reaches warming levels of 1.5 to 2 degrees celsius, again what we are trying to stay at. this is or target. this isn't if it's worse. at the 1.5 to 2 degrees celsius, ice sheet melt could trigger multiple meters of sea level rise over time. meter, not inches. we're already 1 degree celsius above preindustry owe preindustrial times so there's not much room for maneuver between 1.5 and 2 degrees. warmer seas also supercharge storms. hurricanes gain strength from heat energy in the oceans below
them. warmer oceans also evaporate more water to the atmosphere generating more rainfall. stronger and wetter storms then ride ashore on higher sea levels pushing larger storm surges ahead of them into our coastal states. many of us remember the devastation super storm sandy brought to the mid-atlantic and southern new england states in 2012. here's what dr. michael mann, professor at atmospheric science and director of the earth system science center, pennsylvania state university, said about that storm. sea level rise adds to the storm surge of every single storm that makes landfall. in the case of super storm sandy in 2012, it added a foot to that 13-foot storm surge. one foot meant 25 more square miles of coastal flooding. it meant several billion dollars
worth of additional damage. at one point during this year's hurricane season, our tropics faced nine active tropical storms. the hallmarks of these warm ocean-fueled storms can be seen in powerful hurricanes that hit united states territories in recent years. hurricane harvey hit houston. hurricane maria hit puerto rico and the virgin islands. super typhoon hit the islands. hurricane florence hit the care line thats and hurricane michael hit florida. not one storm can be blamed wholly on climate change but scientists are increasingly able to link the increasingly dangerous level of storm damage to climate change. and we've had an erie streak of record-setting storms in the past few years. hurricane harvey was the single
greatest downpour in u.s. history according to the u.s. geological survey. it dumped over 50 inches of rain on houston. it dumped over 30 trillion gallons of water over texas, louisiana, tennessee, and kentucky. how much is 30 trillion gallons of water? for comparison the chesapeake bay holds around 18 trillion gallons of water. basically they dumped nearly two chesapeake bays on to those states. harvey's deluge was fueled by record warm temperatures in the gulf of mexico. scientists from the university of california berkley found that hurricane harvey was over three times more likely to have occurred due to climate change and that its rainfall was increased by around 38% due to climate change. hurricane florence intensified over water one to two degrees celsius above average and it dutched record rainfall and
flooding on the carolinas in september. preliminary analysis suggests florence's rainfall was more than 50% higher due to climate change. what hurricane michael hit florida just last month, it passed over water two to three degrees celsius warmer than average. as it passed over these water, michael's winds increased by 80 miles per hour in just 48 hours, a phenomenon scientists refer to as rapid intensification. it became the strongest storm ever to make an october landfall in the united states. the direct link between sea temperature and hurricane intensification is well established. each degree celsius of ocean warming causes a 7% increase in maximum wind speed and a storm's destructive potential increases
by three times the wind speed increase. so how does that play through? well, to quote professor mann again, a 7% increase in wind speed is a 21% increase in the destructive potential of the storm. that's with one degree celsius ocean warming. with hurricane michael, those temperatures were two to three degrees celsius above preindustrial temperatures. if you do the math it was probably twice as destructive as it would have been in the absence of human-caused warming. the result of the destructive power of hurricane michael was the almost complete demolition of the town of mexico beach, florida. michael hit with 155 mile per hour winds and a storm surge of around 9 feet completely demolishing 70% of homes and severely damaging many more.
the degree of damage and the imposing cost of rebuilding mean that many floridians simply will leave. and that is playing out across coastal properties. a falloff of coastal property values will spread, many sources anticipate, as people see more events shrike the destruction of -- more events like the destruction of mexico beach. insurance companies, banks, and property investors, institutional property investors, are already showing signs of anxiety in coastal communities. freddie mac has described the effect of this property value crash on america's coastal regions as follows -- fretie mack, the great -- freddie mac, the great housing powerhouse, has said the economic losses and social disruption may happen gradually, but they are likely to be
greater in total than those experienced in the housing crisis and the great recession. any of us who lived through the 2008 mortgage meltdown should take that warning deadly seriously, and it is not just freddie mac. moody's now rates coastal municipalities bonds for this risk. moody's, freddie mac, union of concerned scientists -- the experience of coastal communities. it's all piling up, and yet we do nothing. and i haven't even talked about acidification. that's a separate speech. the chemical changes happening in the ocean in addition to the physical changes of warming and rising. set that aside, but it's just as dangerous. so despite these warnings, just about ocean warming, republican
heads in congress and in the white house seem determined to remain buried in the sand. i don't know how many more storms need to hit us before we're willing to take meaningful action. americans who live and work along our shores -- rhode islanders and people who live in other coastal states -- they're the ones who are suffering the most from all of this. and they're the ones who will have to explain our -- who we'll have to explain our delay to. and those americans are entitled to a voice, not just the lobbyists of the fossil fuel industry. we must protect our coasts for when the next storms batter their way ashore. this is getting worse, not better. and we must take responsibility for the changes we are causing in the world's oceans. we will not be forgiven for our
i want to -- as the world knows, the world's largest public utility is the tennessee valley authority, and it serves 10 million customers, seven-state region. enormously important to our state of tennessee. it's chairman, bill johnson, announced today that it's c.e.o. is leaving. i'll have more to say about him later, but he has -- he and the board of directors have led t.v.a. in an excellent direction, and it is now up to the board of directors to choose his successor. a big job. as i said, it is a $10 billion-a-year company. john rider of memphis was
nominated by president trump 282 days ago to be one of those directors. he's been approved by voice vote by the energy -- by the environment and public works committee. and for the last 176 days he has been waiting for confirmation. he has the approval of the ranking democrat on the committee, the senator from delaware, carper -- senator carper. he has the approval of the ranking democrat on the subcommittee, senator whitehouse. and so it's time that mr. ryder, who who is consistently named one of the finest lawyers in femme miss -- he has been -- in femme physical, he has been recognized as among the 101 best lawyers in tennessee and listed in best lawyers since 1987. in other words, he is a well-qualified, noncontroversial
nominee who is needed by the people of our region to select a successor to bill johnson, the c.e.o. the other nominees have been confirmed, the people -- the nominees from alabama were confirmed. the nominee from kentucky was confirmed. but not the nominee from tennessee. so i'm taking the step today of coming to the floor to ask that he be confirmed by consent. i can think of no reason why he would not be. i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of executive calendar 856, the nomination of john ryder to be a member of the board of directors of the tennessee valley authority, that the senate vote on the nomination with no intervening action or debate and that if of canned the motion to reconsider be considered and laid upon the table, the the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, and no further motions be made in order, and
any statements relating to the nomination be printed in the record. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. schumer: reserving the right to object -- and i will object. very simply, there has to be some comity here. republicans cannot block democratic nominees and then expect republican nominees to go through. so i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. alexander: mr. president, i would said to my -- the presiding officer: the senator from from tennessee. mr. alexander: -- friend from new york, who is he talking about, i would say to my friend. he knows my record. i've worked with him three times when president obama was there, worked with him directly, to make it easier for president obama to have nominees. let me just go through that. because i think it's important that the people know the efforts that we made together. in 2011 working with the senator from new york, we got rid of secret holds. we permitted waiver of the 72-hour rule that was used to
block nominations and delay. we created 272 expedited, privileged nominations. we eliminated senate confirmation for 163 positions, all to make it easier for president obama to make presidential nominations. we created some new rules which said that executive nominees could only be debated postcloture by eight hours and district judges for two hours. i personally made sure that the current chairman of the democratic party, tom perez, got cloture so the senate could vote on it. i a voted against him, but i made certain that he could come to a vote. when president obama had a vacancy in the department of education in his last year, i went to president obama and said, mr. president, i think it's inappropriate for us not to have a confirmed senate nominee in a principal position like u.s. secretary of education.
if you will please nominee john king, with whom i disagree, i will make sure he is confirmed and we confirmed him. so that's been my record in terms of dealing with nominees of the president of an opposite party. so i would ask through the chair, why pick on tennessee? why confirm kentucky nominees, why confirm alabama nominees, why work with me in three different congresses to make it easier for president obama to confirm nominees, why applaud me for allowing the chairman of the democratic party today to be confirmed as a member of the national labor relations board, and then block a nominee for the tennessee valley authority who is eminently well-qualified and who is supported by the democratic members of the committee who have jurisdiction, who's needed on the board to pick a c.e.o. for the millions of people in the seven-area region? why pick on tennessee, i would say to my friend from new york,
through the chair? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: we have to have some bipartisanship here. i would hope that my -- i understand my friend from tennessee. he is my friend. i would hope he would work with us to create bipartisan packages to get nominees through. that is not happening. we need to do it. i yield the floor. mr. alexander: mr. president, i have no understanding of what he's talking about. i mean, i'm the chairman of the health, education, labor, and pensions committee. i have during my time regularly confirmed democratic nominees and republican nominees. i've worked with the democratic leader to make it easier for president obama to confirm nominees, and you now he gives me no specific reason why he is objecting to the nominee from tennessee. i would ask him further, even though he's left the floor in what i would consider to be an act of discourtesy while i'm
speaking to him -- and inside mean that happen -- and i mean that. i'm very upset about that. i consider it an act of discourtesy when the democratic leader leaves the floor when i was directly to him on a matter of importance to 10 million people in our area. i would ask him what kind of precedent is he set, the democratic leader? let's think about this for a moment. 119 times the majority leader, senator mcconnell, has had to file cloture to cut off debate in order to just get a vote on a nominee like mr. ryder, named one of the best lawyers in tennessee since 1987, approved by democratic colleagues, needed by the tennessee valley authority, certain to be confirmed here almost unanimously. 119 times the democratic opposition has required the republican leader, senator mcconnell, to use a whole week
to confirm a nominee. that happened 12 times to president obama. that happened four times to president george w. bush, it happened 12 times to president clinton, and zero times to george h.w. bush in which -- who's administration i served. now, that's those presidents in the same amount of time. what kind of precedent does this set? well, let's talk about that for aempt mo. let's talk about. this is a body of precedents. and for many, many years we always confirmed nominees with 51 votes. that was until george w. bush became president of the united states. and the senator from new york, before he was the democratic leader, and others, decided they would use a cloture vote, a requirement for 60 votes, to block president george w. bush's nominees. that was the first time that had
happened. up until that time, mr. president, the tradition of this body was while you could require 60 votes, at least since about 1920, no one ever did. even clarence thomas -- that was a very controversial supreme court nomination -- was confirmed by 52-48. no one thought at the time of requiring that his nomination require 60 votes. could have but didn't. but that was the tradition in the senate, always nominations by 51 votes. the one exception in supreme courts throughout the history of the senate was abe fortice under president johnson, and that was an unusual situation. never has a federal district judge been required to have 60 votes. in fact, what the democratic leader -- i wish he were here on the floor to hear this -- what he may have forgotten is that senator mcconnell tried at one time to require a cloture
vote of judge mcconnell in rhode island, and i and a number of other republicans objected because we had never done that before. we never said that you have to have 60 votes to be confirmed as a federal district judge, so we rejected that motion by the republican leader. and as a result of that, never in the history of the senate have we required 60 votes for a federal district judge to be confirmed. never in the history of the senate have we required 60 votes for a cabinet member to be confirmed. but then in the early years of george w. bush, 2003, i had just come to the senate, the senator from new york and and others said we'll do that for the first time, block george bush's nominees. i don't want to debate that back and forth today except to say that became a precedent. and sure enough, what goes around comes around. a few years later, by 2013, things had gotten so that the democrats decided to break the rules to change the rules, use
the so-called nuclear option. and when republicans did the same thing that the senator from new york had done, democrats overruled that and seated judges on the d.c. court of appeals. so as a result of the precedent set by the senator from new york on judges with george w. bush, we had a breaking of the nuclear option in the senate, the using of that. republicans then did what the democrats did. that's what you call precedent. well, it happened a second time. that use of the nuclear option left at 60 votes -- you could require 60 votes in order to have a supreme court justice. when president trump nominated neil gorsuch to be supreme court justice, the democrats filibustered justice gorsuch, an enormously well qualified person. remember, throughout the history of the country, we had not blocked a supreme court
justice by a filibuster with that single exception of the abe fortice instance. they did that. and as a result of that, the republicans then said, well, we'll use the nuclear option and change the rules to 51. so that's what happened with the precedent. now let's look at this. are we going to block for 282 days -- let me get my numbers exactly right. 176 days on the calendar awaiting confirmation, a noncontroversial board of directors member for the tennessee valley authority. that's what we've come to. are we going to say as a united states senate minority that we're going to effectively block, we'll effectively block those kinds of nominations and effectively keep an elected president from setting up a government? is that what we're going to say? it looks like that what we are, if you're going to say that 119
times the majority leader of the senate, of whichever party will have to invoke cloture -- that means take three or four days to confirm even a noncontroversial presidential nomination when there are 1,200 such nominations. let's say we have a democratic president one day and a republican united states senate. or a republican president and a democratic united states senate. but let's just for purposes of discussion, since we're talking about precedent, let's say the democrats make a big comeback and elect a democratic president the next time around. it's only two years away before the presidential election. let's say the republicans stay in power and still have a majority in the senate, and republicans say, well, we're a body of precedent. we will do to the democratic president exactly what the senate did to the -- what the senate did to president trump. republicans are in the majority. the democratic president might not even be able to staff the government because the
republicans could say we won't confirm anybody. or even if the republicans were to be in the minority and there were democratic president, and the republican minority did to the next democratic president what this minority is doing to this one, then 119 times you would see this happen, at least through the first, the first part of the administration. so where does that leave us as a government of the united states? well, here is where it would leave us. it would leave us with a government of the united states with the senate having no role in the appointment of its principal officers. that's what it would leave. because there is on the books legislation called the vacancies act which allows any president of the united states to appoint acting people to all of the positions in the government. they can serve for 210 days at least, and there are a wide variety of people who can be chosen for those positions. they can be people who are
confirmed or they can be senior people in the government. we haven't had an example -- we had an example of that today in the united states department of justice, matthew whitaker. the attorney general jeff sessions, whom i admire and all of us know resigned at the request of the president. instead of picking a senate-confirmed successor as the acting attorney general of the united states, president trump did as the vacancies act allows him to do, appointed matthew whitaker from attorney general session's chief of staff. i suppose the president could do that for every position. in the end, i mentioned earlier, toward the end of president obama's term he had no education secretary. and arne duncan decided to leave. and they used the vacancies act to allow john king, who was not confirmed by the senate, in
effect to be the acting secretary of education. and as i said earlier, i had that conversation with president obama, i said, mr. president, i believe institutionally we should have a senate-confirmed secretary of education even if i disagree, as i did, with john king's education views, i will see to it that if you nominate him, he's confirmed. president obama did that. he respected the importance of having institutionally confirmed principal officers in the government. and then we confirmed him. so i don't know where this is leading us. i think this is the same kind of dangerous precedent that was established when democrats for the first time used the 60-vote opportunity to block president george w. bush's appellate court judges. and when the democrats then did what most of them tell me they wish they hadn't done, they used the nuclear option and required a 51-vote cloture -- a
5-1 vote cloture, so now they can't eventually block anyone. even john rider, if we all decide that we want to take a whole week to confirm him. that's what senator mcconnell has been doing. he's been putting a priority on district judges and on circuit judges. and the democrats have been saying we're going to slow you down but you can't win that way. all that happens is that the senate gradually gives up its advise and consent authority under the constitution to help the president form a government. that's one of the important parts of what we do in this government. the late justice scalia said every tin horn dictator has a bill of rights. what the united states has that is different is checks and balances. one of the most important part of that checks and balances is for the senate advise and consent on about 1,200 different presidential nominees.
that's why i worked with senator schumer and other democrats like senator levin and republicans like senator mccain, senator barrasso, and we took steps during the obama administration three different times to reduce the number of presidential nominees, to speed up presidential nominees, to put 272 of them at a privileged status so they could come through more rapidly. this goes in entirely the opposite direction, and it is a terrible precedent for this institution. so i'm extremely disappointed. i'm disappointed for john ryder, who is a prominent lawyer, who thought he might get to be on the t.b.a. board and was nominated 282 days ago. i'm disappointed for the people of tennessee and the tennessee valley authority region, millions of people who have had a very good chief executive officer for the t.v.a. for the
last several years in bill johnson and now need a fully functioning board of directors to pick his successor. and yet the democrats say even though we approve of him, even though we've got no reason not to confirm him, we're just going to slow the train down just because we can. well, if they can, someone else can later. that does not serve the people well. i don't see any partisan political advantage to the democrats for doing something like this. i never have thought that. i always thought that it was the right thing to do to let a president staff his administration. and if you don't like the nominee, you can always vote no. but at least you can have a vote. so he's talking about bipartisan packages. this nominee has been waiting for a long, long time.
so i'm not through with this. i think this is something that the people of tennessee are going to be very disappointed about. and i would ask my friend from new york again why are you picking on tennessee? why would you confirm the alabama nominee? why would you confirm the kentucky nominee? and why would you not confirm the tennessee nominee? why would you make him swing in the wind for 176 days when everybody approves of him, even the democratic ranking member of the committee, the democratic ranking member of the subcommittee? something smells here, and it's a bad precedent for the united states senate. it's not good for our country, and it's completely contrary to the way that i have enjoyed working with the senator from new york in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, to make it easier then for president obama but later for every president of the united states to have his
presidential nominees promptly considered by the united states senate and voted up or down. mr. president, while i'm on the subject of the tennessee valley authority, i want to mention the fact that bill johnson who's been the chief executive officer of the tennessee valley authority for the last several years, announced today in a board meeting of the t.v.a. in mississippi of his intention to retire next year. my hope would be that john ryder, whose term could have begun earlier this year, would be there to help select his successor. bill johnson and the board have done a good job for the last few years with t.v.a. they've reduced its debt. they've kept electricity prices low. they provided a reliable, ample supply of electricity for a rapidly growing part of america, making it easier for us to approve jobs. and the air is cleaner. as i will say more about in just a minute, the new foothills
parkway opened around the great smoky mountains this past weekend, and it was packed with local people on sunday. i was up there myself. and we could see the mountains because t.v.a. over the last several years has put pollution control equipment on all of its coal plants and we could immediately see the difference. other federal regulations have made it easier. in fact, a lawsuit from north carolina with t.v.a. to keep dirty air from tennessee from going into north carolina has now been made a federal regulation and dirty air from kentucky, texas, other other states can't blow into tennessee. and the result is that when you come see the great smoky mountains, you can call them the great smoky mountains and not the great smoggy mountains, which they were some time ago. so i would congratulate bill johnson on his tenure as c.e.o. he's got t.v.a. on the right track. and i would urge the board of directors to think long and hard as they select someone to fill
his shoes because as a former governor of that state and now as united states senator from tennessee for 16 years, i know the importance of having an ample supply of low-cost clean electricity to heat our homes, run our computers, and attract our jobs. now i have a thanksgiving thought, to move away from a disagreeable, acrimonious dealings of the senate for a moment. i suggest two more things that tennesseans can be grateful for this thanksgiving. one, there's a new 16-mile section of the foothills parkway creating a spectacular view of the great smoky mountains. and, two, because the air is now so much cleaner, you can actually see the mountains from this spectacular drive. in the 1990's on the clearest days, according to the national park service, you could see for around 50 miles in the smokies.
today you can see more than 90 miles on the clearest days. even on the hazeiest days, visibility is approved. in the 1990's visibility was less than ten miles. and today you can see more than 30 miles on the haziest days according to the park service. that still lasts in the natural visibility on the clearest days -- by natural visibility, i mean the blue haze that the cherokees used to sing about because of the moisture in the smokies. 90 miles on the haziest days, we have made great improvements in the last two decades, and visibility is continuing to improve in the park. the new section of the foothills parkway that opened last thursday is one of the prettiest drives in america. if you want the best view of the highest mountains in the eastern united states, you will drive the foothills parkway. last sunday when my wife and i
drove it, on the third day it was open, it was packed. most of it local people taking pictures of each other because they were so astonished by the view. it was a view so magnificent, it surprises even those of us who grew up admiring the great smoky mountains. soon this drive will attract more than -- many of the more than 11 million visitors who come to our park each year, twice as many as any national park, but 16 years ago, these visitors would not have had such a good view. in 2002, the year i was elected to the senate, the national parks conservation association said the great smoky mountain national park was the most polluted national park in america. more than -- there were 3.5 million people who would visit the park in the summertime. the air was hazardous to breathe. the views were extremely limited due to pollution. instead of the blue haze that i mentioned a little earlier, we saw smog. the great smoky mountains had become the great smoggy
mountains just 16 years ago. then a lot of people went to work. federal clean air regulations which i supported required cleaner burning diesel fuels and cleaner vehicle emissions which also helped lower emissions. this especially helped the smokies because of the large number of visitors' vehicles and because three interstates carry heavy truck traffic through nearby knoxville, tennessee. i also voted to support other federal clean air regulations that limited emissions from smokestacks of sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury, and established rules to prohibit dirty air blowing from one state into another. i have always thought that operating a cold-fired power plant without air pollution equipment on it was like driving at night without the lights on. we have equipment, and t.v.a. has proved it, as other
utilities have, that you can burn coal in a clean way if you will simply put on pollution control equipment for mercury, nitrogen, and sulfur. one of the biggest impacts, therefore, came in 2008 when the tennessee valley authority began installing pollution control equipment on some of its coal-fired power plants near the park. t.v.a. has invested nearly $6 billion to reduce air emissions. that's money out of our pockets, we ratepayers. these efforts have resulted in a 94% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions, a 91% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions. nitrogen and sulfur emissions have harmful effects on human health, the environment, and visibility. those of us who live near the park could see the impact almost immediately of t.v.a.'s actions. today, t.v.a. has installed the same type of emission control equipment on all of its
coal-fired power plants and continues to improve that equipment so the air will become even cleaner. over the years, i met and worked with mayors in counties surrounding the park who did what they could locally to make the air cleaner. that's because one of their top priorities is clean air, the sevier county chamber of commerce when i walked in there not long ago told me it was their top priority because tourists come to spend money in sevierville and the smokies to see the smokies, not the smog. now the ground level ozone that creates the smog that's harmful to human health and the environment and reduces visibility has improved significantly. by 36%, according to the great smoky mountain association and all of the counties in the region around the park meet the e.p.a.'s environmental quality standards for ozone pollution. now on the parkway. in 1944, that was the year congress first authorized the foothills parkway. this is what was going on.
allied forces were invading normandy beach. franklin d. roosevelt was president. and bing crosby was singing "i'll be seeing you." the state of tennessee then began acquiring right-of-way for the parkway and donating it to the federal government. in 1960, while that was going on, the construction of the parkway actually started. dwight d. eisenhower was the president, elvis had just come home from two years in the army, and american women were wearing beehive hairdos. that was 1960 when construction on this parkway began. when i became governor in 1979, the state had completed acquiring the right-of-way, so the state took the lead on ten miles of the parkway between carrs creek and wares valley. and then construction was halted because of environmental problems. by the time i got to the senate in 2002, the same time the smokies were declared the most
polluted national park, all the parties had agreed on a plan -- to build bridges to complete the so-called 1.65-mile missing link on the parkway. then president bush's administration and the 2005 federal highway bill, president obama's administration, then governor bill haslem's state administration in tennessee all chipped in. effort, time, and taxpayer money to finish the job after 50 years and $200 million. so since it was first authorized, it's taken 75 years to build a parkway in two decades to make the air clean enough so the visitors can see the mountains for 90 miles. so if you're looking for something else to be grateful for on thanksgiving, try being grateful for the many visionaries, park officials, road builders, engineers, scientists, editors, political leaders who have had the
foresight to make it a priority to build a foothills parkway and clean up the air so we can see the mountains. it's taken 75 years, but the views are so picturesque that it has been well worth the wait. now, mr. president, on another subject, -- i say to people who come up to me in some wonderment and ask what it's like working in the united states senate, i would say think of washington, d.c., as a -- as a split-screen television. let's take the 30 days between october 6 and november 6. between judge kavanaugh's -- the beginning of his hearing and the
end of his hearing, his confirmation. on one side of the screen, there was as much acrimony as you could ever expect to see in the united states capitol. protesters, senators upset, judge kavanaugh upset. a very difficult situation. that's on one side of the television set. but on the other side of the television set was one of the most productive 30 days we have had in the united states senate. 72 senators working together, half democrats, half republicans, to pass landmark opioids legislation to deal with the largest public health crisis we have today. a lot of other things happened during that time. a major copyright bill, first in a generation to make sure songwriters get paid for their work. the senator from north carolina helped with that. appropriations bills that for
the fourth conservative -- consecutive years had funding for national laboratories, for work to cure cancer, all those miracles. an important bill to make our airlines safer for the next five years. probably the most important infrastructure bill on locks and dams that we have had in several years. we even passed a bill senator feinstein and i had worked on for a few years to make it illegal to make cell phone calls from airplanes so you won't have to sit next to somebody revealing their innermost thoughts on a five-hour flight across the country. all that happened on this side of the screen during the same 30 days you saw the kavanaugh hearing. and i want to talk about the most important thing that happened during those 30 days, which was the opioids legislation. opioids is -- affects every single part of our country.
we have established that, which is why 72 senators worked together, eight committees in the house, five in the senate, to produce a complex bill right in the middle of an election, right in the middle of the kavanaugh hearing. and one of the things that we talked about was what do we do about synthetic opioids, fentanyl? and most of that fentanyl originates in china. last week, i led a delegation of five senators and two members of the house of representatives to china where we met with officials for the express purpose of asking their help in dealing with our opioids problem, our fentanyl problem. we didn't say to them it's all your fault. we said look, it's our problem. china doesn't have a user problem with opioids today like we do. in fact, no other country has had more of a struggle with
opium than china throughout its history. they know how terrible it can be. but we said we would like for you chinese officials to help us by doing more of what you're already doing, by doing what we have done about fentanyl, by controlling every form of it, listing every form of fentanyl as a controlled substance so that our department of justice and our drug enforcement agency can go after the people who are using it illegally. fentanyl is a white powder, a synthetic opioid, that -- that can come in a small package. if you open the package and a few grams escape into the air, d.e.a. agents have told me from tennessee, they are almost overcome. they have to leave the room. a few grams can kill you, and it often is killing americans. it's the fastest rising killer
of drug overdoses in our country. a 47% increase in our -- in our state. now, the government of china has already been a good partner. i said this to chinese officials with whom we met. they worked with our drug enforcement agency and other law enforcement agencies to try to stem the flow of the chemicals which are produced in china but which then find their way through mexico and canada mainly into the united states or through the mail directly into the united states. what china has already done that we appreciate -- and i said that to them -- was that they have made 25 fentanyl compounds illegal, and according to the united states drug enforcement agency, when china did that, we saw immediate and dramatic decrease in those chemicals coming to the united states. this action boosted our counternarcotics cooperation, it led to a dramatic decrease in
the amount of those substances subsequently found in the united states. so china cooperates with the united states, but our cooperation faces challenges when a fentanyl substance is not on china's control list. so the request that i made at each of our majorities was this -- would you please control every, all fentanyl substances, make them all illegal? the trump administration did this in the united states in 2017. we would like for china to do the same thing. that is the way to help stem the flow of fentanyl substance from china to the u.s. and other countries. i said to them look, we're trying to do our part. we just passed our landmark opioid legislation. it included senator portman's stop act which many of us cosponsored which would make it easier for us to stop fentanyl
through the mail. we're doing everything we can think of to do, but when you do not control all fentanyl substances, what happens in china is the 25 you have controlled, some smart entrepreneur in china will figure out a different class of fentanyl and begin to sell it and mail it and it comes to the united states through mexico and canada, and the drug agencies in china aren't really empowered to deal with it. to be clear, this is not a problem that the chinese government has caused, but this is a problem that the chinese government can help us solve. this is not a pointing of the finger at china and say you're doing the wrong thing. in fact, they're doing the right thing by cooperating with us and classifying 25 fentanyl substances. we want them to do more of what they are already doing. they can be seen as the world
leader if dealing with this dangerous synthetic opioid because most of the chemicals are produced in that country. on the trip with me were a very senior delegation, the chairman of the house appropriations and budget committees this year, congressmen frelinghuysen and black, and then senators shelby and enzi and roberts and kennedy from this body. we worked with the united states ambassador to china terry brand stein. he's exceptional and the longest serving governor in the united states and six months ago when i first talked to the governor about our proposed trip to china, he said i want to ask you to do one thing. make the fentanyl-opioid crisis the primary point of your visit in china to help chinese officials understand how important it is to us because we have many other issues going back and forth with china right
now. the president of the united states is meeting apparently maybe next week with the president of china in argentina. perhaps out of that we'll have a trade deal. we have a lot of issues with china. so fentanyl and opioids doesn't rise to the top of the list in the chinese minds, our ambassador was saying and one reason it doesn't is because china doesn't have a problem, much of a problem with people using illegal opioids. certainly it has nothing like what we do. we know and we heard and we said on this floor and we all voted for the opioid spill because we know what's happening in our country, that overdoses involving opioids kill more than 42,000 people in this country in 2016 and roughly 45% of those were due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the kind we're asking china to help us with. in my home county of blunt county in east tennessee, there are 130,000 people.
last year there were 130,000 opioid prescriptions. one for every person. well, the legislation we passed will help reduce the number of prescriptions. that's one way to deal with the problem. but another way is to stop the fentanyl from coming into our -- coming into our country. our new law helps address the opioid crisis by the stop act. that's the fentanyl bill. it supports research to find new nonaddictive painkillers. it helps reduce the supply of opioids by empowering the f.d.a. to require manufacturers to sell opioid pills only in so-called blister packs. it provides more opportunities for treatment and recovery. it helps babies born in opioid withdrawal. we appropriated during this past year in our appropriations bills $8.5 billion to deal with opioids, but still we have our problem with fentanyl that the chinese can help us solve.
several of the chinese officials reacted with surprise and some not too well when i told them that most of the fentanyl that comes into our country originates in one way or another in china. the reason for that is not because they're not helping us. it's because of the ingenuity of chinese entrepreneurs who as soon as china lists a fentanyl substance as controlled, they create another kind of fentanyl substance and keep selling it. the chinese officials were generous and respectful of our time. they listened, promised to consider our request. we met with lee kong, the premier, the state counselor and public security minister under whom directly the narcotics agents are. yang chi, the communist party
foreign affairs director. they understand how serious this is for us and they know it hurts because they've had a long history of opioids with which they dealt with. i appreciate the fact this they said they're willing to explore this. i intend to report our visit to president trump and urge him to continue to ask china to help us. we also met with am brass doors of other -- ambassadors of other countries who are affected such as mexico and china and other countries whom ambassador branstad invited to the u.s. embassy for a meeting. they agreed to form a working group to try to help make clear to the chinese that we weren't pointing the finger at them saying it's your problem. we're just saying the only finger we like to point is to say you can do more than anybody else to help solve the problem. so i want to thank ambassador branstad, terry branstad, for setting up the relationships we had with the ministers in china,
to help deliver the message that opioids is our biggest public health epidemic and that the fentanyl forwarded to the united states is the most severe part of that. he and the staff at the u.s. embassy were very helpful. in particular, i'd like to thank steve churchill, rob fordin and richard jell for all their work. i would like to thank again some of the chinese officials we met. the premiere lee kong, the minister and director yong jay z i for the commitment they made to continue to work with us on this public health epidemic. in conclusion, mr. president, there's no public health crisis in the united states of america that compares with the opioid crisis. the most severe part of that crisis right now is the flow of fentanyl coming into the united states. what we respectfully ask china
to do is more of what they're already doing. they're already controlling 25 different classes of fentanyl. we want them to control all of those classes of fentanyl. that frees their narcotics agents and they're pretty good, from going after anyone in china who uses or produces fentanyl illegally or improperly. we saw the difference that made when china controlled 25 of the fentanyl substances. we look forward to the difference it will make when it controls the rest. so my hope is that the president of the united states and the president of china discuss this when they see each other next week in argentina. i hope the president will thank the president for what they've already done and ask them to do more. it's not china's problem. it's our problem. we're the one with the opioids problem but china can help us
solve it by doing what we've already done about fentanyl in this country and doing more what they've already done. if they do that, china can be seen as the country in the world doing the most about stopping the flow of this deadly fentanyl and the american people will be grateful for that action. i thank the president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i want to echo what my colleague from tennessee just mentioned about a lot of bipartisan accomplishments here on the senate floor over the last several weeks. really important ones. he led the charge on the opioid bill which is going to help our entire country. and so many others. they don't always get reported in the press, but it's important to make sure that our fellow americans, our constituents know that that's happening. and what i want to do this afternoon, mr. president, was
talk about another one, an important one, a really important accomplishment that we just were able to achieve here on the senate floor a couple of hours ago, and that's the coast guard authorization act of 2018. and a number of senators have already been down on the floor. john thune, the chairman of the commerce committee, that's where the oversight and responsibility of the coast guard lies, in the commerce committee. senator wicker from mississippi, senator carper, so many senators contributed to this important piece of legislation that we just passed today by almost a vote of over 90 u.s. senators. 90 u.s. senators. so that is a very bipartisan piece of legislation that we're able to get through the senate floor today. now, mr. president, as you know, this has taken some time. it's taken some time, almost two years we've been working on the
coast guard bill. and, you know, a number of us put a lot of time and effort into it. i do want to do a shout out to my staff, eric, my legislative director, tom mansore who is a coast guard fellow in my office, scott lathard. all of them worked literally the last year and a half, night and day on this bill. again, important for america. certainly important for my great state of alaska. mr. president, it raises a broader issue. you know, we just celebrated veterans day. and our country was rightfully focused on our veterans, a lot of focus on the centennial of the armistice of world war i, the ending of world war i. but i do want to mention, it's often when there's a focus on the armed services, it focuses on the armed services at the pentagon, army, navy, air force,
marines. and sometimes -- sometimes the brave men and women in the coast guard can be overlooked. well, they shouldn't be. they shouldn't be. we all know that. and one of the things that i've tried to focus on in my time in the senate is making sure that they're not. you know, prior to 9/11, prior to 9/11, the coast guard was probably the only service in the entire united states military because they are a member of the services of the united states military whose members were risking their lives every single day on the job. now, post-9/11, with the national security challenges we have, every, every member of our military, all the servicers risking their lives every day. but the coast guard does it day in, day out, pre-9/11, post-9/11, men and women and
that wonderful service undertaking a heroic mission and actions that we see, saving american lives and defending our national security. so what do they focus on and what does this bill focus on? well, mr. president, bottom line, this bill is focused on making sure the coast guard, the men and women of the coast guard, have the resources to do their job. have the resources to do their job. and their job is varied and extremely important. now, we've all seen the coast guard coming out of the sky to rescue us, rescue americans on seas, when they're in trouble, with the hurricanes we've seen over the last really couple of years, the heroic pictures of the men and women of the coast guard going and doing rescues, thousands of rescues. we see that as part of their
mission. they have been described as angels in helicopters. when they show up, it's certainly witnessing america at its very best. and we've seen a lot of that. the mission of the coast guard also includes ice breaking, marine environmental protection, port security, international crisis response. many members of deployed overseas in places like the middle east, combating illegal fishing by other nations, protecting american fishermen, protecting alaskan fishermen, readiness to support the department of defense operation. it's a long list, mr. president. the coast guard does it very well, and importantly, the bill we just passed today will significantly help the men and women with this important mission. now, mr. president, you and i serve on the armed services committee. and again, what my colleague from tennessee was talking
about, another one of these bipartisan areas of achievement that we've seen here in the senate in the last year, year and a half is consensus on issues like rebuilding our military, rebuilding our military. we're doing that on the armed services committee through the national defense authorization act that passes the senate and the house every year. and i'm certainly honored to be on the armed services committee where we're working on that, that rebuilding from the cuts of 2010 to 2015, they're almost 25% of the department of defense budget while national security challenges were increasing all over the world. but, mr. president, the other thing that we're rebuilding and it doesn't always get a lot of attention if we're rebuilding the coast guard. in essence, this bill that we passed today is the ndaa for the u.s. coast guard.
and the recapitalization and rebuilding of the coast guard is a core element of the bill we just passed. let's run through a couple of examples. like what we just did in the ndaa, increasing the end strength of the army, navy, air force, and marines, this bill works today to increase the end strength of the u.s. coast guard. and importantly, it starts to really accelerate what we are doing in terms of recapitalizing the fleet. the coast guard fleet. so, for example, this bill authorizes the building of six more fast response cutters. these are critical cutters for the u.s. coast guard and three more national security cutters for the u.s. coast guard. these are incredible vessels, huge, 400-plus feet. i had the honor going out to a commissioning of the douglas
monroe, one of the new national security cutters, and these ships can do it all. can do it all. they look like navy -- they look like navy arleigh class -- big navy ships that can do it all, and that's what these national security cutters are doing. mr. president, this legislation also helps streamlining the building of navy ships, which is important as we recapitalize the fleet and directs the overall policies of the coast guard. now, i want to talk a little bit about some of the more specific provisions in this bill that relate to my great state, the great state of alaska. where the coast guard and the people of alaska have a very special relationship. we love the men and women of the
coast guard. we see them in action all the time, all the time, doing heroic missions. we have the largest coast guard base in the country in kodiak, alaska. and, mr. president, district 17 -- that's the coast guard district in alaska -- is the largest geographic district in terms of square miles in the entire coast guard areas of responsibility, over close to four million square miles in over 47,000 miles of coastline. just in the state of alaska. that's more coastline than the rest of the lower 48 states combined. so the coast guard has a huge mission in alaska, a really important mission in alaska, and covers all kinds of territory. let me just give you -- again, to give you the sense of the importance district 17 and the
men and women of the coast guard in alaska center my constituents, to their fellow alaskans, a snapshot from the district 17 website. it said, just in an average month in alaska, the coast guard saves 22 lives, performs 53 assists, conducts 13 security boardings, and 22 security patrols throughout this gigantic area of district 17, just to name a few of their duties. in addition to making sure that illegal fishing in this part of our nation doesn't occur. mr. president, i'm also grateful that as we look at the recapitalization of the coast guard's fleet that the former commandant of the coast guard, admiral zunkov, recognized how
important alaska was, sent me a letter as the chairman of the subcommittee on the commerce committee in charge of the coast guard -- so my team and i put a lot of effort with chairman thune and others in writing this bill and working ton for the last two years, but in a letter to me prior to his retirement, the former commandant of the coast guard said, we know there's challenges and a growing mission from the coast guard's perspective in alaska, and on terms of this recapitalization, we see a lot of these vessels coming to southeast alaska. so, for example, six fast-response cutters that are being built that are put of this bill are slated for alaska, and two additional patrol boats for petersburg and juneau. the f.r.c.'s will be home ported, two of them, in kodiak, one in seward, with unin sitka,
and two -- one in sitka, and two will remain stationed in ketchikan. so that's a lot of assets coming. and i believe there's going to be more. we're going to continue to work on that. so i want to thank the former commandant and the current commandant, admiral schultz, who's been on the job for about six months. he's already been to alaska three times. that's just another testament to recognizing how important the coast guard is to the great state of alaska and i can't thank the men and women of the coast guard nationally and in my state for the great work they do. so there's a number of provisions in this bill legislation, mr. president, in addition to the national areas of recapitalizing the coast guard that are actually focused, not surprisingly, on alaska, given how important the coast guard is to alaska. so let me just highlight a few
of them. there's a provision that says the coast guard must position assets to respond to any incidences given the national security and economic significance growing in the arctic region. the department of defense is sttring to focus on -- is starting to focus on the arctic region, and certainly the coast guard s the provision further states that it requires the coast guard, in consultation with the department of defense, to report to congress on progress being made in implementing the coast guard's arctic strategy and provide an assessment of the placement of additional coast guard assets and cutters in light of meeting those strategic objectives in the arctic. we know that the demands of a more strategic arctic are put p.g.m. a strain -- are putting a strain on the department of defense and the coast guard, we believe -- i believe provisions in this bill state that the
coast guard needs to look at that and provide more assets to do the mission, if need be. it also talks about, as we're recapitalizing the fleet, moving bigger cutters in for smaller ones in region 17, that the coast guard continues -- must continue to have adequate coverage. you don't want to move one ship sought and another ship in and have a gap in coverage. this bill focuses on that. no gaps. no gaps in coverage. the bill also requires the coast guard to deliver a plan extending the life of the polar star, the heavy icebreaker, it is home ported in seattle, that has a critical mission, and again in the ndaa this year we got authorization for six additional heavy icebreakers, three heavies, three mediums. but we need to make sure that we still have coverage with the
icebreakers we have, as we're looking to build and deploy the new coast guard icebreakers that were authorized in the ndaa this summer, and that provision focuses 0en that. it directs the coast guard to conduct persistent aircraft-based surveillance in terms of monitoring illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the western pacific. this is a huge problem. we have our 200-mile limit, where american fishermen, alaska fishermen can fish off the coast of alaska and other states. but we often have pirate fishing going on. countries such as china that come and illegally take fish that should be in our economic zone or on the high seas. the coast guard does a great job on monitoring and catching this illegal fishing, which harms the
oceans, harms our fisheries. but this bill underscores how important that mission is. and it equity doctors the coast guard to make sure there is he -- and directs the coast guard to make sure there's persistent aircraft-based monitoring, illegal, unregulated fishing in the western pacific the bill also requires the coast guard to have tested the capability of oil-spill vessel response plans in alaskan waters and report to congress on these capabilities. it also, importantly, focuses on funding to update and maintain the nation's nautical charts with an emphasis on the arctic. where there's growing vessel traffic and yet we have nautical charts that are 70, 80 years old. some places have never been charted. and this bill facilitates the construction of a viable
homeport for the vessel fairweather in ketchikan, alaska. to be perfectly honest, with regard to noaa, has been hanging out there too long. this bill helps make sure that that vessel is going to be home ported where it should be legally homeported under the law and that's ketchikan. so, mr. president, those are just a few examples of the national aspects of this bill for the coast guard recapitalization effort, and some of the more important provisions that focuses on the coast guard's special relationship with alaska. this act also contains many important items for our fishermen and fisheries and our maritime industry throughout the united states, whether in the oceans, whether on the great lakes, whether in the rivers that we have very, very
important to our fishing community, to our fishermen, and the maritime workers throughout the country. this, of course, is important to my state, mr. president. you know, is often refer to alaska as the superpower of seafood. the superpower of seafood. what am i talking about? almost 60% -- 6-0 -- of the commercial and sport fish harvested in the united states of america comes from alaska. billions of dollars in terms of economic impact for our state. so included in this legislation is important language to permanently address issues that have plagued alaskan fishermen, american fish america's and commercial vessel owners and operators of maritime fleets and the -- and importantly the
workers in these important industries for decades. regulatory problems and challenges that these important industries and the important men and women who work in these industries have been struggle with for deducts. -- for decades, with no long-term solutions. well, at last long, this bill addresses these. long-term, permanent solutions. what am i talking about? well, currently our fishing fleets throughout the entire country and vessel owners and operators -- again, throughout the entire country -- rivers, lakes, oceans, are forced to comply with a patchwork of burdensome federal and state regulations, well-intentioned, but often conflicting. for incidental discharges, off the decks of these ships and for ballast water. so let me start with the incidental discharges. again, very important to my
state but very important to any state with regard to a fishing industry and fishermen who work hard every day. if you're a commercial fisherman on a fishing vessel and you've caught some fish, and you want to hose down your deck -- because, let's face it, fishing can be a bit of a messy business. through a long history of requirements and lawsuits, you are forced to report to the e.p.a. these incidental discharges. and you need to get a permit. -- you need to get a permit to hose down your deck of a fishing vessel, or you face a fine. now, mr. president, you don't have to be a fisherman to recognize that this is ridiculous. and people, democrats and republicans in this body have been trying to address this
issue for decades. because it creates inefficiency, it certainly doesn't help the environment, it adds to cost, and it inhibits the economic prosperity, and it hurts fishermen and the vessels that they operate. so this body has introduced short-term fixes for years, trying to address this. well, those were sufficient. so what this bill does is it addresses it for good. let me talk about another provision that tries to cut through the patchwork of burdensome state regulations -- again, well-intentioned but often conflicting, for ballast water in vessels. currently, ballast water is regulated both by the coast guard and the e.p.a. they both have under separate,
inconsistent and sometimes directly conflicting sets of federal requirements that are interdispersed with requirements from states. so this is literally a patchwork of requirements for vessels. that move through different state waters. so let meet give you an example. you are a he a commercial vessel owner-operator going up the full length of the mississippi river. you're moving commerce, keeping a strong economy stronger. as you do that, not only must you comply with inconsistent coast guard and e.p.a. requirements, but you also will likely have to comply with different and separate requirements regarding ballast water from minnesota, wisconsin, iowa, illinois, missouri. mr. president, you get the picture. a patchwork of regulations, all well-intentioned, that have the impact of inhibiting commerce and, most importantly,
inhibiting job opportunities for the men and women in this commerce. 25 states have been regulating ballast water under separate, inconsistent, and sometimes directly conflicting sets of requirements. this has not only inhibited u.s. economic growth, but it also actually makes it more likely that invasive species will accidentally be introduced in this ballast water because the requirements are so different, it's hard to keep up with them. so again, mr. president, what this bill does at long last, working across the aisle -- and trust me, we worked on this for over a year on these provisions, democrats and republicans, rolling up their sleeves in good faith, getting to work because we know how important this is to our constituents -- we looked at and focused on getting permanent
solutions, not quick fixes the way these issues have been handled in the past for over a decade, to these significant challenges. so this bill will provide a permanent exemption on incidental vessel discharges for all commercial fishing vessels and commercial vessels under 79 feet in length. this is really important to the american fishing industry, men and women in that industry, and it's something that they have been advocating for. and members of this body, both parties, have been trying to get for well over a decade. well, we did it today. that's important. like i said, without this exemption, small vessel owner operators would be required, as they have been for years, to get an e.p.a. permit to hose off their deck. not a good use of the e.p.a.
not a good use of the hardworking time of american fishermen. and similarly, this bill provides a comprehensive solution to this patchwork ballast water challenge that i just described, establishing a single nationally uniform standard for the regulation of ballast water and other vessel discharges where the e.p.a. and the coast guard, with input from the states, will work together on this uniform standard which will have the impact of helping our environment and our maritime industry and fishing industry workers and the u.s. economy all at the same time. that's an important accomplishment. that's why over 90 senators voted for this bill today. so, mr. president, in
conclusion, the men and women of the u.s. coast guard do heroic work day in and day out. i'm honored to chair the subcommittee on the commerce committee in charge of the coast guard. this bipartisan bill will support them and their incredibly important mission, and it was long overdue. it was long overdue, but we got it done. the coast guard's motto semper paratus, always ready, is a motto i think we could learn from here in the united states senate. so appropriate for what they do for us, and i want to make sure the members of the coast guard watching or learning about this bill know that it's a signal that you have strong, strong bipartisan support from the vast, vast majority of the
members of the united states senate. so hopefully this bill will get over to the house quickly. we've been working closely with the house on a number of these provisions, and they're going to pass it, we hope, and we'll get it to the president soon for his signature. now, mr. president, going forward, we've got to make sure we work to make sure there's not an almost two-year delay in getting the coast guard authorization act passed in the united states senate. when we work together, you can see that it's very bipartisan. you know, as a member of the armed services committee, you and i know, mr. president, that that bill, the national defense authorization act, moves every year. every year. and what i think we need to do is make sure when we start debating the ndaa in late spring, early summer every year
like we do -- really important bill -- that we reserve time to move and debate and pass the coast guard bill as well. this is an issue i've raised with leadership on both sides of the aisle, with the chairman of the commerce committee and the armed services committee, and i'm hopeful that we can make some progress on that. to we're moving a coast guard authorization act, as we should be, with the other services in the ndaa. but that's for tomorrow. for today, mr. president, we have an important accomplishment for our country, an important accomplishment for the state of alaska. and most importantly, an important accomplishment for the men and women of the united states coast guard who continue to undertake heroic actions day in and day out on our behalf. i yield the floor.
mr. sullivan: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to legislative session for a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i
ask unanimous consent that the appointments at the chair appear separately in the record as if made by the chair. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that when the senate completes its business today it adjourn until 10:00 a.m., thursday, november 15. further, that following the prayer and pledge, the morning hour deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date, and the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day. further, following leader remarks and notwithstanding the provision of rule 22 the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes, each until 11:00 a.m. further, following morning business, senator paul be recognized under the order of november 13 in relation to senate s.j. res. 65. further, that the time in relation to the motion to be
discharged be equally divided between proponents and opponents until 12:15 p.m. and the senate vote in relation to the motion at that time. finally, following the disposition of the motion the senate proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the bowman nomination with all postcloture time on the nomination expiring at 1:45 p.m. the presiding officer: the senate stands adjourned until -- without objection. mr. sullivan: if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order. >> the senate, passed two year coast guard programs and policy bill. also senator flake tried to bring up a bill to protect special counsel mueller. majority leader mcconnell objected. tomorrow they finish up the nomination of michelle bowman to