tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN December 19, 2018 11:59am-2:00pm EST
senate will be in order. mr. mcconnell: i expect the maguire nomination to go by voice vote. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, could i rise to speak for the last time on the senate floor as the majority whip. but the -- with the swearing in of our colleagues in january will come the changing of the guard in our elected leadership of which i've been proud to serve since 2006. as we all know, the whip is also known as the assistant majority leader, and i've been proud to assist our majority leader and all that we've worked together to accomplish in the senate. i often tell people that whip sounds a lot more coercive than it really is because in the senate you really can't make somebody do something that they don't want to do. we understand the term comes from the old country.
it referred to the person in fox hunting that was responsible for keeping the dogs from straying during a chase, something i've never done and no doubt will never do. one of the fathers of modern conservatism, edmund burke, in the middle of a contentious debate in the british house of commons used the term as far back as 1769. when he used it, he was talking about enforcing discipline, not as a way to punish disobedience, but as a way to stay focused on your goal. and i think that meaning still holds. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. please take your conversations outside the senate floor. mr. cornyn: because the overarching goal of anyone who serves in this position is to
keep the team together. the first republican whip was james wadsworth, elected in 1915. he was -- he served in the spanish american war. he opposed prohibition. he was chairman of what was then known as the committee on military affairs. in more recent times, the whips have been great senators and friends like don nickels, trent lott, jon kyl, and of course the current majority leader mitch mcconnell. all of these men have provided good examples and sound counsel to me at one time or another. what we have tried to do together is build consensus to make progress little by little for the american people. you seek to inform and gently persuade. mainly you listen, and then one by one, you address colleagues' concerns. then it's the job of the whip to
count the votes as the senate either passes or defeats legislation and provides advice and consent on nominees. it's the job of the whip operation to keep its finger on the pulse of the conference to help the leader find a way to get from point a, a bill being introduced, to point b, getting it to the floor and then to point c when the bill passes and becomes law. that road can be awfully bumpy at some times, and sometimes it's just like riding a roller coaster. as with any job, there are parts of the job you love more and those parts you love less. there has been a lot of handshaking after big victories like the criminal justice reform bill we passed with a future bipartisan majority last night, and then there is the head shaking after disappointments. it's true that occasionally in this job you come up short, but
you learn from your mistakes, you course correct, and that failure can help you succeed later on down the road. that's what happened to us in tax reform. we learned from our disappointing outcome on health care and applied it to our next major objective. with tax reform we laid the groundwork by going through the finance committee, regular order. we helped inform. we corrected misinformation, and we responded to feedback, and we incorporated input from all senators who wanted to be constructive and get to yes, and the final bill changed a lot along the way. another victory i can think of is the passage of the comprehensive addiction and recovery act in 2016 which i think helped lay the groundwork for what we were able to achieve this congress with the passage of landmark opioid legislation. of course, there were the historic number of judges we
were able to confirm during the first two years of the trump administration, culminating in not one but two outstanding additions to the united states supreme court, justices neil gorsuch and brett kavanaugh. but the biggest challenge we faced this last year was the nomination of now-justice kavanaugh, hands down. never in my experience has there been a bill or a nomination where every single vote mattered more and never have i seen the dynamics change so rapidly. the trajectory of the nomination fluctuated day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes it seemed minute by minute. as new press reports or rumors circulated, the whip operation worked overtime to make sure our colleagues had the most up to date information and knew what was and what was not accurate. to refute one rumor or
accusation, my whip staff even had to find copies of 30-year-old high school yearbooks and go to the library of congress to research drinking games. i know it sounds silly, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but the research our whip staff put together made the difference for some of our colleagues in the homestretch. and eventually as we now know, after a lot of hard work and long hours by an awful lot of people, judge kavanaugh was confirmed. but near-death experiences can make life all that much more sweet, and so the difficulties we faced together on the kavanaugh nomination made his eventual confirmation all the more satisfying. other highlights, the things i will remember the most and are most proud of are the landmark bill we passed to combat human trafficking, the justice for victims of human trafficking act.
after four weeks on the senate floor, thanks to leader mcconnell and his perseverance, that bill ultimate ly passed 99-0, and we should be very proud of that. following the horrific shooting at sutherland springs, texas, i wanted to close the gaps for purchasing firearms. those gaps allowed a crazed shooter to cruelly take innocent lives one sunday morning at a small baptist church outside of san antonio. after we came together in a bipartisan way to pass this bill, i returned to sutherland springs. being with those families and the community and pastor frank pomeroy who he and his wife lost their daughter, letting them know we not only share in their
grieving, but we acted together to save lives by preventing future tragedies was one of the most gratifying moments i have experienced in the senate. we couldn't wipe away their tears, but we could show the families their loss had not been in vain. we have done a lot more other things while they didn't make the front-page news, they will greatly impact the lives of texans and all americans. we helped america become an energy powerhouse that we knew it could be, creating jobs along the way, facilitating liquefied natural gas exports and ending the export ban on crude oil altogether. these will have geopolitical
consequences that will benefit the entire planet. and we passed big bills like the farm bill and smaller, but impactful bills like occupational licensing reform and legislation to improve trade between mexico and canada and then came hurricane harvey, the most extreme rain event in our nation's history. it hit the texas gulf coast, and then we had the job after recoveries were undertaken. we had the monumental task of putting together significant disaster relief for texas as part of a larger disaster relief package that benefited many parts of the nation. our job still isn't over, but by linking arms together, the texas delegation, what we called team texas, worked with governor abbott and other state and local leaders to get them what we
needed from the federal government so that people could begin to put their lives back together. as whip, one of the best parts of my job is getting to know my colleagues better. i learned to listen to them more carefully. i learned that each of them have personal goals, political needs, regional interests, and philosophical principles that influence their decision-making. we share a lot of common but each of us is unique and mostly fascinating, but sometimes in infuriating ways. even when you can't convince someone your position is the right one, you always can learn from that interaction, and that's valuable information that can be used on the next tough vote. i also learned a lot about the senate as an institution. what makes this institution so
interesting is the men and women that work here. we have doctors, business men and women, farmers. heaven knows, we have more than enough lawyers. but we have spouses, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. we come from different political parties and different parts of the country. but we share a common goal, to do right for the people we are privileged to represent and to make our country a little bit better than when we came. we have very public arguments, but we also get a lot accomplished at quieter moments over lunch in the senate well, in the cloakroom, or sometimes in the senate gym. and during those moments, what shines through is my overwhelming impression of the intelligence, the seriousness of purpose, and the goodwill of the people who work here.
that instills in me confidence that despite the swirling controversies that seem toen duffel us, the senate as an institution is strong, it's durable, and will continue long after we are gone. the late great bob bullock who served for many years as our state's lieutenant governor participated in texas politics for most of -- oh, about half of the 20th century used to say there are two types of politicians. those that want to be someone and then those who want to do something. and i will say in my experience, most people i interact with here are of the latter persuasion. they want to do something good for the american people. i want to express my best wishes to my friend, senator thune, the senior senator from south dakota
who is taking over the whip job in january. i have every confidence in his ability to do the job, but i also confess to him it's not all sunshine and lollipops. there will be long days and tough votes. we've all heard the expression that being the whip is like trying to keep the bullfrogs in the wheelbarrow. as soon as you get one in, another one jumps out. but i look forward to continuing to help senator thune, the next whip, and the conference in the senate in any way i can. you have my telephone number. of course, when you're whip, like any job, you rely on your team members, and i couldn't have gotten through these six years without a lot of help. first and foremost, i owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to my mentor and friend, leader mcconnell. there is no one in the country
who has done more to advance the conservative cause in recent times than senator mcconnell. no one. robert carroll called l.b.j. the master of the senate, but i'd like to nominate another one -- mitch mcconnell. under mitch's leadership in the last two years alone, we have bolstered our nation's economy, we have fixed our tax code, we have achieved real regulatory reform, we have transformed our judiciary, we have improved veterans' health care and addressed critical public health needs like the opioid crisis. and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. while we have certainly had our fair share of nail-biters, i seem to remember a certain debt ceiling vote, for example, and those accomplishments i mentioned were not easy, given
the slim margins. but with senator mcconnell's leadership and more than a few prayers along the way, we did it together, and i'm proud of our record, and i'm grateful for its trust and confidence. of course, we couldn't have been successful without a strong and reliable team of deputy whips led by senator mike crapo. i leaned on my deputy whip team regularly, and time and time again, they delivered. so to senators blunt, capito, crapo, fischer, gardner, lankford, portman, scott, tillis, and young, thank you. i also want to thank my whip staff, both current and former. this includes john chappey, sam beaver, noah mccalla, johnny slimrod, and my first chief of staff, russ thomason.
what has been so amaze to me is how seamlessly my whip staff also worked with my texas official staff as well. we all worked literally as one team. and i want to thank all of my texas staff for their contributions to our successes. we all rely on our staff around here a great deal. that's doubly true of the -- of my entire staff over the last six years. now, i've come to think of the whip operation as really an intelligence operation. these outstanding men and women have been my eyes and ears. they're all incredibly smart. they're devoted and hardworking. so i want to say to all of them thank you for everything you've done to serve the conference and the senate as a whole. as whip you're provided with the security detail comprised of capitol police officers. these men and women are extraordinary professionals
who've become like family. their work often takes them away from their own families and friends traveling around the country, sometimes missing holidays and special occasions. and they, like all of the capitol police, keep the people who work here and visit here safe. we all appreciate what they do for us each and every day. finally, i want to say a few words about my chief of stay monika pop, wheef of staff of my whip office. monika is often the first person and the last person on my staff i talk to each day. if beth jaffrey, my chief of staff in my texas office is the glue that keeps our operation together and operating at maximum efficiency, monika is the spark plug of the operation.
as impressive her knowledge of the senate and how the u.s. government functions is, that's not what sets her apart. she is often in her own gentle but determined way pressed me to make just one more call. meet just one more time with a colleague or try just a little harder to nail down the winning votes. she's exactly the type of person you need to have in your corner. but it's her sunny disposition, her optimism that's infectious in addition to her extraordinary competence that makes her indispensable. monika is known for cultivating and maintaining strong relationships not only in the senate but in the house and executive branch as well. and it's not just limited to my party. some of her closest colleagues work in the leadership offices
of our democratic colleagues and the big bipartisan achievements i mentioned earlier could not have happened without monika and her ability to lead a team and work across the aisle. part of the reason she's no effective is she wants to know everything. she even wants to know what members had for breakfast because she knows how circumstances and small events can sometimes provide insight in unexpected ways. here's how her staff describes her. she's a problem solver. when you think you're stuck, she'll find creative ways to get a solution and most instructive, i think, you want to be around her just to learn. i couldn't agree more so to monika i say thank you. we couldn't have done it without you. mr. president, even though i'll no longer be serving at the majority whip, i'm not going
anywhere. believe me, serving 28 million texans here in the united states senate is a big enough job for anyone. to borrow a phrase from a great american leader, our late president george herbert walker bush, he said, i'm a texan and an american, and what more can a man ask for. indeed it's an honor and a privilege to represent the great people of texas, and i believe my time as whip has only taught me to be a better representative of my fellow texans. as an elected leader, i learn that sometimes you have to do things nobody else wants to do because it's controversial or it's risky, but i stand ready to continue to take risks and accept controversy in pursuit of worthy causes.
i'll close simply by saying it's been a privilege to serve as whip for texas, for the republican conference, and for the senate. often when i'm introduced in audiences here and at home, the introducer will refer to me as the number two person in the senate or occasionally they'll call me the second most powerful person in the senate. obviously an exaggeration. but i've never been quite able to bring myself to correct them in public, if only to save them the embarrassment. but let me just say i'll now return to my previous life as the second most powerful person in my household and to my continued service to texas and the world's greatest deliberative body. mr. president, i yield the floor.
the presiding officer: the question occurs on the confirmation of the maguire nomination. all in favor say aye. all opposed no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. and the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action. mr. thune: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent 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. thune: mr. president, i have two requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. thune: i ask unanimous consent that matt wells and tom sullivan, fellows in senator grassley's office be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the week. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: i rise for a couple of moments in morning business to pay tribute to this united states senate and what we've done this past year. we think we're easing towards going home. we think we're easing towards finishing the year and everybody is excited about that. we talked about a lot of things we haven't done. let's talk about what we have done because i think that's been the most successful time i've had in washington for 20 years. we've had the best success for the most important people in the country we love, the united states of america and our military. i want everybody to remember the four things to take home that
you have done to see to it that our men and women who fight for us keep us safe get treated the way they should every day. number one, the v.a. mission bill. after a number of years when we started moving towards a way to get better appointment, better timing and better results for our veterans, we finally came together with the v.a. mission act. we saw to it that the veteran has the health needs met when he needs them, not when it's convenient for him to get them. if we can't provide them -- the v.a., the private sector can, he can go to the private sector. we did everything we can to expand accessibility to quality health care. our vets are the most important assets we have. second is the accountability bill. for a lot of years, we saw in the newspaper the v.a. did stupid things and a lot of v.a. employees did stupid things and would be transferred to another v.a. office. we passed a bill where if you don't do your job, if you hurt the people, the vets, then you
get fired. you don't get paid, don't get moved. we make sure you have pure accountability. because of that, the v.a. is more responsive today than it has ever been. with that we added whistle-blower protection to allow our vets who find out something is going wrong, thinks something is going wrong but afraid to say something, has the protection that everybody else has with the whistle-blower laws we passed. the third biggest problem we had with the number one headache we have is seeing to it that our benefits are timely and veterans get a good appeal. the timeliness in approving veterans applications for that has gone as much as a year and a half, six -- or two years before they get a decision. now we have better accountability. the improved application act, the improved results we're seeing, get our veterans the benefits and approvals in a more timely basis and i hope before i leave the senate we get it down to almost zero.
they didn't get the luxury of waiting on the battle field. they had to pull and fight when confronted. we need to make sure they get that benefit today. lastly and most importantly, the v.a. -- our veterans are our most important people as we've said. we now have the agency focused in the right direction. we have a good secretary in secretary will key. we have a go focus in what we're doing becoming a responsible organization, seeing the benefits that are not only protected but delivered as well. mr. president, i thank you for the time to address the senate. i hope all of us when we go home will remember our most important people, our veterans and in passing the improvements, see to it that the -- veterans and the reserves, veterans in active duty are treated the same and see to it we have accountability and benefits for our veterans so no one is left behind and the united states of america continues to be the greatest country on the face of this earth. and i yield back, mr. president.
the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i want to thank my colleague and friend senator sigh sackson as well as the rank -- senator isakson as well as the ranking member for their leadership on the veterans affairs committee. in this past session i've been proud and honored to work with them and look forward to doing so in the next congress on issues that are so important and challenging. we have a responsibility to meet the needs of our veterans and in that spirit, i ask unanimous consent that the veterans affairs committee be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 299, blue order navy, vietnam veterans act and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration, that the bill be considered read a third time and passed, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection?
mr. isakson: reserving the right to object. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: reserving the right to object. my apology to those on the floor who are going to speak. we spoke a couple of times about this on the floor. i want to do it one more time. i appreciate the motion by the gentleman who is my ranking member on the committee for two years before this current session of the senate. the blue order navy has been an issue that's been controversial. it's been almost passed a few times, been defeated a number of times. today our veterans served in vietnam, who ended up contracted cancer, nonhodgkins lymphoma, do not have the benefit of having the luxury of presumption of cause on service in vietnam unless they served on the land. they served on the land in the battle field, they get the benefit but if they served at sea, they don't have that benefit. so the v.a. behalfer caifted a benefit of health care to our veteran, many of whom who
contracted cancer and many who have died. if you get -- if you're on land, you get it. at sea, you don't. we have a chance to do that and we ought to do that. i'm going to vote in favor of adopting the motion of the gentleman from connecticut. now, let me just say this, one other thing. there's a letter floating around about the cost of this and the cost estimates we had. we got a new cost estimate yesterday after years in the committee trying to get a better cost estimate. we got one yesterday that was higher than before. i don't know what the credibility is. i'm not growing to cast aspersions on the credibility of c.b.s. nothing should surpass a promise we have made for health care coverage to our veterans that they're not going. we owe it to him and i hope everybody will support the blue water navy benefit in terms of the motion from the gentleman from connecticut and i'll yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: reserving the right to object. i have great respect for my distinguished friends and colleagues, my colleagues from
connecticut and from georgia. and i also want to add that there's no doubt that all of us owe a great debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who fought and served in the vietnam war. there's no question that they endured unspeakable hardships there. and of course for many -- for many decades following their service. for some -- one of those hardships involved expo sur -- exposure to agent orange. this potent chemical was widely used by the u.s. military during the vietnam war as part of its herbicidal warfare program. it's proved to be something that has caused major health problems for the service men and women who were exposed to it. and so congress passed the agent orange act in 1991 to provide health benefit, to those -- benefits to those service members who were affected by it. the act has connections for
diseases caused by herbicides, for active military, naval, or air service members when and only when there is scientific and medical evidence to support it. so in 2002, the v.a. removed the blue water navy veterans from the presumption of exposure. as they had looked at the data repeatedly under multiple administrations and had not found evidence to grant the presumption. the bill now under consideration would restore this presumption for the blue water navy veterans. previous studies have lumped all the branches of the services together into their analyses, or that he focused solely on the army. in other words, they failed to differentiate between those who were active on the ground and those who were serving on ships miles offshore. but now we have a chance to get that precise data.
the v.a. is currently undertaking a study that's to be released in the early months of 2019 that examines the myriad of factors of vietnam veterans and includes a subsample of blue water fastest veterans. it is only right and reasonable that congress should examine this study before make anssumetion of a service exemption for all blue water navy veterans from this war. the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should get the medical chair that they need in connection with their service. it is also our duty to ensure that it is done in a prudent and proper way, with all the relevant information available to us. our veterans bost deserve no less -- our veterans deserve no less, and it is for that reason that i have concerns with it, as i have received calls from secretary wilke and from four previous v.a. secretaries, all of whom have said consistently
that the v.a. has been strapped with difficulties in recent years. we've got to make sure that the v.a. has the tools it needs to offer the services that it needs to offer tower veterans and doing something -- to our veterans and doing something that would offset that the as this v.a. secretary have cruded would be unwise. on that basis, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. blumenthal: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: mr. president, i greatly respect my colleague from utah and i thank our friend from georgia for his positive remarks on this topic, but more than words are necessary. we need action. we need dollars and cents to brave americans who undertook to serve this country, risked their lives, and have suffered for
years and years from the severe health effects of their contact with agent orange and other toxins on that battlefield. they deserve the same benefits as their comrades who served on land. they served in the territorial waters. they have been denied year after year simple justice, action that fulfills our obligation to them. so i greatly respect the words, the rhetoric, the pledges, but asking them to wait denies them justice. there is an adage that we quote frequently -- justice delayed is justice denied. that maxim has particular force here, because these veterans is,
very simply, are passing away. they will be denied the benefits that they are owed by this nation. they will be deprived of the just compensation for injuries they received, like their fellow veterans who served boots on the ground on land, if they are not compensated for their injuries they received when they served in those territorial waters off vietnam. this measure has been brought to the floor before. last week i joined my colleagues, senators tester, gillibrand, daines, and brown to demand that simple justice for blue water navy veterans, and today i'm joined by senator baldwin of wisconsin, my very distinguished colleague and friend, to whom i will yield
shortly. our calls to unanimously pass h.r. 2999 were blocked and why we're back here again, because in those closing hours of this session, we have the opportunity and obligation to do right by those veterans, to measure our words by our action. today the senate has another chance, even in those last hours, to right a wrong. currently the v.a. gives the benefit of the doubt to some veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances but not to others. despite the fact that defoliants were indiscriminately used, only some of those veterans affected by it, only some of those veterans suffering from cancer and skin disease and other aftereffects are eligible for health care and benefits to address the health effects of
her to exposure. -- of their exposure. others, like jerry wright of connecticut, are forced to shoulder the burden of proving that they are suffering from this toxic exposure. so i ask my colleagues to reconsider their opposition. i ask them to think about the veterans of their own state who suffer from these kinds of diseases. i ask them to consider men and women like eugene clark of redding, connecticut. he spent most of his years since his experience in vietnam fighting on behalf of veterans who served there and in korea in the 1960's. he has been a champion. his advocacy backed by strong support by the veterans of foreign wars shined a light on these problems. today only veterans who have
served on the korean d.m.z. from april 1968 through august 1971 are eligible for presumption, despite the fact that about 55,000 service members were sent to korea each year from 1966 through 1969. mr. clark was instrumental in providing evidence that defoliants were sprayed during testing prior to 1968. his efforts have inspired me and my colleagues to introduce the fairness for korean d.m.z. veterans act. he is a veteran of that experience. he's fought for the korean veterans, but he's also added his weight and support to the vietnam veterans who served after he did. two years ago i pledged to mr. clark that i would fight as long and hard as possible to make sure that veterans who
served in the korean d.m.z. receive compensation and health care if they suffer from agent orange-linked illnesses, and i am here today because of him, because of korean war veterans, and korean veterans who served in the d.m.z.. i ask my colleagues to reconsider their opposition. in the limited number of days left in the 115th congress, we have this important opportunity for anybody who cares about not only the veterans but their descendants of vietnam. by extending health care, vocational training rehabilitation, as well as prying a monetary allowance to children suffering from the aftereffects through their parents, we have this tremendous opportunity. i ask my colleagues to do the right thing, and i yield the floor to my colleague from
wisconsin. the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. ms. baldwin: i rise today to ask the senate to come together and do the right thing by our veterans by passion the blue water navy legislation, and i thank my colleague from connecticut for his leadership and join him in appreciating the remarks of the senator from georgia in support of advancing this legislation in the final days of this session. as a result of the v.a. changing its policy, vietnam blue water navy veterans have to meet higher burdens of proof to receive health care and disability benefits that they earned due to their exposure to agent orange. and i've heard from many veterans and their families from across wisconsin asking that the
senate pass this bill because they don't have anymore time to wait. a veteran's family from wisconsin wrote me. they wrote, senator baldwin, my brother-in-law did three tours off the coast of vietnam on an ammunition ship. he has contracted brain cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, and hearing loss. we have submitted a request for compensation for those ailments. all the requests have been denied and we are still appealing. this house-passed bill passed unanimously and now languishes in the senate. my brother-in-law is in hospice with limited time remaining. please pass this legislation. i heard from a veteran from
stunzenville, wisconsin. he said, i served in the u.s. navy and spent 1966 aboard the u.s.s. intrepid. as a gunfire controlman, i have been diagnosed with stage-four non-hodgkin's lymphoma and large harry cell leukemia. the lymphoma is currently in remission, but the leukemia is untreatable. on august 10, 2018, i had open-heart quintuple bypass surgery as well. my children and grandchildren are suffering from my exposure to the die oxens found -- die action ins found in -- the dioxin found in the polluted waters of the tonkin gulf. please recognize the service-connected disability of the many navy vets now suffering. the money for this care was
originally provided for prior to is the 91 -- prior to 1991 when the v.a. arbitrary disallowed the gulf sailors. it is time to correct this breach of promise to care for our veterans and i am asking for their help in getting the blue water navy bill passed in the senate, as it was unanimously passed in the house mr. president, i'm disappointed that senator blumenthal's request to pass this bill was just objected to by my colleague from utah. my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have -- some of them argued that we can't afford the cost of this legislation, but i heard no such objections when those same colleagues voted for a very partisan tax bill that gave huge tax breaks to the largest corporations and added $1.9 trillion to our nation's
debt. now, when this comes to doing right by our vietnam veterans who served this country and are now dying from their illnesses, we don't have the money to spend to help get them better or to help give their families a little more time with them. and that's simply wrong. how much is it costing blue water navy veterans who are trying to beat cancer? how much is it costing their caregivers who quit their jobs in order to take care of them? we have a moral obligation to fix this, and we have the opportunity to get this done right now. these veterans fought for us and are dying from their service-connected illnesses. it is past time to do the right thing and pass this bill, and we need to do it now, and we should not leave town until it's done.
thank you, mr. president, and i yield back to senator blumenthal. mr. blumenthal: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: in closing, i am grateful to nigh colleague from wisconsin -- to my colleague from wisconsin and colleagues really across the aisle. this measure is bipartisan. it was unanimous in passing the house of representatives. it should be unanimous here. the money is not a problem. the money is there. the predictions about outlandish possible financial exposure are simply products of fantasy, and i know my republican colleagues almost unanimously on the other side of the aisle understand that simple fact. but even if the cost were higher
than they are projected to be, we have an obligation to do the right thing. we have a moral duty here to make sure that we fulfill our promise, and i know the presiding officer has been a strong advocate of our veterans. and i know my fellow members on the veterans' affairs committee join me in this belief. the costs of this program are the costs of war. they are the cost of keeping our troops on the d.m.z. in korea. they are the cost of having sent them to vietnam. they are the cost of sending our troops to iraq and afghanistan, where this measure would provide a study of the possible effects in terms of their health from
those kinds of.is sonnous and toxic -- of kinds of poisonous and toxic exposures. the injuries that result from them are the cost of war. we need to recognize that fact and refuse, absolutely reject the possibility that we will continue to delay even longer the justice that these men and women deserve. but i can pledge to you if we fail to do it this session, we will be back again next session, and the cost to our conscience if not to our budget will rise in the meantime. i'm pleased to call on my very, very distinguished colleague and military veteran from illinois, senator duckworth.
the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. ms. duckworth: thank you, mr. president. i thank my colleague from connecticut. mr. president, right now tens of thousands of american heroes are suffering, dying while some folks in government are looking the other way, refusing to heed their calls for help. our blue water veterans answered the call when their nation needed them in the thick of the vietnam war. they left their loved ones, boarded ships, fought the viet cong, risking their lives hour after hour, day after day in service to the country they love. we made a promise to them. fight for us overseas, then we'll fight for you when you get back home. when you step back on u.s. soil, we'll bandage the wounds you earned in combat, making sure you never feel that you sacrificed in vain. i'm ashamed to say that that promise has been broken. for decades now our government has refused to give them the health care and disability benefits needed to treat
diseases limpinged to agent orange exposure despite the fact that they serviced the very aircraft that sprayed and spread the chemical. despite that, they breathe in the air and brush their teeth with water that was likely laced with the poison. they have not been given the health care they needed. those same health care benefits have been extended to other troops who fought in the same war during the same years. but because these blue water veterans fought the enemy on the water rather than on vietnam soil itself, our government won't lift a finger to stop their suffering. tell me that's fair. tell me that that makes a shred of sense. tell me that our nation should abandon the heroes who risked their lives for the rest of us, that we should leave them to die from cancer or heart disease or the litany of other illnesses we know this chemical causes. look, i've also gone to war. and juster as those americans -- just as those americans lost their health, i was wounded for this country.
but from the moment i woke up in wreed, i knew -- walter reed i knew the v.a. would give me the care i needed to recover. these veterans deserve the same. it's long past time we pass legislation ensuring that these heroes are not left in pain. and unfortunately, legislation that would recognize their sacrifice suffered a setback last week. but with the time remaining in this congress, we still have the chance to make these veterans whole, to do the right thing, the obvious thing, the american thing. so to every one of my fellow senators, please, if we actually want to honor their service, we can't just give them an ovation on veterans day. we need to take action to help them lead full healthy lives every other day of the year too. right now that means joining me in working to pass the blue water navy vietnam veterans act before one more veteran dies a
preventable death on our watch. it's the right thing to do. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: i just want to close by thanking my colleague, senator duckworth, senator baldwin, and say that i would like to end this session on a positive note. i'm going to be proud to yield to one of my very good friends and one of our most distinguished colleagues, senator shelby why alabama, who has done -- senator shelby from alabama who has done important work on our budget and i thank him for it. i hope that in the next session this great body will see it in its heart as well as mine and conscience to do the right thing. not some time in the next two years, but in the first days and weeks so that these veterans
have simple justice. i will champion it. i know colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us, and we can get it done. we must. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. shelby: mr. president, i would like to start here this morning by thanking my good friend, senator orrin hatch, who happens to be in the chamber, for more than four decades of dedicated service here. we served together, mr. president, in the senate for 32 years. he was here before then. i remember senator hatch when he was first elected to the senate in 1976, when i was still serving in the alabama state senate. this was his first run for public office, but more to come. senator hatch, as we know, is the longest-serving republican senator in u.s. history.
he's only one of only two sitting u.s. senators to have served during the presidency of gerald ford. he's one of only two remaining republican u.s. senators who have served during the presidency of jimmy carter. senator hatch, as we all know, serves currently as the president pro tempore of the u.s. senate, one of the highest honors in the senate. and he's chaired three senate class a committees during his tenure in the senate. the finance committee, which he is curmt -- currently the chairman. the judiciary committee, the committee on health, education, and labor and pensions. some of his major accomplish ments, these are just a few, include passage of the historic pro-growth middle-class tax reform, the most significant tax reform in a
generation. confirmation right here in the senate of conservative judges to the federal bench, hundreds and hundreds, including, mr. president, playing an instrumental role in the confirmation of supreme court justices scalia, antonin scalia, clarence thomas, samuel alley at -- samuel alito and brett kavanaugh. scores of district and circuit court judges. one of senator hatch's particular noteworthy achievements among others on the judiciary committee is the religious freedom restoration act of 1993, a bill he cosponsored, authored and cosponsored with the late senator ted kennedy. landmark legislation it was, allowing americans to live, to work, and worship in accordance with their beliefs. senator hatch's reputation as a
statesman and his record of fiscal responsibility even earned him the nickname, mr. balanced budget from president reagan. senator hatch is also widely known for his musical career and film appearances. he plays the violin, the piano, and the organ. think of the talent this man has. senator hatch and his wife elaine have been married for more than 50 years. they have six children, 23 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. think of a lifetime achievement, and he has, i believe, many years left. he will be truly missed here in the senate, and i will wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: today is a good day --. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. grassley: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: today is a good day for representative government. it's a good day for the taxpayers. it's a good day for safe streets and strong families. it's also a good day to emphasize that many, many times congress acts in a bipartisan
way and probably not enough so we get credit for it, but last night one of these bipartisan pieces of legislation passed by a vote of 87-12. that happened when the senate adopted the first step act. today the house is expected to send it to the president, who's waiting with a pen in hand to enact once-in-a-generation criminal justice reform. and i'm confident the president's ready to do that because i attended the news conference about five weeks ago when he endorsed this legislation. the first step act will help keep our streets safe and it offers a fresh start to those who put in the work when they were in prison to get right with
the law while paying their debt to society. it also addresses unfairness in the prison sentencing and revises policies that have led to overcrowded prisons and of course looming taxpayer expenses. several decades ago congress passed well-intentioned laws imposing harsh mandatory sentences to stop the flow of drugs in our communities. and it happens that i voted for those laws. but they have also had some unintended consequences. our prison population has exploded and the taxpayers' burden to house inmates has followed suit. today taxpayers pay more than $7
billion a year on our federal prison population. however, despite that high cost, nearly half the inmates released today are rearrested. as a member of the senate judiciary committee for the last 38 years, i consider myself then and now a law and order republican. i'm also a taxpayer watchdog, and i believe in theredemptive power of rehabilitation. so in 2015 i began to take a closer look at our prison and sentencing laws. we needed to make the system work better for the taxpayers, help law enforcement fight crime, and put a stopper in the revolving prison door.
i was led to that effort by the efforts of senator lee and durbin who had been working on similar legislation probably three to four years before my entry into this debate. several states across the country have developed these education treatment and training programs. the result has been a significant decline in recidivism. this means fewer crimes, fewer victims, and fewer tax dollars spent housing inmates. the first step act is carefully crafted to provide opportunities at redemption for low-risk inmates while ensuring that dangerous and career criminals stay behind bars. it does this through a
multilayer system that filters out dangerous criminals and those likely to commit new crimes. the bill rewards those who take personal responsibility for their mistakes and want to put in the time and will put in the time and effort to turn their lives around. it also improves fairness in sentencing while preserving important law enforcement tools. it reduces some mandatory minimum sentences but also expands their application to include violent felons. it grants judges additional discretion to sentence low-level nonviolent offenders to less lengthy sentences as long as they fully cooperate with law enforcement. finally, it eliminates the disparity in sentences for crack
and powder cocaine offenses, which disproportionately impacted communities of color. passing these reforms has been a team effort years in the making. it couldn't have been done without the stalwart commitment by a somewhat unlikely cadre of colleagues and advocates. we've had to compromise to make this possible, to seek to understand the others' points of view. in so doing, i think we made the bill better and we accomplished something of historic significance that will reduce crime, make our system more just, and improve the lives for generations to come. senator durbin and lee, as i previously stated, were instrumental in this effort. their interest in criminal
justice reform dates back to beyond my getting involved in it in 2014 -- the impact date i don't know, but probably after senator lee and durbin joined hands, probably soon after senator lee came to the senate. but this effort inspired the senate -- i should say their effort inspired the senate to take a fresh look at our sentencing and prison laws. senator graham, the incoming chairman of the judiciary committee, senator cornyn and senator whitehouse have also been with us since the very beginning of this effort. senators booker and scott both share a passion for criminal justice reform and have been vocal advocates, shining a light on the shortcomings and societal impact of our current system.
credit is also due to our house colleagues, chairman goodlatte, ranking member nadler, and congressman collins and jeffries who introduced the first step act in the house, and thanks to speaker ryan for his support and pledge to bring this to the house floor so quickly. at every step along the way, we've stuck together. we've pitched this bill to our colleagues and made changes based on their suggestions. we also relied on the input and expertise from a variety of groups from across the political spectrum. in the end, this the campaign earned the support of several top law enforcement tough-on- crime champions like president trump. i think it's important to acknowledge the president's leadership on this issue.
when he got involved, he closed the deal and we got this done. he was helped in that effort by jared curb n early in -- he was helped in that effort by jared kushner. early in the administration, i happened to be in the office of the president. jared kushner was there. we discussed taking up criminal justice reform. i just asked him if he was interested in it, i wanted to give him a phone call. so i gave him that phone call. so i took the issue and ran with it and helped find a way forward to accomplish something previous administrations have tried and failed to do. brook rawlins and ron smith of the white house were also instrumental in this effort working with jared kushner.
i'd also like to thank the majority leader for staying true to his word and bringing this bill to the floor when we demonstrated the support for our effort that he demanded. and then in the end, i aappreciated his vote for this bill. and thanks also is due to the senate floor staff on both sides of the aisle who helped us successfully navigate the bill to final passage p. i want to thank my senate staff who helped make this possible. bipartisan compromise is not for the faint of heart, and they've stayed true to their commitment that senator durbin and i made to each other to move forward step by step in complete agreement about the path that we should take and the path that we had to take. i'd like to thank my judiciary
committee staff director collin davidson. collin's steady hand and sound judgment improves everything he's involved in. i have valued his counsel today, just as i have for the last 33 years. by my side today is aaron cummings, my chief constitutional crime counsel and crime counsel. he led the this issue in my office and he worked hard to see it through and to organize a vast coalition of support. of course, he also worked closely with other committee staff members on that -- in that direction. so i'd also like to thank brian simonson for his diligent work on this important bill. our department of department ofr department of justice detailees
tom sullen and aaron kriegen provided very good technical advice. and my thanks goes to the communications team of george hartman, committee press secretary as well as michael zona for their dedication to this effort and their successful campaign to educate and persuade so many to support this bill. i'm also thankful for my personal office staff led by my chief of staff jill, a trusted advisor for over 30 years. she's leaving my staff and i will be sad to see her go t she has been an exceptional leader, solving problems that i didn't even know i had. and she's done it all with unmatched disgrace in what i like to call "iowa nice." i'm also grateful to jennifer
hines, who keeps me on track and provides sound strategic advice. their contributions and those of every staffer who was part of this effort have been invaluable. i'd also like to thank senator durbin's starving particularly his chief -- durbin's staff, particularly his chief of staff. working with my staff, the white house, and others, they have helped us close the deal more than a dozen times. now, that's an example -- maybe it's ten times, maybe it's 20 times, but closing deals many times is what it takes to get to the bipartisanship that it took to get 87 votes on this bill. and, of course, in the end, their dedication -- and that includes creativity and every effort that they could put forth -- got the job done. i want to give particular thanks
to law enforcement groups, whose support and input were key to the bill's success, including the fraternal order of police, the international association of chiefs of police, the national organization of black law enforcement executives, the national district attorneys association, the association of prosecuting attorneys, and law enforcement leaders. i'm getting to the end. i'd also like to thank the groups that made this effort possible, the diverse groups and broad coalitions of other groups from the aclu to the american conservative union supporting this bill. i can't list all of the groups who offered their key support, but they include freedomworks, justice action network, americans for tax reform, heritage action, the due process institute, faith and freedom
coalition, r street it right on crime, texas public policy foundation, prison fellowship, and members of an interfaith criminal justice coalition, and to treat everybody fairly, i'm going to submit a complete list of support for the record. so this was a combined effort, one on a scale not often seen in washington these days. i'm grateful for everyone's work to bring about these historic reforms. together, we've taken steps to reduce crime and recidivism, to strengthen faith and fairness in the criminal justice system, and to signal to those willing to make amends that redemption is within their reach. together we've taken an important step to live up to the commitment we make every time we
pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states -- to provide liberty and justice for all. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: madam president, let me first say how grateful i am to senator grassley for his friendship, number one, and his leadership, number two. it has just been one of the highlights of my senate experience to work with him on this bill. we trust one another. it reached a point where he said, i'm not going it make a big decision unless you tell me it's okay. and i hope you'll feel the same way when it comes to decisions affecting me. and it did. and we came together to reach a point where we think the bill will be judged in a positive way in the history of our country. i might add that senator mike lee of utah was an early ally in this effort, but our team wasn't
putting together a winning record until chuck grassley joined the squad and not only joined it but led it. then we brought in corey cooker, who -- cory booker, who was a valuable spokesperson and ally when it came to bringing groups together on the left and the center to achieve this bill. the four of us last night celebrated a victory, but the sicktory was not ours. it was a victory for the american people, number one, but certainly for those who want to make sure we have a just system when it comes to criminal law and prison terms that follow from those convicted. so for those three senators who joined me, i can't thank you enough. i really hope that we can get the band back together sometime for another issue. maybe it's the second step. but whatever it is, i would like to continue to work with this group and expand it to those who would like to be part of our effort. i think we showed something last
night which most american people wouldn't have believed; that a bipartisan group of senators from across the political spectrum could tackle one of the toughest political issues of our day, assemble an array of support -- left, right, and center -- from members of the senate as well as organizations devoted to law enforcement as well as civil rights, and at the end of it have something we all felt was a fair product to send over to the house, which i hope will act on this very quickly. i'll say a few words about how we reached that point in a moment, but i want to take time now, as senator grassley has, to honor the staff of my office who've done such an exceptional job to bring us to this moment. joe zogby, joe has been my chief counsel for several years now. for six years, he has worked tirelessly to get this legislation through the united states senate, and i mean tirelessly. he fielded calls to negotiate provisions of this bill at the
same time he was coaching his sons in baseball and trying to take care of his family responsibility. joe was available every hour of the day and night. a special word of thanks to his wife and their sons james, elias and luke. i want to apologize to them for taking their dad away so many times for lengthy conversations. but we would have never reached success last night without that input from their father and husband. this win would not have happened without the dogged determination of joe zogby. he is a rabid philadelphia phillies fan. last night finally we won the world series and passed this bill on the floor of the united states senate. no matter what assignment i give to joe zogby, whether it is the most technical and difficult of immigration issues or coming up with a new system of criminal justice, improvements to our
system of criminal justice, he always, always rises to the occasion. i'm truly blessed to have him as my chief counsel. i may get the headlines, but believe me, joe zogby deserves the credit. along by his side was rachel rossi, a detailee to our office. she comes from the public defender's office. they warned her ahead of time that this was probably going to be a pretty lackluster and boring experience, nothing serious was going to be considered or even passed during a the time that she was a detailee. quite the opposite was true. she was here to be an integral part of the construction of this legislation and its passage. she's leaving as detailee at the end of the year and i'm going to miss her. while she's missed, she's leaving her office on the highest possible note. rachel, i wish you the best. you were an important part of the legislation that passed last night. stephanie traphone is our office
counsel and involved in every issue that goes through the national judiciary committee. she plays a supporting role to ensure the bill is properly written and fielded countless calls and e-mails to keep our senate staff and other staff well informed. she's been a steady hand and we needed her every step of the way. the rest of my team has its own assignments. some worked tangentially on this bill but dan swan son, i couldn't function without him. he takes another agenda in the senate judiciary committee primarily on the civil side and there's none better. there are times when people who are so-called experts visit my office and say where does this swanson learn all of these issues in such detail? he's a pretty bright guy and i'm lucky to have him. his day in the hot seat will soon come when we face another issue. debu gandhi is an associate counsel. i like his style and
determination and never asked anything of him that he hasn't produced the best project in a great way. moncrief has to field the mail when i give speeches that make people happy or angry. i thank him for his commitment to our offers. i want to say a word about my floor staff, rema dodin. reema has been with me since an nirn -- intern in my office in chicago. she became my floor director. i didn't realize how much she was studying senate procedure but she's really become a valuable asset not just to my office but to the senate when we consider the options under the senate rules. having been parliamentarian in the illinois state senate for 10 or 12 years, i can tell you that those who work in the parliamentarian's office as well as those in support staff who are interested in house or senate procedure are just absolutely essential to the
successful consideration of important bills. she's, reema is in a unique position to win bills on both the democratic and republican side of the aisle. she certainly did her job last night with 87 votes in favor of our legislation. m.j. kenny is by her side. he's the deputy floor director, always in the cloakroom, always on the floor to ensure the first step act has a fair shot at consideration and passage. m.j. and reema are an incredible floor team. i'm lucky to have them. corey telez is mile legislative director. -- is my legislative director. she kept our office and other offices well informed every step of the way. emily hampsten, my communications director has been sending out messages from my office from the beginning. she is always there with a smile and professional work, and i thank her so much for her work.
clara rushell is my scheduler. she controls my life more than my wife and sends me to places she thinks are right. but she has navigated 1,000 meetings and phone calls on this legislation and so many other things. to say that she is an important part of this process is a gross understatement. pat suitor is my chief of staff, has been with me in the beginning, started with me in the house and now has assembled the best team on capitol hill, i think. i thank him for finding these talented people and making sure they got along with one another and in their cooperation we can serve the people of illinois first and the nation in a most effective way. let me say this moment in history arrived because we had an idea it was due. it's an idea whose time was due. and it was due for a number of reasons. 30 years ago in the war on drugs
we were so frightened by crack cocaine that as a house member, i ended up casting what i consider one of the worst votes in my career. i voted for the 100-1 crack to powder disparity in sentencing. it meant what it said. you would get 100 times the penalty for the same amount of crack cocaine as you would have in powder cocaine. same narcotic, different form. dramatically different results. we tried this in an effort to scare america straight, to let them know we were serious, we were going to get tough and use all the political muscle that we could find to stop the spread of crack cocaine. it was cheap. it was easily produced. it was deadly especially to the fetus being carried by the addicted mother and it scared us. i voted for that bill and regretted it ever since. i know what happened. it didn't work. you couldn't scare people straight. we ended up with more people addicted, the price of drugs on the street went down and we started filling our prisons
primarily with african american inmates and latinos who were convicted under these crimes. we knew in our heart of hearts that like so many other laws, it was just unfair. the majority -- majority of users of narcotics and dealers of narcotics, the majority are white. 75% of those who are convicted and sent to prison for crimes related to drug dealing and use are african american and latino. this disparity on its face tells us our system was fundamentally unfair and ineffective. and that's the reason i believe we decided last night to stop trying to muscle our way through the drug war and start using our brains. what is it that will work, that will make certain that those who are truly guilty pay a price and those that can be rehabilitated get that chance. it's as basic as that. there's a second thing that happened in america in recent years, and it's heartbreaking when you see the results. we're facing the worst drug epidemic in our history.
for the first time in decades, maybe in modern memory, we are being told that lifl expectancy -- life expectancy in the united states is going down. it's because of the opioid drug epidemic. thousands of people are dying because of overdoses of opioids, heroin, and fentanyl. but the opioid epidemic has opened our eyes to something else. narcotics and their problems are not confined to the inner city. they're not confined to people of color, and they're not confined to the poor. this opioid epidemic has touched every corner of america in every state. there is no suburb too wealthy, no town so small that it can avoid this opioid epidemic. and what it has done is to sadly educate all of us in what happens with addiction and what we need to do to fight it. we now look at drug addiction not as a moral curse, but rather as a disease that needs to be treated.
that doesn't mean we should give up on prosecuting kingpins and doing everything we can to stop the flow of narcotics, but we've come to realize that just sticking someone addicted in jail if they've lived long enough to reach that point in their lives is no guarantee they're going to come out of jail without that addiction. we've got to be thoughtful. we also have to have rehabilitation that's available for people across the board, whether they're rich or poor. and that is something our opioid legislation of several weeks ago moves towards solving. the other thing we've come to understand is that the cost of the current system is unsustainable. we cannot continue to fill our prisons at great expense and not put money into things that count in terms of protecting our communities. arresting someone after the crime is of course part of a just society, but it doesn't stop that original crime from happening. we've got to think about the crime prevention that makes our homes and neighborhoods and towns and cities safe all across america. and that was part of the calculation last night in this
embarkation on a new approach. finally i want to say that virtually every major issue that passes on the floor of the united states senate, virtually every single one of them has someone backing it, pushing forward with a personal passion on the issue. i feel it not personally but having visited so many prisons and worked with so many people who served time in those prisons, that we need to have a more just system, a more effective system. but i want to give credit where it's due. jared kushner, president trump's son-in-law, spoke to me about his feelings on prison reform from the first time we ever met. i know it's personal to him and i know it means a lot to him and his family. and because he cared and because he mobilized the conservative side of the political equation, we had an amazing vote last night with 87 members of the senate supporting the bill. all of the democrats and then on top of that i guess 39 of the
republicans were also supporting the bill. i might add that senator lindsey graham was absent. now that he's back from afghanistan, tells us that he would have made it 88 if he were here. i'll close by saying thank you again to senator grassley. thanks to aaron cummings. i thanked him personally last night. he worked so closely with joe zogby and rachel rossi during the course of this. they really became a team, and i think it was one of the reasons that we closed this deal and sent it over to the house. it is, however, the first step. we've got to start thinking about the second step. and we need the help of all of our colleagues when shaping that. i yield the floor. mr. grassley: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i thank senator durbin for his kind remarks. more importantly, for three years of working together on this legislation, and it's great that it paid off. i would like to now speak on
another subject, and i come to the floor to speak about the work of the senate on victims' rights and child protection measures and also to highlight the work of evelyn fortier, a staff member that carried such a big burden in these aries of victims' -- areas of victims' rights and child protection. during my tenure as chairman of the senate judiciary committee, i made it a top priority to champion bipartisan initiatives to enhance victims' rights and to protect our nation's at-risk children. in the 115th congress, just as an example, i introduced and led the senate in approving multiple bills to prevent crime, identify missing
children, enhance services to crime victims, and reform our juvenile justice system. i'm proud of what we've achieved on the judiciary committee during this period of time, as we sent half a dozen bills along the measures i just described to the president's desk after both chambers passed them surprisingly on a unanimous basis. for example, last october we passed and the president signed the elder abuse prevention and prosecution act. this measure which i sponsored with senator blumenthal increases penalties for the fosters -- those are the people who target our senior citizens. it requires federal agencies to collect more data on financial exploitation of the elderly,
which is of course a terribly underreported crime. it also calls for specialized training of federal investigators and prosecutors who handle these cases. the second measure which i introduced and the president signed last january is the kevin avenatti. this new law is named in honor of two boys with autism who tragically died after wandering away from their caregivers. it calls for the justice department to award grants to equip school personnel, caregivers and first responders with training so that they can help identify missing persons with autism or alzheimer's disease. it also permits grant funds to be used for technologies that advance the search for missing children with developmental
disabilities. this legislation is important because research suggests that at least a third of the children with autism repeatedly wander away from safety. since 2015, we've seen a doubling in the number of wandering-related deaths, according to safe mines -- that is a nonprofit organization that advocates for these children. i thank senators schumer, tillis, and klobuchar for joining as cosponsors of the kevin and avantay law. third, i introduced until -- cleared legislation to extend the victims services program that trafficking victim protection act. a letter to the judiciary
committee in clearing this measure, and a complementary bill introduced by senator cornyn. our bills, which were cosponsored by senators feinstein and klobuchar, soon will go to the president's desk for signatures. both measures will help us combat modern human slavery, which unfortunately, is well alive today in this country. it exists in the form of sex and labor trafficking through deception, threats, or violence. the perpetrators of these crimes will do whatever it takes to turn a profit and doing it at the victim's expense. fourth, i think year championed legislation to renew and extend
the missing children's assistance act. this measure, which the president signed this fall, makes funds available over the next five years for the national center for missing and exploited children to continue to do its important work. the national center partners with law enforcement and communities across the united states in the effort to identify and rescue missing and abused children. a fifth measure that i introduced in this chamber with senators whitehouse -- with senator whitehouse would renew and update the juvenile justice and delinquency act. that law has not been updated since 2002. i introduced a measure for the first time in the 114th
congress. we this year concluded our negotiations with the house and it is known as the juvenile justice reform act. the measure which we adopted last week which is on its way to the president's desk for his signature reflects the oversight work that i carried out several years ago. this oversight, which was the subject of a 2015 judiciary committee hearing revealed a flawed grant program, but also one worth saving because of its potential benefits for our nation's at-risk youth. the reforms that we've adopted also help ensure the fairer treatment of minors in detention through greater screening and treatment of mental illness and substance abuse. this new law also promotes an end to the shackling of girls
who give birth in detention. it encourages greater separation of juveniles and adult offenders in detention, and assures that detained youth can continue their education. it will give these young people who come into contact with the juvenile justice system a better chance of turning their lives around. i should add that we included accountability provisions in virtually every grant funding measure reported by the judiciary committee during my four years as chairman. the inclusion of this language, which i authored several years ago in statutes authorizing federal grant programs, will help ensure that taxpayers dollars are used wisely, and quite frankly, according to law. i want to again thank my
colleagues from the judiciary committee who joined me as cosponsors of these and other new laws in this area. i also want to thank the nonprofit groups, such as the national autism association, the elder justice coalition, and the coalition for juvenile justice as well as individual advocates who include bob la -- bob blancato, stuart spielman, lisa witerright, and others who contributed in the meaningful ways to these laws, their developments and passage. once again, i wish to thank evelyn forte for her work in this area. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor.
ms. harris: i ask unanimous consent that thomas dolstrey who is here, a fellow in my office be given floor privileges for the remainder of the 115th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. harris: thank you. madam president, over two months ago the senate judiciary committee unanimously voted to advance the justice for victims of lynching act of 2018 which i introduced proudly with senators booker and scott. this is a historic piece of legislation that would criminalize lynching, attempts to lynch, and conspiracy to lynch for the first time in america's history. lynching is a part of the dark and despicable aspect of our country's history that followed slavery and many other outrageous in our country. according to the equal justice initiative, lynching was used as an instrument of terror and intimidation, 4,804 times during
the late 19th and 20th centuries. these lynchings were acts of violence. they were needless and horrendous acts of violence. and they were motivated by racism. and we must acknowledge that fact, least we repeat it. lynchings were also crimes that were committed against innocent people. these crimes should have been prosecuted. there were victims who should have received justice but did not. with this bill we are finally able to change that and correct a burden on our history as a country. we finally have a chance to speak the truth about our past and make clear that these hateful acts should never happen again without serious severe and swift consequence and accountability. from 1882 to 1986, the united
states congress failed to pass antilynching legislation when it had an opportunity 200 times. we now have an opportunity to pass this bill and to offer some long overdue justice and recognition to the victims of lynching and their families, recognition that these were crimes, they are crimes for which there should be severe consequence and accountability. i now yield my time to my friend, the great senator from the great state of new jersey, cory booker. mr. booker: thank you. thank you very much. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: thank you, madam president. i really want to thank senator harris for her incredible partnership and leadership on this bill. i also want to thank senator tim scott as well from south carolina for his leadership on this legislation. and for the consistent example, of character and integrity from these two individuals, my
partners on this legislation, that they're showing in this body. as my colleague said, it's been a very long time coming. for over a century. members of congress all have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is, a bias, motivated act of terror. today senator harris and i are requesting after a century, after a hundred years and over 200 different bills introduced in this body that we finally make lynching a federal crime in the united states of america. and thanks to the work of incredible people around this country, truth tellers like brian stevenson and the equal justice initiative, today we have a far more comprehensive understanding of just how widespread and purposefully lirchling was used as a -- lirchling was used as -- lynching was used as racial
terror. we know the equal justice initiative was able to document thousands of cases, documented 4,000 cases of racially motivated lynching between 1877 and 1950. and that during that time, lynchings were used to ter riz community -- terrorize communities. they weren't only vicious acts of murder against individuals but in many cases bodies hung trying to drive fear into communities and make them submit to second-class citizenship and consistent injustice. the use of lynching as a larger part of terrorism is disturbing and it's a dark past part of our history. but its legacy does not just live in our history books diswhite activists and organizations that have dedicated themselves to studying and addressing the racial terror in our history, we have failed to correct for many of those past since.
we know the passage of this bill will not undo the damage, the terror, and the violence that's been done and the lives that were brutally taken in our past, but we do know the passage of this bill, even though it cannot reverse irrevocable harm that lirchling was used as a terror of suppression, the passage of this bill is a recognition of that dark past. we know that when wrongs are ignored, they fester underneath the skin of the body politics, and we know that justice delayed is justice denied. so today is a moment of potential justice in our body, justice for victims of lirchling -- lynching that has too long been denied. i want to go to the very first bill introduced in congress to address the terror of lynching was introduced by a man on the other side of the capitol,
congressman george henry white. it was introduced in 1900, more than a century ago. and the year after it was introduced, that first bill, a year afterwards, 1901 was the last year he would serve in congress. that's because congressman white was the last, the very last of the group of black congressmen who had been elected to congress during reconstruction. and with congressman white's departure in 2001, it would be the last time that an african american would serve in the united states congress -- excuse me, last time a black southerner would serve in the congress for over 70 years. and congressman white had a sense of understanding of what was going to come, the long dirth of the lack of diversity. he knew of voter disenfranchisement, that this was going to stop the election of african americans. in his last speech, january 29, 1901, a year after he introduced the bill to criminalize
lynching, he delivered a farewell address and he called it the negroes farewell to the american congress. over a century ago here in congress he made the same request that senator harris and i are making now, the same request for the united states to officially criminalize lynching. i want to share just a part of what congressman white said that day close to 118 years ago to this very day. he said and i quote, mr. chairman, permit me to digress for a few minutes for the purpose of calling the attention of the house to the bill i regard as important, introduced by me in the early part of the first session of this congress. it was intended to give the united states control, entire jurisdiction over all cases of lynching and death by mob violence. during the last session of this congress, i took the occasion to address myself in detail to this particular measure, but with all
my efforts, the bill still sweetly sleeps in the room of the committee to which it was referred. the necessity of legislation along this line is a -- is daily being demonstrate. the arena of the lyncher no longer is combine -- confined to southern climbs but is stretching its hydrohead over all parts of the union. referring to the terror of lynching, congressman white knew and he said this final quote, he said the evil peculiar to america, yes to the united states, must be met someho somee day. well now in this moment in america, we have a chance to make some day today. we have the opportunity to recognize the wrongs of our history, to honor the memories of those brutally killed, and to leave a legacy that future generations can look back on knowing that after 200 attempts and a century of trying, that on
this day in american history, this body did the right thing. so i'd like to recognize my colleague from california for the historic call on this piece of legislation. ms. harris: thank you, senator booker. it is my true honor to be with you on the floor of the united states senate. madam president, thank you. it is truly my honor, senator booker, to be on the floor of the united states senate with you as a colleague and as a friend proposing this piece of legislation. and so, madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the committee on the judiciary be discharged from further consideration of s. 3178 and that the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 3178, a bill to amend title 18 united states code to specify lynching as a
deprivation of civil rights and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection, the senate will proceed. ms. harris: i further ask consent that the substitute amendment at the desk be agreed to and that the bill as amended be considered and read a third time. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. harris: i know of no further debate on the bill. the presiding officer: is there further debate? if not, the question is on passage of the bill as amended. all in favor say aye. those opposed no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the bill as amended is passed. ms. harris: i ask unanimous consent the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. harris: i want to thank our colleagues for this incredibly
important act of bipartisanship in the united states congress. thank you, madam president. mr. booker: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: you know, i think there are, as the senator from oregon just came over, this is a very meaningful moment for this body. there's a speech by a man that i revere. his picture hangs in my office. his name is martin luther king. for many people who endured the pain and the agony of our past, lynchings went up to 1970 in this country. for those people who eastern for justice -- who yearn for justice they would never experience, who know the pain and agony and hurt in their family, the trauma that is still felt by many today who remember lynching in this country that was so pervasive, king once spoke to those people who were hurting and wanting to see justice. and he asked at the end of his speech, he said how long, not long because the truth crush of
the earth will rise again. he asked how long, not long because no lie can live forever. how long, not long because of the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. this has been a long arc, a painful history and shameful history in this body. at the height of lynchings across this country affecting thousands of people, this body did not act to make that a federal crime. well, this body at least now, the united states senate, has now acted, a hundred senators, no objections. i just want to give gratitude to this body for what we have just done. i yield the floor. thank you. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon.