tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN December 17, 2019 9:59am-1:05pm EST
relevance to the facts here. we ought to stick to the facts. if there are other witnesses who might have witnessed what happened, who might have strong evidence on the facts that the house presented i want to hear what they are. >> thank you, everybody. >> on the ig report-- >> follow the house impeachment process and the administration's response on c-span. watch live unfiltered coverage and prime time reairs, stream anytime on demand at c-span.org/impeachment and listen from where you are with the free c-span radio app. >> and live this morning here on c-span2, we'll take you to the floor of the u.s. united states about to gavel in. working on the house past 2020 policy and programs bill. later this week senators will pick up executive nominations and 2020 spending legislation.
current government funding expires friday at midnight. you're watching live coverage of the senate on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, help us to remember your mighty acts. you are kind and merciful, better to us than we deserve. you feed the sparrows
and cause the sun to rise. you forgive our sins and provide us with strength for every challenge. lord, use our lawmakers today for your glory. may they be courteous and kind as they seek to do what is best for this land we love. remind them that they represent the hopes and dreams of many people. thank you, lord, for the wonderful things that you continue to do for us all. we pray in your loving name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in the pledge of
allegiance. 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: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. mr. grassley: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask permission to address the senate for one minute in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: this week marks the second anniversary of the passage of the tax cut and jobs
act, december 2017 when the biggest tax cut in the history of the country was passed by the congress. it's been very successful, but the reason i come to honor this second anniversary is because polls show that people don't realize the benefits of the tax cut. some are even wondering did we get a tax cut. i have some appreciation for that because i spent ten years on an assembly line in cedar falls, iowa, and probably if i got a 50-cent tax cut every week, i wouldn't know it at the end of the year that that added up to $250 more in my pocket. so under the circumstances of the working men and women of america, it might be difficult to know that. but studies show the great benefit to the middle-class families of this tax cut. so thanks to these historic tax
cuts and reforms, americans do in fact have more money in their paychecks and their pocketbooks. individuals and families then have more to spend or if they want to, to save it. there may be a lot of people save for retirement, i hope. small businesses and entrepreneurs benefit from the tax cut. they have more to invest in their employees and in their business operations and probably hire more americans. as a result, we have experienced the longest u.s. economic expansion in history. higher wages and historically low unemployment, the lowest since 1969. i'm proud to say on this two-year anniversary of the tax reform, that it has been a resounding success. i yield the floor and suggest
mr. mcconnell: madam president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: all signs seem to suggest that later this week, house democrats are finally going to do what many of them have been foreshadowing for three years now and impeach president trump. it appears that the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair
impeachment inquiry in modern history is about to wind down after just 12 weeks and then its slap-dash work product will be dumped on us over here in the senate. i'll have much more to say to our colleagues and to the american people if and when the house does move ahead. but as we speak today, house democrats still have the opportunity to do the right thing for the country and avoid setting this toxic new precedent. the house can turn back from a cliff and not deploy this constitutional remedy of last resort to deliver a predetermined partisan outcome. this morning, madam president, i just want to speak to one very specific part of this. over the weekend, the democratic leader decided to short circuit the customary and collegial
process for laying basic groundwork in advance of a potential impeachment trial. the preferable path would have been an in-person conversation which nonetheless i still hope to pursue. instead, he chose to begin by writing me an 11-paragraph letter on sunday evening, deliver it by way of the news media, and begin a cable television campaign a few hours later. the democratic leader's letter is an interesting document from the very beginning. for example, in the second of its 11 paragraphs, our colleague literally misquotes the constitution. that error actually aligns with our colleague's apparent confusion about some of the deeper questions. i'll come back to that in a
moment. at first, our colleague's letter appears to request that a potential impeachment trial adopt similar procedures to the clinton impeachment trial back in 1999. now, i happen to think that's a good idea. the basic procedural framework of the clinton impeachment trial served the senate and the nation well, in my view. but the problem is that while the democratic leader notionally says he wants a potential 2020 trial to look like 1999, he goes on to demand things that would break with the 1999 model. in president clinton's trial, we handled procedural issues in two, two separate senate resolutions that passed at
different times. the first resolution passed unanimously before the trial. it sketched out basic things like scheduling, opening arguments, and the timing of a motion to dismiss. other more detailed questions about the middle and the end of the trial, including whether any witnesses would be called, were reserved for a second resolution that was passed in the middle of the trial itself. as a matter of fact, we passed it only after a number of democrats, including senator schumer himself, voted to dismiss the case. they got a motion to dismiss before the senate had even decided whether to depose a single witness. instead of a tried and true 1999
model, start the trial and then see how senators wish to proceed, the democratic leader wants to write a completely new set of rules for president trump. he wants one single resolution up front instead of two, however many are needed. he wants to guarantee up front that the senate hear from the very specific witnesses instead of letting the body evaluate the witness issue after, after opening arguments and senators' questions like back in 1999. very tellingly, madam president, our colleague from new york completely omits any motions to dismiss the case like the one he was happy to vote for himself as a new senator back in 1999. almost exactly 20 years ago today, prior to the senate trial, senator schumer said this on television, a direct quote.
this is what he said -- certainly any senator, according to the rules, could move to dismiss, which is done every day in criminal and civil courts throughout america, motions to dismiss are made. and if a majority vote for that motion to dismiss, the procedure could be truncated. that was senator schumer in january of 1999. but now the same process that senator schumer thought was good enough for president clinton, he doesn't want to afford president trump. go figure. look, most people understand what the democratic leader is really after. he is simply trying to lock in live witnesses that is a strange request at this juncture for a couple of reasons. for one thing, the 1999 version
of senator schumer vocally opposed having witnesses, even when the question was raised after hours of opening arguments from the lawyers, hours of questions from senators, and a failed most to dismiss. he favors live witnesses this time before the senate even has articles in hand. moreover, presumably, it will be the house prosecutor's job to ask for the witnesses they feel they need to make the case. so why does the democratic leader here in the senate want to predetermine the house impeachment manager's witness request for them before the house has even impeached the president? might he just -- might he be coordinating these questions with people outside the senate?
here's one possible explanation. maybe the house's public proceedings have left the democratic leader with the same impression they have left many of us, that from everything we can tell, house democrats' slap-dash impeachment inquiry has failed to come anywhere near, anywhere near the bar for impeaching a duly elected president, let alone removing him for the first time in american history. and so those who have been eagerly hoping for impeachment are starting to scramble. chairman adam schiff and house democrats actively decided not to go to court and pursue potentially useful witnesses because they didn't want to wait for due process. indeed, they threatened to impeach the president if they had to go to court at all.
that intentional political decision is the reason why the house is poised, poised to send the senate the least thorough presidential impeachment in our nation's history. by any ordinary legal standard, what house democrats have assembled appears to be woefully, woefully inadequate to prove what they want to allege. so now the senate democratic leader would apparently like our chamber to do house democrats' homework for them. he wants to volunteer the senate's time and energy on a fishing expedition to see whether his own ideas could make chairman schiff's sloppy work more persuasive than chairman schiff himself bothered to make it. so, madam president, this is
dead wrong. the senate is meant to act as judge and jury to hear a trial, not to recountry the entire background of the investigation because angry partisans rushed sloppily through it. the trajectory that the democratic leader apparently wants to take us down before he has even heard opening arguments could set a nightmarish precedent for our institution. if the senate volunteers ourselves to do house democrats' homework for them, we will only incentivize an endless stream of dubious partisan impeachments in the future, and we will invite future houses to paralyze future senates with frivolous impeachments at will. this misunderstanding about constitutional roles brings me back to something i raised earlier. the democratic leader's letter to me, by the way, by way of the
press literally misquoted the constitution. senator schumer wrote that we should exercise, quote, the senate's sole power of impeachment under the constitution with integrity and indignity. he attributed to the senate, quote, the sole power of impeachment. well, there is a problem, mr. president. that's the role the constitution gives actually to the house, not to the senate. article 1, section 2, says the house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. it doesn't sound ambiguous to me. if my colleague wants to read about our responsibilities here in the senate, he needs to turn to the next page, article 1, section 3 says the senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.
we don't create impeachments over here, mr. president. we judge them. the house chose this road. it's their duty to investigate. it's their duty to meet the very high bar for undoing a national election. as speaker pelosi herself once said, it is the house obligation to, quote, build an iron-clad case to act. that's speaker pelosi. it's the house's obligation to build an iron-clad case to act, end quote. if they fail, they fail. it's not the senate's job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to guilty. that would hardly be impartial justice. in fact, if my colleague is already desperate to sign up the senate for new fact finding which democrats themselves are
too impatient to see through, well, that suggests something to me. it suggests that even democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the house's rushed process has been. well, look, i hope the house of representatives sees that, too. if the house democrats' case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it over here in the senate. the answer is the house should not impeach on this basis in the first place. but if the house plows ahead, if this ends up here in the senate, we certainly do not need jurors to start brain-storming witness lists for the prosecution and demanding to lock them in before we have even heard opening
arguments. i still believe the senate should try to follow the 1999 model. two resolutions, two. first thing -- first things first. the middle and the end of this process will come later. so i look forward to meeting with the democratic leader very soon and getting our important conversation back on the right foot. now, on an entirely different matter there remains a great deal of outstanding legislation the senate must complete for the american people before we adjourn for the holidays. i was glad to see yesterday's overwhelming bipartisan vote to advance the conference report to the 59th consecutive national defense authorization act. we moved it here in the senate 76-6. for months, unprecedented partisan delays threatened a nearly six-decade tradition to express a bipartisan commitment to our national defense.
but with the senate's final vote later today, we'll finally put this vital legislation on the president's desk. i look forward to voting to pass the ndaa today by another overwhelming bipartisan vote for our service members and the critical missions they carry out. of course, the senate needs to follow up the defense authorization bill with appropriate measures and fund our national defense and domestic priorities. ensuring the federal government makes careful use of tax dollars is an uphill battle by definition. so it is critical that we plan in advance and plan for the full year ahead rather than careen from one short-term stopgap to another. at this point it is especially crew shall for tower -- crucial for our armed forces.
and our nation's top military commanders have been crystal clear. this requires stable and predictable annual funding. it's as simple as that, as the chairman of the joint chiefs, general milley, put it recently -- continuing resolutions are, quote, a very ineffective and inefficient use of the taxpayers' dollars. the secretary of defense hasn't minced words, either. quote, every day that a c.r. continues is one less day that we can invest in future capabilities and future technologies. it is a simple matter of good governance, avoiding another stopgap c.r. is a good step. so i am encouraged that the house is preparing to advance full appropriations bills this week. what's actually in these bills certainly matters. so i'm glad to say the efforts of chairman shelby, senator leahy and their counterparts in
the house and white house negotiators have produced a bipartisan package of full-year funding measures that will make needed investments in our nation's top priorities. first is a top-line increase in funding that our national defense requires. for the third consecutive year, president trump and republicans in congress will deliver on our commitment to continue rebuilding america's military after nearly a decade of forced belt-tightening. the threats to the united states and our allies continues to emerge and evolve. this work is more important than ever. america no longer stands unchallenged in the international system. as russia it eliminates the reach of its meddling influence in the middle east, as china invests in reshaping the order of the asian pacific region be, a new era of great power competition demands our attention. and our ax.
-- and our action. the defense funding measure the house will consider today answers these real realities with significant increases in defense funding. our commanders will have more resources to develop cutting-edge weapon capabilities and ensure that american service members receive the best training, equipment, and support available. much-needed upgrades to the nuclear force, investments in hypersonic technologies to keep pace with our biggest adversaries and renewed commitment to service members and their families here at home. but our efforts are about more than equipping the u.s. military to win a fight. the funding bill takes a comprehensive approach to the security of the united states and our allies. it will unlock targeted resources for countering the creeping influence of authoritarian powers so that military engagement becomes less likely in the first place. i'm particularly proud that
thanks to my own efforts, the legalization -- the legislation modernizes the reporting requirements of the hong kong policy act i sponsored way back in 1992. it expands our support for democracy in hong kong, including legal support to hong kong activists and increases countering russian influence. -- the counters russian influence fund. of course, our work goes beyond defense and foreign affairs. we're talking about full-year funding for the federal government's domestic work as well. for example, big wins for the president's agenda to bring more security to the southern border. this year's funding bills provide another $1.4 billion for the border wall system, plus more flexibility on location than last year's funding. and despite the efforts many some house democrats during the process, presidential authorities to transfer necessary funds remain intact. the bills also fund critical
transportation infrastructure grants and inland waterways projects. they provide for our nation's continuening fight he is -- or continuing fight against the opioid epidemic and fund first responders in fighting the scourge of addiction nationwide. i am proud and pleased that this legislation also contains tobacco 21 legislation that i introduced with my friend and colleague senator kaine from virginia this year. by raising the age for purchasing vaping devices and other tobacco products to 21 years old nationwide, we'll take bold, direct action to stem the tide of every nicotine attics -- of early nicotine addiction among our nation's youth. in another provision that i fought to include in the legislation, we'll secure the pension benefits of nearly 100,000 coal miners and their dependents in kentucky and across the country. another key section provides hundreds of millions of dollars more for election security. another step in the work by
congress and the administration to make sure the lapses that took place on the obama administration's watch in 2016 are not repeated. the list goes on and on. all important priorities will benefit from this bipartisan legislation. and it is not just about what these bills will continue. it's also about what this legislation will end. it will take several more big bites out of the failures of obamacare by repealing more of its burdensome taxes. already republicans have repealed the rationing board that obamacare set up to micromanage health care and zeroed out the individual mandate penalty. we've already done that. now this legislation the house will pass today will repeal even more of obamacare's misguided measures, such as the medical device tax and the cadillac tax. so, mr. president, there are two
timeless truths about the appropriations process in divided government. first, neither side will ever get p what they would consider to be perfect bills. but, second, full-year funding definitely beats drifting endlessly from c.r. to c.r. this important bills establishes important priorities for each house. i look forward to supporting it and hope senators on both sides of the aisle will do the same. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the conference report to accompany s. 1790 which the clerk will report. the clerk: conference report to accompany s. 1790, an act to authorize appropriations for fiscal year to 20 for military activities of the department of defense and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come here today to address the current status of the national labor relations board and in particular, how the rights of workers are being undermined by republican obstructionism. you see, for decades presidents have nominated and democrats and republicans in the senate have confirmed n. -- nlrb nominees from both parties to ensure
nominees can enforce workers rights. for the first time in the history of the board, we are now left with zero democratic members on the board because of republican inaction. to say this is highly problematic is an understatement. we will be left with zero democrats because yesterday lauren mcfearen's turn expired. lauren mcfearen is a dedicated, highly qualified and well respected public servant. despite the repeated requests my colleagues and i have sent to the white house, president trump refused to renominate miss mcfearen. and last year republicans in the senate stalled the renomination of another exceptionally qualified nominee to the nlrb, mark gaston pierce. how? by simply refusing to hold a vote, instead allowing that seat to remain empty.
so now workers are confronted with a board made up solely of three republicans, zero democrats, to serve on this historically bipartisan agency. that is simply unacceptable. you know, i get it, board nominations, washington infighting, to many this may seem like baseball. but let me explain what this will mean for everyday people. when workers stand together to form a union, the nlrb ensures that the election is fair. if a worker is fired or unfairly punished because they want to join or form a union, the nlrb is there and tasked with protecting their rights. if a company refuses to negotiate fairly with unions who are fighting for higher wages or better benefits or safer working conditions, it is the nlrb that safeguards those rights that have helped build our country's
middle class. quite frankly, the nlrb is a critical worker protection agency and workers across the country will suffer because of the republican's dereliction of duty, especially as the republican nlrb members are now mired in allegations of ethics issues. they are pursuing an aggressive rule-making agenda that will gut workers' rights and are undermining efforts to enforce protections for workers. it is clear that workers in this country today cannot afford now an inbalanced and increasingly partisan nlrb. by the way, that's just the latest example of republicans standing in the way of democratic nominees. i am still waiting for a democratic nominee to the equal employment opportunity commission after republicans blocked the renomination of feldman last year and i'm deeply disappointed by the inaction of the republicans. i employ them to return to the normal process, the normal process. the nlrb must not become a
mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: well, i just -- the presiding officer: we are in a quorum call, sir. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: i just listened to leader mcconnell's lengthy response to my letter proposing the outlines of a fair impeachment trial in the senate. leader mcconnell was apparently upset that i sent him
the letter on sunday saying the first step was for the two leaders to meet and then discuss a resolution. well, if we were allowed to show a video here on the senate floor of the republican leader's appearance on sean hannity's program last week, it would expose the fallacy of his argument. leader mcconnell unfortunately skipped his first step when he began publicly talking about the rules of a senate trial telling hannity that he'd be taken cues if the white house and his idea for how to conduct a trial long before any conversation which he still hasn't had with me. my letter was intended as a good-faith proposal to kickstart the discussions that leader mcconnell has so far delayed in scheduling. i still expect we'll sit down and discuss trial parameters despite his public appearances on fox news. but let me say this. i listened to the leader's
speech. i did not hear a single sentence, a single argument as to why the witnesses i suggested should not give testimony. impeachment trials like most trials have witnesses. to have none would be an aberration. why is the leader, why is the president so afraid of having these witnesses come testify? what are they afraid the witnesses would say? i'd like to hear leader mcconnell come to the floor and give specific reasons why the four witnesses we've asked for shouldn't testify. i don't know what they'll say. they might have some -- their president trump appointees. they might have something exculpatory to say about president trump or they might not. but they certainly -- the four key people who saw exactly what was going on. what is leader mcconnell
afraid of? what is president trump afraid of? the truth? but the american people want the truth. and that's why we have asked for witnesses and documents to get at the whole truth and nothing but. this week the house of representatives will vote on articles of impeachment against the president of the united states. if these argument cals pass the house, the constitution dictates that the senate serve as a court of impeachment. conducting an impeachment trial. mr. president, it's a tremendously weighty and solemn responsibility entrusted to us by its founders. if such a trial is to happen, democrats strongly believe it must be fair and the american people must regard it as fair. a fair trial is one that allows senators -- a fair trial is one
that allows senators to get all the relevant facts and add jude indicate the case -- adjudicate the case impartially. i proposed a very reasonable structure for a fair trial. i've sent that same letter to every one of my colleagues, democrat and republican. there's a grand tradition in america. speedy and fair trials. we want both. the leader seems obsessed with speedy and wants to throw fair out the window. to simply repeat the arts that were made in the house and senate -- arguments that were made in the house and senate when there are witnesses and documents that could shed light on what actually happened, why not have them. let's hear a single word of answer to that. we've heard none. in fact, the american people want it as well.
a poll today in "washington post," abc, 72% of americans want to hear these witnesses. 64% of republicans do. the american people are fair. they don't want a coverup. they don't want concealment. this is weighty stuff. the house has put together a very, very strong case that the president abused his power and wanted to let a foreign power interfere in our elections. that goes to the heart of what our democracy is and what the founding fathers warned against. and now to not allow witnesses to come forward who would be able to discuss what actually happened, if we don't have them, the trial won't be fair.
the four witnesses we proposed have direct knowledge of why aid to ukraine was delayed. and the administration's request for ukraine to conduct two investigations for political reasons. they have direct knowledge of those facts. we don't know, as i said, what kind of evidence they'll present. it may be incriminating. it may be exculpatory. it may influence how senators vote. it may not. but they certainly ought to be heard. by virtue of their senior positions in the white house, each witness we named was directly involved in the events that led to the charges made by the house. we've also proposed subpoenaing certain records, including e-mails by certain key officials that are directly related to the charges brought by the house. i believe these documents are
also of great importance to making sure senators have the information necessary to make a fully informed decision, this terribly weighty decision. the house has built a very strong case against the president. maybe that's why leader mcconnell doesn't seem to want witnesses. at least not agree to them now. maybe that's why the president is afraid, because the house case is so strong that they don't want witnesses that might corroborate it. the evidence the house put together includes public testimony given under oath by numerous senior officials appointed by president trump. these a trump appointees we're calling, not some partisan democrat, but some republican senators have said that while the charges are serious, they haven't seen enough evidence to make a decision.
that's one of the reasons i've proposed subpoenas for these witnesses and documents, all directly relevant from officials who have yet to testify under oath during any stage of the house process. senators who oppose this plan will have to explain why less evidence is better than more evidence. again, let me say that. to every senator in this room, democrat and republican, senators who oppose this plan will have to explain why less evidence is better than more evidence, and they're going to have to explain that position to a public that is understandably skeptical when they see an administration suppressing evidence and blocking senior officials from telling the truth about what they know. let me repeat this washington abc poll. just this morning.
i read about it in the paper this morning. 71% of americans believe the president should allow his top aides to testify in a potential senate trial. 72% of independents and 64% of republicans. 64% of republicans think that president trump should allow his top aides to testify in a potential senate trial. seven out of ten americans. the american people have a wisdom that seems to be lacking with some of my colleagues. that a trial without witnesses is not a trial. it's a rush to judgment. it's a sham trial. the american people understand that a trial without relevant documents is not a fair trial. again, a desire not to -- not for sunlight but for darkness. to conceal facts that may well be very relevant. the american people understand
if you're trying to conceal evidence and block testimony, it's probably not because the evidence is going to help your case. it's because you're trying to cover something up. mr. president, president trump, are you worried about what these witnesses would say? if you're not worried, let them come forward. and if you are worried, we ought to hear from them. i haven't heard, again. the leader went on for 15, 20 minutes, the republican leader, without giving a single argument for why these witnesses shouldn't testify or these documents shouldn't be produced unless the president has something to hide. in the coming weeks, every senator will have a choice. do they want a fair, honest trial that examines all the facts, or do they want a trial that doesn't let all the facts
come out? we will have votes during this proceeding, should the house send it to us, after voting for it, when they send it to us, we will have votes on whether these people should testify. and whether these documents should be made public and part of the trial, and the american people will be watching. they will be watching. who is for an open and fair trial? who is for hiding facts, relevant facts, immediate facts? who is for covering up? i expect to discuss this proposal for a fair trial with leader mcconnell, but each individual senator will have both the power and the responsibility to help shape what an impeachment trial looks like. in federalist 65, alexander hamilton wondered, quote, where
else than in the senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified or sufficiently independent to serve as a court of impeachment? what other body would be likely to feel confidence enough to preserve unawed and uninfluenced the necessary impartiality? my colleagues, leader mcconnell, are you, in alexander hamilton's words, unawed and uninfluenced to produce the necessary impartiality, or will you participate in a cover-up? can we live up to hamilton's fine words with dignity, independence, confidence to preserve the necessary impartiality to conduct a fair trial? that question should weigh heavily upon every single
mr. paul: the national defense authorization act to authorize the programs and policies of the department of defense. we will be taking a vote to finalize this bill shortly. our national defense is incredibly important. it's mandated in the constitution. our national defense is arguably congress' primary constitutional responsibility. i have great respect and honor for those in uniform who serve. in fact, i recently introduced a bill to give each soldier who served in the war on terror
$2,500 bonus and at the same time officially end the war in afghanistan. ending the afghan war would save us about $50 billion a year. unfortunately, the bill before us does not end any of our multitude of wars. the bill before us simply continues the status quo and throws more money around the world at conflicts of -- conflit even begin to fathom. before rubber stamping more money, it's worth a moment for us to take a step back and consider two things. first, we need to ask ourselves whether borrowing millions of dollars year after year to fuel our appetite for more military spending is a wise policy in the years ahead. second, we need to look at how this bill has been loaded up to carry things only somewhat related or not related at all to national defense. as i have reminded my colleagues often, admiral mullen, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that the
national debt was our greatest national security threat. his exact wording was the most significant threat to our national security is our debt. that was in 2010. when he made that remark, our debt was only $13 trillion. our debt now is over $23 trillion. we just keep borrowing and borrowing, and there's no end in sight. under the new budget deal passed by republicans and democrats, we are borrowing $2.75 billion every day. in fact, we're borrowing nearly $2 million every minute. we spend more on our military than the next seven largest militaries combined. our defense department is so large that it took them a decade to even figure out how to audit themselves. then they said that the audit itself would cost over a half a
billion dollars. but then last year, they arrived back at square one. after all that effort, they said well, we still -- we just can't figure it out, it's too big. we can't audit the army, the navy, the marines, or the air force. we spend so much money that the department of defense literally can't keep track of all of it. we don't even have a great idea of how much exactly we're wasting because no one can get a grip on how much is being spent. a few years ago, the defense policy board, the defense business board, rather, which is the defense advisory panel of corporate executives that reports to the secretary of defense, recommended that the department of defense could save $125 billion in administrative expenses. according to the news accounts, that report scared everyone at the pentagon so they buried the report. they even tried to keep it away from congress for fear that congress might actually do something with it, although i wouldn't be holding my breath or too worried.
i'm not familiar with congress ever cutting anything. we're set to spend $738 billion on the military this year. that's up $22 billion from last year. over the past six years, military spending has risen over $120 billion. we say we're for accountability and efficiency and savings, and yet we keep piling good money after bad. how can we demand better accounting and efficiency when we budget increases every year? and to be clear, i support our national defense. supporting our service members is a worthy cause. there are things in this bill that i do support. i'm a cosponsor of the bill to eliminate the so-called widow's tax, and i have argued that the right thing we should do, we should find the money to pay for it. i support returning the 101st airborne at fort campbell to its
full air assault capacity with the return of a combat aviation brigade. that's in this bill. i support giving our service members a pay increase. that's in the bill. but i take issue when congress adds other things to this bill that don't have anything to do with our military. this bill would sanction nato allies and potentially american energy companies if they have any involvement with nord strom 2 pipeline. this is a pipeline between russia and germany. the pipeline is basically done. it may well be completed in the next few months. the pipeline will be completed, and yet we want to jeopardize our relationship with our allies and with businesses both in europe and america. this bill would also drop more sanctions into the middle of the syrian civil war, as well as funding for so-called vetted syrian rebel groups. all this will do is prolong the syrian civil war, and with it the humanitarian suffering and displacement we've seen in the region.
the syrian civil war is largely over. i agree with president trump that it's time to come home. another problem with our insatiable appetite for more military spending is that it requires conservatives to make bad compromises. if you want $40 billion in new defense spending, then you have to give the liberals $40 billion new domestic spending. if anything, that's the real nature of today's bipartisanship. you can have your money as long as we get our money. the dirty little secret in washington is that there's actually too much compromise. republicans want more military spending, democrats want more welfare money, and with each new congress, congress always chooses to spend and borrow more money. for example, this bill provides a new mandatory benefit program, paid parental leave, for all federal employees starting next year. the program will cost over
$3 billion forever, and most of these programs continue to expand forever. the program will cost $3 billion a year, and of course there's nothing in the bill that tells how we're going to pay for it, so we're going to have paid leave, everybody, but we're going to borrow the money from china to give this great benefit. in essence, congress today is simply saying add it to my tab, the deficit be damned. regardless of how you feel about the issue, this represents a better benefit than many working americans enjoy, and it has nothing to do with national defense. conservatism is more than supporting military spending at any cost. we have to do more and make tough decisions that enable a strong national defense and a balanced budget. many so-called conservatives will hail this bloated military spending, but in truth there is nothing fiscally conservative about borrowing money from china to pay for our military.
in fact, i would argue that borrowing money to buy more tanks or planes or to police the far corners of the earth actually damages our national security. some have argued that our military is hallowed out from so many far-flung conflicts. probably true. they will argue that we must expand military spending to meet the mission. perhaps we should entertain the opposite argument. perhaps it is not that our budget is too small but that our military mission is too large. i, for one, hope for a day when congress rediscovers that our constitutional mandate is to defend america first and to only become involved in war as a last resort. and even then, america should only become involved in war when congress has debated and done its constitutional duty to declare war. until that day, i will continue to argue that the only fiscally
conservative, fiscally responsible action is to vote against expanding the military budget. and i encourage my fellow senators to consider that. thank you, and i yield back. mr. enzi: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. enzi: mr. president, i thank my colleague for his words. ii will add to that, i hope. i think it may prudent to look back at the current state of the nation's budgetary affairs. unfortunately, none of the news is good. this past summer, congress
passed the bipartisan budget act of 2019 which increased the last two years of the budget control act's discretionary spending caps. the congressional budget office tells us that the bill has increased their forecast of the nation's projected deficits by $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. i'll be the first to add mate that it's largely due to mandatetory -- admit that it's largely due to mandatory programs. in the fall we received final tax and spending data for fiscal year 2019. the report showed that the deficit for the last fiscal year was $984 billion, even though revenues were greater than ever before. now, relative to the size of the economy, that deficit is an estimated 4.6% of g.d.p. was the highest since 2012. this also marked the fourth consecutive year that the
deficit increased as a share of the economy. these growing deficits at a time of economic strength should be a warning sign to all, yet hardly a wimper was heard. in october our national debt hit the $23 trillion mark. it was in the papers for a while, but interest quickly waned. we simply cannot continue down this path. i know the bill before us is well-intentioned and it contains many proposals that i support. chairman inhofe and ranking member reed and his armed services colleagues have worked hard to deliver a defense authorization bill, and i commend them for the work that they put in trying to reach agreement with the house. unfortunately, c.b.o. tells us that this bill will significantly add to our debt both in the near and long term. this is much different than the budgetary impact of the bill the
senate approved earlier this year. ultimately, this bill furthers the practice of passing legislation while ignoring the budget rules of the senate and our overspending problem. all of this borrowing will continue to cost us increased interest payments and will hamstring future generations of americans. congress has the power to correct course now, and i look forward to working with good faith with proponents of this legislation. until that work can be completed, i have to oppose. mr. president, the conference report accompanying s. 1790 would cost a deficit increase in each of four consecutive periods begin in fiscal year 2030. a benefit that isn't funded once put in place will never be taken away or even reduced. this increase violates section
3101 of the 2016 budget resolution. therefore, i raise a point of order under section 3101-b of s. con. res. 11, the concurrent resolution of the budget for fiscal year 2016. finally, i ask unanimous consent that this point of order be debatable until the postcloture time on the conference report to accompany s. 1790 expires. the presiding officer: is there an objection? without objection. the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you very much, mr. president. i rise to discuss the fiscal year 2020 national defense authorization bill. after several weeks of debate and negotiation, the house and senate armed services committees have completed the conference report, which addresses critical
issues facing our military and our country's national security. i'd like to thank senator inhofe, chairman smith, and ranking member thornberry for their thoughtfully and hard work and cooperation throughout the process. this was not an easy conference. there were many difficult issues and differences of opinion that had to be worked through. i think it is safe to say that many have misgivings about one provision for another. but there are so many other positive provisions in the bill that it is a legislative success, in my view. it is the art of compromise, and overall it is a very good conference report that helps the military and the american people. last week this conference report passed by a vote of 379-48 in the house. i hope it will have the same strong support in the senate. as we consider the conference report, i would like to highlight several areas that i am particularly pleased with and address several items that have
been of concern to some members. in accordance with the budget agreement, the ndaa conference report authorizes $658.4 billion to the department of defense and national security programs of the department of energy. $71.5 billion for overseas contingency operations and 5.3 billion in emergency funding to restore installations that were damaged by natural disasters. the conference report includes a number of important provisions to support our service members, their families, and the civilian employees of the department of defense who support them including a 3.1% pay raise for the troops and the authorization of a number of bonuses, special, and incentive pays to encourage enlistment and reenlistment in the armed forces. we continue our efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military. over the last 12 years we have legislated nearly 200 changes in
law to combat psalm. we direct the comptroller general to address the effectiveness of these requirements and include a number of new provisions to continue our fight against this scourge including increasing access to victims' legal counsel and victim witness program liaison to support survivors of sexual assault, requiring additional training for commanders and requiring more transparency with sexual assault survivors about the progress of court-martial administrative processes. we also include new provisions to more effective address child exploitation but we cannot rest. we must continue to insist that we do all we can to prevent this scourge from permeate our military forces. the conference report also
includes the fair chance act, which ensures that applicants for positions in the federal government and with federal contractors are treated fairly by restrictioning requests for criminal background information until the conditional offer stage. and as everyone is aware, the conference report includes 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the federal civilian workforce, an important benefit that will help the federal government recruit and retain the very best civilian talent. the conference report authorizes a number of important army and air force programs. the final bill supports funding for 73-uh blackhawks and helicopters in the army. in addition, the conference bill would authorize an additional $75.6 million to accelerate the future long-range aircraft program, which is a top modernization program for the united states army. the agreement also supports
upgrading 165 agrams tanks and includes an additional $249.2 million to integrate a medium-caliber weapons system onto the striker platform. this was an unfunded army requirement we were able to meet. with regards to the acres of the conference report includes $1 billion for 12 additional f-35-a aircraft, which was an unfunded requirement of the air force, as well as $392 million for four additional c-130-j aircraft, to support increased intertheater airlift capability. the bill also includes language that ends is the department's authority to protect critical facilities and assets from authorized operation of unmanned aircraft. i'm pleased the conference agreement includes key provisions and authorizes critical funding that will strengthen naval readiness and submarine production. this conference report reaffirms that we must maintain a minimum
of 11 aircraft carrier to protect our national interests around the world and authorizes the first-year appropriations for the midlife refueling of the u.s.s. harry s. truman. it continues the construction of two virginia-class submarines per year and supports the nine multiyear contract with the option of a 10th boat. the report also supports full funding for the columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. and i'm particularly pleased that the conference agreement also authorizes additional funding to continue to support the expansion of the submarine industrial base as well as workforce development. the conference report further bolsters maritime sealift and mobilization by reauthorizes the maritime administration, including authorizes a new cable security fleet program and requiring the secretary of the navy to seek to enter into a contract for additional sealift
vessels. and finally, in order to keep our existing ships ready for deployment, the conference agreement authorizes additional funding for navy ship and submarine depot maintenance to ensure key shipyard capabilities are not further delayed due to the existing maintenance backlog. the agreement authorizes full funding for the president's request to continue modernizing our nuclear deterrence and its triad of delivery platforms which are aging out. this will continue for the next 15 to 20 years. our ballistic submarines will begin to age out in the 20 30's. our heavy bombers will be replaced in the 20 40's and our icbm's will startings to replaced in the 2030's after having been on alert 24/7 photographer 60 years. on the issue of low-yield
nuclear weapons, while i oppose the deployment of the low-yield submarine ballistic missile in last year's bill and supported the provision in this year's house bill, which again would have prohibited deployment, that provision was not included in this year's conference report. i maintain that this is one weapon that will not add to our national security but would only increase the risk of miscalculation with dire consequences and regret that the house provision was not included in the conference report. perhaps the most bipartisan topic in the fiscal year 2020 ndaa was privatized housing earmark. over 30 provisions were included to help the defense department reinvigorate its oversight of housing companies. over the last year the armed services committee received hundreds of calls for help directly from military families. stories of hardship, photos of substandard housing conditions and reports of nonresponsive
help spurred this reform. while this will not be the last ndaa to address housing problems, the fiscal year 20 bill makes a significant step in several key areas. for example, we begin by requiring several standards in the tenant bill of rights. we ensure that d.o.d. has a single individual in charge of privatized housing and in any event that housing companies are found to be responsible for causing medical problems, there will be a way for families to be compensated appropriately. families will now be guaranteed access to work order systems and see what kind of home they're inhabiting prior to moving in, much like consumers get a carfax report before they buy a used car. companies must now disclose their structure and are prohibited from forcing families to sign nondisclosure agreements. the d.o.d. must also create and
implement a standardized dispute resolution process and a uniform lease across all installations. we still have a long way to go as a congress to ensure military families are getting the kind of quality homes and living conditions they deserve. but the fiscal year 2020 ndaa sets everyone on the right path, and we will continue to be watching both d.o.d. and the housing companies. in another area of importance to the safety of all families, after too many years of status quo, the ndaa includes a number of new authorities and requirements for the d.o.d. to confront its use of toxic pfas chemicals. while we were ultimately unable to reach an agreement with the house on establishing new regulations through the safe drinking water act and other substantial improvements like declarations of hazardous substances, the ndaa does make a number of new changes.
for example, the department of defense must phase out the use of pfas in fire-fighting forms on all its installations. the bill restores the national guard's access to defense environmental restoration accounts, presses d.o.d. to enter into agreements with local entities contaminated by pfas chemicals and extends the ongoing c.d.c. human health risks in pfas and drinking water. with respect to countering the continued threat by isis, the bill extends the train and equip program that underpin our partnerships with the syrian defense forces and iraqi security forces. while ensuring congressional oversight of the use of such funds. specific to iraq, the bill also begins to normalize security assistance to iraq by transitioning funding to enduring authorities. the conference report also includes the bipartisan caesar syrian civilian protection act
which is intended to help facilitate an end to the conflict in syria and hold responsible those who have perpetrated war crimes. specifically, the bill sanctions foreign persons who knowingly provide significant financial material or technological support to or knowingly engage in a significant transaction with the syrian government and authorizes the secretary of state to provide support to entities conducting criminal investigations, supporting prosecutions, or collecting evidence against those who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in syria. with regard to afghanistan, the bill extends several authorities to train and equip the afghanistan national defense and security forces. it also authorizes the department of defense to provide support for bottom-up governor of afghanistan led recreation activities and mandates the secretary of state in coordination with the secretary of defense advocate the
inclusion of afghan women in ongoing and future negotiations to end the conflict in afghanistan. it is in the interest of all parties to forge a negotiated settlement that brings this conflict to a close while also protecting u.s. security interests and basic human rights. the bill also includes 4,000 additional special immigration visas and the extension of the s.i.v. program so we can continue to honor commitments made to our wartime allies in afghanistan. but as recent press reports indicate, after almost 18 years of combat and capacity building, afghan military and political institutions are fragile. terrorist groups like al qaeda and isis continue to pose a potential threat to the region and beyond. the armed services committee and other committees of jurisdiction must undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the causes of the
situation and help if facilitata thoughtful way ahead. the conference report contains a number of provisions to address the continuing threat of foreign maligned influence from russia and other countries. deterring and countering this threat to our democracy is critical ahead of 2020 presidential election. the bill requires updates to our strategy for countering russian maligned influence which needs to be better coordinated across the u.s. government departments and agencies and strategies. to guard against foreign maligned actors seeking to gain access to sensitive information through d.o.d. contractors the conference report includes a provision that i sponsored to enhance requirements for d.o.d. contractors and subcontractors to disclose beneficial ownership information, including whether companies are subject to a foreign ownership control or influence. the intelligence authorize bill
which is part of the conference report also includes key provisions to counter foreign maligned influence that have been of particular interest to me. first, it authorizes establishing a foreign maligned influence response center which would bring together all elements of the intelligence community and serve as a primary organization for analyzing and integrating intelligence on foreign maligned influence to provide a common operating picture across the government. the intelligence authorize bill also authorizes the director of national intelligence to facilitate the establishment of an independent nonprofit social media data and threat analysis center to bring tech companies and researchers together to analyze indicators of foreign adversary threat networks across social media platforms. finally the conference report authorizes funds for research on foreign maligned influence
trends and indicators, including on foreign weaponization of deepfakes. that is videos or other media that is digitally manipulated by foreign governments to spread disinformation. turning to the ukraine, the conference report authorizes an increase in funding for the ukraine security assistance initiative to provide critical aid, including lethal assistance to the strategic partner to defend itself against reduction aggression -- russia aggression against sovereignty and territorial integrity. with respect to turkey, the report prohibits turkey's participation in the f-35 aircraft program so long as it possesses the russian s-400 air defense system. it also expresses the sense of congress that turkey's purchase of the s. -400 system triggers congressionally mandated sanctions and urges the administration to oppose those sanctions which are long overdue. and as everyone is aware, this conference report does create a
sixth service within the air force for a space force. its mission will be to deter hostile action in space against the united states and its allies. i would note that the organization created in this conference report is far more robust than that was originally passed in the senate bill. i believe that this bill may be trying to do too much too fast and will require significant oversight. that being said, i do believe the attention we have paid to space and protecting our national security assets in space is vitally important, and i will continue to work on this issue in the coming years. and finally, with respect to substantive provisions, i'd like to touch on the issue i find very problematic. provisions intended to prevent u.s. involvement in the civil war in yemen including armed services to the saudi led coalition are not included in the report. the civil war in yemen is the world's worst ongoing
humanitarian crisis and the administration should be playing a more active and constructive role in ending the conflict and achieving a sustainablable peace. i strongly support a prohibition on arms transfers and other offensive support to the saudi-led coalition and will continue working to stop the bloodshed and suffering in yemen. we must redouble our efforts in support of the yemeni people through action, diplomacy and increased humanitarian assistance. iran, al qaeda, isis and others continue to benefit from the chaos of this protracted conflict, and ending the war is both the united states and saudi arabia's long-term security interest. stronger use of u.s. support for peace talks can and should set the conditions for the yemenis to negotiate a durable peace that the international community to begin the difficult but critical work of restoring stability and basic service to the people of yemen. these objections will remain significant priorities going forward.
mr. president, let me conclude by again thanking senator inhofe for his superb leadership, chairman smith for his superb leadership of the conference which is a very challenging responsibility and he discharged it with great skill. and also ranking member mack thornberry who again was extraordinarily professional. all the conferees for their bipartisan support throughout the process. this process has been a collegial and has been an example of strong piece of legislation that addresses concerns of members on both sides of the aisle. i'd also like to thank the staff of the armed services committee for their hard work on drafting a bill. their diligent work throughout the ndaa process has been integral in producing a strong bill before us today. let me say this, they're not identified enough in my view. the work that they did and
continue to do has been superb, absolutely superb. and i want to personally thank them. let me thank john bonsill, elizabeth king, glen stewart and paul for their help. they are the staff directors of the committees on both the house and senate. but if my colleagues will bear with me, i want to recognize all of our staff members. again, they don't get the credit they deserve. beginning adam barker, jody bennett, rick burger, john bryant, debbie charello, john clark, maggie cooper, alan edwards, jonathan epstein, patty jella, marta a hernandez, jackie kerber, greg lily,
katie magnus, kirk mcdonald, kerry lynn, jackie modesset, sean okeef, brad patrick, jason parter, arun sarafin, fiona tomlin, dustin walker, tyler wilkerson. thank you. i strongly support this conference agreement and hope it will receive the support of my colleagues in the senate. mr. president, i would yield the floor. ms. collins: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the following senators be permitted to conclude their remarks before the vote begins. senator jones, senator collins, senator thune, and
senator inhofe. is there objection? without objection. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. jones: that you want. i've got to say -- thank you, mr. president. i want to first say i want to thank senator inhofe and senator reed and their staffs for their amazing work on this national authorize act. i am rising today as grateful and as humbled as i could ever imagine being in this senate chamber. but i'm also just the opposite, i'm excited, like a kid at christmas waiting to have the final passage of this because it means so much. we are at the finish line, at the finish line about to run through the tape, a tape in a race, a martha so many folks thought that we could never finish. i'm talking about this momentous
and historic national defense authorization act which we're about to vote and pass in just a few moments. the ndaa includes so many of our collective priorities to bolster the defense of our nation, to modernize our military and take care of our service members and their families. but included really deep within this incredibly thick piece of legislation is a provision that has been repeatedly introduced over the past 18 years, but it has never gotten across that finish line. and i'm speaking about the military widows tax elimination act. for the past four decades the military widows tax has prevented surviving military spouses from receiving the full benefits that they are owed by the united states government. legislation to repeal this unfair law has been repeatedly
introduced in congress for the last 18 years, but money and budgets and points of order have always won out over the commitment that we have made to these families. when i introduced it with my friend and colleague, senator collins, earlier this year, we knew it was going to be an uphill battle. we knew that the fight had been going on for so long and we faced a steep climb. but we took a great deal of strength and motivation from the impacted widows themselves who have fought and advocated for this bill for nearly two decades. they have been a regular presence on capitol hill, asking year after year for members of congress to lend an ear to their cause. i was heartbroken when one of them told me they felt like they were just easily brushed off, that because they were just a bunch of little old ladies. i was heart broken when kathy
millford said every time she would come up here it was like digging up her husband and burying him all over again. after 18 years without success, yet all the while being told how supportive members of congress are for their service and sacrifice, time and time again you could see how disheartening that might be when they would go home empty-handed. when i told them this was the year senator collins and i made it our mission this was going to be the year we were finally going to get this done, there were a few of them that were skeptical but they were, of course, always optimistic. we knew we had to fight harder than ever before to be successful. we had to make our case that this injustice could no longer stand as we did one by one, senators and members of the house joined this cause with us.
by the summertime in this body, we had earned an unprecedented number of senators in support for this bim. today, as we're about to vote, there are over three fourths of the united states who cosponsored this legislation. think of that. in such a partisan time we live in at this moment, three-fourths of the united states senate voiced their support. because of the momentum we built, this is the year, this is the day that we will finally honor the commitment that we have made to these families who have given everything to our country. this is the year, this is the day that we will let our actions speak louder than words, the year where we finally put our money where our mouth is when it comes to honoring our service members and their families. this is the year, this is the day that we finally repeal the widows tax once and for all.
it is, to be candid, difficult to articulate what it means to me to be able to help bring this legislation across the finish line for these surviving spouses. their strength, their devotion, their grit has made this all possible. their loved ones gave what abraham lincoln called the last full measure of devotion to our country and the continued commitment to that devotion by the surviving spouses is a daily reminder of why i am here, why we are all here. in their own way these widows have also fought to advance the ideals and values of the nation we all love so much. instead of becoming bitter or jaded when learning of this injustice, these incredible women worked to make things right. year after year they would gather in washington to meet
with members of the house and the senate to beg congress to right this wrong only to be told while as unfair as this may be, eliminating the widows tax would just cost us too much. for 18 years they were told it could never get done, but they never, ever gave up. it kind of reminds me of a movie that was one of my favorite movies years ago called network where the actor peter finch was a crazed newscaster who was so fed up with the state of affairs with this country that he implored all those watching to throw open their windows that i am mad as hell and i am not going to take it anymore. and they did. and that is essentially what these widows did as well. year after year they screamed that they were not going to take it anymore, and they built momentum that led to this
historic vote today. i'm so glad that this fight is finally coming to an end. i'm going to miss their regular visits, their friendship. i truly hope they know how much it has meant to me and my staff as well. my staff has been all in. everybody has been so dedicated and so passionate about this -- getting this across the finish line. i'm deeply grateful to senators inhofe and reed who have been critical to this effort to get this done. without them it would not have been possible, and i am appreciative but i am especially grateful to my partner in this senator collins whose deep commitment was vital to our success. today we will celebrate the end to our four-decade-old fight. tomorrow we must turn our attention to the next big issue because there are so many others
who need our help, our attention, and our courage to do the right thing. but for now -- for now we can celebrate because today those military spouses who had once proclaimed they were mad as hell and were not going to take it are watching this proceeding with a more joyous feeling. they are watching in the quiet of their home or perhaps in the gallery many of them grasping photographs of their late husbands, but they all have a tear in their eye saying to each other and to us, to this body, thank you, because now i'm happy as hell that he don't have to take it anymore. and i assure you, mr. president, and colleagues, that right now their spouses, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country are watching from that heavenly perch above standing at full attention and saluting the
members of this congress and saying, thank you -- thank you for recognizing the ultimate sacrifice i made for this country. thank you because you have demonstrated a commitment to me and my service, and with that final commitment from you, the commitment i made to my loved ones, the commitment to care for them even after i'm gone has finally been fulfilled and i can truly rest in peace. to my colleagues in the senate, by your vote today, you're doing so much more than modernizing our military providing for the nation's defense. by your vote today, you are returning their salute, the salute to those brave service members who gave their all in the service of this country. folks, this is a really, really big deal and i salute all the members of this body for their efforts. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor. ms. collins: mr. president.
the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'm delighted to join my friend and colleague from alabama, senator jones, to urge support for the final passage of the national defense authorization act which finally, finally contains repeal of what is commonly called the military widows tax. i want to commend chairman inhofe and ranking member reed for including this important provision in the bill and for their excellent job in crafting the legislation overall. this significant bill contains numerous provisions critical to our national security and important to the great state of maine. but right now i want to join my colleague, senator jones, in celebrating and high lighting --
highlighting one fought-for provision and that is the repeal of the survivor benefit plan dependency and indemnity offset, commonly referred to as the military widows tax. now, mr. president, let me explain exactly what the problem is. many military retirees purchase with their own money a form of insurance called the survivor benefit plan. if they subsequently die of a military connected service, their spouse qualifies for a dependency and indemnity compensation benefit from the v.a. unfortunately these two programs are offset dollar for dollar for
our military families. this makes no sense. the retirees are paying for this extra insurance with their own money. the ndaa will finally remedy this inequity, this burdensome unfairness and it will permit as many as 67,000 surviving spouses, including more than 260 in maine, to begin collecting the full survivor benefits they are entitled to once it is finally phased -- fully phased in. the average offset to the s.b.p. amounts to more than $11,000 per year. that is a significant amount of money that a widow or widower needs to help support their families and themselves.
i'd like to, again, recognize and thank senator jones for his strong advocacy and unceasing leadership as well as the countless military spouses and veterans' advocates, the veterans service organizations that helped push this effort over the finish line this year. this year these dedicated advocates helped senator jones and i secure a record number of cosponsors to our bill to repeal the widows tax. 78 senators and 383 house members. as senator jones was mentioning, that is phenomenal and shows the strong bipartisan support to correct this unfairness. mr. president, often i'm reminded by military commanders
of the saying that you recruit the soldier but you retain the family. we have an obligation to make sure that we are taking care of our military families that have sacrificed so much. i urge all of our colleagues to support final passage of the ndaa and to finally put an end to the military widows tax. thank you, mr. president. mr. inhofe: mr. president. the presiding officer: i recognize the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: mr. president, the vote we're talking about is to waive the budget point of order in -- that was raised by senator
enzi. if the budget point of order is not waived, the ndaa, which i believe is the most significant vote that we pass every year. it's passed for 58 consecutive years. will be referred back to committee. so that's what is at stake here. the budget point of order on the ndaa is primarily caused by three provisions, mr. president, first repealing the widows tax that is phased in over three years, we talked about that, that is part of the point of order, secondly giving visaings -- visas to afghans and allowing the military to file claims for medical malpractice. tall three have significant bipartisan support. the widows tax has 76 cosponsors in the senate and 383 in the house. a vote in this chamber in late september to instruct conference
on the widows tax passed 94-0. you might keep that in mind anyone now who talks now about opposing it, they kiewlly voted for -- they actually voted for it back in september. as i mentioned in my remarks last night. i started to work to repeal the widows tax after being inspired by one of my personal heroes, a young lady named jane horton. i can remember back in september of 2011, i was in a little town north of tulsa, oklahoma, collegeville, oklahoma, i was talking to people there and going around speaking with our constituents. and i recall that that's when i first met jane horton. she lived in collinsville. and after i had visited for a while with the group, i commented i'm the chairman of the senate armed services committee and i'm going to be going to afghanistan in the next -- in this next week, and
she said, well, her husband, chris horton, was also -- right at that moment was in afghanistan. and after made the statement, i said let's find out where he did, and i did, i checked it out and arranged to go by and see him as i left for afghanistan, but i didn't because on september 9, 2011, chris horton was killed in action. now, after all jane sacrificed by losing her husband in the line of duty, it seemed unimaginable to me to see her deal with the pain of the further dollar for dollar benefits as a gold star spouse. so we worked with jane and other gold star spouses for a long time to figure out how we could do this in a responsible way. that hasn't been talked about so far, but we did it.
so it spreads it over a period of time. similarly supporting our afghan partners who sacrificed so much to help their country has long been a bipartisan priority. and everyone involved in this conference, including the department of defense, recognized the importance of fixing the medical malpractice issue in a commonsense fashion. i understand my colleagues' concern. we've worked hard to make each of these provisions fiscally responsible and will continue to do that. there's a document that nobody reads any more. it's called the constitution. and the constitution says that our top priority should be here, defending america. that's what we're supposed to be doing. each of these provisions enable us to better defend america, allow us to take up this bill and actually pass it for the president to sign. i urge you to vote to allow this
bill to move into final passage so we can send this legislation to the president's desk where he said he would sign it immediately, and he will. by doing so will send a clear message to our troops and our adversaries that this body is serious about america's national security. so, mr. president, pursuant to section 904 of the congressional budget act of 1974 and the waiver provisions of the applicable budget resolutions, i move to waive all applicable sections of the act and applicable budget resolutions for the purpose of the conference report to accompany s. 1790 and ask that there be, ask for the yeas and the nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. all postcloture time is expired. the question is on the motion to
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the yeas are 86, the nays are eight, the conference report is agreed to. mr. inhofe: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak up therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: and, mr. president, i have six requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and the minority. the presiding officer: duly
noted. mr. inhofe: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that i speak for such time i need. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: mr. president, as i reminded you all many times, this is the 59th straight year that we'll be passing the ndaa. it's the national defense authorization bill. it passed for all those years in a row because we know how important it is. it's the most important thing we do around here. we're voting on nearly six decades of bipartisan support for our troops and national security. this year i'm glad to say is no different. we all came together to produce a conference report that's good for all of america. the house passed it overwhelmingly, the senate passed it overwhelmingly. we voted for it overwhelmingly yesterday and the president says he'll sign it immediately and i'm grateful to the president for understanding the importance of this bill. this bill means everything for
our national security. every american benefits from a strong national defense. their lives, their livelihoods, their freedoms, it's all because we fight to protect it. you know, when i go around my state of oklahoma, people think that we have the best of everything militarily. well, you know, we've got the best people. we have the best soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen. there is no doubt about it. but we can do better when it comes to giving them the best equipment and the best training. and that's what this bill does. it does that. the backbone of a strong national defense is the force, the brave men and women who lay their lives on the line each and every day. when i travel around, i like to take some time to meet with the enlisted guys in the mess halls. you know, you can learn more from them than you can learn from some of the brass. they're the ones that really know what it is that is -- that
we can do to effectively build a strong national defense. and we get to hear what they're worried about. we get to hear how we can support them. they need the training and equipment that makes them the most fearsome fighting force in the world and this bill does that. they need a safe roof over their heads and over the heads of their families, and this bill does that. they need to know that they have the full support of the united states government without -- and throughout their services. this bill does that. at the end of the day we have the best military in the world because of our people. we take care of them and that is what this bill is all about. so we're here today because of the brave men and women who wear and have worn the uniform. we're safe and prosperous and free because of them. that's what this bill is all about. mr. president, the senate just
passed the defense authorization bill for the 59th year in a row. there isn't much left around here that is -- that has that kind of longevity. it's a testament to the importance of the bill. it's also a testament to the hard work of the staff. they've worked tirelessly to bring the conference report. i want to take just a moment to recognize and thank everyone who made this bill possible starting with the armed services committee staff, especially staff directors john bonzo for the majority and liz king for the minority. they're the ones that provided the leadership there behind the scenes. they did most of the work. then there's my partner, senator jack reed. you know, we are a real team. we know how to do things and learned over the years how to do things right. i couldn't praise him more. in fact, i say we would not be -- we wouldn't have -- we have a lot of obstacles this year that
we didn't have before. if it hadn't been for senator reed and the staff that was working on it, we wouldn't have pulled this thing off. senator reed read the names of all the members of the armed service committee. i want to get those in my statement here also. so i would ask unanimous consent that at this point in the record that the names that were listed by senator reed will be in my statement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: again, i want to thank my personal staff, office staff, the floor staff. we need to pivot to our next task at hand, funding the department of defense. this puts financial resources behind all the policies we just approved today. our military leaders told the armed services committee over and over again and i've repeated this several times that stable, predictable, on-time funding is the most important way congress can support our national defense. it's now two and a half months into the new year and we got it
done. so to all my fellow members here, i thank you again for your support of the national defense authorization bill. and merry christmas. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m not talk about it. til 2:15 p.m to say that nobody is doing this intentionally is just not being factually accurate. it does not happen on its own. >> i would ask both of you this question. who specifically matched the phone numbers of ranking member nunes and what method did they use? >> iav
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