From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The assistant Democratic leader.
President's Address to Congress and Russia Investigation
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, last night, I joined most of the Members
of Congress to hear President Trump give his first address to a joint
session. His speech lasted about 60 minutes, and I listened carefully,
as did everyone in the Chamber, to the President's first remarks from
that historic setting as he addressed a joint session of Congress.
There were some omissions, which I found very interesting. Not once--
not one time--in the course of an hour did President Trump ever say the
word “Russia”--not one time--even though we have been told by 17 of
our intelligence agencies that Russia made an overt effort to influence
the outcome of the last Presidential campaign. That has never happened
before in American history. A foreign country attacked the sovereignty
of the United States in the election process for the highest office in
the land. I think that is noteworthy. It is certainly historic. It
would certainly be worth at least a mention when a President speaks to
a joint session of Congress just a few months after that election.
Instead, there was radio silence, mute button, crickets--nothing about
What do we have in terms of congressional response to the possibility
that Vladimir Putin was trying to pick our next President? We have the
suggestion by the Republican leaders in the Senate and the House that
this matter should be taken up by the Intelligence Committees.
It sounds reasonable on its face. Having served on Intelligence
Committees, I can tell you it is an awesome responsibility and
assignment. I can also tell you we have some extraordinarily gifted,
talented, patriotic members of those committees from both political
parties in the Senate and in the House, but there is a fundamental flaw
to this approach. If you went searching on Capitol Hill to find the
room in which the Senate Intelligence Committee meets, you would come
up empty. There is no sign on the door. It is basically kept
clandestine, confidential, and secret. For 4 years, I entered that
door, sat down in closed hearings, with no one from the public able to
hear or even appreciate what we were doing. It is a lonely assignment--
unlike any other committee on Capitol Hill.
I wonder: Is that what we want to do to explore the involvement of
Vladimir Putin in our Presidential campaign--to go behind closed doors
in secret and meet clandestinely? I think not.
There is an aspect of this that will require some intelligence
gathering, some discussion of intelligence--and certainly that would be
secret--but there is much more of it that is public in nature that will
never be disclosed if we rely on the Senate Intelligence Committee. It
is an invisible process, and that invisible process does not serve the
needs of a democracy that wants the truth--the straight talk, the
Secondly, the work of an Intelligence Committee ends up in a report
that is classified, which means the public doesn't get to see it. We
have seen some renditions of it--heavily redacted pages, where one or
two words might escape being crossed out.
How do you move from a classified document on Putin's involvement in
our Presidential campaign to a public document the people can
understand? It takes declassification. Who makes the decision on
whether we declassify the information from the Intelligence Committee
investigation? The White House.
So, with the possibility--and I underline that word--with the
possibility that some people in the President's campaign may or may not
have been involved in this, the President has the last word as to the
American people ever hearing the results of an Intelligence Committee
Many of us believe this is serious, and many of us believe there
should be an independent, transparent commission, just like the 9/11
Commission. Let's call on people we respect, such as GEN Colin L.
Powell, Sandra Day O'Connor, a former Supreme Court Justice, and many
others just like them, who could get to the bottom of this and answer
the basic questions: What were the Russians up to? We hear they had
1,000 trolls sitting in offices in Moscow dreaming up ways to hack into
the computers and Internet of the United States and to disclose
information to try to influence the outcome of the election. It is not
a new tactic from Russia. They have done it over and over again.
The last couple of weeks I visited Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine. They
know these tactics oh so well. Under Soviet times and since, Russia has
tried to invade their space when it comes to election decisions--
overtly, covertly, through propaganda, through cyber attacks. They have
done it in many countries around the world. Sadly, they are good at it.
Now they have decided they can do it in the United States. They can
decide who our President will be or at least try to. Are we going to
take this sitting down?
November 8, 2016, election day, was a day that will live in cyber
infamy in the United States. The Russians invaded the U.S. election
process. The President of the United States spoke to the American
people last night and never mentioned one word--not a single word--
How many Republican Senators and Congressmen have come to the floor?
I don't know about in the House, but I can tell my colleagues I know
about the Senate. None. Not one has come to the floor to even address
So when President Trump ignored it last night, refused to even
mention it, I wasn't surprised, but it is not going away. It is a fact.
We currently have an investigation underway in our intelligence
agencies. I just met with former Senator Dan Coats of Indiana. He has
been designated by the President to be the DNI--the Director of
National Intelligence. He made a statement publicly yesterday before a
hearing in Congress that he is going to cooperate with the committees
and with Congress in disclosing information they have accumulated in
our intelligence agencies as to this Russian involvement in our
We also know the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in this
same exercise to find out exactly what happened and to disclose as much
as possible and take action--prosecutorial action--if necessary.
There is a problem, though. The Federal Bureau of Investigation works
for the Attorney General. The Department of Justice has the power to
impede or stop any FBI investigation. Our former colleague Jeff
Sessions was deeply and personally involved in the Trump Presidential
campaign. He should recuse himself. He has an obvious conflict of
interest on this issue. For the integrity of the office and for his own
personal integrity, he should step aside and appoint a special
prosecutor who can follow up, if necessary, with this FBI
This is a serious matter that was not addressed at all last night by
the President of the United States speaking to a joint session of
The Associated Press went through some of the claims that were made
by the President last night, and I want to give them credit for their
homework on this. It is important for the Record that some of the
things the President said be explained.
The President said:
According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current
costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.
The Associated Press writes:
That's not exactly what the report says. It says immigrants
“contribute to government finances by paying taxes and add
expenditures by consuming public service.”
The report found that while first-generation immigrants are
more expensive to governments than their native-born
counterparts, primarily at the state and local level,
immigrants' children “are among the strongest economic and
fiscal contributors in the population.” This second
generation contributed more in taxes on a per capita basis,
for example, than non-immigrants in the period, 1994-2013.
The report [that the President unfortunately
mischaracterized] found that the “long-run fiscal impact”
of immigrants and their children would probably be seen as
more positive “if their role in sustaining labor force
growth and contributing to innovation and entrepreneurial
activity were taken into account.”
So to argue, as the President did yesterday, that the National
Academy of Sciences, as he said, stated that our current immigration
system costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars is, at best,
incomplete and misleading.
The President then went on to say during the course of his speech
We've saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by
bringing down the price of the F-35 jet fighter.
I remember when he said that.
The Associated Press says as follows:
The cost savings he persists in bragging about were secured
in full or large part before he became President.
He has taken credit for something he didn't do.
According to the AP:
The head of the Air Force program announced significant
price reductions in the contract for the Lockheed F-35
fighter on December 19--after [candidate] Trump, [President-
Elect Trump] had tweeted about the cost but weeks before he
met with the company's CEO.
The AP goes on:
Pentagon managers took action even before the election to
save [this] money. . . . Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with
the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group, said there is no
evidence of any additional cost savings as a result of
President Trump's actions.
Here is another statement made by the President last night:
We will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.
I remember that one. That is something I hope we all can aspire to,
but let me tell my colleagues what the Associated Press says about that
Trump has provided little detail on how this would happen.
Independent analyses of his campaign tax proposals found that
most of the benefits would flow to the wealthiest families.
The richest 1 percent would see an average tax cut of nearly
$215,000 a year, while the middle one-fifth of the population
would get a tax cut of just $1,010, according to the Tax
Policy Center, a joint project with the Brookings Institution
and Urban Institute.
Here is another statement the President made last night:
Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.
The Associated Press says:
That's true, but for the vast majority of them, it's
because they choose to be. That 94 million figure includes
everyone aged 16 and older who doesn't have a job and isn't
looking for one. So it includes retirees, parents who are
staying home to raise children, high school and college
students who are studying rather than working.
They are unlikely to work regardless of the state of the
economy. With the huge baby boomer generation reaching
retirement age many of them retiring, the population of those
out of the labor force is increasing and will continue to do
so, most economists forecast.
It's true that some of those out of the workforce are of
working age and have given up looking for work. But that
number is probably a small fraction of the 94 million
President Trump cited.
Another statement the President made: He said his budget plan will
offer “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in
I will not dwell on this other than to say that the absolute number--
a $54 billion increase, or about 10 percent, is the largest single
number. On a percentage basis, there have been larger increases in
previous years, like 2002, 2003, and 2008.
Here is another claim made by the President last night:
Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors,
Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others
have announced they will invest billions of dollars in the
United States and will create tens of thousands of new
The Associated Press reports that “many of the announcements reflect
corporate decisions that predate [Trump's Presidential] election,”
making it unlikely his administration “is the sole or even primary
reason for the expected hiring. . . . In the case of Intel,
construction of the Chandler, Arizona, factory referred to by Trump
actually began during Barack Obama's presidency. The project was
delayed by insufficient demand for Intel's high-powered computer chips,
but the company now expects to finish the factory within four years
because it anticipates business growth.
Another statement made by President Trump last night in his speech:
We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and
poisoning our youth, and we will expand treatment for those
who have become so badly addicted.
Addicts and mentally ill people who gain access to
treatment programs for the first time as a result of
ObamaCare--the Affordable Care Act--are worried about repeal
that President Trump has called for. Repeal could end
coverage for 1.8 million people who have undergone addiction
or mental health treatment, cut $5.5 billion on spending on
such services according to estimates by economist Richard
Frank, a former administration official under Barack Obama,
now with the Harvard Medical School.
The AP goes on to say:
The key question is what will happen to Medicaid as a
result of changes Republicans are pursuing? Broadly speaking,
Republicans want to transform the health insurance program
for low-income people from an open-ended Federal entitlement
to a system that provides States with a limited amount of
financing and gives them latitude on how to spend it.
The AP goes on to say:
If Congress is too stingy with State allotments, States
would be hampered dealing with the emergencies like the
The next statement by President Trump last night:
According to data provided by the Department of Justice,
the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-
related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our
country. We have seen the attacks at home, from Boston to San
Bernardino to the Pentagon, and yes, even the World Trade
The Associated Press responds:
It's unclear what Justice Department data the President is
citing. The most recent government information that has come
out doesn't back up his claim. Just over half the people
President Trump talks about were actually born in the United
States, according to Homeland Security Department research.
That report said of 82 people the government determined were
inspired by foreign terrorist groups to attempt to carry out
an attack on the U.S., just over half [of them] were [born in
the United States] native-born citizens.
The AP goes on to say:
Even the attacks Trump singled out weren't entirely the
work of foreigners. Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his
Pakistani wife killed 14 people in the deadly 2015 attack in
San Bernardino, California, was born in Chicago.
It's true that in the immediate aftermath of September 11,
the FBI's primary concern was with terrorists from overseas
feared to be plotting attacks in the United States. But
that's no longer the case. The FBI and Justice Department
have been preoccupied with violent extremists from inside the
U.S. who are inspired by the calls to violence and mayhem of
the Islamic State group. The Justice Department has
prosecuted scores of Islamic State-related cases since 2014,
and many of the defendants are U.S. citizens.
Another statement by President Trump last night:
ObamaCare is collapsing . . . imploding Obamacare disaster.
The AP writes:
There are problems with the 2010 health care law, but
whether it's collapsing is hotly disputed.
One of the two major components of the Affordable Care Act
has been a spike in premiums and a drop in participation from
insurers. But the other component, equally important, seems
to be working fairly well, even if its costs are a concern.
Trump and congressional Republicans want to repeal the
whole thing, which risks leaving millions of people uninsured
if the replacement plan has shortcomings. Some critics say
GOP rhetoric itself is making things worse by creating
uncertainty about the future.
The health law offers subsidized private health insurance
along with a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income
people. Together, the two arms of the program reach more than
20 million people.
Republican governors whose states have expanded Medicaid
are trying to find a way to persuade Congress and the
administration to keep this expansion, and maybe even build
on it, while imposing limits on the long-term costs of
While the Medicaid expansion seems to be working, the
markets for subsidized health insurance are stressed in many
states. Also affected are millions of people who buy
individual policies outside the government markets, and face
the same high premiums with no financial help from the health
law. Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation
says “implosion” is too strong a term. An AP count found
that 12.2 million people signed up for this year, despite
the Trump administration's threats to repeal the law.
I might add, that it is despite all of the speeches made on the floor
of the Senate and the House, promising that it would be repealed as
The last point I want to make is this. I was troubled last night by a
recurring theme in the President's speech. It was a theme about
immigration in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants. My
mother was an immigrant to this country. I am proud to serve as a
Senator from the State where she and her family settled. I am proud of
the struggle they went through--coming to this country, not knowing the
language, going through some pretty rough times, facing poverty, taking
the dirtiest and toughest jobs. Because of that, the second generation
of my family--the one I represent--has brought some great people to
this world in our own families and perhaps even added to the benefits
of the United States for others.
Last night, if you listened to the characterization of immigrants, it
was negative, virtually from start to finish.
In the audience last night, I had a young lady as my guest. She is an
extraordinary lady. Her name is Aaima Sayed. She is Pakistani, and she
was brought to the United States at the age of 3 by her parents from
Pakistan. They settled in Chicago and eventually moved to New Jersey.
It turns out the family had its difficulties and the mother and father
split and separated. When the father left, he left behind his
paperwork--which was in place or at least in the process--of trying to
legalize the presence of his family, and nothing was done.
It wasn't until she was in high school that this young lady realized
that she was undocumented. That creates obstacles for any young person.
In her case, a special obstacle was the cost of higher education. As an
undocumented child in America, she didn't qualify for government
assistance--Federal Government assistance--and limited State
assistance. Yet she aspired to go on to school and to borrow the money,
if necessary, at high interest rates from private sources in order to
finish her education. She graduated from Rutgers University magna cum
laude and then wanted to go to medical school.
There weren't many medical schools accepting undocumented students,
but there was one. I am proud to tell you that it was Loyola University
of Chicago, the Stritch School of Medicine. There were about 65
undocumented young people in medical school in the United States, and
30 of them were at Loyola in Chicago. I have met most of them. Each and
every one of them is more inspiring than the next.
They opened up the competition. They didn't give them slots to fill.
They said: Compete with everyone. These students were so outstanding
from across the United States that they made it to Loyola.
This young lady, in her third year, faces another 6 years of
education before she completes her medical degree. When she is finished
with those 6 years, it isn't over. In Illinois, we told her she could
go to school, but it was part of a contract. She could attend school,
and we would reduce the interest payments at a later part in her life
if she gave us 1 year of service in an underserved community in
Illinois for each year of medical school. She has 6 years of school
left and 4 years of serving in a rural community or an underserved
neighborhood clinic in the city of Chicago or nearby.
She signed up for it. She is an amazing young person. She is
determined to get this medical degree--despite the debt, despite the
obstacles. The only reason she can do this is because she is protected
by something called DACA.
Let me explain. Some 16 years ago, I introduced a bill called the
DREAM Act. It said that if you were brought to the United States, like
she was, under the age of 16, you had a good life, no criminal record
or history of a problematic nature, and completed your education, you
can stay in the United States and eventually work your way toward
President Obama took it up and created an Executive order called DACA
and said to the young people in that situation: Come and apply, pay a
$600 filing fee, then go through a criminal background check, and if
you make it, we will give you 2 years to live in the United States
without fear of deportation, with a work permit.
She signed up. That is how she can go to medical school. You need to
work to go to medical school. She is going through a clinical
experience where she is actually working in these hospitals. Without a
work permit, she wouldn't be able to complete medical school.
The obvious question is this: What is going to happen to this program
under President Trump? In fairness, the President has said positive
things about DACA and DREAMers. I thanked him personally. I have only
met him three times, but I thanked him personally twice for doing that.
I hope that it means that ultimately there will be some path for the
750,000 young people, just like her, who are simply asking for a chance
to be educated and be part of America's future.
I hope that, as people who listened to the speech last night think
about immigrants to the United States, they will think about this young
woman, as well, who has worked so hard her entire life to better
herself and to be able to help others at a later point in life.
She is an extraordinary person, and there are so many more just like
her. They are immigrants to this country. In this case it is Muslim
immigrant to this country who someday will be an exceptional doctor,
who is going to give 4 years of her life back to my home State and then
is going to help others all across the United States. That, to me, is
an image of immigrants that shouldn't be lost with the negative
connotations that were raised last night.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from West Virginia.
Miners Protection Act
Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise today to call for immediate action
on the Miners Protection Act. Today, as we sit here, 22,600 miners have
received letters. This is a copy of the letter, and I am going to read
it to you. This is a letter they received today letting them know their
healthcare benefits will be terminated at the end of April. This letter
The UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan notified you in December 2016--
This is one of multiple letters they received. Can you imagine
getting a 4-month extension? Then by law you have to have 90 days
before they can terminate you. Every time you get an extension, within
30 days you get another letter saying you are going to be terminated.
That is the inhumane treatment our retired miners and mostly widows are
that the U.S. Congress had passed the Continuing Health
Benefits for Miners Act, which provided for the transfer of
federal funds to the Plan to cover the health care benefits
you receive through April 30, 2017. The Plan cautioned that
further Congressional action would be necessary in order for
the Plan to provide health care coverage to you after April
30. At this time, Congress has not taken the action needed to
continue your benefits. Unless Congress acts before the end
of April, the 1993 Benefit Plan will not be able to provide
you with the health benefits that you have been receiving
from the 1993 Plan, and those benefits will terminate
effective May 1, 2017. In addition, your Funds' Health
Service Card will no longer be valid.
Can you imagine a 75- or 80-year-old woman--a lady, a widow--who has
lost her husband, probably because of black lung, and all the work he
did for our country and for himself and his family, and she has
received that three times or more now--not knowing what in the world or
why they can't do something that we promised, something that was done
in 1946, where the Krug amendment and the Krug act basically said that
we would take care of our miners so that they would have permanent
healthcare and a pension. It was not done by taxpayers' dollars. It was
done by the coal they mined. For every ton of coal, there would be so
much set aside. Then we had the bankruptcy laws happen in the 1980s,
which basically destroyed a lot of companies for paying into it. Then
we had the crash of 2008, which took it further down.
Now we stand here today, and we have a fix coming out of the AML, the
abandoned mine lands, coming, again, from coal that was mined to pay
for the miners' pension and benefit plan, and we can't get it done.
I will tell you, if that piece of legislation was allowed to be voted
on tonight, we would have well over 60 votes, bipartisan. My Republican
colleagues and all of our Democrat colleagues here understand the
importance of the working people.
President Trump is speaking about this every time. Last night he
shouted out to miners. I was so pleased. I have not heard that since I
have been here--anyone saying: Thank you for the job you have done. We
are not leaving you behind. You have given to this country the country
we have, the superpower of the world. You have produced the energy
through the toughest of times, and we appreciate that.
I was very, very appreciative to see that type of recognition. I
can't tell you how much more appreciative I would be right now to see
us as a bipartisan group--Democrats and Republicans--standing up for
the working people that we talk about every day and saying: Listen, as
to the pension guarantee act, which basic to the Miners Protection Act,
we are going to pass that. We are going to put this aside. We don't
have to worry about this anymore. We have done it.
That is all we are asking for. Everybody who has joined me in this
journey understands that we are all fighting for the working people,
which is what we were sent here to do, from your wonderful State of
South Carolina to my beautiful State of West Virginia. They depend on
us. The retired miners are walking our halls. Maybe you have seen them.
If not, I am sure they will come by and say hi to you. They are very
appreciative of the consideration we are all giving them. They are
hoping we finally get this done.
I am doing it for them and for their families and what they have done
for our country. The 4-month extension is not even humane. I have said
that. My reason for saying that is that these people can't comprehend
it. I can assure you that, when I go back to my office after I leave
the floor, I will get phone calls: Joe, they are going to take my
healthcare again. What am I going to do?
I keep saying: Ma'am, please, trust us; hold tight.
We could have had this fixed before. We kicked the can down the road
4 months. Now I have been told--and we all seem to accept it--that they
are going to do a permanent healthcare fix. I am appreciative of that.
The bottom line is that we have pensions out there hanging, which is
going to be a bigger albatross around us if we don't something, and we
have a chance to fix it all and put that aside.
I spoke to President Trump, and I am hopeful that he will speak out
on this, and he has spoken out. He has told me that he supports it.
I said: Please, Mr. President, speak to our friends on the other
side--our leadership--and let them know how much you support this, and
let us put this behind us because we can fix it once and for all.
We were told to get a legislative hearing, and we did that. We were
told to go through regular order. We went to the Finance Committee, and
it was passed out--bipartisan, overwhelmingly bipartisan.
I know we have the 60 votes. I was told we have to reintroduce it
again. So here we are. I reintroduced it, and we have bipartisan
support again. We are ready to go.
Why do we put these people through this type of agony? I don't know.
We have so many other challenges, and we have to come together. This is
one we have already agreed we are together on and can't move it.
I know you have always been a dear friend and supportive, and you
know the hard work our people have done, and I appreciate that.
However, it is time to act. It is time to get this done. If we wait
until April, that is exactly when our continuing resolution is coming
up, and, basically, we have no budget to work off of. So we have to do
another extension until we can get something more permanent. They could
get caught up in that CR again. We are going to say: We are sorry; we
couldn't get it done, but we will give you another 2, 3, or 4 months.
I can't go home and continue to tell these wonderful people who have
been so good and so patient that I am sorry, but we just have to wait
another few months.
When is enough enough? When are those few months going to be up and
we do the right thing? I am asking all of you; I am asking all of my
colleagues: Please, this is one time when we can do something and feel
good about it and go home over the weekend and go back to our
constituents and tell them that this one is finished, that we fixed
I am asking for that vote. I would encourage all of my colleagues to
do the same, to speak to the leaderships to make sure that we can move
the miners protection and make sure the miners get the healthcare and
the pension benefits they were guaranteed and they have been promised
and which has been kept until now, and that we are not going to let
With that, Mr. President, I thank you, and I thank all of my
colleagues for the support we have been receiving. I am asking the
majority leader to please let us have this vote and put it on the
floor. Let's go from there and see what happens. I am willing to do
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). Without objection, it is so
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Family Planning Providers
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, thank you, and thank you to some of my
colleagues who are going to be joining me on the floor this afternoon.
The day after President Trump was inaugurated was one of the most
inspiring I have ever gotten a chance to be part of. Millions of
people, men and women, marched in Seattle, in Washington, DC, and in
cities and towns in between. They carried signs, they chanted, and they
made it absolutely undeniably clear that when it comes to women's
rights and healthcare, people across the country do not want to go
backward. Since then, they have continued to speak up and stand up.
But we are here today because Donald Trump and Republicans in
Congress simply are not getting the message. I want to discuss one
crucial example in particular--the possibility that in a matter of
days, Senate Republicans could roll back a rule protecting family
planning providers from being discriminated against and denied Federal
Let me start by explaining a bit about what family planning providers
mean to our community. These providers--part of the Title X program,
which has bipartisan history--deliver critical healthcare services
nationwide but are especially needed in rural and frontier areas. In
2015 alone, Title X provided basic primary and preventive healthcare
services, such as Pap tests, breast exams, birth control, and HIV
testing, to more than 4 million low-income women and men at nearly
4,000 health centers. In my home State of Washington, tens of thousands
of patients are able to receive care at these centers each year. They
often have nowhere else to turn for healthcare. In fact, 4 out of 10
woman who receive care at health centers funded by Title X consider it
to be their only source of healthcare.
Taking resources away from these providers would be cruel. It would
have the greatest impact on women and families who are most in need.
But that is exactly what the law passed in the House, which is now on
its way to the Senate, would mean. It would undo a valuable effort by
the Obama administration to ensure that healthcare providers are
evaluated for Federal funding based on their ability to provide the
services in question, not ideology. In doing so, the bill would make it
even easier for States, led by extreme politicians, to deny family
planning providers Federal funding, not because of the quality of the
care they provide or the value to the communities they serve but based
on whether the politicians in charge agree that women should be able to
exercise their constitutionally protected rights to safe, legal
It is the 21st century. It is time for politicians to stop telling
women what they can and can't do with their own bodies. That is what
the women and men who have been marching and speaking up all over our
country believe. That is what I believe. It is what Democrats believe.
If Leader McConnell thinks he can rush this harmful legislative
effort through without a fight, we are here to say he is wrong. He can
expect Democrats and maybe even some Republicans who are concerned
about losing healthcare providers in their own States to fight back. So
today I am calling on the leader to commit right now to drop this
effort and agree not to bring this bill to the floor. It is well past
time that extreme Republicans end their damaging political attacks on
women. I think the opportunity to start that is right this minute. So
we urge him to take this action and not bring this to the floor. We
want him to know that we are going to fight back every step of the way
if he does.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.
Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I came to the floor to join my colleague
and friend Senator Murray to say that I, too, am ready for this fight
to oppose S.J. Res. 13, which would allow the discrimination against
Title X family planning providers. This is a misguided measure that
would leave millions of women and families with fewer healthcare
options. It would drastically decrease women's access to basic primary
and preventative health services, including lifesaving cancer
screenings and HIV testing.
Make no mistake, as Senator Murray said, the primary target of this
legislation is Planned Parenthood. For years now, Republican leaders in
Congress have tried to keep women from choosing Planned Parenthood as
their healthcare provider--this at a time when Planned Parenthood
serves millions of women nationwide, including nearly 12,000 women in
New Hampshire, my home State. Most of the women in New Hampshire have
incomes below or near the poverty line. Many of those women live in
rural areas where they don't have other options for healthcare
The sad irony of this attack on Planned Parenthood is that study
after study has shown that cutting back access to birth control and to
other family planning methods actually increases the number of
abortions. So I understand that opponents are interested in supporting
this legislation because they think Planned Parenthood provides
abortions, but the coverage Planned Parenthood is providing to women in
New Hampshire and across this country with Federal dollars does not
allow for abortions. So what we are doing is taking away women's access
to contraception and to other family planning services and saying: You
have no choice now.
More than ever right now, facts matter. Research matters. Talking
away women's access to birth control and family planning will lead to
more abortions, not fewer abortions. Yet this legislation is part and
parcel of a broader national campaign against Planned Parenthood, whose
clinics have been the target of vilification, of threats, and of
violence. In October of last year, the Planned Parenthood clinic in
Claremont, NH, was vandalized not once but twice. The second attack, a
breaking-and-entering incident, caused extensive damage. It forced the
clinic to close for 5 weeks.
I have great admiration for the courage of doctors and other
healthcare providers at the Claremont clinic. Despite threats and
attacks, they are determined to continue serving women across the
Connecticut River Valley, many of whom have no alternative to the
Claremont clinic. They are typical of the dedicated healthcare
professionals at Planned Parenthood clinics all across our country.
The good news is that, according to poll after poll, the American
people across the political spectrum--from Independents, to
Libertarians, to Democrats, to Republicans--strongly support Planned
Parenthood and oppose efforts to take away women's ability to choose
Planned Parenthood as their healthcare provider.
At last night's Presidential address to Congress, I was honored to
have as my guest Jennifer Frizzell of Planned Parenthood of Northern
New England. Jen knows exactly what is at stake for women if President
Trump and Republican leaders succeed in closing hundreds of Planned
Parenthood clinics across the United States.
So let's be clear again: Supporting family planning clinics is not
about abortion, which by law is never funded by taxpayer dollars--
something that I think is often misrepresented by some of our
colleagues here in Congress. What this is about is ensuring that
American women have access to the basic healthcare they need. For 40
percent of women, their visits to a family planning center is the only
care they receive annually. In 2015 alone, Title X provided basic
primary and preventive healthcare services, such as Pap tests, breast
exams, birth control, and HIV testing, to more than 4 million women and
men at nearly 4,000 health centers.
I am sure that every one of our colleagues is receiving letters and
emails and phone calls from constituents on this issue. They are
pleading with us not to take away their access to Planned Parenthood
and the healthcare they trust and depend on.
I received this message from Caitlin Parnell of Hampstead, NH. She
As a young mother of a 2-year-old, my husband and I knew we
wanted to wait to have more children. We were both working
full time but barely making ends meet. The companies we
worked for offered health insurance, but they were small
companies, and the monthly cost was well more than we could
afford. So we went without. With no insurance, I turned to
Planned Parenthood for birth control. With the sliding pay
scale, I was able to get exams and birth control within my
budget. We were able to decide the best time to have more
children, which also allowed us to responsibly manage our
finances as well. An unplanned pregnancy at that point would
have destroyed the little financial stability we had. I don't
know where our family would be without Planned Parenthood.
Karla Canderhoof is a stay-at-home mother in Newfields, NH. She wrote
After being diagnosed with ovarian cyst issues that caused
debilitating pain, I turned to Planned Parenthood for
treatment. In my case, the treatment for ovarian cysts was
birth control. At the time (during my college years) I could
not afford the cost of birth control due to my lack of
insurance. But Planned Parenthood gave me birth control free
Amanda Arel of Rochester, NH, sent this message:
During the ages of 22 to 25, I utilized Planned Parenthood
for my annual exams and birth control. As I did not have
insurance and was in college, I was not able to afford most
medical care. Planned Parenthood not only provided me with
essential care, they made it very comfortable for me and were
very knowledgeable and answered any questions I had. They
provided birth control for me that, if it wasn't for them,
I would not have been able to get, at a cost I could
I still support Planned Parenthood because they provide safe,
affordable healthcare for all, and that is so important.
We need to listen to our constituents, those who are speaking out in
passionate support of Planned Parenthood and other family planning
As Senator Murray said so eloquently, this is about respecting
women's access to healthcare services, including those millions of
vulnerable women who have nowhere else to turn for essential care. This
is also about respecting women's constitutionally protected right to
make our own reproductive choices. We must not allow Congress to strip
away Federal investments in family planning clinics by allowing States
to discriminate against providers like Planned Parenthood.
I urge our Republican colleagues, don't bring S.J. Res. 13 to the
floor. If it does come to the floor, I certainly intend to join in the
fight with my colleagues--Senator Murray, Senator Blumenthal, and so
many other Democrats and, I believe, Republicans--to defeat this
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am proud and honored to follow my
very distinguished colleague from New Hampshire, Senator Shaheen, and
Senator Murray of Washington in this cause which invokes a line that I
think the President used last night in his address to us, pledging
cooperation for causes where we can make a common cause.
Surely no cause is more important than healthcare, no goal is more
important than preventive services for
women so we can all avoid the costs not only in dollars and cents but
the cost of human suffering and foreclosed futures that will come when
women are denied these kinds of basic services.
I met this morning with a group from Planned Parenthood, patients and
providers working in clinics across New England. They told me their
story--some of them patients, some of them service providers and
volunteers--about the kind of transformative effect that primary care,
examinations and screenings, can have for women who would otherwise
lack those services. The community health centers cannot substitute for
Family planning programs under title X are often the only Federal
programs dedicated to providing comprehensive services in family
planning but also in related preventive health services.
Over the past year alone, title X providers have provided cancer and
HIV screenings, contraceptive services, and other primary and
preventive services to over 4 million women and men at nearly 4,000
health centers in New England and across the country. This network of
healthcare providers is a safety net. They compose a network, the title
X network, including providers of State and local health departments,
federally qualified health centers, and family planning councils. They
create a network that provides a critical source of healthcare to
people who otherwise would be denied it. They are trusted providers who
are willing to serve the uninsured, the uninsured and low-income
individuals who risk losing all access to healthcare if it was not for
These clinics are often the only healthcare providers in rural areas
and other parts of the country. So the political attacks on providers
that provide abortion services would mean a loss of access to all
family planning and preventive healthcare in these parts of the
country--rural, metropolitan, suburban. Not only are these services
necessary, but family planning services are really good investments,
especially when it comes to the money that otherwise would be spent
when illnesses or diseases become more serious.
In 2010, the $1.14 billion that was spent in this country on family
planning resulted in more than $8 billion in gross savings. That is a
clearly worthwhile investment.
The resolution that passed the House last month that Senator
McConnell is considering bringing to the Senate floor would eliminate
protections that prevent discrimination against these very providers,
discrimination based on facts or sometimes nonfacts that have nothing
to do with the quality of care or the worthiness of the investment in
these clinics and healthcare providers.
The regulation that Republicans are seeking to eliminate ensures that
no qualified providers will be excluded from eligibility for Federal
funding for discriminatory reasons outside of that provider's ability
to provide care. That is really the criterion that matters. The ones
who want to eliminate this regulation apparently would rather risk
limiting access to healthcare in order to score political points.
Unfortunately, it is really that simple.
At a time when Republicans continue to try to push ahead with
repealing the Affordable Care Act, which also includes essential
support for preventive healthcare, they also want to disrupt the
country's healthcare system for this kind of women's healthcare.
Just last night, after President Trump claimed he wanted to work with
Members of both parties to invest in women's health, we are threatened
with this step to eliminate an important regulation that protects
women's health. I ask the President and my colleagues across the aisle
to join in this common cause, which should unite us on a bipartisan
basis. If they want to continue these attacks, we are ready for the
fight, but we would much rather cooperate and collaborate in the cause
of women's healthcare.
I urge my Senate colleagues to listen to the kind of providers and
patients whom I met with this morning, the kind of provider that
Senator Shaheen brought with her last night as her guest, the kind of
providers and patients and volunteers who work in these clinics all
across the country, whether it is Planned Parenthood or other kinds of
clinics. I ask them to listen to the advocates here, supporters, like
the National Coalition of STD Directors, the National Campaign to
Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the American Psychological
Association, the National Association of County and City Health
Officials, the ACLU, and the American Medical Student Association. They
are just a few of the stakeholders who advocate strongly that this
regulation be continued and who oppose the step the House passed and
that the majority leader may bring to the floor.
These people have dedicated their lives and their careers to
assisting the vulnerable, whether they are providing healthcare or
legal services or other kinds of support, and they are saying to us: Do
not eliminate this regulation. I think we ought to listen to them. I
hope my colleagues will.
I am determined that we will fight tooth and nail if we need to do
so, but I would much rather that we follow the President's offer and
that we collaborate to stop the elimination of this regulation, which
is so important to making sure that women's healthcare is based on
quality, not on discriminatory reasons based on political motive.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine.
Mr. KING. Mr. President, I rise to oppose S.J. Res. 13, which is a
Congressional Review Act resolution to undo the regulations which
protect title X health centers. I believe this resolution, although
well meaning, will have the opposite effect of its intention.
I particularly want to discuss the organization known as Planned
Parenthood, but, more generally, these women's health centers, these
title X health centers, No. 1, provide many healthcare services to
women, particularly low-income women. They are the choice of those
women. They are a place they have chosen to go to receive their
I do think that one of the problems with this whole debate is the use
of the term “funding” of Planned Parenthood. What we are talking
about here is not funding, as in a budget line or a budget provision
that says: Planned Parenthood gets $58 million or $100 million or $10,
whatever it is. That is not the way it works. What we are talking about
is reimbursement for women's healthcare services provided on an
individual, case-by-case basis, and this does not include abortion. It
does not include abortion.
These organizations in Maine--Planned Parenthood, for example, serves
10,000 people. Ten thousand women choose to get their healthcare
services from Planned Parenthood.
The other piece of this debate I have never understood is why those
who are opposed to abortion would be so opposed to organizations that
allow women to make choices about pregnancies and provide contraception
and contraception advice, which statistically we know reduces abortion.
In Maine, because of the access to organizations like Planned
Parenthood and other women's healthcare clinics, we have seen our teen
pregnancy rate drop 58 percent in the last 20 years or so--58 percent.
That is a significant reduction, and it is attributable, at least in
some significant part, to the availability of the services provided by
It has always struck me as ironic, in the extreme, that someone who
says they are against abortion should be against an agency that
provides contraception and family planning services that prevent
pregnancy and therefore prevent abortion.
I subscribe to President Clinton's formulation that abortion should
be safe, legal, and rare. It should not be something that is chosen
just casually--and of course it isn't. This is a terribly difficult
decision for a women, but that is not the subject today. The subject
today is curtailing the reimbursement for women's healthcare services
to an organization or organizations that may also provide abortion
It is contrary to the very idea of trying to prevent abortion, but it
is also denying healthcare services of choice to thousands of women in
Maine and millions across the country.
I have sat in this body for 4 years and heard people talking about
how consumers and patients should be able to choose their physicians,
they should be able to choose their healthcare options. This was a
basic principle. It is one of the arguments we have heard as we have
been discussing other healthcare
issues in this body. This Congressional Review Act provision would take
away that choice. I think that is a great disservice to those citizens,
many of whom are low income, many of whom are covered by Medicaid, many
of whom do not have private health insurance. To take this step that
this resolution would entail would be very shortsighted, and I believe
it is a violation of the rights of those people to choose their
It also does not achieve the ends that the sponsors want to achieve.
That is why I believe that this resolution--although it may be
denominated as something to do with being anti-abortion, I think it is
just the opposite. If this resolution passes and these healthcare
centers under Title X, including Planned Parenthood, are unable to
deliver these services, there will be more unwanted pregnancies and
more abortions. I think that is a sad and unfortunate outcome to be
perpetrated by people who say they are trying to oppose abortion.
Planned Parenthood provides women's healthcare services. It provides
contraceptive services. I know the people in Maine who work for this
agency, and I know this is a terribly controversial issue, but I
believe that if what we want to do is minimize the number of abortions,
then it makes no sense whatsoever to somehow indiscriminately strike
out at the funding of the agencies that provide healthcare services.
Nobody in this body is talking about Federal funds for abortion. That
is not what the issue is. If that were the issue, this would be an
entirely different debate. The issue is taking reimbursement away from
the Planned Parenthood clinic or Title X clinic for mammograms,
cervical exams, or other women's healthcare services. Why would we want
to do that in the name of achieving some other goal that won't even be
achieved? In fact, it will be made a more widespread issue.
I hope the Senate will realize that whatever the motivation behind
this provision is, it just makes no sense. It makes no sense from the
point of view of preventing abortion. It makes no sense in terms of the
taxpayers. Preventive services, contraceptive services, cost about $200
a patient; a Medicaid birth costs about $10,000. If it is a Medicaid
patient, those are taxpayer dollars. We are talking about saving
This goes to the healthcare system in general: Why would we want to
undo prevention, whether prevention of unwanted pregnancies or
prevention of a disease? Prevention is part of the solution to the
healthcare crisis in this country because of the excessive cost.
Here is a specific case. Again, we are not talking about funding
abortions. We are not talking about funding Planned Parenthood. We are
not talking about funding these Title X health centers. We are talking
about protecting them in terms of their reimbursement for women's
health services delivered. That is what this vote is about. If you vote
for this, you are voting to take away reimbursement for health services
that are necessary to protect the health and well-being of women across
I hope my colleagues will vote no on this resolution, and I believe
it will serve the public and it will even serve those people who are
concerned most deeply--and I understand--about abortion. If you want
fewer abortions, fund Planned Parenthood. It seems to me that is a
fairly clear correlation, and it is one we should respect. But we also
should respect the rights, needs, and choices of those millions of
women who rely on these clinics for their healthcare needs aside from
the issue of reproductive rights, just straight healthcare needs. That
is what this vote is all about.
Thank you, Mr. President.
I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Toomey). Without objection, it is so
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for
up to 15 minutes as in morning business.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I am here today for the 158th time to
ask this Chamber to wake up to the mounting evidence of climate change.
The sad truth is that, in Congress anyway, this issue has turned
starkly partisan thanks to a torrent of dark political money that the
fossil fuel industry uses to both threaten and reward the Republican
Party in a dirty, dark money game of stick-and-carrot. Republicans in
Congress ignore climate change for the simple reason that the fossil
fuel industry has become their political life support system. It does
not have to be this way.
Outside this Chamber, even Republicans see things very differently.
In the investment sector, where people have to make decisions based on
real facts and where duties to shareholders limit overly creative
accounting, the Republican signal is clear.
An impressive group of Republican former Treasury Secretaries and
Republican former Presidential economic advisers recently proposed a
conservative, market-based climate solution. Republican Presidents
trusted these folks with the conduct of the U.S. economy. Jim Baker was
Secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan, Hank Paulson was
Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, and George
Shultz was Secretary of the Treasury under President Nixon, in addition
to other distinguished offices that they held. Joining those three were
Martin Feldstein, Chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic
Advisers, and Greg Mankiw, who held that position for President George
W. Bush; Rob Walton, the former chairman of the board of Walmart, the
world's largest retailer and employer; and Tom Stephenson from Sequoia
Capital, the venture capital firm out in Silicon Valley. This
Republican group proposed a “carbon dividends” plan. It combines a
carbon tax on fossil fuels--which reflects harm from carbon emissions
which market economics ordinarily requires to be built into the price
of the product--with a big dividend returning all of the revenues to
the American people, and a reduction of regulations, which may be
mooted by a good enough carbon fee. This idea is actually not so
different from my own American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act.
In their report, they all note that the “mounting evidence of
climate change is growing too strong to ignore.” Many would say that
it grew too strong to ignore a good decade ago, but it is important
that these Republican leaders have acknowledged this.
They also said: “Economists are nearly unanimous in their belief
that a carbon tax is the most efficient and effective way to reduce
This report lines up with many other Republicans outside Congress who
support a revenue-neutral carbon fee. It is the favorite climate
solution in conservative economic circles. Indeed, it is the only
widely accepted climate solution among Republicans.
The Niskanen Center, a Libertarian think tank that spun off from the
Cato Institute, last month wrote this:
The case for climate action is now so strong that one would
be hard-pressed to find a serious academic economist who
opposes using market forces to manage the damage done by
Like the Treasury Secretaries, economists and investors throughout
the financial community are saying loud and clear: We can no longer
ignore climate change.
Goldman Sachs, for instance, in 2015 did a report on the low-carbon
economy. It was called: “Goldman Sachs equity investor's guide to a
low carbon world, 2015-2025.” So unless somebody here is going to say
that Goldman Sachs is in on the hoax, Goldman Sachs is taking this
Last year, the investment firm BlackRock, with more than $1 trillion
in assets under management, issued a report titled: “Adapting
Portfolios to Climate Change.”
I don't think investors trust $1 trillion to a firm that falls for
hoaxes. BlackRock, like Goldman, knows that climate change is real and
is helping its investors plan for the economic fallout.
BlackRock warns in its report: “Investors can no longer ignore
change. . . .” Parenthetical editorial comment: That is the job of
Republicans in Congress.
BlackRock also had something to say about a price on carbon. They
said this: “Higher carbon pricing would help address [externalities
from fossil fuels] and would be the most cost-effective way for
countries to meet their Paris agreement pledges.”
So in the real world, where real decisions are being made by very
smart people backed by real money, they are telling their clients: You
must take climate change seriously, and you must take carbon pricing
The BlackRock report had this data on prices that companies are
setting on carbon internally--in their own internal accounting--across
sectors, including healthcare and energy and utilities. As we can see,
the price per metric ton ranges from a low of about $10 in information
technology, up to over $350 per metric ton--internal costs of carbon
accounting in these industries.
The point ought to be pretty clear. The business community is acting,
investors are insisting on it, and a price on carbon is a key part of
The legendary Wayne Gretsky's rule was to “skate to where the puck
is going to be.” These major firms recognize where the carbon economy
is heading. We should too. We would, if it weren't for the political
mischief wreaked in Congress by the fossil fuel industry.
BlackRock and Goldman Sachs are not alone. The insurance and
reinsurance industry is one of the world's biggest investors, as well
as one of the world's best analyzers of risk. Munich Re and Swiss Re,
and others in property casualty and reinsurance, warn us that climate
change is real and portends huge costs for society. Munich Re's head of
risk accumulation in the United States said in 2015: “As a nation, we
need to take steps to reduce the societal impact of weather events as
we see greater variability and volatility in our climate.”
One of the biggest investors in the housing market is the Federal
Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac has warned
about climate change impact on the real estate sector: “The economic
losses and social disruption may happen gradually, but they are likely
to be greater in total than those experienced in the housing crisis of
the great recession.”
When we think of what we went through in the housing crisis of the
great recession, wow, Freddie Mac is warning that the economic losses
and social disruption from climate change in our housing markets are
likely to be worse.
These are all serious investors and they have serious warnings for
us, and ignoring all of them just to please fossil fuel industry
patrons is a big, big mistake.
Even President Trump's nominee to head the Securities and Exchange
Commission, Jay Clayton, thinks we need action. For years, his law firm
has encouraged clients, including ExxonMobil, to disclose climate
change-related risks to the SEC and to investors. If he is confirmed, I
hope he will enforce the SEC's existing disclosure requirements for
climate risk and clarify that public disclosures should include asset
valuations based on global compliance with international treaties.
Investors need climate change risks disclosed against a “reality
check” baseline that assumes international compliance with the Paris
climate commitments. An assumption that we fail should not be
Slowly, investor disclosures are improving. Last year, New York
attorney general Eric Schneiderman forced Peabody Energy to restate its
disclosures. Just last week, Chevron acknowledged to its investors in
an SEC filing that, lo and behold, some of its products “may be
considered pollutants,” noted “new conclusions about the effects of
the company's operations on human health or the environment,” and they
acknowledged “an increased possibility of governmental investigations
and, potentially, private litigation against the company.”
It is better late than never, I suppose. Now it is time for the rest
of the industry to report fully and fairly, first on the risks that
shareholders bear from assets that are wrongly valued now--that are
falsely valued in their reports--and, second, on the company's
potentially culpable behavior in climate denial.
Institutional investors are joining in those efforts. Our Rhode
Island pension fund, managed by our treasurer, Seth Magaziner, is
pushing for greater transparency on political and lobbying spending at
large energy companies like Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Devon.
For the resolution filed at ConocoPhillips, Rhode Island was joined by
over 20 other cofilers, including the State of Connecticut, Senator
Murphy's home State, whom I see here on the floor.
Just recently, the G20 nations--the 20 biggest economies in the
world--set up a group called the Task Force on Climate-related
Financial Disclosures. It is made up of 32 members from large banks,
insurance companies, asset management companies, pension funds, credit
rating agencies, and accounting and consulting firms--you know, liberal
extremists. And they are saying: Here it comes; let's get ready. They
have asked that companies begin to come clean on the climate risk they
The big energy companies need to come clean on how much they are
spending to deny climate science and where they are spending it,
because, ultimately, it is their own investors who will be hurt by
their irresponsibility. Ultimately, all the phony climate denial they
pay for is a fool's errand because the laws of physics, chemistry, and
biology aren't going away, and a day of reckoning for all this mischief
and nonsense they have paid for inevitably will come.
We in the Senate have a duty to the American people to find a way to
combat climate change. I realize this body will need help in that task.
We will need help from the business community, which can apply its
understanding of market forces and risk analysis to this challenge. It
would help if the fossil fuel industry would focus on the long term
health of its shareholders rather than on short-term gain. The fossil
fuel industry should stand down the relentless political opposition it
has maintained to any climate solution, and it should stand down the
phony climate denial operation it continues to support.
It will take all of us coming together--companies, investors,
regulators, governments, citizens, Republicans and Democrats--to
achieve Donald Trump's once-stated goal of combating the “catastrophic
and irreversible effects of climate change”--his quote: “catastrophic
and irreversible effects of climate change.”
I did not misquote President Trump, although he was Donald Trump
then. It was 2009, and this full page advertisement was taken out in
the New York Times declaring that the science of climate change was
“irrefutable” and the consequences of climate change would be
“catastrophic and irreversible.” It was signed by none other than
Donald J. Trump, as well as his children, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric
Trump, and Ivanka Trump. They were right then. If they get back to
this, they will be right now.
The evidence and the science have only piled up since 2009. It is
time for all of us to heed the advice of our universities, our
scientists, and the people who actually know what they are talking
about, and put the arguments of the fossil fuel industry where they
belong--in the trash bin of history. We need to wake up before it is
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, last night, President Trump began his
speech with an appropriate reference to the anti-Semitic attacks that
have occurred all over the country. Two bomb threats were called into a
Jewish community center in the New Haven area in Connecticut. I visited
that center and the staff and the kids of that center, who are now
being housed in a nearby synagogue. He also condemned, in strong terms,
the murder of a young man in Kansas City, the victim of an apparent
hate crime, targeted for simply being a foreigner or being of a
different religion. We can't know exactly what the reason was, but it
was an attack based on hate.
I want to tell my colleagues a little bit about that young man, to
begin with, as a means of, once again, coming to the floor of the
Senate to tell my colleagues about the victims of gun violence in this
country--the 86 or so
people every day who are taken by guns, suicides, and murders and
accidental shootings; the 2,600 people a month whose lives are taken
through gun violence, and the 31,000 a year. By the way, that number is
just the number of people who are killed. Those are the lives that are
eliminated. There are another 75,000 every year who are injured by gun
fire, whose lives are irrevocably altered by that act of violence.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla was a 32-year-old engineer. He was working for
Garmin. He was just hanging out at a bar. It was Austin's Bar and
Grill, and he was enjoying the company of friends. Witnesses saw a man
enter the bar. He was agitated, and he was drunk. He was a patron of
the bar. He had left and he reentered, and he began shooting at
Srinivas and his friend. Witnesses say that the shooter told Srinivas
to “get out of my country” before killing him and then critically
injuring his friend and an unbelievably brave bystander who tried to
stop the shooter.
Hundreds of grief-stricken family members and friends gathered in his
hometown in India for this young man's funeral. In accordance with
Hindu tradition, his body was carried on a carriage and his ashes were
laid to rest. Friends said that his mother was absolutely wailing as
the carriage went by.
His mother had wondered whether America was a safe place for her son.
Months before the shooting, she asked him to return to India if he was
feeling insecure, but he told her he was safe, that he was fine. His
wife also wondered how safe it would be to stay in the United States,
but she said that Srinivas always assured her that only good things
could happen to good people.
He undoubtedly was a good person. His family members remember him as
the kindest person you would meet. He was, in their words, “full of
love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of
hatred, simple gossip, or a careless comment.”
His friends and family members remember him as “brilliant, well-
mannered and simply an outstanding human being.”
He was “a very sharp, top-of-his-class kind of guy,” said one of
his classmates at the University of Texas at El Paso where Srinivas
earned a master's degree in electrical and electronic engineering. He
was also an avid cricket player and a big fan of cricket as well.
He was 32 years old. He was sitting at a bar, enjoying time with his
friends when a man who was at the bar, who probably saw Srinivas,
thought that he looked different from him and, filled with hate, walked
back into the bar and shot and killed him.
That is only one story from that day. On average, there are 85 other
stories across the country in which people lose their lives to gunfire.
What made me so mad last night was that after that moment--that
appropriate moment in which President Trump talked about this horrible
shooting--moments later, he referenced the daily slaughter that happens
in our cities. He spoke in front of the joint session for, it seemed,
nearly an hour and a half and offered absolutely no solutions to do
anything about the cascading gun violence that is enveloping our
Irony of all ironies, the same week that he is lamenting, eulogizing
Srinivas's death in Kansas City, he is signing a law passed by this
body that would allow for more people with serious mental illness to
get their hands on guns.
We don't know the full story of Adam Purinton yet, but you have to
imagine that this was someone who was deeply disturbed. Maybe he was
just drunk, but in order to decide to pull out a gun in a bar and shoot
someone just because they look different than you do probably means
that there is something going on--more than a few beers. Mr. Purinton
probably had some stuff going on. He might have been mentally ill.
When I got here, I thought that one of the few things we agreed
upon--Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives--was that
if you were seriously mentally ill, you probably shouldn't be able to
buy a weapon, not because people with a mental illness are inherently
dangerous--that is not true at all--but because erring on the side of
caution when it comes to someone who is seriously ill would probably be
the safe thing to do. That used to be a bipartisan commitment.
A few weeks ago, this body passed a law to allow tens of thousands of
people who have serious mental illness, who have been judged by a
government agency to be so sick that they can't manage their own
financial affairs, they literally can't cash a check, their Social
Security check has to be sent to someone else because they can't manage
their affairs--we passed a law to allow those people to buy guns.
Spare me your concern for the victims of gun violence if you are not
willing to do anything about it and, in fact, you are going to take
steps to make gun violence more likely rather than less likely in this
country. So 31,000 people a year, 2,600 a month, 86 a day--there is no
other country in the world in which this happens. There is no other
country in the world in which these numbers of people are dying from
guns. It is our fault because week after week, month after month, year
after year, we do nothing about it, and now we are making it worse.
In the 4 years after Sandy Hook happened, I went back to tell people
that we had done nothing. That was embarrassing enough. Now I have to
go back to the families of Sandy Hook and tell people that when
Congress thinks about gun violence, we think about making changes in
the law to make gun violence more likely, to put more guns into the
hands of dangerous people. We are going backward now.
Teresa Robertson owned a floral shop in a beauty shop in Fairfax, OK.
Fairfax is a really small town, a really tight-knit community. It is
still on edge because about a week ago, Teresa's estranged husband
walked into the store, started shooting at Teresa, and then barricaded
himself inside city hall, firing shots at the local police, who
returned fire, fatally killing Teresa's husband.
She had filed a protective order against her husband about 2 weeks
before because she feared for her life. She filed for divorce a week
later, and a week following that, he shot her.
Laws can protect against something like that, right? We have the
power to stop that. In Connecticut, if you file a protective order
against a spouse who you believe is going to harm you, the police have
the ability to take those weapons away for the period of time in which
you were adjudicating that protective order.
If that law had been in effect in Oklahoma, maybe Teresa Robertson
would still be alive today and maybe her husband would still be alive
and maybe their two kids--ages 13 and 16--wouldn't be without both of
The fact is, every single day, domestic partners--women primarily--
are killed or are shot by boyfriends or estranged husbands. It often
plays out just like this: protective order, divorce filing, murder.
That is on us.
We have the ability to protect women from their estranged husbands.
There are laws. We can't stop every shooting, but it certainly can cut
down on these numbers.
Two days later, emergency responders found 26-year-old Michael
“Shane” Watkins bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to the head
on Berkshire Avenue in Bridgeport, CT. He died shortly after arriving
at the hospital. The police are still investigating the shooting, but
they believe that Shane was an innocent victim of a robbery that went
His friends said that Shane was someone who was always laughing, who
was always smiling, who had a good heart, was a caring person. A
neighbor said that Shane was “always upbeat, always joking, always
smiling.” This was a good kid.
He was a dedicated family man. He was a long time employee of the
local Stop & Shop. He was 26 years old. This was a robbery gone bad.
Shane Watkins was one of those 86.
Twelve-year-old Kanari Gentry Bowers was playing basketball with
friends in Chicago, IL, at Henderson Elementary School. A stray bullet
hit her on February 11. For 4 awful, agonizing days, Kanari sat lying
unconscious in the hospital with a bullet lodged in her 12-year-old
spine before she died on February 15.
Her family released a statement that said: “Please keep your
children close and do whatever it takes to protect them from the
senseless gun violence in our city.”
That doesn't sound exceptional, does it? “Please keep your children
close and do whatever it takes to protect them.” Think about that
idea. Think about the idea that you can't let your children get far
away from you in Chicago today because they are not at risk of getting
lost; they are at risk of being shot.
The little girl had dreams of becoming a judge. That is not something
that a lot of 12-year-old girls are thinking about, but Kanari wanted
to be a judge. She was described as a vivacious young girl.
I hear President Trump talk about Chicago all the time. He talks
about Chicago as though he cares, but he doesn't propose anything that
would reduce the trajectory of gun violence, the horror of living in
neighborhoods that you can't let your child stray more than a few feet
from you without fearing for their lives. He has proposed nothing to do
with making that city safer.
People say Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the Nation,
yet it is one of the most violent places. Exactly, exactly: Chicago has
some of the toughest gun laws in the Nation. New York City has some of
the toughest gun laws in the Nation. They are still violent places.
Why? Because the vast majority of guns in those cities, the illegal
guns that spread throughout the city like poison ivy come from outside
of Chicago. They come from Indiana. In New York, they come from South
Carolina. They come from North Carolina. They come from places in which
it is easy to buy a gun without a background check at a gun show or on
the internet. They flow into these cities and become used in murder
If you don't have a Federal requirement that background checks have
to be conducted wherever you buy a gun, no matter how strong the laws
of Chicago are, they can't be protected; 12-year-old girls can't be
This was all in February, by the way. This was all in the last 3
On February 20, some friends got together at a local church in
Pomona, CA, and all of a sudden, gunshots started firing through the
windows and the walls of this church--a drive-by shooting.
You know who was dead at the end of that? An 8-year-old little boy
named Jonah. He was adopted from an orphanage in Taiwan. He had been in
the United States for only 3 years. His adoptive parents and his
friends--you should read what they say about this kid: “He had an
infectious smile and loved everyone and everything.”
He was still learning English, but with his playful demeanor, he had
adapted almost immediately to life in the United States. He loved
wrestling with his adoptive dad, running, laughing. He loved
superheroes. He was always injuring himself jumping off of something.
He loved living in this country.
He was a 5-year-old in an orphanage in Taiwan, and then he was in the
United States with a dad and with superhero action figures, and now he
is dead because somebody fired bullets randomly into a church in
Why don't we do anything about this? We are not so coldhearted as to
be unable to understand what life is like for a mom and a dad who lose
an 8-year-old child. We are not so brain-dead as to not be able to
comprehend the fact that every time someone is shot, there are at least
20 people whose lives are permanently altered.
The post-traumatic stress involved in one shooting has enormous
ripple effects. I have talked at length on this floor about the
constant grief that envelopes my town of Sandy Hook because of what
happened there. It will never end.
Now, instead of defending the status quo, we are talking about making
it easier for deeply mentally ill people to get guns. A bill was just
introduced on the floor of the Senate this week that would allow for
someone to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the Nation, regardless
of what that local State jurisdiction wanted. If you had a concealed
weapon permit in Texas, you would be able to walk into Manhattan
without any way for the local police to check you out. There is even an
effort to make silencers legal.
Mr. President, 31,000 a year, 2,600 a month, 86 a day. I have come
down to the floor I don't know how many times--certainly not as many as
Senator Whitehouse but many times to tell the stories of the victims. I
told a few more this afternoon because if the data doesn't move you--
again, only in this country; in no other country in the world does this
happen--then maybe the stories of these victims will move you. Maybe
being able to put yourself in the shoes of a mom who lost a child, of a
husband who lost a wife way before their time, will move you to action.
This is only controversial here. Ninety percent of the American
public wants us to move forward with the universal background checks.
The majority of Americans think these super-powerful military weapons
should stay in the hands of the military and law enforcement. Everybody
out there wants to give law enforcement the tools and the funding
necessary to carry out the existing law. It is not controversial out in
the American public; it is only controversial here.
It is about time that we do something about this epic level of
carnage that continues to plague our Nation and have some response to
these voices of victims that seem endless.
I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). Without objection, it is so
Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted
to enter into a colloquy with the Senator from Delaware.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I am here to discuss, along with the
Senator from Delaware, the issue of Russia. I know it has been at the
forefront of much of the debate that is ongoing in this country. I
wanted to begin by commending the Vice President and Secretary of
Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State for
the strong message of support for NATO. That includes the President
last night and their strong support, by the way, for the Transatlantic
Alliance that these individuals outlined during their respective visits
to the Munich Security Conference and meetings with allies in February.
At that Munich Security Conference on February 18, the Russian
Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said: “I hope [he means the world]
will choose a democratic world order, a post-West one, in which each
country is defined by its sovereignty.” I think that based on recent
history, it is clear that when a Russian leader says “post-West,” we
should interpret that as a phrase to mean post-America.
So I would ask the Senator with regard to this, what are his views
with regard to Vladimir Putin's desire to establish spheres of
influence in Europe and the Middle East, create divisions with our
allies. How should we view the Russian world view as it compares to the
national interests of the United States?
Mr. COONS. I would like to thank my friend, the Senator from Florida,
my colleague on the Foreign Relations Committee and on the
Appropriations Committee. I would like to answer his question by
saying, it seems clear to all of us on the Foreign Relations Committee
who have had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe to visit with
our NATO allies that Vladimir Putin has a world view and an agenda that
is in sharp contrast with our own.
Vladimir Putin dreams of returning Russia to the days of the Russian
Empire, to reexerting influence over a broad geographic region from the
Baltic Sea and Poland and Ukraine to the Caucasus and Central Asia. He
has internally used the West and NATO as a scapegoat for Russia's
internal economic woes. He has, as we know, launched invasions or
extended his influence through forces and supported illiberal and
separatist fighters in Georgia and Ukraine and Moldavia, former Soviet
republics, and has launched cyber attacks and propaganda campaigns and
coordinated the use of all his tools of state power against our NATO
allies in the Baltic region and Central and Western Europe.
All of these things suggest a very different world view, a different
set of values than we have in the United States and a different set of
values in a way that really worries me. As my colleague from Florida
has suggested, when Foreign Minister Lavrov talks about a world order
defined by sovereignty, he is challenging us. He is challenging what
the West really stands for, what we in America stand for.
I believe what we stand for is the universal values on which we
forged the Transatlantic Alliance more than 70 years ago, a
Transatlantic Alliance that has been a force for stability and good in
the world, a Transatlantic Alliance that has secured peace in Western
Europe, North America ever since the close of the Second World War but
a Transatlantic Alliance that is rooted in values, values of freedom of
speech, freedom of press, rule of law and democracy, and in opposition
We support American leadership because a stable and prosperous world
makes us safer and more economically secure. So I would ask my friend
from Florida what he views as the agenda or the objective of Russia and
whether we can be hopeful, in any way, that Vladimir Putin's Russia has
an agenda that is harmonious with ours, that can be put in the same
direction as ours or whether it is fundamentally at odds.
Mr. RUBIO. To answer that question, I would begin by reminding
everyone that when we are talking about Russia, we are not talking
about the Russian people. We are talking about Vladimir Putin and the
cronies who surround him and their goals for the future. We have no
quarrel with the Russian people, who I actually believe would very much
want to have a better relationship with the United States and certainly
live in a world in which their country was more like ours than the way
their government now runs theirs.
The second thing I would point to is, it is important to understand
history. At the end of the Second World War, Nazism had been conquered,
and the Japanese Empire and its designs had also been ended, fascism
defeated. The United States and the world entered this period of a Cold
War, a battle between communism and the free world. The United States
and our allies stood for that freedom. At the fall of the Berlin Wall,
the end of the Soviet bloc, the fall of communism, the world we all
hoped had entered into this new era, where every nation had a different
system--maybe some had a parliamentary system, maybe some had a
republic, such as ours--but in the end, more people than ever would
have access to a government responsive to their needs.
That was the growing trend around the world, up until about 7, 8, 10
years ago. We now see the opposite. We see a rising arc of the
totalitarianism, and within that context is where I believe Vladimir
Putin's world view is constructed. He views the values we stand for,
which some may call Western values, and perhaps that is the right
terminology, but I really believe in universal values: the idea that
people should have a role to play in choosing their leader, that people
should have a freedom to worship as they see fit, that people should be
able to express their opinions and ideas freely without fear of
retribution or punishment by the government.
These are the values I think we have stood for and that our allies
have stood for and that we had hoped Russia would stand for in this new
era, but Vladimir Putin viewed that as a threat. In particular, over
the last number of years, he has decided the best way for him to secure
his place in Russian politics is through an aggressive foreign policy
in which he views it as a zero-sum game.
That is not the way we view it. We actually view the world as a place
where we can help rebuild Japan; we can help rebuild Germany. They are
stronger, and we are stronger. It isn't one or the other.
He does not see it that way. He views the world as a place where in
order for Russia to be greater, America has to be less; in order for
him to be more powerful, we have to be less powerful, and it is a world
in which he has to undermine democratic principles and try to expose
them as fraudulent.
That is why you saw the Russian intelligence services meddle in our
elections in 2016. One of the main designs they had was to create doubt
and instability about our system of government and to not just
discredit it here at home but to discredit it around the world.
I just returned from Europe a week ago. Germany and France, which
both have upcoming elections of their own, are seeing an unprecedented
wave of active measures on the part of Russian intelligence to try to
influence their elections. In the Netherlands, we have seen some of the
same. So this is very concerning.
Our European allies are very concerned about the weaponization of
cyber technology to strategically place information in the public
domain for purposes of undermining candidates, steering elections, and
I want everybody to understand this is not just about elections. The
exact same tools they used in the 2016 Presidential election, they
could use to try to influence the debate in the Senate by attacking
individual Senators or individual viewpoints and using their control
over propaganda to begin to spread that.
I will give you just one example, and that is in May of 2015, the
German intelligence agencies reported an attack on the German
Parliament, on energy companies, on universities. They attribute that
to Russian hackers.
In Montenegro, the Prime Minister has sought membership in NATO, an
action we have supported in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
which both of us serve on, but Russian intelligence has plotted at a
very aggressive level to disrupt their elections late last year.
Moscow has used TV and Internet outlets like Russia Today, or RT, and
Sputnik to launch propaganda campaigns to galvanize anti-EU extremists
ahead of the Dutch elections. The list goes on and on. There is no
shortage of them.
The point is, we are in the midst of the most aggressive, active
measures ever undertaken by a foreign government to not just meddle in
American policy debates and American elections but in those throughout
the free world, and it is deeply concerning.
I think another matter that I would love to hear the Senator's
opinion on is on the issue of human rights violations because, on top
of being a totalitarian state, what goes hand in hand with
totalitarianism are human rights violations. In fact, totalitarianism
is, in and of itself, a human rights violation; that there can be no
dictatorship, no repressive regime, no totalitarian leader who can
maintain themselves in power without violating the human rights of
So I would ask the Senator--I would love to have his comment on
whether or not, indeed, Vladimir Putin is a serial human rights
violator and what our policy should be in terms of outlining that to
Mr. COONS. We have worked together on a number of bills in this area.
Let me respond to my friend the Senator by saying it is clear that
Vladimir Putin's Russia has been a serial human rights violator. When
we talk about human rights, we talk about things that belong to
everyone, and they are necessary as a check on state power. When
nations break these rules, we believe they should be held accountable.
Russia continues to engage in efforts, as my colleague said, that
undermine democracy in free elections throughout Europe. We have shared
concerns about the upcoming elections--the Dutch elections, French, and
German elections--where there are overt actions and covert actions by
Russia to influence the outcome of those elections, but part of why
they are doing that, part of why they are violating these norms around
Europe is because they are seeking to distract from their brutal rule
The reality is, many of the critics of Putin's regime end up dead or
Boris Nemtsov, a Russian politician who supported the introduction of
capitalism into the Russian economy and frequently criticized Vladimir
Putin, was assassinated 2 years ago, on February 27, on a bridge just
near the Kremlin in Moscow.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian politician and journalist, was
apparently poisoned last month, the second time in recent years. He had
been actively promoting civil society and democracy in Russia.
Back in September of 2012, Putin threw USAID out of Russia
altogether, claiming that U.S. efforts were undermining Russian
sovereignty when, in fact, we had been working in Russia since the
nineties, supporting human rights, independent journalism, and
promoting fair elections.
Most importantly, in my view, Russia doesn't just violate the human
rights of its own citizens, it exports brutality.
Russia's support for Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime and brutal
war in Syria continues. Their military has targeted hospitals, schools,
and Syrian first responders. They have blocked the provision of food
and medicine to starving families and children. Russia's diplomats have
vetoed any efforts at the United Nations to act to stop the suffering
in Syria. Also, Russia, having illegally invaded Ukraine and annexed
Crimea, continues to promote violence and instability in eastern
Ukraine, in the Donbas region, leading to the deaths of thousands.
All of these human rights violations within Russia and in countries
around its sphere of influence, in its region, suggest to us that they
need to be held accountable for these violations of basic human rights.
Like the Senator from Florida, I led a codel to Eastern and Central
Europe. Mine was not last week. It was last August, but with two
Republican House Members and two Democratic Senate Members, the five of
us went to the Czech Republic, to Ukraine, and to Estonia. We heard
widespread concern about this record of human rights and a disrespect
for democracy in Russia and about this aggressive hybrid warfare
campaign that threatens Ukraine's very stability and existence, that
puts Estonia, our NATO ally, on warning, and that is putting at risk
Czech independence and Czech elections all across Central and Western
We have heard from Ambassadors, experts, those who have testified in
front of committees on which we serve, about a Russian campaign--a
brutal campaign--to undermine human rights within Russia and to
undermine democracy throughout Western Europe, with a larger strategic
goal of separating the United States from our Western allies and
undermining the Transatlantic Alliance that has been so essential to
our peace, security, and stability for 70 years. We cannot let this
There is no moral equivalence between Russia and the United States.
If we believe in our democracy and if we believe in our commitment to
human rights, we must stand up to this campaign of aggression. So I ask
my colleague what he believes we might be able to do on the Foreign
Relations Committee, on the Appropriations Committee, or here in the
Senate, what we might do, as voices working in a bipartisan way, to
stand up to these actions undermining democracy and human rights?
Mr. RUBIO. That is the central question. The first is what we are
doing now, which is an important part: shining the sunlight on all of
it, making people aware of it. For example, we know in France two of
the leading candidates have views that I think the Kremlin would be
quite pleased with, if that became the foreign policy of France--a
third, not so much. He is a very young candidate running as an
independent. His last name Macron. Suddenly, as he began to surge in
the polls, all these stories started appearing, ridiculous stories
about his personal life, about his marriage, things that are completely
false, completely fabricated. Fortunately, French society and the
French press understands this and has reported it as such.
It is important for us. This is happening and is real, and it is
unprecedented in its scope and in its aggression. So shining a light on
the reality and understanding, as I always tell my colleagues--I said
this last October, that this is not a partisan issue.
I am telling you that--to my Republican colleagues who might be
uncomfortable about discussing Russian interference--this is not about
the outcome of the election; this is about the conduct and what
happened throughout it. And what they did last year, in the fall, in
the Presidential race, they can do against any Member here. If they
don't like what you are saying, if they think you are getting too far
on policy, you could find yourself the target of Russian propaganda in
the hopes of undermining you, perhaps even having you eliminated from
the debate because they understand our political process quite well.
The second is to do no harm. There is this notion out there--and I
think on paper it sounds great, right--why don't we just partner up
with the Russians to defeat ISIS and take on radicalism around the
The problem is this: No. 1, that is what Russia claims they are
already doing. Vladimir Putin claims he is already doing that. So if he
is already doing it, why would we have to partner with him? He is
already doing it. Obviously, the answer is because he hasn't. This has
been about propping up Assad.
Here is the other problem. When you partner up with someone, you have
to take responsibility for everything they do and all the actions they
Senator Coons just outlined a moment ago, he said: Well, we talked
about the bombing in Aleppo.
Think about it. If we had partnered with Russia in Syria and they
were bombing Aleppo and they were hitting hospitals and they were
killing civilians and they were our partners, we have to answer for
that as well. We would be roped into that.
The third is to understand their strategic goal is not to defeat
radical elements in the Middle East; their strategic goal is to have
inordinate influence in Syria, with Iran, potentially in other
countries at the expense of the United States.
We have had two Presidents--a Republican and a Democrat--previous to
the current President who thought they could do such a deal with
Vladimir Putin. Both of them fell on their face because they did not
understand what they were dealing with. It is my sincerest hope that
our current President doesn't make the same mistakes.
In addition to that, I know there are a number of legislative
approaches that we have worked on together, as members of both the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Operations
Appropriations Subcommittee, and I would ask the Senator from Delaware
if he could highlight some of those legislative matters that we have
been talking about: resolutions, laws, and public policy that we have
Mr. COONS. Well, briefly, if I could. Two bills that are currently
gathering cosponsors--and which I hope our colleagues will review and
consider joining us in cosponsoring--one is S. 341, the Russia
Sanctions Review Act of 2017, which currently has 18 cosponsors. The
other is S. 94, the Counteracting Russian Hostilities Act of 2017, that
has 20 cosponsors--10 Republicans and 10 Democrats. In both cases, we
are proud to have a very broad range of both Republicans and Democrats
engaged in this important legislation, which ensures that Russia pays a
price for breaking the rules. It starts by taking action to support the
sanctions against the Russian Government for its occupation, its
illegal annexation of Crimea, for its egregious human rights violations
in Syria, and for meddling in the U.S. election. It prevents the
lifting of sanctions on Russia until the Russian Government ceases the
very activities that caused these sanctions to be put in place in the
first place. It supports civil society, pro-democracy, anti-corruption
activists in Russia and across Europe to show that many of us are
determined, as members of the Foreign Relations Committee, as members
of the Appropriations Committee, as Senators--not as partisans--that we
intend to fund the tools that will enable the United States and our
NATO allies to push back on Russia's aggression. Most of these tools
come from the international affairs budget: State Department and
foreign assistance accounts.
I want to commend you, Senator, for giving a strong and impassioned
speech on the floor today about the importance of our keeping all of
these tools in our toolkit so that as we confront our adversaries
around the world, we have the resources and the ability to partner with
and strengthen our allies as well.
We have no quarrel with the Russian people, but we are here because
there is nothing Vladimir Putin's regime would love more than to see
his actions divide us in this Chamber and divide us in this country
from our vital allies in Europe and divide the whole North Atlantic
community that for seven decades has brought peace and stability to
Europe, has brought prosperity to the United States, not as an act of
charity but as an investment in the best interests of security.
We are here to say with one voice that we will stand up to Russian
aggression that undermines democracy and violates human rights.
I am grateful for my colleague, for the chance to join him on the
floor today, and I look forward to working together with any of our
colleagues who see these issues as clearly as my friend and colleague,
the Senator from Florida.
Mr. RUBIO. I thank the Senator for joining me in this endeavor here
today. It is important that we speak out about this.
In a moment, the majority leader will be here with some procedural
matters that will, I guess, take the Senate to a different posture.
Before that happens, I wanted to close by not just thanking him for
being a part of this but by making a couple more points.
The first is, I want you to imagine for a moment, if you are sitting
at the Kremlin and you are watching on satellite television the debate
going on in American politics today, you are probably feeling pretty
good about yourself. You have one group arguing that maybe the
elections weren't legitimate because the Russians interfered. In
essence, there have been news reports about a tension between the
President and the Intelligence Committee. You have these reports every
single day back and forth. You are looking at all this chaos, and you
are saying to yourself: We did a pretty good job. If what we wanted to
do was to divide the American people against each other, have them at
each other's throats, arguing about things, and sowing chaos and
instability into their political process, I think you look at the
developments of the last 6 weeks and 6 months, and if you are in the
Kremlin, you say: Well, our efforts have been pretty successful with
that. I think that is the first thing we need to understand.
The second thing is, this should all be about partisanship. I am a
member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is probably known that
we are undertaking an investigation into Russian interference in the
2016 elections. I want everyone to know--I speak for myself and I
believe almost all of my colleagues when I say, on the one hand, I am
not interested in being a part of a witch hunt; on the other hand, I
will not be part of a coverup. We are going to get to the truth. We
want to get to the truth. We want to be able to deliver to this body
and to the American people a document with truth and facts, wherever
they may lead us, because this is above political party. Our system of
government and this extraordinary Republic has been around for over two
centuries. It is unique and it is special, and with all of its
blemishes and flaws, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
I want people to think about that. The next time you wonder and say
to yourself that things are so tough in America and things are going so
poorly, well, with whom would you trade places? I am not saying we
don't have problems, because we do, but I ask, in what country would
you rather be? I promise you that you won't say China if you know
anything about China. I promise you that you won't say Russia if you
know anything about Russia. There is no nation on Earth we would trade
places with, and there is no process of government I would trade for
ours. It is not perfect.
One of the strengths of our system is our ability to stand up here in
places like the Senate and discuss our differences and our problems and
make continuous progress forward even if the pace is slower and more
frustrating than we wish. That is what is at stake in this process and
what is at stake in this debate. That is what none of us can allow to
see erode because of interference by a foreign government, especially
one that is a thug and war criminal in every sense of the word.
So our quarrel is not with the Russian people and it is not with
Russia. I have extraordinary admiration for the Russian people. I have
extraordinary admiration for the sacrifices and contributions they have
made throughout history to our culture and to the world. But,
unfortunately, today their government is run by an individual who has
no respect for his own people and no respect for the freedom and
liberty of others, and it is important for our policymakers on both
sides of the aisle to be clear-eyed and clear-voiced in what we do
I thank the Senator for being with us today and allowing us to engage
in this discussion. I hope we will see more of that in the weeks and
months to come so we can speak clearly and firmly in one voice that on
issues involving America and our sovereignty and our system of
government and decisions we must make, we will speak with one voice as
one Nation, as one people, as one country.
I thank the Presiding Officer, and I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.