From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the
Senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the
Lighthizer nomination, which the clerk will report.
The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Robert
Lighthizer, of Florida, to be United States Trade Representative, with
the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair
lays before the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will
The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:
We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the
provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate,
do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination
of Robert Lighthizer, of Florida, to be United States Trade
Representative, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and
Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Mike Rounds, Orrin G.
Hatch, Thom Tillis, Steve Daines, Mike Crapo, Pat
Roberts, Thad Cochran, Luther Strange, John Thune,
Richard C. Shelby, John Hoeven, John Boozman, Rob
Portman, Jerry Moran, David Perdue.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. By unanimous consent, the mandatory
quorum call has been waived.
The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the
nomination of Robert Lighthizer, of Florida, to be United States Trade
Representative, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and
Plenipotentiary, shall be brought to a close?
The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
The clerk will call the roll.
The senior assistant legislative clerk called the roll.
Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the
Senator from West Virginia (Mrs. Capito), the Senator from Alaska (Ms.
Murkowski), and the Senator from Alaska (Mr. Sullivan).
Further, if present and voting, the Senator from West Virginia (Mrs.
Capito) would have voted “yea” and the Senator from Alaska (Ms.
Murkowski) would have voted “yea.”
Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Missouri (Mrs.
McCaskill) is necessarily absent.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sasse). Are there any other Senators in
the Chamber desiring to vote?
The yeas and nays resulted--yeas 81, nays 15, as follows:
[Rollcall Vote No. 126 Ex.]
The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 81, the nays are
The motion is agreed to.
The Senator from Wyoming.
Congressional Review Act Resolutions
Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, over the past few months, Congress has
passed 14 different resolutions that are going to save the American
people money and are going to make it a lot easier for our economy to
grow. There have been 14 times since February that we have struck down
unnecessary, burdensome, and costly regulations.
These were called “midnight regulations” because they came at the
end of the Obama administration. Some came out, actually, after the
Presidential election had been completed. The outcome was known, and,
still, the outgoing administration tried to continue with what
President Obama's Chief of Staff at one time called “audacious
executive actions.” Half of these 14 regulations--half of them--were
actually put in place after the November Presidential election.
When one thinks about the election last year in November, President
Obama said time and again during the campaign that his agenda was on
the ballot. The American people rejected that agenda, and the President
dumped these new rules on the American people as a parting shot. We
wiped out 14 of these regulations--wiped them off the books.
In one resolution, we rolled back an important part of President
Obama's war on coal. That was the so-called stream buffer rule. It was
designed to shut down a lot of the surface coal mining in this country.
It would have destroyed up to one-third of coal mining jobs in America.
So we passed a resolution that will protect coal mining jobs and
protect American energy independence.
There was another resolution we passed that restores the role of
local land managers in deciding how best to use Federal land. Before
the Obama administration, the local experts were the ones who would
help decide how Federal land could be used in so many areas around the
country. These are the people on the ground. They are the ones who know
best what works there. They are the ones with the best sense of how to
balance all of the different ways that land can be used. That could be
things like recreation, energy production, and grazing.
Well, the Obama administration said it wasn't interested in hearing
from the local experts anymore. It decided to put the decisions--all of
those decisions--in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats
in Washington, DC. So Congress passed a resolution that says these are
decisions that affect local communities and those communities should
have the say--and a significant amount of say--in how decisions get
When we look at these 14 resolutions all together, they will save
Americans over $4 billion and more than 4 million hours of paperwork
because not only are the regulations expensive, they are burdensome and
I can tell my colleagues this is just the beginning. These
resolutions are just one tool that we have to strike down bad
regulations. There is much more that Congress can do and will do, and
there is much more that the Trump administration can do.
The administration has already made it clear that the bureaucrats in
Washington are not in charge anymore. I plan to make sure the Trump
administration keeps up the pace and tosses some of the worst
regulations and rules into the garbage where they belong.
A good place to start would be for Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the
Interior, to throw out another rule that makes it more difficult to
produce American energy. This regulation supposedly tries to reduce how
much methane gets lost in oil and gas production. There is always some
unprocessed natural gas that gets released at gas and oil wells. Energy
producers try to gather up this gas and then ship it to a processing
plant where, of course, it can be sold. It can be used by customers,
and taxes are paid on it that go to State and local governments, as
well as money that is raised by the sales for the companies themselves.
To do that, the producers need small pipelines. They need these small
pipelines to collect the unprocessed gas from the wells and to get it
to the processing plant. Here is the problem: We don't have enough of
these gathering lines. Without the gathering lines, the only option is
for that gas to get burned, and that extra natural gas will escape into
So what do the bureaucrats in Washington say? They could have
addressed the real reason this gas is being lost; that is, the fact
that they haven't allowed enough of these gathering lines on Federal
land. Instead, they decided to write a regulation that makes it tougher
for us to produce American energy here in America. The Obama
administration blocked the permits to build the gathering lines.
So this methane rule is a terrible regulation. It is redundant. It is
unnecessary. I believe it is illegal, and it needs to go. Secretary
Zinke should wipe the slate clean and get rid of this outrageous rule
immediately. He should also order the bureaucrats who work for him to
start approving more of these gas-gathering lines. That is what we
really need. We need to make energy as clean as we can, as fast as we
can, and do it in ways that do not raise costs for American families.
We need to balance thoughtful regulation with a growing economy. We can
The Obama administration absolutely failed to strike the right
balance. The Trump administration and Congress have a lot more we can
do to make sure we get the balance right.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Carolina.
Mr. TILLIS. Mr. President, I will be brief. I think the Senator from
Oklahoma is going to go into some additional details, and the Senator
from Wyoming did a great job of summarizing some of the positive
results that have come from our actions. I want to refer to his
resolutions of disapproval for regulations that we feel were an
When we went through the 14 votes--we actually had 15, but we were
not able to succeed in 1 last regulation of disapproval yesterday--
there were arguments put forth against our disapproving these
regulations. It was as if we were completely deregulating the subject
matter area that we were focused on, but that was not the case. What we
were trying to do is eliminate the duplication and the costs associated
with layering regulations on top of regulations.
We have a lot of discussion around here about tax reform, and we need
to do that, but if we look at the regulatory burden on businesses and
homeowners and State and local governments, there is a smart, right-
size way to implement regulations, and there is a costly, complex,
wrong way to implement regulations.
So I am proud we were able to get 14 resolutions of disapproval
completed. I think they were regulations that were not necessary. They
are obviously areas that if Congress ever needed to act, we could go
back and implement regulations, if necessary.
What we ended up doing through this action over the past couple of
months with the administration is reduce regulatory burdens by $67
billion, and we have eliminated some 56 million paperwork hours. We are
eliminating, we are cutting redtape, and that is a good thing.
I appreciate all the Members who worked hard on getting this
together. I particularly appreciate my staff--Bill Bode and Torie Ness
in particular--who worked hard with the other Senate offices to see
what kind of support we could get for moving these regulatory
disapprovals forward. I thank my fellow Members and the administration
for working with us to fulfill our promise, which is to right-size
government and get our economy going again.
With that, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, first of all, I appreciate the comments
made by my colleague from North Carolina. It is even more meaningful to
me because all during the time the regulations were coming on, I
happened to be the one who was chairing the Environment and Public
Works Committee, and we knew what was going to happen.
I am almost speechless when I think about the success. We went 20
years only taking up 1 CRA, and then we end up passing 14 of them--all
but 1. That is a huge, successful record. My colleagues understand,
this gives us the opportunity for people who are answerable to the
public--people who are elected and have to stand for elections--to have
a part in what is sometimes considered to be the action of an unelected
We have had great opportunities here. I think the “midnight”
regulations--a term that is used quite often--so that a party going out
of office, such as President Obama, being very liberal--a very proud
liberal, I might add--wanted to get as many of his rules in at the last
minute. We were able to come in and pass these in the time required. We
were able to pass 14 of these, in addition to the other regulations and
other methods of doing regulations, which I want to address a little
bit. It is just not something that we really anticipated would happen.
Now, I am particularly proud because mine was the first CRA to be
passed in 20 years, and that was the very first one that came from what
President Obama wanted having to do with the oil and gas industry, but
the fact that nothing passed in that long period of time just shows now
that people are recognizing that we who stand for election should be
involved in this process of doing away with these regulations.
Now, the rule that I brought to the floor, which was the first one
the President signed--we had a great signing ceremony and I enjoyed it
very much--was the one that affected the oil and gas industry. It was
an SEC ruling of the Obama administration that said that if you are a
domestic producer of oil and gas--of course, that is the private
sector--you have to release all of the information you are using in
producing a bid against maybe another country. To use an example, in
China, it is not in the private sector like it is in the United States.
Their oil and gas business is in the public sector so they would have a
distinct advantage. Quite frankly, it is consistent with what the
previous President--President Obama--was doing in his war on fossil
fuels. Fossil fuels are coal, oil, and gas, and he was very proud to be
opposed to coal, oil, and gas, and frankly nuclear too.
I have often wondered--I go back to Oklahoma virtually every weekend
that I don't have to be in one of the war zones or someplace like that.
I go there really for my therapy because they ask questions that make
sense. We don't get these questions in Washington. One of them I
remember was in Shattuck, OK. When I was there, somebody said: Explain
this to me. We have a President who wants to do away with fossil fuels
and he wants to do away with nuclear energy. Now, we are dependent upon
fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, and nuclear energy for 89 percent of
the power it takes to run this machine called America. If he is
successful in doing away with it, how do we run this machine called
Well, I am proud to say that the war against fossil fuels is over.
The particular CRA I sponsored came out of the Dodd-Frank Act.
By the way, overregulation is overregulation. When I talk to people
back in my State of Oklahoma, if they are in
the banking business or the financial services business, they are
concerned about the overregulation that comes from Dodd-Frank. If they
are farmers, they are concerned about the regulation that would take
the jurisdiction of regulating our water resources out of the States
and putting it in the Federal Government. So that is what this is all
So I will tell you how serious this was. The CRA that I had was so
significant that the Federal courts came in, in July of 2013, and said
that the SEC made several errors in rushing this regulation through.
They actually vacated the rule. That was a major accomplishment. I was
very proud that I had the courts on my side, for a change.
Anyway, the SEC finalized the second rule under the authority of
Dodd-Frank, section 1504, by making some--without any really
substantial changes. Nonetheless, this is the one that he first signed.
So thanks to the Congressional Review Act, oil and gas companies are
not at a disadvantage when they are competing with State-owned oil and
gas companies such as we have in China.
We passed other critical CRAs because regulations tied the hands of
our businesses and took local control away from the States. A lot of
people in America--and I think a higher percentage of my people in
Oklahoma--are really concerned about Second Amendment rights. Of
course, we had one of the regulations that went through--in fact,
Second Amendment rights, when we talk about the farmers and the
ranchers and not just from my State of Oklahoma--we are a farm State--
but throughout America, they will tell you that there are problems.
Their No. 1 concern was--and I asked the Farm Bureau representative. He
said the greatest problem facing farmers is not anything that is found
in the ag bill, it is the overregulation by the EPA and specifically
what they call the WOTUS bill. The WOTUS bill, which is the one I just
mentioned, would take the jurisdiction away from the State and give it
to the Federal Government.
I have to say this. When you talk about “liberals,” that is not a
negative term. It is a reality. It is how much power should be in the
hands of the Federal bureaucrats as opposed to individuals and the
States. So we have a lot of these regulations. One of the things the
CRA has done is, it has taken away an excuse that people will use--I am
talking about people in this Chamber who are legitimately liberals and
believe we should have more control in Washington--it takes the power
away from the Federal bureaucrats because what they can do is go ahead
and pass the regulations. Then you go back home and when people are
yelling and screaming about being overregulated back in their home
States, they say: Don't blame me, blame the unelected bureaucrats. A
CRA takes away that excuse because it forces them to actually get on
So as chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public
Works, we were involved with more of these regulations than any other
committee because that is what we do for a living there. So I was very
happy to see all of the successes we had.
Let me just mention because I don't think it has been mentioned
before--and I will submit this for the Record. There are two ways of
doing away with these regulations, and one is through Executive orders.
I think everybody knows that. But they don't realize what has already
been done. I think we have had a total of 30, 31 regulations that have
been done away with either through Executive orders or through the
Congressional Review Act. Some of the Executive orders, for example,
are the WOTUS, the one we have been talking about; clean energy,
something which repeals the Clean Power Plan and something which
officially ended the war on fossil fuels, I might add; the Executive
order on rebuilding the military; the Executive order on the Keystone
and Dakota Access Pipelines--we are all familiar with that and the
Some of the CRAs really aren't talked about too much, and we are
talking about regulations that came from the Obama administration that
now have been done away with through use of CRAs--the educational rule
mandating Federal standards for evaluating teacher performance; the
educational rule establishing a national school board, with an effort
to get away from local control of the schools; the Interior rule that
blocked Alaska from controlling their own hunting and fishing in that
beautiful State; the Social Security rule that put seniors on a gun ban
list--Second Amendment rights.
All of these things are very significant, and I am very proud, quite
frankly, of this body. With the exception of one, we passed all 14 of
the CRAs, and I can't think of any time that has been done in the past.
So it is a great thing. It did put the power back in the hands of the
people who are elected here, and I am very glad to have been a
participant in that.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the complete list of the
Congressional Review Act resolutions passed and the Trump Executive
actions be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in
the Record, as follows:
Congressional Review Act Resolutions Passed
SEC Rule requiring oil and gas companies to disclose their
“playbooks” on how to win deals. Inhofe-CRA--first signed
since 2001; Stream Buffer Zone rule that blocks coal mining;
Education rule mandating federal standards for evaluating
teacher performance; Education rule establishing national
school board; Interior rule that blocked Alaska-control of
hunting & fishing; Social Security rule that put seniors with
“representative payees” on gun-ban list; OSHA rule that
changed paperwork violation statute of limitations from 6-
months to 5-years.
Defense rule that blocked contractors from getting deals if
suspected (not convicted) of employment-law violations; Labor
rule blocking drug-testing of unemployment beneficiaries; BLM
rule blocking oil and gas development on federal lands.
Federal Communications Commission rule that would have
established 2nd regime of privacy rules in addition to
Federal Trade Commission; HHS rule that would make it easier
for states to fund Planned Parenthood; Department of Labor
(DOL) rule forcing private sector employees onto goverment
run retirement plans; DOL rule allowing states to bypass
protections on retirement plans.
Trump Executive Actions
Regulatory reform: requires 2 regulations be repealed for
each new regulation; WOTUS: directs EPA to rescind Waters of
the United States Act; Energy: repeals clean power plan,
other harmful regulations . . . ending War on Fossil Fuels;
Mexico City: reinstates ban of fed funds going to NGOs that
do abortions; Hiring Freeze: freezes federal hiring (exempted
military); Military: rebuilds military; Approves Keystone XL
pipeline; Approves Dakota Access pipeline.
Permit Streamlining: expedites infrastructure and
manufacturing project permits; Immigration: 90 day suspension
on visas for visitors from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia,
Sudan, Yemen. 20 day suspension of U.S. Refugee Admission
Program; Sanctuary Cities: blocks federal Department of
Justice grants to sanctuary cities; Dodd-Frank: demands
review of Dodd-Frank banking regulations and demanding roll-
back; Shrink government: directs federal agencies to
reorganize to reduce waste and duplication; Trade: evaluates
policies to reduce trade deficit; Opioids: fed task force to
address opioid drug crisis; Fiduciary rule: delays
implementation of bad DOJ rule; Religious Liberty: Eases
enforcement of Johnson Amendment and grants other protections
for religious freedom; Offshore drilling: revises Obama-era
offshore drilling restrictions and orders a review of limits
on drilling locations; National Monuments: Directs a review
of national monument designations.
Improves accountability and whistleblower protections for
VA employees; Affirms local control of school policies and
examines Department of Ed regulations; Reviews agricultural
regulations; Reviews use of H-1B visas; Top-to-bottom audit
of Executive Branch; Moves Historically Black Colleges and
Universities offices from Department of Ed to White House;
Obamacare: directs federal agencies to ease burdens of ACA;
Establishes American Technology Council; Establishes office
of Trade and Manufacturing Policy; Identifies and reduces tax
regulatory burdens; “Hire America, Buy America”;
Establishes a collection and enforcement of antidumping and
countervailing duties and violations of Trade and Customs
laws; Creates an order of succession within DOJ; Revokes
federal contracting executive orders.
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. BLUNT. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Fischer). Without objection, it is so
Mr. BLUNT. Madam President, I want to talk today about a topic that
I think is getting more attention now than it has gotten for some
time--but still not the attention it deserves--and that is to talk a
little bit in May, which is Mental Health Month, about mental health.
I was on the floor of the Senate the last day of October 2013, the
50th anniversary of the last bill that President Kennedy signed into
law, which was the Community Mental Health Act. Through the Community
Mental Health Act, you saw the facilities that were about to be closed,
but the anticipated alternatives, in so many ways, never really
developed. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,
approximately one in five adults experiences mental illness in a given
year, and one in five young people between the ages of 13 and 18 will
experience severe mental illness sometime during their lifetime.
The National Institutes of Health says that one in four adult
Americans has a diagnosable, and almost always treatable, mental health
disorder, a mental behavioral health issue, and that one in nine adult
Americans has behavioral health illness that impacts how they live
every single day. So whether it is the statistic that relates to one in
four or one in five or one in nine, this is an issue that affects the
lives of lots of people.
Half of the children in that age group, 13 to 18, rarely get the help
they need, and even fewer adults do. About 40 percent of adults who
have behavioral health issues receive the treatment they need for that
issue. I think we are beginning to make great strides on this.
Certainly, the discussion has changed. The opportunity to treat mental
health like all other health has changed.
In the 113th Congress, just a few years ago, Senator Stabenow from
Michigan and I worked to get a bill passed; it was called the
Excellence in Mental Health Act, and we now have eight States that have
projects going on. In those eight States--in significant areas of all
of those States--behavioral health is being treated like all other
The idea is really built on the federally qualified health centers
idea, the reimbursement model, where anybody can go, and if you are
covered by a government program, that is taken into consideration. If
you are covered by private insurance, that is taken into consideration.
If you are paying cash, there is a significant and rapidly declining
amount of cash that you have to pay because your income gets smaller.
But everybody in these States would have access to mental health care,
just as they currently have access to other kinds of healthcare.
At the community mental health centers that meet 24/7 standards, that
are available, that have the staffing needs, and in other places that
have the staff the law requires and the access the law requires, people
can go to those facilities, and those providers will know they are
going to be reimbursed for treating mental health like all other
I am certainly glad that my State of Missouri is one of the eight
pilot States in that demonstration program. In our State, we have
been--I think by any standard--forward-leaning on this issue for a long
time, but not nearly as forward-leaning as we should be or as people
who look at the pervasive character of behavioral health issues
understand we should be.
When we passed the bill a couple of years ago, we really weren't sure
how much interest we would get from States. There was some sense that,
well, eight States would be all the States that would even want to do
this, if every State that wanted to apply and could go through the
application process did so. But, in fact, everybody in the mental
health world was encouraged to see 24 States, which represented half of
the population in the country, apply to be part of that pilot program--
certainly, leading by example here, figuring out what happens.
Frankly, if you treat behavioral health like all other health, I
think what many of these States will find--and they may all find--is
that the other health costs are much more easily dealt with and,
obviously, that not only is treating behavioral health like all other
health the right thing to do, but it actually may save money to spend
this money. People who have other health problems but who are seeing
their doctor because their behavioral health issue is under control may
be seeing two doctors. They are taking the medicine they need for
behavioral health--if they need medicine for that--but because they are
eating better, sleeping better, feeling better about themselves, they
are also taking the medicine and getting to the appointments for any
other health issue they have.
Early studies indicate that, actually, you save money by doing the
right thing and understanding that mental health isn't a topic we don't
talk about, but mental health is just another health issue we need to
We need to be sure that we have providers going forward. We don't
have enough doctors in Missouri--or in other States--who are able to
treat the increasing number of people who seek treatment. And as
doctors retire in these fields, we are going to have an even greater
shortage if we don't do something to encourage people to go into this
There is a particular shortage in care providers who deal with
children. Children and youth who are in need of mental health services
and who don't receive them run a greater risk of all kinds of other
problems, including dropping out of school, not doing well in school,
ending up in the criminal justice system--things that needlessly happen
because we haven't stepped forward and viewed their behavioral health
problem as we would if they had some other problems.
I was glad Senator Reed from Rhode Island and I were recently able to
reintroduce a bill called the Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty
Care Act. Pediatric medicine doesn't pay as well as other medicine for
lots of reasons. One is that children don't have a lot of their own
money to pay with, and often their parents don't have it either.
This bill that Senator Reed and I introduced would allow physicians
who want to specialize in, among other things, child and adolescent
psychiatry to be eligible for the National Health Service Corps student
loan repayment program. That program is generally not available now to
doctors who go on and specialize on the theory that if you specialize,
you are going to have more income than the general practice doctor
might have. Those programs have always been focused on the general
practice doctor, but if you specialize in children's health--whether it
is, frankly, psychiatry or any other area of children's health--you are
much less likely to financially benefit from deciding to do that. So
this would allow those doctors to pursue that program as part of how
they help get their loans paid back.
Whether it is physical or behavioral health, children have a unique
set of health needs and often a lack of ability on their own to do what
needs to be done. Medical residents who practice pediatric medicine
require additional training. One of the barriers they cite for not
getting that additional training is that they are going to have to have
these additional student loans. Hopefully, we can allow ways for them
to get into programs that other doctors get into, to see that they
continue to be encouraged to be part of pediatric medicine and
Also, we are looking at another bill, the Advancing Care for
Exceptional Kids Act, commonly referred to as ACE Kids. What ACE Kids
does is treat kids who have serious medical problems as exactly that--
to have a way to look at health needs and medically complex kids whom
you wouldn't look at otherwise, seeing that these particular patients
don't have to go through all kinds of barriers to find a doctor, fee
for service. Medically complex kids really need help, and I think we
could easily design a new and different way to deal with them.
Finally, talking about kids, I want to say one other thing, and that
is just to mention that this particular week is Teacher Appreciation
Week. I was a teacher after I got out of college, before I had a chance
later to be a university president. I think teachers are always
inclined to be teachers and try to tell the stories we need to hear.
But when we are talking about mental health and teachers, healthcare,
mental health, first aid are things that don't allow teachers to become
child psychiatrists or mental health professionals but do allow
teachers, as they
are watching the students whom they get to know so well, to identify
what students need help and what students don't. Often teachers get the
first chance outside the child's home to see that they are clearly
challenged or may be challenged in ways that are easily dealt with, if
they are dealt with, and are really troublesome if they are not dealt
with at all.
So while we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week at the very end of
school and Mental Health Month, I hope we commit ourselves to look at
these mental health issues for what they are. They are health issues.
They need to be talked about. The right thing to do is to deal with
I think we are seeing new and better things happen there, but we are
not nearly where we should be yet. As I said earlier, when Senator
Stabenow and I could go to the Floor on the 50th anniversary of the
last bill President Kennedy signed and 50 years later talk about how
few of the goals set in that bill have been met in five decades by
society, we really have a lot of catching up to do.
I believe and hope we are catching up, and I hope this is a month
where people really think about telemedicine, contacts, opportunities,
and excellence in mental health in ways we haven't before.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The assistant Democratic leader.
Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, before the Senator from Missouri leaves
the floor, I want to say a word about him and the topic he raised today
about health and, in this particular case, children.
Senator Blunt and I have adjoining States, Illinois and Missouri. We
have joined up, as well, on the issue of medical research. I salute
him. Even though he is my Republican colleague, I want to make clear
that this is a bipartisan issue. He has made it a bipartisan issue. We
had the good support of Senator Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and
Senator Murray, Democrat of Washington.
The Senator from Missouri has done some amazing things. I want to say
specifically for the Record that America owes him a debt of gratitude,
as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that is responsible for
the National Institutes of Health, the foremost leading medical
research agency in the world.
Let me tell you, with his leadership, what we accomplished. For two
straight years, Senator Blunt has been able to raise the appropriations
for medical research at the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion
or more. The net result of that is that a $30 billion budget has grown
to almost $34 billion. What does it mean? It means that researchers
don't get discouraged. They stay on their projects. They keep working
to find cures.
Secondly, we are making dramatic advances in medicine because of it.
His leadership has been absolutely essential. If there is ever a
bipartisan issue, this is it. The Senator has been quite a leader in
I want to salute you for that while you are on the floor on the topic
of healthcare and children.
Mr. BLUNT. Madam President, I appreciate my good friend's comments on
this but also his commitment to seeing that we make this happen. As he
mentioned, this is a bipartisan effort, but it is an effort that had
about a 10-year lag, and we are doing our best to dramatically catch up
with what is really an important time in healthcare research.
Mr. DURBIN. I thank my colleague from Missouri. I will tell you that
he set a standard. I hope that both parties will agree that this is the
starting point. For every year's budget, the starting point is at least
a 5-percent real growth increase in medical research.
Thank you, Senator Blunt, for your leadership.
Madam President, I also want to address an issue that came up in
debate last week in the U.S. House of Representatives; that is, the
question of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. This is an issue
where reasonable people can disagree about how exactly to run our
But at the end of the day, I hope that, as with medical research, we
can all come together with some basic issues. Congress should not pass
a law taking away health insurance coverage from Americans. Let's start
there. Congress should work together on a bipartisan basis to find ways
to reduce the cost of healthcare and health insurance premiums. I think
we should agree on that too.
Third, we have to find a way to make sure that consumers and families
across America are protected with health insurance that is there when
they need it. Now, it was a little over a week ago when I became a
statistic--not just a Senator but a statistic--in healthcare. I went
through a heart catheter procedure in Chicago last week on Tuesday.
After that procedure--which turned out just fine; thank you--I am a
statistic. I am a person in America with a preexisting condition. I
have to check that box that says I have had a heart procedure.
It used to be if you checked a box like that--diabetes, asthma,
whatever you checked--it ended up having a direct impact on what you
paid for health insurance or whether you could even buy it. There were
people who survived cancer--children, adults--who could not buy health
insurance because they were too big a risk for health insurance
Well, we changed that. The Affordable Care Act changed that and said:
Just because you have a preexisting condition--and one out of three
Americans has one--you should not be denied coverage. Now, the House of
Representatives passed a bill that allows Governors literally to take
away that requirement in health insurance plans. What are they
Do they think they are so darn lucky that they will never have an
accident, never have a diagnosis where they end up with a preexisting
condition? It can happen to anybody, and it does. So what the House of
Representatives did in this regard is a step backward.
They also changed the Medicaid system. People have this image, when
you say Medicaid: Oh, that is the same as Medicare. No, Medicare is for
seniors and disabled people. Medicaid is a policy of health insurance
that is available for people who do not have a lot of money. Well, who
qualifies for that? Well, it turns out that the largest number of
people who qualify for Medicaid are children and their moms.
In my State of Illinois, half of the kids who are born in the State
are covered by Medicaid. So the moms, when they need prenatal care to
make sure the babies are healthy, and the babies, when they need care
after the hospital, rely on Medicaid. But that is not the most
expensive thing when it comes to Medicaid. The most expensive thing in
Medicaid are your moms, your grandmoms, and granddads who are in
nursing homes. You know what happens? They reach a point where they
need to be in a place where folks can watch them and help them.
They have medical issues and age is taking its toll. But many of them
get there, and all they have is Social Security and Medicare, and it is
not enough. So Medicaid steps in and supplements it so that your mom,
your dad, or your grandmother can stay in that place, which is good for
them, secure, safe, and with the right kind of healthcare. The other
group that relies on Medicaid the most in their daily lives are
disabled people, folks who are born with a disability or have acquired
one in life and they need ongoing medical care they cannot personally
Children and their moms, elderly folks in nursing homes, and disabled
people depend on Medicaid. So what does the Republican bill that passed
the House of Representatives do to the Medicaid Program across America?
It ends up cutting over $800 billion in coverage. What it means in
Illinois is that 1 million people--out of our 12.5 million population--
are likely to lose their health insurance because of the action taken
by the House of Representatives.
Even my Republican Governor in Illinois came out publicly and said
what they did in the House of Representatives is disastrous for our
State. It has a significant negative impact on the cost of healthcare
and the coverage of health insurance. So why would we want to do that?
Why would we want to take health coverage away from the groups I just
Do we want to put less money in prenatal care? Well, if we do, we run
the risk that children will be born with problems and challenges that
cost us a fortune and compromise their lives.
Do we want to put less money into supporting elderly people who are
in nursing homes? Well, what are they going to do? What are they
supposed to do? If they can't stay in a place that is good for them and
with the right kind of care, does that mean the family now has to find
a spare room for grandma or your mom? I hope not. These folks want to
live in dignity, and they don't want to be in a situation where they
have to look for charity or beg for help from their families.
The third group is disabled people. For goodness sakes, we are lucky.
We have people with disabilities who are doing amazing things today.
But many who are in lower income categories need the help of Medicaid.
I had a group of hospital administrators come in to see me this week
from Illinois. They were from every part of the State. If you go down
to our beautiful Southern Illinois area, there are some great towns.
One of them is Anna, IL, right near Cobden, IL. It is down in the
southern end of our State. It is a very rural area with smaller towns.
Then I had administrators in the same group from Quincy, IL, from
Springfield, IL, my home town, and from the city of Chicago. They all
came here to tell me the same thing: The bill that passed the House of
Representatives last week is a disaster when it comes to Illinois
hospitals. They estimate they are going to lose up to 60,000 people who
are currently working in hospitals in Illinois, because of that bill,
and they are also going to see closures and reductions in services at
these same hospitals while we see the Medicaid cutbacks take place.
Now, why is that? Let's assume you have a small rural hospital in a
town that you live in. If you do, you value it very much because that
means there is healthcare there, right next door, when you need it. You
don't have to drive 50 miles or more. You have it right there. You also
know it is a great employer in your area. You also know, as well, that
that is the way you keep a lot of businesses in your town and attract
So what these hospitals are telling us is that the bill that passed
the House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a
threat to the future of those hospitals. If the patients don't come in
covered by Medicaid and pay for some of their services, the hospitals
will still treat them, but they are charity patients, then, and the
hospitals have to charge every other patient more because of it.
So that is a terrible way for us to approach healthcare reform in
America. That is the reality of what we face today. I am troubled by
the fact that this bill, which passed the House of Representatives by
two votes--two votes--if two Congressmen had voted the other way, this
bill would not have passed. This bill was never reviewed by the
Congressional Budget Office. Well, who cares? I care.
For everything we do that is supposed to be that important to affect
the American economy, we are supposed to go to the nonpartisan experts
and ask them: Well, what does this really do? We have been held to that
standard--Democrats have and Republicans, too--until now. Now, we have
this decision by the House of Representatives to pass this bill
affecting America's healthcare system--one-fifth of our economy, I
might add--and they never went for an analysis to the Congressional
That has never happened before. They did it anyway. You know why they
did it? Because the first version of this bill was a disaster. They
sent that bill in for an analysis--24 million Americans losing their
health insurance over the next 10 years. It was a disaster. They were
afraid they would get the same analysis on the second bill. So they
never sent it in for the analysis. In 2 weeks, we are going to have the
But it really gives you fair warning that this bill could be very
hurtful to a lot of people across America, and yet it passed the House
of Representatives. So today people say to me in Illinois, when I have
town meetings: Well, we are listening to you, Senator. But what do you
want to do about healthcare today? What would you change in the current
system? Well, let me tell you first. I voted for the Affordable Care
Act. I believe in it. The number of uninsured people in America--the
percentage--has been cut in half because of the Affordable Care Act. Is
it perfect? Of course not. Does it need to be changed? Yes.
I can give you two or three specifics, and I will. First, we have to
do something about the price of drugs in America--pharmaceuticals. You
see what is happening. Hedge funds are buying the rights to drugs and
raising the prices two, three, four, and ten times because they have an
exclusive drug. There is a family I have come to know who has a young
son who is in high school in Chicago. He has diabetes. He is an amazing
kid. He is going to be a great success in life. He has fought diabetes
for years and years. His mom and dad have stood behind him.
They came in to tell me: Do you know what has happened to the cost of
insulin--insulin--which diabetics need dramatically? It has gone up
two, three, four, and five times in the last few years for no reason
other than that they can charge it. Of course, a person with diabetes
may be dependent on that insulin even to survive.
So the first thing we ought to do when we look at the healthcare
system is figure out how to make sure that we have reasonable pricing
when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Of course, I want them to make a
profit. Those pharmaceutical companies, with a profit motive, will keep
doing research to find the next drug. But do I want these hedge funds
and others--investment bankers--to buy out the rights to those drugs
and drive their prices through the roof? That is not fair. It adds
dramatically to the cost of healthcare.
Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the biggest insurers in America. It
is the biggest in my State of Illinois. My wife and I have a plan with
them. So the head of Blue Cross Blue Shield came to me, and she said:
Senator, did you know that last year Blue Cross Blue Shield paid more
for pharmaceuticals than they paid for inpatient hospital care? What?
Inpatient hospital care, people who have to come in for surgeries and
things--you paid more for pharmaceuticals?
Well, there are things we can do about it. I have legislation that I
have introduced that reviews the pricing on pharmaceuticals, holds the
pharmaceutical companies accountable. I take a position on an issue
that all of my colleagues don't share, but I want to share it with you.
There are only two nations in the world--only two--that allow
pharmaceutical companies to advertise on television. The United States
and New Zealand.
Well, what difference does it make? Have you turned on the TV lately
and tried to find a show that did not have ads about pharmaceuticals?
Have you tried to write down the names of some of those pharmaceuticals
so that you might remember them if it is something of interest? Have
you tried to listen to the warnings that they give you about all of
Well, some of the warnings are amazing: If you have had a liver
transplant, be sure and tell your doctor. Well, yes, that explains that
incision. A liver transplant? Why do they do that? Why do they buy all
of those ads on television? Real simple. If you have some condition,
and they talk about it in one of those ads, you are going to ask your
doctor about that drug, and it is likely, in many cases, that doctor,
then, will end up prescribing that drug.
Is it necessary? It may not be. Is it the cheapest form of the drug?
It may not be. So, then, why does the doctor write the prescription?
Because it is easier to do that than a 10-minute stop in the office for
him to sit down with you and patiently explain: You don't need this
drug, or you can use a generic, or we ought to wait a while before we
go into this.
The result of it is that more and more pharmaceutical companies have
their drugs being prescribed and more and more profits coming their
way. So I, for one, think that this direct consumer advertising is
really hurtful in terms of the cost of healthcare in our country, and
it is something we ought to deal with. I would make that part of the
reform of the Affordable Care Act.
The second thing we need to do is to make sure, I believe, that in
every place in America, if you so choose, you can choose a Medicare-
type public plan
to cover your family. Right now, it is private health insurance
companies. You may choose to stick with the private health insurance
company. That should be your choice. But you also ought to have a
Over 50 million Americans are covered by Medicare, and most of them--
the overwhelming majority of them--are happy with Medicare. What if we
had a Medicare-type plan, a public option, available to every American
to choose if they wish? I think that could reduce the cost of
healthcare, and I think it is an option we ought to consider.
The third point I would make is that when we are dealing with
reforming the healthcare system, we have one group in particular who is
giving us a real challenge: individuals who are buying health
insurance. The vast majority of Americans get their health insurance
through their employment and many others through Medicaid--a program I
described earlier--and then there is that group out there buying
insurance on the open market. They are the ones who are seeing the
runup in premiums and costs and overruns that they have to face, seeing
copayments going up and the like. We need to find a way to deal with
this group to give them affordable health insurance. There are a lot of
ways to approach that, but that ought to be a target of what we do for
the ones who are facing the toughest increases in health insurance.
I will just say this too: The good news about this conversation in
the Senate is that it is finally reaching a new level. Now there are 12
Republican Senators who are meeting with Senator McConnell, and they
are setting out to draw up a plan and try to pass it with just
Republican votes. I hope that does not succeed, and I will tell you
why. If we can do this on a bipartisan basis and sit down in good faith
and work out these improvements to the Affordable Care Act, that is the
best option for this country. Senator Collins of Maine and Senator
Cassidy of Louisiana are trying to start that conversation. I have said
to them that if this is a good-faith effort not to repeal the
Affordable Care Act but to repair it, I want to pull a chair up to the
Let's have this conversation. We may not agree, we may not be able to
come up with the best solutions, but the bipartisan approach of solving
the current problems with the current healthcare system is a much more
sensible thing to do than to have an all-Republican bill trying to
force its way through here. I hope that doesn't happen. It is far
better to do this on a bipartisan basis, and I hope that is what will
I will be going home, as I do regularly, to talk about the impact of
the bill passed by the House of Representatives. I have just touched on
some of the major points of it.
There is one thing I do want to mention, though. It has an age tax in
it that many people between the ages of 50 and 64 may not be aware of.
Currently the law says that there cannot be a disparity of difference
in premiums charged of more than 3 to 1; that is, the most expensive
premium charged to someone for health insurance, no matter what their
health or condition, cannot be more than three times the lowest premium
charged. That is current law. The bill passed in the House of
Representatives changed that dramatically. It says: Instead of 3 to 1,
let's make it 5 to 1. Who is going to pay the difference? Folks who are
older and those facing chronic illness.
If you are between the ages of 50 and 64, watch out for your health
insurance premiums under this measure that passed the House of
Representatives. That is something which should not have been included.
That is why the American Association of Retired Persons has come out
against this bill. It is another reason we have to ensure that the bill
that passed the House of Representatives does not become the law of the
land. To have this discrimination against people because of their age
is unfair, and I agree with the American Association of Retired Persons
on that particular issue.
Let's hope we can find a bipartisan path to making healthcare even
better in America. I don't care who takes the credit for it. If at the
end of the day more families have peace of mind with health insurance
that they can afford, that provides them quality care when they need
it, that is something we need to achieve.
As I said earlier, I again learned this lesson last week. The lesson
is simply this: If you go in for a diagnosis and learn that you need
quality healthcare, you want to have health insurance. You want to have
access to the best doctors and hospitals. Everyone in America wants
that. That shouldn't be a privilege which is reserved just for the rich
and lucky; that ought to be there for every single American.
I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. If we start off
with that premise, we can build a healthcare system in this country
that is still the envy of the world.
Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, today I come to the floor in opposition
to the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be United States Trade
Representative, USTR. After close examination of the confirmation
process for Mr. Lighthizer, I have come to the conclusion that Mr.
Lighthizer does not adequately understand the positive economic
benefits the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, has had and
will continue to have on Arizona and our Nation. His advocacy for
protectionist shifts in America's trade policies, including his support
for the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, and the
Trump administration's incoherent and inconsistent trade posture, have
only solidified my opposition to his nomination to be USTR.
As I wrote in a February piece in the Arizona Republic, coauthored by
my colleague Senator Flake and Arizona chamber president Glenn Hammer,
NAFTA has delivered enormous economic benefits to the United States
since its inception in 1994, especially for the citizens of Arizona. In
just two decades, Arizona's exports to Canada and Mexico have increased
by $5.7 billion, or 236 percent. Mexico stands as Arizona's No. 1
trading partner, with bilateral trade accounting for 40 percent of our
State's exports to foreign markets in 2015 and totaling $9.2 billion.
Arizona's trade relationship with Mexico also directly supports more
than 100,000 Arizona jobs.
While I understand NAFTA could be strengthened and modernized, any
efforts by this administration to withdraw from NAFTA or impose new
restrictions or barriers on our ability to trade with Mexico and Canada
will have serious consequences for Arizona, including massive job
losses for workers and dramatically higher costs for consumers.
Furthermore, I am troubled by the need for and the process by which
Congress recently granted Mr. Lighthizer a waiver to serve as USTR
given that he previously represented a Brazilian and Chinese client in
trade litigation matters. As part of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of
1995, Congress adopted my amendment to prohibit an individual from
serving as U.S. Trade Representative or Deputy U.S. Trade
Representative if that person has “directly represented, aided, or
advised a foreign entity” in “any trade negotiation, or trade
dispute, with the United States.” Ultimately, the waiver was tucked in
the must-pass omnibus spending bill, with no chance to debate or vote
on such an important trade related policy.
As Senator Sasse and I recently wrote in a letter opposing Mr.
Lighthizer, the administration's incoherent and protectionist message
on trade “is especially troubling because confirming a USTR grants the
Administration additional legal authority to negotiate trade deals that
Congress must consider under `fast track' procedures. Given these
circumstances, granting the Trump Administration additional legal
powers through your confirmation without understanding how you or the
Administration intend to use those powers would be irresponsible.”
I plan to vote against the nomination of Mr. Lighthizer, and I urge
colleagues to join me.
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Madam President, I support the nomination of Robert
Lighthizer to be the United States Trade Representative.
Trade agreements should meet two tests: Does the agreement improve
worker wages? And does the agreement add American jobs? For far too
long, U.S. Trade Representatives have prioritized profits of large
multinational organizations over the interests of the American people
and our country as a whole.
The USTR should be someone who negotiates on behalf of the American
worker and advances labor and environmental protections, and the USTR
should be someone who works to enforce agreements. While I don't agree
with everything in Mr. Lighthizer's resume, his record suggests that he
will be a USTR who will approach trade policies in the ways I have
outlined. I hope the approach he takes going forward will reflect the
positions he has taken in the past. I expect him to ask: Does it
improve worker wages? And does it add American jobs?
I believe that Mr. Lighthizer will bring fresh eyes to trade policy.
I hope that he will focus on increasing transparency at the USTR. I
hope that he will stand up for worker rights, both domestically and
internationally. I hope that Mr. Lighthizer will work to enforce trade
policies that protect the environment.
Mr. DURBIN. Madam 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. MORAN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. MORAN. Madam President, I come from a State that in some ways is
very similar to yours, the State of Kansas. You get to see firsthand
the impact of trade and exports on the people, on jobs, and on the
economic opportunity of my communities. Our State economy relies on our
ability to sell the products we grow and manufacture to people around
Strengthening our trade relationships and expanding market access for
exports abroad creates a greater opportunity for Kansans today and
those who follow us. One of my goals has always been to make certain
that communities across Kansas remain a place in which the young men
and women who grow up there find it to be a place to raise their
families. Our ability to do that, especially in a small, rural
community with agriculture and agricultural exports, is so important.
It is a way that we can really put America first.
If our goal is to have an America that has strength and prosperity,
we ought to continue to focus on improving our Nation's economy. That
is one of the things that I appreciate--we seem to be focused in such a
significant way on our ability to grow an economy. I think we are
poised for much greater things economically.
“Economics” may sound like just one of those words, but what that
means is more jobs, better jobs, more secure jobs, jobs for our
children so that maybe they can pay back their student loans. This
country desperately needs the jobs in the communities across Kansas and
around the country, and it is really what we call the American dream.
Trade, including our ability to sell the food and fiber we grow in
our State, is a key part that drives our economy forward. Almost half
of the wheat grown in Kansas is exported to foreign markets. What that
means is, if you weren't doing that, nearly half of the acres planted
in our State would be idle. That means the communities those farmers
and ranchers live in and around would have half of the amount of
economic activity that currently is occurring. American ranchers ship
over 1 million metric tons of beef to consumers abroad. Thousands of
acres of corn, sorghum, and soybeans being planted this spring across
Kansas and the Nation will ultimately be exported.
Approximately 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside
America's borders. To reach those consumers, our Nation must produce a
trade policy that grows the existing export markets while continuously
building and developing new ones. Without export markets, both
production and prices would fall for farmers and ranchers, and rural
communities supported by agriculture would disappear. The revenue
generated by exports not only keeps family farmers and ranchers afloat,
it drives rural economies and supports small businesses.
The aerospace industry, which is so important in Kansas, also relies
on an integrated supply chain and strong trade policy. Wichita, KS--
appropriately labeled the “Air Capital of the World”--manufactures
more than half of the world's general aviation light aircraft and
business jets. Without trade, aerospace and manufacturing facilities in
Wichita and surrounding areas and Kansas City and surrounding areas
would not exist and workers in those factories would be left without
It is critical that we protect these jobs, many of which depend upon
the United States having a strong economic relationship with Canada and
Mexico. The North America Free-Trade Agreement, which went into effect
in 1994, plays a significant role in supporting trade with those two
Of course, the world and technology have changed since 1994 when that
agreement was entered into. There are areas of the agreement that can
be improved and modernized. Many of those changes have been discussed
and are issues that the United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed to
during TPP negotiations, such as strengthening our intellectual
property rights and new provisions for e-commerce.
If we work collaboratively with Mexico and Canada to address the
issues with NAFTA, including the issues on which we strongly disagree,
I am confident we can improve the agreement for all parties. But
efforts to pull out of NAFTA completely or to weaken our trading
relationship with Canada and Mexico during renegotiations would cause
significant damage to the American economy. We must have willing
negotiators sitting across the table when discussing NAFTA, and that
starts with treating our neighbors as trade partners and as friends. We
need to treat these folks as friends, and we need to seize the
opportunities we have.
Working together to improve NAFTA or building economic relations with
other trading partners does not mean America should take a step back
from enforcing the current rules. Oftentimes in the past, we have been
too focused on striking trade deals and selling them to the public, but
we haven't done enough to make sure other countries are playing by the
rules that are negotiated. Nontariff barriers and unfair trading
practices by foreign countries harm our producers, workers, and
We must make certain American producers are competing on a level
playing field in a global market and that our jobs and wages are not
being undermined by other countries' efforts to distort trade policies
and trade agreements.
Many Americans have lost confidence in trade agreements, and I
believe that is partly because the benefits of trade agreements have
been oversold, while the enforcement of unfair trade practices have
been insufficient. In promoting agreements, leaders had set
expectations for increased jobs, higher wages, growth in exports, and
many other metrics that were impossible to meet. When these exaggerated
promises did not come to fruition, many people lost confidence in those
America should strengthen our commitment to holding other countries
accountable in order to inspire greater confidence from the American
public in our Nation's ability to reach a trade agreement that benefits
Weakening our trade relations will cause Kansans to lose jobs.
Farmers and ranchers will no longer be able to pursue their careers and
lifestyle. But with strong leadership and smart negotiating, I am
convinced that America can improve our trade relationships in the world
and continue to build on the economic successes we have today.
A robust U.S. economy that provides market opportunities for farmers,
ranchers, and manufacturers, and job prospects for workers is an
essential pillar of America's strength and well-being. Strong trade
relationships, particularly with Canada and Mexico, are primary drivers
of our Nation's economy. We must protect those relationships and
carefully consider changes in our approach to trade to be certain that
Americans continue to benefit from economic opportunities that are
created by a strong trade policy.
Madam President, our relationships with Mexico and Canada are
important and in many ways determine the economic future of the people
of my State at home.
Madam 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.
Ms. HIRONO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. HIRONO. Madam President, these are not ordinary times. It is not
ordinary for a winning Presidential campaign to be under investigation
for collusion with a foreign adversary to influence our 2016 election
and undermine our democracy. It isn't ordinary for a President to fire
the man responsible for conducting this very investigation. It isn't
ordinary for a President whose campaign is under investigation for
having ties to Russia to hold an Oval Office meeting with that
country's Foreign Minister and only invite the Russian press. This
meeting came only a day after firing the person in charge of the
Russia-Trump investigation. Yet, here we are. The question is, What
should we do next?
The events of the past 48 hours have been shocking and concerning.
Firing FBI Director James Comey in this manner, under this pretext, and
at this time is a total disservice to the American people.
President Trump hopes the American people will believe he fired
Director Comey because of how he treated Hillary Clinton during the
Presidential campaign. President Trump hopes, as his Deputy Press
Secretary said on Tuesday night, that the American people think it is
“time to move on.” President Trump hopes his attempts to distract us
from the importance of getting to the bottom of the Russia-Trump matter
will succeed. President Trump's hopes are misplaced. If anything,
President Trump's firing of Director Comey has resulted in an increased
concern about the Trump team's connections to Russian interference with
our 2016 Presidential election.
The country is asking, Mr. President, what do you have to hide?
We are learning practically on an hourly basis about how the
President made this decision to fire Director Comey and why. This
information does not square with the official line coming from the
White House, which also changes.
Most recently, the Washington Post reported that Deputy Attorney
General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign after the White House
misrepresented his role in the decision to fire Director Comey. CNN
reported that President Trump fired Director Comey because he would not
provide “assurance of personal loyalty.” Both CNN and the Wall Street
Journal reported that the decision to fire Director Comey came after
the FBI's investigation was accelerating. All of this information has
emerged in the last 48 hours or so.
This kind of Presidential interference, through the firing of the FBI
Director during an ongoing investigation, is unprecedented, suspicious,
and deeply concerning. These revelations and those that are sure to
come further argue in favor of appointing a special prosecutor to fully
investigate the Russia-Trump matter. A special prosecutor with full
autonomy can follow the evidence wherever it leads and prosecute as
I call upon Republicans of conscience to stand up and join the call
for a special prosecutor.
Over the past few days, a number of my Republican colleagues have
spoken out against the way the President had fired James Comey. In
particular, I would like to acknowledge Senators McCain, Sasse, Flake,
Burr, Kennedy, Boozman, and Corker for speaking out. I hope, as more
information about President Trump's decision to fire Director Comey
emerges, our Republican colleagues will join in the call for a special
Leader McConnell argued yesterday that appointing a special
prosecutor would disrupt the ongoing work of the Senate committees that
are conducting their own investigations. I disagree. The Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committee have
important oversight responsibilities regarding the Russia-Trump matter,
but neither committee has the power to convene a grand jury or
prosecute any crimes that may have been committed. Therefore, I
reiterate the need for a special prosecutor with the mandate and
authority to follow the facts wherever they lead--free of political
In the coming weeks, President Trump will nominate a new Director for
the FBI. This person must be above reproach and be someone whose
independent judgment can earn the country's confidence. I have been
disturbed by some of the names being floated as potential replacements,
names like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. We cannot allow President
Trump to appoint one of his buddies to oversee the Russia-Trump
investigation or to lead the FBI.
The investigation into the Russia-Trump matter cannot and should not
be a partisan issue. We should all care that a foreign government has
sought to interfere with our elections and with our democracy. This is
not just about the election. This is really about protecting our
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sasse). The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, there is a Chinese curse that reads:
“May you live in interesting times.”
To call the times that we find ourselves in right now “interesting”
would be certainly an understatement. The fact is, we find ourselves
and our country in a moment that is profoundly testing the rule of law
here in America, profoundly testing the strength of our democratic
institutions. We have a President who has now engaged in a pattern of
removing individuals from office who are executing their
responsibilities under the law.
First, on January 30, just 11 days into the Trump administration, it
was Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General, who warned the
administration that Michael Flynn had been compromised by his
connections to Russia--an incredibly responsible act for her to take,
but she was fired.
On March 10, it was Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in New York, who
was reportedly investigating whether Secretary Price had profited from
his position in Congress. He had been told he would be retained by this
administration when suddenly he was fired.
Then this week, Tuesday, the President fired James Comey, the
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; James Comey, who was
leading the FBI's investigation into the possible collusion between the
Trump campaign and Russia in the Presidential election and who was
scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate this week; James Comey; who
had just recently asked for more funding and resources in order to
appropriately and substantially investigate Russian interference in our
elections and possible connections to the Trump campaign; James Comey,
whose investigation just handed down its first round of subpoenas.
The firing of James Comey has more than a passing resemblance to
Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, the infamous incident in October of
1973, when President Nixon ordered the Attorney General to fire the
special prosecutor who was investigating Watergate. Nixon wanted to
derail that investigation. The Attorney General, Elliott Richardson,
refused to do so and resigned. His deputy, William Ruckelshaus, refused
to do so and resigned.
Day by day, we have seen more connections, bits and pieces, come to
light--conversations involving Michael Flynn, former campaign manager
Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Attorney General Sessions.
The President insists there is no “there” there, but we have seen a
pattern of conversations that we don't fully understand. Was there
coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians to interfere
in the U.S. Presidential election? Was there collaboration? We don't
know. We know there were a lot of conversations, but what was the
substance of those conversations? And who instructed those meetings to
take place? What is the full pattern of these events?
It is important that we get to the bottom of it because what every
American understands is, if you conspire
with a foreign government to undermine the integrity of the American
elections, you are conspiring to undermine the integrity of the
American Government itself; that this is a terrible assault, a terrible
crime against our country.
The President's team says this firing of Director Comey had nothing
to do with the Russia investigation. They did so through a series of
documents, including a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to
the President, a memo to Jeff Sessions from Rod Rosenstein, and the
President writing a letter to James Comey saying you are fired. So the
memo from Rosenstein to the AG, the AG's letter to the President, the
President's letter saying you are fired, and all of this claiming the
basis of the investigation was because they were dissatisfied with the
way James Comey had treated Secretary Clinton.
Now, that doesn't really fit with the history we are familiar with.
The President told audiences at a campaign rally in October: “I tell
you what, what he did, he brought back his reputation.”
He is referring to James Comey.
“He brought it back.”
And then when the President talked to “60 Minutes,” he said: “I
respect him a lot,” when he was asked about Director Comey in the
context of the actions he had taken in regard to Secretary Hillary
We remember the chants at his rallies: “Lock her up.”
I don't think there is a single American--not a single Member of this
body of 100 Senators--who believes for a moment--not for a
microsecond--that the reasoning in this memo from the Deputy AG to the
AG and the letter from the AG to the President and the President's memo
to James Comey, that the arguments made here were the basis of his
If you believe the President woke up and said: I am so concerned
about the way James Comey treated Hillary Clinton that he just has to
be dismissed, then I have some oceanfront property in Arizona I would
be happy to sell you.
We know from the reporting of the last few days that there is quite
another story--an accurate story--about why the President fired James
Comey. We now know the President had become increasingly frustrated
with Director Comey because he wouldn't go along with the story line
the President wanted. The President wanted him to support his claim
that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, but Director
Comey, caring about the integrity of his team at the FBI and the
office, refused to do so. In fact, he clarified that there is
absolutely no information that corroborates the President's claim that
Trump Tower had been wiretapped by President Obama.
We know the President was frustrated that the Director was doing his
job to explore--that is, to investigate--Russia's actions in our
campaign, in our Presidential campaign, and that he was frustrated that
there was looking into potential ties between his campaign and the
Russians. He didn't like a lot about the fact that Director Comey was
asking for more resources to be able to do a thorough investigation.
Well, we know the result.
According to a report in the Washington Post this morning, President
Trump made his final decision to fire the Director last weekend while
he was golfing on his property in New Jersey. He then tasked the AG and
the Deputy Attorney General to come up with a cover story.
This is an astonishing chain of events. What we have here is the
President making a decision based on the appropriate efforts of the FBI
to investigate a potential crime against the United States of America.
What we have here is a President determining he wanted to derail that
investigation, and he went to the AG and the Deputy AG to say: Help me
do this. Help me derail this investigation. Give me a cover story I can
sell to the American public. And Attorney General Sessions complied and
Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein complied.
Now, that is quite different than what happened in the Saturday Night
Massacre. In the Saturday Night Massacre, when the President said to
the Attorney General: Get rid of that special prosecutor so I can
derail the investigation, the Attorney General stood up and said: No
way, and resigned--the Deputy Attorney General resigned, but that is
not what we have here. We have now our AG agreeing to develop a cover
story for the President.
Now, this memo from Attorney General Sessions reads as follows: “As
Attorney General, I am committed to a high level of discipline,
integrity, and the rule of law to the Department of Justice.”
Let me ask this question, Where is the integrity in collaborating in
a false story in order to derail an investigation, an important
investigation to the very heart of the integrity of our system of
government? Where, I ask the Attorney General, is the integrity in
developing a cover story--a false story to cover up the action of
derailing an investigation. That is the opposite of integrity.
To the Deputy, who also agreed to conspire in this deception of the
American public, where is your integrity? Where was your commitment to
So here we have events that are deeply disturbing not only in terms
of the President's decision to falsely mislead the American public but
also to the Attorney General's decision to collaborate in that and the
Deputy Attorney General's decision to support it. How is this not
obstruction of justice?
If anyone here thinks for a moment that the President is going to
nominate a new head of the FBI and ask that individual to conduct a
robust investigation of Russia's entanglement in the U.S. elections, I
have another thought for you: It is not going to happen. The President
has deliberately, intentionally derailed this investigation, and the
Justice Department has no intention of making it go forward again.
We need to hear from these top officials. We need to have these
officials come to the U.S. Senate, to a committee of the whole, to tell
us their story and answer these questions about what they have just
done to violate the integrity of the Department of Justice.
We need to have a special prosecutor. We know the head of the FBI,
when we have one again, is not going to be able to conduct a robust
investigation. Therefore, we need a special prosecutor to get to the
bottom of this. The American people deserve no less. The restoration of
integrity of the U.S. Government deserves no less.
Lady Justice carries scales in her hands, and where is the blindfold?
The whole point is that no one in America is above the law, no one--not
Presidents or Vice Presidents, not AGs or Deputy AGs. Lady Justice is
all about getting the facts, following the facts where they go, holding
individuals accountable, when we get those facts, when we get that
That is what we need to do now. We need to get to the bottom of this.
We need to have that special prosecutor. We need to make sure that if
anyone did conspire with the Russians, they are held to the full
account of the law because conspiring with a foreign country to
undermine the integrity of U.S. elections is treasonous conduct. This
is not a traffic ticket. This is a question of treasonous--conspiring
with a foreign government, undermining the U.S. Presidential election.
I am deeply disturbed about this turn of events. I am deeply
disturbed about the information we have. We need to get the full, full
story, the complete story, and make sure justice is served.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. RISCH. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that following the
remarks of Senator Murphy, there be 20 minutes of postcloture time
remaining on the Lighthizer nomination, equally divided between the
chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee; that following
the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate vote on the
Lighthizer nomination; and that, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider
be considered made and laid upon the table, and the President be
immediately notified of the Senate's action.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. RISCH. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I thank Senator Merkley for his remarks
this week, as this body has been rightly focused on the firing of James
and the imagined rationale that the President gave.
Mr. President, secret meetings have been happening amongst our
Republican colleagues to draft a healthcare bill that could have
devastating consequences on the people we all represent. I know we are
about to have a vote on the floor, but I wanted to come to the floor to
simply remind all of my friends on both sides of the aisle of the
promises that have been made about this process and this piece of
legislation which emerged from the House last week with devastating
consequences. Those consequences include 24 million people losing
coverage and people with preexisting conditions being subjected to
$200,000 premium increases, potentially.
I just reference the words of the President of the United States, who
told us repeatedly over and over again, during the campaign and after
the campaign, that the result of this healthcare reform debate was
going to be a healthcare system that was better. President Trump
outlined that in a number of different ways.
Here is what he said on April 30, just a few weeks ago. He said:
The healthcare plan is on its way. Will have much lower
premiums & deductibles, while at the same time taking care of
That is not true. That is a lie. The healthcare bill that emerged
from the House of Representatives did none of those things.
CBO has not come out with its final estimate. It is unbelievable that
the House voted on a reordering of one-sixth of the American economy
without a CBO estimate, but we can pretty much be sure that the first
CBO estimate will hold, in that it will say that premiums are going to
go up by 15 to 20 percent immediately for everybody, and then for the
nonyoung healthy and wealthy, premiums are going to go up even higher.
It didn't take care of preexisting conditions. It did the opposite--
allowed every State to be able to walk away from the protection of the
Affordable Care Act, which makes sure people with preexisting
conditions, which could be one-third of all Americans, can't be subject
to higher rates, and it substituted that requirement with a high-risk
pool which is dramatically underfunded to the point that it is
laughable, in the opinion of many healthcare economists.
Here is what Donald Trump said earlier this year:
We're going to have insurance for everybody. People covered
under the law can expect to have great healthcare. . . . Much
less expensive and much better insurance for everybody.
CBO says 24 million people will lose their insurance, and that number
might be higher when the new estimate comes out. This wasn't true. This
was a lie.
Finally, the President said, during the campaign:
I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state
there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare &
No cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--this is a giant
cut to Medicaid. This is an $880 billion cut to Medicaid being used to
finance a giant tax cut for people making over $200,000 a year. This
wasn't true. This was a lie as well.
A lot of Democrats will be willing to talk about making our
healthcare system better, but we want our Republican colleagues, as
they are having these behind-closed-door meetings, to remember the
promises that were made. They said nobody would lose insurance,
premiums would go down--not up--and your benefit package wouldn't
become worse. If Republicans can deliver on those promises, then there
is a discussion to be had. But if anything looking like the House
product emerges, it is a violation of the promises this President and
many Republicans made over and over again.
Finally, I also want all my colleagues to remember what is happening
as we speak. Leader McConnell was on the floor talking about premium
increases announced by Blue Cross Blue Shield in Maryland. What he
failed to mention was the head of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland
came out and specifically said that a big part of the reason they were
asking for major premium increases was because of the actions President
Trump is taking right now to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. They
were not sure the individual mandate was going to be enforced. Why?
Because in an Executive order this President signed, he directed his
agencies to undermine the Affordable Care Act and to withdraw many of
the fees levied on Americans, such as that which comes if you don't get
insurance. He stopped advertising for the exchanges for the last week.
We were on target to have more people sign up this year than ever
before; but then, in the last week, the President withdrew all the
money for the exchanges. Right now, as we speak, this administration is
bleeding out the money for insurers to help pay for cost sharing within
the exchanges 1 month at a time, not telegraphing if there is going to
be any certainty for that funding in the future.
The President is undermining and sabotaging the ACA every single day.
The reason insurers are passing along premium increases or considering
withdrawing from these exchanges is because of this sabotage the
administration is undertaking of our entire healthcare system. I hope
these behind-closed-door meetings take into account all of the promises
this President and our Republican friends made that they would repeal
the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something better.
Everything we hear is that the product that emerged out of the House of
Representatives--the product that may emerge out of the Senate--
violates every single one of these promises.
We await the ability to work together, Republicans and Democrats, to
preserve what works in the healthcare system, to fix what doesn't work,
and to hold our Republican friends and the President of the United
States to their promises.
I yield back.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there are 20 minutes
of postcloture time remaining, equally divided between the chairman and
the ranking member of the Committee on Finance, prior to a vote on the
The Senator from Oregon.
Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I thank my colleague and good friend,
Chairman Hatch, for his courtesies. We have worked very closely
together on this nomination. This was a challenging task, and I thank
Chairman Hatch for his cooperation.
Mr. Lighthizer needed a waiver because he had represented foreign
interests. It was extremely important that we work with Senator Manchin
and other colleagues to address the enormous needs of the miners, and
we had a whole host of Members with a variety of extremely important
trade issues--matters like steel, aluminum, and digital goods in our
part of the world; we also care about softwood lumber tremendously.
Chairman Hatch and I worked with all the members of the Finance
Committee. It was a unanimous vote, and I thank him for his
We have talked a little bit about trade and what a modern trade
policy is going to look like. The Lighthizer discussion is the
beginning of the debate on trade in this Congress, and I have tried to
be clear about my agenda. My agenda is to create more red, white, and
blue jobs in America--high-skilled, high-waged jobs. Very often, the
trade jobs pay better than do the nontrade jobs because there is more
value added in them; there is a higher level of productivity. So my
view is, as we set out on this journey to get more high-skilled, high-
waged jobs, look to Asia where there are going to be 1 billion middle-
class people there in a few years. What we ought to do is focus on
growing them in the United States, making them in the United States,
adding value to them in the United States, and then shipping them
somewhere. That is my idea of a modern trade agenda.
So far, the administration's trade agenda amounts to a muddle of 140-
character tweets, mixed messages, and overhyped announcements that seem
to be backed by not much substance. I think we are going to have to put
together a coherent strategy quickly to promote our exports and fight
back against trade cheats. That is not exactly what we have seen from
the administration to date.
We can almost suffer whiplash from the reports about what happens
with various trade deals. Late at night, it was reported that the
President is about to pull the United States out of NAFTA; then
suddenly there is another
report saying he has changed his mind after a conversation with the
Canadians. Next, at a moment of extreme tension on the Korean
Peninsula, it is reported that the President is threatening to pull out
of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement. Then suddenly that threat is walked
back. So the President has made some major statements with respect to
trade deals on the books, but he has yet to give us much in the way of
specifics on how he would like to bring that about.
If one is trying to run a business in Oregon or around the United
States that exports to foreign markets, it is pretty hard not to feel
rattled and confused by some of the President's statements and tweets
about trade. One might even make the decision not to invest and not to
hire additional workers. I hope the President will soon see that some
of the uncertainty and confusion that has been stoked as a negotiating
tactic is not a recipe for creating red, white, and blue jobs.
I do think Robert Lighthizer knows what the challenge is really all
about, and I want to tell him I have appreciated our conversations. He
is a real pro at this. I have appreciated his views, particularly on
digital goods, which I think are so important to our burgeoning
technology sector, and his views on Canadian lumber.
I would also like to state at this time that I think very highly of
Secretary Ross. He has been very constructive in our conversations,
particularly on Canadian softwood lumber.
Obviously, the U.S. Trade Representative will lead our country in
trade negotiations, and that will be Mr. Lighthizer's role. The bulk of
the expertise of trade does reside within his office. When Mr.
Lighthizer is confirmed, as I hope he will be and expect he will be,
this expertise will no longer be silent.
I will wrap up simply by way of saying that the United States may be
the world's largest economy, but it represents only 4 percent of the
world's consumers. Red, white, and blue jobs in the United States
depend on our ability to sell to the other 96 percent. The number of
middle-class households around the world is going to double over the
next decade. This represents a lot of potential buying power for the
American brand, the Oregon brand. The fact is, people all over the
world love buying the goods and the services we make. It is going to
take a lot of hard work to smash through the barriers that block
American-made goods and fight back against trade cheats.
Lastly, the trade rules in many particulars are out of date, so we
have a lot of work to do to promote labor rights, combat human
trafficking, crack down on trade in illegally taking wildlife and
endangered species, and get the trade system updated so it includes
things like digital goods and small businesses that now have an
international reach, which is especially important. The trading system
has to respond more quickly to countries that break the rules or are
unfairly producing basic commodities, such as steel and aluminum. This
is especially true with respect to China.
As policymakers, we must continue to take an honest look at the trade
rules and fix what doesn't work so that American workers aren't left
behind. It is long past time to invest more resources in monitoring,
litigating, and enforcing our trading partners' obligations, including
China's. The United States must respond more aggressively and more
rapidly to threats to U.S. workers and businesses.
There was a recent example of how this is done right when the
Commerce Department said “enough” to Canada's unfairly traded
softwood lumber. The steps the Commerce Department took were undeniably
warranted after mill towns in Oregon and many other States have been
clobbered over the last few decades. My first preference is a long-term
agreement with Canada, but if they are not going to come to the table,
I will keep fighting for our mills and mill jobs, and I will insist the
administration do the same.
The U.S. needs to carry that same steadfast approach across the
board--getting trade enforcement right is not just a lumber issue. That
means more resources for boots on the ground: investigators and
enforcers. Not just at the office of the USTR but also at Customs and
Border Protection and the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Labor,
State, and Interior, where investigators are tasked with stopping trade
in illegally taken wildlife. Bottom line, trade enforcement requires
all hands on deck. If you boost trade enforcers at one agency only to
wipe out the trade enforcers at another, you will fail to protect
American workers from unfair or illegal imports.
So I will be looking closely at the budget that the President submits
to determine whether he is serious about delivering real results on
trade enforcement or whether the campaign rhetoric and dramatic tweets
are just a bunch of hot air,
In recognition of the need for a new approach on trade enforcement,
Congress recently passed new laws that give the President better tools
to respond when trading partners don't follow the rules. It also passed
legislation to strengthen domestic laws that enable the U.S. to
unilaterally respond when American jobs are under threat, and it
provided new direction should the President wish to negotiate new trade
agreements or renegotiate past ones. In the coming months, I expect
that those tools will not just sit and gather dust while the
administration talks tough with respect to trade.
It takes consistency, strategy and a lot of hard work to get trade
done right. I have confidence that Robert Lighthizer will work to
pursue a trade agenda that is coherent, constructive, and will deliver
for American workers, and I will support his nomination.
However, I want to express reservation on one issue pertaining to
this nominee. During his confirmation hearing, Senator Stabenow asked
Mr. Lighthizer how he would deal with situations in which he was
conducting trade negotiations with a country in which the President has
business interests. Senator Stabenow wanted to make sure that the
President's personal financial interests wouldn't take precedence over
the public interest. Mr. Lighthizer seemed surprised by the question,
saying, quote, “the idea that this President would do anything
untoward is . . . far out of the realm of possibility.”
I would like to put Mr. Lighthizer on notice. This is a legitimate
issue, and I share Senator Stabenow's concern. Never before has this
country faced a circumstance in which our trade representative will be
negotiating trade agreements with countries in which the President or
his family have active business interests, whether it is trademarks,
golf courses, or construction deals. I have introduced a bill requiring
the President, when initiating trade negotiations, to disclose whether
he has business interests in the country that we will be negotiating
with. I intend to press this issue as trade negotiations move forward.
Trade should be about fighting on behalf of American workers and
businesses. It is not about the President's bottom line.
Finally, on an issue that has been closely related to this
nomination, I want to commend several of my colleagues for working
together to provide relief to retired mineworkers regarding their
healthcare costs. Senator Manchin has been a crusader on behalf of the
mineworkers. Hardly a week went by over the last several months when I
didn't hear from Joe Manchin about how important it was to get the
mineworkers the healthcare benefits they have earned. And he has worked
hand-in-hand with Senators Brown, Casey, and Warner, all of whom serve
on the Finance Committee. Chairman Hatch deserves thanks for working
with us to get this across the finish line as well.
I see that my good friend, Chairman Hatch, is here to make his
remarks. I thank him for the cooperation he has shown. I think the
interests of both sides in processing this nomination have been
A lot could have gone awry here. We had challenges with getting the
waiver Mr. Lighthizer needed. We needed the space to make sure the
miners were protected. Members had strong views.
I thank Chairman Hatch for the diplomacy and cooperation he showed me
and our side. I think that is why there was a very large vote for Mr.
Lighthizer in the committee.
I will be voting aye this afternoon and look forward to the
Chairman's wrap-up remarks.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.
Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I thank my colleague, who is an excellent
person to work with. We enjoy each other and enjoy working together. We
are getting a lot done, and I appreciate his kind remarks here today.
I rise today in support of the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be
the next United States Trade Representative. Mr. Lighthizer was
reported out of the Finance Committee unanimously--Democrats and
Republicans--and I hope he receives a similarly strong bipartisan vote
here on the floor.
By statute, Congress has designated the USTR as the primary official
for developing and coordinating U.S. trade policy, advising the
President on trade, and leading international trade negotiations. The
USTR must also report directly to and consult closely with Congress on
a wide range of issues affecting international commerce. The USTR is
Congress's first and most important point of contact when it comes to
trade policy. Therefore, in order for Congress to have an effective
voice in shaping our Nation's trade agenda, we need to have a fully
staffed and functional USTR office.
For that reason, I have been very critical of the pointless and
unprecedented delays we have faced in filling this vacancy, in filling
this position, due to some unreasonable demands from some of my friends
on the other side of the aisle. This delay has served only to weaken
Congress's position in trade policy and has hampered our ability to
provide the new administration with substantive input. Despite this
ill-advised delay, I am pleased that Mr. Lighthizer's nomination has
finally been brought to the floor, and I thank my colleagues for that.
Mr. Lighthizer's years of experience in public service, including as
staff director for the Senate Finance Committee, as Deputy USTR during
the Reagan administration, and in private practice, make him extremely
well qualified to serve as our Nation's representative. Mr.
Lighthizer's knowledge and experience will be vital to his service in
this position and vital to our country.
Put simply, growing our economy and creating better paying jobs for
American workers require increased U.S. trade. Toward that end, I have
spoken to Mr. Lighthizer about the importance of removing trade
barriers for American businesses, workers, consumers, and, where those
barriers have already been removed, maintaining the status quo.
I know there is quite a bit of discussion going around about
potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. As I told
Mr. Lighthizer, there are definitely opportunities to update and
improve NAFTA, but it is important that the administration follow the
spirit of the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm.
Mr. Lighthizer and I have also discussed the importance of protecting
U.S. intellectual property rights around the globe through strong
enforcement and better rules in trade agreements. I believe he
recognizes the importance of this priority, and I will work to ensure
that this issue plays a prominent role in our future trade
I have also made clear to Mr. Lighthizer that I believe consultation
on trade policy between Congress and the administration is essential,
particularly if our agreements are going to adhere to the standards
Congress put forward in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities
and Accountability Act of 2015, the statute that included the most
recent reauthorization of trade promotion authority.
On this key point, I believe Mr. Lighthizer and I are in agreement.
As U.S. Trade Representative, Mr. Lighthizer will have the task of
holding our trading partners accountable, ensuring that Americans don't
pay more for the products their families need and helping American
businesses and workers sell more of their goods and services around the
This is not an easy job, but I am confident that Mr. Lighthizer is up
to the task. As chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over
our Nation's trade policy, I am committed to working with him to ensure
that we advance a trade agenda that will grow our economy, create more
jobs, and expand market access around the globe for America's farmers,
ranchers, and manufacturers.
Mr. President, I suggest we vote on Mr. Lighthizer.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. All postcloture time has expired.
The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Lighthizer
Mr. WICKER. I ask for the yeas and nays.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
There appears to be a sufficient second.
The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk called the roll.
Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the
Senator from West Virginia (Mrs. Capito), the Senator from Georgia (Mr.
Isakson), the Senator from Alaska (Ms. Murkowski), and the Senator from
Alaska (Mr. Sullivan).
Further, if present and voting, the Senator from West Virginia (Mrs.
Capito) would have voted “yea.”
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). Are there any other Senators in
the Chamber desiring to vote?
The result was announced--yeas 82, nays 14, as follows:
[Rollcall Vote No. 127 Ex.]
The nomination was confirmed.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table, and the
President will be immediately notified of the Senate's action.