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The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will
proceed to executive session for consideration of the following
nomination, which the clerk will report.
The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Kenneth
P. Rapuano, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there will be 30
minutes of debate on the nomination, equally divided in the usual form.
The Senator from Florida.
Anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Mass Shooting in Orlando
Mr. NELSON. Madam President, I will not be addressing the matter
before us because I have just come from Orlando, where so many are
feeling such deep, deep sorrow today. It has been 1 year since the
tragic attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The horror of that early morning still remains fresh for so many,
especially those hundreds and hundreds of people who gathered at the
Pulse nightclub this morning on the occasion of 1 year since the
tragedy. There was quite a ceremony to remember the 49 innocent souls
we lost. It was a massacre of huge proportions by a terrorist.
What terrorists want to do is to divide people. They want to
terrorize them. They inject fear. Interestingly, the terrorist, whose
name was Omar Mateen--although he changed the lives of so many, he took
the lives of 49 people. He changed a lot of other lives of those who
were wounded, and, of course, the families of the 49 victims are still
Interestingly, a terrorist wants to divide and inject fear, but this
has had the opposite effect in Orlando. It has unified people. It has
unified the community as I have never seen before. It has unified our
State; indeed, it has unified our Nation. So quite the opposite effect
has happened from what the terrorist intended--other than the slaughter
of 49 innocent lives. Sadly, these are the 49, and they are all being
honored today. It was a very moving ceremony.
One of the causes that came out of the unification of Orlando is
that--instead of creating a number of victims' funds--they put it all
into one fund. Tens of millions of dollars have now gone into that
fund, and it is helping to finance some of the victims who survived and
their medical expenses, some of the families and the loved ones of
those who were lost.
Interestingly, being there, suddenly those moments came rushing back.
I heard about it early on a Sunday morning when the news broke about
the massacre the night before, which had occurred in the early morning
hours. As I raced from my home to downtown Orlando on South Orange
Avenue, I was able to get on the telephone the No. 3 at the FBI, and he
gave me authorization to tell what they originally were anticipating
had happened. Once I got to the scene, I was able to share that. Of
course, they had a representative of the FBI on the scene. They had set
up a command post. Mayor Buddy Dyer had taken charge. It was quite a
The tales of heroism are nonstop. The Orlando Police Department SWAT
team, which went inside--before they could get the SWAT team there,
members of the Police Department and the Sheriff's Department were
there. One block away was a fire station that became a triage point.
First responders got there and were trying to save people's lives. It
was because of the massive number of casualties--49--that while the
gunman Mateen was holed up in one of the bathrooms with hostages, some
whom he had already shot had bled to death. While he was in the
bathroom, police and paramedics were going in and pulling people out in
those dark hours of the early morning. Of course, they were using
whatever vehicle--if there was a pickup truck, they would put the
victims on the truck. Fortunately, Orlando Regional Medical Center is
only about six to eight blocks away, and, of course, it is a trauma
About a week later, I went to see the trauma surgeons. A resident who
had been getting his residency there as a trauma surgeon was so moved
by that experience that he put on his Facebook page what he was feeling
and showed a picture of his bloody shoes that he didn't even recognize
because he was so busy. It was not until the next day that he looked at
those shoes. He put a picture of that on his Facebook page, and he
wrote: To be a trauma surgeon and have waves of people coming in, I
didn't know if they were Black or White; I didn't know if they were gay
or straight. All I knew was I was doing everything I could to save
In some cases, they would make an initial prep; then they would get
the victim, who was still living, up to the operating room where other
surgeons were taking over. In some cases, they did not have time. They
had to do the operation right there in the trauma center. Fortunately,
the one trauma center in all of Central Florida is right there at
Orlando Regional Medical Center.
So a terrorist, perhaps aided and abetted by his wife--this is an
open question, and that determination has not been made. A terrorist
tried to divide us as a nation, just as they had before on 9/11 and at
San Bernardino and in so many other cases where they had been foiled.
There are others whom you can't label as terrorists, but they are in
their own ways--all the killings that have occurred at schools. If you
lump all of that together, they try to divide us. Yet Orlando came
together, united. They have a catch phrase for it. It is called Orlando
America is a nation of compassion, generosity, kindness, and respect.
Those are precisely the qualities we saw from the people of Orlando
when they came together a year ago, and this Senator saw that again in
vivid detail this morning.
We are forever grateful for the bravery and heroism of the police,
the first responders, the sheriff's department, the FBI, the families,
and victims helping other victims. We are forever grateful for the
trauma surgeons and the operating room nurses and doctors, as they
saved lives. We are forever grateful for the hospital and how it
completely accommodated all of this mass confusion and how it forgave
all of the medical expenses for those who had been victims, both the
living and the dead. We are forever grateful for those who rushed to
the scene that night in the face of uncertainty, in the pitch darkness
of that nightclub, not knowing where the shooter was. We are forever
grateful for the skills of the negotiators as they tried to talk the
shooter down. Ultimately, when he came out with the automatic weapons
blazing, they had to take him down.
To all of those heroes, we say thank you. To all of those heroes who
are also the families of these victims, we say thank you. To the
victims' families and loved ones, we want to say that even though you
lost those loved ones, they did not die in vain. Out of evil, what we
have seen is good.
Thanks to all of Orlando, not only for what you did that night, but
thank you for what you do every day. A year later, I can report to the
Senate that we are Orlando Strong.
I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Moran). The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, a year ago today, Americans--myself
included--awoke to the shocking news that 49 of our fellow Americans
had been killed overnight in one of the deadliest mass shootings, mass
attacks in our Nation's history.
I recall that day. It was a Sunday morning. I was home, and we were
getting ready to go to church, as we do. The news was on. We don't
usually turn on the TV. That day, the text messages were coming in, and
it spoke about this horrifying incident that occurred overnight. The
news reports were still sketchy.
For whatever reason--be it because of our work here or a bad gut
feeling--I remember telling my family that I was going to get in my
truck and drive the 3 hours to Orlando to be there because I felt there
was something beyond the scale and scope of it, a little bit different
about this horrifying attack. As I drove north on the Florida turnpike,
the updates on the radio kept coming in. The scale of it was
unbelievable. The numbers kept climbing, and there was still not a lot
of detail about what was behind it.
After I arrived on the scene and was able to interact with some of
our Federal authorities and State authorities who were there, the
picture still wasn't abundantly clear, but the one thing that began to
emerge was, this was the act of a single individual inspired by an
ideology of hate and supported in the pursuit of that ideology by
people who before that and since then have been responsible for attacks
all over the world.
I think the part that was perhaps most troubling for a lot of people
is--especially for me, I found myself at that time, 45 years of age, at
the halfway point between the age of the people who would have been
there and the age of someone whose child might have been there, and the
randomness of it--the notion that a lot of young people went out that
night to have a good time with their friends. It was Latin night. This
was a well-known nightclub in the LGBT community in Central Florida. I
don't think that when you get up at night and get dressed and go out
that you think one of the risks involved is you are going to end up
interacting with a jihadist terrorist. That is what happened that
The other part that was so startling is, so often for so many of us,
these bad things happen somewhere else. They happen in France. They
happen in London. They happened on 9/11 in New York City. This happened
in Florida, just down the street from a place that I had been a year
earlier--a small business, furniture store whose owners I had gotten to
know as I was writing a book about small businesses and the like. The
familiarity of it, how close it was to home, and the idea that the war
on terror had not just come to America that day but it had come to
Central Florida. Ultimately, we learned it had come to impact people
whom we knew through others and whose stories sounded quite familiar.
We now know it was the worst attack on U.S. soil since September 11
of 2001. In this time when we are having so many debates about whom we
are going to allow into our country and what criteria we are going to
use and from what places they can come, it is important to stop and
remember that the individual--whose name I will not even say because I
think one of the hopes he had is that he would go down in history as a
famous person, but this individual lived in our country for a long
time. He lived among us since the day he was born. He was not someone
who had come on an airplane or had recently arrived from another
culture, another society. He was an American, born and raised in the
United States. If my memory doesn't fail me, I believe he was born in
What strikes me is, he benefited from everything this country offers:
freedom, liberty. He knew people. He lived among fellow Americans his
whole life. He went to work every morning alongside them. He had all of
the blessings and the opportunities and everything this country
provides. Yet even that was not enough to somehow inspire him not just
to take on this evil ideology but to act on it.
Obviously, the attack was personal for the 49 families with stories
of their own and of course the countless others who were injured. I
know it was personal to the LGBT community and Central Florida. As I
said, Pulse was a well-known cornerstone of the community, particularly
for younger people.
As I said earlier, this was deeply personal for Floridians and for
the people of Central Florida. I will get to that in a moment because I
am extraordinarily proud of that community. I think it was personal for
When I arrived, I saw these people, largely still--I don't know what
time it was, but the attacks weren't even 12 hours old. I saw family
members of people they loved or loved ones who were outside in
desperate mode. You know that look on your face where, “I want to know
what happened. I don't know if the person I love is inside there. I
haven't heard from them.”
One of the most chilling things I heard from law enforcement was that
the cell phones were still buzzing as people were calling their loved
ones. It brought home that this wasn't just 49 as a number. It is so
easy to see that scroll across the television set. It is even easy to
say it now, 49. They were 49 human beings, 49 human beings with
families who loved them, parents who loved them, siblings who loved
them. I saw that firsthand when I got there. I saw the look of people
behind the yellow rope who had no idea if someone whom they deeply
loved and cared for lay dead on the other side of that tape.
I remember not long after, crowds began to form and people started
showing up with signs that said things like: “We're with you.” “We
love you.” This was early. I am talking about 12 to 13 hours after the
I commend the law enforcement--Federal, State, local--who came
together and responded. I saw people coming off duty, people who were
not on duty that day, putting on the uniform and showing up to see how
they could help. We saw the long lines of everyday citizens bringing
food and water to support their efforts. Later that day, we saw long
lines of Floridians lined up to donate blood.
There is no doubt that this was a community that was heartbroken, but
it was also a community that was unbroken; that I believe woke up
stronger and more united than it was when I went to sleep the night
I think, ultimately, the man who committed this attack and the people
who inspired him to do so would have been horrified by what they saw. I
think they would have been horrified to see First Baptist Church in
Orlando--a pillar of the Christian evangelical community--opening its
doors to the LGBT community and welcoming them and their families and
holding services there. I think they would have been horrified by that.
I think they would have been horrified by people putting aside, if but
for a moment, their voter registration cards, their preferences in the
upcoming elections, their backgrounds, the way their last names are
pronounced or whom they love. They put all this aside and said: These
are 49 Americans--and their families--who just died at the hands of an
evil terrorist. We are committed to doing everything we can to provide
support for them. I think these terrorists would have been horrified to
see what has happened since that time.
In so many ways, Central Florida grew up--and I mean that in a
positive way--so much in the last year, in terms of coming together, in
the sense of community, and obviously it is sometimes in tragedy that
we see that happen. I think it served as an extraordinary inspiration
to communities all around the country who hope to achieve the same
level of unity without the tragedy.
While the attack may have succeeded in sowing death and heartbreak,
it failed in sowing doubt about our way of life. In the year that has
followed, we have seen hundreds of thousands of Americans come together
in Orlando to celebrate the lives of the victims and to begin that
In the weeks and months after the attack, memorials were established
throughout downtown Orlando, marking the loss of 49 of our brothers and
sisters. We saw ceremonies held in every part of the State, from
Pensacola to Miami, FL.
One thing that really stands out in particular is, one of the
memorials was a set of 49 white crosses that rested aside the Orlando
Regional Medical Center, the trauma center where a number of the
victims were taken that morning. Those crosses are now at the Orange
County Regional History Center. Each one of these crosses is about 3 to
4 feet high and has the name of one of the 49 victims. People from all
across the Nation visited this memorial, including, at the time,
President Obama and Vice President Biden. They came to pay their
respects and to leave a token of their mourning in the honor of those
taken that night--cards and pictures, teddy bears and flowers were set
around each cross, and people wrote notes and well-wishes on the
crosses to honor the memory of each of the 49.
When the crosses were taken by a police motorcade to the history
center, one mother--I have chosen not to list her name because it is
not for me to do, but she was there to assist that Tuesday with moving
that cross that represented her daughter. She and her husband, I think,
by now know this, but we share a mutual friend in the Orlando area, and
I have learned firsthand from him just how hard the loss of their
daughter was for them.
In the end, before I am a Senator or anything else I do, I am a
husband and a father, and I have a child whose name is the same as
their daughter. I, for the life of me, cannot begin to fathom what they
have gone through in the past year, along with 48 other families.
As they moved her cross with her name on it, they saw a note on it
that had been written by someone in the community. They don't know who
it was. The note was very simple, but it was very powerful. The note
said: “I never knew you but I love you.”
It strikes me that line, “I never knew you but I love you,” for
those of us in the Christian faith, reminds us of what Christ said is
one of our greatest Commandments, to love your neighbor as yourself.
For the past year, we have felt the deep pain. We have also seen in
Orlando that it is united. “One Orlando.” At a time when we can
always find something to divide us, a community came together to honor
the memory of those who were lost. Each of them was a son or a
daughter, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a husband, a wife,
or a partner. In the end, they were a part of our families and our
communities. Each of them, like all of us, had immense promise and
hope. Each in their own way were a part of what makes this country a
great nation, and they were lost that terrible night 1 year ago, but
they were loved.
A year later, we remember them and those they left behind. I hope we
will honor them by finding a way as a nation to remember that despite
our differences on a vast number of issues, we are still one nation
under God, the greatest Nation on Earth, the most extraordinary people
who have ever lived, a nation that is not simply a people bound
together by a common blood or common heritage, a common ethnicity.
America is more than a country. It is an idea, the idea that every
single human being has a God-given right to live life as they so choose
and to fulfill their potential. I hope we will continue to work here
and everywhere we can to live up to that powerful idea that changed the
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
All time has expired.
The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Rapuano
Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, 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 legislative clerk called the roll.
Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the
Senator from North Carolina (Mr. Burr), the Senator from Georgia (Mr.
Perdue), and the Senator from Idaho (Mr. Risch).
Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Michigan (Ms. Stabenow)
is necessarily absent.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). Are there any other Senators in
the Chamber desiring to vote?
The result was announced--yeas 95, nays 1, as follows:
[Rollcall Vote No. 142 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.