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Congressional Record2017/06/12Senate | House | Extensions

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[Pages S3385-S3388]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

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 suffering.

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 scene.

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 center hospital. [[Page S3386]]

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 lives.

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 Strong.

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 night.

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 Queens, NY.

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 all Americans.

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 [[Page S3387]] 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 attack happened.

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 before.

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 healing process.

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 world.

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 nomination?

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.] YEAS--95 Alexander Baldwin Barrasso Bennet Blumenthal Blunt Booker Boozman Brown Cantwell Capito Cardin Carper Casey Cassidy Cochran Collins Coons Corker Cornyn Cortez Masto Cotton Crapo Cruz Daines Donnelly Duckworth Durbin Enzi Ernst Feinstein Fischer Flake Franken Gardner Gillibrand Graham Grassley Harris Hassan Hatch Heinrich Heitkamp Heller Hirono Hoeven Inhofe Isakson Johnson Kaine Kennedy King Klobuchar Lankford Leahy Lee Manchin Markey McCain McCaskill [[Page S3388]] McConnell Menendez Merkley Moran Murkowski Murphy Murray Nelson Paul Peters Portman Reed Roberts Rounds Rubio Sasse Schatz Schumer Scott Shaheen Shelby Strange Sullivan Tester Thune Tillis Toomey Udall Van Hollen Warner Warren Whitehouse Wicker Wyden Young NAYS--1 Sanders NOT VOTING--4 Burr Perdue Risch Stabenow

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. ____________________



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