[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 120 (Monday, July 17, 2017)]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before
the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
The 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 Patrick M. Shanahan, of Washington, to be Deputy Secretary
Mitch McConnell, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Thom Tillis,
Lindsey Graham, Mike Crapo, John Boozman, Roger F.
Wicker, Dan Sullivan, John Cornyn, John Thune, Steve
Daines, John Barrasso, David Perdue, Mike Rounds, Orrin
G. Hatch, John McCain.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. 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 Patrick M. Shanahan, of Washington, to be Deputy
Secretary of Defense, shall be brought to a close?
The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk called the roll.
Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the
Senator from Iowa (Mrs. Ernst), the Senator from Arizona (Mr. Flake),
the Senator from Nevada (Mr. Heller), the Senator from Arizona (Mr.
McCain), the Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Wicker).
Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Iowa (Mrs. Ernst)
would have voted “yea” and the Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Wicker)
would have voted “yea”.
Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Illinois (Ms. Duckworth)
is necessarily absent.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kennedy). Are there any other Senators in
the Chamber desiring to vote?
The result was announced--yeas 88, nays 6, as follows:
[Rollcall Vote No. 161 Ex.]
The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 88, the nays are 6.
The motion is agreed to.
The Senator from Alaska.
Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, I want to talk a little bit about what
is going on here on the Senate floor. We were just considering the
nomination of the Deputy Secretary of Defense, trying to move him
along--a very important job--and it has taken some time. As a matter of
fact, it has taken a long time, as the Presiding Officer knows, to get
nominees from the White House confirmed by this body to run the
Running the government is a very important job. We not only need
Cabinet Secretaries--which, by the way, took months for this body to
confirm. They slowed down the confirmation of the choices of the White
House to run the Federal agencies--no real explanation why--and now,
Under Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Federal
judges--delay, delay, delay, delay.
We are supposed to be trying to put people in place to run the
government, which is the job of the Senate, but it has taken a very
long time to do it, and it shouldn't be this way. It shouldn't be this
When we look at U.S. history, typically, enabling a President to fill
the key positions of government has not been a partisan issue. An
election happens. Yes, there could be some debate on Cabinet officials,
but you typically want to fill the government and start running the
government on behalf of the American people. It has not been a partisan
issue in America. Well, unfortunately, it is becoming a partisan issue
due to what by any measure is historic obstruction on the nominations
coming from the White House to run the Federal Government--historic
The people did elect us, and they elected a new President, and
implicit in the election was that they wanted us to get to work, to do
things that, in my view, are very bipartisan. What are some of those
things? Growing the economy. We haven't had 3 percent GDP growth in
almost 15 years. That is a bipartisan issue--growing the economy. So
are rebuilding our military, unleashing energy that we have in this
great Nation in enormous abundance, investing in infrastructure,
streamlining regulations that are strangling small businesses, and,
yes, enacting policies to address the spiraling costs of health
insurance and healthcare costs across the country.
Throughout history, the party in the minority understood this after
an election and would vote to confirm new members of an
administration--not just Cabinet Secretaries but Under Secretaries,
Deputy Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and judges. In fact, the
current minority leader said the following in 2013: “Who in America
doesn't think a President, Democrat or Republican, deserves his or her
picks for who should run the agencies? Nobody.”
“Nobody,” he said.
Those were wise words in 2013. I just wish he would remember them in
2017 because apparently he has forgotten those words. He has forgotten
those words, because right now there is pure obstruction in terms of
trying to seat the people to run the government.
Sometimes it is important to try to explain to the American people
what is going on here on the Senate floor because it can be confusing.
I still get confused sometimes. There are arcane rules. Let's give an
example of what just happened here right now.
We had the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the No. 2 official at the
Department of Defense. That is a pretty darn important job. After he
came out of the Armed Services Committee, on which I sit, we voted to
end debate on his nomination. The vote just happened, and I believe it
was 88 to 6, so very bipartisan.
By the way, we need people at the Department of Defense. Whether you
are a Democrat or a Republican, regardless of whom you voted for in the
November elections, most Americans want us to have good people running
the Department of Defense right now. We have very few there--very few--
because of this obstruction.
For the Deputy Secretary, the cloture vote just happened, 88 to 6.
That is a very strong bipartisan vote. In previous times, in a
Democratic or Republican administration, the Senate would normally say:
Let's move him. He needs to get over there. Let's unanimously agree to
moving that nomination more quickly so he can help run the Department
of Defense--a pretty important job.
Well, unfortunately, we are not in that era right now. So what our
colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been doing for every
single nomination for this administration is now we will have an
additional 2-day waiting period, an additional 30 hours of debate.
Those are Senate rules, but normally on someone this noncontroversial,
those rules get waived. But we have a minority leader who wants to drag
out every single official from being seated. He really hasn't explained
why. I haven't heard an explanation why. But it is happening for every
single official--three to four days on one official. Someone did an
estimation that if they keep this up, if they do this for every single
Senate-confirmed job, it will take 11 years. It will take 11 years to
seat the officials in the Trump administration. How is that helping the
American people? It is not. Yet, nobody comes to the floor to explain
why they are doing it. The press doesn't report on it.
Let me provide some other facts on this issue. Normally, when we
waive these rules, we can have a voice vote. For a noncontroversial
nomination like the Deputy Secretary of Defense, as we just had,
normally that would be voice-voted.
At this point in President Obama's Presidency--so the first 6 months
of his Presidency--the Senate had allowed more than 90 percent of his
nominees to be confirmed by simple voice vote. The Senate asked for
procedural votes only eight times on eight nominees--that was it--in
the first 6 months of President Obama's administration. That was
actually normal. Democrats or Republicans would do something along
For the Trump administration's first 6 months, the minority leader
and his colleagues have demanded cloture votes for every single
nominee, no matter what the position, no matter how noncontroversial,
no matter how bipartisan. The courtesy extended to President Obama to
get his team together so that he could run the country has not been
extended here. That is just a fact.
Let me give another fact. According to the nonpartisan Partnership
for Public Service, at about this point in President Obama's first
term, he had 183 of his nominations confirmed--183. Getting people in
their positions in government to run the country--it doesn't matter
what party you are in; this is to run the country. But while President
Trump's administration at this point has made 178 nominations to the
Senate, only 46 have been confirmed. So for President Obama at this
point, 183 nominations were confirmed; for this President, 46. This is
No one comes here and says: Why? Why are you doing this? What is the
point? What is the point?
This isn't by accident. The head of a leading Democratic think tank
told the press recently that they intended to hold up, delay, tie up
floor time for every single nomination for Senate-confirmed positions.
But what they don't do--they don't say: And here is why.
Why do they want to do that? It is not going to help us grow the
economy. It is not going to help us with infrastructure. It is not
going to help us rebuild our military when we keep the Deputy Secretary
from coming in to his position.
Just last week, we had a judge who was nominated from the State of
Idaho, a district court judge who was confirmed unanimously, and it
took almost the entire week to get him confirmed on the Senate floor
because the minority leader was delaying, delaying, delaying--even
someone who got 100 percent of the Senators to vote for him. Again, it
is not clear why they are doing this.
Some of the other noncontroversial nominees that are being delayed
are the Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and
two nominees to review pipelines and other projects at the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission. Do you think we
need that for our country to grow the economy? We do.
These are important positions to do the work of the Federal
Government. Yet they are all delayed, and nobody in the press even asks
any questions. This is historic obstruction right now, and no one is
even asking: Why are you doing it?
It would be great to have the minority leader come to the Senate
floor and tell us why. I want to know why. I want to grow the economy.
We need these people in positions of authority to help us do the
things--bipartisan things--that the American people sent us here to do,
not delay, not obstruct.
Something else is happening on the Senate floor right now. It is not
just the historic obstruction of nominees. The other side, for whatever
reason, is now deciding they are going to shut down any movement of
anything on the Senate floor. Let me give one example, which is
actually quite important.
A lot of what we do here moves by what we call unanimous consent on
the Senate floor. There are rules to move things. It can take a lot of
time. But a lot of times the leadership of the Senate will get together
and say: OK, we can have a unanimous consent agreement to move things
faster. It is not just nominees. Sometimes it is actually legislation.
As a matter of fact, a lot of things move on the Senate floor through
unanimous consent, which is, essentially, a voice vote where everyone,
all 100 Senators, say: We agree with that. It is a bill that is really
important, very bipartisan. Let's move it. Let's move it fast. It came
out of committee. It is not controversial, but maybe it is important,
so let's move it.
For whatever reason, it still doesn't explain to the American people
why the minority leader would say that we are not going to move
anything by unanimous consent right now either. Not only will we hold
up every nominee as long as possible--even the noncontroversial ones--
nothing is going to move in the Senate by unanimous consent.
Again, why? How does that help the American people? How does that
help the American people when you are just blocking things?
Let me give one specific. It is an issue I feel very passionate
about. I had a bill introduced last year. It passed the Senate by
unanimous consent, and we are trying to pass it right now by unanimous
consent this Congress. Unfortunately, it didn't pass out of the House.
I think it will. It has passed out of committee again. It is called the
Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent Act, the POWER Act. It is very
bipartisan. A number of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle,
including Senators Heitkamp, Shaheen, Leahy, and Warren, are
Here is what it does: I come to the Senate floor every week to talk
about what a great State I live in--Alaska. One thing we actually
aren't proud of in Alaska is that we have a real big problem with
domestic violence and sexual assault in my State. One of the best ways
to deal with that issue, one of the best ways to help victims and
survivors break the cycle of violence that occurs with way too many
families and way too many women and children in Alaska--and across the
country--is to get attorneys to represent them.
Here is a startling fact. It is a little harsh when you say it, but
it is true: If there is someone who commits a rape or is accused of
committing a rape, that person gets a Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
That is in our Bill of Rights. Guess what the victim gets in terms of
legal representation: nothing. There is no right. But that is a really
important way to help break the cycle of violence--to get survivors and
victims an attorney and get the resources to do that. That is what the
POWER Act does, and that is why it passed by unanimous consent last
We have a big problem in the country in terms of domestic violence
and sexual assault. This would help. We are trying to move it right now
by unanimous consent. It will pass. But it is not going to pass now
because the minority leader is blocking every unanimous consent
agreement on the Senate floor. Why? Why?
Does he think that women in America don't need the resources to
represent themselves in these kind of horrendous crimes? They do. Trust
me. Thousands of them--tens of thousands of them do. So why are we
blocking this? Why don't we move it? We are shutting down the whole
Senate, trying to shut down the Federal Government's ability to seat
itself, to do the work of the American people. This is historic
obstruction, and no one explains it. The press doesn't ask about it. I
think the American people need to know about it.
We were elected to move this country forward. The election happened
in November. Let's come together. There is a lot of bipartisan work to
do. We have our differences on healthcare and other issues, but there
are so many things about which we don't have differences--growing the
economy, rebuilding our military, infrastructure. We need people in the
Federal Government who can do that, and we need leaders in the Senate
who can move things forward by unanimous consent--like the POWER Act--
when they are not controversial. We don't have those leaders right now,
and we need them. We need to get this country moving again. The way
things are happening on the Senate floor, it is not happening that way
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
Tribute to Stefanie Mohler
Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from
Oregon, Senator Merkley, for allowing me a few extra minutes of his
time ahead of his speech. I appreciate his courtesy, and I will pay him
Ironically, I am thanking him for giving me time to make a speech I
have never wanted to make. In fact, I have three times canceled the
time I had asked for to make this speech in the last month because when
it came time to make it and I opened those doors to come down here, I
couldn't quite do it. I couldn't quite do it because, every once in a
while, something happens in your career with a loved one or friend or
cohort who is so close to you and so meaningful to you that to talk
about it is an emotional thing to do.
Such is the occasion tonight for me to pay tribute to Stefanie
Mohler, who is my scheduler and has been for years. She came to work
for me when I was a Member of the Senate. She has worked for me time
and again in the U.S. Senate, except for the one time she left me to go
work for George Bush--and I understand that. That was a higher pay
grade than mine.
Stefanie was a young lady working for a Congressman from her hometown
in Florida when I came to Washington. She wasn't married. She had a
wonderful family and lived at home with her folks. She applied for a
job as a scheduler for me and came to work for us.
I ran a pretty large company. I had about 1,000 independent
contractors and 250 employees. I know a good worker when I see one.
Stefanie was the best. But she had that quality beyond just being the
best. She cared about every single thing she did and every single
person whom she helped and every single person whom she couldn't help.
She grew in the job, and she made me a better Congressman and, later, a
She came to me about 18 months ago and said: I have some news for
you. I am pregnant. I am pregnant with identical twins.
I was so excited for her and her husband because she wanted more than
anything else in the world to have a family. My wife and I had a party
for her at Christmas in December, and the two babies came in the early
part of this year. They are beautiful. She is a wonderful mother. But
she has stayed, and she has worked. Her mom has come in and helped her
do the chores at home as she continued to fulfill her commitment to me.
I thank her so much on the floor of the Senate today for that.
She is married to a great guy named Chase Mohler. Let me tell you a
little bit about Chase.
All of us at one time or another in our lives have fallen in love.
You know what it feels like to fall in love. You also know what it
looks like to see somebody who is in love. You can't describe it, but
there is a glow. It is just something that is there.
I was in Jacksonville, FL, with Saxby Chambliss, waiting to come back
to Washington when Stefanie was
coming back from taking Chase to meet her family in Florida. When she
turned the corner in an airport concourse coming toward the planes, I
could tell from the glow on her face and the look on her face that
something special had happened in her life.
I said: Stefanie, what are you so happy about?
She said: I have found a husband. I am going to marry him. He asked
me to marry him.
I was so happy for her and so happy for Chase because I had met him.
They had dated while she was working in my office and later married.
Chase works for the State Department and has been serving here in
Washington. But he got a promotion, and he is going to the North
Carolina coast, and he is going to take Stefanie with him.
I am losing the best person I have ever had doing what Stefanie has
done for me. He married the best person I have ever seen, and she is
doing everything in the world for him.
So I thought I would come to the floor tonight, not to list the
accolades--which I could in the thousands--not to say all those
platitudes we always love to hear said about ourselves or about
somebody important, but to make a confession. I am in love. I am in
love with Stefanie Mohler because for most of her adult life she gave
her time and her effort to make me a better Member of the U.S. Senate.
She supported my wife when she needed it, and I couldn't help. She
supported our office when they needed it, and they couldn't help. She
did all of the little things that you never ask someone to do because
you think it is too little, but it is so important to make a difference
in every day that goes by.
When she leaves in about 3 months, I am going to be sad. I will shed
a tear or two. I will probably shed one for her before the night is
over. But when she leaves, I want her to know and I want the whole
Senate document to record that once in a while--every once in a while--
somebody special comes along and makes a difference in your life, your
effort, and your ability. Stefanie Mohler has been that for me. I will
never forget her for all that she has done for me, and I will always be
there for her if she ever needs me.
May God bless Stefanie Mohler, and may God bless the United States of
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, climate disruption is the seminal
challenge of our generation. It is the most significant test that human
civilization on our planet has faced, and there are a lot of questions
about how we are going to be able to come together as a community of
nations and community of cultures to address this very significant
threat to our beautiful blue-green planet.
It affects everything from our farms to our forests to our fisheries.
We see the impact in terms of disappearing glaciers, shrinking ice
sheets, melting permafrost and dying coral. We see the impact on our
farms, our trout streams, and our forests. We see the impact with
migrating animals, migrating insects, and more powerful storms.
In response, communities across the globe are taking action. They are
transforming their energy economies. They are developing aggressive
strategies to save energy in their buildings, in their vehicles, and in
their appliances. They are working to replace their fossil fuel energy
supplies with clean and renewable energy.
How much do you know about the changes underway? Let's find out.
Welcome to episode 3 of the Senate Climate Disruption Quiz. The first
question we have is, Why did American Airlines cancel 57 flights
between June 20 and 22? Was it extreme temperatures? Was it a pilot
strike? Was it severe storms? Was it a fuel shortage? The answer is A,
How is that the case?
When air gets hotter, it gets thinner. Thinner air provides less lift
for planes to take off, and eventually the runway isn't long enough for
the plane to go fast enough to get enough lift to clear the runway.
Therefore, all of these flights got canceled.
It is not the first time it has happened. It happened in 2013 in
Phoenix, with 18 flights canceled, but this was a pretty dramatic
incident attributable to very extreme temperatures.
Let's turn to question No. 2. How long was the recent streak of
record-setting monthly temperatures--meaning, for example, that a given
month like May was the hottest May ever, June was the hottest June
ever, and July was the hottest July ever? How many months in a row did
this happen? Did it happen for 6 months in a row? Or for 12 months in a
row? Is it conceivable that this streak extended beyond a year to 16
months or perhaps even for 2 years, to 24 months? Lock in your answer.
The correct answer is C, 16 months. From May 2015 through August
2016, each and every month was the hottest month on record. In
September, 2016, the streak was broken, but only by a few hundredths of
a degree. In fact, in September 2016, the temperature was still 1.6
degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
I have a math question to put in here. If you had climate data and
temperature data for 50 years, what are the odds that, by chance, 16
months in a row would be the hottest--each one the hottest among the 50
previous months? What are the odds of that? Pull out your calculators,
and take 1 out of 50, and take it to the 16th power. What do you get?
You get that the odds are less than 1 out of a trillion trillion. That
is the odds. In other words, this didn't happen by chance.
Let's turn to question No. 3. Where in the world is the largest
floating solar project? Maybe you have never even heard of a floating
solar project. There is one. In fact, there are several. Where is the
world's largest? Is it in China? Is it in Brazil? Is it in India? Or is
it in Australia?
By the way, here is a hint. All four of these actually have floating
solar projects. Lock in your answer. Here is the answer.
The answer is A, China.
India has a small floating solar project, and it generates about 100
kilowatts. Australia's is 40 times larger, at 4 megawatts, and it is
roughly the equivalent of two wind turbines. Brazil's is yet larger, at
10 megawatts. The largest floating solar project by far is in Liulong,
China. The 40-megawatt solar plant is able to provide enough energy to
15,000 homes. Because it floats, it uses less energy than most solar
farms because the water acts as a natural coolant.
There is something very symbolic about this largest-in-the-world
floating solar project, and that is that it sits on a lake caused by
the collapse of abandoned coal mines. It is as if it is saying to us:
Let's transition from a fossil fuel economy to a clean, renewable
energy economy, like electrons produced by solar power.
Question No. 4, last year plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles
made up less than 1 percent of global car sales. It is a very small
amount. What was the percentage in Norway?
Was it half a percent behind the world average? Was it 15 percent?
Was it 37 percent? Or, perhaps, was it even more than one out of two
cars sold in Norway? Lock in your answer.
Here is the right answer. The answer is C, 37 percent. When the world
average is under 1 percent, it is pretty impressive that Norway is at
In 2016, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars made up 37 percent
of the new car sales in Norway. That is a huge increase in just a
couple of years. Three years earlier, the electric vehicles--the plug-
in hybrids and fully electric vehicles--accounted for only 6 percent of
Norway's sales. In a short 3 years, it went from 6 percent to 37
percent. This growth is a combination of fees on gas-powered and
diesel-powered cars and subsidies for electric vehicles.
Let's look at what else is happening with cars in the world. Volvo
has announced that all of its new models from 2019 forward will have
some form of electric drive. Then you see the growth of companies like
Tesla, which only produces electric cars. It is becoming increasingly
clear that the future of the global auto industry is electric.
Let's turn to question No. 5, our final question. This one hits close
to home for me as a Senator from Oregon. What killed billions of baby
oysters in Oregon in 2007 and 2008? Was it red tide? Red tide occurs
when an algae blooms, and it is a red bloom. It discolors the water,
turns it red, and releases toxins that are absorbed by the clams and
other sea life, so that we can't go out and dig up our clams and eat
them for fear of getting poisoned.
Was it red tide that killed the oysters? Or was it the POMS virus, or
the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome virus, which affects Pacific
oysters and can cause up to 100 percent mortality within days of
initial detection? Was it sea lice--tiny jellyfish larvae that are
tiny, almost invisible specks that are no larger than a grain of
pepper? Or was it rising ocean acidity, caused by the emission of
billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the
air that get absorbed by the ocean through tidal action? Lock in your
The correct answer is D, rising ocean acidity. How is this possible?
How can you stand on the coast of Oregon and look out at the Pacific
Ocean and envision that humankind has burned so much fossil fuel--so
many fossil fuels--and that it has created so much carbon dioxide in
the air and tidal action has absorbed that into the ocean and turned it
into carbonic acid that it has changed the acidity of the ocean? It
seems completely impossible. Yet over the last 150 years, the burning
of fossil fuels by human civilization has increased the acidity of the
ocean by 30 percent.
In 2007, when I was running for the U.S. Senate for the first time,
the oysters started dying. The scientists got involved. They said: What
is going on? They said: Is it a virus? Is it a bacterium?
It wasn't a virus. It wasn't a bacterium. After some time, they
nailed it down simply to that the ocean water had become too acidic,
that there was too much carbonic acid in the ocean from carbon dioxide
pollution in the atmosphere. Where did that come from? From the burning
of fossil fuels.
Now, the water comes into the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in a
very large pipe, and then it has to be buffered; that is, the acidity
has to be decreased before that water continues into the vats with the
baby oysters. For all we know, they will have to do this forever more,
until we can turn the clock back on global climate disruption.
If the oysters are being affected, what else is going to be affected
in the sea chain? What is the impact on our coral reefs, which provide
the foundation for many of the world's fisheries? That is something
that we should rightly be very concerned about.
There you have it, folks, episode 3 of the Senate Climate Disruption
Quiz. How did you do? How many of those questions did you get right?
The facts on the ground are changing very quickly as climate disruption
increases and communities across the globe respond. Together we are
racing the clock, and there is no time to spare. So stay engaged in the
In the near future, I will bring you episode 4 of the Senate Climate
Disruption Quiz. In the meantime, if you have a good idea for a climate
disruption question, please tweet that question to me at
@SenJeffMerkley, using the hashtag ClimateQ4Jeff. Together, let's keep
fighting to save our planet.
Henry David Thoreau said: What use is a home if you don't have a
tolerable planet to put it on?
Let's work together to make sure we have a tolerable planet, a
healthy planet, not just for this generation but for our children and
our great-grandchildren and the generations to follow.
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. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Order of Procedure
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that at 12 noon
on Tuesday, July 18, there be 15 minutes of postcloture debate, equally
divided in the usual form, on the Shanahan nomination; that following
the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate vote on the
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, and the Senate immediately
resume consideration of the Bush nomination.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.