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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I move to proceed to executive
session to consider Calendar No. 175, Marvin Kaplan.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion.
The motion was agreed to.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the nomination.
The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Marvin
Kaplan, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board
for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2020.
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I send a cloture motion to the desk.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
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 Marvin Kaplan, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National
Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring
August 27, 2020.
Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Marco Rubio, Deb
Fischer, John Cornyn, Susan M. Collins, Lamar
Alexander, Roy Blunt, Luther Strange, Pat Roberts,
James Lankford, Bob Corker, Richard C. Shelby, John
Barrasso, Joni Ernst, Orrin G. Hatch.
Mr. McCONNELL. I ask unanimous consent that the mandatory quorum call
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered.
Recognition of the Minority Leader
The Democratic leader is recognized.
Mr. SCHUMER. Thank you, Madam President.
First, on the matter of healthcare. I sincerely and truly hope the
events of last week are a turning point. I hope they steer this body
toward a period of greater bipartisanship. We sure could use it because
the problems in our healthcare system did not end last week. We
Democrats know that the Affordable Care Act wasn't perfect. We want to
keep what works--and there are a lot of good things in it--and we want
to fix what doesn't. We have a lot of work to do on that front.
Our first order of business should be to stabilize the individual
market and then both parties should work together through regular order
through committees to discuss other improvements. Chairman Alexander
and Ranking Member Murray have indicated they want to work together,
have public hearings, and do this the right away. I am hopeful Chairman
Hatch, Ranking Member Wyden, both of whom have proven themselves
willing and able to work across party lines, also will be willing to
work closely together to address broader problems with our healthcare
Let me repeat. The first order of business should be to stabilize the
individual market, which has been racked by uncertainty.
Right now, as insurers prepare to lock in their rates and plans for
2018, the Trump administration is dangling a massive sword of Damocles
over the heads of millions of Americans, threatening to end payments
the administration is supposed to make that would lower deductibles and
out-of-pocket costs for so many Americans. These payments are critical
to keeping healthcare costs down and keeping the markets stable.
Remember, AHIP--the largest trade group of insurers--has said the
uncertainty about these payments is “the single most destabilizing
factor in the individual market.” That is not Chuck Schumer or some
Democrat saying it, it is the insurers saying it. Make no mistake, by
refusing these payments, President Trump is sabotaging our healthcare
system. He is actively trying to make it collapse, taking out his
political loss on the American people. That is not being Presidential;
that is small, it is vindictive, and it will hurt millions of Americans
he has sworn to help.
In Pennsylvania and North Carolina, insurers have filed two separate
sets of possible rates for 2018; one if the payments are made and one
if they are not. If the payments are not made, premiums would be 20
Let's repeat that. If the payments are not made, if President Trump
follows through on his vindictive idea of not making the payments,
premiums will be 20 percent higher for the people of North Carolina and
Pennsylvania. So if President Trump does not guarantee these payments
permanently, Americans will have to pay a Trump tax on their premiums
Let me say that again. If President Trump does not guarantee these
payments, Americans will be paying a Trump tax of 20 percent higher
President Trump has a responsibility to make our healthcare system
work, and millions of Americans will hold him accountable if the system
implodes on his watch, if insurers leave the markets on his watch, or
if their premiums go up 20 percent or more on his watch.
Of course, we in Congress could remove the uncertainty hanging over
the market and take the decision out of the President's hands. We can
and should guarantee these payments as soon as possible, before the
insurers set their rates for next year. I urge my Republican friends to
join us on Senator Shaheen's bill to guarantee these payments and
prevent President Trump's premium tax from going into effect.
Republican Senators Alexander, Collins, Hatch, Portman, and Johnson
have all spoken about the need to do this. I hope they will help us
move forward. We could get this done very quickly and show the American
people that we are able to work together on healthcare in a very
bipartisan way, to help keep costs down for so many ratepayers.
Now, Madam President, on the matter of Russia sanctions. I was very
proud last week, as nearly every Member of Congress, save five, voted
to pass legislation for sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea;
that there was such bipartisanship on that issue. According to reports,
the President will sign the legislation.
These are tough sanctions. They will have a real effect on Russia,
and they are more than justified. President Putin violated the
sovereignty of Ukraine, aided and abetted human rights abuses in Syria,
and attacked the very foundation of our democracy by meddling in the
Just as importantly, the sanctions bill gives Congress the ability to
review any decision to weaken, dilute, or lift sanctions on Russia.
President Putin will not be able to get out from under the sting of
these sanctions without the consent of Congress.
Let this be an unequivocal message to Mr. Putin and any other nation
that is thinking of interfering in our elections: If you interfere with
our elections, which we hold sacred, you will be sanctioned. Those
sanctions will be severe.
Finally, Madam President, a word on the investigation conducted by
Special Counsel Mueller.
Since the beginning of the investigation of Russia's meddling into
our elections both here in Congress and in the executive branch, the
heavy hand of the administration has never been far away. We know that
the administration solicited the help of the chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee to beat back reports in the press about Russia's
interference in our election, and that was after 17 intelligence
agencies said that it happened. The President fired FBI Director Jim
Comey and admitted on national television that he was thinking about
“this Russia thing” when he did it. Then, after Special Counsel
Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation, allies of the
administration went on television to defame his character, to sully his
reputation--a shameful ploy to degrade a man with
one of the most sterling records of nonpartisan public service that a
man can have in this country.
On Twitter, the President routinely berates and humiliates his former
friend--maybe he still is a friend; who knows--his Attorney General,
his great ally in his campaign. Jeff Sessions was one of President
Trump's earliest friends, one of his first supporters in Congress. Not
only does that get to character--I cannot imagine any American likes
the way Senator Sessions was treated, whether you agree with him or
disagree with him--but it also raises questions about whether the
President wants the Attorney General to resign so that he can appoint a
new Attorney General who is willing to fire Special Counsel Mueller.
If such a scenario were to pass, we would have a constitutional
crisis on our hands. The Senate should remove even the possibility of
its coming about. So, in the tradition of the Senate, I expect that we
will hold pro forma sessions throughout the upcoming recess to prevent
a recess appointment from being made.
The fact that President Trump continues to meddle with the Department
of Justice and impede the Russia investigation gets to a larger
question: If President Trump has nothing to hide, nothing to fear, why
not let Special Counsel Mueller do his job, follow the facts, and
finally get to the bottom of the matter?
On a matter as important as foreign interference in our elections,
the American people deserve a thorough and impartial investigation into
the facts. President Trump should come nowhere near it.
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. NELSON. 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. NELSON. Madam President, we have chaos in Venezuela. It is a
protracted crisis in Venezuela, which took yet another turn for the
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pushed ahead with a vote to form
a constitutional assembly despite the vehement opposition of the
Venezuelan people and overwhelming international criticism. It became a
sham vote. Only about 10 percent of the population voted. The
opposition stayed home. Plain and simple, the vote was illegal, and it
was rigged. Once again, on the streets and at the ballot box, the
Venezuelan people have made themselves heard loud and clear. Two weeks
ago, more than 7 million Venezuelans voted against even holding this
vote, and, yesterday, millions of people stayed home.
Maduro wants to rewrite Venezuela's Constitution so that he can cling
to power, and yesterday's vote was only the latest attempt to
undermine, if not to completely undo, Venezuela's democracy. He
continues to crack down on protesters, killing more than 100 and
injuring and arresting thousands more. His thugs have raided homes and
terrorized the opposition's families. He has tried to strip the
National Assembly of its powers, undercut the Attorney General, and he
has co-opted the courts. His thugs attacked the National Assembly and
injured opposition lawmakers. He blocked a lawful referendum to recall
His cronies steal the country's money and enrich themselves. All the
while, the Venezuelan people suffer. The people go hungry; children are
malnourished; there are no staple products--no medicines, no medical
supplies for the people. Of course, you know who gets the food and the
medical treatment. It is the privileged few--the Maduro ones whom he
protects. This is Venezuela's tragic reality.
Maduro has made himself a dictator, and he and his cronies are bent
on turning Venezuela's once vibrant democracy and once vibrant economy
into a Cuban-style regime. Nevertheless, the Venezuelan people, in the
face of violence, oppression, and deprivation, continue to fight for
their democracy--for the little bit of freedom they have left. They are
doing everything they can--at great risk to themselves and their
families--to save their democracy and, thus, to save their country. The
task just got a lot harder.
The issue before us is what we can do to support them since Maduro
has now installed himself with this fake referendum on the National
Assembly. What can we do to keep Maduro from being the dictator he is?
What we need to do is to condemn the National Assembly as the sham
that it is. It also means the United States increasing the pressure on
the Maduro regime. I just spoke this afternoon with the Treasury
Department. The United States announced a little earlier this afternoon
that it has frozen Maduro's assets. I expect at least two other
countries to follow suit--and probably more after they do. This is an
important step, and I hope that it is the first in what will be the
strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro. It is time that
we consider cutting the imports of Venezuela's oil also.
What have we done thus far?
There was already a group of Maduro's cronies--some in the private
sector, some in the government--on whom the sanctions have been
slapped. You ask: What does that do? What good does that do? Listen,
all of these cronies of Maduro's love to come to Miami. They love to
have offshore bank accounts and all kinds of assets stashed overseas--
if not in the United States, perhaps in some of those other countries
that are going to follow suit. We should do that with his cronies.
What we have done today with the announcement by the Treasury
Department is to freeze Nicholas Maduro's assets, and if other
countries will follow suit, they are going to freeze his assets as
Maybe we should take the next step. The next step is that Venezuela
exports a lot of its oil to the United States. It is such a heavy,
dirty crude that a good part of that has to go to the refineries in the
United States because those refineries are the ones that are capable of
refining that heavy, dirty crude. Maybe we just ought to stop our
imports of Venezuela's oil and absorb that percentage of loss of oil
that is coming into the United States from Venezuela as, clearly, on
the world marketplace, oil is fungible. Maybe that is what we ought to
do because we are now dealing with a Cuban-style dictator who is the
head of Venezuela.
I think, in going forward, that the United States must insist on the
release of all political prisoners and the rule of law and that
Venezuela has to go back to when it was a thriving democracy. That was
back when they respected human rights and the people had some freedoms.
As the United States, we ought to help rally the nations of the
Organization of American States and rally the support of the world to
bring about a meaningful end to this crisis because it is just going to
get worse and worse.
The violence that you have seen on the TV yesterday and today is
going to continue. As you continue to squeeze the people, to starve
them, to take away all semblance of human decency, what do you think
they are going to do? They are going to revolt, and the violence is not
going to stop.
There is a role for Congress, and there is an opportunity for the
Congress to lead. The President's budget eliminated the funding for
democracy programs in Venezuela that supported the old National
Assembly and civil society and those same democracy programs that
promoted human rights and the encouraging of an independent media.
Recently I wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee, along with a
number of other Senators, urging that the committee continue that
funding for those democracy programs in Venezuela. In May, this Senator
joined Senators Cardin and Rubio and seven others in introducing the
Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance
Act. That bill addresses the many aspects of the crisis in Venezuela.
It codified targeted sanctions on regime officials--something we are
now implementing--and thank goodness for this announcement today by the
administration. I give them kudos for that. That act would authorize
badly needed humanitarian assistance. It would back OAS efforts to
bring about an end to the crisis, and it funds election observation
groups working to defend democracy in Venezuela.
These are bipartisan efforts, and I urge our colleagues to support
them, and I urge that we bring them up as soon as possible. The
situation is terrible in the country, and the situation in that chaos,
especially what we have seen in Caracas, is going to get worse. Time is
of the essence.
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. ENZI. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.