[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 192 (Monday, November 27, 2017)]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will
proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following
nomination, which the clerk will report.
The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Dabney
Langhorne Friedrich, of California, to be United States District Judge
for the District of Columbia.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the time until 5:30
p.m. will be equally divided between the two leaders or their
If no one yields time, the time will be equally divided.
Recognition of the Majority Leader
The majority leader is recognized.
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, during the last decade, our complex
Tax Code left hard-working families behind and allowed the wealthy and
well connected to get ahead. It is so bad that one small business owner
in Paducah, KY, recently wrote to my office asking for relief because,
as he said, “Taxes are suffocating my company, and me personally.”
The pain isn't just being felt in Kentucky. It is an urgent problem
nationwide. Families and job creators are doing their best to get
ahead, but too often our Tax Code keeps them from reaching for the
American dream. Working families and small businesses in our country
deserve better than our outdated Tax Code, and that is what we are
trying to deliver.
Tax reform represents the single most important thing we can do right
now to spur economic growth, help support good jobs, and boost the
middle class. This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity, and we
should meet the challenge.
Overhauling our Tax Code can mean more money for small businesses to
hire, to invest, and to expand. It can mean families keeping more of
what they earn to save for a rainy day or an emergency. This relief can
even mean getting one step closer to sending a child to college, buying
a new car, or saving more for retirement.
This week, the Senate will continue our years-long effort toward tax
reform. Under the leadership of Chairman Hatch, the Senate Finance
Committee reported out legislation to replace our noncompetitive,
complex, and outdated Tax Code.
Through dozens of hearings, substantial hard work, and an open
amendment process, the committee has produced a bill that would
prioritize the middle class and small businesses so they can keep more
of their hard-earned money.
Our plan doubles the child tax credit, preserves the adoption tax
credit, and roughly doubles the standard deduction to reduce how much
income is taxed in the first place.
Put it all together, and a typical middle-class family of four making
a median family income could see a tax break of around $2,200. As
families sit around the table to balance their budgets and plan for the
future, this money will make a significant impact.
In addition, our tax reform proposal will provide much needed relief
for low- and middle-income families by repealing ObamaCare's individual
mandate tax. By ending an unpopular tax from an unworkable law, this
plan can help those who need it most.
The bottom line is this: We want to take more money out of
Washington's pocket and put more money into the pockets of American
families. To accomplish this goal, we will continue to consider the
plan under regular order. Every Member will have a chance to offer
amendments on the floor, and then we will vote.
There are many places in this legislation where we should all--
Republicans and Democrats--be able to agree. For instance, our
Democratic colleagues have the opportunity to help us end tax
incentives that contribute to American jobs going overseas. That sounds
like something our friends across the aisle should support. In fact,
many of them have identified those incentives as the fundamental
problem in our current Tax Code. This is our chance to put an end to
it. I hope they will join us in our effort to help jobs and investments
stay right here at home.
I am proud to continue working with my colleague to get this
legislation one step closer to the President's desk. Let's keep working
together to deliver tax relief for the American people.
Now, Madam President, on another matter. Later today, the Senate will
consider two more talented nominees to the Federal judiciary. First, we
will vote to confirm the nomination of Dabney Friedrich to serve as
district court judge for the District of Columbia.
Nomination of Gregory Katsas
Next, we will vote to advance the nomination of an exceptionally
well-qualified nominee to the Federal judiciary, Gregory Katsas to
serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Mr. Katsas clerked
for Judge Edward Becker of the Third Circuit and Justice Clarence
Thomas, both on the DC Circuit and on the U.S. Supreme Court. He then
joined the litigation group at a prominent law firm focusing on State
and Federal appellate litigation, including arguing before the Supreme
In 2001, Mr. Katsas became the Deputy Assistant Attorney General
supervising the Justice Department's appellate staff of the Civil
Division. The Senate later confirmed him by a voice vote to serve as
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, where he was
responsible for overseeing hundreds of lawyers and some of the
government's most complicated litigation. For his work, he was awarded
the Edmund Randolph Award for outstanding service, the highest award
given by the Department.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Attorney
General Michael Mukasey expressed his support for Mr. Katsas's
nomination. This is what Attorney General Mukasey had to say:
It was my great privilege to work with Greg when he headed
the civil division and argued many of the most difficult and
challenging cases the Department faced at that time. Greg
worked tirelessly to defend the interests of the United
States in court, whatever his personal views about them may
Former Attorney General Mukasey, who has also previously served as a
Federal district court judge, went on to say that “it is Greg's
character, temperament and virtue that most set him apart, and that
suit him to serve as a Circuit Judge. There are many smart lawyers in
Washington, and probably many nice ones,” he concluded, “but I know
of no others who have Greg's unique combination of legal skill coupled
with humility, integrity, and good judgment.”
That high praise was echoed by many of the other officials who knew
Mr. Katsas well at the Justice Department. A large group of them wrote
to the Senate Judiciary Committee supporting his nomination.
Greg is an exceptionally talented and brilliant fellow
lawyer. His commitment to public service and academic
qualifications are impeccable. In addition, we can attest to
Greg's thoughtfulness, temperament, and character.
Furthermore, a group of distinguished attorneys who have, in their
own words, “worked with Greg or litigated against him in the Supreme
Court or federal courts of appeals, or are otherwise familiar with his
work” penned a letter of support for Mr. Katsas's nomination.
“We hold a broad range of policy and jurisprudential views” they
wrote, “but [we] are united in our view, based on our experience and
knowledge of Greg's work, that he is highly qualified to serve on the
Once he completed his time at the Department of Justice and returned
to private practice, Mr. Katsas continued to impress his colleagues
with his legal skill and judgment.
His firm's managing partner wrote a letter, also signed by partners
from around the globe, recommending his nomination. Here is what they
Greg is a truly great legal thinker with a well-earned
reputation for integrity, fair-mindedness, and respect for
others. He has been a brilliant, conscientious advocate--
for the firm's clients in the Supreme Court and appellate
courts throughout the nation in a wide variety of difficult,
Mr. Katsas is an impressive individual who is well-qualified to serve
on the DC Circuit.
I thank Chairman Grassley, once again, for his outstanding work in
moving President Trump's judicial nominees to the floor. I look forward
to confirming the nomination of Ms. Friedrich and advancing the
nomination of Mr. Katsas later today.
I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting their
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. SCHUMER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Recognition of the Minority Leader
The Democratic leader is recognized.
Welcoming Our Colleagues Back
Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, I welcome you and the Senator from
Texas, and all of our colleagues, back after our Thanksgiving break. I
had my parents, 94 and 89, at our Thanksgiving dinner with all of their
children and grandchildren and cousins and “thises and thats,” so I
have a lot to be thankful for. I am blessed to have my mom and dad see
their whole family and be so happy about it.
Work Before the Senate
But now, Madam President, we are back, and we have a lot of work to
do before the end of the year and precious little time to do it.
Funding for the government expires a week from this Friday. Eight
hundred thousand Dreamers are waiting to hear whether they can live and
work in the only country they have ever known. Almost 9 million
children are waiting for us to reauthorize the Children's Health
Insurance Program, and millions more are waiting for us to restore
funding for community health centers--the most cost-effective, and
often only, healthcare lots of people can get.
We also need to fund the cost-sharing program that holds down
premiums and out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans because the
administration refuses to do so. Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto
Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are desperately in need of additional
aid to recover from the natural disaster that God brought on them.
Also, the debt ceiling must be raised again, and in short order.
So we need to come to agreements on all of these issues, and quickly.
To that end, the four leaders will meet with the President tomorrow.
Hopefully, we can make progress on an agreement that covers those time-
sensitive issues and keeps the government running and working for the
Republican Tax Plan
We could be working on all of these issues this week, but, instead,
the majority is pursuing a partisan tax plan at a breakneck pace. Since
the Republicans released their first draft of the tax bill a few weeks
ago, we have had 1 week of markup in the Senate Finance Committee
during which the bill shape-shifted on several occasions.
Aside from the testimony of one representative from the Joint
Committee on Taxation, the Senate hasn't heard from any expert witness
in a hearing room. Can my colleagues believe that? A major tax bill in
front of the American people, changing lives dramatically--no expert
witnesses, except the JCT witness. And the bill is likely to change
drastically again on the floor of the Senate, with little time for
Senators of either party to grapple with the consequences.
The Republicans are moving so fast, the Joint Tax Committee will not
have time to produce a full analysis of the economic impact of the bill
until after the bill is voted on. Is that backward--or what?
The Republican tax bill will affect every taxpayer and business in
America, and my colleagues will not know many of its impacts before
they vote on it.
Two things about this bill, however, seem certain. First, it will
raise taxes on millions of middle-class families in every State of the
Union. Second, it will explode the deficit. Every independent analysis
of the Senate tax bill shows that millions of families making under
$200,000 a year will eventually pay more, not less, in taxes under the
Republican plan. The most recent Tax Policy Center analysis showed that
about 60 percent of middle-class families--those making between $28,000
and $155,000--would see a tax increase at the end of the day. Most
middle-class families, by the time the 10-year window is up, will see a
tax increase of 60 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center.
While middle-class people are struggling--they either get a small
decrease in taxes or an increase--folks making over $1 million a year
will get an average tax cut of over $40,000--more than many Americans
make in a whole year.
The tax breaks for individuals all expire; the tax breaks for massive
corporations are permanent. Because the individual mandate is repealed,
the tax bill would cause 13 million fewer Americans to have health
insurance; meanwhile, couples with estates worth over $11 million get a
This bill is terrible for the country. It is a massive transfer of
wealth to the already wealthy. It would exacerbate inequality and set
the middle class back at the worst possible time.
At the same time, it would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion, at
the very least. Some of my Republican friends are saying that future
consequences will extend the middle-class tax breaks that are now set
to expire. Well, that would increase the deficit even more
significantly. You can't have it both ways. Either the bill socks it to
the middle class or it blows a giant hole in the deficit--a “Scylla
and Charybdis.” No one wants either. The tax bill gives us that awful
Some of my Republican friends say the tax bill will unleash such
economic growth that the tax cuts will pay for themselves and the
deficit will evaporate. It is curious to me that those same Republicans
are rushing the bill so fast through the Joint Committee on Tax that it
will not have time to assess the economic impact. Of course, they are
afraid of what it will say. They know it is going to say nothing close
to what our Republican optimists are predicting. According to a former
JCT economist: “There is good reason to expect the estimate of current
legislation will show less than flattering growth affects.” So one has
to wonder: Are the Republicans afraid that the experts will find that
the Republican promises of economic growth are pure fantasy? It sure
seems that way.
The majority shouldn't be ramming through such an ill-conceived,
backward bill. They shouldn't be breaking all the traditions of this
body--busting the deficit, hurting millions of middle-class families--
when there is so much potential agreement between our two parties on
tax reform. We could come up with a good, bipartisan bill--not through
reconciliation, through regular order--and we would all be the prouder
We Democrats want to lower middle-class taxes. We Democrats want to
reduce the burdens on small businesses. We Democrats want to encourage
companies to locate jobs here instead of shipping them overseas, and we
want to do all of these things in a deficit-neutral way. Those thoughts
probably have a majority on each side of the aisle. It is a shame that
the Republican leadership has chosen reconciliation, which means no
regular order, no hearings, no sunlight, and no Democratic input into
the bill. If Republicans turn their backs on a deeply flawed approach--
and I plead with the handful who haven't committed yet--we can work
together on bipartisan tax reform that delivers real relief for
everyone in the middle class.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Madam President, finally, on the matter of the directorship of the
CFPB--the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau--there should be no
dispute about who is the Acting Director of the agency. The process for
succession laid out in Dodd-Frank is clear: Leandra English, not Mick
Mulvaney, is the Acting Director of the CFPB.
Let me underscore that point: I was involved when Dodd-Frank was
written. The clear intention of Congress was to establish a clear line
of succession for the CFPB, separate and apart from the Federal
Vacancies Act. I remember; I was here.
The language in question wasn't a part of the House version of Dodd-
Frank, but we included it in the Senate version for an explicit
purpose. We wanted the CFPB to be an independent agency, free from
political considerations of the White House, free of the influence of
lobbyists, who we knew would not like that consumers were finally
protected in the financial area. We wanted a watchdog whose only job
was to look out for consumers. That was the whole structure of the
bill. That is why it has such a unique structure--to shield it from an
administration, whoever it would be, that would be influenced by
That is why we expressly stipulated that if the Director were not
available, the Acting Director should be the highest ranking member of
the CFPB, not whoever the White House believes is in their political
By attempting to install Mr. Mulvaney as the Director, the Trump
administration is ignoring the established, proper, legal order of
succession that we purposefully put in place, in order to put a fox in
charge of the henhouse.
Mr. Mulvaney has, throughout his career, criticized the mission and
purpose of the CFPB. The man the President chose for Director of the
agency called it a sick, sad joke. He doesn't believe in the agency. He
would prefer that it didn't exist. That is not speculation; those are
Mulvaney's own words. In 2015, he said: “I don't like the fact that
the CFPB exists.” The only reason the Trump administration would put
Mr. Mulvaney forward for this position would be so that he can rot the
agency from the inside.
There is a clear pattern in this administration. Rather than trying
to scrap agencies that the administration doesn't like--a tactic that
would never fly with Congress or the American people, who know how
important these agencies are--the administration will put in charge the
people who will undermine them.
To head the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump administration
chose an industry advocate who was against just about every advance in
the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
To head the Department of Energy, the Trump administration nominated
someone who called for its abolishment.
To head the Ex-Im Bank, which helps exports throughout this country--
new jobs--the Trump administration nominated someone who called for it
to be disbanded.
Mr. Mulvaney is only the latest in a long line of Trojan-horse
candidates selected by the White House to undermine Federal agencies
from within. The CFPB should be led by someone who believes in its
mission, someone who is committed to working around the clock on behalf
of consumers, not by a part-time Director who clearly disdains the
agency. President Trump must nominate a permanent Director, and
eventually that person will take charge of the agency, if confirmed.
Whoever is nominated must have a demonstrated record of standing up on
behalf of consumers. Former Director Cordray and Leandra English fit
that mold. Mick Mulvaney certainly does not.
For the interim, the law established under Dodd-Frank dictates that
English is the Acting Director of the CFPB. The White House should
abandon any efforts to circumvent that succession process.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Tax Reform
Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, the Senator from New York is my friend,
and we have worked together on a number of occasions, but I must
disagree with a number of things he said today.
First of all, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was a partisan
creation by Democrats during the Obama administration that had
virtually no Republican support. What they did is that they created a
modern-day emperor, somebody immune from congressional oversight and
the appropriations process. Now that Mr. Cordray is leaving, following
the election of a Republican President, they are taking exception to
the fact that this President has the authority under the law to appoint
his successor. Instead, they are insisting that somebody chosen by Mr.
Cordray--this modern-day financial emperor--should be able to make a
choice and foist that on this administration when, clearly, this
administration was elected to office in part in response to the
overreach of the previous Obama administration.
This is a perfect example of how nimble my colleague can be with the
facts. The fact is that he comes here and complains about the fact that
this tax bill we will be taking up is not partisan enough for him, when
Senate Democrats have made it clear that they don't want to do anything
that would give any credit to this administration or the Republican
Rather than taking the opportunity to find common ground and govern,
they, essentially, have taken up the resistance, leaving the results of
the election last November basically unresolved, in their minds, at
least, even though the American people have clearly moved on and expect
this administration, which was elected to office, along with a
Republican majority in the House and the Senate, to actually govern.
I remember days and times when, after we had elections, we actually
figured out that we needed to govern and weren't focused then on the
next campaign. Apparently, our colleagues across the aisle have simply
forgotten that. That is the bad news. The good news is that it is not
too late for them to change their ways and join us and bring historic
tax reform to the American people.
This week, we will be considering the Senate's version--voted out of
the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday night--of our Tax Cuts and
Jobs Act, which is the first major overall of our Nation's Tax Code in
more than 30 years. It cuts tax rates across the board, reducing the
burden on American job creators and middle-class families alike.
Under our proposal, it has been estimated that folks back in my home
State of Texas will see more than 76,000 new jobs created. After-tax
income for middle-class families should rise by nearly $2,600. Now,
that may be chump change here inside the beltway; our friends across
the aisle may turn their nose up and say: Who would want to do this for
$2,600 additional tax savings. But I can tell you, my 28 million
constituents in Texas don't believe that $2,600 in tax savings for a
family of four is chump change. They think of that as ways to increase
their take-home pay, improve their standard of living, prepare for
retirement, and help their children go to college. That is what that
means to them.
This bill will also reduce the tax burden on small businesses and put
American companies on a level playing field with their foreign
competitors, ultimately growing our economy here at home.
Ironically, we heard some of the same old tired rhetoric in the
Finance Committee, where we were talking about corporate giveaways and
things like that, only to remind our colleagues on the Senate Finance
Committee that they themselves had proposed similar tax cuts for
American businesses so they could get more competitive in an
international global economy. We had to remind them, after they derided
this idea that we would want to be more competitive in the global
economy, that it was Barack Obama, in 2011, who called for Democrats
and Republicans to come together to cut the corporate tax rate because
it was the highest one in the world and it was causing businesses to
invest abroad--indeed, to leave the United States to set up their
headquarters abroad just to avoid the highest tax rate in the civilized
There has been a lot of disinformation and misinformation out there,
which I would like to take the opportunity to correct on a couple of
One major reform we have included in the latest version of our tax
reform bill is the repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate. Make no
mistake, the individual mandate penalty is literally a tax on low-
income Americans. It is a tax because Chief Justice Roberts and the
U.S. Supreme Court called it a tax.
Democrats have made two arguments: first, that repealing this mandate
is a tax increase. Only in the parallel universe known as Washington,
DC, would cutting the tax be called a tax increase. Second, they said
the repeal kicks people off their insurance coverage, which is
demonstrably not true.
But let's start with the first argument, that the repeal somehow
represents a tax increase on the poor. It is a pretty strange thing to
say that eliminating a financial obligation simultaneously entails an
additional fiscal burden; in other words, that a tax cut is really a
tax increase. Only here in the parallel universe of Washington, DC,
could that possibly be true. It defies all logic.
What actually happens under our plan is that certain low-income
individuals do get a tax cut. If they voluntarily decide not to buy
ObamaCare coverage, they will receive an additional tax cut because
they will no longer be penalized by their own government for failing to
buy an insurance policy they can't afford. It is worth noting that, in
2015, 80 percent of people paying the ObamaCare individual mandate tax
made less than $50,000 each year. Eighty percent made less than
There were 6.7 million people in 2015 alone that paid this additional
tax mandate because they couldn't afford to purchase the government-
mandated coverage. If the mandate is repealed, these folks would have
more money to spend, and they will benefit from income tax rate
reductions in addition. If our colleagues across the aisle would work
with us, these same people would find more affordable coverage that
suited their needs rather than have to buy a one-size-fits-all policy
that prices them out of the market. But that is another story.
The second ridiculous argument is one you may recall the minority
leader saying shortly before Thanksgiving. He made the statement that
we are kicking 13 million people off of their health insurance. But
that is just not true, and it doesn't tell the whole story.
First of all, no one is being kicked off of their health insurance
coverage. Instead, people will no longer be fined by their own
government for not buying government-approved health insurance. That is
based on the correct view that people shouldn't be coerced by their
very own government to buy something they may not want and can't
afford. Like I said, in a more rational world, Democrats and
Republicans would work together to come up with an alternative that
would provide people with more choices at a better price.
Democrats might say: Well, what about premiums? Will they not rise if
the mandate is eliminated and people drop out of the market because of
this problem? This is one of the problems created by the Affordable
Care Act at its very beginning. But the issue of rising premiums is
significant. A recent proposal offered by the senior Senator from
Maine, Ms. Collins, along with Senators Alexander and Murray, would
attempt to stabilize the health insurance marketplace. It would reduce
the risk for insurance companies by providing funds to insurers for
high-risk enrollees. Their bipartisan stabilization proposal would
appropriate money for something called cost-sharing reduction
subsidies, and these payments could provide short-term certainty to
insurers and prevent premiums from rising. In fact, premiums would go
down. It has been scored by
the Congressional Budget Office as reducing the deficit by $3.8 billion
over the next 10 years. That is why this proposal deserves our serious
consideration, and I hope we will turn to it following our debate and
vote on the Senate's tax reform bill.
Apart from the repeal of the mandate, there are other parts of the
plan I would like to highlight. One involves another popular myth that
certain provisions of our proposal are just disguised corporate
welfare. I alluded a minute ago to the hypocrisy of some of our
Democratic colleagues, claiming that this is corporate welfare or a
giveaway, when they themselves supported a similar provision in
previous proposals. This claim is completely and deliberately
misleading. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out last week, the irony
is that this bill would do more to stop corporate tax gaming than
anything done by the Obama administration during the previous 8 years.
First, if we cut corporate taxes, the incentive for companies to game
the system and move capital, income, and intellectual property abroad
is reduced. The bill institutes a territorial system that also includes
so-called base erosion rules. These are safeguards against abuse that
prevent companies from shifting domestic income through foreign
affiliates to lower tax jurisdictions and then bringing the profits
home without paying taxes.
Our Senate bill would impose an effective 10 percent rate on
intangible property of U.S. multinationals held overseas. That is on a
one-time basis. In return, companies would be able to repatriate their
future income from those places tax-free. In other words, they would be
taxed once rather than twice. This lower rate will help to prevent the
erosion of our corporate tax base and so will other provisions
regarding patents and intellectual property, which will prevent the
flight of intellectual property abroad and will entice foreign
companies to move their patents to the United States, along with the
associated economic activity and jobs. In sum, as I said earlier, this
bill changes incentives, making it less likely that businesses will try
to game the system and move capital to foreign, lower tax
We need to look at this proposal as a whole--not just one provision
in isolation--because you can't judge the merit of the plan without
considering it as a whole.
Two days ago, we got a letter from nine world-class experts on tax
policy and economics. They sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve
Mnuchin. In that letter, they praised the plan's objectives to enhance
the prospects of both increased economic growth and household incomes--
more take-home pay. Not only that, but they said that, based on their
analysis, our plan is likely to achieve those objectives, too. The
signatories include a former Treasury Secretary, as well as a former
Director of the Congressional Budget Office and distinguished
economists from Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford. I think that all agree
with the bottom line, which is that the Senate bill cuts taxes for
every income group and that it will increase economic growth and keep
jobs and American companies here at home, all while making America more
Those who argue otherwise, I think, are resigned to the status quo,
which is a stagnant economy characterized by slow growth and wages that
will never rise. That is what we have had for the last 11 years. Under
no circumstances should we stand by idly and permit it to continue.
Historically, the United States has seen growth of the economy hover
around 3 percent since World War II, but right now it is roughly 1.9
percent. What that slow economic growth means is fewer jobs, lower
wages, and less competitiveness for the United States in the global
economy. If we get back to 3 percent growth or higher, we can begin to
solve multiple problems at once. For example, we can do something about
our lackluster defense spending.
It is something the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
Senator McCain, and others--including people like me and the Presiding
Officer--care an awful lot about. We have simply tried again and again
to cash the peace dividend when there is no peace, when, in the words
of Gen. James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, he
said: The array of threats is more profound than he has seen in 50
years in the intelligence service of the United States. We can't spend
the amount of money we need to keep America safe to fight our Nation's
wars and to defend our shores at home unless we meet that need. We
can't do it when our economy doesn't grow. Not only will economic
opportunities increase for Americans of all stripes, we will also have
additional revenue to address our national debt.
If we can get our economy growing again, we can actually pay down
that debt, but this debt is not a product of tax cuts and defense
spending, as some would lead you to believe. It is a symptom of our
inability to pass entitlement reform. In other words, we have a
spending problem; we don't have an inadequate taxing problem.
Indeed, during the 8 years of the Obama administration, when the
national debt doubled, I didn't hear one peep out of our colleagues
across the aisle on the national debt. It is refreshing to hear that
they are concerned about that, once again, but we have a partial answer
to that, which is getting the economy growing again so the Treasury
will increase its returns, and we can begin to pay down some of those
deficits and debt.
To regain our standing in the world, we need to get our financial
house in order. The first step is to pass this tax reform package,
which will show our seriousness and determination in jump-starting our
economy as a way to address our fiscal challenges.
I hope our colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in
supporting the Senate's version of this bill because America's future
prosperity partially depends on our ability to get this done. What kind
of country do we want? Do we want one that is vibrant and dynamic and
full of energy or do we want one that simply putters along? A lot is on
the line this week as we debate and vote on the Senate's tax reform
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the
Record the letter I referred to from nine prominent economists, which
was published on November 26 in the Wall Street Journal, called: “How
Tax Reform Will Lift the Economy.”
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in
the Record, as follows:
How Tax Reform Will Lift the Economy
[Editor's note: The following is a Nov. 25 letter to Treasury Secretary
Dear Mr. Secretary:
The present debate over tax reforms proposed by President
Trump's administration and embodied in bills that have passed
the House of Representatives and the Senate Finance Committee
has raised the basic question of whether the bills are “pro-
growth”: Would the proposals raise current and future
economic activity and generate federal tax revenue that would
reduce the “static cost” of the reforms? This letter
explains why we believe that the answer to these questions is
Economists generally think of fundamental tax reform as a
set of tax changes that reduces tax distortions on productive
activities (for example, business investment and work) and
broadens the tax base to reduce tax differences among
similarly situated businesses and individuals. Fundamental
tax reform should also advance the objectives of fairness and
The quest for such fundamental tax reform has been pursued
by policy makers and economists for decades. Examples include
the Tax Reform Act of 1986, proposals for reducing the double
taxation of corporate equity by the Treasury Department and
the American Law Institute (enacted in part in 2003), the
“Growth and Investment Plan” from President George W.
Bush's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, and arguments
from President Obama's administration to lower corporate tax
rates. The proposals emerging from the House, Senate, and
President Trump's administration, fall squarely within this
Reducing Corporate Tax Rates, as Proposed, Will Increase Economic
While the overall House and Senate tax plans contain
numerous household and business provisions, we focus on the
corporate tax changes, returning to other provisions before
concluding. A key concept in this context is the “user cost
of capital,” which essentially measures the expected cost to
firms of making additional investments in equipment. A
considerable body of economic research concludes that
reductions in the user cost of capital raise output in the
short and long run. Several of the proposals that have
emerged in the current debate are key to lowering the user
cost of capital. For example, expensing, which allows firms
to deduct the full cost of investment at the time it is made,
lowers the user cost of capital relative to depreciation over
time. A lower corporate tax rate also lowers the user cost of
capital, which not only induces U.S. firms to invest more,
but also makes it more attractive for both U.S. and foreign
multinational corporations to locate investment in the United
There is some uncertainty about just how much additional
investment is induced by reductions in the cost of capital,
but based on an extensive body of scholarly research, many
economists believe that a 10% reduction in the cost of
capital would lead to a 10% increase in the amount of
investment. Simultaneously reducing the corporate tax rate to
20% and moving to immediate expensing of equipment and
intangible investment would reduce the user cost by an
average of 15%, which would increase the demand for capital
by 15%. A conventional approach to economic modeling suggests
that such an increase in the capital stock would raise the
level of GDP in the long run by just over 4%. If achieved
over a decade, the associated increase in the annual rate of
GDP growth would be about 0.4% per year. Because the House
and Senate bills contemplate expensing only for five years,
the increase in capital accumulation would be less, and the
gain in the long-run level of GDP would be just over 3%, or
0.3% per year for a decade.
Is this estimate of the growth effect realistic? According
to one leading model using an alternative framework, the
proposal would increase the U.S. capital stock by between 12%
and 19%, which would raise the level of GDP in the long run
by between 3% and 5%. Yet another model, this one used in the
analysis of the “Growth and Investment Plan” in the 2005
President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, found that
a business cash-flow tax with expensing and a corporate tax
rate of 30% would yield a 20.4% increase in the capital stock
in the long run and a 4.8% increase in GDP in the long run.
More conservative estimates from the OECD suggest that
corporate tax changes alone would raise long-run GDP by 2%.
In short, there is a substantial body of research suggesting
that fundamental tax reform of the type being proposed would
have an important effect on long-run GDP. We view long-run
effects of about 3% assuming five years of full expensing,
and 4% assuming permanent full expensing, as reasonable
Another advantage of the corporate rate reduction embodied
in the House and Senate Finance bills is that it would lead
both U.S. and foreign firms to invest more in the United
States. In addition, U.S. multinational firms would face a
reduced incentive to shift profits abroad, which would raise
federal revenue, all else equal.
In the foregoing analysis, we assumed a revenue-neutral
corporate tax change. Deficit financing of part of a
reduction in taxes increases federal debt and interest rates,
all else equal. For the House and Senate Finance bills, this
offset is likely to be modest, given that the United States
operates in an international capital market, which means that
the impact of changes in interest rates resulting from
greater investment demand and government borrowing are likely
to be relatively small.
Lowering Individual Tax Rates Also Offers Generally Positive Economic
The House and Senate bills also contemplate a number of
individual tax provisions that can affect economic activity
and incomes. In recognition of the fact that non-corporate
business income is substantial in the United States, both
bills would reduce taxation of non-corporate business income
and increase the amount of capital expensing allowed. While
difficult to quantify, as the bills specify different
effective tax rates, these provisions would increase
investment and GDP above the level associated with the
corporate tax changes discussed above. Also on the individual
side, both the House and Senate bills reduce marginal tax
rates on labor income for most taxpayers, increasing the
reward for work. Increases in labor supply, in turn, increase
taxable income and tax revenues. One should note, however,
that some taxpayers would face increases in effective
marginal tax rates because of base-broadening features of the
bills, such as limits on the federal tax deductibility of
state and local income taxes. On balance, though, we believe
that the individual tax base broadening embodied in the
proposals would enhance economic efficiency by confronting
most households with lower marginal tax rates. In addition,
fairness would be served by reducing differences in the tax
treatment of individuals with similar incomes, and
simplification by reducing the number of individuals who
itemize for federal tax purposes.
Confirming a Pro-Growth Objective Is Important for the Path Forward
You have consistently stressed that the objective of tax
reform should be to enhance prospects for increased economic
growth and household incomes. We agree with this objective,
which is consistent with the traditional norms of public
finance going back to Adam Smith. We believe that the reforms
embodied in the House and Senate Finance bills would achieve
this objective. The increased growth, in turn, would lead to
greater taxable income and federal tax revenues, which would
reduce the static cost of lost federal tax revenue from the
We hope these analytical points of support for the growth
effects of tax plans being discussed are useful to you and to
the Congress as you complete the important economic task of
fundamental tax reform. We would be happy to discuss our
conclusions with you at your convenience.
Robert J. Barro, Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics,
Michael J. Boskin, Tully M. Friedman Professor of
Economics, Stanford University; Chairman of the Council of
Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush
John Cogan, Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow, Hoover
Institution, Stanford University; Deputy Director of the
Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum,
former director of the Congressional Budget Office
Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of
Finance and Economics (Graduate School of Business) and
Professor of Economics (Arts and Sciences), Columbia
University; Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
under President George W. Bush
Lawrence B. Lindsey, President and Chief Executive Officer,
The Lindsey Group; Director of the National Economic Council
under President George W. Bush
Harvey S. Rosen, John L. Weinberg Professor of Economics
and Business Policy, Princeton University; Chairman of the
Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush
George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished
Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Secretary of
State under President Ronald Reagan, Secretary of the
Treasury under President Richard Nixon
John. B. Taylor, Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of
Economics, Stanford University; Undersecretary of the
Treasury for International Affairs under President George W.
Mr. CORNYN. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.
Mr. MARKEY. Madam President, last year, Chairman Pai, of the Federal
Communications Commission, threatened to take a weed whacker to the
FCC's net neutrality rules. On December 14, Chairman Pai and the FCC
are likely to make good on that promise. Last week, they issued their
plan. They are quite proud of it. Chairman Pai is very proud of their
plan. They got that done last week. Then, on December 14, they are
going to execute their plan to execute the net neutrality rules of our
Net neutrality applies the principles of nondiscrimination to the
internet world, ensuring that broadband providers--America's internet
gatekeepers--do not block, slow down, or prioritize internet traffic.
In 2015, the FCC correctly adopted the open internet order, enshrining
these net neutrality principles into law, but now net neutrality and
the free and open internet--this diverse, dynamic, democratic
platform--are under attack.
Here is what Chairman Pai is proposing. No. 1, he would gut the rule
against blocking. What does that mean? It means an internet service
provider could block any website it wants. It could block something
just because it decided to. That includes a website of a competing
service or a website with a contrary political view. Whatever they
want, they can block. The biggest companies--Comcast, AT&T--they can
just block it.
No. 2, Chairman Pai would gut the rule against throttling. What does
that mean? That means the internet service provider could slow down any
website it wants.
No. 3, Chairman Pai would gut the rule banning paid prioritization.
What does that mean in easy-to-understand language? That means the
internet service provider could charge websites for an internet fast
lane--meaning those websites would load quicker, while websites that
can't afford the internet “EZ pass” would be stuck on a gravel path,
taking more time to load and frustrating consumers with long buffering
No. 4, Chairman Pai would gut the forward-looking general conduct
rule. What does that mean in easy-to-understand language? That means
whatever discriminatory conduct ISPs think of next in the coming months
or years would be perfectly legal.
No. 5, Chairman Pai would create an unregulated interconnection
market. What does that mean, an unregulated interconnected market? In
plain English, it means the Federal Communications Commission would
lose authority to oversee places where the internet service providers
connect to the internet and extract fees.
No. 6, Chairman Pai would prevent States and localities from adopting
their own net neutrality protections. If you live in Massachusetts or
you live in California or you live in Alabama,
your State can't give you any protections. They can't say: Here's how
we want the internet to be operating.
What will replace these enforceable net neutrality rules? Nothing.
Chairman Pai will leave it to the internet service providers--to the
big companies we all subscribe to--to regulate themselves. We will just
put them on the honor system. We know the broadband industry--your
cable, your wireless or telecommunications provider--cannot regulate
themselves. They struggle to even show up on time to install or fix
your service. Do we really trust the broadband industry to resist
leveraging their internet gatekeeper role and putting their online
competitors at an unfair disadvantage? Of course not.
What is Chairman Pai's silver lining in light of gutting all of these
rules? He has proposed to keep some transparency rules, requiring the
internet service providers--these broadband behemoths--to disclose
their practices to consumers. What good is transparency when most
Americans have little or no choice for high-speed broadband access?
After all, 62 percent of Americans have one choice for high-speed fixed
broadband. If a household's only choice for high-speed broadband is
transparent about its plans to set up internet fast and slow lanes, the
consumer has two choices: accept the internet provider's terms or live
without the internet. That is not a real choice at all. People are not
going to be living without the internet in the 21st century. You are
going to pay whatever that company tells you, you are going to pay.
It is clear that most Americans do not want what the FCC is
proposing. A record number of people--over 22 million--made their
voices heard at the FCC. Americans know the internet--the world's
greatest platform for commerce and communications--is at stake.
Consider that, today, essentially every company is an internet company.
In 2016, almost half of the venture capital funds invested in this
country went toward internet-specific and software companies. That is
$25 billion of investment. To meet America's insatiable demand for
broadband internet, U.S. broadband and telecommunications industry
companies invested more than $87 billion in capital expenditures in
2015. That is the highest rate of annual investment in the last 10
We have hit the sweet spot. Investment in broadband and wireless
technologies is high. Job creation is high. Venture capital investment
in online startups is high. With these net neutrality protections in
place, there is no problem that needs fixing, but under Chairman Pai's
plan, broadband providers get exactly what they want--an unregulated
Wild West where they can set up internet fast and slow lanes.
Chairman Pai proposes to have the FCC completely abdicate its
rightful role to oversee telecommunications networks under title II of
the Communications Act. Chairman Pai claims that the FTC--the Federal
Trade Commission--provides a sufficient backstop to discriminatory
behavior by the big broadband companies. That is simply not true.
Under the Federal Trade Commission regime, the big broadband barons
would establish their own net neutrality policies, and if the internet
service provider wants to block websites, slow down the competitors'
content, or charge innovators and entrepreneurs to reach their
customers, they will be free to do so. That is because the Federal
Trade Commission can only step in if a broadband provider violates its
own net neutrality policies, but what if the internet service provider
has a written policy that charges websites for internet fast lanes?
There is nothing the Federal Trade Commission can do about it because
the broadband baron told you what they are going to do. They were
transparent about what they were going to do, but you just have no
recourse whatsoever going to the Federal Trade Commission. It is a
false promise of protection that Chairman Pai is presenting.
The only way to protect a free and open internet is with strong net
neutrality rules of the road, not voluntary guidelines. Chairman Pai's
proposal would put the future of a free and open internet in the hands
of big corporations and the powerful few at the expense of ordinary
consumers all across our country. Our consumers will be tipped upside
down and have money shaken out of their pockets because they will not
have the protection of net neutrality provisions that are now the law
but are soon to be wiped off of the law.
The Trump administration is waging an all-out assault on our core
protections: the Affordable Care Act, the Paris climate accord, the
Clean Power Plan. Now Trump's Federal Communications Commission has net
neutrality in their sights. For all of those who rely on the free and
open internet--whether it is for commerce, education, healthcare,
entertainment--I urge you all to rise up and create a firestorm of
opposition to this assault on net neutrality. This goes to the
fundamental principles of nondiscrimination online. This is the
greatest engine for commercial job development our country has ever
seen. It is the engine for new companies to be started. It is the way
in which young people are able to disrupt established companies, to
take new concepts that create jobs but also benefit consumers across
our country. That is the opportunity this represents, and it is also a
powerful force for democracy, for everyone's voice being heard equally.
That is what net neutrality is about. That is what the Trump-Chairman
Pai Federal Communications Commission is about to end, and that is why
we must fight. That is why I am so proud to be standing as part of this
effort with our great ranking member of the Commerce Committee, Senator
Bill Nelson from the State of Florida, because this is a fight worth
I yield the remainder of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
Mr. NELSON. Madam President, one cannot say it much better than the
Senator from Massachusetts has said it. Everyone has come to expect a
free and open internet--one that does not charge more for certain
content and charge less for favorite content. It is supposed to be
free. It is supposed to be open. It should be balanced. Hopefully,
since it seems that the Pai regime is, in fact, going down this road,
there will be immediate lawsuits that will be very time-consuming. At
the end of the day, sometime in the future, there may be an opportunity
for a legislative solution, but it has to be a balanced solution that
protects the right of the public to a free and open internet.
Puerto Rico Recovery Effort
Madam President, I want to discuss another issue.
What do you think it would be like to be in your home for 3 months
without electricity when all of your home appliances and all of your
daily routines have been built around the fact that electricity has
provided the power to run your home in the way that you would expect?
Do you know that half of the people of Puerto Rico, 3 months after
Hurricane Maria, still do not have electricity? Is it any wonder that
160,000 people--our fellow citizens from Puerto Rico--have now chosen
to get on an airplane and go to the State of Florida? Is it any stretch
of the imagination that there will not be hundreds of thousands more?
They see a land that was devastated by a category 4 hurricane--that
verged on a category 5--and that covered the entire island, with remote
parts of the island having been completely cut off for 2\1/2\ weeks
from transportation to get there, except by air, like the town of
Utuado, which is up in the mountains, that I visited shortly after the
Is it any wonder that people like them are now being very creative
and very inventive? There are neighbors helping neighbors. They are all
coming together. But they have been without electricity for such a long
period of time that the opportunities for jobs are drying up,
businesses cannot open, and commerce has slowed. With a $250 plane
ticket, in 2 hours they can be in Florida, and, indeed, that is what
has happened--160,000, as of now, just to Florida. How many have gone
to New York and to other States? We do not have that calculation, but
we expect several hundred thousand more to go.
For all who come here, the island of Puerto Rico is their home. They
want to return, but is there going to be a quick resumption of
business? In its contracting through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
is FEMA going to get the electricity back up? Are there
going to be jobs? Are we going to change the tax law so that Puerto
Rico does, in fact, have the incentives that it used to have in the
past that had taken pharmaceutical companies there and rum companies
there? A lot of those tax incentives have gone away, and we ought to be
considering that in this tax bill. We ought to be considering the long-
term cost that it is going to take to help restore the island. Until
that is done, what do you think people have done? This is exactly what
they have done, and they are going to continue to come.
As a result, we have a different problem in a State in which so many
of their families already live and where they have been living with
relatives. Now it is time for them to be able to have their own
families and their own places to live. Yet we do not have the
provisions in order to give them the financial support to be able to
afford housing. Suppose 300,000 Puerto Ricans go to Florida alone. Do
they have the money? Are they able to get jobs right away so that they
will have the money for housing? That is why we are going to have to
have financial incentives.
That is why, in a bill that was filed last week by this Senator,
along with several others, there is a provision--if we can pass this
legislation--for HUD, or the Department of Housing and Urban
Development, to have the financial wherewithal to then supply housing
needs, many times through subsidized housing, in the case of an
incident like this hurricane, in which an emergency has occurred and
has caused a huge dislocation of people to another State.
Since it is going to be hard to get legislation like this passed in a
timely fashion and the need is desperate right now and since the last
supplemental emergency appropriation for all of the hurricanes did not
include the housing part for the ones who are going to Florida, in the
meantime, in this next supplemental that will come just before
Christmas--emergency supplemental funding--we will need to provide
Then the question will be this: Where, for example, in Central
Florida--in the Orlando metro area--will they actually be able to find
housing that will be available without their having to drive hundreds
of miles to find housing that will be affordable, even with additional
assistance? The people who can work this problem out are in the local
governments. They are the ones who know best the situation.
As we get ready before Christmas for a final appropriations bill with
emergency supplemental funding because of all of the hurricanes, which,
indeed, will come--it will just be the next installment of many
installments to come in the new year--let us remember that housing is
going to be critical for a huge number of people who have been
dislocated and have to strike out and find new lives, new jobs, and new
places to call home, which clearly means that they will have to have
places to call home, and those are places to live--housing. It is an
urgent need, and it is one that is critical. This Congress has to face
it before the holidays.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Moran). The Senator from Ohio.
Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, right now, as we all return from
Thanksgiving--some of the American people did not have to work over
Thanksgiving weekend, but many, many people in this country do and
struggle and continue to work two jobs--and as Congress returns from
Thanksgiving, the priorities of this Congress are becoming pretty
darned clear to the American people. People want to know the answer to
a fundamental question. In this body we all stand up for election every
6 years--in some cases, a little more often--and people fundamentally
want to know which side you are on. Are you on their side? Are you on
the side of Wall Street or the side of corporations that outsource
So the question is this: Whose side are you on? The question is this:
Are you going to stand with multinational corporations that ship jobs
overseas, all to pad their own executives' fat bonus checks? Are you
going to stand with banks that rip off consumers or that steal their
information and get off scot-free? Maybe some of their executives give
their bonuses back, but that is about the only penalty they pay. Are
you going to stand with American workers who have been working too hard
for too long for too little pay and who are just looking to catch a
break? Are you going to stand with children whose parents work two jobs
to put food on the table when, unfortunately, both jobs that they work
do not pay for health insurance? These are the choices we face.
Right now, the leader of the Senate--the majority leader, who works
in that office down the hall, the majority leader back in that office
there--negotiates with lobbyists, negotiates healthcare bills, and
writes healthcare bills in the back room with drug company lobbyists
and insurance lobbyists. Now he has written a tax bill in the back
room. We voted on it last week in committee, but it just keeps
changing. That is all done in the back room with Senator McConnell, the
Republican leader, and his lobbyist friends from corporate America--
with the corporate America that ships jobs overseas, with the Wall
Street banks that fleece Main Street taxpayers, and with other
corporations, which are the drug companies and oil companies and the
Koch brothers and all of that. These are the choices that we face. The
leaders of the Senate have made it really clear whose side they are
While the Senate spends its time on a bill to cut taxes for
corporations that send jobs overseas--that is the bill that Senator
McConnell is negotiating, is writing, is drafting with his lobbyist
friends in that office down the hall--children here in America, pure
and simple--there is no other way to say it--are about to be kicked off
of their health insurance through the Children's Health Insurance
Program. As soon as this week, families of young children are going to
get letters in the mail that will bring devastating news--that their
children will lose their health insurance--period. There are 209,000 of
them who live in my State of Ohio--209,000 of them alone.
This is what this program is. It was founded more than two decades
ago. Senator Hatch--I give him credit as chairman of the Finance
Committee--doesn't seem as interested, frankly, in this bill today as
he was when he started, when he wrote the bill, because it has passed
out of his committee, and Senator McConnell is too busy to put this
bill on the floor so that we can pass it.
The bill works this way: If there is a family and the parents lose
their insurance, as many families do, the children still get insurance.
That is why 209,000 children--tens of thousands of families in my
State--rely on the Children's Health Insurance Program. But this fall,
because this Congress is too busy giving tax cuts to rich people,
because this Congress is too busy giving all kinds of breaks to the
Nation's banks, because this Congress is too busy doing the bidding of
the drug companies and the health insurance companies and the bidding
of the oil companies, this Congress let CHIP expire.
States are beginning to run out of money for CHIP. States are
preparing to shut down this lifeline for 9 million children in Kansas,
Ohio, Florida, and all over the country. Folks in this body--don't
forget, we all get our health insurance funded by taxpayers, but we
haven't done our job. As a result, families of 209,000 children in Ohio
and 9 million children in the United States are going to pay the price.
Think about how devastating it would be to get that letter in the
mail. It is already an expensive and stressful time of year. Parents
are worried about all kinds of things--higher heating bills, visits to
their families for the holidays, the cost of childcare when kids take
off from school for the holidays. They are scraping together what they
can for gifts. They are already stressed enough. Imagine having to tell
your daughter: I am sorry, honey, Santa probably isn't bringing much
this year. We won't have any presents under the tree.
You try not to let the child see the worry in your eyes because you
are wondering how you are going to afford the debt for regular checkups
each year, or God forbid she gets an ear infection or something happens
and she needs to go to the doctor. But, oh my gosh, no, we got this
letter in the mail that says--and I don't know if the letter will say
it this way, but it should--that because Congress failed to do its
job--a bunch of elected officials who have insurance paid by taxpayers
to do their job to reauthorize and fund this bill so that 209,000
children in Ohio will be protected, as well as 9 million people in the
country--Ohio, Arizona, California, Minnesota, and Oregon are all
expected to run out of CHIP money by the end of the year, early
January. Some States will need to start notifying families right now
that they could lose their coverage. Virginia will have to start
sending out notices as early as this week. Many other States expect
funds to run out the first of the year.
This is not just a few children whom maybe we don't want to think
about; this is 9 million children--209,000 children in my State, tens
of thousands of children in Kansas, and it is hundreds of thousands of
children in Senator Nelson's Florida. These are working families who
don't qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. They are
families with two working parents who often aren't lucky enough to work
for companies that provide health insurance. They are families with
children who have special needs. CHIP helps provide access to specialty
providers so the kids are never faced with a situation where their
family can't afford the therapy or the expensive prescription drugs
Healthcare for all of our children is something on which we ought to
be able to come together, wouldn't you think--especially at the holiday
season. Leading into Christmas, wouldn't you think we could agree on
that, that we ought to take care of the Children's Health Insurance
There has never been a gap for funding in the CHIP program. It was
created in a bipartisan way. Senator Kennedy, who sat over here,
Senator Rockefeller, who sat over here, and Senator Hatch, who is still
in this body, all worked to create this program.
In those days, Senator Hatch said: “As a nation, as a society, we
have a moral responsibility” to ensure our children have healthcare.
We have maintained that bipartisanship ever since, until now--until
Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, who would rather worry about tax
cuts for the rich, would rather worry about helping banks keep
consumers from having their day in court, would rather worry about
helping the Koch brothers and the drug companies. That is way more
important than taking care of 209,000 children in Ohio. I guess it is
more important for Senator McConnell to go back in that room and write
a bill with his lobbyist friends from the Koch brothers, oil companies,
drug companies, and Wall Street--all his special interest buddies. He
can write a bill for those big tax breaks for those companies but just
not get around to taking care of these kids.
Two years ago, with the support of advocates all over the country, we
extended funding for CHIP with bipartisan support. We did it for 2 more
years. We put kids first in this body, acted early to extend CHIP so
families wouldn't have to worry. This year, in committee--and I give
credit to Senator Hatch in this case, as well as Senators Portman,
Wyden, and others. We passed a 5-year extension of CHIP, and almost all
my colleagues voted for it, but passing it out of committee and patting
ourselves on the back doesn't get the job done.
I ask all my colleagues who sit here--again, with health insurance
paid for by taxpayers--for one time this Christmas season to set
partisanship aside and actually do the right thing. Let's forget the
tax bill for just a few days. Let's forget helping the Wall Street
banks for a few days. Let's forget about helping the oil companies and
billionaire contributors on whom Senator McConnell and his colleagues
rely. Let's forget about that just for a few days, and let's take care
of 209,000 children in Ohio and tens of thousands of children in Kansas
and 9 million children around the country.
My friend Bill Considine is the CEO of Akron Children's Hospital. He
is the longest serving CEO of any children's hospital in the country.
He said: “The fact that this reauthorization has been delayed for
political reasons, for shallow campaign promises, is inexcusable.” I
have known Bill Considine for 25 years. I don't know if he is a
Republican or a Democrat. Certainly, I don't think he cares much about
that. What he cares about is taking care of kids. He says that the fact
that we are putting these children and families at risk in the country
we live in--there are no words we can use to justify it. He is right.
There is no way to justify Congress's negligence. We need to
reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program this week--now.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Mr. President, another test we face right now to make it clear to the
American people whose side we are on is unfolding at the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau. Our job is to look out for the people we
serve, not Wall Street banks and corporations trying to scam consumers.
That is why we must protect the independence of the Consumer Financial
In 2008, when the big banks crashed the economy, which cost millions
of Americans their homes and jobs, it was obvious that no one was
looking out for the public. While predatory lenders were getting rich
on families who were taking out a second mortgage to make ends meet,
the people who were supposed to be looking out for those families were
asleep at the switch. That is why we passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street
reform law and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with
one mission: to protect consumers, to stand up for bank customers,
homeowners, servicemembers and veterans, student loan borrowers and
seniors, and all the millions of Americans who, when it comes to the
financial marketplace, need somebody on their side.
With these transactions that people do in an increasingly complex
financial world, with all the fine print and all the documents people
sign to buy a home or get a credit card or sign up for an account with
a bank or insurance company, the public needs somebody on their side.
They need someone to look out for them who is not obedient to the Wall
Street bottom line.
Some in this body have tried to roll back the Dodd-Frank rules that
protect taxpayers and homeowners from Wall Street abuses. It is all the
more important that Americans have a strong, independent consumer
protection bureau on their side.
The Bureau's actions have resulted in $12 billion in relief for more
than 29 million American consumers who had been ripped off by debt
collectors, for-profit colleges, and payday lenders. Some were cheated
by almost iconic American companies, such as Wells Fargo and Equifax.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a special Office of
Servicemember Affairs run by Holly Petraeus. They took on the payday
lenders and car title lenders that targeted servicemembers on military
bases across the country. I know firsthand. I know up close how they do
that. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base--the largest single site
employer in the State of Ohio, near Dayton--the predators, payday
lenders, and financial service predators set up shop right outside the
base. They can't set up shop on the base. They prey on people who are a
little less sophisticated financially. They don't have a lot of money,
they are young, and in many cases, they are servicemembers who aren't
paid very well and are already struggling. For somebody who is
overseas--they prey on the spouse when the person is overseas. They
prey on them, and when they are overseas, they prey on their families.
Even Sheila Bair, a former George W. Bush appointee, was on TV this
morning talking about how important this agency's work is to working
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been able to do all this
because it is not beholden to Wall Street, special interests, and is
not beholden to the people in this body. It is strong because it is
The people in this body who want to take away the CFPB say that it is
a bureaucracy that is not accountable to anybody. Do you know what they
mean? When I hear my friends in the Banking Committee say that the
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not accountable to anybody,
what do they mean? They mean the banks can't influence them, the big
Wall Street officials can't influence them, the Members of Congress who
shill for the banks can't influence them, and the Members of Congress
who front for the big Wall Street firms can't influence them. That is
what they mean when they say it is not accountable. The Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau
is accountable to the public. It is accountable to the people who get
hurt by some of these financial transactions.
A couple of weeks ago, the administration sent the Vice President
down here under the cover of night. We know that when the Vice
President comes down here to the Senate floor, it is about to be a
victory for Wall Street, and that is what happened. The Vice President
came here to the Senate floor under the cover of night to overturn a
consumer bureau rule that would have guaranteed that hard-working
Americans get their day in court when cheated by a big bank. The Vice
President comes in and breaks a tie, and consumers lose, but Wall
Street wins. Wall Street is indebted to this Vice President.
Now the administration ignores the law and hands over the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau to a person who doesn't even think it
should exist. The man they want running this consumer watchdog bureau
has said that the agency “is a sick, sad joke.” He voted to repeal
I guess that is why he thinks he could do this job part time. The
President sent a member of his Cabinet who already has a full-time job
at the Office of Management and Budget to also run the consumer bureau
at the same time. I have never heard of anything quite like that, but
he is a reliable Wall Street crony who will do the bidding for Wall
Street and do everything he can if he gets the chance to undercut it.
When he says it is a sick, sad joke, it is no joke to the people who
have been cheated by Wall Street. It is no joke to the tens of
thousands of servicemembers who rely on the consumer bureau to fight
for them against bankruptcy. Think about that. Think about these banks
that prey on servicemembers--19, 20, 25-year-old men and women who are
serving their country. Some of them are overseas. Their spouses are
raising the kids, struggling every day on a servicemember's pay. The
banks have abused them. Who stood up for them? It wasn't Members of
Congress who stood up for them; it was the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau. That is why they are there. It was no joke to the 29
million American consumers who have money in their pockets now because
the consumer bureau stood by them. It is no joke that in his first act
today, Mulvaney says he wants to put an end to payments to working
families who have been cheated by banks and financial institutions.
We need this agency to be able to continue its work fighting back
against Wall Street abuses and fighting for the American people.
Americans need a full-time cop on the beat with a proven track record
of fighting for them, not a part-time Director who has another job in
the President's Cabinet--who ever heard of such a thing?--especially
since that part-time Director had a reputation when he was in Congress
down the hall. Now that he is in the President's Cabinet, he has a
record of working for Wall Street.
In 2016, Candidate Trump said: “[T]his election is a choice between
taking our government back from the special interests or surrendering
our last scrap of independence to their total and complete control.”
If President Trump wants to keep that promise, he should take his own
advice. He should allow the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to
carry out its mission to protect American consumers, free of Wall
Street special interests. You don't drain the swamp by putting a toady
from Wall Street into the consumer bureau to do the bidding of Wall
Street. It is pretty darn simple.
The President has a chance to stand beside the American people. He
told us last year that he would drain the swamp, stand up to special
interest groups, and that he would punish Wall Street if Wall Street
overreached. He should keep that promise. He should allow the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau to continue doing its work.
Anyone who stands on the side of hard-working Americans should make
it clear that they support Deputy Director English as the Acting
Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is about whose
side you are on. Are you on the side of Wall Street? Are you on the
side of the special interests writing tax-cuts-for-the-rich bills in
the majority leader's office? Are you for Main Street? Are you for
hard-working Americans who show up to work every day and just want an
even break and a chance in this country?
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. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the question is,
Will the Senate advise and consent to the Friedrich nomination?
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. 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 bill clerk called the roll.
The result was announced--yeas 97, nays 3, as follows:
[Rollcall Vote No. 281 Ex.]
The nomination was confirmed.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Strange). 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.