with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i rise with sadness to remark on the passing of an old friend, kentucky's former u.s. senator marlow w. cook. senator cook served in this chamber for only a single term, but his political impact in the commonwealth of kentucky was substantial. so was his impact on my life. marlow cook ma gave me my first real opportunity in politics, gave me a chance to be a state youth chairman in his successful campaign for the u.s. senate back in 1968. he also gave me an important opportunity in government. he won his election, and i came to washington with him, and i was what they called in those days the chief legislative assistant. i think the term we use now is "legislate tifer directo"legisl.
""i worked for him for two years. i recall that time very, very fondly. and i can tell you, mr. president, i have remained over the years extremely grateful for the opportunity he gave me to get started. marlow cook was someone who proved that republican success was possible in a commonwealth at that time completely dominated by democrats. and that was no easy task when he ran for office. but he succeeded, anyway. you might even say he sketched out a political blueprint for victory. launch an improbable campaign for jefferson county judge executive in your 30's and win, secure reelection, then launch a bid for u.s. senator.
that's the political path marlow cook took, and that's the exact political path i took as well. some might say the similarities end there or note that we haven't agreed on every issue in the years since. but what two people ever do? it doesn't change my enduring gratitude for the opportunities that marlow cook brought to me. it certainly doesn't change my respect for him. this is a man who enlisted in the navy when his country called, and when he was still just a teenager. marlow cook served his country honorably in both the atlantic and pacific theaters in world war ii. he served his country honorably here in the united states senate. i should note that marlow cook was the first roman catholic elected to statewide office in
kentucky. believe it or not, that was something of an issue back there. -- back then. hard to imagine today. and one more thing. marlow webster cook's impact was felt in the course of the commonwealth's history. in the shape of the riverfront in louisville. he bought the bell of louisville, the stern wheeler that's still going up and down the ohio river today and is a particularly big thing during the kentucky derby week every year. he had a huge impact on a lot of young kentuckians like myself. i knew his family well. nancy, his now wide dorks an wis four kids -- they were all running around back then during that campaign -- and i want to say to nancy and to all of -- to
marlow and nancy's kids how much we admired him. elaine an and i are truly sadded by his loss. we're going to continue to remember this veteran, this extraordinary county official, and our united states senator fondly. i'm sure colleagues will join me in that sentiment. i ask them also to join me in sending our best to all of marlow's family and friends. now, mr. president, on an entirely different matter, i ask unanimous consent the senate on monday, february 8, at 5:00 p.m. proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination: calendar number 360. that there be 30 minutes for debate on the nomination equally divided in the usual form. upon the use or yielding back of time, the senate vote without
intervening action or debate on the nomination. if kd, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate then resumeological tifer session. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i suggest -- a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, last week i asked students and families to share with me their experiences with student loans and college affordability, and i want to start by sharing one of those stories. it's from a young woman whose name is rebecca from my home state of washington. and when she was 18, rebecca signed up for student loans she could go to college, and her parents took out what are called plus loans to help their daughter afford it. rebecca worked hard in college, graduated with her degree, but now she is facing a mountain of
student debt. and that is preventing her and her partner from buying a house and starting a family. not only that, are you bekka found out -- rebecca found out her parents have been taking money out of their retirement savings to pay off their plus loan. and they've even resorted to taking a lien out on their home to pay down the debt. rebecca told me that when she enrolled in college she was sure that getting a good education would pay off. but now with all the overwhelming student debt, it feels like she signed her family up for financial ruin. i hear stories like rebecca's and it is so clear that college costs and student debt are holding families back. i consider it to be one of my most important jobs as a senator to make sure that washington state families have a seat at the table and a voice in our nation's capital. and on an issue as important as this, i'm going to make sure their voices are heard loud and
clear here in this congress. and i'm going to continue to work with my fellow democrats on ways to make college more be affordable. i'm going to keep fighting to reduce the crushing burden of student debt for so many families in my home state of washington and across the country. mr. president, today the yearly cost of tuition, room, and board at a public four-year institution is knife and a half times what -- is five and a half times what it was in the early 1980's. there are many reasons but the result has been the same. it has strained the budget of middle-class families across the country and in some cases prevent some students from even applying and it forces many others to drop out before they ever earn a degree. with skyrocketing college costs we are sending the message that college somebody reserved for the wealthiest few, not for middle-class families and those who want to get there. that is unacceptable.
and on student debt, we've all heard the numbers. overall americans hold more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. that is a huge number and it's actually a little hard to wrap your head around, so let's try this. every second that goes by student debt in our country grows by nearly $3,000. that is every second. and behind those numbers are people who are, who invested in themselves by furthering their education but now are saddled with debt. preventing them from buying a home or even starting a small business or a family. a young man from washington state named alex told me his income barely covers his monthly expenses let alone paying down his student loans. he said he feels financially stagnant because -- and i quote -- "i don't know if i'll ever overcome the crippling college debt." so, mr. president, i'm glad the democrats have a plan to help
students and families who are in the red. when more students are able to further their education, it doesn't just help them. a highly educated workforce helps our economy grow from the middle out, not from the top down. and it strengthens the workforce we will need to compete and lead the world in the 21st century economy. that is why democrats want to give students the chance they need to attend community college tuition free. now of course, many students and families take out student loans to help them finance higher education, but some are locked in with a high interest rate. today you can find offers to refinance your mortgage at 3.5%. you can refinance your car loan for around 3.2%. but i've heard from so many borrowers who are paying an interest rate that's twice that amount, and some are paying even more. so democrats want to make sure borrowers can refinance their student loans to today's lower
rates. we also want to hold institutions of higher education accountable for providing a high-quality degree so students have confidence that the education that they receive and pay for will get them ahead. and democrats want to increase investments in need-based aid by pell grants so they can keep up with the rising costs of college. it's been just a week since i began asking students and families to submit their stories online to us, and i want to hear from many more because i know there are so many people out there who are struggling. but i must admit i was taken aback by the constant theme that showed up in so many of their experiences that i've seen so far. in story after story, people said they felt hopeless. they feel buried under student debt, and they see no end in sight. it shouldn't have to be this way. democrats are offering solutions, and i sincerely hope our republican friends will join
us. for me, you know, this isn't just another issue. this is really personal. when i was young, my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and within a few short years he couldn't work any longer. and without warning, my own family had fallen on hard times. my brothers and sisters and i -- and i have six brothers and sisters -- were all able to afford to go to college with the help of what we now call pell grants. and my mom was able to get the skills she needed to get a job through a worker training program at lake washington vocational school. this country was there for us. they never turned their back on my family. and today we can't turn our backs on the millions of families just like mine who need a path forward to pay back their student debt, who want to stay in school to finish their degree, even as the costs go up, who want to one day be able to save up so their kids can afford to pursue their dreams. it's time to make college more
be affordable and make sure students can graduate without the crushing burden of student debt. it's time for democrats and republicans to work together on solutions. it is time to reaffirm that in our country, earning your degree will pay off for you, will pay off for your future and the future of this country. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended and i be recognized to address the senate as if in morning business in a colloquy with the senator from south carolina, senator graham. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, --,. the presiding officer: the quorum call is vitiated. the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, not surprisingly, the talks that are commonly known as geneva 3 in an effort to stop the ongoing genocide taking place in syria have now been -- quote -- "suspended." i quote from this morning's
"washington post": "syrian peace talks are suspended before they even really began." they should surprise no one. the fact is that the situation on the ground, thanks to our total lack of a coherent strategy or even a serious effort, have resulted in the russian airstrikes ensuring bashar assad's continued strength along with the iranians, along with hezbollah that the iranians have brought in from lebanon, have given the overwhelming majority position to bashar assad, who is not about to leave office with the advantage that he has now attained in the battlefield, to a large degree because of russian airstrikes that were
relentless and that have mostly targeted the opposition to bashar assad's rule. and those airstrikes, according to "the washington post," have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likely halihood that d will be removed from power. the gains on the ground are also calling into question whether there can be meaningful negotiations to end the conflict assad and his allies now seem convinced they can win. let's go back about four years. bashar assad was about to fall. the president of the united states said that it's not a matter of whether bashar assad will fall; it's a matter of when. all the momentum was on their side. at a senate armed services committee, the secretary of defense -- then leon panetta -- said that the departure of bashar assad was -- quote --
"inevitable." then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said it was inevitable that bashar assad will leave. and so a policy which was doomed to failure, rejecting a no-fly zone, rejecting robust training and equipping of those who were seeking to stop the slaughter, has now resulted in what many now view as an international crisis, and that's the refugee problem, where millions of refugees are flowing into european countries, not just from syria but primarily from syria, iraq, and other countries as far' far away as afghanistan. so everyone, especially our european friends, are moaning and their hearts go out and they're trying to accommodate to this. this is not the cause of a
problem. this is the result of a failure of american leadership, a feckless american learnings and a secretary of state -- this geneva convention is not the first or the second or the third time -- this is the third time that our secretary of state has convened a whole bunch of people in five-star hotels in geneva, where, of course, the result has been nonexistent because the facts on the ground favor bashar assad, the russians, and hezbollah. and so what has happened? now for the first time since 1973 when anwar sadat threw the russians out of eegypt, the russians now have a rage role to play in the middle east. they now have protected their base. they now are conducting
airstrikes in an indiscriminate fashion against, guess who? -- not isis, but against the moderates that were fighting to overthrow bashar assad while our secretary of state calls him up, has conversations with him, begs them to start peace talks, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and it goes on. and, you know, i think sometimes we all get a little numb, but we shouldn't be numb. we shouldn't be numb to 250,000 killed and slaughters, chemical attacks that indiscriminately killed men, women, and children. these russian airstrikes are pervasive in the areas where the moderate opposition exists, and they are using what we call "dumb bombs," not the precision bombs, slaughtering hundreds of
innocent men, women, and children. places are surrounded where people are starving to death, and our secretary of state does -- calls for another meeting in geneva. it is absolutely remarkable. and i'd like to point out again that in london, according to "the washington post" story, secretary of state john f. kerry scrambled to rearrange his thursday schedule after demister, the u.n. guy, decided to delay the talks. the continued assault by syrian regime forces enabled by russian airstrikes against opposition-held areas, as well as regime and allied militias, continued besiegement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, have clearly signaled the intention to seek a military solution rather than enable a
political one. kerry repeated demands by the opposition groups as preconditions for negotiations, but the opposition -- both the opposition and human rights organizations have cited an increase in russian bombing over the past several days that they said was targeted civilian areas including camps for displaced persons in the western part of the country. russia maintains that it's only bombing terrorists, but its definition of that word includes parts of the opposition that has been fighting a civil war against syrian president bashar al-assad for four years whose opposition is on the negotiating team in geneva. how can we expect them to negotiate while russian airstrikes are intensified? how can we possibly expect
something positive to happen when clearly the momentum and strength is on the side of the russians, the iranians and bashar al-assad. my friends, this is another chapter in american history of humiliation, of a failure of leadership, and all of that of course is no better epitomized and symbolized than by what happened when the iranians captured two american vessels that happened to stray into their territorial waters. now everybody should know that when a ship goes into another ship, country's territorial waters, the first thing they do is go out and guide them out of it. it is against international law to take them at gunpoint. all over the world, but particularly all over the middle east is the picture of american servicemen and one woman on
their knees, on their knees with iranian revolutionary guard holding their automatic weapons on them. an incredible, an incredible act of arrogance and humiliation for our american sailors. let me just tell you what is really the most aggravating thing about it is was the response after this totally unlawful law, action, humiliation of american service members, sailors and the response of the administration was -- and i'm not making this up. white house press secretary josh earnest said the sailors were offered -- quote -- "the proper courtesy that you would expect." unquote. being held at gunpoint on their knees with their hands behind their neck is, in the words of the white house press secretary, "the proper courtesy that you would expect."
the secretary of state, john kerry, offered his -- quote -- "gratitude to iranian authorities for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter." that's the american secretary of state after a gross violation of international law. our american servicemen are put on their knees by a bunch of two-bit iranians. vice president joe biden described the incident as -- quote -- "standard nautical practice." the vice president of the united states says that when you put americans on their knees and point weapons at them with evil intention that that's standard nautical practice? what planet has the vice president of the united states been on? and now to cap it all off, this week iranian ayatollah khameini penned the order of medal to the
chest of those who mistreated and humiliated american personnel. i repeat, these people were given awards and medals by the ayatollah khameini. the obama administration has still failed to condemn iran's behavior for what it was, a violation of international law and centuries of maritime tradition. according to a recent article in the navy times, legal experts all agree that this hostile incident represents a gross violation of international law. so i ask my friend from south carolina, is there any explanation that could possibly be understood about this act of violation of international law of humiliation of american service members? there's only one reason, and that is they don't want to upset the iranians. they don't want to disturb the $100 billion or so that's going
to the iranians as we speak while they buy weapons and toys all over europe. and so, here we have now seen american service personnel put on their knees with guns at their heads and every -- and the heads, most important people in our government praise the iranians for their action. i would ask my friend how else could you explain the not passiveity but absolute endorsement by the vice president of the united states and the secretary of state for this kind of humiliating behavior. mr. graham: thank you, senator mccain. i think it's a disconnection from reality, trying to shape a reality that does not exist. one, could you imagine your good friend, ronald reagan, if he had been president what the iranians would have done. mr. mccain: some of our
colleagues may not recall that the day that ronald reagan was sworn in as president of the united states, the hostages that were being held in our embassy in iran came home. mr. graham: so this is really about lack of respect for the obama administration, john kerry and everybody else in our government. the iranians did this, i think, senator mccain, for one reason. to show the region that they're not intimidated by the united states. mr. mccain: or they can intimidate the united states. mr. graham: right. that they can test our resolve. they do it all the time. they fired two missile tests in violation of existing u.n. resolutions. the obama administration hant -- hasn't done anything about it. they captured two boats. these were lightly armored naval vessels with two .50 caliber machine guns. one became disabled and they drifted into iranian waters. the iranians reacted as if it was some kind of invasion by america. they humiliated these sailors.
instead of standing up for our naval personnel, basically we thanked the iranians for being so nice to people that they captured at gunpoint in violation of international law. but it goes to a deeper point. the iranians are letting everybody in the region know they're not changing their behavior, that this nuclear deal, don't mistake us having a nuclear agreement with a behavior change. that the ayatollah and his hench men are still in charge. they're not part of the family of nations. since the deal has been signed, they fired missiles in violation of u.n. resolutions. thefer on the ground helping thd helping the butcher of damascus. they are still the state sponsor of terrorism. and this is just the cherry on top of all of that misbehavior. one thing i do want to talk about -- and i'll get your view of this because you're so knowledgeable -- is that syria, syria is literally hell on
earth. 250,000 people have been slaughtered in syria by bashar assad and his regime. those people who took to the streets during the arab spring in damascus were from all different background and all different sects. they wanted to live in a country not run by assad in such a brutal fashion. his response to nature plea for better transparency, democracy, economic opportunity was literally to shoot them down. now have an all-out war in syria. the radical islamic groups have moved in to syria. the caliphate's headquarters in syria of isil, it has been the biggest misjudgment since munich by this administration. they had assad on the ropes three years ago, four years ago, and they didn't act. and what you see today is the result of a failure to act. but here's what i find astonishing. the syrian people who are being
slaughtered by the thousands are being asked by the united states government to sit down with assad and negotiate an end to this war. the russians and the iranians are all in for bashar assad. the people we have trained to replace assad have been killed by the russian president. our president hasn't lifted a finger. and now you've got the secretary of state basically brow beating the syrian opposition to go to geneva and enter into peace talks with bashar assad, who is in full control of his part of f syria. i just can't believe that we would do this to the syrian people. the syrian opposition called senator mccain. this says a lot about you, my friend. they were calling senator mccain to pass on a message, you have been our best friend. we're not going to sit down and talk with assad until the u.n. resolutions calling for his
removal have been honored. our government wants a deal in syria regardless of the quality of it. to say they stopped the war on their watch. they are now asking the syrian people basically to kowtow to the man who's killed their families. this deal with iran is a nightmare for the region. you've given the ayatollah khameini a pathway to a bomb even if he doesn't cheat, a missile to deliver the bomb, and money to pay for it all. and now they want to take this same negotiating team into syria and lock in place bashar assad's regime, who has slaughtered the syrian people. give the russians and iranians a foot hold in damascus through negotiations that they could never have dreamed of a year ago. senator mccain, what do you think the consequence will be of any peace agreement as long as the russians and iranians are supporting assad and we're indifferent to the syrian
opposition in terms of their military needs? mr. mccain: i think that it's very possible that the secretary of state will call another gathering in geneva. after all, this is only the third. he's got another year maybe. maybe we'll have geneva 4 and 5. mr. graham: what leverage do we have over assad? mr. mccain: that is the point. there is no leverage, i say to my colleague. meanwhile, while the secretary of state is pressuring the free syria forces and threatening to cut off assistance to them, russia is escalating their bombing campaign and continuing the slaughter of innocent people. meanwhile, there's also enclaves around aleppo and other places where people are literally starving to death. literally starving to death. there are pictures, my friends, on the internet if you'd like to see it. but what does our -- what does
our secretary of state do? he calls lavrov. he calls lavrov and complains. and lavrov, of course, he must -- it would be very interesting to know what's going through mr. lavrov's mind, but it's very clear that the secretary of state is the sup supplicant and this incredibly weak economy with a brutal dictator in charge is achieving goals that have been age-old ambitions of the russians. they're now playing a major role in the middle east. mr. graham: can i read to you an exchange, senator mccain, between -- this is john kerry two days ago. "there will be a cease-fire, kerry predicted tuesday in rome. we expect a cease-fire. we expect adherence to the cease-fire and we expect full humanitarian access. two days later the russian bombing hasn't stopped and thousands of syrians remain starving. not only has the russian bombing
continued, putin sent in advanced fighter jets to do the bombing. kerry said he was assured by the russian counterpart, lavrov, the russians would stop bombing. when asked, lavrov said russia's strikes will not cease. i don't see why these airstrikes should be stopped. who is he talking to? the russians are telling john kerry to his face we're going to keep bombing. john kerry keeps telling the world they're going to stop bombing. in the meantime, syrians are being slaughtered and starved to death, and we are filling while syria burns. mr. mccain: i'd like to mention one other aspects of this with my colleagues and that is the refugee issue. it surprised many people in the world to see this flood of literally millions of refugees
not just from iraq -- not from syria but iraq, but even as far away as afghanistan. our european friends have treated it as maybe it was like an earthquake or a flood or a natural disaster. it was not a natural disaster. it was a natural occurrence when the situation became so terrible that people believed they couldn't stay and live where they were. and why did that happen? because we watched the russians and bashar assad and hezbollah and the iranian revolutionary guard, we watched them commit all of this slaughter in syria. no one can live in syria today without fear of their very lives unless they happen to be one of bashar assad's allies, the
alawites. we have this crisis which sooner or later we're going to have to be involved in in one way or noir and it is the result -- another, and it is the result of the failed policies of the president of the united states. this president watched chemical weapons used. this president refused to send, keep a sustaining force in iraq. this president, when asked by his secretary of state, his secretary of defense and the head of the c.i.a. to provide a safe zone, turned it down. i still say to my colleague -- and i would be interested in his views -- we still could establish a safe zone in syria where these people could go and we could protect them and they wouldn't have to leave and flood europe and eventually try to come to the united states of america. that would be the best thing we could do in the short term, and this president refuses to do it. mr. sessions: well, let's get a little closer to the region. john mccain and lindsey graham
have been saying. mr. graham: john mccain and lindsey graham have been saying that we're going to get hit here at home, that a paris-style attack is coming our way. this strategy to destroy isil will never work. he's trying, president obama, to pass it on to the next president. we have been begging the president to change his strategy in iraq and syria before we get hit here at home. another casualty of the war in syria is the neighborhood itself. there are more syrian children going to primary schools in lebanon than lebanese children. our friends in lebanon are being overrun by syrian refugees because of the hell on earth nature of syria. but one of our best allies in the entire world, let me tell you what he has experienced as a result of us as a nation allowing syria to fall completely apart.
the leader of a key u.s. ally, this was yesterday in the middle east, warned tuesday that this country is so packed with syrian refugees, jordan, many with ties to the islamic state terror group, that his nation has reached a boiling point. sooner or later, i think the dam is going to burst. the bottom line is i have been saying this along with senator mccain for two years now that if you don't end this war in syria, one of the victims is going to be the kingdom of jordan and the king of jordan says that our welcoming nature has to come to an end. so here is the lay of the land. jordan can't take any more, lebanon is overrun, the europeans are pushing back, and you're going to create a process where people in syria have no place to go unless we help them. they're going to be slaughtered. they're in between isil and
assad. and what we're suggesting is to create a safe haven inside of syria where they can go without being killed and raped and murdered so they don't have to go to lebanon, jordan, europe or the united states. if john kerry and barack obama do not change their approach to syria, syria is going to be the catalyst for a meltdown in the middle east. their approach is going to allow the iranians to control damascus. any deal done in geneva under these circumstances is going to have one certain outcome -- the russians and the iranians are going to win, and the syrian people are going to lose. if we don't destroy the cal fate with a -- caliphate with a ground component soon, not just from the air, we're going to get hit here at home, and the center of the caliphate is in syria. if we don't bring this war to an end soon by getting rid of isil and assad, which would require both to end the war, lebanon and jordan are going to fall.
so to the obama administration, when you were senators, you really took it to president bush. he made his fair share of mistakes, but at least he corrected. senator obama and senator kerry both opposed the surge in iraq. on president obama's watch, he was handed an iraq that was becoming secure, that was on a glide path to stability and chose to withdraw all of our troops against sound military advice to fulfill a political promise. three years ago, at the urging of senator mccain and myself, we had bashar assad on the ropes, his entire national security team advised president obama to arm the free syrian army while they were intact, and that would have been the end of assad and syria would have been in the process of healing itself, but president obama said
no to his entire national security team. he drew a red line against assad a couple of years ago, said if you use chesapeake, i will act. -- chemical weapons, i will act. assad used chemical weapons. nothing of consequence happened. assad is still in power. he will be in power when obama leaves. in the meantime, russia has introduced itself in the middle east unlike any time since the early 1970's. now the iranians are on the ground fully behind assad, the balance of power has shifted. assad is in a good place. the syrian people are in a lousy, terrible, horrible place. john kerry and barack obama's foreign policy is in free fall. i will make a prediction, and i hope i'm wrong. if they don't change their policies towards syria, the region is going to have an imbalance that we have never seen in our lifetime and an attack against this homeland is coming, and it's coming from syria. it is being planned as i speak. we didn't know exactly what they
were trying to do before 9/11, but we were worried that we were going to get attacked by al qaeda. i can tell you exactly where the attack is coming from. it is coming from rocca, syria. it is being planned while i speak. and every day the caliphate is allowed to exist is another day of danger and peril for the united states. so if president obama and john kerry did not change their policies to destroy the caliphate sooner rather than later, we would be hit here at home. if we don't get syria in a better spot soon, jordan and lebanon are going to be victims of this war. so senator mccain, i just want to end with -- mr. mccain: let me just make a couple of additional points, and then we'll yield the floor or go back. these refugees are putting a strain on europe that may basically lead to the dissolution of the european
union. you can't have so many thousands, tens of thousands or more people flood into a country for which they are totally unfamiliar without there being some problems there. so the very fabric of the e.u. may be tested here. but one of the things i want to mention to my friend is, you know, the apologists for the obama administration have constantly and persistently pursued a dishonest line of interpretation of history, and that is that after the surge was won, and it is a fact that at great sacrifice, enormous sacrifice we had iraq stable. the attacks were down, the militias were repressed, the battle of fallujah had been won at great cost, and there was a
bright future that could lie ahead for iraq, but it required a continuing american presence. that was an absolute necessity. the same reason why we didn't leave korea after the korean war. the same reason why we haven't left bosnia. the same reason why we didn't leave germany or japan. but the apologists in the liberal media -- and we all know who they are -- are saying oh, they couldn't stay because they didn't have a status of forces agreement through the iraqi parliament, it couldn't be done. that absolutely made it impossible for us to stay. mr. graham: could i just interject? we couldn't have troops on the ground because the iraqis said no. do we have troops on the ground today, senator mccain? mr. mccain: that's the point. now we have 3,500 at least troops on the ground in iraq. where is the problem now? we don't have the status of forces agreement. we don't have their -- their
parliament has not endorsed it. where are our liberal friends on the other side? aren't they concerned that there isn't a status of forces agreement and we continue to incrementally -- by the way, a classic example of mission creep, gradually increase our presence more and more. so actually -- and i don't -- i don't use this line very often, but these apologists, particularly in the liberal media, the so-called commentators, they are lying, they are lying when they say that we couldn't keep a sustaining force there. we could, and we could have done it without their approval of their parliament, including the fact that we have troops in a number of other countries that their parliaments haven't approved of with a specific status of forces agreement. so it's really aggravating. but the reason why they tell this lie is because if it was
really a fact that at great sacrifice that we had stabilized iraq and had had a bright future at that time, that their calls for a complete withdrawal, the president's announcement, the last combat soldier has left iraq. remember that? remember one of his underlings said we are leaving behind the most stable, prosperous democratic iraq in history? that was a statement, i think it was mr. lincoln or one of those guys. so it was great. we had gotten everybody out of iraq just as the president promised when he ran for president of the united states, but leading from behind doesn't work, and just because you leave a conflict, that does not mean that conflict is over, and again this morning they are trying to make that same mistake in afghanistan, although i pray that they have learned that they can't go to what the president
originally announced that they would go to an embassy-specific force of about a thousand. the question is how many and what their missions will be. so i think it's important to emphasize that this did not have to happen. if we had kept that stabilizing force behind, you would have never had baghdadi break off from al qaeda and move to syria and seeing the things we're seeing today, and i'm afraid my friend from south carolina is right. in fact, i know he's right. there will be further attacks on the united states of america and europe because it is inevitable when mr. baghdadi controls a large piece of geography from which he can train, equip, motivate and send out to commit acts of terror.
that will happen, and the responsibility will lay at the doorstep of barack obama and his minions. mr. graham: if i could, just to wrap this up, i wish we were wrong. when the president decided to withdraw all troops from iraq against sound military advice, we cautioned -- literally begged the president and the vice president, went to baghdad itself to try to help with this problem. i remember saying that i think all hell will break loose because this is so irresponsible. iraq is in a good spot, but if we leave now, it will all fall apart. i hope i'm wrong. well, we weren't wrong. when the syrian people took to the streets to demand more freedom and our response was to ignore their plea, when the people in iran went to the streets and the ayatollah shot them down and our president said i don't want to disrupt the negotiations with the regime, when assad had his back to the
wall and president obama declined to take good advice to arm the free syrian army, the people of syria to get rid of their dictator, all the things that senator mccain and i have predicted have come true, the point of being here today is the worst is yet to come. and god, i hope i'm wrong. here's what i think is going to happen. i think there's going to be an attack on our country that's being planned as i speak coming from syria, and if we went in on the ground with the region, not 100,000 u.s. troops, mostly the people of the region with some of us, we could destroy the caliphate and we could disrupt their plans against our homeland, but we're not doing that, and if we don't change our strategy regarding syria, we're going to lose one of the best allies america has ever had and that's the kingdom of jordan because it's being overrun by refugees. the whole scene of the middle east, is splitting wide open.
and i will say this -- everybody makes mistakes. bush, lindsey graham, john mccain. the key is to adjust. the problem i have with this administration is that they seem unable and unwilling to adjust, and if they don't change their strategy, we're all going to regret it. and as bad as it is today, the worst is yet to come. mr. mccain: could i just add one other point to my friend from south carolina. the president is very good at setting up strawmen. he says that we only have two choices. one, send in a couple hundred thousand troops or do nothing. neither lindsey graham nor i nor any smart person i know are advocating that. what we're advocating is about a 10,000 american force providing the capabilities of i.s.r. training, air controller and others with a large contingent of arab countries that would then move to rocca on the ground
with the use of american air power. please do not be fooled by this constant barrage of untruths that are being said about those of us that we want to send in hundreds of thousands. we do not. coalition with the united states a small part of it and by the way have them pay for it as well. and with the proper american leadership and commitment, which is incredittibility -- and credibility which is totally absent now in the region, that could be done. otherwise, we will fight them there or we will fight them here. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i don't see others seeking recognition, so i'd ask to be able to proceed as in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i
had planned to be in the senate judiciary committee today and push for passage of the comprehensive addiction recovery act or cara. the markup was postponed. i wish it had not been. so i hope next week we can make progress on this important bill. we have a need for this legislation. we also need the money for it. senator shaheen has an emergency supplemental appropriations bill. these are actually both urgent matters. states like mine, vermont, our neighboring state of new hampshire have been deeply affected by this wave of addiction. actually a case where the media has covered the very personal and ravaging epidemic like never before. but we've also seen a change in the way we talk about this issue and the need for solutions.
it used to be well, you've got a drug problem, bring in the police, straighten it out. we've removed the stigma of drug addiction, but we need more than talk. the communities -- and i visited many of these communities. they are devastated by this epidemic -- need resources for prevention and treatment, and it's time for congress to act. i convene field hearings all over our state of vermont. i sat at kitchen tables listening to vermonters discuss innovative approaches to confront drug abuse and related crimes. i've also sat at kitchen tables and listened to tragic stories about a member of the family who had been hit with opioid addiction. i think what i've heard in the meetings i've had with the police, the doctors, with family
members, with the faith community, with educators is we can't arrest or jail our way out of this problem. we've lost the war on drugs, if we were ever winning. we lost it because we relied primarily on unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws. i spent eight years in law enforcement, and i know law enforcement practices will always play an important role. that's why it's important to secure funding for heroin task forces. but if we want to find lasting solutions to these problems, we have to identify, we have to support, effective prevention and treatment and recovery programs. cara is just that. the legislation would support innovative, evidence-based solutions, best practices,
things that are already showing they are working in a state like mine. we need to do all we can to prevent and treat the abuse of prescription opioids. i pushed for years to have the f.d.a. promote safer alternatives to powsm -- powerful prescription painkillers, remove from the market older and less safe drugs. the f.d.a.'s announcement now to expand access to abuseed formulation of these drugs is a response to my concerns, but the f.d.a. must do more. i ask unanimous consent to put in the record the april 28, 2014, leahy-blumenthal letter to the f.d.a. commissioner. i ask consent to insert that in the record, mr. president. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: i'm also concerned that rural communities are in
desperate need of a lifesaving drug so that opioid overdoses can be stopped. i've learned from law enforcement officers and grateful families what a miracle drug this can be, so we need to make sure that it's applied where it can literally save lives. i've had police officers tell me they've arrived at a scene with an overdose and because they had that with them, they saved the life of the person with the overdose. if they hadn't, the person would have been dead by the time the ambulance arrived. in vermont, we've seen a 65% increase in the number of vermonters getting treatment for their addiction over the past two years. it's encouraging progress. i think it reflects the fact that our governor and also state legislators of both parties have
stepped up. we know that there are hundreds more on waiting lists. and patients in very rural corridors of my state travel hours just to get their medication. we need to do more about this real threat to our communities. so i am really proud to cosponsor senator shaheen's emergency supplemental appropriations bill. i want to be able to fund additional public health outreach and treatment and recovery and law enforcement efforts. we need to pass much large -- we passed much larger bills to address swine flu and ebola. we passed supplemental bills on ebola. we didn't have a single case of ebola here in the united states. we were worried about some coming in here but we had none in here. but here we have tens of thousands, mr. president, in your state and my state and
every other state. i think we have to take the health epidemic in our communities just as seriously as we did those diseases that did not reach our shores. i want to mention legislation i'm introducing today to protect workers of families in vermont. it's a different matter. and across the country. they are being forced to give up crucial rights because of legal fine print forced on them by corporations. the restoring statutory rights act combat the injustice of forced arbitration and ensure hardworking men can be vindicated in court. some of the contracts people sign automatically, little tiny type that says if you have a question on this, if we overbill you, give you defective
equipment, go to arbitration. guess what? the only people who get to be arbitrated primarily get to be arbitrators are those who side with the corporations. and, mr. president, i submit my remarks for the floor and the bill on behalf of myself, mr. franken, mr. blumenthal, mr. durbin and mr. whitehouse. the presiding officer: without objection.
mr. leahy: mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to discuss the widespread and harmful impact of forced arbitration, mandatory arbitration. last november "the new york times" published a three-part investigative series on the pervasive use of forced arbitration, or mandatory arbitration, which i would
recommend to every member. mandatory arbitration is a privatized system of justice that corporations rely on when their customers or workers seek justice for being cheated or injured or mistreated. this series in "the new york times" while shocking, illustrated something that i've been saying for a long time, that mandatory arbitration agreements, forced arbitration agreements which are often buried in the fine print of employment and service contracts severely restrict americans' access to justice by stripping consumers and workers of their legal rights and insulating corporations from liability. from nursing home contracts and
employment agreements to credit card and cell phone contracts, corporate america uses forced arbitration clauses to rig the system against ordinary americans in a wide variety of cases. my staff recently heard from a minnesota lawyer who represents families with serious injury and wrongful death claims. he told the heartbreaking story of a man who suffered from dementia and was checked into a nursing home. 21 days after entering the home, it became clear to the man's family that his life was in danger. he was rapidly losing weight and had fallen into a coma. he was then sent to a hospital where it was discovered that he was suffering from, i quote from
the hospital, "profound dehydration." unfortunately the hospital could not correct the harm caused by the nursing home, and the man died shortly thereafter. he was 71 years old. then instead of being able to take the nursing home to court, the man's family was forced to settle their wrongful death claim through arbitration. when all was said and done, the arbitrators actually received greater compensation than the family did. and the nursing home got away with a slap on the wrist. egregious cases like this, minnesota families are not rare. time and time again arbitration clauses stack the deck in favor of big business and against consumers as if the deck weren't
stacked enough already. as the number of unbelievable stories grow, the need for reform has become clearer and more urgent. that's why i'm proud to be joining senator leahy as well as senators blumenthal, durbin, and whitehouse in introducing the restoring statutory rights act to ensure that americans can enforce their civil rights. as members of congress, we've fought hard to pass legislation that will protect americans from discrimination. this critical work is undermined, however, if we strip away their right to go to court and instead force these claims into privatized justice system. remember that corporations can
write the rules for the arbitration proceedings. everything can be done in secret without public rulings. discovery can be limited, making it hard for consumers to get the evidence they need to prove their case. and there's no meaningful judicial review, so there's not much a consumer or employee can do if the arbitrator gets it wrong. it's simply not fair. isms introduced my own -- i have also introduced my own bill, the arbitration fairness act with a number of colleagues by amending the federal arbitration act to prohibit the use of mandatory predispute arbitration agreements and consumer employment, civil rights and antitrust cases. this bill gives americans a real choice. if a consumer or worker wants to take his claim into arbitration,
then by all means he is free to do so provided, provided that the corporation is willing to do so as well. however, if the consumer employee wants to go to court, that option will be once again available. to put it simply, both of these bills are about reopening the courthouse doors to american consumers and workers because the courthouse doors never should have been closed in the first place. i ask you to please join me in fighting back against comawnd arbitration and cosponsor the restoring statutory rights act and the arbitration fairness act, mr. president. thank you. and i would yield the good friend from indiana.
mr. coats: i thank my colleague from minnesota. mr. president, this is the first week of february, and a new month brings a new waste of the week speech from the senator from indiana. in preparing for this, we learned another disturbing fact about our economy, and that is that the united states has hit yet another new mark. our national debt now exceeds $19 trillion. it wasn't that long ago that i was standing on this floor and talking about the fact that we are approaching $11 trillion of debt, and that's -- in just a few years, that has accelerated in the most dramatic way and now reaches $19 trillion. obviously, it is having and is going to have a significant impact on the future of this country and our economic growth. in fact, the bureau for economic analysis said that our nation's
gross domestic product, that is the measure of our nation's economic activity -- grew a very anemic 0.7% in the last quarter of 2015. we simply cannot sustain our economy and grow and provide the kind of economic opportunity for americans and jobs for americans at a growth rate of 0.7%. in fact, the growth rate on the average is now grow 2%, and we can only -- we can't even keep our head above water in terms of providing opportunities and employment opportunities for people if we don't grow at a much faster pace, particularly following one of the most deepest and most damaging recessions that we've had now several years ago. and so clearly there are things that need to be addressed, issues that need to be talked about and actions that need to be taken that put us on a better path to growth.
now, having not come up with the ability to address our long-term debt in any kind of a macro sense after many opportunities over the years, many efforts, some of them bipartisan, all of them denied by the president of the united states in terms of going forward for -- quote -- political reasons, we -- i have shifted my talk to well at least let's try to stop spending money that falls in the category of waste and abuse and fraud, and i've documented over the last year or so, last year, now the second month into the second year well over $130 billion of documented waste, fraud and abuse. this isn't just conjuring up some story or picking up out of the newspaper. these are documented examples by independent agencies of the federal government that examine our spending and come up with
ways in which they can point out that the spending is not necessary and that these funds could be used for much better purposes, the best purpose of which would be to not increase our national debt in paying for this and not demanding evermore tax increases from our constituents to help pay for this. so this week i want to highlight something that wastes taxpayers' money and literally wastes space, and this is warehouse space. now, the department of homeland security owns or leases a number of warehouses around the country, and they need this because they need to have the kind of equipment in place necessary to address a disaster, whether it's a natural man made disaster or whether it's a terrorist attack. for whatever reason, they need a number of these warehouses. and they either buy these to store this equipment for use in emergency situations or they lease these. in fact, in 2013, the department of homeland security spent $60 million to own or lease a
total of 1,628 warehouses that added together occupy 6.3 million square feet. that's a lot of leasing space. that's a lot of owned space to lease equipment in. it's the size of 110 football fields. no one is testing the need to be prepared for disasters or the need for warehouse space at different locations around the country, but as the case in so many -- maybe all the government agencies and the use of taxpayer dollars, we need to ensure, we need to oversee and make sure that the money is being spent in an efficient and effective way. so a recent report by the department of homeland security inspector general -- and thank goodness for these inspector generals. without them, we would not even be able to determine or find out what's going on in these various agencies regarding the handling of taxpayer money. but the latest report from the
d.h.s. inspector general said that there are some warehouses that are ripe for elimination, which would save taxpayers about $9.7 million over a ten-year period of time, according to the d.h.s., department of homeland security inspector general. the first of these buildings, the inspector general said, holds primarily a bunch of broken chairs and unused facilities, storage space for paperwork that is no longer necessary and indicated that this warehouse in northern virginia d.h.s. leases for $934,000 a year. i wish i owned that warehouse. i would be prohibited under the ethics code from doing that, but that's a pretty good deal.
you build a warehouse, you lease it out to d.h.s., you charge them $934,000 a year and it's filled with equipment that is either broken or needs to be thrown out. in a macro sense, it kind of reminds me of my garage. i start thinking about, well, yeah, there is a bunch of broken stuff there sitting around on a shelf, why don't i just get rid of it? then i would have the space to store something that's needed. so i guess what the inspector general is saying, look, this stuff looks like a bunch of broken chairs and stuff we don't need, so why don't we just get rid of it and save the taxpayers some money? over the next decade, this, as i said, could save the taxpayer a lot of money. let me show you another picture here. d.h.s. also leases a 6,500-foot warehouse in northern california. that's only $74,000 of taxpayers' money on an annual
basis, but the warehouse is virtually empty. so maybe they have got a plan to put something in there, but it's sitting there empty and it's costing the taxpayers $74,000. just a couple of things. the i.g. said well, there are some old computers here which we don't use anymore, we've bought new ones. there is a lot of broken equipment, he said, in there. there is old office furniture and there are some books. again, it sounds a little bit like my garage on a macro basis here. why do we pay over $70,000 for leasing this warehouse when that's what it contains? i mean, let's throw it out. now, this is just a few of the items that the i.g. has found. clearly, though, it's an example of an inefficient way of using taxpayer dollars, a wasteful way of using taxpayer dollars, and it can add up to some
significant numbers, and those numbers, as i have been posting here over the last year or so are now totaling 130,146, 763, $016, or something to that effect. any, it's a waste, a waste of a lot of money and it's a waste of fraud and abuse that need not take place. and so i'm going to keep coming down here week after week, highlighting to my colleagues that we can do a better job of oversight, we can do a better job of running this government, and we can do a better job for the taxpayer which is working hard to send money here that is taxed by uncle sam and wasted or is spent through fraud or abuse. and with that, mr. president, it appears that there is a lack of a quorum, and so i suggest the