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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  September 8, 2016 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

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there are no ground troops except in afghanistan. they've been brought home, and rightfully so. to hear my friend, the republican leader, we served together a long time, talk about the awfulness of obamacare , you don't have to have a long memory to know what it was like before obamacare. insurance companies canceling policies, denying insurance, not writing insurance because you're a woman because you had a prior disability. i don't know if my friend is briefed by his office, reads the newspapers, watches the news. three words ago the word came out that the uninsured is at all time lows in our country. 92% of americans have health
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insurance. is that bad? is it perfect insurance? of course it's not. we have 19 states led by republican governors who refuse to accept medicaid. the republican governor in nevada made the right choice and it's been good for the state of nevada. and it's interesting. after more than six years we still have never seen a plan by the republicans what they want to do other than vote against obamacare. obamacare has expanded coverage to millions and millions of americans. it's improved the quality of health insurance. a lot of people who don't like the plan don't like it because they don't think it's strong enough. they want to do more. the marketplace will continue to connect americans to quality affordable health insurance. i thought republicans believed in the free enterprise system.
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that's what we have with obamacare. health insurance marketplace is so, so much better than the pre-scai -- than the prescai prescai -- the preaffordable care act. they should try to work with us to improve obamacare. it's not going to go away. the affordable care act has shown that it's had a positively impact on its stated goal of lowering the number of people without coverage. millions and millions of people have health insurance that didn't before.
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they continue to comblain about obamacare. the republican argues that things were better before millions of americans got coverage, including a half a million in kentucky who now have insurance because of obamacare. so i guess he seems to be saying he liked it better when insurance companies could deny coverage for any reason that they thought appropriate, and that would be a good reason. mr. president, on another subject, september 10 is world suicide prevention day. i had occasion in las vegas to visit with our former colleague, gordon smith, a good senator from the state of oregon. we often speak even now as we did in vegas that evening before a lot of people of our
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experiences with suicide. gordon lost his son. i lost a father. and with small people, a small number of people here in this room today, we could do an oral poll, we would find that many people in this room have been affected by suicide. when you think about it, about 33,000 people each year commit suicide. so, you know, it's a lot of people. it took me awhile to accept not feeling sorry for myself, to try to do something about it. and we've done some things here as a body about suicide. and we really don't understand it very well. for example, most suicides occur in the western part of the
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united states. i would think just the opposite. sunny skies, the weather is a lot better in places like montana, new york. but for some reason west of the mississippi we have problems with suicide that don't occur other places. it's a national problem, and we've got to do something about it. 33,000 people die every year, and that's what we know about. we have hunting accidents, car accidents, hiking accidents that are really suicides but they're not acknowledged as such. in 1999 through 2014, the suicide rate in the united states has increased by 24%. both men and women of all ages. women now are becoming more equal in killing themselves than men. if we're going to adequately address the increasing rates of
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suicide we can't ignore the role that firearms play. for men, the most common suicide involves the use of a gun. according to the centers for disease control, not some left-wing group that republicans love to harangue about, but almost 22,000 suicides were carried out with firearms in 2013. that's the last period we have. it's 10% from three years earlier. we don't know really what's happening in the military. 22 people will kill themselves today in the military. a lot of this is done after they have been discharged -- been discharged honorably from the military. we need to invest in evidence-based prevention. young people are killing themselves.
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one of my wonderful staff members, my chief of staff -- she was, still is a dear friend, she comes from a large family of ten children. one of her brothers, a medical doctor, twins, one of them hanged himself; an 11-year-old boy, dead. we've got to have more science-based information, and we don't have it. 33,000 people a year are dying as a result of self-inflicted injuries. so i note with a degree of seriousness september 10 as national suicide prevention month, and i would hope, mr. president, that we can all
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acknowledge that's something we need to work together on. it's not a partisan issue. ask gordon smith. it's not a partisan issue. ask me. and as i've indicated, many people work in these wonderful buildings here in the capitol, so many have been affected by suicide. i would note the absence of a quorum. first of all, i would think it would be important to note the business of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 2848, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 523, s. 2848, a bill to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, and so forth and for other purposes. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is not. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i want to speak about the bill
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that we're debating right now, the water resources development act. i want to begin by commending the chairman of the e.p.w. committee, senator inhofe, and the ranking member, senator boxer, for their leadership on this. you know, sometimes it's important just to look at what these bills are doing. the water resources development act, wrda, we call it here, and the title talks about to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, to authorize the secretary of the army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors of the united states. now, mr. president, one of the things i've come to the floor of the senate to speak on for a number of times is one of the most important things i think we can be doing in the senate, and that's focusing on our economy.
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and with all due respect to the minority leader, with regard to our economy in the united states, things are not going well. just over the past two quarters we again had numbers that were dismal by any historical measure in the united states. last quarter i think it was 1.5% g.d.p. growth. a quarter before that .8% g.d.p. growth. as a matter of fact, president obama is going to be the first president in u.s. history whose entire eight years will have never hit 3% g.d.p. growth in one year. never. no president has had such a dismal record in terms of growing the economy. so what can we do? what should we be doing? first of all, we need to be focusing on the economy. and one of the critical things we should be doing in the congress, one of the critical things that we need to unleash the private sector is better infrastructure for this country.
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and again, i want to commend the chairman of the e.p.w. committee and the ranking member because they have been leaders on this issue. last year we passed the first highway bill, long-term highway bill in many, many years, the fast act. that's infrastructure for the country. and right now hopefully the senate is going to pass the wrda bill. and, mr. president, these aren't perfect pieces of legislation. no piece of legislation ever is. for example, i think both of them could have had provisions that streamlined the permitting process to build bridges, to build roads, to build ports. right now in this country it takes years often to just cut through the red tape to get permission from the federal government to build infrastructure. so we need to do a better job on that. but the fast act, and now the wrda bill are important bills. they're important bills to help us grow our economy.
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that's why i'm supporting the wrda bill that we're debating here on the floor yesterday and today. you know, mr. president, there are many provisions in this bill that are going to benefit the country. they're going to benefit different parts of the country, certainly will benefit the state of alaska. we're a young state. we're infrastructure poor, that's for sure, in terms of roads and ports and harbors. one provision i wanted to highlight was section 7106, the small and disadvantaged communities grant program. and this is a new program that i had the opportunity to work on with my team, senator inhofe's team, senator boxer's team, senator wicker. we're all focused on this issue. it stemmed from an important topic that we were discussing. i know my colleague and friend, senator peters from michigan, is going to talk about flint, michigan and what happened there
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and the topic of aging infrastructure. i certainly respect his advocacy for his constituents on this topic. but you know, we were talking about aging infrastructure, but one topic we didn't talk a lot about in the senate -- and i certainly tried to raise it a lot -- not just aging infrastructure, but how about topic of no infrastructure for communities in the united states. i know a lot of americans don't know this, but there's a lot of communities in our great nation that have no clean water, no sewer, no flush toilets; entire communities in america. think about that. no running water, no flush toilets. what we call in alaska, honey buckets. it sounds sweet, of course,
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but it's not sweet. it's literally american citizens having to haul their own waste from their house to a lagoon and dump it there. can you believe this? in america we have entire communities -- in my state, over 30 -- that have that problem. and what this causes is often very high rates of disease, skin disease, ear infections, sometimes at third world disease rates. again, in america. i think it's unacceptable and i think most of my colleagues believe it's unacceptable. it's not right. so, that's where the new provision, the small and disadvantaged communities grant program comes in as part of this bill. it prioritizes assistance to small communities throughout our
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country that don't have basic drinking water or wastewater services. this is a five-year program in the bill. it authorizes $1.4 billion to address what i think the vast majority of americans would agree is an unacceptable condition in certain communities throughout our great nation. no american community should have to rely on money buckets. no american community should have third world disoaz rates -- disease rates because they don't have water and sewer. so, mr. president, this wrda bill is a serious start to address this issue, a significant challenge. it's not going to be addressed overnight, but i think everybody in this senate can agree we shouldn't have communities of hundreds of people in our great nation who don't have basic services that the vast majority
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of americans take for granted and assume that every community in our great country has but we don't. but this is a good start. to do what one governor of alaska put out as a vision and a goal which is to put the honey bucket in a museum, and that's what we're going to try to do beginning with this program. i want to encourage my colleagues to support the wrda bill that's being debated on the floor and i again want to thank chairman inhofe and senator boxer for their leadership on this important piece of legislation. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. a senator: mr. president, i rise to speak about the water resource development act known as wrda as well which we are now considering and will expect to vote on next week. mr. peters: this bill will significantly reduce the threat of lead exposure and other
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drinking were contamination for communities across the united states and it will invest in our aging water infrastructure. i am particularly pleased the language addressing the flint water crisis, language that i worked on with my colleagues senator stabenow, senator inhofe, senator boxer and many others is included in the wrda bill before us. their strong leadership has been invaluable and i thank them for their efforts. wrda provides resources that will improve drinking water infrastructure in flint, michigan, and other places where pipes, pumps and treatment plants are crumbling and are woefully out of date. this bill also funds health programs for communities that have been affected by lead contamination. also, all of the direct spending is fully paid for. crafting this bill has been a constructive process with input from many senators. there are a number of new smart policy changes that will vastly improve water quality and tackle
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accessibility challenges. for example, this bill delivers funding for programs that will reduce lead in drinking water, tests for lead in schools and child care facilities, and invest in new water technologi technologies. wrda also authorizes over $12 billion for 29 corps of engineers projects in 18 states. these projects invest in ports and inland waterways, flood control and hurricane protection and the restoration of critical ecosystems. this wrda bill has earned the endorsements from a long list of critical stakeholders and i appreciate the bipartisan support that has made crafting and considering this bill such a collaborative process. while floor time for this measure is certainly long, long overdue, what really matters now is that we have an agreement to move forward. this is a fantastic opportunity to help millions of people all
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across our great country. we now have a pathway to success if we can move the final vote of this legislation next week. i urge my fellow senators to show the american people that we can continue to work together to address urgent needs across our country, invest in critical infrastructure and deliver much needed and fully paid for support for flint families. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. a senator: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that the proceedings of the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: i rise today because of these numbers, three simple but important numbers. mr. coons: 100, 176 and 9. would do all those have to do with a matter i think should be before us today? well, it's been 176 days since
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president obama did his job under the constitution and nominated chief judge merrick garland to the d.c. circuit court, a consensus candidate to our nation's highest court following the unr untimely pass -- untimely passing of justice scalia. we have a hundred senators. a hundred senators whose challenge it is to find ways to work together across the aisle and to do our job and make progress for our country, but it's also been a hundred years that the united states senate has had a judiciary committee, a committee on which i have the honor of serving. and in the hundred years that we've had a judiciary committee in the united states senate, we've never had this situation where the president does his job under the constitution and nominates an eminently qualified jurist and the senate judiciary committee refuses, just refuses to conduct a hearing, to give him a vote, to bring him to the floor and offer a final vote.
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obviously we have disagreements. we have disagreements in this body over principle and ideology and that's part of our job is to come here representing our states and their different priorities and values. but to steadfastly refuse tor 176 days to even convene a hearing, to even begin the process to allow the american people to have some insight into the quality and caliber of the man nominated by our president strikes me as an unprecedented refusal, the first time in a century that we have so blatantly have one group in this body refusing to proceed. our window for acting is closing in just a few weeks on october 1 the supreme court's new term begins. so the refusal to act and to fill the ninth vacant seat has now had a serious ongoing impact on one term of the supreme court and now soon on a second term of the supreme court. we have never had a supreme court vacancy go this long in
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modern history. and in terms of of the qualifications of the candidate, let's just take a quick look at the public record so far. a bipartisan group of former solicitors general, the lawyer of the united states, the person who represents the united states in court often before the supreme court, so a bipartisan group of these former solicitors general including paul clement, ken olson, ken starr endorsed judge garland as having demonstrated the democrat participant and experience to -- demonstrated the temperament to serve on the supreme court. this is not a divisive nominee pursuing a particular ideological agenda. this is a well-regarded, well-respected senior member of the federal judiciary. top lawyers at 44 different u.s. companies have written the senate calling judge garland exceptionally well qualified and noting that a prolonged vacancy
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continues to leave important even vital business issues unresolved before the court, giving them a lack of predictability and leading them to have to make decisions in the absence of clear guidance from the court. just yesterday my colleagues and i joined some of judge garland's law clerks, former law clerks in front of the supreme court. sometimes when i've had the opportunity to review nominees for federal judgeships, i like to hear from those who previously worked for them. well, in a letter to the senate, a group of judge garland's former clerks noted that -- quote -- "chief judge garland deeply believes that our system of justice works best when those who see things differently are able to work together in a collegial manner to arrive at a just result." and yesterday we heard again firsthand accounts from judge garland's former clerks of his wisdom, his mentorship, his deis en is i, his commitment -- decency and compliment to justice.
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i wish we could follow the same style he followed in the department of justice as a career prosecutor and as a judge on the d.c. circuit, an approach that focuses on collegiality and consensus. i had the honor of meeting with judge garland on april 7 and in addition to his intellect and compelling and long judicial experience, our conversation revealed to me a person of real character, good judgment, deep sensitivity, thoughtfulness. and i wish i had the opportunity in front of a public hearing of the judiciary committee to ask him similar questions that would allow my constituents, the president's constituents, other members of this body to ask and answer important questions before the american people, before a committee of this body, before our colleagues so that we could do our job and move forward. yet we haven't had this hearing, a hearing that the american people so need and
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deserve. in may, my democratic colleagues held a public meeting to try and further explore and air judge garland's background where we heard from four esteemed, significant, experienced individuals deeply familiar with chief judge garland's experience and character. a former court of appeals judge, a former u.s. attorney, a former cabinet secretary, and a university of chicago law professor who clerked for judge garland, all for of whom urged us to move forward and consider his nomination. of those four, judge lewis' testimony has particularly stuck with me. here's someone nominated by president george h.w. bush in september of 1992, which to the best of my recollection, what an election year. he was then confirmed by a democratically controlled senate in october of 1992, less than a month before a hotly contested presidential election. judge lewis previously came to the senate to testify in support of then-judge samuel alito of the third circuit before his elevation to the scrowrt.
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-- to the supreme court. judge lewis warned us earlier this year in this meeting in may that what we are doing is not only deadlocking the supreme court, it is diminishing it. mr. president, our system of justice, our federal courts, our constitutional order is one of america's most precious assets. as a member of the foreign relations committee, i have had the honor of traveling to other countries to represent our country. most often on bipartisan delegations to other countries where we are urging them to follow our model. and sadly in too many countries i have visited, they cannot depend upon their judiciary to be truly independent, to enforce the rule of law, to issue judgments that are in keeping with their laws, their traditions or, most importantly, their constitution. and that's why i'm disappointed. i'm disappointed that we are engaging in this unprecedented refusal to follow the rules, to follow the process of the constitution and the senate and
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to give this important nominee a hearing. that's why i'm disappointed by leader mcconnell and chairman grassley in their refusal to consider judge garland's qualifications. it is my hope that they will reconsider. with chief judge garland's nomination, president obama fulfilled one of his most important constitutional responsibilities. now all 100 senators on this 176th day that we are waiting to fill this ninth scraik on -- vacancy on the supreme court must do our job and provide advice and possibly consent to this nominee. the senate has the responsibility to show the american people and the world that even in the midst of a divisive presidential campaign, our democratic system, our constitutional system still works. we cannot allow year-long supreme court vacancies to become routine. and i'm deeply concerned about the manner in which the senate is conducting itself and the
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possibility this unprecedented inaction will set a precedent for future vacancies and send a signal to the world that our constitutional order cannot still function. i remain hopeful that my colleagues will give serious thought to the systemic consequences of what we're doing through the refusal to even hold a hearing on judge garland. it is long past time to put the good of our nation and constitution above the politics of the day and get to work on this confirmation. thank you. the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: i want to thank my colleague from delaware who joined me yesterday on the steps of the supreme court. we had law clerks who had served judge garland over the years, who spoke in glowing terms about the man's ability to serve. in fact, i've not heard any detractors or critics who have come forward to suggest that the president's nominee is not a serious candidate for this job and one who would fill it with
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great competence. but here is the reality of what we face. this is an executive calendar which is passed out every single day day in the senate. you'll see it on the desks of many of my colleagues. in this are nominations pending before the u.s. senate. there are 27 federal judges whose nominations are pending before the u.s. senate. here's one that might be of interest to those who are following this debate. it's a nomination that goes back to october of 2015 of dwed l. stanton iii of tennessee. we know the way the process works is that mr. stanton's name would not be on the calendar to be considered by the united states senate were it not for the support of both senators from tennessee. in this case both republican senators of tennessee. so here we have a nomination to fill a vacancy on the federal district court in tennessee
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that's been approved by both republican senators and reported out of the senate judiciary committee in october of last year, almost one year ago. well, obviously there's a question that must be raised. what's wrong with mr. stanton? what did he do? how did he get out of -- appriewived -- priewived by -- apapproved by both senators and out of committee and now filibustered? he ran into conservative senators to stop filling judicial vacancies by president obama. 27 like him reported from the committee sent to the calendar. listen, here's the interesting part. senator grassley, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, called a special meeting of the committee today to take place right after the first vote, right off the floor here to do what?
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to add five more names to the calendar. five more judicial nominees to the calendar. why? is there going to be one magic day when all 32 are going to fly out of the senate by a handful of votes? nobody said that's going to happen, and unfortunately it means that for each of these nominees, starting with mr. stanton, a year ago their lives are on hold. they made a good-faith effort to step forward to serve the united states of america on the federal judiciary. they submitted themselves to elaborate background checks by the f.b.i. and other agencies and then when reported by the white house, went through further background checks by the staff of the senate judiciary committee. each of these individuals went through a hearing, where under oath they were asked questions. each of them in many instances was asked to present additional supportive materials for their nomination. they did it all.
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they did everything asked of them. and they sit on the calendar. what is this all about? well, i would say senator mcconnell and senate republicans are not very veiled and concealing when it comes to their strategy. they don't want a democratic president to fill a vacancy on the federal bench. despites the fact that the people of the united states chose this president, barack obama, by an overwhelming margin, despite the fact that he continues to have the powers of office, they want to thwart and stop that authority of the president to fill the federal judicial vacancies. their hope is that their favorite candidate, their beloved nominee, donald trump, will pick the next set of federal judges. can you imagine? but what really is behind this is not just to give trump his moment to pick the nominees and make nominations, i should say, and to pick the future
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members of the judiciary, but really to serve a specific political agenda. senate republicans are afraid of what would happen to a federal court system if independent jurists served. they want their buddies. they want their friends. they want those who will lean in their direction when it comes to the important issues, corporate interests, wall street banks, the koch brothers. it means an awful lot to these companies and wealthy people and they want to make sure the right people are sitting there making the decisions when it comes to the future. and so 27 nominees sit on the senate calendar, and the senate republicans refuse to call them for a vote. and senator grassley on the senate judiciary committee wants to add five more to the list today. why? why are you doing this to these poor people, putting them through this charade of nomination when there is no
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intention to fill the vacancy? among the vacancies currently pending on the federal judiciary, we are now up to 90 vacancies across the united states, and a third of them are in emergency situations, which means the courts cannot properly function because of the vacancy on the federal bench. despite this, despite this the senate republicans refuse, being in control of the senate, to call these names for consideration. they know they'll pass. they're not controversial. they went through the committees. they languished on the calendar because of this political decision. i wish that were the worst example, but it's not. the worst relates to the 176 days that merrick garland, chief judge of the u.s. district court for the district of columbia has had his name before the u.s. senate in nomination, has not been called for a hearing or a vote. mr. president, each of us, when we become united states senators, walk down this aisle
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over to the side, and the vice president of the united states administers an oath of office. we don't take oaths lightly. for most of us, there are only a handful in our lifetime where we raise our hands and swear that we are going to do certain things. in this case, we stand there in the well of the senate and swear to uphold the constitution of the united states of america. you might think it is a formal declaration -- and it is -- but it's also a meaningful declaration. this country was almost destroyed because of a dispute over our constitution which led to a civil war. and so we make certain that if you walk down this aisle and put up your hand over there, one hand on the bible, one hand reaching to the heavens, you take an oath to the constitution and we're serious about it. and yet when it comes to filling this supreme court vacancy, the
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constitution is explicit about our responsibility in the senate. article 2, section 2, speaks of the president's constitutional responsibility -- responsibility -- to fill vacancies on the united states supreme court. why did the founding fathers make it a responsibility and a mandate? because they knew what would happen if vacancies on the court could be used for political purposes. if leaving slots vacant on the court advantaged one political party or the other. and so they came forward and said, it's all about nine justices and the president's responsibility to nominate those who would fill the vacancies. the death of anton scalia created a vacancy. the court across the street now has eight justices. they're already hamstrung in cases. the president met his responsibility 176 days ago and
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sent the nomination of merrick garland to be considered by the united states senate. i don't use this term loosely -- i've looked it up, i've researched it, and i want to say explicitly, the senate of the united states of america has never -- never in its history -- since the judiciary committee has been in business, never once refuse a presidential nominee a hearing or a vote. it has never happened. oh, i know some of my critics on the other side will say, well, if the shoe were on the other foot, if it were a democratic congress and a republican lame-duck president, you'd do the same. wrong. in recent memory, in recent history, when president ronald reagan was in the last year of his term and there was a vacancy on the supreme court, he sent the nomination of anthony kennedy to a democratic-controlled senate, and instead of refusing to do our job, the democratic senate approved justice anthony kennedy, the reagan nominee in
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the last year of the reagan presidency. but senator mitch mcconnell and the senate republicans have said "no." no, we're just not going to do t we don't care if the sphu requires it. -- if the constitution requires it. we don't care if we've taken an oath to live up to the constitution. we're going to stop this frees filling this -- this president from filling this supreme court vacancy. because our friends, our special interest groups, the corporate interest groups and the koch brothers, don't want to see an obama nominee filling this vacancy. it is a shaivment merrick garland is anunusual person. and extraordinarily gifted jurist. he is a son of illinois, raised in lincolnwood. valedictorian of his high school. he recently gave a graduation speech to that school. his father ran a small business. his mother worked as a director
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at the chicago council for jewish elderly. judge merrick garland earned his undergraduate and law degrees from harvard. he spent years in public service as a prosecutor at the department of justice. he led the investigation of the 1995 oklahoma city boom bombing. he served as judge on the d.c. circuit courts since 1997. confirmed by the senate for that position. he's won prays from across -- he's won praise from across the political spectrum for his work ethic and judgment. the american bar association took a look at this nominee and said he is unanimous well-qualified to serve on the supreme court -- unanimously. this is a manage who's given decades of his -- this is a manage h's a given -- this is a man who's given decades of his life to public service and the
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senate will not even give him a hearing. they won't give him a moment under oath to answer questions. the way the senate republican majority has handled this supreme court vacancy is shameful. since justice anton scalia's untimely passing last february, the supreme court has had to operate with eight justices. it was president ronald reagan who said back in 1987, "every day that passes with the supreme court below full strength impairs the people's business in that crucially important body." during the last supreme court ternlings the court was unable to reach a decision seven times because the justices were deadlocked 4-4. major legal questions have been left unresolved. on september 26, the court will hold its first conference of its new term, still with only eight judges, though the senate has had plenty of time to fill the vacancy. but the senate republicans have
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refused to do their job. unlike any other senate in the history of the united states -- in the history of this country -- the senate republicans have refused a presidential nominee to the supreme court a fair hearing, any hearing, and a vote. it's shameful. the senate is now failing under the constitution to do its job, and the senate republicans, by design, are responsible. judge garland, the supreme court, and the american people deserve better. the senate should give merrick garland a hearing an a vote -- and a vote. when they write the history of this republican-controlled senate, they will surely note that we are a little over two weeks away from the deadline when we are supposed to have a budget, appropriations bills, and we don't have them. that has happened before. it's not the first time in recent memory. we've been tied up in knots
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before, but that is a reality, despite promises to the contrary, we haven't passed an appropriations bill. i might say in fairness, in defense of the senate appropriations committee and the republican chairman, thad cochran, as well as the ranking democrat, barbara mikulski, we did our job. we held hearings on the important bills. they're ready for consideration on the floor of the what has stopped their exrgs is the republican house of representatives -- their consideration angdz is the republican house of representatives and senator mcconnell. the republicans in the house can't reach an agreement. they're troig to deal with a handful of tea party republicans who would rather see the whole congress grind to a halt and the government shut down. so when it comes to passing appropriations and spending bills, there's not much to brag about on the republican side of the aisle. when it comes to the zika virus, in february president obama said, be careful. we have a public health crisis looming. this mosquito that we've
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discovered can cause extraordinary damage to pregnant women and to the babies they carry. and so he asked us seven months ago for $1 .9 billion so they could stop the spread of this virus and start research for a vaq seefnlt he said it was an emergency. obviously the senate republicans didn't care. we in may finally reached an agreement to a reduced amount, $1.1 billion, passed it out of the senate -- i believe the vote was 89-8, strong bipartisan roll call. many of us breathe add sigh of relief. it was before the mosquito season really got in full force in most of the country. and it looked like we were going to respond to the president z ps call for emergency funding. then it went over to the house of representatives and instead of taking the clean, bipartisan bill that passed the senate -- no, they decided that they would embellish it with political
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poison pill riders. listening to one of them. they aid that women who were -- they said that women who were concerned about family planning and their pregnancies because of this issue could not seek family counseling and women's health care at planned parenthood clinics. two million american women used those clinics last year, and the republicans are now saying, sorry ... as important and popular as they may be, we're going to prohibit any money being spent for women to turn to these clinics for family planning advice because of the zika virus. they went further. they took $5 million out of the veterans administration that was going to be used to process claims to get rid of the backlog. they'll take $5 million away and put it into the zika virus. and then the republicans in the house insisted on a provision that would allow them to display the confederate flag art u.s. military cemeteries -- flag at u.s. military cemeteries.
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what we had was a simple, straightforward, clean bill to deal with a public health crisis. it turned into a grab bag. now the question is whether senator mcconnell and senate republicans will follow the lead of house republican senators who are telling them, enough. members from florida -- congressman yoho, for example, says, let's clean this bill up and do something about zika. why he is saying that? because the center for disease control has done something extraordinary. they've warned americans not to travel to part of the united states, certain sections of florida where the zika mosquito is showing up. and the congressman from florida, including republicans, have said, enough of the political games. pass the clean bill funding zika. the senate republicans refuse. they won't move forward on it. and we're stuck, stuck with a situation that we can cure and should cure on a bipartisan
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basis. my colleagues from louisiana come to tell us about the terrible devastation that's taken place in their state because of the flooding, natural disaster, loss of life, damage to property. it's not the first time we've had a situation this serious -- katrina and others come to mind -- but it is a reminder, when it comes to natural a disasters or public health disasters, for goodness sake, isn't that where politics should end and people should set out to solve a problem instead of create a problem? now it is up to speaker ryan and senator mcconnell to show real leadership. i know they're not going to back off on the judges. but i would hope when it comes to passing spending bills in a sensible fashion and funding our efforts to stop the spread of the zika virus that we'll do something meaningful. they estimate by the end of this year, one out of four people in puerto rico will have been infected by this virus. by the end of next year, it'll
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be closer to 90%. it's a serious public health crisis. it's one that we need to do something about. and ultimately we need a vaccine. the center for disease control announced this week that o theye brought to a halt their efortses. they have -- their efforts. they've run out of money. i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i come to the floor once again on the topic of the vacant seat on our united states supreme court. i would also echo senator durbin's comments about the need to move immediately on the funding on zika. we, of course, passed something here that had clear bipartisan support, and now we wait to get this done again and to not politicize this incredible public health threat. today i'm focusing my remarks on the damage of -- to our system of governance that's being done
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by leaving a seat open on our nation's highest court. for years we've seen some fraying of our democracy, the polarization. but the citizens of america have always believed in an independent supreme court. we have seen some political creep, as we know, into our judicial selection process, but nonetheless the citizens of america have respected the rule of law. and they continue to do that. when our founding fathers sat down to sketch out the framework of our nation, they didn't issue decrees. no, they set up a system of governance with three equal branches. "the federalist" papers outline this balance of power in detail. alexander hamilton once wrote about this balance. "the regular describes of power into distinct departments, the introduction of legislative balances and checks and balances checks, the introduction of courts holding their office during good behavior, they are means and powerful means by which the excellences of
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republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided." well, that is not going to happen if we have a court that can't fully function. we have in the most recent term less cases brought before the court because we don't have a full composite of judges. we've had split decisions, diminished decisions. think back in time. when what if we only had eight justices in the miranda case or brown v. board of education. actually, an interesting fact. the brown decision may not have happened if it weren't for the swift filing of a supreme court vacancy. chief justice vinson died just before the rearrangement of the case. by most accounts, the decision was split. the senate allowed for a vote and chief justice warren was
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confirmed. the brown decision was handed down and our nation has seen great progress toward equality as a result of that decision. in fact, the practice in the senate for the last 100 years is that the judiciary committee holds hearings. and in the few instances where they have not that is because those nominees were confirmed in ten days or less. 1916, every case, every nominee has been handled in that fashion. justice kagan said the current justices on the court are doing everything they can to build a consensus and avoid a 4-4 split. while i appreciate that effort, that's just not how it is supposed to work. we want laws to rise or fall because the supreme court has decided them, not because of a 4-4 split. look at the nominee that we have. this is someone who has had broad support on both sides of the aisle.
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senator hatch once came before this body and said he challenged everyone to come to say something negative about judge garland. judge garland oversaw both the oklahoma city bombing case and the unabomer case at near the same time. he earned a vote in this chamber 76-23 for his last job, and he is someone that has routinely gotten positive comments from judges and commentators from other side of the aisle who basically have acknowledged that he's someone that looks for that common ground. i have no doubt that he would excel in his hearing. but right now we're not going to know that. and i just ask my colleagues what are they afraid of? are they afraid that the citizens of america will be able to see this fine judge and how smart he is or how he answers questions? as my friend, senator angus king has said. or are they afraid they would like him too much? i do not understand why we simply can't have a hearing.
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and i had to put myself, i think, what would happen if we had a republican president and a democratic senate? what would i do? and i clearly thought this through as a lawyer and as someone as a member of the judiciary committee and know that i would have said that we have to have a hearing. because the constitution says we must advise and consent. it doesn't say advise and consent after a presidential election or whenever it is convenient. it says advise and consent. so i'm hopeful my colleagues are listening to us, that they will find it within themselves to allow this great judge, this great jurist a hearing. i was there in the rose garden when president obama nominated him. i saw him tear up and i thought to myself not only is this a monumental moment in his own life to be nominated for the highest court of the land, but perhaps he was tearing up because he knew the burden that he was carrying, one man on his
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shoulders, the burden of carrying forward the american tradition of an independent judiciary, the simple concept that politics isn't supposed to dictate our processes, that our founding fathers set up three equal cobranches of government, and our job in the senate is to make sure that the judiciary is funded so it can function. our job is to pass laws that they then look at and apply when there's questions about those laws, and our job is to advise and consent on nominees to the federal judiciary. so let's get our act together here and do our job. thank you. i yield the floor.
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i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i thought i will take just a few minutes here to give a brief tribute to someone that i know well. her name is patty wetterling and her family. they are long-term minnesota residents. patty and i know each other well. we actually ran against each other for the senate way, way back in 2005. and out of that experience, we got to be very good friends. patty wetterling is a woman of unbelievable courage. her son jacob was kid napped at
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gunpoint 27 years ago, and all that time she has kept the hope alive that he would be found. she knew it was a small hope. but as we know, there have been cases in america where missing children are found 10, 20 years later. and that's what she was hoping for. well, this past week those dreams were dashed as a very evil man came forward to law enforcement. he was already in captivity, and admitted to this crime and brought law enforcement to the remains, to jacob's remains. and the story which i will not put on the record is a horrific one. but i think the most poignant moment in this horrible story were jacob's last words which was "what did i do wrong?" this little boy did nothing wrong. he was an 1 1-year-old riding
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his bicycle in his town, in a very rural part of sterns county, minnesota, where things are supposed to be safe. they weren't safe that day. and the amazing part of the story is not only the memory of this little boy, but it is how patty wetterling and her family for years have turned their grief into action. many people understandably would just try to hang tight to their family. and she's done that. she's been a great mom. but she went beyond that. she served on the board of directors of the national center for missing, exploited children. she's been a nationally recognized educator on child abduction and the sexual exploitation of children. she and her husband cofounded the jacob wetterling research center to educate communities about child safety issues and to prevent child exploitation and abduction. she served for more than seven years as director of sexual
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violence prevention for the minnesota department of health. she was named one of the 100 most influential minnesotans of this century by one of our newspapers. she has kept this hope alive. but what's amazing about it is that she has saved other lives. a number of bills and legislation, including the sexual predator registration, have come out with better collaboration between local and federal law enforcement. and she has saved so many lives in jacob's memory. so we are going to be putting a resolution, senator franken and myself, on the record today on this topic. but i just wanted to take the moment personally to recognize patty for her strength and her courage and her grace. thank you. i yield the floor, and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that at 1:45 the senate proceed to executive session for the consideration of calendar number 685, the senate vote on the nomination without intervening action or debate, that if confirmed the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate then resume legislative session without any intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cruz: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cruz: mr. president, today i rise to honor the first lady of the conservative movement. on sunday surrounded by her loving family, phyllis shaffly passed away. she stood literally on the front lines fighting against forces that threatened to upend families and sought to undermine
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the judeo-christian values upon which our great nation was founded. without question phyllis schaffly loved america. her contributions to our country went beyond the work exposing the illogic of liberalism. she led the charge to make the republican party pro-life and the sanctity of marriage. she was a passionate defender of u.s. sovereignty and championed reagan's policy of peace through strength during a crucial time in american history, and the women and men of eagle forum which she founded are incredible patriots and grass roots activists who today along with all of us are mourning phyllis' passing. our nation continues to face many dangers, both foreign and domestic, and we need more individuals, more leaders like mrs. schlafly who are not afraid to stand up and fight for the freedoms so richly bestowed upon us by our creator.
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may she rest in peace. mr. president, today our country faces a threat to the internet as we know it. in 22 short days, if congress fails to act, the obama administration intends to give away control of the internet to an international body akin to the united nations. i rise today to discuss the significant, irreparable damage this proposed internet giveaway could wreak not only on our nation but on free speech across the world. and so today i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me, along with senators lankford and lee, along, mr. president, with you and your leadership, along with congressman sean duffy, to stop the obama administration from relinquishing u.s. control of the internet. many have stood with us in both
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chambers, and we are very grateful for senators thune and grassley and burr and cotton and sasse, and moran and rubio, along with a number of congressman in the house. and i urge even more of my colleagues to come together and stand united to stop the obama administration's internet giveaway. the internet has been one of those transformational inventions that has changed how we communicate, how we do commerce, how we live our lives. for many, especially young people, it's hard to evening imagine life before the internet -- even imagine life before the internet. but look at what the internet has done? it's created an ow oasis of frem from billions across the world. one of the great problems when someone tries to start a business is what is known as barrier to entry. what the internet has done is
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dramatically reduce the barriers to entry for anyone who wants ton an entrepreneur. if you are a man or woman or even a boy or girl somewhere across the country, across the world, and you have an idea, a service you want to sell or a good you want to make, you can put up a web site and instantly you've got international marketing capacity. you have a portal to communicate with people, and anyone can go online and order whatever your good or service is. and between that and fedex or ups, you can ship it anywhere in the world. that is an extraordinary and transformational ability. that freedom that you don't have to go and get anyone's approval, you don't have to go a board of business authorization if you want to create a new business, the internet is democratizing this that effect. the internet empowers those with nothing but hope and a dream to be able to achieve those ambitions. but right now, the obama
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administration's proposal to give away control of the internet poses a significant threat to our freedom, and it's one that many americans don't know about. it is scheduled to go into effect on september 30, 2016 -- 22 days away. just over three weeks. now, what does it mean to give away control of the internet? from the very first days of the internet when it was developed here in america, the united states government has maintained its core functions to ensure equal access for everyone with no censorship. the government role isn't to monitor a when we say, to censor what we say; it is simple mr. toy ensure that it works. that when you type in a web site it thral actually goss that webe and not somewhere else. yet, that can chapping.
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yet, that can change. the obama administration is instead pushing through a radical proposal to take control of internet domain names and give it to an international organization, ican, that includes 162 foreign countries. it will include countries like russia, china, and iran to be able to censor speech on the internet, your speech. countries like russia and china and iran are not our friends. and their interests are not our interests. imagine searching the internet and instead of seeing your standard search results, you see a disclaimer that the information you were searching for is censored. it is not consistent with the standards of this new international body. it does not meet their approval. now, if you're in china, that situation could welcome with the threat of arrest for daring to
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search for such a thing that didn't meet the approval of the censors. thankfully that doesn't happen in america. but giving control of the internet to an international body with russia and china and iran having power over it could lead to precisely that threat. and it's going to take congress acting affirmatively to stop it. you look at the influence of foreign governments within ican. it should give us greater and greater concern. for example, ican's former c.e.o., fadi shihadi left ican to lead a working group for china's internet conference. his decision to use his insider nomination of how ican operates to help the chinese government
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is more than a little concerning. this is the person who was leading ican, the body we are being told to trust with our freedoms. yet this man has gone to work for the china internet conference, which has rightly been criticized for banning members of the press such as "the new york times" and "the washington post." but even reporters you may fundamentally disagree with have a right to report and to say what they believe. and yet the world internet conference banned them, said we do not want these reporters here, presumably because we don't like what they're saying. *7 which led reporters -- which led reporters without borders to demand than an international boycott of the conference calling china the -- quote -- "enemy of the internet." mr. president, if china is then mi of the inter-- enemy of the internet, do we want the enemy of the internet having power over what you're allowed to say,
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search for, to read online? do we want china and russia and iran having the four determine if a web site is unacceptable, it's taken down. i would note that once in transition happens, there are serious indications that ican intends to seek to flee united states jurisdiction and to flee united states laws. indeed, earlier this summer, ican held a global conference in finland in which jurisdiction shopping was part of their agenda, trying to figure out what jurisdiction should we base control of the internet out of across the globe. a representative of iran is already on record stating -- quote -- "we should not take it for granted that jurisdiction is already agreed to be totally based on u.s. law."
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our enemies is are not hiding what they intend to do. not only is there a concern of censorship in foreign jurisdictions stripping u.s. law from authority over the internet, there are also real national security concerns. congress has received no assurances from the obama administration that the u.s. government will continue to have exclusive ownership and control of the .gov and .mil domains. the department of the defense, the army, navy, the marines all use the .mil top-level domain. the c.i.a., the f.b.i., the department of homeland security all use .gov. the only assurance ican has made is that it will notify the government in the future if it decides to give the domains to another entity.
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so if someone is is going to the i.r.s. or what you think is the i.r.s., and you're comforted that it is on a .gov web site, you may instead find yourself victims of a foreign scam, a phishing scam, some other means of fraud with no basic protections. congress should not sit by and let this happen. congress must not sit by and let censor thcen -- censorship happ. some say this is not about censorship. it is about handing control it a multi-stake control unit. they would not dream of censoring content on the internet. well, recently leading technology companies in the united states -- facebook, youtube, twitter, and microsoft -- reached an agreement with the european union to remove "hate speech" from their online platforms
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within 24 hours. giant corporations signing on with the government to say, we are going to help you censor speech that is deemed unacceptable. and, by the way, the definition of -- quote -- "hate speech" we have seen can be very, very malleable depending on what norms are trying to be enforced. for example, the human rights campaign, which is active within ican, has featured the family research institute, the national organization for marriage, the american center for law and justice, and other conservatives and religious groups in a report entitled "the export of hate." we are facing the real possibility of an international body having the ability to censor political speech if it is contrary to the norms they intend to enforce. in their view, it is hate to express a view different from whatever the prevailing orthodoxy is.
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-- being enforced. now, it is one thing dealing with government organizations that try to stifle speech. that is profoundly inconsistent with who we are as americans. but to hand over control of the internet to potentially muzzle everybody on the internet is to ensure that what you say is only consistent with whatever is approved by the powers that be, and that ought to frighten everybody. and there is something we can do with it. along with congressman sean duffy in the house, i have introduced the protecting internet freedom act, which if enacted will stop the internet transition and it will also ensure that the united states government keeps exclusive ownership and control of the .gov and .mil internet domains. our legislation is supported by advocacy groups and consumer groups across the country and has the formal endorsement of the house freedom conference.
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this should be an issue that brings us all together, republicans, democrats, all of us coming together. there are partisan issues that divide us. there always will be. we can have republicans and democrats argue till the cows come home about the top marginal tax rate, and that's a good and healthy debate to have. but when this comes to the internet, when it comes to basic principles of freedom, letting speem speech on--- lettin lettim speak online, that out to bring all of us together. congress should stand together reining in this president, to protect the constitutional authority expressly given to congress to control disposition of property of the united states. to put the matter very simply, the obama administration does not have the authorization of congress. and yet they are endeavoring to give away this valuable, critical property, to give it away with no authorization of
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law. i would note, the government employees doing so are doing so in violation of federal law, and they risk personal liability in going forward contrary to law. that ought to trouble all of us. who in their right mind looks at the internet and says, you know what we need? we need russia to have more control over this. what's the thought process behind this? and what does it gain? what does it gain when you look at the internet -- the internet is working. the internet works just fine. it lets us speak, it lets us operate, engage in commerce. why would this administration risk giving it up? mr. president, when you and i were children, jimmy carter gave away the panama canal.
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he gave it away even though americans had built it had died building panama canal. for some reason, president obama seems to want to embody the spirit of jimmy carter and instead of giving away the panama canal, he wants to give away the internet. we shouldn't let them. the united states constitution prohibits transferring government property to anyone without the authorization of congress. article 4, section 3 of the constitution explicitly requires congressional authorization. and congress has for several years now prohibited the administration from using any funds to -- quote -- relinquish control of the internet. and yet in typical lawless fashion, the department of commerce has been racing to prepare to relinquish control by september 30, directly violating federal law and yg taxpayer fund
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-- using taxpayer funding to do so. the administration's continued contempt for the law and the constitution while sadly not surprising anymore is particularly dangerous here, as it is contempt in service of undermining internet freedom for billions of people across the world. with the federal government maintaining supervision over icann and domain names, it means that the first amendment is protected. other countries don't have first amendment protections. other countries don't protect free speech the way america does. and america does that for the world pocketing free speech on the internet by preventing the government from engaging 'censorship -- engaging in censorship. we shouldn't muck it up. and if the obama administration jams this through, hands control of the internet over to this international organization, this
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united nations, unaccountable group and they take it overseas, it's not like the next president can magically snap his or her fingers and bring it back. unscrambling those eggs may well not be possible. i suspect that's why the obama administration is trying to jam it through by september 30 so the next president can't undo it and the internet is lost for generations to come. to stop the giveaway of our internet freedom, congress should act by continuing and by strength thing the appropriations rider in the continuing resolution that we will be considering this month. by preventing the obama administration from giving away control of the internet. next week i will be chairing a hearing on the harms to our freedom that come from the obama administration's proposal to give away the internet.
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as president ronald reagan stated, freedom is every more than one generation from extinction. we didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. it must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the united states when men were free. i don't want you and i have to tell our children and our children's children what it was once like when the internet wasn't censored, wasn't in the control of foreign governments, and i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together, to stand together and ensure that we protect freedom of the internet for generations to come. it is not too late to act, and i
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am encouraged by the leadership of members of both houses of congress to stand up and protect freedom of the internet going forward. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. carper: i understand we're in a quorum call?
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the presiding officer: we are. mr. carper: i ask that it be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: mr. president, we often talk in this chamber and this country of ours about the dream of a college education. a college education opens doors, leads to higher quality of life. college education can boost our wages and our incomes. college education is a first class ticket to the middle class. we often talk about the young people in our communities who have made that dream a reality. and they may not have come from much. their parents saved what they could. in many cases they're the first in their family to go to college. took out loans. they worked at night in many cases and on weekends. they hit the books and in encases they graduated and graduated with honors. they got good paying jobs and raised their family. they plan to send their kids to
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college, too. that's a dream we talk about. but for too many students across our country today, their dream of a college education has turned into a nightmare. earlier this week 45,000 college students who are enrolled at school called i.t.t. tech awoke and learned that their college was closed. not for a snow day, not for a holiday. i.t.t. tech closed its doors for good. after years of questionable business practices and financial woes. many of these 45,000 students are living a nightmare this we week. they're scrambling to transfer to another school. they're hoping their credits will count elsewhere so they don't have to start over again. they're scrambling to find out if they're eligible for debt forgiveness on their student
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loans. i rise today, though, to talk about a particular group of students who have been harmed by the sudden closure of i.t.t. tech. our nation's veterans and their families. until this week there were nearly 7,000 veterans enrolled at i.t.t. tech using the post post-9/11g.i. bill to help finance their education. as a veteran myself of the vietnam war, i know what it is to bible for the g.i. bill which i was, my generation was. while i was not a owe while was not as generous as this one today, nonetheless it was a great life saver for me and a lot of folks with whom i served. the bill is a finite benefit. it provides up to 36 months of tuition and housing benefits for veterans as well as members of their family. if the veteran doesn't use the
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benefit, their spouse can or independent children may. it's an incredible benefit. veteran students at i.t.t. tech have no recourse to get those gig bill tuition ben -- grchlts i. bill tuition benefits back. the housing allowance that our veteran families have spent will come to an abrupt halt because they are no longer enrolled in classes. they've been robbed of their time and their hard earned benefits. frankly, taxpayers have been robbed of our tax dollars. mr. president, when i think about the men and women who volunteered to serve our country during a time of war, it is unfathomable to me that this is a position we could leave them at a defunct college, without a plan to help them get their benefits back and without a way to pay their rent or their mortgage next month. i think it's shameful. i also think enough is enough.
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congress must act to protect our veterans in this instance as we do in so many others. i don't believe that all for-roof r profit schools are bad actors. they aren't. some do a good job. the employment outcome for students across this spectrum are undeniable. the damage that i.t.t. tech has inflicted on students and taxpayers is u undeniable. let's take a moment and look at the facts. i.t.t. tech is facing lawsuits by the consumer financial protection bureau, securities and exchange commission, and multiple states' attorney generals for illegal loan schemes, for deceptive recruiting. the school is not in compliance and is unlikely to become in compliance with accrediting
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standards." i.t.t. tech's closure leaves taxpayers on the hook for a half billion dollars in loan school discharges, half a billion dollars. mr. president, i.t.t. tech is one of the top recipients of post 9/11 g.i. bill dollars since 2009. i.t.t. tech did not use this massive taxpayer investment to provide a high-quality education to too many veterans. they used it for recruitment. they used those dollars for advertising and ultimately for profit. i.t.t. tech failed veterans and taxpayers for years. when they closed their doors this week, they left taxpayers and veterans and their families in the lurch. it's shameful. and, again, enough is enough.
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the department of veterans affairs must now work closely with the department of education to ensure that i.t.t. tech's student veterans have the resources and guidance they need to transfer and continue their studies at a high-quality institution of higher learning. and we in congress have work to do, too. i believe we have a particular responsibility to hold bad actors accountable and increase protection for veterans who plan on enrolling at for-profit schools heading for bankruptcy. for-profit schools like i.t.t. tech and corinthian colleges, which also suddenly collapsed last year, target veterans for their generous benefit that we as taxpayers provide for them. those schools exploit something called the 90-10 loop they'll allows for-profit schools to be 100% reliant on federal taxpayer
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dollars. 150%. -- 100%. congress can take meaningful steps to protection veterans and their families and chief among them would be closing this loophole. mr. president, the 90-10 loophole has directly led to this on-going nightmare for student veterans at corinthian, at i.t.t. tech, and at countless other schools failing to live up to the promise of a high-quality education. so in conclusion, you see congress must act. we must act to restore the dream of a high-quality college education for our nation's veterans. it is well past time to address this situation. enough is enough. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. thank you. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. mr. heller: mr. president, thank you. i rise today --
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mr. leahy: would the senator just yield for a moment? mr. heller: i will yield. mr. leahy: could the senator give us an idea of how long -- mr. heller: about five minutes. mr. leahy: thank you, mr. president. mr. heller: i rise today in support of heller-heinrich amendment number 491. without water, our communities cannot grow. improving the rural water supply, their security and economic development all goes hand in hand, which is why i've teamed up with my friend from new mexico, senator heinrich, to offer this western water amendment that will ensthiewr every drop of western water goes as far as it can. our amendment simply ensures that the u.s. army corps of engineers implemented its water program as congress had intended. it will help advance projects like storm and sewer systems, water treatment plangtses,
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delivery projects in idaho, montana, nevada, new mexico, utah, and wyoming. it was first established in 1999, and this program has been helpful to rural counties surrounded by federal lands in increasing the west's water security is essential to the region's long-term economic competitiveness. and so, mr. president, i'd urge my colleagues to support this important bipartisan western initiative. i want to change topics here real quick and talk about something that's important to all of us. that's lake tahoe. mark twain once said that the lake had a bewirlding richness that enchanted the high and held it with the stronger fascination. over the past year and a half i've, wooed with my good -- i've worked with my good friend from oklahoma, jim inhofe. i want to thank him for helping advance a long-standing priority of mine, the lake tahoe restoration act. this as bill i champ on-ed in the house before came over to
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the senate and i'm proud to be the lead sponsor of it here in the senate during the 114th congress. this bipartisan legislation, which has garn earned the support of the nevada congressional delegation and my california colleagues, senators feinstein and boxer, is focused on reducing wildlife threats, wildfire threats, improving water quality and clarity, improving public land management, and combating inveighsive species. specifically, mr. president, this bill invests $415 billion into the lake tahoe basin over the next ten years. these important resources will address are major issues that threaten the jewel of the sierra's economic and ecological health. that includes helping prevent and management the introduction of harmful invasive species, prioritizing the important fuel reduction projects that prevent catastrophic wildfire, and it advances storm water management
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initiatives for transportation solutions that reduce congestion, minimizes impact to the lake, and improves outdoor recreational activities. collaborative efforts between nevada and california are prime examples of what can be accomplished when we set our mind towards a goal. huer in the 1114th -- here in the 114th congress, we are closer to enact than ever before. the bill has advanced through committees in bodge the house and the senate -- in both the house and the senate. when it passed the environment and public works committee, it garnered support mongt committee members for the first time. when we finish consideration of this bill, the lake tahoe restoration act will have passed the full senate for the first time in its legislative history. i want to thank the chairman for his leadership and for teaming up with us.
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i am pleased that the committee moved our bill through the process, both as a stand-alone bill and part of the water resource bill in the past year. like you, i know one of the core constitutional functions of the federal government is creating the infrastructure necessary to conduct commerce, trade, and allow for general transportation. infrastructure development is one of my top priorities huer in congress and has been a top priority in this chamber's majority. it is important to note that we have successfully enacted important policies in this congress to imriewrve travel and -- improve travel and infrastructure across our country. the act was enacted in law. this important legislation implemented important renorms make the u.s. air travel safer, more efficient, critical to nevada's tourism destinations like lake tahoe. last year we enacted the first long-term highway bill in nearly a decade, the fixing america's surface transportation act
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better known at fast act. it is advance ago variety of transportation projects across our country. in fact i secured a variety of provisions in that bill that will facilitate the development of new innovative transit, highway, and bridge projects specifically in the at that low- in the a tahoe basin. these transportation solutions improve mobility and outdoor recreation at the lake while reducing the impacts transportation has on water quality and clarity. and again this week i stand with the -- with chairman inhofe to advance yet another important infrastructure bill, the water resource development act. this bill will strengthen our nation's infrastructure, it mitigates flood risks, invests in aging infrastructure for drinking water and waste water. initiatives like these report to maintaining public health, improving water security, keeping our nation competitive in the global market. i urge my colleagues k to help e
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preserve lake tahoe and other locations across the nation so future generations can enjoy them for generations to come. let's add another major win for the 114th congress, support for the heller-heinrich amendment, the water resew source development act o of 201. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, next month on the first monday in october, the supreme court will begin its new term. as it always does on the first monday in october. the question we really have is -- before senators here is whether there should be an empty seat on the dais when the supreme court convenes. october 1, we've always been accustomed to seeing all nine
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justices there. but for seven months, the court has been missing a justice. and because of that vacancy, it's been repeatedly been unable to serve as the final arbiter of the law. there's been eight justices, there's been a vacancy most of this year. the president fulfilled his constitutional duty and nominate the somebody -- nominated somebody. we have failed to do our constitutional duty in advise and consent. and the uncertainty in the law has been harmful to businesses, to law enforcement, to families, to children across the country. it is a constitutional crisis, and worst of all, this constitutional crisis is wholly the senate republicans' making and they have the four stop this constitutional crisis.
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in february the republican leader claimed that because it was an election year, the senate would somehow be justified in not doing its job in denying any consideration of the next supreme court nominee. now, based on my conversations with vermonters across the political spectrum, and on every poll taken on this issue, the american people reject this partisan justification. there is no election year exception to senators doing their jobs. there's no election-year exception to the president doing his job. and there's no election-year exception to the independent judiciary doing its job. each branch of our government has its duty under the constitution. but the republican leadership has said the senate is going to reject its duty. it will damage the function of our supreme court, and that really needs to stop.
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since public confirmation hearings began in the judiciary committee, for supreme court nominees a century ago, the as soon as has never denied a nominee for a vote, has never in a century. the late-justice scalia received a hearing 42 days after his nomination. justice kennedy, who was the last justice confirmed in a presidential election year, received a hearing in the judiciary committee, which was under the control of democrats, just 14 days after president reagan nominated him -- in a presidential election year. democrats held a hearing 14 days for this republican nominee. contrast that to chief judge garland's nomination has been
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pending for 176 day, a totally unprecedented situation. certainly that delay has provided enough time for senators and their staff to become familiar with his record in preparation for a hearing and debate. the press may be focused on what might happen in a lame-duck session, but this vermonter is focused on his job now. it's time for the senate to -- the time for the senate to act on the supreme court nominee nag nation is now. we could have a hearing next week. the committee can debate and consider the nomination the following week. the full senate can vote on the confirmation by the end of the september much we've taken far less time to confirm supreme court justices as the senate has realized the urgency of having a court at full strength. chief judge garland is ideally suited to serve on the supreme court on day wufnlt he is
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currently the chief judge of the d.c. circuit. also known at second-highest court. he is a he been a federal judge for nearly two decades. he has more federal judicial experience than any supreme court nominee in our nation's history. he's a former federal prosecutor. he's been praised for his work leading the justice department's efforts on the ground in oklahoma city in days after the worst act of homegrown terrorism in our country's history. the republicans and democrats alike have recognized chief judge colin as a brilliant, impartial judge with unwaiving fidelity to the rule of law. republicans of this body as well as democrats of this body said so when they voted for his confirmation on the d.c.

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