15 years ago to target our homeland turned to staging grounds for isis, the need to support our allies and address this issue is far too clear. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president. this week marks a sad milestone for the u.s. senate, a milestone of inaction, of obstruction and of failure. this week marks six months since president obama nominated judge merrick garland to the supreme
court. president obama did his job, his constitutional duty, and judge garland should have been confirmed by now. he is eminently qualified, he's a dedicated public servant, and a respected judge. instead, judge garland hasn't even received a hearing. today marks 182 days since his nomination, and not even a hearing. in the last 40 years, the average time for a nomination to confirmation has been 67 days for a supreme court nominee. no matter which party has controlled the white house and the senate. we've always done our job, we've always given a president's nominees a hearing and a vote as the constitution requires. after my remarks, i will formally introduce a proposal to change the senate rules, to require that any judicial nominee who has been pending for
more than 180 days receive a vote. i do not take this decision lightly, but i fear that a line has been crossed. this level of obstruction will only get worse in the years to come. we should not ever be in this situation again. i urge all of my colleagues to consider this proposal fairly and without partisan interests. i had hoped that the senate would act on judge garland's nomination. i met with him in may. it was a good meeting. we talked about some areas of the law of particular importance to new mexicans, campaign finance reform, tribal law, interstate water issues and other topics. he's well versed and well informed, but he's not prejudging any issue, and i really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him better. he is an exceptional jurist who has dedicated his life to public
service, a nominee who deserves our respect and a hearing and a vote, but for several months now, republicans have argued that president obama's nominee shouldn't get a vote, that this president shouldn't get the same four-year term as every other president. they argue that it's better for the supreme court to have a vacancy for what is likely to be more than a year. this makes no sense, it's hurting the court and the american people, and it leaves a highly qualified nominee in limbo. judge garland has more federal judicial experience than any other supreme court nominee in history. with many judges, that would be a problem. too many controversial opinions or decisions overturned, but judge garland's record is exceptional. he has spent nearly 20 years on
the d.c. circuit, a court often referred to as the second most powerful in the country. he has participated in over 2,600 merits cases and 357 opinions. he's heard many controversial cases, yet the supreme court has never reversed one of his written opinions. judge garland's record demonstrates an incredible ability to build consensus on a wide range of difficult subjects, and his opinions show that he decides cases based on the law and the facts. these are traits that will serve him well as a supreme court justice. and more importantly, that will serve all plaintiffs and defendants who come before him. judge garland's legal career before joining the bench is equally impressive. he was a federal prosecutor and later served as a high-ranking justice department attorney.
at justice, he oversaw major investigations and prosecutions. he led the prosecution of the two oklahoma city bombers and supervised the prosecution of the unabomber. he was known for working closely with victims. but he is more than just an exceptional judge and lawyer. he's a person of high moral character. for the last 18 years, he has tutored students at a local elementary school. he speaks to law students about public service careers. and he regularly speaks about the importance of pro bono services and access to the courts. judge garland is a good american, and he's being treated unfairly. many republican senators are so caught up in the politics that they have even refused to meet him. he's being denied a hearing in the judiciary committee and the
majority leader refuses to allow him to receive an up-or-down vote. this is unprecedented obstruction against one of the most qualified supreme court nominees in history. my republican colleagues will say it's not about judge garland. they say president obama, who still had over ten months in office at the time he made the nomination, had no right to fill the vacancy. they argue that it's the next president's job. but we're talking about a vacancy that will have been open for almost a year before the next president takes office. this defies common sense and defies historical precedent. sadly, object instruction in the senate is the new normal. judge garland is just the most glaring example. a supreme court vacancy gets a lot of attention, but our lower courts have been understaffed for years.
right now, there are 12 vacancies on the appellate courts, our district courts have 75 vacancies, and 33 of those are considered judicial emergencies because the court is so short staffed. there are many nominees we could vote on today. 28 judicial nominees are on the executive calendar, voted out of committee with bipartisan support, but republicans have slowed the confirmation process to a standstill. last year, senate republicans confirmed the fewest judicial nominees in more than 50 years, 11 for the entire year. matching the all-time record. only 18 have been confirmed this congress. let's compare that to the last two years of the bush administration with a democratic majority, the senate confirmed 68 judges. all this gets back to something i have discussed since joining
the senate, the need to end the dysfunction so the senate can work for the american people again. i pushed for reform of the senate rules in the last three congresses, and we did change the rules to allow majority votes for executive nominees and judicial nominees to lower courts. that was a historic and much-needed change. without it, the judicial system would even be more overburdened. but even that change does no good if the judges remain blocked. the majority leader is using the power over the calendar as a stealth filibuster, and that is what is happening in this congress. the line gets longer and longer of perfectly qualified nominees denied a vote, denied even to be heard. now a seat on the supreme court is empty and the majority leader is actually arguing that it
should stay empty for over a year in the hopes that maybe a president trump will be able to fill all these vacancies that came up during president obama's term. this isn't governing. it's an unprecedented power play. is it any wonder that the american people are frustrateed, fed up with political games, with obstruction in the senate, with special deals for insiders and campaigns that are being sold to the highest bidder? they see this obstruction as just another example of how our democracy is being eroded. i believe it's so bad that we need a change in the senate rules to address our broken judicial confirmation process, and my suggestion is very simple. if the judiciary committee hasn't held a vote on a nominee within 180 days from the nomination, then he or she is
discharged and becomes the pending business of the senate and gets a cloture vote. it would be the same for nominees voted out of committee but blocked by the majority leader's inaction. after 180 days, they get their vote. and let me be clear if this rule is adopted, 180 days should not become the normal time period to confirm nominees. it is the longest it will take, but there is no reason the senate shouldn't act quicker as it has done throughout history. we need to end the stealth filibuster of this president's nominees. no more baring nominees in committee, no more leaving them to languish on the executive calendar. the senate will have to do its job. under my rules of reform, judge garland would have his vote this week. senators would do our jobs, and the voters would know where we
stand. many other nominees would finally get their votes. there are currently seven appellate court nominees who have been waiting more than 180 days. there are 30 district court nominees, including five judicial emergency districts. some critics may argue that the tables will be turned, democrats will object to a republican nominee. well, if a nominee is truly objectionable, then any senator, democrat or republican, should convince a majority of the senate to vote against confirmation. that's how democracy works. it's time to get our courts fully staffed so our judicial system can do its work. we've already seen the impact of a supreme court with eight members. cases sent back to the lower courts without -- without decisions. the supreme court isn't taking cases that are likely to
deadlock. these are some of the most important cases for them to decide. when we fail to do our job, the justice system suffers and the public suffers. the old saying is so true -- justice delayed is justice denied. it's time for senate republicans to do their job. the constitution gives the president the responsibility to nominate justices to the supreme court, and the senate's job is to consider that nominee. the constitution doesn't say do your job except in an election year. the president has done his job by nominating judge garland. many republicans expect him to select a highly controversial nominee, someone to energize the liberal base in an election year, but the president -- excuse me -- the president took his responsibility seriously, he
selected a widely respected nominee with impeccable credentials, a man who should be easily confirmed. it's time for us to take our responsibility seriously. give judge garland the hearing he deserves and allow the senate to take an up-or-down vote. thank you, mr. president, and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the calling of the quorum be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection grass i have after unanimous consent, mr. president, before i speak. i ask unanimous consent that the time from 2:00 until 2:25 be under the control of senator manchin. further, that the time from 2:25 until 2:45 today be reserved as follows: senator enzi ten minutes and senators inhofe and boxer for five minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. 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. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i've been to the floor several times to call attention to foreign state-owned companies growing investment in american companies and commercial markets. so i come to the senate to discuss this further with my colleagues. it's becoming increasingly clear that foreign state-owned companies are highly involved in international commerce and competing with companies that are privately owned by shareholders with nothing to do with any government. this trend is part and parcel of
globalization. while there are some obvious benefits to globalization, we also need to be aware of the challenges it may bring with it, and i think this is one of them. i give you an example. i've seen this trend at work in the agricultural sector of our economy. kem china is currently worked on a deal to buy the swiss based sea company is a general take -- sajenta. about a third of its revenue comes from north america, meaning the company is heavily involved with american farmers, including iowans and that's why i'm interested in this transaction. i've already been considering the approval aspect of this
proposed merger. senators stab -- senator stabenow and i asked the committee on foreign investment in the united states to review thoroughly the supposed acquisition with the department of agricultural's help. we've raised the issue because as i've said before protecting the safety and integrity of our food system is a national security imperative as well as an economic issue. now, there's another aspect of this issue that i'd like to focus on this day, and that's i am's here. -- that's why i'm here. i would like to consider the flip side of the approval question. as their involvement in international commerce grows, how can we ensure that foreign state-owned companies are held to the same standards and the
same requirements as their non-state-owned counterparts or companies that are in the private sector? first, consider two age old principles of international law. one is that american courts don't exercise jurisdiction over foreign governments as a matter of comity and respect for equally independent countries. they're very, you know, each is sovereign. so this is called the foreign sovereign immunity. the second is when foreign governments do in fact enter into commerce and then turn out behaving like market participants conducting a state-owned business, for example, they're not entitled to foreign sovereign immunity
because they're no longer acting as a sovereign but rather acting like any business. in that case they should be treated just like any other market participant. this is called the commercial activity exception to the principle of foreign sovereign immunity. congress codified both of these age old principles in the foreign sovereign immunity act of 1976. all of these principles are well and good, but i'm concerned in some cases they may not have their intended effects in today's global marketplace. some foreign state-owned companies have recently used the
defense of foreign sovereign immunity, the principle that a foreign government can't be sued in american courts as a litigation tactic. for what reason? to avoid claims by american consumers and companies that non-state-owned foreign companies would have to answer. in some cases foreign state-owned corporate parent companies have sucked necessary -- have succeeded necessary scaping americans' claims. they've done this by arguing that the entity conducted commercial activities only through a particular subsidiary, not a parent company often closer to the foreign sovereign. unless a plaintiff which may be an american company or consumer is able to show complete control
of the subsidiary by the parent company, the parent company is able to get out of court before the plaintiffs even have a chance to make their case. this results in two problems. first, there is an unequal playing field where state-owned companies benefit from a defense not available to a non-state-owned company. and second, there's an uphill battle for american companies and consumers seeking to sue state-owned entities as opposed to a non-state-owned entity. when a foreign state-owned entity raises the defense of foreign sovereign immunity, american companies as well as american consumers don't even get a chance to even prove their
cases. consider the example i talked about a few months ago. american plaintiffs brought claims against chinese manufacturers for much of the drywall used to rebuild the gulf coast after hurricane katrina and rita. the drywall in question was manufactured by two chinese companies. one owned by a german parent and one owned by a chinese state-owned parent company. the court considering these plaintiffs' claims had this to say and i quote. "in stark contrast to the state forwardness with which the litigation preceded -- proceeded against the german defendant, the litigation against the chinese entities has taken a
different course," end of quote. the german, a non-state-owned parent company appeared in court and participated in a bellwether trial where the plaintiffs were allowed to try to make their case. the manufacturer with the chinese state-owned parent -- quote -- "failed timely to answer or otherwise enter an experience" -- end of quote -- in court and didn't do so for a long period of time of at least two years. in fact, it waited until the court had already entered a judgment against it. only then did the chinese state-owned company finally appear in court. and when that company did appear, it argued that it was immune from suit in the united states because it was a
state-owned company. after approximately six years of litigation, it ultimately succeeded in its request for dismissal. in contrast to the german parent company, the plaintiffs didn't have a chance to try to prove up their case against the chinese parent company merely and only because it happened to be owned by a foreign government. that is a great big problem. now, to address these issues, i'm proposing a very modest fix to the foreign sovereign immunity act. this change would extend the jurisdiction of the united states courts to state-owned corporate affiliates of foreign state-owned companies in so far as their commercial activities
are concerned and only as far as their commercial activities are concerned. it wouldn't create any additional substantive causes of action against these foreign state-owned companies. instead it would mean only that a foreign state-owned company would have to respond to the claims brought by both american companies and american consume consumers. just like any other foreign company that isn't owned by a government. this fix has two main results. correcting the problems that i just mentioned. first, it levels the playing field between foreign state-owned and foreign private companies by making both subject to suit in the united states on the same footing as the commercial activity exception originally contemplated.
second, it brings clarity to the sometimes opaque structure of foreign state-owned enterprises and provides american companies and american consumers the chance to prove their case against these companies just as they would have that opportunity against any private company. in an age when sovereign-owned entities with increasingly complex corporate structures are interacting with american companies and interacting with american consumers more than ever, it's appropriate to re-examine the commercial activity exception and to update that commercial activity exception. we have to make sure it's working as it was designed and as it was historically
mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant devment. mr-- theassistant democratic le. mr. durbin: i ask that the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: not once in the history of the united states of america has the senate refused to give a hearing and a vote to a presidential nominee to fill a vacancy on the u.s. supreme court, not once. not until this moment. this moment in history, after the death of anton scalia, and president obama meeting his
constitutional responsibility sent up a nomination to fill the vacancy. the decision has been made by the republican majority, led by senator mcconnell, that he would not receive any hearing or vote. it has never happened before. some will say, oh, senator durbin, if the shoe were on the other foot -- it was not that long ago. it was the last year of ronald reagan's presidency. he was, in nominal terms, a lame duck, and there was a vacancy on the supreme court. there was a democratic majority in the united states senate, and ronald reagan sent the name of anthony kennedy to the democratically controlled senate. the senate not only held a hearing and a vote, they voted in favor of president reagan's nominee and sent him to the supreme court. but this time, with this vacancy on the supreme court, the
republican majority has refused to give this man a hearing for 182 days. he just visited my office again. he was there five months ago. life is more complicated now because he is the president's nominee. he's still the chief justice of the u.s. district court. that's one of the most important in the united states. he is recusing himself of cases on the chance that he may get a hearing and may get a vote. he's working on the administrative part of the court, business -- but he's nog with decision making and writing opinions. he is trying to show an abundance of caution and not raise any ethical questions if he eventually is on the supreme court. he's good mannen, a competent person much the -- he's good man, a competent person. the american bar association has ruled him "unanimously well-qualified." this senate has voted for him
unanimously when he went to the court. one of the republican senators slipped at back home at a town meeting and said that i think merrick garland, the president's nominee, at least deserves a hearing. the koch brothers came down on that republican senator like a ton of bricks and told him, be prepared, we're going to run somebody against you in the republican primary. within 24 hours, that republican senatorreversed his position and said, no, no hearing for merrick garland. it isly not the constitution that we've all sworn to defend. the constitution is very clear. vacancy on the supreme court? the president is obligated to send a nomination to fill the vacancy. why would the constitution require that? because you could have some political gamesmanship. a president might decide, well, i'll just keep it vacant. maybe it is to my political
vafnlg the constitution said, no, mr. president, send a name. the constitution goes on to say that the senate has the responsibility to advise and consent to that nomination, and that's where the process has stopped and fallen apart. so why would the republican majority in the senate go out on a limb and take a position that's never been taken before in the history of the united states to deny merrick garland a hearing and a vote? well, because there are certain people in high places who want to see a president named donald trump fill this vacancy. they believe that he would pick a person closer to their political liking, someone who would serve their economic interests. it's a shame. it's unfortunate. some would argue, unconstitutional. but that's where we are and that's what elections are about. i won't even speculate on the type of person that a donald trump would choose to fill that vacancy.
i'll leave that for someone else and another day. but it real lay is sad to -- but it really is stood think a judge of merrick garland's integrity is being treated so badly. and there was speculation that maybe, just maybe, if donald trump lost, hillary clinton won, maybe the reerchtion would relent -- maybe the republicans would relent and in the closing weeks of this year would give him his vote. senator mcconnell said, no way. not on my watch. there won't even be a consideration of this nominee. it is a sad chapter in the history of the united states senate, written for political reasons, at the expense of a man who should have his day before a hearing in sworn testimony to tell us how he would like to continue to serve this nation. mr. president, i have another statement to make. i ask it be placed in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, there is an industry in the united states of america that is
the most heavily federally subsidized private industry in our country. if i asked members of congress what that would be, many would say, oh, it must be a defense contractor, right? maybe it's some major farm operation. no, it's the for-profit college and university industry, for-profit colleges and yiewftds. -- and yawfts. think of the university of phoenix, kaplan university, devry, rasmussen, those types of schools. they are in business for profit. and they are eight most heavily subsidized businesses in america. the students who attend these for-profit colleges and universities receive federal money in pell grants, which they give to these for-profit colleges, and then they borrow money from the federal government to pay the tuition at
these for-profit colleges. these for-profit colleges, many of them receive more than 90% of their revenue directly from the federal treasury. well, you would think, if an industry, a company was that heavily subsidized, they must be doing one great job. wrong. some numbers -- these are going to be on the fine acialtion so you may want to make a note. 10% of high school graduates end up in for-profit colleges and universities. 10%. 20% of all the federal aid to education goes to these schools. 10% of the kids and 20% of the money. why? they charge so much. their tuition is so high. but there are two other numbers that really tell the story. 40 -- 40% of all the college student loan defaults are students from for-profit colleges and universities. why? because they're so burdened with
debt that they drop out or they end up graduating with worseless diplomas. the last number i'll give you is 72. 72% of the graduates of for-profit colleges and universities -- 72%, on average -- earn less than high school dropouts in america. the most heavily subsidized private businesses in america with awful, terrible results. 10% of the students, 40% of the loan defaults. 72% of the graduates not earning as much as high school dropouts in america. this week another one of these for-profit colleges bit the dust. i.t.t. tech, 35,000 to 40,000 students nationwide, 750 in
illinois. i go home to springfield, illinois, and go by the local mall and see a sign which read "i.t.t. tech," and i said to myself, i know how this story ends. some student grgz to walk into that mall and they're going to sign for a course and they're going to be disappointed. they're going to end up with a heavy student debt and a virtually worthless diploma. and someday, just someday, that school may go bankrupt or go away. that day has arrived. and what happened to those students? let me give you one illustration. if you walked into springfield, illinois, in white observation mall to the campus of i.t.t. tech, this for-profit college and university, and signed up for a course in communications, associate's degree in communications, or in computer management, aassociate's degree, the tuition they charge stiewngtszs in spring -- students in springfield, illinois, for a two-year degree
$47,000. $47,000. get in your car at white observation small in springfield and drive for 15 minutes to lincolnland community college where you can get the same degree not for $47,000 but for $7,000. $7,000. and the hours that you accumulated would be transferable to a four-year school or where every you wish to go. the hours at i.t.t. tech were a laughing matter when students tried to transfer. so the school went down. the federal government took a close look at the practices. they found a dozen state attorney generals investigating i.t.t. tech why, what did they do wrong? well, it was obvious what they were doing wrong. they were deceiving these students into coming to these schools and paying tuitions. and many of them were steering them into loans, college loans, which were not the best nor those students. they were paying higher interest
rates than they should have paid. so when they started detecting these things in each of the states, the attorney generals decided to start investigating -- a dozen of them investigate this one school. then the consumer financial protection bureau here in our washington, d.c., did the same and found predatory lending, higher interest rates were being charged by these schools than should have been for these students, and then the securities and exchange commission got involved as well and found that this same school was really violating some of the basic rules in terms of disclosures under federal law. well, once they detected these problems, the department of education said to i.t.t. tech, stop. we're not going to let you go feud and bring in more students, borrow more money from the federal government, unless you put up a bond, a letter of credit, to guarantee to us that the taxpayers won'ting left holding the bag if you go out of
business. i.t.t. tech said, before we'll do that we'll go out of business -- and they did. so these students are out there trying to figure out what's next in their lives. it's a heartbreaking situation. for many of them, they at least waste add year or two or -- wasted a year or two or more, and a lot of them have piled up a lot of debt at a school that has now gone out of business. i've written every community college in my state and said, would you reach out to the 750i.t.t. tech students in illinois and put them on the right track in terms of perhaps getting that associate's degree at anaffordable cost? and there's another thing offered you threw through the department of education. one one of these for-profit schools out goes out of business, the students are keep the hours that they've earned and the debt that was associated with it or walk away from both.
so students will have to decide -- i can't decide for them -- once they've had some counseling at the community colleges they can make that decision. but here's what ultimately happens when the students walk away from the debt and the hours they earned at these schools. the losers, ultimate losers are the taxpayers of america. when we pay taxes, it goes into the federal treasury. the money under the treasury is being loaned to the students to give to these schools. when the students default or they're forgiven of their loans, the treasury is not paid bafnlgt our tax dollars do not return to the treasury to be loaned again. so the taxpayers are the ultimate losers. it raw -- it raises a very basic question: when is our federal government going to waning to the fact that -- wake up to the enact this for-profit college and you university industry is causing great harm to are a lot of innocent students across the united states and their families and ultimately to the taxpayers
of this country? steve gunderson was a congressman from which is, which i served -- from wisconsin. he isous in the spokesman for this industry. he was quoted in the papers yet that i.t.t. was being treated unfairly, that this industry was being held to unreasonable standards. i couldn't disagree more. what the obama administration is calling for now is to measure the performance of these for-profit schools and decide whether they should stay in business. it is called gainful employment. if you graduate from the school, if you receive a certificate or diploma that they promised, how much debt did you accumulate? how much is your job paying as you come out of school? can you reconcile the two? did you end up with a job? -- that ended up paying enough so you could pay your loan back? too few of these students can. mr. gunderson now argues that we shouldn't hold the school to those student standard.
we shouldn't be concerned about the a debt and ask about what kind of jobs these students end up with. i think we should. we owe to the students and their families to do just that. mr. president, i would like to ask consent to sphwheer the record an -- to enter into the record an elder from the "new york times" entitled "late to the fight against predator schools." the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you. what this editorial says is this should be an eye-opener, this should be an awakening for congress and our government. we saw corinthian go down, that for-profit school. you know how much that cost the taxpayers? over $1 billion. now don't believe for a minute that the c.e.o. of corinthian, or even the c.e.o. of i.t.t. tech is sending any money back to the treasury. no way. they're off with their millions of dollars which they took out as presidents of these bogus universities, living a pretty sweet life. they got the money.
the school went down the drain, and the students are left holding the bag with the taxpayers. we lost over $1 billion over corinthian. sadly, i.t.t. tech could turn into another billion-dollar baby. which one of these for-profit schools is going to fail next? one of them that they're looking at closely is called bridge point. bridge point is based out of california, but they did something very interesting. senator tom harkin of iowa had a hearing and told the story of bridge point. bridge point, a for-profit school, bought franciscan college in iowa, a small catholic girls college that was going out of business. and they created something called ashford university, and they said our campus is in iowa. this is where we're going to do business. well, it turned out it was a fraud on the public. it was the showcase for another for-profit school. tom harkin's investigation foun-
ashford university had one faculty member for every 500 students. they put almost 25% of all their revenues into marketing, signing up students, picking up their pell grants, picking up their college loans, turning it into profits and paying millions of dollars to their c.e.o. and the officers of their company. well, now they've closed down that campus in iowa and they're looking for a home. they need one because now the most lucrative business for for-profit colleges are military and veterans. the military provides assistance for active military members and their families to go to school. these for-profit schools are swarming all over our military bases trying to get these families to sign up. and those that come out of the military with g.i. bill rights are also, they got a lot of money to spend, as we want them to spend to improve their lives, and it's these
for-profit schools that are crawling all over them, trying to get them to be part of it. they need a base of operations, bridge point does, and no state wants them. iowa said no thanks. california, where their base is set said we don't want you. will bridge point be the next? i don't know. but i know there will be another one. there will be more disappointed students. there will be more disappointed taxpayers. and the question that ought to be asked by those who are following this is, what are you doing here in the senate or the house to deal with this? how are you changing the rules and the law to protect students and their families and taxpayers? the answer is we're doing nothing. nothing. that's inexcusable, unacceptable. i don't know if we'll have time this year to take up an issue of this magnitude. i wish we would. if we can't, next year we must. how many more students are going to face what the students at i.t.t. tech are facing at this moment? do we care that the most heavily
subsidized private businesses in america are doing such a miserable job for students across the united states? we should. i sincerely hope that my colleagues will join me in this effort. this should be bipartisan. we have a lot of senators who spend a lot of time zeroing in on whether or not people are getting an extra $50 a month for food stamps they shouldn't receive. i'm against food stamp fraud, but are they not ready to zero in as well on this horrific waste of billions of dollars each year to an industry that is not serving america well? mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. coats: i ask that that quorum call be quashed. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: thank you, mr. president. today i'm returning to the floor, and i can hardly believe this number, for my 50th edition of waste of the week. i started this thinking that because we have not been able to secure any kind of long-term reform to our broken financial system, that the least thing we can do is identify those documented wastes, frauds and abuses that inspectors general, the congressional budget office, the government accountability office have studied, examined, determined, reported to us,
the least we could do to control an out-of-control spending by this federal government is to stop this waste, fraud, and abuse to the best extent that we could. the least we could do. and when i started this, i thought, well, i'm going to come down to the senate once a week and we'll see what we can determine. i wasn't sure we would have enough information available to us so that i could come down each week during this cycle. we had been overwhelmed. i could come down here every day. we've been overwhelmed by what we have learned and found, and it's shocking. it ought to be shocking. if it's shocking to the taxpayer when they learn about how we waste their tax dollars, people struggling to get the mortgage paid at the end of the month, struggling to get the kids' education paid for, struggling to keep their head above water,
dutifully paying their taxes which are withheld from their payments, dutifully paying their taxes, sending it to washington, washington,d.c., and then to learn that it's just wasted, that the abuse that goes on has not been corrected, that the efforts to run an efficient, effective government have simply not been implemented, that we have a government out of control here in washington, that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. and so this, these wastes of the week have been pouring in here, and now this is number 50. we thought that the goal that we wanted to reach would realistically about $100 billion. we're way above that and i'll be talking about that in just a moment. but yet here we are again, and this is a big one. medicaid. and the waste of dollars that have been sent out in payments
for medicaid improperly to the wrong people, to people abusing the system or just simply errors not corrected in the systems that account for who are paying, what we're paying them and when they're getting the money. let me say first i want to acknowledge that medicaid is a vital safety net program dependent on -- depended on by many low-income family and children who have no other health care options. medicaid recipients rely on h.h.s. to effectively supervise the medicaid program and so do the american taxpayers who are footing the bill with their hard-earned tax dollars. but this in no way is a criticism to take down a program that is necessary to provide needed medical help to low-income people who simply can't find it any other way. but if we want to maintain the
program's integrity, we have to root out the bad actors. we have to root out the abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars, or at some point there simply would be a rebellion that will undermine the necessity of this program. most importantly, the health and human services cabinet must address the high rate of improper payments that have plagued this program from its very beginning and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. it seems that the problem is getting worse, even though medicaid is routinely been identified as a high risk for potential waste. being identified as a high risk, you would think alarm bells would sound and structures would be put in place so we could solve some of these issues and not waste these taxpayer dollars or give them to the wrong people or deny others who
are qualified and not receiving these. in 2015, medicaid had the second-highest improper payment rate across the entire federal government. and over the past three years, medicaid's improper payment rate averaged over 10% each year. and earlier this month, the department of health and human services put out an alert that medicaid's improper payment rate for 2016 is expected to increase to 11.5%. that's nearly double the rate of improper payment since 2013. so in just three years, the rate of improper payments has doubled, so instead of correcting the program, instead of moving it in the right direction toward solvency and toward proper administration, it's going in the other direction, and that means more and more taxpayer dollars are being simply thrown to the wind,
put it in the fireplace, it's gone. it's gone to the wrong people. it's improper payments. it's a staggering, staggering number. to put a dollar figure on this 11.5% of everything that goes out in medicaid payments, you're talking about $85.5 billion, which will be improperly put out through medicaid in just three years. that's an astonishing amount. let me repeat that. having acknowledged that there is a serious problem with medicaid payments and misuse of taxpayer dollars, that instead of being addressed successfully, it's put us in a situation where it's increasing dramatically, and now in three years' period of time, $85.5 billion has been
wasted. and while thesal $85.5 billion in improper payments were made, medicaid enrollment continued to expand as a result of obamacare, and which means more and more americans are relying on an increasingly fraudulent system. so we have to ask the question why do these improper payments continue to take place? why is it accelerating? what's happening? well, we dug into this. one reason was persistent problem lies within the h.h.s., health and human services data systems for identifying and validateing medicaid and medicare providers, which h.h.s. directs states to use to help ensure that those receiving payments are actually eligible. the system itself reminds you a lot of obamacare. remember when they rolled out that system. i can't remember the number of
billions and hundreds of billions of dollars that had to be spent to fix it when we were assured that this was ready to go, all plugged in and it collapsed, the system collapsed and the taxpayer then had to come and rescue it with even more hundreds of billions of dollars. so one problem here lies with the agency itself in terms of implementing the right systems. bureaucratic mismanagement, which is so prevalent throughout the federal government, has enabled providers to obtain medicare payments -- medicaid payments, excuse me, when they aren't even medically licensed in the state or when they don't even practice in the united states. payments are going to bogus people. payments are going to people who don't even live in the united states and qualify for this. the government accountability office repeatedly examined the addresses listed by some of these providers as their primary place of practice, and it turns
out that a lot of them are just simply fake addresses. let me give you one chart which identifies the address of where medicaid payments were going. empty lot. there's no building. there's no place. unless somebody has a little tent in here or something like that and says this is my home. payments are going to this address, and there's nothing there. everybody has been bulldozed. there is nothing there. that was determined by the government -- just one example, one example among thousands in terms of how these medicaid payments are being wasted. another one listed the address as we determined of a fast food restaurant. i'm not going to tell you which one it is, but the fast food restaurant is receiving medicaid payments. i don't know. maybe their food's bad. maybe someone lives in there on a 24-hour basis, sleeps on the
floor. i guess they get a burger for breakfast, burger for lunch, burger for dinner. but yet another example. and this had to be determined by the accountability office going out, not on the basis of the thousands, tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands of people that work for h.h.s. you would think that they would have something going on within that bureaucracy that was tracking all this information. why does this have to go to an inspector general or go to an accountability office and some agency outside of these agencies like h.h.s. have to determine this kind of thing? can't somebody figure that out? and you wonder why the public is frustrated with washington. you wonder why the public thinks their taxpayer dollars are being misused, and obviously they are. you wonder why we're getting this backlash here in this
political year. the people are fed up. they're fed up with how the government is so dysfunctional and so -- operates in such a dysfunctional way. and they want change. it looks like it's going to happen. another problem is that criminals understand that poor oversight among the agencies gives them access to medicaid and harm patients. such was the case for a pediatric dental company that performed medically unnecessary procedures on children covered by medicaid. i mean, it's bad enough that somebody just puts a false address in and receives medicaid payments in a fraudulent way. it's outrageous. it's outrageous that professional people with doctor's degrees, many of them, are using this as a basis to receive medicaid payments by subjecting children to
procedures that are not necessary. this case was a dental company that performed medically unnecessary procedures on children covered by medicaid. these children went through significant physical pain such as having a baby root canal, and there's no telling how many other patients have been harmed by providers that should have been prohibited from participating in medicaid. so yes, the $85.5 billion in improper payments is a big deal, but it's also a big deal that federal agencies are not doing their jobs and allowing billions of dollars to be squandered. h.h.s. has the tools already at its disposal to prevent these improper payments such as verifying the location of the position offices and making sure providers are licensed. my colleagues and i also must remain vigilant and ensure h.h.s. is fully utilizing its resources to crack down on improper payments and bad actors
within medicaid. it is -- we are elected, it is our responsibility to come here and make sure we're doing everything we possibly can to make these agencies cost-effective and efficient and not some bureaucratic nightmare that we have to come down here every week and talk about, about how taxpayer dollars have been wasted. so initially i said our goal was $100 billion. we're way past that now. we're 200 and somewhere. with this, we add another $85.5 billion, and our chart can't accommodate it. we thought we would end up right here. then we ended up -- then we went to $200 billion. this is just within this one cycle of congress. and now we have to add -- we had to velcro this thing. can't get the chart big enough. we're way up here now, way up
here with this, way over the chart. and the grand total of wasted taxpayer dollars, $326 billion. that's not small change, mr. president. that's hard-earned tax dollars. and think what we could do to lower our debt, think what we could do to provide for better education, better health care research, dealing with zika, c.d.c., paving roads, providing services, protecting our national security, helping our veterans. think what we could do with $326 billion of wasted money. and this is just a fraction. so the public understands we exposed this information to them, the public. do we blame the public for being furious at the dysfunction that
exists in washington, d.c.? i think they're going to go to the polls in november and exercise how they feel. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor and -- i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: aloha, mr. president. i rise in memory of my friend and our colleague, congressman mark takei. in june, mark passed away after a courageous fight with pancreatic cancer. he leaves behind a legacy as a champion swimmer, a national guard officer and a public servant. most pocial importantly, mark was a family man and friend to many. over the years, i have affectionately called mark my younger brother. mark was elected to the hawaii state legislature in 1994, the same year i won my race to be our state's lieutenant governor. i came to count on mark as one
of my closest allies throughout my time in state government and here in congress. and i will continue to be a champion for the causes he believed in, particularly the fight to keep the promises we made to our nation's veterans. mark always remembered personal details and would go the extra mile to give back to others. knowing how much we all missed food from home, he hosted pot lux for his staff and others in the delegation. they often included one of my favorites -- his mother naomi's famous beef stew. and whenever his mother made a batch of her famous stew, mark, always thoughtful, made sure that he saved some for me. in return, when i made portuguese bean soup and korean kim chi, he got some, too. mark embodied the aloha spirit of kindness and generosity and
would bring a bit of hawaii wherever he went. last year, mark and i traveled with dozens of our colleagues from both the u.s. house and senate to selma, alabama, for a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of bloody sunday. the civil rights march led by the
reverend dr. martin luther king jr. when dr. king marched from selma to montgomery in 1965, he and other march leaders wore a white carnation lei from reverend abraham akaka, senator daniel akaka's brother. dr. king and reverend akaka had met and became friends the year before, and reverend akaka sent the lei from hawaii to alabama to stand in peace and solidarity with the civil rights marchers. mark decided to replicate that gesture of harmony and unity by giving lei from hawaii to all our colleagues from the house and senate who joined in the
commemorative march. he enlisted me in this goal. over 100 lei were ordered and shipped to us in selma, but there was a glitch. the lei were to arrive by plane and by truck, but arrive they did not. in fact, mark and i had absolutely no idea where the boxes and boxes
of lei were in transit from the west coast to where we were. so at that point, frustrated, i looked at mark and said you're the national guard guy, you know logistics, i'm trusting you to get this done. mark was on the phone day and night. we have pictures of him with his phone practically glued to his ear. others later recounted that they wondered what he was doing with this phone for two days while all kinds of other commemorative march events were occurring. all of mark's work paid off and the lei were delivered safely, and that saturday, we presented a white carnation lei to civil
rights leader john lewis. they were just like the ones that reverend king and the other leaders had worn 50 years before. together, we march across the edmond pettis bridge with our first african-american president, hawaii's president obama. as we celebrate mark's life in the capitol today, i recall his memorial services that took place in honolulu last month. as we finished singing "over the rainbow" at the state capitol rotunda in honolulu, we were outside, the sun suddenly broke through and shown brightly on a large photo of mark placed at the service. mark was literally glowing. the photo was taken just after he was elected to the u.s. house, and you could see in his smile how joyful and happy he was.
later that day during our services, a rainbow appeared over pearl city, his hometown that he represented for decades in the state legislature. these are what we call in hawaii chicken skin moments, moments where mark's presence was very much felt. mark, you will be missed but we will carry on your fight for what we believe is right while treating each other with kindness and always aloha. mr. president, i yield back. ive note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that floor privileges be granted to sarah bower of my staff. the presiding officer: we're still in a quorum call. a senator: i ask that the quorum call be ended. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that floor privileges be granted to sarah bower of my staff for the duration of today. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: thank you. today we're debating a water resources development bill that contains crucial provisions to improve and rebuild some of our locks and dams and ports and flood control systems across the united states. it also authorizes valuable habitat restoration programs, like the great lakes restoration initiative. those are all incredibly important issues and are worthy of our investment. today, however, i'd like to discuss an issue that's far too often overlooked by those of us here in congress, wastewater infrastructure. when we talk about infrastructure, it translates into the critical structures we see every single day. roads, bridges, locks, dams,
airports. was is too often neglected in this conversation, however, is water infrastructure, which is just as critical to keeping our communities clean and livable and attracting investment and growth. we all want clean water, particularly our local communities that are committed to working toward that goal. unfortunately too many of our cities and towns are in a situation where the federal government is demanding significant investments to prevent wastewater runoffs providing virtually no support to help meet those mandated goals. i believe we should have high trds for our wastewater infrastructure but those mandated standards should be achievable and should be met with a commitment to help make the necessary investments to protect the health and safety of our communities. the truth is unless we get
serious about investing in all american infrastructure, including wastewater, we are hurting the very communities these regulations were initially intended to help. this water resources bill includes some responses to the difficulties our communities are facing in preventing sewer overflows. we have established the technical assistance program for small and medium treatment water works and our communities will now have more opportunity to develop integrated plans for dealing with multiple clean water requirements and have greater certainty when working with e.p.a. to develop financially responsible investments in wastewater control systems. mr. donnelly: the bill also reauthorizes a grant program for cities that are addressing their combined sewer overflow, sanitary sewer overflows and storm water discharge responsibilities. the bill only authorizes,
however, $250 million for wastewater grants all of next year. it's a sizable investment but not nearly adequate to help communities respond to the financial challenges they are facing. to put that $250 million in perspective, local governments reported spending an average of approximately $320 million per day, per day on water and wastewater services and infrastructure in 2013. that means this bill will authorize grants for an entire year at an amount that is only 75% of what local governments spend in one day. in my hometown of south bend, indiana, the city may need to spend up to $1 billion to address its obligations to eliminate sewer overflows. the solution may include deep
rock tunnelin tunneling with tuo deep they might as well build a subway system while they are down there. with a price tag so high, the investments break down to $10,000 peres dent in a -- per respect kent in a town with a per capita income of $19,000 per resident a year. it's not just one town, though. north wayne, indianapolis, evansville, richmond, others. these hoozier communities are forced into decrees and required to make significant investments with essentially no help from congress. who made the -- congress who made the rules in the first place. i know we're operating in a time of budget constraints but wastewater infrastructure investment is a problem. it's a problem congress has failed to adequately address for
far too long. that's why i've introduced an amendment that doubles the authorized funding for grants to local communities to respond to wastewater challenges. even that is a modest investment but we need to work together to find a way to do more. chairman inhofe, the former mayor of tulsa, i know he understands the challenges facing our cities and local communities across the country are experiencing the same difficulties funding these improvements. and with senator boxer such a tireless advocate on behalf of the communities in her home state, i know she's interested in being as helpful as possible as well. this bill makes improvements for our communities and i appreciate that. but i'm eagerly looking forward to finding ways to do more. mr. president, i yield back and i note the absence of a quorum.
the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent that the senate be in a period of debate only until 2:25 p.m. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to address
the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, events that are taking place in syria and in the middle east in general, but in syria and around the world, show an incredibly dangerous deterioration of american national security, of our standing in the world, and can have consequences that are far-reaching and very damaging to the united states of america. yesterday "the washington post" -- not known as a right-wing conservative periodical -- had an editorial entitled "whether or not the syrian cease-fire sticks, putin wins." "whether or not the syrian cease-fire sticks, putin wins."
and then it begins by talking about the circumstances concerning what happened as this so-called agreement -- which according to "the new york times"icaid has been objected to -- today has been objected -- according to "the new york times" today has been objected to by the department of defense and other members of his own administration. "the washington post" editorial says "when russia launched its direct military intervention in syria a year ago, president obama predicted its own result would be a quag fire. instead the agreement struck by secretary of state john kerry on friday with his russian counterpart offers mr. putin everything he sought." the acads regime which was tottering a year ago -- the united states will meanwhile grant mr. putin's long-standing demand that it join with russia in targeting groups deemed to be
terrorists." i might add, when the russians came in, the first people they attacked were the moderate people that we trained, armed, and equipped, slaughtering them. iif serious plying negotiations every take plashings an unlikely prospect, at least in the obama administration's remaining mongts, the is asad regime and its backers will shoaled a commanding position." " in exchange for these sweeping concessions which essentially abandon mr. barack obama's one-time goal of freeing syria from mr. assad and make the united states -- and it will make the united states a junior partner of russia in the middle east, most important on-going conflict. mr. kerry promises that humanitarian lifelines will be open in the besieged stir of ahelp 03 and other -- aleppo and other areas subject to starved
tactics. the syrian air force will supposedly be banned from dropping -- quote -- "barrel bombs, chlorine and other munitions on many areas where rebels are based." though there seems to be loopholes in the deal, and its text has not been made available. i might add, the text has not been made available to the congress of the united states or the american people. it goes ton say, "if that really happens and lives are saved, that will be a positive spinoff. perhaps it's the only one available to u.s. policy that swears off as doomed to failure the same limited military measures that russia has employed with success. but mr. putin and mr. assad has agreed to multiple ceases and violated all of them.
the reward has been to gain territory and strengthen their positions while receiving from the united states not sanction but more concessions and proposals for new deals. if the regimes observe their promises in this case, it may be because the time to exploit this u.s. administration, which has repeated -- which has retreated from itsz red lines allowed russia to restore itself as a middle east power and betrayed those syrians who hoped to rid themselves of a blood-drenched dictator is finally running out." in other words, there may be a time when vladimir putin and bashar assad decide on an actual cease-fire, which has been violated time after time. after they have gained sufficient control, after they have driven any of the moderate forces out of the major regions
of syria and for all intents and purposes, thanks to hezbollah, the iranian revolutionary guard, russia, and more iranian involvement by people like sulaymaniyah, hezbollah from lebanon, that they will have gaininged enough control over syria that they would be satisfied with what they've got and then will seek a cease-fire. this is one of the most disgraceful chapters in american history. look at the map of syria and iraq in the middle east in 2009 when barack obama became president of the united states and look at a map today. it was -- when barack obama came to power in 2009, al qaeda was defeated. the situation was under complete
control, thanks to the sacrifice of an enormous amount of american blood and pressure. and when my -- american blood and treasure. and when my colleagues criticize what happened in iraq and what a colossal failure it was, maybe there is an argument about going in. there can be no intellectual honesty unless you mention the fact that we had it under control. al qaeda was defeated. the casualties were down. all we needed to do is keep ary sid wail force there to -- residual force there to maintain control. instead, the president of the united states decides to take everybody out and the rest is history. al qaeda moves to syria, al qaeda becomes isis and the rest is history. why is it that the liberal media and my friends on the other side of the aisle, who continue to talk about how iraq was such a disaster, failed fail to mention
-- fail to mention that thanks to david patraeus and brave young americans who sacrificed time after time, we had it won? and the reason given for pulling everybody out was because we couldn't get a status of forces agreement ratified by the iraqi parliament. we now have 4,500 permanent and thousands who are rotating in and out. somewheres the status -- where is the status of forces agreement with the iraqi parliament? wasn't that the reason given by these experienced and talented members of the president's national security council, experts on, i believe, science fiction was one of them, and others who have never heard a shot fired in anger and have no experience in the military of any kind. but they are the ones that said we can't stay because we haven't got the status of forces agreement.
so we pulled out. and isis -- al qaeda rotated to syria and became -- al qaeda did and became isis. and now we have a caliphate. we may be able to finally destroy them, although this is what the classic example of incrementalism -- 50 troops here, 20 troops there, 50 more here, gradual escalation in targets. still i'm told that at least a third and maybe as many as a half of our aircraft would go out and fly on a mission return without having fired a weapon or dropped a bomb. but this is -- and everything is run from those experienced tacticians and leaders at the national security council. so here we are -- here we are now after hezbollah came in, after the iranian revolutionary guard, after the russians came
in and the president declared what was a quagmire, a quagmire, then we now have a cease-fire that, according to our views and others, putin wins. there's also, by the way, a "new york times" story that there is severe divisions within the administrations as to whether this is a good idea. i draw my colleagues' attention, "wall street journal" this morning, "syria's regime is pressing a systematic effort to offer the country's demographics and tighten assad's grip on power: u.n. officials in opposition figures said." how do they do that? they surround an area and then they starve them out and they barrel bomb them. barrel bombs are horrible weapons, my friends. they barrel bomb them and kill a whole bunch them and then they declare a cease-fire and let them leave and take over
whatever particular area. that is one of the most brutal and inhumanitarian types of warfare being practiced by bashar al-assad as we speak. there's a lot of things going on in the world, including apparently the dictator in the philippines is now saying that he's going to buy russian and chinese equipment and throw americans out of the philippines. we now have philippine leader p duarte seeking arms from russia and china seeking a shift of alliance on the u.s. the chinese continue aggressive behavior in the south china sea. and of course we are now seeing the other middle eastern countries deciding they have to go their own way because the united states of america cannot be relied on for assistance as the situation continues to deteriorate. i ask my colleague and friend
from south carolina for his comments about the deteriorating situation and this latest -- quote -- "agreement." i don't know what number that agreement is, by the way, but it certainly is the first nor the second nor the third that has been reached in the hopes that somehow -- and each time greater and greater concessions to bashar al-assad and now acknowledging the russians as our senior partner. i just ask my colleague, the same guy, vladimir putin, that has dismemorial day -- dismembered the ukraine, when they first came in syria first bombed the people we armed, trained and equipped and i don't know how many were slaughtered. the same guy that is putting enormous pressures on baltic countries, the same guy that has occupied parts of georgia, and we are supposed to enter
into some kind of alliance with vladimir putin in this conflict in syria. does anybody on earth believe that our new partners will insist that bashar al-assad leave syria? mr. graham: everything you said, i want to associate myself with. here's our dlem m. there are two -- dilemma. there are two forces inside of syria that are a threat to us and the region and people in syria: isil, a news are a, the other -- al-nusra are a threat to the united states. raqqa, the capital of isil's caliphate is in syria. they planned the attacks in paris and europe out of raqqa. they communicate with sleeper cells throughout the world. thousands of westerners have gone to syria for training under isil's control. so the bottom line is it is in our interest to destroy this
caliphate because the next 9/11-type attack is being planned in syria. and if you take the land away from isil, then you're doing a lot of damage to them. they become a terrorist organization rather than a terrorist army. so the plan to destroy isil is beyond ill-conceived. i had dinner last night with a turkish ambassador. what is the ground force that we're relying upon to go take raqqa away from isil? you're clearly not going to win the war from the air. we've done a lot of damage, but the air campaign will not destroy the caliphate. somebody has to go in on the ground and actually liberate raqqa, take mosul back and all the other stuff. inside of syria, the main fighting force is a kurdish force called the y.p.g. the kurdish force inside of syria is the mortal enemy of
turkey. you've seen on two occasions where turkey used military force against the coalition we're training to destroy isil because in the eyes of turkey, substituting isil for y.p.g. kurds is not a good trade. so most members of the body -- i don't know if you're following this; you should -- the whole goal is not to destroy isil. it's to do as much damage to isil as possible and pass this problem on to the next president. senator mccain and i have for a couple of years made the argument that the liberating force, if it's made up of kurds, is doomed to fail. the arabs in the region are going to have a hard time turning over more of syria to the y.p.g. kurds as a nonstarter for turkey. this cease-fire is brought on about by the fact that aleppo is hell on earth. the administration goal was to destroy isil and replace assad.
assad will be in power and obama will be gone. and this failure of the obama administration to act effectively has changed the balance of power. four years ago dismain -- senator mccain and i argued to help the free syrian army while still intact. the security team of president obama advised him to aggressively train the syria army to take assad out. no arab country in the region is going to recognize assad as the legitimate leader of syria because his main benefactor is the iranians, their mortal enemy. instead of helping the free syria army, president obama blinked and took a pass. that vacuum was filled. hezbollah sent in 5,000 firefighters. they are a puppet of iran also.
they're a militia supported by the iranians, came to assad's aid. then russia came in for assad. so now the russian president has been bombing forces trained by the american president, and we're not doing a damned thing about it. all the training we provided to the free syrian army has been basically neutered by the fact that russia and iran are now firmly in assad's camp. when we were trying to train syrians to go take out isil, we also wanted them to take the fight to assad. obama's refusal to really do anything about assad has created a vacuum. very few syrians are going to go fight isil and not turn their attention to the butcher of damascus, the person who killed 250,000, 400,000 of their family. this whole syrian strategy is flawed. the cease-fire is an opportunity
for assad and russia to retrench. here's what's going to happen: we're going to have a cease-fire hopefully some of the humanitarian aid will get to aleppo. but as senator mccain said, when it's all said and done, they're going to gobble up more territory. and this idea of the united states partnering with russia to go after the al-nusra group that changed their name, to me, is very dangerous. our military is very reluctant to share with the russian military targeting. how we know where people are at. sharing information with the russians is a very dangerous thing to do in syria because their goal is not just destroy radical islamic groups. their goal is to keep their puppet assad in power. so this whole idea of a joint operation center with the united states and russia will focus their attention on al-nusra
elements is doomed to fail because in the eyes of assad, everybody that opposes him is a terrorist. all the people we're training to liberate syria from assad in the ice of assad are no different than -- in the eyes of assad are no different than isil. to expect assad and russia to limit their military activity to radical islamic groups and not go after the opposition in general defies the past. russia has dropped more bombs, senator mccain, on people we've trained than they have on isil. russia has hit more targets aligned with opposition to assad than they have al-nusra targets. why? russia is using their military might to give assad military superiority and at the same time helping on the margins with radical islam. so the biggest mistake of all was to not help the free syrian
army when they were intact, to allow russia and iran to fill this vacuum. and i will say this to anybody on the other side believes that this strategy is going to result in assad leaving, you're completely out to lunch. why would assad leave when he's winning? why would assad leave when russia and iran is firmly in his camp? why would assad leave when the russians can bomb the people the americans are training to take assad out and america will do nothing about it? so is this whole idea that there is some plan coming that will replace assad is a complete fantasy. this cease-fire is not going to bring about results we all would hope, which is to the destruction of isil and the removal of the butcher of damascus, assad, who is an enemy of the syrian people, who helped send fighters into iraq to kill american soldiers as we were trying to help the iraqis, who is a puppet of iran and a proxy of russia to the
administration. most people are not paying any attention. they're literally getting away with political national security malpractice because most people are not paying much attention, and it's a war over there involving people that we really can't relate to. all i can tell you, you should be worried about what's going on in syria because it's going to affect us at home. we're about to give another arab capital to the iranians. this will be the fourth arab capital that iran has basically had de facto control over because our arab allies are going to be put in the spot one day where they have to fight back. if you want to create a bigger war in the mideast we're on track to do it. we're about to create a conflict from our turkish allies and the people trying to create isil inside of syria. in the effort of destroying
isil, we're giving assad a pass which is a nightmare for jordan and lebanon and all of our arab allies. in other words, in our efforts to destroy isil, we're empowering iran. in our efforts to destroy isil, we're making russia more effective in the mideast than they have been since the early 1970's. in our efforts to destroy isil we've created an imbalance of power in the mideast that will come back to haunt us. the bottom line is obama and his administration wanted this nuclear deal with the iranians so much that he would not challenge their proxy in syria that they want cooperation with the russians so much when it comes to iran and other issues, they won't challenge russian aggression inside of syria. here's what's going to many could back to bite us all: nobody in the mideast in the future is going to rely upon us. every arab government that i've talked to has asked me where has america gone? why should we join with you? you're an unreliable ally.
in the stain of -- the stain on our honor is very great. all those young syrian men that we brought to the fight, that we trained to fight isil and get rid of assad, many of them have been killed by assad and russia. and we haven't done a damned thing about it. so what are the consequences of this? it's going to be harder for people to work with us in the future. it's going to be easier for our enemies to peel off people in the region, and the vacuum that we're creating today is going to grow over time. so i hope the next president, whoever he or she will be, will revisit our strategy in syria because it is on a collision course. a senator: i ask an additional two minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mccain: i would add to my colleague's assessment. 400,000 killed.