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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 9, 2016 10:00am-12:01pm EST

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a 1-year extension of healthcare for thousands of miners and their families, now includes a four month extension is one of the senators behind that, joe mentioned, was scheduled to meet with donald trump in new york, that has been postponed until monday, senate coming in, live coverage on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. great and eternal god, we refue to forget your generous blessings that bring joy to our lives. you satisfy us with good things
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in every season. we particularly thank you for the laudable life of former senator john glenn. lord, you have not dealt with us according to our sins. continue to sustain our lawmakers. remind them that their days are like grass which flourishes and then disappears. may they find sustenance in yor steadfast love, striving to please you in all they do. give them the wisdom of a reverential awe that will trust the unfolding of your majestic providence, even when they do not understand your movements.
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and, lord, we thank you for the faithful service through the decades of your servant senator harry reid. as he prepares to transition from the legislative branch, give to him and his beloved landra their winds and following seas. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of americ, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: we were saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, john glenn. he described his childhood as being something out of a norman rockwell painting. but as we all know, his life was anything but ordinary. this small-town boy from new concord touched many.
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elaine and i send our condolences to annie and the rest of the glenn family. so, madam president, here is where we are: yesterday the house passed a continuing resolution on a very large bipartisan basis with more than three-fourths voting in its favor. let me repeat that. three-fourths, a majority of both parties, voted for the legislation needed to keep the government open. now, while some senate democrats may want to delay into a government shutdown, house democrats overwhelmingly rejected that approach. the funding in this c.r. is critical to our nation's defense. it supports overseas operations, the fight against isil, and our forces in afghanistan.
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it provides resources to begin implementing the medical innovation bill we passed earlier this week and to start bringing relief to victims of severe flooding across our country. and, of course, it includes provisions that will guarantee that retired coal miners in kentucky -- in kentucky -- and other states won't lose their health benefits at the end of this month. would i have preferred that provision to be more generous? of course i would have. my request to the house was to fund it for a full year. but we'll be back at it in april, and i think it's highly unlikely that we'll take it away. just as i would have preferred that so many miners' places of employment hadn't been driven into bankruptcy in recent years,
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which as we all know is due in no small part to president obama, his policies, and the overwhelming majority of senate democrats who support all those policies that have been a huge factor in creating the dilemma that we have in coal country, in ohio, in kentucky, in west virginia. most of the senate democrats support the war on coal. it's been my intention that the miner benefits not expire at the end of april next year. as i just said, i'm going to work with my colleagues to prevent that. but this is a good time to take "yes" for an answer. we should pass the c.r. without delay. because if we don't pass the c.r., the health benefits will go away at the end of this month. the house is gone. they're through for this session.
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so failure to pass this legislation means delaying funding our troops overseas, failure to pass the legislation means delaying funding for flint, michigan. i promised senator stabenow that we would deal with that issue, and we have in the wrda bill and in the c.r. that are here having passed the house. failure to pass this legislation means delaying funding for storm recovery in many of our states. and, of course, failure to pass this legislation means creating a shutdown of the government. over what? we've funded health care for miners through the end of april. we've got funding in here for the opioid crisis and a whole lot of other thongs that senators say -- things that senators say they care about. you want to shut the government down to stop this?
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really? hardly makes sense to me. in fact, passing it c.r. guarantees that health care will be about there for miners through the end of april, guarantees it. failure to pass it, guarantees it goes away at the end of the month. now look, i think it's time to get serious here. i don't think we want any of these consequences to come about. and the thing to do is to pass this continuing resolution, and after we pass that, we'll turn to the water resources development bill. the house overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan water resources bill yesterday as well with more than three-fourths voting in its favor. overwhelming on both sides of the aisle. now it's our turn to act. remember, this bill supports waterways infrastructure, enhances commerce, and maintains
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american ecosystems. it also authorizes spending in the continuing resolution, which will help families in flint -- flint is in both of these bills. these are the folks who've been impacted by the drinking water crisis. so we'll have a vote on wrda after the c.r. hack approved -- has been approved. i would encourage my colleagues to work together now so we can pass both of these as soon as possible. delay, it strikes me, is not a solution to any of these problems that i've outlined. mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the democrat leader. mr. reid: our nation, the world lost an historic figure
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yesterday, a legend: john glenn. i had the good fortune as a relatively new senator to take a trip with him -- he led the trip with ted stevens of alaska. it was a wonderful trip. we were in austria, the iron curtain was down, we went into czechoslovakia and all the russian soldiers were checking the trains, they had dogs. but everyone knew around the world that john glenn was leading that trip, and a number -- a number -- three to be exact -- of the soldiers when none of the others were looking asked if he would autograph for them a piece of paper they had. and he did that. every place we went, in po -- in poland. we were all senators but there
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was only one john glenn. every place we went, he was beloved. he really was an icon. i was disappointed in reading the morning newspaper. it had a headline, "john glenn known for his space exploits." john glenn was known for far more than that. of course he was our first to circumvent the globe. he said -- told us, all of us, that that space capsule, he wore it it was so small. it was -- in all the news last night, it showed him climbing in that. it was like -- if you were claustrophobic, you would not like it. it was so tight. and here this great aviator told me and whoever else was listen tag when that came down in the owe sharntion he said, if they had waited another minute to come pick him up, he would have had to throw up. here is a guy who never got sick
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anytime. but he was getting sick then. i was so many fond memories of john glenn. he was so nice to me, as he was nice to everyone. he was an ace in world war ii, a fighter pilot. he was an ace in the korean conflict. i think he had 90 missions there. now, this may upset some people, but it's a fact of war. war is tough. and we were having a debate here napalm and someone asked john glenn, did you ever use that in world war ii? he said, yes, we did. when would you decide to drop your load? when we could see the whites of the eyes of the people on the ground. he held the record for flying
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across the united states faster than anyone else. so he was known by far more than his space exploits. 24 years in the senate. no one that i've served with in these many years i've been here had more respect than john glenn. his story is legendary. he and annie, his wonderful woman, knew each other when they were little tiny kids, i mean little kids, first, second graders. that was a love affair that was on-going forever. to show the strength of this woman, we only had to look at what happened yesterday after john passed away. she's 96 years old. she was worried about having to go to her home after john died. she went grocery shopping so she
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would have food in her home when people came to visit. annie was stricken as a child with the inability to speak. she staplered so that no one -- she staplerred so that no one could hear here. they couldn't understand her. as she was growing up, john glenn was her mouthpiece. he would take her phone calls because she couldn't talk on the phone. but she overcame that. and she became the annie glenn that we all know, who spoke very well. now, madam president, i'm not going to go over the list of his many, many awards. the distinguished flying cross is is really a big deal in the military. he was awarded one six times. so i would ask unanimous consent that the many, many awards that he received, including the congressional gold medal, these be placed in the record.
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mr. reid: when after a quarter of a century senator glenn left the senate, here's what he said, and i quote -- "yeah, i'll miss it, sure, but you move on to other things. that's it." that's john glenn, and he moved on to other things. he until a couple of years ago flew his own airplane. when he was a member of the united states senate here, he flew back to columbus in ohio, i think that's where he went. everywhere he wanted to go, he didn't take commercial. he flew his own airplane. so i express my condolences to annie and the inspiration she has been to everybody that's ever known her, and of course john glenn. as i repeat, an icon of the
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senate, icon of the military, icon of the space program, icon in life, a wonderful human being. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the house message to aconsider h.r. 2028, which the clerk will report. the clerk: house message to accompany h.r. 2028, an act making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending september 30, 2016, and for other purposes. mr. durbin: madam president? the presiding officer: assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: madam president, i want to join and echo the comments of the democratic leader, senator reid, about the passing of john glenn. i was just in high school when he was the famous astronaut who risked his life to prove that we could move forward in the space program.
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it wasn't just an achievement when it came to science. it was an achievement america was hungry for. we were so afraid after the launching of sputnik and two russian cosmonauts that we were falling behind in the space race. all of the astronauts, especially john glenn, risked their lives to move us forward in the space program that ultimately landed a man on the moon. i have read a little bit this morning in the obituary columns about the risk that was attendant to this launch after it was scrubbed over and over again because of mechanical problems and weather, and the fact that 40% of the time, the efforts to use this rocket had failed, and yet john glenn put his life on the liheap in the friendship seven, in that tiny little capsule only seven feet across and was launched into space. he almost died on the re-entry when the tiles that were to protect him started failing, and as he termed it, there was a
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fireball as he came back into earth. he made it and was greeted with a hero's welcome all across the united states and addressed a joint session of congress. that was the man i knew, a man who then volunteered to come to springfield, illinois, in 1982 and to campaign for me when i ran for congress. i was just awe struck that this great man, this american hero, this then-united states senator, would take the time to come to my hometown and campaign for me. he did and he was beloved. a large crowd gathered, cheering him on as they should have. i was just background noise to the real arrival of the real american hero, john glenn. later, many years later when i was elected to the united states senate, i was lucky enough to serve with john glenn for two years and be on his committee. he was the ranking democrat. fred thompson, the chairman, republican chairman of that administration committee, and we held some very controversial hearings under chairman
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thompson. john glenn would sit there very quietly, and i wondered if he was going to be outflanked by this trial lawyer fred thompson who was so gifted with his own oratory. time and again, john glenn rose to the occasion for our side of the aisle and did it in his own quiet, persuasive midwestern way. at the end of that two-year period that i served with him when i first came to the senate, he was launched again into space at age 76 or 77. he was the oldest astronaut and went up into space and came back safely. he always wanted to get in and fly. whether it was his own beloved airplane or whether it was a space capsule. he loved flight, and he made history with his flights around the country and literally around the earth. we should remember that he risked his life, too, in airplanes for us. in world war ii, i'm reading here that he had some 59 combat
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missions in the pacific, earning the distinguished flying cross and many other decorations, but that wasn't the end of his service. when the korean war started, he volunteered again and flew 90 combat missions there. interesting footnote. his wingman in those korean missions at one point was ted williams, a famous baseball player for the boston red sox. but there is such a storied career of what john glenn gave to america, restoring our faith in our own space program, risking his life to prove that we could move forward into space, serving the state of ohio and the nation as united states senator for four terms. he was just an extraordinary man. and you can't mention john without mentioning annie, his wife of 73 years. they literally shared the same playpen when they were little toddlers. they grew up together in the same school. they got married at a very early age, and it was a love affair that went on for decades. the two of them were inseparable. i am honored to have served with
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john glenn. he truly did have the right stuff time and again to make america proud. madam president, i ask for consent to make a second statement at a separate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you, madam president. six years ago, i joined with senator dick lugar in a bipartisan request of president obama to do something to protect the dreamers, those young kids brought to america as babies and infants, toddlers and teenagers who were undocumented living in america and had no place other than america to call home. we wanted these dreamers to have a chance, not to be deported, a chance to go to school, a chance to work, a chance to prove themselves and become part of the future of america. president obama created the daca program by executive order, and despite the political controversy of that decision on the other side of the aisle, the fact is it was a lifeline for up to 800,000 who have now come forward. they have paid their filing fee,
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it's several hundred dollars. they have gone through a criminal background check to make sure there is nothing in their background to disqualify them from staying in the united states, and they have been given a temporary approval to stay here without fear of deportation and to work. and so they have gone on to colleges and medical schools and law schools. they have taken important jobs. they have volunteered to serve in our military. they are proving that they want to be part of america's future. now, if that executive order, daca, is eliminated, what happens to them, and that's been a concern and a fear. not just on this side of the aisle but the other side as well. i'm happy to report that senator lindsey graham has stepped forward. we're working together on a measure we call the bridge act which we are going to introduce today. this is an effort by senator graham and myself to have a bipartisan answer to the question about what happens to these 800,000 and others like them while we debate the future of immigration. i think what we're taking is a
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reasonable step forward. as paul ryan, the speaker of the house said the other day, there is no need to disrupt their lives. as the president-elect donald trump said recently in "time" magazine, we're going to work out something that's going to make people happy and proud. speaking of the dreamers, president-elect trump said they got brought here at a very young age. they have worked here, they have gone to school here. some are good students. some have wonderful jobs and they are in a never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen to them. so senator graham and i are proposing this legislation today, and we invite members to join us in supporting it. it's simple. it would provide protection from deportation and legal authority to continue working and studying to the people who are eligible for daca. the bridge act has a new term, not daca, but provisional protected presence. if you have daca now, you would receive provisional protected status until your daca expires and you can apply for an
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extension. if you don't have daca protection now but you're eligible, you could also apply for this provisional protected presence. applicants would be required to pay a reasonable fee, be subject to criminal background checks and meet the same eligibility criteria that currently applies to daca. this legal status would be good for three years. daca is only good for two years but renewable. the status we're creating would be good for three years after the bridge act becomes law. i believe this legislation will attract broad support from both sides of the aisle, but let me be clear -- the bridge act that we are introducing today is no substitute for broader legislation to fix our broken immigration system, and this bill should not be tied to other unrelated measures. let's take care of these young people who are in doubt about tomorrow before we debate the larger and equally important question about immigration reform which has so many facets.
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senator graham and i were two members of the bipartisan gang of eight, republicans and democrats who authored comprehensive immigration reform legislation that passed the senate. we both believe the congress must consider legislation to deal with all aspects of the immigration law. in particular, i strongly believe personally, personally i believe we need a path to citizenship, not just for dreamers but to their parents and other undocumented immigrants who are living in the shadows but by every measure should be given a chance to prove themselves in america. but we need to pass the bridge act quickly and to ensure the dreamers who came forward to register for daca do not lose critical work permits. there are 28 medical students, madam president, at loyola university school of medicine in chicago. they are daca eligible. they competed nationally. they weren't given any specific slots. they were accepted to medical school. if they lose their work permit, they have to drop out of medical school. they can't do their clinical
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work, which is important to medical education. so let's not lose them and others who can serve our country in the future. over the years, i have come to the floor to tell stories of these dreamers, and i'd like to tell one today about javier kwan martinez. he came at the age of 4 from mexico with his parents at 4 years old. went to elementary school in texas. moved to ticoula, california. he was an excellent student involved in many activities. a member of the national honor society. named riverside county student of the month. he received an award from the college boards national hispanic recognition program given to only 5,000 of the 250,000 hispanic students who took the test. he was a member of the math club, drum major in the school's marching band, volunteered at his town's soup kitchen for the homeless and received the president of the united states volunteer service award. he didn't even know he was undocumented until he was applying for college and he
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learned that he was ineligible for any federal financial assistance to go to school. thanks to his academic achievements, this young man was accepted at harvard university. he is now a sophomore majoring in computer science, a member of the harvard computer society and harvard's marching band. thanks to daca, he is supporting himself by working as a web developer. he sent me a letter, and here's what he said. "daca doesn't give me an advantage. rather, it gives me an opportunity to create my own future on the same grounds as any other student. i'd like to be judged upon my qualities as a person rather than what papers i happen to have in hand. i hope to be a computer programmer and begin earning my living as a contributing member of america's society." consider this. every year the united states of america imports guest workers to do computer programming on h-1b h-1b visas. so does it make any sense to deport this young man who could
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fill one of those important jobs who was educated and raised in the united states and wants to stay and be part of our future? javier and other dreamers have so much to give america, but if daca is eliminated, he will lose his legal status. he could be deported back to mexico, a country he barely knows and left when he was 4 years old. will america be stronger if we deport him? i don't think so. the answer is obvious. i hope that president-elect trump will understand this and will continue the daca program or encourage the passage of the bridge program as we move forward. if he decides to end daca, the president-elect can then turn to congress and ask us to do our part by passing the bridge act. madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: madam president, i am introducing a bill that will reveal to the public the true cost of legislative proposals by
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requiring that interest expense be included in all budgetary estimates. what this bill does, it will finally allow the american people to understand the true cost of the irresponsible spending that's going on here by congress, and it's going to force congress to deal with the reality of our debt so that we can make the decisions that need to be made going forward, knowing the true impact they will have on our children and our grandchildren. let me give you an example. the current interest the taxpayer pays today on the national debt is approximately $248 billion per year, and now when interest rates go up, they will -- this number will significantly increase. in fact, the congressional budget office projects that by the year 2026, the amount of interest we will pay on our national debt will exceed
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$700 billion per year. in 1974, the congressional budget act established two organizations as the official budgetary scorekeepers. they're the referees used to calculate the cost estimates for a legislative proposal. when a member of congress puts forward a bill, they put forward an estimate of what it would cost. in this way, the system already recognizes that the public deserved to know not only how much the bill will cost, but additionally how much interest will cost on the additional debt as a result of the bill proposal. however, it probably surprises a lot of folks, is that the law does not currently require these scorekeepers, these umpires, these referees to account for the interest cost on those estimates. can you imagine? imagine a family around the dinner table thinking about purchasing a car or perhaps a
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new home. but not considering the cost of the interest on that very loan used to buy that car or that new home? run the amortization sometime on a 30-year conventional loan for a new home. the interest that the consumer will pay, depending on the rate and terms of the loan, can actually exceed the cost of the home itself. yet this is what the federal government does with its legislative budgetary estimates, and it's wrong. that's not the way ordinary folks do it, and that's not the way we should be doing it here. at the end of the day, whether congress properly accounts for its budgeted cost or not, the american people are going to have to pick up the dime. in the way we're calculating budgetary costs now, it actually deflates the true cost. so it's painting a rosier picture for the public than what
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actually exists. if i go back home and chatting with a montanan and telling that congress allows gimmicks that shields how much it spends, they'd be furious and they should be furious. government spending is bloated and it far exceeds any commonsense approach that a montana family would use for their own household. it's time congress had a true account of the debt burden it is leaving for our kids and our grandkids, and that's why i'm introducing the budgetary accuracy and scoring interest cost act, the acronym is the basic act which would require budget scorekeepers to include the cost of interest on a legislative proposal. this bill will allow the american public to better understand the true cost of irresponsible fiscal spending here in congress and will force this body to face the important decisions it has before it.
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i ask unanimous consent that my remarks appear separately in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: madam president, invasive muscles are wreaking havoc on our ecosystem in montana. it's negatively impacting our economy, including our recreation and our tourism industries. water craft inspection stations are one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of these invasive species and to protect neighboring and distant bodies of water. and i'm working to assure the needed resources are delivered. it is time to act now. i ask unanimous consent my remarks appear separately in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: madam president, behind every senator is an extraordinary scheduler. since 2012, i've had the privilege of having jessica whittle as my extraordinary
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scheduler. as one of the very first staff members i hired, jessica has literally been with me from my very first day and i could not have asked for a better person for the job or one more willing and prepared to help me serve the people of montana. jessica played a critical role in setting up our house freshman office. that's not an easy task. helping me to learn the ropes of where to go and sometimes where not to go. undoubtedly there were times it felt like a thankless job but the e-mails sent at all hours of the day and night and gentle reminders to wrap up a meeting did not go without notice and appreciation. her love and dedication to her family shines through everything she does. it is this love and dedication that has propelled jessica and her husband zack to return to their native state of
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washington. knowing the joy this will bring, jessica and her family makes the bitter pill of losing her easier to swallow but only slightly. there is not a member of my staff who has not benefited from jessica whether it is a reassuring good or a baked good or sage advice it that perhaps she lifted from star wars. i would say she has the wisdom of yoda, the work ethic of luke skywalker and the class of princess leah. because of her we are family and this senate family will sorely miss the extraordinary jessica whittle. jessica, thank you for everything. i ask unanimous consent that my remarks appear separately in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: madam president, i yield back my time.
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mr. leahy: madam president, there's much going on this time of year and throughout the world, but one thing that's come to my attention, to all our attention, the election of donald trump as our next president has ignited a rash of speculation about the future of u.s. policy toward cuba s. what we now is that the president-elect has said contradictory things about president obama's decision to resume diplomatic relations to cuba, as he has about some other issues. he has tweeted the plan to reverse the obama administration's regulatory changes, relaxing restrictions on u.s. engagement in cuba unless the cuban government agrees to promote a better deal. despite that we don't know what
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he will do. i hope before making a decision he listens to advocates on both sides of the issue including cuban americans, the growing majority, the majority of whom support the resumption of diplomatic relations. as someone who has traveled to cuba many times and seen firsthand the benefits of the policy of engagement, for both the cuban people and the american people, i will do whatever i can to encourage the president-elect to continue that policy. the decision to resume diplomatic relations has been enthusiastically supported here and around the world. one of our strongest allies in south america, their ambassador
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, marcel and myself went up the day the plane went up for the first time in 50 years to the embassy in havana. they said this country has always supported the united states. we're also strong friends with cuba. and your relationship between the united states and cuba was always like a stone in our shoe. today when your flag went up over our embassy, the stone came out of our shoe. we see the number of americans who have traveled to cuba risen dramatically. u.s. airline companies and cruise ships are carrying passengers there. hotel deals have been signed. but the same five members of congress, three in the senate and two in the house of the 535
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members of the house and senate, these five members have steadfastly opposed the new opening to cuba. they continually say the only cubans who have benefited from the new openings are raul castro and the cuban military. of course the cuban government has benefited. that's unavoidable. it happens in any country with state-owned enterprises, which we also have diplomatic and commercial relations. there are many like that. but it is false and misleading to say that they alone have benefited. in fact, the cuban people, particularly cuban entrepreneurs, have benefited. so have the american people. and they overwhelmingly want this opening to continue. now, i've met many times with cuban government officials. i've also met with cuban dissidents who have been persecuted and imprisoned.
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no one is a stronger defender of democracy and human rights there than i am. i raised the issue of dissidents being locked up first with face-to-face with fidel castro years ago and many times since with raul castro. like president obama, we all want the cuban people to be able to express themselves freely and to choose their own leaders in a free and fair election. i resent the assertions of those who remain wedded to the old failed policy that to favor diplomatic relations is appeasement to the castro government. we know how well that failed policy has worked for well over 50 years. it's accomplished almost nothing. i'm as outraged as anyone when cubans who peacefully advocate for human rights are harassed,
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arrested and abused. just when i am when such violations of human rights occurs in other countries, including countries by governments whose armed forces and police annually receive hundreds of millions of dollars in u.s. aid. for 55 years we tried the approach of isolating and pressuring cuba. this advocated by dwindling, albeit passionate, minority in congress. that approach has failed miserably. the castro family and their shrinking circle of aging revolutionaries still in power, cuba is still a country where political dissent is not tolerated. and no one who knows the castro government expected the resumption of diplomatic relations to quickly result in an end to repression of free elections. those who label the policy of engagement a failure after just two years because the castro
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government continues to persecute its opponents are either naive or not to be taken seriously. changing cuba will happen incrementally as it does in most countries. but i have no doubt that a lot fewer than 55 years the cuban people have a lot more freedoms than they have had in the past 55 years. the record is indisputable. making threats and ultimatums have achieved nothing is more than half a century. in fact, it isolated the united states and damaged our own interests. consider for a moment twha it would mean if we did what these five members of congress advocate. not only would we have no embassy in cuba. but if we followed that road, if we were consistent, we'd have to withdraw our
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ambassadors, impose a unilateral embargo against china, vietnam, russia, ethiopia and many other countries where human rights are routinely violated. where political opponents and journalists and human rights defenders are imprisoned and tortured, where there is no such thing as a fair trial, where civil society organizations are threatened, harassed and where dissent is severely punished. and when we withdraw from all those countries, i can give you a long, long list if we follow the same criteria as we have with cuba, a list of many, many countries we would have to withdraw, others would happily fill the vacuum as they have in cuba which trades with countries around the world including many of our closest allies. in fact, i recall a meeting i
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had in havana with the ambassadors of at least a dozen european and asian countries and the representatives of many businesses from those countries. they told me we love your embargo. keep your embargo. our companies want you to keep your embargo because that means they can be here and they don't have to compete with american businesses. they're going to do business with cuba. they're delighted we don't want to, or didn't want to at that time so they wouldn't face the tough competition of american companies. is that what these isolationist members of congress want or are they just concerned about human rights in cuba? would they rather have cubans buy rice grown in china or louisiana? would they rather have cubans buy milk from new zealand as they do now, or from the united
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states? would they prefer that china and russia build airports in cuba while we lower the flag at the embassy, pound our chest and demand the cuban government relinquish power? well, that argument is illogical as it is inconsistent. for 55 years, americans have been free to travel anywhere -- iran, russia, vietnam, any country in the world that would allow us ... but not to cuba, which is only 90 miles away. just think of that. one of my fellow senators, a republican senator, who has traveled often to cuba, said, it is one thing if a communist country tells me i cannot come to their country, but i don't
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want my country telling me i can't go somewhere. last year more than half a million americans visited cuba, and this year the number is even higher. even in my little state of vermont, so many people just drive a few miles to the airport in canada and fly down. but these members of congress want to turn back the clock and make it a crime for americans to travel to only one country in the world: cuba. if north korea will let you go in, you can go there. but not cuba. if egypt, cracking down on dissent, you go there, that's fine ... but not cuba. and i could go on and on and on.
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fortunately, far more republicans and democrats in both the house and senate support the right of americans to travel freely to cuba, the right of u.s. farmers to sell their products on credit to cuban buyers -- which is still barred by the embargo; and the ability of cuban private businesses are already benefiting directly from the opening with the united states. they're going to benefit even more when the u.s. embargo that failed is finally ended. i've talked to a lot of these businesses. they are now able in cuba to make money they never were before because things opened up. they can start having what is basically a private enterprise. you know, those who continue to defend the embargo should listen
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to these people. i hope the president-elect will listen to them. the purpose of a policy of engagement is to protect and defend the interests of the united states and the american people and to promote our values and our products. diplomatic relations is not a reward to a foreign government; it's what we do to protect our own interests. do the isolationists think our embassy in russia is a reward to president putin or having an ambassador in moscow somehow conveys that we agree with president putin's corrupt and repressive policies? does anyone think that russia's embassy here in washington is somehow a reward to the united states or to president obama? does anyone think that the cuban
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government regards its ambassador here as a reward to us? the united states has interests in every country, even if it's just the right for americans to travel or study or work overseas. but there are many other reasons, like promoting trade and investment, protecting national security, law enforcement cooperation, or stopping the spread of contagious diseases. these are all things that are in the best interests of the united states, but far easier to do if we have diplomatic relations and full involvement with the other countries. we either believe in the benefits of diplomacy or we don't. we either empower our diplomats or we don't. cuba, after a year of difficult negotiation, agreed to reopen embassies. americans are traveling to cuba in record numbers, including
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representatives of american companies, chambers of commerce, and state and local government officials. madam president, our government signs new agreements, the resumption of regular and postal airline service, to cooperation of law enforcement on search and rescue. and i would urge -- i would urge members of congress to get briefed on the cooperation we've had even before this resumption with cuba on issues of law enforcement and search and rescue. it might be an eye opener. obviously the issues of search and rescue, of law enforcement can be to their benefit, but it
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is up to our benefit. how i wish that other countries in that part of the world did as much to stop the flow of narcotics to the united states as cuba does. now, i understand that this is an emotional issue for some cuban-american families, including some who are members of congress. i've met with a number of these families. but i've also met with many who have come down to cuba, even though their property had been taken by the cuban government, even though they had thought they would never go back, but now they can go and see old friends and the change in their views. in fact, after 55 years, survey after survey, poll after poll shows that most cuban-americans support the new policy of engagement. they want the united states
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embassy in havana. they're not saying that they agree with or want the kind of things they saw by the government or its late leader, but they want the u.s. to have an embassy in havana. there is a time for family politics, and there is a time for what is in the best interests of the nation as a whole -- all 50 states. diplomatic relations serve the national interest. i urge these members of congress to put what is in the interest of the american people above their personal interest. listen to the overwhelming majority of the could you bang american people who want the policy of -- of the cuban-american people who want the policy of engagement to continue because they believe it is the best hope for a free and prosperous cuba. i think what we can do person to
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person, what we can do with student exchanges, what we can do with having our medical community work with the cuban medical community and some of their research on cancer and ours, and i think of just small things. marcel and i had a delightful time here a few months ago when we went and cheered on in vermont a group of little leaguers from all over our state. they were going to cuba to play with little leaguers in cuba. marcel and i gave them an american flag that had been
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flown over the united states capitol. these kids were grinning from ear to ear holding it, and then they sent me pictures of them flying the american flag in the various venues where they were playing ball. and saying having been photographed with the cuban team. just think a few years ago the idea of the u.s. flag flying in those venues and being cheered by the people there. one of the photographs that i remember the most from that trip taken by a member of my office, lisa brigente, from behind. one team wore red t-shirts, one blue. here's kids, so much like you
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see with little leaguers, they're walking off the field. their arms are on each other's shoulders. they've just played this game together. you don't have to see the faces. you don't have to see which t-shirt says "u.s.," which one says "cuba. " you know, it is one of each. they've come together for the love of the game. think of the students that can be going down there, whether it is on if yo -- whether it is on fulbright scholarships or whatever. during the cold war, i'd go to country what we then called the iran curtain. i would be talking to foreign ministers and defense ministers, people in key positions, and they'd say, you know, my niece went to stanford or my son is studying at harvard. and some would tell me at my own
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alma mater of georgetown. these are openings, and openings that everybody from our diplomatic corps to our intelligence community would tell us are very important because people would actually know who we are. and, just as importantly, we might know who they are. so i urge president-elect trump to carefully weigh the pros and cons of this issue. i believe if he follows his instaingts, if he -- instincts, if he listens to cuban private entrepreneurs, he, too, will conclude it makes no sense to return to isolationism as an excuse to justify the grip on power and their failed economic policies. they invited the cuban-american
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people that no other country in this hemisphere supports. as their ambassador said to marcel and myself, when your flag went up, the stone came out of the our shoe. in some ways, those who wanted to keep the repressive form of government, the best thing going for them was our embargo. i told fidel castro that in a private meeting a number of years ago with him, accompanied by another senator from this chamber. i said, why do you complain about our embargo? it's the best thing you have going for you. you have a failed economic system. you have a failed political system. and you can blame it all on the united states. but we should be thinking instead of the cuban and the
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american people share much in comorntion our history -- much in common, our history, our hopes for the future, our ideals. we are neighbors. our economies are increasingly intertwined. we should no longer be isolate d from one another. i think what a difference it was when i was a young law student. here at georgetown, marcelle and i lived in a basement apartment listening to every bit of news during the cuban missile crisis, wondering if we were sitting in what was going to be the center of a nuclear war. what a difference since then. i did not think that i would be a united states senator then. i was going to pass my bar exam and go back to vermont, which did i -- to practice law.
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vermont was home, is home, and continues to be home. what i hear from vermonters every day is, it's about time -- it's about time we changed that policy. so as the castro era ends, our policy today is focused on the next generation of could you bangs -- cuban entrepreneurs, activities, students, and leaders. the they are cuba's future. we should endeavor to engage with them in every way we can. i met with some of them as did a bipartisan group of house and senate members earlier this week. bright young people who are starting their own businesses. what a refreshing attitude they had toward life. will it change overnight, madam president? no.
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but it's changed considerably from what it was from over 50 years ago. i'd like to think that my children and my grandchildren see a different world than this young law student saw back then. so, madam president, i'm going to yield the floor, but before i do, i'd just say that i will speak on this many more times. i think it is important not just our relationship with cuba but for the whole hemisphere. the stone has come out of the shoe. let's not put it back in. let's work to help the cuban people, not the cuban government but the cuban people. but when we do help the cuban people, we help ourselves.
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with that, madam president, i yield the floor.
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ms. klobuchar: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: madam president, i have several topics to talk about today, but i wanted to start with a very important letter that was sent to president-elect trump this week. as members and friends of the senate ukrainian caucus, 27 senators, including myself, came together to advocate and make clear that we wanted to continue the strong united states-ukrainian relationship that our two countries have
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enjoyed for many, many years and to convey our support for ukraine and ask the president-elect and the new administration to support our ally ukraine and to help it secure a peaceful and democratic future. almost three years after russia's illegal annexation of crimea and the military aggression in eastern ukraine, daily cease-fires along the line of contact make a mockery of the minsk agreement and demonstrate that the conflict in the heart of europe is far from over. russia continues to engage in sabotage. it has not halted its disinformation war against ukraine or the west nor stopped the economic and political pressure aimed at undermining the ukraine government. i was in ukraine last year and i saw firsthand the struggles that that government is having. they have their own internal
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issues with corruption and the like, but they are trying to make for a better country, and that is very difficult when you have an outside nation that is engaged in this kind of combat that we see from russia and these kinds of interventions. according to conservative estimates from the united nations, approximately 10,000 people have been killed. over 20,000 wounded. more than two million internally displaced since the conflict began. as we note in our letter, 27 senators, republicans and democrats led by senators durbin and portman, we have said that russia has launched a military land grab in ukraine that is unprecedented in modern european history, and we ask the president-elect to work with us on this very important matter and for securing ukraine's
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democracy and securing the ukrainian people. i will say my state has a very strong tradition of ukrainians. i actually live only a few miles from the ukrainian center in our state. we have a long tradition of opening our arms to people from every corner of the globe, and just what i've seen from the concern in my own city and state, there's a lot of people worried about what's going on and especially with the new administration coming in, so i think some strong statement and of course followed by actions from the president-elect would be very, very helpful. i would mention one ukrainian place that i adore, kermarcheks in my neighborhood. i actually held my first election celebration there when i was running for county attorney. of course, it didn't end because we had to go into the next morning. it was a little close in the votes, madam president. we didn't maybe know until noon,
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but that evening we were at kermarcheks and they have a mural that is literally almost the size of the entire backdrop from door to door in the united states senate, and it is a mural that they have hung proudly of the statue of liberty. and that mural is there because the kermarchek family always believed in a country that broad them in as immigrants, that brought them in as refugees, and i am proud to represent that community and join the other 26 senators in asking the president-elect to continue to support ukrainians here at home but of most importance the sovereignty of the country of ukraine and their democratic values. next i want to turn to another issue that is of key importance to this body, and that is the passage of the cures act which i
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know the president is going to sign into law. we're very excited about that bill. several things in that bill that i know the presiding officer and i have both worked on. opioid funding. both of our states of west virginia and minnesota have seen way too many deaths, way too many lives lost early, way too many people experiencing overdose, and without really the help that they need for treatment. the bill authorizes a billion dollars, $500 million a year to help the many families struggling with prescription drug addiction. senators whitehouse, portman, senator ayotte and i actually authored the original bill, the cara bill which sets the framework for having a national framework for dealing with opioid addiction, and it didn't just include authorizing money for treatment, it also included
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some -- foundation steps for having -- doing a better job of exchanging information between physicians in terms of who is getting opioids. we have -- i remember one guy i met, a rehab guy up in morehead, minnesota, who had a patient who had gotten opioid prescriptions from 85 different doctors and medical providers in minnesota, north dakota, south dakota, wisconsin, being a state with many states on its borders, we see this going on all the time. i have built on that with a bill i introduced for a national prescription drug monitoring program that i think is very important. senator cornyn and i did the original bill on a drug takeback program to make it easier to get drugs out of medicine cabinets, and actually the cara bill built on that, but what was missing from the cara bill, of course, because it was an authorization bill was the funding. so this effort at the end contained in the cures act is going to be very important in
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the form of grants to our states to get that money out there. secondly, the research money, nearly $5 billion for n.i.h. to go looking for a cure for horrific diseases like cancer and alzheimer's will be critical for doing ground breaking work at the mayo clinic and also the university of minnesota, which will be a key to finding a cure for these diseases. the third thing in the bill that maybe hasn't gotten as much attention is the anna weston act. the presiding officer and i worked on that bill together along with senator ayotte and senator baldwin. four women leading a bill and we got it done. that bill has been kicking around for over a decade. it is a bill that actually came out of anna weston's untimely death. the young girl struggled with an eating disorder, eventually died relating to her eating disorder. her mother kitty weston has carried her torch. first gave it to paul wellstone,
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her senator. paul died way too young in that tragic plane crash. then passed on to senator harkin of iowa. i was on the floor with him, and when senator harkin left, i took over and went across the aisle to get the support of the presiding officer senator capito as well as senator ayotte and senator baldwin. what this bill does is it builds upon the wellstone-domenici mental health and addiction clarity act to clarify that centers must cover treating -- eating disorders the same way they treat other illnesses. over 200,000 people in my state suffer from eating disorders. of any mental illness, it's the leading cause of death of mental illness. people don't realize that, but obviously anorexia is a very dangerous, dangerous disease as are other eating disorders. so that has a lot in one bill, but we know there is more work
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to do on prescription drugs. i see senator grassley here. he and i have worked very hard on our -- what's called the pay for delay bill which would tell the big pharmaceutical companies that they cannot pay the generic companies to keep their products off the market. that literally eliminates competition, and the estimates we've gotten, it would save billions of dollars over the years, and we think that is a really, really important bill and something that we would like to get done as well as the work i've done with senator mccain which focuses on bringing in less expensive drugs from canada as well as a bill that i have to allow for negotiation of prices under medicare part d. i wanted to close my remarks by turning to some of our retiring senators. first of all, and speak briefly on each one of them. leader reid, we have this beautiful portrait unveiling for
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leader reid yesterday. he has been a leader who takes into consideration all ideas, even those of newer members. i remember that in january of 2007 when i began working on ethics reform, and in fact i asked him that that be an important priority when he took over as leader, and it was senate bill one and one of the first bills we passed. but it's not just the big bills that senator reid has worked on and that he has given new members opportunities to lead on. when a little girl in minnesota named abby taylor was maimed while swimming in a pool with a defective drain, leader reid stood by my side and helped me work with republicans to get a bill passed in honor of abby's memory and final wish. i met this little girl in the hospital. she went on to live for a year. she had been swimming in a kiddy pool. her intestines pulled out by a
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defective drain and the way it was installed, but her parents never gave up. they literally -- scott taylor, her dad, called me every single week to see what was happening with the bill. honestly, again, the bill had been moving around, hadn't had any action for years. ted stevens helped me, who at the time was a senator from alaska. but in the end, it was senator reid working with others, including senator lott, who were able to get that bill on another bill and we were able to pass it, and still to this day, my proudest moment in the united states senate was calling scott taylor, telling him that bill had passed, and then last year hearing from the head of the consumer products safety commission in the commerce committee and hearing that not one child, not one child has died because of a defective drain since that bill passed. that bill, by the way, was named after james baker's granddaughter who had also perished in a pool incident.
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so that's an example. i don't think it would have happened if harry reid hadn't been one of our leaders. another example when we were trying to build a bridge to wisconsin, senator johnson and i were working on that issue along with house members representative bachmann, along with representative duffy, senator franken here, and we had to get everyone signed off on an exemption to the scenic rivers act. it was a saturday afternoon and no one was left in the senate except two or three members, and hi one member that i couldn't reach who had gotten on a plane but we thought we could reach him on a plane so i could get the last signoff to get the bill done. harry reid had just found out that his wife had breast cancer. she was waiting at home, but he wouldn't go home. he insisted on presiding for me, the leader of the senate, sitting in the presiding officer's chair so i could be back in the republican cloakroom trying to reach the senator. that happened. and we didn't get the bill done that day, but the minute we got
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back in january, senator reid worked with senator mcconnell, and they both worked together and we were able to get that on the agenda and get that exemption, and that bridge is going up as we speak, a massive, massive bridge that had to be built because the other bridge was so bad that it closed down all the time and people would literally cross their fingers when they went over it. that's senator reid. a lot has happened since he first came to work in congress as a police officer in the halls of the capitol, but one thing has stayed the same about leader reid: the true spirit of him. it's the considerate leader who will sit up at the presiding desk just to help a freshman pass a bill that's important to her and her constituents. it's the kind of person who takes the time to talk to a little boy with leukemia and show him his favorite pictures right in the middle of the budget debate. that happened to me with the kid i brought in his office from
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minnesota. it's the humble senator who never forgets that he came from searchlight, nevada, and always serves with his home in mind. thank you, senator reid, for your service. you will be missed. so two other senators are retiring this week, and one of them is senator barbara mikulski. she has been, as the presiding officer knows, the dean of the women in the senate for a very, very long time. and while she is the queen of one liners, one of my favorite ones she uses is that when she talks about women elected officials, she always says we see things not just at the macro level, but at the macaroni and cheese level. after a few years when i had been in the senate, she called us into the president's room. a number of the women senators to gear up for a debate that mattered to the women of this country. and she literally, being short that she is, stood on the couch
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in that room and said, "gear up. square your shoulders, put your lipstick on and get ready for the revolution." i at that time wasn't even sure what the revolution was and i was thinking all the time she probably used that line for much weightier things. but that is her life. she is an arved. -- she is a woman, she is an advocate. she is a woman here of her own making, not here after her husband or father died. she ran on her own merits and leaves on her own merits. she leaves on the merit of passing incredibly important bills for maryland, incredibly important legislation for this country. and i will miss her as a mentor, and we will all miss her dearly. finally, senator barbara boxer who joined the senate in 1993. when i got to the senate i was
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on the environmental committee. she was the new chair, and i got to see firsthand her advocacy. her advocacy on climate change, her advocacy on transportation and waterway infrastructure. the way she would just never give up when she decided something was right for her state and right for the country. but the one thing, as everyone talks about barbara boxer's fiery advocacy and incredible humor and tenacity is sometimes i think people forget how productive she has been when she works across the aisle. i saw firsthand how she was able to work with senator inhofe on the transportation bill and then later with senator mcconnell on the last transportation bill. the fast act. she is someone that has credibility on our side of the aisle. when she says she's willing to make a crop insurance with a -- to make a compromise with a republican, people listen.
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she never gave up. she would have dinners at an italian restaurant. she would find, i would say a mom way to get things done. she passed infrastructure legislation with senator vitter over the last few years. that's what she's done. and i can't think of anyone that we're going to miss more in terms of that presence and that hard scrabble, hard scrabble advocacy which is always coupled with a prague -- pragmatic way of getting bills done. we're going to miss senator reid, senator senator mikulski and senator boxer. i would add the republican senators leaving. i've enjoyed a strong relationship with senator ayotte. we've worked together on opioids. we worked together a lot on the issue of the eating disorder bill. i'm glad that in her final weeks in the senate that have we've been able to pass that important
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legislation that embraced so many of her priorities. i also worked at length with senator coats. we both serve on the joint economic committee, and she is shown great leadership there. and also again an ability to work across the aisle. he believes strongly in civility and in getting to know your fellow senators. and we're going to miss him dearly for his pleasant way and his ability to cross over the aisle and work together. and i also want to thank him for the work he did on an adoption bill that we worked on together. there are many other senators that we wish well. senator kirk, the work hea that is done on the great lakes priorities. we've worked on that together as well as all of his leadership in the area of international relations. madam president, i see that the senator from iowa, senator grassley, is here. i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: for the last eight years we've seen president obama's administration take action after action and do it without regard for concerns expressed by the american people or their elected representatives in congress that it may amount to a great deal of unconstitutional or at least contrary to statute executive overreach. the obama administration used executive fiat to push sweeping regulations with little thought about damage to american jobs. the obama administration has repeatedly stretched its authority beyond limits set by congress and law. it has twisted the same laws and even the constitution itself to
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justify this executive overreach. and despite early promises of transparency, it has kept the american people and the congress in the dark about many of its most significant decisions. americans are right then to be frustrated with what they see as more unnecessary burdens and unchecked abuses being handed down by an out-of-reach bureaucracy. and in november they made their voices heard. so now we're going to have a new president on january 20, president-elect trump has said that he intends to roll back the mess of harmful regulations and executive power grabs of the last eight years.
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he is certainly going to have his hands full, as we all know. but there's plenty that he can do to begin the process on january 20. president obama's tenure has brought about an unprecedented expansion of regulatory state. by some estimates, bureaucratic red tape now places a $2 trillion burden on the nation's economy. and you know who pays for that? the american people. i don't doubt that there is some good intentions behind about every new rule, but the notion that so-called experts in washington, d.c. need to regulate every aspect of our lives doesn't make much sense to many of the iowans i talk to. they are hoping that a president
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trump will bring common sense to washington, d.c. take, for example, the environmental protection agency's waters of the u.s. rule it's often referred to by the acronym wotus. this bill seems to expand what the government can regulate under the clean water act. congress intentionally limited e.p.a.'s reach under the law to what is termed navigable waterways. but the wotus rule would subject 97% of the land in my state of iowa to e.p.a. bureaucratic burden. and i assume it does the same in several other states. but i've only checked on iowa. 97% of the land to be regulated by e.p.a. bureaucracy is just an
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impossible situation. think about that. every homeowner, every contractor and every farmer would need to seek a federal permit for projects requiring the simple task of moving dirt even if it's nowhere near an actual body of water. that of course means more paperwork, more time wasted and of course more money spent to get federal permits for activities that this congress never intended the federal government to regulate. a bipartisan majority of both houses of congress has voiced its disapproval of the wotus rule and a federal appeals court has placed a nationwide stay on its implication -- implementation.
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yet, i continue to hear concerns regardless of the supreme court's case that some in the e.p.a. are going to move forward with the rule's implementation, causing unnecessary fear and confusion among farmers and landowners. so on day one president trump should direct his administration to stop defending the wotus rule in the federal courts where it's now held up. he should also direct his e.p.a. to immediately stop implementing or enforcing the rule while the agency begins the rule making process to take it off the books once and for all. it's not just official regulations that have sparked concern over the last eight years. the obama administration hassles used executive actions, agency
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guidance documents and legal interpretations to push its agenda, leaving congress and the american people in the dark. often this has been done with disturbing results. in 2014 the obama administration acted unilaterally to reduce five senior level taliban commanders who were being held at guantanamo bay in exchange for sergeant beau bergdahl. that's contrary to law. despite the requirements of law, the administration never notified congress as the law requires prior to this prisoner's transfer. the law required the administration to provide congress with a detailed statement of the basis for the release and explanation for why
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it is in our national security interest and a plan to prevent the prisoners from returning to the battlefield. instead congress heard only crickets. the administration provided no notice to the congress, no legal justification for the release and no plan to prevent these taliban commanders from reentering a fight that has already spilled so much blood of america's sons and daughters. one reporter said the taliban has been more transparent about this exchange than the obama administration. and even the nonpartisan government accountability office later concluded that the administration acted illegally. well, it's pretty clear, the law says you've got to give congress 30 days notice. they didn't give any notice.
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there were and still are then serious questions about whether releasing these detainees from guantanamo was a good idea, even the extent to which the law was violated. so i ask this administration to disclose the legal advice that the department of justice apparently provided that justified its failure to notify congress in a timely way. in other words, a justification for ignoring the law. but the department of justice refused to do that. the public deserves a funnel and transparent -- a full and transparent accounting of why the administration believed it could disregard the law. on day one then, president
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trump should order the justice department to produce any legal advice that it concocted to excuse the obama administration from its obligation to notify congress of this decision 30 days before the release, because that's what the law says. unfortunately, this isn't the only legal opinion that the obama administration has used to avoid scrutiny of its actions. the justice department has brewed up a ludicrous legal opinion to block government watchdogs from accessing federal records needed in the course of congressional oversight. and if this year has taught us anything, it's that the government needs more oversight not less oversight. it's really unbelievable that a handful of unelected bureaucrats
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would try to defy the will of congress and the people it represents by ignoring that law. unfortunately, it hasn't stopped with that case i just cited the obama administration practically treats a congressional subpoena as if it were a freedom of information request rather than a constitutionally mandated inquiry from a coequal branch of government. this very issue is now being debated in the courts. but it's not just congress that can't get information. the press and private citizens have had their freedom of information requests regularly met with very long delays, if they get a response at all. you know it's bad when "the new york times" calls this white house the most secretive in more
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than two decades. president trump then should take steps to reverse this trend of more secrecy in government because more transparency in government will bring more accountability. on day one, he should direct his agency heads to cooperate with congressional inquiries, inspector general investigations, and foia requests, and he should empower government whistle-blowers. whistle-blowers expose facts about wrongdoing and incompetence inside the vast federal bureaucracy, often at risk of their own careers, their own reputations, and in some cases i found out even their health.
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without whistle-blowers, would be none the wiser that, for instance, the justice department walked guns that put law enforcement agencies in jeopardy. that's the "fast and furious" investigation i did. or that the eb-5 investor visa program is riddled with fraud or that agencies spend tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars every year to pay employees under investigation for misconduct that just simply sit at home on paid leave. information provided by whistle-blowers under the security and exchange commission whistle-blower program has brought in more than $584 million in federal decisions. the internal revenue service has collected more than $3 billion in tax revenue since 2007, thanks to whistle-blowers under
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a piece of legislation i got passed in 2006, i believe it was. and since i pushed to empower and protect whistle-blowers under the false claims act way back in 186 -- in 1966, the federal government has -- in 1986, the federal government has recovered money lost to taxpayer fraud. that ought to be simple, quantifiable information that that's a good deal. but these brave employees often face retaliation from their own ranks. so i'm going to suggest that president trump is going to be very serious about fixing the government bureaucracy, and if he's going to do that, he should
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empower these patriotic citizens to help us identify fraud, abuse, and misconduct so that we can get this government working again. and now i'm going to propose to him, when i get it a chance to talk to him, something i proposed to every president since reagan -- and no president, of course, has done this, and maybe it is ridiculous for me to think that president trump would do it, but he's come to washington to shake things up here. so i'm suggesting to him to empower whistle-blowers, who know that there's fraud and who are patriot people and want the fraud corrected, that president trump hold a rose garden ceremony honoring whistle-blowers, maybe do it once a year, so that they know that the tone from the top, that the new commander in chief has the backs of these patriotic
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soldiers for good government, that we call whistle-blowers. what we've gone through here is far from an exhaust i have list. but -- ex-u exhaustive list. the obama administration frequently failed to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, as required by our constitution. and when that doesn't happen and congress lets a president get away with it, then we aren't upholding our oath to the constitution, which says basically that congress passes the law. they ought to be a check on the executive branch to see that the laws are faithfully executed. so, a person coming to town to drain the swamp, a person by the name of "trump," should prioritize these failures and begin to restore the executive branch to its proper place in
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government consistent with the checks and balances outlined in our constitution. these actions will help that new president to make good in his pledge to fix the federal bureaucracy and do what he said last night on television in des moines, iowa: put americans first. madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: madam president, before i begin my remarks on why i came down to the floor today, i'd like to join with my colleague from iowa and say, it is a very good idea to have a rose garden ceremony talking about whistle-blowers, supporting people who want to do the right thing in the bureaucracy, and i'm willing to work with him in any way that is
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appropriate to talk about what we need to do to make sure that whistle-blowers in our bureaucracy have the protection and have the appreciation. there are very many great people in government who see things every day. we spend a lot of time in our committee, subcommittee at homeland security talking about what we can do to get those good ideas from the bureaucracy, those good ideas from folks who actually work in the government, percolated up and get those ideas to congress and implement them. and so i applaud that work you've done on whirks senator grassley -- you've done on whistle-blowers, senator grassley, and look forward to maybe another conversation about what we can do to put america first by making sure our public employees have an opportunity to feel pride in what they do every day and no that they're going to work for a cause and know that they're going to work in the most efficient, effective mearp for the american people --
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effective manner for the american people. so i applaud your work. i want to talk a little bit about this past election. there have been a lot of among day night quarterbacking about what happened. i guess we can't say that anymore since we play football on monday nights. but there's been a lot of backseat driving on what happened. and for me, the message of this election could not be clearer: that people who go to work every day, particularly those people who shower when they come home at night -- or come home in the morning if they're working shifts -- they feel like we've left them behind. they feel like things happen to them that are unexplainable to them, and even though they're working as hard as therk, the government -- as hard as they can, the government and the people in washington, d.c., aren't working for them. they're getting left behind. the and so it's really -- and so
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it's really, i think, now an important opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to learn the lessons of this past election and to stand up and fight for american workers, to listen to what american workers, the challenges that they have and to respond to those challenges, especially when those challenges clearly represent the injustice. and every person in america, if they're told these stories, would say, that shouldn't happen. well, there's no clearer indication of "that shouldn't happen" today in the dialogue, in the debate in washington, d.c., than what's happening to the coal miners in this country. last night, i stood with 20 to 30 coal miners from the madam president's state, good people -- good people who work hard, and i know that you've been fighting for them, too, as well,
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who simply want what they've earned, simply want the opportunity to take care of their families, take care of their people in their communities. you know, it was pretty cold out when we were standing out there, and a number of the reporters were giving me a hard time because when you're from north dakota, everybody assumes it doesn't matter if it's jucialtion it's 20 -- doesn't matter if it's july, it's 20 degrees below zero. if we leave here without a clear message, without an opportunity for those miners to know that we care and to know that we are making their concerns a top priority, then they feel left out in the cold for a lot longer than 20 minutes by this congress. and so i made a point that there is a coal miner on the flag of
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west virginia, but there is also a farmer on the flag of west virginia. and that farmer, toker me, represents -- and that farmer, for me, represents the people who built the country in my state. we don't have coal miners who went in the ground, but we have a lot of coal miners who helped build our region. and this is a -- this is a moment where we can say that people who go to work every day, people who believe and built this country, whose an ssesssters built -- whose ancestors built this country, are going to get what they earned -- not what they deserve but what they earned. there san lot of economic opportunity, there isn't a lot of jobs available. so they risk their health. but they risk their health knowing that they're going to get something in return, and that's financial stability for their families. but when suddenly they're told all that that you bargained for,
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all that that you agreed to ... that's gone. there's just something wrong with that. there's just something wrong when we don't learn the lessons of the last election. and so the other reason why i think i reacted the way i have kind of personally with this is i see the string that goes back to what's happening with central states pension fund in my state. and i know the state of my good friend from minnesota, who has joined with me on many of the efforts that we've had on central states -- to basically hear the stories of people who worked hard. and this is at a time when people were lifting packages and delivering goods with much heavier weight requirements thank what you have today. so -- than what over today. so they talk about the surgeries they've had, the hip and knee replacements. they talk about why they did it. that's to put food on the table for their feassments and all of
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that goes away because we had an irresponsible financial sector that destroyed this economy and made it virtually impossible for these pension funds to cash flow. i think it's time that we stand up for these workers and take the right fight. you know, i come down here and listen -- and i used to preside back when we were in the majority -- and i wish i had -- i wish i had a dollar for every time someone talked about the american people and the american worker and what they were going to do for them. here we have an opportunity to do a lot. here we have an opportunity not only to give the people who earned financial security the financial security that they earned, but we have an opportunity to make sure that we have good american jobs. so there is another provision that got left behind, despite a lot of people supporting it, and that's the "buy america" provision, which isn't in the wrda bill. the "buy america" provision, which has broad-based support
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throughout this country, but yet when we get in the halls of congress, we can't negotiate that and get it done. and so finally, i want to talk about something i have spent a lot of time on the floor of the senate talking about. and that is the ex-im bank. we started out bag basically shut -- we started out basically shutting down theempt i can bank by not rethosing it. we got it reauthorized by hussein majorities, a huge majority in the senate and over 70 nuclear the house. -- and over 70% in the house. victory, right? guess what we can't make any deal over $10 million at the ex-im bank unless we have a quorum. and we have single-handedly seen this body hold up the quorum at the ex-im bank. and people want to say that this is simply about, well, why do you want to bail out or help out g.e.?
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why do you stand for caterpillar? why do you stand for westinghouse? why do you stand for boeing? those are the arguments that misunderstands what happens in america. boeing has 16 suppliers, just in north dakota. boeing's ability to sell airplanes across the country and across the world means that we get good jobs in north dakota. good jobs that we will lose out on. i've said it once, i've said it many, many times. the sea's -- the c.e.o.'s of g.e. or boeing. i am standing up to basically get the ex-im bank approved.
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and i'll tell you why -- because $30 billion or $20 billion of deals are waiting for us to get a quorum. so what does that mean? that $20 billion supports over 116,000 jobs in america. if those c.e.o.'s are forced by the lack of credit export assistance, if they're forced to take those jobs overseas, which they already have. thousands have already left this country. if they're forced to take them overseas, that means workers in this country don't get those jobs. what in -- and once again, people say well, what kind of government subsidy is this? in the face of the reality that the ex-im bank actually returns dollars to the treasury of this country, we're going to shut down the ex-im bank and continue it to keep it hobbled to the
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point where it cannot do its job, it cannot allow our manufacturing interests to be competitive. and so i hope that as we leave this congress and we open up the opportunity for further dialogue that all of the rhetoric that we have heard over and over and over again about american jobs, american workers, about american opportunity, i hope we live up to that rhetoric. i hope that we take the steps that we need to take to guarantee that american workers come first, whenever we set our policies. there's no better place than to address these pension concerns. there's no better place than the "buy america" provisions, and there certainly is no easier way to get an immediate result than to get the ex-im bank up and running, and it is -- it is a
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tragedy that we are so unwilling to do this, not because it doesn't make huge common sense but because it doesn't fit in with an ideological position that is taken by the hard right, against a vast majority of american interests and certainly the majority of people in this body. and so with that, i turn to my colleague from the great state of minnesota for her comments. ms. klobuchar: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota p. ms. klobuchar: i stand here today with two incredibly strong women, senator heitkamp and senator shaheen. and of course you are here as well, the presiding officer from the great state of west virginia. i think we all approach our jobs with a certain pragmatism about what matters and it's not about what's left or what's right. it's about what's right for the people of this country. and the two issues that the senator from north dakota have
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raised -- has raised are both incredibly important for these workers. and when people have felt nickeled and dimed and pushed down by the system, they can't always put a bill number on what that means. they can't always put a number on how things have changed and why they feel like, hey, my cable bill is eating me up. or, hey, i can't get a mortgage or i can't send my kid to college. we know that is happening right now. we in this chamber know what's going on p. and the two things that the senator from north dakota mentioned are both things that we could do for the people of america. the first is to stand with the coal miners of west virginia. promises made to be promises. kept. it was barbara jordan of texas that once said that what the american people want is something quite simple. they want a country as good as it's promised. and these coal miners were promised things. over 70 years ago president harry truman brokered an
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agreement that provided health and pension benefits for coal miners in the united mine workers of america health and retirement funds. the coal act showed a continuing commitment to the health, retirement and security of coal mines and their families. in october, approximately 12,500 coal miners and widows received notices telling them their health benefits would be cut off at the end of this year. retired coal miners and widows. in november over 16,000 people will lose health coverage. i know negotiations are going on as we speak, but we urge our colleagues and the leadership in the united states senate to do all that they can for these miners, many of whom are in the state of the presiding officer. as senator heitkamp mentioned we have a similar situation with the central state's pension
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plan. 14,000 minnesotans. i met with some this weekend. the plan that was originally proposed was rejected by the treasury department because it was so unfair to these workers and they are continuing to look for a solution. and i'd say this lastly about the coal miners. in minnesota we have iron ore miners. while your miners might be covered in black soot, ours are covered in red iron ore. my grandpa worked most of his life underground in the mines in eli, minnesota. he had to quit school when he was in sixth grade because his parents were sick, he was the oldest boy, nine kids and he went to work pulling a wagon. when he got old enough, still as a teenager, went to work in those iron ore mines. sixth grade he quit school. he dreamed of a career in the navy and instead of every single day he went down in a cage 1,500 feet with a little black lunch pail that my grandma packed for him every single day.
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the youngest -- his youngest sister had to go to an orphan age and he promised he would go get her. a year and a half after he got the job and married my grandma, he went back and got his little sister hannah and brought her back and raised her. that's our family story. it's a mining story. i always think about what he thought when he went down in that cage every day: that career in the navy, out in the woods that he loved to hunt. but instead he did that job. he did that job for his family. he his two kids and brothers and sisters because he knew if he worked hard he would be able to support them, because there would be a pension, because there would be health care, because he wouldn't die like his own father did leaving behind kids with the oldest one being 21 years old. that didn't happen. my grandpa raised two boys. one became an engineer. the other my dad, went to a two-year college that got paid for at the time and went on to get a journalism degree and view everyone from mike ditka to
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ronald reagan and ginger rogers. another part of our state that believes if you work hard every day and you should be able to get where you want to go are those that work in manufacturing, those in the rural part of our state and i don't think they put together the ex-im bank with their own livelihood. that is a complex mart. while we have saved the ex-im bank which finances small businesses in minnesota that wouldn't be able to deal with going to a big, major bank, we still haven't confirmed someone for that board. and getting that person confirmed for that board through the senate would mean that the ex-im bank could go back to its functional levels of financing major transactions. that's why we're here to ask the senate to support the nomination of jay mcwatters to serve as a
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member of the board of directors. i join my colleagues to do that. on january 11 the senate banking committee received the nomination of mr. mcwatters to fill the republican vacancy on the board. this is a republican candidate that we're asking the senate to confirm. but it is 333 days and counting since he has been nominated. in 2015 i remember bringing together a group of small businesses from all over the country to talk about the importance of the ex-im bank, to hear their stories of how they're going to go under if they're not allowed to continue their financing. and mostly at a time where we are dealing with the winds of global competition being blown at us every single day, to be at such a disadvantage to other developed nations that have ex-im type banks, that have financing authority, it's not just china who's going to eat our lunch unless we can get over $10 million in financing. they must be laughing at us over there. there are about 85 credit export
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agencies in 60 countries including all major exporting countries. why would we want to make it harder for our own companies to create jobs right here at home and then allow these other countries to have these financing agencies that compete with us? that is exactly what's going on right now. the ex-im bank has supported $17 billion in u.s. exports. that's american jobs, $17 billion. it has a cap of $135 billion. that sounds like a lot but an article in the financial times showed the china development bank and the export-import bank of china combined had an estimated $684 billion in total development finance. so these two banks combined provide five times as much financing as the ex-im bank with its cap of $135 billion. as senator heitkamp explained, this is about jobs, and it's as simple as that. in 2015 ex-im financing supported 109,000 u.s. jobs.
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since we reauthorized, 649 transactions have been approved. now it is about p time that we put the person on the board, the republican nominee so that they can go back to fully functioning and be able to make transactions that are worth over $10 million. without a quorum and board approval, ex-im is not able to adopt any of the accountability measures or update the loan limits so that american businesses have access to the financing they need to compete globally. here we are, three democratic senators on the floor simply asking the united states senate to move ahead to confirm a republican nominee. that may be irony, but it's irony that is on the backs of the american people. and we need to get it done. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: thank you, madam president. i'm pleased to join my colleagues, senator heitkamp from north dakota and senator
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klobuchar from minnesota. i represent new hampshire, so i think we have the major -- three major regions of the country represented here to talk about why we need to make the appointments to allow the ex-im bank to continue to do their transactions. as my colleagues have said, ex-im has a five-member board of directors, and in order to consider transactions that exceed $10 million, they have to have a quorum of three people. well, right now, again, as senator klobuchar explained and senator heitkamp, there isn't a quorum. so they can't continue to do transactions that are worth over $10 million. and that's having a real impact on companies across this country. in 2016, after a period where ex-im was not reauthorized,
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where they were not able to do business, we finally got that legislation through. they were able to begin operating again. and in 2016, they were able to support about 52,000 u.s. jobs by authorizing more than $5 billion in transactions. 2,000, almost 3,000 export transactions. and at the same time ex-im returned $283.9 million to the u.s. treasury and maintained a default rate of .266%. that's a pretty good record. but by comparison, the last year that ex-im was fully operational, they authorized more than $20 billion and almost 4,000 transactions in 2014, when they were fully operational.
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and those transactions supported 164,000 u.s. jobs and returned $674 million to the treasury. so you might ask what's wrong with this picture? why is the senate banking committee holding up the person who would allow ex-im to continue to operate at its full capacity and allow it to continue to help with job creation? we've seen this very directly in new hampshire. new hampshire is a small state. we're a small business state. and yet we're the state that ex-im chose when they rolled out their small business program to help small businesses with the financing they needed to export, and one of those first people to take advantage of that program was boyle energy services and

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