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tv   U.S. Senate 10052017  CSPAN  October 5, 2017 3:30pm-5:54pm EDT

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business, including the banks. if you were not part of that family or their friends, you had a hard time getting a job. many of the jobs were african americans were either construction or government jobs. reverend paterson proudly recalls the first black principal of the state elementary school, an african american banker who was elected to the school board and subsequently to the alaska legislature, an african american activist in the fair view section of anchorage who is regarded as grandfather of the city's public transportation system. today's african american community is built on what these pioneers have endured. alonzo patterson was an agent of change. he stated in ministry there are no limits except the ones we set for ourselves. under his leadership, shiloh
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grew spiritually and fiscally. on shiloh's 29th anniversary the mortgage note was burned under the theme, burning to build. there was more building to come. the martin luther king jr. family life center was dedicated in 1993. in 2001, reverend patterson will a building to serve the youth and disadvantaged. they are well known for the youth mentoring program called young lyons of alaska. he -- he celebrates the diversity of our communities. in 2015, reverend patterson was the keynote speaker at the dinning day ceremony, and at
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that ceremony he warned his audience that dr. king's dream is at kisk of dying. he said it is at risk if we keep holding ours selves back. he said stop waiting for miracles. believe in yourself to make society better. each of us can do our part by loving and respecting others. this is one example of his powerful voice. his sermons were always inspiring. it explains why he is regarded as a pastor's pastor, growing not only his congregates but also the ministers who will follow in his footsteps and one who has joined in the congregation at shiloh on numerous occasions, i can attest there was never a sunday that i did not leave feeling inspired by the words of dr. patterson. they don't call the appreciation festivities for reverend
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patterson a retirement ceremony, they are calling it a transition, probably because nobody believes that reverend alonzo patterson has any intention of pursuing a life of leisure. leadership runs in alonzo patterson's ndaa -- d.n.a. we take comfort in the fact that his contributions are far from november. november marks a transi not a retirement -- transition, not a retirement. i would like toking thank dr. alonzo patterson and his lovely wife shirley for their good works and thank them in advance for their continued leadership. mr. president, i know that i have occupied a little bit of time here on the floor thb afternoon with a wide range of -- floor this afternoon with
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a wide range of topics with the tragedies that face many of our indigenous women to recognizing a prominent leader of the alaska community. now i would like to share a little bit of alaska's history as a -- as we see a transition and -- in aviation and transportation. it's really the end of an era in my home state. on october 18, just a few days from now, alaska airlines will fly the final run of the uniquely alaskan comby plane before updating the fleet. so, okay, she's going to make a floor speech about an airplane? yes, i'm going to make a floor speech about an airplane.
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because this combe is a special boeing 737-400 can carry 1,400 cargo and passengers. it is a combe because it has passengers and cargo. it was designed for the special challenges of a very large state and over their life span they have delivered every imaginable thing via airplane in alaska. you've all heard me talk about the size of our state, the sheer size of the state presents logistical hurdles unlike any place else. i keep saying, we're one-fifth the size of the country, 80% of our communities are not connected by road, but when you think about how -- how we move around in our state, a postage
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stamp placed in the middle of an average sheet of paper represents an area that a person can reach in alaska by coastline, river, rail, or railroad. the rest you have to fly. you have to fly everywhere. it only makes sense to try to efficiently deliver people and good around alaska. so alaska airlines is looking to serve -- it is a recognition they need to figure out how to move people and freight and they reconfigured four aircraft to do that. what makes these planes so special -- what makes the planes so special is that they can carry up to four large cargo containers. we'll call them iglo os. these igloos. and they load into the front
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portion of the aircraft right behind the -- where the pilots are. there's a simple divider and the passengers so you -- you load the cargo up front, the passengers come up the back through a set of steps just like we used to do in the pre-jetway times. so when you get in the aircraft, you load from the back but your first say 17 rows of a traditional aircraft would be occupied by the cargo. and if you have more argueo, if you're -- cargo, if you're flying fish from cordova south or if you're flying your eye did rod doings -- ididarod dogs, have you flexibility -- you have flexibility to move back and forth many they have flown from
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the oil fields in prudo, and most famously, in the milk-run area. the milk run got its name because alaska airlines literally delivers the milk to the communities along the way as well as other food stuff, all manners of goods and passengers. something that if you're from southeast, wele all know -- we all know about the milk run. we all complain that it takes about five hours to get from anchorage down to juneau, if you have to go through cordova and make stops, and that's just the way it is. you bounce down from cordova, catchacan, you run into your sports teams, families coming and going, but these are the
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workhorses that are not only moving the passengers, they are moving the groceries, the mail, the medicine. they are moving it all. now, when i say that it moves everything, you -- we built up a little bit of history about how -- how things move around. we've moved cows, we've moved cars. the picture that i like best was moving the herd of santa's rain deer. they needed to move the deer so you -- you haul them in the front, situate them, and close it off and you've got passengers in the back. so whether you're moving deer or transporting an injured eagle or letting, again, all of those sled dogs hitch a ride back to
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anchorage after they made the 1,000 mile trip to nome, that's what we do. but what the com pe plan is -- the different parameters. if you are going to move goods, if you're going to move passengers, you're on an airplane. whether it is essential air services, bypass mail, air freight, these are the backbones of commerce. this is -- this is our interstate. it's the interstate in the air. so whether we're shipping our -- our wild-caught sustainably managed salmon that people around the world love to eat, we ship that out, we ship in the toothpaste, the loves of bread, and what we need and thanks to the compe we have been able to
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do that with regular, reliable service where the weather would chase off more. is this a smaller aircraft. the size of the compe allows them to land than smaller propeller planes. as i mentioned, it's kind of a bittersweet time for -- for some of us who have grown-up around these aircraft as we -- as we think about the only in alaska type things, it is encouraging to know that this development of -- of retiring the compe planes, the proposal is to replace them with separate full-sized passenger and cargo planes. it is as a result of increased demand for goods and passengers, so we need more space on planes to deliver both. so if updating the fleet means
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that we need -- we get more business in alaska, i suppose that's a good thing for all. but there are -- there are many of us that are going to be bidding fond farewell come october 18 which is the last scheduled flight for the combe. it is also alaska day in our state. i'd like to thank alaska airlines and those who fly these -- these great planes and do so safe mily and -- safely and provide a level of service and have done so for so long. i thank them for so many years of service. with that, mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum and thank the president. the presiding officer: the clerk should call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. schatz: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii.
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mr. schatz: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection, it is so ordered. mr. schatz: thank you, mr. president. here's what's happening with so-called tax reform. tonight the budget committee is voting on a budget resolution that does two things. first it sets the spending limit for everything in the government, environment, defense, education, health care, so on. second it includes something called reconciliation instructions that basically directs all of the committees to report back with legislation that either increases for decreases the federal deficit by a certain amount. this time around here's what they are doing -- they are asking the senate finance committee to draft legislation to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. again, this is going to pass on a party-line vote with republicans prevailing to
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increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. this is what will start the tax reform process. but that's not all. republicans have not given up on decimating our health care system. they are still trying to cut medicaid, and this time medicare. and they are going to use this tax bill. they are going to cut $473 billion from medicare at a time when our population is getting older and many seniors are already struggling. they are also going to cut $1 trillion from medicaid. this is the program that pay ps for one out of every two births in this country. it helps millions of families who have loved ones in nursing home care. last week they tried to pass a health care bill that cuts taxes. now they are trying to pass a tax cut bill that cuts health care. their proposal will actually increase the deficit by
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$4 trillion -- that's 12 zeros, $4 trillion. here's what we could do with $4 trillion. we could completely rebuild half of the airports in the united states, we could put 20 million people through four years of college, we could pay off the debt for every student loan. instead the united states is going to be in the red by $4 trillion, but after they cut $1 trillion from medicaid and half a trillion from medicare, the party that has railed against the federal debt and deficit will still have -- add $2.5 trillion to the deficit, and this is all so they can give tax cuts to the richest people in the united states. i promise you, i understand that both parties are sometimes guilty of exaggerating, sometimes both parties are guilty of relying on talking points and relying on charkt
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coutures of the -- characatures on the other side, but you couldn't do that. this is a characature of what people say republicans are all about, which is to shred the social safety net and provide tax cuts for the wealthiest americans. they are going to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% and they are going to cut tax rates across the board, but the people who will actually benefit will be the people at the top. the tax policy center, which is a nonpartisan highly respected group has crunched the numbers. they found in ten years 80% of the benefits of this $4 trillion tax bill will go to 1% of americans. 80% of $4 trillion go to 1% of americans, and remember what is happening. we're borrowing a huge chunk of this and whatever is not borrowed comes out of medicare and medicaid. and so the programs that pay for
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women to give birth in a hospital or for elderly people to get health care will be decimated and the wealthiest americans are going to pay less in taxes. this is bad policy, not just for the people who work hard but for the whole economy. i want to give you a specific example. again, both parties rely on talking points, both parties accuse each other of having the wrong set of ideas, but we have an example of what happens when you do this. this bill is actually modeled after what they did in the state of kansas. the state government eliminated one of its business taxes telling people it would help the state's economy. instead the economy slowed down which left them with even lower tax revenues, they had to cut government programs like education and now people don't want to send their kids to kansas schools anymore because they don't have the resources to educate their children. this is not the path that
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everybody should follow. everyone needs to pay their fair share, including corporations and those benefiting from the system and making millions of dollars every year, but in this proposal they are the ones getting all the tax breaks. companies already have huge tax breaks. some corporations end up paying zero in federal income tax every april 15 even though they are making a healthy profit. they have teams of lawyers and accountants that help them dodge paying even a penny to the federal government. that's why corporate income taxes make up less than 10% of all of the revenue to the federal treasury. meanwhile at least 30% of the middle class will pay more if the republicans succeed with their tax reform package. think about this, 30% of the middle class will see a tax increase in their tax cut bill. why? because they have to find some money to subsidize their tax cuts for the richest people. some of the money is found by
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borrowing, some of the money is found by cuts to medicare and medicaid, and some of the money is found by increasing taxes on the middle class. one out of every two households with children -- one out of every two households with children will see their taxes go up under this plan. increasing taxes for these people while decreasing them for big corporations is not a plan for economic growth. we've heard over and over that republicans do not want it to add to the deficit i. -- deficit. i don't either, but this is literally what they are voting to do tonight. again, this is not a talking point, this is not a sort of rhetorical flourish. the bill itself provides for $1.5 trillion worth of deficit spending and it's not deficit spending on the military and it's not deficit spending on disaster response, and it's not deficit spending on medicare,
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medicaid, sews or any of -- social security or any of the safety-net programs. it is deficit spending for the purpose of a tax cut, 80% of which is going to 1% of the country. this is not conservative. this is certainly not fiscally conservative and it will not help us to grow the economy. it's no surprise that this policy is bad because the process has been so bad. with health care they ignored the regular order, they obliterated the committee process, they ignored the democrats, they ignored the way the united states senate is supposed to work and they failed. one republican senator says he won't vote for anything that adds one penny to the deficit, another republican senator said he won't do anything that doesn't cut taxes for everybody. it already doesn't meet that test. members of congress on both sides of the aisle promised not
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to cut medicare or medicaid. it violates all of those problems. if you didn't like a.c.a. repeal because it cuts medicaid. guess what. this cuts medicaid more. if you made a promise to your voters not to cut medicare, you should be aware that this bill provides for a half trillion in cuts to cuts in medicare. and if you are railing against debt and deficits, is this the -- this is the biggest budget buster i have ever seen in my short five-year career in the united states senate. the president of the united states promised not to cut medicare during the campaign and the senior senator from arizona has called for the regular order. this violates every procedural and policy principle that has been articulated on this senate floor since i've been here. i do not see a way forward on this legislation when it has been conceived in a purely partisan way. it will only take us deeper into
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dysfunction. and so for the sake of the senate, let's stop going down this path. let's restore the regular order and work together on a bipartisan tax reform process. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk should call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. sullivan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, nearly every week i've been coming down to the senate floor to recognize someone in my state who has made a difference for alaska, really has made a difference for all americans. it's my favorite part of the week to actually come down to do this, talk about alaska to my colleagues in the senate, to the folks in the gallery, to the press, to the american people watching. it's what i refer to is our time to talk about the alaskan of the
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week. and as many watching on the floor and those of you who have visited our great state, you know alaskans think it's the most beautiful place in the world. natural wonders everywhere. we had a beautiful summer. resilient, warm hearted, fiercely independent but accepting people. and we have challenges in alaska just like the rest of the country, but the heart of my state is kind, generous people, full of different cultures, different backgrounds. and we celebrate. most people don't know this by anchorage, alas carks my home -- alaska, my hometown. it's probably the most diverse culturally, ethnically diverse city in the country. and we have places of worship all over the city and the state that reflect that diversity, that great diversity of alaska and america. one of the stalwarts of our faith community for the past 47
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years has been pastor alonzo patterson of the shiloh mis mish-year baptist -- missionary baptist church and he is our alaskan of the week. every sunday he fills his church with spirit, joy, gospel music punk yated by a-- punctuated by amens that float through the church, down the street, and work their way into our community and into our hearts. that's what he's been doing 47 years. for decades those sermons have inspired countless alaskans to help feed the hungry, provide homes for those without, and strive to create a more just country, a more just state, a more just society, a more just community. mr. president, let me tell you a little bit about pastor patterson. he was born in wilson,
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louisiana, and raised in new orleans. like a lot of alaskans, thousands of alaskans, he joined the military, made his way up to fair banks, alaska, in the 1960's where he found and built the core run ya -- corinthian baptist church. in 1970 he was called to shiloh in anchorage, one of the few african american churches in anchorage. he rebuilt shiloh in its current location. under his leadership, shiloh's membership, its facilities, its energy took off under pastor patterson. he has conducted thousands of marriages and baptisms. he has given thousands of eulogies, celebrated graduations and anniversaries, counseled countless couples, people who are grieving, people who are
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rejoicing, people who are suffering, and he's helped turn that into action, not just for the african american community but for all people and all races in our community and in our state. quote, the church was and always been the sanctuary in the black community, pastor patterson told a reporter earlier this year. it is the meeting place, he said, the community center, the focus for support and help, the place you come to be important, the psychologist for your particular problem, the time to shout out your frustrations, and a place to be significant. he continued, you could be a deacon or something in the church where in the rest of the community you're just another black person. the church was for us, a panacea for many of the social ills that existed then and still have
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relevance. that's what he talked about. that's his heart and soul, how he saw his church and congregation. and thanks to pastor patterson and shiloh, the city is a more inclusive place for all. and he's helped heal those social ills for thousands of our fellow alaskans. one of his friends celeste grodan said, quote, he and the church have led the way for a the love things that have been accomplished here in anchorage. pastor patterson always says leaders lead. that's the way he's lived his life. he is not -- he is not in the background. celeste has talked about how during election time, pastor patterson organizes a huge get out the vote campaign. he was instrumental in getting a martin luther king, jr. memorial erected in the heart of anchorage, a ten-year long endeavor. she also talked about the groups
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he's chaired, founded, and led beyond his congregation, including bridge builders of anchorage, the march of dimes foundation, the martin luther king, jr. foundation of alaska, the interdenominational minister yal alliance of minutes tear yal alliance of anchorage. you know with leaders like this, the list goes on and on and on. in addition to core rintians baptist church, he has planted egg the river missionary baptist church and shiloh missionary baptist church of palmer, other cities throughout alaska. now, mr. president, i've been uplifted to the core when my wife, julie, had gone to shiloh and listened to pastor patterson preach and listen to the beautiful, and i mean beautiful, shiloh choir sing.
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it is a spiritual and energizing experience like no other. i love attending masses and services at shiloh. on november 5, 2017, pastor patterson's 80th birthday, he will be giving his last sermon as the pastor of shiloh. i certainly plan on being there. he's stepping down to pastor parker who will be the new and dynamic leader shiloh, another great alaskan, another veteran, and i know he's going to do a great job. but, of course, it's a bittersweet time for shiloh's parishioners. because of the foundation that pastor patterson built, the church and singing and the amens will continue on earth and a church in anchorage, alaska, as it is in heaven.
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god bless pastor patterson, his wife of 61 years, first lady shirley patterson, and the congregation of shiloh missionary baptist church for all they have done and continue to do for our community and congratulations to pastor patterson for being our alaskan of the week. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the following statement appear in a separate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i would like to say a few words about how members of the other side of the aisle are doing something that's just not helping the united states of america right now. and that's just obstructing progress with regard to the new administration. now, i understand that my party right now is in the majority. and to be honest, i've been someone who thinks we spend a lot more time here in the senate
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working in the senate, getting things done. we have a lot of work to do. but i see that people can get frustrated back home on some of the lack of progress and some of that we can do by spending more time in this body. some of the questions that are coming out about why aren't things getting done, it's a good question. answers can be complicated, but what it mostly boils down to is that a lot of issues in this body, a lot, rely on consensus. the rules were carefully constructed so that the minority has a say in the legislative process. now, for the most part i believe that's a good thing. as a former president once pointed out, we're not red or blue america. we're the united states of america. but that said, the people did
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come here -- the people did elect us to come here to start getting things done and implicit in their votes for a new president and a new administration was to be able to put people in the federal government to work, to work. to focus on growing the economy, to focus on rebuilding our military after a 25% cut over the last eight years, to focus on better jobs and higher wages president and throughout history -- wages. and throughout history, whether it's democrats or republicans, the majority party understood this. when a new administration gets elected, they start to put nominees in place in the senate -- and the senate takes action. we held hearings. and we have votes to put senate
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confirmed officials in the federal government to work. if you don't like the person, you can ask some tough questions in hearings, and you can vote against them on the floor of the senate or in committees. but what we're seeing right now is just pure obstruction. every single nominee is being required -- the maximum amount of time for each individual nominee before there's even a vote. now, this is something new, this is something different. in fact, the current minority leader said the following words in 2013. quote, who in america doesn't think a president, democrat or republican, deserves his or her picks for who should run the federal government? who should run the agencies? nobody, he said.
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nobody. that was the minority leader in 2013. wise words then. but apparently he and his members have forgotten these words. mr. president, i have some facts up here on the board. at this point, ten months into president obama's presidency in 2009, the senate had allowed more than 318 nominees to be cast by a simple vote. the senate only asks for a procedure known as cloture five times. so essentially you have president obama, he got elected and the senate, democrats and republicans, were working to get his team put in place. and, yes, the republicans were doing that. certainly -- i wasn't here then but they were voting against some of these nominees. that's fine. but what they were doing is they were letting them come to the floor for a vote. in contrast, what i emotionalled
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about president obama's -- what i mentioned about president obama's first year in office, only 100 of president trump's nominees have been confirmed through voice vote. that's less than a third than the courtesy given to president obama eight years ago at this time. cloture votes for trump nominees required for a hundred nominees. remember, i just said five for the obama nominees eight years ago, a hundred for the trump nominees. and only 63 have been allowed by a simple voice vote. so what does that mean? it means that each vote requires a two-day waiting period and then another 30 hours of debate. that's what it means. now, the press won't write about it. my friends in the press sitting up here in the gallery, they
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won't write about this. the contrast to the trump treatment by the senate and the obama treatment by the senate is incredibly different. you don't hear a word out of the press on this. and this isn't partisan. this is just hurting the american people. there was an election. now we need to fill the government with people who can run agencies. and with all due respect to my friends on the other side of the aisle, they're not doing t they're not allowing t we had a vote on an eighth circuit judge last week, had to go through cloture. essentially spent the whole week on this, two days and 30 hours. the judge passed the senate by 95-1 vote. 95-1 vote. he wasn't controversial at all.
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so what was the point? the point was simply to delay, to delay. so again here's the difference. nominations sent to the senate -- about the same. president obama had more eight years ago but not too many more. 520 versus 443 for president trump. confirmed, at this time during the obama administration, 342. trump, 163. so that's 66% for the obama nominees eight years ago and 37% for the trump nominees. the press won't write about it, but this is a disservice to americans, whether you're a democrat or a republican. i'll just mention a few. we've had nominees such as the
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assistant secretary of health in health and human services, came out of committee several weeks ago, sitting on the floor. the assistant secretary of health. it is not a controversial position. but it is an important position. i bet that person is going to get finally passage from the senate at some point by big supermajorities, but we're delaying it. we're delaying it. i really would love it if the minority leader would come down, look at the american people, and just say, here's why we're delaying. here's why we're delaying. explain it. they love to do this kind of stuff, procedural dark arts, thinking that people aren't watching. people understand this. the head of a leading democratic think tank told the press that they intend to hold up and tie
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up floor time on every single trump administration nominee. now, mr. president, if that happens, if they take the time for every nominee -- there's over 1,000 who need senate confirmation -- and they take the entire amount of time that they're allowed with cloture and other votes, if they don't extend the courtesy that was extended to president obama when he was trying to put his team in place, the trump administration will never have a team in place. it will literally be four years. so i just hope the day the press starts writing about this -- because the difference here in eight years is quite remarkable and yet nobody is talking about it. but be that the minority leader and my colleagues on the other suited aisle -- side of the
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aisle will stop obstructing what every other administration has had in terms of a courtesy, which is if you win the election, whether you didn't like it or not, you work with the other side in the u.s. senate to get your people in place. department of defense officials, department of transportation officials, department of health officials, environmental protection officials. we got to get the country moving again. and the obstruction, which is unprecedented, by the minority leader and, unfortunately, many of my colleagues on the other side is only harming the american people. only harming the progress that the vast majority of americans, whether you are a democrat 0 a republican, want. and i'm hopeful that they're finally going to change and
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start moving forward nominations and letting us vote on them so we have an opportunity to actually get this country moving again. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i'd like to begin today by talking about the recent tragedy in las vegas, the largest mass shooting in u.s. history with at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured, including one minnesotan who was injured and another who lost his life. so i join my colleagues in mourning for the victims and their families. they are and should be our focus at this time, as well as making sure that those who are hurt get the best medical care that this country can give. but as we look ahead, these events underscore the urgency to continue fighting for funding to better treat menial illness but also for sensible gun safety
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legislation, and i joined with some i my colleagues the day after the tragedy in las vegas to call for those changes. no one policy will prevent every tragedy, but we need to come together on commonsense legislation to save lives. one place that we discussed this week where we could come together because we have in the past is on background checks. my colleague, senator manchin, and senator toomey, who are two a-rated n.r.a. senators, have already demonstrated that we can find bipartisan agreement on something as straightforward as background checks. i was very pleased that they came together on this legislation, but the fact remains that the senate's failure to pass that bipartisan compromise was disheartening, one of my more disheartening days in the senate because i began my day that day with the families of the sandy hook
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tragedy, with the parents that had lost their little kids, with the parents that had come to this building to advocate for a bill, the background check bill, that they knew wouldn't have saved their child's life but they knew would have saved others because what we've seen with expanded background checks is that it reduces suicide, it reduces domestic homicides by a fairly large number. our constituents agree that we should be able to find some agreement here, as the numbers have consistently shown that americans across the political spectrum, including gun owners, support proposals to require background checks by wide margins. i have a state -- like the presiding officer's -- where there are a lot of hunters. it is a proud tradition in minnesota, so i look at all of these proposals and i say to myself, does this hurt my uncle dick and his deer stand? and for many of the ones that i've looked at, the answer is
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clearly no, including the background check bill. when i talk to law enforcement in my state, they stress the need to have effective background checks to stop felons, people with severe mental illnesses and others prohibited under current law from accessing guns. these efforts do not have to infringe in any way on americans' lawful right to own guns. another sensible measure is senator feinstein's legislation to close the loophole that allows bump stock devices to convert semiautomatic firearms into weapons that work like fully automatic guns. law enforcement officers have now recovered 12 of these devices from the las vegas shooter's room. i am a cosponsor of that bill, and i am encouraged that some of my republican colleagues have agreed to look at this. i hope that we can find a path forward in the weeks ahead, not only with regard to this
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particular focus bump stock device legislation but also on some of the others bills like the background check bill. aim here for another purpose today, mr. president, and that is that we must get to work on other important business here in the senate. we need to reauthorize the children's health insurance program and come together on bipartisan fixes to the affordable care act. no papers should ever have to worry whether -- no parent should ever have to worry whether their child will have health care, but funding for the children's health insurance program, or chip, expired over this weekend. chip is one of the great bipartisan success stories. both parties have come together support a program that provides health care to millions of children. in minnesota, these funds support coverage for 125,000 children. i heard from the children's hospitals and clinics of minnesota just last week about many of the families who count on this program.
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while states like mine are finding ways to make federal funding last a bit longer since ours has also expired, every single day that congress doesn't act puts coverage of millions of children at risk. there is already bipartisan work under way to keep this program going. senator hatch and senator wyden have introduced a bipartisan bill to extend chip for five years. in 2015, the last time we renewed this program, it passed the senate with 92 votes. 92 of 100 votes. we should demonstrate that same bipartisan spirit again that children in america are counting on. we must act before it's too late or states like mine may be forced to make difficult choices about insurance coverage for some of our more vulnerable constituents. chip is one part of our health care system that is working. we should be doing everything in our power to protect it. so let's come together and pass
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this long-term reauthorization of chip. now, chip is not the only area where we should be able to come together on health care. the american people want us to work together on bipartisan fixes to the affordable care act. as i said the day it passed, it was a beginning and not and he. any major piece of legislation like that needs improvemented and changes. so let's work together on the bipartisan bills and ideas that have been put forward. just like my friend, senator mccain, said, we could do better working together, republicans and democrats. senator alexander and senator murray have been holding hearings and discussions on commonsense solutions to bring down insurance costs over the past month. we had governors here, and there were actually more republican governors in the room than democratic governors, as they embraced these suggested changes, which include reinsurance -- and i note senator collins and senator
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nelson, republican and democrat, have a bill together that would do something on that front. you look at what's been done in alaska -- i see my colleague senator murkowski here; what has been done in minnesota when it comes to reinsurance. and we've seen some rate ofs go down, not to where we need them to go but there have been decrease in the amount of the rates. and we would like to see that hon a national base circumstance and that's why i'm such a -- often a national basis and that's why i'm such a strong supporter of senator alexander and senator murray's work. finally, we need to do something on the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. people like kim fromly moth, kin kin -- people like kim mr. policewomen on, minnesota. that's why i think we should have medicare part d negotiations. i have a bill that now has 3 cosponsors, that lifts the ban makes it illegal for 41 million seniors to negotiate the prices
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of drugs. seniors can be a pretty stubborn and very vocal group. why don't we let them unleash their power and allow medicaid to negotiate prices. senator grassley and i have a bill to stop pay-for-delay where major pharmaceutical companies are paying off generics to keep their products off the market. i have a bill with senator grassley and senator leahy and senator lee, the four of us lead the bill, the creates act, which makes it easier to get more generic competition in the market. and we also -- senator mccain and senator lee and i have bills that allow for drugs to come in to compete more competition to bring the price down. when four of the top best best-selling drugs in america, the prices have gone up over 3400%, i don't think we can sit harder and do nothing. i bring up these because for the most part they're bipartisan.
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the work of senator alexander and senator murray, the work of bills to do something on prescription drugs. let's get moving on that. let's reauthorize chip. the last time it passed the senate 92 votes. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. ms. murkowski: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to
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executive session for the en bloc consideration of the following nominations. executive calendar 323, 324, 325. that the senate vote on the nominations en bloc with no intervening action or debate. that if confirmed, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table en bloc, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, that no further motions be in order, and that any statements relating to the nominations be printed in the record. the presiding officer: is there objection? objection is heard. the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: mr. president, it is my hope that we will be able to come to agreement with regards to the nominees that i have just asked for their consideration. these are individuals that have been moved out of the energy and natural resources committee to be named to the federal energy regulatory commission. this is a commission that has
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been without a functioning quorum for months on end. they have just recently been able to achieve that quorum, but they are not yet to a full complement. we had worked hard to reach an agreement with colleagues so that these names could advance, so that the ferc could get to work in an expeditious manner. there is much to be considered, and the work that has piled up, that has cost our economy, that has cost our country over these many months as we have seen these delays because you don't have a functioning ferc have been considerable. so we want to try to reach agreement, but i am disappointed that we're not going to be able to advance them this afternoon. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. merkley: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: four weeks ago, i stood here on the floor of the senate to call for increased funding to fight fires. this is just one of the dramatic pictures of oregon ablaze. thousands and thousands of acres. i had the experience of driving roughly 350 miles in my state and never escaping the smoke from the fires that were in every single corner, every
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quadrant of the state of oregon. we have seen the challenge of mother nature at work this year, hurricanes harvey and irma and maria hitting in texas and florida and puerto rico, but let's not forget the damage, the incredible damage being done in montana and idaho and oregon and washington by these extraordinary fires. over the last decade, we have seen an average of 50,000 fires in america each year. and they destroy, burn up more than five million acres. but this year, the count is well over eight million acres and counting. in oregon, we normally have fires that burn on average about 500,000 acres, but this year we're well over 600,000 acres
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and counting. so as a result of these raging fires, we have many communities that have been so powerfully impacted and so many forests so destructively impacted, we should stop and ask what can we do to do better in terms of our forests and our communities? and that's why i am taking to the floor right now. the first thing we need to do is end fire borrowing. this is where the u.s. forest service, in order to pay for fighting these fires, proceeds to borrow from every other account. this has become all too common. what are those other accounts? they are the hazardous fuels fund, the forest management fund, forest restoration funds, forest conservation and road
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maintenance funds and funds that are designed to prepare for future timber sales. all of that does a lot of damage to the preparation so that the fires in the forests are more resilient and less susceptible to this type of intensive fire. we have seen on average in the last decade a cost of fighting fires throughout the country of about $1.6 billion. but this year, we're over $3 billion, almost double. so even though the appropriations committee had wisely put in a buffer of several hundred millions to prevent fire borrowing, those funds were long ago wiped out. so there we were four weeks ago. i was working to say now that we are over the allotted funds for the year, let's immediately get more funds that can be used to
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backfill this shortage in september, and i thank all my colleagues and the fact that those funds were included in the continuing resolution and we successfully provided a bridge so the firefighting could continue and so that the forests, the fire borrowing was quickly, quickly repaid. but that is not a permanent solution to try to legislate, to backfill on a rapid basis. indeed, when we have these kinds of fire seasons, it's like other natural disasters. it's like tornadoes and hurricanes and floods. and so we need to have a fema-style backup for those worst-ever fire seasons, and that's what my colleagues, senator wyden and senator crapo, bipartisan teamwork have been -- have been putting forth, and it's called the wildfire disaster funding act of 2017,
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and it says when we reach a certain level of funding for fighting fires, the rest, the balance will go to a fema-style fund. that's exactly the way it should be done. it's been estimated in the past that if just the top 1% or 2% of the worst fires were funded in a fema-style fund, we have never had fire borrowing in the past, but the most relevant kind of crisp and clean way to do that would be to adopt this bill that senator wyden and senator crapo have put so much work into and that i'm certainly pleased to sponsor. so that would be very useful, and we should do that now. we should respond while the memory is fresh and actually while fires are still burning in state after state, certainly burning in my home state of oregon. but then we should recognize, too, that this terrible fire year has done so much damage to
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so many communities. they have communities where the roads have been cut off. we have communities where the tourists disappeared because of the smoke or other enterprises, economic enterprise has to shut down for an extended period. so as we assist those communities hit by harvey and hit by irma, hit by maria, let's also help those communities that were hit by this year's extraordinary fires. that would mean strengthening the small business disaster loan program. that would mean taking the additional funding for the usda emergency community water system program, and certainly would mean making additional community development block grants available for communities that have been impacted by these fires. so let's not forget those communities as we provide assistance and funding to the communities affected by the
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hurricanes. then we also need to address the fact that many assets in our forests were scorched by these fires. trails that have to be repaired, roads that have to be repaired, watershed repairs to avoid landslides, facilities that were scorched and burned, wildlife and fish management restoration, including critical areas. i was up visiting the incredible waterfall, montnoma falls. there are several trails that have bridges, as there are many trails that have bridges in oregon, and that the fire had burned some of the understructure. from the falls, it looked like the bridge was safe. they weren't safe. they can't reopen those trails until they get support to do all this rare. and the forest service has
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estimated it will take $150 million to restore the damage done to the forest service's infrastructure, so we should make that happen as part of this bill. and then we should turn to forest fire resill yens. you know, we have two million acres in need of fire prevention efforts in oregon. actually, we have far more than that in need of fire prevention, but we have nearly two million that have already passed through environmental approval for work to reduce the hazardous fuels that are on the floor of the forest and to thin these forests. you can imagine that when you have clearcuts and those clearcuts are replanted, the trees grow back very close together, and in a short amount of time, those forests are very,
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very good for disease, but they are neither good for ecosystems or for timber stands, so they have to be thinned, and that thinning can be done in oregon alone on nearly two million acres already approved through the environmental process. the challenge is to get more funds into that effort, so that, too, should be part of this, because whether you talk to an environmentalist or whether you talk to somebody who wants saw logs from the mills, they both know that if you thin these forests, you make them more resistant to fire, better timber stands, better ecosystems, and you supply a steady supply of law logs -- saw logs to the mill, so it's a win-win. let's not reopen the timber wars of the past. let's work together with a win-win. i want to show this chart because it indicates the
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dramatic change of what's happened to the forest service budget. if we go back to 1995 and compare it to the year 2015, i want to focus particularly on the orange. the orange is the amount of money that was spent fighting forest fires. so 20 years ago, it was 16% of the forest service budget. but today, -- well, in 2015 two years ago, it broke 50%. it was 52% of their budget. and this year, it's certainly gone up much higher than that. so as the amount of funds spent on fighting fires has increased, it has dramatically reduced the amount of funds that support our maintenance and improvement of the forest, and so that's what's getting squeezed out. let me put it differently. the more you spend fighting
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fires out of a single pot of money, the less money you have to prevent the fires. everywhere i go, they say can't we do more on the front end so that these forests are more resillient? think about how fire works. it really gets going. if the trees are close together because one tree lights the next tree on fire. if you thin that, you slow it down. it goes from ground where there is brush to the canopy where there are branches very easily if the branches are close to the ground. so you trim off those branches, separate the trees, thin them out, shave off the branches, cut off the branches, and suddenly you have a forest that is much more resilient. now, there are those folks who have said, you know, let's just get rid of the environmental rules, let's just go and clearcut everything, let's do 10,000 acres at a time -- that's, by the way, 15 square miles. let's set those 15 square miles next to each other.
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let's just shave the earth, wipe out the forests, and that way there won't be forest fires. that's the timber wars of the past. what we have seen is we can bridge the divide between good ecosystems, good timber stands by thinning the forests, by making them more like a natural forest, much more fire resilient , and the process of thinning which has to be done periodically over time, also providing a steady foundation for saw logs for our mills. there is a mill in john day, oregon. i met with the folks there who were very worried, the workers who were very worried about that mill getting shut down. i was determined to do everything i could to save that mill. and what ended up happening is we found we couldn't save that mill with a timber sale because the timber sale cannot commit to a flow of logs over a ten-year period, and the owner of the mill couldn't commit to the cost of new machinery if he didn't
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know he would get logs for an extended period of time. so we discovered we could go through a forest help contract, through a stewardship contract, enable a steady supply of thinned logs to make it to that mill and make sure that mill stayed open, and not only to keep it open, but it added workers to that mill. that's the type of win-win solution that we need. we have seen this, another way of looking at this cost of fighting fires here, we see 1995, 16% of the budget going to fight fires. 2017, 56%. but let's look into the future. it's estimated that, the original estimate was we'd reached 67% by 2025. the new estimate based on the changing dynamics in the forest
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is we will hit over two-thirds of the budget fighting fires by the year 2021. four fire seasons from today. that's how big the issue is. that's why we need funds for the front end to be able to thin these forests. this is just simply common sense. if you were the private owner of a private forest, you wouldn't dare let this forest retain this high propensity to fires and disease. you would thin of the forest. you would make it a better timber stand. you'd make it a better ecosystem. and that's what we need to do. we've also seen another way of looking at the change is how the staffing levels have changed over the last two decades. if we look just two decades ago, we can see that there were
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in 1998, about 18,000 individuals dedicated to managing the forest lands and just 5,700 dedicated to going out and fighting blazes. but now we come into the future and we see that now the number of people fighting fires is larger than the number working on all the other forecast programs. so we have to commit to doing far more on the prevention end. if we let this summer's crisis go without securing funding to thin those forests that have already gone through the environmental process, we're making a huge mistake and it's going to cost us more because the fire is going to be even more in the future. not only do we spend more out of the national treasury to fight them, but we'll have less healthy timber stands to fuel
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our economy. so, mr. president, let's end the fire borrowing. let's provide the funding to restore the fire service assets that were burned, the scorched assets. let's provide assistance through community development block grants and small business loans to assist the communities that were scorched by these fires. let's pass senator wyden and senator crapo's bill which proceeds to create a fema-like structure to back up the worst fire seasons. and certainly, certainly, absolutely let's invest in prevention on the front end by thinning these forests and getting the flammable build-up of forest branches off the floor
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of the forest. those are positive things we can do. at this moment in houston, in miami, puerto rico, people are thinking what can we do to be better prepared for the next storm surge? what can we do to be better prepared for the next hurricane? well, we know for sure that we're going to have fires across the northwest in montana and idaho and oregon and washington every summer, and that they're simply getting worse. we must ask ourselves the same question. how do we change this rhythm? how do we operate differently and better? that's our responsibility in this chamber and that's the set of things that we can do to have a far better outcome in the
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future, and i urge all of my colleagues to support these five efforts as we support funding for texas and florida and puerto rico. thank you, mr. president.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that following leader remarks on tuesday, october 17, the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 191, the
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nomination of david trackenburg to be principal deputy. i further ask there be ten minutes of debate on the nomination equally devoided in the usual form and following the use or yielding back of time, the senate vote on confirmation with no intervening action or debate and that if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table and the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the en bloc consideration of the following nominations. executive calendar 327, 332, 333, and 337. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of state, stephen b. king of wisconsin to be ambassador to the czech
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republic. barbara lee of california to be representative of the united states of america to the 72nd session of the general sellly of the united nations. christopher smith of new jersey to be representative of the united states of america to the 72nd session of the general assembly of the united nations. african development bank, j. steven dowd of florida to be united states director. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that the senate vote on the nominations en bloc with no intervening action or debate, that if confirmed the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table en bloc, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, that no further motions be in order, and that any statements relating to the nominations be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. further debate on the nominations en bloc? if not all in favor say aye. all opposed no. the ayes appear to have it.
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the ayes have it. the nominations are confirmed en bloc. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the en bloc consideration of the following nominations, executive calendar 365, 366, 367. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will report. the clerk: nominations, department of commerce, timothy gallaudet of california to be assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. department of transportation, howard r. elliott of indiana to be administrator for the pipeline and hazardous materials safety administration. department of commerce, walter g.copan of colorado to be under secretary of commerce for standards and technology. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent the senate vote on the nominations en bloc with no intervening action or debate, that if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, en bloc, the president be
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immediately notified of the senate's action. if no further motions be in order and any statements relating to the nominations be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. those favor vote aye. those opposed, say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nominations are confirmed en bloc. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of the following nomination, executive calendar 3606789. the presiding officer: without objection, the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of energy, bruce j. walker of new york to be an assistant secretary of energy. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent the senate vote on the nomination with no intervening action or debate, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, no further motions be in order, and that any statements relating to the nomination be printed in the
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record. the presiding officer: without objection. those in favor vote aye. those opposed, vote no. the ayes have t the nomination has been confirmed. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to legislative session and be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 109, s. 629. officer the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 692, a bill to provide for integrated plan permits and so forth. the presiding officer: are there objections to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the committee-reported substitute amendment be agreed to, the bill be amended -- the bill amended be considered read a third time and passed and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 221, s. 1103. the presiding officer: without objection, the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 221, s. 1103, a bill to amend the homeland security act of 2002 and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: there objection to proceeding? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the bill be considered read hired time and passed, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the committee on banking, housing, and urban affairs be discharged from further consideration of s. 1595 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 1595, a bill to amend the hezbollah international financing prevention act of 2015 and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding?
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without objection. the committee is discharged. and the senate will proceed. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the rubio substitute amendment be considered and agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate now proceed to the en bloc consideration of the following national resolutions, which were submitted earlier today: s. res. 287, s. res. 288, s. res. 289, s. res. 290. the presiding officer: is there objection no without objection, the senate will proceed en bloc. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the resolutions be agreed to, the preambles be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, all en bloc. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding the senate's adjournment, committees be authorized to report
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legislative and executive matters on friday, october 13, from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that when the senate completes its business today, it adjourn to then convene for pro forma sessions only with no business being conducted on the following dates and times, and that following each pro forma session, the senate adjourn until the next pro forma session. friday october 6 at 10:30 a.m., tuesday october 10 at 9:15 a.m., friday october 13 at 8:30 a.m. i further ask that when the senate adjourns on friday, october 13, it next convene at 4:00 p.m. monday, october 16. following the prayer and pledge, the morning hour be deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date, the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day and morning business be closed.
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finally, following leader remarks, the senate proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the gingrich nomination, with the time until 5:30 p.m. equally divided between two leaders or their designees. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: so if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask it standard adjourned under the previous order. the presiding officer: the senate stands adjourned until
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