tv U. S. Senate Votes to Confirm Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary CSPAN April 27, 2017 9:59am-12:00pm EDT
>> can you be brief? >> i'm not going to post my question, i'd much rather leading to the last thought that you mentioned, i think that because we use war as a historical point in our history, peace gets too comfortable. >> so peace, it's very easy to just come to human paranoia. even when there's no chaos, more likely than not we will let chaos ensued. >> will leave it at that. >> not a very cheery way to finish. but ladies and gentlemen, as i mentioned before, we are, our authors will be signing books and there is another session and a half an hour, we're talking about race, religion, ideology. >>. >> a couple moments left in this that you can see the remainder of it on our website, at booktv.org. >> the u.s. senate is about to gamble in to do work on the nomination of the next
labor secretary. the confirmation vote expected at 5:30 today, it confirmed he would be the final general manager to reach confirmation, going out president from scattered. live now to the senate floor. be offered by martyn sloan, lead pastor at harvest time, from fort smith, arkansas. reverend sloan, we're very happy to have you with us. the guest chaplain: let us pray. almighty and eternal god, who has created us and to whom we belong, and to whom we serve, it is in you that we find our purpose, peace, and prosperity. may your kingdom use this day our lawmakers to complete and carry out your will on this earth as in heaven. create in each one of them clean, courageous, and selfless hearts that will not give in to
fear, adversity, or temptations. grant them wisdom and the discernment of the truth so that they may rightly judge these your children. strengthen them as they grow weary so that they may give strength to the weary and burdened in this life. we pray this and all things in your holy 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 america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas is recognized. mr. boozman: thank you, mr. president. i would like to thank pastor martyn sloan for delivering the opening prayer in the senate today. pastor sloan is the lead pastor of harvest time, one of the most active and well-attended houses of worship in arkansas' second largest city of fort smith, the city that i grew up in. pastor sloan is also a proud husband and father and plays an important role in the life of the fort smith community. as lead pastor of harvest time, he has a passion for caring for his congregation and those in the larger community through preaching, teaching, counseling in order to encourage and build up their faith and development meaningful relationships with christ and one another.
for 22 years, pastor sloan has been in the ministry and focused on both national and international missions. he's also been involved with the live nativity on capitol hill and a national day of prayer and has conducted pastoral conferences in america, peru and armenia. pastor sloan says that one of his greatest joys is to pastor from the center of the room because his desire to lead his congregation by walking through life together with them. serving as the guest chaplain is an incredible honor. i am thankful for pastor sloan's ministry, and i'm so pleased that he could be here to offer an invocation, asking god to guide and bless the efforts of congress and america's leaders. and with that, i yield back.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: yesterday the administration introduced a plan to serve as the guideline for modernizing and simplifying america's tax code. this process is long overdue and it's a priority that's shared by the republican house, senate and the administration. by bringing down tax rates for individuals, we can help ease the burden on middle-class families, and by lowering taxes for american businesses both small and large, we can foster job creation here at home by making our country more competitive in an increasingly competitive international economy. so i want to commend the president and his team for taking this critical first step. i look forward to working with the administration and our house colleagues to finally, finally overhaul our tax system. now, on another matter, despite much unnecessary obstruction, the senate has now continued to
move forward with the confirmation process for administration nominees. just this week, we have confirmed two more impressive individuals, secretary of agriculture sonny perdue and deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, and today we'll have the opportunity to confirm a third. the nominee alexander acosta understands the difficult task ahead of him as the next secretary of labor. fortunately, he has an impressive background that will serve him well as he takes on these tough issues. it explains why acosta has earned high acclaim from numerous pro-jobs groups. the national association of manufacturers which called him an exceptional choice to lead the department and the chamber of commerce which noted its extraordinary history of government service and refined skills. he has also earned support from across the political spectrum, including from people like blake
solomon, a national labor relations board acting general counsel in the obama administration who said acosta is very open-minded and fair and deserves to be secretary of labor. and we have heard from unions who backed him as well. in their words, acosta is an advocate for the middle class, a nominee with strong credentials and an impeccable reputation and someone they can work with to protect and make better the lives of working men and women across america. acosta's leadership at the labor department will serve as a much-needed change from what we saw under the previous administration. when too often onerous regulations that stifled instead of encouraged growth were given high priority. which came at a disadvantage for the very workers the previous administration claimed to be helping. of course, much work remains when it comes to providing relief for middle-class workers, but today's vote to confirm acosta represents another
positive step in that direction. now, on one final issue, as we know, talks on government funding legislation have continued throughout the week on a bipartisan, bicameral basis. the house has introduced a short-term funding bill that we expect to pass before friday night's deadline, so that a final agreement can be drafted and shared with members for their review prior to its consideration next week. the extension will also protect thousands of retired coal miners and their families from losing the health care benefits i have fought for throughout this entire process.
as i continue to lead the fight to secure them on a permanent basis. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i would suggest the -- lift the quorum call, please. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the acosta nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of labor, r. alexander acosta of florida to be secretary. mr. grassley: mr. president, i think i'm only going to speak for -- i think i have 15 minutes to speak.
when i get about 13 minutes, would you raise your thumb or something and tell me, please? the presiding officer: i certainly will. mr. grassley: thank you. i come to the floor today to spotlight a potential failure of leadership at the defense department office of inspector general. a large number of hotline cases have been set aside, neglected and possibly forgotten. the hotline plays a very critical role in the inspector general's core mission of rooting out fraud, waste and abuse. the problem is the command and control link between whistle-blowers on the one hand and investigators on the other hand. to succeed, hotline tips need quick and decisive action, but
speed is not one of the chief assets of this unit. without quick response, the full value then of whistle-blower information is lessened. last year, at my request, i was given a 12-page spread sheet dated november 8, 2016. it listed 406 hotline cases that had been opened for more than two years or over 730 days. frankly, i was stunned by what i saw with the information on this spread sheet. i count 240 cases. over half the total that have been open for more than 1,000 days. many were more than 1,300 days.
some were right at a four-year marker. that's 1,460 days. the oldest is now pushing close to 600 days even, if you have believe it, a 5-year-old case is not unheard of. so you can see why working quickly on these investigations, taking tips from whistle-blowers and pursuing them on waste, fraud and abuse is very important, and you shouldn't have this time wasted. when cases remain open for years, they become stale. inattention breeds neglect. work grinds to a halt. cases slowly fade into memory. this is unacceptable and my colleagues ought to consider it
unacceptable, and the secretary of defense ought to consider it unacceptable. the hotline then with this waiting period loses its full value. the deputy inspector general for administrative investigations misses mar -- mrs. marguerite c. garrison is in charge of the hotline, so she is accountable for the backlog. the backlog shows a lack of commitment to the hotline creed and the plight of whistle-blowers. here's why. hotline posters are displayed throughout the department o depf defense. they are a bugle call for whistle-blowers. they encourage whistle-blowers to step forward, and they do that at considerable risk. in return then these patriotic
people ought to deserve a quick and honest response allowing their reports to slide into a deep, dark tomorrow in limbo for two, three, or four years and even more as i've pointed out leaves whistle-blowers exposed, leaves them vulnerable to retaliation, and, of course, distrusting of the system that is designed to protect the whistle-blowers. so in the end this kind of a treatment will discourage others from stepping forward in the future. hotline officials, including mrs. garrison, were questioned about the backlog on december 15, 2016. they attempted to deflect responsibility elsewhere, showed little interest in the problem. after numerous follow-up inquiries, a second meeting was
requested. so at a march 30 meeting this year, hotline officials were singing a whole different song. they tried toe dispel the notion that a surge in cases -- closures were triggered by my inquiry. to the contrary, they said. it was part of a routine, ongoing, quote, unquote, cleanup of the hotline mess that began way back march 2013. they reported 107,000 cases were swept up, including the so-called bad dog cases from 2002. this explanation may be fiction. mrs. garrison should know that the 400 cases date back to 2012 to 2013. after sitting on the hotline
docket for up to four-plus years, these cases are anything but routine. they're tough nuts to crack, of course, very difficult to resolve, sort of like the bad dogs way back in 2002. but they need -- what they needed was clear direction from the top. they needed to be handed off to a tiger team, but that didn't happen. priorities became an afterthought, and the hotline mess got more nourishment. then finally the quote, unquote, routine ongoing cleanup reached the 406 most egregious cases, the worst of the worse, the ones that bring me to the floor today. since january i received five
updated spreadsheets trumpeting the closure of 200 of these so-called bad dogs done with due diligence, i hope. though late and incomplete, the surge shows what's possibly been -- what's possible when management starts doing what you expect management to do. in other words, managing. the backlog can be controlled and eliminated. so, so why did it take top managers so long to see the light and get on the stick doing their job? maybe they just didn't care, at least not until the senator from iowa started asking questions. then and only then did they indicate what had been characterized as aggressive management oversight. well, praise the lord.
those words aggressive management oversight warm my heart, but the deputy i.g.'s need to exercise aggressive oversight at all times, not just when a senator steps in, not just when embarrassing revelations get some daylight. good managers don't need a senator looking over their shoulders to know what needs to be done. that's no way to run a railroad, as we say. the managers responsible for the hotline mess need more supervision. one of mrs. garrison's over directorates, the whistle-blower investigations or we call it the w.r.i. unit is also crying out for help. it's facing its own hotline
style tsunami. it has a staff of 56 personnel, but only 28 of that 36 or about 50% are actually assigned to investigative teams. they complete 50 or 60 reports per year. with some 120 cases under investigation at any one time, a large number inevitably get rolled forward from year to year. the backlog could easily double or triple over the next few years. in november 38 cases were beyond acceptable limits. as of march 28, the oldest one was 1,394 days old. while many of these cases were recently closed, new ones keep popping up on the list. despite very substantial increases in money and personnel since 2013, the deputy i.g.
still seems overwhelmed by the volume of work. while beefing up the whistle-blower reprisal investigations may be necessary, mr. fine and his deputies need to do more with what they have. with anage budget of $320 million and 1500 personnel work force, efficiencies can be found. some units are said to be top heavy and ripe for belt tightening. the investigative processes are notoriously cumbersome and could be streamlined. the audit office with 520 workers turns out mostly second-rate reports. it needs strong leadership and it needs redirection. the obama administration never seemed to take these problems very seriously. i hope this new administration coming in to drain the swamp will do better.
weak leadership gave us the hotline backlog. weak leadership is giving us the continuing mismatch between the work force and the workload. both are messy extensions of a much more harmful leadership problem, a festering sore that is eating away at integrity and independence. that is what i am hearing. i'm telling you what i'm hearing. top managers have allegedly been tampering with investigative reports, and then retaliating against supervisory investigations who call them to account. this is sparking allegations that a culture of corruption is thriving in the inspector general's office. i gave my colleagues a glimpse of this problem in a speech on april 6 last year.
i used the fifth and final report of admiral losi's investigations to illuminate on this problem. that report was allegedly doctored by senior managers, investigators were allegedly ordered to change facts and remove evidence of retaliation. now, can you believe this? mrs. garrison even sent a letter that cleared the admiral long before investigators had even completed the review of the evidence. this was a very serious error in judgment given the appearance of impropriety. with this -- was this then a coverup to facilitate the admiral's impending promotion? thankfully acting i.g., inspector general fine intervened. he showed real courage after taking a firsthand look.
he backed up the investigators overturning some but not all supported -- on supported charges. he helped bring evidence and findings back into sync. i thank inspector general fine from the bottom of my heart, but mr. fine still has more work to do. the alleged doctoring of the losi report, i am told, is not an isolated case. there are at least five others just like it and probably more. all need oversight. for my colleagues, i'm just about done. as i understand it, the office of special counsel is contemplating a review of these matters, and could rule in favor of whistle-blower reprisal investigations. they blew the whistle on and the
alleged tampering going on. you know what these people got? she got hammered for it. got hammered for protectin protg federal workers. if top managers are tampering with reports and retaliating against their own people who report it, then how can they be trusted to run the agencies' premier whistle-blower oversight unit? all the pertinent issues need to be resolved, and they demand a high level of attention. so i call on the new secretary y of defense and the acting inspector general to work together to address these problems. number one, the hotline needs to be brought up to acceptable standards under stronger management. number two, all potential solutions to the workforce mismatch need to be explored
including internal realignments. and lastly, an independent review of all cases where alleged tampering occurred should be conducted to include an examination of the garrison letter clearing an admiral in the midst of an investigation if tampering and retaliation did in fact occur, then culprits should be fired. i look forward to receiving a full report. i yield.
mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip is recognized. mr. cornyn: mr. president, our military and intelligence community grapple with intersectinintersecting issues t wholly unique to this day and age. our national security has always been imperil from threats from the revolutionary war to two world wars. and we previously have faced an un-- seemingly unsurmountable debt burden following world war ii. buff the challenge seems to -- but the challenge seems to be as it always is in a democracy, that people of different views, they differ on the sense of urgency, on priorities, and the means to address both those threats and our financial house in order to be able to pay for what it takes to keep america safe.
but what is unique is the range and complexity of the problems we face and their scale. i'm reg quote from the former director of national intelligence during a hearing just last year, former director james clapper, who served 50 years in the united states intelligence community. he said in my time in the intelligence business, i don't recall a time when we have been confronted with a more diverse array of threats. i agree with him. and on top of those diverse array of threats, never before has our country been at war for such an extended period of time since 9/11, and never before have we done so much with an all-volunteer military force stressed by repeated deployments. at the same time, defense spending has been cut by nearly
15% over the last eight years. so the united states is at a crossroads when it comes to meeting the diverse threats we face today while simultaneously preparing for the ever-evolving future threats headed our way tomorrow. i want to first provide a little bit of context about our lack of readiness to meet those threats by framing the challenges our military and our nation faces, and i want to then offer some thoughts about how we can rise to meet those challenges and maintain our military preeminence and leadership in the world. first, the challenges abroad. we face a range of adversaries unlike any other in our history. in the middle east, even as an isis -- as isis forces are pushed back in iraq, their ideology spreads like a contagion through their called
cyber cal fat and continues to -- caliphate and continues to permeate the west and attract the vulnerable and disillusioned. f.b.i. director comey has said that his agency has opened investigations into homegrown jihadists in all 50 states. iran, under the joint comprehensive plan of action, is a breakout nuclear threat. and remains the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world. at the same time, it's rapidly growing its flifl arsenal -- its ballistic missile arsenal and has regained much of its financial strength following sanctions relief under the jcpoa. and then there is syria. since the syrian civil war began, 400,000 have died in a bloody civil war, while bashar
al-assad, a brutal dictator known to repeatedly use chemicals on his own -- chesapeake on his own people despite -- chemical weapons on his own people despite red lines drawn enjoys iranian support and protection. in addition to that, russia has invaded eastern ukraine and annexed crimea. it routinely threatens nato-member states that has ramped up its use of active measures, a program of overt and covert action that leverages propaganda, cyber espionage, social media and a sometimes gullible mainstream media both here and abroad to influence and undermine public confidence and the very foundation of our democracies, which are free and fair elections. in the pacific, china seeks to advance its regional dominance by making claims to former sand bars and reefs, which its now
built into strategic military bases, complete with a 10,000-foot runway in the south china sea. and finally, as we learn more -- learned more about yesterday at the white house and the briefing from the president's national security advisors, north korea continues to develop and test its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities with the threat of soon being able to combine the two to threaten the continental united states and wreak death and destruction. many before me have observed that american strength on the world stage is a deterrent and a stabilizing influence, while weakness is an invitation to our adversaries and inherently destabilizing. i think that proposition has never been more evident than it is today. but to address these threats to
maintain the peace and fight, if we must, we need a capable, ready and modern military force. but the truth is we're not ready. and while i believe america will always rise to the challenges once roused from our national complacency, it makes a dangerous world even more dangerous. u.s. military readiness and modernization already under great stress and stretched thin around the world has suffered 15 years of continued operations and simultaneously budget restrictions and deferred maintenance and investment. that's led to some very real consequences to our military. let me just illustrate a few of those consequences. according to general walters, the assistant commandant of the marine corps, more than half of all marine corps fixed and rotary wing aircraft were unable
to fly at the end of 2016. let me say that again. it's a shocking statistic. more than half of the marine corps' fixed and rotary wing aircraft were unable to fly by the end of 2016. these aircraft are in constant operation overseas, and they are absolutely necessary to continue the fight against isis and terrorism, yet half of them are unable to take off. the navy fleet currently stands at 275 of the 350 ship requirement. law mandates an inventory of 11 aircraft carriers and has a stated force level goal of 12, but today the navy requires a waiver in order to operate just ten currently. as we all know, these carrier strike groups deploy worldwide,
and as the navy likes to say, they act as a 100,000-tons of diplomacy and don't need a permission slip. of our 58 army brigade combat teams, only three are considered fully ready for combat. these are the main building blocks of the army that support the majority of army operations and only three are fully ready. keep in mind, too, our army is smaller than at any time since before world war ii, as a result of draconian cuts in defense spending. and finally when it comes to our air force, general wilson, the air force vice chief of staff, recently testified that sustained global commitments and funding reductions have eroded our air force to the point where we have become the smallest,
oldest equipped and least ready forces across the full spectrum of operations in our service history. the air force currently has 5,500 aircraft in its inventory. that's down from 8,600 since just 1991. the average aircraft in the united states air force is 27 years old. for example, i was at dayes air force base in abilene, texas, just last week viewing some of their b-1 bombers, which is a plane first flown in 1974. and of course then there is the grandpa of our aircraft fleet, the b-52 that's still in operation, first introduced in the 1950's. the air force is also experiencing a pilot shortage crisis due to the pressure on the force, including quality of life issues and of course
increased demand and competition from the airline industry. so our military faces these internal issues as well. no one would argue that in order to keep the peace and protect our national vital interests, we must have a credible and modern force, but the hard truth is we don't currently meet that standard, and we can't afford to ignore the problem, so why, i ask, do we continue to do so? more importantly, the question is where do we go from here? how can we assure that our military can maintain its competitive edge and ensure that it's ready to meet these and future challenges? i have a few suggestions first we must fund our military to meet the threat environment, not do what we can to meet the threat environment with what we have funded for the military. in other words, the threat
should determine the resources necessary to meet that threat. so i would suggest we should start by eliminating sequestration of department of defense funding under the 2011 budget control act. the truth is the budget control act was never meant to cut military spending. it was meant to spur action. you remember the supercommittee and the hoped-for grand embargo? instead, the b.c.a. took a meat ax to our defense budgets. allowing the budget control act to keep making automatic cuts to our military until 2021 does not serve the national security interests of the united states. just the opposite. these cuts add risk not just to national security but also to our service members and their families who, as i said, have been fighting the longest war in our nation's history. and it does so by undermining training, readiness and modernization.
and at a time when our growing national security threats require greater investment in technology, we're tying the hands of our military and simply hoping for the best. so if we want to return to a strong american military after years of stress and inadequate funding, we need to start with ending the department of defense sequestration. of course, the next logical question becomes if we do away with the defense portions of the budget control act, how do we control overspending deficits and unsustainable national debt, which is a serious problem? well, that brings me to my second point. a bipartisan congress and a trump administration must address our budget priorities by looking at and addressing all government spending, not just the 30% or so represented by discretionary spending. right now, about 70% of federal spending isn't even appropriated by the congress. it simply runs on auto pilot and
grew last year at the rate of 5.5%, while discretionary spending has remained relatively flat. until we have the political courage on a bipartisan basis to tackle our structural financial problems, we will never adequately fund the military or our other national priorities. we also need a bipartisan commitment to ending continuing resolutions and the self-destructive drama and narrative of potential government shutdowns. and most importantly, perhaps, the defense department needs to be able to plan, not just for the duration of the next continuing resolution but it needs to be able to plan long-term and to spend the money that's appropriated to it in an efficient way. the chief of staff of the air force captured the point well two months ago when he said there is no enemy on the planet that can do more to damage the
united states air force than us not getting a budget. that septemberiment is shared by all the service chiefs, and i wholeheartedly agree. and in a department as big and as large and unwieldy as the department of defense, there is no doubt room to streamline, improve efficiencies and reduce duplication. we can all agree on that. but the truth is we need to take a hard look at our budgetary and fiscal needs across the federal government. endless continuing resolutions aren't the answer. continuing resolutions limit, they actually limit an agency's ability to be efficient and flexible and prevent the establishment of new programs and retiring of old and obsolete programs. at the end of the day, the only way we can rein in spending and get a handle on our debt and ensure our military stays ready for the thrits facing it -- threats facing it every day is to clearly articulate our
country's needs and how we plan to meet them. that way we can restore constitutional oversight responsibilities to congress. and finally, mr. president, congress has a tremendous opportunity working with the trump administration to propose a strategy to modernize our military and prepare for the next generation of war fighting. both readiness and modernization have been encumbered by the lack of a coherent national security and foreign policy strategy in recent years, in addition to the blanket restrictions placed on defense spending. too frequently, modernization has simply been pushed aside by myopic views on how to deal with our financial challenges which place greater risk on the war fighter and our collective security. you had better believe that our enemies, not hamstrung by red tape and regulations or continuing resolutions or deep cuts in defense spending or
their national security spending, our enemies take full advantage of our reluctance to deal with our challenges on a bipartisan basis. all the while, the united states operates on platforms engineered decades ago to fight the last generation's wars. i can't think of a better example than our nuclear weapons program. this is the preeminent deterrent to war. our country is the leading pioneer in science and technology, but instead of modernizing our nuclear weapons to provide a safe, reliable and dependent deterrent, we in effect merely extend the service life of outdated and ancient weapons. clearly we need a coherent national security strategy from president trump and his cabinet to do that. and i know congress is committed to working with him to make that happen. so, mr. president, by doing away with the budget control act, putting the pentagon on a
dependable and predictable budget, and developing a coherent national security strategy, we can maintain our status as the top military in the world. and along the way, we can deter our enemies and reassure our allies. we don't need to rewrite the playbook. we need to go back to the basics of governing, providing for our national defense and keeping our fiscal house in order all in light of the challenges and threat these times present. my hope is that we will get out of the rut we've been in here in the senate and in the congress for the last few years, and we'll actually capitalize on this moment. and we'll rally around a bipartisan commitment that a strong modern and ready military is really a nonnegotiable item and delay the foundation for -- lay the foundation for a modern military that will continue to keep our nation safe for generations.
i'm committed to working with the administration and all of my colleagues in order to accomplish these goals. mr. president, i yield the floor.
mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i enjoyed hearing my friend and colleague talk about defense. i agree with him. we need a strong defense. i agree with him that deficits are an enemy of getting our defense spending that we need. i hope when we consider tax cuts, we will hear that same view that we can't go deeply into deficit. but i appreciate my colleague's great comments. now, i'd like to talk first about some good news, the appropriations process. our negotiation and negotiations to keep the government open. the president has backed off his threat to hold government funding hostage over the wall and over cutting health care funding for millions of
americans. this health care funding is essential to ensuring that millions of americans won't see their premiums skyrocket, and that they won't be kicked off their plans. make no mistake we will watch the administration like a hawk to make sure they follow through on their promise to continue this funding. but we're very happy that they've seen the light that democrats have tried to show them for weeks. threatening to hurt americans for political gain is a loser. much like the administration's withdrawal of their demand for wall funding which democrats laid out a month ago as a condition for successful bipartisan negotiations on the appropriations bill, this decision brings us closer to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and is good news for the american people. the tendency of this administration, mr. president, has been to go at it alone. what these negotiations show is
when the trump administration takes into account democratic position and is als willing to e in our direction, they can make progress on issues as we have on the appropriations bills. on those appropriations bills, of course there are few remaining issues to be settled. the most vexing is poison pill riders. we won't accept them, but i believe that we are close to final agreement. our side will continue to work in good faith to see that an agreement is reached to keep the government open by tomorrow's deadline, and i hope this is something of a metaphor for the future, that the administration won't put together its plan and say bipartisanship means you support our plan without any democratic consultation, input, or more importantly taking into account our values which we believe are close to where american values are and much closer than some on the other side. on taxes, mr. president, yesterday the president released
-- and this is not as good news, unfortunately -- yesterday the president released a one-page outline of his plan to change the u.s. tax code. even from the very limited details that were released, the president's priorities are clear. giving massive tax breaks to folks like himself, the very, very wealthy in america. the top rate would come down. taxes that disproportionately affect the very wealthy would go away while middle class and working families would be denied some of the most useful deductions. this isn't simply the trump plan to lower taxes. it's the plan to lower trump's taxes and those with enormous wealth similar to his. the prime beneficiaries of the trump plan would be his cabinet. secretary mnuchin, one of the
architects of the plan, could not guarantee this morning that the middle class won't pay more under the trurch tax plan -- the trump tax plan. if on one sheet of paper you can guarantee corporations pay less, you can guarantee the wealthiest americans pay less but you can't guarantee that hard-working middle class americans pay less, you don't have a good recipe for changing our tax code. and for the good of america you ought to go back to the drawing board. so, mr. president, this proposal falls short, far short of the mark in several ways. first and foremost, it mostly benefits the very wealthy. in the trump tax plan, corporations and the very wealthy get a huge tax break through lower rates, and the elimination of things like itself estate tax. in fact, the proposal the president put out yesterday is actually even more of a giveaway on the estate tax than the proposal in his campaign.
in the campaign, president trump promised to repeal the estate tax for estates up to $10 million, retaining it for the wealthiest estates. this proposal would eliminate the tax completely particularly on the multimillion and even billion dollar estates. the results would be that 5,200, that's all, the 5,200 wealthiest families in america would each receive an average of a $3 million windfall and many would receive much, much more than that now also because the trump plan lowers the tax rate on the so-called pass-through entities to 15%, wealthy businessmen like president trump will be able to use pass-through entities to pay 15% in taxes while everyone else pays in the 20% and 30%. it also has implications for the
much, much over -- it has implications for something we don't need, the carried interest loophole. now, president trump promised to get rid of this in his campaign. instead of using the carried interest loophole under the president's bill, wall street funds could file their taxes at a new pass through rate at 15%. even lower than the present tax -- on carried interest. ironically, the president's tax plan would indeed get rid of the carry interest loophole but only making it lower than the present rate and making it permanent, a total, total reversal of what he pledged in his campaign. it all goal to show that those who stand to benefit most from this proposal are folks like the president and those at his level of wealth while tens of millions
of american middle class, working families are hurt and could very well pay more. this brings me to my second point, which is the trump plan hurts middle class and working americans by eliminating their most popular and useful deductions. just take the elimination of the state and local tax deduction, for instance, which is used by so many middle-class families in my home state of new york. as it was cited in the syracuse post standard, quote, the loss of the deduction will cost new yorkers an average of $4500 per year for those who file itemized returns totaling about $68 billion that state residents will no longer be allowed to deduct from federal returns. i saw a number of our long island republican colleagues in news day this morning, said they couldn't be for this. we hope they'll stand up to any bill, any bill that gets rid of state and local deductibility because let me repeat, 4,500 --
$4,500 a year new yorkers would no longer be able to deduct on afternoon. massive tax cuts for the very wealthy, crumbs at best for everyone else. third, the republican plan is just steeped in hypocrisy. even without filling in the details, trump's plan is already impossible to pay for. the committee for a responsible federal budget estimates that trump's tax cuts will cost about $5.5 trillion over ten years, as much as $7 trillion. that's a huge amount of money in our economy. crfb projects no plausible amount of economic growth would be able to pay for the tax plan. so the republican plan would explode the deficit. for the last eight years all we heard from our republican colleagues was that, quote, obama was raising the deficit. we need to cut programs that
benefit the poor and middle class, cut the entitlement, social security, medicare because of the deficit. all of a sudden now with the republican president and a proposed tax cut for the wealthy, we're hearing from the other side of the aisle deficits don't matter. our republican colleagues certainly believe the admonition consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. fourth, the trump tax plan would explode the deficit and thus endanger social security and medicare which may well be the nefarious, ultimate goal of the hard right. sadly, i know it can happen. i've seen it before with the bush tax cuts. president bush pushed the big tax break for the wealthy. it blew a hole in the deficit and racked up debt and then he and his republican colleagues tried to pursue deep cuts to the
social safety net to balance the ledger. if trump's tax plan were to pass, you can be sure america that a few years down the line, maybe even not that long the deficit will be so long that our republican colleagues will throw up their hands and say we have no choice but to come after social security and medicare and other important programs to the middle class as a way to address the deficit that they created by showering tax breaks on the very rich. they will cry -- they will resume the cry they had in the obama years, cut the deficit, which seems to apply to programs that help the middle class but never the ones that benefit the wealthy. mr. president, just from the bare bones skeleton the administration outlined yesterday, we can already surmise that this plan is not much more than a thinly veiled reuss to give away trillions to the wealthiest among us, starve
the government of resource, balloon the deficit and then cut social security, medicaid and medicare to make up the difference. this plan will roundly be rejected by taxpayers of all stripes. the american people are once again learning that what president trump promised to working america in his campaign and what he's doing are totally at odds. now on trump care, very briefly, mr. president, on the new version of trump care that may soon be headed for a vote in the house, let's not forget the reason that americans were against the first version of trump care. they're still in the second version. this version is worse. and there's been a lot of focus on a few of the changes, but the fundamental nastiness of the trump care proposal raising the rates on people 50 to 65, 24 million people uncovered,
dirvelgdifficulty in covering preexisting conditions are still in this bill. in fact, even worse. the new trump care will allow states to decide whether or not insurers have to cover americans with preexisting conditions. it's hard to come up with a crueler bill than one that would have resulted in 24 million fewer americans with health coverage, but this new trump care manages to do it. it would hurt even more americans and bring us back to the days when an insurance company could deny you coverage exactly when you needed it most. i say to the more moderate republicans in the house, if you didn't like the first version, you sure shouldn't like this version. and, frankly, you'll pay a huge consequence in the 2018 elections if you vote for it. now, we hope you don't vote for it because we know how many people it would hurt.
even if it passed the house, the chances for survival in the senate are small. we don't even know if the new version would survive under the rules of reconciliation. the amendment to allow states to drop preexisting conditions, the full control of the new -- fulcrom of the new changes violates the byrd rule and would be kicked out here and need 60 votes which they won't get. a warning to all those voting for it in the house. it may all be to save face for the president in his first 100 days. finally, mr. president, we're only a few days from president trump's 100th day in office, and by all accounts, this has been a vastly different presidency than was promised during his campaign. so far this week, we democrats have highlighted how this president has broken or
unfulfilled promise after promise to the working men and women of america. today i'd like to focus on a particularly stunning reversal this president made in the first 100 days on one of the central pillars of his campaign, his promise to drain the swamp. president trump repeated this phrase at every campaign rally. in many ways, it summed up his, quote, outsider campaign. make no mistake about it. the president ran as a populist outsider, not as a traditional hard-right conservative republican. he challenged the establishments of both parties and pitched himself as a change agent, someone who could change up the status quo, drain the swamp was his tag line. now, we democrats disagree with this president on many things, but we agree with him that the very wealthy, powerful special interests have far too much power in washington.
large corporations who have the resources to make unlimited, undisclosed campaign contributions, who have resources to hire lobbyists on issue after issue hold far too much power in this nation's capital, and that structure has created a system where the wealthy and powerful are advantaged in d.c. while average hardworking americans have a much, much smaller voice. drank the swamp would be a good thing, but unfortunately despite the many times he pledged radically to change the power structure in washington in the first 100 days, the president has abandoned the mission. he has filled his government with billionaires and bankers laden with conflicts of interest. he has broken with the practice of the obama administration by ending the publishing of visitor logs to the white house so the press and the american people don't know who has the ear of the president and his top people. he has even granted waivers to lobbyists to come work at the
white house on the very same issues they were just low-income on, and -- they were just lobbying on, and he has kept those waivers secret. a president who truly wanted to drain the swamp wouldn't have taken a single one of those actions. what are the american people going to think? he so campaigned on this and totally reversed himself within the first 100 days. what are they going to think of him? it's no wonder his popularity ratings are low and sinking. so, mr. president, president trump ran as a populist, but at the 100-day mark, he hasn't even tried to change the power structure in washington and has -- and in many ways, he rigged the government even more to benefit corporate special interests. this is one of the biggest broken promises he's made to working men and women of america. we democrats, that's how we sum up the first 100 days, broken and unfulfilled promises to the working people of america.
and when it comes to draining the swamp, he's done it. and one final point. the events yesterday have further proven our point. the president promised one thing in his campaign and is now doing another. on his new health care proposal, he has shown his hand. promised something for the working people, deliver legislation that only helps the very wealthy. on his new tax plan which so benefits the rich, again, promise the working people, deliver for the wealthy. the president has made our point better than we could this week. after these two bills, his promises to working people are in tatters. thank you, and i yield
the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. i thank the leader for his remarks, especially with respect to the new addition -- edition
of the health care bill. it's a disaster for americans. it's immoral. it doesn't work. it doesn't address any of the problems that remain in the underlying health care system. hopefully the senate can rise above it and try to work together to do something better for the american people. mr. president, i rise because tomorrow president trump is going to become the first president in about 30 years to address the national rifle association. he will address the n.r.a. tomorrow, and i thought it would be appropriate to come down to the floor to talk a little bit about the epidemic of gun violence in the context of this speech. a lot of us were thrown off by the tone of the president's inaugural address. it was very different than a lot of gnawing rallies that you have heard. not uplifting, really. much more of a dark, distopian picture of america, one that was frankly unfamiliar to a lot of us. maybe the most memorable line
from the president's inaugural address was after describing this distopia that he believed most americans lived in, he said this american carnage stops right here and it stops right now. i wanted to come down to the floor today to talk about that idea of american carnage. what it really is. this is american carnage. 31,000 americans, mostly young men and women, who die every year from gunshot wounds. 2,600 month, 80 a day. that's an enormous number. there is no other country in the first world, in the industrialized world that has numbers like this. they happen for a variety of reasons. two-thirds of those are suicides. it's an epidemic in and of itself. a lot of them are homicides. some of them are just accidental shootings.
but america has this problem uniquely. there is just no other industrialized competitor where this happens. that's the face of american carnage. and president trump is going to address the national rifle association tomorrow, an organization that is frankly dedicated to continuing this real carnage that is happening in america. you can't explain these numbers through mental illness. there is just as much mental illness in all of our economic competitors around the world. you can't explain this through exposure to violent content on tv or the movies or video games. there is plenty of other countries that have rates that are much lower than this where the kids see that same content. you can't explain this away by law enforcement. we spent an awful lot of money putting cops on the streets. what we have in this country that's different nonany other
nation is loose and lax gun laws that allow for criminals and people with serious mental illness to get their hands on weapons that are more powerful than are available in other nations. that was the case in sandy hook to enormous destruction, enormous destruction in a short amount of time. and so, mr. president, i want to talk a little bit today about two things. first about the real scope of this carnage and second about the real story of gun owners. the president is going to go talk to the n.r.a., a group which is increasingly wildly out of step with gun owners, not just in my state but across the country. so first i want to talk about this idea of carnage in america, the central focus of the president's newington rally address, and i commend to my -- the president's inaugural address, and i commend to my
colleagues an article called what bullets do to bodies. we don't like to talk about that a lot, because the popular image of a gun today almost is divorced from its actual function. people collect them. people buy them in order to convey a certain image or lifestyle. people certainly have weapons to protect themselves. but very few americans actually understand what these guns are designed to do. they're designed to kill people. they're designed to hurt people gravely. and in particular the ar-15 and ar-15 variant, they are dedicated to killing people as fast and as gruesomely as possible. this article, what bullets do to bodies, follows a trauma surgeon in philadelphia. i want to read you a few partial from this article. it says the main thing that people get wrong when they
imagine being shot is that they think the bullet itself is the problem. the lump of metal lodged in the body. the action movie hero is shot in the stomach. he limps to a safehouse, takes off his shirt, removes the bullet with a tweezer, and now he is better. this is not trauma surgery. trauma surgery is about fixing the damage the bullet causes as it rips through the muscle and vessel and organ and bone. the bullet can stay in the body just fine but the bleeding has to be contained, even if the patient is awake and screaming because a tube has just been pushed into his chest cavity through a deep incision without the aid of general anesthesia. there is no time. the patient gets an injection of lied cane. and if the heart is stopped, it must be restarted before the brain dies because of a lack of oxygen. it is not a gentle process. some of the surgeon's tools look like things you buy at home depot. 70 times just at temple university trauma center last
year, the surgeons will crack a chest right there in the trauma area. the technical name is a thorocotomy. a patient comes in maybe in cardiac arrest from a gunshot and the surgeon has to get into the cavity to see what is going on. with a scalpel, she application an incision below the nipple and cuts six to ten issues down the for co, through the skin, through the layer of fatty tissue, through the muscles. she inserts a spreader with a hand crank on it. she pulls open the ribs, lox it into place, the surgeon can reach into the inner organs. every so often, the surgeon may have to break the patient's sternum. that's a bilateral thorocotomy. this is done with a metal rod with a sharp blade on the end. it hooks under the breastbone. the surgeon in this case, dr. goldberg, takes out a silver hammer. it looks just like that. she hits the top of the knife
with the hammer until it cuts through the sternum. you never forget that sound, one of the temple nurses told me. it sounds like metal, but you know it's bone. you know like when you see it on the television when people are working on the railroad, hammering the ties. it's just the worst, one nurse told the writer of this story. they are breaking bone in every body has a different quality. sometimes there is a big guy you will hear, the echo that comes out of the room. there are sometimes when it doesn't affect me, and there are sometimes when it makes my knees shake when i know what's going on in there. the article goes on to talk about what happens to those that survive. the price of survival is oftentimes lasting disabilities. often young guys wind up carrying around colostomy bags the rest of their lives. they go to the bathroom through a stoma, a hole in their
abdomen. they are so angry. they should be angry. some are paralyzed by bullets that sever the spinal column. some lose limbs entirely. ar-15's, they are designed by the military in order to kill people even more quickly, so that you don't ever have the chance of going to an emergency room. that's what happened in sandy hook. you know, what's remarkable is that not a single one of those kids ever made it to a trauma surgeon. all of those kids died on the spot, 20 of them. you sort of have to think about bullets like running fingers through the water. when you run your fingers through the water, it causes ripples, it causes disruptions in the water around it. well, a bullet coming out of an a relief-15 rifle moves three times faster than a bullet coming out of a handgun. so just look what happens when you run your hands through water. you run it through at this speed
versus running it through at that speed. the ripples and the disruptions, they get bigger, right, and they spread further. well, that's what happens when the bullet from an ar-15 enters the body, of anyone, but certainly, it certainly does something different when it enters the body of a 6-year-old. one trauma surgeon says that when it hits bone, it likely will just turn it to dust, and if a bullet from an ar-15 hits the liver, well, this surgeon says, quote, the liver looks like a jell-o mold that has been dropped onto the floor. i know some people think that ar-15's are fun, fun to show off to your friends. they are neat to fire. but that's carnage. a little kid's bones turning to
dust in the middle of a first grade classroom, that's not sport. that's american carnage. and you know what? a lot of gun owners get this. a lot of gun owners understand that this has gotten out of ha hand. there was a poll that was conducted just about two weeksing a of gun owners across the country -- two weeks ago of gun owners across the country. 80% of them support requiring a background check before you buy a gun. and that's pretty similar to the number that you'd find if you asked gun owners and non-gun owners. but the gun owners in my state were frankly just as shocked and horrified as what happened in that classroom in sandy hook as my non-gun owners were. and gun owners in this country increasingly are not represented by the national rifle association, the group that
donald trump is going to go talk to this week. because the national rifle association, which claims to be speaking for gun owners, opposes background checks. they don't want a single additional gun sale to go through a background check. they are just fine with the fact that over half of all gun sales in this country occur without a background check, meaning that criminals and people with serious mental illness can get a gun so ease any this country -- easily in this country that they don't even have to make much of an effort. 86% of gun owners in this poll support prohibiting anyone who is convicted of stalkin stalkina crime from owning a gun. 85% support prohibiting anyone who is on the no-fly list from buying a gun. 88% of gun owners believe that you should have a permit to carry a handgun in a public
place. the n.r.a. opposes that. so it is no secret that 67% of gun owners believe that the n.r.a. used to be dedicated to safety but it has been overtaken by lobbyists. so when president trump goes to talk to the n.r.a. forth i hope he understands -- to the n.r.a. tomorrow, i hope he understands that they are not advocating for the views of the gun owners in my state, in most all of your states. they are a radical political organization, and they have to start answering for why they don't square with the views of gun owners. finally, mr. president, here's the story of american carnage. kian huff jr. was 15 years old when he was shot on march 17 of
this year in hartford, connecticut. here's what kian said to one of his mentors in the north end of hartford. "i'm either going to go on to college and play basketball or i'm going to die on the street." can you imagine that there are kids who think that in this country? can you imagine that there are kids in this country who think that their choices are to go play basketball in college or die on the streets of connecticut? most americans can't imagine a little kid saying that. but kian thought that, and he was right because he was a great basketball player. he lived at the north end ymca. he wanted to be the next michael jordan. if you told him otherwise, he didn't want to hear it. the he was committed to playing basketball in college. but it was the other one that got i am had. he died in the hallway of his apartment complex when he was shot on march 1. he died on the streets of hartford.
he didn't end up going to college to play basketball. he is just one of 2,600 a month that die from guns, 31,000 a year, 86 a day. a lot of gun owners in this country get that. they understand the flow of illegal weapons on tower streets. they understand there are some weapons that are way too powerful that do those terrible things to bodies when the bullets enter. and when donald trump talks to the n.r.a., i hope he takes them on and asks why they refuse to stand up for policies that will end this american carnage that the president talked about in his speech and why they won't start actually representing the views of american gun owners. i yield the floor. mr. barrasso: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from i would i would. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, people around the country know that the world continues to be a very dangerous place. it became more dangerous over the past eight years, and i believe that is particularly
related to what i saw as unwise and unsound policies by the obama administration, certainly when it comes to foreign policy yopolicy -- foreign policy. you know, every president's important policy should secure america's national interest and demonstrate america's interest around the world. that was not the case under president obama. the last president and his team followed a policy of what's been called "strategic patience." strategic patience when dealing with hostile countries all around the world -- iran, north korea. anytime there was a belligerent, aggressive, cunning dictator on the move, president obama's position was strategic patience. it was a terrible approach, a terrible approach for us in dealing with reckless regimes. you know, i always thought president obama was completely focused on signing a nuclear
deal with iran, not because it actually was a great deal but maybe because it might reflect well on his legacy. i thought he wanted a deal so badly that he ended up getting a deal that was a bad deal. as part of the deal, the former president accepted iranian demands, and he accepted all of them, to lift an arms embargo that the united nations had put into place. this was an embargo that said that iran wasn't supposed to be selling weapons to other countries. the embargo was going to disappear in five years, whether iran complies with it or not. we already know that iran has no intention of playing by the rules. they haven't played by the rules all the way through. last week the secretary of defense james mattis said that iran has already been violating the embargo, and that's why i believe that they have no intention of playing by the rules. secretary of defense tells us they're not playing by the rules now. he said, we've seen
iranian-supplied missiles. our secretary of defense said, we have seen iranian-supplied missiles being fired into saudi arabia by the rebels in yemen. secretary of state rex tillerson was even more clear. he said last week that iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. he said that iran is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicconflicts -- intensifyine conflicts -- and undermining u.s. interests in countries such as syria, yemen, iraq, and lebanon. now, this is a direct result of president obama's spending eight years being strategically patient. it is the result of sending the signal that iran would be rewarded for its bad behavior. so let's look at what happened last year when the obama administration was bragging about the nuclear deal -- and they were. high-fiving, bragging about the
deal. just when the deal went into effect, president obama arranged to send to iran $1.7 billion in cash. $1.7 billion, an astonishingly large amount of money. it is a mall and a mall, and a -- it is a million and a million, and a million. it is 107 million piles of a million dollars. if you remember the news, pallets of cash stashed up going to iran. president obama spent $400 million as a down payment, and within 24 hours the iranians agreed to release a group of americans who they had been holding hostage. the obama white house said it wasn't a ransom payment to free the hostages. the obama administration
actually thought that the american people were naive enough to think that it was just a coincidence in timing. well, you can bet that the iranians didn't believe it was a coincidence, because they actually said it wasn't a coincidence. the iranians described the money as for the release of the hostages. now, we know from experience that the iranians see hostage taking as a valid way of conducting their own foreign policy. right now north korea also has taken hostages -- three american hostages written about today in the papers. we know from experience the iranians seek hostage-taking as a way to conduct policymaking and they think it can be a very profitable policy as well. president obama played right into their hands. there's something else that president obama did that we just
learned about, and that's why i wanted to speak about this today. "politico" had a major expo say on monday. the headline was, "obama's hidden iran deal giveaway." the hidden deal giveaway. around the "time" president obama was sending -- around the same time president obama was sending cash to iran, he also arrested seven iranians who had been arrested by the united states. the president downplayed the crimes that these individuals had committed. he said it was a one-time gesture to help grease the skins for the iran deal. the obama administration also dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other individuals. some of them were wanted for serious threats to our own american national security. one man was charged with trying to buy thousands of assault
weapons -- thousands of assault weapons -- and send them to iran. another was charged with conspiring to get from iran thousands of pieces of equipment with nuclear applications. the scheme included hundreds of u.s.-made censors for centrifuges in iran. centrifuges were a big reason we were concerned about iran's nuclear program in the first place. yet, according to president obama, this doesn't seem to be a problem. according to the article that came out monday, quote, as far back as the fall of 2014, obama administration officials began slow-walking some significant investigations and prosecutions of iranian procurement networks operating right here within the united states. as one expert told "politico," this is a scandal. she said, it's stunning and hard to understand why we would do
this. if republicans in -- but republicans in congress warned about this kind of thing from the very beginning. president obama was so interested in getting a deal that he got one that, in my opinion, has been very bad for the united states -- and not just for the united states, bad for the world, because iran with a nuclear weapon makes the world less safe, less secure, and less stable. so, you know, president obama has this as part of his legacy, but i will tell you, mr. president, strategic patience has failed. secretary of state tillerson said so last week, and i agree with him completely. i am glad to hear our top diplomat recognize this, and i'm glad to see the trump administration doing a comprehensive review of the iran nuclear agreement. the last president put international opinion first when it came to foreign policy. we see it all around the world. this president, president trump,
is showing that we will put america's interests first. and it's not just iran where we have the problem. i was recently in asia over the break, along with a group of senators. we went to tokyo. we went to beijing to meet with the leaders in china, went around that region. we met with the premier of china, the number-two american american -- the number-two person in china, and the number three person, to talk about the problems of north korea and the region. north korea to a long time has been called the land of lousy options. but there is new urgency as we see the increasing capacity of north korea, not just the rockets, but rockets filled with liquid fuel that allows for solid launches. the vehicles are now on tracks and can go anywhere. north korea has increased their
nuclear capacity as well as their missile deliveriability, and they're working on intercontinental ballistic missiles that could hit the united states. that's why we were at the white house yesterday for the secure briefing. that's why it's so critical that we focus on north korea, and we have a president who is focused on a peaceful resolution but is not afraid to use force, as we have seen in syria and in afghanistan. because if you want to use deterrence, you have to have a capacity -- which we have had in the united states, which is incredible, through the presidents over the years. you have to have a commitment to use that capacity, and we have shown -- we have seen from president trump a commitment to use that capacity in syria, in afghanistan. you have to communicate a willingness to use that capaci capacity, as president trump is doing today.
so last week vice president pence traveled to the demilita demilitarized zoning between south korea and north korea. he said very clearly that when it comes to north korea's nuclear weapons program, the era of strategic patience is over. north korea has been allowed to get away with too much for too long. it continues to test nuclear weapons. it continues to test missiles. it continues to use hostages as a way of getting what it wants from other countries. over the weekend we learned that north korea rested -- arrested an american professor who is in that country. north korea like iran has a history of taking hostages and using them as leverage to get what it wants. we now know of three americans being held in north korea. the leadership of countries like iran and north korea need to understand that this kind of action will not succeed. no one wants to fight with iran.
no one wants to fight with north korea. the way to avoid the fight is to show that there is a limit to the patience of civilized countries of the world which is why the age of strategic patience is now in the past. there is new leadership with negotiation deterrent and as a final option, the use of force if necessary but not the last eight years where the use of force, the message sent by that administration is we have no commitment to use the capacity which the united states has. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. carper: probably nobody in the senate i admire more than the senator from wyoming except his colleague mike enzi also from wyoming. i come to the floor not to talk about these issues but talk about others.
i feel compelled to respond to some of what he said. there's no need for you to remain. don't feel like you need to, john. but thank you just the same. a little bit of background as the commanding officer -- as the presiding officer knows who spent some time in the military, '06 i believe. retired navy captain, southeast aish yarks vietnam war, served as a commander up to the cold war. a month after stepped down as a navy captain, i led a congressional delegation back into vietnam, six of us, democrats, republicans, to find out at the behest of former president george walker bush's administration to find out what happened to thousands of mia's to see if we can get information about them and provide information to the families for closure. that was the beginning of an effort in the house mirrored by one over here led by john mccain and john kerry to move
us toward normalized relations to see if the vietnamese would cooperate with us and provide the information we wanted and the families wanted and deserved. in fact a year ago, i learned a year ago, i learned with president obama, we're there to kind of close the circle on our relationship with vietnam which has changed a lot over the last 40 years, last 30 years. and interestingly enough, the vietnamese, we are their best trading partner. they're a very good trading partner with us. they announced they're going to buy something like 10, 12, $14 billion worth of aircraft, not fighter aircraft, not military aircraft but civilian aircraft from, i believe, boeing. i learned about some polling data that had been taken, two molls two surveys -- polls, two surveys of the vietnamese people. the question was asked of the vietnamese people, how do you
feel about people from other countries. how do you feel about the chinese, the russians? malaysians, pack sanies -- pakistanis? others? how do you feel about them. 85% of the vietnamese people said they had favorable opinions about america and americans. 58%. the high -- 85%. the highest of any other nation surveyed. another survey said no it's 95%. 95% of the vietnamese have favorable opinions of the u.s., higher again than their opinions of any other nation. the reason why i mention vietnam, they're a it abouter enemy -- they're a bitter enemy of this country. men and women with whom i serv served, on a wall two miles from here, down by the lincoln memorial, while we're bitter enemies, we resolved those differences in the 1990's. we're now a close trading partner. don't agree with them on every single thing but they like us a lot. and we have a much warmer relationship than we've had in
the past and it's a much better economic relationship than we've ever had in the past. the reason why i mentioned vietnam is because there are some corollaries here with iran. 1978, that was when the -- some will recall, the pages are too young to remember this, but 1978 the iranians led by religious leader -- the religious leader captured, took control of the u.s. embassy in tehran, held our folks for a year or two. as part of their cultural revolution, their religious revolution. when they did that, you know what we did? we seized a lot of their assets. in this country, in other countries as best we could. and not just a couple of dollars, not just a couple million dollars. hundreds of millions of dollars. maybe more. maybe even billions of dollars. but we held those assets. we kept the iranians from
reclaiming those assets for over 30 years. maybe close to 40 years. and they have litigated in court and they said that they feel they should have access what is theirs, what was theirs. we're told by -- i'm not a lawyer but pretty smart lawyers on our side and others, they had a very good chance of getting all that and more in court if we didn't settle. and what we did, at the end of the day when the iranians agreed to the agreement called the joint agreement reached with not just the u.s. but the germans, the french, the brits, the chinese, the russians, and the idea was to make sure that iran didn't have a quick path, fast track to continue to develop nuclear weapons. they're clearly wanting to do it. we wanted them not to do that. so we ended up negotiating this agreement. part of the agreement was to settle these claims from almost 40 years ago, financial claims. assets that we basically seized
and refused to return. it turns out -- i mentioned how highly the vietnamese people think of us today and as it turns out, vietnam is a very young country, very young country. so is iran. iran has about 80 million people. and in iran, the majority of the people are under the age of 25. they like this country a lot. and they've got people over there more in line with the old regime that don't like us. the revolutionary guard, some of the military leadership, they don't like us. they have newly elected leadership from four years ago, the foreign minister and others who frankly want to be able to work with us if they can. they are willing to agree to what are really i think a harsh agreement to make sure they didn't move forward in developing weapons and developing nuclear weapons. we imposed sanctions on them,
shut down their economy, double-digit rates of inflation, economy in the tank. finally they said uncle, we'll agree to this agreement. and since then, the iranians have done what the vietnamese did a year ago. they have -- civilian air fleet. civilian aircraft are old, decrepit. they need new ones. they're going to do what the vietnamese have already done and buy a lot of american made aircraft, passenger aircraft by boeing. and we're not talking about a couple billion dollars worth but certainly more than $10 billion worth. they already have taken an order on maybe one of the very first ones and more to come. i think they're also going to buy a bunch of airbuses. i think more than half the airbuses have components made in america. and that's another boost to our economy. there's -- i don't remember, mr. president, who said it but a chinese military leader once
said, the greatest victory of all is the one we win without firing a shot. that's what he said. the greatest victory of all is the one we win without firing a shot. for a navy guy seeing some time in the combat area and -- if you're going to win one without shooting anybody, getting anybody killed, maybe that's worth doing. the other thing i would say is that doesn't mean we just trust iran that they're going to do what they said they're going to do in the deal. there's an agency, i think it's international atomic agent, they're all over it in terms of monitoring the deal, making sure what the iranians agreed to do that they actually do it. trust and verify? that's really what the iranian agreement is all about, trust but verify. we'll see how it works out. calling me hopeful. a lot of times we vote on stuff out here. we vote our hopes as opposed to
our fears. sometimes we vote our fears as opposed to our hopes. on the iran deal, i voted my hopes. we'll see how it works out. i'm hopeful. that's not why i came here to the floor. a lot of talk about a wall. and i heard about pink floyd the other day, all in all another brick in the wall. somebody wanted to build a wall, the president, on the southern border, about 2,000 miles between the pacific ocean and the gulf coast, 2,000 miles. i've been down there any number of times as the chairman of the homeland security committee and now still as a senior democrat on the homeland security committee who's ranking member is senator mccaskill of missouri. i've not been on every square inch, mile on the border but there are places on the border where the wall makes some sense and frankly where a lot of places where it doesn't. including where you've got hundreds of miles of river where it doesn't make any sense.
also, i heard from other folks -- where the border patrol told me where they were at an area where they had some wall. they found -- i think the wall is maybe 15 feet high, mr. president. and they kept finding like 18, 19-foot ladders on the other side of the wall where people would come up with a ladder to the wall, go over the wall, and head out. so you can go over the wall. you can even go to a high wall with a ladder that's high enough. and a lot of that has been done. you can go under a wall, tunnel under. a lot of people try to get into mexico or out of mexico into the u.s. by tunneling under a wall. as it turned out, the wall in some places make sense. fences some some places make sense. boats in some places like a river like the border with the rio grande, our border with mexico. boats make sense. sometimes really fast boats make sense. sometimes it makes sense to build a ramp so you can get boats in the water in different places. sometimes it makes sense to
build a road on our side to give us mobility. sometimes it makes sense to put surveillance equipment in drones. sometimes it makes sense to put surveillance equipment in helicopters. sometimes it makes sense to put surveillance equipment in fixed-wing aircraft. and binoculars to try to find something. there's an acronym, surveillance highly sophisticated equipment that will actually go on our drones, our helicopters and go on our fixed wing aircraft. what's so special about this? it will allows us to see dozens of miles into mexico at night. through fog, through rain. and we have a system and rather than just send out aircraft or drones or whatever, let's put the surveillance equipment on. that makes a lot more sense than building a wall, a 2,000-mile wall. other things that make sense are surveillance cars. a hundred feet up in the air, 200, 300 feet. some are mobile.
some of them are stationary. we have motion detectors. some places that makes a lot of sense. there's no shortage of ideas that make sense. what i like to do when trying to figure out what to do, i ask people like the border patrol, what do you think makes sense? what they pretty much say it's an all the above approach. we have an all the above approach in energy. if we're smart about securing our border with mexico and i think we've gotten smarter as we have gone long. we certainly have more men and women down there. they work hard, our border patrol. it's an all the above approach. i wanted to get that off my chest. does it make sense for spend $25 billion to build a wall that we may need less than a hundred miles? probably not. absolutely not. one other thing that makes sense, the reason why -- the reason why a lot of the people -- the people that are coming across our border with mexico, they're not mexicans. they used to be. they're more -- there are more mexicans going back into mexico
from the u.s. than are coming into the u.s. from mexico. the place where a the love the immigration is coming from is three countries. hundred dur ras -- honduras, guatemala and -- they live lives of desperation, murder, mayhem, some of the highest murder rates in the world. i think el salvador. i don't me if we have the numbers here. they have a number of different routes they take, mostly coming into the u.s. right here. they don't so much go over to el paso, certainly don't head over here on land to get in on the western side of our border. but some of them try to come by air. but mostly it's by -- used to be by train. mostly now by land. and they're dangerous missions. the reason why they come is because there's not much hope there. the reason why there's not much hope there, frankly it's in part us. there used to be a comic strip,
pogo. one of the lines from pogo, i found the enemy and it is me. we are the enemy. and the chairman of our homeland security committee said many times that the root cause of what's going on down there is our addiction to drugs in this country. and the drugs are trafficked through here to come to the u.s. the money from the drugs goes back to here along with guns. and when we deport the bad guys, we take them out of the u.s. and put them back here. it's a toxic mix of guns, weapons, and bad guys. and it makes life down here miserable for people. as it turns out, colombia 20 years ago was a miserable place to live too. and at one time about 20 years ago a bunch of gunmen in colombia rounded up the supreme court justices of the colombia supreme court, took them into a room, shot them to death. shot them to death. there was a time when the farc,
the rebel groups, the leftist groups and the drug gangs were trying to take down the government of colombia. they looked like they could. some people in colombia stood up and said not on my watch, we're not going to let this happen on our watch. came up with plan colombia in order to make sure this didn't happen. president clinton, a guy named joe biden was the chairman of the foreign relations committee, led an effort to not fully fund the group in colombia, they did most of the raising of the revenue and we helped. we played our role. we continued to play our role for 20 years. and colombia is a different place today. the the same thing can happen in these three countries down here. we said to them -- and then joe biden playing a significant role as vice president. i was helpful, jeh johnson, former secretary of homeland security, and others as well. these folks came up with something they call the alliance for prosperity, pretty much like
playing colombia. they're trying an approach like this down here. the idea down here is to restore the rule of law, to focus on infrastructure, to focus on making their government work and being effective. to tamp down on the corruption they have down there, the extortion that goes on with small businesses. the idea is to create a safer, better place. most people, they don't want to leave here. i talked to plenty of them. they want to stay there. some of them might like to come and work and then go home. this is their country and they love their country like we love ours. we've been joined on the floor by one of our colleagues. i don't want to belabor this. i ask him to give me maybe another minute or two. there's been talk here about nafta. there's been talk -- i don't know if it's alternative facts copping out of the white house or what -- alternative facts coming out of the white house, but like we're going to pull out of nafta. i would just say i met with a
guy maimed litezer who will be our trade rep. when i met with him in my office morphing abr r r r r r met with him in my office, he talked about renegotiating nafta. we renegotiated nafta. we fixed a lot of things that needed to be fixed. not just stuff with mexico as part of nafta but also canada. one of the things that need to be fixed, we raise a lot of chickens in delaware and other places, maryland, virginia. our top market for poultry -- mexico. in canada they don't buy our chickens. they keep us out. the trans-pacific partnership, we negotiated nafta not just for
poultry but other products we want to safe. my friendly advice to the president was before you pull out of nafta, why don't you and your administration take a close look at what we renegotiated through the trans-pacific partnership. i think we'll find a lot about what we need to do and want to do and what they need to do can be right there. i'll stop there. maybe we can come back later today. i want to talk about health care reform. i want to say to our republican friends, you came up with a good idea in 1993 introduced by john chafee, the senator from rhode island and cosponsored by 23 republicans, an alternative to hillary care in 1993. republicans got the ideas from the heritage foundation. they turned out to be pretty good ideas. and they include, one, every state would have an exchange. people couldn't get health care, they could buy hair health care coverage as -- they could buy their health care coverage as part of the exchange. the idea from chafee and others
was a tax credit to buy down the cost of health insurance, buy down the cost of coverage for lower-income people. when their income reached a certain level the tax credit went away. that was in the 1993. individual mandate, said basically folks, you've got to get coverage and there's going to be a fine, you have to pay a fine if you don't. you can't make people get coverage but the idea was to make people get coverage. the employer mandate was the fourth concept. the fourth concept said employers with a certain size, 50 or 100 employees, eventually you have to provide health coverage for your employees. that goes back to 1993. the last piece was insurance companies can't deny coverage to people because of preexisting conditions. when mitt romney was governor of massachusetts, he literally took that game plan lock, stock and
barrel and established romney care and it worked out pretty well. we took romney care and built on that. and the piece that -- i'll close with this. the piece that needs to be fixed and repaired -- not repealed by fixed out of the original republican idea is the idea that the insurance companies need a stable insurance pool of healthy people, not just old people, sick people, but healthy people and younger people as well. there are ways we can fix that. that's one of the fixes we need to make. it ain't all that hard. it ain't all that hard. i'll come back and talk about that some other day. i appreciate my friend from one of those dakotas, the southern dakota. with that, i yield the floor. thank you so much. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota.
mr. rounds: my colleague and friend, the senator from delaware, is also a governor. it's also fun to listen to the experiences and clearly an understanding about the number of issues we have in common about things that concern us. i remember back in 1993 as well when we were looking at health care reform in south dakota. we actually in our process adopted the vast majority of what was considered to be the recommendations from the national association of insurance commissioners, guaranteed renewability of policies, guaranteed to be able to move from one group insurance product to another group insurance product. a minimum amount of premium versus maximum amount of premium in any, by any carrier for any single group of policies in one plan. those actually worked for us for a period up until 2009 when obamacare became the law of the land. and at that point we suffered through the same problems that most
of the rest of america is suffering through right now. but there are some things that really do bind us together, and one of them is trying to make and produce the best health care products for the citizens within our different states that we possibly can. i think in the united states senate there are enough of us that truly believe that we can fix repeal, replace obamacare. i think democrats would like to say that we're going to fix it. i think republicans recognize that we're probably going to do a little bit more of a startover because we understand the basic concept of obamacare, which was moving more and more into a single-payer system, will not work. for those of us that believe in the free market, what we want to do is we want to take away the regulations at the federal level, give them back to the states and allow the states to actually experiment and to make a more competitive health care product. that allows for businesses to be able to ensure more individuals to help pay for their costs. it also means then that
you can actually get more individuals to receive the benefits of private health care rather than being responsible for, or at least expecting that the federal government is going to subsidize with federal taxpayer money their health care costs. i think that's part of what we have to be concerned with here today. we all want a strong economy. we want more jobs being made available. one of the reasons why i'm here on the floor today is to talk about not just the health care regulations that impact the ability of employers to hire employees, but we should also be talking about the regulatory environment in the united states. that's what i really wanted to talk about today is the tremendous success that we are beginning to have in just the first three months that president trump has taken office. many -- we've been successful in undoing a number of of the regulatory hurdles that have been hindering job growth and prosperity here in the united
states. it's been three months now since president trump took office. and with a republican-led congress in place ready to help him advance policies that grow our economy and allow hardworking americans to keep more of their paycheck each month. we're going to be talking a lot about tax reform, but we shouldn't forget about regulatory reform as well. you know, one of the items with tax reform, some folks actually suggested a tax on items being brought into the united states, a border adjustment tax. one of the reasons for that was is they thought we would be buying more american goods if we made those goods from other countries more expensive by putting a tax on them, which we passed on to consumers. i think that's the wrong approach. i think what we should be doing is allowing our consumers the availability of a less expensive american product. the way you do that is you allow manufacturers in the united states to become more competitive. you do that by reducing their input costs,
including a regulatory impact that is huge. we believe that we should be creating an atmosphere in the united states for products to be produced at a cost that is less in the first place. we shouldn't have to increase the cost of other people's products coming into the united states. we should be making it less expensive for our producers to compete with them. the way we accomplish this, first and foremost, is by reducing the regulatory environment here in america, which is way too intrusive. it's duplicative and it is overreaching. if you're wondering how bad the environment is, the regulatory environment is in the united states today, well, regulations cost the american people $1.9 trillion annually. the bulk of which is handed down to consumers. businesses don't absorb it. they pass it on. how are the consumers paying for it? by higher prices on products and goods produced here in the united states.
if you're wondering why it's such a big deal, it's because we want our manufacturers, our producers and our businesses here in the united states to be able to compete with our competitors overseas, the ones that don't have the crippling regulatory environment that we have here at home. right now our businesses and job creators are crippled by federal regulations that limit their ability to expand and grow, create more job opportunities and pay higher wages. if the $1.9 trillion we spend annually on regulations were a country, it would be the tenth-largest economy in the world, about the size of india or russia's economy. and it is far more than -- get this -- we pay more as consumers for the cost of regulations at $1.9 trillion than we as taxpayers pay in personal income taxes on april 15. on april 15, we pay
about $1.4 trillion in personal income taxes. yet, we pay $1.9 trillion, a half a trillion dollars more, in the cost of regulations. no other country in the world even comes close to this sort of unhealthy, costly regulatory environment, and it is putting us at a competitive disadvantage in the international arena. while there's been a lot of focus this week on reforming our tax policy to get us back to the level of global competitiveness that we need, we must not lose sight of the need to reform our regulatory environment to one that invites growth and innovation. both are needed. we have to reform our tax policy, and we absolutely have to reform our regulatory policies. already in the first three months that president trump has been in office, we've made progress in stopping harmful regulations from taking effect. under the congressional review act, the senate has passed 13
resolutions so far this year to undo obama-era regulations. you see, the congressional review act allows us to disapprove certain regulations that basically were approved by the administration, or created by the administration about the last six months. and the reason why we're able to do it is because we can do it with just a majority vote. it's a privileged motion in the united states senate. it takes a majority vote in the house. it takes a majority vote in the united states senate. it doesn't require 60 votes, so we're actually able to, with a majority vote, undo these regulations that we're going to be imposed on the american public over the last six months. i think that's a step in the right direction. this is a program which in the past has been used only like one time since it was created in the 1990's. we've done it 13 times in just these first three months. the congressional review act, or the c.r.a., is truly an important oversight tool that allows congress to undo federal regulations issued