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tv   U.S. Senate 10052017  CSPAN  October 5, 2017 1:30pm-3:31pm EDT

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ledger. they're long-term care for a grandparent, treatment for a critically ill child, and a fair shot to make a living wage and raise family. this didn't happen overnight. these wrongs add up over time. as the governor said so eloquently, quote, i invite you to reflect on why puerto rico is in the current state of disadvantage and inequality. it's not something that happened just a few months or a few weeks before the storm. it is a condition that has happened for more than a century in puerto rico. i invite you to reflect on the reality that even after the storm hit puerto rico, even when it was evident that it was a disaster in the united states, only half of our u.s. citizens knew that puerto ricans were u.s. citizens. so when hurricanes irma and maria slammed into puerto rico, these disparities, these inequalities were laid bare. now, none of this should have
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taken the trump administration by surprise. we knew the storm was coming. we knew for days that a category 5 hurricane was on a collision course with puerto rico, just as communities across the island were picking up after the pieces of irma. and we have known for years about the island's aging infrastructure like the downed power line pictured here. in short, all of us knew that hurricane maria was a recipe for disaster that would leave 3.5 million americans in peril, disconnected, and in the dark. it should not have taken the administration 12 days to issue a disaster declaration, something i called for for 100% of the island, because as i saw on friday, there is no community in puerto rico that is untouched by this tragedy. focused leadership would have had a three-star general on the
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ground the moment the clouds parted, not eight days after the storm struck. we needed medical evacuation vehicles and vessels, aid and relief delivery assistance on standby, the u.s.s. comfort ready for immediate deployment, something that i called for. instead, the administration told us that puerto rico is hard because it is an island in a big ocean. it's an island in a big ocean. but it happens to be an island of 3.5 million united states citizens. we have no more time to waste. that's why it is so urgent that we take action now. if we can send 20,000 troops to haiti, surely we can get more boots on the ground saving american lives in puerto rico. we need more helicopters airdropping food and water to secluded communities. we need generators delivered and the repair of communication towers expedited. now it's up to the president to mobilize every resource possible to save lives, to get the lights turned on, to rebuild bridges,
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to reach secluded communities, to reconnect families. we can't afford to waste any more time, not when lives are on the line. not when elderly residents in nursing homes grow frailer by the moment. not when hungry american children have nothing to eat. not when communities are without clean drinking water for days on end. so we need to keep the pressure on the administration. the military needs to more quickly deliver resources to private sectors in need. that's why my colleagues and i wrote to fema to urge the president to waiver disaster relief cost-sharing, because as the governor told me, i have no revenue coming in, i have no revenue coming in. and the likelihood of revenue coming in, certainly in the short term, is not there. so how do you acquire the 70% or
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75% of the federal assistance if you don't have the 25% to put up? that's why we have written the usda, asking that they use all available resources to get food to the people of puerto rico. this is an all-hands-on-deck situation for the federal government. but congress also has a responsibility to act. that's why i sent a letter to leader mcconnell and speaker ryan urging they bring forward an emergency supplemental aid package and to fund community development block grants for disaster recovery. it's up to us here in congress to immediately authorize not just the emergency funding needed to save lives in puerto rico, but also the assistance needed for a full-powered recovery. we must give puerto ricans the tools to rebuild. that means making sure that puerto rico's financial control board gives the governor flexibility to spearhead this recovery. board members of that control
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board should be on the island, assessing the damage, speaking to the survivors, allowing governor rossello to create a new budget that reflects puerto rico's post-maria reality. the damage by some experts could be as high as $90 billion, so adjusting expectations and enabling flexibility is absolutely critical going forward. i've said it before and i'll say it again. the people of puerto rico must come before wall street creditors, and as it turns out, this is one area where the president and i can find common ground. just last night, he called for puerto rico's debt to be wiped out. i hope all of us, the administration, my colleagues in congress, and the fiscal control board, can work together to jump-start puerto rico's recovery. and that must include enabling flexibility, addressing the island's crippling debt, and ensuring that pensions are protected and paid.
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imagine not getting your pension in the midst -- no longer working, having no income, and then your pension is not protected. how do you make it? how do you make it? all of us here in the senate have a responsibility to stand with puerto rico. how we respond to this crisis will have profound consequences, not just for the americans who live in puerto rico today, but for generations to come. we need to pass a disaster package that matches the astounding damages suffered by the island. the photos i have brought to the floor today give you a glimpse of the full devastation on the ground. it's not enough to reconnect a faulty, ailing power grid. it's time to be proactive and rebuild puerto rico so it's prepared for the next storm in the 21st century. it's time to fix the underlying disparities that have hindered puerto rico's success. otherwise, we will simply be rebuilding a broken foundation.
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let me close on saying that i remind my colleagues that puerto ricans are not just citizens of the united states, which in and of itself, in and of itself should speak to the compelling arguments that we should be engaged in helping puerto rico as our fellow americans, but they have fought to defend our nation, from world war i to the war on terror. take a walk down on the vietnam memorial, and you will see puerto rican names engraved in that stone far in excess of the number of people proportion atly to the american population. throughout our history, puerto ricans have given their lives so that they may remain part of the land of the free, and to this day, more than 10,000 puerto ricans serve in every branch of the u.s. armed forces. let's also remember that beyond the 3.5 million citizens living on the island, there are five
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million puerto ricans living in our states, in our congressional districts and in our communities. in the aftermath of this unprecedented disaster, these americans deserve the same rights, the same respect and response from their federal government. that's why i told leaders from new jersey's puerto rican community earlier this week, assemblymen, women, mayors, community leaders, concerned citizens. we all remember how hard it was to secure the funding we needed to rebuild new jersey in the aftermath of super storm sandy. we had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. guess what? we had two u.s. senators from new jersey, 13 members of congress, joined by our colleagues from new york, a whole host of congressional members, as well as connecticut, which is also affected, and it was an incredible time here to try to get relief. americans in puerto rico have no vote in the senate. they have no votes in congress.
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and the fight to rebuild puerto rico will be that much harder. but as i have in the past, i intend to be their voice and their vote in the united states senate. now is not the time to pretend like recovery will be a piece of sake. no one, not the governor, not the president, not any one of us should sugarcoat the human capacity playing out in puerto rico. it's time for honesty about the conditions on the ground, the challenges we face and the actions we must take. yes, puerto rico is an island in the middle of a very big ocean. we are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. we have the most advanced military capabilities ever known and the most skilled armed forces in the world. we have to be there for 3.5 million americans who are in need. we're the united states of america. we do the impossible. we give our men and women in uniform any mission, and they
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rise to the occasion. if we conducted the berlin airlift, set up tactical operations in the mountains of afghanistan, built green zones in baghdad in the height of the iraq war, then surely we can save the lives of americans in danger, and surely we can save those lives and help rebuild puerto rico. we must not rest until every american is safe and the work of rebuilding is done. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. and observe the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: i would ask unanimous consent the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: mr. president, i would like to move that all time be yielded back on both sides. the presiding officer: without objection. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion. we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules
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of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of callista l. gingrich of virginia to be ambassador of the united states of america to the holy see, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of callista l. gingrich of virginia to be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the united states of america to the holy see shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote: .
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or
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wishing to change their vote? if not the yeas are 75. the nays are 20. the motion is agreed to. a senator: mr. president? frfer the senator from north dakota. a senator: mr. president, i rise today to talk about what's really once in a generation opportunity and that's the opportunity we have right now to reform our outmoded and complex tax code. mr. hoeven: and also most importantly provide tax relief for our nation's families, farmers, and small businesses. the tax code has not been updated since 1986. you think about all that has changed over the last 30 years, you know that modern advances in
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technology have drastically revolutionized the way businesses -- businesses -- business is conducted today. the creation of the internet, substantially increased automation, instant communications has, you know, created dramatic changes and in many ways brought us closer in terms of communication and really interconnected our global economy in ways we could never have foreseen back in the 1980's when we last reformed our tax code. so it is past time -- it's not time, it's past time, to modernize our outdated tax code into the 21st century. we must do so in order to make sure american businesses can compete on the global stage and provide tax relief to hardworking, middle-class families who have been struggling to get and stay ahead over the last decade. the recently released tax
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blueprint proposes sweeping tax reform that will benefit working families and small businesses throughout the country while promoting job creation, economic growth, and global competitiveness. this country was built on hard work by individuals and families who strive each and every day to make ends meet, to provide for their loved ones, and to plan for retirement. the current tax code is complex. it has many loopholes that do nothing to help our hardworking families keep more of their own hard earned money. our tax program would help individuals and families in my home state and across this country to get ahead by generating new jobs through sustained economic growth while lowering the overall tax burden putting more money back in the taxpayers' pockets. we do this in a number. ways. by doubling the standard deduction, by eliminating taxes
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on the first $12,000 earned by an individual, and $24,000 earned by a married couple, effectively establishing a zero percent tax rate as the bottom bracket, bottom tax rate. that means of the nearly 81% of north dakotans that claim the standard deduction, they could see a significant increase in their take-home pay. that's true for other states across the country as well. further, we're consolidating and lowering the tax rates across the board while simplifying the tax code to make it fairer for everybody. at nearly 70,000 pages long, it's no wonder americans currently spend more than $6 billion -- that's with a b -- six billion hours a year complying with the tax code. in fact, 94% of taxpayers choose to either pay someone else or to use software to prepare their taxes because of the complexity
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of our tax code. our goal for tax reform is to allow the vast majority of americans to file their tax returns on a single page, simple -- simple calculation, something that they can do themselves. we want to reduce the cost and stress that many americans feel during tax season. further, our tax reform provides more opportunities for small business owners, farmers, and others in helping them drive our economy, grow our economy, and be more competitive than ever before. while we focus on a business friendly state in north dakota, we have a very business friendly climate, the federal tax continues to place an undue burden on the nearly 71,000 small businesses that operate in our state which is more than 95%
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of all of the lawyers in the state. and again this is something that applies across the nation. it -- the driver of our economy, the backbone of our economy is small business. they're the job generators. they're the job creators. and we have to do more to help them do what they do which is create jobs and grow our economy. same thing with our family farmers. in my state alone, more than 30,000 family farms and ranches across our state, their marginal tax rate can reach as high as almost 45%, nearly ties the average rate -- twice the average rate of the rest of the industrialized world. that creates real challenges. so this tax framework follows the example we have set in our state by restoring economic opportunity, by lowering the tax burden, and by enacting a
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pro-growth tax code. economists agree high corporate taxes reduce wages to workers, raise costs for consumers, and reduce returns on retirement savings. that affects all of us. maintaining high tax rates does nothing to improve the fairness of our system. it only punishes everyday citizens and reduces economic opportunities for all americans. for far too long our tax code has incentivized american companies to send jobs and investment overseas instead of keeping them here at home, keeping that investment, keeping those jobs here at home. consequently, large multinational corporations now hold approximately $2.6 trillion overseas, $2.6 trillion overseas, money that could be repatriated back to the united states for investment in american jobs here at home. our framework would end the loopholes and the incentives
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that keep foreign profits off shore by moving to a territorial tax system and encouraging repatriation of these offshore funds and bringing that investment back to america. this is about getting the american economy going again, creating jobs and opportunity here at home rather than overseas. it is vital that we advance comprehensive tax reform that simplifies the i.r.s. code and reduces rates, putting more money in the pockets of working individuals and families and empowering private investment will drive domestic job creation and increase wages through higher demand for labor and lower business costs. all the while we can ensure stable government revenues through a broader tax base, growing economy, and a more efficient tax system. that means we will continue to be able to fund our priorities and work to get our debt and our
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deficit under control. ensuring u.s. competitiveness in the global marketplace and providing tax relief to middle-class families will benefit both current and future generations. i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work together to get tax reform done for the people of my state in north dakota, for their respective states, and for americans across this entire country. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from mitch began. a senator: madam president, the children's health insurance program in many ways has been an outstanding example of what a bipartisan democratic process can accomplish. mr. peters: 20 years ago president bill clinton worked with a republican majority in both the senate and the house of representatives to successfully
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pass the children's health insurance program into law. that legislation passed with 85 votes in the senate, an overwhelming bipartisan vote to recognize the simple fact that all children born in this great country of ours should have health care coverage. the children's health insurance program has more often than not seen great bipartisan support. as members of congress, we have always come together and understood the importance of these programs, and we have done everything that we can to ensure that quality, cost-effective care is available to millions of americans. unfortunately, as i stand here today, funding for both the children's health insurance program and community health centers has expired. the children's health insurance program -- or chip -- provides health care coverage to over
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100,000 children in my home state of michigan and more than 9 million children nationally. in addition, community health centers serve as the primary medical home to over 600,000 michiganders and more than 20 million individuals across our country. for people living in rural and underserved areas, their community health centers are their doctors' office and often their only choice when it comes to care close to home. we have already passed the deadline to extend the children's health insurance program and community health center funder. we are past the time to act. we should not wait any longer to provide help to the families who depend on chip and to the families who will lose access to care if their community health center is closed. we are already seeing the impact of our inaction in the chip program. several states have begun to
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warn that they may be forced to end enrollment of new children, cut back services, or end their programs altogether if we do not act soon. independent experts estimate that at least ten states could completely run out of funding for their children's health insurance program before the end of the year while funding for the remaining state's programs would not be very far behind. madam president, this is not a responsible way to gone. i've heard from -- to govern. i've heard from physicians in my state, especially in rural communities, who fear that this lack of action means great harm to the patients that they serve. i've heard from pediatricians who know firsthand when the end of chip would mean for michigan's children. and as our country grapples with what we can do to expand mental health treatment and address the expandinexpanding opioid epidem, letting these programs lap would be a huge step in the wrong
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direction. this uncertainty has already forced some community health centers to contemplate hiring freezes. it's made it difficult to recruit new doctors and made it harder for offices to obtain loans and to serve more patients. luckily, this is a problem that we know how to solve. i am proud to have cosponsored bipartisan legislation with senators hatch and wyden that would ensure funding for the children's health insurance program. i also support similarly bipartisan legislation by senators blunt and stabenow to extend funding for our nation's community health centers. i welcome the fact that the senate finance committee held a markup yesterday and were able to advance the bipartisan bill to fund the children's health insurance program. now the rest of us in congress need to do our job.
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let's bring both of these bills up for a vote because, quite frankly, we cannot afford to wait any longer. our nation's children and millions of americans that use community health centers as their primary medical home cannot afford to wait any longer. historically, these programs have not been controversial to reauthorize and they should not be now. madam president, i'm urging my colleagues to prioritize the children of our rural and underserved communities who will be hurt if we do not act soon. let's do what's right for our country's children and families and pass this vital legislation as soon as possible. madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: madam president, i rise today to address an issue that has -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. ms. heitkamp: i'd ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. heitkamp: thank you, madam president. i rise today to bring awareness to, and to discuss the obligation that we have to never forget what is happening to way too many native american women in this country. for too long the disproportionate incidents of violence against native women has gone unnoticed,
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unreported, or underreported. and it's time to address this issue head on, and that's what i intend to do here today. and in the remaining days of my time in the united states senate until we actually get a bill like this passed. there's no official data base or requirement for information collecting regarding the number of missing and murdered native women, and in most cases the only record of them are records that have been provided to us by the families and friends of the victims. it's critical that congress push the u.s. department of justice and the f.b.i. to work with tribal communities to come up with culturally appropriate protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered native women. i'd like to take this time to honor savannah la fountain gray wend whose story has been told on the news in north dakota and
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nationally and who has been on the forefront of my mind since introducing this bill. on august 19, savannah, a 22-year-old member of the spirit lake tribe who was eight months pregnant went upstairs to her neighbor's department in fargo, north dakota after being invited to try on a dress for alterations. while she was there, what awaited her in that apartment were truly horrific acts of violence. although savannah's baby daughter survived and is now safe with her father and grandparents, that was the last time anyone who loves savannah saw her alive. after eight days of searching for savannah by the family and the community, her body was finally found by chance by kayakers in a nearby river. her body was wrapped in plastic and duck taped. her death was an incredible tragedy and unfortunately one
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that happens way too often to native women. while news of savannah's tragic death was heard around the world, thousands of indigenous women are murdered and disappear each year. with many of those cases being ignored or forgotten. over my decades in public service, i have worked with tribal communities on issues that involve violence against native women, and in response to those talks and to this latest tragedy, today i introduce legislation that would help tackle the barriers to bringing justice for missing and murdered native women across the country. my bill which is named after savannah would work to improve tribal access to federal data bases for missing persons. it would promote interjurisdictional collaboration by establishing protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered native americans. and it would require the collection of data related to missing and murdered native
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women. native women are inherently vulnerable population whose voices are still not heard by most people in power. across north dakota, women living in reservations face unique challenges which he dealing with violence. lack of access to emergency services, law enforcement officers, lack of access to law enforcement, lack of access to an amber alert system, confidential victims' services are all but not provided. they all act as barriers, the lack of these services getting the help to women that they desperately need. unfortunately there is no official data base or mandated dast base collection on the total number of missing and murdered native women in our country. this is added to not knowing what the actual magnitude of this epidemic really is and has resulted in several tribal members sending me stories and handwritten lists of the names
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of missing and murdered native women that people have gathered just from their collective memory. i'd like to share some of the stories that i have been so honored to receive from family members telling these stories and giving me the ability to tell these stories is not easy, because every time you tell the story you relive the story. and this, these tragedies still deeply, even after perhaps years of murders happening, they still absolutely relive that experience. and so i know that they gave me these stories to tell for one simple reason, because they prayed and they hope and they dream that maybe giving me these stories will change the outcome for some other family. so i'm going to start by talking about these wonderful women, these beautiful women. up at the far right hand corner
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with her beautiful baby is stella marie trottier graves. stella marie who was born and grew up in belcourt, north dakota, she's a member or was a member of the turtle mountain band of chippewa. she spent many years traveling the world with her husband who served in the u.s. air force and their three children. the family lived in florida, germany, japan, and arizona. everywhere they went, stella quickly made friends and proudly shared her culture. she was loved and adored by all who met her for living an adventuresome and fearless life. in july of 2009, stella and her family moved back to belcourt, north dakota, and she started to attend turtle mountain community college. on september 16, 2010, stella and her cousin were at the local bar when she decided to stay behind with other people they knew. according to witnesses, stella
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left with another couple to continue the evening out. stella's body was later found in a male tribal member's pickup in a an open field on a reservation. it wasn't until 13 days later that the family was officially notified by law enforcement of stella's death. throughout the investigation, there was a lot of misinformation and rumors that made it difficult to find the murderers or the murderer. people who were with stella the night of her death said that they were never questioned, and information provided was never followed up on. no one has ever been charged or convicted for this murder. and the last hours of stella's life remain unknown. stella was an incredible woman who was loved by all who knew her. her family, her children, her tribe deserve justice. monica whikrey, picturedded
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here -- pictured here with those beautiful earrings and red shirt, monica was a mother of three who was born and raised in belcourt on the turtle mountain band of chippewa reservation and lived near aberdeen south dakota. after a night out with friends on april 7, 1993, monica never returned home. her relatives grew concerned when they had not heard from or seen monica for several days. eventually the family filed a missing persons report and started to talk to friends and neighbors. the detective assigned to the case worked closely with the community and the family and assured them he was working diligently on this case. in june of that year, canoeists found monica's badly decomposed body in the james river outside of aberdeen. throughout the next several years new detectives were assigned to the case, each having to basically start over and work with limited notes,
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interviews and evidence from the previous investigators. a couple of times the police told the family that they had a suspect or were close to arresting someone for monica's murder, but there was never enough information to charge a suspect. this has resulted in nearly 25 years of heartache for monica's family and her friends. monica's family wants justice for their daughter, sister, and mother, and they all want closure. although the case is no longer active, the family continues to bring awareness about monica's case in hope that someone will come forward with information that will in fact help solve it. monica lisa two eagle -- she is the woman in the dark hair with the minority leader print shirt. monica lisa was a member of the rosebud sioux tribe and one of 14 children. she was kind, caring, and
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athletic and she was the winner of the 1978 phil two eagle saw his sister mona lisa leave the sibling house, get into a red and white pickup with a couple men. monica -- mona lisa never returned. in the following days, the family and local law enforcement searched for her on horseback, taking it upon themselves, searched for her on horseback. about two weeks after she went missing, mona lisa's father and brother found her frozen. she had been beat understand and possibly raped. law enforcement tried to solve the crime but even until this day no one was ever convicted or charged. the two men who was last seen with mona lisa all those years
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ago, they're still running free while the family lives every day with the lack of judgment -- of justice. dakota renville, the woman in the black-and-white photo, she is the last victim i want to talk about. i want to thank her family who are here today who have honored me and trusted me with her memory. i want to help them understand how grateful i am, but i also want them to know that sharing her story will help raise awareness about the crimes of missing and murdered indigenous people. lakota was a member of the wapta band of north dakota. after grade graduation, lakota spent time caking care of her family. in 2005, lakota met a man on line and unexpectedly row
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relocated to missouri. with most details still unknown 12 years lakers the family celeste with more questions than answers. what they do snow that she was forced into sex trafficking and manipulated against her will. in october of 2005, lakota's family was called and told that her body was found badly beaten, wrapped in carpet padding and blanket in an open gravel mitt in missouri. local investigators brought in and subsequently let go dozens of suspects and have to this day not brought her murderer to justice. lakota was never given a chance to become a mother or pursue that bright future that surely laid ahead of her. she was robbed of a life she had yet to experience. a life that was certain to be filled with love from her family and deep appreciation from her family. these are not isolated cases. this goes on every day in
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america. i want to make a point that -- how discouraging it is so many times when you see events unfolding where maybe a young girl goes missing in a caribbean island and the world is turned upside down looking for her. or where we her a story where someone who comes from maybe a more affluent and wealthy family goes missing and we turn over every stone to find them. but yet that's not the story for very many indigenous women. so when you look at the importance of what we do today, probably the most important thing we can do is tell these stories. and from telling these stories have an opportunity to really change. and we can't ignore that frequently for native people they are not wrong to believe that they are the for gotten
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people of this country. way too often the first americans become the last americans. so understand savannah's arctic the attorney general, in cooperation with the secretary of the interior, must consult with the tribes on thousand improve tribal access to federal criminal information databases such as the national crime information center and the national missing and unidentified persons system. we need to ensure that tribal law enforcement has up-to-date information on missing native women and better communication -- in fact, essential -- better communication with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and tribal law enforcement agencies so cases like the ones you heard of today don't go unnoticed or uninvestigated. jurisdictional issues are a huge barrier in indian country to responding to and prosecuting crimes committed on tribal lands and standardized protocols must
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be established in order to get a quicker response to native women going missing. the complexity of jurisdiction on tribal land can slow down an investigation, but it's not an excuse. it can waste crucial time at the beginning of an investigation or a case, but it's not an excuse. if we do not act rapidly, we know we lose precious time to prevent homicides and to bring a woman safely home and help apprehend the perpetrators. one case study done alone in the national institute of justice, 97% of native women experience violence by a nonnative perpetrator. this number emphasizes what i have long said -- historic trauma is a major factor and perpetrators think that native
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land gives them a free pass from the law. this can no longer be tolerated and jurisdictional issues must be addressed. it cannot be the excuse for inaction. although we don't know the total number of missing and murdered native women, it's clear from all the stories that the statistics that we do have, the rates at which native women experience violence is intrinsically related to the likelihood of them going missing, being murdered, and forced into sex trafficking. here is just some of the statistics collected by the national institute of justice, the government accountability office, and the center for disease control and prevention regarding violence against native women. in 2016, 5,712 cases of missing native women were reported to the national crime information center. 125 of those cases were in my state of north dakota alone.
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on some reservations, native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average. i want to repeat that. on some reservations, native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average. american indians and alaska natives are two times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault compared to all other races. in 2010, it was found by the u.s. attorneys -- we found that the u.s. attorneys declined to prosecute nearly 52% of violent crime that occurred in indian country. homicide is the third leading cause of death among american indians and alaska native women between 10 and 24 years old. these high rates of violence include domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, and they must stop. we must work together to combat domestic violence and human trafficking in indian country.
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just last week the indian affairs committee held a hearing to discuss the lack of services provided for indian country regarding the horrific acts of violence and human trafficking of native women. just yesterday while questioning one of the officials at the department of interior about the need to do training in human trafficking at our casinos, he simply said, i thought you were going to ask me about indian gaming. um, i quickly said, i am asking you about indian gaming. because all of this works together. if we do not work together, every institution of the federal government, every institution of the state government, every institution of tribal government, if we don't work together, we will never make progress in providing the security that we have in this building, the security that we
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enjoy as white women will never be realized for women living on the reservation in indian country. we cannot let this continue. there are countless more stories like savannah's, stella's mona lisa's, monica's, and lakota's. it is time for congress to take action to prevent these stories and find out just how many stories there are. it is time to give voice to these voiceless women. it's time to bring their perpetrators to justice and give a voice to the families who are struggling even today, sometimes decades later, to understand how this can happen in america and they seem to be second-class citizens. i think that what we know, working with very many of my colleagues on the other side of the this isn't a partisan issue. i'm being joininged by my
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wonderful colleague from the great state of alaska. i think the first time we ever met this was the topic of conversation, was security for indian children, security for indian women, and alaska native women, and we knew, because both of us have traveled extensively in our states and spent a lot of time in the indigenous populations, and when family members ask us why is this happening, we frequently don't have an answer. i know that in my state jurisdictional issues provide some barriers to actually getting this done, but it's -- that's an excuse. we need to do better. and so with that, i want to yield the floor to my wonderful colleague from the great state of alaska, who once again is joining me in leading her side of the aisle to bring attention to these issues. ms. murkowski: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i want to acknowledge and thank
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the senator from north dakota. she has been a champion for the native people, indigenous peoples around the country, including in my state of asian whether it's working -- of alaska, whether it's working to address the issues related to childhood trauma that so many of our young native children face or the issues relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, the real courages that we see -- the real courages that we see -- the real scourges we see directed. she has recited the statistics. i think sometimes we just get number by the statistics. when you are told that you're four times the national average, it sounds bad, but what does that mean? and when you put face to it,
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when you hear the tragedy repeated through the stories, it is -- these are not just statistics that we are speaking of. these are -- these are real women. these are our sisters. these are our neighbors. these are our friends, and these are human beings who deserve to be respected in their lives but also respected in often tragic deaths. and how we work to address these difficult issues, i think, needs to be a focus and a priority for us. so i appreciate what the senator from north dakota is doing in bringing attention to our nation's lackluster -- and that's kind of a polite term
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here -- but a lackluster repons to the tragedy of missing and murdered native women and girls. i'm proud to lend my voice to the proposition that congress, in the exercise of our trust responsibility to our native people, that we have a responsibility to do more. you would think that that trust responsibility demands us to be paying even closer attention. and yet it seems that we just withdraw from that. that that responsibility is not acknowledged. now, it's not often here in the united states that we benchmark our treatment of indigenous peoples against canada. but in this case, there's actually a compelling difference between canada's national response to the tragedy of
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missing and murdered native women and our seeming indifference here in the united states. down in southeastern alaska, right across on the canadian side lies the town of prince rupert. this is in british collum y the alaska state ferry comes up from washington state, stops in prince rupert and then moves on in to alaska. prince rupert is also the terminus of highway 16, and the locals refer to highway 16 as "the highway of tears." they refer to it as the highway of tears because it is a road on which women and girls, native women and girls have vanished for decades now. so the question: how many? who's disappearing? some would say as few as 12,
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perhaps as many as 43. cbs news devoted a segment of its news magazine show "48 hours" to the highway of tears. canadian prime minister justin trudeau committed $54 million million -- 54 million canadian dollars to a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. i'll admit, there is some controversy over whether the national inquiry is actually fulfilling its mission. but my point here is to note that canada stepped up. they acknowledged that this is an issue, this is a problem. and have responded to the disproportionate victimization of native women and girls, and they've done so in a tangible way. and here in the united states, as my friend and colleague has
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noted, we are more than a bit late in acknowledging that the problem even exists. earlier this year the senators from montana, both senator deign and senator tester were successful in designating may 5, 2017 as national day of awareness of native american missing women and girls and the resolution recites some tribal communities face murder rates that are ten times the national average, as senator heitkamp has noted. that according to the centers for disease control and prevention, that homicide was the third-leading cause of death among native women between the ages of 10 and 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for alaska native women between 25 and 34 years of age. so we're trying to raise the attention, the awareness. we're trying to shine a
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spotlight. i certainly think that it's high time that federal law enforcement answer the question why? why is the murder rate for native women so high? why are we not addressing it in a comprehensive fashion? and the senator of north dakota has pointed out that in many areas jurisdictional issues are at play. and i agree. that's not an excuse. we acknowledge that we have challenges with jurisdictions. let's figure this out. women are disappearing and dying in alaska, it's not so much jurisdictional issues. it is the fact that in far too many of our communities we lack any law enforcement presence. we might have a vpso, a village safety police officer, but they're not armed. they're very limited in terms of their ability to provide for
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levels of enforcement. and more frustrating than so much of that is women who, who have been victimized feel like reporting doesn't get them anywhere because there is no follow-through. there is no prosecution. there is no -- there has been no effort that will allow them to have any level of recourse, much less justice visited upon them. but i think as we talk about these issues of jurisdiction and law enforcement and the rates that we see, i think we need to be clear that the discussion today that call for justice is not, is not driven by statistics and rates. it's driven by the faces.
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it's driven by the loss of people's daughters, people's siblings, people's friends. savannah and stella and nicole and mona lisa, these are all real people, real women with names, with faces, with families. in alaska, the face that we so often associate with the lack of progress when it comes to addressing the issue of missing and murdered native women is the face of sophie sergei. this year marks the 24th anniversary of the death of sophie serjei from pitkus point. this is a upic village in southwest alaska. on august 25 of 1993, sophie
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was found dead in the women's bathroom dorm on the university of alaska fairbanks campus. she was raped. she was shot dead. it's believed that her body remained in that bathroom for some 13 hours before it was found. the murder weapon was never recovered, and that case is still a cold case 24 years later. but we don't forget sergey. we don't forget sophie sergey, just as we don't forget the women that the senator from north dakota has shared the story with. we cannot forget these women. now unlike the tragedies along the highway of tears, we really don't know -- we really don't know how many native women and girls have gone missing and murdered. and that's a big part of the problem. but i will tell you that if you
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ask advocates for native women, the answer comes back at all. it's no secret, we all know somebody. we all know somebody who has gone missing, somebody who has been murdered. that was the testimony of tammy jarue. she's the executive director for the alaska native women resource center. and she testified before a congressional briefing last february. and tammy told the briefing that her organization has documented as many as 50 names of women. and when you think about it, numbers on that order were significant enough for prime minister trudeau to commission a national inquiry. so it causes us to ask the question: what about us? what number do we have to get to
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before there is a call to action? before we wake up and say this is not acceptable? this is not acceptable that our native women are disappearing, are being murdered. native women are asking why federal law enforcement has no protocol for addressing the crisis in our indian country. why there is a lack of coordination among criminal justice agencies in this country to set aside the jurisdictional challenges and investigate these tragedies in an effective manner. and why the lack of victim services? again, we had a hearing on human trafficking, sex trafficking in the indian affairs committee, and it was pretty revealing about the lack of victims' services, specific
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that could be there to help our native victims. the families of missing and murdered native women right now in alaska have to cover the cost of a traditional burial. they have to cover the cost of immediate long-term counseling. so many other expenses that they can't afford. we maintain a victims of crime funds here in this country to address these sort of costs. but there is no dedicated tribal funding stream. we had some pretty bipartisan efforts here in the senate to establish one, but we haven't been able to do that bare minimum to provide for the victims. mr. president, the issue we are discussing today, it's tragic, it is frustrating, it is
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depressing. but to remain silent is too truly marginalize, further marginnize native women and girls and that is unacceptable. perhaps we're not going to devote tens of millions of dollars to a national inquiry, but it is high time that we acknowledge a problem that has failed to make headlines in this country because you first have to acknowledge that a problem exists to make headway in addressing that problem. so, again, i thank the senator from north dakota for her strong and steadfast advocacy on behalf of not only our native women but our native children, our indigenous people's across this country. i appreciate all that is being done and i look forward to working with her again as we try to shine a brighter light on a very tragic situation.
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ms. murkowski: mr. president, i'm going to change topics here, a little more upbeat, if you will. because i want to recognize an extraordinary individual in my state along with his wife. i would like to take just a few minutes today to recognize reverend dr. alonzo b. paterson jr. and mrs. shirley paterson. during the first week in
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november, anchorage is going to host four days of events to commemorate the service of two of our most beloved community leaders, the reverend dr. alonzo b. paterson and his wife shirley paterson. next month reverend paterson leaves the pulpit of shiloh missionary baptist church. this is a pulpit that he has held for some 47 years. mrs. paterson, his wife of six decades, is to be recognized for her service as well. anchorage is one of america's great communities and it is not uncommon to celebrate the retirement of a figure of alonzo paterson's stature. but really four separate days of events, that's huge. and it's a testament to the respect that our community has for the paterson family. think about this: alaska's been a state for just 58 years. reverend paterson has had his pulpit for 47 years, and shiloh
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is not reverend paterson's first pulpit in alaska. it's his second. he came to anchorage after founding the corinthian baptist church in fairbanks. reverend paterson grew up with alaska and alaska grew up with reverend paterson. corinthian and shiloh could appropriately be characterized as african american churches but for the african american community in alaska, they were far more than churches. they are centers of black history in alaska. zaiaka cummings brewed reverend -- interviewed reverend paterson and in that reverend paterson said the church was and always has been the sanctuary in the black community. it's the meeting place, the community center, the focus for support and help, the place you come to be important. the psychologist for your particular problem, the time to shout out your frustrations and the only place to be significant. you could be a deacon or
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something in the church where in the rest of the community you were just another black person. the church was for us a panacea for many of the social ills that existed then and still have relevance. given the central role that reverend paterson has played in alaska's african american community for most of our state's existence it is no surprise he is regarded as an historian of black culture in america. mr. cummings observed it is a responsibility he doesn't take lightly. reverend paterson told her i feel like i have to be the keeper of our historical plight and to speak to each generation in my time. it's a powerful responsibility because if i go to sleep on my watch, then the next watch will have nothing to build on. we're responsible that the gate remains open for the next generation. and under reverend paterson's watch there was much progress. in the 1960's and 1970's, reverend paterson recalled much
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of alaska was a small family business, including the banks. if you were not part of that family or their friends, you had a hard time getting a job. many of the jobs were african americans were either construction or government jobs. reverend paterson proudly recalls the first black principal of the state elementary school, an african american banker who was elected to the school board and subsequently to the alaska legislature, an african american activist in the fair view section of anchorage who is regarded as grandfather of the city's public transportation system. today's african american community is built on what these pioneers have endured. alonzo patterson was an agent of change. he stated in ministry there are no limits except the ones we set for ourselves. under


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