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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  September 25, 2018 10:00am-12:37pm EDT

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serve on the consumer product safety commission, a confirmation vote scheduled for 2:15 eastern time. also today we're expecting senators to talk about the brett kavanaugh supreme court nomination. you're watching live coverage on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. today's opening prayer will be offered by pastor sam steele of chapel by the sea from south padre island, texas. the guest chaplain: good morning. christ jesus sent people out two by two. let us pray. eternal god, as our senators gather, two from each state, break down barriers that divide,
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create an environment of honest dialogue, and bring about positive compromise so that there is unity in our diversity and so our nation is steadfast in the foundation of the people, by the people, and for the people. loving god, we lift up to you our brothers and sisters touched by the weather across our land. may we reach out our hands of love and help. comfort those who suffer and strengthen those who serve. creator god, pour your wisdom upon each senator, bless them with humility as they serve and make us once again we the people. in your holy name we pray. amen. the presiding officer: please
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join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the 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 clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., september 25, 2018. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable cindy hyde-smith, a senator from the state of mississippi, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
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under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, consumer product safety commission, peter a. feldman of the district of columbia to be a commissioner.
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the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: you're not. mr. mcconnell: in the past week and a half, the american people have seen a confusing and chaotic process play out right here in the u.s. senate. they've seen uncorroborated, decades old allegations of wrongdoing pop up in the press at the last minute, the last minute just as judge brett
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kavanaugh's confirmation process was winding down. they've seen an accuser request for privacy disregarded and in ordinary standards of fairness completely discarded. they've seen a disturbing pattern play out on two separate indication occasions already -- occasions already. it goes like this. number one, our democratic colleagues on the judiciary committee get wind of or maybe even go looking for a sensitive allegation. second, they decline to share it with the majority meaning the committee cannot promptly take appropriate action. and third, they allow the allegation to leak to the press at the last moment. fortunately in stark contrast to this malpractice, the american people have also seen the
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exemplary manner in which chairman grassley has led the judiciary committee throughout the entire process. the chairman has acted swiftly and transapparently -- transparently in pursuit of the truth. he's treated dr. ford with kindness and respect. acknowledging that the irresponsible and irregular manner in which her allegation was brought to light was no fault of hers. the chairman opened a dialogue with dr. ford's counsel. he deferred to her preferences on the timing of her hearing and a number of other details. to quote a letter from the chairman wrote to dr. ford yesterday, here's what chairman grassley had to say. i'm committed to fair and respectful treatment of you. the hearing on thursday will allow you to testify and also will allow the nominee to address the allegations. both of you deserve a credible and fair process and a secure
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and professional -- in a secure and professional setting. that was chairman grassley. so we have one side that is handling these sensitive matters with dignity, with professionalism, by the book, and we have another side that chose to sit on allegations and keep them secret until they were leaked to the press. the same side as the democratic leader who'd already made his mind up mere hours after judge kavanaugh was chosen when he said, i will oppose him with everything i've got. well, apparently so. apparently so, madam president. look, the american people know that sexual misconduct is gravely serious. they expect this to be treated seriously and addressed promptly. that is precisely, precisely what chairman grassley has done and is doing.
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but the american people also insist that vague, unsubstantiated, and uncorroborated allegations of 30-plus-year-old misconduct were all the supposed witnesses either totally deny it or can't confirm it is nowhere near grounds to nullify someone's career or destroy their good name. justice matters. evidence matters. facts matter. let's look at one of the supposed witnesses. miss leland kaiser. she's not a friend of judge kavanaugh's. in fact, she says she doesn't even know him. rather she's a long-time friend of professor ford's.
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what does miss kaiser say about the allegations? through her lawyer she says that she does not know mr. kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party where he was present with or without dr. ford. in other words, she backs up judge kavanaugh's statement. look, this is america here we're talking about. we're supposed to uphold fairness and the presumption of innocence. everyone deserves better than this. everyone. not just judge kavanaugh. everyone deserves better than this. i was surprised and disappointed by the recent statements on television from some of my democratic colleagues including one statement this weekend that judge kavanaugh is not owed the
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presumption of innocence. one of our democratic colleagues said judge kavanaugh is not owed the presumption of innocence because they disagree with his judicial philosophy? that's not a standard we want to set in america. no matter how loudly my democratic colleagues try to say otherwise, we have never been and do not wish to be a society in which a single uncorroborated allegation can float out across decades and wield veto power over somebody's life. judge kavanaugh is an immensely bright and qualified nominee. we've heard from legal experts and scholars that he is one of
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the fairest and most brilliant jurists anywhere in our country. and we've heard from hundreds, hundreds of character witnesses, from his high school days to the present who vouch for his character and his integrity. but the need, madam president, for a fair process runs even deeper than judge kavanaugh himself. as he wrote in his own letter to chairman grassley yesterday, the weaponization, the weaponization of unsubstantiated smears -- that's what we have here. the weaponization of unsubstantiateed smears will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service. this isn't what members want the senate to be.
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this isn't what americans want our society to be. so i look forward to hearing from both dr. ford and judge kavanaugh under oath this thursday morning. i'm glad we'll be able to hear testimony from both. and then i look forward to an up-or-down vote on this nomination right here on the senate floor. now, madam president, on an entirely different matter, as i noted yesterday, the senate continues to make progress on critical national priorities. we're restoring the regular order appropriations process, we're securing commonsense reforms to infrastructure policy and the longest authorization of f.a.a. in over 35 years. and this week, we're confirming more of the president's well-qualified nominees. yesterday, the senate voted to
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confirm jackie wolcott as u.s. representative to the international atomic energy agency and to the united nations in vienna. today we turn to consider the nomination of peter a. feldman to be a commissioner of the consumer products safety commission. i would urge each of my colleagues to join me in voting to confirm mr. feldman and to continue to process nominations for vital roles in the executive branch. now, on one final matter. for months, madam president, we have heard the firsthand accounts of american workers and job creators who felt the immediate impacts of republicans' pro-growth, pro-opportunity agenda. we have heard from working parents who have received raises and special bonuses as a result of once in a generation tax reform. we have heard from small and medium-sized business owners who have been able to make larger investments in their workers, facilities, and products, thanks to increased regulatory certainty. and with every new job created,
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every pay raise passed along, we have seen that these stories are not disconnected anecdotes. rather, they are part of a larger trespassed in an american economy that is reaching new heights. for example, here on the floor, i have highlighted small businesses in montana and the ways they are using tax reform savings to drive their local economies forward. how sticks ag has awarded worker bonuses and thomas river lumber has invested in new equipment. well, earlier this month, governor bullock and the montana department of labor and industry released a report that suggests that the state's economy is showing signs of wide-reaching prosperity. in other words, the stories my colleagues and i have been hearing for months are no fluke. in the last year, montana entrepreneurs founded nearly 3,000 new enterprises, and according to governor bullock, the employment rate is, quote,
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the lowest it has been in over a decade in montana. over the past year and a half, this united republican government has implemented a bold pro-growth agenda to help create the conditions for montana workers and job creators to write this new chapter. and the signs we are seeing today are truly remarkable. but they shouldn't come as a surprise. the trends we are seeing across the country today are exactly what this united republican government had in mind when we passed generational tax reform. they are exactly what one of montana's senators had in mind when he voted to deliver it. what a shame that the other senator joined senate democrats in lockstep opposition. these days, the ball is in the american people's court. they will keep taking it and run with it, creating jobs and new prosperity all across our country. and here in congress,
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republicans will keep working hard to help them do it. mr. durbin: madam president. the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: what is the business before the senate? the presiding officer: the senate is considering the feldman nomination. mr. durbin: thank you. madam president, i ask unanimous consent to speak in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: madam president, plow through, plow through this nomination. that's what the majority leader said over the weekend. we're going to plow through this nomination of brett kavanaugh for the supreme court. it doesn't sound to me like a recipe for fairness, and it certainly doesn't sound like a recipe for getting to the truth. plow through. that was what the republican majority leader said the
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republican majority would do. i was surprised when this all started by a spokesman for president trump, kelly anne conway. not noted for her moderation made a very, i thought, moderate and thoughtful statement at the beginning of the consideration of dr. ford's charges. she said we are neither going to ignore or insult dr. ford. i thought that was a good standard. unfortunately, since she said that, neither the president nor many republican leaders have lived up to it. i come to this as a member of the senate judiciary committee trying to think about the gravity of the situation and what is fair. in this situation, we have dr. ford coming forward. i thought long and hard, and i have talked to many of my
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staffers and friends back home about her motivation. what in the world does she have to gain by putting herself and her family through this? what's at the end of it for her? i can't see any positives other than the satisfaction that she is pursuing what she believes to be true. she is exposing herself to ridicule, harassment, attack, even by the president of the united states in his tweets. her family's in danger, and they have had to move out of their homes. their computers have been hacked. she has had to engage attorneys and get into lengthy negotiations with republicans in the senate just for a chance to come and tell her story. this woman who had a family and a life well respected by her colleagues and people in her community have turned it upside down. why? what is in this for dr. ford? what is she trying to achieve
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here? the more i have thought about it, the more i have concluded that she just believes that it's so critically important for the american people to hear her story, understand what she believes to be true about this nominee. and so i come to this certainly with an open mind in terms of her presentation, and when i hear the republican leader come to the floor and talk about her situation, he zigs and zags. at one moment, he sounds like he is sympathetic to dr. ford and what she has been through, calling for fairness. then before he catches a breath, he calls her charges unsubstantiated smear. i would say to my colleague from kentucky you can't have it both ways. you can't be respectful of dr. ford and the reason she comes to washington and then dismiss and discredit everything she has said as a smear. you just can't have it both
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ways, but he tries, and he has tried for two straight days. he argues that this situation that we face has been carefully choreographed by the democrats. well, there is the old cliche by will rogers about i don't belong to any organized political party, i'm a democrat. it certainly applies to this situation because this has been an usual development. senator dianne feinstein receives a letter from dr. ford through a member of congress, anna eshoo. when she receives the letter, it says at the top confidential. i don't want my identity to be disclosed. and senator feinstein has told me and others over and over again she felt dutybound not to victimize dr. ford who was claiming to have been victimized already. and she tried. she tried to find a way to get to the bottom of this, to establish whether dr. ford's charges were accurate, credible,
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and after weeks of trying, she came to the conclusion she couldn't do it. she couldn't do it through the united states senate and through the resources available to her. she spoke to dr. ford. she took the charge seriously. she was in communication with her attorneys. she tried her best to find a way to establish the credibility of these charges before moving forward, always constrained by dr. ford's admonition don't let my identity become public. and that's why it took longer than it should. now, senator mcconnell has come to the floor two straight days and somehow has suggested that the democrats leaked this letter to the press. well, i don't have any knowledge of that whatsoever. i do know as far as senator feinstein was concerned, she was scrupulous in making certain that the identity of dr. ford be protected as long as she wanted it protected. so i don't know what he is saying or whether he has information to back up these
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charges which he's made for two straight days on the floor. i take a look at this situation, and i understand where we are today. bottom line, dr. ford had nothing to gain by doing this, nothing. she still has nothing to gain. but then there is one overriding fact here which senator mcconnell continues to ignore. let me take you back in history. 27 years ago was the clarence thomas hearing. i was in the house at the time. but i read about it, followed it, as most americans did. the very day that the senate judiciary chairman joe biden received the letter from anita hill charging sexual misconduct against clarence thomas, that same day chairman biden sent the letter to the president george w. bush white house, to the
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white house counsel c. boyden gray, the same day, and c. boyden gray, the white house counsel that very day, ordered the federal bureau of investigation to investigate the charges by anita hill. now, there has been a lot of comment on whether or not that investigation was adequate or peremptory. there has been a lot more comment on whether the following hearing was fair, adequate, and not peremptory. but the fact is the instinct of joe biden and the instinct of the george h.w. bush white house was the same -- investigate it. don't assume it's true, don't assume it's false. now, look at this case. look at where we are today despite repeated requests of the white house and the republicans for the federal bureau of investigation to look into this matter, despite repeated requests of them to ask the f.b.i. to do this, they have refused. the republicans refuse an
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investigation of the charges by dr. ford. dr. ford has called for the f.b.i. to investigate her own charges. they refuse. if they truly believed that there was no evidence, no witness to back up the charges of dr. ford, wouldn't they obviously have called the f.b.i. and said do your job, kind what you can, and we are confident at the end that judge kavanaugh will be exonerated? but they haven't. they haven't. and despite all the calls for fairness, fairness over and over again by senator mcconnell, fairness would dictate that a nonpartisan investigative group like the f.b.i. look into this matter and come to conclusions, whatever they may be. i listened as senator mcconnell said this morning. justice matters, he said. evidence matters, he said. facts matter, he said.
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i might add an f.b.i. investigation matters, too. because it would get to the bottom of all three of those things. and yet, the white house, the president, senator mcconnell, and republicans have resisted this f.b.i. investigation despite dr. ford asking for it. as far as the presumption of innocence, i listened to senator mcconnell say that someone suggested that judge kavanaugh's not entitled to that. i disagree with whomever said that. both, both dr. ford and judge kavanaugh are entitled to a presumption of innocence. the case has to be proven. the facts have to be shown as best they can. but i want to add something else, too. i'm troubled by what trump said over the weekend about dr. ford's charges. the suggestion, it's been so long that the charges are not credible. the suggestion that if they were
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truly credible, she would have told her parents what happened that night in that bedroom. her parents would have reported it to law enforcement and we could read the police reports. that's not the real world when it comes to this kind of sexual harassment and sexual violence, not at all. that's the reason it took 40 years for altar boys in the catholic church to come forward and final lay tell their story. that's the reason why many women who have been the victims never come forward. it's hard, it's difficult, it's painful, it's divisive, and many of them step away from it and carry those memories for a lifetime without ever telling anyone. if you want to be fair to dr. ford and you want to be fair to the victims of sexual violence, harassment, assault, then you've got to acknowledge the obvious -- this is something which no one wishes on any member of of their family, friend, or person that they've
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met. and if it occurs, in fairness, we should be sensitive to the fact that many don't want to come forward. -- at all. and some only do it reluctantly, much later. a fair and -- i want a fair and open hearing this thursday when both dr. ford and judge kavanaugh come before us. this is not a smear campaign, as far as i'm concerned. dr. ford, with nothing to feign, as stepped -- dr. ford, with nothing to gain, has stepped forward and told her story. she has subjected her family and her fame. on the same token, judge kavanaugh is entitled to tell his story. and i hope he will. he will have to explain to this committee why he didn't call for a federal bureau of investigation effort on his own behalf to establish the facts,
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the evidence, the witnesses, if there were any. he didn't. and that is a fact. we also know that this charge that senator mcconnell made that senator schumer made up his mind on the kavanaugh nomination early is true in some respects. senator schumer announced his position on this nomination early. but if you've been listening to the speeches given by senator mcconnell on the floor from the start, you certainly know where his vote has been. he says he's looking forward to hearing the testimony on thursday. well, clearly he's made up his mind before he hears that testimony. so to fault senator schumer for taking a position on this nomination early, he is ignoring the obvious. so did senator mcconnell. i will say at this point that we face an awesome responsibility -- a nation divided politically,
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a nation where people have strong, strong feelings on both sides, and an effort to find the truth. i don't know what the legal standard is for this hearing. we certainly know when it comes to criminal law the matter of probable cause which leads to investigation and prosecution and beyond a reasonable do you believe to prove the doubt of someone. we know there are different standards. no one has spelled out what our standard of proof is. but this much i know -- no one, not any single american, is entitled to a seat on the supreme court. they've got to come before the american people first and certainly the senate under the constitution and make their case for the advice and consent of the senate to that nomination. it's a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. the person who fills that seat can make decisions which swing history one way or the other,
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decisions which affect justice and privacy and fairness in american life, and for that reason, all of us -- all the members of the senate around and certainly the senate judiciary committee, have to take them seriously. i am going to take this very seriously and i hope members on both sides of the aisle will. and i also want to say this -- senator mcconnell followed up with his "plow through this matter" comment and told us, we'll stay through the weekend, if necessary, to get this done. we've got to get it behind us. we've got to move on p. where was senator mcconnell's sense of urgency when the vacancy was created by the death of antonin scalia? for almost a year, senator mcconnell left that seat vacant in the hopes that a republican would be elected president. the idea now of giving a few days to go through the evidence, to go through an investigation, to have a reasonable review of the record of judge kavanaugh now is pushed away. this has to be done and has to
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be done this weekend, and that's it. why? why the urgency, senator mcconnell? shouldn't we value fairness over urgency? i ask senator mcconnell, set your plow aside for a few minutes, would you. take a look at the senate, this deliberative body, and make sure that in fairness to both dr. ford and to judge kavanaugh we don't push this through and we don't rush to judgment. let us use our opportunity in the senate and our responsibility in the senate to treat our constitutional requirements seriously. madam president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you, madam president. now yesterday the republican leader began his speech with a quote of mine. let me begin mine with a quote of his. quote -- we're going to plow right through it -- unquote. that's leader mcconnell, we're going to plow right through it. he was speaking to the values
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voters summit about serious allegations of sexual misconduct by supreme court nominee judge kavanaugh. we're going to plow right through it. does that sound like someone who is treating these allegations with respect and fairness and evenhandedness? does it sound like someone who wants to get at the real facts, no matter where they fall? certainly not to me. not to the american people. and then yesterday leader mcconnell brought the debate to a new low by calling the allegations against judge kavanaugh a democratic smear job. never mind that leader mcconnell has no evidence -- no evidence whatsoever -- that the recent allegations were contrived by democrats. they were not. never mind that leader mcconnell had no evidence -- no evidence whatsoever -- that
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the events in question took place or didn't take place. it seems likely that they did. but he has no evidence one way or the other because he won't even ask for an investigation of it. he unilaterally then declared the accounts of multiple women to be, quote, manufactured mud, part of a partisan smear campaign. so let me address these comments directly. that these allegations are part of, quote, a democratic smear job. first, these allegations did not originate with democrats. these women came forward with principle and courage, knowing they would face abuse and lasting personal pain for doing so. but realizing they had an obligation to the country, they did so anyway. dr. ford came forward and shared her story voluntarily on her own
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initiative. she wasn't put up by a democrat, a republican, or anyone else. it came from her heart. the idea that these allegations were cooked up or instigated or encouraged by democrats in congress is patently absurd and a real insult to the members of the judiciary committee and the members of this chamber. it is against the spirit, if not the letter of our senate rules. addressing the second part of mcconnell's claim, that's even worse. democrats and republicans are always throwing charges at each other, but the idea that this is a smear job? whatever you think of the veracity of the allegations, it is shameful -- shameful -- to doubt the women's' sincerity. to say they're making it up, to discredit their sincere testimony is nothing more than a partisan hit job. for too long, madam president,
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people in positions of power have dismissed accounts made by women before any evidence could be brought forward as politically motivated or character assassination. we've come a long way in this country, and we have to be better than that, better than the low, low, low standard that senator mcconnell has set. at a minimum, we must respect these women and judge kavanaugh by handling these allegations with seriousness, the seriousness they -- the seriousness they deserve. madam president, leader mcconnell owes an apology to dr. ford for labeling her allegations a smear job. let me repeat that. leader mcconnell owes an apology to dr. ford for labeling her allegations a smear job, and he should apologize to her immediately. it is galling -- galling -- for
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the republican leader, who has done more than maybe anyone else to politicize the supreme court nomination process, to make these trumped-up, hyperbolic charges of partisanship by democrats. it's a sad habit of republicans to accuse the other side of doing what they in fact are doing. it happens over and over again. that seems to be the case here as democrats have over and over again urged the f.b.i. to help investigate these allegations to get to the bottom of it, to get to the truth, while republicans block any investigation and plow right through with their nominee it's simple, madam president. if leader mcconnell were truly concerned about these allegations being swept up in partisanship, he would join us in calling for an f.b.i. background investigation which can be performed quietly, soberly, quickly, effectively
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without fuss, without muss, without any circus atmosphere. that's the way to get this done. and the only reason it hasn't happened is both the president and leader mcconnell have blocked it as well as senator grassley. don't they want the truth? they say they do. but their actions belie that because they won't even entertain a background check which the f.b.i. does over and over again to find out the facts. i think they're afraid of the facts. why doesn't judge kavanaugh call for an f.b.i. investigation? he went on tv last night and said they're not true. if they're not true, he has nothing to fear from an f.b.i. background investigation and he should want it, no matter what leader mcconnell and president trump say. why doesn't he call for it? is he afraid of the facts? so i challenge you, leader mcconnell, if you're so
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convinced this is a smear campaign, you'll have no problem with an f.b.i. investigation to prove your case. come to the floor. come now. join me in asking the white house to reopen the background check. let's get the politics out of it. let's root out the facts. let's get to the truth. no history antics -- histrionics, no smearing, no name calling. as they said in dragnet, just the facts. because labeling this a partisan smear job demeans not only the senators in my caucus who i know are doing everything they can to treat these allegations with caution and respect for both dr. ford and judge kavanaugh but it demeans many, many women who have come forward of their own volition knowingly inviting abuse to share their stories. and they share them not because
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they simply want their stories to be told. they want to prevent it from happening again and again and again in the future. they want to protect their daughters and their granddaughters from this kind of stuff which as we have seen the last year or two has been all too real, all too frequent. they're doing a noble thing and then to slander them by calling what dr. ford said a smear job? it's outrageous, demeaning, wrong. again, leader mcconnell should rethink what he said in the heat of the moment and apologize to dr. ford. what's really going on here, why are republicans falsely claiming that credible allegations are being made for political reasons? because they're -- because their nominee to the supreme court, frankly, has a gigantic credibility problem.
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in his testimony before the judiciary committee, judge kavanaugh misled the committee on numerous occasions regarding his involvement in some of the ugliest controversies of the bush administration, including the bush administration's policies on torture, the confirmation of some deeply flawed judges like judge william pryor and charles pickering and his knowledge of the theft of democratic e-mail records by republican staff member named manny miranda. in all of those judge kavanaugh did not come clean. he did not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth but far, far from it. judge kavanaugh was in the thick of all of those things as a pop political operative in the bush white house and yet denied any involvement. here again with these new allegations brought forward by dr. ford and others, judge kavanaugh is again issuing blanket denials but the question
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looms. is he credible? is he credible? he's opposed to having the f.b.i. investigate as is the majority leader, as is president trump. none of them want the facts to come out. they just want to, quote, plow right through it. if not for the courage of a handful of republican senators, we wouldn't have even had the hearing. mcconnell and grassley did not want hearings, even hearings which they are now saying are fair and right. but a few republican senators to their credit said we have to have hearings, at least let's hear this woman out. i didn't hear them calling this a smear job, thank god. they said let's get the facts. well, again, to repeat. the best way to get the facts is not just to plow through it. it's to have the f.b.i. do what they have always done when new information comes up with a nominee they may have already checked out. reopen the background check and
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check out these new facts. it won't take long. it will have -- it will be done quietly and in private and then the judiciary members on both sides of the aisle can learn the same facts done by an objective observer. that's all the american people want. so the american people see what's going on. they're looking at judge kavanaugh. they're finding him less and less credible. that's why his nomination is in deep trouble. perhaps that's why in poll after poll the plurality of americans say judge kavanaugh should not be confirmed. let us get the facts. let us stop smearing women who have the courage to come forward. let's get to the bottom of this in a correct, appropriate, and dignified way. that's what the american people want. and that's what we should be doing in a bipartisan way in this chamber. i yield the floor.
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and note 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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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, it is so ordered. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i wanted to come to the floor and talk for a few minutes to talk about the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in as a result of the failure of the ranking member of the judiciary committee to submit a letter that she got from, in this case we now know dr. ford, to the background investigators who are bipartisan who would have investigated this matter
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during the normal course of the confirmation process in a way that protected the anonymity and confidentiality of dr. ford as well as the nominee. as the presiding officer knows, having been a long-time member of the senate judiciary committee, frequently during the course of a background investigation we will learn things that senators will want to ask the nominee about, but some of them are so sensitive, and, frankly, some of them involve allegations we just don't know whether there's any bases to them or not and -- basis to them or not and they are handled in a particular way by the background investigators and they are not made available to the staff because they are potentially embarrassing and, frankly, we have to get to the bottom of them and we have to do so in a way that is respectful, both the person making the
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accusation as well as the nominee. unfortunately, none of that happened here because we now know that the ranking member, our friend senator feinstein, sat on this letter for some six weeks, and then after the hearing, after all the,000-plus -- after all of the questions for the record, after being examine the nominee for two days over a long period of time, having gone through an f.b.i. background investigation as well as a bipartisan background investigation of the judiciary committee staff, this letter comes out in a way that, frankly, puts dr. ford in an uncomfortable position but also has consequences in terms of the nominee and many of us saw last night judge kavanaugh talk about the impact of this accusation that he denies ever occurring,
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it's impact on his children, on his marriage, and on his reputation. this is not something any of us should welcome or take lightly especially when there's an alternative which would have protected dr. ford and the nominee and allowed us to get to the bottom of this accusation before it would ever have the potential of becoming public. i just don't buy this idea either that if you're a man you're on one side of this argument when it comes to accusations of sexual misconduct or if you're a woman you're on the other side. all of us have mothers, we all have fathers, many of us have brothers and sisters, many of us are fortunate enough to have daughters, as i do. i want to make sure my daughters and my wife and my sister are treated with the dignity and respect that they are entitled to were they to be so unfortunate to be caught up in a situation where they were a
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victim of sexual misconduct by a man. conversely, this idea that just because you're a man you're presumed to be guilty because somebody makes an accusation without presenting any evidence of that to support that accusation strikes me as being uniquely antithetical to our constitutional system and our sense of what is fair play. i'll talk about that more in just a second. i'm very proud to support the nominee, brett kavanaugh, for the united states supreme court. i've had the fortune to know him since about 2000. he is an exceptional nominee by all -- in all respects and i, along with the majority leader and others, think is it a dis -- it is a disservice to him as well as our courts as well as the senate and the confirmation
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process for us to sit idly by and allow our colleagues across the aisle to blow up the normal process and to dent great a -- denigrate a reputation he has sought to build, especially without solid evidence. again, we feel sympathy, and we should, people who claim sexual assault and we owe them a fair chance to share their story and produce evidence. and we have recourse in our courts of law and elsewhere when those sort of serious accusations are made, but we also need to consider both sides of the equation. we need to consider the impact on the nominee, somebody who served more than 12 years as a judge on the d.c. circuit court of appealses and before that worked for the president of the united states in the white house
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counsel's office. his public service has required him to undergo not one f.b.i. background check but six f.b.i. background checks, and he passed all of them with flying colors. never before in any of those six background checks has this accusation been lodged, not once in his long career has there been any allegation of improper conduct on the part of judge kavanaugh toward women, not once, other than this allegation. as i said, mr. president, i think as we think about what a fair process is, and judge kavanaugh talked about that last night, we need a fair process. we need not to assume somebody is guilty because an allegation has been made. frankly, in the criminal law context we wouldn't want to give the government that much power
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to be table to deny us of your liberty, our property, even our life by just an accusation without requiring credible evidence to be presented in order to prove it before an impartial jury or judge. this is a constitutional principle, a bedrock constitutional principle of our form of government. it is very disturbing, and its deigning -- it's dangerous, to hear some of our colleagues try to turn that principle on its head and say it's up to judge kavanaugh to disprove the allegations. he said it never happened. how could he possibly disprove the allegation when he said it never happened? well, that just shows the extent to which i think we've gotten off track in this confirmation
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process. we've already heard an awful lot about the judge, and by all accounts he is well qualified, according to friends, mentors, law clerks, attorneys, and professors. everybody who testified about his nomination considered him to be a man of integrity, and i believe that personally to be the fact. so it ought to trouble all of us that notwithstanding this orderly, respectful process by which the judiciary committee conduction background investigations, including accusations like the one being made by dr. ford when that emerges at the 11th hour and it makes no sense in terms of what we know about the nominee it doesn't fit the picture. when something is alleged that's so completely out of character for what we do know about the nominee, it ought to strain our
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credulity, and i, unlike some of our colleagues across the aisle do not believe we should rush to judgment and simply assume the worst. the other attribute of a fair process, mr. president, would be an impartial judge or somebody who hadn't already made up their mind. we know that's not the case among our democratic colleagues. the minority leader said he would do everything in his power to stop the nominee long before this accusation came up. and i believe none of the democrats on the judiciary committee would have supported the nominee even before they knew about this allegation. that's not a fair process. they are not a neutral observer or an impartial arbiter of the
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facts. so they are more than happy to embrace thinly sourced allegations, even character assassinations based on shreds of evidence, if you can dignify it by calling that, but that's not an approach i think we should support, it is not an approach i can support, and i don't think it's a process that anybody in the senate or any americans should support. it's shortsighted, it's narrowly focused and wrong. i once told a friend when the facts no longer make a difference in an argument, i'm going to look for a new line of work. but the facts do matter and these are the facts. right now we have one primary allegation regarding judge kavanaugh and then another one that just popped up in the last day or so that i'll talk about in a moment.
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americans are all-too familiar now with the misconduct that one person claims occurred more than 35 years ago. it's really hard to reconstruct things that happened 35 years ago. i think we all know that from our common experience. i wonder if anybody within the sound of my voice could tell me what were you doing 35 years ago on a given day in a given month at a given time? could you reconstruct in your own memory what you were doing at that time and on that date? where you were, who you were with? well, we also have to bear in mind that judge kavanaugh has said that this alleged incident simply did not happen, and he said so under penalty of a felony. in other words, if you lie to the f.b.i., if you lie to congress during the course of a
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background investigation or in testimony to congress, that is subject to a criminal penalty. now, because dr. ford didn't go through the normal background investigation. she has not had to give evidence to the committee or to the congress under that same penalty for perjury. judge kavanaugh has, but she hasn't, but she will have that chance this thursday. i firmly believe that a fair process means that both the accuser and the accused should be required to provide information to the congress, to the senate, to the judiciary committee under the same conditions. in other words, if one witness testifies under oath, then both witnesses should testify under oath. if both -- if one witness is subject to a penalty of perjury
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for lying, then both witnesses should be subject to a penalty in the event of perjury for lying. that's what -- that's another attribute of a fair process that judge kavanaugh talked about last night. we can't ignore the fact that so far no one else has corroborate ed dr. ford's statements, and she herself concedes she told no one about this alleged incident, not even a friend, a family member in 2012. and only then without mentioning brett kavanaugh's name. the judiciary committee investigators, as you would want and expect, have already been in touch with the four other people whom dr. ford claimed were involved in this incident, and all four have denied having any knowledge of this event. that's a fact.
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can't ignore it, shouldn't ignore it. that's something we ought to consider as part of a fair process. nevertheless, we have really done everything we possibly can, acceded to every reasonable demand being made by dr. ford and her lawyers to give her an opportunity to be heard. we welcome, we welcome her testimony, and we will listen to her at the hearing that's been scheduled for this thursday. we welcome her participation, but we insist on a fair process, a fair process to her and a fair process to the nominee, one that allows her and judge kavanaugh to testify, to explain, to justify, to crobt if -- corroborate if they can. again, one of the hallmarks of a fair process is the presumption of innocence. this presumption of guilt based
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on an unproven accusation is un-american. it's absolutely foreign to who we are as a country. and the sort of process demanded under our constitution for people accused of serious misconduct. so far this process has been patently unfair, both to dr. ford and to judge kavanaugh because the ranking member sat on this letter for six weeks, didn't submit it to the regular background investigation process that would have protected dr. ford and her confidentiality while it was being pursued. now as a result of the way this was handled by the ranking member, her letter, which she requested remain confidential, and her complaint which she requested remain anonymous was
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leaked to the press, a media firestorm ensued, and i'm confident this is not what dr. ford wanted when she sent that letter to our ranking member on the judiciary committee. it's important that dr. ford be given the chance to talk about what she believes happened to her. we are in the middle of an important national conversation about sexual assault and how certain people in positions of power wield their influence to coerce and intimidate women, in the workplace and at large. this is a long overdue conversation. but we can't let the pendulum swing so far as to deny the accused his or her basic rights. the judiciary committee, as i said, is no stranger to these
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sorts of allegations. as one of our own members stepped down, this congress, after acknowledging his own misconduct. but if as judge kavanaugh says, the conduct in question never occurred, he shouldn't be used as some sort of sacrificial lamb on behalf of larger causes and concerns to which he is in no way attached or implicated. that would be unjust. that would be the opposite of fair. and it would establish a terrible precedent for nominees moving forward. we can't, and we shouldn't let that happen. mr. chairman, -- mr. president, chairman grassley, the chairman of the judiciary committee, i believe has done an extraordinary job under very difficult circumstances. he has been extraordinarily gracious in trying to
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accommodate dr. ford. that's what we all have wanted, even after a legal team ignored offers and deadlines over the course of last week. i have to be honest, though. some of the tactics waged so far make we wonder whether dr. ford is still in control of her own story and her own circumstances. it makes me wonder whether she is being exploited by a political cause and whether her handlers and some of her supporters truly have her interests at heart. i wonder if particularly given that after insisting this sensitive matter be treated confidentially, why it was that the letter in the possession of our colleagues on the judiciary committee on the democratic side
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was leaked to the media, and drd publicly. remember the reason why our friend, the ranking member from california, said she withheld this allegation until the very last minute was to protect dr. ford and to respect her request for anonymity. but that was then trampled on, ignored, and her wishes betrayed when this letter was leaked to the press. again, this is a particularly troubling matter, but one of our colleagues on the judiciary committee on the other side of the aisle has gone so far as to suggest that judge kavanaugh doesn't deserve the presumption of innocence, that just because a 36-year, 35-year-old allegation was made, we must presume he's guilty.
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well, she said she believes that because -- not because of anything to do with his reputation for honesty or truthfulness or anything about the facts. she said it's because of the way he conducts his judgment, the way he approaches cases. that is an extraordinarily disturbing statement. i think it should be to all of us. this idea that he has denied what is a constitutional right when an accusation is made of a crime because of the way he performs his job as a judge deciding cases, that ought to disturb all of us. i hope our colleagues will approach thursday's hearing with much more of an open mind than apparently she will. as i mentioned a moment ago, it is true that now there is a second allegation reported against judge kavanaugh, and it stems from a "new yorker"
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article that was published a couple of days ago. but obviously, it does not hold up to scrutiny. you don't have to take my word for it. just ask the new york times. "the new york times" looked into it, conducted dozens of interviews trying to find anybody who would corroborate this allegation, and they wouldn't touch it because they couldn't get anybody else to say yeah, that's what happened. one journalist said on the air that democrats sought this second woman out and essentially convinced her to make an accusation against judge kavanaugh. according to the story, no one the accuser knows has corroborated her claim. that's why "the new york times" wouldn't report it. they interviewed several dozen people, and they looked really hard. you can imagine how hard those
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reporters looked to find somebody, anybody who would corroborate this allegation, but they couldn't find anybody. what they did find is that the accuser herself reportedly told others she wasn't sure if the perpetrator was actually judge kavanaugh. she told others that she was talking to about possibly corroborating her accusation. she wasn't sure it was judge kavanaugh, yet now this information has been distributed in the press and around the country in a way that really is extraordinarily shameful. i don't say this often, but good for "the new york times." thanks for upholding a modicum of journalistic integrity by not reporting this uncorroborated
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allegation where the person who is making the accusation said i may have the wrong guy, and shame on "the new yorker" and others who have published this this -- this junk journalism. mr. president, judge kavanaugh is not going away, as he said, despite the allegations made against him which he says are false and did not happen, despite the smear campaign on his reputation as a person of integrity, despite the threats made against him and his family. he said he will not be intimidated into withdrawing and vowed to defend both his integrity and his good name before the judiciary committee this week.
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as the delay tactics continue to play out and the news stories continue to pile up, let's not lose sight of why judge kavanaugh was nominated in the first place. his qualifications and the respect that he enjoys from all of those who have interacted with him professionally and personally. his work has been praised by legal practitioners and scholars alike. he has been unanimously affirmed by the supreme court on numerous occasions, and during his grueling week-long confirmation hearing, he showed the kind of poise and seriousness befitting the high office to which he has been nominated. he fielded many, many questions from republicans and democrats, and he responded to all of them truthfully, articulately and graciously. so while it's easy to be distracted by the latest
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irresponsible, unsubstantiated allegation, we need to put that in larger context. surely these allegations cannot be viewed in isolation, nor can the fact that our colleagues across the aisle have previously questioned amy coney barrett for her catholic faith. judge kavanaugh's a practicing catholic as well. amy coney barrett who had been nominated for the seventh circuit was asked -- or actually she was told in questioning her catholic faith, she was told that the dogma lived loudly within her, suggesting somehow that because she is a practicing catholic, she could not be confirmed to the circuit court
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of appeals for the seventh circuit. we don't have religious tests in this country, and no matter what your faith or background or absence of faith in a higher being, we should not be attacking nominees for their religion, for their faith or their lack of faith. we should be confirming good nominees who can apply the law and the constitution as written. but it is important, i think, to put the amy coney barrett questioning and statement in this context given the background and faith of this nominee. mr. president, we will try our best to get to the truth this week. we will listen carefully, but we will remember all of the
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evidence, and then we will vote on whether to confirm brett kavanaugh to the united states supreme court. our democratic colleagues have dragged this out long enough. there will be no more delays, and soon it will be the time to vote. so i say to my friends, we will hear from dr. ford. we've done our best to accommodate her, to give her a safe place where she can tell her story under oath to members the judiciary committee that will be voting on this nomination. likewise judge kavanaugh will be placed under oath and be able to give his testimony, both of them subject to the penalties for perjury which is routine requirement for anybody giving testimony. but we have to remember this has to be a fair process both to the accused and the accuser. and some of the rhetoric, some
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of the statements that i have heard about the process have been anything other than fair to either one of them thanks to the fact that this letter was not disclosed earlier but then dropped into public view, no with standing the reluctance of dr. ford to have her identity revealed. so we are where we are, mr. president. we have a job to do. under the constitution it is the senate's responsibility to provide advice and consent on the nominations to the supreme court, and we're going to do that. we're going to do that after hearing from dr. ford and after hearing from judge kavanaugh just as we have heard for days from judge kavanaugh and other nominees following an extensive
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f.b.i. background investigation and investigation by the bipartisan professional staff on the senate judiciary committee. we are going to know everything that can be known about the nominee and about this alleged incident that judge kavanaugh said never occurred 35-plus years ago. again, i can't tell you where i was on any given day of the week 35 years ago at a certain time of day. that's why our job is so difficult but we're going do do our very -- going to do our very best in fairness to dr. ford and judge kavanaugh to try to bring this matter to a fair conclusion. mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. thune: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: yes. mr. thune: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, america has always been a place of economic promise. millions of people have come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and
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an even better life for their children. but in recent years this dream had started to dim. under the obama administration, our economy stagnated. too many american families struggled. worse, some economists were predicting weak economic growth would be the new normal. well, mr. president, republicans disagreed with that assessment. we didn't think that america was doomed to weak growth and opportunity. we knew that american -- new that american -- knew american workers were as driven as ever. we knew they were facing obstacles including an outdated tax code that acted as a drag on economic growth. and so instead of giving up on the economy, we decided that we were going to get the economy going again by removing obstacles to economic growth and job creation. over the past 21 months that's exactly what we've done. we've removed burdensome
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regulations, and last december we passed an historic comprehensive reform of our tax code. now the tax code isn't necessarily the first thing that people think of when they think of economic growth, but in actual fact, mr. president, the tax code has a huge effect on our me. a small business owner facing a huge tax bill is unlikely to hire a new employee. if her tax burden is heavy enough, she may not able to keep her business open. similarly, a large business is going to find it hard to create a job or improve benefits for employees if it is struggling against if he foreign businesses -- against foreign businesses paying less in taxes. prior to our act, we lowered tax
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rates across the boards for owners of small and medium-sized businesses. we lowered our nation's corporate tax rate which until january 1, was the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. we expanded business ownerrers' ability to help their businesses which frees up cash that they can invest in their operations and workers. we brought the u.s. international tax system into the 21st century so that american businesses are not operating at a disadvantage next to their foreign competitors, and now we're seeing the results. our economy is thriving. the economy grew at a 4.2% pace in the second quarter of 2018. since the act was signed into law, 1.7 million jobs have been created. u.s. job openings have hit a record high of 6.94 million.
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in fact, the number of job openings has exceeded the number of unemployed for five straight months. think about that, mr. president. the number of job openings has exceeded the number of people who are looking for jobs for the past five months. wages are rising at the fastest rate since 2009. middle-class income hit its highest level ever last year -- ever. and the poverty rate dropped to its lowest level since 2006. and small business optimism shattered its previous record to reach a new high in august. mr. president, i could go on. so what does all of this mean? it means that if you need a job there are more jobs available and jobs with good benefits. it means that there are more opportunities for workers to advance and build rewarding,
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secure, careers. it means that fewer families are having to live paycheck to paycheck. and that more families have money veabl to -- available to plan for the future like their kids' college or retirement, and it means that small business owners can think about expanding their businesses and hiring new workers instead of wondering how they are going to make ends meet. mr. president, when the american people elected us to the majority almost two years ago, we had one priority, and that was making life better for american families. i'm very proud that we are succeeding, but we're certainly not stopping here. we are going to continue working to expand opportunity for americans even further. we're going to continue to build on the work that we have done on other priorities from equipping our military and supporting our veterans to fighting the opioid crisis.
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mr. president, before i close, i want to take a moment to express my profound disappointment with my democratic colleagues. it came as no surprise that democrats were determined to oppose judge kavanaugh's nomination. it's become abundantly clear in this congress that democrats consider being nominated by a republican president to disqualify a person from serving on the supreme court. it doesn't matter how mainstream you are, how widely respected, how fair and impartial, if you're nominated by a republican president, you're out. so, as i said, it came as no surprise that democrats were determined to fight judge kavanaugh's nomination. the ink on the nomination was scarcely dry before the democratic leader announced that he was going to, quote, fight this nomination with everything i've got. end quote. mr. president, while i expected democrats to fight judge
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kavanaugh's nomination, i expected them to do so honorably. i expected them to make their objections known, grill judge kavanaugh in the hearing, and then cast their votes against the judge. but that's not what happened. as it became clear that judge kavanaugh was headed toward a vote and confirmation was leaked that the ranking member on the senate judiciary committee had ha letter containing an unsubstantiated allegation against judge kavanaugh regarding an alleged incident when he was in high school. the ranking member had received this letter at the end of july but chose to sit on it for a month and a half without discussing its existence with republicans. now, if the ranking member thought this allegation was credible, she had an absolute responsibility to bring it up immediately so that it could be addressed. holding it until a politically
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opportune moment was a betrayal as a leader on the committee. if, on the other hand, she thought the allegation to be false, which is the only possible justification for her decision to sit on the allegation for six weeks, then the subsequent decision by democrats to exploit the allegation in an attempt to derail judge kavanaugh's confirmation is, frankly, despicable. either way, it's clear from the beginning democrats acted without a shred of real concern for either the individual who made the allegation against judge kavanaugh or for the integrity of the confirmation process. and now, after a fishing expedition by democrats, ""the new yorker"" has reported an accusation from judge kavanaugh's freshman year in college made by a woman who admits her memory is hazy and can't be sure judge kavanaugh is the individual she has in mind. "the new york times," not what anyone would call a conservative
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newspaper declined to publish the allegation because it could not find anyone to corroborate the story despite contacting, and i quote, several dozen people, end quote. but democrats have seized on this hazy, unsubstantiated story, a story so shaky that, as i mentioned, "the new york times" refused to print it but using that to call for further delays in the confirmation process. mr. president, that's not a concern for the truth. it's politics, pure and simple. it's attacking someone's character, and that's a serious thing. if you're going to impugn someone's character, you need to have actual evidence to back it up, not a story that even the accuser herself has called into question. is this what democrats want subsequent supreme court confirmations to look like?
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a hyper partisan process in which character attacks don't have to be backed up with actual evidence, in which innuendo can substitute for information, and where a presumption of guilt is the order of the day no matter how shaky or unsubstantiated the allegations. mr. president, i'll say it again, i'm deeply disappointed in my democrat colleagues, and i look forward to hearing from judge kavanaugh later this week. mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that i be able to complete my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i want to rise today to voice my strong support for the nomination of peter feldman to be a commissioner at the consumer product safety commission or the cpsc. peter has been an exceptional
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member of my staff throughout my time as a member of the commerce committee. serving as senior counsel for over seven years, peter has been instrumental in drafting and negotiating bipartisan legislation and conducting meaningful oversight of federal agencies related to consumer product safety, unfair and deceptive trade practices and sports policy. those who have had privilege of working with peter would attest to his well-earned reputation for building consensus and forming coalitions to improve consumer safety. his work began before his tenure on my staff. as a staffer for former senator mike dewine he worked on the virginia graham-baker pool anda safety act. he led work on numerous bipartisan legislative commissions including the consumer review freedom act, the better online ticket sales act and the child nicotine
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poisoning prevention act. peter is very well qualified to serve as a commissioner on the cpsc and enjoys the support of a wide range of stakeholder groups including safety advocates who describe him as a professional, thoughtful and committed public servant. mr. president, nevertheless, it's my understanding that some on the other side are requiring us to hold multiple votes on his confirmation for reasons that have nothing to do with his qualifications. in nutshell, democrats have expressed no objection, no objection to peter's qualifications to be a cpsc commissioner. instead democrats object to the fact that in addition to being nominated to complete the remainder of a term expiring next year, president trump has also nominated him to a full seven-year term on the cpsc. while peter's situation is somewhat unique, it's not unprecedented. in 2005 the senate confirmed former cpsc commissioner nrrd to
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similar successive terms, a remainder term and second full term and the senate did it by voice vote. what is unprecedented is the level of partisanship that cpsc nominees are facing in the current environment. since congress established the cpsc in 1972, there have only been threel roll call votes -- three roll call votes to confirm cpsc commissioners. one of those roll call votes occurred this past may for commissioner dana baiocco. the other two were in 2014 and in 1976. put another way, when we finish voting on peter's confirmation, we will have doubled in a single year the amount of votes on cpsc commissions since congress established the agency in 1972. that's how easy in the past it
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has been to confirm commissioners to this agency. and my hope is that we are not yet done confirming cpsc nominees. i'm hoping that soon the senate will turn to the nomination of acting cspc chairman annemarie buerkle. the congress held a hearing almost a year ago. nevertheless democrats haven't allowed a vote on her confirmation. the senate deserves a senate confirmed leader and we are committed to confirming her nomination as soon as possible. let me be clear. i expect and appreciate that more democrats will likely vote for peter feldman's initial term at the cpsc. i expect that we're going to have democrats here, many democrats, i hope, who will vote for that initial term.
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peter's history of bipartisanship, the depth of experience and mastery of critical consumer issues will undoubtedly benefit the agency greatly and more than merit such support from both sides of the aisle. peter's confirmation will also ensure that the cpsc has its full complement of commissioners to execute its important safety mission. nevertheless, i find it deeply regrettable that a well-qualified nominee like peter will face objections from some who have expressed no substantive concerns about his qualifications to be a cpsc commissioner. it is my hope, mr. president, that the senate will soon return to its tradition of bipartisanship in the confirmation of nominees to critical independent safety agencies such as the cpsc. i urge my colleagues to support peter feldman's confirmation for both the remainder of the existing term and for the full term to which he has been
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nominated. mr. president, i yield the floor. i don't yield the floor just yet. i have six requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. under the previous order all time is expired. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until senate stands in recess until >> the senate taking a break so senators could attend the wiki party meetings. the senate reconvened at 2:15 p.m. eastern when a confirmation vote is scheduled for peter feldman who was nominated to serve on the consumer product safety commission. when the senate gavels back in at 2:15 p.m. easrn


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