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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  April 11, 2019 9:59am-12:00pm EDT

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dispatches from rape culture". at 5:30 beth macy with "dope sick". benjamin donovan with "shoot for the moon", coverage at 1:30, with former secretary janet napolitano "how safe are we", actor justine bateman with "fame", and at 7 conservative talk show host larry elder, author of "double standards." be sure to watch our live coverage of the los angeles times festival of books starting at 1:30 p.m. eastern saturday and sunday on book tv on c-span2. >> the u.s. senate is about to gavel in to start its day. lawmakers are expected to continue work on the nomination of david bernhardt to become the next interior secretary
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replacing ryan zinke. he's been the acting secretary since mr. zinke resigned in january. now live to the senate floor on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. black, will open the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty savior, the way, the truth, and the life, shed your light today upon the pathway of our senators.
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be for them a source of life, light, and wisdom, as you use them for your purposes. lord, keep them on the road of integrity, guiding their thoughts, words, and deeds. as they walk the straight and narrow path, may they not stumble or slip. give them the wisdom and grace to be worthy stewards of your mercy, grace, and love. keep their hearts in warm fellowship with their colleagues and their ears open to the voices of the people they serve.
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we pray in your wonderful name. amen. the president pro tempore: will you please join in the pledge. 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: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration
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of the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: department of interior, david bernhardt of virginia to be secretary. mr. grassley: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask to speak two minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: some elected officials are proposing radical changes to our health care system. these proposals include medicare for all, medicare buy-in, medicaid for all, and expansion of the affordable care act. all of these are virgins of government-run health care -- all of these are versions of government-run health care. these are of course better campaign slogans than serious solutions to the problems facing americans. on the personal level, i have found most people would rather have control of their own health
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care rather than have the government make those decisions for them. a single-payer care system would be devastating for our seniors, people with disabilities, and people with preexisting conditions. i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: madam president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: today the senate will vote to confirm the president's choice to serve as secretary of the interior. as i've discussed this week, david bernhardt is no stranger to the department. he served twice before.
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in fact, this body has confirmed him twice before. each time his professionalism and dedication proved us right. as solicitor and as deputy secretary, mr. bernhardt has offered capable leadership and a firm grasp on the complex policy environment surrounding our nation's public lands, and his expertise has not gone unnoticed. praise for mr. bernhardt's nomination to head the department has poured in from a growing list of more than 40 stakeholder organizations from agriculture, trade, conservation, and native american organizations. they describe him as a leader whose experience is sorely needed. they laud his commitment to make the lands he manages accessible to the recognize -- recreating public. we have before us a qualified
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steward. yesterday a bipartisan majority of our colleagues voted to end debate on his nomination, and i hope each will join me in voting yes one more time later today. of course, madam president, confirming mr. bernhardt will be just the latest in a series of many executive calendar accomplishments. following on the heels of last week's turn back toward the senate's historic tradition of confirming nominations, we've been able to approve a number of the president's nominees at a much more reasonable pace in the last several days. i've noted with particular interest that for all the breathless warnings my democratic colleagues issued about the kinds of people we'd be confirming, these unobjectionable nominees have actually mostly coasted through on a bipartisan basis. we saw support from both sides of the aisle for roy kalman altman to the u.s. district court for the southern district of florida and for daniel
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domenico to the district of colorado. we saw an overwhelming bipartisan vote in favor of confirming general abizaid to serve as ambassador to saudi arabia, and a voice-voted confirmation for jeffrey kessler to serve as assistant secretary of commerce. these are not lightning rod people whom my democratic colleagues would have eagerly debated, investigated for an extra 30 hours. they are the kind of thoroughly qualified public servants who used to sail briskly through the senate. now we're able to fill out the president's team at a more reasonable clip. there are still many empty seats left to fill, but this week's progress marks a great new beginning not just for the administration that needs its personnel, but for the health of this institution. now on another matter, over the
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past year or so i've dedicated a large part of my time here on the floor to discussing the performance of the u.s. economy, and at no point have i struggled to find things to say. seemingly every day we've been greeted by headlines that tell the same story. under the political policies of a pro-growth, pro-opportunity republican agenda, americans are experiencing a remarkable economic moment. more than a year ago i mentioned on the floor that weekly jobless claims have reached their lowest level since 1969. and last week the labor department reported that by this measure the u.s. economy has set yet another new record. what was already a nearly 49-year low has now dipped further to a nearly 50-year low. my colleagues and i have been busy highlighting the american stories behind these numbers, stories of recovery and prosperity being written in all
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sorts of communities in all corners of our country. more than a year since a generational overhaul of the federal tax code lifted burdens from american job creators, entrepreneurs, and working families, the headlines are continuing to pour in. and with tax day just around the corner, millions of working families have filed for the first time under a law that has allowed according to nonpartisan analysis the vast majority of americans, the vast majority of americans will keep more of their money. they pocketed higher take-home pay, wage increases, and special bonuses. and they have benefited from the booming job market that these policies have helped ignite. but old habits die hard, and in washington democrats who were content to watch as the obama era piled up 75% of new jobs and 90% of population growth to the
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biggest metropolitan areas are back to their same old tricks. in recent months we've seen a steady drip of leftist daydreams making their way into press conferences, resolutions, and out on the 2020 primary campaign trail, a massive rewrite of american election laws and a power grab on an individual's right to exercise political speech, a mandatory one-size-fits-all government-run replace piments for private health care for over 180 million americans and an estimated $93 trillion in taxpayers' money to be spent testing out new federal social planning schemes and abolishing the affordable energy sources american families rely on. madam president, tax day seems like an especially fitting day to tell washington democrats no thanks, no thanks. the kentuckians i represent will prefer to keep more of their own
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hard-earned money. they prefer to make their own decisions about their own families instead of ceding more power to bureaucrats. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: madam president and members of the senate, if you look at the poster i just put up, you know what i'm going to talk about. the devastating floods here in iowa and the midwest. in western iowa, we still have areas under water from flooding on the missouri river and its tributaries. in the east we're dealing with the mississippi river and tributary flooding. unfortunately the weather isn't
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cooperating with additional storms and rain throughout the upper midwest. as i speak that could exacerbate flooding and hinder cleanup and repairs. this flooding is still a very active event. but as we move to recovery, we know that the original damage estimates in iowa are increasing i can say that for nebraska as well. many roads are still closed. levee damage is extensive. towns are devastated, and many individuals lost their homes and businesses. in just six of our 99 counties in iowa, 416,000 acres of cropland was flooded. much of that cropland is still under water. these farmers are facing the challenge of not being able to plant this year.
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unfortunately, many of these farmers' fields were just recovering from previous years of major flooding, and in this area of iowa that would be 2011. this is compounded by many losing their previous harvest through having their on-the-farm storage bins destroyed, as you can see here. throughout the midwest area that had severe flooding, 832 on-form storage bins have been identified as like these as destroyed. maybe we don't have a complete estimate of that, but i think that 832 on-the-farm-storage bins would be at least a figure up to a certain date. these bins hold an estimated 5
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million to 10 million bushels of corn or soybeans, so collectively that would be a worth that we could say is lost between 17 -- $17 million and $34 million. there's an existing program that goes by the acronym whip that in the department of agriculture that's designed to address agricultural losses not covered by crop insurance and other programs. i reached out to the u.s. department of agriculture to see if this program could be used for losses like you see here, particularly in iowa and nebraska. that would be corn and soybeans. i was told because the whip program was designed for other commodities affected by hurricanes and wildfires, they needed a few words added to the
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law to extend the same help to these frobs that we now -- these problems that we now have in the midwest. i -- i asked what those words were, and i spoke to senator shelby who manages this bill on the floor of the senate, and to senator perdue that has a great deal of interest in the bill because of agricultural losses in georgia. these two senators agreed to work with me so i filed a short amendment to the disaster bill along with senator ernst and several of my colleagues from the midwest to make sure that devastation like this is covered. i'm optimistic that this simple fix which will mean so much to farmers facing such unusual catastrophic losses can be included as the disaster bill moves forward through the united states senate.
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yesterday, as another way of helping more than just this type of farmers but generally, other disaster victims, i joined senators fischer, ernst, and sasse in introducing a tax bill that goes by the title of the tax relief act of 2019. this bill includes a series of disaster tax relief provisions that will help american families and businesses recover from the terrible disasters that have occurred so far in 2019, including the midwest flooding. on february 28, i introduced a bipartisan bill with senator wyden that included the same tax relief provisions which would assist the victims of disasters that occurred in 2018, so i view
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the fischer bill and the grassley-wyden bill as complementary, providing disaster tax relief with respect to the disasters that occurred last year as well as this year. the bill that i introduced in february also includes extensions of a series of tax provisions that almost every member of this united states senate would like to see passed. these are the tax provisions that expired in 2017 and 2018. we label all 25 or 26 of these as tax extenders. these are things that over the last two decades have been extended almost automatically after they have sunset, and we need to get those provisions enacted just like the disaster tax relief provisions.
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so i encourage the house democrats to send the senate a bill that addresses both tax extenders and disaster tax relief provisions. now, when i say house democrats, people listening are going to say well, he's being partisan. no, i'm being constitutional. the constitution says all tax bills have to start in the house of representatives. the house of representatives is controlled by the democrat majority, so that's why i'm saying to the house democrats get these bills over here to us so we can help not only the people that benefit from what we call tax extenders but more importantly the urgency of the disaster that we're facing. americans -- then the importance of passing these bills is because americans need certainty as they file their taxes in 2018, and they need the tax
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relief that they recover -- as they recover from these natural disasters, and they really need the house democrats under the constitution to pass a tax bill because we can't act on these tax bills before. and the custom around here is under the constitution since the constitution says all tax bills have to start in the house of representatives, if we passed even a simple tax bill -- and let's say we passed it as part of an appropriation bill. we send it over to the house, they don't accept it. that's just a tradition around here that has been for centuries. so that's why i'm calling on the house democrats to move that. the disaster relief provisions included in the bill that we have introduced reduce penalties and make it easier to access retirement funds so individuals
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and families can get back up on their feet and rebuild their lives. in other words, these are retirement funds that people have set back that the law doesn't allow them to access for disasters. just a simple thing. if somebody that is hurt by this disaster wants to go to their retirement fund and borrow on it for a certain period of time to help them get relief, it's a pretty simple thing that maybe momentarily you could say costs the federal government something, but they're still going to owe these taxes regardless whenever they start drawing for retirement. these bills also make it easier for disaster victims to claim personal casualty losses and they suspend certain limitations on charitable contributions to encourage more donations for this disaster relief. for businesses affected by these
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disasters, this tax relief is available to help them retain employees while businesses get back up and running. let's continue the partisan tarr fellow americans with disasters. when these disasters strike, we ought to do it by enacting this tax relief for both 2018 and 2019 so that disaster victims don't have to wait any longer to access this important assistance and continue to get back on their feet. and it may sound like i'm talking about something new, and i don't know whether this just started with hurricane katrina in 2005 or before, but i remember being chairman of the finance committee then.
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we passed similar legislation to help the victims of hurricanes. so, really, nothing new, and since it's nothing new and we have done it before, what's wrong with doing it now, and can the democrats, house of representatives, get this bill over to us so we can get it enacted over here and get it to the president? so we want to provide certainty that taxpayers deserve by enacting extensions of not only those disasters but also by the expired tax provisions. i encourage the house democrats to move swiftly and the senate and the american people are waiting. on another point of flooding generally but not just dealing with this flood, but this flood brings to attention something that we have got to deal with
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the army corps of engineers. so next week, the environment and public works committee is holding a field hearing in southwest iowa to provide oversight on the army corps of engineers management of the 2019 missouri flooding -- missouri river flooding. senator ernst, my colleague from iowa, will be chairing this hearing, and i'm going to be participating. flood control should be the number one priority of the corps in the management of the missouri river, and i hope tomorrow when i get to travel with vice president pence as he views the same area that i viewed two weeks ago, the same area covered here, i hope that we have army corps of engineers there so that we can talk to them about the issue of the -- of the missouri river master manual authorizing eight
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purposes as they control water up and down the missouri river, and they do that through the dams that are on the missouri river. it happens that seven of these are cross purposes with the eighth one, flood control, and i hope flood control is number one, not number eight. we need to discuss with them how to prevent massive flooding and act to ensure that folks in nebraska, iowa, missouri, and kansas are not faced with the devastating -- devastation every few years. and eventually, you know where this water ends up is in the gulf of mexico, and so states below missouri are going to eventually be affected by it. i appreciate the stamina and determination of iowans that i have seen out there, not only in
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this flood of 2019 but the flood of 2011 and the one of 2019 is much more devastating. i think we have great resiliency. we will come back, we will pull together to get the job done, but there is a very long recovery ahead of all these iowans affected by it, nebraskans, maybe to some extent kansas, quite a bit in missouri. i will continue to do everything that i can at the federal level to help the state of iowa. iowa communities, and more importantly, in fact, as individual iowans are affected. i'm going to help them to recover and rebuild. thank you, and 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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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. a senator: is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is. mr. gardner: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: thank you, madam president. mr. gardner: it's an exciting day for colorado. i've known david bernhardt personally and professionally for over two decades. his roots are deep in colorado on both sides of colorado, in the high plains and western slope. we share a common interest in saving our small towns. my experience stems from growing up in the agricultural community of humana, colorado. mr. bernhardt's formative years were spent in the western slopes of colorado, which is a microcosm of all the things we
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cherish about our public lands. we both worked for colorado state representative, russell george. that's when i first met david. he worked with my wife jamie during the george w. bush administration, under another colorado secretary of interior. his personal background and personal and private and professional experiences prove he's a strong voice for the west and is extremely well qualified for the nomination to be secretary. in fact, there are few others who have the kinds of experience that he has that qualify him for interior. one other secretary of interior has had more experience than david bernhardt in qualifications in becoming secretary of interior. his extensive insights on western water policy, natural resources policy, indian affairs, just to name a few. he is known for his integrity and wealth of knowledge under the department of interior
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jurisdiction. in 2008, after the department of interior reached the largest indian water rights settlement in our nation's history, as secretary kimthorn acknowledged his work as solicitor and stated that his effective coordination within interior and with the local tribal, state, and congressional leaders were part of the success we have today. he accomodated many western states for more flexibility under the r and p amendment. john arvesa had this to say in 2018 once the process was completed. david bernhardt is an honest man who puts all of his cards on the table and keeps his word. i have worked with the department of interior for 25 years and david is one of the finest people i have ever worked with. that didn't come from a partisan
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republican, partisan democrat. that came from a person who worked in the democratic governor's office working with him on natural resource issues. dale hall, with ducks unlimited, hardly partisan, an organization that does more real conservation work on the ground than most of the groups that have the word conservation in their name had this to say when mr. bernhardt's name was announced for interior secretary. i have known david for more than a decade and he woo are excited to work with him as the new secretary of the interior. his integrity and following the law is beyond reproach. david bernhardt is a champion of conservation and the right person for the job. we urge the senate to swiftly confirm him. colleagues of his from working for representative scott mckin is who represented mr. bernhardt's hometown in colorado swore he worked 40 hours a day eight days a week. during his tenure in his office
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representative mckin is was the head of the bill that led to the authorization of the great sand dunes as a national park. over the course of many years, there is zero question that mr. bernhardt is qualified to do this job. along with mr. bernhardt's professional career, i believe it's important to fully understand his background and foundation of his interest in public lands which further qualifies him for this role. he is from the outskirts of the small town of rifle, located on colorado's western slope. few represent the body of the agency. few have an understanding of this public land. growing up in rural colorado has instilled in him western values and interests, and to this day mr. bernhardt enjoys hunting, recreation, the outdoors and fishing. rifle is in an area where 60% of the lands are public lands. rifle was founded as a ranching
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community along the colorado river and retains that heritage today along with tremendous opportunities for outdoor activities. it sits at the edge of the basin, an area in colorado that has vast amounts of natural gas. mr. bernhardt grew up in the oil shale boom and bust and said that the boom and bust has made him more sensitive to the potential benefits and potential impacts, both environmental and social of energy development. in the 1980's, rifle was hit by the state's oil shale crash and experienced some of the hard times that your -- that communities case. rifle is a community a product of public lands and western heritage. it is centrally located within miles of the grand mesa, which is the flat-top mountain. it represents a home base among these public lands with
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unmatched access to world class outdoor experiences, which is why mr. bernhardt has a passion for these issues. his experience at the department of interior allowed him to fix a problem for colorado that i was told for eight years under the obama administration was simply unfictionable. as a result, revenue owed to the three counties in colorado that had been sitting in an account in the federal government for over a decade were distributed back to the colorado counties, the taxpayers that were owed this money in 2018. how did this get solved after a decade of saying it couldn't be solved? because david bernhardt believes you don't just push problems off of your front porch to somebody else, but you find a solution and you fix it. that previous experience includes his current position being tapped to be the commissioner of the department of interior. i was confirmed as solicitor general by voice vote in 2006. he earned bipartisan support during his confirmation process
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last congress as deputy secretary. his integrity an ability are assets that should bolster his case for his nomination. over the course of the last couple of months, the d.c. political smear machine has been working overtime to smear a good man's name. nothing that we heard in "the new york times" or other places is new information. i guess the hope is we'll take it more seriously because this time "the new york times" is writing about it. mr. bernhardt has gone -- undergone two separate and extensive f.b.i. reviews for both his nomination to be deputy secretary and his nomination to be secretary. these reviews occurred after the allegations were first raised and he was cleared for both positions. probably something you didn't read in "the new york times." understanding of these claims had been reviewed previously it to the senate committee's satisfaction, mr. bernhardt was reported last week by a
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bipartisan vote, 14-6. i ask unanimous consent that chairman murkowski's statement be entered into the record at this time. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. gardner: let's talk about that story and ethics for a second. mr. bernhardt has pent more than 15 -- spent more than 15 years of a 25-year career in public service, and most of that time at the department of interior. while at his private law practice, he never lobbied the department of interior. not once. during his time as deputy secretary, he has focused on the fundamental transformation of the bureau ethics program to ingrain a culture of ethical compliance and reduce workplace misconduct. the reality is the ethics program throughout the department of interior has been neglected by the previous head of the administration. they recommended significant resource changes that had fallen on deaf ears under the previous
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administration. under mr. bernhardt's direction, the department has hired 42 career professional ethicses add -- ethics advisors, they will have doubled the number of ethics advisors over the eneight years. the records show compliance with recusals. he installed a screening process to make sure he does not meet with or engage in matters benefiting former clients for which he has recused. it is reviewed to ensure complients not only with the -- compliance not only with the ethics agreement but with the law and make sure his pledge to the president is upheld. his related ethics agreements are similar in scope and subject to the private work and ethics agreements of previous interior
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officials that came before him. the same kind of ethics agreements and obligations are basically what he was doing that previous administrations were doing as well. i ask to enter into the record from the department of interior dated march 25, 2019. this letter is it in response to a letter from senators warner and biewm that you will and -- blumenthal that state they have found his actions quote, have compliend with all applicable ethics laws, rules and other obligations including the requirements of president trump's executive order 13770 entitled ethics commitments by executive branch appointees. this letter from the career head of the department of interior ethics professionals who served at the white house during the previous administration goes on to say, quote, my experience has been that the acting secretary is very diligent about his
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ethics obligations and he has made ethics compliance and the creation of an ethical culture a top priority at the department. that wasn't in "the new york times" either, but i think it should be. this is not about mr. bernhardt's ethics or his integrity or qualifications. it's about the fact that he will be implementing an agenda the other side doesn't agree with because they know he will be effective. item thankful there are -- i'm thankful there are qualified people out there still willing to weigh through the muck and serve the people of the united states knowing they will be called a liar in front of their children at a u.s. senate committee hearing. despite letters from top officers in charge of our ethics laws at the department of interior saying otherwise. i'm thankful for david and i
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look forward to working with him and his team at the department of interior. i hope my colleagues will see through the partisan rancor, see through the lens of blue or red party politics and confirm a man that if you go go back to colorado and you talk to people like russell george, you will learn he has the greatest respect not only of our public lands, but of the people of colorado. and for that i'm grateful for him and my colleagues who will confirm him today. thank you, madam president. at this point i yield the floor, although i will be speaking momentarily once again. thank you.
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the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that this statement be placed elsewhere in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. gardner: madam president, i rise today to honor an officer of the colorado state patrol who was killed in the line of duty on march 13. as other members of this chamber know, many parts of the country were hit hard by a bomb cyclone storm system last month. again today we're going through another spring storm. that storm caused flooding in much of the midwest, we've seen
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across the national news, and extremely hazardous road conditions in my state which led to thousands of stranded drivers. state patrol corporal daniel howard groves, like many first responders that day, was attempting to aid a driver in the eastern plains of colorado on i-76 who had slid off the road and he was struck by a passing vehicle. corporal groves was 52 years old. he leaves behind a large and loving family including his parents, his partner eddie, his four siblings and many more. we know his family will continue to honor his sacrifice and ensure that his legacy lives on. corporal groves joined the state control from 2007 after leaving a career in the tech industry in chicago. his family and friends remember him with a man with tremendous capacity to love and care for others. he was a man of humor who wasn't afraid to crack a joke just to make people smile. according to a fellow officer he once arrived at training wearing
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pajamas instead of the required police sweats. at a memorial service honoring his life, the long time friend spoke about the encouragement and advice that dan was known for. he always encouraged others to follow their dreams no matter how big. he often spoke of the importance of family and friendship and the need to make time to enjoy life with others. his fellow officers remembered him as a man who was drawn to service because of his desire to help, someone who always knew the risks inherent in the job but never let that deter him from doing what needed to be done. one colleague who spoke at the memorial remembered him as someone who frequently asked where do you need me to be? he always wanted to be in the spot where he could be most effective no matter the danger involved. even on the morning of the 13th of march as the weather was taking a turn for the worse, corporal groves knew there were drivers on the road who needed his help, and as many law enforcement officers did that day, they bravely ventured out to offer
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assistance. this quality makes for a great law enforcement but is sadly the quality we most often take for granted. we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to dan and all first responders who are willing to put their lives on the line to assist those in times of need and a debt of gratitude to their families as well. i know my colleagues in the senate will join me in offering thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of corporal groves and all those who defend that thin blue line. as i have done too many times in this chamber i remember the word of lieutenant colonel dave grossman who said american law enforcement is the loyal and brave sheep dog always standing watch for the wolf that lurks in the dark. i drive by the spot that corporal groves was killed at least two or three times a week and he will always be in my prayers along with his family. my hopes is that the thoughts and prayers we all offer to those who wear the blue uniform will bring them comfort as they carry out their solemn duties.
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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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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: well, mr. president, if anyone wonders whether attorney general
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barr is a straight shooter, this week we got our answer. yesterday at the senate appropriations committee, the country saw another disconcerting performance by the attorney general. in the face of serious questions surrounding the release of the mueller report, the attorney general did exactly what president trump wanted, he dodged questions, peddled a conspiracy theory and lobbed baseless accusations, like the president. it's clear for mr. barr the title he holds is far less important than the boss he serves. what he did not say is that russia attacked our democracy, as all 17 agencies of our intelligence community have confirmed. what he did not say is that the intelligence community concluded the russians infiltrated our democracy to help donald trump. what he also didn't say is why
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he continues to wait on releasing the mueller report. it took him less than 48 hours to summarize over 300 pages, but over two weeks and counting to release the report itself. instead of giving straight answers, mr. barr seems to be nothing more than a spokesperson for the president's campaign. he seems more like the president's press secretary than the attorney general. he's even using the president's own tactics -- admit nothing, deny everything, make counter accusations. many of us tried to give mr. barr a chance, but after this week's performance, it's clear as day he and the president are working off the same playbook and planning to withhold crucial facts from the american people. and what's really important is this, when attorney general barr issues his report, his
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objectivity will be in total doubt. no one will believe when he recuses large parts of the report that it was done on the merits. people will believe that he recuses parts of the report to help president trump. how will the american people be able to trust mr. barr and how will the american people be able to believe that his version of the report is the real version when he has been so, so partisan and willing to peddle fox news conspiracy theories before the appropriations committee yesterday? when mr. barr was first nominated as attorney general, the question posed to him was, quote, would he be part of the trump legal time or an
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independent agent of the law? i think we have our answer as we watch him echo president trump's statements and enable president trump's worst instincts, whether it's defending the administration's dangerous health care lawsuit or perpetuating conspiracy theories, mr. barr is acting more like a member of the president's campaign spokesman than the independent attorney general he is supposed to be. he's letting down -- mr. barr is letting down thousands, tens of thousands of hardworking people at the justice department. they're doing their job. when someone is given real information that russia interfered with our elections, of course they're supposed to look into it. that's part of their job. mr. barr to label this as spying, echoing some of the worst conspiracy theorists in
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the country, he loses all credibility, and that credibility is vital because he'll be issuing a report with re --redactions again. when mr. p bar issues his report, his objectivity in terms of what should be redacted and what shouldn't will be in total doubt because of his performance yesterday. how again will the american people be able to trust the attorney general that he has given them the most information he could rather than the least, that he is giving the american people a full view of what happened rather than protecting the president? people are just not going to believe it. so the bottom line is that yesterday's performance calls into complete question the objectivity and even the
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judgment of the attorney general . he does not seem to be an independent actor pursuing rule of law. he rather seems to be somebody simply ready to help the president, no matter what the price. now, on another matter, disaster relief. it's an absolute travesty that this chamber is recessing without a compromise on much-needed funding for disaster relief. from the start, democrats have supported an all of the above approach, help every part of america that's struggling from natural disasters. we need to help everyone hurt last year, everyone hurt this year, everyone hurt in puerto rico, everyone hurt in the middle west, everyone hurt in florida, everyone hurt in texas and alabama and mississippi and georgia. everyone as in the american
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tradition comes together when we have disasters and we help everyone. now, our republican friends seem to have a different view. they want disaster relief that explicitly denies puerto rico the help it needs even though they are american citizens like everybody else. they heard president trump's temper tantrum at their lunch a few tuesdays back, and they have obeyed. this is un-american. we should not be picking and choosing who gets disaster relief. when americans suffer, we all step in. we all help. president trump does not believe that, but where are our senators standing up for this principle? the compassion of the american people is much greater than president trump's small-minded contempt for the people of puerto rico, and the senate and particularly senators from the disaster states who need that money ought to have the courage to resist it instead of making up stories and pointing fingers
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of blame. republicans have refused to present the serious solution that can pass the house and the senate. we all know that puerto rico's not treated equally, it will not be seen on the floor of the house. we all know that the governor of puerto rico has said that the solution that republicans are supporting is not adequate for puerto rico. we all know that. so it's a tragedy that the republican leadership in this chamber has refused to help american citizens before going into recess. they own the mess they're creating across america, and with each passing day, the american people see it. well, mr. president, tax day's coming up, and we have seen another travesty of the republican senate. when the republicans bush their -- pushed their tax scam, it was sold as a middle-class
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miracle. they promised it would prioritize middle-class families. president trump and others promised americans would get a $4,000 raise every year. that's what president trump promised due to his tax cuts he said, his tax cuts for the very wealthy and the big corporations will benefit every american to the tune of $4,000 a year. unsurprisingly, this republican tax scam has now defaulted on its promise to lift up average american families. for too many americans expecting a tax refund, they have gotten nothing or worse. after this tax season, the jig is up. in fairness, there is one part of america that's made the killing, the very wealthy. indeed, 83% of the benefits in the republican tax bill will eventually go to the top 1% of earners, and the american people know it.
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a recent poll shows more than 60% of americans believe the wealthy and corporations, big corporations have been helped by the tax law. they're right. unfortunately, corporations aren't using their windfalls as our republican friends promised. they are not boosting worker pay by and large or increasing benefits or creating jobs. according to a recent survey, 84% of companies say they have not changed their plans because of the tax law. no, what are they doing with the money they got? they're spending billions in windfall on record corporate stock buybacks. not benefiting their workers, not benefiting their community. benefiting the c.e.o.'s of the corporations because the shares generally go up and benefiting the top 10% of america who own 85% of all the stocks.
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the story, -- unfortunately this story doesn't end at making the rich richer. american workers are suffering while those same corporate executives and the very wealthy shareholders cash in. take the case of c.s.x., a freight rail company spending billions of dollars on stock buybacks after benefiting from the tax law. we just heard last week, c.s.x. announced they are laying off 100 workers in kentucky. leader mcconnell's own back yard. not a $4,000 raise, a pink slip. you'd think with all these tax benefits, workers would benefit. it doesn't seem to be happening. and that story that happened in kentucky can be repeated throughout the country. it's hard to look at these examples with a straight face and say that the middle-class factored at all into the republican tax bill. it was a trick.
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no trickle down, just a trick. so as americans finish their filings this year, they will know exactly who to blame if they see their taxes go up. they will know who to blame if they don't get a federal refundf they owe the i.r.s. the tax bill is already stunningly an unpopular piece of legislation. i don't recall a single republican campaigning on it. it shows they weren't proud of it. but after this tax season, the republican tax bill will be even further crystallized in the minds of everyday americans. as a scam that left them out to dry while soaking the ultrawealthy with even more wealth. now on mr. bernhardt. yesterday i sat down with david bernhardt, president trump's choice for secretary of interior, and i pressed him on some things that we should all know before we vote on his confirmation. i asked mr. bernhardt do you
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agree that climate change is real, caused by humans, and that we must act? i asked mr. bernhardt will he commit to not opening up the waters off our coasts to harmful drilling, even off the coasts of states opposed to such drilling? and what will he do about his well-documented web of conflict ing interests? i got no answers to these questions. i would remind all my colleagues on the atlantic coast that again i asked him at least to commit that he wouldn't do drilling off the shore of states that didn't want drilling off their shores. he would not commit to that. and there is word that there's a plan in the interior department to allow that to happen. this is the same administration who promised to clean the swamp and rid washington of corruption, and yet it's a
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twisted parody to think that president trump wants an oil and gas lobbyist to lead the department of interior. what a contradiction. what a betrayal. and it doesn't stop there. bernhardt reportedly participated in efforts to launch a white house climate denial panel, the sole purpose of which was to rebuke accepted science. we cannot allow the work of our federal agencies to fall into the hands of people like this. so it's hard to imagine someone whose background is so at odds with the department's mission as bernhardt's. i cannot in good conscience vote in favor of his confirmation. for the same reasons, i urge all my fellow senators, particularly those along the coasts, to vote against this nomination to protect their shoreline and their beaches. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the chair recognizes the senator from
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south carolina. mr. graham: thank you. i ask unanimous consent to speak on behalf of senator hollings' passing, along with my colleague, senator scott, from south carolina. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. graham: well, senator scott and myself come to the floor today to recognize a legend in south carolina and this body, senator fritz hollings who passed away on april 6 in isle of palms, south carolina. he was 97. he loved the isle of palms. that was his place to be. he was born in charleston, south carolina, in 1922. he graduated from the citadel in 1942. he attended the university of south carolina law school. he served as an artillery officer in world war ii. he earned a bronze star, finished with the rank of captain. he was in the state house of representatives from 1949 to 1954. he became our governor in 1958
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at age 36. he shepherded south carolina through the turbulent times of the civil rights movement. he urged the legislature to follow the law after brown versus board of education. he established the best technical college system in the country. we say that with great pride. it was fritz hollings who's the father of the south carolina technical college system that's resulted in thousands of jobs being created and educational opportunity for millions in our state. as a senator, they called him the senator from central casting. he looked the part, he acted the part, and he sounded the part. he was the junior senator for 36 years i think in south carolina with senator thurmond being the senior senator. when senator thurmond retired, i was honored to be able to take
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his place. fritz was my senior senator for two years. i just want to thank him and recognize what he did for me to become established in the senate. he was kind, he was gracious. we did not agree on policy, but he could not have been a better friend. i spent half my time trying to interpret what he was saying on the floor. i caught about every third word. he has got this charleston accent that even i can't understand at times, but nobody enjoyed their job more than senator hollings, nobody was ever better at it, and when it came to south carolina, senator hollings was able to move mountains. he was the chairman of the commerce committee, the budget committee. he was one of the great environmentalists of our time. in south carolina, a beautiful place along the coast where three major rivers come together, it was senator hollings who established that now and forever to be preserved. he helped establish noaa that's
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done so much for our oceans. he was part of the graham-rudman-hollings balanced budget act. he was always trying to keep our fiscal house in order. he was a champion of the military, being a world war ii veteran himself, he always looked out for those in uniform. senators thurmond and hollings were giants of their time, and they really made a difference for our state and the country as a whole. when it comes to having a distinguished career in the senate, fritz hollings was at the top of anybody's list. he served for 38 years. he was a tireless advocate for the hungry -- for hunger. he was trying to combat hunger and poverty before it was cool. he traveled all over this world to try to spread the good news about america. he -- after senate life, he established the hollings center for international dialogue to
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create exchanges in dialogue between the united states and mostly muslim populations. he was ahead of his time there, and for us to win this war on terror, we have to side on people in the faith who reject radical islam, which the overwhelming majority of people reject it, and fritz understood that. he was a great husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather. he was my friend. he had the eighth longest tour of duty in the united states senate in the history of the body. yesterday was senator -- with senator scott's help, we passed a resolution unanimously, every senator signed on honoring the service of senator hollings. there are so many friends of his in this body. the staff, former senators all will tell you that fritz was a force of nature. he had strong opinions. he would share them with you whether you ask him or not.
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he knew what he was talking about. he was prepared. he was a fighter for his causes. he was willing to die for his country, and now he has passed, and the legacy for the people of south carolina will be enduring. our beaches and our oceans and our mountains and our rivers are better off for his service. our educational stands out. he shepherded us through very tucial lent -- turbulent times. south carolina had problems, but they paled in comparison to most because of senator hollings leadership. he was a lawyer. he loved the law. he was my friend, and senator scott is from charleston and both of us have tough acts to follow when it comes to being
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senators in south carolina. and the senator hollings way was to fight for your causes, work across the aisle, and know what you're talking about before you speak and try to do it with good humor. what more can you say? from the time he was young man in charleston until the time he passed away on april 6, he was always fighting for causes. he loved his state. he loved the people of south carolina. when it comes to the senate, he was a legend. his presence was felt up her, his leg -- here, his legacy is here, and he will -- i know his family is grieving, but you have
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much to -- no republican, no democrat ever loved south carolina more than frits hollings, and no senator has ever made more of a difference than senator hollings. so senator scott and myself will do our best to keep up this good man's legacy. we'll have different policy choices. we'll go down a different political path, but we'll be ever mindful of the way we do our job. and the way we do our job matters as much as what you do. and let it be said that when it came to doing his job, fritz hollings did it professionally, effectively, and with love and passion. now i'd like to recognize senator scott. mr. scott: thank you, senator graham. thank you, mr. president. senator graham did a great job of distilling the life and accomplishments of senator hollings.
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i cannot imagine senator graham spending 36 years or so as a junior senator, and you have the seat of senator thurmond and i have the seat of senator hollings who is from charleston as i am from charleston. it -- the commonalities that we share in south carolina, we all understand how hard it is to understand those folks who speak in the old charleston brogue, the language that senator hollings and folks like our cousins who share the same inflection in their voice. you brought back found memories. to the hollings family, we certainly extend our condolences. i had the chance to speak with michael, his son, just the other
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day, and the family is doing well. the family is encouraged by the outpouring of love and support from so many folks from the senate but throughout the country because senator hollings was not only a south carolina senator, he was america's senator. he spent a lot of time doing a lot of things that made a significant difference, but i do want to put a little meat on the bones as senator graham covered so much of what i would have said, so i won't say it twice. i will perhaps drill into a few of the times of service that senator hollings had. as we think through the 1960's, and as you read through the 1960's, you read through a time of volatility, a time when our nation was clashing with one another and the races were divided and in the deep south we led through that conflict. we have a provocative history of
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race in south carolina. without any question senator hollings did what so many others did not do, which is he -- he led for a peaceful integration of what is today one of america's great public universities, clemson university. i say that as a south carolina fan, without any question. but it is no doubt that harvey gant, being the first african american in clemson to graduate from clemson was a monumental shift in southern education. one we can all celebrate today. i went to church with harvey gant's family for more than 23 years. i will say as a part of the spring board of controversy and challenge and conflict led to a level of greatness in harvey
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gant's life as he took arrows most of us are unfamiliar with. senator hollings, then senator hollings, took arrows some of us would be unfamiliar with by asking for and encouraging a peaceful transition in a state at the time broiled in controversy. harvey gant went on, of course, to become the first african american mayor of the city of charlotte, north carolina. thinking about senator graham's comments as it relates to the technical college system in south carolina and how senator hollings birth that for our state, that may sound like a good accomplishment, but for a state that faced extinction from an economic standpoint when industries were leaving our
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state, the technical college system became the springboard, once again, for the state of south carolina to see a rebirth of our economic systems. what we have today is a manufacturing haven that whose foundation is the technical college system. when we -- when we think about companies like b.m.w., boeing, volvo, mercedes, bosch, bridgestone, all of these companies became a part of the corporate family in south carolina because we had a healthy, thriving technical college system borne because of the leadership of senator hollings. senator hollings not only succeeded in public life, he
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also succeeded in his private life. i will tell you i cannot imagine the reunion between senator hollings an his wife of over 43 years. i can't imagine the celebration that's happening in heaven as those two being reunited and spending time talking about what has occurred over their lifetimes and the things that they had to see. there is an amazing greek proverb that i want to end with as it relates to senator hollings, it says that a society grows when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit under. senator graham and i, the youngsters, generally speaking with senators hollings an thur -- and thurmond, we are sitting under the shade of that tree.
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our nation benefits from those who have created a country where we all benefit. mr. president, before i yield the floor, i do want to spend a few minutes talking about what is an obvious day in our near future, tax day. americans from coast to coast are thrilled with the opportunity to finish their taxes. i say that with a forced tongue in cheek. i will say that without any question i am excited about this tax season because of the success of our tax reform in december 2017. it is exciting to think about the benefits to so many families throughout this country because of the successful passage of the tax reform bill in december 2017. i stood on the floor and listened to other speakers talk about how perhaps the tax reform package has not delivered consistent with the promises made during the debate. i'd like to put some meat on those bones as well. so when you think about the
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average family that has kids, the doubling of the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and allowing for more refundability to happen because of the child tax credit to be increased, more families are healthier because of the double being of the child tax credit, which is good news. when you think about the size of the refund, $2,783 is, in fact, consistent with the refunds of years gone by, which, once again, reinforces the fact that the tax reform bill has presented itself in a positive way and produced results consistent with what we suggested because if you get the same refund that you had last time, about, but you had more money in your take-home-pay every pay day during 2018, you actually can measure the success of the tax reform by looking at how many dollars you had in your paycheck in 2018 versus 2017
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even if your employer did not give you a raise. so the success of our package is, without question. -- is without question. i'd like to suggest as you think about folks like me, and perhaps others in this body who were raised by single parents. a single mom in 2018 two children did not have a federal tax burden at all until her income hit over $54,000. that's important and it's powerful for a specific reason. the average single mother makes around $40,000 a year, not $54,000 a year. that means for the average single mother in america, because of the success of our tax reform package, her federal tax burden is down to zero. that is not just good news, that is great news, and i know it
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personally because of a single mother who worked 16 hours a day trying to keep food on the table having double the child tax credit, having lowered his taxes by doubling the standard deduction by $9,300 to $18,000, what we see for a single mom is hope at the end of a tunnel of a light that is not a train, this is good news. not only is this good news, some have talked about our plan. we have defaulted on our mission to help the american people. i would suggest that as opposed to defaulting on our mission, as we heard from others, they are deflated because of the success of our administration. earlier g.d.p. growth was around 7%, in 2018, we had a 20% g.d.p. growth. what does that mean for the average?
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for the average person it means that their wages grow over 3%. not only do their wages grow over 3%, but more importantly they had more jobs. actually not just more jobs, this is really good news, they had more jobs -- so many more jobs are open today than people looking for work. in other words, if you think about the number of folks looking for work, the number of openings exceeds that number. that is a transformation in this country in a way that we have very seldom seen or experienced. our unemployment rate is down to a 50-year low, 3.8%. if we ask what the corporations did with the money, we are seeing the manifestation of the resources by seeing the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.
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that is not true for america as a whole, it is true for the subgroups in america who have been challenged and sometimes expliewded from the workforce -- excluded from the workforce. african american unemployment rate is down to 2% over the past two years, if you compare that to the unemployment rate in the previous administration, around 5%, if you compare that to a 50% increase under the previous administration. we have seen perhaps the greatest renaissance in our country economically that we've seen in 20 years. and much of it is due to tax reform being passed. but embedded in the tax reform package was my signature legislation that i am so excited about, the opportunity zone legislation, that is having a transformative impact and effect throughout the poorest, most
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distressed communities in all of our country. somewhere around 8,000 opportunity zones have been designated by the governors in collaboration with the mayors. mr. president, as a former governor, you understand the process by which one went through in order to establish the zones and the potential of those zones in the most distressed communities in each of the states. there is good news. the good news is and places like play home state of south carolina where a logistics company named d.h.l. they drive those little yellow vans who ship some of your packages across the country. they are investing $100 million in a distribution and warehouse park creating nearly 500 jobs in dorchester county, and they have said that the federal opportunities zone designation was a factor in making this
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location decision. in washington state, the vancouver downtown redevelopment authority, the president said, is an absolute no-brainer and a real gift from the federal government and will give us a real shot in the arm in these areas, these challenged, distressed communities. in vegan, the largest -- in vegas, the largest opportunity zone expo in the entire nation is being held next month with some of the biggest names across the country coming to figure out how they can reinvest their resources in areas where they were unwilling to take a second look at because now the incentive is good enough. and we did so without more bureaucrats and without government money. these are private sector dollars being deployed in some of the most distressed communities.
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in the midwest, up to 3,000 jobs are on the way to east chicago and a local foundation is looking to invest $800 million in a solar farm in flint, michigan. there are so many other states with amazing projects that i would run out of time talking about those. i will close with two thoughts. one from the mayor, mayor bowser of d.c. she had a march madness event for opportunity zones. and she attracted 400-plus folks who were interested in investing and seeing the results of the investments in the local community here in d.c. folks on the left, on the right, african americans, hispanics, white, asians, this is a policy that brings america together. whether you live in the most
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affluent communities or the most distressed communities, americans are looking at opportunity zones as a way to have a conversation with each other. and if there's one thing we all would agree upon as america needs to talk a little more with each other -- is america needs to talk a little more with each other in a civil way about fairness and opportunity. one of the reasons why i started my -- my national opportunity tour is to highlight some of the successes from miami with my good friend marco rubio to boston, new hampshire, west virginia with senator capito to iowa with senator ernest, colorado, arizona, and so many other places. lie forward to continuing the conversation -- i look forward to continuing the conversation and instilling the benefits of the opportunity zones in the next few months. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: thank you.
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mr. president? the presiding officer: i recognize the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i'm honor to be cochairing the entrepreneurship caucus with the senator from south carolina, and he is right, there are some great examples of people who want to get businesses started, who want to pursue their dreams. and we need to highlight those because we have a lot of people that right now have some great new ideas and we want -- if we're going to continue to be a country that is an incubator for those ideas, then we have to promote those ideas and allow those people to follow their dreams. mr. president, i am here today to join many of my colleagues in discussing the nomination of david bernhardt to be secretary of the department of interior. i have serious concerns about many of the actions that mr. bernhardt as taken while serving as both deputy secretary of the department since 2017 and as acting secretary since the
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resignation of secretary zinke in january. some of the most concerning actions include defending the administration's budget request which zeroed out funding for the newly reauthorized land and water conservation fund. rolling back protections for public lands, including proposals to reduce the size of some of our national monuments, limiting opportunities for public input into agency rule makings, and weakening enforcement of the migratory bird treaty act. these actions have threatened the responsible and sustainable management of our public lands. imperiled laws designed to preserve, protect wildlife and stack the deck in favor of fossil fuel industries. but one particular area i'd like to focus on today is how mr. bernhardt has played a role
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in the department of the interior's decisions to rescind obama-era climate and conservation policies that directed agency employees to minimize the environmental impact of activities on federal land. in a secretarial order published just before christmas in 2017 that was signed by mr. bernhardt, the department limited how its employees at subagencies like the bureau of land management can factor climate and environmental effects into their decision making. what does this mean exactly? well, it means that manuals, handbooks and other lists of best practices that were compiled by agency employees over the years, career agency employees that were meant to minimize activities that would harm species or accelerate climate change were thrown out or their instructions were rendered obsolete. mr. bernhardt has not only
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downplayed climate science and prevented efforts to mitigate it within the department of interior but he has also held advanced policies and rule makings that will accelerate its effects. we all know what we're up against here with climate change. we have seen the weather events throughout the country, the heating of our ocean waters, the increase in hurricanes, the predictions of how many metropolitan areas are going to be experiencing significant flooding in just the next few decades. the wildfires that we've seen in arizona and colorado and california, the video of the dad in northern california driving his daughter through lapping wildfires, leaving their house burning behind them as they drove and he sang to her to calm her down. those are the big effects and the little effects that americans know this is happening. so the question is not is it happening which we know it is because every one of these
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things was predicted by our scientists, was predicted by our military. the question is what do we do about it, which is why i am so opposed to the administration's decision to get out of the international climate change agreement which i am opposed to its decisions to get us out of the clean power rules that we had just started to put forward and implement, and why i am opposed to decision it made to reverse the gas mileage standards. unfortunately mr. bernhardt has for the only downplayed climate change but he has also helped, as i said, advance policies that accelerate it. for example, in september 2018 the bureau of land management announced a draft rule that would relax the obama-era methane rules that regulated flared, leaked, invented natural gas from gas and oil operations on federal and tribal lands. methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas that according to
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the united nations interagency panel on climate change has an impact that is 34 times greater over a hundred-year period than carbon dioxide. it's also important to remember that these proposed decisions to methane rules are in direct opposition and run counter to the senate's vote in 2017 to reject an effort to full repeal under the congressional review act. instead of going backwards, we should be taking real action to combat climate change. we need a comprehensive approach to greenhouse gas emissions and we need energy efficient technologies and homegrown energy resources. i also believe as i noted that we should reinstate the clean power rules and the gas mileage standards. under mr. bernhardt's leadership, the department of the interior has been taking us in the wrong direction on
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climate, conservation, and public lands. i will oppose his nomination. before i conclude, i would like to make brief marks on the nomination of david morales to be a federal judge for the southern district of texas who was just confirmed yesterday evening. yesterday the senate began its consideration on this nomination at 4:00 p.m. and voted on the confirmation around 6:00 p.m. under the new rules, we had just about two hours of time on the senate floor to debate the nomination for a lifetime appointment for the federal judiciary. i would have liked to make these comments before that time, but with these severe limits, it is very difficult for senators if they have other obligations within the building or constituent visits or hearings going on to be able to make it within the two-hour period which we are now allotted, which is actually one-hour period. and there was much more to be
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concerned about with respect to this nominee which is why i am making these comments now. to name one example, during his time in the texas attorney general's office, he has participated in cases that have undermined american voting rights. in 20 on 07, -- in 2007, he submitted an amicus brief in support of an indiana voter i.d. law. it argued requiring voters have i.d.'s was a negligible burden on the right to vote. they should ask that of some of our seniors in minnesota who voted for decades and decades and decades and are well known by election officials and in our state are able to show up at the voting booth and be able to vote. or maybe they don't have a driver's license because they no longer drive. these are examples that go on across the united states and in many states that have these restrictions, these people are literally turned away from
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voting. it is one of the reasons that the voters of my state turned away a proposal which was on our ballot to have these restrictive photo i.d. requirements. it sounds good but then when you really look under the hood, you find that it limits voting. and it was especially difficult for our people in our rural areas and our seniors to accept this change and they didn't. we also know that voter i.d. laws have a disproportionate impact on voters who are low income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly and people with disabilities. the nominee also defended texas' ban on same-sex marriage. in 2010 he signed on to a brief arguing that texas had a right to ban same-sex marriage. the supreme court rejected similar arguments which found that the constitution guarantees the right to marry for same-sex
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couples. these issues are about how our democracy functions and about treating people equally under the law and with respect. it is the senate's constitutional responsibility to give its advice and consent on lifetime nominees to the federal bench. these nominations are too important to turn the senate into a mere rubber stamp. the senate must minute obtain its role as a meaningful check and balance in our constitutional system. and i join my colleagues in expressing my deep concern about the pace at which we are confirming these nominees. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i 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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ms. blackburn: mr. president? the presiding officer: i recognize the senator from tennessee. ms. blackburn: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. blackburn: thank you, mr. president. today i rise to speak to you about the legislation that i introduced in the senate this week, s. 1116, the browser act. broadband -- or high-speed interceptor -- has absolutely revolutionized the way we communicate, the way we conduct commerce, and actually the way we participate in government. broadband is one of the greatest innovations in history. it allows near instantaneous
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exchange of information and brings efficiencies to the daily lives of millions of americans. as they move more of their transactional life online. thanks to broadband, entrepreneurs have been able to bring thousands of new applications to consumers. these edge services are now an essential part of our lives. we find ourselves every day saying, i can't imagine what we did before we had this or before we had that. these apps give consumers access to entertainment, news, information, help us drive around town, and access to emergency services. as consumers use these apps, they generate massive amounts of data about themselves, and that is the problem. many companies call this data and -- many companies cull this data and use it for a range of
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purposes without the users' knowledge, without your knowledge. they're collecting all this. every bill you pay and every website that you visit, these platforms are following you. so, mr. president, after all this information is shared, the question is, who owns the virtual you? who owns you? ance your -- and your presence online? our laws have not kept pace with technological change. now we see some states -- and we've even got some cities -- that are adding more complexity to the problem by enacting their own privacy rules and standards despite the fact that digital commerce is not restricted to one area. digital commerce is interstate and global in nature.
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mr. president, it is time that we have a consistent national law regarding online privacy. we need one set of rules and one regulator for the entire internet ecosystem. it just makes sense. that is why i've introduced the legislation that i previously had had as a member of the house of representatives, and as i said, it is called the browser act. americans want to be certain that their privacy is protected, both in the physical and the virtual space. broadband users, which are each and every one of us, should have the right to say who can or cannot access their private data. think about it. at this point, how and when you pay your bills, the credit cards that you use, the sites that you
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visit, the merchandise that you shop for, friends that you connect with. there is somebody tracking that activity, every move of the mouse. they're on it. consumers should have the right to clear and conspicuous notice of service providers policy policies and the ability to either opt in the or opt out depending on the sensitive nature of that data. the browser act requires digital service to provide users with clear and conspicuous notice of their rights. it also requires digital services to provide users the ability to opt in to the collection of sensitive information while also giving users the ability to opt out of the collection of nonsensitive
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information. by allowing for a clear and conspicuous notification process, consumers will be able to make a more educated choice about the nature of the relationships they want to have with online vendors and with tech companies. furthermore, the browser act will prohibit digital services from denying the service to users who refuse to waive their personal privacy rights. the browser act also empowers the f.t.c., the federal trade commission, to enforce these rules using its unfair or deceptive acts as privacy policies. now, the federal trade commission has been our privacy regulator in both the physical and the online space. just this week, senator klob


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