Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  December 19, 2019 9:29am-11:30am EST

9:29 am
situation. and those mental health factors don't contribute to that. i suffer with anxiety and depression and i'm not getting the best carry need and i need candidates to actually do something more to help people like me. >> an issue i would like the candidates to address is the involvement of pharmaceutical companies in health care. i think that specifically the advertising of pharmaceuticals on television led to a lot of the problems we're having now with our health care coverage and that entire issue, so, if you could please address that in a specific way, i think it would help probably every american in the united states. >> voices from the road on c-sp c-span. >> well, the u.s. senate is about to gavel in as members try to wrap up legislative work before the winter break. on the agenda today, two 2020 spending bills to fund the
9:30 am
government for the rest of the year to avoid a shut down tomorrow at midnight and work on a number of judicial nominees today. now, live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain dr. barry black will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, you are our light and salvation and we are not afraid. you protect us from danger so we do not tremble. mighty god, you are not
9:31 am
intimidated by the challenges that confront our nation and world. lord, inspire our lawmakers with the knowledge of your holiness that will give them reverential awe. remind them of the many prayers they have prayed that you have already answered. lord, you have been our help in ages past. you are our hope for the years to come. we magnify your holy name. don't stay far off. show yourself strong to this generatio
9:32 am
and fill us with your peace. we pray in your powerful name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in the pledge of allegiance. 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., december 19, 2019. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable thom tillis, a senator from the state of north carolina, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: chuck grassley, president pro tempore.
9:33 am
the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
9:34 am
the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the house message to accompany h.r. 1865 which the clerk will report. the clerk: house message to accompany h.r. 1865, an act to require the secretary of the treasury to mint a coin and so forth and for other purposes.
9:35 am
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: last night the house democrats finally did what they had decided to do a long time ago. they voted to impeach president trump. over the last 12 weeks, house democrats have conducted the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history. now their slapdash process has concluded in the first purely partisan presidential impeachment since the wake of the civil war. the opposition to impeachment was bipartisan. only one part of one faction
9:36 am
wanted this outcome. the house's conduct risks a deeply damaging the institutions of american government. this particular house of representatives has let its partisan rage at this particular president create a toxic new precedent that will echo well into the future. that's what i want to discuss right now. the historic degree to which house democrats have failed to do their duty and what it will mean for the senate to do ours. so let's start at the beginning. let's start with the fact that washington democrats made up their minds to impeach president trump since before he was even inaugurated. here's a reporter in april of
9:37 am
2016, april of 2016. donald trump isn't even the republican nominee yet but impeachment is already on the lips of pundits, newspaper editorials, constitutional scholars, and even a few members of congress. april 2016. on inauguration day 2017, the headline in "the washington post," the campaign to impeach president trump has begun. that was day one. in april 2017, three months into the presidency, a senior house democrat said, i'm going to fight every day until he's impeached. that was three months into the administration. in december 2017, two years ago,
9:38 am
congressman jerry nadler was openly campaigning to be the ranking member on the house judiciary committee specifically, specifically because he was an expert on impeachment. that's the nadler's campaign to be the top democrat on judiciary. this week wasn't even the first time house democrats have introduced articles of impeachment. it was actually the seventh time. they started less than six months after the president was sworn in. they tried to impeach president trump for being impossible light to the press -- being impolite to the press, for being mean to professional athletes, for changing president obama's policy on transgender people in the military. all of these things were high crimes and misdemeanors
9:39 am
according to democrats. this wasn't just a few people. scores, scores of democrats voted to move forward with impeachment on three of those prior occasions. so let's be clear. the house's vote yesterday was not some neutral judgment that democrats came to with great reluctance. it was the predetermined end of a partisan crusade that began before president trump was even nominated, let alone sworn in. for the very first time in modern history, we've seen a political faction in congress promise from the moment, the moment the president election ended they would find some way to overturn it. a few months ago democrats'
9:40 am
three-year long impeachment in search of articles found its way to the subject of ukraine. house democrats embarked on the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history. chairman schiff's inquiry was poisoned bipartisan from the outset. its procedures and parameters were unfair and unprecedented -- in unprecedented ways. democrats tried to make chairman schiff into a de facto special prosecutor notwithstanding the fact that he's a partisan member of congress who'd already engaged in strange and biased behavior. he scrapped precedent to cut the republican minority out of the process. he denied president trump the same sorts of procedural rights
9:41 am
that houses of both parties had provided to past presidents of both parties. president trump's counsel could not participate in chairman schiff's hearings, present evidence, or cross-examine witnesses. the house judiciary committee's crack at this was even more a historical. it was like the speaker called up chairman nadler and ordered one impeachment rush delivered, please. the committee found no facts on its own, did nothing to verify that schiff -- to verify the schiff report. their only witnesses were liberal law professors and congressional staffers. so, mr. president, there's a reason the impeachment inquiry that led to president next come's resignation required about 14 months of hearings, 14 months in addition to a special prosecutor's investigation.
9:42 am
with president clinton, the independent counsel's inquiry had been under way literally for years before the house judiciary committee actually dug in. mountains of evidence, mountains. mountains of testimony from firsthand fact witnesses, serious legal battles to get what was necessary. this time around house democrats skipped all of that. spent just 12 weeks, 12 weeks. more than a year of hearings for nixon, multiple years of investigation for clinton, and they've impeached president trump in 12 weeks. 12 weeks. so let's talk about what the house actually produced in those 12 weeks. house democrats rushed and rigged inquiry yielded two articles, two of impeachment.
9:43 am
they're fundamentally unlike any articles that any prior house of representatives have ever passed. the first article concerns the core events which house democrats claim are impeachable. the timing of aid to ukraine. but it does not even purport to allege any actual crime. instead they deploy the vague phrase abuse of power, abuse of power. to impugn the president's action in a general indeterminate way. speaker pelosi's house just gave in to a temptation that every other house in history has managed to resist. let me say that again. speaker pelosi's house just gave in to a temptation that every other house in our history has
9:44 am
managed to resist. they impeached a president whom they do not even allege has committed an actual crime known to our laws. they've impeached simply because they disagree with a presidential act and question the motive behind it. so let's look at history. andrew johnson impeachment involved around a clear violation of a criminal statute albeit an unconstitutional statute. nixon had obstruction of justice, a felony under our laws. clinton had perjury, also a felony. now the constitution does not say the house can impeach only those presidents who violate a law, but history matters. history matters and precedent
9:45 am
matters. and there were important reasons why every previous house of representatives in american history restrained itself, restrained itself from crossing this rub rubicon. the framers of our constitution very specifically discussed this issue. whether the house should be able to impeach presidents just for, quote, maladministration. just for maladministration. in other words, because the house simply thought the president had bad judgment or is doing a bad job. they talked about all this when they wrote the constitution. the written records of our founders' debate show they specifically rejected this. they realized it would create a total dysfunction to set the bar for impeachment that low, that low. james madison himself explained
9:46 am
that allowing impeachment on that basis would mean the president serves at the pleasure of the congress instead of the pleasure of the american people. it would make the president a creature, a creature of congress, not the head of a separate and equal branch. so there were powerful reasons, mr. president, why congress after congress for 230 years, 230 years required presidential impeachments to revolve around clear, recognizable crimes, even though that was not a strict limitation. powerful reasons why for 230 years, no house, no house opened a pandora's box of subjective political impeachments.
9:47 am
that 230-year tradition died last night. now, mr. president, house democrats have tried to say they had to impeach president trump on this historically thin and subjective basis because the white house challenged their request for more witnesses. and that brings us to the second article of impeachment. the house titled this one obstruction of congress. what it really does is impeach the president for asserting presidential privilege. the concept of executive privilege is another two century-old constitutional provision. starting with george washington having invoked it. federal courts have repeatedly affirmed it is a legitimate constitutional power.
9:48 am
house democrats requested extraordinary amounts of sensitive information from president trump's white house, exactly the kinds of things over which presidents of both parties have asserted privilege in the past. predictable -- predictably and appropriately, president trump did not simply roll over. he defended the constitutional authority of his office. no surprise there. it's not a constitutional crisis for a house to want more information than a president wants to give up. that's not a constitutional crisis. it's a routine occurrence. separation of powers is messy by design. here's what should have happened. here's what should have happened. either the president and congress negotiate a settlement or the third branch of government, the judiciary,
9:49 am
addresses the dispute between the other two. the nixon impeachment featured disagreements over presidential privilege, so they went to court the clinton impeachment featured disagreements over presidential privilege, so they went to the courts. this takes time. it's inconvenient. that's actually the point. due process is not meant to maximize the convenience of the prosecutor. it's meant to protect the accused. but this time was different. remember, 14 months of hearings for richard nixon, years of investigation for bill clinton, 12 weeks for donald trump.
9:50 am
democrats didn't have to rush this. but they chose to stick to their political timetable at the expense of pursuing more evidence through proper legal channels. nobody made chairman schiff do this. he chose to. the tuesday before last on live television, adam schiff explained to the entire country that if house democrats had let the justice system follow its normal course, they might not have gotten to impeach the president in time for the election. my goodness. in nixon, the courts were allowed to do their work. in clinton, the courts were allowed to do their work. only these house democrats decided due process is too much work. they would rather impeach with no proof.
9:51 am
well, mr. president, they tried to cover for their own partisan impatience by pretending that the routine occurrence of a president exerting constitutional privilege is itself, itself a second impeachable offense. the following is something that adam schiff literally said in early october. here's what he said. any action that forces us to litigate or to have to consider litigation will be considered further evidence of obstruction of justice. adam schiff. here's what the chairman effectively said and what one of his committee members restated just this week. if the president asserts his constitutional rights, it is that much more evident he's guilty.
9:52 am
if the president asserts his constitutional rights, it's that much more evident he's guilty. that kind of bullying is antithetical to american justice. so those are house democrats' two articles of impeachment. that's all their rushed and rigged inquiry could generate. an act that the house does not even allege is criminal and a nonsensical claim that exercising a legitimate presidential power is somehow an impeachable offense. mr. president, this is by far the thinnest basis for any house-passed presidential impeachment in american history. the thinnest and the weakest, and nothing else even comes close.
9:53 am
and candidly, i don't think i'm the only person around here who realizes that. even before the house voted yesterday, democrats had already started to signal uneasiness, uneasiness with its end product. before the articles even passed, the senate democratic leader went on television to demand that this body redo house democrats' homework for them. that the senate should supplement chairman schiff's sloppy work so it is more persuasive than chairman schiff himself bothered to make it. of course, every such demand simply confirms that house democrats have rushed forward with a case that is much too weak. back in june, speaker pelosi promised the house would build an ironclad case.
9:54 am
never mind that she was basically promising impeachment months, months before the ukraine events, but that's a separate matter. she promised an ironclad case. and in march, speaker pelosi said this. impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there is something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, i don't think we should go down that path because it divides the country, end quote. by the speaker's own standards, the standards she set, she has failed the country. the case is not compelling, not overwhelming, and as a result not bipartisan. the failure was made clear to everyone earlier this week when
9:55 am
senator schumer began searching for ways the senate could step out of our proper role and try to fix the house democrats' failures for them. and it was made even more clear last night when speaker pelosi suggested that house democrats may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the senate. mr. president, it looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet. in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial. they said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they are content to sit on their hands. this is really comical. democrats' own actions concede that their allegations are unproven. the articles aren't just unproven, they're also constitutionally incoherent. incoherent. frankly, if either of these
9:56 am
articles is blessed by the senate, we could easily see the impeachment of every future president of either party. let me say that again. if the senate blesses this historically low bar, we will invite the impeachment of every future president. the house democrats' allegations, as presented, are incompatible with our constitutional order. they are unlike anything that has ever been seen in 230 years of this republic. house democrats want to create new rules for this president because they feel uniquely enraged. they feel uniquely enraged. but long after the partisan fever of this moment has broken, the institutional damage will remain. i've described the threat to the presidency. this also imperils the senate
9:57 am
itself. the house has created an unfair, unfinished product that looks nothing, nothing like any impeachment inquiry in american history. and if the speaker ever gets her house in order, that mess will be dumped over here on the senate's lap. if the senate blesses this slapdash impeachment, if we say that from now on this is enough, then we invite an endless parade of impeachable trials. future houses of either party will feel free to toss up a jump ball every time they feel angry, free to swamp the senate with trial after trial, no matter how
9:58 am
baseless the charges. we would be giving future houses of either party unbelievable new power to paralyze the senate at their whim. more thin arguments, more incomplete evidence, more partisan impeachments. in fact, mr. president, this same house of representatives has already indicated that they themselves may not be finished impeaching. the house judiciary committee told a federal court this very week that it will continue its impeachment investigation even after voting on these articles, and multiple democratic members have already called publicly for more. if the senate blesses this, if the nation accepts this, presidential impeachments may cease being a once in a generation be event and become a
9:59 am
constant part, a constant part of the political background noise. that extraordinary tool of last resort may become just another part of the arms race of polarization. real statesmen would have recognized, no matter their view of this president, that trying to remove him on this thin and partisan basis could unsettle the foundations of our republic. real statesmen would have recognized, no matter how much partisan animosity might be coarsing through their veins that cheapening the impeachment process is not the answer. historians regard this as a great irony of our era, that so many who profess such concerns for our norms and traditions themselves prove willing to trample our constitutional order
10:00 am
to get their way. it is long past time for washington to get a little perspective. president trump is not the first president with a populous streak. not the first to make entrenched leets feel uncomfortable. he's certainly not the first president to speak bluntly, to mistrust the administrative state, or to rankel bureaucrats. he is not the first president to assert the constitutional privileges of his office rather than roll over when congress demands unlimited sensitive information. none of these things -- none of them -- sun precedented -- is unprecedented. i'll tell you what would be unprecedented. it will be an unprecedented constitutional crisis if the senate literally hands the house of representatives a new
10:01 am
partisan vote of no confidence. that the founders intentionally withheld destroying the independence of the presidency. it will be unprecedented if we agree that any future house that dislikes any future president can rush through an unfair inquiry, rush the legal system, and paralyze the senate with a trial. the house could do that at will under this precedent. it will be unprecedented if the senate says secondhand and third-hand testimony from unelected civil servants is enough to overturn the people's vote. it will be an unprecedented constitutional crisis if the senate agrees to set the bar this low forever. it is clear what this moment
10:02 am
requires. it requires the senate to fulfill our founding purpose. the framers built the senate to provide stability, to take the long view of our republic, to safeguard institutions from the momentary hysteria that sometimes consumes our politics, to keep partisan passions from literally boiling over. the senate exists for moments like this. that's why this body has the ultimate say in impeachments. the framers knew the house would be too vulnerable to transient passions and violent factionalism. they needed a body that would
10:03 am
consider legal questions about what has been proven and political questions about what the common good of of our nation requires. hamilton said explicitly in federalist 61 that impeachment involves not just legal questions but inherently political judgments about what outcome best serves the nation. the house can't do both. the courts can't do both. this is as grave an assignment as the constitution gives to any branch of government, and the framers knew only the senate could handle it. well, the moment the framers feared has arrived. a political faction in the lower chamber have succumbed to
10:04 am
partisan rage. a political faction in the house of representatives has succumbed to a partisan rage. they have fulfilled hamilton's philosophy that impeachment will, quote, connect itself with the preexisting factions, enlist all their animosities, and there will always be the greatest danger that thes decision will be regulated more than the comparative strength of parties than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt. alexander hamilton. that's what happened in the house last night. the vote did not reflect what had been proven. it only affect -- reflects how they feel about the president. the senate must put this right.
10:05 am
we must rise to the occasion. there's only one outcome that is suited to the paucity of evidence, the failed inquiry, the slapdash case. only one outcome suited to the fact that the accusations themselves are constitutionally incoherent, constitutional incoherent. only one outcome will preserve core precedence rather than smash them into bits in a fit of partisan rage because one party still cannot accept the american people's choice in 2016. it could not be clearer which outcome would serve the stabilizing, institution-preserving, fever-breaking role for which the united states senate was
10:06 am
created and which outcome would betray it. the senate's duty is clear. the senate's duty is clear. when the time comes, we must fulfill it. now, mr. president, i understand there are three bills at the desk due a second reading en bloc. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the titles of the bill for the second time en bloc. the clerk: h.r. 397, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 and so forth and for other purposes. h.r. 1759, an act to amend title 3 of the social security act and so forth and for other purposes. h.r. 4018, an act to provide that the amount of time that an elderly offender must serve
10:07 am
before being eligible for placement in home detention is to be reduced by the amount of good time credits earned by the prisoner and for other purposes. mr. mcconnell: in order to place the bills on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14, i would object to further proceedings en bloc. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bills will be placed on the calendar en bloc. a senator: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:08 am
10:09 am
10:10 am
10:11 am
mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: are we in a quorum call, mr. president? i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispense w. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: now, mr. president, last night the house of representatives voted to impeach president donald trump. it is only the third time in our nation's history that the president of the united states has been impeached. the articles of impeachment charge that president trump abused the powers of his office by soliciting the interference of a foreign power in our elections, not for the good of the country but to benefit himself personally.
10:12 am
the articles also charge that the president obstructed congress in the investigation of those matters. together, these articles suggest the president committed a grave injury to our grand democracy. the conduct they describe is very much what the founders feared when they forged the impeachment powers of the congress. the founders, in their wisdom, gave the house the power to accuse, the senate the power to judge. we are now asked to fulfill our constitutional role as a court of impeachment. now that the house of representatives has impeached president trump, the nation turns its eyes to the senate. what will the nation see? will the nation see what
10:13 am
alexander hamilton saw, a body of government with confidence enough to preserve unyouyouawedd uninfluenced the necessary partiality? or will the nation see the senate dragged into the depths of partisan fervor? the nation just witnessed how the republican leader sees his role in this chapter of our history, demonstrating both an unfortunate dissent into partisanship and demonstrating the fundamental weakness of the president's defense. leader mcconnell claimed that the impeachment of president trump is i will legitimate because the most voted along party lines. forgive me, but house democrats cannot be held responsible for the cravenness of the house republican caucus and their blind fealty to the president.
10:14 am
leader mcconnell claimed the impeachment was motivated by partisan rage. this from the man who said proudly, i am not impartial. i have no compensation to be impartial -- i have no intention to be impartial at all in the trial of president trump. what hypocrisy. leader mcconnell accused the house democrats of an obsession to get rid of president trump. this from the man who proudly declared his number-one goal was to make president obama a one-term president. leader mcconnell claimed that democrats impeach the president for asserting executive privilege. president trump never formally claimed executive privilege. he claimed, quote, absolute immunity, unquote. the white house counsel wrote a letter stating simply that the administration would not comply
10:15 am
with any subpoenas. leader mcconnell claimed that the democrats, quote, obsession with impeachment has prevented the house from pursuing legislation to help the american people. leader mcconnell knows very, very well that the house democratic majority has passed hundreds, literally hundreds of bills that gather dust here in the senate, condemned to a legislative graveyard by none other than leader mcconnell himself, who proudly called himself the grim reaper. members of the senate -- members of the 116th senate have been denied the opportunity to legislate by leader mcconnell. we are not allowed to debate the issues that affect the american people, health care, infrastructure, prescription drugs. we could have spent the year debating these issues.
10:16 am
we weren't doing impeachment. leader mcconnell has chosen not to focus on these issues and to put none of these bills on the floor. and as he reminds us often, he alone decides what goes on the floor. leader mcconnell claimed that the house did not afford the president due process. the leader knows well that president trump refused to participate in the process despite invitation and blocked witnesses and documents from congress in unprecedented fashion. leader mcconnell claimed that the house ran, quote, the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history. i know that that's the republican talking point, but here's the reality. leader mcconnell is plotting the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history. his plan, to prevent house
10:17 am
members from calling witnesses to prove their case is a dramatic break from precedent. we heard a lot about precedent from the leader. never has there been a presidential impeachment trial in which the majority prevented the house managers from fairly presenting their case, to have witnesses explain their knowledge of the alleged malfeasance. will leader mcconnell breaking precedent strong arm his caucus into making this the first senate impeachment trial of a president in history that heard no, no witnesses? we ask, is the president's case so weak that none of the president's men can defend him under oath? is the president's case so weak that none of the president's men can defend him under oath? if the house case is so weak,
10:18 am
why is leader mcconnell so afraid of witnesses and documents? we believe the house case is strong, very strong, but if the republican leader believes it's so weak, why is he so afraid of relevant witnesses and documents which will not prolong things very long in our proposal. four hours for each witness. it is true as the leader has said that the framers built the senate to provide stability and to keep partisan passions from boiling over. however, their vision of the senate is a far cry from the partisan body senator mcconnell has created. i hope the -- i hope america was watching the republican leader deliver his speech. i truly do. because most glaring of all was the fact that leader mcconnell's 30-minute partisan stem winder contained hardly a
10:19 am
single defense of the president of the united states on the merits. almost none defended president trump because they can't. in the wake of an enormous amount of evidence uncovered by house investigators, much of it in the form of testimony by top trump officials whom the administration tried to silence, the republican leader could not rebut the accusations against the president with facts. the republican leader complained about the process. the republican leader made many partisan and inflammatory accusations about democrats. but he did not advance an argument in defense of the president's conduct on the merits. that in and of itself is a damming reflection of the state
10:20 am
of the president's defense. our goal in the senate above all should be to conduct a fair and speedy trial. i have proposed a very reasonable structure that would do just that. four witnesses, only those with direct knowledge of the charges made by the house, only those who could provide new relevant and potentially illuminating testimony. strict time limits on each stage of the process to prevent the trial from dragging out too long. it's eminently reasonable. it's eminently fair. a group who had no partisan bias would come up with this type of proposal. i have yet to hear one good argument why less evidence is better than more evidence, particularly in such a serious
10:21 am
moment as impeachment of the president of the united states. in leader mcconnell's 30-minute screed, he did not make one argument why the witness and document should not be part of the trial. president trump protests that he did not receive due process in the house impeachment inquiry. due process is the ability to respond to charges made against you and present your side of the case. the president was invited to provide witnesses and provide documents at every stage of the process. he chose not to. still democrats are offering the president due process again here in the senate. the witnesses we suggest are top trump appointed officials. they aren't democrats. we don't know if their testimony would exculpate the president or
10:22 am
incriminate him but their testimony should be heard. if the president's counsel wants to call other witnesses with direct knowledge of why the aid to ukraine was delayed, we say they should be able to do so. president trump claims he wants due process. i suspect he would rather hide or name call because if he really wanted due process, he could get it easily. one phone call to leader mcconnell telling him to led his aides testify. one phone call to his chief of staff telling him to release the documents to congress. both of these actions would let the truth come out. i ask again, can none of the president's men come defend him under oath? to my republican colleagues, our
10:23 am
message is a simple one. democrats want a fair trial that examines the relevant facts. we want a fair trial. the message from leerd mcconnell -- from leader mcconnell at the moment is he has no intention of conducting a fair trial, no intention of acting impartially, no intention of getting the facts. despite our disagreements, i will meet with leader mcconnell soon to discuss the rules, but each senator will influence whether the senate lives up to its constitutional duty to serve as an impartial court of impeachment. in the coming weeks republican senators will face a choice. each republican senator will face a choice. do they want a fair trial or do they want to allow the president free rein. each senator must ask him or herself do you want a fair trial
10:24 am
or do you want the president to do whatever he wants regardless of rule of law, regardless of the consequences to this great nation? the nation turns its eyes to the senate. what will it see? the president of the united states has spent the past several months telling congress it has no right to oversight, no right to investigate any of his activities, that he has absolute immunity, that argument cal -- article 2 of the constitution gives him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants. unquote. that's the president's words. past senates have disagreed with such views and strongly and proudly stood up for the notion that the president is not omnipotent. democrats have done it, republicans have done it and often presidents of their own
10:25 am
party. the senate has said in the past that the president serves the people, not himself, that he is not a king. will it do so again or will it shirk from that responsibility? if the republicans proceed with the majority leader's scheme to sweep these charges under the rug and permit the president to ignore congress, they will be creating a new precedent that will long be remembered as one of the senate's darkest chapte chapters. it will be remembered as a time when a simple majority in the senate sought to grant two new rights to the president, the right to use the government for personal purposes and the right to ignore congress at his pleasure. here i agree with senator mcconnell. moments like this are why the
10:26 am
senate exists. if the president commits high crimes and misdemeanors and the congress can do nothing about it, not even conduct a fair tribunal where his conduct is judged by dispassionate representatives of the people, then the president can commit those crimes with impunity. this president can. others can. i have little doubt that if we tell the president that he can escape scrutiny in this instance, he will do it again and again and again. future presidents will take note and may do worse. and the most powerful check on the executive, the one designed to protect the people from tyranny will be erased. this chapter in our history books could be a lesson about
10:27 am
the erosion of checks and balances in our modern age or it could be a proud reaffirmation of those founding principles. this chapter in our history books could be about the overpowering partisanship of our times or it could be about the senate's capacity to overcome it. again moments like this are why the united states senate exists. i yield the floor. mr. lee: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: it's december, mr. president. and so america's attention turns once again to the great debate of our time. what's the best christmas movie? is it white christmas, maybe
10:28 am
elf, a christmas story home alone, diehard. that's a good one. a lot of people are partial to it's a wonderful life or brave heart. brave heart, of course, has nothing to do with christmas but it's about freedom and nothing says freedom quite like christmas. we have to debate, you see, the best christmas movie out there. for the simple reason that we also have to watch every year the worst christmas movie. the worst christmas movie is the one that runs every single year from this chamber right here in this city on c-span just the week before our lord areas birth -- lord's birthday. it's called omnibus. critics and fans have loved to hate it for years. and as is always the case in these money-grabbing sequels, the actors and the writers and the directors are just mailing it in. they know they can do this every year and it works for them and so they mail it in. the only plot twist this time
10:29 am
around is that instead of a continuing resolution or a single omnibus, leaders and appropriators have cleverly put the negotiated spending agreement into two bills so that we can all pretend that it's better than just one. even though they were negotiated at the same time, released to the public at the same time and will be voted on within only minutes of each other, we've had different formulations of this over the years. sometimes it's a continuing resolution. sometimes it's an omnibus. sometimes it's a couple of minibuses capped off with another continuing resolution. sometimes we call it a cromnibus. this time i think we can call it a double-decker minibus. but whatever you want to call it, it's the same movie. it's a rerun and it's not very good. in fact, it's really, really bad. the secretive, undemocratic, irresponsive and ultimately irresponsible process that produced this bill is nothing
10:30 am
short of a sham. but then again so is the substance of the bill itself. it's been like this for years now. instead of actively setting and passing budgets within which we intend to stay, as we expect from any other organization, we make it up as we go along, in as abusive and dysfunctional a fashion as the american people will possibly let us get away with, because that seems to be our aim, do whatever they let us get away with. in fact, the last time congress passed all of its respective appropriations bills in each of the dozen or so categories in which we spend money and we pass each of those bills unbundled and on time was back in 1997. for this fiscal year, we've already passed two continuing resolutions.
10:31 am
now, an omnibus bill in and of itself doesn't have to be a bad thing. in fact, one could make it a relatively good thing. you see, an omnibus could, in theory, be a decent legislative vehicle. if and only if, that is, members of the house and the senate were given time to read it and to debate it and to offer and consider and vote upon amendments to offer improvements to that legislation. and so i really don't care whether it's a dozen individual spending bills or a small handful of minibuses or whether it's a single bill. what i want is consideration on the floor of the senate in front of the american people so that they can be aware of what's happening, so that we can be able to exercise the election certificates that we so -- that we fought for so hard. each one of us is made more relevant when we get that
10:32 am
opportunity and less relevant when we are denied it. unfortunately, it's just never the case anymore that we have those kinds of opportunities to debate and discuss and consider amendments. and to receive the underlying legislation in enough time for any of us to make a difference. these bills, mr. president, are written entirely behind closed doors by a small handful of leaders from two parties. thousands of pages of spending. trillions of dollars in release to public scrutiny for the first time within only hours of what would otherwise become a government shutdown. and you see this is a feature, not a bug. for those in charge of this process, this is a good thing because this is what allows them to write it on their own. the law firm, as i sometimes describe it, the law firm of mcconnell, schumer, pelosi, mccarthy, and a small handful of staffers and a few other members around them write this
10:33 am
bill and then it's presented to us as a single binary take it or leave it package. you fund this and everything in it or you fund nothing. you vote for this package or you're blamed for a government shutdown. it's not right. this we somehow manage to call rather euphemistically bipartisanship, and by too much of what washington calls bipartisanship these days, these spending bills are a fiscal dumpster fire. you see, they are masquerading under the banner of bipartisan compromise when, in fact, they are collusion, collusion just by a small handful of members of congress who don't have to have their provisions debated and discussed and subject to amendment. on the merits and not just on the procedure, this bill is a dumpster fire. discretionary spending will be set at record high levels in
10:34 am
nearly every category of government spending. this omnibus or double-decker minibus as i sometimes call it will add $2.1 trillion to the national debt over the next 20 years. by that time, we will be spending more on interest on the debt than we do on national defense. this, mr. president, is embarrassing. it is embarrassing to the american people. it ought to be especially embarrassing to those of us elected to represent our respective states in the united states senate. what has historically called itself the world's greatest deliberative legislative body has become something substantially less glorious than that. when we had a trillion-dollar deficit, after the 2008 financial crisis, everyone admitted it, everyone admitted that it was a problem, that it was reckless and out of control.
10:35 am
president obama admitted it. and now we're borrowing just as much and we're doing so at the top of the business cycle. with wages up and unemployment at record lows. it's an awful corrupt cycle on repeat. congress breaks its own spending rules, creates new ones to spend more, and then breaks the new ones and tries to hide the evidence, racking up more national debt all the while. what's worse, we are willingly putting the brunt of the cost of all of this on future generations, on those who are not yet here and not able to vote for or against the politicians who are doing this to them. gorging ourselves on debt to the tune of another trillion dollars a year means that we're saddling our children and our children's children with the cost of this bill, and we're setting ourselves up for disaster.
10:36 am
some the next inevitable recession. now, john f. kennedy famously said that to govern is to choose, but congress' defining dysfunction is that it doesn't choose. it chooses not to choose, rather deliberately. we don't budget, we don't reform, we don't prioritize. we just spend. and we hope that we're retired or, let's face it, dead when the bill for our negligence and recklessness finally comes due. not only does this package feature reckless spending, but it includes many bills that it should not. with congress, funding broken, inefficient, and in many cases downright harmful programs. for instance, this bill reauthorizes the national flood insurance program, a program that might sound nice, but it subsidizes beachfront properties right in the middle of dangerous
10:37 am
flood plains and which has already in more than $20 billion of debt to american taxpayers. for a full year, without a single reform. this, by the way, after every single time it's been reauthorized for years running, we have discussed, i and others have been promised, that the next time around we'll have an opportunity to offer amendments, we'll have an opportunity to reform the flood insurance program. it can be reformed, and it must be reformed. we have been promised reforms for years, but this bill just reauthorizes it for a full year without a single reform, not one. this bill also maintains the broken status quo for overseas contingency operations. those americans who weren't familiar with this term or o.c.o. as it's sometimes described, this is the pentagon's increasingly unaccountable and widely abused slush fund. insulated from scrutiny by
10:38 am
unchecked budget caps. the deal appropriates another $71.5 billion for o.c.o., a $4 billion increase just from last year alone. this, mr. president, only days after america learned that civilian and military leaders have been lying to the american people for years across multiple presidential administrations about our failures in afghanistan. instead of reform or oversight, these bills would put another $4.1 billion into the afghanistan security forces fund and limit our ability to negotiate peace and bring the war in afghanistan finally to an end. in an era of rampant fake news, even the media is outperforming congress on this issue. these bills include $495 million for the land and water conservation fund, a 13% increase from the last fiscal year, and the highest
10:39 am
appropriate it has -- appropriation it has had in 17 years, all for a program that has been a particular detriment to my state of utah. the lwcf has been used as a tool for the federal government to gradually acquire more and more land, even as it's failing to care for the lands that it already owns with a current maintenance backlog of $19.4 billion. worse, in addition to funding broken programs, it funds blatant abusive cronyism. the bill reauthorizes the export-import bank, washington's favorite among favorite banks which doles out taxpayer-backed loans to help american exporters, and it does so for a full seven years without even so much of a word of debate. this notwithstanding the fact that the export-import bank has been the subject of very intense
10:40 am
debate in this body for many years and for good reason. why? well, among other things, the biggest recipient of export-import bank funds is pemex, mexico's corrupt state-owned oil company, so corrupt that its own employees collaborate with mexico's drug cartels to facilitate the theft of their best oil and of their refined petroleum products. that theft has, in fact, become so rampant that in mexico, there is a term coined to refer to that kind of theft. those who engage in it are called wachecoleros. we are insulating from the ramifications of that theft. pemex, a corrupt institution. it doesn't operate in well, in part because it's the victim of theft, and in part because it's being backed up by the united states government.
10:41 am
and ranked right after pemex is the people's republic of china whose state-owned enterprises have generated taxpayer-backed financing for purchases they could fund through their own communist government. now, say what you want about china, about u.s.-china relations on trade, about military issues related to china, whatever national security issues we might be concerned about with china. i don't know many people, in fact, i don't know anyone outside this town, mr. president, who thinks that the united states government should be propping up china, should be giving money for the export-import bank or otherwise to china. that's not our job. that's not the role of the u.s. taxpayer who works hard every day to earn money, which then might be sent to a communist government in china. the reauthorization even includes provisions instructing the export-import bank to
10:42 am
pretend that it's helping americans to compete against china at the same time that it's sending that very government billions of dollars. and then there is the extension of the brand u.s.a. act. a seven-year reauthorization of a government-chartered nonprofit brand u.s.a. to use tens of millions of federal dollars to advertise for tourism. to top things off, a last-minute tax extenders bill was added to the package late on monday night, diverting billions of dollars on central economic planning and picking winners and losers in the marketplace. over the next ten years, this package provides about $2.7 billion in tax benefits through programs that use the tax code to incentivize businesses to invest in government-selected neighborhoods, seeking to
10:43 am
control the flow of investment instead of relying on the free market to make those decisions, and it includes naked handouts to croniist special interests. for example, it spends over $2.1 billion for subsidies on the energy sector. not energy generally, but to specific winners within the energy industry that this small handful of purr for purported -- purported leaders in congress has decided will benefit from the hardworking taxpayer dollars that will be doled out. among other things, it engages in awarding $113 million for coal production on indian lands, $331 million for facilities to refuel alternative fuel vehicles, and $1.5 billion for biodiesel and renewable diesel tax credits, for instance. as if the federal government weren't already mired sufficiently in this area, this bill devotes even more. beyond these, it hands out
10:44 am
$187 million in write-offs for owners of motor sport entertainment complexes, $18 million in tax breaks for the production of movies and tv shows, and $3 million in tax credits for the purchasers of two-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles, just to name a few examples. and not only that, but it features new levels of absurdity, too. this deal actually includes a special interest bailout to make up for the failures of a faulty pension plan while at the same time authorizing another pension plan to follow in its same footsteps. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak for an additional three minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. lee: congress authorized a group of coal miners, multiplier pension plans under problematic rules, allowing them to underfund the plans by over 70%, but all the while those pensions
10:45 am
still promised their workers full benefits, setting up unreasonable expectations for their return on investment. inevitably, they have not made up the shortfall, and now the taxpayers are being asked to bail them out. and in the very same bill in which we're bailing out the coal miners' pensions, we're authorizing a select group of community newspapers -- just a select group of handpicked community newspapers -- to follow the same practice, allowing them to once again underfund their workers' pensions while again promising them a full return on benefits. with this bill we're rubber-stamping the expectation that employers are free to raid from their workers' promised retirement benefits for their own short-term gain and setting the precedent that the government will reward this bad practice by bailing them out when that inevitably becomes a problem. this bill, however, does include some good measures that i
10:46 am
support, like repealing the medical device tax, fixing a tax provision that would unfairly subject churches to more taxes and making retirement account reforms that allow americans to access these funds in times of a particular need. and, sadly, i, like many of our colleagues, will be forced to vote against these measures because they've been lumped into this massive stinking package where the only choice we have is a binary one. we have no option to vote for the things that we like. this is wrong. there is no finite cap on our ability to debate these things other than the artificial ones that we have created, rather deliberately within this body. and that's wrong. think about these omnibuses. they put us in a take-it-or-leave-it position. unfortunately, it's like every other episode in this squalid
10:47 am
saga. we call this one omnibus 2, the bssoning. this, too, will come to a predictable, sad ending. congress will pass the mess, indulging in a process, substance, and long-term result that are all an affront to the viewers. because at the end of the day, the audience members are real- life victims. we can do better. we can, we must, and we will. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, before i begin, i would ask unanimous consent that virginia flores, a detailee of the transportation, housing, and urban development subcommittee, be granted floor privileges for the debate and action on
10:48 am
h.r. 1158 and h.r. 1865. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i am pleased to be here with -- excuse me, i'll start over again. i'm pleased to be here with my good friend, the chairman of the appropriations committee, senator shelby of alabama. we've worked hashed on this bill. -- we've worked hard on this bill. he is chairman and myself as vice chairman. we've reached a bicameral, bipartisan agreement that will fund the government in fiscal year 2020. the agreement rejects some devastating and shortsighted cuts proposed by the president and makes historic investments in the american people and working families. this fully implements the bipartisan budget agreement, allows us to invest an additional $27 billion in nondefense programs that will benefit our nation's children,
10:49 am
improve our educational institutions, protect our environment, combat the opioid crisis, promote and grow our economy, invest in our infrastructure, and protect our elections. there's a lot in here. the 12 appropriations bills are put into two minibuses. the first we refer to as domestic minibus bill. that is a strong bipartisan bill that makes real historic investments in the american people and our communities. it rejects the proposals of the antiscience, know-nothing proposals by making record level investments in science and research programs. we all know that you have to invest in science and research, and you can't turn this on and off year by year. we have to do it long range. but we also have to invest in our children and education.
10:50 am
we have increases in programs with a proven success -- head start, child care development block grants, child nutrition programs, 21st century learning grants and others. for the third year in a row, it continues the historic level of funding to combat opioids that we began in fiscal year 2018. funding that is critical for state and local governments because they are at the front lines of this battle. the agreement provides over $5 billion more than the president's budget to protect national parks and public lands and fund critical environmental protection and conservation programs. these national parks are important part of our heritage. the presiding officer has some of the most beautiful ones in the country in his state. we all have different kinds.
10:51 am
i think of the brilliance of people like president theodore roosevelt in saying, let's preserve. and even though the administration denies that climate change exists, the agreement includes significant resources to combat this threat in the new fiscal year. it rejects the president's proposal to eliminate key federal affordable housing and economic development programs. and for the first time in decades, congress has come together to fund $25 million for gun violence research by the centers for disease control and the n.i.h. that is a significant step to combat the gun violence epidemic and school shootings that are facing our great nation. it is a good bill. it's certainly going to improve the lives of vermonters, but it will improve the lives of millions of americans in all the other states.
10:52 am
it will provide support for working families, support and promote our economy. in a few moments we're going to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on this bill, and i will urge an aye vote. the second package of bill we refer to as the national security minibus bill, critical funding to support our troops, invest in our military, protect our nation from threats ongoing, both foreign and domestic. we have $425 million for election security grants. while the administration has not requested anything i heard from the secretaries of state, republicans and democrats alike throughout the country, including our own, of the need for these election security grants. it is a matter of national security because we preserve our democracy and we have to maintain full faith in our
10:53 am
elections. we also fund the constitutionally mandated 2020 2020decennial election. it is relied on to distribute $900 billion in federal funds. we have to have a fair and accurate account. the money provided in the bill will help us achieve that. but we also have significant investments to fight crime and terrorism, implement criminal justice reforms, combat violence against women, keep communities safe. we also have funding for the department of homeland security. i'm looking at the time, mr. president, and i would ask -- i would note that we have one area. it's been a lightning rod in both chambers to try to get
10:54 am
d.h.s. to get a bill with the required number of votes to pass. the reason it's been difficult is the president's insist that it would -- insistence to waste taxpayer money on a foolish wall at the border. a wall can be easily cut by a $100 power saw that you can buy at a local hardware store. it is not security. and we worry about the cruel, ineffective immigration policies. last year our president put us into a 35-day government shutdown when congress refused to fund the anti-immigration law that cost the taxpayers of this country billions of dollars that could have been spent on better things. but we reached a resolution. again, i compliment senator shelby and congresswoman howy
10:55 am
and granger. we met in the course my office and worked our way through that. but in this bill, we had negotiations. the president will receive $1.375 billion for barriers on the southern border, which is what he would have received if we had a continuing resolution. i would have preferred no funding, but we are at least making clear that you cannot go and take this money out of other things that we need for the protection of our soldiers, our ranchers, our farmers, and so on. i wish we could have done even more, but there are some important changes. i am happy with them. i do thank chairman shelby for his hard work in negotiating that's bills. the hours were long.
10:56 am
we didn't always agree. we had a lot of weekends and evenings that we worked quietly out of sight of the press and everything else, but knowing that we could take each other's word. we worked in good faith to reach resolution on difficult matters. he made compromise necessary to get us a deal, as did i. and i thank my friend, senator shelby, for his leadership of the appropriations committee, but i especially -- i say this as dean of the senate, somebody who's served with almost 020% of all the senators in this country -- i thank him for his friendship. and i thank the appropriations committee staff on both sides of the aisle. i might go home at 9:00 who are 10:00 at night. they are still there until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. it's hard work. there are sleepless nights. we could no have the done this without -- obviously, i thank my full committee staff, charles keefer, jeff skaberry, hana
10:57 am
sheldon for their work as well as janet hines. all of the subcommittees, senator shelby's staff. it is a long list. i would ask unanimous consent the whole list be included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: because, as i've often said, mr. president, we senators are merely constitutional impediments to the staff who do such great work. i applaud them on both sides of the aisle. i yield to my distinguished chairman. mr. shelby: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. shelby: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that i be allowed to finish my remarks prior to the vote. ifer officer without objection. mr. shelby: mr. president, just a -- the presiding officer: without objection. mr. shelby: mr. president, just a few weeks ago right here congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through december 20. at that time, few, if any, of us
10:58 am
predicted that we would pass all 12 appropriations bills in such a small window of time. yet today we're poised to do just that in a few minutes. mr. president, bipartisan cooperation has made this possible. chairwoman lowey in the house, ranking member granger on the house side, my friend, vice chairman leahy, and myself on the senate side working together changed things. i believe that the four of us have shown once again, mr. president, that if given the opportunity, we will find a bipartisan path forward to get the job done. it's very important that we do this. but i would be remiss right now if i did not recognize all members of the appropriations committee, democrats and republicans, committees on both sides of the aisle and the
10:59 am
capitol, our subcommittee chairs, our rank members in particular and, of course, our staff. we would not be here, mr. president, without their diligence and willingness to work night and day with very little sleep. i want to thank the leaders on both sides, senator mcconnell, senator schumer, and i especially want to take a minute -- a moment here to the acknowledge the role played by the secretary of the treasury, secretary mnuchin in these negotiations on behalf of the administration. everybody together negotiated the budget agreement that paved the way for these bills. and they helped guide them down the stretch. mr. president, secretary mnuchin, in particular, has been a voice of reason and a driving force in our ability to get to yes, and we should be grateful for that. mr. president, i believe these bills are good bills and that my colleagues can be proud to
11:00 am
support them. i do not have time here today to go into all the particulars of such a complex piece of legislation, but i want to hit a few high points as i see them. first, always first, mr. president, to me -- america's commitment, our national security, the -- america's military, the national security. defense spending is increased by 22 billion over the previous year. our men and women in uniform will receive the largest pay increase in ten years at 3.1%, which they deserve. and, mr. president, our veterans can rest assured that they will get the health care they earned and deserve through the funding of the v.a. mission act. these are victories, mr. president, for america, for the american people. turning to homeland security, very important as well, mr. president. $1.37 billion is provided for the border wall system and the
11:01 am
president will have some gaiter flexibility -- greater flexibility on where he can build along the southern border. not only that, but the president retains critical transfer authorities that will allow him to devote additional resources to border security and immigration enforcement. again, the objective here, i believe, the outcome is to make america strong. the last thing that i'll mention before wrapping up these bills, we maintain all legacy policy riders to protect life in the second amendment. these provisions have long been foundational strength for america and i'm proud to assure my colleagues that we can carry them forward. all in all, mr. president, these bills accommodate countless members' priorities on both sides of the aisle. i want to thank all my colleagues again for the input that they provided at the outset of this process. i also want to take a moment to
11:02 am
thank my chief of staff, chief of staff director of the appropriations committee and her staff for all the work they've done as well as senator leahy's staff working together. and as we approach the finish line, mr. president, i ask for their support. as the clock winds down, let's come together and do what seemed so unlikely just a month ago. fund the entire government before the christmas break. mr. president, before i yield the floor, i want to quickly thank again all of the staff for their hard work and dedication to making this happen today. without them it wouldn't happen and we know this. they've worked tirelessly on our behalf and on behalf of the american people and we should all be grateful for their efforts. with that i yield the floor, mr. president.
11:03 am
the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the motion to concur on the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 1865, an act to require the secretary of the treasury to mint a coin in commemoration of the opening of the national law enforcement museum in the district of columbia and for other purposes signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to concur on the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 1865, an act to require the secretary of the treasury to mint a coin in commemoration of the opening of the national law enforcement museum in the district of columbia and for other purposes shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll.
11:04 am
11:05 am
11:06 am
11:07 am
11:08 am
11:09 am
11:10 am
11:11 am
11:12 am
11:13 am
11:14 am
11:15 am
11:16 am
11:17 am
11:18 am
11:19 am
11:20 am
11:21 am
11:22 am
11:23 am
11:24 am
11:25 am
11:26 am
11:27 am
11:28 am
11:29 am


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on