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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  December 9, 2021 11:29am-3:30pm EST

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nixon was the first to control agreement with the soviet union, there are real earnings that are being had and that is our mission. >> jim byron sunday night 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. since to keep monday all of our podcasts on our new c-span now at the micro on friday, bob dole will be honored from a memorial service washington national cathedral. live coverage begins 11:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. or watch our video app the standoff. >> we take each of the u.s. capitol of the senate today is considering legislation allowing an increase in the debt limits for simple majority vote. the senate could take up several judicial nominations today.
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live now to the floor of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, our hope for years to come, we worship you. your name is great and we offer you our adoration and praise. bless our senators. lord, open their eyes so they can discern your involvement in human affairs. prepare their hearts and minds for today's challenges, inspiring them to conduct
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themselves with civility and honor. keep their motives pure, their words true, and their actions constructive. almighty god, we acknowledge that our lives are in your hands, so please keep our feet from stumbling. we pray in your merciful 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.
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the president pro tempore: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the house message to accompany s. 610 which the clerk will report. the clerk: house message to accompany s. 610, an act to address behavioral health and well-being among health care professionals. mr. booker: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: i would like to note the absence of a quorum.
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the president pro tempore: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, earlier this morning it was -- i ask
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unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: earlier this morning, it was my honor to join with vice president -- president biden, vice president, leader mcconnell, the speaker, and other congressional leaders in paying a final tribute to our former colleague, senator bob dole of kansas. from defending our country in world war ii where he fought the nazis on the hillsides of italy to dedicating his final years advocating for disabled americans and veterans, senator dole redefined and elevated what it means to serve our country. by 2021, he had given -- by 21, he had given more of himself than most of us for a lifetime. then he kept going for 70 years after that. leader dole, rest in peace. thank you for all you did to make our country better. and i extend my condolences and prayers to his wife, senator elizabeth dole, their family,
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and all who mourn the loss of the gentleman from kansas. now, on debt ceiling. mr. president, later today, the senate is going to hold a crucial vote that will enable us to address the debt ceiling on a fast-track basis, avoiding the prospect of a catastrophic, calamitous default on our sovereign debt. the proposal i worked with -- worked on with leader mcconnell will allow democrats to do precisely what we've been seeking to do for months, what i've been coming down to the floor advocating for -- since the fall. provide a simple majority vote to fix the debt ceiling without having to resort to a convoluted, lengthy, and ultimately risky process. the nation's debt has been incurred on a bipartisan baift. so -- basis. so i'm pleased that this responsible action will be taken today to facilitate a process
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that avoids a default. i want to thank leader mcconnell for working with us on this agreement. our multiple conversations were fruitful, candid, productive. this is the responsible path forward. no brinksmanship, no default on the debt, no risk of another recession. we still have a few more steps to take before we completely resolve this matter, but i'm optimistic that after today's vote, we'll be on a glide path to avoid a catastrophic default. now, on build back better, in the first nine days of december, democrats have made very good progress on some of our largest priorities for the month. we successful avoided a needless government shutdown. we cleared the path to address debt ceiling and avoid a default. and now we are close to passing
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an annual defense bill on a bipartisan basis as he have -- as we have done for decades. last night i filed clowrt on ndaa and for -- cloture on ndaa and we'll move forward on this bill. soon we'll be able to turn to another crucial item on our december to-do list. passing build back better in time for christmas. we remain on schedule to bring this bill to the floor of the senate before december 25. yesterday four senate committees released their titles of the build back better act, and the congressional budget office released scores for those titles. more titles and scores are scheduled to be released this week. for the knowledge of all senators, the text and scores can be found online at the senate democrats and c.b.o. websites. so it's available to everybody. senate democrats have also wrapped up all of our final meetings with the
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parliamentarian's office. those are the meetings where just democrats talk to the parliamentarian. the republicans also get their chance alone. and now we anticipate that the bipartisan byrd bath where both sides are together and make their case to the parliamentarian and argue back and forth, we expect those to start next week. i want to thank the parliamentarian's office and all of our committee staff for working so hard this week to bring us to this point. for all the -- for all the reasons we should pass build back better, i want to talk about one in some detail this morning. extending the child tax credit. during the holiday season, american families are looking for every option to lower costs, make ends meet, so the best thing we can do is pass build back better before some critical tax breaks from the american rescue plan above all the child tax credit checks come to
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premature end. that's one thing no american should want. covid isn't over. and so these checks shouldn't lapse either. on the contrary, they should keep going. roughly 35 million families will get their next $300 per child check in the mail on december 15. and we need to assure that they'll get their checks in january, too, without any glitch. as a number of outlets have reported, families are at risk of seeing these checks end after december if we don't take action. so let's get this done. let's pass and enact build back better into law before christmas so families won't see their checks come to a halt in the coming months and families as they're doing their christmas shopping can be assured that new checks will be coming over the next year. for the tens of millions of families that have taken it on the chin during covid, an take $300 per month per child can be the crucial extra cushion that
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helps parents stand on their own two feet. that's extra money to buy groceries, fill up the tank at the gas station, pay for diapers. these are not luxuries. these are not handouts. they're daily essentials that nobody should have to worry about in today's day and age. in an affluent society, no one should have to worry about these. and that's what these checks do. they bring a little more fairness into our economy. they say to poorer people, you, too, can have a chance and more importantly your children can have a chance. that's part of the american dream. of course, build back better will do more than that. it will, for example, provide the largest investments to date to fight climate change. i've been working with my colleagues for months to make sure our climate investments will be robust, effective, and will lay a foundation for us to keep taking action to fight the climate crisis here in congress in the future. climate change costs our country tens of billions of dollars
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every time that storms we used to label once in a century slam us. build back better will help us address the climate crisis by lowering emissions, making our communities more resist end to disasters, and -- resist tent to disasters, and protect our planet for the next generation. our work on build back better will keep going until we get the job done. finally, on student loans, mr. president, as the year comes to an end, tens of millions, tens of millions of americans face another looming deadline they cannot afford. soon the federal government's moratorium on student loan payments will expire, and payments are set to resume in february of next year. yesterday i joined with my colleague senator warren and representative presley to call on the biden administration to extend the pause on student loan payments. the pause expires in january. we've been paused because of covid. it ought to be extended.
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covid is not over. students still have these huge burdens. and they're just readjusting to life where they may have missed school or missed jobs or not gotten fully paid. so we need to certainly pause these payments. but we also urge the administration to take the next important step in granting borrow we are's relief by canceling student loan debt. as we keep recovering from covid, as americans are looking to cut costs and make ends meet, now is precisely the wrong time for us to allow this commonsense moratorium to end. according to one study, it could strip more than $85 billion, $85 billion, from american families over the coming year. at a time like this, that just makes no sense. we should give student loan payers a break, keep the moratorium going. should the moratorium be allowed to expire, the burden will fall heaviest on those who are least
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prepared to shoulder it -- on low-income borrowers, borrowers of color, who typically take out more loans than white americans and end up paying them back over a much longer time horizon. on the flip side, the president's decision to extend the moratorium over the course of a year was precisely, precisely, the right thing to do. it's allowed borrowers to focus on saving up for these hard times, to save up for emergencies and pay down other forms of debt. we should keep it going. this is about taking one commonsense, easy step to save people costs. it is about racial equality, it's about giving people more opportunities to achieve the american dream, and the administration can do it on its own. we don't need any kind of congressional approval. and should the moratorium be extended, the administration should take further action to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower.
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imagine, mr. president, the economic activity we can see if tens of billions of -- tens of millions of americans are suddenly freed from crushing student loan debt. they can buy homes, start a business, buy a car, help send their own kids to college. what a boon that would be for our country, especially at a time now when it is needed. for decades, higher education was considered a laddered up for tens of millions of people, for immigrants, people of color, working-class families. but today it is an anchor weighing too many people down. these americans deserve relief, help, they deserve to have the moratorium extended and their student debt canceled. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: without objection, the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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minority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: today the capitol is once again host ago hallowed tradition. the united states congress just solemnly welcomed our late friend and colleague, leader robert j. dole, one final time. this most distinguished soldier statesman now lies in state in the epicenter of our democracy. our nation has bestowed this honor only 33 times in its history -- to presidents, to senators, and representatives, to heroes of war. with today's ceremony, bob's path aligned one last time with his army hospital buddy turned
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longtime fellow senator, danny inouye. it was amazing enough that bob's and danny's paths came from the bedside bridge games in the 1940's to vietnams -- to votes on this floor in the 1990's. now they have rested on the same catafalque that has dated back to president lincoln. bob dole earned these honors i many, many times over, through an heroic fight that began on hill 913 and left lifelong scars through accomplished service at both ends of this building, and in a bid for even higher office conducted with integrity and grace, bob dole left this chamber a quarter of a century ago but service to his beloved
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kansas and his fellow americans remained the focus of his life until the moment he was called home on sunday. the sting of losing our friend is still fresh, but we're proud to celebrate this extraordinary american now draped in the colors to which his entire life was dedicated and already at home in eternal rest. now, mr. president, on an entirely different matter, on tuesday i shined a spotlight on washington democrats' proposed toddler takeover. they want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in order to upend families' arrangements, create massive inflation in day care costs, and attack faith-based providers. now, democrats say their plan would not hurt faith-based providers because it would explicitly block them up front.
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ah, but that's only a small part of the story. the reckless taxing-and-spending spree might not ban faith-based providers on day one, but their scheme of mandates and subsidies would slowly and quietly push them out. the democrats' bill would deny religious providers an extra funding stream for upgrading their facilities, which their secular competitors would actually get. and their proposal would let woke bureaucrats prosecute faith-based groups unless they leave their values at the door. if a jewish day care wants to prioritize jewish families, they could get thrown out of the democrats' scheme for engaging in discrimination. a catholic facility could be kicked out if families who are registered parishioners get first dibs. if a faith-based provider decides no the to the hire
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somebody who fundamentally rejects their teachings, left-wing lawyers would come after them as well. the woke mob that stalks cake bakers and florists is now coming for church day care. 21 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of faith-based day cares and preschools signed an open letter to the senate -- catholics, protestants, jews, and muslims, all wrote to chairwoman murray and senator burr. here's what they said. the build back better act will suppress, if not exclude, the participation of many faith-based providers. provisions in the bill text make it virtually impossible for many religious providers to participate. let me say that again. provisions in the bill text make it virtually impossible for many religious providers to participate.
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now, that's the far left says if you don't support the toddler takeover you're somehow out of touch. but they're projecting. it is their big government scheme that is out of touch with the diverse aspirations of different families. last year a nonpartisan survey asked families what child care arrangements they'd ideally like, apart from the pandemic, if finances were no obstacle. what would american families want? the share that said child-based -- center-based child care. just 27% of parents say that's their ideal world. and of that 27%, a major -- a majority prefer the faith-based
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options that democrats would push out. now, a larger group, nearly 40%, said their ideal arrangement would involve full-time parents in some form, either one parent stays home or the two trade off. another 9% said they'd ideally would like an extended relative like a grandparent to be the caregiver. other families would ideally want a nanny share or a neighborhood co-op. the democrats' day care scheme would give all these people nothing, nothing. a family that has sacrificed so much so that a mom or dad can stay home will not get one penny for books or supplies or make up for lost wages. a grandparent who leaves a part time job to spend weekdays with their grandkids will not get a dime from the democrats' plan. a neighborhood nanny share gets
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zero help. forget about diversity. forget about choice and fairness. families would either enroll in a specific pathway that big labor and big government like best or they'd get nothing. meanwhile, even in the centers that democrats do want to subsidize, parents would get a very mixed bag. analysts agree the new regulations would send costs skyrocketing. the district of columbia's local government estimates these sorts of policies would increase the cost of day care by roughly $12,000 per child per year. their plan would supposedly use government subsidies to make up this new inflation, but that assistance would be confusing and uneven. so this bill manages to be wildly inflationary and wildly unfair at the same time. that's pretty hard to pull off.
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wiley unfair and inflationary at the same time. it insults the diversity of american families and their aspirations. it simply hands money and power to the same woke bureaucrats who are heading far-left propaganda into 12-k -- k-12 schools. this bill would give h.h.s. secretary becerra a giant slush fund to start shaping the care of babies and toddlers. and facilities and families who make different choices would be left facing a massively inflated market with zero help. this would be an awful, awful proposal for american families, even if it were free. but of course it isn't. washington democrats don't just have to explain to parents why they want to make children more expensive, more inflexible, and more unfair, to make child care
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more expensive, more inflexible, and more unfair. they also get to explain why they want to print and borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to do it. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. a senator: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. ernst: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'm glad to be on the floor today joined by my colleague, senator richard blumenthal and senator lindsey
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graham. we all saw and remember the horrific images from this past summer when afghanistan fell into the hands of a brutal taliban regime. it was a difficult time for many of us, especially our veterans, our gold star families, and the families of the 13 servicemembers we lost during the disastrous exit including the family of marine corporal day began, william tyler page. these heroes must never be forgotten. while the tragic exit from afghanistan may have moved off of the front pages, and while it may not be top of mind for many americans here at home, the
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devastating situation in afghanistan is all too real for the hundreds of american citizens and allies who were left behind. the reality is right now u.s. citizens, green card holders and s.i.v.-eligible afghans are still stranded behind enemy lines in afghanistan. i am furious over the mishandling of this administration's exit from afghanistan. it was a disaster from start to finish. now america has a duty and an obligation to get these people home or brought to safety, plain and simple. to those who are stranded in afghanistan today, my message to you is clear. i have not forgotten you.
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america has not forgotten you. as my colleagues pointed out already, we are trying to find ways to remind congress the administration -- congress, the administration and the public of those americans who are still stranded in the country. and the importance of taking action to get them home. as a way to remind those around that our fellow americans are still stranded and that we need to get them home, i am encouraging iowans and all americans to join me, to join senators graham and blumenthal, and wearing a green ribbon this holiday season. we must ensure that america does not forget those who this administration has left behind. i'm proud to join my colleagues
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today, democrats and republicans, to ensure we keep the pressure on and to get these people, including our fellow americans, home at last. we cannot and we will not let them be forgotten. and, mr. president, i will yield the floor to senator blumenthal. thank you, mr. president. mr. blumenthal: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i'm honored today to join senators ernst and senator graham in this call on america to honor our commitment. this effort is completely bipartisan, and it is about values and ideals that we share
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and that we should reemphasize at this time of year, at this moment in our history, at this challenging moment in world history. we are here to support a grassroots initiative ca called honor our commitment, and our go is very simply to keep this cause present and real for americans, even as we complete the wars in afghanistan and iraq so that we keep faith with the afghan allies and their fam
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families, to bring them to safety, to evacuate them, to enable them to escape the danger, death, torture that threatens them now. for 20 years these men and women helped to protect our troops and our diplomats. they are the translators, civil servant, humanitarian workers, members of the judiciary and others who supported the united states mission in afghanistan. they were at our side at significant risk to them. sometimes in combat. and i know because one of my sons was a marine corps infantry officer in helmand province, and he felt so deeply that he had an obligation to bring to safety
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his translator, which he was able to do after years of ef effort. and there are many other translators like him still in danger there who went into combat with our troops and helped to protect them. my other son is a navy seal -- was. he's out now. but he knows as well the importance of these people on the ground to protect them. and i fear for other parents in the future who will know their sons and daughters are in harm's way and who need those folks on the ground, the people who speak the language, who know the culture, who have friends in the
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community. how can we ask them to serve us when we are engaged in the same kind of conflict if we fail to honor our promises to these men and women in afghanistan who now have targets on their back only because they helped us in moments of danger and crisis. most of my colleagues i think share these feelings of apprehension and anxiety on behalf of those men and women who now are in hiding, many of them with their families trying to get out. and i strongly believe that honoring our past commitment, keeping our promises as every
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great nation does means establishing a clear, cons consistent, compassionate strategy for the evacuation and settlement of all of these individuals and their family. that's why i've called repeatedly for an evacuation czar with clear presidential direction and authority to implement such a strategy and coordinate all of the numerous federal agencies, with all of their individual responsibilities and authority to evacuate and resettle our at-risk afghan allies and their families. our at-risk afghan allies deserve no less. that is what i have said to the president of the united states in a letter that i have written to him personally.
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that is the reason that i offered an amendment with senator graham and senator ernst which unfortunately was not included in the final version of the national defense authorization act. and that is why i enlisted colleagues to support it and indeed it has broad bipartisan, broad bicameral support to establish a strategy, very simply a strategy to support the mission of evacuating those at-risk afghan allies. i'm saddened that the congress has failed to require this basic planning and fulfill our moral obligation. that legislation directed the administration to develop a plan that would provide for initial expedited security screening and
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vetting conducted remotely if necessary to get our allies out of afghanistan as quickly as possible. we need to encourage rapid departure by air charter and land passage because the united states has no presence diplomatically or militarily. those charter flights, beyond land passage, are the only means of escape right now, and the situation of these at-risk afghan allies and their families is increasingly dire and dangerous. there are numerous humanitarian flights independently organized and funded by nonprofit organizations to expedite the evacuation process in parallel to u.s. government efforts. we ought to encourage that assistance, not create bureaucratic hurdles to hobble
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these efforts. we need a strategy to have our government engaged with relative to facilitate transport to third countries, or lily pads, as they're called, where more thorough vetting can be completed before on-ward movement to the united states or other locations for resettlement. so i'm disappointed -- in fact, i'm angry, that this amendment was not included in the national defense authorization act. but i'm committed that we will honor this commitment to these at-risk afghan allies and families, and i am heartened by this green-ribbon initiative, and that's i am wearing a green
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ribbon today and why my colleagues, i hope, will do so as well. and while i thank my friend, i'd say good friend, of greenwich, connecticut, for initiating this effort and all of his support network, i want to close by thanking our veterans. i've been inspired over these last weeks and months by their determination to enable those afghan allies who served them to escape the danger in afghanistan. their steadfast commitment is a part of the reason why i feel we
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need to honor our commitment. those veterans and n.g.o.'s, the network of people, the coalition of groups that has worked so hard to evacuate allies, against all the odds -- and my office has been proud to work with them -- have inspired me. i call on my colleagues in both parties and in both chambers of congress and the executive branch to continue this work until we enable every at-risk afghan ally to leave afghanistan. to do any less is an immense tragedy, and it will forever stain the honor of this country
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if we fail to complete this mission. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: thank you. i want to, before senator blumenthal departs, thank him so much for bringing this to my attention. it came from his constituent, the idea. a good friend who has truly been a good friend to this cause, and senator blumenthal i find to be always willing to work with you where he can. and the fact that he has a son who served as a marine infantry officer and a son who is a navy seal speaks volume to his family, and to those two young men who served at the highest level in the military, thank you very much. and, mr. good friend came to us with the idea of what can we do to not let america forget? afghanistan is hell on earth
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right now. 23 million people are virtually starving to death. isis is at war with the taliban. al qaeda is growing in influence, and people inside of afghanistan are living a miserable life. those who helped us with being hunted down. special operations commandos are now having to choose between joining isis or dying. and the point here is not to focus on how we got here. i've got my views. senator blumenthal has his. we've agreed when this comes to going forward, we have to be together. and there's plenty of blame to go around, so we don't need to beat on one group versus the other right now. what we need to focus on is what's next. and senator blumenthal's legislation that i joined with to create a plan, an evacuation czar, is the very bare minimum we need to be doing. out of sight, out of mind does not work in this environment.
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honor our commitment is a phrase we use to describe what we're trying to achieve. you can't fight these wars by yourself. if america has to go it alone in the war on terror, it's going to be a very dark period for the united states. the goal is to get people in the faith in the region to fight back against the radical islamic movement that would take the whole world into darkness. and the good news is, for 20-something years people fought. the afghans died in large numbers in the last five years. i don't think we lost a soldier in 18 months. god bless the fallen, god bless the injured. but to say that the afghans weren't fighting is just a -- dishonors those who fell. and now we're out and we left behind people who had a choice between standing up to the taliban and isis and al qaeda and siding with us.
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they chose us, and now we're gone. we cannot forget them. i promise you, how we handle the next year or two in afghanistan will determine what kind of national security future america has. people are testing us all over the world right now. i'd like to work with senator blumenthal and others when it comes to the ukraine. i want to introduce sanctions with a national security waiver that would allow president biden to sanction the hell out of russia based on the military buildup that threatens ukraine, not the actual invasion. to give him tools where he can go to putin and say, this is what congress, in a bipartisan fashion, thinks about what you're doing. you go forward at your own peril. i would like to create legislation that would make sure this administration and other administrations have the direction and the tools they need to end this afghan
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engagement with a sense of honor., you can go to that site and get information about the status of people in afghanistan. we've got some out. but we got a lot left behind. and this green ribbon is an effort to remind ourselves and the nation writ large what's at stake if we abandon those who fought along our side. i did my reserve duty in afghanistan on several occasions. my commitment was small in comparison to most. but i got to know the translators. i got to know the people who worked with the judges and the law enforcement officials to bring a rule of law to being in afghanistan. i'm sure all those who served relied upon their translators for their very life, not only what did the guy say, but are we safe? and the bravery of afghans to
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side with us should be respected and honored, and i'm going to join with senator blumenthal and ernst and others to introduce free-standing legislation. we'll try to do it before the holidays. and the one thing i like about senator blumenthal, he's the most tenacious guy i've ever met without being mean about it. he has a determination for his causes that is unparalleled. i can understand why your sons went in the marine corps and the navy. i think they probably get those qualities from you and your wife. so we're going to take that quiet determination, we're not going to let this go, ■we'r going to insist that this body vote to create a system to make sure that those who were with us get treated fairly. to the american people, you abandon those who helped us in afghanistan at our own peril. this is a time of reckoning for the american people.
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it's a time of choosing, and i choose honor over abandonment. i choose to be a good ally, someone you can count on when the going gets tough. and i think that spirit really does describe our country. so the green-ribbon campaign, i'd like more of our colleagues to wear the ribbon during the holiday season to let people who are looking to america for hope see a demonstration of our will. if you travel abroad, you're shocked at how people screw our country. we sort -- at how people view our country. we sometimes lose sight of how important we are. when you travel throughout the world -- i know the president does this -- people care what we think and they watch what we do. we still, in spite of all our differences, represent the best
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hope of mankind. i really believe that. i think our military represents the best spirit of mankind. i think the men and women who fought on our behalf in afghanistan wearing the american flag feel a sense of obligation to those who stood by them. that's why we wear the green ribbon, go to our website we're going to get major contributions advancing that cause. what can we do beyond wear the ribbon? say a prayer. we can pass legislation that will make honoring our commitment real, not just a talking point. with that, i will yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. kelly: i ask unanimous consent to suspend the quorum caution. the presiding officer: without objection.
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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 s. 610, an act to address behavioral, health and well-being among health care professionals 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 in the house amendment to s. 610, an act to address behavioral, health, and well-being among health care professionals shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: on this vote, the yeas are 64, the
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nays are 36. three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to. cloture having been invoked, the motion to refer and the amendment pending thereto fall. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, pfizer released a study this week showing how antibodies from its vaccines respond to the omicron variant in a lab. the company claims that three doses should provide some protection against the variant. it also showed that those who
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previously had covid and recovered demonstrated stroarng stroarng -- stronger immunity to the omicron variant. while natural immunity comes at a cost, studies have shown throughout the pandemic that it works. those who have recovered from covid have significant protection from both catching the virus again and from the most severe symptomatic infections. while this is not always the case, the vaccination may improve immunity further, natural immunity is real. there are data to prove that. a study conducted in italy showed that natural immunity is more effective than vaccines at reducing risk of future infection. another study of half a million people in denmark showed that natural immunity provides significant lasting protection
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against infection. finally, a study from three separate hospitals in israel found that natural immunity from a previous covid infection was, quote, 27 times more effective than vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic infections, close quote. this, of course, is good news, especially considering that natural immunity is combining with vaccinated immunity in the general population. recent data from the nationwide blood donor prevalent survey shows that almost 92% of americans over the age of 16 have covid antibodies from vaccination or infection. the vast majority of americans have at least some protection against covid-19. 92%. i believe the vaccines are generally safe and effective. i've been vaccinated as has my
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family. i see these vaccines as a miracle, one that's helping protect many millions of americans from the dangers associated with covid-19, but i also recognize that millions of americans are separately protected, separate and apart from anything else that might be there as a result of immunity built up through their natural defenses because they had previously contracted and then recovered from covid. the science shows that this immunity is strong, that it's effective, and that it's really widespread in america. astoundingly, that information is not frequently shared in the media and never mentioned by the biden administration. in fact, the administration makes no effort to recognize natural immunity in its mandates or in its formal guidelines.
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i've asked the biden administration to provide clarity on its research on natural immunity as well as the research being conducted by other countries that show natural immunity is strong and effective and valid. however, the biden administration has yet to respond to my inquiries, inquiries that i asked reasonably to be answered no later than the beginning of this week. tragically, tens of millions of americans have superior protection against the virus even from new variants, and yet this administration would still fire them if they don't comply with the administration's mandates regarding vaccination. it is as irrational as it is
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cruel, i've heard from hundreds of utahans who are worried about losing their jobs due to the mandate. they are just a few of the 500,000 workers who are at risk of losing their jobs in my state. there are 45 million americans all together who could lose their jobs due to this unconstitutional, illegal and immoral overstep. the senate thankfully recognized these jobs were worth saving last night. 52 senators, including democrats and republicans, stood with american workers. that resolution could, of course, fail in the house. it could, of course, be voted by the president -- be vetoed by the president. regardless of that outcome, the senate's statement last night rings loud and clear. moreover, mr. president, i hold out hope that the american people are being heard, they're being heard in the senate as
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evidenced by last night's vote. they're being heard in the house of representatives, which will take up this measure in the coming days. i hold out hope that the house too will pass this measure, and i implore the president to consider allowing it to become law. but regardless of what else happens, these workers need immediate, real, lasting protection from the threat of the mandates. one way to have a significant portion of these jobs protected is to recognize the benefits of natural immunity. so today i'm offering a bill that would require that federal agencies recognize, accept, truthfully present, and include natural immunity in any regulation. this bill does not say that vaccines are bad or unhelpful. it merely asks the federal government to respect widely available science. i'm glad to be joined in this effort by senators braun, tuberville, and sullivan, who are with me as cosponsors.
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this bill would keep americans employed and help us beat the pandemic in a smart way. i urge my colleagues to support it. to that end, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the committee on health, education, labor and pensions be discharged from further consideration of s. 2846 and that the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. i further ask that the bill be considered read a third time and passed, and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? mrs. murray: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: reserving the right to object. unfortunately even though the senate has had multiple exposures to nonsense ideas like this bill, they keep coming back. the c.d.c. and n.i.h. are already looking closely at the data on covid-19 infection and natural immunity. they have been since the
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earliest days of this pandemic. in august the morbidity and mortality weekly report, c.d.c. actually assessed data from kentucky and found that out of a group of people who had been infected with covid before, those who were unvaccinated were twice as likely to get covid again than people who are vaccinated. and a c.d.c. report from october looked at multiple studies and concluded that vaccinating people who were previously infected significantly strengthened their immune response and reduced their risk from covid. in other words, being unvaccinated put you at higher risk of being reinfected, period. getting vaccinated is a necessary step to protect you and to protect those around you. and now our agencies are focused on a new variant, as we know, that appears to be spreading quickly throughout the world -- omicron. we are in the middle of the
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deadliest pandemic in american history. it has killed 785,000 people, and counting. if we are going to end this, if we're going to reopen our economy, if we're going to save lives, we need to get enchl -- everyone vaccinated when they're eligible. we don't need politicians suggesting they know more than the is experts and ignoring the data. we don't need bills meant to weaken one of our strongest biggs to get this thing behind us. workplace safety standards are nothing new in this country. immunization requirements are nothing new in this country. and let's be clear, the emergency temporary standard osha has put forward specifically provides employers the flexibility to offer testing as an alternative to vaccination. mr. president, people are dying
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every day. families are scared, and they are tired, and they are angry that even as they try so hard to do the right thing so we can end this crisis, even after all the progress we've made to rebuild our economy and get students safely back in our classes, get people safely back to work and get unemployment back to the lowest level since before this pandemic started, all of this progress, all of our hard work is at risk much -- of being undermined by bills like this. can republicans stop wasting our time trying to take us backwards and pretending they know more than the experts about this disease? is that too much to ask? i think not. i object. mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, it's important to remember that the fact that someone holds a government post and is an expert in the field does not make that
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person capable of making laws. yes, there are lots of experts in our government. some of them hold high bureaucratic or other executive posts. that doesn't mean that they make laws. by operation of the constitution, we are the experts for purposes relevant to making law. we are the only organ of the federal government that may make law. any time someone starts to say they are the experts, therefore they get to make the law, that's a problem. to call this a nonsense idea, to refer to this as an idea that wastes the time of the american people ignores the plight of almost 45 million american workers whose jobs are being threatened right now. i add that my friend and
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distinguished colleague, the senator from washington, has made an argument against this that doesn't match her conclusion. what she's stating is not that natural immunity makes no difference, although her conclusion would seem to suggest that. what -- the presiding officer: please take your conversations off the floor. mr. lee: she's saying someone who has had kfd and recovered -- covid-19 could have additional infections. i understand that argument. i had covid, i recovered from covid and i've been fully vaccinated. the question is not whether you can gain additional protection from that. it's whether or not you can look at an original covid infection from which someone has recovered and accept the fact that it offers at least a comparable degree of protection as one can obtain from a vaccine.
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so let's be honest about what we are and are not talking about here. we are talking about 45 million americans whose jobs are being threatened as they head into the holidays at a time when economic conditions make that unusually intolerable. intolerable as a result of many conditions that the federal government is putting in place. in all events, this is really a bare minimum of what we can do for the american people. the burden should not be on them to why they should be fired, fired by a company being threatened by the president of the united states with crippling fines. this is cruel, it's barbaric, it's not awshzed by the statute -- authorized by the statute. thank you, mr. president.
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mrs. murray: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i rise to move qualified nominees from the help committee. notwithstanding rule 22, the senate move to executive session to consider executive calendar numbers 300, 348, 349, 416, 17, 18, 419, 422, 423, 425, 427, 484, 485, 569, 570, 571, 589l9, 591, 592, 593 and 594, the
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nominations be confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, no further motions be in order, any related statements be printed in the record, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mrs. murray: right now the help committee has more than 30 nominees who are waiting on us to confirm them. these are qualified nominees and they should be on the job and working, overseeing critical parts of the department of labor and department of education, leading independent agencies and serving in very important roles. we need to confirm them so they can get to work on behalf of the american people, especially as we continue our economic recovery. if we are going to rebuild from this pandemic, we need all hands on deck.
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many of the nominees that i just tried to move by unanimous consent were voted out of the help committee unanimously. and they have bipartisan support. but now my republican colleagues are holding up all these nominations for manufactured reasons and in some cases for absolutely no reason at all. that was, by the way, not our practice during president trump's administration, or any other administration, and it should not be the practice now. obstructionism is not helping anyone. all this does is make is harder for departments and agencies to do their work and harder for our families and our communities to get the help they need. it should not be this difficult for the senate to perform its constitutional duty and confirm nominees who are qualified and supported by both democrats and republicans. republicans are blocking or have delayed nominees who received support from every republican on the help committee.
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nominees who received support from bipartisan groups and who will serve in nonpartisan roles and privileged nominees who are supposed to be fast-tracked through the senate as part of a longstanding bipartisan practice and that, by the way, includes a former colleague of ours. every one of these nominees have gone through the full process and cleared the help committee. mr. president, i am extremely frustrated that republicans have blocked nominations despite their clear qualifications, the history of fast-tracking nominations like this in a bipartisan way and most importantly the critical challenge we're facing and the work that families are counting on us all to get done and they've been blocking other critical noncontroversial nominees. we have heard plenty of excuses from across the aisle and all we know there is no good reason for
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this. we know these are qualified nominees. we know the work they are being blocked from doing is important if we're going to rebuild our nation stronger and better and i want my colleagues across the aisle to know we're not going to give up on this side. we are going to keep pushing to get these nominees confirmed so they can do their jobs and get their work done for the people of this nation. thank you very much. id yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: i have four requests for committees to meet during today's today session of the senate, they have the approval of the majority and
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minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. a senator: i would ask consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, shortly i'm going to be making a unanimous consent request in regards to the confirmation of several nominations that are currently pending before the united states senate. my colleagues have been pointing out that these are unprecedented times with the number of presidential nominations that have cleared our committee, cleared committees with overwhelming votes, in some cases near unanimous votes, of people who are well qualified for the positions for which they have been nominated to. but they cannot take their responsibility or oath until we have confirmed them on the floor of the united states senate. so for reasons unrelated to their qualifications or the need to have confirmed nominees in positions, we've seen individual objections to allowing these
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nominations to go forward from republican members of the united states senate. i say that because these are unprecedented. we've never seen mass numbers like we've seen in this congress. and we have a responsibility. we have a responsibility to confirm presidential nominations so they can carry out the missions that we want them to carry out. the responsibilities that go with the reason why we think it is important enough for the senate to confirm those nominations. we then have a responsibility to take these nominations up in a timely way and act on them. and secondly, when we have a confirmed person in position, we get greater accountability on the responsibilities of that agency. we have a person that we can hold accountable because of the actions that we've taken in confirming that individual. both are missing in regards to not having these confirmed
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positions. so, mr. president, i chair the subcommittee of the senate foreign relations committee that deals with the management of the state department. and i'm going to be asking unanimous consent in regards to seven nominees that have passed our committees long time ago and have been pending in the senate for months, where there's no question as to the qualifications of the individuals. but they're not being able to take on the responsibility for why we decided it was important enough to have nominations with the confirmation of the senate. that's just not right. and i think we need to point that out. so first i want to just talk about the individuals and i'll make my consent. one is adam schnideman as the special representative for the president for nuclear nonproliferation with the rank
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of daferredz. itself nomination has been pending before the full senate since october 19 for over 50 days. adam schnideman is the special representative of the representative for nuclear nonproliferation, a position that is essential to national security as the u.s. special representative on the nuclear nonproliferation treaties and support of activities to strengthen global nuclear nonproliferation regimes. can you thi -- can you think of a more important position? he is eminently qualified for the position he has been nominated. there is no stated reason not to confirm his nomination. the second is jack merkel to be representative of the united states to the organization for economic corporation and development with rank of ambassador. jack merkel is the nominee to be the ambassador of the oecd, known as the heavy weight multinational organization in the area of anticorruption and
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keeper of the oecd's anti-bribery convention, which is one of the most important international anticorruption treaties. we all talk about our commitment to fight corruption and yet we're holding back a confirmed ambassador to that position. jack merkel, former governor, is eminently qualified for the position for which he's been nominated and there's no reason why we should not confirm his nomination. marcella ecobari, was appointed to be the assistant administrator for usaid. the assistant administrator for latin america, all activities in the region including the four regional programs and three washington, d.c.-based programs, ms. escobari served in the same position for which this nomination is being made under the obama-biden administration. i must tell you, i was on a call
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with senator blunt yesterday with regards to columbia, the needs to up our game in that country. ms. escobari is eminently qualified for the position she has been nominated. she served in the obama-biden administration and should be confirmed today. atul gawandi has been nominated as the assistant administrator of the usi -- usaid agency. we know we need a confirmed person in usaid to deal with the covid-19 pandemic. our leadership is desperately needed. we're asking lots of -- we're answering lots of international questions today from the biden administration. wouldn't it be nice to have a confirmed ambassador who's for
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this. the nomination has been pending since september 29. dr. gwandi is eminently qualified for the position. there's no good reason not to confirm him today. next will be marcia berniket. the director general of foreign service who served concurrently as the director of global talent management is responsible for leading the g.t.m. agency's mission at the department of state. the position is critical in the modernization of the state department and making sure that the department is attractings and training the necessary talent needed to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. this nomination has been pending before the full senate since september 13, over 86 days.
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mr. president, i recently held a hearing in the subcommittee on the retention, training of our state department personnel. we had lots of questions, lots of good things we need to do. we need a confirmed administrator in order to have a person responsible to carry out the changes that we need in regards to the personnel at the state department. there is no reason why she should not be confirmed without any further delay. my next unanimous consent will be in regards to juliet jarress. now more than ever with the administration dealing with a backlog that's been heightened by covid and the withdrawal from afghanistan, the bureau of population refugee and migration needs to have a senate-confirmed nomination in place.
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this nomination has been pending for over 50 dice. my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are questioning the state department, what they're doing, to get people out of afghanistan. we're asking valid questions. there's no reason to hold up this nomination from the point of view of her qualifications. we need this position filled in order to carry out our responsibility to those afghans that are at risk today and migrants at risk around the world. and lastly, i will be asking consent in regards to anne witkowsky, the nominee for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization. the conflict and stabilization operation bureau is responsible to anticipate, prevent, and respond to conflicts that undermine u.s. national interests. we are putting our national security at risk without leadership in the conflict and stabilization bureau to assess how the united states will engage in emerging conflicts.
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we are trying to stop conflicts from happening. we all recognize that. the risk factors couldn't be greater around the world for conflict. we need to have a confirmed assistant secretary responsible for this portfolio in place immediately. this nomination was reported out of the senate foreign relations committee on august 4. her nomination has been awaiting confirmation for 126 days. dr. witkowsky is fully qualified and should be confirmed without further delay. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent notwithstanding rule 22 the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations, executive calendar numbers 223, 461, 462, 5288. that the nominations be confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, with no
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intervening action or debate, that no further motions be in order to the nominations, that any related statements be printed in the record, that the president be immediately note food of the senate's action, and the senate resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri is recognized. mr. hawley: reserving the right to object, approximately 24 hours after the attack at abby -- abigate in kabul, i had the privilege to speak with the father of one of the marines that lost his life there. the young marine in the state of missouri, st. charles county, named jared schmidt, his father's name is mark, told me of the devastation of losing his son. he later spoke in public about his son in this way. he said, i'm very honored --
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this is mark talking about his boy, jared. i'm very honored that i could call him my son. his life meant so much more. i'm so incredibly devastated that i won't be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming. 13 servicemembers lost their life on that day. hundreds of civilians and a result -- and as a result of the botched evacuation operation, hundreds, if not thousands, of american civilians were left behind to the enemy, where hundreds still remain. i'm not going to reveal the continent tents of my -- the contents of my conversation with mr. schmidt except to say something that he asked me, something that he told me. he told me, go fight like hell. that's exactly what i'm going to do. until there is accountable for
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the worst foreign policy crisis that country has suffered since the vietnam war. now, pee hear from our friends -- now, we hear from our friends on the other side of the aisle that our insistence that we actually vote on nominees is unprecedented. i would humbly suggest that the crisis into which this president has led this country is unprecedented, in my lifetime it is unprecedented. it is unpress denied for an american -- it is unprecedented for an american president to watch 13 servicemembers lose their lives in an evacuation for which he is responsible and then to celebrate that operation as an extraordinary success, i believe was president biden's words. really? an extraordinary success, 13 servicemembers dead, hundreds of civilians dead, hundreds of americans left behind to the enemy. that's success? no, that's failure. that's unacceptable. and who's been held accountable for this disaster?
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no one. who has the president fired? who has offered their resignation? which of the planners at the department of state or the department of defense or the national security council has been relieved of duty? no one. now, we've seen this movie before. back to vietnam. in vietnam, we watched as the experts in washington sent thousands and thousands of americans to die, concealing the true state of the war, lying to the american people, and what happened to the people who planned that disastrous war over all those years? nothing. they went on to their board seats. they went on to collect their fat pension checks. they went on to be celebrated. and who was was left to pick up the pieces? it was the families of the fallen. it was those who lost their lives. well, mr. president, i for one am not willing to stand by and participate in that kind of
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theater again. i am not going to go back to the families of the fallen in my state and say that i didn't do anything while people in this body looked the other way. it's time that there was accountability. and so is this a protest that i am lodging by asking the senate to actually vote on these nominees? you bet it is. you bet it is. because we don't need more leadership of the same kind in the state department. we don't need more leadership of the same kind in the department of defense. we need different kind of leadership. we need a different direction for this country. and until there is accountability, i'm going to ask that the senate do the simple task of its job, which is to actually vote on these nominees. the least we could do is observe regular order and vote on these leadership positions at the department of state and the
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department of defense. now, my colleague from maryland says, and i think he's right, he says that we've got to put national security first, and i agree with him about that. and that begins at the top with the president of the united states and the leadership of the department of defense and the department of state but i for one am not going to stand by and look the other way while this administration systematically endangers our national security, imperils the american people, and watches the sacrifice of our soldiers go by without any accountability, without any change in direction, and i'm not willing to look the other way and just pretend it didn't happen, which seems to be the posture that many in this body have adopted. i'm not willing to do that. frankly had i can't do that -- frankly, i can't do that because i promised the parents. fallen that i -- the parents of the fallen that i wouldn't do
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that. i'm going to did discharge my responsibility. i will continue to draw attention to what happened at abigate. if i'm still here on the floor in 2023, so be it. 2024, so be it -- until somebody is held accountable. i want to see accountability for what has happened. -- in afghanistan, what happened to those servicemembers and what happened to those hundreds of civilians who are even now left behind enemy lines to the enemy. i would just note one other thing about the situation we're in vis-a-vis these nominees. while i can ask that there be a vote on the floor of the senate, i certainly can't prevent that vote. so you might ask yourself, why in the world if these nominations are so important -- and by the way i agree that
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these are leadership positions; that's in fact why i'm asking for a vote. these are leadership positions of the department of state, in this case, the department of defense, in other cases. but why in the world haven't voted? the answer is, ask senator schumer. my friends control the floor. senator schumer is the majority leader of the united states senate, and what has he had the senate been doing? well, not much. yesterday over -- last week, rather, over a three-day period -- three days -- how many votes did the united states senate take? one. for two full days we were in session, how many votes did the united states senate take on any subject? zero. if these were such pressing priorities, why isn't the senate majority leader putting them on the floor for a vote? i have no earthly idea. other than apparently he just can't get his act together to do
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it. here we are. it's 2:15 in the afternoon on a thursday. are we voting? nope. how many votes have we taken today? one. will we be voting tomorrow? i doubt it. will we be voting next week? who knows? apparently it's not that much of a priority. so senator schumer has a lot to answer for in many regards, not the least of which is the afghanistan debacle and the loss of life there. but he also should take a look in the mirror and i suggest my colleagues across the aisle might want to question him as to why these nominations put on the floor aren't being voted on. i'd be happy to vote on them any time but not going to consent to waiving them through and waiving regular order until there is accountability for the disaster this administration has put upon this country and upon the people of my state. i have one other -- before i object, and i am going to object, mr. president, but before i do i want to pick up
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one piece of book keeping issue with my colleague, the senator from maryland. let me say this while i'm on that subject. the senator from maryland is across the aisle. i want to be clear with my colleague, the senator from maryland. i don't doubt for a moment his sincerity on this issue and i know he thinks these nominations are pressing and important, and i agree with him. and i'm sure he is frustrated by the fact that we disagree on the right way to get accountability in afghanistan. i acknowledge that. it's an honest disagreement. and so i don't want my remarks in any way to suggest in any fashion that i question the integrity or uprightness or sincerity of my colleague from maryland. and i just wanted to say to him that two of the nominations that he read out, i don't have any objection to, adam snide man and jack merkel. if the senator were willing to reoffer those separately, you
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would encounter no objection from me. with all of that, mr. president, i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i'd be willing to modify to get those two nominations approved. i want to be clear, i've been told that there may be other objections on the other side of the aisle. i would like to get them done right now, if possible. i would modify my request to get these two nominations done.
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there is a republican objection to the other two nominations. mr. president, let me just conclude this part of the discussion by saying i understand that you have a right to demand a vote but you're requiring us to file cloture which means basically it's a filibuster. under the senate rules, that requires intervening day, it requires the vote and debate on the cloture motion, then debate time. there's only a certain number you can get done within a period of time while other ones are pending. the fact that we are not able to have a process to conclude these nominations is not the majority leader's fault. it's the fault of the massive objections that are being made en bloc to qualified individuals
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in regards to these appointments. and i understand the gentleman's concerns, but the american people have a right to demand that there's an accountable person to deal with nonproliferation, that there's a confirmed nominee to deal with the remaining individuals that are in afghanistan that we're trying to get out of afghanistan. and by denying the confirmations of these appointments, we are denying the rights to americans to have accountable people confirmed by the senate in regards to all these important subjects. so for all those reasons, i am disappointed. i will take back to my colleagues the offer in regards to the two individuals that you mentioned. and if we can clear those two, we will try to bring them back to the floor and get them cleared. so i appreciate that offer, and we'll see what we can do about getting those two confirmed. with that, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the assistant majority leader is
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recognized. mr. durbin: mr. president, after watergate, congress passed the inspector general act, creating independent watchdogs who would ensure integrity, transparency and accountability for executive branch agencies and officials. since then inspectors general have played a vital role in exposing misconduct by administration of both political parties. over the years i.g.'s have proven indispensable, so much so that congress has repeatedly expanded their ranks, originally 12 after the 1978 inspector general act. now 74 separate independent inspectors general in the federal government. in 1988, congress created several new inspectors general, including an inspector general for the department of justice. the i.g. oversees justice department's components ranging from the f.b.i. to the federal bureau of prisons to the drug enforcement administration. but there is a problem.
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there is a loophole. there is one clear omission when it comes to the authority of inspector generals. listen, the justice department inspector general cannot investigate professional misconduct by justice department lawyers. let me repeat that. the justice department inspector general cannot investigate misconduct by justice department lawyers. this means the department's independent inspector general cannot investigate allegations of misconduct by lawyers in the department's national security division, criminal division, 93 offices of u.s. attorneys, or even the attorney general himself. what does this result in? all too often justice department officials from administration of both political parties have escaped independent scrutiny by the inspector general. the i.g. was unable to investigate, for example,
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discovery violations during the prosecution of former colleague ted stevens. the inspector general was unable to investigate the unl ethical nonprosecution agreement with sex offender jeffrey epstein. and absent approval by the attorney general or his deputy, the inspector general cannot investigate professional misconduct by a high-ranking department of justice political appointees. this lawyer loophole, of all places, is unique to the justice department. the department of justice -- i want this clear for the record -- is the only, only agency in the federal government whose inspector general cannot investigate professional misconduct by agency lawyers. i hope that's clear. inspectors general investigate the activity and conduct of lawyers in every other federal agency other than the department of justice.
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instead, d.o.j. lawyers get special treatment. they aren't subject to the investigation of every other federal law. instead, they are under the supervision of the department's office of professional responsibility, known as o.p.r. i don't dispute the skill or dedication of o.p.r. the problem is not their qualifications. it's their independence. listen to this. unlike the inspector general, o.p.r. reports to the attorney general who can control and even terminate investigations. this doesn't happen in any other federal agency. this creates an unfair double standard where every d.o.j. employee is subject to inspector general scrutiny. so if you're an f.b.i. agent, the inspector general is going to be watching your conduct to make sure it's proper. drug enforcement administration agents in the department of justice subject to the inspector general. u.s. marshals, subject to the inspector general.
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federal prison guards, inspector general. they can all be investigated by the independent inspector general except for the lawyers. and it enables the appearance, if not reality, of politicization in cases where the alleged misconduct involves high-ranking department attorneys. foreyears, literally decades across administrations other senators before us and senator lee and myself now have worked to close the lawyer loophole with our inspector generally access act. he advocated for this bill when bill barr was the attorney general of president trump. i'm advocating for this bill when merrick garland is the attorney general of president biden. you'd be hard pressed to find a bill with broader-based bipartisan support. our original cosponsors included, and he's here today on the floor, my colleague senator grassley, the ranking member of the department of justice -- pardon me, the judiciary committee. senator leahy, feinstein,
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rubio, klobuchar, cruz, coons, blackburn, blume howell and hirono, to name a few. last year we considered this bill in the judiciary committee and we reported it out of the committee after debate, and the vote was 21-1 to bring this bill to the floor. unfortunately it didn't pass last year. it passed the house. it passed again this year in the house. this broad support reflects a basic principle. no attorney general from either political party should be insulated from independent scrutiny by the inspector general, and no attorney general should have veto power over the inspector general's authority to investigate department of justice attorneys, whether that attorney general is a democrat or a republican. mr. president, i'd like at this point to yield to my colleague, senator lee. mr. lee: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah is recognized.
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mr. lee: it's important to remember every agency within the federal government has an inspector general. inspectors general play an important role in every agency, and they're there for the purpose of independently reviewing the actions of those who operate that agency. everywhere you look, these inch specters general -- these inspectors general serve with independence and what we see from them is work product that's publicly released and can be digested by the public. it's a helpful resource not only for the american people, but also to us personally as members of the united states senate who in our capacity as senators have the ability, in fact the duty of exercising oversight over federal agencies. with respect to the u.s. department of justice, a body that really is all about law and has a lot of lawyers, to put it
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very mildly, you end up with a dichotomy, a dichotomy that can't be found anywhere else. in every other federal agency, the inspector general is able to do his or her job, to conduct research, to do evaluations, issue public reports, and those reports allow us to exercise our oversight responsibilities. they also allow the american people to know what's going on in the agency in question. we've got a difference within the department of justice. if you're a lawyer within the department of justice, you're covered by the office of professional responsibility. i want to point out a couple of differences within the office of professional responsibility between o.p.r., as it's called, and the office of inspector general. these don't reflect any idea that one is bad and the other one isn't. they're just different. the office of professional responsibility does operate on a
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confidential basis. it operates in secret, and i don't use that term denigratingly. it's there to perform a specific, highly specialized role. lawyers have a separate set of ethical rules and standards they're expected to abide by. the department of justice, employing a lot of lawyers, wants to make sure there is some degree of consistency and discipline within the practice of law. they want to make sure that the relative interests of the privacy, the professionalism of the attorney can be balanced with their other investigative demands. but the inspector general has a different function. the inspector general isn't there to evaluate whether or to what extent, in what way any of the highly specialized, sometimes complex nuanced rules of professional responsibility affecting lawyers in the practice of law -- no, the inspector general has a much
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different role. so that's one difference. one has a public face in role, the other one has a private facing role affecting the individual attorney or attorneys under investigation. secondly, and this one is perhaps even more significant in its impact, the inspector general operates independently of the attorney general. the head of the office of professional responsibility, by contrast, reports directly to the attorney general of the united states and can be fired by the attorney general of the united states. this is a big difference, and it's a difference we don't see replicated in any other federal agency, not with lawyers, not with any other regulated professional class that i'm aware of. nor should we. because if we were to do that, we would end up creating problems. so this is not about a perceived inadequacy or culture of corruption within the department of justice created by the office
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of professional responsibility. that is not at all what i'm saying. in fact, i believe the people who operate the department of justice, the lawyers of the department of justice, including those who operate the office of professional responsibility, by and large do their job, do their job well and faithfully. but insofar as we allow them to do their job in such a way that it precludes any ability by the inspector general of the department of justice to penetrate section 8-e of the inspector general act, insofar as it insulates the operations of the u.s. department of justice from investigation of the sort that we've come to expect and rely on from the office of inspector general, it's going to be a problem. within the department of justice in particular it's a big problem. i think this would be unwise in any federal agency for us to say, okay, the i.g. can do anything that the i.g. needs to
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do unless there is a lawyer involved. i think that would be dangerous anywhere because you do have lawyers involved. but it's especially dangerous in the department of justice because so much of of what they do is law, is necessarily performed by people who are lawyers. what happens is that we see countless dead ends where because the office of professional responsibility has jurisdiction, the inspector general may not tread. they hit dead end after dead end. and in the absence of evidence of actual criminal misconduct, they can't proceed; nobody else can penetrate. it ought not take evidence of criminal accountability, of criminal liability to enable the inspector general to do his or her job. there are myriad circumstances where someone might engage in
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unethical behave in the department of justice, whether they are lawyers or not. separate or not whether they deviate from the standards imposed by the state bar of any state, by the rules of any court or the professional standards for lawyers operating within the u.s. department of justice, there is an adequate, independent, free-standing interest that the american people have in being able to gain access to that information. but, alas, since 1988, section 8-e of the inspector general act has precluded this visibility. this needs to stop. as my friend and colleague, the senator from illinois, has stated so well moments ago, it is not either republican or democratic. it's not liberal or conservative. i have been a proud supporter of this bill, sponsored this bill during a republican administration, because i believe that regardless of who's in power, we need visibility into the department of justice,
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visibility that we have in every other federal agency, every one. we lack it here. we lack it here with respect to a whole lot of what the department of justice does because of this loophole in section 8-e. what benefit does this bring to the american people? to the extent there are benefits there, i respectfully submit, they don't even come close to offsetting what we lose in terms of visibility. we need this. we need it now as much as ever. i implore my colleagues to support it. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois is recognized. mr. durbin: i thank the senator from utah for his cosponsorship of this bipartisan measure. i want to yield at this point to the ranking republican member of the senate judiciary committee. i can't think of a single member on either side of the aisle who has been as outspoken as senator grassley of iowa on the role and the importance of inspectors
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general. and i yield the floor to senator grassley. mr. grassley: thank you. [inaudible] -- for bringing some common sense to the principle of checks and balances to government. in this particular case, it is not checks and balances between the legislative branch and the executive branch so much as it is injecting another level of checks on abuse of authority within the executive branch. so i strongly support this act and the bipartisan work of you two senators to bring greater accountability to the attorneys at the department of justice. congress created the inspectors general to be independent. they don't just investigate whatever their agency or congress might want them to do. the law says that inspectors general shine a light on waste, fraud, and abuse in federal
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agencies, sometimes transparency is very uncomfortable, but it's extremely necessary. you're not going to get real accountability if you have an agency's employees policing themselves. right now, the only folks who can investigate the justice department attorneys are other justice department attorneys. this system erodes public trust and creates clear conflict of interest. for example, the justice department attorneys reviewed the plea agreement given to serial child sex offender jeffrey epstein. i note that many of my colleagues here found that internal review substantively inadequate. those are words from my colleagues. had the inspector general conducted a review, he might have gotten somewhere's with it. just like he did with the behavior of f.b.i. agents in the
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larry case. what if we had left the investigation to the f.b.i. to police itself? this is why the justice department inspector general has identified as the agency's number-one top management challenge -- quote, strength strengthening public trust in the department. one way to fix that is to make sure that the independent inspector general has the same authority over all department employees. why do f.b.i. analysts and d.a. agents require more independent scrutiny understand that department attorneys? this is so simply -- or, so simple that even a lawyer could get to this. i heard rumors that my friend, senator cotton, may be objecting to this. a person i agree with 90% of the
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time, it seems to be very uncharacteristic. he and i believe, alike, that there's no ways of doing business in the united states -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or let the bureaucrats run everything. and i know senator cotton is a person who doesn't think bureaucrats should run everything. and in this case nothing is reviewable by people who make a decision not to produce this. that's the height of irresponsibility. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i thank the senator from iowa for his spirited support of this effort. i'm glad he used that classic example of all the hearings -- and we've had many good ones and many important ones -- in the senate judiciary committee this year, the one we all remember is when the gymnasts came. the olympic gymnasts came. these wonderful young women came before us and summoned the courage to tell us about the
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abuse that took place by a man purported to be a doctor, larry nasser. and then sitting next to them during the entire presentation was the head of the f.b.i. taking the medicine he should have taken because the inspector general gave us a graphic report of how the agents at the federal bureau of investigation let those young women down. when they summoned the courage to come forward and to tell the world what had happened to them, it was virtually ignored by the federal bureau of investigations. thank goodness the inspector general was there to be critical, to produce the evidence, and to make it clear to the american people that this conduct was disgusting and deplorable, and unacceptable. the inspector general was critical for the administration of justice. why is it any different if instead of an attorney who works for the federal bureau of investigations we're talking about an attorney who works in a u.s. attorney's office
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somewhere in the united states or in the department of justice itself? it shouldn't make any difference. and as senator grassley and senator lee have made clear, all we are asking for is the same level of accountability for attorneys in the department of justice that applies to every other federal agency. why are we treating these attorneys any differently? senator grassley makes the point, we are succumbing to bureaucratic deference at a time when we ought to have our eyes wide open, and wide open we would see that this bill, which was extensively debated and discussed last year and reported out of the senate judiciary committee under the chairmanship of senator graham by a vote of 21-1, wasn't called on the calendar. we're bringing it back this year in the amendment is manner, and we've had -- we're bringing it back this year in the same manner a the bill hasn't changed and we're bringing it back here and i believe now is the time to do what's right for the cause of justice. i ask unanimous consent that the judiciary committee be
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discharged from further consideration of s. 428, that the bill be read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. cotton: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from from arkansas is recognized. mr. cotton: i oppose passage of the inspector general access act. this bill or similarrerings haves have been around for at least a decade now. to my north the judiciary committee hasn't had a hearing on this specific issue, certainly haven't had one this year. as my colleagues have said, this bill has bipartisan support and they have a principled position on the bill. i think senator -- the senator from illinois pointed out that he supported the bill now that merrick garland is the attorney general, just like the senator from utah supported it when bill barr was the attorney general. just like the senator from iowa supported it when bill barr was the attorney general. so it is true that it has bipartisan support.
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bipartisanship can cut another way as well. to my knowledge, every democrat and republican has opposed this bill since the very beginning of the inspector general for the department of justice. both the senator from illinois and the senator from utah use the word loophole, a loophole that the inspector general can't investigate attorneys in the department of justice. that implies it was an unintended consequence. that's simply not the case. in 1988 when congress created the inspector general for the department of justice, congress had detailed negotiations with the department of justice under the leadership of attorney general thornburgh, and they reached a compromise to keep investigations of allegations of attorney professional misconduct within the responsibility of the office of professional responsibility. in 1987 -- or i'm sorry, in 2007, eric holder, not someone i usually cite as an authority, after he had been a deputy attorney general, called an
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earlier version of this bill dilatorious and unnecessary. he thought it would create opportunities to influence law enforcement decisions. in other words, eric holder thought the bill would compound the problem it purported to address. in 2017 the department of justice once again articulated similar concerns with the bill. just yesterday i can relay that the esteemed judge michael mukasey said that he expanded the -- or opposed the expansion of inspector general authority into allegations of attorney professional misconduct. judge mukasey also relaid that he would -- relayed that he would be happy to testimony at a later date. i think at the very least that we should have a hearing into what would be a significant change in a way the department polices allegations a of
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attorney misconduct to study its relevance and its impact. i want to note that the office of professional responsibility has historically conducted its investigations with integrity and competence. i did not hear any allegations to the contrary today either. that's in part because it is composed of attorneys, both former prosecutors and defense attorneys who have decade decadein this legal ethics rules and any decision any attorney makes in the process of charging grand jury proceedings or grand jury trials. the inspector general and his investigators simply do not have that expertise. the inspector general is charged with investigating waste, fraud, and abuse. we also heard today about independence and alleged conflicts of interest. i have to say, i am also concerned that this bill would create a serious conflict of interest itself if the inspector general is given broad authority to investigate allegations of
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attorney professional misconduct. the inspector general can and does refer criminal matters to department prosecutors. let's say a prosecutor declines to prosecute one of these referrals and an inspector general could then come up with any reason to investigate that prosecutor. i think we all agree that the determination of who will be prosecuted or not be prosecuted lies with, indeed must constitutionally lie with the attorney general and that at inspector general should not be able to influence who is prosecuted or not prosecuted with the looming threat of potential investigation. i, of course, as the senator from iowa said, do not want to see a government of bureaucrats. but i would point out the inspector general is a bureaucrat. the attorney general is a politically accountable officer of the united states. i also have concerns that this bill could empower criminals. criminals could additionally use the inspector general to try to
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harass federal prosecutors by making them targets of unfounded investigations. with the wrong inspector general, with the wrong political climate, a career prosecutor could be pressured by left-wing, jail-break advocates into dropping cases against violent criminals, pursuing cases against police officers who broke no laws. it's not surprising that this bill is supported by left-wing groups such as the aclu, demand progress, and the brennan center. the inspector general could easily weaponize professional misconduct investigations also to defeat anticrime policies that executive branch chooses to pursue. imagine for instance an inspector general who refused to dismiss allegations of racism when the attorney's office simply chooses to prioritize gun prosecutions in high-crime areas. such investigations would have a chilling effect, of course, on other offices prioritizing
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similar prosecutions. we also heard some about transparency but i would note this bill does not necessarily provide more transparency because just like the office of professional responsibility, the inspector general is governed by the privacy act. rules pertaining to grand jury materials and court orders sealing documents. this bill would not change that. if it's punishment and sanctions that the bill is concerned about, i'd also note that the office of professional responsibility is not responsible for the level of discipline imposed. that falls instead to the professional misconduct review unit, the unit created by then-attorney general holder in 2014. expansion of inspector general jurisdiction would not change for that responsibility -- where that responsibility falls. i share concerns of my colleagues about politically motivated prosecutions or prosecutions pursued by
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so-called glory seekers, but do not want to proceed down a path where we unintentionally exacerbate the very problem we're trying to solve. therefore, mr. president, i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois is recognized. mr. durbin: i'm disappointed by the objection from the senator of arkansas. this has overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the house and in the senate. we had an opportunity to make history today, and we've missed that opportunity for the moment. the suggestion that inspector generals are not up to the job of inspecting attorneys, i'm afraid if you look at the fact that every other federal agency's lawyers are subject to review and scrutiny by the inspectors general and their departments, it certainly says that that particular observation is not accurate. the argument that the attorney
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general because he is approved by the president directly and by congress should be the person to make this decision overlooks the obvious. each inspector general goes through the approval process, the nomination process and advise and consent of the senate. so they're subject to the same level of scrutiny. and i might also add what we are suggesting has been an evolution that i think really calls for this change that we've asked for in this measure. but in the course of that evolution, in the year 2002, the inspector general's responsibilities were extended within the department of justice to apply to both the f.b.i. and d.e.a. agents who were involved obviously in significant law enforcement operations within the department. the inspector general has handled that responsibility without jeopardizing any prosecutions. so i think that argument is certainly a weak argument when you look at the facts since 2002. we'll return with this. i'm glad to have bipartisan
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support of senators lee and grassley. there's more to be said on this subject. and i believe that if we are going to apply this standard of i.g.'s responsibility for lawyer's activity across federal government, there's no reason to make an exception for the department of justice. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from utah is recognized. mr. lee: mr. president, i agree with an echo, the observations made by my friend and distinguished colleague, the senator from illinois. i'd like to add a couple of things in response to the observations and remarks presented by the senator from arkansas. one of the points that he made that i feel compelled to respond to is he expressed concern about what he describes as potential weaponization of -- respond in
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particular to his argument that the inspector general access act could result in the weaponization of allegations of attorney misconduct within the department of justice and that this could be used in circumstances to intimidate, threaten, and harass department of justice attorneys, including prosecutors from either taking or not taking actions or in retaliation to the same is always a concern. it's a concern that follows government generally. it's in particular a concern that follows federal prose prosecutors. it's also not a concern that is unique to the inspector general's access act with or without passage of this. there is always a risk of that happening. nothing about that risk that we immunize ourselves from by leaving intact the loophole, and it is a loop hole.
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it is a carve yowlt of section 8e of the inspector general act. it is a loophole. my friend from a.e.c. is right, it's not unintended. it is intentionally created. it was there for a reason. i don't mean to suggest any nefarious motive on the part of those who created it. but i think it might have been a shortsighted move at the time. it's a move that at least in time has exposed a certain vulnerability and democratic and administration -- in democratic and republican administrations alike. so if the risk is weaponizing allegations of professional misconduct against department of justice lawyers, that is not something that we're immune from today. it's something that i'm certain the office of professional responsibility deals with all the time. it doesn't mean we'd make ourselves more vulnerable to it simply by allowing the inspector general of the department of justice to do his or her job
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without regard to who's a lawyer and who's not and without regard to this special carve-out for this one federal agency that makes it different from every other federal agency, including that makes department of justice lawyers different from attorneys in every federal agency. so if the risk is that you might have people who for bad reasons might make up allegations of misconduct, there is no more risk of that with an inspector general than there is with the office of professional responsibility. but here again they perform different functions. one of them is there specifically to deal with the rules of professional responsibility within the practice of law by department of justice lawyers. that is their focus. their focus is not a broad one. their focus does not include or extend to issuing a public report to inform the public about abuses of power.
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and my friend from arkansas is right. it can go in if there are allegations of criminal misconduct. and if they've got evidence of the same, they've got to pursue. yeah, they can do that. that does not mean we don't need an inspector general capable of doing the job of the inspector generally. he also made the argument that there is no expertise among and between inspectors general with regard to handling allegations of attorney misconduct. well, if that's true, the same can be said of all other attorneys and all other departments. my friend from arkansas does correctly point out that attorneys within the department of justice, at least some of them, do perform different functions than what we see from attorneys in other federal agencies. that part is true. but that doesn't mean inspectors general assigned to the department of justice don't have the expertise necessary to
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investigate the types of allegations that they typically investigate. my friend from arkansas also points out that inspectors general tend to focus on allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse. yes, this is absolutely true. and this is absolutely why we should not limit the access that inspectors general and the department of justice have to attorneys. remember, this is a department that's all about law. it's focused on law. it's, therefore, not surprising that they've got an unusual abundance of lawyers. and you know what the office of professional responsibility is not focused on, is not really their role? they're not involved in, they're not trained in. they're foe qus is not on issuing reports. it's informing the american people on issues like waste, fraud, and abuse generally. they have a much narrower function. they perform that function
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especially well. they do a great job of doing it. it's not the same thing as an i.g. we need i.g.'s with access to, visibility into the department of justice. we don't have it now. we haven't since 1988. 33 years is long enough. let's close the 8e loophole. give the department of justice inspector general the access needed. thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa is recognized. ms. ernst: mr. president, do you hear what i hear? before the prancing of each little hoof, of santa's eight
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tiny reindeer will be heard on the roof. there's a joyful sound that denotes the coming of the yule tied season -- yuletied season in just a few recognizable note. of course i am talking about mariah carey's all i want for christmas is you. well, it's become a holiday classic. the song is taking on a whole new meaning this season. if like mariah you don't want a lot for christmas and don't care about the presents underneath the christmas tree, this may be your year. that's because bidennomics is causing everything to be backordered, delayed, unavailable, or just plain unaffordable. even christmas trees are in short supply. so don't be surprised if you're
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-- if your only option to deck the halls this year looks like charlie brown's sad little twig of a fir tree branch. whether shopping at a store or online, we are all experiencing it. with the cost of gifts up 20% and consumer prices surging to the highest level in over 30 years, you are paying a ho, ho whole lot more for a ho, ho, whole lot less. that is if you can even find what you are looking for. perhaps the most telling sign of the times, the dollar tree which had to discontinue selling some of its popular products due to cost constraints is raising prices to $1.25.
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president biden's contribution to this year's season of giving could best be summed up by an elf on an empty shelf. after all, the biden administration has ignored, dismissed, and even contributed to the conditions causing these economic hardships. speaking at the white house just last week, the president actually claimed his efforts have resulted in, quote, shelves across the country being well stocked. end quote. that may be true at his white house gift shop but not in the stores in iowa and across the country. the supply chain problem is such a mess, not even rudolph with his nose so bright can guide all of the barges stuck at sea into port by christmas night.
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the democrats' out of control spending spree and misguided economic policies like paying people not to work for most of the year have decreased both the availability of goods as well as the value of the money in your wallet. for folks in iowa and the rest of the nation who are working longer hours due to labor shortages or just to keep up with the skyrocketing prices, this has created a real-life nightmare before christmas. as a result a record number of americans say they won't be buying gifts this year. but rather than addressing these concerns, bare shelves biden is pushing his so-called build back better act which itself is a christmas tree bill adorned with something for every left-wing special interest group and topped off with a massive $300
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billion tax break for coastal elites. for -- for those millionaires on their wish list, who literally have everything, d.c. democrats are wrapping up a tax cut worth nearly $17,000. those benefiting the most from this tax giveaway live in or around the san francisco congressional district represented by speaker nancy pelosi and the state of new york, home of the senate majority leader. it's a lot like a plot twist to charles dickens classic, a christmas carol. instead of embracing christmas, scrooge has be a tax handout to those workers struggling to
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provide for their own families. what a bunch of humbug. santa claus, i don't know if you are listening, but if you are, when you're making your list and checking it twice, remember that president biden promised taxpayers that his build back better plan costs zero dollars, doesn't waste any money on tax breaks for the wealthy and adds, you guessed it, zero dollars to the national debt. to no one's surprise, that promise ended up being a fa la la la lot of malarkey. the biden bill costs $1.7 trillion, adds $360 billion
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to our debt and gives tax cuts to millionaires. while the president deserves a stocking full of coal for breaking his promises to taxpayers, even coal is in short supply at the moment and the price has soared to the highest level in more than 12 years. other energy prices whether to warm your home or fill up the gas tank of your car are also up sharply. the president has done his part to limit fuel supplies by signing orders to further restrict oil and gas. after enduring two years of having to make sacrifices, folks should not have to choose between heating their house, buying food for their families or putting gifts under the tree. rather than passing another one of president biden's budget-busting bills, the best gift that washington can give taxpayers is to keep this from
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being a blue christmas and simply stop making matters worse. folks who have worked hard all year desperately deserve a break from the economic pressures being caused by biden bidenomics so they can enjoy time with their family and we can enjoy the true meaning of this holiday season by spending time with those we love the most, just like mariah sings about, make my wish come true, all i want for christmas is you. madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa is recognized. mr. grassley: well, following on the christmas season message that we just heard, this season is around the corner and democrats are scrambling very,
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very hard to deliver on their liberal wish list before the end of the year. and that's not a christmas list that people, or anagenda, that people are going -- an agenda, that people are going to accept very well, to the opposition of the trillions of dollars that they are trying to spend. this grab bag of long-sought government programs is a top priority for washington democrats. meanwhile, the bigger concern that i hear around iowa is rising prices on everything from gas to food to home goods. americans doing their holiday shopping this year are finding items out of stock and when in stock, paying far more for less. even the christmas tree is no exception. christmas tree price are up 30%.
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overall, consumer prices were up 6.2%, a 31-year high. economists polled by "the wall street journal" expects prices to shoot up. even some analysts are saying it could be closer to 7%. americans are experiencing the highest inflation in a generation. the last thing they need for christmas is another democrat-spending boondoggle, further fanning the flames of inflation. they ought to listen to their own democrat economist, larry summers, former secretary of treasury in the clinton administration, council of economic advisor in the obama
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administration, warning of in april and october and pouring gasoline on the fires of inflation. unfortunately, unless our voices of reason within the democratic party prevail, that's exactly what they are going to get, more inflation. democrats say there's nothing to worry about because to quote treasury secretary yellen, their bill is fully paid for. we know that's not true. but even "the washington post" isn't buying yellen's statement and they -- they said that by awarding secretary two pinocchios for his comment. the reality is democrats pull
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every budget trick in the book in an attempt to cloak the reckless taxing-and-spending spree with the illusion of fiscal responsibility. however, even their budget slight of lands failed to mask the up front inflationary pressures bemedded in that very bill. according to the nonpartisan congressional budget office, cbo as we call it around here, their bill contains hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit spending in each of the first five years. that means that regardless of what democrats say their bill will add to inflation pressures now when it matters most. under honest assumptions, the deficit spending never stops, according to penn wharton budget
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model, their analysis, if their spending proposals are permanent, as they intend, their plan would increase debt and deficits by more than $2 trillion over ten years. as a result, by 2050, government debt would be 24% higher, economic growth would be 3% higher, and wages of the middle class would be 1.7% less than they would otherwise be. now, they go by the bill -- by the building back better. sounds to me like all of this is building back worse. so i urge my democratic colleagues to pursue and rethink the approach, securing a near-term ideological win is not worth the risk of spurring unchecked inflation, zapping the
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value of americans' hard-earned dollars. mr. thune: madam president. one thing you can say about the build back better plan is that it has a supply of bad proposals. and the bad build back measure i want to discuss today is democrats' plan is to double the size of the i.r.s. yes, double the size of the i.r.s. madam president, the i.r.s. is not exactly the most popular government agency and with good reason. the agency has gained for itself a reputation for poor taxpayer service and most seriously for mishandling the confidential information, taxpayer information it has access to. in fact, the i.r.s. was subject to a massive leak or hack of private taxpayer information mere months ago, information of -- information that ended up in the hands of pro publy ka and
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there has been no meaningful followup about the data breach, much less any accountable. for months, members of the finance committee have asked about the breach of private taxpayer information. i would have hoped by now that my friends on the other side of the aisle would have shown similar concern for the privacy of the american taxpayer. and who could forget the i.r.s. scandal during the obama administration when the i.r.s. targeted organizations based on their political beliefs. madam president, those are two notorious examples of i.r.s. misconduct, but there are plenty of others. the treasury inspector general for tax administration found instances of i.r.s. agents violating taxpayers' rights and there is the record of irresponsibility or incompetence or both. losing track of laptops that
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could contain sensitive information, reemploying employees fired for bad behavior, printer delays, hanging on taxpayers who call the i.r.s. for information, customer service departments in general can be frustrating, but at least in many companies you can reach an actual person in a fairly reasonable amount of time. if you call the i.r.s., you have a one in 50 chance of reaching a human being. one in 50. well, madam president, i could go on but suffice it to say there are good reasons that taxpayers are not fans of the i.r.s. and why they think this agency already has too much power but democrats would like to double the size of the agency. democrats' bill would add 87,000 new i.r.s. employees -- 87,000, madam president.
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that's enough employees to fill an entire football stadium with some left over. it is more than the population of rapid city, south dakota, the second-largest city in my home state. the federal budget office believes it would result in significantly higher audit rates of american taxpayers. many of those audits would hit middle-income taxpayers and small businesses. in other words, individuals without easy access to an army of accountants to help them navigate the process and ensure their rights are protected. madam president, democrats' primary reason for the i.r.s. expansion is to raise revenue to help pay for their partisan taxing-and-spending spree. they claim that hiring all of these new i.r.s. agents or employees will allow them to reduce the tax gap, the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid. but there are a couple of problems with that. in the first place, it is
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extremely doubtful that they will be able to raise the money they claim. in fact, the congressional budget office doesn't score hopeful revenue since it considers the acquisition of that revenue to be so uncertain and even if democrats are able to raise a meaningful sum from increased enforcement, what exactly is it going to cost americans for democrats to recapture this money? increased scrutiny and costly audits of law-abiding taxpayers, i.r.s. inestimate medication and rars -- intimidation and harassment and in case anyone thinks i'm exaggerating, a version of the house taxing-and-spending spree would have a written approval of a supervisor before an i.r.s. agent can assess any penalties. the prevention was intended to prevent overreaching i.r.s. agents from threatening
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americans with unjustified penalties. it is hard to imagine why democrats are trying to repeal the measure if they are not having more i.r.s. pressure and enforcement. and i haven't even mentioned the provision that was in democrats''s proposal for a long time in which some democrats, including the treasury secretary and other administration officials would still -- would still like to see included and that's a provision that would empower the i.r.s. to snoop on the details of americans'back accounts. -- bank accounts. under one version of this provision, the i.r.s. would be able to sift through the bank records of any american with just $600 in annual transactions. in other words, the i.r.s. would be able to look through the bank records of just about every american an find out just how much you spent on starbucks or your last doctor's bill or that new winter coat. it's staggering that democrats
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could even contemplate giving that much power to an agency that has a track record of mishandling sensitive taxpayer information, but that's the kind of power the president's treasury secretary for one would like this agency to have. madam president, with their so-called build back better plan they are planning a massive expansion of government and we're apparently supposed to take it on faith that the government will handle all of these responsibilities. i and many americans have their doubts. the i.r.s. provides a perfect example of why. the i.r.s. can't even properly handle the staff and responsibilities it already has and yet democrats think it's a good idea to double the size of this agency and give it new enforcement powers and if some have their way, expanded access to americans' personal
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information. madam president, doubling the size of the i.r.s. is a terrible idea. and it's one more reason why build back better is a bad deal for the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. lee: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah is recognized. mr. lee: when the grinch stole christmas, it was a relatively simple operation, one that required a relatively simple solution. unfortunately, cold, unfeeling regulations and entrenched bureaucracies do not have undersized hearts, hearts that can somehow grow three sizes. protectionist laws and labor shortages do not warm to holiday
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cheer. the covid-19 pandemic has caused an already deeply troubled economy problems and caused our already deeply troubled supply chain to become mired with challenges of all sorts, including truck driver shortages, outdated port technology, lack of container storage capacity, port labor difficulties, and scarce freight equipment. in fact, as situations become more dire with the supply chain crisis, with inflation, and with shortages all over the country, our own regulations do a whole lot to delay and disrupt solutions that we need the most at the time we most need them. americans are feeling the pain of skyrocketing prices, of shipping delays, and empty shelves as our laws and
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bureaucracies fail to respond to shipping backlogs and labor short annuals. -- shortages. the system just is not working, and president biden's press release policies have not fixed it. in fact, they have made it much, much worse. like so many problems during his presidency, president biden is not touching them with a 39 and a half-foot pole. as the holidays are here, we see the problems continuing to mount. and these problems needed solutions many, many months ago, but there is still hope. my stop the bridge act can help us -- grinch act can help us fix the supply chain and fix christmas. this is a bill that focuses on problems that are actually slowing down our supply chain and it's a bill that if enacted would get products off of ships, on the trucks, and into stores
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so that people in utah and across the nation could get the things they need for everyday life and especially for christmas. by suspending a number of federal restrictions on ports, on ships, and on trucks, we can help clear the backlog at our ports, get products on to shelves, and get the presents under the trees. the bill will help solve our truck driver shortage by temporarily lowering the commercial driver license age to 18 for interstate travel. and it would waive for one year the hours of service requirements, specifically for those involved in transporting containers into and out of ports. the bill would allow for more ships to move more freely and to move cargo between american ports by waiving the jones act. and it would also allow for
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federal land that's been designated as appropriate for multiple use to be used to temporarily store cargo containers. that would do a lot in and of itself to help us break our port logjams. a combination of these things would do so masterfully. and finally, my bill would help ease the lack of freight equipment by allowing access to department of defense equipment to be used to help move cargo. a lot of our problems can be traced to a lack of available truck classees -- chassises and if we open up those that are deemed access, we can do a lot to move freight. while this bill doesn't address every challenge with our supply chain, it does provide tangible solutions that if enacted into law would solve real problems
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right now. look, we can end this nightmare before christmas. we can stop the grinch, save our holidays, and secure our economy. my stop the grinch act is the start to a merry christmas and a happy new year. thank you, madam president. mr. scott: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida is recognized. mr. scott: madam president, we are less than three weeks away from christmas and joe biden has driven this country into the ground. president biden thinks that santa can solve his problems but our supply chain is such a mess, not even santa claus with all of his christmas magic can fix it. there are nearly 100 ships waiting to dock in california ports. about 40 of them are a few miles off the coast with more than 50 are holding back further in the pacific. it looks to me the biden administration didn't like the visual. i received a letter from my grandmother in florida. she is retired now but with a -- was a small business owner who spent her life working hard to
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support her kids and grandkids. i have the letter with me. in her letter she writes, i'm worried about inflation. i see prices of fuel, groceries, and staples going through the roof. i see the american standard of life declining. it's getting harder and harder for families to make ends meet, buy a home, afford medical care, and higher education for their children. she also tells me that joe biden's unconstitutional vaccine mandate is putting her husband at risk of losing his job despite the fact that he worked throughout the pandemic as an essential worker. she's not alone. she shares the exact same concerns as millions of americans and businesses right now that are really feeling the impamghts -- impacts of biden socialism. the pantry in broward county, florida usually supplies
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families but weren't able to do anything this year because of skyrocketing prices. there are other stories across my state every day. i heard of a single father in clear water, florida who lost his job due to covid and his new job he has to stretch each dollar as prices for meat, food, rent, everything goes up and up. i heard about a woman who delivers groceries in south miami. she's seen prices going up and sent pictures of empty shelves to online customers to show grocery stores that are out of so many products. she could hardly find any juice boxes for her own children. these are the stories of real floridians and i can keep going because florida families and families all across our great country are struggling as biden's inflation supply chain crisis rages on. now, most people when they're in charge, they want to do something positive when a problem arises, when the families are struggling, leadership wants to solve a
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problem. what's shocking that even ships wait in docks, in ports -- wait to dock in ports and families are forced to count their pennies and go without certain product. the biden administration is doing absolutely nothing. secretary buttigieg would rather play tv commentator than travel to california and solve some of these problems facing our distributors. instead of going to the senate commerce committee and testify about actions taken, they would rather stay silent. i heard there is an opening at cnn. families are simply trying to stay warm in the winter and will face higher prices. the american people are fed up with president biden's utter lack of leadership. time and time again i've come to the floor to try to get some information about this crisis. but senate democrats have stood in the way. when it came down to demand -- internal meetings the biden administration held about the
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signs of inflation, democrats blocked it. when i walked down to request a report about factors causing energy prices to rise, senate democrats blocked it. when i came down here to pass bicameral commonsense legislation that wool alleviate the supply chain crisis facing our ports, senate democrats blocked it. madam president, this isn't how washington should be working. i came here to make washington work for florida families but democrats in this body are joining hands with the white house to instill policies that make life more difficult and expensive. this isn't government for the people. this is big government that hurts the people. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana is recognize the. a senator: in case one was wondering, there are 16 days left before christmas. 16 shopping days. mr. young: i know i still have some shopping to do and i look forward to that. it seems as though some of my
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colleagues have a jump on me. seems as though president biden has a jump on me. and that's good thinking because this year you can't start too early with the supply chain as bad as it is and the price of presents rising. so why don't we gather around the christmas tree to see would gifts national democrats are prepared to pass out on christmas morning thanks to their reckless tax-and-spending spree. to the left-wing labor unions, what do they offer? democrats are gifting billions of dollars in handouts to strengthen this core constituency of theirs while they're letting charitable tax deductions expire in balanced back better, they've -- build back better, they've gift wrapped an above-the-line tax deduction for union dues. let's see what we have here. that's a car. that's a car. and this is the labor union
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present. a special christmas surprise, it seems the democrats have put under the tree a shiny new tax credit for electric vehicles. but only if those vehicles are made in a union shop. only a union shop. you see, if you're naughty and you buy an electric vehicle from a nonunion shop, like those that are made in my state of indiana, you'll miss out on the demo democrats' $4,500 holiday giveaway in this bill. apparently during the christmas season the impact of electric vehicles on climate change only matters if the workers' contracts are collectively bargained. which brings us to another gift we have. that's china. china has a gift under the tree. why don't we just open this china gift. well, that's a lot of money.
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the tax hikes on businesses large and small in this bill will give china an unfair competitive advantage. increased taxes on american employers by more than $800 billion when they're already struggling with supply chain issues and worker shortages. this is going to do very little to bring jobs back home, jobs of the future here in the united states of america, which is exactly why the chinese communist party and all of its leaders will love this very expensive gift. and the largest gift under the washington democrats' tree goes to -- could that be? it says the rich. i'm going to see what's in there. well, this must mean -- it says salt. by dramatically increasing the cap on the state and local tax deduction, what's known around
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here as salt for short, the once proud party of the works class is given a tax cut to two-thirds of people earning more than $1 million a year. now, the average size of that tax cut is almost $17,000 a year for millionaires. this is the new democratic pa party. merry christmas. this is the single most expensive tax expenditure in the build back better act. and it's the second biggest component of the entire bill. so evidently the national democrats believe it's better to give than to receive from millionaires so they proposed a tax cut for the wealthiest americans, from the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest states gift wrapped from the democratic party.


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