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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  June 16, 2022 1:59pm-4:24pm EDT

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the presiding officer: on this vote, the yeas are 49, the nays 347, and the motion -- the nays 47, and the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: consumer product safety commission, mary t. boyle, of maryland, to be a commissioner. mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized. mr. schumer: mr. president, as we await completion of the gun safety bill, today the senate is taking another important step to protect communities from gun violence, moving forward with the nomination of steve dettelbach to be director of the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives.
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in a few moments, i will move to discharge mr. dettelbach's nomination from the judiciary committee. after that, i'm going to make sure his nomination moves through this chamber rapidly. the bipartisan gun safety legislation currently being negotiated is crucially important, but so is having a fully staffed a.t.f. my colleagues, listen to this, we haven't had a director of a.t.f. since 2015. gun violence is ripping through the nation, killing so many, and we still don't have a director of a.t.f. that is just outrageous at a time when we need one more than ever. at a time when americans are sick and tired of our country's gun violence pandemic, we should be sprinting, sprinting to confirm someone whose job would be precisely to keep americans safe from gun violence, and that's exactly what the a.t.f. director, the new a.t.f. director, will do. the a.t.f. may not always capture the spotlight, but it is
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vital in stopping gun trafficking, in preventing illegal possession of firearms, and making sure our kids can't get their hands on dangerous weapons. it is still so confounding to realize we haven't had somebody there, because people have blocked it, since 2015. an organization as important as the a.t.f. absolutely needs to have a senate-confirmed director in place, and though we haven't had one in seven years, we're going to change that very, very soon. having a strong, qualified nomination, like dettelbach, will certainly help reduce the scourge of gun violence in the country. so once again, after i move to discharge mr. dettelbach, i'm going to make sure his nomination moves rapidly through this chamber. we need to fill this vacancy that has been blocked by the other side far too often. now, pursuant to senate res. 27, senate res. 27, the judiciary
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committee being tied on the question of reporting, i move to discharge the judiciary committee from further consideration of stephen m. -- steven m. dettelbach of ohio to be director, bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. the presiding officer: under the provisions of s. res. 27, there now be up to four hours of debate on the motion, equally divided between the two leaders or their designees, with no moaptions, points of order or amendments in order. mr. schumer: i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays are ordered. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey is recognized. mr. menendez: mr. president, i come to the floor once again today to seek unanimous consent for the passage of the daniel andural judicial security and
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privacy act of 2021. i say once again, because a little over a month ago, i came to the floor seeking unanimous consent for this same exact bill, which was reported out of the senate judiciary committee last december with overwhelming bipartisan inspectors and whose namesake is daniel andrul, the 20-year-old son of u.s. district court judge esther solis. the judge is in the gallery today, hoping we come together as a body to deliver real solutions to honor her family by ensuring that no federal judge or their family experience the same violence she and her family faced. one year, ten months, and 27 days ago her son daniel was brutally murdered by a gunman who targeted judge salis for her gender, ethnicity, and because he could not accept her judgment in a case that reached her court.
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every single day since july 19 of 2020, judge solis and her husband, mark, have endured the immense grief of burying their only son. mr. president, no parent should have to experience such a devastating loss. yet, in the face of so much pain, judge solis has channeled it into purpose, embarking on a personal mission to increase the safety and privacy of her fellow judges and their families. the murderer was able to carry out this horrific hate crime using publicly available information, tracking down judge solis to her home in new jersey, gravely injuring her husband, and murdering daniel in cold blood when he answered the door. as i said the last time i came to the floor seeking unanimous consent, no parent should have to experience such a devastating loss. but in the months since then, and now, our country has seen the tragic results of inaction.
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on june 4, a retired county judge in wisconsin was shot and killed in his home by a gunman who appeared before his court. just four days later, a man was arrested near justice kavanaugh's home in maryland after being found with a gun, a knife, and a plan to kill the supreme court justice. reports suggest the perpetrator found justice kavanaugh's address online. we cannot take these events as isolated incidents. the brutal murder of judge salas' son, the horrific killing of a retired judge in wisconsin, the intent on justice kavanaugh's life demand congress act to protect those who sit in the judiciary. simply put, we must prevent any other judge from having to endure the threats and senseless violence that these families have experienced. after the horrific tragedy judge salas and mark suffered. senator booker and i made personal commitments to honor
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daniel's legacy through action. we told her we would not rest until we enacted greater protections for those who serve on the bench, to protect any other judge from having to endure the senseless violence judge salas experienced. it's important to protect this branch of our government because we want them to render decisions that are free from fear. free from fear. that they will render impartial justice free from fear of what may happen to them as a result of their judgment. we can make progress on that work today in this chamber. the bipartisan bill i seek unanimous consent for is an effort i'm proud to lead with 12 colleagues, including senators booker, durbin, graham, kennedy, cruz and grassley. our bill would protect the personally identifiable information assailants have used to target judges and their families. it's a commonsense measure that would authorize the u.s. marshal
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service to monitor online threats and deter future atacts -- attacks. it was voted out of the judiciary committee with strong bipartisan support. i'm talking about a 21-0 vote in the affirmative. it's so common sense that it should build on the work the senate just did a month ago when it fast-tracked important safeguards for supreme court justices and their families. i'll say it again, nearly a month ago the senate acted here in mere minutes to increase protections for supreme court justices, protections that have proven to be necessary when police apprehended judge kavanaugh's would-be assailant. yesterday, the house of representatives voted to ma pass that -- to pass that bill. today, we should take steps to protect all federal judges. there's simply no explanation or justiceification to protect supreme court justices while delaying legislation to protect judges at every level of judiciary who face the same, if not greater, risk. no judge in america should have
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to fear for their lives and the safety of their families as they work to uphold the constitution, our democracy, and ensure all people have equal justice under the law. we have seen the consequences of inaction over the previous month, but we have an opportunity to act in this moment and advance our bipartisan bill, the daniel anderl judicial and privacy act, which continues to garner support. this isn't a partisan issue. this is not about right or left. it's about right and wrong. once again, i ask my senate colleagues to let us honor the life and memory of daniel anderl with decisive action and resolve. let's do the right thing to honor daniel's legacy and unanimously pass this legislation named after him. mr. president, as if in legislative session i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 190 s. 2340, further that the
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committee reported substitute amendment be withdrawn, the menendez substitute amendment at the desk be considered and agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. paul: mr. president, reserving the right to object. for a year and a half, we've been offering my colleague a compromise to pass this bill. we could pass this today immediately. all we've been asking is it not only protect federal judges but members of congress as well. i haven't heard a cogent or any argument why it couldn't. it's a very simple compromise. to pass that you can takes compromise, takes people coming together and dwreag. there hasn't been -- and agreeing. there hasn't been any mosm or exro -- any movement or compromise. we can pass this today to include members of congress. if recent years taught us anything, it's that members of the legislative branch need protection as well as the judiciary.
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that was clear in 2011 when congresswoman gabby giffords was tragedy shot while doing the most important part of her job, meeting with constituents. words cannot express how happy and inspired i was to see congresswoman giffords in the chamber with her husband, senator kelly, when he was sworn in as a member of this body. but words cannot express the pain of the families of the people that were killed or wounded. that should have been a wake-up call to protect members of congress and in doing so, better protect the people around them. but just a few years later a shooter nearly killed congressman steve scalise during a practice game of the congressional baseball team. i said at the time that our lives were saved by the capitol hill police. extending provision pros of this bill to it the members of congress would better protect us and our families and constituents. i've been offering this for two
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years. my amendment, which i will offer for unanimous consent, simply extends the same protections it would offer to the judicial branch to the legislative branch. this is not a new request. in december 2020, when we discussed this bill on the floor, i offered this compromise. i said i would work together with the other side to try to get a bill that we could pass. but we haven't gotten anywhere. if we want this to pass, let's compromise. let's come together and figure out a way that we can get this to pass. i know of no argument or no constituency that is coming to washington saying, we don't want members of congress to be protected. there is no such constituency. there is no such argument, and there's no reason why we couldn't pass this today. it's been almost two years. let's pass this bill today. as i've said over and over again, i support this bill and i provisions, and i don't believe it ought to be blocked merely because members of congress also need protection. with that being said, i ask
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unanimous consent that the senator modify his request to include my amendment to the menendez substitute amendment, which is at the desk, that the amendment ofs be considered and agreed to, the bill, as amended, be considered read a third time and passed, and that the the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection to the modification? mr. booker: mr. president, reserving the right to object, i think the points that the senator from kentucky is making, mr. president, are worthy. that we are facing a reality right now where there are lots of threats that are increasing against public officials all around our country, and i understand that. this is not a bill that senator menendez and i just wrote and brought to the floor. this is a bill that we worked through the committee process. it was a long and arduous process that was done in a bipartisan manner. and during the discussion that the committee had, the point that the senator from kentucky
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brought up was brought up as well. there was a real concern about the safety and security of members of this body. but with the understanding and the commitment that there would be a bipartisan effort to work on this issue, every senator in the judiciary committee said we should let this go right now. this bill has been vetted, worked over in a bipartisan manner, is ready to pass. threats on the federal judiciary have gone up 500%, and, grant you, threats on members of congress have doubled. but the threats on the federal judiciary are rising, and we saw that in the case of judge kavanaugh. and this body thought it enough not to hold up the protection of supreme court justices to protect the 535 of us. we passed a bill to protect supreme court justices. and so how here we now have a bill that has been vetted through committee, has been worked on in a bipartisan
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fashion and came out, and we have a commitment for the senator from kentucky to say we have commitment that nothing has been done is not right. we have senators working a bill through committee, through regular order to make sure that we address the concerns that he's having. but this is my concern -- threats on the judiciary have gone up significantly higher than this body, and to grind this bill to a halt right now puts at risk members of the judiciary when we have the power in this body to protect our brothers and sisters in that branch of government. why would we stop, when there is good will in the judiciary committee, to work on the concerns? there are two people committed to this bill, and verbal commitments from everyone. so to stop this today creates a window of vulnerability that we know is real because we just saw a threat on a supreme court justice. and so, for the sake of mercy,
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for the sake of caution, for the sake of the protection of people in the federal judiciary, let's pass this bill and i commit myself to joining with senator ted cruz, to joining with senator amy klobuchar, to joining with chairman durbin, and ranking member grassley, who've also spoken to their willingness to work a bill through regular order. that's what we should be doing. our job as senators, if anything, first and foremost is to protect the lives of american citizens. we have a bill that is widely bipartisan, that is proven to be urgent, a bill with a name of a young man that was slaughtered in his home. to hold this bill up is cruel, it is creating risk and jeopardy to people who serve in the judiciary. it is wrong. it is wrong, it is wrong.
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i ask my colleague with all humility and with all compassion and empathy to please let this go. i commit to him that i will fight and work with the bipartisan coalition that is working on ways to protect people in this body. i yield. the presiding officer: is there objection to the modification? mr. menendez: reserving the right to object, for all the runs that senator booker just mentioned and with an equal equipment to senator paul to work with senator klobuchar and senator cruz who are working and look to advocate for the senator's language to be included in that legislation, the senator could have done this on the supreme court judges, but he didn't. so at this point i'll have to object. officer. the presiding officer: is there objection to the original request? mr. paul: reserve be the right to object -- the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky is recognized. mr. paul: reserving the right to object, we've been working on
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this for a year and a half. we've not had one meeting. they have not accepted a meeting, much less a compromise. a year and a half. this could pass today by simply accepting this. a promise to do it at a later today when we've waited a year and a half. a year and a half went by because no one would meet with us. we've not had one meeting. we have offered to meet with the staffs of both of the authors of the this and we have not been granted a meeting. there's been no discussion of this between staff, no discussion of a compromise. we would take a compromise. i don't understand. there has been no argument made today why congress couldn't be added to this bill. they could have added this bill or talked to us over the year and a half. no one has talked to us other than to come for the public theater. no one has tried to get this thing passed. i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. menendez: i know the hour is late, i am unaware of any such request. and i am unaware of us not being willing. of course we are willing. in fact, judge salas is here,
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senator paul, to make her case. you wouldn't give her the time of day. mr. booker: may i be recognize? the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. mr. booker: i turned to my staff, has senator paul reached out to us? that's not the case. we're trying to protect federal judges as is the unanimous vote of the judiciary committee. and so this is very frustrating that we didn't stop the supreme court judges. he had no objection to that. but for some reason other members of the judiciary, i just find that problematic. i'm willing to neat with him. i'm not in opposition to his bill. the meeting that should be had, i will do it but with the two senators of the united states senate. but to hold it up because we're not getting protection to me does not mark the nobility of this body and the self-sacrifice of this body. i yield the floor. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized.
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mr. schumer: i yield back all time on the motion to discharge. the presiding officer: all time is yielded back. the question is on the motion to discharge. the yeas and nays have been previously ordered. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: the yeas are 52. the nays are 41. the motion is agreed to. and the nomination will be placed on the calendar. the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: madam president, could we have order. the presiding officer: the senators, please take your conversations outside the chamber. mr. leahy: madam president,
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first let me say i'm glad to see the successful discharge of steven dettelbach nomination. i've known him since he was a detailee for the department of justice, the judiciary committee. i found him one of the most hardworking, talented, and honest and even-handed people i knew. i was happy to support him for u.s. attorney in ohio and i can understand why so many law enforcement organizations backed him because of his values there. so i'll have more to say when he's confirmed. but it's a good move.
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now, madam president, on another matter, i wish to speak about judge beth robinson. vermonters are no strangers to making history. in november 2021, one vermonter in particular made history. again, the united states senate confirmed beth robinson to a seat on the second circuit court of appeals. she assumed the seat on that bench days later. i could not be more proud. we have -- vermont has traditionally one seat, one seat on the second circuit court of appeals. so we always try to send our absolute best. well, judge robinson embodies vermont values. her commitment to justice and equality, her compassion for fellow human beings, but she's
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also proven to be an exceptional jurist, one dedicated to the rule of law above all else. there should be no doubt she brings that same excellence to vermont's single seat on the second circuit as awk saysor to my dear friend, the late judge peter hall. since vermont first selected me to the u.s. senate, i worked hard to ensure that vermont's best and brightest represent our state on the federal judiciary. in 2004, i recommended judge hall, then vermont's u.s. attorney, and a republican, to serve on the second circuit because he's the most qualified. during his 17-year tenure on the panel, judge hall was a fine jurist. he was fair and kind to all litigants. he was always humble. his passing at the age of 72 is
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a loss to not just vermont but to the federal judiciary at large. then 2009 i proudly recommended christina rice to be a judge for the district court of vermont. we have a very small district court. as you can imagine for a state of our size. but with her confirmation following my recommendation, judge rice became the first woman to serve on the district court of vermont. and like judge hall, she served as a model of fairness and impartial -- impartiality to the bench ever since. judge robinson is a trailblazer herself. a tireless champion for lgbtq rights. she successfully litigated the landmark baker v. vermont decision which led vermont becoming the first ever state to
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enact civil unions in the united states. beth's advocacy served as a blueprints for the successful advancement of lgbtq rights across the country. securing her place as one of the first pioneers in the national movement for lgbtq rights. and her smart and her steady approach and her unimpeachable reputation won her allies across the political spectrum in vermont. in 2011 she was appointed by the governor to serve as a justice on the vermont's supreme court. that's a five-member court, a position to which she was then confirmed by the vermont senate unanimously. she became the first openly gay vermont supreme court justice, thus breaking another barrier. and now, today, judge robinson
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is the first openly gay female judge to serve in our federal circuit courts. but while on the vermont supreme court, judge robinson seamlessly traded her advocate's cap for that for an impartial jurist. she is a consensus builder. her unwavering commitment to the neutral application of the law was second to none on the vermont supreme court. it's a commitment i know she brings with her to the second circuit. i remember when i recommended to president biden that he nominate beth robinson to the second circuit. once it was known i made that recommendation, there was such an outpouring of support from all corners of vermont. the membership of our vermont supreme court, justices appointed by both democratic and republican governors, signed a
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strong letter of support for her nomination. and they were joined by prominent republicans and democrats all around the state underscoring just how widely respected she was for her reputation as an impartial and independent jurist. and when judge robinson was then confirmed to the senate with bipartisan support, i celebrated. judge robinson is a vermonter who has dedicated her life to the causes of justice and equality. she is a vermonter who embodies our state's highest ideals, who brings fairness, independence, and integrate -- integrity on the second circuit. next week along the shores of lake champlain, friends and family, state leaders, fellow lawyers, many more vermonters will gather to celebrate the
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investiture of vermont's newest judge on the second circuit. vermonters can be sure that judge robinson will continue to be guided by the same principles that have brought her this far. marcelle and i are two vermonters who are proud that, once again, we're breaking barriers, we're making history, now with the investiture of judge beth robinson on the second circuit court of appeals. as i said earlier, vermont has tritionly -- traditionally one seat on that bench, and so we traditionally try to send our best. madam president, i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: madam president, i want to talk a little bit about the whole idea of loan forgiveness, student debt forgiveness. i've spoken many times on the floor about the importance of higher education, both college education and apprenticeships and other kinds of work preparation. the first person in my family to ever graduate from college, and later was the president of the university, and it's important. there's no doubt about that. i've often also talked about one of the reasons i think our system works so well is in post-world war ii america we've not tried to run higher education, we've tried to encourage and support higher education. you could use your student benefits, whether they were student loans or v.a. benefits or other benefits at any accredited institution, and the federal government doesn't decide what's an accredited it institution. i think the way that we found that balance has been really important for higher education. i think it's why we have the
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best higher education in the world. but i think the balance is one that we ought to be thinking about maintaining. we should be concerned when we get into that balance in a way that the government does more than it should do, or frankly less than it should do. this is the 50th anniversary of the pell grant program. i've been a big supporter of pell grants. i know you have too. and during the time we've worked here together we've expanded pell grants to year-round pell grants. one of the great ways to keep college costs down is to finish, to be able if you've got a pattern that's working, particularly if you're a first-time college student in your family or adult that's gone back to school, if you've got something that's working and you can keep it working, we ought to do that. there was about a ten-year period where we had two semesters of pell grants, then a summer without pell grants. that didn't really work out all that well. every higher education person i
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know believes we did a really great thing by going back to year-round pell. we've also increased the pell grant award. in the last seven years we've increased the annual individual award by over $1,000, $1120. we've reinstated year-round pell. but the pell grant is targeted, targeted to people who need help going to school. when we were talking, i think very wrongly, about free higher education, which i think would really be expensive if you had free higher education and the government became the payer, i've said the pell grant is really the way to adjust that. if the pell grant's not high enough, the congress can raise it. if the income levels are not high enough, if you had to have higher income levels or lower income levels to get the full pell or partial pell, congress
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can do that as well. the one thing that would be a mistake here would be to ask the taxpayers of america to now pay the loans off of other americans who made those loans. the president is talking about the potential, at least the administration is, of forgiving up to $10,000 in student loans for everyone who has a student loan, who makes less than $150,000. a lot of americans make less than $150,000. i think the median family income in america today is under $70,000. but suddenly, for those that make under $150,000 we'd be giving them $10,000. what do they get for that $10,000? they went to school. they got an education. they had choices they made as they did that. we'll talk about that in a minute. and also the legal problems
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here. the president has said in the past that he didn't think he had the legal authority to forgive these loans. the speaker of the house has said in the past she didn't think the president had the legal authority to forgive these loans. by the way, there's a way to get the legal authority. we'll talk about that too. coming you to and i with a proposal to give them the authority to do that. even "the new york times" editorial board says that loan forgiveness is, this is their quote, legally dubious, economically unsound, politically fraught, and educationally problematic. those are pretty good reasons not to do it. the best would be the legally dubious one. the president himself thought that was the case in the past. 87% of americans don't have a student loan. the president's telling them, frankly, we're going to forgive the loans for the 13% that the
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other 87% don't have. people who decided not to go to college wouldn't get that $10,000. neither would those who avoided loans by attending more affordable school, working harder part time doing the things that lots and lots of people have done to get through school. the same is true of people who have gotten out of school, and as they're paying off their loans they've sacrificed vacations or better cars or bigger houses or other things to pay the student loan that they agreed to pay back when they took it. so, the president's plan disproportionately would benefit people who are in the upper income group, the top 40% of american households hold 60% of the student loans. the bottom 40% have less than 20% of student loans.
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if you were going to talk about this at all, maybe we should be talking about the bottom 40% of incomes, not the essentially top 40% of incomes, which an across-the-board forgiveness of debt -- by the way, that $150,000 would generally be in that higher percent. student loan forgiveness under the president's plan would largely benefit people who, frankly, you could argue, just don't need it, the benefit, as well as many other american families and american individuals do. federal reserve bank of new york estimates that student loan forgiveness could be as much as $30 billion or $-- $320 or $ 350 billion. that's on top of the $100 billion we've already cost the system by stepping back, make foretoo long but certainly stepping back during covid, and
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telling people they didn't have to make their loan payments. to put that in some perspective, that amount of money, $ 320 billion and another $100 billion would fund the entire pell grant program for about a decade and a half. think about what we're doing here, how we are doing it. i think this plan would actually not drive college costs down. it would logically drive college costs up, because colleges, just like students, would be told when people make these loans, pay the school for the education they're getting, there's a good chance they won't have to pay it back, and there's a good chance we would have more income during this period of time. if, more likely, you'd have higher college costs and people borrowing more money and borrowing it quicker than they currently do, because we're actually setting the precedent that there's a real chance you won't have to pay this back.
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that's not a good precedents to set. what americans really need right now is relief from the crushing inflation we see, not more bad policies that put more money into the economy and drive inflation to an even greater height. president biden's been bragging, frankly, about how strong our economy is and how low unemployment is. well, if that's true, why do we need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a program that's unfair, that disproportionately helps upper-income americans? madam president, it's either the strongest job market since world war ii, which the president said just recently, or he's also said that this economy is the strongest economy we've ever had. it's either that or it's an economy in such rough shape that people can't pay their loans. now, it really can't be both.
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we're sending all kinds of messages here we don't need to send. frankly, i think the administration shouldn't really want to send. people made a decision to invest in their education. they borrowed money to do it. the initial plan was people would borrow money, and as they paid it back that are money would be available for the next generation of people who wanted to borrow money. if that worked out that way, we'd still be working off some of the first dollars that went into these student loan payments and student loan programs. if we say that this select special group of people, who happen to have the exact kind of debt at this exact moment, don't need to pay it back later, i think that's the more logical thing that would happen. what if we say that this group doesn't have to pay their debt, so maybe we should figure out other groups that shouldn't have to pay their debt?
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if it's a good economic policy not to pay your student debt, what if we decide we're not going to pay people's car loan debt, or we're not going to pay people's mortgage debt, or we're not going to pay people's credit card bills if they're somehow out of control? there are ways to deal with that in the legal system, but government forgiveness is not one of them. the same arguments really apply to forgiving those debts as would apply to forgiving college debts. if the president thinks it's a good idea, as i mentioned before, he could write a piece of legislation, hand it to one of his friends in the congress, and let us work through the process. let's make the case as to why these debts should be forgiven. let's debate which other competing priority is less important than forgiving these debts. we spend a lot of time acting like the money is not money that
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you have to take from somewhere else to use for a current purpose, and i think we're all realizing just how untrue that is. the president hasn't sent that legislation up. in fact, the president in his budget didn't even suggest that loan forgiveness should be part of his budget. it's not in legislation. it's not in the appropriations budget. it's not a priority in anything the administration's put out there for us to debate and talk about. we just had a hearing this week with the secretary of education about the education budget request. there was nothing in that request about specific student loan proposals. i really hope that the administration will pause, will think about this, will understand the overall impact of effectively, suddenly decided we're going to put $321 billion or so dollars back into the economy that otherwise would be coming back into the treasury as
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the debt repayment that those individuals have agreed to do. we've got ways to help people go to school. we've got ways to debate whether or not this is a good priority, to forgive loans. but i take the president's original position, which the president doesn't have the authority to do that. i agree with the speaker speakee house's original position, that the president doesn't have the authority to do this. if the president wants to make the case, let him make it right here and there will be a debate that i think will be worth having. and i yield back. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: madam president, i want to thank my colleague from
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missouri who just mentioned here in the senate his leadership on so many issues. he's really going to be missed. maybe he'll reconsider his decision to leave this august body, which is going to be a lot less -- a lot less of an institution that thinks hard about these difficult issues when he's gone. so i want to thank senator blunt for all he's done. a great friend of mine. so we're going to miss him. madam president -- mr. president now, it's thursday, and once again it's an opportunity for me to talk about our alaskan of the week. now, i know that our pages, the new pages, they're going to really realize this is probably one of the most exciting, interesting speeches of the week. some of our friends in the media even like it, because it's end of the week, i get to brag about
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alaska, and talk about someone who's doing something really great for our state. maybe their community, maybe the country, maybe the world, right? we have all kinds who do this. i like to talk about what's going on in alaska first. it's amazing how quickly the seasons go by, because it's almost summer solstice in the state. that's when the sun rarely sets across any part of alaska. and the state is filled with life, filled with energy. you can feel it when you come up. hopefully we get a lot of tourists this summer. i know we're going to get a lot. a lot of people want to get up to alaska, particularly after the pandemic. you can feel it in the air when you're there this sense of energy and excitement. so our tourivitis are there now. they're -- so our tourists are there now. they're seeing spectacular
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scenery, wildlife, our salmon-choked streams. they'll be able to hike through thousands of miles of state and federal parks, climb mountains, fly through the skies and some, mr. president, are even there to watch baseball. yes, baseball. now, maybe not the braves, but, still, good baseball. now, i know that's going to sound odd to some people. wait a minute. going up to alaska to watch baseball? baseball probably isn't the first thing that comes to many people's minds when they think about alaska. but, diehard american baseball fans know that alaska has played a fundamental role in america's pastime. they know how important alaska summers are and have been for decades, taking young college
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students with raw but exceptional talent and growing them under the midnight sun into seasoned professional major league baseball players. this is the alaska baseball league, one of the premier amateur collegiate summer baseball leagues that anybody plays anywhere in america. mr. president, let me give you just a few -- and i mean a few -- of those who have come up through the alaska baseball summer league. it has produced some of major league baseball's most well-known allstars including mark mcguire, barry bonds, tom receiver, dave winfield, randy johnson, just to name a few.
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the alaska baseball league is sometimes composed of five teams, sometimes six, two teams in anchorage, one in palmer, one in chugiac eagle river and one in kenai. and then there is a team, a very famous people, in fairbanks -- a very famous team, in fairbanks, the oldest and historied of them all, the fairbanks gold panners. and the team's general manager who is our alaskan of the week, john lorkey, who make the baseball magic of alaska happen. so, first a few words about john's background. he was raised in a baseball family. his father, jack lorkey, lucky lorkey as baseball fans might know him, was a world war ii
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veteran who landed on omaha beaches six days after d-day, fought his way across europe, survived many near-death experiences in combat, and he went back home and, hence, the name lucky. after the military, jack played baseball as a third baseman for the new york giants and the philadelphia phillies. after jack lorkey retired, his family moved to california. but as i said, mr. president, baseball is in the lorkey family's blood. our alaskan of the week, john, had an older brother who was crofted by the red sox, and john himself got into the game administratively. as a college student at santa clara he began helping his college team behind the scenes. in 1980 the santa clara coach was going to alaska to coach the
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north pole nicks. john thought that that sounded great and asked if he could come. he did. he fell in love with alaska, and he stayed, like so many people in our state. he managed the nicks for so many years. then was the president of another team, the oilers on alaska's beautiful kenai peninsula. then it was back to the interior part of the state where john stayed involved with baseball as a board member of the gold panners. in 2016 he became president of the board and now he is the general manager of the gold panners. in fairbanks, the person in charge of making it all happen. and what a responsibility and what a team and what a history and what a legacy of excellence john has been part of. since its founding in 1960, the
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gold panners have had over 211 players that have gone on to the major leagues. isn't that remarkable? 211 players, a palestine into the major leagues from fairbanks, alaska -- a pipeline into the major leagues from fairbanks, alaska. who knew? and that doesn't include the people that went on to become general managers or scouts. the cleveland's general manager played for the gold panners. as i mentioned, the gold panners are one of the premier pipelines into the major leagues. one of the highlights of the season in alaska, something that's happening very soon -- actually this tuesday -- is when the goldpanners play their most
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famous game. it is the midnight sun game, and it is played every summer on the summer solstice. the tradition of the midnight sun game in fairbanks goes way, way back. the first one of these games was played in 1906. americans have been playing midnight baseball in alaska for well over a hundred years. and now this game is famous worldwide. it is a must-do bucket list game for baseball enthusiasts all across america. thousands of people, many of whom come from across the globe, will gather for this game this tuesday, as they do every summer in fairbanks. now, this game is a culmination of a dizzying array of
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activities that owe curb in fairbanks right -- that occur in fairbanks right now. parties, a midnight fun run. my wife was born and raised there. fairbanks is known for its spirit, generosity, and on the summer solstice weekend, that spirit explodes. mr. president, i'll be head be there tomorrow. going to take part -- going to partake in some of these festivities, including taking in a goldpanners game and maybe, as i usually do, join the many runners in the midnight sun run. where i've been known to bring up the rear of all the run remembers. we'll see what happens. but for tuesday night's midnight sun game this year, the goldpanners will be playing the san diego waves. the game starts at 10:00 p.m. in
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the park and goes into the wee hours. in fairbanks just a 150 miles south of the arctic circle, the sun just begins to set in the north a little bit as the game gets under way but never goes down beyond the horizon. as the game ends, the sun is actually starting to rise again. as one sportswriter put it, quote, it's the stuff that baseball games are made of. and it's never dark. and throughout its centurylong history, artificial lights have never been used -- ever, not once. john lohrek, our alaskan of the week,ous in hoe historic it is. he understands how important the goldpanners team is for all of alaska, for fairbanks, but for
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baseball writ large. since starting it as a manager, he's put more money into the stadium to spruce it it up, a lot of pictures of some of the great alumni there that i mentioned earlier in my remarks. he's constantly in touch with members of the business community who helped sponsor and support the team. he's in charge of getting housing for the 24-member team and the coaches, many of whom are talented athletes who come up from alaska from the lower 48 for the summer. he's in charge of transportation needs. he's in charge of the vendors and ticket sales and the beer garden. he's in charge of making all of this run smoothly for fairbanks, for the team he loves, and for the love of baseball. i love fairbanks, he said, and i love baseball. it's in my blood, and this is where it happens.
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so thanks to all the goldpanner players in the community that supports the -- and the community that supports is the team. thank you, john, for all you do to make it happen to bring us together to keep baseball alive. congratulations for being our alaskan of the week. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that my following remarks appear in a separate place in the "congressional record." the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i just talked about our alaskan of the week. i'm going to mention notre -- i'm going to mention another alaskan who deserves really, really great praise because it is with a heavy heart that this week team sullivan will be losing a critical member of our staff in the wonderful staffer liz bannehke, whose moving on to
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help veterans. liz is from eagle river, alaska. she is a chugiac high school graduate, graduated from the university of portland with a degree in political science and german studies. she received two fulbrights to study in germany and then in austria. but her heart as always remained in alaska. she interned for the late, great congressman don young before joining my campaign in 2014, my first election. she did a great job then. she came to washington with my team, and she is a member of what we call in our office the o'g., been there from the beginning. liz's story is a story of success, and it has been an honor to watch her hard work and all she has done for me, my team, and, most importantly, alaskans.
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she began with focusing on veterans and then expanded her role to take on foreign policy and homeland security and trade and fisheries. in the process, mr. president, she became one of the most impressive staffers in the whole u.s. senate. i am a a little biased, you this i think -- i am a little biased, but i think it is true, on all of these diverse issues. it is a marvel listening to her explain, for example, fish import trade codes, some of which she knows by heart. she's also -- she also understands and has worked the power of networking that has helped her do her job so well. she knows countless peoples and think tanks, the private sector, back home, embassies and the white house, and that has helped her get the job done for alaska. that's liz's ethos -- getting the job done. now, mr. president, we all know
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these jobs take a lot of hours. liz puts in those hours. i can't tell you how many nights i've left the office -- 9:30, 10:00 p.m. -- and i'll walk past liz's office, she's still there working on the phone, making sure hour veterans get the help they need, working on banning russian fish from being imported into the u.s., assisting refugees, trying to get out of afghanistan which she worked tirelessly on, working on my bill to deter china from invading taiwan -- i could go on and on and on. now, we all know having staff who will push back on occasion when they don't agree with the direction of their boss. it's something that can be difficult, but necessary. and i don't think that anybody would accuse liz of being shy in pushing back. she knows her mind and she speaks it, and she's done an
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exceptional job in my office and, most importantly, mr. president, it's helped thousands and thousands of alaskans. so i just want to thank her for her dedication to her state, her country, to our office. we're going to miss her very much. good luck, liz. you will always be part of team sullivan. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. carper: mr. president, thank you. mr. president, i rise today in support of the piece of legislation with a very long name, sergeant first class heath robinson honoring our promise to address comprehensive toxics act
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of 2022, also known as the pact act. this historic legislation will improve and expand access to v.a. health care for our nation's veterans, including upwards of 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans. it's going to save lives. let me say that again, it's going to save lives, and hopefully a lot of them. it's going to better ensure that our nation lives up to the promise from president lincoln's inaugural address, to care for those who have borne the battle. mr. president, during his first state of the union earlier this year, president biden called on congress to prioritize taking care of our veterans who are exposed to burn pits and other toxic materials while serving overseas in a number of theet he's, iraq and afghanistan --
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theaters, iraq and afghanistan, among them. today congress answered that call as well as our nation's veterans' organizations, known as our v.s.o.'s. those v.s.o.'s, advocates and military families, many of whom lost ha loved one -- lost a loved one, organized and fought for this bill for years. president biden likes to say all politics is personal and says all diplomacy is personal. i think he's right on both accounts. this issue is personal for our president and it is personal for me as well as hundreds of thousands of other american families. major beau biden, delaware's former attorney general, served in the delaware national guard for more than a decade, including a yearlong deployment in iraq on active duty.
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-- active duty on the national guard. over the past two decades, i've attended countless deployment ceremonies in newcastle county, in dover as well for our soldiers, airmen and families, and also assemblies when they welcomed them home safe and sound. like many military parents at these send-offs and welcome home ceremonies, the biens didn't know -- biden's family didn't know if he would make it back safely, i believe that was 2008 and they did not know even if their son did make it back if he would carry the physical or emotional wounds of war that we sometimes can sustain. as it turned out, beau biden, a
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young man i've known since a little kid, made it back to delaware healthy and whole at the completion of his tour in 2009. i didn't know it at the time, but bea awrched his unit -- beau and his unit were stationed at camp victory where the burn pits operated. at the age of 46, beau biden would pass away after battling an aggressive brain cancer. we couldn't prove it then and to be fully honest, we can't prove it absolutely today, but the sudden onset of terminal cancer may have been due to toxic exposure while serving overseas. this story is all too common among veterans of the post-9/11
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generation, including sergeant first class heath robinson for whom this bill is named. sergeant first class robinson was deployed to kosovo where he was exposed to burn pits. before i go any further, let me describe what a burn pit is. burn pits are large areas of land oftentimes bigger than a football field. they are used to burn a number of things, including trash and other waste products at military installations overseas. the waste is oftentimes soaked in jet fuel and set ablaze in open-air burn pits, releasing toxins in the air of the surrounding area. it includes paint, medical and human waste, includes metal and aluminum cans, ammunition among
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other things. the smoke resulting from the burn pits often cause service members to experience burning of their eyes or throat as well as difficult in breathing and rashes too. the toxic smoke could be contaminated with lead, it could be contaminated with mercury and other gases that could negatively impact a person's liver, lung, and stomach. as many as 3.5 million service members, including sergeant first class heath robinson, were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in iraq or afghanistan or some other country. after his service, sergeant first class heath robinson was diagnosed with a rare auto immune disorder and stage four lung cancer. his oncologist said that the
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rare stage four cancer he was diagnosed with could only be from toxic exposure, yet, for years, sergeants like -- have contracted rare diseases. they come home only to fight a few battle that involves endless paperwork and claims all to prove a service connection that almost certainly did exist or does exist. sergeant first class heath robinson died last year. he left behind a wife, danielle, and a daughter who at the time was 6 years old. her name is brielle. she actually wrote a note to me, not in cursive, but printed. it looks like it was printed with a crayon.
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the note says, vote yes to my dad's bill or vote yes for my dad's bill. well, briell will -- brielle, if you're watching us today, i will let you know i have taken your advice and i hope one day to meet you and your mom and thank you for being involved on a good cause and for sharing your dad with all of us. please know that your dad's service was a gift to our country, and the bill, the piece of legislation that bears your father's name is going to make a positive difference, not for a few people, not for a few military families, but literally for millions of military families. mr. president, my own generation of vietnam veterans had a similar experience to toxic exposures as the post-9/11 generation of veterans. i have been privileged to serve our country in my state in many
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different roles. there's been no greater privilege than serving the united states navy and later the naval reserve for a total of 23 years of active and reserve duty. during the vietnam war in 1968, on a naif rotc -- navy rotc scholarship, i would have two tours. my squadron flew a wide variety of missions including off the coast of vietnam and cambodia, searching for fishing boats attempting to reply the vietcong trying to overthrow our ally. following that i spent 18 years as a mission commander in the naval reserve. barely a month after flying my last p-3 mission and retiring as
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a navy captain, i led at the behest of george her bert walker -- herbert walker bush, i led a delegation of vietnam veterans back to southeast asia. among the members was congressman. mr. peters:er -- congresswoman peterson, and he would later become a u.s. ambassador to a united vietnam. mr. carper: the six of us went to vietnam because veterans service oarses were convinced -- service organizations were convinced because hundreds of thousands of m.i.a.'s, missing in action were in that part of the world many we believe those families deserved to know what happened to their loved ones
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whose bodies were never recovered. like many of my colleagues, i come from a military family and we know what it's like to lose a loved one to war. my mother's youngest brother died in 1944 at the age of 19 during an attack on his aircraft carrier in the western pacific. my grandmother is a gold star mother. my uncle bob's body was never recovered or returned home to the country he served. my family never knew what it meant to have really a sense of closure finality. they never gave up on his coming home, something he never did. and so it means something to families like mine for our government to heed that moral obligation and stand up for the military families still waiting to see their son or daughter brought home. and brought home safely. it's that moral obligation to
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our m.i.a.'s and their families who let us -- led us to travel back to vietnam in 1981. we presented to the new leader of a united vietnam, we brought with us a road map from president bush to normalize relations with vietnam. the road map called on the vietnamese to write access to the war museum records as well as to its archives, so our investigators might be able to serve for -- search for clues to solve the mysteries of our m.i.a.'s disappearance. with the strong encouragement of the six-mandel gaition and in -- six-man delegation with senator john mccain and senator john kerry, and telecommunications were restored between our two
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countries and later full diplomatic relations. that same action led us to where we are today. our moral obligation extends beyond providing closure to the families of the fallen. it extends to the veterans and families who need health care, who are still dealing with the wounds of war, both visible and invisible long after they leave the battlefield. mr. president, the same year that we traveled to vietnam, we came together and passed the agent orange act to care for the hundreds of thousands of vietnam veterans who were exposed to that toxic herbicide in southeast asia during the vietnam war. many of us would agree it took far too long for that bill to be enacted. finally, after too many heart and nervous system complications, deadly cancer
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diagnoses and even birth defects of the children of vietnam veterans, congress did the right thing. the bill before us today also took too long to be enacted, but today congress has once again done the right thing. as i mentioned earlier, mr. president, over the last two decades throughout iraq and afghanistan too many of our veterans lived in -- worked along side these massive toxic burn pits i talked about earlier. hundreds of thousands of square feet of open air burn sites where chemicals and human waste burned daily, producing black plumes and bringing harmful chemicals into the lungs of unsuspecting service members. the time has come to take care of these veterans, those who have borne the battle. this legislation, the pact act
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will enhance and expand v.a. health care and benefits for toxic-exposed veterans. specifically, this bill will provide v.a. health care to an estimated 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans who experienced toxic exposures. this bill establishes a presumption of service connection for 23 conditions, 23 conditions that are related to toxic exposures, and improves the process by which the v.a. may add presumption in the future. additionally, the bill will expand v.a. research on toxic exposures. it will provide toxic exposure screenings at appointments. and it will provide additional training to v.a. health care workers and benefit personnel. mr. president, i have spent a considerable amount of time discussing the importance of this bill. others have been here today before me and earlier this week. i'm proud to have supported it.
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i know my colleagues feel the same way. having said that, i also believe that we may have missed an opportunity to consider some amendments, some amendments that would have improved the bill and also importantly, to pay for its considerable price tag. mr. president, in addition to being a recovering governor, my colleagues have different names to describe me. a lot of me call me recovering governor. i am and also a recovering state treasurer before that. i have long believed if something is worth doing, it's worth paying for. things that are worth doing are worth paying for. i understand taking care of our veterans is worst come of war. but these costs should be paid for. that's why i filed an amendment, mr. president, to have the department of defense identify savings to pay for the cost of this bill. i've also filed amendments that address albert einstein's definition of insanity.
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einstein is famous for saying many things. one of those -- he describes insanity of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. what does that mean? it means that in -- in this instance it means if servicemembers are being repeated will i exposed to toxic chemicals across new generations, we have to do something on the front end, on the fronds end to reduce toxic exposures instead of always playing catchup decades later as we are doing now. that's why we should be giving the department of defense the tools they need to track toxic exposures more closely and our servicemembers deserve the ability to report toxic exposures in real time and to be protected from them. i believe these commonsense ideas may actual live provide long-term savings for the taxpayer and lead to healthier outcomes for our veterans. finally, while we are not offsetting the cost of this legislation today, it does -- it
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does not mean we shouldn't provide vigorous oversight of this new funding. these why i filed another amendment to enhance the requirement that the secretary of the veterans administration provide annual spending plans to congress as well as require both the v.a. inspector general and the government accountability office to report to congress on implementation, an important step. my hope is that one or maybe all of these ideas could be included in future ■legislation. later this year. and i look forward to working with our colleagues on improving this important bill as we move forward. having said that, mr. president, let me close by just reiterating what i said at the beginning. this is an historic bill for our nation's veterans. it does right by an entire generation of veterans who have defended our nation over the past two decades. it's going to bring millions,
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it's going to bring millions of new veterans into the v.a. for their health care, including mental health care. these new benefits which veterans earn through their service to our nation are going to make a real difference for our veterans and their families. as the last serving vietnam veteran now serving in the u.s. senate, i'm proud to have supported this bill. i want to thank and commend our colleagues who lead the senate veterans affairs committee, senator tester, senator moran, and their staffs and others for working together to shepherd this bipartisan bill through the legislative process. and i want to thank our veterans service organizations, the v.s.o.'s i mentioned earlier, the countless advocates who helped make this legislation possible. and i want to thank the young lady, the young lady who wrote this note, kind enough to send it to me and encouraging me to support this legislation named
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after her father. with that, mr. president, we look forward to the president of the united states signing the pact act into law very soon and with that, i yield the floor to my colleague from ohio. but first, i ask my colleague to hold the horses for just a second here. i ask unanimous consent that the senate consider the following nominations en bloc, calendar numbers 973, and calendar number 974, that the senate -- calendar
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numbers 973, 974, and 997, the senate vote on the nominations en bloc without intervening action or debate, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, that any statements related to the nominations be printed in the record, that the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the question is on the nominations en bloc. all in favor say aye. all opposed no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nominations are confirmed en bloc. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent that the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. carper: mr. president, with that i'm pleased to yield the floor to my friend -- no. mr. president, i have five requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have been approved by both the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 6le 82 sub-- 682 submitted earlier. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 682 designating june 15, 2022, as world elder abuse day and the month of june as elder abuse wellness -- wellness money. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent to the -- i ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and that
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the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of h. con. res. 88 which was received from the house. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h. con. res. 88 authorizing the use of the capitol grounds for the greater washington soap box derby. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent the -- concurrent resolution be agreed to and the motion be laid on the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: i understand that there is a bill at the desk and i ask, mr. president, for its first reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the first time.
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the clerk: s. 4431, a bill to eliminate discrimination and promote women's health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition. mr. carper: i now ask for a second reading and in order to place the bill on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14, i object to my own request. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will receive its second reading on the next legislative day. mr. carper: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 222, s. 3309. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 222, s. 3309, a bill to require select usa to coordinate with state level economic development organizations to increase foreign direct investment and
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semiconductor-related manufacturing and production. the presiding officer: the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. carper: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported substitute be withdrawn, the peter substitute that is at the desk be considered and agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent that the committee on commerce, science, and transportation be discharged from further consideration of s. 2280 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 2280, a bill to provide precheck to certain severely injured or disabled veterans and for other purposes. the presiding officer: without
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objection, the committee is discharged and the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. carper: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: i ask unanimous consent, mr. president, that when the senate completes its business today, it adjourn to then convene for a pro forma session only with no business being considered on the following date and time, friday, june 17 at 8:30 a.m. i further ask that when the senate adjourns on friday, june 17, it next convene at 3:00 p.m. on tuesday, june 21. further, that following the prayer and pledge, the morning hour be deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date, the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day, and
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the senate be in a period of morning business for debate only and with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each until 5:30 p.m. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: if there's no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand -- we stand adjourned under the previous order following the remarks of a patient colleague, the senator from ohio, senator portman. i yield to senator portman. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: first, i want to thank my colleague from delaware, via columbus, ohio, for his comments and i want to talk for a moment about what we did today in the united states senate. we passed legislation very important to our veterans that has to do with expanding v.a., veterans health care coverage but specifically addresses the problem of our veterans who have
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been exposed to burn pits, toxic burn pits that have resulted in terrible illnesses including cancer and others. the legislation we passed is named the heath robinson pact act, and people may wonder, well, who is heath robinson? why is it named after him? heath robinson was from pickerington, ohio, a small community outside of columbus, ohio. he enlisted in the ohio national guard. he became a sergeant first class. he did tours of duty in kosovo, also in iraq. he was with the 285th area support medical company and was a two-time ohio army national guard n.c.o. of the year in 2012 and 2013. so a very distinguished career in the military.
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in 2020, he died of cancer. and when you talk to the medical professionals, they say that his exposure to burn pits was what resulted in his cancer developing and the end of his life way too soon. so his widow, danielle, who some people may remember was at the state of the union up in the gallery and his mom, kathy, and his daughter brielle have been tireless advocates for addressing this burn pit issue. trying to stop the burn pits from being used but of course addressing the consequence of these burn pits and they have channeled their grief in a constructive way which is to encourage congress to pass this legislation that we passed today.
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so many other veterans who have been exposed to burn pits will now get better health care because of their work and because of the tribute that's being paid to their father and husband and son, heath robinson. so that's who heath robinson is and why it was important to name that legislation today after him. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to have my next remarks appear elsewhere in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: i am also rising today to ask unanimous consent from my colleagues to pass other legislation, s. 2129, a bipartisan bill that i have coauthored with my colleague from ohio, senator sherrod brown. it honors a young man named otto warmbier, and it counters north korea's censorship state.
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otto was a native of my hometown in cincinnati, ohio, and his wonderful family are dear friends. he was a young man of great spirit, great intellect, a student, a star at the university of virginia. in 2015 he went to north korea with a tour group. it was a cultural visit with people from the united states, from europe, looking to see what north korea was like. they were there for a very brief period of time, but at the end of that brief visit, as he was waiting in line at the airport to leave with fellow members of the tour, north korean security officials grabbed him and pulled him out of line. he was detained and then eventually he was sentenced for 15 years on trumped-up charges
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relating to whether or not he tried to take down a poster that was a political poster. 15 years. otto warmbier -- again, a young man of great promise -- was unjustly convicted and imprisoned, and during a 17-month period of imprisonment, captivity, he was badly mistreated by the north currency to the point -- north koreans to the point that when he was returned to the united states in 2017, he came back in a comatose state from which he never recovered. otto warmbier died almost exactly five years ago today, june 19, 2017. he was 22 years old. his whole life ahead of him. so five years ago life changed forever for otto's friends, for his parents, his classmates.
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his service, his funeral was extraordinary, the outpouring of love. his parents, fred and cindy, have taken their grief and done something very constructive with it. they have focused on exposing what north korea is really like and also ensuring that to the extent possible north korea is held accountable for this atrocity. no parent should have to endure what they went through. i've worked with senators brown, coons, tillis, hagerty as well as the warmbiers as well as the biden administration on this legislation. it's called the otto warmer to north korea censorship and surveillance act. it would authorize sanctions against any foreign individuals involved in censoring the north korean people's access to information on behalf of the kim
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un-yung regime. it is very important to get whatever real news you can into the country. when that happens, what you find out is that people leave north korea and then work against the regime. but so many people don't have access to that information, so this bill authorizes the united states agency for global media to find new and creative ways to circumvent north korean censorship and provides $10 million annually for the next five years to counter north korea's censorship and surveillance state, including repairing the antennas that was been used for this -- that have been used for this purpose that were damaged in a typhoon years ago and have never been fixed because we didn't have the funding. this bill has adequate funding to put in place the infrastructure that is now going to be necessary to effectively
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send through accurate information in north korea to counter north korean propaganda for the sake of the people of north korea. together this chamber can send a bipartisan message to the world that we will not stand for the censorship and the repression of the north korean regime. so i urge my colleagues to support this is legislation. it's something we have worked on carefully. we've gotten technical assistance from the administration, something that i hope we can pass here this evening and then we can in turn get it passed in the house of representatives and get it to the president for his signature. so, mr. president, i would now like to call up this legislation as if in legislative session, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to immediate consideration of the calendar number 159, s. 2129. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 159, s. 2129, a bill to promote
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freedom of information and counter censorship and surveillance in north korea and for other purposes. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. portman: i that the committee-reported amendment be agreed to and the bill, as amended, be agreed to. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: i know of no further debate on bill, as amended, a as amended. the presiding officer: if there is no further debate, the question is on passage of the bill, as amended. all those in favor, say aye. all opposed, say no the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the bill, as amended, is passed. mr. portman: i ask unanimous consent that at the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: thank you, mr. president. this is an important day for otto warmbier's family, for so
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many people who care about the repression and lack of information going into north korea. i thank my colleagues for supporting this legislation. i yield back my time. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands adjourned until 8:30 a.m. stands adjourned until 8:30 a.m.
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♪♪ ♪♪ cox along with the the television providers giving front row seat to democracy. ♪♪ >> before lawmakers voted on legislation to expand access to be a health care and disability benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service veterans affairs committee chair jon tester and ranking member jerry moran talked about their work on the bill and the importance of it. we take you to their remarks.


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