Tuesday, May. 22, 2018

Tomorrow -

  • The Senate will convene at 11:00 a.m.
  • Following leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and begin consideration of Executive Calendar #593, Brian D. Montgomery, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, with four hours of debate equally divided in the usual form.
  • At 3:15 p.m., the Senate will VOTE on confirmation of Executive Calendar #593, Brian D. Montgomery, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Following disposition of the Montgomery nomination, all post-cloture time will be considered expired on the motion to concur and the Senate will VOTE on the motion to concur in the House Amendment to S. 2372, the V.A. Mission Act.
  • Following disposition of the motion to concur the Senate will VOTE on cloture on Executive Calendar #670, Jelena McWilliams, of Ohio, to be Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Executive Calendar #672, Jelena McWilliams, of Ohio, to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in the order filed.
  • If cloture is invoked on the McWilliams nominations the post-cloture time will run concurrently.
  • Note: on Thursday, Mary 17, cloture was filed on Executive Calendar #618, James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador to Luxembourg.


Senator Whitehouse: (6:02 p.m.)

  • Spoke on climate change.
    • "In this, my 207th speech about the climate changes and ocean changes being driven by fossil fuels, I would like to discuss America's largest oil company, ExxonMobil. For decades ExxonMobil did everything in its power to deceive the American public about the existence and causes of climate change. I believe that full transparency would show ExxonMobil and its agents still obstructing efforts here in Washington to resolve the climate crisis. But I want to focus on one particular audience I believe Exxon has long misled: Its shareholders. An Exxon C.E.O. once went so far as to cite a bogus scientist petition to its shareholders. Yes, that infamous petition cooked up by climate deniers that included cartoon characters and spice girls among the scientists."

Manchin, Tillis, Rounds

Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the V.A. Mission Act (S. 2372)

May 22 2018

Senator Manchin: (4:48 p.m.)

  • Spoke on veterans' issues.
    • "I'm sure that the mission act just passed out of the House 347-70, and I have a lot of good friends on both sides of the aisle who want the overall bill. It has the support of the national veterans' service organizations and the effects of this bill will not likely come into being until 2025. And I will not be serving in the Senate then. Yet for the sake of the veteran population in West Virginia, I have to say something publicly. The act could have detrimental second or third order effects in our communities. If this bill passes with the act in it, the powers that wish to downsize the level of care that we give to veterans will should -- we'll see it as a victory but they should be prepared for robust, exhaustive oversight by me and my colleagues on the committee."


Senator Tillis: (4:54 p.m.)

  • Spoke on veterans' issues.
    • "And we may have to do basic maintenance on them but they're properties that may have historic value. Maybe we can convey them to the states and sell them and use those resources to blow back into quality - plow back into quality care for the veterans. I can tell my friend from West Virginia we share a mountain range together. We share a lot of cultures out in the western part of our state and West Virginia, and there's no way on Earth that I would allow the V.A. to move forward on something that I felt like was going further away from providing quality care to any veteran anywhere in west Virginia and North Carolina or any other rural area."


Senator Rounds: (4:58 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "I rise to discuss the legislation known as the V.A. Mission Act of 2018. A significant change for the health care delivery system at the department of veteran affairs. The V.A. Mission Act passed the House of Representatives last week and is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate in the coming days. The bill is the result of months of negotiations and discussions between stakeholders, the administration and house and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees of which I am a member. While I appreciate the hard work of those involved, unfortunately the final legislation is not something that I am able to support. Before I get into my concerns about the bill and what I believe to be its fatal flaws, I want to point out there are a host of good provisions that I do support."

Moran, Tester, Murphy, Thune

Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the V.A. Mission Act (S. 2372)

May 22 2018

Senator Moran: (3:28 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "I indicated last week that currently within our office we have 80 what we call cases in which we're dealing with veterans who are facing challenges from something they need from the V.A. and are not receiving it, and that's - I looked at the numbers prior to that since I've been a member of the United States Senate, that has occurred on 2,650 occasions in which a veteran seeks help from their United States senator for something we would expect them to be entitled to based upon their service to our nation. We're grateful to those veterans. We want it make sure they're honored and esteemed. But we want to make sure that the promises to those who served our nation are kept. The legislation before us that has been approved by the House of Representatives and is now in front of the Senate has been title the V.A. Mission Act."


Senator Tester: (3:47 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "As Senator Moran pointed out, coming from a state like Montana, a rural state, 147,000 square miles, I know you cannot have a V.A. clinic in every community. But veterans cannot always drive two hours to the nearest V.A. clinic, and they certainly can't afford to wait months for an appointment. And that is why we need private health care to fill in the gaps when the V.A. cannot deliver that health care. But I also know how much veterans need the services they get from a V.A. clinic. In my dozens and dozens and dozens of face-to-face listening sessions with veterans, they have told me that the kind of care they get from the V.A. is important. They are surrounded by their peers, many of whom have experienced mental and physical challenges of being in combat."


Senator Murphy: (4:05 p.m.)

  • Spoke on gun control.
    • "Part of the 33,000 a year, 2,800 a month and the 3 on average a day. -- And 993 on average a day that are - and 93 on average that are killed by guns in this country. It is a mix of domestic violence incidents, mass shootings and homicides. There is no other country in the world in which this number is this big. There have been 5,531 deaths from gun violence in 2018 alone. That's according to gun violence archive. 1,200 kids have been killed or injured, and we're not even halfway through the year. Our rate of gun violence in this country is 20 times higher than all of our other competitor OECD nations, and it is not because our schools are less safe. It is not because we have more troubled young men. It's not because we spend less money on law enforcement."


Senator Thune: (4:31 p.m.)

  • Spoke on tax reform.
    • "Since jobs and opportunities are created by businesses, that meant reforming our tax code to improve the playing field for businesses so they could improve the playing field for workers. And that's what we did, and I am proud to report that it's working. Last week the national association of manufacturers released the result of its recent tax reform survey, and here's what the survey showed. 77% of manufacturers planned to increase hiring as a result of tax reform. 72% plan to increase wages or benefits, and 86% report that they plan to increase investments, which means new jobs and opportunities for workers. Madam President, these are tremendous results and what we were looking for with tax reform."

Daines, Murray, Sullivan

Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the V.A. Mission Act (S. 2372)

May 22 2018

Senator Daines: (2:15 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "It brings V.A. care into the 21st century by encouraging telemedicine and strengthens the oversight of opioid prescriptions. Veterans will have more access to doctors because there will be measures holding companies accountable, companies like Healthnet for how they manage the new program. It provides scholarships to encourage medical and dental students to serve in the V.A., and it creates a new loan repayment program for medical students who are training in specialties that are currently lacking in the V.A. This is one of the big problems we have. We can't fill the slots of medical professionals in the V.A. It's about time we take meaningful steps towards fully delivering on the promises that we have made to our veterans."


Senator Murray: (2:38 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "I have heard from countless people who when their loved one came home from service with an injury or illness made big life changes, like quitting a job or scaling back their hours or taking leave from college. They put big purchases and retirements and dream vacations on hold. Or they took on more parenting responsibilities. You name it. They sprang into action and did what they needed to do because it's just what you do when it's someone you love. But we know the care our military caregivers provide comes at a cost. Several years ago, in fact, the dole foundation commissioned the largest ever study of its kind to examine the sacrifice of military caregivers. It showed some caregivers spend more than 40 hours a week caring for veterans."


Senator Sullivan: (3:01 p.m.)

  • Spoke on in tribute to the Alaskan of the Week.
    • "As my colleagues know one of the best times of the week is when I get to come down to the floor and talk about some of my great constituents back home in Alaska. Somebody, or a group of Alaskans, which I refer to as the Alaskan of the Week. You know, Mr. President, we all think we come from great states, but what I really enjoy talking about the Alaskan of the Week is not just talking about Alaska and how beautiful, big, and majestic it is, but the people who make it such a great place. What I wanted to do in this Alaskan presentation is talk not just about rich Owens, who I'm going to talk about a lot this afternoon, but I'm going to also talk about small businesses in Alaska, and small businesses in my hometown."

Blumenthal, Cornyn, Jones, Nelson, Thune

Executive Session (Baiocco Nomination)

May 22 2018

Senator Blumenthal: (11:09 a.m.)

  • Spoke on the nomination of Dana Baiocco to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    • "And so that agency is already resource starved. It is already depleted in terms of the support that it needs in Congress, and already it needs zealous and relentless advocacy. The individuals who are members of that board should be dedicated to that mission and to the safety and well-being of consumers above all. That's their mission. And so today when we consider the nomination of Dana Baiocco, we should keep in mind that no matter how able and skilled and experienced a litigator she is, the question is whether she will devote those skills, ability, and experience to the mission of this agency. Unfortunately, every sign that she has given indicate that her goal will be contrary to the agency's mission."


Senator Cornyn: (11:22 a.m.)

  • Spoke on Republican economic policy.
    • "So what we're beginning to see is the slumbering giant of the American economy wake up and grow. People have confidence again, optimism in the future, which is a good thing. Unemployment fell to 3.9% recently, which is the lowest in 17 years. And 14 states hit record low employment, unemployment as well. As I said, consumer confidence is high. As a matter of fact, it's at an 18-year high. And the tax reform package we passed last December has been the biggest single game changer, although I want to talk about regulations here in a minute. But the tax reform package got America back in the game. It made us more competitive globally as a place where people who want to invest money and create a business or grow their business, it's attractive finally."
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • "One of the most significant things that the Trump Administration has done is nominate and see the Senate confirm a record number of judges. Judges who, by the way, are committed to faithfully interpreting the Constitution and not legislate from the bench because of their personal preferences. If you want to pursue a personal agenda or political agenda, you ought to run for Congress, not seek the federal bench because we expect and demand something different out of judges, which is faithful adherence to the law, not imposing their personal policy preferences, and that's what President Trump has prioritized in his nominees and the nominees we've confirmed."
  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "Frequently the spouse of that wounded warrior has to quit his or her job and come care for their loved one, and it's really an important aspect of the continuum of care for them to get back on their feet. We're going to provide greater access to caregiver assistance so that spouses and family members can do exactly that, and it's the right thing for us to do. Our V.A. Mission bill also authorizes access to walk-in clinics, it removes bureaucratic red-tape. In this new technological age, it makes no sense to have restrictions on the ability for people to get access to care through telemedicine when and where appropriate."


Senator Jones: (11:40 a.m.)

  • Spoke on rural healthcare.
    • "These persistent gaps in health care inevitably lead to poor health outcomes. As a result, life expectancy for rural Alabamaians is approximately six months lower than those who reside in urban areas, and three and a half years lower than people living in the rest of the country. In some parts of my state the outlook is even worse. In Wilcox County, for example, life expectancy is nine years lower than the national average. That is unacceptable, Mr. President. The county of your birth or where you choose to live should not dictate the quality of your life much less your life expectancy."


Senator Nelson: (11:49 a.m.)

  • Spoke on the nomination of Dana Baiocco to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    • "And so a small modification, if those had been in place last summer, it's very likely that some of those Floridians who lost their lives would still be with us. And that brings me to Mrs. Baiocco's nomination. Now, she certainly has a distinguished legal career. She's been a partner of a major law firm. And I congratulate her on that. But when she was in front of our Commerce Committee, when she was asked would she support a mandatory standard requiring that generators have mechanisms that limit carbon monoxide emissions or other devices that switch the generators off when the carbon monoxide level rises to dangerous levels, her response was that we should defer to a voluntary industry standard."


Senator Thune: (12:03 a.m.)

  • Spoke on the nomination of Dana Baiocco to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    • "To date, Mr. President, I have not heard a single argument against Mr. Baiocco's abilities, notwithstanding her extensive qualifications to be a commissioner at the CPSC, however, some colleagues on the other side have voiced concern about her nomination on the grounds that her career representing business clients in the consumer product and liability space may impact her impartiality when considering issues before the commission. A few have raised issues about her impartiality because of her spouse's career as a litigator at the law firm of White and Williams. Mr. President, to my colleagues who harbor such concerns, I would note that the senate routinely confirms nominees who are lawyers with private practice backgrounds and we expect such office holders to advocate for the public interest just as zealously as they would for their clients."

Durbin, Schumer, Isakson, Ernst

Executive Session (Baiocco Nomination)

May 22 2018

Senator Durbin: (10:11 a.m.)

  • Spoke on gun control.
    • "Last Friday America watched in horror as a news story broke of yet another school shooting. This time in Santa Fe High School in Texas. Eight students, two teachers fatally shot. 13 victims wounded. Another devastating tragedy. The alleged gunman was a student who came into the school with his parents' shotgun and handgun and used them to commit mass murder. Of course we grieve for the families and the victims in Santa Fe, and of course we're grateful for first responders who ran to the sound of gunfire. But let's be honest. The shooting at Santa Fe High was, by one count, the 22nd school shooting in America this year."
  • Spoke on for-profit colleges.
    • "And then there is Robert Eitel, hired by Secretary Devos in February, 2017, as a special assistant. For the first nine weeks of his Department of Education tenure, tell was actually on unpaid leave of absence from Bridgepoint. You heard that right. He was an employee of the Department of Education and continued as an employee of one of the most predatory for-profit colleges in this country at the same time. ABC News reports tell had a hand in dismantling the department's borrower defense rule which would help students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges like Ashford. How is that for a fox guarding the henhouse?"


Senator Schumer: (10:28 a.m.)

  • Spoke on China.
    • "And I have public arguments with both President Obama and president bush on this issue. So when Donald Trump started talking about going after China and making them play fair, I felt that was a good thing. And when his administration fined Z.T.E. and then put sanctions on them so they couldn't get American components, I said finally, finally we're doing something tough on China. So you can imagine my disappointment in the reports last night that president trump, being advised so wrongly by people like treasury Secretary Mnuchin, is backing off on his toughness and just giving them a slap on the wrist, the fine."
  • Spoke on the Mueller investigation.
    • "Then yesterday the president summoned the leaders of the Russia probe to the White House to pressure them into releasing sensitive and classified documents pertaining to the investigation of congressional - of the investigation by congressional Republicans. Let me repeat that. The White House planned to arrange a meeting where highly classified and other information will be shared with members of Congress is highly irregular, inappropriate and unprecedented. The president and his staff should not be involved in reviewing or dissemination of sensitive investigatory information involving any investigation let alone one about the activities of his own campaign. It's amazing. It is what you hear happening in third world countries."
  • Spoke on teachers.
    • "We need great teachers in every classroom so that our children have every opportunity to succeed. In my view, as I said, teaching should be an exalted profession in the 21st century, and teachers' pay should more closely reflect their value to society."


Senator Isakson: (10:49 a.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "We won those wars because our best and brightest sacrificed so America could be there. There's nothing less we need to ask for ourselves than to have the health care benefits we've promised them for so long. The V.A. Mission Act answers all those questions that have been long on the front pages of the newspapers. I want to thank John McCain. John McCain was really the inspiration for the Veterans Choice bill, which we started four years ago when I was on the committee, finally passed a part of that program and it's been in operation until now. It's needs to be reformed and funded and with the passage of this legislation, we'll make it even better."


Senator Ernst: (11:00 a.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "There were on average 22 veteran suicides every single day in the United States. It underscored the troubles within the V.A. and the urgency to act immediately to help our veterans get the quality and the timely care that they have earned and that they deserve. That's why I introduced on that very day my first bill, the prioritizing veterans' access to mental health care act. My bill would have eliminated the distance and the wait time requirements for veterans seeking mental health care under the current choice program. Every veteran should have the choice to receive care in the community, but they should not be burdened by bureaucratic red tape or strict guidelines that serve as roadblocks to receiving this type of care."


Opening Remarks

May 22 2018

Today -

  • The Senate will convene at 10:00 a.m.
  • Following leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and resume consideration of Executive Calendar #608, Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • At 12:00 p.m., the Senate will VOTE on confirmation of Executive Calendar #608, Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Following disposition of the Baiocco nomination, the Senate will VOTE on cloture on the motion to concur in the House Amendment to S. 2372, the V.A. Mission Act.
  • The Senate will then recess until 2:15 p.m. to accommodate the weekly policy lunches.
  • Note: on Thursday, May 17, cloture was filed on Executive Calendar #670, Jelena McWilliams, of Ohio, to be Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
  • Note: on Thursday, May 17, cloture was filed on Executive Calendar #672, Jelena McWilliams, of Ohio, to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
  • Note: on Thursday, Mary 17, cloture was filed on Executive Calendar #618, James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador to Luxembourg.


Senator McConnell: (10:03 a.m.)

  • Spoke on the V.A. Mission Act.
    • "The bipartisan reform legislation before us builds on the earlier progress of the Veterans Choice Act of 2014 and reaffirms a clear message. Delays at the V.A. cannot stand between veterans and the medical care that they need. The shortcomings of a federal bureaucracy do not free our nation from its promises to our all-volunteer forces. Veterans deserve prompt, thorough care, period. In a few short years since the creation of V.A. Choice, the program has seen important success. More than two million veterans have taken the opportunity to see private providers when the V.A. system couldn't meet their needs. In Kentucky it helped more than 23,000 veterans in 2017 alone. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Isakson, this new legislation builds on this significant progress, continues it, and improves it in ways that will help veterans even more."
  • Spoke on water infrastructure legislation.
    • "Chairman Barrasso has led an open, bipartisan process that has demonstrated a strong proposal. It builds on President Trump's infrastructure approach, encouraging local control over local priorities and leveraging federal resources to ensure that each dollar spent goes to major water infrastructure improvements. It cuts red tape and empowers the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to break through bureaucratic backlogs."
  • Spoke on Republican economic policy.
    • "Let me say that again. More Americans say it's a good time to find a quality job than at any point in the last 17 years. Under President Obama, this number got as low as 8%. It never broke 50% during his administration. But today, 67% of Americans say it's a good time to find a quality job. 67% of Americans say it's a good time to find a quality job. Optimism has taken off for all groups since this president was elected, and the Republican Congress was sworn in. But the hope has been felt most among working-class Americans. This is a major distinction between the economic policies that Democrats spent year putting in place and the new approach this Republican Congress has taken."