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tv   U.S. Senate Meets for Legislative Business  CSPAN  April 3, 2017 2:59pm-7:06pm EDT

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soto mayor and justice kagan before their confirmation. the american constitution society outed justice kagan as a justice quote, a justice for every american. where to their money come from? i don't know and i suppose a lot of people think that i should say i don't care but this is america. where people can spend their money where they want to spend it and they can use their money for political speech or any advocacy that they want. >> and of course, as we see, advocacy groups on the left are engaged. >> we are going to leave this here, the committee spent more than 20 hours of testimony from judge gorsuch, approving the nominee in committee along a partyline vote on the website, just to cite gorsuch.
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mitch mcconnell saying the nominee will be voted on by the full senate by the end of the week. democrats have enough votes to filibuster that nomination so any vote may require a change in senate rules. the senate starting the week with legislation on antique votes, specifically historical riverboats. however, expect to hear plenty of debate on the nomination of judge gorsuch to the supreme court this week. and a final vote on judge gorsuch friday by the full senate. live down to the floor of the senate here on c-span2.
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>> the senate will come to order, the chaplain will lead the senate in prayer. >>. >> let us pray. >> beautiful savior, you have been our dwelling place. >> sustained by your steadfast love. today, surround our senators with the shield of your favor as they labor to keep our nation strong. lord, this week our lawmakers must make critical decisioning that may a -- decisions that may affect this legislative body for
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years to come. teach them to be obedient to your commands doing your will and following your leading. may they be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. lord, manifest your power through their labors so that this nation will remain a shinning city on a hill. we pray in your merciful name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america,
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and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., april 3, 2017. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable todd young, a senator from the state of indiana to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order, are the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to the consideration of s. 189.
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the clerk: a bill to amendment united states code to exempt old vessels that only operate within inland waterways and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 5:30 p.m. will be equally divided in the usual form. if no one yields time, the time will be charged equally.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mrs. capito: thank you, mr. president. i come to the floor today to express my vong support for the confirmation of judge neil gorsuch to be the next associate justice of the united states supreme court. few individuals over the last century have impacted the american legal discourse as profoundly as the late justice antonin scalia. in the wake of his untimely passing last february, justice scalia left behind a legacy of faithfully applying the law and upholding the principles of our constitution. judge neil gorsuch is a worthy successor to judge antonin scalia. judge gorsuch understands the protections granted in the constitution, including the
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separation of powers, federalism and the bill of rights. he knows that the constitution provides americans with an indispensable safeguard against government overreach. his past opinions demonstrate that he will honor constitutional protections afforded through due process, the right to bear arms, equal protection under the law and religious freedom. legal experts from across the political spectrum are very much in agreement with the gorsuch nomination. the american bar association's standing committee on the federal judiciary unanimously gave judge gorsuch the highest possible rating of well qualified for the supreme court. i couldn't agree more. one of judge gorsuch's associates, the chief judge of the tenth circuit, who served with judge gorsuch, has said about him, and i quote -- judge gorsuch brings to the bench a powerful intellect, combined
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with a probing and analytical approach to every issue. he brings to each case a strong commitment to limit his analysis to that case, its facts and the record and the law cited and applicable. he does not use his judicial robe as a vehicle for anything other than deciding the case before him, end quote. president obama's former solicitor general neil catyill, penned an op-ed in "the new york times" supporting judge gorsuch, and he wrote, and i quote, i have no doubt that if confirmed, judge gorsuch would help restore confidence in the rule of law. his six years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence, a record that should give the american people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him, end quote. those are the words of the solicitor general who argued president obama's arguments in front of the supreme court.
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and judge gorsuch has been through the confirmation process before as we've heard many times on this floor. when senators, some of them in this body today, approved his nomination to the court of appeals for the tenth circuit without opposition, it's clear to me through our conversation as i was privileged to meet judge gorsuch several weeks ago and a thorough examination of his record and watching last week's hearing in the judiciary committee that judge gorsuch will decide cases fairly based on our constitution and laws, and isn't that the way it should be? this is what west virginians would expect from a supreme court justice. newspapers in my state have recognized that this nominee's strong qualifications of independence and respect for the rule of law. the charleston daily mail editorialized that, and i quote, gorsuch has strong legal credentials that deserve to be confirmed. he is the kind of pick that any president should make, democrat
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or republican, because of his proven qualities necessary for a justice. a strong understanding and respect for the nation's founding document, the u.s. constitution, end quote. the wheeling intelligencer and news register wrote, and i quote, during hearings last week, gorsuch's suitability for a high court post was made abundantly clear. esprit sighsly the type of judge faithful to the constitution, not ideology on specific issues, that this nation needs, end quote. and the martinsburg journal said, and i quote, gorsuch seems to believe in using the plain language of the constitution to decide cases, regardless of his own preferences. that someone who believes only the people, not the courts, can change the constitution is exactly the type of supreme court justice we americans need, end quote. the american people benefited from an open and transparent supreme court process that led
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to judge gorsuch being nominated. during the 2016 presidential election, both candidates were transparent about the type of supreme court justice that they would appoint. president trump released a list of 21 names, a list that included judge gorsuch and promised voters that he would fill the supreme court vacancy with someone from that list. well, the voters were paying attention. according to the nbc news exit poll, 70% of voters said the selection of a supreme court justice was either the most important factor in their vote for president or an important factor. let me state that again. 70%. the american people weighed in, and president trump acted wisely in selecting judge gorsuch. he is a mainstream judge who is well qualified for the united states supreme court. unfortunately, the democrat leader has indicated that his party intends to engage in an
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unprecedented partisan filibuster of this nomination, a filibuster of a nomination of this caliber would be a tremendous mistake, i believe, that would harm the senate as an institution. there has never been a supreme court nomination defeated by a partisan filibuster of the type that the senate democrats are telegraphing. it is one thing to vote against a nominee on whatever grounds a senator may wish, but it is quite another to filibuster in an effort to block a nomination submitted by a duly elected president that has the support of the majority of the senate. senators have always enjoyed the ability to filibuster nominations. that ability has remained available because senators have shown restraint in applying that power that comes along with requiring unlimited debate. the clear tradition of the senate, and this is a body of tradition i have learned, over
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the course of the 230 years of history is a confirmation by a majority vote. that tradition has been demonstrated in recent supreme court confirmations. president obama nominated both sonia sotomayor and elena kagan to the supreme court. neither justice sotomayor nor justice kagan faced a filibuster in the senate. president george w. bush nominated john roberts as chief justice. there was no filibuster attempt against that nomination. president bill clinton nominated ruth bader ginsburg and steven breyer to the supreme court. neither faced a filibuster. and president george h. w. bush nominated david souter and clarence thomas to the supreme court. neither justice faced a filibuster, even though 48 senators voted against the thomas nomination. one recent supreme court nomination did require a cloture vote when a group of democrat senators attempted to block a
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vote on the confirmation of justice alito's nomination. but a large majority of senator, 72 in fact, invoked cloture preserving that bipartisan practice of rejecting filibusters against supreme court nominees. among those who rejected the alito filibuster in 2006 were the two democrat senators from my state, senator robert c. byrd and senator jay rockefeller. 72 senators voted to invoke cloture on justice alito's nomination, but only 58 ended up voting for the final confirmation. the not has a very clear history of rejecting the use of the filibuster on supreme court nominations. there's no justification for a filibuster on the gorsuch nomination. neil gorsuch is a mainstream judge with the highest possible raifting from the american -- rating from the american bar association. he was confirmed by the senate without objection in the year
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2006. his service on the tenth circuit court of appeals has earned the respect of his judicial colleagues. and he has demonstrated the independence and respect for the law that the american people expect from a supreme court justice. i hope that at least eight of my democrat colleagues will join us regardless of how they ultimately vote on judge gorsuch's nomination. or his confirmation, excuse me. i hope they will recognize the need to invoke cloture on this nomination. the senate will confirm judge gorsuch to the supreme court. for the good of the nation and for the good of the senate there should be no filibuster of this well qualified nominee. i yield back. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. first, let me thank my friend and colleague from nebraska for her indulgence. now before i begin, i want to
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express our concern here in the united states for our friends in st. petersburg, russia, in the wake of an explosion on their subway system this morning. russia has been in the news a lot recently, typically in adversarial terms. today is a time to remember that whatever our differences, we wish no ill to the people of any nation. our thoughts, prayers are with the family of the russians who were killed this morning. we wish a swift recovery to the injured and hope the perpetrators are soon brought to justice. now, mr. president, i rise this afternoon on the nomination of judge neil gorsuch to the supreme court which was just advanced by the judiciary committee. this afternoon it has become clear that judge gorsuch does not have the 60 votes necessary to end debate on his nomination. so, mr. president, now the focus is shifting away from the issue of whether judge gorsuch will get 60 votes on the cloture
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motion and towards the fundamental question before us. will the majority leader break the rules of the senate in order to get judge gorsuch on the bench? my friend, the majority leader, has said several times that judge gorsuch will be confirmed by the end of this week one way or another. what he really means when he says that is if judge gorsuch doesn't earn 60 votes in the senate, which is now the likely outcome, the republicans must, underlying must exercise the nuclear option to pass judge gorsuch on a simple majority vote. i think the majority leader reasons that if he says it enough times, folks will start believing it, that he has no choice, but they shouldn't. it's a premise no one should swallow. the majority leader is setting up a false choice. support judge gorsuch or he'll have no choice but to break the rules. maybe to the majority leader the
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nuclear option is the only option, but there are many alternatives. the majority leader makes up his mind independence of what democrats do on issue after issue, but on this one, he says he has no choice. maybe he has no choice because the right wing of the republican party, organizations like the heritage foundation, will go after him if he doesn't, but he certainly has a choice to do the right and courageous thing. instead republicans are playing the game of they started it. they say democrats started this process by changing the rules for lower court nominees in 2013. they failed to mention the history that led up to that change. the reason that majority leader reid changed the rules was because republicans had ramped up the use of the filibuster to historic proportions. they filibustered 79 nominees in
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the first four years of president obama's presidency. to put that in perspective, prior to president obama there were 68 filibusters on nominations under all other presidents from george washington to george bush. under president obama exclusively in the first four years of his administration, republicans filibustered 79 times, 79 nominees. they deliberately kept open the d.c. court of appeals because it has such influence over decisions made by the government. we all know the hard right federalists society and the hard right heritage foundation want to limit what government can do. the deal we made in 2005, a group of senator, the so-called gang of 14, allowed several of the most conservative jurists in the land to become judges and be
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confirmed to that circuit, but when president obama came in, our republican colleagues insisted on holding three seats of that court open. they literally said they would not allow the seats to be filled at all by president obama. sound familiar? merrick garland knows it is. at the time i pleaded with senator alexander sever times, -- several times, my dear friend from tennessee, to let us vote on some of the judges from the d.c. circuit. i asked him to go to senator mcconnell and say the pressure on our side to change the rules after all these filibusters was going to be large. let's avoid it, i said. but senator mcconnell said no. republicans refused all of our overtures to break the deadlock that they imposed.
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so if the majority leader wants to conduct this partisan they started it exercise, i'm sure we can trace it all the way back to the hamilton-burr dual. the fact of the matter is the republicans blocked merrick garland using the most unprecedented maneuvers. now we are likely to block judge gorsuch, and that means that neither party has gotten their party's choice in the last two years. so, mr. president, we can go back and forth and blame each other, but in the recent history of the vacancy caused by justice scalia's death, we both lost. we lost merrick garland because of the majority leader's unprecedented blockade, and republicans will lose on judge gorsuch because we're doing something that we think is reasonable in asking he be able to earn 60 votes as so many others have. we think the two are not
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equivalent but in either case we both lost. we're back to square one. and republicans have total freedom of choice in this situation. no one is forcing them to break the rules. they don't have to treat the nuclear option as if it's their first and only option. i.t. a false choice. to my friends on the other side, the answer isn't to change the rules. the answer is to change the nominees. presidents of both parties have done so in the past when supreme court picks fail to merit confirmation. again, the answer isn't to change the rules. the answer is to change the nominee. the majority leader should have the vision and courage to see past this impasse, and i believe he should seriously consider a different option. the president, senate
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republicans, and democrats should sit down together to come up with a mainstream nominee who can earn bipartisan support. we're willing to meet with them anywhere, anytime to discuss a consensus nominee. now, i know my colleagues on the other side will say judge gorsuch was a mainstream nominee, and democrats would never support any judge nominated by president trump. we disagree. we probably can't support any nominee that whose sole vet something through the heritage foundation and the federalist society. they were the sole gatekeepers for the scalia vacancy and each is known to be a right-wing, wealthy special interest group dedicated to moving the bench way to the right. their selection of judge gorsuch shows it. both "the new york times" and "the washington post" did analyses done by experts that
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showed that judge gorsuch would be a very, very conservative -- many would say right-wing -- justice on the bench. "the new york times" said he would the second-most conservative on the bench, second only to justice thomas. and "the washington post" actually said he'd be the most conservative justice on the bench based on his record, even more conservative than the very, very conservative justice thomas in fact, we democrats have never let special interest groups be the gatekeeper. we have said to any special interest group -- we have never said to any special interest group, as president trump did, give us a list, we'll choose from that list. that's what republicans did. we have never done it. and in the past, presidents have done just what we're suggesting
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for selecting supreme court justices. president bill clinton sought and took the advice of republican judiciary committee chairman orrin hatch in nominating justices ginsburg and breyer instead of bruce babbitt. president obama took the advice of republican senators when he picked merrick garland, a consensus, mainstream nominee. president trump, on the other hand, ignored the senate and only sought the advice and consent of right-wing special interest groups when making supreme court picks. he was running. he had to shore up his support on the hard right, so he said, i am outsourcing the entire selection process to two groups, who again are not consensus groups. they would admit that themselves. the heritage foundation, the federalist society. lo and behold, the process didn't produce a nominee who
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could earn 60 votes. by contrast, justice ginsburg earned 93 votes. justice breyer earned 87. so, mr. president, we're offering president trump and our friends on the other side a way forward. they don't have to break the rules to get a justice on the bench. they don't have to break the senate confirmation process, fundamentally weakening the constitutional principle of advise and consent, to get a justice on the bench. the president -- president trump -- could simply consult with members of both parties to try and come up with a consensus nominee who could get approved and meet a 60-vote threshold. the answer, again, is isn't to change the rules -- isn't to change the rules. it is a change the nominee. and we democrats are not going to oppose every republican nominee. of course we realize a nominee
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selected this way would not completely agree with our views, but judge gorsuch is so far out of the mainstream, hedon able to earn -- he isn't able to earn votes to pass the senate. even justices roberts and alito, two very conservative judges, earned a bunch of democratic votes, and each got more than 60 -- one in his nomination, the other, 72 votes in the cloture process. so, mr. president, the republicans are free actors. they can choose to go nuclear, or they can sit down with democrats and find a way forward that preserves the grand traditions of this body. the majority leader himself has said, the one thing the two leaders have already -- have always agreed upon is to protect the integrity of this institution. he continued, i think we can stipulate, he has said -- and this is a direct quote -- that
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in the senate it takes 60 votes on controversial matters. mitch mcconnell, in the senate it takes 60 votes on controversial matters. and he has long stood for that proposition for the many years i've been here. a supreme court seat, i believe, meets the majority leader's standard for 60 votes. and i hope instead of crippling the senate in a partisan way, removing that 60-vote threshold for controversial matters like the supreme court, my republican friends consider the option of working together to find a solution we can both accept. it may seem like a novel concept around here, but that option is always on the table. thank you, and i yield the floor.
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mrs. fischer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mrs. fischer: thank you, mr. president. i rise this afternoon to discuss a true american value: equal pay for equal work. this is something that we all believe in. and tomorrow is national equal payday. it is a meaningful reminder that equal pay remains among the challenges before us. mr. president, women make the world work. we are breadwinners. for our families we are also financial planners, nurses, and teachers. we've always been a powerful force and our progress has been hard-earned. women today are managers, entrepreneurs, public servants, and c.e.o.'s. and our country is stronger for
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it. but despite these great strides, that's more work to do to encourage prosperity for america's families. for nearly four years in this body i've led discussions about equal pay. i'm encouraged by the interest from the white house on addressing the workplace challenges that women face today. to that end, i have reintroduced a proposal i believe will make a real difference for families. it's called the workplace advancement act. the idea behind it is fairly universal and straightforward. equal pay through empowerment. the bill aims to empower employees, especially women, with information about wages so they can be informed advocates for their compensation. when it comes to discussing wages in the workplace,
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sometimes it can hurt to ask. a culture of silence and a fear of retaliation can keep people in the dark about how their compensation compares to others. the workplace advancement act would lift that fear, free up information, and create a more transparent workplace. a simple principle is at play here: when workers, especially women, have more information, they can more confidently pursue favorable work and wage arrangements. knowledge is power. with this flexibility, women can better negotiate arrangements that make sense for them. for example, they might be willing to accept less pay if they can have fridays free for doctors' appointments for family time or simply as a day for self-care.
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the workplace advancement act contains language similar to an executive order that president obama issued in 2014. many congressional democrats requested this action, which is actually more limited in scope than my legislation. some even praised it. senator heinrich called the action a critical step to ensure that every woman has a fair shot at fairness and economic success. congresswoman susan davis of california said the action was an historic step forward. importantly, for employers the workplace advancement act would not impose new federal regulations. and no employer would be compelled to disclose salary information. it simply prevents retaliatory
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action against employees who ask after it. 53 republicans and five democrats in the senate supported a version of the workplace advancement act last congress. with bipartisan support like this, this bill is possible. let's take advantage of this rare moment when we have common ground on a commonsense and a straightforward solution. let's come together so that we can look families in the eye and say, we heard you; we've heard you on this issue, and we're going to take action on it. mr. president, i yield the floor. i would suggest an absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, this week is an important one for the american people, for the supreme court, and for the senate. the judiciary committee just reported out judge neil gorsuch's nomination. the next step is considering this supreme court nominee before the full senate. it was unfortunate to see our democratic colleagues on the
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committee break with recent precedent and not support this clearly well-qualified and widely respected supreme court nominee. i would remind colleagues that in addition to simply agreeing to an up-or-down vote on their nominations on the senate floor, republicans offered each of the last four -- each of the last four -- first-term supreme court nominees of democratic presidents clinton and obama at least some bipartisan support in the committee votes. judge gorsuch is no less qualified than those four nominees of president clinton and obama. and it's disappointing he didn't get the same sort of bipartisan support in the committee today. it now seems apparent that this well-qualified and widely respected judge will be subject to the first successful partisan filibuster in the history of the
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senate. the first successful partisan filibuster in the history of the senate. this is a new low, but not entirely surprising given that the democratic leader announced before the nomination was even made that it was hard for him to imagine a nominee this president would nominate that he can support. he even went so far as to say that he'd be willing to fight the nomination,, quote, tooth and nail and might even keep the seat open in perpetuity. but it's not too late for our democratic colleagues to make the right choice. this week the senate will continue to debate the judge gorsuch nomination here on the floor. this is a matter of great importance, which is why we're planning to dedicate this week's floor time almost entirely to continued robust debate of this nomination rather than double tracking it with legislative items as has been done in the
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past. or any several members on both sides of the aisle to come to the floor day after day to offer their viewpoints on judge gorsuch. i would encourage members to take advantage of this time, to continue discussing his excellent credentials, judicial background and broad support from all across the political spectrum in our country. let me remind colleagues the many ways in which judge gorsuch has shown himself to be an outstanding nominee to serve on the high court. judge gorsuch was unanimously confirmed to his current position as a federal judge. not a single democrat opposed him, including senators obama, clinton, biden, leahy, and schumer. he participated in more than 2,700 cases since then. he's been in the majority 99% of the time. he enjoyed the unanimous support of his fellow judges 97% of the
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time. the american bar association, what the democratic leader calls the gold standard for nominating judicial nominations gave him the rating of unanimously well qualified. he's amassed a wide array of supporters including democrats and republicans, current and former colleagues, the legal community all across our country. they say gorsuch is eminently well qualified. as judge john kaine, a carter appointee put it, i'm not sure we can expect better than judge gorsuch or that better presently exists. they say that gorsuch is independent, neal katyal, president obama's former acting solicitor general said he has no doubt that if confirmed, judge gorsuch would help restore confidence in the rule of law because gorsuch's years on the bench be reveal a commitment, a commitment to judicial independence.
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they say gorsuch is fair and impartial. the then-proposed editorial board noted gorsuch has a brilliant legal mind and a talented writer who was praised for his ability to appraise the law fairly and consistently. they went on we appreciate his desire to strictly interpret the constitution based on the intent of our nation's founders, even when though rulings might cricket -- contradict personal beliefs. as "usa today" noted just today, he has gotten an array of glowing references including from some democrats and liberals. i mentioned some this morning. there are many more. here's just one additional example of how praise for judge gorsuch has bridged the political divide. despite their ideological differences, former colorado governor, bill reiter, a democrat and john southers, a
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republican agree judge gorsuch thub confirmed. they say his temperament and qualifications are beyond dispute. it is time they concluded this process to examine and exalt the characteristics of a judge that demonstrate he or she is scholarly, passionate and committed to the judge and dedicated to an a political judiciary. judge gorsuch fits that bill. it reminds us of what david frederick, a board member of the left-leaning american constitution society and long-term democrat recently said. the senate should confirm gorsuch because there is no principle reason to vote no. no principle reason to vote no. he's absolutely right. so it goes without saying that there's no principle reason to
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block an up-or-down vote on this qualified nominee either. i look forward to joining my senate colleagues in supporting judge gorsuch's nomination to the supreme court later this week. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. tester: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. tester: i ask that the committee on veterans affair be discharged from s. 5447 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: is there objection? the clerk will report. the clerk: a bill to amend the veterans accountability act to modify the termination date for
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the veterans choice bram and -- program and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. tester: i know of no further debate. the presiding officer: all those in favor saya. -- aaye. opposed say no. the ayes appear to have it. it is passed. mr. tester: madam president, i further ask that motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. tester: madam president, i want to thank senator moran and the members of the veterans' affairs committee for all their good work and also senator mccain for his good work, chairman johnny isakson, for his good work on this bill. this veterans choice improvement act is an important piece of legislation that will make sure
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that the veterans can access care in their communities. it is a critically important piece of legislation that we get done and get done now, and i think that this body could learn from the work that was done on the veterans' affairs committee under the leadership of chairman isakson for our veterans of this country. i don't think my home state of montana is any exception. veterans have been waiting far too long for an appointment at the v.a. and oftentimes had to drive 100 miles for an appointment and that is why we set up the choice program and unfortunately it did not work as it it should have and we were inundated with red tape. this veterans choice program improvement act is not the end all.
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it's not what's going to fix the choice program in its entirety, but it certainly is a step in the right direction, a step that needed to be taken and i commend the body for allowing this step to taken. with that, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: madam president, thank you very much. and i thank the senator from montana for his efforts to see that this legislation be passed. i'm pleased to see we have been joined in a unanimous way by the united states senate, democrats and republicans making sure that our veterans receive better care. i too want to thank, in addition to the senator from montana, i want to thank senator mccain, who is on the floor, the senator from air a, but chairman isakson in particular and his leadership in seeing that we are here to bring this legislation across
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the finish line. the house has passed legislation similar to this and so this is an opportunity for us to get an accomplishment, not for a pat on our backs, but for the improvement and care of those who served our nation. i asked this question on the senate floor before. who, of all the people in the united states would you expect to get the best care possible? and while we want every american to have high-quality care and access to medical treatment, we certainly want to make certain that those who served our country and to whom a commitment was made that they would receive care, we want that commitment fulfilled and we want it done in a way that is advantageus and easy for our veterans. the senator from montana is correct. the choice act -- the choice act is a significant improvement in my mind for accessing care. kansas is not quite as large as the state of montana, but we're a large rural state, and it is a
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long distance to a v.a. hospital so choice was brought into play to alleviate the backlog and the wait times that veterans receive, but also to try to satisfy the needs of veterans who live long distances from a v.a. facility. choice was in place, but it has been a difficult time for many veterans across the country and certainly at home. it's the most common conversation i have when i'm back in kansas. in fact, i had a town hall meeting in southwest kansas, in dodge city, people in the public forum will visit about problems with the v.a., particularly about choice, or they'll line up after or before that meeting to tell me in person that they need help. this legislation does really three significant things. and more is to come. we need a permanent act. this is an extension of the choice act that expires on
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august 7, and so continuing the program is the first step while we work out the desired outcome of a long-term permanent program. secondly, it provides the money through that period of time. it allows the expenditure of dollars to pay for choice. third, it eliminates the intermediary, somebody separate from the v.a. in paying the bill, and that reduces the bureaucracy snd burden on -- bureaucracy and burden on our veterans. i looked at what we call casework, what kansans bring to us to try and get solved. front and center are the number of veterans being harassed by collection agencies that should have been paid by the choice program and are not being paid in a timely fashion. this eliminates the manager of
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the program from paying the bill and restores that shorty for the v.a. to write out the check with the goal of reducing the bureaucracy for the veteran and reducing the timeliness for the payment that is due the health care provider, the doctor, the hospital, the pharmacy. as a rural american, many of our providers are struggling. hospital doors are a challenge to remain open in rural communities across my state. that long wait for a reimbursement check for services provided months ago also creates a problem for the hospital, that health care provider. timely payment will certainly benefit the veteran, but it also increases the chances of the stability of health care providers in my state and across the country. finally, it increases the ability for the sharing of medical records between the v.a. and that community health care provider. so choice is in place to help
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those veterans who need to have care more quickly and who need to have care closer to home. this bill improves that program and extends it and that's a significant development, and i appreciate the opportunity i've this to work with the senator from arizona, the senator from montana, the senator from georgia to make sure that we got to the point today. i appreciate my colleagues' unanimous support for the passage of this legislation. madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i want to thank the senator from kansas for all the hard work he has done. the senator from montana, on rare occasion when i come to praise him, i would like to give him my deep and heartfelt appreciation for his work in a bipartisan fashion on this issue, and i mean that with alls isty -- sincerity.
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i also thank senator isakson and i thank senator shulkin with the veterans' administration who has been an active and helpful participant in this measure. madam president, most everything has been said except i would like to remind my colleagues, we now have -- since the enactment in 2014 -- over seven million appointments have been made using the choice program and now over 30,000 appointments are made successfully each week under the choice program. the program is set to expire in a few months and as has been pointed out by my colleagues, the v.a. has limited care for pregnant mothers and cancer patients because their treatment would extend beyond august and soon all veterans would be kicked off the choice program. i would just like to point out to my colleagues, if i could,
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this crisis started in phoenix, arizona, where 15,000 veterans were put on a wait list and over 40 veterans died while awaiting care. 40 veterans died while awaiting care. that is not acceptable in this nation, and i believe the choice program is a major step forward. the truth is that the v.a. has a lot more to do to provide for the care that we have obligated this nation to on behalf of those who fought and sacrificed for our nation, but the choice card has made a major step forward. i hope we would consider making it -- removing any geographic or other limitations associated with it. but what the senator from kansas and the senator from montana have done today is to make sure that this program continues and why it's important to pass it today and so not one dollar that
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congress authorized to care for veterans under the choice program should go unused. madam president, i suggest -- well, let me just mention what we've done real quick. seven million additional appointments for veterans in their communities, over 1.5 million veterans have benefited from using the choice card they would not have had otherwise, 350,000 more doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistantses are available. 235,000 appointments through veterans choice, more than 10,000 per work day, the veterans choice program doubles the number of medical providers nationwide that treat veterans. in arizona 11,700 medical providers in veterans communities have treated over 100,000 disabled veterans. the veterans choice card is used at 700 hospitals and nearly 10,000 clinics nationwide.
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the western region is paying 90% more of veterans choice doctors in less than 30 days and answering 900,000 phone calls per month. over 3,000 veterans received hepatitis c treatment due to veteran choice funding. there is still kingston operation, there is still bottlenecks, there are still times where veterans are not timely and particularly their payment has not been done in a timely fashion. as the senator from kansas mentioned, that hopefully will change now. as with any program, it's had its difficulties in its beginning, but i want to tell my colleagues we should make the choice available for any veteran no matter where they happen to reside. that should be, i believe, the basis of our next effort, but in the meantime, i want to again thank the senator from kansas for his hard work.
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madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the
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quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: madam president, i wanted to come to the floor to talk about the important work for the senate this week now that we have -- the judiciary committee has voted judge neil gorsuch's nomination out of the committee and he's available for floor consideration. but i wanted to first extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of those tragically killed in an automobile crash near yivaldi, texas, last week. a bus carrying a group of 14 members from the first boot camp difficulty church in new braufels collided with a pickup truck on highway 83. 13 people were killed and two others, including the driver of the other vehicle, were injured. and you can imagine how heart breaking this has been to everyone involved. i can't begin to imagine the pain and the grief felt by the loved ones, their church family
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and the close-knit community of new braufels, texas, just north of san antonio. i had the opportunity to speak with the pastor of first baptist , pastor mclean, the day after the accident. he is leading his congregation and that community during this very difficult time. he is shepherding his flock, throw, with grace and strength. there's a phrase i'm reminded of in times like this after the terrible explosion in west texas. i had a county commissioner from that area tell me, he said being a texan doesn't describe where you're from. it describes who your family is, and today our family is mourning. but i know manufacture mclean and my fellow texans -- that all of my fellow texans and all americans really lift up this
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community in prayer along with their families and friends of those we lost. i'm grateful to the first responders and the medical professionals who were first to arrive at the scene of the accident and lend a hand to those in need. separately, madam president, as i have indicated, this is an important week for the american people. earlier today, the judiciary committee voted to send judge gorsuch's nomination to the senate floor for full consideration and later this week he will be confirmed as the next associate justice to the united states supreme court. for the past several weeks and through 20 grueling hours of questioning before the judiciary committee, judge gorsuch has proven to be one of the most qualified nominees to the court in modern history. republicans in the senate said we would give the american people a voice in who would select the next supreme court justice, and in a sense we had a
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referendum, whether it would be a nominee selected by donald trump or by hillary clinton, and on november 8, we saw the outcome of that election, and this week that referendum will be answered when the country will have its ninth justice on the supreme court. unfortunately, our democratic colleagues are doing their very best to decide that they should mount the first partisan filibuster of a supreme court nominee in american history. this is truly unprecedented. i know sometimes people want to talk about 1968 and the abe fortas nomination, but not even then was there a partisan filibuster that successfully blocked the confirmation of a supreme court justice. and what i'm talking about is blocking the ability to have an up-or-down vote. i'm not talking about how people vote on the confirmation vote. i'm talking about allowing us to have a vote, that up-or-down
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vote or denying it by virtue of the filibuster. i for one have been encouraged to see people from across the country speaking out and urge our colleagues to drop their obstruction and allow such an up-or-down vote on an incredibly qualified, up standing and brilliant judge. editorials from all over the country have registered their opposition to the idea of a filibuster and have done so rather bluntly. the "chicago tribune," for example, said neil gorsuch earns his supreme court seat. the boston harold says shame on the senate democrats. the government herald specifically said that those going along with the strategy were, quote, blindly partisan for whom any nomination made by president trump would never be qualified. "the denver post" in the home state of judge gorsuch urged
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senators to confirm judge gorsuch to the supreme court and specifically urged the senior senator from colorado, senator bennet, not to cooperate with this blind partisanship in this filibuster but rather to allow the judge an up-or-down vote on the senate floor. their editorial title made that much clear. they said michael bennet should buck democrats and speak up for neil gorsuch. the "billings gazette" in montana had this to say -- democrats refuse to rise above petty partisan politics. "the" richmond times dispatch"r" said his opposition to judge gorsuch suggests he can't come up with a reasonable defense to oppose the nomination, close quote. and finally in new hampshire, "the new hampshire union
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leader," in an editorial last week was entitled confirm gorsuch, dems plan pointless filibuster. pointless about sums it up. there is no doubt that judge gorsuch is qualified. he's received the highest rating from the american bar association that reportedly interviewed 500 leading lawyers and practitioners in the country, many of which senate democrats, and their grading system, the american bar association, has been called by many of our senate democrat colleagues as the gold standard when it comes to confirmation. and among the legal and local communities, judge gorsuch enjoys broad bipartisan support. but that seems to make no difference to our friends across the aisle who voted on a party-line vote not to send his nomination from the judiciary committee. of course they -- their minority position lost when the majority of the committee voted today to
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send that nomination to the floor. i can't help but think that they are in an unenviable position, torn by their desire to do what they know is the right thing when it comes to confirming a good judge and on the other hand being attacked by their own party's political base and telling them if they vote to confirm this judge, they are somehow going to suffer some political damage. of these newspapers i mentioned, not one of them endorsed donald trump for president, not one, but unlike some of our senate colleagues, they're able to distinguish between president trump and judge neil gorsuch. instead of using donald trump as a proxy not to vote to confirm neil gorsuch. these newspapers are urging senate democrats to drop this pointless filibuster because they understand that it will not be president trump we'll be voting on next week.
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it's judge neil gorsuch. and now after repeatedly moving the goal post for this nominee, my democratic friends are saying that he has to pass the, quote, traditional threshold of 60 votes. well, that's a madeup standard, madam president. throughout our nation's history, the senate has not had a tradition of filibustering judges. it was a strategy cooked up by senator schumer, laurence tribe from harvard law school and other liberal activists to try to block president george w. bush's judges when he was president of the united states. so there is no 60-vote threshold in senate tradition in the united states senate. actually, there have only been four cloture votes for supreme court nominee, only four, and none of them were a partisan filibuster that actually succeeded in blocking an up-or-down vote for the nominee.
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one of the newspaper fact checks concluded with this. they said there is no traditional 60-vote standard or rule for supreme court nominations, no matter how much or how often democrats claim otherwise. madam president, this should be a time where the senate should come together in a bipartisan fashion and do what it is supposed to do when we receive the nomination of such a highly qualified person. judge gorsuch has won bipartisan approval. people across the country understand that, as do a number of independent democrats here in the senate, and they understand the dangerous path the minority leader is setting us and them on. unfortunately, the democratic leader wants to mount the first successful partisan filibuster of a supreme court nominee in our history, but i would point out that no republican, no republican senator in the senate has ever voted to filibuster a supreme court nominee, including
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those nominated by democratic presidents. as a matter of fact, justice clarence thomas was confirmed with 52 votes. if the threshold were really 60, then he would not currently be serving on the supreme court of the united states, and even such polar opposites as justice scalia and justice ginsburg were confirmed by virtually unanimous votes because people understood that once the president was elected, that the president's choice should matter and the senate should not artificially try to lift up the 60-vote threshold in order to block effectively the will of the voters in choosing the president. a few years ago when we considered the nominations of justice sotomayor and justice kagan, we gave both nominees a simple up-or-down vote. so our friends across the aisle have a simple but very important decision to make. they can listen to the extremist groups on the left that are urging them to resistal all
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costs -- resist at all costs, or they can assert some of their independence. as of today, several of our democratic colleagues have done exactly that, and i congratulate them. senator heitkamp, senator manchin and senator donnelly have said they will assert their prerogative as senators to allow an up-or-down vote for this nominee and actually vote for them. i hope they stand firm, but i hope more importantly more of their colleagues will demonstrate the same sort of independence from the radical base of the democratic party that says no to everything that this president does. and i hope they at least afford judge gorsuch an up-or-down vote. because, madam president, if democrats successfully block judge gorsuch, there is literally no nominee from this president that they won't block, plain and simple. so as we've been saying, judge gorsuch will be confirmed at the end of this week, but it's up to the democrats as to how that
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happens. madam president, i yield the floor. i'd suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer:? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. a senator: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are, senator. mr. flake: i ask unanimous consent it be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection flk from the time he was nominated and will -- i will continue to do till he's confirmed, i rides to support the nomination of neil gorsuch to serve on the supreme court. judge gorsuch is an accomplished mainstream jurist.
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mr. flake: i look forward to making sure he can receive a vote here on the senate floor. in the weeks since his nomination, i've spoken at length about his qualifications to serve on the supreme court. i've recognized him as a conservative champion of religious liberty, a defender of the separation of powers, and a westerner who will bring some much needed diversity, geographic diversity and a regional perspective to the court. during his confirmation hearing before the senate judiciary committee, judge gorsuch showed the country what it means to be a judge. big or small, popular or unpopular, powerful or powerless, judge gorsuch promised to render judgments based on the facts of the case, nothing else. he also has a remarkable record of respectful cooperation with judges appointed by presidents of both parties. during his decade-long tenure on the tenth circuit court of appeals, judge gorsuch
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participated in more than 2700 appeals. these comprised of some of the most difficult cases across six states. of those cases, 97% of them were decided unanimously, 97%. and judge gorsuch was in the majority 99% of the time. he was in the majority on those cases 99% of the time. this is a testament to judge gorsuch's ability to consider other points of view and to seek out consensus where possible. to try to paint judge gorsuch as an ideologue simply doesn't work. these are essential qualities for any perspective supreme court justice. madam president, now that we have reported judge gorsuch out of committee as of today, i'd like to say a few words on the obstacles that stand in the way of him being considered here on the senate floor. as we proceed with judge
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gorsuch's confirmation, i'd like to explain my support for confirming in light of what transpired in the waning months of the previous administration. for nearly 230 years presidents have been making nominations to the supreme court. according to the congressional research service, quote, from the appointment of the first judges or justices in 18 -- i'm sorry, in 1789 through its consideration of nominee alaina kagan in 2010, the senate has confirmed 124 supreme court nominations out of 160 received. he would like to reiterate that number. of 160 supreme court nominations in our nation's history, 124 were confirmed. the congressional research service goes on to state that, quote, of the 36 nominations which are not confirmed, 11 were rejected outright in a roll call vote by the senate while nearly all of the rest in the face of
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substantial committee or senate opposition to the nominee or the president, they were withdrawn by the president or were postponed, tabled, or never voted on by the senate. madam president, the manner in which the senate decides to provide its constitutional advice and consent to presidential nominations has varied over the centuries with respect to nominations. this includes decisions not to take up supreme court nominees. as jonathan abner put it in his article in the george mason law review, quote, much as the senate may reject a legislative proposal that originated in the house of representatives by voting it down, killing it in committee, or simply refusing to take up the measure, the senate may withhold its consent by voting against confirmation of a nominee, rejecting the nominee in committee, or simply refusing to act. is refusing to act the preferred
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outcome? i certainly see where some would say no as would i. however, the history of the senate demonstrates that to do otherwise in similar circumstances as we just experienced is in fact a rare exception. to cite the law review article again, he state, quote, the last time the supreme court vacancy arose in the calendar year of a presidential election and was filled prior to the election was in 1932. so when president obama nominated judge merrick garland to the supreme court in the heat of the 2016 presidential election, i -- when he was nominated, i understand the frustration of those on the other side of the aisle over the fate of that nomination. i met judge garland. he is a good man and a good judge. but the decision by the majority not to take up judge garland's
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nomination was not inconsistent with the long-standing practice of filling supreme court vacancies after elections. this brings us today to why i'm supporting -- confirming judge gorsuch to the supreme court. there is no question about the appropriateness of confirming supreme court nominees during the first years of a president's term let alone the first three months. in fact, there is absolutely no justification for filibustering a highly qualified supreme court nominee put forward by the president that was just elected. that is just unprecedented. there was an attempt to use this tactic in 2006 with justice samuel alito's nomination to the supreme court, but he garnered sufficient bipartisan support so that cloture was invoked. today it appears we will not enjoy that same rational
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support. my preference would be to change the behavior of senators rather than change the rules of the senate. but here we are where a nominee who would have received unanimous or near unanimous support just a few years ago is about to be filibustered. my question is this. if we can't confirm a judge like judge gorsuch under contemporary use of senate rules, who can we confirm? it looks as if we'll move forward later this week and make the rest of the executive calendar subject to the same simple majority threshold. again, a change in senate rules is not my preferred outcome, but this rule change -- this rule change will simply make deviewer what was defacto prior to 2003 when filibusters were virtually never used on the president's executive calendar.
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now, i want to make clear my steadfast support to preserve the legislative filibuster. we need to distinguish here between the president's executive calendar that has traditionally never been filibustered or subject to filibuster and the legislative filibuster that is used frequently here to ensure that we work across the aisle. the framers of our constitution had the wisdom to create a senate with a strong minority to serve as a check on runaway power. if we were to eliminate the legislative filibuster, we would cease to be that check and indeed the senate would cease to be the senate. madam president shes we have a -- madam president, we have a qualified mainstream jurist before us. that is judge gorsuch. i encourage all of my colleagues to give him their consideration and to advance his nomination to an up-or-down vote. i'll be voting to confirm him
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and i urge my colleagues to do the same. i yield back the balance of my time. madam president, i have one request for committees to meet before today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the minority and majority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted mr. flake: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mrs. mccaskill: is there a quorum call, mr. president? the presiding officer: there is. mrs. mccaskill: i would ask it can set aside. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mrs. mccaskill: mr. president, today -- the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mrs. mccaskill: thank you. today i rise asking my colleagues to support the bill in front of us, senate bill number 89 which will allow the historic delta queen paddle wheeler to return to operation on the mississippi and ohio rivers. this bill is supported by the national trust for historic
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preservation, the seafarers international union along with a whole lot of excited people that live in kimswick, missouri, where this boat will have its home base. the delta queen is an important piece of history. the vessel connects us to a time before railroads and highways when rivers were key arteries of travel commerce in this country. it was first placed on the national register of historic places in 1970 and designated as a national historic landmark in 1989. its steel hull was originally built in pieces in scotland and assembled in california in 1946 until the beginning of world war ii when it ferried passengers between sacramento and san francisco. during the war, she was acquired by the u.s. navy to support their operations in the san francisco bay. following the war, she was brought to cincinnati where she took passengers up and down the river system for the next 60 years.
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three different united states presidents have sailed on the delta queen. herbert hoover, missouri's own harry truman, and jimmy carter. in fact, president carter went on a week long campaign tour on the vessel in 1979 along the upper mississippi. for years this vessel was home ported in cincinnati and later used as a hotel in chattanooga. should the bill before us be enacted, the delta queen will be home ported in kimiswick, missouri, south of st. louis. its operations will create more than 170 jobs and economic impact of more than $36 million, which is a big impact for one boat in a small community. the bill before the senate today would reinstate the exemption the delta queen repeatedly received in the past. when it was grandfathered from regulations that occurred in 1966 which prevented wooden boats from having passengers overnight. congress repeatedly renewed this
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waiver from 1968 to 2008, recognizing these regulations were primarily designed for ships on the high seas and this ship was a link to an important time period in american history. over the 40 years the delta queen had its exemption, it operated without incident. but the exemption was allowed to expire in 2008, and senate bill 89 as a new number of safety provisions as a condition of a waiver making it a very strong improvement. i won't go through the list of safety requirements contained in this legislation, but suffice it to say that they must alter the boat, they must protect the engine and boiler systems with nonflammable materials, they must receive special training. the owner cannot avoid any liability, can nos disclaim any liability for crew and
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passengers, injury or death. the coast guard has to conduct an annual audit and inspection of the vessel. in order to receive the waiver, the vessel must have the boilers and generators that meet current coast guard standards which means the owners of the boat are going to invest millions in bringing up to the safety standards that are necessary in today's -- for today's traveling public. it has to have noncombustible enclosures equipped with fire suppression systems and multiple forms of egress provided off the vessel's bow and stern. it is also reiterating in this legislation the coast guard has the authority to immediately withdraw certification of inspection for failure to comply with any requirement under this bill. in addition to other penalties permitted by law. in short, mr. president, we have taken important steps to make this historic piece of riverboat history, make it safe, to make it safe for the traveling public.
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and frankly, i think people need to remember the lengths we go to restore and preserve historic buildings in this country. we don't make them tear them down. we make them comply with certain safety standards, but we treasure the fact that we are saving historic buildings all over this country. well, this is saving an historic vessel. it is very important that we save this vessel not only for what it represents to our country, but also what it means in jobs and economic activity to an important area of the state that i love to call home. i want to thank senators brown, senators blunt, senators boozman, cassidy, cotton, kennedy and portman who joined me in introducing this legislation, and chairman thune and ranking member nelson who have been so helpful in moving it through the commerce committee. i know it is a phrase we like to use around here, and sometimes it's not true, but this really is a bipartisan effort. this really is people coming
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together with common sense to put a boat back on the river that means a lot to history, means a lot to the traveling public, and, frankly, uses common sense in addressing safety concerns that are necessary because of the historic nature of the boat. i would ask that all my colleagues support this bill and return the delta queen to her rightful place on the mighty mississippi. thank you, mr. president. and i yield. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: without objection, the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. a senator: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be lifted are. the presiding officer: without objection. all time has expired. the clerk will read the bill for the third time. the clerk: calendar no. 18, s. 89, a bill to amend title 46,
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a united states code to exempt vessels for inland waterways. the presiding officer: the question is on passage of the bill much. a senator: mr. president, i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second. there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: all senators voted? any senator wish to change their vote? on this vote the ayes are 85. the nays are 12. the bill is passed. under the previous order the senate will proceed to executive session to consider calendar number 24 which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of homeland security, elaine c. duke of virginia to be deputy secretary of homeland security. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. a senator: mr. president, 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 objection. a senator: mr. president, i rise today in support of elaine duke's nomination to be the
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seventh deputy secretary for the department of homeland security. mr. johnson: the dependty searches at the chief operating officer of the federal government's third largest agency. the deputy manages 240,000 men and women responsible for securing our borders and aviation system, enforcing immigration laws, defending cyberspace, preparing for disasters, assisting in counterterrorism efforts, and preventing terrorist attacks. in short, the deputy is critically important to our homeland security. on march 15, miss duke was approved by the senate committee on homeland security and government affairs by voice vote. she has overwhelming bipartisan support. i want to remind everyone of miss duke's qualifications and particularly her dedication to public service through both republican and democratic
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administrations. miss duke is no stranger to this body. in 2008, she was confirmed by voice vote to be the department's under secretary for management. as a testament to her character and dedication, she was asked by president obama to stay on when he came into office. she served in the obama administration for a year and a half before retiring from federal service. in total miss duke has been a public servant for 28 years. it is also noteworthy that miss duke has been endorsed by each of the last five department of homeland security deputy secretaries from both democratic and republican administrations. this is what they had to say about her. quote, for this job the nation needs someone with impeccable integrity, strong management and leadership skills, and experience in protecting the safety, sciewsht, and -- security and resilience of our nation. this person must be able to collaborate routinely and ensure
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that every congressional appropriated dollar is well and wisely spent. together we respectfully attest that elaine's extraordinarilily well qualified to serve in the position for which he has now been nominated. elaine knows d.h.s. she's been a senior leader at d.h.s. under two presidents. she sets an unwavering standard for excellence for all who consider themselves committed to public service, unquote. as chairman of the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, i worked hard to move 30 of president obama's nominees through the committee on a bipartisan basis. i am pleased that we will be sending to d.h.s. a career public servant who's experience -- whose experience and management skills will immediately assist secretary kelly to defend our homeland. for the sake of our national and homeland security, i encourage my colleagues to support miss duke's nomination to be the next deputy secretary of the department of homeland security. now, mr. president, i'd like to
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use my remaining time to voice my strong support of judge gorsuch's nomination to the supreme court. let me stress judge gorsuch. judge gorsuch won my vote when i first heard his definition of the role of a judge. let me quote. it is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people's representatives. a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge. stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands. that, mr. president, is the quintessential definition of the role of a judge. i met with judge gorsuch last tuesday morning, and in that meeting he further reinforced my support. i asked judge gorsuch and voiced my concern that far too often we've seen judges evolve into super legislators, judicial activists on the court.
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and i asked judge, how can i be assured that that won't happen with you. to paraphrase his response to me, he said, senator, i'm going to follow the law. you are not going to like some of my decisions. mr. president, that was music to my ears. i realize there's a lot of bad law, and we have a judge that follows the law that applies it. sometimes i'm not going to like those decisions but that is okay. that is the role of a judge. he went on to say, i'm not itching to be anything other than a good judge. he further said that legislative power cannot be delegated. judge gorsuch gave me a great deal of confidence that he is well qualified and that he deserves to fill some pretty big shoes to fill, justice scalia's seat on the supreme court. but it's not just me that considers judge gorsuch well qualified. the a.b.a. has given judge
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gorsuch their well qualified rating which is the highest possible rating. and of course democratic leader schumer in a "washington post" article from march 18, 2001, said that the a.b.a.'s evaluation, quote, is the gold standard by which judicial candidates are judged. vice president biden back in 1994 talking about the a.b.a.'s rating system said, i look at no other recommendation more closely. i value no recommendation more highly. so if the a.b.a. says judge gorsuch is highly qualified, then i agree. judge gorsuch also has bipartisan support. i'm heartened by the fact that three of our democrat colleagues here in the senate have already voiced their support for judge gorsuch and, of course, president obama's solicitor general neal katyal also said, judge gorsuch is one of the most thoughtful and brilliant judges
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to have served our nation over the last century. as a judge, he has always put aside his personal views to serve the rule of law. to boot, as those of us who have worked with him can attest, he is a wonderfully decent and humane person. i strongly support his nomination not supreme court. now again, that is a quote from president obama's solicitor general. mr. president, my final comment has to do with the fact that this is the will of the american people. in my lifetime, i really cannot remember when a presidential election elevated the issue of supreme court nominations to as high a level as it was elevated in this election. as a matter of fact, this election point-blank elevated this particular vacancy, as so many of my republican colleagues said exactly what i said, so close to an election. why don't we let the american people decide, not only the direction of this country but
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the composition of the supreme court. and, mr. president, the american people spoke. the voters who in my state of wisconsin spoke. they voted -- the 10 electoral votes in support of president trump and they voted to elect me to confirm president trump's nominee to this supreme court vacancy. so i believe it is our duty to listen to the voices of the voters, of the american people, the voters of wisconsin. i am a hoping that my -- i am a he hoping that -- i'm hoping that the junior senator from wisconsin will listen to the voices of wisconsin voters and vote at least for cloture. maybe you don't have to vote for confirmation, but let's vote for cloture so that this good, kind, decent, humane, well-qualified judge, judge neil gorsuch will be the next supreme court justice of the united states. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. gardner: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: thank you, mr. president. i thank my colleague from wisconsin nor his remarks -- for his remarks on judge gorsuch. i look forward to this debate this week as we work to confirm judge gorsuch to the united states supreme court. this evening i come to the floor to talk about another important issue that's happening this week, that is the u.s.-china relationship that will be highlighted this week as president trump prepares to meet with president xi for the first time later in week. this presents a tremendous opportunity for president trump to expressly state our hope for the relationship but also elucidating the valid concerns and questions we have about some of china's policies and its future directions. i'm also leading a bipartisan letter with senator schatz, and i hope my completion will join me in -- my colleagues will join me in expressing our thoughts
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about this relationship. this relationship is the most consequential relationship in the world and we must get it right. beijing must also get it right. so today i will address it what i hope president trump will focus on in his conversation with president trump xi and also outline a legislative initiative that i am leading in congress to strengthen our policies in the asia pacific region. i believe the most urgent crisis is the coming crisis on the north korean peninsula. north korea conducted a staggering 24 nuclear missile launches. he is committed to launching his missile program with one goal if mind: to deliver a nuclear warhead tosyl, and to the united states. president trump has said that the united states will not athrough to happen. however, the road to stopping pyongyang undoubtedly lies through beijing. beijing is the reason the regime acts so boldly and with relative
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few consequence consequences. china is the only country with the ability to put the squeeze on the north korean regime. while the united states argues over measures resolve, china must lay how the a transparent path forward on how they will work to denuclearize north korea. for our part, president trump must lay how the a simple calculus for president xi. the united states will lay out every military tool otoour disposal to protect our allies. china has athe responsibility globally to do the same. as part of the our toolbox, the administration should tell china it will now significantly ramp up the sanctions track. last congress i led the north korea policy and sanctions enhancement act which passed the senate by a vote of 96-0. this legislation was the first stand-alone legislation in congress regarding north korea to impose mandatory sanctions on the regime's proliferation activities, human rights violations, and malicious cyber
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behavior. the administration must fully enforce this legislation, including imposing secondary sanctions on any chinese entities that are aiding pyongyang. in addition, china must faithfully implement all united nations security council resolutions with regard to north korea, particularly resolutions 270 and 2321 negotiated last year which require china to drastically reduce coal imports from north korea. china's record in this regard has been lackluster so far. china should not being complicit in the labor abuses of pyongyang and shut off avenues of cyber attack as well that are being perpetrated. two weeksing it was a dole thatp administration rightfully rejected. we should let beijing know that the united states will negotiate with pyongyang at the expense of the security of our allies.
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beaver moreover, before any talks, we must demand that pyongyang must meet the commitments it had already agreed to and subsequently chose to discard. president trump should condemn the economic pressure exerted by beijing with seoul over the deployment of the terminal high-altitude defense on south korean are territory. thaad is a defensive system that no way threatens china and beijing knows this. president trump should indicate to president xi that a denuclearized korean peninsula is in both nations' interest. beijing must be made to choose whether wants to work with the united states to stop the mad man in pyongyang or bear and acknowledge the consequences of keeping him in power. another looming crisis in u.s.-china relations is the escalation of tension in the east and south china seas. china's actions in the east china sea are contrary to international law, posing an increased risk of future
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conflict and necessitate a strong u.s. and regional response. their actions seem at odds with their words. china has declared an illegitimate air defensic zone in the east china sea and has dramatically expanded its land reclamation activities in the south china sea and has added a military element to it. since 2013 according to the department of defense be, china has reclaimed over 3,200 acres of artificial features in the south china sea. on july 12, 2016, an international tribunal in the hague ruled that china violated the sovereignty in the philippines. since 2015, china has also built facilities with potential military uses on the artificial islands including three airstrips, two more than 10,000 feet long and one nearly,000 feet long. hangars that request shelter jet fighters, antiair craft batteries and structures that could house surface-to-air missiles. this last week the center for international and strategic
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initiatives reported dual use infrastructure on the big three. reefs. beijing can now deploy military assets according to amt including combat aircraft to the spratly islands at any time. the united states must have consistent and assertive diplomatic engagement with china to reinforce that these rogue activities fall outside international norms. the u.s. defense posture in this region should remain exactly what secretary of defense ashton carter said in singapore on may 30, 2015. i quote secretary carter, the united states will fry, sail, and operate wherever international law allows as u.s. force dozen all over the world. america, alongside its partners in the regional architecture will not be deterred from exercising these rights, the rights of all nations.
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a consistent, deliberate, and assertive policy to do just that is imperative for the united states. during the upcoming summit, i hope that president trump can set an agenda for positive economic engagement with china and recognize that this is a two-way street. as the top two economies in the world, our nations are inextricably linked and we must tip to build a trade partnership that benefits the u.s., our companies, and u.s. exporters. however, this engagement also means ensuring that china plays fair. first and foremost, china must stop its state-sponsored and state-endorsed theft of foreign international property. according to a report by a commission chaired by the former u.s. commander of pacific command and john huntman, the theft of international property is estimated at over $300 billion annually and china ask thes for about 50% to 80% of that amount. china must understand that this behavior with regard to the massive and well-documented
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theft international property is antithetical to international norms. china needs significant improvement to its legal system and to further open its economy to foreign and private investment. chairman must understand that new regulations that seek to discriminate against american companies, antimarket policies that favor state-owned enterprises, lack of transparency, and other policies that create and uneven playing field for the united states and our enterprises in china are not acceptable and that these protectionist behaviors will only further isolate china or hurt the global competitiveness if they are adopted globally as they seek to engage further in the world's economy. while many american firms still look to china as a top priority to grow and suck teed in the global marketplace, without tangible economic and legal reforms in china -- within china, fear that these opportunities will be more limited in the future and seriously jeopardize the bilateral commercial relations between our two nations. but if beijing changes course, the upside of these reforms for
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china and the united states can be enormous. a pillar of any nation that seeks a prosperous future and a future with a strong relationship with the united states must be international freedoms. as president kennedy once stated, the rights of every man are did he minutished when the rights of one man are threatened. president trump should heed president kennedy's wise words and raise china's deplorable human rights record with president xi. chinese authorities are intensifying human rights abuses and cracking down on civil society. according to the state department's 2015 human rights report on china, and i quote the report, repression and keyerings markedly increased during the year against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest and ethnic minority issues. according to the 2015 -- to the state department's 2015 international religious freedom report on china, over this past year, there continued to be reports that the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison or harassed adherence of both registered and unregistered
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ridge groups for activities related to their beliefs and practices. we simply cannot and will not accept this type of behavior from a nation that wants to be thought of as a genuine global partner of the united states. i believe that china's rise cannot only be peaceful but that can only be peaceful and balanced with a vigorous united states presence in the asia pacific -- in the asia pacific region u last may while attending the shangri-la dialogue, i heard concern from the top leaders about the u.s. presence in the region and our commitment to remaining engaged in this part of the world. the president trump is inheriting a flawed policy from the previous administration which was right in rhetoric but ultimately came up short in meaningful african americans the new administration and the new congress usheredders in a new era of opportunities with regard to u.s. policy toward asia. but despite the political changes in washington, u.s. policy imperatives will remain the same.
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the asia pacific region has been and will be crucial, critical touses economic and security interests for generations to come. by 2050, experts estimate that asia will account for over half the global population and half of the world's gross domestic product. we cannot ignore the fundamental fact that this region is critical for the u.s. economy to grow and to create jobs through export opportunities. last week i had a committee hearing with ambassador -- the former ambassador to south korea and randy forbes, congressman randy forbes. in his -- in randy forbes' testimony, he also expressed the importance of this region, the asia pacific, in these terms. in the coming decades, this is the region where the largest armies in the world will camp. this is the region where the most powerful navies in the world will gather. this is the region where over one half of the world's commerce will take place and two-thirds will travel.
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this is the region where a mare superhighway trag porting good or bad things linking the indian subcontinent, southeast asia and the united states begins. this is the region where five of mesh's seven defense treaties is locate. this is the region where two superpowers will compete to determine which world order will prevail. this this is the region where the seeds of conflict that could most ungulf the world will probably be planted. this is why i'm pursuing legislation called the asia reassurance initiative act. aria, a new approach that will put american interests first by reassuring our allies, deterring adversaries and securing u.s. leadership in the world. aria will pursue three broad goals. it will strengthen u.s. security interests to our allies and build partner capacity in the asia-pacific to deter aggression and combat terrorism. to do so, the aria legislation will authorize funds to bolster
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u.s. military presence in the region, grow partner nation maritime capabilities to deter aggression in their territorial waters and build new counterterrorism programs in southeast asia to combat the growing presence of isis and other terrorist organizations. aria will enshrine a policy of regularly enforcing u.s. freedom of navigation and overflight rights in the china seas. we will reaffirm treaty alignses with australia and japan. we will unequivocally back our ally taiwan including authorizing new arms sales and provide for enhanced diplomatic contacts with taipei. second, aria will promote economic engagement in securing u.s. market access as essential elements for growth of the u.s. economy and success of american businesses. to do so, it will require that the trump administration find new and innovative ways to economically engage the region. we will require the united states government to enhance our trade facilitation efforts and
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increase opportunities for u.s. businesses to find new exphort markets in the asia-pacific. it will mean more good-paying jobs at home, a great situation for this country. third, it will enshrine promotion of democracy, human rights and transparency as key u.s. policy objectives in the asia-pacific region, particularly in southeast asia. from manila to rangoon we should advocate for policies that advocate transparency as elements for partnership with the united states. to inform this initiative i met with numerous key stakeholders in congressened a the administration and i'm holding a series of hearings in the subcommittee, the first of which took place last week. i look forward to working with the congress and all of our colleagues as we work to advance this initiative and welcome the input of our colleagues as well. there is no doubt that the rise of china over the last 30-plus years has been remarkable. china has lifted 500 million people from poverty since
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premier shaw ping began economic reforms. in that time our relationship with china has emerged with perhaps the world's most important bilateral relationship from an economic and security per spick -- perspective. i believe it's in the national security and economic interests of the united states between both nations, the importance of this relationship can make a significant difference for the world. while the united states can and should seek to engage china, we must do so with a clear vision of what we want from beijing not just over the next four years, but also over the next 40 years. so it is my sincere hope that president trump leads with this sense of strategy and purpose when he meets the president later this week. i thank you for the floor. i nope my colleague from -- i know my colleague from ohio joined us and i want to express my appreciation to my colleague from ohio for his leadership on
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a number of issues including the opioid issue. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: i want to thank my colleague from ohio. he does chair a subcommittee that i am part of. we had a great hearing last week talking about china and the south china sea issues. we did talk about north korea and the need for the summit between president chi and president trump talking about how china could be more constructive including additional sanctions on north korea to try to get pressure on north koreans to do the right thing and back off their nuclear program. we also talked about trade and this level playing field we need in trade, particularly allowing u.s. companies to be able to have the ability to do what chinese companies can do in this country. you mentioned the issue of opioids, there is another topic i hope president trump will raise with president chi and that is this issue of synthetic
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heroin being produced in china which comes into our communities. in denver, colorado or in which columbus, ohio, we have through the mail system poisons coming in, synthetic heroin coming in through the mail in china. most of these laboratories we're told by law enforcement officials are in china. these are evil scientists in china who are making this incredibly potent, dangerous drug, 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. three flakes of it can kill you. they're sending it into our communities by the mail. it's a topic that i hope comes up in addition to the very important ones that you raised and we talked about in the hearing last week which is how do you get china to crack down on these laboratories and how do you get them to schedule these drugs so they're illegal in china, to ensure that the inputs into the laboratories and the final drug itself. by the way, the chinese should have a strong interest in this because i'll guarantee you there are people in china who are also becoming addicted to opioids because of this inexpensive, incredibly dangerous synthetic
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heroin being promoted by these chinese scientists. so my hope is that this will be a successful summit and that among the very important issues that are raised is this opioid issue which is so important to our communities. mr. president, i also want to talk briefly if i could about the legislation we just passed. it's s. 89 about the delta queen. the delta queen is a wooden ship that is very important to my community of cincinnati. it's part of our queen city heritage. it was actually in cincinnati during my childhood, and from 1946 until 1985, it called cincinnati home. and it's a beautiful paddle wheeler and people love to get on it and go down the mississippi river. it's no longer docked in cincinnati, which is why the folks in missouri were interested in this legislation tonight too. we just had a big vote, over 80 votes in favor of simply saying for the first time since 2008 let's allow people to spend the night ton this boat and go overnight on this boat despite
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the fact that there is legislation called the 1966 safety at sea law which prohibits wooden boats of a certain size from carrying overnight passengers. let's make an exception here because the delta queen is willing to undergo the kind of renovations necessary to make it safe. it also requires new safety requirements for the delta queen going forward. and so i really appreciate the fact that this vote was taken tonight. it is about a treasured part of the history. it's also about the economy because it will produce tourism and economic advancements along the river everywhere it stops including in my hometown of cincinnati where we're going to welcome the delta queen back if this legislation can be enacted into law. it's going over to the house. we're hoping the house will do as the senate did tonight and pass this legislation. this is my button. it says save the delta queen that i'm not permitted to wear on the floor of the senate because of the rules. it doesn't mean that i don't care. i thank my colleagues tonight for helping us to be able to get this legislation through.
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finally, mr. president, i want to talk briefly about the nomination that's coming before us this week, and this is for elaine duke to be the deputy homeland security secretary. this is an incredibly important job. some of you remember the homeland security department was made up of 23 agencies coming together and the job of deputy secretary is the key job to try to manage all that. we're fortunate that elaine duke is willing to step forward and take on this responsibility. my hope is that we'll get a bipartisan vote here on the floor of the senate for her confirmation and that we do it quickly this week, because they need her there. she came before our committee of homeland security and governmental affairs last month. we had a very productive hearing. i had the honor of introducing her to the committee because she has ohio roots. we're very proud of those ohio roots. she has a long distinguished career all across the country in the federal government, but she still calls ohio home and much of her family continues to reside in ohio. her dad, frank is the first
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generation american. still lives until cleveland, ohio. i know her uncle, dominic for over 25 years. he's a friend and a neighbor and he's very proud of his niece, as is her whole family. this family instilled in her a midwestern work ethic that you see in her great work she has done in the federal government over the past really 28 years, as she worked as a senior member of various administrations. we're really fortunate that she is willing to now continue to serve. she started her career as a gs-7 contract specialist for the u.s. air force. over the next 28 years she assumed bigger responsibilities at the air force, the navy, the federal bureau administration, the smithsonian and finally the department of homeland security. in 2008 she was confirmed unanimously by this senate to serve as the under secretary for management at d.h.s. and in this latest role, she was the key member of d.h.s.
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leadership team for a number of secretaries. secretary chertoff, secretary napolitano, and they strongly support her. she earned a reputation for being an expert on acquisitions, on procurement, on property management, organizal change, human resources; all of these, as i said earlier, are key issues now at the department of homeland security so it can be managed better to be able to protect all of us. and serving in these administrations, republican and democrat, she did earn the respect of folks fromming -- from both sides of the aisle. all five previously confirmed d.h.s. deputy secretaries unanimously and strongly recommended her confirmation, all five of the previously confirmed ones mplets they said in their letter elaine is qualified for the position for which she has been nominated. she has been a senior leader at d.h.s. under two presidents she sets a standard for all those who are committed. i look forward to having this vote.
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i hope we'll have a resounding support on a bipartisan basis for the nomination. secretary kelly is doing a good job. general kelly is, has got an incredibly distinguished career. we're fortunate he stepped up as secretary also. but he needs her. he needs this deputy in place to help him run this department and the men and women serving the d.h.s. today need her on the job. thank you, mr. president. i yield back my time.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: senate majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. the senator is recognized. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that when the senate completes its business today it adjourn till 10:00 a.m. tuesday, april 4. 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 morning business be closed. further, following leader remarks, the senate resume executive session to consider
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the nomination of elaine duke with the time until noon equally divided in the usual form. further, at noon the senate vote on confirmation of the duke nomination with no intervening action or debate. finally, that following the disposition of the duke nomination, the senate recess until 2:15. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: if there's no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order. the presiding officer: the senate stands adjourned till senate stands adjourned till >> the senate wraps up their work for the day, passing a bill that would grant safety extensions to the delta queen riverboat. allowing them to return to overnight past passenger service since the first time since 2008. the senate will double back in at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
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they're under the consideration of healing duke it to be deputy homeland security secretary. the nomination of judge neil gorsuch later in the week, will have live coverage of the senate when they return tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. off the floor, the senate judiciary committee met for some five hours approving the nomination of judge neil gorsuch, the votes in the judiciary committee was 11 - 9. a headline and roll call says it all now, it's official. filibuster of neil gorsuch starts nuclear option clock. reading that article the author points out that senator chris coons was the 41st senator of delaware became in the 41st senator to announce his decision to cut off to consider the nomination. we also heard from senator lindsey graham, member of the committee talked about his reasons for supporting judge or such. here's what he had to say. >> i'm a republican, i'm
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partisan at times, like all of us. i have tried to play it fair when it came to the court. i tried to honor elections regardless of whether or not the person i voted for one and i have not voted for anybody who is one in 12 years. so, do not follow my political advice as to who to vote for. but, i do believe i am following the constitution when i voted for soto myron kagan and the traditions that had been in existence for 200 years. antonin scalia got 98 votes, souter got 90, clearance, 52 - 48. ginsburg 46 coul 4696. robert 78, alito 58, elena kagan, 63. this will be the last person
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that will be subject to a filibuster, which was in effect in 1948. the senate traditions are going to change over this man based on the times in which we live. i find it ironic and sad that we are going to change the rules over somebody who has lived such a good life. who has been such a good law judge for such a long time, it says more about the senate than it does judge a course which. >> at the senate judiciary committee earlier today voted 1n of judge or such. they're likely to begin to liberation tomorrow with a final vote on the nomination likely by friday. we're going to show you at 8:00 p.m. eastern


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