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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  April 4, 2019 10:59am-1:00pm EDT

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think what happened yesterday was a good sign for its future. >> host: is there a worse case scenario that you can see? >> guest: i mean, it depends on your perspective, but i do think that the chances that we get to another time of unified party control, whichever party is in power will be under a lot of pressure to eliminate the legislative filibuster in order to accomplish certain policy goals. we have seen this already the question that democratic presidential candidates are being asked about on the campaign trail, when they say or get rid of the filibuster in 2021? i think we'll just have to keep watching and see what happens. >> host: our guests as a whole book dedicated to the topic of the senate filibuster it's the exception to thef rule, the politics of filibuster limitation in the u.s. senate. that is molly reynolds from brookings institution joining us to talk about these changes from yesterday. thanks for your time. >> guest: thank you.
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>> and the senate continues today with the newly shortened the confirmation process for certain nominees starting today with the nomination of vice president pence is chief economist to head the federal housing finance agency. also senators will vote at 11:4e to two hours. there were also put on the confirmation of the nominee for u.s. district court judge for the southern district of florida. my senate coverage is here on c-span2. -- my senate coverage will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. o lord, and ruler, your name is great and we see your glory in the heavens. we're grateful for this nation
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and for the deliberative process of lawmaking with its challenges and opportunities. as our senators debate the issues that are vital to our freedom, give them wisdom, integrity, and courage. lord, let them be fully persuaded in their minds about the course that will best bless america. deliver them from a reluctance to respect honest differences as they remember their ultimate accountability to you. bless and keep them, now and always.
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we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in the pledge of allegiance. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of americ, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the chair recognizes the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: yesterday the senate took an important step to restore sense and order to the way we approach the executive calendar. it's one of this body's most important responsibilities, and yet it's been hampered recently by a campaign of systematic and
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comprehensive obstruction that stands literally without precedent in american history. i won't restate each part of our debate from the floor yesterday, but the objective facts of the situation are unambiguous. for the past two years, we've witnessed the accelerated erosion of the norms by which this body has historically considered presidential nominations, and we've seen a disappointing series of records broken in the process. 128 cloture votes on nominations in this president's first two years, more than five times as many as the same period of every administration since jimmy carter combined. 42 executive branch positions took cloture votes for the first time ever. this has been a new level of paralysis surrounding even the most qualified and least controversial nominees. in a way, it's been the natural outgrowth of the erosion on
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nominations that began back in 2003 when our current democratic leader helped spur his side of the aisle to walk away from long-standing institutional norms and declare the executive calendar open season for regular, chronic filibuster tactics and forced cloture votes. that's when this relatively new mess really began earn inest. in 2013 in a truly bipartisan vote, a number of republicans, including me, joined with democrats to implement new expedited procedures for lower-tier nominees. we put them in place right at the beginning of president obama's second term, even as we on this side were still licking our wounds from the previous november's election result. this week, our democratic colleagues had the chance to reciprocate. they had the opportunity to do the parallel thing -- exactly
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the same thing -- and vote to limit undue senate delays for this republican administration the same way we republicans did for president obama's administration. oh, but they weren't interested. these days i'm sorry to say the other side of the aisle seems to be dominated by pure partisanship over absolutely everything else. so, remember, mr. president, it wasn't long ago that this current behavior would have appeared unimaginable. just a few decades ago, the idea of routinely forcing 60-vote thresholds on extra days on nominations was firmly in third-rail territory. well, a lot has happened since then, but i hope my colleagues share my belief that the senate's traditions and norms are its greatest assets and in that respect yesterday was a very good day for this body as an institution. the senate's historically been defined by two traditions.
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one has been preserved the power of the minority in considering legislation, to pump the brakes or force a second look. that includes the legislative filibuster, which i know many of us on both sides are 100% committed to preserving. in my view, and many of our views, it is inseparable from the way this body was designed. it's what keeps the senate from swinging wildly back and forth between each party's entire agenda. i don't think nigh democratic colleagues who are running for president and publicly toying with undermining the legislative filibuster would be too keen -- too keen -- to see republicans enact our entire full-tilt conservative agenda with just 51 votes. because someday the shoe would be on the other foot. the shoe, in fact, always at
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some point ends up on the other foot. that's one tradition. the second tradition concerning nominations was always different. for decades and decades, it allowed for a reasonable process for the vast majority of presidents' nominees, and yesterday even though democrats walked away and republicans had to act alone, we took a big step toward restoring that second part of senate tradition. now, i'm sure yesterday's progress has not resolved every sore spot. i feel certain that we've not seen the last of our democratic colleagues' addiction to endlessly relitigating the 2016 election instead of moving forward. but with yesterday's action, the senate has begun to move past this particular shameful new chapter. we've turned the page on the kind of systematic obstruction and purely partisan delays that were completely foreign to this
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chamber a few years ago but have since become a daily routine. so now more progress can take place. yesterday two unopposed committee votes and more than a year and a half after jeffrey kessler was named as president trump's choice fornant secretary of commerce his nomination was subjected to a cloture vote. 95-3. and because of our new procedures, he was confirmed by a voice vote just two hours later. then vietnamed to end -- then we voted to end debate on roy altman to serve on the southern district court for florida. today we'll confirm him as well. then we'll vote to end debate on the nomination of mark calabria to direct the federal housing finance agency and then we will vote to confirm him, too.
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nominees moving at a more reasonable pace, important jobs finally being filled. already real progress thanks to yesterday's pivot back toward the senate's historic tradition, and we'll keep working to clear the backlog of talented individuals who are still waiting patiently behind them. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, federal housing finance agency. mark anthony calabria of virginia to be director. mr. crapo: mr. president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. mr. crapo: thank you. i rise to speak in support of the nomination of mark calabria to be the director of the federal housing finance agency, or fhfa, for a five-year term. for over a decade, the fhfa has served as the regulator and watchdog of the government-sponsored enterprises fannie mae, freddie mac and the federal home loan bank system. since 2008 when fannie and freddie were placed in into federal governship, the fh fa has been charged with preserving and conserving their assets and helping to return them to stable finance footing. as long as they remain in conservatorship, the fhha director plays a role in setting the guardrails and the day-to-day management of these companies. which have a combined $5
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trillions in assets. it is critically important for the senate to quickly confirm a qualified, experienced individual to this post. fortunately, mark calabria meets these requirements. dr. calabria is a leading expert on housing and mortgage finance and a respected ph.d. economist. he has almost 30 years of experience interacting with the housing market from nearly every perspectiveth -- academia, industry, trade associations, think tanks. as a congressional staffer, and as a regulator. he has the dedicated -- he has dedicated the majority of his career to public service, including as deputy assistant secretary of the department of housing and urban development, nearly a decade as a senior professional staff member on the senate banking committee, and now as chief economist to vice president mike pence. he has also worked for the national association of realtors, the national association of homebuilders, the
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farm credit council, the harvard university joint center for housing studies, and recently at the cato institute as director of financial regulation studies. over the course of his public service career, dr. calabria has worked to champion market reforms that benefit consumers and enhance the safety and soundness of our housing finance system. he's also had a long history of working across the aisle to deliver meaningful and lasting reforms. as an official at h.u.d., dr. calabria oversaw h.u.d.'s regulation of the mortgage market, pre-merrell under the real estate -- primarily under respa. he worked on over 20 pieces of legislation as a senate staffer that became law, mostly in the area of housing and mortgage finance. in 2009 he worked on the homeless emergency assistance
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and rapid transition to housing act, or the harth arctic which strengthened our nation's homeless housing assistance program. most notably, he played a key role in drafting the housing and economic recovery act of 2008, or hera, which established the fhfa and created the position to which he is now nominated. from his work on hera, he has a clean understanding of the congressional intent behind the law and therefore also a respect for fhfa's responsibilities and boundaries as a regulator. during his nomination a few -- hearing a few weeks ago, he made a commitment to carrying out the clear intent of congress in protecting taxpayers while also underscoring the importance of maintaining access to affordable housing. before considering any action, dr. calabria has said he will first ask what does the statute
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say. he's also committed to working with me and other members of this body to reach a comprehensive solution on ending the conservatorship of fannie and freddie once and for all. he agrees with me and many others that the action on housing finance reform that is needed today is the prerogative of congress and that after over a decade of conservatorship, it is long overdue. as fannie and freddie continue to dwell in government control, it appears that the old failed status quo is slowly beginning to take hold again. with the government in some ways expanding its reach even further, entering new markets where it has never been before. this status quo is not a viable option, and finding a comprehensive solution remains a top priority for me and the banking committee. the f.h.a. -- fhafa can also
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play an important role in helping us move to a more sustainable housing finance system sustained by a strongly capitalized private sector. if confirmed, i look forward to working with dr. calabria on these and other efforts. dr. calabria's nomination has been met with substantial support from the housing industry. many key stakeholders have written to the banking committee to emphasize the experience and trusted perspective that dr. calabria will bring to the agency. the national association of home builders wrote throughout his long career, mark has proven himself to be a keen expert in housing finance policy. adding significant value to key policy discussions both on and off of capitol hill. nahb has full confidence that mark is an excellent choice to be director of the fhfa. we believe he will bring his usual high-level policy
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experience, outstanding communication skills and consummate professionalism to this important regulatory agency at a critical time for the housing finance industry. the national association of realtors added dr. calabria's decades of experience in housing and finance policy have prepared him to implement the fhfa's mission. it has also helped him to understand the need for an enhanced transparency at the fhf a and a methodical approach in the development and enforcement of its policies. the mortgage bankers association noted that dr. calabria will utilize his significant experience in government and knowledge of both a single and multifamily business lines within the secondary mortgage market to protect taxpayers through an appropriate mix of risk sharing and private capital, work to maintain deep, stable, and liquid mortgage markets, and ensure sustainable
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access to affordable housing for all americans. and the manufactured housing institute added without question dr. calabria is well qualified to lead the effort to strengthen the nation's housing finance system and ensure access to safe, affordable home ownership alternatives. it's important to have a senate-confirmed leader at the fhfa overseeing our mart markets and making sure taxpayers are well protected from another financial crisis. dr. calabria is highly qualified, highly experienced, and well prepared for this new role. i support dr. calabria and urge my colleagues to join me in voting yes on his nomination. thank you, mr. president.
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mr. thune: mr. president, is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. thune: mr. president, under president obama, our economy languished. recovery from the recession was historically slow and economic growth for his last year in office was an anemic 1.6%. of course, all of that meant reduced economic prospects for american families. wages were stagnant and jobs and opportunities were often few and far between. republicans knew that if we wanted to improve life for american families, we needed to get our economy going again. and so as soon as we took office in 2017, we got right to work. we knew that the biggest thing
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we had to do was overhaul our outdated tax code which was acting as a major drag on economic growth. the tax code has a huge effect on economic growth and the kinds of jobs, wages, and opportunities available to american workers. small business owners struggling to afford a heavy tax bill is unlikely to have the money to hire a new worker or expand her business. a larger business is going to find it hard to create jobs or improve benefits for employees if it's struggling to stay competitive against foreign businesses paying much less in taxes. prior to the passage of the tax cuts and jobs act, our tax code was not helping american workers. it was taking too much money from americans' paychecks. and it was making it difficult for businesses to grow and create jobs. and so we passed the tax cuts and jobs act to put more money in americans' pockets to spur economic growth and expand opportunities for american workers. we cut rates, tax rates for american families, doubled the child tax credit, and nearly
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doubled the standard deduction. we lowered tax rates across the board for owners of small and medium-sized businesses, farms, and ranches. we lowered our nation's massive corporate tax rate which up until january 1 of last year was the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. we expanded business owners' ability to recover the cost of investments that they make in their businesses which frees up cash that they can reinvest in their operations and in their workers. and we brought the u.s. international tax system into the 21st century so that american businesses are not operating at a competitive disadvantage next to their foreign counterparts. and i'm proud to report that the tax cuts and jobs act is doing exactly what it was supposed to do. it's growing our economy. it's creating jobs. it's expanding benefits and opportunities for american workers. economic growth from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018 was a strong 3%.
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the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% in february, the 12th straight month that unemployment has been at or below 4%. that's the longest streak in nearly 50 years. the department of labor reports that the number of job openings has exceeded the number of job seekers for 11 straight months. the economy has added more than 5.3 million jobs since president trump was elected. job growth has averaged 209,000 jobs a month over the past 12 months, exceeding the 2017 average by 30,000 jobs a month. wage growth has accelerated. wages are growing at a rate of 3.4%, the seventh straight month in which wages have grown at a rate of 3% or greater. median household income is at an all-time high. business investment is up, which means more jobs and opportunities for american workers. u.s. manufacturing is booming. small business hiring recently
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hit a record high. and the list goes on, mr. president. so what is democrats' response to tax reform success? continuing or expand the policies that have made life better for american families? well, the answer's no. instead, democrats are proposing policies that would result in massive tax hikes on just about every american. consider democrats' medicare for all proposal which would strip americans of their private health insurance. the price tag for this program has been estimated at $32 trillion over ten years. to put that number in perspective, the entire federal budget for 2019 is less than $5 trillion. democrats are talking about increasing federal spending by more than 70%. one medicare expert estimates that the doubling -- doubling the amount of individual and corporate income tax collected
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in this country would not be enough to cover the cost of medicare for all. and i don't know about my democrat colleagues, but i don't know too many working families who would be able to afford to have their tax bill doubled. but, mr. president, while $32 trillion is an insane price tag, it is dwarfed by the price tag for democrats' comprehensive socialist fantasy, the green new deal. an initial estimate suggests that the green new deal could cost $93 trillion over ten years. $93 trillion. that's more money than the 2017 gross domestic product for the entire world. it's more money than the united states government has spent in its entire history. democrats like to talk about taxing the rich to pay for various initiatives, but the fact of the matter is there isn't enough rich people -- i should say there aren't enough rich people in america to even come close to paying for the green new deal, even if you taxed every one of these people
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at a rate of 100%. mr. president, democrats' socialist fantasies would be paid for on the backs of working families. families would face huge tax hikes that would permanently lower their standard of living. but that's not all. families would also see a steep decline in the jobs and opportunities available to them. tax reform has enabled and encouraged businesses to invest and grow, which is resulting in better wages and benefits and increased opportunities for american workers. but none of the growth we are seeing from businesses would last under the tax hikes businesses would face to pay for democrats' socialist fantasies. instead of thinking about expanding, companies would be thinking about how they could shrink their work forces or move jobs and investments overseas. instead of raising wages or improving benefits, companies would be avoiding wage hikes and looking to trim their benefit packages. under democrats' socialist fantasies, american families would face a double economic
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blow -- huge tax hikes, fewer jobs, lower wages, and reduced economic opportunity. mr. president, there is no one in congress who doesn't want to make life better for american families. socialism and the massive tax hikes it would bring is not the answer. socialism would reduce opportunities for americans, not expand them. it would decrease americans' standard of living, not improve it. and it would rob americans of their choices and many of their freedoms. mr. president, republicans will continue to fight to expand economic opportunity for american families, and we will do everything we can to ensure that hardworking americans never have to live under the miserable reality of democrats' socialist fantasies. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. schumer: mr. president. the presiding officer: the chair recognizes the democratic leader. mr. schumer: now, rather than spend time yesterday on a terribly destructive rules change, leader mcconnell could have focused on -- focused the senate on an urgent matter that this chamber has failed to act on, disaster relief. in a few moments, senator leahy and i will ask unanimous consent to have a vote on a new version of the emergency disaster relief that couldn't get through the senate earlier this week. our new amendment offers this
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chamber a path forward from this week's impasse. it's a plan that meets everyone's needs. it doesn't say only a this or only a that. it recognizes all american citizens deserve to be helped when disaster strikes. the amendment senator leahy and i will offer provides $16.7 billion in relief for americans struck by natural disasters last year and in the last two years. it includes $2.5 billion in new funding, funding that the bill from the republican side that failed offered by senators shelby and perdue did not have. $2.5 billion in new funding for the recent flooding in iowa and nebraska and missouri. we all agree these communities need assistance now. and this amendment crucially
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includes aid for our fellow citizens in puerto rico and other territories. it doesn't say pick one or pick the other. it says let's do both. all of us in this chamber should agree. we must do something now to help all americans in need. this amendment offers our republican friends, those who have said we need aid in the middle west, the opportunity to do just that. so if this chamber wants to help families in nebraska, in iowa, in missouri, if we want to help the families of texas and of florida, in amendment is the path forward. it is the key to moving forward. this is the solution that has the ability to pass the house. this is the option that has enough support to reach the president's desk. the speaker of the house has said the original republican bill wouldn't even be put on the
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floor. this bill will. now some will say -- i know my dear friend, and he is my good friend, from alabama will say the president won't sign this. well, i have something else to say. if you pass this measure, the president dare won't veto it. that's my prediction. we all know the president is huffed and puffed about vetoing bills in the past. he said he'd veto that, he said he'd veto that. and in most instances when the republicans in the senate stand up, he's caved. in this case in particular. he won't want to veto legislation that helps nebraska and iowa and missouri and texas and florida. so let's not play this game. we all know what happened. there was a bipartisan agreement. president trump went to the republican lunch, said no aid for puerto rico, and that's why we're in this mess.
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we can change that. it's time to call the president's bluff. elections have consequences. there's a democratic house. the time has come for republicans of this chamber and republicans in the house to have a frank conversation with the president about what can and cannot pass the congress. so if the president cares about farmers in iowa and texas and missouri and american citizens, all american citizens affected by natural disasters, he won't veto this bill and we know that. the measure we're presenting today isn't some solution cooked up out of left field. it's a simple proposal. we need disaster relief for all americans, plain and simple. senators leahy and shelby worked in good faith earlier this year, as they always do, and i appreciate that, the great relationship our appropriations committee chair and ranking
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member, vice chair, have. and it would have worked had not the president gone to that lunch, and who knows why, where, or when, he pounded the table and said no aid to puerto rico. he said that, okay. the only problem? when we're at the brink of a compromise, president trump all too often tornadoes things, and then republicans act paralyzed. don't act. if leader mcconnell and senate republicans won't support this measure, the measure that meets the needs of all affected americans, then what is they're plan that can pass the house and pass the senate and go to the president's desk? if this measure just had aid to puerto rico and not to the middle west, the president might veto it. he's not going to veto a bill with aid to the middle west, nor should he. so if an all of the above solution won't work, what on earth will? so far the answer from this
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chamber on the other side seems to be nothing, none of the above. that doesn't make sense. this is an emergency. people are suffering. people can't get back into their homes. small businesses need help starting up again. this is not a time, not a time to duck, to look for cover, to know when the president has done something sort of wrongly, seemingly on a whim, to just bow to what he says. we should agree on the need to do something now to help communities recovering from natural disasters. our amendment offers republicans to do just that. nobody, no member of this body should pick and choose which american citizens get help in times of crisis. it's a profound shame that my colleagues on the other side thus far have allowed the
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president to derail this process, have gone along with appeasing him. i say the power of this chamber is greater than they realize. if we vote on this package, if it passes the senate and if it passes the house and reaches the president's desk, the president will sign it. he will not follow through on a veto threat. even he knows that doing so would be a profound betrayal of his promise to look after the well-being of all americans. so today i urge senators to support our amendment that gives aid to the middle west, to the south from florida through texas, and to the people of puerto rico. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that as if in legislative session the senate resume consideration of h.r. 268, that all pending amendments be withdrawn, that the leahy
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amendment number 246 be agreed to, that the bill as amended be read a third time and passed and the motions to reconsider be -- the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. shelby: mr. president, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. shelby: mr. president, i'll yield to you. go ahead. mr. shelby: mr. president. the presiding officer: the chair recognizes the senator from alabama. mr. shelby: mr. president, these unanimous consent requests are political and i believe are not productive at the moment. we know for two reasons. first, my democratic colleagues rejected a disaster assistance package that contained
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assistance for the midwest earlier this week. instead they supported a different version that did nothing for folks in iowa and nebraska and other states who are the victims of catastrophic flooding. in fact, if the democrats had gotten their way the other night, that bill would have gone straight to the president's desk. that brings me here today to the second reason these procedural requests are empty gestures. my democratic colleagues know that the measure they raised today does not have the president's support, mr. president. not unlike the bill they supported earlier this week. those measures cannot secure the president's signature. today my democratic colleagues have regrouped and decided to provide assistance to the folks in the midwest, the same folks they left stranded earlier in the week.
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mr. president, they're only willing to help the midwest if purport gets billions more in -- if puerto rico gets billions more in federal assistance, billions more that they cannot justify right now. all we want -- we all want to help the people of puerto rico. i know the presiding officer has been deeply involved in this, and congress in recognition of those needs has already committed significant resources to the island. in fact, puerto rico is eligible for more than $90 billion, mr. president, in funding from the previous supplemental. $90 billion. for example, fema estimates that puerto rico will be eligible to receive -p more than $60 billion from the disaster relief fund as a result of the 2017 storms. yet, puerto rico has only spent approximately, mr. president, $10 billion of this amount thus far. another example, mr. president,
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congress has approved $20 billion in community development block grants or cdbg funding for puerto rico. $20 billion. in february 2018, the department of housing and urban development allocated $1.5 billion of this amount to the island. yet, more than a year later they have only spent $42,000 out of a $1.5 billion allocation. still h.u.d. allocated another, mr. president, $8.2 billion just over a month ago. in addition, puerto rico has been granted an enormous amount of flexibility to expend these resources. fema used its administrative authority to extend the 100% federal cost share for emergency work in puerto rico longer than it has for any other disaster in more than ten years, and not
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once has fema denied puerto rico access to funding on the basis of their ability to provide its own share of the costs when required. more importantly, mr. president, even if cost share were an issue, which i don't believe it is, puerto rico could use its example cdbg funding to meet any cost-share requirements. however, it does not appear that access to resources for cost share is actually an issue in puerto rico. according to the treasury department, puerto rico has billions of dollars in unrestricted cash on hand. in fact, mr. president, the treasury department reports they have $5.6 billion in unrestricted cash to be precise. what's more, the island of puerto rico continues to collect tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars a month because revenues are exceeding
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costs on the island, only adding to that $5.6 billion balance sheet. despite all these resources, we've agreed, mr. president, that the government of puerto rico needs additional funding for nutrition assistance. you have been in the forefront. the question is why? because this money is actually being spent, in fact, is running out. not only did my democratic colleagues leave folks in the midwest behind when they rejected the shelby amendment earlier this week, they also passed up an opportunity to help the people of puerto rico immediately. now where do we go from here? we need to find of areas of agreement that we have before us working with senator leahy and senator schumer and senator mcconnell. i'm pleased that my democratic
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colleagues have discovered a newfound concern for the people in the midwest. we want to stay on that. it's promising that we not only agree on that, but also we should provide funding for nutrition assistance for the people of puerto rico now. but when it comes to additional funding for puerto rico, beyond nutrition substance, i believe that our constituents, the american taxpayers, deserve a detailed explanation of exactly why existing funding is insuch and why the resources that we have provided has not been spent. how do we know they need more when they haven't come close to spending what we've already provided them? meanwhile, communities that experienced disasters in 2018 are truly suffering because congress provided them nothing. unless my democratic colleagues can demonstrate this urgency, i
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believe they should stop holding hostage those suffering in the midwest and those impacted by disasters all over the u.s. these people are in urgent need of funding so they can begin rebuilding a rebuilding process, and many of them have been waiting for months and months relief. i hope we can come together and work this out in a deliberate and fact-based manner. until then i will continue to object to these haphazard unanimous consent requests that will get us nowhere. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. leahy: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that i have six minutes to respond about the leahy-schumer -- the schumer-leahy amendment. and i realize we have a -- that will put off the time slightly on the vote. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i am
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sorry that republicans objected to our earlier legislation which we brought up which would have helped the midwest and had money in it. of course p-rbgs -- of course, by not asking for billions more for puerto rico in this amendment by any means. of the $3.2 billion added in this bill, only $462 million is for puerto rico. the rest is for midwest states, for florida, for alabama, and other states. so i think it's unfortunate we've reached an impasse on the emergency disaster supplemental appropriations bill. for months i urged the senate republican leadership to take up and pass house bill h.r. 268. in three months they wouldn't. during those three months american communities suffered and new disasters struck the midwest and the southeast. the new criticism from the
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republican leadership became the democrats pushing for more comprehensive aid to puerto rico and h.r. 268 must not care about the american communities affected by more recent disasters. but i would remind the chamber that it was republican leadership that objected my amendment, h.r. 268, that would have accommodated all these other communities. i would also remind the chamber that the trump administration has not asked for one dime for hurricanes michael and florence, for the alabama tornadoes or the midwest flooding. the trump administration -- to the trump administration, it's as though that never happened. i've always stood for the victims of disasters in this country. when my own state was devastated
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by tropical storm irene, members of this body came to me, not as republicans or democrats, but as concerned american citizens looking to help. just as i always have for whatever state it might be -- red state, blue state, purple state -- i've always voted to support them. and today this vermonter is here to stand with all the american communities affected by recent natural disasters. i have not given up on a path forward. today leader schumer and i offered a substitute that would provide $2.5 billion in new funding to address the needs of communities affected by the 2019 disasters such as flooding in the midwest, tornadoes in alabama. we'd also accommodate the needs of the american citizens -- they are americans -- in puerto rico and other territories by including increased funding for the community development block
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grants and grants to help rebuild damaged water systems. we also include medicaid funding for the northern mariana islands in cost-match waiver for the northern mariana islands, guam and american samoa. and it mandates that h.u.d. speed up the previously appropriated cdbg funding which the trump administration has unnecessarily withheld from disaster-stricken communities in puerto rico, texas, louisiana, and the u.s. virgin islands, in florida, in south carolina, in north carolina, in west virginia, in california, in missouri, and georgia. we want to get help to all of those states. i'm disappointed they've once again objected to this critical assistance.
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we are the united states. we're all americans. we can't pick and choose which american citizens to help in time of crises. and frankly i was offended when the white house referred to puerto rico as that country that only takes from the u.s.a. i would remind the white house to look at a history book. puerto rico is part of the u.s.a. these are our fellow american citizens. we in the senate must be better than that. we must stand with all american citizens in times of crisis. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i yield whatever time i have. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate will proceed to the consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report.
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the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, roy kalman altman of florida to be united states district judge for the southern district of florida. the presiding officer: question is on the confirmation of the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote? if not, the yeas are 66. the nays are 33, and the nomination is confirmed. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. a senator: thank you. i ask consent to waive the mandatory quorum.
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the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. tillis: madam president. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: we in accordance of raoul 22 hereby move to bring to an end debate on the nomination of calabria, to be the director of the federal housing finance agency, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: the question is is it the sense of f the senate of the nomination of mark anthony calabria of virginia to be director of the federal housing finance agency shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? seeing none, the yeas are 53, the nays are 46. the motion is agreed to.
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the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: thank you, madam president. this morning i received a letter from the united states ambassador to china, terry branstad. he said this. quote, i'm delighted to inform you that china's ministry of public security announced china will make all forms of fentanyl -- thank you, madam president. let me just start over. today -- today i received a letter from the united states ambassador to china, terry branstad. governor branstad's letter said the following. quote, i'm delighted to inform you that china's ministry of public security announced china will make all forms of fenal in -- fentanyl, a controlled substance, effective may 1,
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2019. if implemented effectively, this will fulfill the commitment president xi made to the president at the g-20 last december. that commitment and this development are the direct result of your visit to beijing during which you highlighted china's role in the global opioid crisis. separately, i have asked my staff to share diplomatic reporting with you that addresses china's action in greater detail. that from ambassador terry branstad, our ambassador to china p. madam president, this is important news. it will save thousands of american lives. president trump deserves great credit for persuading president xi at their meeting in argentina in december to do the one thing that our drug enforcement agents have said to us will reduce the flow of fentanyl in the united
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states more than any other single thing, and president xi, the president of china, deserves the thanks of the american people for taking this decision because our drug enforcement agency is convinced that this decision by china and its senior officials will save thousands of american lives. the reason for this, we were told by our drug enforcement agency personnel in china, is that one way or the other, almost every bit of fentanyl that makes its way into the united states starts in china. now, these are chemicals that are made there, and they're mixed and then they come through the mail, they come through mexico, they come through china, they come many different ways, but they start there. and every time china has made some forms of fentanyl illegal,
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the flow of fentanyl has begun to go straight down. now, what president trump and president xi agreed to do on may 1 is to make all forms of fentanyl illegal. this means that if some clever scientist in china says, well, this form of fentanyl is not illegal, so i'll make a different form that is, that clever scientist will be out of business. one thing the chinese know very well how to do, madam president, is to police their country. and i would not want to be the chinese person after may 1 who is in violation of the chinese law that says, all forms of fentanyl are controlled substances and illegal in china. in october i led a delegation of senior members of the house of representatives and the senate to meet with the chinese senior
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delegation. one would have thought that all we talked about was trade because trade was important to all of our states, but at governor branstad's insistence, in every meeting we had with senior chinese officials, we said fentanyl is our biggest problem, and you can solve our biggest problem more than anybody else in the world. instead of being our problem, why don't you be our solution in why don't you let the united states point to china and say, you've helped us solve a problem that is killing thousands of americans on a regular basis. well, china has now agreed to do that in december with president trump. it is now announced that on may 1, all forms of fentanyl will be controlled and, therefore, illegal. we should watch and make sure that it's effectively done. but what we should say today is that, mr. president trump,


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