EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 85
(Senate - May 23, 2018)

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[Pages S2846-S2865]
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                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, 
which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read the nomination of Brian D. Montgomery, of 
Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the time until 3:15 
p.m. will be equally divided in the usual form.
  The majority whip.


                                 China

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, yesterday the Senate Banking Committee 
passed a very important piece of legislation out of the committee by a 
unanimous vote. I am very pleased that this legislation, which I will 
describe in a moment, received that sort of broad bipartisan support.
  This is a bill I originally introduced with the senior Senator from 
California, Mrs. Feinstein, to strengthen the review process of the 
Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which plays a 
critical role in protecting our national security. The jurisdiction of 
this Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States hasn't been 
updated in more than 40 years, and bad actors like China continue to 
exploit gaps in the process to acquire sensitive national security 
know-how, as well as military and dual-use technology from U.S. 
companies.
  I want to be quick to say that this is not about labeling foreign 
investment in the United States as bad. That is not true. Foreign 
investment is by and large a very good thing. But when our laws are 
being exploited to target cutting-edge, dual-use technology that has 
national security applications, that is a matter of national security. 
This is not about banning or labeling foreign investment as being bad.
  I appreciate Chairman Crapo and the Banking Committee's bipartisan 
work in advancing this narrowly tailored legislation to close the gaps 
that I just mentioned and safeguard our national security because I 
believe it is past time for us to do so. Every day we fail to pass this 
set of reforms is a day we are putting our future in jeopardy.
  We need to maintain a sense of urgency and realize that when we are 
talking about CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the 
United States, there is a much bigger issue at stake, and that is the 
issue of competing global visions.
  China makes no secret about the fact that Karl Marx is, in many ways, 
its national hero. In fact, there was a weeklong celebration in China 
earlier this month which included a mandatory study session, led by 
President Xi, of Marx's famous work the Communist Manifesto.
  Events like these in some ways show that China is a wolf in sheep's 
clothing. When it tries to present itself as westernizing its economy 
and becoming a friend to the global community of nations, China 
conveniently ignores certain facts about its alternative development 
model and state-controlled economy. It also tends to disguise and 
downplay its overall geopolitical aims, to rewrite the rules of our 
world order and recreate them in China's own Communist image.
  Whether it is China's increasing belligerence in places like the 
South China Sea, its crushing of internal political dissent, its 
flagrant human rights violations, or its population controls, such as 
the one-child policy, China has repeatedly shown itself as a power-
hungry authoritarian, willing and able to violate the rights of its own 
people, and dismissive and contemptuous of international norms.
  I am not being hyperbolic. I am not exaggerating. This is just the 
truth--the hard truth--in front of us, if we will look. So let's not 
deceive ourselves otherwise. When China tries to just ``blend in'' 
internationally, let us be wary that its rosy rhetoric and misleading 
narrative of cooperation are often camouflage for its true and more 
troubling aims.
  As we all know, right now, there are high-level negotiations ongoing 
between the U.S. executive branch and Chinese Government officials on 
the very important issue of international trade, but it is important to 
remember that in the West, belief in free trade is almost axiomatic. In 
democracies like ours, free trade is based on open markets, the free 
flow of capital and information, as well as the rule of law.
  China, on the other hand, honors none of those things. It doesn't 
believe in open markets, it doesn't believe in the free flow of capital 
of information, and it be doesn't believe in the rule of law. That 
reality is why we need to approach these trade negotiations delicately. 
We need to remain steely-eyed and make sure China isn't playing us for 
fools.
  Of course, we are well aware of the need to tread lightly when it 
comes to trade. After decades of globalization, any overly broad limits 
on Chinese investment in the United States could harm American 
companies that need capital and customers to survive and grow. We need 
to resist that temptation.
  China is not just any old trading partner. Its enterprises are state-

[[Page S2847]]

backed, and there is no clear dividing line between the Communist Party 
and what might otherwise be described as the private sector. There is 
no distinction. This makes a real difference when it comes to Chinese 
investments in U.S. companies that are at the cutting edge of 
developing military dual-use technologies. It means there is a real 
potential of industrial espionage because you can't separate private, 
profit-making motives from the government's secret-stealing capacities 
and proclivities, and this means that our national security is 
vulnerable.
  In its Made in China 2025 plan, the Chinese Government made clear its 
intent to dominate technologies that will be essential down the road in 
maintaining our economic and military prowess globally. I have a chart 
here that I would like to display. It is an unclassified slide from one 
of our intelligence agencies. They provided us an unclassified version 
so that we could talk about it in public. Many of us on the Armed 
Services Committee or the Intelligence Committee are privy to 
classified briefings, but I believe it is important--and I am glad they 
do too--that we talk about what we can in an open, transparent way so 
that people can be alerted to what is at risk and what is actually 
going on.
  These are China's strategic goals. Comprehensive national power--they 
see themselves as a rival to the United States, and they would 
ultimately like to surpass us when it comes to national power. We know 
that they believe their economic growth model must be innovation-
driven; hence, their vacuuming up and relentless search for new, 
cutting-edge technology, including their activities in places like 
Silicon Valley, where they gobble up startup companies that have long-
term potential to advance their economic and national power goals. 
Obviously, they are also modernizing their military and becoming 
increasingly belligerent in places like the South China Sea in the 
process.
  How does China achieve these strategic goals? Well, it has an 
elaborate and sophisticated plan. The truth is, they are really not 
being clandestine or secretive about this. They are pretty much telling 
us what they are doing, and they are doing it quite well.
  So their strategic goals include, obviously, their security services, 
their intelligence community, their talent recruitment programs at 
American academic institutions, where they hire talent back to China to 
help them in this process. They create front companies that claim to be 
non-Chinese related in order to transact business so that they don't 
raise suspicion. They engage in an active program of mergers and 
acquisitions of companies in the United States. They make significant 
investments in science and technology, including some of the most 
cutting-edge technologies, like quantum computing and artificial 
intelligence. They are probably the worst offender in the world when it 
comes to stealing through the cyber domain--cyber theft. They are very 
creative in engaging in research partnerships. Joint ventures, one of 
the gaps that the CFIUS legislation intends to plug, where they realize 
that this is a gap in our current review process for foreign investment 
and national security implications--they have done so through joint 
ventures that aren't currently subject to that review, where they can 
get access not only to the intellectual property but also to the know-
how. In other words, they could steal blueprints and other intellectual 
property, but they don't necessarily know how to make it all work--
where the secret sauce is--until they can get access to the know-how 
through these joint ventures.

  Then there are their nontraditional collectors. In other words, 
civilians are used by their intelligence services to get information to 
vacuum up data--scientific data, our data--that they may think are 
important to their pursuit of national power, innovation, and economic 
growth model, so they use a wide variety of nontraditional collectors 
as well.
  Of course, in the legal and regulatory environment, an American 
company can't do business in China without basically turning over the 
keys to the government. Again, there is no delineation between the 
government and the private sector in China. All businesses have to 
cooperate with the Chinese Government, and the Chinese Government 
intermingles that information not only in pursuit of their economic 
goals but also in pursuit of their military goals.
  As I said, these technologies that they are acquiring and seeking to 
acquire include artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, 
and 3D printing. The Chinese Government is spending $300 billion in 
subsidies to supplant foreign technology suppliers like ours with 
homegrown alternatives, and a core part of this 2025 plan is acquiring 
intellectual property from the United States. China is not even trying 
to hide it. They are advertising it, and they are doing it in plain 
sight.
  Those and related concerns are what prompted a bipartisan group of 27 
Senators recently to write a letter to Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary 
Ross, as well as Ambassador Lighthizer--the U.S. trade Representative. 
They are all involved in the ongoing trade negotiations with China. In 
that letter, we expressed concerns regarding China's targeting of our 
technology.
  As a report issued by the Pentagon recently pointed out, if left 
unchecked, this targeting could degrade core technological advantages 
of the U.S. military. Clearly, the Chinese Communist Party regards 
these sensitive technologies as essential for China's military 
modernization and is accelerating its efforts to acquire them by any 
means necessary--stealing them, engaging in strategic investments, any 
way they can do it--whether it is cyber theft, civil-military 
integration policies, coercion through joint ventures with foreign 
companies, targeted investment, or Chinese nationals exploiting access 
to such technologies here in the United States.
  The main point of our letter was not to criticize but to alert our 
colleagues in the executive branch that there is no question that China 
is actively seeking to surpass the United States both economically and 
militarily and become the world's foremost superpower. It is pretty 
obvious.
  It is imperative, though, that neither the Federal Government nor 
private U.S. companies aid or abet that effort either advertently or 
inadvertently.
  Let me conclude by saying that we should all support a peaceful, 
balanced, and constructive relationship with China, but it has to be 
realistic when it comes to China's aims and intentions, and it needs to 
be informed, as well, by China's record of deception in the past.
  When it comes to China, national security isn't just a pretext for 
economic protectionism. I think ``national security'' is an abuse of 
that label if it is used just as a pretext for protectionism. Like many 
of our colleagues, I believe strongly in free trade, as I started out 
saying in these remarks, but when national security and economic 
concerns overlap--which they do--there should be no question but that 
our national security comes first.
  For those of us who serve on committees of jurisdiction involving 
intelligence or national security, I assure you that the Chinese threat 
is real, and certain dangers are already taking effect. We need to make 
sure that not just the committees of jurisdiction understand this and 
that we are working together with the executive branch when it comes to 
maintaining this distinction--economic and military--and understand 
that it is not just about trade; it is about our national security as 
well. We need to be smart, well informed, and clear-eyed when it comes 
to engaging with an aggressive China. Our inaction has had many 
negative consequences, and we must aim to prevent any future ones.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). The Senator from Delaware.


                          Russia Investigation

  Mr. CARPER. Madam President, good morning. I looked down, and the 
Presiding Officers have changed. It is nice to be here with you this 
morning.
  Our Presiding Officer is tied to the military--Army colonel, highly 
distinguished. She comes from Iowa and travels home every weekend. She 
covers every county in Iowa. In a year, I cover every county in 
Delaware, sometimes in a day. We only have 3; she has probably 100 or 
so. But we have the opportunity to go home frequently to our respective 
States and to be with our families and the folks we work for. I love 
doing it, and I know our Presiding Officer does as well.
  People come up to me--I go back and forth on the train just about 
every

[[Page S2848]]

night and will do that tonight, as I did last night. I feel very 
fortunate to be able to be that close to my constituents. I serve in 
the Senate with my colleagues and actually live in my home State. It is 
a blessing.
  I think I am approachable. I know our Presiding Officer is. Senator 
Cornyn is approachable. People come up and talk to us all the time, 
which is good--which is good. Sometimes I just want to say hello. 
Sometimes I will ask them how they are doing. More often than not, 
lately, people say: I wouldn't want your job for anything. You have the 
worst job in the world.

  I say: No, no. I feel really lucky.
  Throughout the 200-and-some years we have been a country, only about 
1,800 people have been privileged to serve in this body, and we are 
fortunate that we are able to serve here today, especially during these 
challenging times.
  Since the 2016 election, however, a broad number of Delawareans and 
American citizens have approached me, whether in the Rite Supermarket 
or on the Amtrak train, to share with me their sense of uncertainty and 
their fears regarding the trajectory of our country. Specifically, they 
have expressed their uncertainty about the future of the special 
counsel's investigation and their fears that the President may put his 
own personal interests above the interests of all Americans and the 
Constitution of our country.
  As we pass the 1-year mark following Deputy Attorney General Rob 
Rosenstein's appointment of former FBI Director Bob Mueller to become 
special counsel, I think it is worth remembering why the investigation 
began, what it has uncovered, where it is headed, and how we can uphold 
the rule of law and protect the investigation from political 
interference as we seek to ascertain the truth.
  During the 2016 Presidential campaign, our democracy was attacked by 
a foreign adversary. No shots were fired. No bombs were dropped. But 
let me be as clear as I can be. Russia attacked the United States of 
America. Using sophisticated cyber warfare, Russia interfered in our 
electoral process. As they have in other Western democracies, Russia 
borrowed from their tried-and-true playbook. Russian internet trolls 
posed as American citizens on Facebook and on Twitter. Russian shell 
companies funded political propaganda online, all with the intent of 
pitting us against one another and spreading this information among the 
American electorate.
  We also know that our Nation's election infrastructure was targeted 
by the Kremlin and that Russian cyber attacks penetrated voting 
machines in some of our States--not all of our States but a number of 
them.
  Thomas Jefferson often wrote about the truth, including a famous 
description of a few truths that we still consider self-evident; 
namely, that all men--I would add all women--are created equal and 
entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  Later in life, Jefferson remarked that ``we are not afraid to follow 
truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason 
is left free to combat it.'' Those words really ring true today, don't 
they?
  Jefferson also used to say something to this effect, and I am 
paraphrasing: The people--that is, the people of the United States--
know the truth. We won't make a mistake. If people know the truth, they 
won't make a mistake.
  Since the attack by Russia on our democracy, many patriotic Americans 
within Federal law enforcement and our intelligence agencies have been 
heeding Jefferson's advice and seeking to follow the truth. Here is 
what we have learned.
  In a declassified report released in January of 2017, our own 
intelligence agencies told us that ``Russian President Vladimir Putin 
ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at . . . undermin[ing] 
public faith in the U.S. democratic process.''
  Further, our own intelligence agencies told us that ``Russian efforts 
to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election represent the most 
recent expression of Moscow's longstanding desire to undermine the 
U.S.-led liberal democratic order.''
  Those same agencies, our own intelligence agencies--I think there are 
17 in all that combined to provide this report--told us that it will 
happen again: ``Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-
ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future 
influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their 
election processes.''
  During recent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the 
Director of National Intelligence and our former Senate colleague Dan 
Coats--a good friend of many of us from Indiana--said these words: 
``There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts 
have been successful and views the 2018 midterm U.S. elections as a 
potential target for Russian influence operations.''
  I will read those words again. Our colleague Dan Coats, who sat over 
there and served with us for many years--he and I served together in 
the House before that, and he was an Ambassador to Germany, but now he 
is the Director of our National Intelligence--said: ``There should be 
no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts have been 
successful and views the 2018 midterm U.S. elections as a potential 
target for Russian influence operations.'' Then he added: ``Frankly, 
the United States is under attack.''
  I approve that message. I don't welcome that message, but we need to 
hear that message, and we need to take it to heart.
  In response, we have a responsibility--not to any political party but 
to our Constitution and to the American people--to band together as we 
would following any attack on our country. We have a responsibility to 
fight back, to protect and safeguard our democracy, and to ensure that 
it never happens again.
  We also have a responsibility--again one that rises above political 
party--to determine whether the Trump campaign may have had 
inappropriate contact with Russia during that campaign.
  This responsibility is shared between Congress and the executive 
branch, including the different committees in the House and Senate, as 
well as the Department of Justice, the FBI, and our intelligence 
agencies. Unfortunately, our President has rejected this responsibility 
from the start.
  Let's not forget that President Trump fired former FBI Director James 
Comey and publicly stated it was because of the Russia investigation. 
President Trump told NBC News: ``When I decided to [fire Comey] I said 
to myself, I said, `You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia 
is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an 
election that they should've won.' '' Those are President Trump's words 
to NBC News.
  Because Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from matters 
involving Russia and the 2016 election, Deputy Attorney General Rod 
Rosenstein, a lifelong Republican appointed by President Trump to his 
current position, made the decision to appoint a special counsel to 
continue the Russia investigation.
  Let me take a moment to remind the American people about the 
background and the character of this special counsel. Bob Mueller has 
spent his life serving our country with distinction.
  Our Presiding Officer: Army, highly decorated.
  Yours truly: Navy, 23 years, all in Active Duty and Reserve.
  Here is what Bob Mueller received in some of his decorations as an 
officer in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war--a war in which I 
served as well. He received the Bronze Star, and he earned two Navy 
Commendation Medals and the Purple Heart--all as an officer in the 
Marine Corps during the Vietnam war.
  After a career in Federal law enforcement and private law practice, 
President George W. Bush nominated him to serve as our FBI Director, 
and Bob Mueller guided the FBI in the aftermath of the September 11 
terrorist attacks. A steady hand during uncertain times, Director 
Mueller gained the respect and the admiration of the men and women of 
the FBI, as well as those of us here on Capitol Hill.
  During my tenure as chairman and ranking member of the Senate 
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I had the 
opportunity to meet with Director Mueller on a range of issues, 
including protecting our Nation from cyber security threats. Let me 
just say that I think that maybe in the 17 years I have been here, the 
best briefing I have ever received on cyber security was from Bob

[[Page S2849]]

Mueller. The very best briefing I ever received was from Bob Mueller.
  I also got to know him personally. I know his wife. My wife and I 
know his wife. We believe that he is guided by very strong core values: 
Figure out the right thing to do, and just do it--not when it is easy, 
not when it is expedient, but when it is right. Treat other people the 
way we want to be treated. Focus on excellence in everything we do. If 
it isn't perfect, make it better. And when you know you are right, be 
sure you are right. Never give up. Those are his values. I suspect 
those are the values of many of us who serve here.
  Bob Mueller is a man of unimpeachable integrity. There may be no 
person better suited to this task of special counsel. I have every 
confidence that he will follow the truth wherever it may lead him and 
those he leads. But don't just take my word for it. When the Deputy 
Attorney General appointed him to the position of special counsel a 
little more than a year ago, his selection drew a particularly 
resounding endorsement from those of us who serve here in the Senate--
not just on this side but, in particular, on the other side of the 
aisle.
  Here is what John McCain said about Bob Mueller: ``Robert Mueller is 
a great choice for special counsel.'' John went on to add that he is 
``confident that Mr. Mueller will fully investigate all aspects of 
Russia's interference in our election.''
  Senator Burr said: ``By having someone like Bob Mueller head [the] 
investigation assures the American people that there's no undue 
influence, be it here or be it at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue 
or within the Justice Department or FBI.'' Those are the words of 
Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, a Republican.
  Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with whom I served in the 
House, said this about Bob Mueller: ``Robert Mueller is a superb choice 
to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and 
integrity.''
  I have not known Robert Mueller for as long as some who serve here, 
but I have known him for a while. I have had a chance to work with him 
on some important issues and matters for our country and for the 
security of our country. He is as fine as any public servant I have 
ever known and served with.
  Unfortunately, President Trump has not been as praiseworthy of our 
special counsel as the Senators I just quoted and the former House 
Speaker I just quoted. President Trump has repeatedly used his Twitter 
account to call Special Counsel Mueller's investigation a ``witch 
hunt.'' A witch hunt? In February, 13 Russian individuals and 3 Russian 
companies were charged with breaking U.S. law and interfering in the 
2016 election--13. The indictment details an elaborate, coordinated 
scheme to disrupt our election. Moreover, three Trump campaign 
officials have pled guilty to crimes that include lying to the FBI 
about contacts with Russia during the campaign and a conspiracy to 
defraud the United States, and the former Trump campaign manager is 
currently facing similar charges.
  Despite the progress of the investigation, we know from news reports 
that President Trump repeatedly has considered firing Director Mueller 
and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. That would be a grave mistake. 
That would be a very grave mistake.
  Instead of exercising Presidential leadership and holding Russia 
accountable and safeguarding our upcoming election, President Trump 
continues to use dangerous rhetoric directed toward the special 
counsel's investigation, as well as at the people who work for us, who 
serve at the FBI and the Department of Justice, and who deserve our 
thanks, not our scorn.
  Instead of exercising Presidential leadership and holding Russia 
accountable and safeguarding our upcoming election, President Trump is 
now demanding a counterinvestigation.
  Instead of exercising Presidential leadership and holding Russia 
accountable in safeguarding our elections, President Trump is now 
undermining the special counsel's investigation while risking the 
identity of American intelligence sources.
  Despite this failure of Presidential leadership, the special 
counsel's investigation must go on.
  A Methodist minister in Seaford, in Southern Delaware, Pastor 
Reynolds--a wonderful man, now deceased--gave me advice during my 
career, particularly when I was Governor. One day, he said: Governor, 
the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  I said: Would you say that again, Pastor?
  He said: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  In this case, I think the main thing is for us to find out and 
ascertain the truth. Special Counsel Mueller must be allowed to follow 
the truth, no matter where it leads, no matter how uncomfortable that 
makes President Trump or other people, no matter how uncomfortable that 
makes Vladimir Putin. We must continue to ensure Special Counsel 
Mueller has the time and resources he needs to follow the truth and 
bring this investigation to a conclusion.
  We must also protect the special counsel from undue political 
influence, and send a strong signal to President Trump that firing 
Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, without clear legal justification, 
would pose a grave threat to our constitutional system of checks and 
balances.
  To be clear, we can't pass a bill to end President Trump's erratic 
threats on Twitter, though I know there are a few people--some here--
who would support such a proposal. However, here is what we can do: We 
can pass a bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Coons, Tillis, 
Booker, and Graham, to protect the special counsel's investigation. The 
legislation, called the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, 
would ensure that the special counsel can only be fired for good cause 
by a senior Justice Department official, and the reason must be 
provided in writing. It will ensure that in the event of his firing, 
the special counsel can seek expedited judicial review of his removal, 
and it will also preserve all the documents and materials related to 
this investigation.
  I thank our four colleagues--two Democrats, two Republicans--for 
introducing this bipartisan bill. I support it and urge its swift 
passage. Passing this bill will demonstrate to the American people that 
despite the uncertainties and maybe the fears at this moment, we still 
have a system of checks and balances which still works, as it has been 
working for 240 years.
  There are more constitutions in this world modeled after the U.S. 
Constitution than any other constitution ever. Ours is the most 
emulated and longest living Constitution on the face of the Earth. It 
has an intricate system of checks and balances. Our Founding Fathers--
who convened in Philadelphia 240 years ago--developed the Constitution 
we know of today and sent it out to the Thirteen Colonies to debate and 
consider whether they wanted to ratify it. The first State to ratify 
the Constitution was the State of Delaware, and the Constitution is 
something we especially revere in the First State, but if we allow the 
system of checks and balances as called for in the Constitution to 
work, it will eventually lead us to the truth--which is what we should 
all seek, not just in this Senate, not just in the Congress, not just 
in one party or the other, not just any one State or the other but all 
of us.
  If the unthinkable were to happen and the special counsel were fired 
on a whim, I believe the legislation I just talked about would help us 
preserve the Russia investigation and the rule of law.
  Like Special Counsel Mueller, Congress must not be afraid to follow 
the truth. We must not be distracted by the President's tweets and 
other attempts to undermine this important investigation. We must keep 
the main thing the main thing. Special Counsel Mueller and his team 
must be allowed to finish this investigation, and Congress--especially 
our Republican colleagues--must do our part to protect the 
investigation and insist the President stop the political interference 
and gamesmanship.
  Taken together, I believe these actions will allow us to emerge from 
this especially challenging moment in our country, as we often have 
following other crises throughout our history. We will emerge stronger 
and more resilient, and we will emerge deeply proud that we upheld our 
responsibility to the Constitution and to the American people.

[[Page S2850]]

  In closing, I want to mention that a lot of times people come up to 
me--maybe not every day but several times a week. Some are Democrat, 
some are Republican, some are Independent, some are probably not even 
registered to vote. They say: I fear for the future of our country. I 
don't think it has ever been this bad before. We have never seen it 
this bad before.
  I remind them of the words from Harry Truman, who once served in this 
body as a Senator from Missouri, later as Vice President, and then as 
President of our country. Harry Truman used to say: ``The only thing 
new in the world is the history you do not know.'' Think about that, 
the only thing new in the world is the history we forgot or never 
learned.
  My sister and I grew up in the town of Danville, VA, right on the 
North Carolina border, the last capital of the confederacy. A lot of 
people think the last capital of the confederacy was Richmond, VA, but 
it wasn't. Jefferson Davis and those closest to him got out of 
Richmond, headed south, and ended up in Danville. That is where my 
sister and I grew up, and we saw prejudice and discrimination as little 
kids up close and personal. I will never forget it. There are some 
people in Danville still fighting the Civil War 150 years afterwards, 
at least in their minds.
  During the Civil War, 800,000 men were killed on both sides, and 
hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were wounded, 
crippled. When the war was over, what happened? When the war was over, 
our President was assassinated. His successor, Andrew Johnson, the 
Senator from Tennessee, who also served here, was impeached.
  Somehow, we got through the Civil War, with the assassination of a 
President and the impeachment of a President, and we made it to the 
20th century--just in time to fight not one but two World Wars. We won 
them, led the world and our allies to victory in the Cold War, and led 
the world out of the Great Depression.
  Then, when the Sun came up on the 21st century, on January 1, 2001, 
here is where America was as a nation: We had the strongest economy on 
Earth, and we had the most productive workforce on Earth. For the first 
time since 1968, we actually had a balanced budget--not just one, not 
two, not three but four balanced budgets--the last 4 years of the 
Clinton Presidency. While we had a Democratic President and 
administration, we had a Republican Congress. If I am not mistaken, the 
chairman of the House Budget Committee was very much involved in the 
balanced budgets, a Republican from Ohio, our friend John Kasich, 
former Congressman, now Governor of Ohio.
  So we had the strongest economy and the most productive workforce, 
four balanced budgets in a row, and, on January 1, 2001, we were the 
most admired Nation on Earth, and we had the strongest force for 
justice on Earth. That is where we were, after all the bad stuff and 
all those challenges of 150 years, beginning with and following the 
Civil War.
  If we can get through all that, we can get through this. In the words 
of Jefferson, if the American people know the truth, we will not make a 
mistake. That is what Bob Mueller and his folks are trying to get to, 
and it is important that they succeed.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                                 China

  Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, there has been a lot of coverage over the 
last couple of months and years really--but certainly in the last few 
days--about the topic of China, ZTE, and trade. I have had a lot of 
questions about it, both in the hallways from the press and 
constituents back home and even from family and friends who have 
inquired what all the ruckus is about. I thought this was a good 
opportunity to lay out for my constituents and broadly for the American 
people what is at stake.
  The first thing I would encourage everyone to do is to separate the 
two issues, the issue of trade with China and the issue of a specific 
company called ZTE, which is a phone company--a telecommunications 
company in the cell industry based in China. They were the fourth 
largest cell phone company in America, up until very recently when they 
struggled to stay in business. We will talk about that in a moment, but 
let's talk about those two things separately. They are not necessarily 
interrelated.
  On the broader topic of trade and China, the United States has an 
enormous imbalance in trade--as we do with other countries but none 
like we do in China. A trade imbalance, by the way, in and of itself, 
is not problematic. It really depends on what has caused it, but the 
trade imbalance with China is problematic because of how it has 
happened.
  China was basically poor, underdeveloped, under a Communist 
dictatorship, and decided it wanted to open up to the world and become 
more economically prosperous many years ago.
  The deal the world made with China is, we are going to help you 
develop economically. You are going to open up. We are going to help 
you invest. We are going to help you create opportunity. We are going 
to let your companies invest in our economies.
  There are rules in the world for trade. There are things that are 
allowed and things that are not allowed. For example, you are not 
allowed to steal another company's secrets. If another company has 
figured out how to make something, that is proprietary. They own it, 
they developed it, they spent money creating it, and you are not 
allowed to go there and steal that from them and start making it 
yourself.
  You can't have rules that say your companies cannot sell in my 
country, but our country can do whatever we want in your country. There 
are rules. China has never played by those rules, and everybody knew 
it. Nobody disputed it. Administrations from both parties, the 
consensus politically in America was go ahead. Let's let China cheat. 
Let them keep stealing things because once China becomes richer and 
more prosperous, they will stop doing that stuff. As soon as China's 
economy grows big enough, not only will they stop doing all that, but 
they will become a democracy.
  Everyone who said that was wrong. That is not what has happened. They 
are less Democratic, less open today than they used to be, and they are 
no longer just stealing little secrets to be in the same ballpark. They 
are stealing $600 billion a year of intellectual property. Six hundred 
billion dollars a year is equivalent to what we spend on the U.S. 
military. They are stealing the equivalent of that every single year.
  How do they do it? First of all, just straight-out espionage. Time 
and again, they hack computers, they hack emails. They have spies 
embedded inside companies. They straight-out steal it through 
espionage.
  The second thing they do to protect their industries and grow at our 
expense is, they don't allow many of our companies to do business in 
China--huge market. Their companies get to do business here, but they 
don't allow our companies to do business there--some companies.
  They do allow other companies to do business in China, but here is 
the deal. If you do business in China, it has to be a joint venture 
with a Chinese company--51 percent Chinese, 49 percent American 
company. On top of that, there is another catch. If you want to do 
business in China with a Chinese company, you have to transfer your 
technology to them. If you want to build turbines, we will let you 
build turbines in China, but you have to transfer to us the technology 
of how you do it.
  Do you know why they do that? Because once they figure out how to do 
it themselves, they don't need their American partner anymore. They 
kick you out, and now they are your competitor and may even put you out 
of business. That has happened many times. If they don't achieve it by 
forcing you to transfer, then they straight-out steal it from you.
  They also buy up small companies. We have a law here that is called 
CFIUS process. When a foreign company, especially from a country like 
China, is buying in a key industry, it undergoes this review to make 
sure it is not a deal where they could be taking secrets that are tied 
to national security.

[[Page S2851]]

  They figured it out. They are just buying small American companies, a 
bunch of them, in many cases, that are under the level that we look at, 
these subcontractors, and finding their way in that way.
  Suffice it to say that we have a very serious imbalance with China, 
but the imbalance is not the dollars. The imbalance is in the structure 
of trade between China and the United States. That is why we don't need 
a short-term trade deal. This is not about saying: All right. Go ahead 
and buy more of our agriculture. You guys go buy more of the stuff you 
were going to buy more of anyway because you need to. In exchange, you 
get to keep doing what you are doing now, and there will not be any 
tariffs.
  That is a short-term deal. It might be a good headline. You can claim 
that you won, but in the end, it doesn't do anything to change it. In 
fact, it leaves us worse off. You might as well have not even gotten 
into this in the first place. You have actually strengthened them even 
more.
  Let me tell you how they win this fight. They go to all those 
American multinational corporations, many of whom are just interested 
in how their stock is performing from quarter to quarter, and say to 
them: Lobby your Congressman, lobby your Senator, lobby the White 
House, and convince them to drop all of this.
  They do it because what these companies want is to have access to the 
1.3 billion people. They don't care if they are only 49 percent of the 
company in China. They don't care if they are stealing their 
intellectual property. By the time that matters, the CEO and the people 
making that decision will be long ago retired, with a huge golden 
parachute bonus because they delivered a bunch of quarters of earnings. 
That is so shortsighted.
  They may not care about it, but those of us who work here have to 
because we do not want to live in a world where China dominates 
industry, not because they outinnovated us or worked harder, but 
because they stole it from us.
  By the way, the Chinese have figured all of this out. They have 
figured out exactly how to get things done in American politics. They 
don't lobby the government. They lobby the business sector. Then, all 
these large corporations go marching onto Capitol Hill and into the 
White House and scream and plead to drop all this. Of course they do 
because they are going to make a lot of money in China over the next 5 
or 6 years.
  A lot of these companies are one day going to be out of business. It 
is short-term thinking. Their obligations are to their shareholders. 
Their shareholders are not all Americans. Our obligations are to the 
American people and America's future.
  This is disastrous. We need a structural rebalance, not just a dollar 
rebalance. China is not a developing country. It is the second largest 
economy in the world. It will soon be the largest economy in the world. 
Yet we continue to let them cheat and steal. That is the trade issue.
  ZTE is something completely different--related but completely 
different. Let me tell you about ZTE. ZTE broke the law. ZTE sold goods 
and services to Iran and to North Korea. They violated sanctions. They 
tried to cover it up, and they got caught. When they got caught, they 
got hit with a fine and were told they need to fire the people who 
tried to cover it up and the people who did this. They paid the fine, 
but they did not fire the people who did this. Do you know what they 
did instead? They gave them bonuses, and they tried to cover that up.
  The Commerce Department said: Fine. We caught you. We made a deal 
with you. You broke that deal. Now the penalty is, you cannot buy 
American semiconductors. That was the penalty. We are not going to 
sell you any more semiconductors for 7 years. ZTE says it is going to 
put them out of business because they do depend on us for 
semiconductors.

  Now we are reading there is a new deal in place, potentially. The new 
deal is not official, but I have read it, and it has been reported. The 
new deal is this. We are going to let you stay in business. Pay a fine, 
$1 billion or this morning I heard $1.3 billion, and $1.3 billion is 
nothing for a company backed by the Government of China. The Chinese 
Government will pay it for them. Are you kidding me? Only $1.3 billion 
to continue to stay in business and one day replace America in 
telecommunications? That is nothing.
  The other sanction--guess what it is. We are going to force you to 
buy more things from America.
  That is not a punishment. That is a reward. That is exactly what they 
want. That was the sanction. The sanction was they couldn't buy more 
from us because they can't stay in business unless they buy from us. 
The punishment is going to be, instead of punishing you by denying you 
semiconductors, we are going to really punish you by forcing you to buy 
more semiconductors from America.
  They were going to do that anyway. That is a reward, not a 
punishment. That is a terrible deal. Some people say that is a deal 
that is tied into the broader trade deal, another terrible deal.
  If I were China, I would give us anything we want on ZTE in exchange 
for being able to continue to undermine the American economy, but it 
goes deeper than that. Here is the other problem with ZTE. If it is 
just one company, it is one thing. China intends to dominate the world 
in the key technologies of the 21st century--aerospace, biotech, 
quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G, and telecommunications. 
They are going to dominate the world.
  Do you know why I know that? It isn't because I read some fancy 
article. It isn't because I am on the Intel Committee. It isn't because 
of a hearing. It isn't because of a meeting. Do you know how I know 
that? Because China says it. They have a plan called China 2025, Made 
in China 2025.
  Here is what the plan basically means. By the year 2025, China will 
be the dominant country in the world in these 10 to 12 industries, 
which happen to be the 10 to 12 industries that are going to determine 
the fate of the 21st century. Biotech basically means genetic medicine, 
the ability to cure diseases like Alzheimer's disease and others that 
are going to be a plague on the world in the years to come. Aerospace 
means technology for space. It also means aircraft and the like. They 
don't intend to be competitive in those fields. They intend to dominate 
those fields.
  You may say: Well, what is wrong with that? Countries can want to 
dominate fields. It is fine.
  If you are going to become the dominant power in the world in these 
key technologies, you have every right to do so but not by breaking the 
rules. That is how they are doing it.
  What is China doing in order to dominate the world in 2025? To their 
credit, they invest a lot of money in research and development. They 
also invest a lot of money in stealing whatever we have already done. 
Think about it. America invests taxpayer money. We innovate something. 
We innovate it. After we spend all of your money innovating these 
things, they take it from us and steal it. It costs them nothing to 
start out exactly where we are after years and years of work.
  Think about that for a moment. That is an enormous competitive 
advantage. They have free research funding by the American taxpayer. 
They steal it.
  What else do they do? They do other things. How do they steal it, you 
may ask. One of the ways they steal it is through telecommunications. 
They are trying to embed themselves in our telecommunications system. 
Here is how. They know, for example, the U.S. Government or a defense 
contractor are not going to buy a ZTE phone, but they have a solution 
for that. The solution is, they sell the ZTE phone, the exact same 
phone with the exact same components inside of it--the things they can 
turn on and off to listen to us or take emails or documents or whatever 
they need, and they sell the exact same phone to an American 
telecommunications provider. The American telecommunications provider 
puts their sticker on it so you think you are buying not a ZTE phone 
but a phone that belongs to an American company, and they sell it--it 
is called white labeling--or a router. Huawei has a router. The 
Department of Defense or the government is not going to put a Huawei 
router in a sensitive place. That is fine. They will sell it to an 
American company. That company will take off Huawei and put on their 
sticker, and

[[Page S2852]]

you have a router controlled by a Chinese company that is beholden to 
Chinese intelligence. Even if they wanted to not cooperate, they don't 
have a choice.
  When they tell them, we want you to go into that router and get the 
secrets of this company or the secrets of the U.S. Government, not only 
do they have to do it, they will do it, especially if it is in 
telecommunications. That is happening right now. They embed themselves 
in our telecommunications system that way through white labeling.
  The other thing they do is they use their American subcontracting 
unit. Again, they know no one is going to hire them to build a military 
base and put the wire in it. You hire an American company. That is the 
prime contractor. They come in as a subcontractor to the prime 
contractor, and they are the ones doing the work. We think we hired an 
American company, but the work is being done by a subcontractor 
controlled by ZTE or Huawei or any of these other companies. That is 
another way they do it.
  I am telling you, we are going to wake up one day and realize that in 
our own country, embedded in our telecommunications system--in our 
cable, in our routers, in our internet--are a bunch of component pieces 
that not only leave vulnerable our Department of Defense but our 
business community. To what? To stealing corporate secrets and 
commercial secrets that allow them to take the research America has 
done and use it as their starting point free of cost. This is not 
fantastic. This is why people are so fired up about ZTE. This is not a 
game.
  Somebody just sent me an article a few minutes ago. I don't know 
which one of the publications it was. It was talking about me and 
taking on the President on ZTE. This is not a political game. It has 
nothing to do with that. This is not about politics. Do we not 
understand where we are headed? You have a country that is actively 
saying we are going to displace you. We are going to be the most 
powerful country in the world, and we are going to do that at your 
expense. We are here talking about all kinds of other crazy things or 
political reporters cover this through a political lens. This is not a 
game.
  Do you know why China wins these negotiations? Because they don't 
play these games. They know what this is about. They have a 10-year 
plan, a 20-year plan, a 50-year plan. We can't even think 48 hours 
ahead. Everything here is about a political issue. It is not a game. 
Whether you want to believe it or not, every single one of us was 
elected. We participated in politics. I think most of us, if not all of 
us, do not want to live in a world in 10, 15, 20 years on our watch, 
where some other country now dominates the world at our expense, where 
we now work for them, we now are beholden to them for everything from 
medicines to technologies, and we were here when it happened and didn't 
do anything about it because we were loyal to our party or because we 
were too busy focused on--well, just turn on the news when we have a 
massive threat before us.
  By the way, this is the stuff historians write about. A hundred years 
from now, we will all look like fools because, if you are just watching 
this on an hour-by-hour basis, it is not a big story. Yet, 100 years 
from now, when someone writes the history of the 21st century and we 
have let this happen, they are going to write about us. They are going 
to say that we were fiddling while Rome was burning, that we were 
allowing the Chinese to take over the world at our expense and displace 
us because we were too busy doing all kinds of other things.
  By the way, this is not just about business. When you turn on some of 
the networks that cover the stock market, they cover this like a 
casino. Oh, the trade thing is doing better today, so the stocks are up 
or the stocks are down. Forget about that for a moment. You can make 
all of the profits you want over the next 3 to 6 months. I promise you, 
if this continues, in 10 or 15 years, you will not be watching the U.S. 
stock market; you will be watching the Chinese market, and it will be 
determining whether our companies survive. It will be we on the 
outside, looking in.
  Then Americans are going to wonder: Why do we no longer invent great 
things? Why do we now have to do whatever China wants in the world in 
order to get the medicines we need to cure my mom or my dad's 
Alzheimer's?
  The answer will be, when they were displacing us, your policymakers 
were too busy arguing with each other and playing dumb, ridiculous 
games on a regular basis. Meanwhile, China was focused like a laser on 
a plan, and it executed it.
  This is not a game. I can think of no more significant issue from the 
perspective of history than what is happening now. Do not misunderstand 
me. I do not come here to say that I want to be unnecessarily 
aggressive with China or that I want there to be a confrontation. China 
is going to be a rich and a powerful country, and we have no problem 
with that--we can't have any problem with that--but there has to be a 
balance. It cannot be a China that is rich and powerful and an America 
that is weak and not prosperous.
  Those imbalances are what create wars. Those imbalances are what 
create misery. Those imbalances are what destabilize the planet. That 
can't be. We need to recalibrate this relationship. It needs to be 
rebalanced on the trade side. It needs to be protective on our national 
security side. It needs to be equalized. If it is, China can still be 
very successful. It is going to invent things. It is going to create 
jobs. It is going to become more prosperous. That is fine. We have been 
doing that for 100 years.
  Every person who is sitting in the Gallery, every person here in the 
well of the Senate and on the Senate floor--everyone you know--has a 
product on him--a phone, a belt--that has been made in another country. 
The issue is not that other countries make things and that we don't. 
The issue is not about our dominating everything. It is about balance, 
and this is not balanced. This is headed for a dramatic imbalance. The 
imbalance used to be that they made cheap things and sent them back to 
us so we had lower prices. That is what has happened for the last 30 
years. They have made cheaper T-shirts; they have assembled the phones 
more cheaply; and they have shipped them back to the United States, 
which has led to lower prices. That is not the imbalance I am talking 
about.
  The imbalance we are headed for is that they will control state-of-
the-art artificial intelligence, that they will control state-of-the-
art quantum computing, which will mean that nothing will be encrypted 
anymore, which will mean that there will be no such thing as secure 
cars left. One day, the President of the United States will not be able 
to talk to his national security officials anywhere in the world 
without the Chinese hearing it. No matter what encryption you will put 
in, they will break it with a quantum computer. That is the imbalance I 
am talking about.
  The imbalance I am talking about is when, one day, we will have a 
dispute with China on something--on national security somewhere in the 
world--and it will threaten to cut off our supply of biomedicines. In 
essence, it will threaten the lives of Americans in their not getting 
medicine unless we cave to China's desires. That is the imbalance I am 
talking about.
  The imbalance I am talking about is one where it dominates aerospace, 
where it is the nation that controls satellites and satellite 
communication, where it is the nation that controls 5G. We are headed 
toward autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will depend on 5G 
technology. China will dominate the world in 5G, and we will depend on 
it. So we are going to build a fleet of autonomous trucks and 
autonomous cars, and none of them will work if the Chinese decided to 
shut it down because they will dominate that field. That is the 
imbalance I am talking about.
  If this all sounds fantastic or apocalyptic, look it up. Research it. 
I promise you that you will not find a single person who is versed on 
this topic who will disagree with what I am saying. This is the threat 
that we face, and we are not facing it squarely.
  I would advise those who cover this issue to stop covering it as a 
political issue. There are some things that are so important to this 
country that I don't care what the politics are, and most of my 
colleagues don't either. These are definitional things that will define 
the 21st century.

[[Page S2853]]

  I would advise us not to cover this as a purely economic issue 
because there is a way to grow the trade gap in the short term. We can 
sell China a lot more of the things it is willing to buy anyway. It 
doesn't intend to lead the world in those things in exchange for its 
dominating us in the long run. Get rid of the short-term thinking, and 
start thinking our competitor has a    50-, a 100-, a 20-, and a 5-year 
plan, and we don't even know what we are going to be talking about next 
week.
  It is time to wake up to this threat because we have two ways 
forward. There can be a balanced relationship between two great powers 
that leads to a world that is stable and secure and prosperous or we 
can have an imbalanced world in which the rising power of China is at 
the direct expense of a falling status quo power in the United States. 
That instability will lead to conflict and a way of life for Americans 
that we will find unacceptable. Then it will be too late. Then we will 
have to explain, maybe, to our children and, most certainly, to our 
grandchildren why the America we grew up in--that led the world in all 
of the great innovations and in all of the great ideas, that provided 
prosperity to millions of people here and around the world--and the 
America they get to grow up in is a second-tiered power while China 
dominates everything that matters.
  If you think that is not a big deal, one of the reasons democracy has 
spread across the planet is that the world's most powerful country has 
been a democracy. If the world's most powerful and dominant nation on 
Earth is a dictatorship--a country that has no respect for privacy, a 
country that has no respect for free speech, a country that has no 
respect for religious liberty of its open people, a country that has no 
regard for human rights anywhere in the world--what do you think the 
world is going to look like in 20 or 30 years? It is not going to be a 
better place.
  Democracy is morally superior to autocratic regimes. We should not be 
afraid to say that. If for no other reason--if you want to put aside 
economics for a moment and confront it from that angle--we cannot allow 
an autocratic dictatorship to dominate the global economy and global 
technology by stealing from us at the expense of the democratic order 
in the world. Democracies are morally superior to dictatorships. If we 
allow China to cheat and steal its way into dominance, there will be 
more dictatorships and fewer democracies on this planet, and we will 
all pay a price for that.
  I urge everyone to take this issue seriously. I urge the President to 
listen carefully to those in his own administration who understand this 
threat for what it is holistically, and I urge them to move in a 
direction that recalibrates the structure of our relationship with 
China economically and that does not allow not just ZTE but numerous 
other telecom companies to continue to grow and spy at our expense.
  That is what I encourage them to do, and that is the right thing to 
do for the future of this country, not some short-term deal that makes 
us feel good and potentially gets a positive headline in the short term 
but what historians will condemn as the beginning of the end of 
America's place in the world as its most influential Nation.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Johnson). The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, first, I want to add my comments to those 
by my friend from Florida, Senator Rubio, about China.
  I remember years ago, when I was helping to lead the opposition to 
China's admission into the World Trade Organization, when American CEOs 
came to this body and said one after another to Members of Congress 
that they wanted access to billions of Chinese consumers when what they 
really wanted was access to hundreds of millions of Chinese workers. 
U.S. companies, as part of a business plan, consistently shut down 
production, whether it was in the Florida Panhandle or whether it was 
in Northeast Ohio, and moved those productions overseas. They enriched 
that Communist government and gave China the wherewithal that Senator 
Rubio talks about now.
  That is the importance of the CFIUS legislation we did yesterday in 
the Banking Committee that Senator Crapo, Senator Van Hollen, and I 
worked on. It is the importance of many of the issues that Senator 
Rubio raised, so I thank my colleague from Florida.
  Mr. President, I rise to oppose the nomination of Brian Montgomery. 
He has been nominated by the President to serve in the U.S. Department 
of Housing and Urban Development as an Assistant Secretary of Housing 
and as the Federal Housing Commissioner.
  If confirmed, Mr. Montgomery would oversee the Federal Housing 
Administration, the FHA, which insures loans for homeowners, 
multifamily rental buildings, and healthcare facilities originated by 
HUD-approved mortgage lenders; oversees HUD's Housing Counseling 
Program; and provides rental assistance for over 1.2 million low-income 
seniors, individuals with disabilities, and families.
  We are considering this nomination at a time when the Nation faces 
all kinds of housing challenges. Thanks to a deep shortage of 
affordable rental housing--think about this--a quarter of all renters, 
of all households, are paying more than half of their incomes for 
housing. That means, if anything goes bad in their lives--if their cars 
break down on the way to work or if their children are sick, and they 
have to decide to send their children to school anyway or to stay home 
and lose a day's pay and get behind on their rent--then everything will 
go bad for them.
  Far too many creditworthy borrowers still struggle to access 
sustainable credit in the mortgage market, particularly in communities 
of color. In February, the Center for Investigative Reporting released 
data showing that people of color were far more likely--in some cases, 
more than five times as likely--to be denied conventional mortgages. 
They found this data in 61 metropolitan areas around the country. It is 
not limited to only a few places.
  Mr. Montgomery, in his having served previously in the position for 
which he has been nominated, would bring both valuable experience and 
an appreciation for the importance of the programs he would lead if he 
is confirmed. He has spoken about the value of the FHA as both a 
responsible engine of homeownership and a countercyclical tool to 
ensure that mortgage credit remains available. He has also supported 
the Office of Housing's affordable housing program. That is the good 
news.
  The bad news is that I am concerned that Mr. Montgomery, in the 
interest of making the FHA a better partner to the mortgage industry 
after having served in the industry as a board member or adviser, will 
lose sight of the interests that FHA and consumers have. Following his 
previous tenure at HUD, Mr. Montgomery cofounded a consulting firm that 
provided a range of services to financial services companies, services 
that included helping FHA participants minimize penalties from HUD 
enforcement actions. He also sits on the boards of companies whose 
businesses could be affected by FHA and Federal housing policies.
  Perhaps more troubling is that Mr. Montgomery has stated concerns 
about ``excessive'' Federal enforcement efforts against mortgage 
lenders in the years following the mortgage crisis, including pursuing 
claims under the False Claims Act.
  In late last year, the Trump administration's Department of Justice 
noted ``the False Claims Act serves as the government's primary civil 
remedy to redress false claims for government funds and property'' and 
further noted that recoveries under the act are ``a message to those 
who do business with the government that fraud and dishonesty will not 
be tolerated.''
  The False Claims Act was cited in several post-crisis Federal 
enforcement actions, including a $1.2 billion settlement with Wells 
Fargo in 2016 and in a 2014 settlement with JPMorgan Chase for 
``knowingly originating and underwriting noncompliant mortgage loans 
submitted for insurance coverage and guarantees'' at the FHA.
  Obviously, fraud has no place in FHA programs. However, without a 
strong

[[Page S2854]]

signal that fraud and dishonesty will not be tolerated, some lenders 
who don't play by the rules will, once again, push the envelope with 
damaging effects to families and taxpayers.
  I hope that Mr. Montgomery proves me wrong and that under his 
leadership, HUD will emerge as a strong advocate for consumers and 
affordable housing and assisted families. It is hard for me to believe 
that, though, when you look down the street at the White House, and the 
White House, frankly, looks like a retreat for Wall Street executives 
and those connected to those financial interests.
  Consumers and families need an advocate at HUD. So far, the 
administration's response to our rental housing shortage, unbelievably 
enough, has been to propose the slashing of billions from housing 
programs and the raising of rent on low-income, HUD-assisted families, 
seniors, and people with disabilities. After all, as the HUD Secretary 
said--after giving this tax cut where 80 percent of the tax cut, of the 
$1-plus trillion, went to the richest 1 percent of people in this 
country--they had to make cuts to the cleanup of Lake Erie, which 
Senator Klobuchar and I care so much about; they had to make cuts in 
Head Start; and they had to propose raising the eligibility age for 
Social Security and Medicare. They had to make these cuts. That was 
part of the deal of a tax cut for the rich. So it is just a little hard 
for us to buy in to some of their reasoning.

  The administration has been dismantling consumer protections and 
eroding fair housing enforcement at HUD and the CFPB. Just yesterday, 
Congress passed legislation making it harder to detect and protect 
against violations of fair housing laws, particularly reverse 
redlining, as if we didn't deal with that issue decades ago. We all 
should come to agreement that redlining is wrong. It devastated 
borrowers and communities during the crisis, and it hasn't gotten a 
whole lot better.
  I hope Mr. Montgomery, when he is confirmed, will use his office to 
advocate for housing solutions that work for our families and our 
communities. These matters are far too important for too many Americans 
to do otherwise.
  I oppose his nomination. I hope I am wrong. I hope he actually does 
the things that someone in that position at HUD should do.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Hyde-Smith). The Senator from Minnesota.


                         Antitrust Enforcement

  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I come to the Senate floor today to 
discuss what I consider an often overlooked issue that is of central 
importance to the well-being of American consumers and our Nation's 
economic strength, and that is antitrust enforcement.
  Before I was a Senator, I was a prosecutor for 8 years, and before 
that, I was a lawyer in private practice. Early in my legal career, my 
main client when I was a brandnew lawyer was MCI. At the time, MCI was 
a young, innovative telecom company that was determined to disrupt the 
telecom industry by competing with first long-distance carriers and 
then local monopoly carriers. It was exciting for me to represent a 
company like that. They had a lot of scrappy lawyers who viewed 
themselves as fighting for consumers to give them some alternatives and 
lower prices.
  I remember that at one of my regulatory hearings, I actually quoted 
the first words Alexander Graham Bell said over the telephone: ``Come 
here, Watson, I need you.'' But in the Wild West world of MCI, when 
they were getting ready to relay the first-ever communication between 
St. Louis and Chicago--which seems odd to the younger pages here--at 
the time, Bell companies dominated all telecoms, and we only had those 
old-style telephones and only one company in an area that offered 
service. So MCI came in to compete by building their own line between 
St. Louis and Chicago. One of their investors, Irwin Hirsh, 
memorialized this great moment, and instead of saying ``Come here, 
Watson, I need you,'' he said, ``I'll be damned. It actually works.''
  But make no mistake--without antitrust law, MCI would never have 
worked. We would have had no competitors. We would have been stuck in 
the old Bell operating company world. MCI took on Bell operating 
company and AT&T and ultimately broke up that monopoly. This breakup 
lowered long-distance prices for consumers across the country and 
ushered in an era of amazing innovation and revolutionized the telecom 
industry and, yes, brought down those long-distance prices.
  Antitrust may not always make front-page headlines these days, but 
antitrust enforcement is as important now as it has ever been. It 
remains vital to the welfare of our country, and we ignore it at our 
own peril.
  People often ask me, what does antitrust law have to do with our 
economy? The answer I always give is, everything. Let me repeat that. 
Antitrust has everything to do with our broader economy. That is 
becoming clearer to the American public. People intuitively understand 
that there is too much industry consolidation in this country. They 
understand that is not necessarily good for them whether they are a 
Democrat or a Republican or an Independent. They understand that the 
benefits of big corporate mergers go largely to the merged companies 
and their investors and not to the public.
  This highlights the fact that antitrust is not just a subject for 
competition policy circles or law school classroom discussion or the 
business section of the newspaper; antitrust policy touches people 
across our country, and they are beginning to see how important it is 
to their lives.
  Two-thirds of Americans have come to believe that the economy 
unfairly favors powerful interests. Even as our economy stabilizes and 
grows stronger, it is easy to see why people feel that way.
  Every year, I go to all 87 counties in my State. Everywhere I go, 
people tell me that while the job situation has improved since the 
downturn over the last decade--and, in fact, we need workers for a lot 
of the jobs that are open in our economy--they are still struggling 
with the cost of living.
  In my State, we are fortunate to have a strong economy, but the cost 
of living is by no means low, and that is true all over the United 
States. For some, it is rent payments. For others, it is mortgages. For 
others, it is prescription drugs--and that is actually for almost 
everyone--and mobile phone service. To many people who dream of 
starting their own business, that is hard to do when those costs are so 
high.
  Anticompetitive mergers and excessive concentration can increase 
these cost burdens. They may lead these cost burdens, whether it is in 
the agriculture industry or the cable industry or certainly the 
pharmaceutical industry, where we see monopoly power over certain kinds 
of drugs, where we see pharmaceuticals basically, in the words of the 
President of the United States while he was campaigning, ``able to get 
away with murder.'' Yet, what are we doing about it? Well, the people 
would like us to do something about it. They are increasingly realizing 
that antitrust has everything to do with the prices they pay for goods 
and services and with the health of our global economy.
  These are not novel ideas. Think back to trust-busting. Think back to 
Teddy Roosevelt. Think back to this American entrepreneurial spirit of 
small companies and individuals being able to compete against each 
other. That is what our economy is all about in America. When companies 
are allowed to compete and people are allowed to get into a business, 
businesses can offer higher quality goods for the lowest possible 
price.
  The point I want to emphasize is this: Talking about antitrust in a 
narrow way is outdated and oversimplified. Antitrust enforcement 
affects more than price and output. We now have evidence that 
competition fosters small business growth, reduces inequality, and 
increases innovation. In short, tackling concentrations of power is a 
linchpin to a healthy economy and a civil society.
  With respect to business growth, evidence suggests that it is nearly 
impossible for new firms to penetrate highly concentrated markets, so 
ensuring competitive markets is one clear way to help entrepreneurs and 
small businesses succeed. We all know how important small business 
growth is to our economy.

[[Page S2855]]

  Research also suggests that concentration increases income 
inequality. Firms with market power raise prices, which takes money 
from consumers and puts it in the pockets of the few. Concentration 
also blunts incentives to innovate. Why would someone innovate if they 
know they can just keep the product they have, not invest in R&D, not 
invest in innovation, because they have the only product on the market 
because no one is competing with them for something better? When there 
are 8 or 10 competitors, they will try everything to get a leg up on 
their competition by lowering prices and finding new products that 
people want. When there are only one or two firms, there is little 
incentive to make product improvements, develop new products, or 
certainly bring down those prices.
  We have to recognize the broader benefits of antitrust enforcement--
especially today, when we are living in a wave of consolidation across 
industries. Since 2008, American firms have engaged in more than $10 
trillion in acquisitions. The last few years have seen a steady 
increase in mergers reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and the 
Justice Department's Antitrust Division. But it is not just the number 
of deals. I recall former Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Bill 
Baer, a lifelong antitrust lawyer, saying that his agency was reviewing 
deals that raised such serious antitrust concerns that they should have 
never made it out of the boardroom.
  As former chair and ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee, I 
have raised concerns about several megamerger proposals over the last 
few years.
  Look at the Comcast-Time Warner merger proposal. As I pointed out at 
a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, if the merger had been approved, 
the combined company would have controlled 60 percent of the country's 
high-speed and broadband customers.
  Look at the failed merger between Norfolk Southern Railway and 
Canadian Pacific--something I took on immediately after it was 
announced. Even without the merger, 90 percent of freight traffic is 
still handled by only four railroads. As I pointed out then, this is 
the same number of railroads on the Monopoly board. Four is what we are 
down to after having literally 63 of these major railroads years and 
years ago, then going down to 9, and now we are at only 4.
  When a State has a lot of rural areas like mine has--we are fifth in 
the country for ag, and I think of the Presiding Officer's State--
customers or farmers or small businesses that are at the very end of 
that freight rail line are called captive customers because they are 
only served in reality by one railroad. They see their rates go up, and 
they have no other choices. The more numbers are reduced, the more 
difficult it becomes for people to get good rates so they are able to 
get their goods to market. It is easier when you are in a highly 
concentrated market, but it is very hard when you are not.
  These examples are part of a larger pattern of horizontal 
consolidation and vertical integration. Those are words you hear only 
in law school classes or maybe see in the business section of the 
paper, but that is what is happening.
  We all know about AT&T's bid to buy Time Warner and the Justice 
Department lawsuit to block the deal, but that is not all. Sinclair 
Broadcast Group is trying to buy Tribune Media. Bayer is trying to buy 
Monsanto. CVS is trying to acquire Aetna.
  Most recently, T-Mobile signed an agreement to buy Sprint, which 
would combine two of only four major cell phone carriers in the United 
States. Again, I note that number of four--the number on the Monopoly 
board--which would go down further to three. In fact, T-Mobile has been 
playing a major disrupting role--I mean disruption that is good in 
terms of bringing down prices. We have all seen the ads with what they 
are offering. This merger would merge two of those phone companies, and 
we would be down to only three. More than three-quarters of American 
adults now own smartphones, including many who depend on these devices 
for their primary connection to the internet. Many of them don't even 
have local phone service. Now we will bring their choices for major 
carriers down to three if this deal goes through.
  Last October, in anticipation of this transaction, and weeks ago, 
after it was announced, I sent letters with a number of my colleagues 
raising antitrust concerns and urging the Justice Department and the 
Federal Communications Commission to investigate this potential 
transaction. Today, Senator Lee and I are announcing that we are going 
to hold a hearing to look at these issues very carefully and very 
seriously in a bipartisan way in the Antitrust Subcommittee next month.
  Often, in connection with large mergers, the merging parties and the 
investment community promise millions, sometimes billions of dollars in 
efficiencies and cost savings. But after closing, do consumers actually 
see the promised lower prices or the improved quality? I think the 
American people deserve an answer to that question. To address these 
issues, we need aggressive antitrust enforcement.
  Let's talk about that. Unfortunately, current levels of Federal 
antitrust enforcement activity are not where they need to be. I take my 
responsibilities on the Antitrust Subcommittee seriously, and Chairman 
Lee and I have done a lot of important work together on the 
subcommittee over the past few years. Also, we are both committed to 
the professionalism and the independence of the Federal Trade 
Commission and the Antitrust Division.
  Antitrust and competition are not Republican or Democratic issues; 
they are consumer issues. We can all agree that robust competition is 
essential to our free market economy. In light of this consensus, the 
enormous economic consequences of lax antitrust enforcement, and the 
current merger wave, these issues require our urgent attention.

  Let me explain.
  Our economy, in terms of nominal GDP, has increased by 30 percent 
between 2010 and 2017, and annual merger filings have almost doubled 
during that time. At the same time, our antitrust agencies' budgets 
have been held flat. As a result, agencies are only able to litigate 
cases involving the most highly concentrated markets. This limits the 
attention they pay to closer or more difficult cases.
  Despite these constraints, agencies are doing what they can, but we 
need to do more. Giving agencies the resources to pursue the harder 
cases will pay real dividends to our economy. When I say resources, I 
also mean the legal tools necessary to protect competition.
  When it comes to mergers, the protections in the Clayton Act--that is 
the antitrust law--have slowly been eroded. Over time, we have seen a 
systemic underenforcement of our competition laws. The result has been 
even larger mergers and more concentrated industries, and American 
consumers are taking notice. We need to give our agencies the legal 
tools to push back.
  That is why I have introduced two major antitrust bills over the last 
year. The first will give our antitrust agencies the resources they 
need to protect competition. Now, this is not coming off the backs of 
taxpayers because, as I have already explained, they are already having 
to foot the bill for a lot of these mergers in terms of higher prices. 
This bill would, in fact, update merger filing fees for the first time 
since 2001. Think of how many years that is and how the competitive 
landscape and the merger landscape have changed during those 17 years. 
This bill would lower the burden on small and medium-sized businesses 
for their filing fees and ensure that larger deals, where we are seeing 
all of these activities--these billion-dollar deals where they hire so 
many lawyers that there are more lawyers on those deals than there are 
Senators' desks in this room--have fees on businesses that would raise 
enough revenues so taxpayers could foot less of the bill for merger 
review. I am not talking about an across-the-board business tax. I am 
talking about higher fees on those businesses--major businesses, huge 
businesses--that are seeking to merge and reap the benefits. If their 
lawyers can get all kinds of bonuses for getting the deals through, at 
least the taxpayers should be getting the bonus of being able to know 
that someone is looking out for them in reviewing these deals.
  Effective enforcement also depends on feedback. As the size of 
mergers have grown, so have the complexities

[[Page S2856]]

of merger settlements. A question for modern enforcement is whether 
some proposed mergers are simply too big to fix. Agencies can make 
better enforcement decisions if they understand what has worked in the 
past.
  So my bill gives the agencies the tools to assess whether merger 
consent decrees have in fact been successful. Have all those promises 
we hear at the hearings or we see in writing or we read about in the 
business pages really come to fruition?
  In addition, we need a better understanding of the effects of market 
consolidation on our economy. That is why we need to study the effects 
of mergers on wages, employment, innovation, and new business 
formation. We also must give our antitrust agencies and courts the 
legal tools necessary to protect competition.
  That is why my second bill, the Consolidation Prevention and 
Competition Promotion Act, would restore the Clayton Act's original 
purpose of promoting competition by updating our legal standards so our 
legal standards are as sophisticated as the companies that are 
proposing these mergers and the kinds of mergers they are proposing.
  My bill clarifies that we can prevent mergers that reduce choice, 
foreclose competition through vertical consolidation, stifle 
innovation, or create monopsony. OK, that is a great word you would 
hear in law school classrooms, but what does it mean? Well, it means 
where a buyer has the power to reduce wages or prices.
  It also creates a more stringent legal standard to stop harmful 
consolidation and shifts the burden for megamergers so the parties 
involved in the deal have to prove the merger does not harm 
competition. So what we are talking about here is when a big company 
buys another and then has that power to make it so that the other 
competitors aren't really going to be able to compete with the company 
that they bought, because this huge company might have the ability to 
bring down prices or do things temporarily to the point that they get 
other people out of the market or they hurt the others to the extent 
that you then don't have real competition, and that is what they are 
doing.
  Let me be clear. Big by itself is not necessarily bad, and large 
mergers do not always harm consumers. My home State of Minnesota now 
has 19 Fortune 500 companies, and we all benefit from the fact that the 
largest and most successful companies in the world are American 
companies.
  If we want the success to continue, our new businesses must have the 
same opportunities to grow as the businesses that came before them. 
Target, one of my favorite companies based in my State, started as a 
dry goods store in a small pedestrian mall that is now a big one in 
Minnesota, way, way back. That is a true story. And 3M, a big company 
out of my State, started as a sandpaper company. OK, so we have to make 
sure these small companies continue to grow and are able to compete, 
but that is not going to happen if we shove them out.
  Our new businesses must have those same opportunities. Promoting 
competition and preventing excessive industry consolidation is the way 
we encourage this country's next big idea. Take Trader Joe's, JetBlue, 
and Starbucks. These companies started small, but they were able to get 
a foothold in the market and succeed because our antitrust laws 
prevented large, established competitors from limiting their growth. As 
a result, the American people get better products and services.
  These bills will simply ensure that the next American business 
success story is possible. They will allow entrepreneurs and innovators 
to succeed in open, competitive markets.
  We can do this, and we should do this. It doesn't take a miracle. It 
just takes people acknowledging what has made our economy strong in 
America. Antitrust law and policy are not always front and center in 
our debates, but they should be. The proposals in these bills will 
improve the lives of businesses and people across the country.
  Protecting competition speaks to the basic principles of opportunity 
and fairness. It speaks to the simple notion that companies with the 
best ideas and the most innovative products will have a chance to rise 
to the top based on their own merits, and the reality is that these 
principles are at risk. We are currently experiencing a dramatic 
increase in both the number and size of mergers. As our markets and 
technologies evolve, our agencies and courts are less able to address 
this increased concentration and the really big guys like it that way.
  That is why we have to stand up in this Chamber for the American 
people. We cannot wait any longer. We need vigorous antitrust 
enforcement. We need to improve the tools and the resources that those 
who are trying, at least, to put a modicum of enforcement in place are 
able to exercise. Our economy depends on it.
  Madam President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.


                            Secure Elections

  Mr. NELSON. Madam President, the right to vote is one of the most 
precious rights we have here in America. How we protect it is so 
cherished, and it is also cherished by peoples all over the world who 
don't get a chance to exercise that right. Our constitutional 
foundation is built on a process of free, fair, and unfettered 
elections.
  Well, what happened in this country 2 years ago put a crack in that 
foundation, and it started to sow the seeds of doubt that, if gone 
unchecked, could undermine our entire democracy. After painstaking 
analyses by the intelligence community, which are in complete 
agreement--unanimous in the IC--we know that Russia interfered in our 
2016 election. We know that Russia continues to meddle in the elections 
of not only our country now but in other countries around the world. We 
saw that in the elections in Europe last year. Fortunately, what they 
tried in France backfired on them, and they didn't get their candidate 
to win. We also know that if we don't act now, they are likely going to 
continue this interference in the elections here in this country that 
are coming up in just a few months.
  The threat that we face today from Russia's meddling in our elections 
and attempting to undermine our democracy is really one of the greatest 
threats we face. Congress recognizes this threat, and we have taken 
action to protect that vote. But none of it matters if respective 
States will not work with us and take this threat seriously.
  So last March we passed a bill that authorized $380 million to help 
State elections officials strengthen their elections security and 
update their elections equipment. Now, of the total of $380 million for 
the country, $19 million of it was set aside for my State, the State of 
Florida. While at least a dozen other States have applied for and 
received funding to help them protect their systems from Russian 
intrusion, my State of Florida hasn't even applied for one single 
dollar of the $19 million set aside for Florida--not one.
  In fact, the government of Florida through Florida's secretary of 
State said recently that it is not planning to apply for any funding to 
improve security during the upcoming November election. Obviously, when 
you consider the risk and what Russia did, which the intelligence 
community all agree was done to us in the last election, why in the 
world would the State of Florida not apply for any of the $19 million 
set aside for our State? We know that Russia had intruded into the 
election mechanism and records of 21 States, and the State of Florida 
was one of those States.
  Although we don't know what kind of interference the Russians are 
going to try in the upcoming November elections, we do know that 
Russian President Vladimir Putin--having interfered in 2016 and causing 
so much chaos and, therefore, attacking the very foundation of our 
constitutional democracy--is likely to do it again. So why wouldn't the 
government of the State of Florida apply for $19 million of funds set 
aside for Florida to upgrade and protect our election system?
  We know we are not the only country that has been attacked and, 
according to the U.S. intelligence community, he obviously is going to 
continue this type of behavior. So we better get ready.
  That is why we have such a heavy responsibility to defend America 
from these types of attacks and to defend our process of free, fair, 
and unfettered elections. We need to rebuild trust in our elections, 
and at the same time we

[[Page S2857]]

need to ensure that every citizen who wishes to exercise their right to 
vote is able to do so. It also can be counted, and it can be counted as 
they intended it to count.

  Remember this goes back to 1965. Congress passed the Voting Rights 
Act of 1965 to protect the right of every citizen to vote. But in a 5-
to-4 Supreme Court decision, it declared that part of that law was 
outdated, and it removed much needed voter protections that we have 
come to rely on for minorities, and we have come to rely on them for 
the last half century.
  Part of this Supreme Court decision struck down part of the law as it 
applied to protecting minorities in certain counties in the State of 
Florida. The Justices voted to strike down that important part of the 
Voting Rights Act on a 5-to-4 decision. They said that it was outdated 
because we no longer have the blatant voter suppression tactics we once 
did years and decades ago.
  I disagree. We have seen a lot of voter suppression. Since the 2010 
election, we have seen a number of States, including my State of 
Florida, approve voting restrictions targeted directly at reducing 
turnout among young, low-income, and minority voters. Why? Because they 
traditionally support one particular party.
  In 2011, for example, the Florida legislature, State officials, and 
the Governor of Florida reduced the number of early voting days in 
Florida, including canceling the Sunday before the Tuesday election as 
an early-voting date. It is not a coincidence that there was use of 
early-voting days, particularly on weekends--particularly on that 
Sunday before the Tuesday election, where people become sensitive and 
recognize that there is about to be an election day. We have found that 
particularly minority voters in Florida--African Americans, as well as 
Hispanics--would take advantage of voting when they did not have to go 
to work. You have heard the term ``Souls to the Polls.'' So often, 
after church on Sunday, many church members would go to the polls.
  They made voting more difficult for people who had moved to a 
different county. It became more difficult, even though we have a very 
mobile population moving within a State. They also made it more 
difficult for young people, particularly college students, who changed 
their address because they had moved and wanted to vote in the town 
where the university was, but their identification often was their 
driver's license, which showed their parents' residence. Again, this 
made it more difficult instead of making it easier to vote.
  The State of Florida subjected voter registration groups like the 
League of Women Voters, which had been registering voters for three-
quarters of a century--suddenly, they were subjected to penalties and 
fines if they didn't return the signatures in a short period of time, 
which was impossible if they got the signatures over a weekend. And 
they would nitpick with penalties and fines on some small mistake when 
they were trying to help someone register to vote. Happily, the League 
of Women Voters went to Federal court, and the Federal judge threw that 
law out as unconstitutional. But that decision was right before the 
election, and lo and behold, the League of Women Voters had lost a year 
and a half of voter registration.
  You won't believe this. In 2014, an elections official in Miami-
Dade--which was, coincidentally, one of the more Democratic counties in 
the State--closed restrooms to voters who were waiting in line at the 
polling sites. As a matter of fact, there was so much chaos in one 
previous election--the election of 2012--that lines were upward of 7 
hours long.
  I will never forget the woman who was a century old--100 years. 
Everybody kept bringing her a chair and bringing her water. Well, some 
of those waiting in lines didn't have the opportunity to go to the 
restroom, despite waiting to vote for hours and hours.
  In that same election cycle, 2014, the State's top elections official 
told a local election supervisor not to allow voters to submit absentee 
ballots at remote drop-off sites, ordering that elections official that 
there could be only one site. That supervisor of elections, by the way, 
told the State of Florida to go take a hike--that they had a way of 
securing the ballots by dropping them in several different sites that 
were formerly approved.
  Then the State of Florida denied a request from the city of 
Gainesville to use a University of Florida campus building for early 
voting, a move seen by some as a direct assault on student voting. Can 
you believe that? The State of Florida government, through the 
Secretary of the State, is going to order the University of Florida not 
to allow the student center on campus to be a place of convenience for 
students to cast an early vote. That order has stood. It has stood, and 
instead of making it easier for people to vote, it has made it harder. 
All too often, we have let these things go.
  This Senator is not letting it go because the League of Women Voters 
in Florida has now taken the government of the State of Florida to 
Federal court on behalf of students at the University of Florida, as 
well as Florida State, saying: You are arbitrarily saying that we 
cannot vote in a convenient place on campus, in a government-owned 
public building on campus. You cannot order that we cannot use that in 
anticipation of elections this coming November.
  Too often we find ourselves divided on these issues of party 
politics, but that shouldn't be the case. There should be no 
disagreement when it comes to protecting the right to vote and making 
it easier, not harder, for people to vote. Why? Because we ought to be 
Americans first, not partisans first. We should be Americans first, and 
the State of Florida should get its act in order to let the people 
vote.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.


                            VA MISSION BILL

  Mr. ISAKSON. Madam President, I am delighted to stand today, shoulder 
to shoulder with all my colleagues on the Veterans' Affairs Committees 
in the House and the Senate, to thank the Senate for a very strong vote 
on cloture yesterday to take us to a point today where we will pass the 
VA MISSION Act, which is this legislative body fulfilling a promise to 
those who fought and sacrificed for each of us to be here today--our 
families and loved ones as well.
  For years, there have been problems in the VA in terms of healthcare. 
You read the headlines. I read them, too, and our constituents read 
them. In Arizona, we had veterans who died waiting to get a routine 
appointment. We had scheduling errors. People were getting bonuses for 
scheduling things they had falsified. We had a lot of things that were 
disappointing to all of us. We worked hard in the Veterans Affairs 
Committee in the House and Senate to address these tough issues head-on 
and fix them so that the VA would be the best functioning health 
delivery system it could possibly be for the people who were willing to 
risk their lives for each of us when they joined the military.
  I think it is appropriate that we are doing this the week before 
Memorial Day. Next Monday, we will celebrate all of those who, in all 
the wars that preceded the fight we have today, represented our 
country, volunteered unselfishly, fought, and in some cases died for 
America's peace, freedom, liberty, and the perpetuation of our 
democracy.
  One promise we made to them was that they would have good quality 
healthcare, and it would be successful. Four years ago, with the 
leadership of John McCain, we started the movement toward Veterans 
Choice. We passed a good bill with a 40-mile rule and a 30-day rule. 
The 40-mile rule said that if you live within 40 miles of a VA clinic 
or service, you can go to a closer clinic in the private sector, as 
long as it is approved by the VA. The 30-day rule said that if you 
couldn't get an appointment for a routine medical service in 30 days, 
you could get an appointment in the private sector, and the VA would 
approve it. But the labyrinth of the approval process for that 30-day 
appointment or that 40-mile access made it almost impossible for the 
veteran, in many cases, to get access that is as timely as we would 
like it to be.
  It was a good start. It was an improvement in our process. It 
addressed the problem--but not well enough. We learned enough as a test 
bed to know that veterans liked Choice, as long as it was not so 
cumbersome that they couldn't use it. The VA liked Choice, as

[[Page S2858]]

long as they were a partner with a veteran who made the choices, so we 
lost no continuity in healthcare.
  With the passage of the MISSION Act, we are repealing both the 30-day 
rule and the 40-mile rule. Instead, we are saying the following: If you 
are an eligible veteran for VA healthcare services, you can choose a 
private sector doctor if you want to, as long as the conditions and 
circumstances, in concert with your VA primary care doctor, fit. In 
other words, the VA needs to know about it and work with you in making 
that decision and work with you in finding that private doctor. We are 
not going to have mountains of paperwork and third-party administrators 
breaking the rules and regulations and slowing things down. Instead, 
the VA will be motivated to see you, the veteran, get fast, timely 
service and quality healthcare, whether it is private or the VA.
  There have been some who have talked about this being privatization. 
It is not privatization; it is mobilization. We are mobilizing 
healthcare for the veterans to see to it that they have access in a 
timely fashion. The VA is an instrumental service for our veterans who 
come home. Many of them come home with injuries and sicknesses and 
illnesses and diseases that, quite frankly, nobody ever contemplated 
people surviving.
  Who heard of PTSD and TBI 20 years ago? Who saw veterans lose arms 
and legs--in some cases, all of their arms and legs--and survive a 
battlefield wound? How many of you have seen people wear an eye 
prosthesis, where they had an eye replaced? The VA has specialists who 
can do all of those things, the best in the world. They can deliver 
high-quality healthcare and high-quality rehabilitation to veterans 
with the most serious injuries in the history of warfare. We will 
always continue to do that, but we also have to understand that when 
healthcare in the private sector can be utilized for the convenience of 
the veteran--not as a competitor to the VA--we can use it as a force 
multiplier to lower the number of people we have to hire and, in 
addition, lower the number of hospitals we have to build and instead 
provide that money for services to our veterans. It is a win-win 
proposition for the VA and for all of us.
  It is no secret why every former VA Secretary who has served this 
country has endorsed the VA MISSION bill. All of them have endorsed it, 
every one of them, whether a Republican appointment or appointment by a 
Democratic President. They all know this is something we needed to do 
for a long time. It is no secret why we got a vote of 91 to 4 yesterday 
on the floor of the U.S. Senate to invoke cloture and go to a vote 
today on the VA MISSION Act. It is past time we made sure our laws for 
healthcare available to our veterans are as high quality as our 
veterans are when they go to fight wars for us.
  Secondly, I want to focus on another feature which is very important 
to me because I was in the service. I was not in Vietnam. I am a 
Vietnam-era veteran. I was in the Georgia Air National Guard during the 
Vietnam War. I lost buddies in that war. I know a lot of our soldiers 
sacrificed in that war and made it home with terrible injuries, but 
because of our healthcare delivery system in the battlefield and at 
other hospitals around the world, we were able to save veterans and 
rehabilitate them, but the need for ongoing medical healthcare for the 
basic essentials of life is sometimes one of the byproducts for some of 
the injuries and for some of those who survived those wounds.
  There are veterans who have difficulty feeding themselves. There are 
veterans who can't dress themselves. There are veterans who need 
assistance in the five basic essentials of life, and then from time to 
time, they have to call in a caregiver. There are spouses, moms, in 
some cases, dads, brothers, and sisters who come and deliver those 
services to their brother or sister or son or daughter. If they are a 
veteran of almost any area except Vietnam, they get caregiver benefits 
from the VA or a stipend benefit provided to that volunteer to help 
that veteran. It helps the veteran pay for their service, and it helps 
the VA not have to go out to find someone to do it because there is 
someone offering to be their caregiver. We are expanding the caregiver 
services in the VA to all veterans, so finally the Vietnam-era veterans 
and their families will be as eligible as anybody else who is entitled 
to VA benefits.
  Patty Murray of Washington, Susan Collins of Maine, and a lot of 
Members of this Chamber today deserve credit for that. We fought for 
caregivers for a long time. It is a big step forward, and it is going 
to be a lifesaver and a life extender for many and remove just one of 
the major burdens that some have to care for a spouse or a loved one 
injured in battle or who has fought for us.
  I can go on and on and on about detail after detail after detail in 
this bill, but I don't want to bore everyone. I want everybody to 
realize, when they go home this weekend, how important it is to tell 
them what we have finally done. We have finally dealt with the 
accessibility of healthcare to our veterans. There will be no more 
headlines of veterans dying because they can't get an appointment 
because they are going to be able to get an appointment. They are going 
to be able to make the choice with the VA at that appointment. It is 
not the case anymore where a veteran is going to die because they can't 
get a basic service to stay alive at their home, that if they don't 
have the money to pay for a caregiver, they therefore languish, unable 
to feed themselves or clothe themselves or live in a sanitary 
condition. That is the very least we owe to our veterans. Today, when 
you cast your vote for the VA MISSION Act, you will do just that.
  I want to address some individuals, if I can, and thank them. One, I 
thank John McCain, whose idea this was originally. He is a great hero 
to all of us, a friend to all of us, one we love and pray for today as 
he recovers from cancer. John is the one who started the movement 
toward Choice, and he deserves the credit for it.
  I thank all of those Secretaries who have worked with us over the 
past 3 or 4 years to get to the point where we are able to pass the VA 
MISSION Act today.
  I will tell you whom I really want to thank. I want to thank all 
those veterans who sacrificed and died for us in the wars before now. 
The reason we enjoy our freedom and you, Madam President, can preside 
freely without fear of retribution, I can say what I think without fear 
of retribution, I can say to our constituents who gather in the Gallery 
and listen to what we have to say, and protest if they wish, is we have 
a Constitution and 10 basic amendments, the first 10 being our Bill of 
Rights. It gives us everything, but the ones who protected that gift 
are our veterans.
  It is not a stretch to remember that had it been a different outcome 
in World War II, I might be speaking Japanese or German today, not 
English, but because of our veterans and because of our soldiers who 
fought in the Battle of the Bulge, who fought in the Pacific--my 
father-in-law flew reconnaissance in the Pacific. My brother-in-law was 
in the Air Force in Vietnam. If those vets had not risked their lives 
and really offered their lives in exchange for our liberty and freedom, 
we wouldn't be enjoying this today. So we owe no less than the MISSION 
Act to our veterans. I am proud to be part of it, and I am proud of my 
committee and my committee members who are doing so much to help us.
  Let me just say thank you to my colleagues for your vote yesterday. I 
urge you to vote today for passage of the VA MISSION Act. It is an 
honor to serve our country as a Member of the U.S. Senate. It is an 
honor to be an American. May God bless our country.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota.
  Mr. HOEVEN. Madam President, I rise to speak in support of the VA 
MISSION Act. I want to begin by thanking the chairman of the Veterans' 
Affairs Committee who has shown incredible leadership on behalf of our 
veterans for many years, and this bill fits right in that mold.
  This is a very important bill for a number of reasons. Obviously, it 
is an important bill because it supports our veterans, but it really 
has important provisions in it that will make a difference for our 
veterans. I want to thank the chairman of the VA Committee. I want to 
thank him not only for the quality of the work in this bill but for 
building the bipartisan coalition necessary to pass it because it 
really does make a difference for our veterans, to whom we owe so much.

[[Page S2859]]

  I would like to go through not all but some of the provisions that I 
think are really important, some I worked on and some I think really do 
make a difference for our great veterans.
  As I said, I speak in support of the VA MISSION Act. It is bipartisan 
legislation that will help ensure veterans receive the care they so 
very much deserve.
  This piece of legislation not only strengthens the VA's ability to 
care for our veterans, but when the VA is unable to provide that care, 
it gives our veterans a choice to seek care in their home communities 
and to do it on a basis that is convenient, that works for them, and 
then to make sure those healthcare facilities will provide that service 
to our veterans because they know they will be compensated for it by 
the VA.
  That is a huge issue because it is not just about making sure there 
is care out there for our veterans but making sure it is quality care 
and that it is available to them.
  We owe our veterans more than we can ever repay for their incredibly 
dedicated service. Expanding veterans' access to healthcare options 
closer to home is just one of the ways we can show our deep 
appreciation for their service to our country.
  Providing this kind of care has proven to be particularly challenging 
for our veterans residing in rural areas. I live in a rural State, and 
to get that access to quality service in these rural areas is a 
challenge. It is a challenge we have to address and a challenge we 
address directly in this legislation, which is why I am so deeply 
appreciative that we are working to pass this legislation.
  In 2014, the Veterans Choice Program was enacted to alleviate 
unacceptable waiting times for care at the VA. However, the Veterans 
Choice Program has been in need of improvement.
  In 2016, I worked to secure and implement the Veterans Care 
Coordination Initiative at our Fargo VA health center. The Fargo VA 
health center serves all of North Dakota, and it serves half or more of 
Minnesota as well. The initiative we worked to put in place at the 
Fargo VA--and the Fargo VA does a tremendous job. We have some VA 
health centers around the country that obviously need improvement, but 
the Fargo VA health center does a top-quality job.
  This initiative is an initiative we put together as part of the 
Veterans Choice Program. It has allowed veterans seeking community care 
to coordinate all of their healthcare through the Fargo VA health 
center rather than the third-party contractors that were set up under 
Veterans Choice, and obviously we had some challenges with those 
contractors. So this allowed the VA health center to provide that 
service directly, both if the veteran came into VA for institutional 
care at the healthcare center or at one of its CBOCs or if they wanted 
to get Veterans Choice care from a private provider in their local 
community. The initiative has been very successful and has 
significantly reduced wait times for community care appointments.
  The VA MISSION Act builds on that very effort. It builds on that 
effort by requiring the VA to schedule medical appointments in a timely 
manner. When the veterans need healthcare, they have to be able to get 
in and get that care in a timely way.
  The MISSION Act improves community care initiatives at the VA, 
including the Veterans Choice Program, by streamlining it into a single 
veterans community care program that will be able to provide better 
care for our veterans. That is the bottom line--better care for our 
veterans.
  Today I want to highlight three priorities we worked to include in 
the MISSION Act to provide veterans in North Dakota and across the 
country with better care closer to home.
  First, the long-term care piece. When we are talking about care, it 
is not just medical care; it is long-term care. It is in-home care. It 
is nursing home care. It is that whole continuum of care that is so 
important. The VA MISSION Act includes key pieces of legislation I 
introduced as a stand-alone act. That bill was the Veterans Access to 
Long Term Care and Health Services Act, and it focused on that long-
term care piece, making sure veterans could get the VA to reimburse 
nursing homes and that nursing homes would take that VA reimbursement 
and take veterans.
  That is why I introduced the legislation, along with some of my other 
colleagues, to increase veterans' access to long-term care options in 
their communities.
  For example, currently, in our State, only about 20 percent of the 
nursing homes contract with the VA due to difficult regulations and 
reporting requirements. That is not dissimilar from across the country. 
That is what we are seeing across the country, only a percentage--
ultimately, a small percentage--of nursing homes that will take that VA 
reimbursement because of the redtape and difficulty contracting with 
the VA in order to get that reimbursement. A veteran should not have to 
relocate across the State because they can't go into a nursing home in 
their community because of that reimbursement issue. That is what this 
legislation addresses.
  Think how important that is. You want your veteran to be able to go 
in and get long-term care in their community, close to their home, 
close to their family, right? That is what this is all about. Our 
legislation will allow non-VA long-term care providers, including 
nursing homes, to enter into provider agreements with the VA. These 
agreements will cut through the bureaucratic redtape at the VA that has 
prevented our veterans from receiving long-term care services closer to 
home. This means veterans can access nursing homes and other long-term 
care in their communities closer to home and closer to their loved 
ones.
  The MISSION Act also expands caregiver benefits to veteran caregivers 
of all eras. Again, this is a very important provision. The VA's 
program of comprehensive assistance for family caregivers includes a 
monthly tax-free stipend, healthcare coverage under the VA Civilian 
Health and Medical Program--if the caregiver is not eligible for 
coverage under another health plan--counseling and mental health 
services, up to 30 days of respite care services, reimbursement for 
travel-related expenses required for an eligible veteran's examination, 
treatment, or episode of care, and travel for caregiver training is 
also reimbursed.
  Currently, these benefits are only available to caregivers of post-9/
11 veterans. The inclusion of this provision will help support pre-9/11 
veterans and the family and the friends who take care of them.
  The other provision I want to mention again is really important for 
our rural areas and for our veterans in the rural areas. This is a very 
important provision. This priority, this provision, removes the 
Veterans Choice Program's 30-day, 40-mile eligibility requirement. So 
it removes that 30-day wait, that 40-mile eligibility requirement. 
Instead, the bill allows veterans to receive care in their local 
community when services are not available through the VA or if the 
veteran and his VA medical team determine that receiving community care 
would be in the best interest of the veteran--again, what is best for 
our veterans.
  This is a priority we have been working on for veterans in my home 
State and really States across the country, particularly our rural 
States.
  As I mentioned, for example, North Dakota's only health center is in 
Fargo. We have CBOCs around the State, but the only health center, the 
full-scope health center, is in Fargo. As I said, it covers all of 
North Dakota and, frankly, most of Minnesota. We have these community-
based clinics out there. While they provide some services, they aren't 
always equipped to provide the care necessary for our veterans. So what 
does that mean? That means the veteran has to travel in some cases a 
long distance.

  Under the Veterans Choice Program's 30-day, 40-mile eligibility 
requirement, a veteran living within 40 miles of a CBOC meant they 
either had to go to that CBOC or travel a long distance to a VA health 
center. So they weren't eligible for that community care, as I say, 
forcing many veterans to travel long distances, often in inclement 
weather, in order to receive VA reimbursed care. This legislation, the 
MISSION Act, removes that requirement. So now, when a VA medical center 
or CBOC can't provide the service a veteran needs, then those veterans 
will be able to access healthcare services in their local community.

[[Page S2860]]

  So we have veterans traveling hundreds of miles now, round trip, 
inconvenienced, making it very difficult for them and their families. 
No more. Under this legislation, that 40-mile requirement and the 30-
day limit is taken away. If it is most convenient for a veteran to 
access care from a private provider in their community, they can do it. 
That is a huge step in making the Choice Program work for our veterans.
  Just a few days from now, our Nation will set aside a day to honor 
those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is because of their sacrifice 
that we can experience the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Sending this 
legislation to the President's desk is one way we can show our 
gratitude for their actions.
  I wish to congratulate again the great Senator from the State of 
Georgia and thank the Senate VA Committee staff for their leadership, 
perseverance, and hard work to get to this point. I am pleased that 
both sides of the aisle have come together to support this legislation 
and to support our veterans. I am proud to support the VA MISSION Act. 
Again, I urge my colleagues to support its passage.
  With that, I yield the floor for the Senator from the State of 
Missouri.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). The Senator from Missouri.
  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I join my colleague from Georgia. I also 
join Senator Hoeven in mentioning the incredible leadership that 
Senator Isakson has shown for veterans and the way we deal with 
veterans' concerns. We honor their service.
  The Senator from North Dakota just mentioned that Monday, of course, 
is Memorial Day. On Memorial Day in 1983, President Reagan said:

       I don't have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of 
     freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we 
     are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.

  President Reagan's words from 35 years ago are every bit as 
significant today as they were then. The willingness to pay the price 
for freedom has been paid by every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine, 
and every person in the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and the 
Reserves. So on Memorial Day, we honor their willingness to do that.
  This is a good time also for us to discuss the things Congress has 
been doing to try to honor that service as we continue to look at the 
challenges that veterans face. I have spoken before about the HIRE Vets 
Act, which was signed into law last year. The bill established the HIRE 
Vets Program within the Department of Labor to provide tiered 
recognition of what employers do based on their contributions for 
veteran employment. Some of the criteria were things like these: What 
percentage of the new hires are veterans or what percentage of the 
overall workforce is veterans? What types of training and leadership 
development opportunities are made available that veterans have unique 
opportunities to take advantage of? What recognition is given to skills 
that veterans learn while serving? What other benefits and resources 
are offered to veterans--things like tuition assistance?
  Creating a national standard will help vets narrow down their 
employment options and focus on their job search efforts.
  The HIRE Vets Program is up and running. This year, over 300 
employers have signed up to participate in the pilot program, and we 
will see how that pilot works. I hope it works as well as those of us 
who sponsored and voted for the legislation thought it would--as a way 
to begin to give the recognition to employers that they deserve when 
they go beyond saying: Of course, we like to hire vets. HIRE Vets shows 
just exactly how much you like to hire vets and what difference it 
makes when you hire those vets.
  The second program that is getting started this year is the Military 
Family Stability Act. It was signed into law last November. We have the 
most powerful military in the world, the most well-trained military in 
the world, and a military that we have invested money, training, and 
energy in like none other. But the real strength of the military, 
according to military leader after military leader, is military 
families.
  In the Military Family Stability Act, we have created a new 
opportunity for families, because of education reasons or work reasons, 
to leave earlier than the spouse who is serving has been assigned for 
or to stay a little later if school is going to start before you 
otherwise were going to get there or school is going to be out a couple 
of weeks or a couple of months after the serving spouse had to leave. 
We have given families that option for the first time, where the family 
residential support money stays, and I think lots of families are going 
to take advantage of that. Families in the past could do that if 
everybody up and down the chain of command agreed. Now families get to 
do that because they think it works for their families.
  Secretary Mattis and Chairman McCain are very supportive of this 
program, as was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General 
Dunford, and we are looking forward to seeing how families are able 
this year, for the first time, to look at that next assignment and 
decide when it is the right time for the family to move to that 
assignment.
  I have talked to lots of families, many of whom saw that moment as 
the moment they decided to leave the military or the moment they looked 
back and saw it as their most challenging time, when a spouse's job had 
to needlessly suffer or that last month of school couldn't be completed 
just because they didn't have that flexibility.
  Now, President Trump has just nominated Acting Secretary Robert 
Wilkie to head the VA. We look forward to his leadership there. The 
President and the acting head of the VA just signed a contract with 
Cerner, a Kansas City company that will modernize the VA's healthcare 
IT records, the records that healthcare providers in the whole system 
can access. Cerner was already in the process of coming up with a 
system that worked for the active Defense Department. So it only made 
sense for them to be the company that also makes that transition into 
the even bigger VA health system--a system that works.
  Almost 2 million veterans have used the Veterans Choice Program. 
Senator Isakson has talked about how the bill we will be voting on 
improves that program. The Senator from North Dakota just spoke about 
some of the obstacles that, frankly, the VA system had put in the way 
of veterans who wanted to take advantage of the program.
  I have had people from Missouri in our office lately who are looking 
at VA health. We had a great discussion with the hospital 
administrators in our State about how it not only helps them but 
particularly helps small community hospitals, if they can identify 
something that a community hospital does better than they do and they 
are able to assign that work to be done there.
  The bill expands, as Senator Hoeven just mentioned, the caregivers 
program and makes the eligibility for caregivers greater than it has 
been before.
  Senator Blumenthal and I had a bill that was incorporated into the 
program, the Veteran PEER Act, which just simply turns to peer group 
veterans and lets them become part of the emotional and mental support 
team for veterans who are being challenged. I am glad to see that 
legislation in the MISSION act that has gone through the process. 
Certainly, Senator Isakson and Senator Boozman and others on the 
Veterans Committee--the people who have served on that committee in 
many cases in the House and Senate--realize what needs to be done here. 
Nearly 40 veterans service organizations, like the VFW and the American 
Legion, support this legislation.
  Together with the VA MISSION Act, the electronic health records 
system contract that is now being performed by Cerner, the HIRE Vets 
Act, and the Military Family Stability Act, I think what we see here is 
that when we think we have done everything we need to do to honor our 
veterans and, then, we look more closely, we find that there are still 
things that we can do, that we will do, that we clearly are willing to 
do. We owe veterans that.
  We recognize veterans in many ways over the next few days, but the 
Veterans' Administration has a job to recognize veterans every day and 
fulfill our obligation to veterans every day. I look forward to seeing 
the implementation of this well-thought-out addition to the veterans 
health system.
  I see my friend from Arkansas, Senator Boozman, is here, and he is 
next on our list.

[[Page S2861]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.
  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Missouri very 
much.
  Our Nation's veterans were promised access to healthcare for their 
service and their sacrifice. This week we continue our work to uphold 
that pledge.
  The bill before us, the VA MISSION Act, aims to transform the 
Department of Veterans Affairs delivery of community healthcare. That 
is a welcome job.
  Specifically, the VA MISSION Act consolidates and improves VA 
community care programs so veterans have access to healthcare and 
services in their own communities. This is important because veterans 
should have access to the best healthcare and services in a timely 
manner, regardless of where they live.
  Under this legislation, a veteran and his or her doctor will decide 
where that veteran will receive care, taking into consideration the 
veteran's healthcare needs and the availability and the quality of both 
VA and community care.
  For largely rural States, like Arkansas, this makes all the sense in 
the world. We have two VA medical centers in the Natural State, in 
Little Rock and in Fayetteville, as well as facilities in neighboring 
States that often serve Arkansas veterans. The healthcare providers and 
staff at those facilities that are community-based outpatient clinics 
in Arkansas truly do an excellent job in caring for our veterans.
  But the VA medical centers are in populated areas, which, in cases 
where veterans need more advanced care than the CBOC can provide, it 
means a full-day trip for many veterans. It is unnecessary when a 
veteran could receive similar quality care outside the VA system in 
their communities. The service options provided in this bill will give 
veterans who live far from the VA facility and need frequent followup 
care easier access to local providers and walk-in clinics.
  As noted in a letter signed by over 30 VSOs supporting the VA MISSION 
Act, the legislation is an effort to ``supplement, not supplant, VA 
healthcare.'' That is very important to note. Much like the Choice 
Program that preceded it, the new system that will be established by 
the VA MISSION Act is not meant to replace VA healthcare. Rather, it 
builds on the foundation laid out by the Choice Program, which 
addressed many shortcomings within the VA system that led to the wait-
time process.
  Last year, I launched a listening tour to hear from Arkansas veterans 
about their experiences within the Choice Program, so we can better 
meet their needs. I heard from Arkansas veterans who have been able to 
get quality care from private providers in their own community when the 
VA system could not meet their needs. That is a good thing, but as the 
veterans with whom I met noted, the Choice Program had its share of 
problems, its share of troubles. I heard repeated stories of 
difficulties navigating the complex and confusing bureaucratic process. 
This legislation aims to alleviate those problems. While VA implements 
the new system, we cannot afford to let care slip for our veterans. 
That is why we made sure the VA MISSION Act authorizes funding to 
continue the current Choice Program for more than a year.

  In addition to the improvements to healthcare delivery, the bill will 
enable us to conduct better and more consistent oversight into how the 
VA spends money on veterans' healthcare. This is a priority for me as 
the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military 
Construction and Veterans Affairs. We must ensure that the VA is 
efficiently and effectively providing veterans with quality healthcare, 
whether at a VA facility or a private facility in the community. The VA 
MISSION Act will also improve the VA's ability to hire quality 
healthcare professionals, strengthen opioid prescription guidelines for 
non-VA providers, and create a process to evaluate and reform VA 
facilities so they can best serve veterans.
  I wish to quickly highlight two other important provisions of the 
bill. One is the expansion of the VA caregiver benefits to veterans of 
all generations. This is a long-overdue reform that will correct an 
injustice that left family caregivers and veterans injured before 
September 11, 2001, without critical care. Caregivers and veterans of 
World War II, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and the Gulf war will 
now have access to the same benefits as the post-9/11 veterans.
  The second revision is based off a bill I cosponsored that would 
authorize VA healthcare professionals to provide treatment to patients 
via telemedicine regardless of where the covered healthcare 
professional or patient is located. The Arkansas VA medical centers are 
leaders in telehealth, which holds great promise, especially for 
largely rural States like Arkansas. It is important that the VA 
continue to encourage its growth without unnecessary bureaucratic 
redtape.
  This bill is a great example of what we can accomplish through 
bipartisan, bicameral compromise, working together for our veterans.
  I thank the majority leader for swiftly bringing up this bill for 
consideration after the House overwhelmingly passed it. I commend 
Chairman Isakson's hard work and leadership. I appreciate the great job 
he has done and also Ranking Member Tester, who took the advice of all 
VA Committee members into consideration while working on this major 
piece of legislation.
  I look forward to supporting the VA MISSION Act on the Senate floor 
so our veterans have access to the quality care they deserve.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to enter into a 
colloquy with Senator Isakson.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, I thank Chairman Isakson for the work he 
has done on this important issue. It has been a long road to work 
through reforming the VA. The VA is exceptionally complicated. There 
are a lot of interests engaged with this. He has heard a lot of voices 
from all over the country and all over this town in order to help 
resolve some of the issues and bring them together.
  This is exceptionally important, though, for our veterans--especially 
for our veterans who live in rural areas that are very far from 
healthcare.
  Section 101 of this bill requires the VA to give access to community 
care when a veteran's referring clinician agrees that furnishing care 
or services in the community would be in the best interest of the 
veteran after considering certain criteria--and this is very 
important--things such as the distance they have to travel; the nature 
of the care that is required; the frequency of the care, so they don't 
have to travel back and forth, often for long distances; the timeliness 
of available appointments; whether the covered veteran faces an unusual 
or excessive burden. It includes the family and the veteran. So in the 
conversation that is happening, it is not just a clinician making a 
decision; the veterans are at the table, and their family is brought 
into consideration.
  This is important not just for so many veterans who have to travel 
long distances; it is important for veterans who live close. The 
chairman and I have spoken on this briefly before.
  I have a veteran in my State who was at the Muskogee facility and who 
was getting great care. I stopped by to visit veterans in the Muskogee 
facility and went room to room visiting with people, checking on them 
and their care. I asked how he was doing, and he said he had great 
nurses and great doctors and has really done well.
  My next question: Is this the first time you have been in this 
facility?
  He said: Well, no--kind of. I had cancer treatment a couple of years 
ago. But they couldn't do it here in my town; they sent me to Seattle 
to get my cancer treatments.
  I said: Did your family get to go?
  He said: No, sir. They couldn't go.
  So that was the best facility.
  He said: I got good care there, but I went a long way and spent 
months and months away from my family getting chemo, radiation, 
surgery, and then followup.
  He would have loved to have done that at any number of cancer 
facilities in Oklahoma. In fact, in Oklahoma City, there is a National 
Cancer Institute--one of top 2 percent of all the cancer hospitals in 
the country is right down the road.
  The question is, Once this bill passes, in future situations where 
veterans are

[[Page S2862]]

facing great need for specialties--like cancer and other issues--will 
this be a situation where veterans will continue to be sent across the 
country, away from their families, for care because that is easiest on 
the VA, or will their family members and the frequency of visits be 
brought to bear in that so they will be able to make the decision that 
maybe they can get that great care locally?
  Mr. ISAKSON. I thank the distinguished Senator from Oklahoma. I will 
tell him that the story of his veteran from Muskogee led us to the way 
we wrote a lot of the provisions in section 101. Comfort, ease, and 
accessibility for the veteran are equally important to every other 
consideration that will go in.
  The veteran who was sent to Seattle before would now be able to get 
treatment in Oklahoma City or in Muskogee or wherever else closer to 
home that is more convenient as long as it is in the best interest of 
that patient. Specifically, it says that a veteran and the veteran's 
referring clinician agree that the care or services in the community 
would be in the best medical interest of the veteran after considering 
criteria, including--and then all those criteria. So every personal 
criterion, as well as medical criterion, is considered. So that should 
never happen again because of the VA MISSION Act. I appreciate the 
Senator bringing it to our attention, and I hope it never happens again 
in Oklahoma or anywhere in the United States.
  Mr. LANKFORD. Anywhere else. I thank the chairman for that 
clarification. We look forward to doing what is in the best interest of 
the veteran and the veteran's care--not necessarily what is the 
simplest thing for the VA but what is in the best interest of that 
veteran and their family.
  I appreciate all the great folks at the VA who serve our veterans so 
faithfully every day and will continue to be able to give them what 
they need to do that but also help our veterans know that they are 
going to be taken care of in the best possible way.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.
  Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, as we approach Memorial Day weekend, we will 
soon pause to honor and remember the members of our Armed Forces who 
have paid the ultimate price in service to our country.
  As Americans, we honor all our veterans who have sacrificially fought 
for our freedoms--certainly those who have paid with their lives but 
also those who have returned home, determined that we not forget their 
fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
  Among the most meaningful ways Congress can honor our veterans is to 
uphold the promises that have been made to them. One such promise and 
responsibility is to ensure that America's veterans have access to the 
quality medical care they earned through their service.
  I thank Chairman Isakson and his staff for all the effort they have 
put into the bill before us. His tireless work on behalf of America's 
veterans has produced the compromise legislation now pending that aims 
to reform the VA's broken community care programs.
  I particularly appreciate Chairman Isakson for sending his staff to 
Wyoming to understand the problems our veterans and providers have had 
with VA Choice.
  Since the VA Choice Program was enacted in 2014, I have received 
hundreds of letters and calls from people across Wyoming who were so 
frustrated with the program that they felt they had no other choice but 
to call their Senator. I have been contacted by veterans who could not 
access timely followup care or critical screenings because of unpaid 
claims, leading to providers dropping patients. Some veterans are even 
facing collections from the Choice Program's failure to pay the 
providers' claims.
  Similarly, many providers have not been paid for medical services 
they have provided. That has led some of Wyoming's physicians to stop 
participating in VA Choice. We are the least populated State in the 
Nation, but earlier this month, we had 3,130 pending claims in Wyoming, 
with 1,025 of them being over 30 days old. To get those numbers to even 
that level has required multiple meetings with the Department of 
Veterans Affairs and the administrator of the VA Choice Program for 
Wyoming. At the end of March, there were 5,319 pending claims and 3,214 
more that were more than 30 days old. A number of my colleagues have 
participated in those meetings, and I appreciate their shared interest 
in improving care for our veterans in rural States.
  Despite those meetings, I still hear reports about how difficult it 
is to get simple questions answered. Whether dealing with the VA 
directly or with contractors who are supposed to administer the 
program, the process of receiving and paying for healthcare services is 
broken.
  I believe the problems faced by Wyoming's veterans and doctors will 
be improved by this bill. I thank the Senator from Georgia for 
including provisions related to healthcare providers, veteran 
education, prompt payment to providers, tools for the VA to resolve 
payment issues, and VA flexibility to enter into agreements between VA 
facilities and healthcare providers. However, I do have one 
disappointment. I do have one concern with the bill. It is not paid 
for. I believe we must acknowledge that borrowing more money to pay for 
this program isn't an ideal way to honor our veterans. CBO estimates 
that Federal outlays will total more than $56.6 trillion over the next 
10 years--that is $56,600 billion--and yet nowhere in that budget can 
we find $4.5 billion to offset the cost of this program?
  I believe we should care for our veterans in a fiscally responsible 
manner. In fact, I believe this is the best way to ensure their care 
long term, as well as the care for veterans of the next generation.
  I ask for support of the bill.
  I thank the Presiding Officer.
  I yield the floor.
  Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to engage in a 
colloquy with my friend and colleague, the distinguished chairman of 
the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Isakson.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I would like to confirm my 
understanding that the term Indian Health Service as it appears in 
section 101 of the MISSION Act of 2018 includes Tribal health providers 
that are funded by the Indian Health Service and step into the shoes of 
the Indian Health Service pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and 
Education Assistance Act to provide healthcare.
  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, the Senator is correct. The term Indian 
Health Service includes Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations that 
operate healthcare facilities in lieu of the Indian Health Service 
pursuant to a contract or self-governance compact with the Federal 
Government.
  Mr. ENZI. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                   America's Water Infrastructure Act

  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, over the past 50 years, our country has 
gone from being a construction society to a consumption society. As a 
result, our bridges, our roads, our dams, and our waterways have 
suffered. President Trump has said that rebuilding America's 
infrastructure is a priority for his administration. He said that we 
will build ``with American heart, American hands, and American grit.'' 
That is what President Trump said in the State of the Union this year.
  Yesterday the Committee on Environment and Public Works took a big 
step toward meeting that goal. We voted to approve the America's Water 
Infrastructure Act.
  There are a lot of people in Wyoming and around the Rocky Mountain 
West, as well, who say that--well, it was originally attributed to Mark 
Twain, and it goes like this: ``Whiskey is for drinking; water is for 
fighting over.''
  Surprisingly, in this case, we actually didn't fight over the water 
of the United States. This legislation was written by Republicans and 
Democrats, and it passed with unanimous, bipartisan support of 21 to 0. 
Both parties

[[Page S2863]]

agreed that there is a lot we can do to improve America's water 
infrastructure.
  Basically, the bill comes down to three big things. It grows the 
economy and creates jobs, it cuts redtape by getting more control out 
of Washington, and it keeps communities safe.
  The first way this legislation supports America's economy is by 
increasing water storage. That is a big concern in my home State of 
Wyoming and across the West. We have had a serious problem over the 
years where sediment builds up behind dams in the lakes where water is 
stored. That sediment limits the amount of water the lakes can hold. We 
are telling the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to develop 
plans to deal with this sediment at Federal reservoirs. That is a 
simple thing that Washington can do, and now it is going to get done.
  We are also expanding water storage capacity by making it easier to 
get permits for additional reservoirs. We have a facility in Lincoln 
County, WY, that is called the Fontenelle Reservoir. We have been 
trying to expand the water storage at that reservoir for years. This 
legislation makes sure the expansion will finally occur.
  Farmers, ranchers, and communities nearby will get a new, reliable 
supply of the water they need. Of course, the water doesn't do much 
good if people can't get it where they need it. So we fix the failing 
irrigation systems that are so important in rural areas.
  We are also improving America's inland waterways, which people rely 
on to move products to market. On the coasts, we deepen some of the 
most vital ports, and we can ship goods from there around the world.
  The pro-growth policies, like the tax cuts we passed last year, have 
helped America's economy take off. Now we need to make sure that we 
have the water infrastructure in place to keep it growing, to keep 
people working, and to keep American raw materials and American-made 
products moving.
  The second thing this legislation does is to cut some of the 
burdensome and unnecessary redtape that does nothing but get in the way 
of economic progress that we need. We are going to make sure that these 
water projects reflect the priorities of the American people, not the 
priorities of Washington bureaucrats. That means more local control 
over which projects get built. Local leaders know what they need, and 
they know which projects will make the biggest difference.
  Once we identify the best projects, then we need to make sure that 
they actually get built. Today, the permitting process can drag on for 
years, while people get more and more desperate for projects to be 
finished.
  The America's Water Infrastructure Act will push the Army Corps of 
Engineers to complete all feasibility studies for new projects within 
less than 2 years. We also eliminate the need for multiple benefit-
cost-ratio assessments for a single project. These are expensive, and 
they take lot of time. Often, the Army Corps of Engineers will require 
new assessments several times for a single project. This legislation 
gets rid of these redundant studies. It is going to make a big 
difference in getting things built on time and on budget.
  The third big thing that this legislation does is to help keep 
American communities safe. We are going to repair some of the old 
drinking water and wastewater systems across the country. We provide 
help for places that need to clean up pollution in their water and to 
keep the pollution from getting into the water in the first place. As a 
doctor, I can tell you that this is extremely important for the health 
of our families and for our communities. That is why it is a priority 
in this legislation.
  We also take some important steps to reduce floods in rural areas. In 
my home State of Wyoming and in other parts of the West, this is a 
continual threat for many people. Every spring they have to worry about 
floods caused by snow and ice melting. We have dams and levees where 
maintenance has been put off for so long that people are anxious every 
time the water starts to rise. We are addressing the backlog of 
maintenance as well. We are looking for ways to permanently fix some of 
these areas where ice backs up along the rivers and cause serious 
damage.
  Most people don't give a lot of thought to the water that comes into 
their home. They turn on the faucet, water comes out, comes into the 
house, and water goes out of the house. This legislation makes sure 
that people don't have to worry about that changing. Their water will 
be safe, reliable, and abundant so they will not have to worry about 
it.
  For most of us in the West, water is always on our minds. It is vital 
to our way of life. We rely on irrigation and water storage for our 
livestock and our crops. We rely on water to transport our products to 
markets far away. We rely on dams and levees to protect us from floods. 
This legislation makes sure that people in rural communities can still 
count on the water being there when we need it.
  That is good for all of us. Republicans and Democrats agree. We know 
there is a lot of work to be done to address America's water 
infrastructure needs. We know we need to get the job done right. We 
need to get it done faster, better, cheaper, and smarter. The America's 
Water Infrastructure Act does just that. This cooperative piece of 
legislation passed the committee 21 to 0. Now it is time for the entire 
Senate to act.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
  Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I wish to start by congratulating my 
colleague from Wyoming on reporting out this legislation on water 
infrastructure and, particularly, for the help he has given us with 
regard to the Great Lakes. What the Senator has done to help us to 
maintain and to protect the Great Lakes is very much appreciated. It is 
the No. 1 tourist destination in Ohio, and there is a $6 billion 
fishing industry in the Great Lakes, with Lake Erie being the No. 1 
lake for fishing.
  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative the Senator supported is 
incredibly important, as well as keeping the dredge material out of the 
lake and helping us with the Army Corps. We thank the Senator. We also 
hope to keep invasive species out of the lake, including bighead carp, 
which would ruin that $6 billion fishing industry. We thank the Senator 
for his support. We look forward to getting that bill to the floor soon 
for a vote.


                              Memorial Day

  Mr. President, today I wish to talk, as other colleagues have, about 
the men and women of our Armed Forces--the brave men and women in 
uniform who protect us every day and some of whom have made the 
ultimate sacrifice for all of us.
  This coming Monday, of course, is Memorial Day. This holiday weekend 
is a time for all of us to kick back a little bit, spend some time with 
our families, relax, and be with friends. But let's not forget what 
Memorial Day stands for. It is first and foremost an opportunity to 
reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who gave their lives 
defending the freedoms we enjoy and sometimes take for granted as 
Americans.
  I will be spending part of the day at a Memorial Day parade that I 
try to attend every year and have for many years in Blue Ash, OH, which 
is north of Cincinnati. It is an event that I think is as patriotic as 
any I have seen in my State. It is a wonderful parade. There are many 
veterans in the parade but also veterans who come to watch. It ends at 
a beautiful memorial for our veterans. It was constructed over time in 
Blue Ash, paying tribute to patriots from every single conflict we have 
been involved in as a country since our founding.
  Across the country on Memorial Day, we will give humble thanks to 
those brave men and women in uniform who, during their lives, fought 
for the principles we hold dearest and who, in their deaths, sacrificed 
themselves in defense of those Americans ideals.
  Freedom is bought at a price, sometimes a very high price--the price 
of lives, of limbs, of some of the veterans who gave the prime years of 
their lives for all of us. Part of the cost is the scars of war. Some 
of those scars are very visible, of course. Others are more invisible--
those who are coming back with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. Those 
scars can't be seen, but they are certainly felt. Servicemembers brave 
those risks because of their sense of duty and their sense of 
patriotism.
  I am proud to be the son and the grandson of two Army infantry 
lieutenants. One is a World War I veteran, and

[[Page S2864]]

one is a World War II veteran. They instilled in me this importance of 
duty, hard work, the virtue of service, and the merits of servant 
leadership. They believed in these values and embodied them in their 
lives, as so many veterans do.
  This weekend, as we pay thanks to the many men and women who were 
laid to rest under the flag they died defending, we should all take a 
moment to remember and thank all veterans as well--past and present--
whose service also has made our way of life possible.
  The men and women of our United States military represent the best in 
all of us, and they deserve the best from all of us.


                            VA MISSION BILL

  Today, Mr. President, the Senate will vote on what is called the VA 
MISSION Act, which is a bipartisan bill that will reform the Veterans 
Choice Program. I have heard my colleagues speak about this legislation 
on the floor this morning and this afternoon, and I agree with them 
that this is a positive step forward. It will expand private care 
options and provide veterans in Ohio and around the country with more 
choices and fewer barriers to ensure they will have the best healthcare 
possible.
  By the way, the bill has passed the House of Representatives already. 
It passed last week, and it received more than 370 votes. That is 
unusual around this place. That was out of 435, so it was a strong 
majority. I look forward to its passing the Senate with a sweeping 
bipartisan majority as well so it can be signed into law as soon as 
possible and begin to help the veterans I represent in Ohio and around 
the country.
  We had another positive development for veterans last week when the 
Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a bipartisan 
bill I introduced with Senator Brown that would designate the 
spectacular new Veterans Memorial and Museum, in Columbus, OH, which is 
scheduled to open later this year in the fall, as the National Veterans 
Memorial and Museum. It will be a spectacular structure. More 
importantly, it will have terrific exhibits on the inside to allow for 
future generations to know about the selfless sacrifices that have been 
made by so many men and women of the Armed Forces.
  The National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus will be one 
important way we will commemorate not only brave Ohioans but all 
American veterans. This legislation will have been voted on by both 
Houses and will be signed into law by the President, I hope, very soon. 
In fact, I would love to get this bill through this body before 
Memorial Day as a way to pay tribute to our veterans again.
  It is not something we are asking the taxpayers to support. This 
National Veterans Memorial and Museum is being supported by $75 million 
that has been raised in the private sector. There is a philanthropist 
in the Columbus area named Les Wexner, who has taken the lead on this 
issue, but it has involved a lot of the businesses in the Greater 
Columbus area as well as individuals from all around the country who 
have stepped forward to say we need to have a National Veterans 
Memorial and Museum and that Columbus, OH, is the right place for it.
  I urge my colleagues to support this legislation as we hotline it in 
the U.S. Senate and try to get it done even before Memorial Day.
  On this Memorial Day, as we remember those who have sacrificed their 
lives for our country, let us also remember why they offered to lay 
down their lives. Why? It is that this Nation under God is worth 
fighting for. We are eternally grateful for their sacrifices and for 
the service of all military members--those in the past, those in the 
present, and those who will step forward to protect us and serve our 
great country.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Toomey). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I rise to urge my colleagues to confirm 
Brian Montgomery as Federal Housing Commissioner. The Federal Housing 
Administration or FHA plays an important role in today's housing 
finance market, promoting homeownership and ensuring access to 
affordable mortgage credit for millions of Americans.
  When FHA operates in a safe, viable manner, it can help many 
deserving people gain a foothold in our housing market who otherwise 
would not have been able to do so. FHA also plays a countercyclical 
role in the mortgage marketplace, providing market liquidity in times 
when traditional sources of home financing dry up, as they did a decade 
ago.
  Since 1934, the FHA has insured mortgages for more than 40 million 
families. Today, the FHA is the largest mortgage insurer in the world. 
It is also the primary facilitator of reverse mortgages and supports a 
nationwide network of housing counseling agencies. Yet for nearly 4 
years it has not had a Senate-confirmed leader.
  Fortunately, the time has finally come to fill this vacancy. I know 
Brian Montgomery will do a terrific job. Brian Montgomery is an ideal 
candidate to take up the mantle because he has done it before.
  Mr. Montgomery provided steadfast leadership at the helm of FHA 
between 2005 and 2009, under Presidents Bush and Obama, during one of 
the most trying times the housing markets had ever seen.
  His nearly unanimous support from housing stakeholders speaks to this 
strong track record of experience and expertise. Once confirmed, Mr. 
Montgomery can hit the ground running, moving FHA forward in pursuit of 
its continuing mission.
  I look forward to continued conversations with him on opportunities 
to improve America's housing finance system, which continues to be 
urgently needed. I also look forward to working with him on how we can 
make HUD programs more effective and more efficient, with better 
stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
  Thirteen years ago, this body confirmed Mr. Montgomery on a voice 
vote to serve as FHA Commissioner. I ask my colleagues to once again 
confirm him to this critical role.
  Thank you.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                            VA MISSION Bill

  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I come briefly to the floor to encourage 
all Members of the Senate to vote for the VA MISSION bill. It is long 
overdue, a lot of hard work went into it, and it had a great vote on 
cloture of 91 to 4.
  I am sure we will have an outstanding vote today because it is a vote 
for our veterans, for the promises we made to them for better quality 
healthcare and a better VA. It would not have happened if it were not 
for a lot of people, but one of the most key persons in making sure 
this bipartisan bill passes with the overwhelming margin it deserves is 
Jon Tester, my ranking member on the committee. We worked together hand 
in hand for about 3 years. We had enough pitfalls to want to quit many 
times but never did because we knew the ultimate goal was to meet our 
veterans' needs.
  Today, when we adopt this bill, and later on this month when it is 
signed, it will be because of the hard work of a lot of people but none 
more important than Jon Tester from Montana.
  I thank my ranking member for encouraging everyone to vote for the 
bill, and I thank the Presiding Officer at this time.
  I yield to the ranking member.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.
  Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I thank the chairman of the Veterans' 
Affairs Committee, Senator Isakson, for the leadership he has shown 
from the get-go. From the moment he took the gavel in the Senate 
Veterans' Affairs Committee, he has been wanting to work together in a 
bipartisan way, put aside our differences, and get things done.
  This VA MISSION Act had a great vote yesterday, and people might say:

[[Page S2865]]

Well, gee, this is just another one of those slam-dunk bills. It is 
not. We would not be here today if it wasn't for Chairman Isakson and 
the great work he has done on this bill.
  I also thank the entire Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. I thank 
the leadership of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. I thank the 38 
veterans service organizations that offered their support for this 
bill. I said many times during the hearings, we will take our cues from 
the veterans. This is exactly what the entire Senate, hopefully, will 
do in a minute or two with this bill, is take our cues from the people 
who serve this country in the military. This is a big win for them. 
They are also going to put a lot of pressure on the VA to deliver for 
them, but, nonetheless, this is one of those rare times when the Senate 
and House have done their job and done it in a bipartisan way, worked 
together, and worked for the benefit of the veterans of this country.
  I also thank my staff, Tony McClain, Dahlia Melendrez, and Jon Coen 
for their great work.
  In a brief review, what this bill does is scrap the Choice Program 
and all the community care programs and puts them into one program 
where the veteran and the doctor control where to seek care, whether it 
is within the VA or the private sector. It strengthens the VA and helps 
build capacity in the VA in two ways, with a loan repayment program for 
our employees, and it incentivizes medical residencies within the VA. 
It also improves rural healthcare in States where I come from in 
Montana by deploying mobile health teams and by expanding telehealth.
  Finally, this bill expands the caregiver program to veterans of all 
eras--something Senator Murray has worked on for years and years. I was 
there when Senator Murray came up to the chairman of the committee on a 
previous bill and said to Chairman Isakson: We really need this 
caregiver bill in. Chairman Isakson said: We are not going to forget 
about you, Patty. We are going to make sure this is taken care of. He 
lived up to his promise to her, and he lived up to those veterans who 
have a family member who takes care of them at home, where people don't 
even know what is going on. They don't even know what is happening. 
Sometimes these folks have to quit their job to take care of a veteran 
at home who needs help. So the caregiver program is a very important 
part of this bill.
  It happened because we worked together. When I go home to Montana 
people ask: How come you guys can't work together? We kind of broke the 
mold a little bit, and we worked together in a bipartisan way. We put 
aside politics, and we did what was right for our country and our 
veterans.
  Hopefully, we will get a strong vote out of this bill when it is 
brought up for passage, and we can get it to the President for his 
signature.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Montgomery 
nomination?
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Arizona (Mr. Flake) and the Senator from Arizona (Mr. 
McCain).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Illinois (Ms. Duckworth) 
is necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 74, nays 23, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 105 Ex.]

                                YEAS--74

     Alexander
     Baldwin
     Barrasso
     Bennet
     Blunt
     Booker
     Boozman
     Burr
     Capito
     Cardin
     Carper
     Cassidy
     Collins
     Coons
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cotton
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Donnelly
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Fischer
     Gardner
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hassan
     Hatch
     Heitkamp
     Heller
     Hoeven
     Hyde-Smith
     Inhofe
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Jones
     Kaine
     Kennedy
     King
     Klobuchar
     Lankford
     Leahy
     Lee
     Manchin
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Menendez
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Nelson
     Paul
     Perdue
     Peters
     Portman
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Schatz
     Scott
     Shelby
     Smith
     Sullivan
     Tester
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Van Hollen
     Warner
     Wicker
     Young

                                NAYS--23

     Blumenthal
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Casey
     Cortez Masto
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Markey
     Merkley
     Murray
     Reed
     Sanders
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Stabenow
     Udall
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--3

     Duckworth
     Flake
     McCain
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table and the President 
will be immediately notified of the Senate's action.

                          ____________________