Dec 29, 2020

Senate Debates $2,000 Stimulus Checks, McConnell Blocks Vote: Full Transcript

Senate Debates 2,000 checks stimulus package
RevBlogTranscriptsCongressional Testimony & Hearing TranscriptsSenate Debates $2,000 Stimulus Checks, McConnell Blocks Vote: Full Transcript

The Senate held a debate on December 29, 2020 on increasing stimulus checks in the COVID relief package from $600 to $2,000. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ultimately blocked the vote on the increase. Read the transcript here.

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Sen. Deb Fisher: (00:02)
Please join me in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (00:06)
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The clerk will read a communication to the Senate.

Clerk: (00:37)
Washington DC, December 29, 2020. To the Senate: Under the provisions of rule one, paragraph three of the standing rules of the Senate, I hereby appoint The Honorable Deb Fisher, a senator from the state of Nebraska, to perform the duties of the chair. Signed Chuck Grassley, president pro tempore.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (00:52)
Under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. The majority leader.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (01:02)
I suggest the absence of a quorum.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (01:03)
The clerk will call the roll.

Clerk: (01:05)
Mr. Alexander.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (05:30)
Madam President.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (05:31)
The majority leader.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (05:32)
I ask consent that further proceedings on the quorum call be dispensed with.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (05:36)
Without objection.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (05:39)
I ask unanimous consent that the veto message on HR 6395 received from the House be considered as having been read, spread in full upon the record, upon the journal, and be printed in the record.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (05:51)
Without objection.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (05:52)
I suggest the absence of a quorum.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (05:54)
Clerk will call the roll.

Clerk: (05:56)
Mr. Alexander.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (06:56)
Madam President.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (06:57)
The majority leader.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (06:59)
I ask consent that further proceedings on the quorum call be dispensed with.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (07:02)
Without objection.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (07:05)
Congress has returned to work this week to enact the 60th annual National Defense Authorization Act into law. Yesterday, a bipartisan supermajority in the House voted to reapprove The conference report of this must-pass legislation. Today, the Senate will set up a final vote for tomorrow, Wednesday, with this chamber to follow suit. Soon, this important legislation will be passed into law. President Trump has rightly noted that this year’s defense bill does not contain every provision that we Republicans would have wanted. I’m confident that our Democratic colleagues feel the same way, but that is the case every year. And yet, for 59 consecutive years and counting, Washington has put our differences aside, found common ground, and passed the annual defense bill. Not once in six decades has a Congress let its differences prevent it from completing this work for our national security and our men and women who wear the uniform.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (08:05)
This year’s NDAA will continue our momentum in rebuilding and modernizing our armed forces. It will authorize the personnel, equipment, tools, and training we need to reinforce the national defense strategy and to deter our great power rivals like China and Russia. It will cement our advantage on the seas, on land, in the air, in cyberspace, and in space, and the bill will help us continue to recruit, retain, and support the men and women who keep us safe. It provides a pay raise for the troops, improvements for military housing, childcare, and more.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (08:43)
Madam President for the brave men and women of the United States armed forces, failure is simply not an option. So when it’s our turn in Congress to have their backs, failure is not an option either. I would urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time when we vote tomorrow.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (09:03)
Now, on another matter, on Sunday, President Trump signed into law another historic bipartisan rescue package. It will provide major support to American families through what we hope will be the home stretch of our fight with the coronavirus. Congressional Republicans, congressional Democrats, and President Trump’s senior team had all worked together to pass hundreds of billions more dollars in urgent assistance to the people who need it most. This new law will set up a targeted second round of Paycheck Protection to save jobs. It will renew and continue federal programs that have helped laid-off workers to endure the crisis. It will send more cash to households. It will invest billions in vaccine distribution so the success of Operation Warp Speed kills the pandemic as fast as possible, and much more. This bipartisan compromise was our shot at getting help to working families on the urgent timeline that they need.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (09:58)
Once again, I want to applaud President Trump for signing the bill and getting this much-needed assistance into the pipeline. During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together. First, as he explained, the president would like further direct financial support for American households. Second is the growing willingness on both sides of the aisle to at least re-examine the special legal protections afforded to technology companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, including the ways it benefits some of the most prosperous, most powerful big tech firms. And the third subject, since every American regardless of their politics should feel the integrity of our democracy is beyond reproach, is exploring for other ways to protect the sanctity of America’s ballots while continuing to respect the federal government’s limited role in standing behind state and local government who actually run elections. Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (11:13)
I move to proceed to calendar number 480S3985.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (11:19)
The clerk will report.

Clerk: (11:21)
Motion to proceed to S3985, a bill to improve and reform policing practices, accountability, and transparency.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (11:31)
I ask unanimous consent that following leader remarks on Wednesday, December 30th, the time until 1:15 be equally divided between the proponents and opponents of the bill, with the opponent time being controlled by Senator Paul or his designee. Further, upon the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate vote on passage of the bill, the objections of the president to the contrary notwithstanding. Finally, if passed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (12:03)
Is there objection?

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (12:04)
Reserving the right to object.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (12:06)
The Democratic leader.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (12:07)
Well, thank you, Madam President. Now, the Senate is here this week for a rare holiday session to address two major issues: the president’s veto of the annual defense bill and the effort to send $2,000 survival checks to millions and millions of American families, something Senate Democrats strongly support. The Senate should be in session to address both issues. There are only a few days left in this session. We should not adjourn until the Senate holds a vote on both measures, the NDAA veto override and the House bill to provide $2,000 checks for the American people.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (12:53)
As we all know, the majority leader controls the schedule on the floor, so Leader McConnell holds the key to unlocking this dilemma. The solution is a simple one: put both bills up for a simple up or down vote, and then let the chips fall where they may. I believe both measures will pass, as they should, but Leader McConnell must allow the Senate to vote on both pieces of legislation, the defense bill and the $2,000 checks before we go home.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (13:28)
We will start the process on overriding the president’s veto of the defense bill tomorrow. Today, at the end of my remarks, I will ask the Senate’s consent to take up the House passed bill to provide the American people immediate survival checks of $2,000 a person. Throughout this pandemic, working Americans have taken it on the chin. Right now, they’re facing their hardest and their darkest days. Tens of millions have lost their jobs. Tens of millions are struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads. In the wealthiest nation on earth, modern day bread lines stretch for miles down American highways. The fastest way to get money into Americans’ pockets is to send some of their tax dollars right back from where they came.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (14:26)
$2,000 stimulus checks could mean the difference between American families having groceries for a few extra weeks or going hungry, the difference between paying the rent or being kicked out of your home that you’ve lived in for years. It could buy precious time for tens of millions of people as the vaccine, thankfully, makes its way across the country. Of course, we could have taken up this issue weeks ago. In the COVID bill Congress just passed, Democrats wanted generous direct payments to the American people. Speaker Pelosi and I repeatedly asked our Republican counterparts how much they could support. Their answer? $600. It was a compromise many of us were not happy about. I came to the floor myself with the senator from Vermont to ask that we double at least the size of those checks. A Republican senator objected. $600 was the most Republicans would support.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (15:31)
Well, my colleagues and my fellow Americans, $600 is not enough. Not enough for the mother in Nashville, $4,000 behind on the rent, whose water was shut off earlier this month. Not for the medical receptionist in Macomb, $2,100 behind on the rent, whole electricity shut off in September on her son’s third day of virtual kindergarten. Not for the 12 million Americans who have fallen, on average, nearly $6,000 behind on their rent and their utilities or the 26 million Americans who have had trouble putting food on the table in the past five days. $600? Nope, it’s not enough. So in a moment, I will move to have the Senate take up the House bill to increase that number to $2,000, which I might add, had broad bipartisan support. I don’t want to hear that we can’t afford it. I don’t want to hear that it would add too much to the deficit. Senate Republicans added nearly 2 trillion to the deficit to give corporations a massive tax cut. Republicans just fought to include a tax break for three martini lunches in the COVID relief bill. So I don’t want to hear it that it costs too much to help working families get a check when they’re struggling to keep their jobs, pay their families, pay their rent, feed their families, and live a halfway normal and decent life. Even in our deeply divided times, Madam President, this issue has united Americans from coast to coast and bridged the massive political divide here in Washington.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (17:17)
A vast majority of the public, Republican and Democrat, strongly support $2,000 checks. An overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House supports 2000 checks. Senate Democrats strongly support $2,000 checks. Even President Trump supports $2,000 checks. There’s one question left today: do Senate Republicans join with the rest of America in supporting $2,000 checks?

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (17:50)
Now, some of my Republican colleagues have said they support the checks, but there’s a major difference in saying you support $2,000 checks and fighting to put them into law. The House bill is the only way, the only way to deliver these stimulus checks before the end of session. Will Senate Republicans fight for a vote on the House passed CASH Act, or will they look some other way? Will Senate Republicans stand against the House of Representatives, the Democratic majority in the Senate, and the president of their own party to prevent these $2,000 checks from going out the door?

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (18:32)
We’re about to get the answers to these questions. So now, Mr., Madam President, I ask consent to set the NDAA. Nope. Sorry.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: (18:48)
Madam President. Where am I? Would the Senator modify his request to include a unanimous consent request to include unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of HR 9051, a bill received from the House, to increase recovery rebate amounts to $2,000 per individual, that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate?

Sen. Deb Fisher: (19:27)
Is there objection to the modification?

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (19:31)
I object.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (19:31)
Objection is heard. Is there objection to the original request?

Sen. Deb Fisher: (19:37)
The Senator from Vermont.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (19:39)
Thank you, Madam President. Reserving the right to object.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (19:51)
We should all be very, very clear. The working class of this country today faces more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And working families need help now, not next year, but right now. Last night, the House of Representatives, with a two-thirds majority, 275 to 134, two-thirds bipartisan vote, moved to increase the direct payment going to working families from $600 per adult to $2,000 per adult. The House did the right thing. I congratulate them. And now, it is time for the Senate to step up to the plate and do what the working families of this country overwhelmingly want us to do.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (21:05)
Madam President, as a result of the pandemic, tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their incomes. These families, in the middle of the winter, now face the threat of eviction and the possibility of being thrown out in the streets. Hunger in America is at the highest level that it has been for decades, with moms and dads struggling to feed their kids and working families lining up mile after mile to get emergency food packages. We are even seeing an increase in grocery store shoplifting as desperate Americans, try to keep their families from going hungry. All of this taking place in the wealthiest country, in the history of the world, Madam president, over the last number of years, as I think everybody in America knows Congress has provided massive tax breaks for the very wealthiest people in our country, which is one of the reasons why today we have more income and wealth inequality than any time since the 1920s. In fact, in the midst of this pandemic, this terrible pandemic, inequality has grown worse, with many in the billionaire class seeing their wealth increase by hundreds of billions of dollars while average Americans struggle to put food on the table. Congress has given huge tax breaks for large corporations so that some of the most profitable and largest corporations in America today pay zero in federal income taxes. We have just passed the largest military budget in the history of our country, $740 billion, more than the next 10 nations combined. And by the way, there was almost no debate about the size of that huge budget. Trump’s veto dealt with other issues.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (23:25)
Meanwhile, over half a million Americans are homeless, half of our working families are struggling to survive paycheck to paycheck, and in the midst of this terrible, unprecedented pandemic, over 90 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured. In the midst of a pandemic, and they’re not sure whether they can afford to go to a doctor. Madam President, we are coming to the close of one of the most terrible and painful years in American history. That is a tragic fact. Over 330,000 of our people have died from COVID-19, and as we speak, we are seeing record-breaking numbers of new cases at hospitals around the country being overwhelmed with new admissions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (24:21)
During the last year, the education and wellbeing of tens of millions of our young people, from childcare to graduate school, has been disrupted, and the terrible emotional isolation that this pandemic has caused, where people are unable to spend time with their family or their friends has resulted in a huge increase in mental illness, drug addiction, and even suicide. Madam President, as I mentioned, the house has done the right thing. By an overwhelming vote, Democrats and Republicans voted to increase that $600 direct payment to $2,000.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (25:04)
Recent poll came out, 78% of the American people think that was the right decision. They’re hurting. They want help. The leaders of our country, President Trump, President-Elect Biden, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, are all in agreement. We have got to raise that direct payment to $2,000. So that is where we are right now in this historic moment. Do we turn our backs on struggling working families, or do we respond to their pain? Madam President, would the Senator modify his request that immediately following the vote on the veto override, the Senate proceed to the consideration of HR 9051, that the bill be considered read a third time, and the Senate vote on passage of the bill without intervening action or debate? Further, that if passed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (26:22)
Is there objection to the request for modification?

Sen. Mitch McConnell: (26:25)
I object.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (26:27)
Objection is heard. Is there objection to the original?

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (26:31)
I object.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (26:32)
Objection is heard. Under the previous order, the Senate will be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: (26:44)
Oh, I’m sorry. [inaudible 00:26:50].

Sen. Ed Markey: (26:54)
Madam President.

Sen. Deb Fisher: (26:55)

Sen. Ed Markey: (26:57)
Thank you, Madam President. Madam president, this is our historic moment. We can see the suffering across our country. We can see how desperate people are. We can see how during this holiday season that people are looking at the prospects, in the words of Tony Fauci, where the worst may be ahead of us for these families. The worst may yet to have been actually inflicted upon families in our country. And yet, the Republicans are refusing to allow for a vote on giving each individual $2,000 in order to make it through the rest of this pandemic. And Senator Sanders today speaks for the millions of Americans who are suffering through a devastating health crisis and unemployment crisis and eviction crisis, a hunger crisis, and a crisis of faith, faith that their leaders in this country will stand up and provide for Americans in their hour of need.

Sen. Ed Markey: (28:23)
Meanwhile, we here in Washington, we must confront a moral crisis. Why can’t we keep working families from starving, even as we stand ready to approve a massive defense bill? That’s why I’m here with my colleague, Bernie Sanders, to call for a simple vote to provide $2,000 in direct cash payments to Americans across our country. It’s this simple. Just like they did in the House of Representatives, the Senate should have a vote, up or down, yes or no, on providing these increased cash payments to desperate Americans. We can get this done quickly and before the holiday, if Leader McConnell will simply agree to do it. They already had this vote in the house. Forty-six Republicans voted for it. Give the Republicans in the Senate the same opportunity to vote. We already know that many of them have already said they will vote for the $2,000 if they get a chance to vote. It’s this simple.

Sen. Ed Markey: (29:45)
We can do this because a simple vote will just say that you want to provide a grand total of $2,000 to Americans who need it to pay the rent, to keep the electricity on, to buy diapers, to pay for life-saving medication, just to survive this devastating pandemic. Forty-four House Republicans voted for the $2,000 checks. I believe that Republicans in this chamber will do so as well. And President Trump has already made it very clear. He will sign that bill. So we can see where the opposition is. It’s the leadership of the Republicans in the United States Senate. People across our country are falling ill and falling behind on their bills, and for the families of the hundreds of thousands who have died in the coronavirus, medical and funeral expenses are compounding their grief. They need money in their pockets.

Sen. Ed Markey: (30:58)
In Massachusetts this past Sunday, we hit a hundred deaths in a single day, the highest death toll our state has seen in a 24-hour period since the very beginning of this pandemic. In the week before Christmas, 21,000 new people in our state applied for unemployment benefits just as Donald Trump let these protections lapse before millions of Americans were losing their benefits, and that is a tragedy. A $2,000 check is the most direct and effective mechanism for delivering economic relief right now to those barely holding on throughout this crisis, particularly low income Americans, immigrant communities, our gig, our service workers, our essential workers. They need help. They have been helping our families. We need to help their families.

Sen. Ed Markey: (31:58)
And right now, these checks would help 158 million people across our country pay for housing, put food on the table, make sure that grandma and grandpa have their diabetes or heart medication. That’s why Senator Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, and I introduced legislation to provide every person in our country, regardless of immigration status, with $2,000 monthly recurring payments to help weather this storm. We knew then, seven months ago, that a single $1,200 relief check was not going to be enough to help families get by, and the $600 payment in the latest coronavirus package is crumbs to working people who have faced economic hardship through no fault of their own. It won’t even cover a month of rent, let alone heating bills, food bills, wifi bills for students learning from home, and all the other expenses which are piling up for these families.

Sen. Ed Markey: (33:07)
Now, some of my Republican colleagues have said that providing $2,000 would be too expensive. Well, here are some other costs they seem to have forgotten. If our proposal to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 is signed, the overall cost of the stimulus bill would go from $900 billion to $1.36 trillion. Yes, that is a $464 billion increase over what we were currently projecting for this bill. But it is only a fraction of the $740 billion defense bill that this chamber stands ready to approve again this week. My Republican colleagues, and I hate to say this, but my Republican colleagues seem-

Sen. Ed Markey: (34:03)
I hate to say this, but my Republican colleagues seem more interested in funding defense than in funding the defenseless, and that’s what this debate is all about. What do we do to help these defenseless families? In this moment of national crisis, we are able to afford spending three quarters of a trillion dollars on a bloated defense budget, spending that is supposed to protect our country, yet did nothing to inoculate against the most profound public health emergency in a century. But we can’t give hungry and suffering Americans $2,000? That is a moral failure for our country. Give Americans this money. Most of my colleagues support this defense budget. They got to vote on it a few weeks ago, and I know they stand ready to override President Trump’s racist, belligerent veto. We’re here today asking the same thing for $2,000 payments, a simple up or down vote.

Sen. Ed Markey: (35:12)
Let’s bring the House bill up for a vote. Leader Schumer is committed to bring you forward. We can get this done before the holiday. We can do this for Americans before the year is out. We must remember that what makes America the envy of the world is not simply the strength of our defense and military, but the strength of our people, people like Ahmed Jaya, a parent of three, who was laid off from his job as a doorman at the Omni Parker House in Boston this past March. Ahmed receives $400 a week in unemployment benefits, but it is not enough to cover the bills that keep rolling in, as he now faces expiring health coverage as well. Or people like Tanya de Stefano from Spencer, Massachusetts, who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on Halloween and returned from the hospital to find an eviction notice taped to the front of her door.

Sen. Ed Markey: (36:16)
These are the stories that should be driving our fights. These are the people who need relief now, and these checks will go right back into our economy because people will spend this money. They need it for the necessities which are confronting their families right now. Last week, Donald Trump used these people as political pawns. He stalled signing the Coronavirus Relief Package, claiming that he wants to give $2,000 checks to every American. By delaying, President Trump may have stiffed unemployed Americans out of $300 this week in unemployment benefits, benefits that they will not get back. So let’s now hold Donald Trump to his word, let’s bring this to a vote, and let’s pass $2,000 relief checks for every person in our country, and put that bill on Donald Trump’s desk. This pandemic has laid bare the tragedy of two Americas, one in which billionaires grew their wealth by $931 billion over the course of this pandemic, an America where the rich continue to get richer.

Sen. Ed Markey: (37:34)
And the other America, that has seen unprecedented economic uncertainty, Great Depression-level unemployment rates, and devastating losses. Where black and Latinx workers suffer disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, and their families suffer higher rates of Coronavirus infection and death. Where workers get laid off while CEOs get raises and companies engage in stock buyback plans. Where residents get evicted or their electricity shut off, but major corporations barely pay taxes. For those workers and families and struggling households in America, for the vast majority of America, $2,000 is a lifeline, and it is time for Leader McConnell to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Ed Markey: (38:27)
The American people have a right to know where every member of the Senate stands on this issue. They now know where President Trump says he stands, they now know where every member of the United States House of Representatives stands. And the American people have a right to know in this desperate time that we are living through, who was on their side to give their families the help which they needed. Senator Sanders is right, we should have a vote. It should be yes or no, and we should do this before the end of this year. Madam President, I yield back the balance [inaudible 00:39:06].

Speaker 1: (39:08)
Madam President.

Speaker 2: (39:09)
The Senator from Connecticut.

Speaker 1: (39:11)
Thank you, Madam President.

Speaker 3: (39:14)
Madam President, America has 600 billionaires. Now, a billion dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money these days. President Trump just signed a bill, begrudgingly, that has $900 billion in it, but trust me, a billion dollars is still a whole lot of money. It’s actually so much money that it’s really hard to find words to describe what it looks like, but let me try. If you’re, for instance, one of the half million Americans who makes the minimum wage in this nation, and you’re lucky enough to work 40 hours a week, guess how many years you would have to work in order to get a billion dollars. 500 years, a thousand years, 10,000 years, no, you’re not even close. If you make minimum wage in America today, you would need to work for 75,000 years in order to make a billion dollars, 75,000 years. Neanderthals were roaming the earth 75,000 years ago. Those guys, if they made minimum wage, would have to work up until present day, every single day, and that is, of course, if they didn’t spend a dime of the money they made, in order to accrue a billion dollars.

Speaker 3: (40:41)
A billion dollars is a bananas amount of money, and there are 600 people in America today who make at least that amount of money or have that amount of money to their name. That’s crazy. With a billion dollars, you are leading a life that frankly, none of us can really imagine, right? You’ve got private planes, you’ve got yachts, you’ve got household staffs in the dozens. You got enough money to make sure that your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren and your great, great grandchildren, never have to work a day of their lives. Generations of your offspring can just live lives of indolent luxury, without a care, if they so choose. You know where I was two days before Thanksgiving this year? I was at Hamden Middle School, in my state, to help hand out free food for the unemployed, the poor, and the disabled, ahead of a long holiday weekend.

Speaker 3: (41:43)
Those long weekends can be really hard, especially the ones that fall at the end of the month, when the snap benefits have long run out. I got there as darkness fell, but right at the beginning of the event, and I noticed that down the hill from the roundabout at the school where they were handing out the food, there was a usually empty parking lot. And that night, at that moment, at the beginning of the event, that parking lot was lit up by hundreds of sets of headlights, hundreds of cars, just sitting there idling in that parking lot. I asked the organizer of the event what was going on in that parking lot. Was that some other event happening that evening? Why all the cars? He told me the cars started pulling into that lot hours ago. They got wind we were handing out food, and they got here early to make sure that they didn’t get left out. We have enough food for 300 people, and there were 300 cars in that lot before I even got here. That is what has happened during this pandemic. Millions of families all across this nation, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, have had their hours dramatically cut back, they have no savings because work doesn’t pay in this country anymore, they spent everything they earned each month. And so when the economy collapsed virtually overnight in the spring, they got desperate really fast. And I want you to think about what it’s really like on an hour-to-hour basis, when you don’t have enough money for food for your family. The decisions you have to make every single day, are practically animalistic. Do you make your kids go hungry during the day when they need the most energy, or do you skimp on dinner and force your kids to go to bed with hunger pangs? There are hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers who, right now, as I am speaking, are making that decision today. That’s the reality of this pandemic, but here’s another reality. Those 600 billionaires in this country, as it turns out, as a group, they lost nothing, nothing during this pandemic. No, exactly the opposite, they got richer. The wealthiest 600 Americans collectively added $1 trillion to their bank accounts. Let me say that again. The richest 600 Americans gained a trillion dollars over the course of 2020. And let’s be clear, that’s not money that grew in their money tree orchards. Yeah, we’re printing some more money these days, but wealth isn’t far away from a zero sum game still. When we allow for 600 people in the country to control 50% of the nation’s wealth, that’s coming out of your pocket. 600 people in a country of 328 million, isn’t a lot of people, but you know what’s a smaller number than 600? 52. There are 52 Republicans in this chamber, 52 people who are going to have a decision to make about what to do in a country where millions are literally starving as we speak, while 600 billionaires count the $1 trillion in additional wealth that they have accumulated during this period of national calamity. The question before these 52 Senate Republicans is simple. It’s simple. Should we give $2,000 to low and middle-income Americans right now, to help them survive this crisis? That’s the decision Senate Republicans have to make right now.

Speaker 3: (46:08)
Time is running out. 600 billionaires got a trillion dollars richer this year, and the question before Senate Republicans is this, are you willing to spend an amount equal to just half of that windfall to America’s billionaires, in order to help 160 million Americans? Because right now, the 52 Senate Republicans serving in this chamber, are the only thing standing in the way of $2,000 being sent to 160 million of our neediest citizens. The House passed the bill authorizing the checks in a big bipartisan vote. It is hard to get two thirds of the House of Representatives to agree on what time it is, but two thirds of the House of Representatives voted for the $2,000 checks. President Trump supports the $2,000 checks, so he’ll sign the bill if the Senate sends it to him. We can vote on the House bill today, in a matter of hours, if Senate Republicans agree. Why isn’t this happening? Why didn’t Senator McConnell announce the schedule for the vote on the $2, 000 checks bill?

Speaker 3: (47:32)
Why didn’t he agree to Senator Schumer’s request to bring it up for an immediate vote? Now, a lot of Republicans are saying they object to the payments because it costs too much and it’s going to add too much to the deficit. Well frankly, spare me the fake, righteous indignation about the deficit, all of a sudden. Three years ago, these same deficit hawk Republicans passed a tax cut bill that, before the pandemic hit, had already added over $200 billion to the annual deficit. And that was a tax cut where 80% of the benefits went to the richest 1% of Americans. Warren Buffet wrote in his note to investors last year that the deficit finance tax cuts earned his empire $29 billion overnight. That windfall, Buffet noted, “Did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire.”

Speaker 3: (48:29)
It’s funny, deficits just didn’t matter to the 52 when it was tax cuts to the 600 richest people in America. But even if this Congress wasn’t ending in five days and we had time to figure out how to pay for it, you know how we can’t pay for it, cutting foreign aid. President Trump has been talking a lot about foreign aid in the last week. Now, the money we spend on foreign aid, all supported by Democrats and Republicans over the years, all of it smart investments in our nation’s security, that actually wasn’t in the COVID Relief Package, it was in the annual budget as it always is. It just so happens that this year, the COVID Relief Package and the annual budget were passed together. But just for argument’s sake, let’s say Trump got his way and every single dollar of foreign aid was cut out of the budget. Would that pay for the $2,000 checks? Not even close.

Speaker 3: (49:26)
President Trump apparently has an oversized impression of how much money we spend on foreign aid, because our annual foreign aid spending doesn’t even equal 10% of the cost of a one-time $2,000 payment to low and middle-income citizens. There is also some speculation that Senator McConnell is going to join together the $2,000 payments, with other, much more controversial measures, much more complicated measures, like the reform of our internet liability laws. That is an invitation for this entire effort to fall apart. The House has finished voting, they have passed the $2,000 payment bill and sent it to us. They are not interested in taking up anything else. If we start adding poison pills to the $2,000 payment bill, that is just another way of telling the American people that this body doesn’t support $2,000 payments.

Speaker 3: (50:35)
Listen, being a billionaire must be crazy. I make a lot of money as a Senator, but even I would have to work 7,500 years before my earnings equaled a billion dollars. You know what was happening 7,500 years ago, the Stone Age. There isn’t a good reason to oppose giving Americans who aren’t billionaires, a measly $2,000 check to help them put food on the table for their kids in the middle of this once-in-a-lifetime crisis. There isn’t a good reason to choose to make moms and dads all across this country, to decide which two meals they’ll feed their kids each day, because three meals is not an option. $ 2,000 doesn’t put dinner on the table every night, but man, going to bed hungry when you’re 11, it sucks. And even dealing with it every other night, instead of every single night, no kid is going to turn that down. There are 52 of you, and the next 24 to 48 hours, you get to decide, do you protect the billionaires or do you choose to feed that 11 year-old kid?

Speaker 3: (52:08)
The only thing that stands between the American people and a $2,000 emergency survival check is 52 Senate Republicans. You got it? Understand? There’s a bill pending right now before the Senate, that gives $2,000 to ordinary Americans. Yes, it costs a lot of money and maybe down the line, we’ll have to ask the billionaires to pay for it. But the bill’s here right now, the legislative session expires in five days. President Trump says he’ll sign it, and all that matters right now is what these 52 people decide. The House passed the bill with lots of Democratic and Republican support, the President supports the idea. The only thing that can stop $2,000 payments to struggling Americans right now is 52 Senate Republicans. Some things in Washington, aren’t that simple, but this is. I yield the floor. [inaudible 00:53:26] the absence of quorum.

Speaker 2: (53:27)
Clerk will call the roll.

Clerk: (53:29)
Mr. Alexander.

Speaker 4: (53:29)
Madam President.

Speaker 5: (01:29:19)
The Senator from Texas is recognized.

Speaker 4: (01:29:22)
Madam President, I’d ask that the quorum call be dispensed with.

Speaker 5: (01:29:24)
Without objection.

Speaker 4: (01:29:27)
Madam President, we didn’t expect to be in session this week, but we are. And of course, as we all know, the theme for this entire year has been COVID-19 writ large. More than 330,000 Americans have died from the Novel Coronavirus. Tens of millions have lost their jobs and every community across the country has felt the devastating blow dealt by this pandemic. But as we know the threats that existed long before this virus still are with us, even though most of the world hit pause to battle COVID-19, our adversaries did not. And our brave service members didn’t pack their bags and not show up for work when everybody else shut down. Over the last several months, as the Senate has worked to support our country through this pandemic, we’ve kept an Eagle eye on the other threats on the horizon, and we passed the National Defense Authorization Act to ensure that we are prepared for whatever comes at us.

Speaker 4: (01:30:37)
For our forces to continue fighting and defeating our adversaries in every corner of the world, they need funding, they need stability, they need to be able to plan, and they need the unwavering support of the United States Congress, and all 330 million Americans. The 2021 NDAA provides that support from Congress. It will prepare our military and service members to address the threats that exist today while preparing for those that we will inevitably face tomorrow. Earlier this month, this legislation passed the house by a vote of 335 to 78 and the Senate by a vote of 84 to 13. Those are rare vote margins in Congress these days and that alone is a Testament to the importance of this legislation and its bi-partisan support. We know the President has the constitutional authority to veto any bill for virtually any reason. And he has exercised that power with this legislation.

Speaker 4: (01:31:45)
The reasons the president has given, I don’t think are frivolous at all, they just shouldn’t be tagged to this particular piece of legislation. His concerns about section 230 and the under the Communications Decency Act and the power of these social media platforms to censor speech is troubling indeed, this is something we really haven’t confronted before. We know that under the first amendment, the government can’t censor speech, but with small town newspapers and media outlets and other alternatives fading away, more and more of the American people rely on Facebook and Google and other internet platforms to get their information. And they have, I believe, become defacto public forum. So I agree that we do need to address section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as the President has pointed out.

Speaker 4: (01:32:44)
The President also has a point about the commission to rename military basis that’s part of the Defense Authorization Act. Unfortunately, the amendment that was adopted in the Armed Services Committee undermines the role of Congress once the commission makes its report to do as Congress believes should be done. But the truth is, as we’ve learned from our friends across the pond in the UK, no parliament can bind a future parliament, and indeed no Congress combined a future Congress. That’s true. So if these are things that the President believes we should address, and that members of the Congress and the new administration believe that we should address, we will address them. And we have an opportunity to do that. But we should not try to do that on this bill and risk the loss of this important piece of legislation now in its 60th year of adoption.

Speaker 4: (01:33:44)
The Defense Department is hands down the largest employer in the United States with nearly 2.9 million employees, including both service members and civilians. These men and women be found in more than 160 countries around the world. And on all seven continents. Supporting them is a Herculean task. And the NDAA is a significant the way in which we do that. The Defense Authorization Bill also includes a 3% pay raise for our troops and additional support for their families, such as career support for military spouses and quality childcare on military bases. Given the fact that we have an all volunteer military it’s important we not only support our service members who wear the uniform, but the families that support them as well. I’ve heard it said you can recruit a member of the United States military, but if you want to retain them, you got to take care of their family. And I believe that’s absolutely true.

Speaker 4: (01:34:50)
This bill also ensures previous reforms to improve the quality of military housing and healthcare are implemented appropriately. Those who serve in our military have made tremendous sacrifices in order to safeguard our freedoms and our way of life. I regard our support for them and for our national defense, the number one priority of the federal government, everything else pales in significance. So we should do everything in our power to ensure that they and their families are appropriately taken care of. Beyond pay and benefits that means giving the military members the training, the facilities, the equipment they need, not only to succeed on the job, but to return home safely. The NDAA authorizes military construction projects across the country, including $183 million in Texas, which will bring serious updates and improvements to our military bases.

Speaker 4: (01:35:48)
At Joint Base, San Antonio this funding will provide for a range of new facilities, including a barracks, a flight simulation system, and an F-16 mission training center. At Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, it will support an F-35 operations and maintenance facility, vehicle maintenance shop, and an aircraft maintenance hangar. It will also support fuel facilities at Fort Hood and provide additional funding for the Pantex plant in Amarilla, which maintains a large portion of our nuclear stockpile. Maintain and modernize facilities are a critical component to military readiness. And this legislation makes tremendous investments in our facilities around the world. It will authorize 93 new F-35 joint strike fighters that will be built by Texans in Fort Worth.

Speaker 4: (01:36:43)
As we work to counter increasingly sophisticated adversaries around the world, this investment in our military readiness could not be more important. In addition to supporting our members in uniform and ensuring they’re ready for action when called upon, the NDAA helps our military take stock of the evolving threat landscape and ensure that our country is taking active steps to counter threats on the horizon. In recent years, China and Russia have risen to the top of the threats to our country and to world order, with China now assuming the number one role. We remember the Cold War after World War Two, where we’ve sought to contain and counter Soviet expansionism. And actually, the mutual deterrence that we’ve established during that time has worked.

Speaker 4: (01:37:38)
But China is a unique challenge and none of the old rules apply to China. They’re increasingly belligerent and well-resourced and continue to demonstrate a lack of respect, not only for the US and our closest allies, but for basic human rights. The Chinese government continues its disturbing and unacceptable genocide against the Uighur people. The so-called political re-education camps are nothing more than concentration camps where Uighurs are tortured. Recent reporting has found that the treatment in these camps often includes forced abortions, birth control and sterilization. And China continues to chip away at the freedoms and autonomy of Hong Kong, notwithstanding its promises to the contrary, using a so- called national security law to extinguish opposition to the Chinese communist party and to deny the people of Hong Kong the freedoms that they were promised.

Speaker 4: (01:38:42)
As I mentioned though, China doesn’t stand alone as a threat to the world. Russia has becoming increasingly aggressive around the world in its efforts wreak chaos and sow discord. Since their attempts to interfere with the 2016 election, we’ve witnessed aggression after aggression from Russia, not just here in the cyberspace, but around the world. From Russian backed mercenaries fighting in the Middle East, to its attempt to steal the Coronavirus vaccine research, and in the last few weeks, a massive cyber attack on US government agencies. Russia continues to undermine the US and our allies and shows no signs of stopping. It’s becoming clear, if it wasn’t already that China and Russia adhere to no rules and no principles, but their own.

Speaker 4: (01:39:39)
As a national defense strategy outline, the threats posed by these two countries are increasingly dangerous and countering these growing threats requires a clear and concentrated effort from Congress. That’s exactly why a passing the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act is so important. This legislation prioritizes strategic competition with China and Russia and takes a strong approach to counter the threats posed by adversaries around the world. It will build on the progress we’ve made in recent years to strengthen our military after the draconian cuts during the Obama Biden administration, and achieve peace through strength. Over the last several decades, the NDAA has provided an annual opportunity for us to take stock of the evolving threat landscape and ensure that our national defense is prepared to meet the challenges, not only of today, but of tomorrow. And this year’s Defense Authorization Act is no exception.

Speaker 4: (01:40:44)
It takes a strong approach to counter the threats posed by our adversaries around the world. It invests in modernized national defense that’s critical to maintaining peace through strength, and it provides support for our service members and their families. And above all, it sends a message to the world that our Country is, and will remain, the global military leader. I’ve supported this legislation on the Senate floor many times and I’ll do so once again, when the opportunity to vote to override the veto presents itself. One of Congress’s most critical responsibilities is to provide for the common defense and the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, is how we will deliver. Madam President, I yield the floor, and I’d note the absence for quorum.

Speaker 5: (01:41:34)
The clerk will call the roll.

Speaker 6: (01:41:38)
Mr. Alexander.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:44:00)
… Madam President.

Sen. Susan Collins: (01:44:01)
The Senator from Oklahoma and chairman of the Senate Arms Services committee.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:44:07)
Madame President, I ask for unanimous consent [crosstalk 01:44:08] the quorum?

Sen. Susan Collins: (01:44:09)
Without objection.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:44:11)
Thank you. Madam President. I was disappointed last week when president Trump vetoed the NDAA. This bill has been out there. This will be the 60th year that we’ve had the NDAA. The NDAA is the National Defense Authorization Act. And I’ve said so many times, countless times, on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate, that this is the most important bill that we have. Some people don’t agree with that, but I do. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing here. We’re supposed to be defending America and there’s a lot… We’re in the most threatened situation we’ve ever been in. I sometimes look back and think of the good old days of the Cold War when he had two super powers out there and we knew what they had, they knew what we had. The mutual assured destruction meant something at that time. You kill us, we kill you and everyone’s happy.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:45:10)
But that those are living in the past. But anymore now, with the weaponry that’s out there, you can get one outside group that doesn’t have any resources at all and they have the ability to wipe out another country. So it’s a real threat that we’re up against. I do Chair the committee called the Senate Armed Services Committee. And of course, I’ve been very active in the National Defense Authorization Act every year since, well, since 1987. That’s a long time.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:45:45)
So I’m proud of the conference report that we had, the NDAA right here, our vote in this Senate was 84 to 13. Wow. You can’t find that kind of togetherness in a cause anywhere else. But it puts members of the family of the military first. And I share President Trump’s frustration about Section 230. And I know that it’s a complicated thing, the majority of people in America don’t know what that’s all about.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:46:24)
But section 230 is something that has nothing to do with the military. Nothing at all. The committee that I chair is the Armed Services Committee, that would be found in the jurisdiction of the judiciary committee. The judiciary committee is chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham. He does a great job chairing that, that’s where any kind of reform in Section 230 should come from.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:46:51)
And I Agree that the president should have the authority to determine troop levels. That’s what we have in this bill. We have the president making those decisions. That’s why we made sure that the final NDAA gave the president very broad authority in determining troop levels all around. And we’ve looked at them in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, we’ve looked at them in Afghanistan and other places around the world.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:47:26)
So we look at what we’ve done… And I was going to mention, I’ve been down here several times talking about the President and what he has done and what he has done, the great job that he’s done for the United States. And I’m going to wind up some comments on a card that I put together. I put this card together back in… Two years ago. Talking about the top 10 Trump accomplishments and I think it’s important that people remember that. Now you’re going to get a lot of people down here forgetting about all the really good things that have happened. So I’m going to talk about that in a minute.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:48:07)
But I’m here today because we have to pass the NDAA. This would be the 60th year in the row that we have the NDAA and it’s necessary to have. It’s the most important bill of the year, I’ve believe this for a long time. You’ve heard me say it before, I always stand with our troops. Here are a few of the military service members and their families will suffer if we don’t enact it for the 60th year.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:48:35)
If the NDAA is not passed more than 200,000 military families will see smaller paychecks in January, because the special pays and the bonuses for hazard pay are all a part of this bill. Additionally, it would hurt the areas where the military is having the most serious problem. In a way it’s kind of a mixed bag because we have, prior to the pandemic coming along and that was in about March of last year. Before that happened, we had the best economy I could argue that we’ve had in my lifetime. And all of these things were very, very good. And then of course, when that happened, everything changed.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:49:25)
Now, one of the problems you have when you have such a great economy, is that you have a lot of competition. You know, we have to have a military force, that military force has to have resources. They have to have the ability to step in because we don’t know where the next threat is going to come from. And this would, with people with special abilities… Now I’m talking about pilots and cyber experts and engineers and doctors, that’s where we have a problem. We don’t have enough of them, pilots.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:49:55)
I’ve been an active pilot now for longer than most members here have been alive. And I know that back during the previous administration, the Obama administration, we had a gross, serious problem because we were not able to attract the pilots at that time. Because that was when we had a president who, and he wasn’t ashamed of it, his top priority is not defending America. He had other priorities. And so consequently, we went through a period of the last five years, the last five years of his administration where the year 2010 through to 2015. And during that timeframe, he reduced the funding for the military by 25%.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:50:41)
At the same time he did that, China was increasing theirs in that same timeframe by 83%. So we have China increasing their military expenditures by 83% at the same time we’re reducing ours by 25%. And so we had serious problems there. And one of the areas where when people are cutting the military that they do that won’t be as noticeable was in the flying hours. So we had pilots out there, but they weren’t flying the hours that they needed to fly to keep their proficiency up. And consequently, a lot of them left and went to the airlines and went other places because they were wanting to be flying the hours.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:51:29)
And that’s one of the things, the problems that we had during that time. So we have the military’s ability to recruit and retain service members that are in the shorter supply. And as I mentioned, that would be things like cyber experts and engineers and doctors. So they have the skill sets that need to be done out there. And of course this president came along and we started rebuilding the military.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:51:54)
I always remember being at the White House during a time that we were talking about what we’re going to do with the military. And he actually looked over at me and he said, “What do you think we need to do with the military?” I said, “We’re going to rebuild the military, it’s going to cost something like 700 billion, $750 billion before it’s over.” He said, “That’s what we should do. We need to start with that.” And this president with his leadership took us with a new priority in defending America and building our military, and it happened.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:52:28)
So we have the things that will happen if we don’t pass this thing, the education of children for military families. There’s a thing called the Impact Aid. Impact Aid comes about when we don’t get the tax base increased with the added enrollment into the schools of the children of military families. They have impact because they don’t pay the taxes, so the Impact Aid is that amount of money that it supplements that to all of these, not just in my state of Oklahoma, but throughout the country. It ensures that children of military families receive a quality education by supplementing the school district, the budgets where they’re required.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:53:16)
If the NDAA is not passed, military construction projects… You know, I have one in my state of Oklahoma that is one that would… Let’s see where, where is that? Yeah. We have a thing where we have an ammunition depot demolition shop for one. And this is something where we’ve gone through a lot of BRAC rounds, Base Realignment and Closure Commissions. And we have increased the size of our ammunition demolition activities substantially. And we’re doing most of it now right there in Oklahoma.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:53:54)
Well, this has a new demolition shop in there so we can get rid of a lot of these things we were not able to get rid of. So we have military construction projects in 38 States. And what happens when the state of Maine and it’s very significant that they be able to do these projects. If the military constructions don’t happen, both in authorization and appropriation… People don’t understand this because it’s kind of talk around, but in order for something to get done, you have to have it authorized. That’s what the committee that I chair, it does, authorize military projects. Then it has to be appropriated. And appropriators come along and they put the money in there and that’s how this system works.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:54:42)
So the NDAA, if it’s not passed, the military won’t be able to increase the Instrength, or the total number of troops in the military services. That’s where they’re needed to address the growing threats. Instrength increases, if it doesn’t happen without authorization you can’t appropriate it.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:55:00)
So the NDAA, if it should not be passed, the Pentagon loses the ability to quickly and efficiently process security clearance investigations. Right now, there’s a backlog because it takes a long time to do this. But this has a streamlining provision in it that’s going to make that a lot easier. So it we’ll be able to get the security clearances. All of these things are tied into this bill.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:55:29)
The OD, if we didn’t pass this thing, would lack the authority to pay the non-military personnel on hospital ships. They’re the ones who are doing the great job right now with the COVID response. And that’s just kind of a snapshot of what we’re counting on to support our troops in the field, the bare minimum we need. Without the NDAA, we lose all of that and also lose all of the other policies. This bill makes China the primary strategic threat. I think we all understand that. We have strategic threats from Russia and China. Last year the European part addressed. This year, the bill that is pending right now that we’re going to try to get passed for this year. And I think we will successfully do that, but that’s going to be concentrating on the Pacific area. That’s China and the things that China is doing that many people don’t realize the threat that’s out there.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:56:37)
Right now we’re up, as I understand it, to seven different areas where the Chinese are actually building, creating islands in the South China Sea. This is something that’s different than has ever been done before. I contend, I’ve always contended, it’s still illegal but they’re still doing it. They’re doing it and that’s the effort that they’re making there. And if you go into these islands where they’re rebuilding, it’s almost as if China is preparing for World War III. All of them. This is what is happening right now.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:57:19)
Right now we know about the SolarWinds hack, the hack that we’re facing. That’s something where we have language to deal with that in the Defense Authorization Bill. The new hunt forward authority that allows our cyber operators to do more work to find malicious actors proactively. And this is something that we need to get done for the safety, for the defense of our country.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:57:42)
It implements the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and the recommendations. There are 27 recommendations that they have in this commission and it establishes a new National Cyber Director. You know, these are things where it’s a moving target. There’s a lot of things that we’re doing now that we should have been doing before and it took China and Russia to forge ahead of us as they did in the previous administration, to remind us that we have these very serious problems.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:58:17)
So our troops need the NDAA, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that they have the equipment and the training and the resources to complete the mission and return home safely. I’ll close with this one reminder on December the 29th, 1777, two hundred and forty-five years ago today, General George Washington wrote to the Continental Congress imploring that they need to provide the resources his troops needed.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:58:47)
He wrote, and this is a quote from that, he said, “I hope that the supplies they will be able to furnish in aid of those which Congress may immediately import themselves, will be equal and competent to every demand. If they do not, I fear I am satisfied the troops will never be in a situation to answer the public expectation and perform the duties required of them.” You know, and that’s just as true today as it was in 1777. So we’ve got to do that.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:59:24)
We look at the national security wins of this president. I think people don’t talk about that as much. We have identified China is the number one adversary that was in the NDS, that’s the National Defense Survey. It was put together by 12 of the real experts, six Republicans, six Democrats. It’s been the blueprint for our military ever since that time. This is about three years ago. And this is what we and they identified, China as the major threat.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (01:59:57)
Two and a half trillion dollars to rebuild the military, and that’s what we were able to get done. Increased the size of the military, replaced the obsolete equipment. New investments in future-tech, hypersonics is a good example. Both Russia and China are ahead of us in that area of the hypersonics. It’s a new state of the art. The pay raise for the kids. Took out the terrorist leaders. You know, how many people remember that? Baghdadi and so Soleimani, they were the top terrorists in the world. They’re gone now. This president, this administration, took care of that.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:00:41)
Established The Space Force. You know, Space Force, that was the first new force that was established in many, many years. I wasn’t real sold on it at first, because I thought we were doing a pretty good job. But it wasn’t coordinated, you had different military units doing it, and they weren’t really even talking to each other. So that’s what we put together and it was this president that provided the leadership in doing that.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:01:12)
The Widow’s Tax, everybody remembers that, that was something that had to be done and we did it. Others talked about it, this president did it. The ISIS caliphate is destroyed. The Abraham Accords. The support of Israel through the Security Assistance, and we know that that’s going on, it’s going on today.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:01:34)
All of these things, this president has done a great job. But I do want to mention, and I think it’s worthwhile doing, because we know what won’t happen if we don’t pass this bill. We will get the bonuses necessary, I already mentioned that. Impact Aid, I mentioned that. Military construction project authorizations, we would not have that. The full pay for DOD civilians, that has to be done and that’s been talked about by a lot of administrations, but not really done.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:02:10)
And then I’ll finalize this by talking about China. I mean, this bill supports or helps China, nothing in the bill helps China in any way at all. There’s a group called the American Enterprise Institute, that’s a group that’s kind of the conservative conscious that evaluates programs that come along. They said, and this is a quote, they said, “This bill has the most substantial and consequential China related provisions since the 2000 NDAA.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:02:47)
Now they’re talking about this bill, what it does for China. It establishes the Pacific Deterrence. Well, we talked about the European Deterrence last year in the NDAA bill. This is the Pacific Deterrence. That’s China that we’re talking about. It shifts the supply chains away from China in semi-conductors, printed circuit boards, pharmaceuticals, and it stimulates the economies in those ways. It brings Chinese malign national security activities into light. So we know what they’re doing, who the good guys are and the bad guys are.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:03:25)
This supports Taiwan. You know, we’ve been doing that for a long period of time. This bill accelerates that program. It prevents China’s intellectual property threat. And I have a whole list here that I’d asked with unanimous consent be inserted after my comments this morning.

Sen. John Cornyn: (02:03:44)
Without objection.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:03:46)
And so, what I’d like to wind up with, if I brought it, I did. Two years ago I put this card together, this was when I realized that because the media hates President Trump, people were not aware of what all the good things that he did in those first couple of years. And people were not aware of it.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:04:09)
First of all, on the card. And I’m just going to go ahead and run over these. They’re the biggest tax cuts… And we learned a lesson back there during a democrat administration. John Kennedy said the best way to get more revenue in for the Great Society programs that they were advocating at that time, the best way is to reduce marginal rates and that will increase revenue. It did. Unfortunately, John Kennedy died before he could reap the benefits that came with that. But it worked. And in course others followed him, including President Clinton, President Bush and others, by reducing the rates that also increased the revenue.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:04:55)
But what this president did that was different than the rest of them, he not just decreased the rates, the tax rates, but he also decreased all of the over-regulation. How many people know that back during the Obama administration we had a rule that we were adhering to that said if you are a domestic oil and gas producer in the United States of America, and you’re in competition with China or somebody else, you had to give them our whole playbook on how we put together our system over here and all the elements. That put us at a disadvantage with our competitors in China.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:05:35)
And energy, just look at the… I was happy, I used to say, that after Obama got out of office the war on fossil fuels was over for a while. And look at the energy dominance now, we’re the global leader in oil and gas production. A 277% growth in crude exports, 132% increase in coal exports. A 52% increase in natural gas exports. These are exports. That’s what we’re doing now in the United States as a result of the efforts of this president in bringing our economy around.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:06:13)
The crackdown on the illegal migration, nobody wanted the wall they said. Now people realize that’s where a lot of the bad people were getting in. We moved the embassy. Every Democrat and Republican president in my memory tried to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. They all talked about it, they didn’t do it so this president just went ahead and did it.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:06:39)
He enacted the Infrastructure Bill, the WRDA bill the water resource development act, the FAA reauthorization. And the judges that we have, not just Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, but I think our number is up now to about 225 new judges. He repealed the overregulation of the Dodd-Frank rules. Anyone in business will tell you that that was one of the major things, the accomplishments of this president, President Trump.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:07:10)
The record employment. But then I would say the one thing, the 10th and last one, that I’ll mention to everyone who will listen is what he did for the military. We went from the time of dropping down in the last five years of the Obama administration by 25%, while China was increasing 83%. Now, we have rebuilt that military and that’s why the NDAA is so significant right now to make sure that that gets passed and that we are able to have that.

Sen. Jim Inhofe: (02:07:48)
And that’s what this vote is all about. That’s what the NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act, the most important bill of the year, that’s why we were doing it. And that’s why we are here today during this holiday season. With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

Sen. John Cornyn: (02:08:15)
Clerk will call the roll.

Clerk: (02:08:17)
Mr. Alexander. [inaudible 02:09:34]

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:10:00)
Mr. President.

Sen. John Cornyn: (02:10:02)
Democratic Whip?

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:10:04)
[inaudible 02:10:04] quorum call, I ask the quorum call be suspended.

Sen. John Cornyn: (02:10:07)
Without objection.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:10:09)
Mr. President, it’s an unusual sighting of a Senator in the Capitol between Christmas and New Years. This is the one time we really try to reserve for our personal and family responsibilities. Our family, like others, looks forward to the Christmas season. It’s one time a year we desperately try to find ways to come together. Of course COVID-19 intervened and made that more challenging, but even so, the notion of coming back to Washington this week and staying perhaps more than a day to try to finish our work is unusual. And the circumstances surrounding it are extraordinary as well. Not the least of which is the fact that we have two bills that have to be thought of in context of our responsibilities. First and foremost is the National Defense Authorization Act. This month, both the House and the Senate passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma Republican, was on the floor before me. He and Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island put in more time than most members can appreciate to make sure that this bill really served our military and the goal of national security. They came up with a good bill, one I was proud to support.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:11:33)
This annual legislation has been signed into law for six consecutive decades. When the Senate fails to do anything, they always do the National Defense Authorization Bill. It shows that Congress can come together, at least on this measure, when it comes to supporting our men and women in uniform and keeping our country safe.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:11:54)
This year the bill authorizes $740.5 billion in defense spending. It provides another 3% well-deserved pay raise for our troops. It also recognizes that many in the armed forces are on the front lines here at home as well, helping fight the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Providing our troops with necessary benefits and protections, including a 10% increase in hazardous duty pay.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:12:22)
The bill also includes a number of provisions that I authored and supported. Including, language expressing strong support for the Baltic States and Ukraine, especially in the face of continued, unforgivable Russian aggression.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:12:38)
It requires the renaming of military bases in the United States, which were once named in honor of Confederate generals. Those who served in the Confederacy in an attempt to secede from the union and to defend the institution of slavery had been enshrined in the names of these bases for many, many years. This effort to rename them is long, long overdue. It tries to correct and recognize the mistakes of our past and really address the sensitive racial inequities at the Pentagon when it comes to this decision-making.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:13:16)
It places restrictions on the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement agencies. We have to address the issue of militarization of our police at a time when we are, frankly, making an assessment of the role of police to make certain that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers who are good, principled, civic-minded individuals are honored. And those who fail to meet the test are removed from service.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:13:43)
It expands benefits to our veterans who were exposed to agent orange during the Vietnam War. There were 191,000 Vietnam era veterans in my state of Illinois, many of them were exposed to toxins such as agent orange during their service and now are paying the price.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:13:59)
It makes it easier for victims of military sexual trauma to report instances of such crime and expand support for survivors. The most recent horrible incident at Fort Hood was a reminder of what we need to do to bring the military into the 21st century when it comes to respecting the rights of all people, men, and women.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:14:22)
It strengthened safeguards against foreign cyber attacks. We know how important that is after the recent revelation, confirmed by Secretary of State Pompeo, that Russia is at work again attempting to compromise our federal agencies, their data, their information, and the security secrets that they keep for our protection.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:14:43)
It authorizes funding for PFAS related research. If you’ve never heard the phrase PFAS before, I can tell you you’re bound to hear it in the future. This was used as a flame-retardant and in some other capacities on many Air Force bases and military bases around the United States. We’re finding it’s still there and it’s still dangerous. We need to put money into remediation to help these military installations, including Scott Air Force base in Belleville, Illinois, where PFAS was detected earlier this year.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:15:17)
Still, despite all the good things in this bill, the bipartisanship that supported it, President Trump decided to veto the bill. One of his rare vetoes. He prefers we continue to honor the Confederate leaders who committed treasonous atrocities in order to preserve slavery. I don’t think that is reflective of the United States of today or its values, but that’s his position. And when he was called out for this racist inclination, he changed the reasoning for his veto. He claims the bill didn’t do enough to fight China, or that we should include a measures to address liability issues for tech companies. Nevermind that tech company liability matters have nothing to do with the National Defense Authorization Act-

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:16:03)
So I have nothing to do with the National Defense Authorization Act. He just doesn’t like that there’s criticism coming down for some of the misstatements and lies and disinformation he’s been spreading on social media. The president also fails to recognize that this defense authorization bill in fact, does get tough on China creates a new Pacific deterrence initiative that puts America back in the seat of leadership in that region where we need to be. The Trump administration could have started this initiative on its own, they did not. So Congress stepped up and created the security partnership because the white house was asleep at the wheel. At the end of the day, I suppose we can’t expect anything more from a president who has denigrated troops by calling them suckers and losers. I’ve ordered this support, the Fiscal Year 21 NDAA, I’ll support it again to override this president’s unforgivable and reckless veto.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:16:56)
I’m glad the house did so on Monday, I hope we in the Senate do the same. Coming back to Washington was not something I looked forward to this week I wanted to stay home, but I knew when it came to funding our troops, I had to be here. Many of my colleagues feel the same. I hope tomorrow we can take that up quickly. Then there was the drama around the COVID-19 relief bill, it was hard to describe what we went through in the last week to 10 days with messages from the white house. I wish that the president and those around him, advising him would have called to mind the 335,000 Americans who’ve lost their lives due to this deadly pandemic and many more who’ve lost a family member or a friend or a loved one. In Illinois, we’ve lost 16,000 lives to COVID-19 tragic, historic, I extend my deepest condolences to the friends and families of those who’ve died or fighting this virus, many airway friends.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:17:58)
More than 121,000 Americans spent last night in a hospital, a grim new record of hospitalization as our heroic nurses and doctors face unrelenting stress from this crisis. I just think, as I reflect on the interviews with these men and women who are on the frontline of healthcare, how stoic they usually are, how controlled they usually are and how they’re losing it now. The overwhelming numbers that they’re facing, the terrible prospect of someone dying with a member of their family unable to even enter the room on the last minutes of their life has got to be heartbreaking on a scale that none of us can imagine. But think about doing that every single day they’ve done it and I tell you, we will never be able to repay them with our gratitude. They are true American heroes.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:18:50)
Many of us returned to Washington this week. As I said, celebrating the holidays in a fashion like never before, social distancing, Zooms, FaceTime calls with family and loved ones. It’s no substitute for the kids being there to open the gifts on Christmas morning, but it’s the reality of what we face today. There is some hope on the horizon. And though I’ve been critical many times of the Trump administration, I do want to give the president credit for the Warp speed program. It is amazing as I read the stories of what they were able to achieve in discovering not more than one, I hope and more than two vaccines that can treat Americans and people around the world keep them safe as they face this coronavirus, we broke all the records in the discovery of these vaccines.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:19:42)
And as I read about it, I am continued to be grateful and want to make sure America recognizes the doctors, the scientists, the researchers. Barney Graham, I didn’t know his name until yesterday and it came out in a story published in the New Yorker. He works at the National Institute of Health, he’s given a great deal of credit for the breakthrough in the first two vaccines that have been approved and others just like him. I want to salute Dr. Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci both of whom have become my friends over the years and what a job they’ve done for America. So many more deserve recognition and I hope there’ll be an opportunity to give it to them. But the fact is these doses of vaccines are starting to move across the country. In last week, Illinois, I’m proud to say led the nation. I congratulated our governor JB Pritzker yesterday more than a hundred thousand healthcare workers received their first shots last week.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:20:41)
I asked him why we led and he said, I don’t know. We just put together our own program of distribution and it worked. Thank goodness it did, lives will be saved because of it, but there’s so much more to do. Progress in administering the vaccine has been slow as we still struggled to reach the hardest hit areas. And the rosy projections from the administration have not come to fruition yet. But the fact is we have two viable vaccines that is miraculous. I look forward to the new administration, the Biden administrations, new management in this effort. And I’m glad Congress came together to pass a relief bill, which included $30 billion for vaccine development and distribution. When the president said he wasn’t going to sign this bill, I thought, how can he say that he should be taking credit rightfully for the Warp speed program and his role in seeing that program move forward instead of complicating the distribution of the vaccine by threatening to veto the bill. Fortunately, for us in the end, he signed the bill.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:21:40)
On Sunday evening, the president signed the bipartisan annual spending bill and the COVID-19 relief bill. There were complaints about the size of the bill while the entire federal budget was included in that bill, as well as the COVID-19 relief undertaking, as well as many other bills, such as the water resources development act, all of these are major pieces of legislation that were combined in one bill that went way beyond 5,000 pages. Unfortunately, the president delayed in signing the bill and created needless uncertainty in America, particularly among the unemployed and others who were suffering from this public health and economic crisis. This agreement provides much needed support for many of them. And they’ll have some delay in receiving their checks because of the president’s period of indecision.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:22:29)
Enhanced unemployment benefits at $300 a week and an extension of the unemployment program created under the CARES Act through March 14th will bring real relief to many millions of families. 325 billion, possibly the largest single item in the COVID relief bill went to provide our nations ailing small businesses. Another chance at survival, the paycheck protection program worked in the initial CARES Act, it was renewed in this undertaking. An extension, the federal eviction moratorium through January, 2021, coupled with $25 billion in emergency rental assistant will literally mean that people are not evicted right after Christmas.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:23:14)
Approximately 850 millions going to Illinois to help keep families in their homes during this pandemic. The 15% increase in nutrition assistance is certainly needed. It goes through the SNAP program, which was historically known as food stamps to make sure that families do have something on the table. I can tell you, I woke up this morning in Springfield, Illinois, to look at the front page of newspaper, to learn that an anonymous donor had given our local food bank $500,000 and the people of the food bank were of course appreciative and said they desperately needed it in my hometown and in towns all across America. So this increase in food stamp assistance is long overdue, and I’m glad it was included.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:23:58)
The bill included a number of important measures, but we have to go to work to make sure that we deal with a short term emergency response to the bill, but do more. We address the needs to meet the needs of the pandemic immediately, but more will follow. It was a tough negotiation an honest compromise. I was happy to be part of a bipartisan group of senators who may have got the ball rolling at least we think we did and handed it over to the leaders to finish the job. I think what we achieved on a bipartisan basis was largely included in the final bill and it addressed the major elements that were necessary.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:24:36)
One of the most important items that Congress failed to reach an agreement on was funding for state and local governments. States and localities are struggling with increased costs and decreased revenues due to the pandemic. By this summer, my home state of Illinois will have lost more than $5 billion in revenues. I can tell you that, that’s going to pain and cutbacks. This is not money that was lost in our pension system, which has its own share of troubles, but money that is directly attributable to the downturn in revenues because the COVID-19 pandemic. It isn’t just happening in Illinois, it’s happening all around the country in red and blue states, our neighboring state of Kentucky to the South of us facing the same hardships we are.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:25:20)
Federal funding for States and localities needs to be done for our great cities and great states that are struggling. And I certainly hope that the next president, when he sworn in January 20th, we’ll take this up as one of his highest priorities. Our nation’s economic recovery is slowed down by the budget cuts that’ll be necessary in states and localities because of this cutback of revenues. Now those widely discussed measure of the COVID-19 relief bill was the second round of economic impact payments.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:25:51)
Just yesterday, the house of representatives passed the CASH Act, a measure that would increase the direct payments to individuals, adults, and children from $600 to $2,000 for those who are earning less than $75,000 a year. The major passed in the house by a vote of 275 to 174. Over the past several months, we’ve heard time and again, from economists that we run the risk of doing too little at the far outweighs the risk of doing too much when it comes to this economic recovery. The head of the federal reserve chairman Paul has really instructed us to keep the foot on the accelerator so that our economy doesn’t slump into recession.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:26:37)
At a time when so many American families are laid off, unemployed and simply struggling to get by there is nothing more invigorating to the economy than to have a cash infusion. Those with limited resources battling to pay bills, turn around and spend that money quickly. They don’t solve it away for some future rainy day they need it now and that’s why we should seriously consider this. By passing this enhanced measure, we can restore the American public confidence in Washington, and the fact that we are listening and working together on a bipartisan basis to respond. This measure that passed the house of representatives has a supported the president, speaker Pelosi, house Democrats, as well as many house Republicans.

Sen. Dick Durbin: (02:27:22)
Leader Schumer and my Senate democratic colleagues support it, so I hope Senator McConnell the Republican leader and his colleagues in the Republican caucus will join us and allow us to pass this bill quickly this week. Let’s step up to the plate and get this done. The American people have waited too long for this relief. I for one I’m proud of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for coming together and passing a meaningful relief bill with the time for patting one another on the back is over. Let’s finish a job. Let’s make sure that we have this bill for the department of defense and that would come to the rescue of our families across America who need defense against the vagaries of this pandemic and this economy. We can finally see a slight glimmer of a light at the end of this tunnel. If we want to address the needs of Americans in crisis, it starts with passing this legislation. As president I yield the floor suggested the absence of [inaudible 00:12:15].

Speaker 7: (02:28:16)
Clerk [inaudible 00:02:28:16].

Speaker 8: (02:28:17)
Mr. Alexander.

Speaker 8: (02:28:18)

Speaker 9: (02:28:18)

Mitch McConnell: (03:16:44)
Mr. President.

Speaker 10: (03:16:45)
The Senate Majority Leader is recognized.

Mitch McConnell: (03:16:48)
I ask consent that further proceedings on the quorum call be dispensed with.

Speaker 10: (03:16:51)
Without objection.

Mitch McConnell: (03:16:54)
So Mr. President, for the information of all the Senators, we’ll have a live quorum call at 5:00 PM tomorrow, followed immediately by roll call vote on proceeding to the veto message on the NDAA. So Senators should be on the floor at that time. Again, that’s 5:00 PM tomorrow. I understand there are two bills at the desk and I ask for their first reading and block.

Speaker 10: (03:17:27)
The clerk will read the title of the bills for the first time.

Speaker 11: (03:17:30)
S5085, a bill to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to increase the additional 2020 Recovery Rebates and so forth and for other purposes, H.R.9051, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to increase recovery rebate amounts and so forth and for other purposes.

Mitch McConnell: (03:17:49)
And now I ask for a second reading and object to my own request, all in block.

Speaker 10: (03:17:59)
Objection having been heard, the bills will receive their second reading on the next legislative day.

Mitch McConnell: (03:18:06)
I ask unanimous consent when the Senate completes its business today, it adjourn until 3:00 PM, Wednesday, December 30th. Further, that following the prayers and pledg, the morning I will be deemed expired. The journal of procedures be approved to date. The time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day.

Mitch McConnell: (03:18:24)
Finally, following leader remarks, Senate be in a period of morning business with Senators permitted to speak their [inaudible 03:18:30] 10 minutes each.

Speaker 10: (03:18:32)
Without objection.

Mitch McConnell: (03:18:33)
So if there’s no further business to come before the Senate, I ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order.

Speaker 10: (03:18:38)
The Senate stands adjourned until 3:00 PM tomorrow.

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