[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 78 (Tuesday, May 17, 2016)]
[Pages S2861-S2867]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                  APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2016--Continued

                           Amendment No. 3897

  Mr. BROWN. Madam President, I rise today to speak in opposition to 
the Lee amendment No. 3897. I wish to take a moment to thank Senator 
Collins and Senator Jack Reed for their terrific work on this bill and 
for how they teamed up to manage this bill in pretty much the right 
  With this legislation, we are making critical investments in our 
transportation, housing, and community development programs. In this 
country today, one in four families who rent spend more than half of 
their income on housing. We have been taught from young adulthood on 
that you shouldn't spend more than 25, 30, or 35 percent at the most on 
house payments or rent, yet one-fourth of Americans are spending more 
than half of their income on housing.
  I recently read the book ``Evicted'' by Matthew Desmond. In that 
book, one renter was quoted as saying that when her paycheck came in, 
her rent eats first. She had kids who were hungry. She had bus tokens 
to buy so she could get to work. With all of the challenges she had, 
she said: My rent eats first. We know what that means.
  In housing, whether it is in rural Maine or whether it is in urban or 
rural Ohio, we know that rental prices have continued to go up and up. 
Evictions are so much more common than they were a decade or, 
especially, two decades ago. That has to change, and it makes clear why 
we need to maintain our existing affordable housing resources.
  This bill focuses on improving the quality of federally assisted 
houses and removing lead paint hazards from homes. We know the effect 
that has on us. We learned from Flint about water, but we know an even 
bigger problem is lead in paint. In 2007, in the city that I call home, 
the city of Cleveland--the ZIP Code I live in, 44105--there were more 
foreclosures in my ZIP Code than any ZIP Code in the United States. We 
also know in cities like Cleveland and rural areas like Appalachia, 
where most of the housing stock is World War II or older, almost all of 
that housing stock has toxic levels of lead paint.
  The bill pays particular attention to transit safety. The Banking 
Committee oversees transit. Senator Mikulski has worked with Senator 
Shelby and me, as well as our colleagues representing the local area--
Senators Warner, Cardin, and Kaine--to make sure the FTA has the 
resources needed to oversee the Washington Metro. It is something we 
have neglected for decades.
  I wish to thank my colleagues for working with us to ensure that 
young foster care alumni don't have to choose between getting the 
education they need to be self-sufficient and having a roof over their 
heads. I wish more funds were available for these important 
investments--particularly, additional funding to address family 
homelessness. But I thank my colleagues for their work within the 
subcommittee's funding constraints and their attention to these 
critical issues. I especially thank the chair, Susan Collins, for that.
  Unfortunately, Senator Lee's amendment will undermine some of the 
good we are doing with this legislation. It will prohibit the 
Department of Housing and Urban Development from carrying out a key 
component of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. When Congress passed that 
bill in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., it 
made housing discrimination illegal in every State in the Nation for 
the first time.
  For generations, redlining, restrictive covenants, and outright 
discrimination kept families of color locked out of entire 
neighborhoods and created segregated communities that linger to this 
day. These were tools of racial oppression as well as economic 
oppression, and in far too many cases, they went hand in hand. The Fair 
Housing Act made these despicable practices illegal everywhere.
  Congress included another important component in the Fair Housing 
Act: a requirement that HUD and its grantees administer their federal 
housing and urban development grants in a way that would affirmatively 
further fair housing. State and local governments and public housing 
authorities were required to use their Federal funds in ways that would 
reverse, rather than reinforce, segregation in these communities. But 
today, the outlines of decades-old discrimination are still too 
  I listened to a preacher on Martin Luther King Day on a cold 
Cleveland January morning 2\1/2\ years ago. He said something we all 
know but don't think enough about: Life expectancy is connected to your 
ZIP Code. Whether you grow up on the east side of Cleveland, whether 
you grow up in a wealthy suburb, whether you grow up in Appalachia, 
whether you grow up in a prosperous small town, your ZIP Code 
determines whether you have access to good health care, to quality 
education, to social support necessary to succeed. When where you live 
matters this much, we all have a moral obligation to ensure that 
families can live in the neighborhoods of their choice and to ensure 
that communities are creating opportunity in every ZIP Code. 
Unfortunately, in the 50 years since our country passed the Fair 
Housing Act, HUD has not provided enough direction to help communities 
meet this goal.
  A 2010 GAO report recommended that HUD take action to improve its 
process for meeting its obligations, including three things: 
establishing standards and a format for grantees to follow, requiring 
grantees to establish timeframes for implementing their plans, and 
requiring grantees to submit their analyses to HUD for review.
  HUD developed a new rule that will finally help local governments 
across the country support and foster fair housing policies that create 
vibrant and integrated communities. This rule was developed through a 
2-year public process. Twelve of my colleagues and I urged Secretary 
Castro to develop a

[[Page S2862]]

strong rule after considering comments from stakeholders.
  Senator Lee's amendment would stop HUD from responding to those GAO 
recommendations. The updated rule will give communities the clarity and 
the tools they need to meet their obligations and fulfill this duty 
that this Senate has supported in a bipartisan way for going on five 
decades now.
  Some of the questions communities will ask during these assessments 
may demand that they think in new ways about how to create housing 
opportunities for all the residents, regardless of race, religion, 
disability, or the size of their families. These are the types of 
questions this body told the country to ask when it enacted the Fair 
Housing Act in 1968.
  We need to invest Federal resources in ways that provide access to 
opportunity to all citizens in every ZIP Code.
  I urge my colleagues to vote no on the Lee amendment.

                             Invictus Games

  Madam President, last week athletes from around the world traveled to 
Orlando to compete in the second Invictus Games. Like all athletes, 
they participate for many reasons--camaraderie, personal discipline, 
the joy of the game. But the Invictus competitors are so much more: 
They are veterans who fought for our country and our allies and were 
wounded or suffered mental injuries in service to a cause greater than 
  The games were founded in 2014 by England's Prince Harry to bring 
Active-Duty servicemembers and veterans together to compete in an 
international sporting event and to recognize their achievements. These 
warrior athletes have already given so much for our country. They have 
seen the horrors of combat, spent months and years away from their 
families, and suffered injuries, both visible and not so visible. They 
have been changed forever by the realities of war but, as Invictus 
shows, they have not been defeated.
  The name of the games comes from the poem of the same name by the 
19th century British poet William Ernest Henley. ``Invictus'' means 
  On a personal note, ``Invictus'' was my father's favorite poem, which 
we shared at his funeral. I became even more interested in these games 
because it means ``unconquered.''
  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the 
Record the poem ``Invictus'' by William Ernest Henley.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:


                       (By William Ernest Henley)

     Out of the night that covers me,
     Black as the pit from pole to pole,
     I thank whatever gods may be
     For my unconquerable soul.

     In the fell clutch of circumstance
     I have not winced nor cried aloud.
     Under the bludgeonings of chance
     My head is bloody, but unbowed.

     Beyond this place of wrath and tears
     Looms but the Horror of the shade,
     And yet the menace of the years
     Finds and shall find me unafraid.

     It matters not how strait the gate,
     How charged with punishments the scroll,
     I am the master of my fate,
     I am the captain of my soul.

  Mr. BROWN. Madam President, the words of ``Invictus'' have inspired 
men and women for generations, and the spirit is alive in the athletes 
who represented their countries in Orlando.
  Three people from my State competed on the U.S. team. Army CPT Kelly 
Elmlinger is a mother, cancer survivor, and fierce competitor who grew 
up in Attica in Seneca County, which is in my part of the State. She 
brought home the gold for our country in the women's 400-meter dash.
  Team USA included Brian McPherson, a Marine Corps sergeant from 
Nashport, just east of Columbus. Sergeant McPherson has battled a 
traumatic brain injury sustained while deployed in Iraq when a suicide 
bomber walked into his unit. He competed in track and field and cycle 
competitions. He said:

       I am a son, brother, uncle, professional, Marine, and 
     athlete who proudly stands before you after being ravaged by 
     war. I was and am changed from these events but they lead me 
     to what I now consider a greater path.
       Those times have taught me much about myself, while giving 
     me the additional skills to leave the Marines and integrate 
     back into society.

  Competitions like this have been so important to that journey.
  He said:

       Adaptive sports gave me the strength to be an example for 
     fellow servicemembers, civilians, and myself. I learned of a 
     passion I didn't know existed deep within me.
       Sports have given me an outlet and time to sort through my 
     thoughts and emotions.

  Lastly, Stephen Miller, a retired Navy officer from Cleveland, 
competed in indoor rowing in Orlando. He said:

       Training helps to remind me that I am part of a team and 
     family. I get to share the experiences, recovery and memories 
     not only with US athletes, but also with our allies and 

  He, Sergeant McPherson, Captain Elmlinger, and all of the Invictus 
competitors embody William Ernest Henley's words:

       It matters not how strait the gate,
       How charged with punishments the scroll,
       I am the master of my fate,
       I am the captain of my soul.

  These athletes have mastered fate on the battlefield, the sports 
field, and have overcome more trials than almost any of us could 
imagine. Their perseverance serves as a testament to the power of the 
human spirit. It isn't sympathy or charity that we owe these heroes; we 
owe them gratitude, respect, and the opportunity to live a life that 
befits their service and sacrifice for our great Nation.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.

                    Amendment No. 3900, as Modified

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to speak in support of the Blunt-
Murray-Graham-Leahy amendment, which provides $1.1 billion in emergency 
funding to combat the Zika virus.
  The map of the United States beside me beside me shows the Centers 
for Disease Control's estimate of the range of the two types of 
mosquito that may spread Zika. As you can see, this public health 
emergency is not in some far-off land. It could easily end up in the 
backyards of tens of millions of Americans. Before I discuss the 
pending bill I want to mention that earlier this afternoon I voted for 
the Nelson-Rubio Zika supplemental, which would have provided the full 
$1.9 billion requested by the President months ago.
  It is mystifying to me that Republicans voted to defeat that 
amendment, considering that Zika is spreading faster and in more ways 
than predicted when the President first requested those funds. The 
excuse we have heard for months, particularly from House Republican 
leaders, is that they don't have enough information about the proposed 
uses of the funds.
  Have they bothered to attend any of the briefings, or if briefings 
weren't enough, to pick up the phone and call the head of the CDC, or 
the Director of the National Institute of Health, or any of the other 
experts who have been sounding alarm bells since last year?
  In a little over a year the Zika virus has spread from Brazil to 
almost every country and territory in this hemisphere. There is no 
question that it is spreading faster and is more dangerous than was 
anticipated just a few months ago.
  As this map shows, more than half the continental United States, 
including my own state of Vermont, is now projected to be within the 
range of Zika carrying mosquitos. The virus can have devastating 
consequences for many of those who become infected, particularly 
children. We need to act, and if there is one area where politicians 
should not second guess the medical experts, it is how to respond to 
public health emergencies.
  So what did the House of Representatives do? First, they don't treat 
the Zika crisis as an emergency, even though it has spread to 36 
countries and territories in this hemisphere and has been declared a 
public health emergency by the World Health Organization.
  The House bill, introduced yesterday, would cut the amount requested 
by more than two-thirds, rob from other programs like the funds to 
combat Ebola, and limit the availability of Zika funds to the remaining 
4 months of this fiscal year. More than half a billion dollars in Ebola 
funds have already been reprogrammed to combat Zika because it would 
have been irresponsible for the administration to wait any longer while 

[[Page S2863]]

failed to act as the mosquitoes came north. But Ebola remains a deadly 
threat. Cases of Ebola continue to be confirmed in West Africa, and we 
have seen how one Ebola case today can become a dozen cases tomorrow 
and a hundred cases the next day. How quickly people here forget the 
fear that gripped this country after a single Ebola-related death in 
Texas 2 years ago. The funds we appropriated to combat Ebola are being 
put to good use, including to strengthen the capacity of African 
countries to respond to future outbreaks of Ebola or something even 
  The emergency funding in this bill includes $258 million for the 
Department of State and USAID to combat Zika in Latin America and the 
Caribbean. These funds will support efforts to control the spread of 
Zika and other insect-borne diseases, including to protect maternal 
health, expand public education on prevention, and encourage private 
sector research for the development of vaccines and diagnostics. These 
funds will provide contributions to international organizations, 
including the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health 
Organization, to reduce the impact of the disease on infants and their 
families, and accelerate diagnosis. Funds are also included for 
Department of State and USAID operations to implement programs in the 
field, and provide medical support for U.S. citizens, State Department, 
USAID, and other Federal Government employees stationed overseas.
  If the Zika virus is not controlled in Latin America and the 
Caribbean, a year from now, it will likely be worse than projected and 
more costly to control. And if we continue to rob Ebola funds, which 
are being used for the purposes Congress intended, we simply shift the 
risk from one life-threatening disease to another. That makes no sense 
at all.
  If there is one thing on which Republicans and Democrats, House and 
Senate, should agree it is doing whatever is necessary to protect the 
American people from dangerous, contagious diseases. It is past time 
for us to act, and I urge all Senators to support the Blunt-Murray-
Graham-Leahy amendment.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). The Senator from New Hampshire.

                          National Police Week

  Ms. AYOTTE. Mr. President, I rise today in recognition of National 
Police Week to honor and thank the men and women in uniform, law 
enforcement officers in our great State of New Hampshire who do a 
phenomenal job every single day keeping us safe.
  When I worked as attorney general, I was honored to work directly 
with our law enforcement officers at every level in our State. We have 
the very finest law enforcement officers in the State of New Hampshire. 
During this week, I want to thank them for every single thing they have 
done under the difficult circumstances they face every day in order to 
make sure our communities are safe in the State of New Hampshire.
  Tragically, just last week we had an example of the dangers our 
police officers face every single day when two Manchester police 
officers were shot in the line of duty early Friday morning.
  Early Friday morning, Officer Ryan Hardy encountered a situation on 
Second Street, where he noticed the description of someone who had 
robbed a gas station the night before. As he was approaching this 
individual, Officer Hardy was shot multiple times at close range. The 
individual fled, and then this suspect fired into a group of police 
officers, and when he did that, he unfortunately also shot Officer 
Matthew O'Connor in the leg. Both of these police officers acted with 
great heroism, tenacity, and courage in the work they do every single 
day on the streets of Manchester. All of the police officers who 
responded that day did a phenomenal job, but that is an example of what 
our police officers are facing on a daily basis. They don't know 
whether the next stop they make of someone is going to go bad. 
Unfortunately, early on Friday morning, it did go bad.

  We are so grateful for their service, for the service of Officer 
Hardy and the service of Officer O'Connor. We are grateful and blessed 
that despite significant injuries, they are doing OK and they did not 
get killed in the line of duty.
  I just want to say to them, I want to say to the Manchester Police 
Department, and I want to say to their wives, Amanda and Elise--because 
families serve too. We worry about our police officers, but I know from 
having served as attorney general of New Hampshire that every time we 
are home on Thanksgiving or we are home on Christmas or we are home on 
some other holiday or great occasion, guess what our police officers 
are out doing. They are out patrolling our streets and our highways, 
keeping us safe, making sure we can enjoy that moment with our 
families. But their families worry. They worry when they are out: Is my 
loved one going to come home?
  So I say to the families of our law enforcement officers as we stand 
here during National Police Week: Thank you. Thank you for what you do 
in allowing your loved ones to serve and for supporting our law 
enforcement officers because families serve too.
  We are so grateful for what Officer Hardy and Officer O'Connor did on 
that early Friday morning, and we are grateful to all of the officers 
who responded to that call. I am grateful they are doing well in their 
recovery. We wish them the very best. They continue to be in my prayers 
and in my family's prayers for a speedy recovery. All of the police 
officers in our State are in my prayers.
  When I was attorney general, two of the most difficult moments I had 
were giving a eulogy at the funerals of two police officers who were 
killed in the line of duty during my time as Attorney General. One of 
them, Officer Bruce McKay, had served the Franconia Police Department 
for 12 years, and he was brutally murdered in 2007 during a traffic 
stop. The other police officer was Officer Michael Briggs. In fact, on 
Sunday I am going to the dedication of a community center in Manchester 
in honor of Officer Michael Briggs.
  It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since he was killed in the 
line of duty, but the fact that they are naming a community center in 
his honor there in the center of Manchester, where he helped so many 
young people and so many people in how he served the people of 
Manchester, is a testament to the kind of person he was.
  I got to know the family of Officer Michael Briggs very closely, 
including his parents Lee and Maryann and his wife Laura and his sons, 
Brian and Mitchell. I want them to know today--I know it has been 
almost 10 years, but I will never forget--and we will never forget--
their sacrifice and certainly what Officer Michael Briggs did for the 
State of New Hampshire, his heroism.
  In fact, before he served as a Manchester police officer--as I think 
about coming toward the 10th anniversary of his death--before he served 
as a police officer, he served as a marine, serving our country in the 
line of duty. He served as a corrections officer also and did an 
incredible job. In fact, he received awards for saving people's lives, 
running into burning buildings to save people in the line of duty. I 
will never forget that he saved the life of the individual who murdered 
him. He had saved his life before. Unfortunately, he was murdered by a 
career criminal in the line of duty. That is a true example of the 
heroism of our police officers, the service and sacrifice they make, as 
well as their families. Unfortunately, that says it all right there.
  So today as I stand on the Senate floor, I think about my time as 
attorney general, I certainly think about the families of the police 
officers who have been killed in the line of duty in New Hampshire and 
the sacrifices that every single day our men and women in uniform make 
on our behalf.
  On Friday in New Hampshire there will be a law enforcement memorial 
ceremony. It is a ceremony I plan to attend. It is a ceremony where 
each year we read the names that are etched into the memorial of those 
law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty in 
New Hampshire. There have been far too many--far too many--who have 
made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could live our lives in 
safety and in happiness. One of the privileges I had as attorney 
general was to read the names of our law enforcement officers who were 
killed in the line of duty, to recognize their service and their 
sacrifice, with often many of their family members there--family 
members who would offer a

[[Page S2864]]

flower or a beautiful wreath to recognize the sacrifice of their family 
so we could remember their family member, the law enforcement officers 
who were killed in the line of duty.
  Today on the Senate floor I would like to read the names of these 
police officers who were killed in the line of duty in New Hampshire. I 
know we will recognize them in New Hampshire on Friday, but I want to 
recognize them on the Senate floor. They are, from Cheshire County, 
Deputy Sheriff John Walker, Sr.; from Dover, Officer George Pray; from 
Laconia, Police Officer Charles H. Dolloff; from Strafford County, 
Deputy Sheriff Charles E. Smith; from Manchester, Sergeant Henry 
McAllister; from Manchester, Inspector William M. Moher; from Exeter, 
Officer Albert L. Colson; from Nashua, Patrolman James H. Roche; from 
Carroll County, Sheriff Harry M. Leavitt; from New Hampshire State 
Police, Raymond Elliott; from Lancaster, Chief Andrew T. Malloy; from 
New Hampshire State Police, Trooper Harold B. Johnson; from Colebrook, 
Chief Fred T. Towle; from Nashua, Patrolman Michael Latvis; from New 
Hampshire State Police, Lieutenant Ivan H. Hayes; from Northumberland, 
Officer Joseph H. Platt; from Nashua, Patrolman Edward C. Graziano; 
from New Hampshire Fish and Game, Conservation Officer William Mooney; 
from New Hampshire Fish and Game, Conservation Officer Gary Waterhouse; 
from Farmington, Assistant Chief Louis A. Sheets; from Berlin, Officer 
Robert Devoid; from Berlin, Officer Dorman Wheelock; from Gorham, 
Officer Jerome O. Piet; from Rockingham County, Department of 
Corrections Officer Robert Charles Prescott; from New Hampshire Fish 
and Game, Conservation Officer James Clark II; from Nashua, Acting 
Chief Armand J. Roussel; from Seabrook, Chief Charles S. Knowles; from 
Durham, Lieutenant Robert Hollis, Jr.; from Berlin, Sergeant Paul G. 
Brodeur; from Manchester, Officer Ralph W. Miller; from New Hampshire 
State Police, Trooper Richard F. Champy; from Somersworth, Patrolman 
Donald R. Kowalski; from Jaffrey, Police Supervisor William E. O'Neil, 
Sr.; from Hanover, Chief James H. Collins; from Derry, Sergeant Thomas 
C. Kelly; from New Hampshire State Police, Trooper Gary P. Parker; from 
New Hampshire State Police, Trooper Joseph Edward Gearty; from Antrim, 
Chief of Police Ralph C. Brooks; from New Hampshire State Police, 
Sergeant James Stanwood Noyes; from East Kingston, Officer Melvin Alan 
Keddy; from Auburn, Lieutenant Donald Eaton; from New Hampshire State 
Police, Trooper Leslie George Lord; from New Hampshire State Police, 
Trooper Scott Edward Phillips; from Epsom, Patrolman Jeremy T. Charron; 
from Manchester, Officer Michael Leland Briggs; from Franconia, 
Corporal N. Bruce McKay; from Greenland, Chief of Police Michael P. 
Maloney; and from Brentwood, Patrolman Stephen Arkell.
  As I read those names, it obviously strikes me--it is shocking how 
many names are on that wall in our State. Having met and worked with so 
many of our law enforcement officers--they are incredibly brave. The 
sacrifices of their families are tremendous.
  Most recently, I went to two community events to recognize--really 
memorialize--these fallen heroes. The Maloney family and the Arkell 
family have started foundations to help other police families, to help 
have scholarships in the names of these two decorated officers. 
Unfortunately, those are the two most recent additions to this wall.
  Chief Maloney embodied the values of service, integrity, and honor. 
His leadership in the Greenland Police Department will never be 
forgotten. He was admired by everyone in the community. This is another 
example of the sacrifice our police officers make. He was only a few 
days before his retirement. He could have stayed in the station, but he 
went out to the call with his fellow officers and, when the situation 
escalated, Chief Maloney did what he always did. He put his life before 
his fellow officers, and because of his sacrifices that day, other 
lives were saved. Unfortunately, we lost Chief Maloney in the line of 
duty just days before his retirement. If that is not a hero, I don't 
know what is and who is.
  When I think about his family, and having gotten to know his family, 
I know today, as we think about the importance of this week, I just 
want to say thank you to them and just let them know they continue to 
be in our prayers, and we will not forget Chief Maloney's service and 
his sacrifice and his heroism.
  Likewise, just like Chief Maloney, Officer Stephen Arkell was taken 
from us far too soon. He was an unsung hero. He went about his 
extraordinary work as a police officer very quietly and humbly, going 
above and beyond the call of duty not only as a police officer but as a 
coach in his community, as someone who has helped so many other people 
and made a difference in people's lives. During his 15-year career as a 
police officer, he made a difference for the people of Brentwood. He 
made us proud, and he was another true hero in his community.
  Today, during National Police Week, I want to say to his family, who 
recently had a 5K in his honor to provide scholarships for others in 
the Brentwood community, thank you for your sacrifice. We will never 
forget the sacrifice of Officer Stephen Arkell.
  During National Police Week, as I stand on the Senate floor, one of 
the things that has bothered me is, too often the rhetoric we have been 
hearing about our police and our law enforcement officers out in the 
public discussion has been negative. It has been negative. It has been 
sweeping. It has been basically stereotyping our police, and it has 
been wrong. So, today, during this important week, I want to say to our 
law enforcement officers in New Hampshire, I want to say to the law 
enforcement officers across this country who keep us safe: Thank you. 
We stand with you. We are proud of you. We have your back because we 
know you have our backs every single day, because we would not be a 
free and safe society but for the sacrifices our law enforcement 
officers make every single day in New Hampshire and in every State in 
this country. They are the thin blue line between us and those who want 
to do us harm and threaten our way of life.
  So when we hear people who are making sweeping generalizations about 
our police that are negative, I want the people of this country to 
think about what it would be like if we didn't have the courageous law 
enforcement officers who patrol our streets every single day, who go 
out on nights and weekends and holidays when we are safely home 
sleeping, who are out making sure we are safe. We should stand up for 
our law enforcement officers.
  This week, of all weeks, as we are here for National Police Week, we 
need to honor our law enforcement officers. We need to thank our men 
and women in uniform who patrol our streets and our highways and in 
every way protect us, whether as corrections officers or Fish and Game 
officers or as State police--at every single level in the State of New 
Hampshire, we say thank you. We stand with you. I thank you. I hope 
that as we stand here this week, all of us will make sure that we thank 
also the Capitol Police for the incredible work they do here keeping us 
safe and defending this Capitol.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am going to speak about an amendment 
that I am going to propose right away. It is about fidelity to the 
Constitution and the Bill of Rights--specifically, fidelity to the 
Second Amendment as it involves the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  There appears to be a troubling trend within the VA. As of December 
2015, almost 99 percent of the names listed on the ``mental defective'' 
category for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, 
otherwise known as the national gun-ban list, are from the Veterans 
Administration. Once a person's name is on that list, they are banned 
from owning or possessing a firearm. Their Second Amendment rights are 
completely null and void.
  Now, why is this happening? Once the VA determines that a veteran 
requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments, the VA reports 
that veteran to the gun-ban list, resulting in a total denial of a 
veteran's right to possess and own firearms. In other words, their 
Second Amendment rights are being denied.
  The VA has attempted to justify its actions by relying on regulations 
that grant limited authority to determine incompetence only in the 
context of financial affairs. So I quote: ``Rating

[[Page S2865]]

agencies have sole authority to make official determinations of 
competency and incompetency for the purpose of insurance and 
disbursement of benefits.''
  It is clear, therefore, that the VA's core regulatory authority 
applies to matters of competency for financial purposes. Importantly, 
this financial fiduciary standard has been employed since way back in 
the 1970s. It has nothing to do with regulating firearms. Yet that is 
exactly what is happening. Firearms are being regulated. Federal law 
requires that before a person is reported to a gun-ban list, they be 
determined a ``mental defective.''
  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives created a 
regulation to define what ``mental defective'' means. It includes, 
among other requirements, that a person is a danger to self or others. 
Granted, the VA regulation at issue and the ATF regulation do share 
some of the same language. But the intent and the purpose are totally 
different. On the one hand, the VA regulation is designed to appoint a 
fiduciary. On the other hand, the ATF regulation is designed to 
regulate firearms.
  Now, this is a huge distinction. The level of mental impairment that 
justifies taking away the right to possess and own firearms must rest 
at a severe and substantial level--a level where the mere possession of 
a firearm constitutes a danger to self or others. That decision is 
never made by the VA, or the Veterans Administration, before submitting 
names to the gun-ban list.
  As such, imposing a gun ban is a harsh result that could sweep up 
veterans that are fully capable of appropriately operating a firearm 
for self-defense purposes. So how does this work, then, in practice? 
The Daily Caller interviewed a veteran who had been a victim of this VA 
process for an April 21, 2015, article.
  The veteran reportedly told a VA counselor, who asked about how he 
handles his finances, that on the mere suggestion of his wife, he now 
uses auto debit for bills so he doesn't have to go to the post office. 
The VA doctor put down that he doesn't pay his own bills, and his wife 
handles his finances. The next thing he knew was that his wife was 
appointed as his fiduciary and his name was placed on the gun-ban list.
  Whether or not he handles his own finances, what does that have to do 
with talking away a veteran's right to self-defense? After all, this is 
the core purpose of the Second Amendment--self-defense. Self-defense is 
a natural right of all individuals. It is a God-given right. It is a 
right that existed before the Declaration of Independence and the 
Constitution were ever drafted. It is a sacred right.
  The Supreme Court has held the Second Amendment to be a fundamental 
right. So, when the Federal Government erases that right for any given 
individual, it better then have compelling justification to do so. 
Assigning a fiduciary is not a compelling justification. That is 
especially so when the VA does not even determine whether veterans are 
a danger to themselves or others before reporting the names to that 
gun-ban list.
  Further, the VA fails to offer adequate constitutional due process 
protections. The standard of review--clear and convincing evidence--is 
particularly low in light of the fact that a constitutional right is 
involved. Hearsay is allowed in the hearing process, and the burden of 
proof is on the veteran to show that they are competent to manage their 
finances. In essence, it is the veteran who has the burden of proof of 
showing that they should maintain their Second Amendment rights, 
although, again, that is not even the purpose of the hearing. That 
cannot stand. When constitutional issues are at stake, the burden ought 
to be on the government.
  Finally, the hearing that does take place is before VA employees, not 
a neutral arbiter. With these significant flaws, it is clear that the 
VA regulatory scheme is inherently suspect. Importantly, these VA 
regulations have been in place since the 1970s, well before even the 
existence of a gun-ban list. The Supreme Court held the Second 
Amendment to be a fundamental right in 2010. Associate Justice Alito, 
who wrote the opinion of the Court, stated: ``It is clear that the 
Framers . . . counted the right to keep and bear arms among those 
fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.''
  It cannot be said that the VA's regulatory scheme adequately protects 
the liberty interests of the veteran--quite the contrary. The VA 
regulatory scheme is an example of the Federal Government once again 
going too far. As government expands, liberty contracts. There are just 
too many flaws in the VA's regulatory scheme that result in a failure 
at ensuring constitutional demands are met.
  There has been no update to the VA's protocols since the Supreme 
Court's decision in 2010. During the course of my oversight of this 
issue, not even the Department of Justice can adequately explain why 
there has been no substantive update to the gun-reporting system. That 
is why I have introduced this amendment.
  My amendment is simple. It is straightforward. It makes perfect 
constitutional sense. It simply requires that before the VA reports 
names to the Department of Justice for eventual placement on the gun-
ban list, the Veterans Administration must first find that a veteran is 
a danger to himself, herself, or others, and that finding must be done 
via judicial order.
  These requirements do three important things: First, it makes the 
``danger to self or others'' standard applicable to the VA. We all 
agree, don't we, that dangerous persons must not own or possess 
  Second, it shifts the burden of proof from the veteran and onto the 
government, where it ought to be. Third, it fixes the conditional due 
process issues by moving the hearing from the VA to the judicial 
  Like I said, these are commonsense constitutional fixes, but, more 
importantly, it is what our Nation's veterans deserve. Our veteran 
population is sacred. They deserve the thanks of a grateful Nation, not 
the iron fist of an out-of-control Federal Government.
  Most importantly, the government must not unfairly target our veteran 
population simply because some may have challenges after returning home 
from war, like maybe having someone handle their finances. The fact 
that almost 99 percent of the names in the gun-ban list of the category 
that we call ``mental defective'' are from the VA raises suspicion that 
our government is unfairly targeting veterans.
  That is why the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have 
expressed strong support for my amendment. There is nothing more 
offensive to the principles of liberty than when the government takes 
away a person's constitutional rights when it has no right to take away 
those constitutional rights. Moreover, I have heard from Iowa veterans 
that some veterans are even reluctant to seek care from the VA for fear 
of losing their Second Amendment rights.
  It is outrageous, then, that veterans are afraid to seek the care 
they have actually earned by being in service to their country because 
the VA might deprive them of a constitutionally protected right without 
due process. This must stop.
  I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. Support it on 
constitutional grounds, support it on fairness grounds, and support it 
for the sake of veterans who may be wrongly targeted. To all of our 
Nation's veterans, I say: God bless you, and thank you for your service 
to our great country. You deserve better than to have your rights 
violated by the very agency that is supposed to fulfill our Nation's 
commitment to you.
  I urge my colleagues to join me in making this very bad situation 
right--constitutionally right.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
a May 16, 2016, letter from the VFW supporting this approach.
  I repeat for my colleagues that the American Legion supports it, but 
they couldn't get a letter to us.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                          Veterans of Foreign Wars

                                         of the United States,

                                     Washington, DC, May 16, 2016.
     Hon. Charles E. Grassley,
     U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Grassley: On behalf of the nearly 1.7 million 
     members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States 
     (VFW) and our Auxiliaries, I write in support of

[[Page S2866]]

     your amendment to H.R. 2577, which would protect veterans' 
     rights under the Second Amendment of the United States 
       Currently, when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
     makes the determination that a veteran would benefit from the 
     assistance of a fiduciary to handle his or her finances, VA 
     sends that veteran's name to the National Instant Check 
     System, preventing them from legally purchasing firearms. The 
     VFW has long opposed this practice, believing that veterans 
     who swore to support and defend the United States 
     Constitution should not lose their rights under the Second 
     Amendment simply because they need fiduciary assistance. The 
     need for a fiduciary in no way implies that they are a danger 
     to themselves or others. By ensuring that no veteran loses 
     his or her right to purchase firearms without order or 
     finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority 
     of competent jurisdiction, your amendment would put an end to 
     this objectionable VA practice.
       The VFW thanks you for your leadership on this issue, and 
     your commitment to protecting veterans' constitutional rights 
     and liberties. We look forward to working with you and your 
     staff to pass this much needed amendment.
                                                Raymond C. Kelley,
                       Director, VFW National Legislative Service.

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to set aside the 
pending amendment and call up amendment No. 3925.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I listened carefully to the explanation of 
my friend and colleague from Iowa. I hope there are several things we 
can agree on at the outset. The first is that we don't want someone who 
is a convicted felon or is so mentally unstable that they cannot be 
trusted to own or purchase a firearm. I hope we can agree on that.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. I agree.
  Mr. DURBIN. Good.
  I hope the next thing we can agree on is that we want to make certain 
that our veterans are treated fairly, that they are given every 
consideration for having served our country, but we do not want to put 
them in harm's way either by way of suicide or by committing a crime 
with a gun, and we want to have a process that respects that goal. I 
hope my colleague and friend from Iowa would agree with that.
  The problem we have is the Senator from Iowa is amending an 
appropriations bill. The difficulty you face when you amend 
appropriations bills, in most instances, if you are not authorizing and 
strictly sticking within the four corners of an appropriations bill, 
you can cut off funds--no funds shall be spent for--and that is what 
the amendment of the Senator from Iowa does. No funds shall be spent at 
the Veterans' Administration for--and he just described the process.
  Here is the difficulty. This amendment as written doesn't solve the 
problem; it creates a bigger problem.
  I will concede at the outset to the Senator from Iowa that we should 
be sitting down and resolving a very serious issue between the 
definition of ``mental defect'' and ``mental competency'' between the 
NICS law and the VA. There is plenty of room for us to sit down and 
come up with a reasonable way to deal with the situation. But the 
amendment offered by the Senator from Iowa just basically says, 
unfortunately, that we are going to weaken the law that prohibits 
people with serious mental illnesses from buying guns.
  Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs informs the FBI NICS 
gun background check database when a veteran has been found in a VA 
proceeding to be mentally incompetent because of injury or disease. I 
want to make sure that is clear in the Record. This is what it says. In 
connection with an award of veterans' benefits, the VA formally may 
determine as ``mentally incompetent'' a person who ``because of injury 
or disease lacks the mental capacity to contract or to manage his or 
her own affairs, including disbursement of funds without limitation.'' 
This is an adjudication, a hearing on mental competency which goes to 
the question of whether the veteran is mentally incompetent because of 
injury or disease.
  Under the amendment offered by the Senator from Iowa, VA mental 
health determinations would no longer count as prohibiting gun 
possession. Tens of thousands of names currently in the NICS system 
would likely need to be purged, meaning these people could go out and 
buy guns. Last year the VA told my staff they had supplied 174,000 
names to the NICS database because of diagnosed mental conditions.
  I do not dispute what the Senator from Iowa suggested--that some of 
these veterans may be suffering from a mental illness not serious 
enough to disqualify them from owning a firearm, but certainly many of 
them do.
  Last year the VA told us that this list of 174,000 names includes 
10,168 individuals diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, 3,981 
individuals with major depressive disorder, 2,835 individuals with 
bipolar disorder, and many others who have been found to have very 
serious mental illnesses.
  Allowing people with these serious mental illnesses to buy guns 
raises the very serious risk of suicide and violence. Already we are 
seeing an average of 22 suicides by veterans every single day. That is 
double that of the civilian population. To hand guns over to people 
such as the 14 or 15,000 whom I have just described who have serious 
mental illness is dangerous--dangerous to them, members of their 
family, and to the public.
  The VA's referral process is not haphazard. There are due process 
safeguards to make sure the VA is not referring names inappropriately. 
The VA has set up a relief program for a veteran to contest a finding 
of mental competency. If we need to revisit that process--and as I said 
at the outset, I am not arguing that we shouldn't--we need to do it in 
the context of substantive legislation so that we treat the veterans 
fairly, treat their families fairly, and treat the public fairly in 
dealing with this constitutional protection. But simply invalidating 
the mental health records of 170,000 people the VA has supplied to the 
FBI, as this amendment would do, is dangerous--dangerous to the 
veterans, dangerous to their families, and dangerous to the public.
  Let's do this in a thoughtful, orderly way, not by an appropriations 
  I do object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, first, we are not talking about 
convicted felons here, like the first thing the Senator from Illinois 
started to say. What we are trying to do is protect the constitutional 
rights of veterans, Second Amendment rights, and we are preventing the 
government from spending money to violate the constitutional rights.
  As I just made clear, the main purpose of the VA regulation is to 
appoint a fiduciary, not to regulate firearms, but it has the effect of 
regulating firearms. This standard has been in place since the 1970s. 
It has nothing to do with regulating firearms.
  Don't you think that since the Supreme Court held the Second 
Amendment to be a fundamental right in 2010, there ought to be an 
update of this system?
  Indeed, Federal law made clear that the regulations prescribed by the 
VA Secretary are limited to ``the nature and extent of proof and 
evidence and the method of taking and furnishing them in order to 
establish the right to benefits under such laws,'' 38 USC 501. Again, 
that provides no authority to regulate firearms, but it has that 
  Just like the Senator from Illinois, I don't want dangerous persons 
to have firearms, but the government must first prove a person is a 
danger before taking away their constitutional rights.
  I am somewhat disappointed that Members on the other side of the 
aisle would object to even considering an amendment that simply 
protects veterans from having a fundamental, constitutional right taken 
away and doing it without due process.
  When we were in the minority, we were accused of being obstructionist 
because we wouldn't go along with the then-majority leader's efforts to 
block Senators of both parties from offering amendments. Now that we 
are in a majority, Senator McConnell has tried to restore the tradition 
of having amendments considered from both sides of the aisle. Yet we 
have these old

[[Page S2867]]

tricks--still refusing to vote on amendments that show the American 
people whose side they are on.
  I think this is an opportunity to show you are on the side of the 
veterans--veterans who probably handled guns in Iraq and Afghanistan 
not being able to do that here.
  I don't understand what is so tough about voting on whether veterans' 
constitutional rights should be protected. It should be clear to anyone 
paying attention who is obstructing. They tried to destroy the Senate 
as a deliberative body when they were in the majority. Now they are 
obstructing a vote on protecting the fundamental constitutional rights 
of those who have put their lives on the line for our country.
  Shame on you.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, before my friend and colleague leaves, we 
have worked together for years, and I respect very much his legislative 
capability. He and I are working together on some very important 
  I am not a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. I don't know if 
the Senator from Iowa is a member--he is not. This is a subject matter 
that is in the jurisdiction of that committee.
  Let me just concede at the outset that reporting 174,000 names to the 
FBI goes too far, but eliminating 174,000 names goes too far. We need 
to find a reasonable way to identify those suffering from serious 
mental illness who would endanger themselves, their families, or others 
and to sort out those who don't fit in that category. We can do that 
and we should do that in a reasonable way, so we are respectful of 
veterans and also respectful of the general public's right to be safe 
from the misuse of firearms.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I would just say a simple thing. I have 
already said we don't want dangerous people to have guns. But the point 
is that the VA is not identifying the people who might be a danger to 
themselves or a danger to society. As the Senator from Illinois says, 
they are simply doing it because ``You can't handle your own 
finances.'' That is where their constitutional rights are being denied. 
Their constitutional rights are being denied by a VA employee--maybe 
somebody who doesn't know anything about mental health--and that is 
wrong. That is what we are trying to prevent.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Daines). The majority leader.

                             Cloture Motion

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I send a cloture motion to the desk for 
the Collins substitute amendment No. 3896.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under 
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on Senate Amendment 
     No. 3896 to Calendar No. 138, H.R. 2577, an act making 
     appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and 
     Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the 
     fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other 
         Mitch McConnell, Susan M. Collins, Roy Blunt, John 
           Cornyn, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Roger F. Wicker, 
           Johnny Isakson, Marco Rubio, Mark Kirk, Lindsey Graham, 
           Chuck Grassley, Jerry Moran, Orrin G. Hatch, John 
           Hoeven, John Barrasso, John Boozman.

                             Cloture Motion

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I send a cloture motion to the desk for 
the underlying bill, H.R. 2577.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under 
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on Calendar No. 
     138, H.R. 2577, an act making appropriations for the 
     Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban 
     Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending 
     September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.
         Mitch McConnell, Susan M. Collins, Roy Blunt, John 
           Cornyn, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Roger F. Wicker, 
           Johnny Isakson, Marco Rubio, Mark Kirk, Lindsey Graham, 
           Jerry Moran, Chuck Grassley, Orrin G. Hatch, John 
           Hoeven, John Barrasso, John Boozman.

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
mandatory quorum calls with respect to the cloture motions be waived.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.