Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act of 2013—Motion to Proceedby Senator Mitch McConnell
Posted on 2014-05-15
McCONNELL. Mr. President, our All-Volunteer military relies upon
several critical factors to recruit young Americans who are
sufficiently well educated, physically and mentally qualified, and
adequately motivated to wear the uniform. Our recruits expect to be
well led, well trained, adequately compensated, effectively challenged,
and fairly treated. Critically, they also expected to receive the
health care promised to them while they were on Active Duty or as
Later this morning Secretary Shinseki will testify on stories that emerged several weeks ago about administrators at the VA hospital in Phoenix falsifying medical records to conceal delays in providing care to veterans. In the wake of these reports similar stories from Wyoming, North Carolina, Missouri, and Texas have come to light about employees using similar tactics to conceal backlogs in medical care. The questions awaiting the Secretary will be tough, but this is his job. The American people are demanding and deserve answers to these questions.
[[Page S3049]] To his credit, Secretary Shinseki has ordered an inspector general review of the Phoenix VA health care system. It would not surprise me in the least if additional inspector general reviews end up being required at other VA hospitals.
One thing I will be listening for today is whether Secretary Shinseki states a belief that the VA is, in fact, facing a systemic crisis because just this morning the Wall Street Journal reported that his Department has made ``minimal progress at best'' on a host of problems identified in 2012 by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office--``minimal progress at best.'' That is how a nonpartisan GAO official described it.
Many letters have come into my office on this issue. Kentuckians are really concerned. Let me read what one Kentuckian had to say: As a veteran, I have read the recent revelations of events in Phoenix with horror. These [Americans] . . . sacrificed for their country . . . In return, we owed them competent care and treatment as a person, and not an obstacle to a ``good evaluation.'' In order to regain the trust of our veterans, it is vital that we hold those responsible accountable . . .
This Kentucky veteran could not be more right.
Last year I called the Obama administration's veterans backlog a ``national disgrace.'' I have also made several appeals to the Secretary. I know, of course, I was not the only one. Yet the initial reports of the shocking situation in Phoenix indicate that things have only gotten worse. With similar stories now filtering in from other parts of the country, it is getting harder to believe this is not more of a sort of systemic, administration-wide crisis. The Veterans' Administration needs to get to the bottom of how widespread the problem has become.
My concern is that the Obama administration will treat this scandal the way it does all the others--like a political crisis to get past rather than a serious problem to be solved. We know the President appointed a member of his staff yesterday to look into it. That is a start, but if the President is truly serious, he needs to treat these stories at least as seriously as he did the ObamaCare Web site fiasco when he pledged his complete attention and the full force of his administration to do whatever needed to be done. That was on the Web site fiasco when he let it be known that his people would not rest until a solution was worked out. Incredibly, so far the President has made no such pledge when it comes to the treatment of our veterans. The President needs to understand that our veterans deserve at least as much attention as a Web site--at least as much attention as a Web site. In fact, they deserve a heck of a lot more.
This is a really big deal. It is our job as Senators to get to the bottom of it. We need to ask the tough questions. We need to uncover the truth. Any misconduct found at VA hospitals should be met with swift punishment.
Administration officials need to be held accountable because America's ill and wounded veterans have already paid a price. They have already paid a price. They have a right to expect that our country will be there when they need help. If we break faith with them, we are breaking faith with the recruiters who made commitments to the next generation of American military leaders. All of those people have made commitments. The recruiters, the military leaders have all made commitments. As one of my colleagues put it, American veterans ought to be first in line--first in line--for the best care, not pushed to the back of the line for what they are getting.
So our joint mission, whether we are Democrats or Republicans, should be to get to the bottom of the Obama administration's veteran crisis swiftly and fix it. It means holding officials accountable. It means getting serious about solutions, such as Senator Rubio's bill that would make it easier to remove high-level VA employees for performance failures. I am proud to cosponsor that legislation. I know some of my colleagues will have other good ideas in the coming days and weeks too. The point is, that is where our focus needs to be. We owe it to every veteran who has served.
50th Anniversary of the Bourbon Resolution Mr. President, I wish to pay tribute to the spirit of Kentucky literally. This month marks the 50th anniversary since the U.S. Congress passed S. Con. Res. 19, which recognized bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States and unlike any other type of distilled spirit, whether foreign or domestic.
On May 4, 1964, Congress declared that bourbon whiskey had achieved recognition and acceptance throughout the world as a distinctive product of the United States and expressed a sense of Congress that the United States should prohibit the importation of any other whiskey purporting to call itself bourbon. This resolution helped to promote the thriving bourbon distillery industry that we can be thankful is located in the United States today.
Kentucky is, of course, the birthplace of bourbon. The drink itself is named for Bourbon County, KY. Bourbon County, KY, is in the heart of the Bluegrass State, where the product first emerged. Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon supply, and Kentucky's iconic bourbon brands ship more than 30 million gallons of the spirit to 126 countries, making bourbon the largest export category among all U.S. distilled spirits.
Not only is Kentucky the overwhelming producer of the world's bourbon, bourbon gives much back to Kentucky. It is a vital part of our State's tourism and economy. The industry generates close to 9,000 jobs and contributed almost $2 billion to Kentucky's economy in 2010. Production of bourbon in Kentucky has increased by more than 120 percent since 1999. Not to go unnoticed, the bourbon industry has taken an active role in promoting the responsible and moderate use of its product by everyone.
S. Con. Res. 19 was originally introduced 50 years ago by Kentucky Senator Thruston Morton, and a companion measure was introduced in the House by Representative John C. Watts. They recognized that just as Scotch whisky is a distinctive product of Scotland, Canadian whiskey a distinctive product of Canada, and cognac a distinctive product of the Cognac region of France, all with official government recognition, bourbon deserved the distinction that comes with official recognition as well. However, the International Federation of Manufacturing Industries and Wholesale Trades in Wines, Spirits, and Liqueurs could only enforce the protection of the bourbon appellation if Congress passed a resolution declaring such. Therefore, on May 4, 1964, Congress adopted the original bourbon resolution.
Fifty years later, I rise to introduce, along with my friend and colleague Senator Paul, a new Senate resolution to recognize the 50th anniversary of this original declaration of independence for bourbon.
Kentucky is celebrating this 50th anniversary in appropriate fashion through various exhibits, events, and tastings. Perhaps the most exciting of these events is the display of the original bourbon resolution, which has been released from the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington. For the first time since its adoption, it is to be exhibited in Louisville at the Frazier History Museum. I was proud to be able to work with my friend and fellow Kentucky Representative Andy Barr to assist in bringing the original resolution to Kentucky. I thank the Kentucky Distillers Association and the Frazier History Museum for their efforts to honor the anniversary of the bourbon resolution. I am also proud today to follow in the footsteps of Kentucky leaders from the past in honoring and recognizing the original bourbon resolution with this 50th anniversary resolution.
Bourbon production in Kentucky has grown strong and thrived over the last half century, and I am sure it will continue to do the same for the next 50 years. I thank and congratulate all the hard-working Kentuckians who contributed to building our State's vibrant bourbon industry.
I urge my Senate colleagues to support this resolution and look forward to its swift adoption.
Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Congressional Declaration of Bourbon Whiskey Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of S. Res. 446, submitted earlier today.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will report the resolution by title.
[[Page S3050]] The assistant legislative clerk read as follows: A resolution (S. Res. 446), recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Congressional declaration of bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States.
There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the resolution.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the resolution be agreed, the preamble be agreed to, and that the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The resolution (S. Res. 446) was agreed to.
The preamble was agreed to.
(The resolution, with its preamble, is printed in today's Record under ``Submitted Resolutions.'') Mr. McCONNELL. I yield the floor.
Reservation of Leader Time The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.
Order of Business The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the time until 11:15 a.m. will be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Iowa.