MR. PRESIDENT, I'M HONORED TO BE COCHAIRING THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP CAUCUS WITH THE SENATOR FROM SOUTH CAROLINA, AND HE IS RIGHT, THERE ARE SOME GREAT EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GET BUSINESSES STARTED, WHO WANT TO PURSUE THEIR DREAMS. AND WE NEED TO HIGHLIGHT THOSE BECAUSE WE HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT RIGHT NOW HAVE SOME GREAT NEW IDEAS AND WE WANT -- IF WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE A COUNTRY THAT IS AN INCUBATOR FOR THOSE IDEAS, THEN WE HAVE TO PROMOTE THOSE IDEAS AND ALLOW THOSE PEOPLE TO FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS. MR. PRESIDENT, I AM HERE TODAY TO JOIN MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES IN DISCUSSING THE NOMINATION OF DAVID BERNHARDT TO BE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR.

I HAVE SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT MANY OF THE ACTIONS THAT MR. BERNHARDT AS TAKEN WHILE SERVING AS BOTH DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT SINCE 2017 AND AS ACTING SECRETARY SINCE THE RESIGNATION OF SECRETARY ZINKE IN JANUARY. SOME OF THE MOST CONCERNING ACTIONS INCLUDE DEFENDING THE ADMINISTRATION'S BUDGET REQUEST WHICH ZEROED OUT FUNDING FOR THE NEWLY REAUTHORIZED LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND. ROLLING BACK PROTECTIONS FOR PUBLIC LANDS, INCLUDING PROPOSALS TO REDUCE THE SIZE OF SOME OF OUR NATIONAL MONUMENTS, LIMITING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUBLIC INPUT INTO AGENCY RULE MAKINGS, AND WEAKENING ENFORCEMENT OF THE MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY ACT. THESE ACTIONS HAVE THREATENED THE RESPONSIBLE AND SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF OUR PUBLIC LANDS. IMPERILED LAWS DESIGNED TO PRESERVE, PROTECT WILDLIFE AND STACK THE DECK IN FAVOR OF FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRIES. BUT ONE PARTICULAR AREA I'D LIKE TO FOCUS ON TODAY IS HOW MR. BERNHARDT HAS PLAYED A ROLE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR'S DECISIONS TO RESCIND OBAMA-ERA CLIMATE AND CONSERVATION POLICIES THAT DIRECTED AGENCY EMPLOYEES TO MINIMIZE THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF ACTIVITIES ON FEDERAL LAND.

IN A SECRETARIAL ORDER PUBLISHED JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN 2017 THAT WAS SIGNED BY MR. BERNHARDT, THE DEPARTMENT LIMITED HOW ITS EMPLOYEES AT SUBAGENCIES LIKE THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT CAN FACTOR CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS INTO THEIR DECISION MAKING. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN EXACTLY? WELL, IT MEANS THAT MANUALS, HANDBOOKS AND OTHER LISTS OF BEST PRACTICES THAT WERE COMPILED BY AGENCY EMPLOYEES OVER THE YEARS, CAREER AGENCY EMPLOYEES THAT WERE MEANT TO MINIMIZE ACTIVITIES THAT WOULD HARM SPECIES OR ACCELERATE CLIMATE CHANGE WERE THROWN OUT OR THEIR INSTRUCTIONS WERE RENDERED OBSOLETE. MR. BERNHARDT HAS NOT ONLY DOWNPLAYED CLIMATE SCIENCE AND PREVENTED EFFORTS TO MITIGATE IT WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR BUT HE HAS ALSO HELD ADVANCED POLICIES AND RULE MAKINGS THAT WILL ACCELERATE ITS EFFECTS.

WE ALL KNOW WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST HERE WITH CLIMATE CHANGE. WE HAVE SEEN THE WEATHER EVENTS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, THE HEATING OF OUR OCEAN WATERS, THE INCREASE IN HURRICANES, THE PREDICTIONS OF HOW MANY METROPOLITAN AREAS ARE GOING TO BE EXPERIENCING SIGNIFICANT FLOODING IN JUST THE NEXT FEW DECADES. THE WILDFIRES THAT WE'VE SEEN IN ARIZONA AND COLORADO AND CALIFORNIA, THE VIDEO OF THE DAD IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA DRIVING HIS DAUGHTER THROUGH LAPPING WILDFIRES, LEAVING THEIR HOUSE BURNING BEHIND THEM AS THEY DROVE AND HE SANG TO HER TO CALM HER DOWN. THOSE ARE THE BIG EFFECTS AND THE LITTLE EFFECTS THAT AMERICANS KNOW THIS IS HAPPENING.

SO THE QUESTION IS NOT IS IT HAPPENING WHICH WE KNOW IT IS BECAUSE EVERY ONE OF THESE THINGS WAS PREDICTED BY OUR SCIENTISTS, WAS PREDICTED BY OUR MILITARY. THE QUESTION IS WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT, WHICH IS WHY I AM SO OPPOSED TO THE ADMINISTRATION'S DECISION TO GET OUT OF THE INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT WHICH I AM OPPOSED TO ITS DECISIONS TO GET US OUT OF THE CLEAN POWER RULES THAT WE HAD JUST STARTED TO PUT FORWARD AND IMPLEMENT, AND WHY I AM OPPOSED TO DECISION IT MADE TO REVERSE THE GAS MILEAGE STANDARDS. UNFORTUNATELY MR. BERNHARDT HAS FOR THE ONLY DOWNPLAYED CLIMATE CHANGE BUT HE HAS ALSO HELPED, AS I SAID, ADVANCE POLICIES THAT ACCELERATE IT. FOR EXAMPLE, IN SEPTEMBER 2018 THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT ANNOUNCED A DRAFT RULE THAT WOULD RELAX THE OBAMA-ERA METHANE RULES THAT REGULATED FLARED, LEAKED, INVENTED NATURAL GAS FROM GAS AND OIL OPERATIONS ON FEDERAL AND TRIBAL LANDS.

METHANE IS AN EXTREMELY POTENT GREENHOUSE GAS THAT ACCORDING TO THE UNITED NATIONS INTERAGENCY PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE HAS AN IMPACT THAT IS 34 TIMES GREATER OVER A HUNDRED-YEAR PERIOD THAN CARBON DIOXIDE. IT'S ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THESE PROPOSED DECISIONS TO METHANE RULES ARE IN DIRECT OPPOSITION AND RUN COUNTER TO THE SENATE'S VOTE IN 2017 TO REJECT AN EFFORT TO FULL REPEAL UNDER THE CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW ACT. INSTEAD OF GOING BACKWARDS, WE SHOULD BE TAKING REAL ACTION TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE. WE NEED A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND WE NEED ENERGY EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGIES AND HOMEGROWN ENERGY RESOURCES. I ALSO BELIEVE AS I NOTED THAT WE SHOULD REINSTATE THE CLEAN POWER RULES AND THE GAS MILEAGE STANDARDS. UNDER MR. BERNHARDT'S LEADERSHIP, THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR HAS BEEN TAKING US IN THE WRONG DIRECTION ON CLIMATE, CONSERVATION, AND PUBLIC LANDS.

I WILL OPPOSE HIS NOMINATION. BEFORE I CONCLUDE, I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE BRIEF MARKS ON THE NOMINATION OF DAVID MORALES TO BE A FEDERAL JUDGE FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS WHO WAS JUST CONFIRMED YESTERDAY EVENING. YESTERDAY THE SENATE BEGAN ITS CONSIDERATION ON THIS NOMINATION AT 4:00 P.M. AND VOTED ON THE CONFIRMATION AROUND 6:00 P.M. UNDER THE NEW RULES, WE HAD JUST ABOUT TWO HOURS OF TIME ON THE SENATE FLOOR TO DEBATE THE NOMINATION FOR A LIFETIME APPOINTMENT FOR THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY. I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO MAKE THESE COMMENTS BEFORE THAT TIME, BUT WITH THESE SEVERE LIMITS, IT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR SENATORS IF THEY HAVE OTHER OBLIGATIONS WITHIN THE BUILDING OR CONSTITUENT VISITS OR HEARINGS GOING ON TO BE ABLE TO MAKE IT WITHIN THE TWO-HOUR PERIOD WHICH WE ARE NOW ALLOTTED, WHICH IS ACTUALLY ONE-HOUR PERIOD. AND THERE WAS MUCH MORE TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT WITH RESPECT TO THIS NOMINEE WHICH IS WHY I AM MAKING THESE COMMENTS NOW. TO NAME ONE EXAMPLE, DURING HIS TIME IN THE TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, HE HAS PARTICIPATED IN CASES THAT HAVE UNDERMINED AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS.

IN 20 ON 07, -- IN 2007, HE SUBMITTED AN AMICUS BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF AN INDIANA VOTER I.D. LAW. IT ARGUED REQUIRING VOTERS HAVE I.D.'S WAS A NEGLIGIBLE BURDEN ON THE RIGHT TO VOTE. THEY SHOULD ASK THAT OF SOME OF OUR SENIORS IN MINNESOTA WHO VOTED FOR DECADES AND DECADES AND DECADES AND ARE WELL KNOWN BY ELECTION OFFICIALS AND IN OUR STATE ARE ABLE TO SHOW UP AT THE VOTING BOOTH AND BE ABLE TO VOTE. OR MAYBE THEY DON'T HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENSE BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER DRIVE. THESE ARE EXAMPLES THAT GO ON ACROSS THE UNITED STATES AND IN MANY STATES THAT HAVE THESE RESTRICTIONS, THESE PEOPLE ARE LITERALLY TURNED AWAY FROM VOTING. IT IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT THE VOTERS OF MY STATE TURNED AWAY A PROPOSAL WHICH WAS ON OUR BALLOT TO HAVE THESE RESTRICTIVE PHOTO I.D. REQUIREMENTS. IT SOUNDS GOOD BUT THEN WHEN YOU REALLY LOOK UNDER THE HOOD, YOU FIND THAT IT LIMITS VOTING. AND IT WAS ESPECIALLY DIFFICULT FOR OUR PEOPLE IN OUR RURAL AREAS AND OUR SENIORS TO ACCEPT THIS CHANGE AND THEY DIDN'T.

WE ALSO KNOW THAT VOTER I.D. LAWS HAVE A DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT ON VOTERS WHO ARE LOW INCOME, RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES, THE ELDERLY AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. THE NOMINEE ALSO DEFENDED TEXAS' BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. IN 2010 HE SIGNED ON TO A BRIEF ARGUING THAT TEXAS HAD A RIGHT TO BAN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. THE SUPREME COURT REJECTED SIMILAR ARGUMENTS WHICH FOUND THAT THE CONSTITUTION GUARANTEES THE RIGHT TO MARRY FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES. THESE ISSUES ARE ABOUT HOW OUR DEMOCRACY FUNCTIONS AND ABOUT TREATING PEOPLE EQUALLY UNDER THE LAW AND WITH RESPECT.

IT IS THE SENATE'S CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO GIVE ITS ADVICE AND CONSENT ON LIFETIME NOMINEES TO THE FEDERAL BENCH. THESE NOMINATIONS ARE TOO IMPORTANT TO TURN THE SENATE INTO A MERE RUBBER STAMP. THE SENATE MUST MINUTE OBTAIN ITS ROLE AS A MEANINGFUL CHECK AND BALANCE IN OUR CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM. AND I JOIN MY COLLEAGUES IN EXPRESSING MY DEEP CONCERN ABOUT THE PACE AT WHICH WE ARE CONFIRMING THESE NOMINEES. MR. PRESIDENT, I YIELD THE FLOOR. AND I NOTE THE ABSENCE OF A QUORUM.