Today, this chamber once referred to as the greatest deliberative body must take action. We have people all over the country who want to see action, people who want to see change, people who are crying out for their leaders in Washington to do their jobs. These days the United States Senate has become a place where legislation goes to die, and the important issues of the day go ignored.
In addition to inaction on major, major issues, significant issues like climate change and infrastructure and immigration reform, today I will focus on three things that are right before us. Three bills in the gun legislation area that are right now on the leader's desk. Two other areas, election protection and bringing down the cost of prescription drugs where we could literally take action immediately.
I focus on these because they all involve bills that have passed the house where the Senate could literally act today. I focus on these because in all three cases the timing is urgent. I am talking about inaction in the wake of terrible tragedies in Dayton and El Paso and in Midland, Odessa, all in just the last month. Inaction in protecting our elections and making it easier for people to vote. Inaction in response to serious issues of health care costs and particularly prescription drug prices.
First gun safety. Think about the courage, the incredible courage of the people who were in Dayton and in El Paso and in Odessa-Midland. The mom who literally shielded her baby from death as she perished herself to gunshot wounds but she kept that baby alive. Or how about the grandpa who died shielding his wife and granddaughter or the off-duty soldier who carried children away to safety. All that happened in that store. As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, I think also about the first responders and all of these mass shootings. The ones in Dayton, Ohio, who got there in one minute, one minute but still we lost nine people in 30 seconds. But they were there in one minute and saved so many lives. That is courage. That is the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
And I believe in this place of extraordinary power that their courage must be matched. The courage must be matched to that mom, to that grandpa, to that soldier, to those first responders. These are ordinary citizens that stepped up and saved lives. It is the least that we can do to match their courage. The American people can't afford more inaction, but over the past few years to me it seems that we have lost our resolve. Today I implore my colleagues, I implore the Republican leadership to find the resolve once again and act with courage just like those men and women did in El Paso and Dayton and Midland and Odessa and Gilroy and Parkland and Newtown and Charleston and order and how -- and Orlando. And how about all those families where they lose a loved one every single day to gun violence in homes, to gun violence on the streets. 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds each year. That's a classroom of kids every single week.
Yes, we are back today. Congress is back. I believe we should have come back sooner. We were in recess for mere hours when the gunman in El Paso claimed the lives of 22 people. And for only a few hours more when the gunman in Dayton claimed nine lives. I was among those who immediately called for the senate to come back from recess so that we could vote on gun safety measure, gun safety measures that had passed the House of Representatives with some Republican support. I said that we should come back for that vote back then on background checks, which, by the way, nine out of ten Americans support, sensible background checks which the majority of hunters support sensible background checks, which the majority of voters who voted for president trump support sensible background checks.
I know the history here. As the lead sponsor of the bill to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence, perpetrators, people who have been convicted of serious domestic violence and stalking from possessing a gun and a long time supporter of universal background checks as well as the assault weapon ban and limits on magazines, I was invited to the White House right after Parkland, right after all those kids died in that school. And I thought, well this is a moment where we can act. I was seated across from the president of the United States. And I had a piece of paper that I saved, and I wrote down with hash mashes how many times he said that we should pass the bill for universal background checks and stop that gun show loophole. Nine times he said it, nine times. I was seated next to the vice president and across from the president. I told the president that I come from a proud hunting state and that when I look at proposals like this, I say to myself, do they hurt my Uncle Dick in the deer stand?
Do they do anything to hurt our hunting tradition in our state? They don't. That's why the vast majority of hunters support universal background checks and a lot of these other measures that we talked about that day in that conference room in the white house. It was on TV so people can see it. There's a video of it. There's evidence of it. I thought it was a done deal. But then what happens? The president the next day goes and meets with the N.R.A. And he folded. He folded despite the fact that on TV in front of the nation, in front of those kids, those surviving kids from parkland, in front of the families of the kids that had died he made a promise that he didn't keep. That's the history that I know and I’ve lived. But it doesn't end there.
I go back in time. I go back to the saddest day in the United States Senate for me, and that was the morning of the vote on background checks. That was years before. That was after that Sandy Hook shooting. Those families were there, and I had been working with some of the senators who were leading that bill. And I had to tell them that morning those parents who had lost their kids, their elementary school age kids in that school that we didn't have enough votes to pass that bill. And I remember one of the moms said to me, she said, you know, I'll never forget that day. I'll never forget the last time I saw my son alive. He had severe autism so he really couldn't speak but every morning he would point at the picture of the school aide that he loved so much that would never leave his side because he loved her and he would point at her picture on our refrigerator. And that's what happened that last day when she saw him alive. And then he went to school and then just a few hours later she was waiting in that firehouse with all of those parents. And one by one those children came into that firehouse and pretty soon the parents that were left, they knew they would never see their babies again. And as she is sobbing in that firehouse, she has this fleeting moment where she thinks of that teacher, that school aide. And she knows at that moment that that school aide would never leave the side of her little boy. And when they found them both shot to death, that school aide had her arms around take little boy -- around that little boy.
That mom, she was in my office that morning. And she had the courage to advocate for something that she knew wouldn't have saved her kid because of the particular circumstances of how that guy got that gun. But what she knew about the background checks was that it would save more lives than a lot of these other measures? Why, because the states that have it helped. They have reduced rates of domestic homicide. And it helps with suicide as well. And it probably would have helped in Midland, Odessa. We don't know all the facts but what we do know is one time that guy failed a background check and then somehow he was able to get a gun. Those parents had the courage to do that and then a few hours later this place didn't have the courage to pass that bill. That's the history that I've had with this issue.
But it goes back even further. It goes back to when I was a prosecutor and we had cases all the time every day gun violence. We had officers killed. We had children killed. We had women killed in their homes. But the case I most remember actually happened after I'd left that job and I was in the Senate and we had a shooting of a police officer in a small town. He was just doing his job. He showed up for a domestic violence call which maybe sounds legal to -- sounds regular to a lot of people but not to officers because they know how dangerous those calls are. It was a young woman, the victim of the domestic violence, 17. The guy was in the house. The officer comes to the door just doing his job. Opens the door. The guy shoots him in the head. He was wearing a bulletproof vest but it didn't protect him. And they told me, the widow told me -- because I was there for that funeral -- the last time that they had been in that church was for the nativity play that the kids were in. And the next time after Christmas when they were in that church, she was walking, a widow, down that aisle with her little children, with a little toddler in her arms and a blue dress covered with stars. That's gun violence. It's not just about one family. It's not just about one victim. It's not just even about that police officer and that family that will never be the same. It is about our entire community. That's my history with this issue. So when I come back here and I think of the courage of all those people and all those survivors and I think about those mass shootings and how by one by one if we had made and passed these sensible bills, we could have prevented some of this from happening. I don't know what our excuse is anymore.
The leader on the Republican side said, quote, that if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I would be happy to put it on the floor. And then the president says, congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas. The time for ideas is done. The ideas passed in the house of representatives, not all the ideas i would like put into law but some really good things got passed that would prevent a lot of violence, including the background checks, including closing the Charleston loophole when that white nationalist went into that church and gunned down those parishioners only because a background check hadn't been completed. Just giving a few more days. That's what that bill does so police officers can do their job and complete the background checks. Or how about my bill? That's a bill that's sitting on Leader Mcconnell's desk. That closes the boyfriend loophole. What's the status of the law right now if you get convicted of a serious offense or domestic violence against your husband or wife, most of the time it's wives, or against someone who lives in your house, then you can't go out and get an ak-47. You can't go out and get a gun. That's the law right now. But if you get convicted of the same crime against a boyfriend or a girlfriend, usually girlfriend, you can go out and get that gun.
We have had hearing after hearing about this bill. We have had hearings because it is so sensible to close that loophole. Why? Because half of those domestic homicides involve girlfriends. I remember back at the one we had a few years ago. We heard from the sheriff from Racine county in Wisconsin. He described himself as a conservative. He said this. Dangerous boyfriends can be just as scary as dangerous husbands. They hit just as hard and they fire their guns with the same deadly force. That bill -- that bill is in the violence against women act right now and sitting on Leader Mcconnell's desk. That bill passed with 33 Republican votes in the House of Representatives.
There is absolutely no reason we should stop a vote on the entire violence against women act simply because it includes this commonsense provision. Those are the three bills right now soon to be joined by a bill on limits on magazines. Why that bill? Well, because in 30 seconds, nine innocent people were killed in Dayton, Ohio. The cops did everything they possibly could. They were there in one minute and still nine people died. Those are the bills -- background checks, closing the loopholes so that the cops have time to simply finish their vetting. Why would you want to cut off their days at three. Third, closing the boyfriend loophole to helping cases of stalking and domestic violence. And fourth, the magazine. Commonsense bills. Would i like to do more with the assault weapon ban? Yes, I would, but right now we could get these done. So what do we hear instead? We hear this. The president took a position on the bill so then we can wait to see if we have serial votes and then put it on the floor. The president is saying congress is going to report back to me with ideas. This is a dangerous game of Whac-a-mole that has to stop. People are dying while people are pointing fingers. We could point our fingers and do both. Yes or no. We could do that today, and we ask that those bills be called out immediately. But you know what? It doesn't end there. There are other really important bills that we should be voting on right now. Election security. We know that a foreign country invaded our election. We know that because we heard it from President Trump's top intelligence official.
In fact, Dan Coats, the Director of Intelligence, back then he said that they were getting bolder. We know that. We know what happened. We know they did it in multiple ways. They did it by trying to hack into elections in all 50 states and to the election equipment. We found that out. In Illinois, they got as close as the voter files. We also know that they tried to do it with social media, and there they were more successful. They ran a bunch of ads, paid for them in rubles to try to suppress the vote. I will never forget the one that was shown at our judiciary hearing, paid for in rubles, and it was a Facebook ad that went on African American Facebook pages in swing districts. It was a picture of a woman, an nont woman. They had just taken her face, someone from Chicago, and it said why wait to vote in line for Hillary? You can text your vote, and it gave a number. Something like 86513. That's illegal. That is a crime. If we had known about that ad and found the perpetrators, they would have gone to jail.
But that kind of activity by a important country was allowed to run rampant, and when the president was asked about it, when he was at the g-2, standing with Vladimir Putin, he made a joke about it and looked at Vladimir Putin, and they laughed. You know what I thought? I thought to myself, well, you know what? Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their lives on the battlefield fighting for democracy in our own country and around the world, and I thought four little innocent girls in a church in Birmingham, they lost their lives. Innocents in that fight for civil rights, in that fight for our democracy, in the fight to vote, and he made a joke about it. This isn't a joke. And we have an opportunity, we have several bills on this that I am leading to push for backup paper ballots in the remaining states that don't have them, to push for funding, funding for audits, funding to get the right election equipment.
This isn't a joke. It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat or an independent. This is about protecting our democracy from the invasion of a foreign country. This is what our founding fathers, this is why we started this country, because they wanted to be independent and didn't want to have foreign influence. It's what we fought for war after war is protecting the freedom and democracy. So this is the new ground for invasion. They didn't do it with missiles. They didn't do it with tanks, but they're doing it with computers, and it's called cyber warfare, and we have to be as sophisticated in our country as they are when they try to invade it. And when we try to call up one of these bills and senator blunt had nicely called that hearing and the rules committee of which I am the ranking member, we got gut punched, Senator Lankford and I and the other authors of that bill, senator burr, the head of the intelligence committee, senator warner, Senator Harris, Senator Graham. That got stopped, by the White House, calls were made, and by the leader.
It is time to bring back this bill or pass one of the many versions that are out there. The last area that I'm going to bring up -- and there are many other things. I mentioned climate change, immigration reform, but the reason I am focusing on these things, gun safety, for the obvious reason, as well as election security and prescription drugs, because these bills are things that have passed the House of Representatives. They're something that we could do right now. So what about prescription drugs? Well, it feels like years ago now, but it was actually just last January when i went to the state of the union with my guest, Nicole Smith Holt. Nicole's son aleck was a 26-year-old. He was a restaurant manager in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul. He had aged off his parents' insurance. Three days short of his payday, a hardworking kid, he wasn't able to afford his insulin. He was diabetic, pretty severe diabetic. So he did what so many diabetics are doing right now because of that incredible cost of insulin. He started rationing it. He saved it. He took less than he was supposed to take. I have talked to seniors who literally keep the injectors with those precious drops of insulin so they can use them the next day. Well, when aleck tried it, tragically it didn't work. He died. A restaurant manager. This should never happen in the United States of America. Not with a simple drug, that's insulin, that has been around for nearly a century. So I brought his mom with me to that state of the union. She is sitting right up there, looking down at the president while he had claimed, of course, many times that he's going to do something about the prices of pharmaceuticals. And I would say those who are blocking and slow-walking bipartisan legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, I think that they should give Nicole a call, because she is smart, she is pretty straightforward, she is a nice person, and listen to her story.
Health care is one-sixth of our economy, and total drug spending accounts for over 15% of our nation's health care costs, from consumers to hospitals and nursing homes. Between 2012 and 2016, the price of brand-name prescription drugs increased 110%. And if we don't act now, that number will keep increasing. As the profit margin for big pharma increase hand over fist. They have two lobbyists for every member, every desk in this senate, pharma has two lobbyists. That's what Nicole, that mom looked down on when we saw the state of the union. And that number also applies to the House of Representatives where we were that night. But there are solutions on the table. We could, first of all -- and I think this would make the biggest difference because it involves so many people, and that would be to pass my bill that I have led for years that would harness the negotiating power of 43 million seniors and allow Medicare to negotiate to bring drug prices down. The V.A. does it, Medicaid does it. They have much less expensive drug prices. Because that negotiation is allowed. I figure the power of 43 million seniors, they could get pretty good deals, 43 million seniors done through Medicare, but right now it's locked in.
Why would it help people who are not of the age to be on Medicare? Well, it helps you because it's this biggest block of drug prices, and once it starts going down for Medicare, it starts going down for everyone. We can also pass my bill that I worked on for years with senator gravel to stop big brand name companies from paying off other drug manufacturers to keep less expensive products off the market. Let's think what that means. What that is is pharma has a drug. A lot of times they have a monopoly. Then someone comes along with another version of it that's less expensive. That would be great for us, especially when there is three or four competitive drugs, you always see those prices go down. Do you know what they do? They actually pay the generics to keep the product off the market. The big companies then have a monopoly. The new company that's bringing the drug and the generic, they are fine. They get the money from big pharma. And the only one that gets the short end of the stick is us. It's the consumers of this country. So that's why Senator Grassley and I have worked across the aisle, and it is time to get that bill passed.
The third one I would suggest, which is a bill that I first introduced with Senator McCain, who we all miss very much, which would allow Americans to bring in less expensive drugs from Canada. You could do it with other countries as well. We know that those drug prices in Canada are so much less expensive than they are in the United States. States have tried to do this on their own, states like Maine, but they said no, you have to have a federal law to make this really work. Individuals have tried to do it. Bus tours of seniors go up there. We had bipartisan support for this in Minnesota. Former Governor Pawlenty supported changing this bill, but we couldn't do it as a state. It really has to be done on the federal level. I am also pleased that Senator Grassley has now stepped into Senator McCain's views and is carrying this bill for me. He is the chair of the Senate Finance committee, so there is no reason that we shouldn't be able to call this bill up for a vote.
In conclusion, I started this speech by questioning whether this chamber is even capable of action on big things anymore, and I will end by asking a question that should be simple. Will the United States Senate respond to the needs of the American people? When Americans are shot in cold blood, laying their bodies littered on the floor of a Walmart, will we respond to their needs? Will we respond to their family? When their votes are threatened by foreign -- attacks from a foreign country, will we respond to the citizens of this country? Will we respond when we know these drug prices have gone completely out of control and we uniquely could do something about it? Today what this chamber needs are leaders. Leaders don't hesitate. They don't drag their feet or put politics over country. They don't block or obstruct progress. And if my colleagues don't want to find common ground, at least we could show some commonsense.
It's time to live up to the promise of this esteemed body. Inaction won't do. The American people can't afford inaction in the wake of unprecedented attacks on our elections and our democracy. They can't afford inaction when people are actually dying because they can't afford common prescription drugs. They can't afford inaction when we have people being slaughtered on our streets. Going to a festival in California, out on a weekend night with friends, going to a movie theater, following shopping for movie supplies.
Historically, this chamber has done great things. It's one of the reasons that all of us that work here, that got elected to this office decided to do it. We fought for and passed the civil rights act of 1964. Our predecessors did that in the U.S. Senate. This place expanded voting rights the following year. This place helped provide a safety net for families and seniors and kids across the country by passing Medicare and Medicaid. Guess what? When those things were passed, they weren't totally popular at the time, but now they are. Because they did the right thing. They were leaders. They didn't wait. They didn't hesitate. They led. We can and should come together and do great things now. That's the America we love. That's the America we know. That's the America we can be again. I ask that these commonsense measures come up for a vote. Thank you, madam president. I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.