Madam President, I have several topics to talk about today, but I wanted to start with a very important letter that was sent to President-elect Trump this week. As members and friends of the Senate Ukrainian Caucus, 27 senators, including myself, came together to advocate and make clear that we wanted to continue the strong United States-Ukrainian relationship that our two countries have enjoyed for many, many years, and to convey our support for Ukraine, and ask the president-elect and the new administration to support our ally Ukraine and to help it secure a peaceful and democratic future.
Almost three years after Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and the military aggression in Eastern Ukraine, daily cease-fires along the line of contact make a mockery of the Minsk agreement and demonstrate that the conflict in the heart of Europe is far from over. Russia continues to engage in sabotage. It has not halted its disinformation war against Ukraine or the West, nor stopped the economic and political pressure aimed at underminidng the Ukraine government.
I was in Ukraine last year, and I saw firsthand the struggles that that government is having. They have thier own internal issues with corruption and the like, but they are trying to make for a better country, and that is very difficult when you have an outside nation that is engaged in this kind of combat that we see from Russia and these kind of interventions.
According to conservative estimates from the United Nations, approximately 10,000 people have been killed. Over 20,000 wounded. More than two million internally displaced since the conflict began. As we note in our letter, 27 senators--Republicans and Democrats led by Senators Durbin and Portman--we have said that Russia has launced a military land grab in Ukraine that is unprecedented in modern European history, and we ask the president-elect to work with us on this very important matter and for securing Ukraine's democracy and securing the Ukrainian people.
I will say, my state has a very strong tradition of Ukrainians. I actually live only a few miles from the Ukrainian center in our state. We have a long tradition of opening our arms to people from every corner of the globe, and just what I've seen from the concern in my own city and state, there's a lot of people worried about what's going on and especially with the new administration coming in. So I think some strong statement and of course followed by actions from the president-elect would be very, very helpful.
I would mention one Ukrainian place that I adore, Kramarczuk's in my neighborhood. I actually held my first election celebration there when I was running for county attorney. Of course, it didn't end because we had to go into the next morning. It was a little close in the votes, madam president. We didn't maybe know until noon. But that evening we were at Kramarczuk's, and they have a mural that is literally almost the size of the entire backdrop from door to door in the United States Senate. And it is a mural that they have hung proudly of the Statute of Liberty. And that mural is there because the Kramarczuk family always believed in a country that brought them in as immigrants, that brought them in as refugees. And I am proud to represent that community and join the other 26 senators in asking the president-elect to continue to support Ukrainians here at home, but of most importance, the sovereignty of the country of Ukraine and their democratic values.
Next, I want to trun to another issue that is of key importance to this body, and that is the passage of the CURES Act, which I know the president is going to sign into law. We're very excited about that bill. Several things in that bill that I know the presiding officer and I have both worked on: opioid funding. Both of our states of West Virginia and Minnesota have seen way too many deaths, way too many lives lost early, way too many people experiencing overdose, and without really, the help that they need for treatment. The bill authorizes a billion dollars, $500 million a year to help the many families struggling with prescription drug addiction.
Senators Whitehouse, Portman, Senator Ayotte, and I actually authored the original bill--the CARA bill--which sets the framework for having a national framework for dealing with opioid addiction. And it didn't just include authrorizing money for treatment, it also included some--foundation steps for having--doing a better job of exchanging information between physicians in terms of who is getting opioids.
We have--I remember one guy I met, a rehab guy up in Moorhead, Minneosta, who had a patient who had gotten opioid prescriptions from 85 different doctors and medical providers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin--being a state with many states on its borders--we see this going on all the time.
I have built on that with a bill I introduced for a national prescription drug monitoring program that I think is very important. Senator Cornyn and I did the original bill on a drug takeback program to make it easier to get drugs out of medicine cabinets, and actually the CARA bill built on that. But what was missing from the CARA bill, of course, because it was an authorization bill, was the funding. So this effort at the end contained in the CURES Act is going to be very important in the form of grants to our states to get that money out there.
Secondly, the research money, nearly $5 billion for NIH to go looking for a cure for horrific diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's will be critical for doing ground breaking work at the Mayo Clinic and also the University of Minnesota, which will be a key to finding a cure for these dieseases.
The third thing in the bill tha thasn't maybe gotten as much attention is the Anna Westin Act. The presiding officer and I worked on that bill together with Senator Ayotte and Senator Baldwin. Four women leading a bill and we got it done. That bill has been kicking around for over a decade. It is a bill that actually came out of Anna Westin's untimely death. The young girl struggled with an eating disorder, eventually died relating to her eating disorder. Her mother, Kitty Westin, has carried her torch. First gave it to Paul Wellstone, her senator. Paul died way too young in that tragic plane crash. Then passed onto Senator Harkin of Iowa. I was on the floor with him, and when Senator Harkin left, I took over and went across the aisle to get the support of the presiding officer Senator Capitol, as well as Senator Ayotte and Senator Baldwin.
What this bill does is it builds upon the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Clarity Act to clarify that centers must cover treating eating disorders the same way they treat other illnesses. Over 200,000 people in my state suffer from eating disorders. Of any mentall illness, it's the leading cause of death of mental illness. People don't realize that, but obviously Anorexia is a very dangerous, dangerous diseases, as are other eating disorders. Of any mental illness, it's the leading cause of death of mental illness. People realize that, but obviously Anorexia is a very dangerous, dangerous disease, as are other disorders. So that has a lot in one bill, but we know there is more work to do on prescription drugs.
I see Senator Grassley here. He and I worked very hard on our--what's called the "pay-for-delay" bill, which would tell the big pharmaceutical companies that they cannot pay the generic companies to keep their products off the market. That literally eliminates the competition, and the estimates we've gotten--it would save billions of dollars over the years. And we think that is a really, really important bill and something that we would like to get done, as well as the work I've done with Senator McCain, which focuses on bringing in less expensive drugs from Canada, as well as a bill that I have to allow for negotiation of prices under Medicare Part D.
I wanted to close my remarks by turning to some of our retiring senators, first of all, and speak briefly on each one of them. Leader Reid, we have this beautiful portrait unveiling for leader Reid yesterday. He has been a leader who takes into consideration all ideas, even those of newer members. I remeber that in January of 2007, when I began working on ethics reform, and in fact, I asked him that that be an important priority when he took over as leader. And it was Senate bill one, and one of the first bills we passed. But it's not just the big bills that Senator Reid has worked on and that he has given new members opportunities to lead on.
When a little girl in Minnesota named Abby Taylor was maimed while swimming in a pool with a defective drain, Leader Reid stood by my side and helped me work with Republicans to get a bill passed in honor of Abby's memory and final wish. I met this little girl in the hospital. She went onto live for a year. She has been swimming in a kiddy pool. Her intestines pulled out by a defective drain and the way it was installed. But her parents never gave up. They literally--Scott Taylor, her dad, called me every single week to see what was happening with the bill. Honestly again, the bill had been moving around, hadn't had any action for years. Ted Stevens helped me, who at the time was a senator from Alaska. But in the end, it was Senator Reid working with others, including Senator Lott, who were bale to get that bill on another bill, and we were able to pass it.
And still to this day, my proudest moment in the United States Senate was calling Scott Taylor, telling him that bill passed. And then last year, hearing from the head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in the Commerce Committee and hearing that not one child--not one child--has died because of a defective drain sicne that bill passed. That bill, by the way, was named after James Baker's granddaughter, who had also perished in a pool incident. So that's an example. I don't think it woould have happened if Harry Reid hadn't been one of our leadera.
Another example when we were trying to build a bridge to Wisconsin, Senator Johnson, and I were working on that issue along with House members, Representative Bachmann, along with Representative Duffy, Senator Franken here. And we had to get everyone signed off on an exemption to the Scenic Rivers Act. It was a Saturday afternoon, and no one was left in the Senate except two or three members and one member that I couldn't reach who had gotten on a plane, but we thought we could reach him on a plane, so I could get the last signoff to get the bill done.
Harry Reid had just found out that his wife had breast cancer. She was waiting at home, but he wouldn't go home. He insisted on presiding for me. The Leader of the Senate, sitting in the presiding officer's chair so I could be back in the Republican cloakroom trying to reach the senator. That happened.
And we didn't get the bill done that day, but the minue we got back in January, Senator Reid worked with Senator McConnell, and they both worked together, and we were able to get on the agenda and get that exemption. And that bridge is goin up as we speak. A massive, massive bridge that had to be built because the other bridge was so bad that it closed down all the time, and people would literally cross their fingers when they went over it.
That's Senator Reid. A lot has happened since he first came to work in Congress as a police officer in the halls of the Capitol. But one thing has stayed the same about Leader Reid: the true spirit of him. It's the considerate leader who will sit up at the presiding desk just to help a freshman pass a bill that's important to her and her constituents. It's the kind of person who takes the time to talk to a little boy with Luekemia and show him his favorite pictures right in the midde of the budget debate. That happened to me with the kid I brought in his office from Minnesota. It's the humble senator who never forgets that he came from Searchlight, Nevada, and always serves with his home in mind. Thank you, Senator Reid, for your service. You will be missed.
So the two other senators retiring this week, and one of them is Barbara Mikulski. She has been, as the presiding officer knows, the dean of the women in the Senate for a very, very long time. And while she is the queen of one liners, one of my favorite ones she uses is that when she talks about women elected officials, she always says we see things not just at the macro level, but at the macaroni and cheese level. After a few years when I had been in the Senate, she called us into the President's Room. A number of the women senators to gear up for a debate that mattered to the women in this country. And she literally, being short that she is, stood on the couch in the room and said, "Gear up. Square your shoulders, put your lipstick on, and get ready for the revolution." I, at that time, wasn't even sure what the revolution was, and I was thinking all the time she probably used that line for much weightier things. But that is her life. She is a woman. She is an advocate. She is a women here of her own making, not here after her husband or father died. She ran on her own merits and leaves her own merits. She leaves on the merit of passing incredibly important bills for Maryland. Incredibly important legislation for this country. And I will her as a mentor, and we will all miss her dearly.
Finally, Senator Barbara Boxer, who joined the Senate in 1993. When I got to the Senate, I was on the Environmental Committee. She was the new chair. And I got to see firsthand her advocacy. Her advocacy on climate change, her advocacy on transportation and waterway infrastructure. The way she would just never give up when she decided something was right for her state and right for the country. But one thing, as everyone talks about Barabara Boxer's fiery advocacy and incredible humor and tenacity, is sometimes I think people forget how productive she has been when she works across the aisle. I saw firsthand how she was able to work with Senator Inofe on the transportation bill and then later with Senator McConnell on the last transportation bill, the FAST Act. She is someone that has credibility on our side of the aisle. When she says she's willing to make a comprpomise with a Republican, people lsiten. She never gave up. She would have dinners at an italian restaurant. She would find, I would say a mom way to get things done. She passed infrastruture legislation with Senator Vitter over the last few years. That's what she's done. And I can't think of anyone that we're going to miss more in terms of that presence and that hard scrabble advocacy, which is always coupled with a pragmatic way of getting bills done. We're going to miss Senator Reid, Senator Mikulski, and Senator Boxer.
I would add the Republican senators leaving. I've enjoyed a strong relationship with Senator Ayotte. We've worked together on opioids. We worked together a lot on the issue of the eating disorder bill. I'm glad that in her final weeks in the Senate, that we've been able to pass that important legislation that embraced so many of her priorities. I also worked at length with Senator Coats. We both serve on the Joint Economic Committee, and he's shown great leadership there. And also again an ability to work across the aisle. He believes strongly in civility and in getting to know your fellow senators. And we're going to miss him dearly for his pleasant way and his ability to cross over the aisle and work together. And I also want to thank him for the work he did on an adoption bill that we worked on together. There are many other senators that we wish well. Senator Kirk, the work that he's done on the Great Lakes priorities. We've worked on that together, as well as all of his leadership in the area of international relations. Madam president, I see that the senator from Iowa, Senator Grassley, is here. I yield the floor.