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Washington, DC— Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)—the President Pro Tempore of the US Senate—released the following statement championing the passage of the omnibus spending bill, legislation that included several proposals introduced and supported by Senator Hatch.

Anyone who wants to count me out doesn’t know that I have a dedicated staff determined to drive this old workhorse into the ground,” said Hatch. “And with the passage of this year’s omnibus, our efforts are beginning to bear fruit. True to my promise in January to go big and to go bold, I have been hard at work over the last few weeks to include in this year’s spending package a number of legislative priorities that will make a meaningful difference for millions of Americans.” 

Hatch’s legislative proposals include critical school safety legislation, a bipartisan measure to close holes in the background check system, a bill to clarify law enforcement’s authority to obtain data stored overseas, and an initiative to help rural schools. 

 An overview of Senator Hatch’s bills included in the omnibus can be found [HERE].

 Senator Hatch prepared the following remarks to address his colleagues on the Senate floor:

 Mr. President, the prospect of retirement has imbued me with a sense of urgency as I have never felt it before. With just a few months left in office, I have an ambitious agenda that I’m committed to getting across the finish line. And with the passage of this year’s spending bill, I’m grateful to be several steps closer to that goal.

In my first Senate address after announcing that this term would be my last, I made clear my intentions for my final year in office. I promised to be on the Senate floor, early and often, pushing the most critical reforms of this Congress—and I have been. I promised a flurry of legislative activity from my office—and you’ve seen it.

Anyone who wants to count me out doesn’t know that I have a dedicated staff determined to drive this old workhorse into the ground. And with the passage of this year’s omnibus, our efforts are beginning to bear fruit. True to my promise in January to go big and to go bold, I have been hard at work over the last few weeks to include in this year’s spending package a number of legislative priorities that will make a meaningful difference for millions of Americans.

I wish to thank the Majority Leader, the Majority Whip, the Speaker of the House and their respective staffs for going extra lengths to help me attach several of these signature initiatives to the bill we will soon pass. Whether it’s historic legislation to prevent school violence and improve our background check system, or bipartisan measures to empower law enforcement and strengthen our rural communities, this omnibus encompasses a number of policy victories that will greatly benefit both Utah and the nation.

 Let me begin with the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or CLOUD Act. This critically important legislation will create a workable framework for law enforcement to obtain data stored overseas while at the same time protecting providers from conflicts of law and encouraging other countries to strengthen domestic privacy standards. This bill is a win for law enforcement, for the tech community, and for the Trump Administration as well.

Passage of the CLOUD Act is the culmination of more than four years of hard work. My first foray on this issue was the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, or the LEADS Act, which I introduced in September 2014. I continued my work last Congress with the International Communications Privacy Act, or ICPA. Then, earlier this year, I introduced the CLOUD Act with my good friends Senator Coons, Senator Graham, and Senator Whitehouse.

Among other things, the CLOUD Act authorizes the United States to enter into bilateral agreements with other governments to set clear standards for requests for digital evidence. Under these bilateral agreements, the United States agrees to lift its blocking statute on disclosure to foreign law enforcement if the other country similarly agrees to lift any such bar it has on disclosure to US law enforcement. Moreover, the CLOUD Act requires that any order issued by a foreign government on a US provider be subject to judicial or other administrative review before the provider can be forced to turn over data.

I’m hopeful that the US-UK bilateral agreement framework outlined in the CLOUD Act will serve as a model for future agreements between the United States and other countries. Expeditiously implementing similar agreements with the European Union and our other allies is critical to protecting consumers around the world and facilitating legitimate law enforcement investigations.

 The CLOUD Act gives law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe. So, too, does the STOP School Violence Act. We started working with families from Sandy Hook on this bipartisan bill several months ago. They had some great ideas for making our schools safer, including: school threat assessment teams; anonymous reporting systems; and training for students, teachers, and law enforcement to prevent future violence. We engaged with stakeholders from the security industry about school security infrastructure improvements. These, and other evidence-based strategies and programs to improve school safety, formed the foundation of the STOP School Violence Act.

 We were refining the bill and shoring up bipartisan support when tragedy struck at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This certainly increased the urgency of the legislation, and I welcomed the help and advice of the families from Parkland as well.

 I can’t even imagine how I would react if something like that happened to one of my children, so it’s been incredible to see these families from Sandy Hook and Parkland channel that grief and anger into unifying action. In particular, I’d like to thank Ryan Petty, Patrick Petty, Kyle Kashuv, and so many other outstanding individuals who shared with us their unique perspective on the issue of school violence. Without them, this bill would not have become a reality.

 Despite everything people like Kyle and the Pettys went through, they came in with the attitude of wanting to find common ground and bring people together. These families from Parkland came in wanting to make a difference, saying this time had to be different. And very soon, they can say that they helped pass a historic bill that will save hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

 In the spirit of keeping young people safe, I’m glad we were also able to get my Child Protection Improvements Act included in the omnibus.  The objective of this bipartisan bill is simple: to better protect the most vulnerable in our society—namely, children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

 The Child Protection Improvements Act amends the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to make permanent a pilot program originally created by the Adam Walsh Act.  This program ensures that organizations that serve children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities have access to FBI fingerprint background checks for their employees, volunteers, and coaches.  My hope is that this bill, which is broadly supported by youth-serving organizations and law enforcement groups, will save many lives and better protect those who cannot protect themselves. Giving permanency to this background check program is an important step in keeping children and the defenseless safe from violent criminals and sexual predators who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

 Also among our nation’s most vulnerable are those struggling with addiction to opioids.

Opioid abuse in our nation has reached epidemic levels, leaving in its wake a trail of tragedy and shattered life. Few are immune to the devastating effects of addiction. For many, dependency begins with a painkiller prescription in the aftermath of a surgery or serious injury. Against their own will, patients develop an addiction to pain medication that leaves them craving more. Over time, feeding this addiction becomes increasingly difficult, pushing many to look for a harder fix. Some even turn to heroin, spurring a rapid descent into despondency from which few return.

 To combat this harrowing epidemic, the omnibus more than triples the federal resources devoted to the opioid crisis, allocating billions of dollars to opioid prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Moreover, the omnibus increases NIH funding to research new advances in healthcare and medicine, as well as alternative pain management options. My home state of Utah is a leader in this field, and this bill will give researchers the resources they need to continue to break new ground. In short, Mr. President, this legislation is a symbol of hope for millions across the country whose lives have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic.

 In addition to helping Americans whose lives have been upended by addiction, I’m also committed to helping Westerners who are struggling in our rural communities. That’s why I worked long and hard to include in this year’s omnibus a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program, or SRS.

 The SRS program is absolutely critical to rural, forest counties in Utah and across the West. As the timber industry has declined in our country, rural counties with high presence of National Forest System lands face significant hardships in maintaining schools and essential infrastructure. Fortunately, with the extension of SRS, hardworking county leaders will be able to improve road maintenance, fund law enforcement, and keep our schools and libraries open.

 The SRS program—as well as programs such as PILT—are a boon to families across the state of Utah. Of equal importance are our defense programs. Utah has some of the most patriotic people in the country, not to mention thousands of veterans and active-duty service members. That’s why I have always done everything in my power to support the warfighter. So I am pleased that this bill includes a much-needed 2.4 percent pay raise for our troops, the largest in eight years. What’s more, the legislation we are set to vote on today has the largest increase in defense funding in over 15 years, with a $61 billion increase over last year’s levels. This is especially good news for my hardworking constituents at military installations throughout the state.

 Mr. President, what I have mentioned thus far is by no means an exhaustive list of the legislative victories included in this year’s omnibus. But also worth mentioning are initiatives to: build research capacity at the National Institutes of Health; make childcare more affordable for America’s hardworking families; expand TIGER grants to facilitate transportation projects across the country; strengthen the Economic Development Administration to bolster rural communities; and support evidence-based education programs for our nation’s youth. On each of these initiatives, I worked closely with stakeholders and everyday Utahns to ensure that their perspectives would be heard and their needs would be met.

 Mr. President, I am pleased with the work we’ve been able to do on this bill. Like any compromise, it’s far from perfect, but it’s undeniably good. And I can confidently say that the bills included in this legislative package will have a lasting effect on the lives of thousands of Utahns and thousands more across the country.

 Now some have criticized the process of passing this legislation, criticizing the fact that lawmakers have not been able to read the omnibus from beginning to end. I take serious issue with this criticism. True, the omnibus is large. But every bill included therein has been thoroughly vetted over the course of several months, and in some cases, several years. So the assertion that we’re passing a bill, the contents of which are unknown, is completely disingenuous. We know exactly what is in this omnibus because it is the culmination of all our hard work this Congress. This is a common vehicle for passing vetted legislation, and anyone who tells you otherwise is playing political games.

 Let me just conclude by saying that, with the time I have left here in the Senate, I plan to leave everything on the field. For me, 2018 is not a victory lap but a sprint to the finish—and I plan to finish strong.

 I yield the floor.