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Help America to Vote Act

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Location: Washington, DC

HELP AMERICA TO VOTE ACT

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, we turn to discussion of the amendment currently pending before the Senate.

Today, we call on the Department of Defense to finalize regulations that will ensure that the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the medal that the Joint Chiefs of Staff picked and that the President has authorized for military operations, will be awarded on an expedited basis to the men and women of the Armed Forces of our country who serve in the global war on terrorism.

Recently, on this bill we dealt with an amendment that would have created a congressionally mandated medal when a medal already authorized by the President and recommended by the military was already in the works and awaiting final approval of the necessary regulations. That medal awaiting final approval is the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. It can be awarded to all who serve in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Our victories in the global war on terrorism would not have been possible without the dedication, the courage, and the service of the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their coalition partners.

It is entirely appropriate that we recognize these brave men and women of the Armed Forces by awarding them service medals for personal bravery and other leadership actions and for their service in military operations abroad and for support operations at home and support operations overseas.

But the fact is, historically, the President has relied on senior military officers to recommend the personal and theater campaign medals.

Here, with the Global War on Terrorism Medal, that longstanding tradition was preserved with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combatant commanders, including GEN Tommy Franks, U.S. Army, former Commander of the U.S. Central Command, recommending the medal to be awarded.

Taking the advice of his senior military and civilian defense leaders, President Bush, by Executive Order 13289, on March 12 of this year, established the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal to be awarded to service members who served in military operations to combat terrorism on or after September 11, 2001, including, but not limited to, actions in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in such locations as Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of the Philippines, and elsewhere in Southwest Asia.

Now, that Executive Order by the President went beyond our men and women in the Armed Forces and much further than the recent, other medal amendment would have. It also established a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, recognizing duty in Operation Noble Eagle and the homeland defense mission against further terrorist attacks and recognizing duty in support of military operations performed in areas that do not qualify for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

We all know of the fine work that is going on to preserve our homeland security. We know of the efforts to guard our borders, hunt down terrorists, and screen our airports. We recognize those efforts with this amendment and the medal. But we bring focus and attention to all of the important support staff. Ask any soldier, ask any sailor, ask any airman, and each will tell you how important it is to have the right staff sending you the right stuff—having the right staff sending you the right stuff. Without a competent, capable, and talented support staff in the global war on terrorism, our men and women in the Armed Forces would not have the right tools for the job. Their lives would be at greater risk and so, too, would the freedom we cherish here at home. It is right that we recognize all that they provide for our soldiers, our sailors, and our airmen, as well as what they do for all of us.

Yet the implementing regulations for eligibility for both these medals have not been issued by the Secretary of Defense.

So today, what we will do, if my amendment is adopted, is we, in the Senate, will call upon the Secretary of Defense to complete action as soon as possible on implementing regulations so these awards can go to any person who renders qualifying service with the Armed Forces in those phases of the global war on terrorism, including Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Noble Eagle.

This amendment says the regulations providing for a medal already in the works, designed by soldiers and authorized by the President, should be implemented as soon as possible and, in doing so, should also recognize those who serve in Operation Noble Eagle and in support roles for our military abroad. These are the critical distinctions between the amendment before us now and the amendment that was considered 2 days ago.

Mr. President, I know Senator McCain and Senator Warner would also like to speak to my amendment. They are not in the Chamber at the moment but would like to speak. And I believe there is another Senator on our side of the aisle who would like to speak on this amendment as well.

So pending their arrival, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my friend, the Democratic leader, we agree that the amendment to which you referred is one of the last—I hope the last important amendment to be offered. I don't know whether there are other amendments on that side of the aisle that will have a need for debate at some length. But the amendment to which the Democratic leader referred is obviously one a number of people are going to want to speak to. I think we will be able to go to it sometime in the early evening because there are people here who are going to want to speak on that amendment. I know people on your side are going to want to speak on that amendment.

I am still optimistic that we can press on into the evening. It is still our hope to finish the bill.

Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I am gratified to hear the distinguished assistant Republican leader is optimistic. I was optimistic. I hope I can have that optimism restored. As I noted just a moment ago, there are about 30 amendments pending, but we really believe that a lot of the amendments that are still pending depend on the outcome of the amendment to be offered by Senators Bayh and Ensign. So it is hard for us to move forward on the other amendments until that one has been resolved.

So we are in a situation where we cannot move forward until our Republican colleagues acknowledge the need to, not only offer the amendment, but to have it debated and voted upon, so we can clear the way for whatever additional amendments along the lines of the subject matter the Bayh-Ensign amendment addresses.

That is the issue. That is the concern we have. I hope we can clarify it soon. But I only raise this concern because I suggest the hour, while it is not late, is getting later, and we do not have a lot of time to finish all the work that is left.

I believe we made our commitment, kept our commitment, and I hope we can accomplish what many of us had hoped we could do 2 weeks ago.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.

Mr. McCONNELL. Not to prolong this, because I think we are at essential agreement, but it was hard to get anything going during the day today, as is often the case around here. This is quite a nocturnal institution. The Sun goes down and we get busy working. But I certainly share the view of the Democratic leader the amendment to which he referred is a significant amendment. It is certainly our expectation we will be able to go to that amendment sometime early in the evening, accommodate those who want to speak, on both sides, move in the direction of completing action on the amendment at some point this evening, and move ahead, I hope.

I say to my good friend, that doesn't mean we have a whole lot more amendments coming from that side of the aisle that are going to require extensive debate. I heard the Senator from South Dakota and others say that is the last significant amendment. I certainly hope that is the case because then I think we have a chance of wrapping it up sometime soon and moving on to other matters.

Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I hope I didn't say that this was the last significant amendment because I know many of my colleagues who have amendments to offer certainly view them as significant. I wouldn't want to characterize their amendments as insignificant. If I led the Senator from Kentucky to that conclusion, I want to clarify that was not my intention.

But I also reiterate, we have eight or nine amendments pending that would require votes. We are basically in a quorum call with no real expectation of a vote on many of these amendments for the foreseeable future.

There are two issues. One is this amendment on loans offered by Senators Bayh and Ensign. The other is clearing the logjam of amendments that have already been offered, including one by this Senator, that awaits a vote. So the sooner we can get on with those votes, the sooner we can get on with the consideration of the Bayh amendment and the sooner we can address the other backlog of amendments that are waiting to be offered.

I thank my colleagues for their attention to this and hope we hear from the majority leader sometime soon.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, this has been an extraordinarily good day for the President's policy in Iraq. The naysayers said: Go get international support, Mr. President. Let's prove we can get the rest of the world behind us.

Today, by a vote of 15 to 0—15 to 0—the United Nations passed a resolution. It was one that simply suggested we do what we were going to do anyway. It is a thoroughly acceptable resolution.

To get a 15-to-0 vote, that means the President had the support of the Russians, the French, the Germans, and, believe it or not, the Syrians. This administration's policy in Iraq, as adopted by the United Nations today, had the support of the Syrians. The only remaining obstacle appears to be the Senate, and we will get an opportunity at around 9:30 p.m. to see if the Senate will join with the Russians, the French, the Germans, and the Syrians to do the right thing and begin to rebuild Iraq.

There are some Senators who have argued that somehow this loan-grant issue really is not that important or they have better judgment than the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State, and others about how to structure this.

It seems to this Senator that those who are skilled at conducting foreign policy have gotten it right, and their judgment is that you cannot go to a donor conference next week in Madrid and ask countries to grant—not loan—grant money to share the costs with us of reconstructing Iraq if we say we are going to try to get paid back.

Let's take a look at what we know is going to happen at the donor conference already. The Japanese are down for $1.5 billion, not an insubstantial amount of money; the British, $900 million; the Canadians, $224 million; the European Union, $234 million. These are all grants, not loans. The Japanese, the British, the Canadians, the European Union are not saying you have to pay us back. They know Iraq is on its back after 25 or 30 years of Saddam Hussein.

In addition to that, there are over 50 countries that have either already provided or have pledged humanitarian assistance; to name a few of them: Kuwait, Spain, Australia, Korea, Germany, Denmark, and the United Arab Emirates; and there are going to be others. They are all going to be at Madrid next week looking at this United Nations resolution that passed 15 to 0 today, with the support of the Russians, the French, the Germans and, for goodness' sake, the Syrians. This is the time to speak with a united voice.

The administration has united the world. They may have been divided about whether this war should have been fought in the first place, but on the issue of reconstruction of Iraq, we are moving toward world unity, and we ought not to disrupt that here tonight.

I had an opportunity last week, along with Senator Thomas, whom I see in the Chamber, Senator Burns, Senator Craig, and Senator Chafee, to go to Iraq and take a look firsthand at what is happening there. I must tell you, Mr. President, there is a lot of good news in Iraq. We have a hard time picking it up watching the evening news. They teach them in journalism school that good news is not news. I think you can accept that and still say that in Iraq good news is news because they had no good news for 30 years—no good news. Saddam Hussein murdered 300,000 of his own people during that quarter of a century. There was no good news in Iraq. Now 9 out of 10 things that are happening there are good: 13,000 construction projects completed; 1,500 schools renovated; local elections up in Mosul. They had a provincial election in the Ninawa province, and they have elected officials up there. We sat down with them and talked with them. They are brave people.

In the violence area where obviously there is still much to be done, the Iraqis themselves are providing a lot of security. The attack on the Baghdad Hotel was thwarted. Some people were killed, indeed, but the bomber wanted to get into the hotel and blow it all up. He was thwarted by Iraqi security.

Part of this Iraqi security force is up to 60,000 people now and growing on a daily basis. The attack on the Turkish Embassy was thwarted, not by us but by Iraqi security. We are on the way to putting the security force in place so that the Iraqis can carry this job forward.

Let's compare it to Bosnia. I was one of a minority of Republicans who supported President Clinton on Bosnia and Kosovo. I met the head of the 101st headquartered in Kentucky and Tennessee. He was in Bosnia, too. General Petraeus said we made more progress in Iraq in 6 months than we made in Bosnia in 6 years—more progress in 6 months than in Bosnia in 6 years. Great progress is being made.

This is a time to unify behind the reconstruction policy in Iraq. Now is the time to do that.

The last stumbling block is this amendment in the Senate tonight. The House is going to finish up tonight, and we are going to finish up tonight or tomorrow, and this is probably the last vote with any real drama attached to it. No matter how long you have been in the Senate, you haven't cast a more important vote than this one. We are casting votes all the time around here, and if you are in my job, you are twisting arms every day on some issue, but it reminds me of what Orwell said in "Animal Farm." He said all pigs were equal, but then some pigs were more equal than others. All votes are equal, but some votes are more equal than others. This is a more equal vote. This is a big vote, one that makes a difference for America and for the world and certainly for the Iraqis for whom this policy is so important.

There are 170 newspapers in Iraq. I do not think anybody in America knows that, but there are 170 newspapers in Iraq.
They have by far more newspapers in Iraq than we have in my hometown. Some of them are even more credible than the New York Times, arguably. The streets are crowded with people engaged in commerce with their little businesses, which the Iraqis are quite good at when allowed to be. Just this week, they have a new currency. I happened to have picked up a souvenir, the last of the previous currency. It has a picture of Saddam Hussein on it. I can tell my colleagues this: The new currency being issued over the next few weeks in Iraq has no picture of Saddam Hussein on it.

Today we heard—Senator Thomas and I were at the same meeting—that international bankers are interested in coming into Iraq. So everything is heading in the right direction. Let's not get off track tonight by leaving the impression with the Iraqi people that we came into the country to help them and then to send them a bill for it. I hope the amendment will be defeated.

I yield the floor.

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