HEALTHY FORESTS CONFERENCE
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, the Senator from Idaho is entirely correct. What is going on here is a filibuster over naming of conferees. As a part of the normal legislative process, you send Members to a conference with the House to resolve the differences. In effect, a Healthy Forests bill is now being filibustered without the naming of conferees. The differences between the Senate and the House cannot be resolved. Unless conferees are named, the 80-to-14 vote we had here in the Senate just last week is meaningless, absolutely meaningless. No legislation to protect our forests, our people, our firefighters, and our homes can move forward while the appointment of conferees is being filibustered.
While efforts to solve this critical legislation may seem illogical or even callous in the face of the disaster we have witnessed in California on the nightly news, mind you, what is simply unbelievable is that the legislation to prevent catastrophic fires such as these was filibustered just over a year ago. Last year when the risk of catastrophic forest fires was clear and immediate and action was needed, there was an effort to block even the consideration of amendments to the Interior appropriations bill that would have reduced the sort of hazardous fuels that have set ablaze southern California. We knew this was a problem last year. We knew it needed to be addressed. But time and time again we have been prevented from moving forward. That was then and this is now. Now that 22 lives have been lost, 800,000 acres have been burned, and 3,400 homes have been destroyed, you would expect Congress might have gotten the message to get the lead out and get the job done. But some in the Senate just do not get it.
As the Senator from Idaho pointed out, the American people have a right to basic safety and security, which this bill provides. After all we have seen, they have the right to ask: Why in the world is this bill being delayed by 1 second? We saw this bill move at lightning speed by a huge majority last week. Now it is stalled and likely to fail in this session of Congress.
How many acres must incinerate, how many homes must burn, and how many lives must be lost before we move forward on the Healthy Forests conference?
During the last year, 27 firefighters lost their lives fighting blazes such as those this bill intends to diminish. Would it be today that my friends in the Senate will move forward to appoint conferees and finally pass this much-needed legislation into law or will the Senate, like Nero, fiddle while the Nation burns?
I yield the floor.