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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008--Continued -- (Senate - July 17, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, it is clear that the cloture motion as has been filed by the majority is clearly not what they want to happen this evening. So it does seem to be that this is all about a political circus to keep us here all night for some political theater to try to embarrass the President and in the process demoralize our troops and embolden our enemies.

Instead of talking about substantive amendments to the Defense authorization bill, what I hear the majority speaking of is message amendments, to try to message their political theater.

The fact is, this is about winning elections. The majority has given many quotes to the media. One senior Democratic aide on Fox News, when asked about staying up all night, said: Is this a publicity stunt? Yes.

Senator Reid was quoted as saying at a press conference: I don't know if we will get 60 votes, but I tell you one thing, there are 21 Republicans up for reelection this time.

Senator Reid was quoted in the Washington Post as: We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.

So while the majority is putting us through political theater in hopes of picking up Senate seats in 2008, our National Intelligence Estimate, which just came out, is very clear in their key judgment. It says: We judge that the U.S. homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next 3 years.

The main threat comes from Islamic terrorist groups themselves, especially al-Qaida driven by their undiminished intent to attack the homeland and a continued effort by these terrorists groups to adopt and improve their capabilities.

The report is clear that we have a broad threat, a global threat. It is not just about Iraq. The whole Defense authorization is very important. We should not be sidelining the discussion of important issues of national defense and security with political theater this evening.

But it is important, as some of my colleagues have done, to kind of review what we have been through the last few months. Certainly, all of us are concerned about the progress in Iraq, the safety of our troops. We all want to finish our job with honor, with victory, to bring our troops home.

We have had a lot of debate this year. But recently when the President submitted his war spending bill, emergency supplemental bill, to fund our troops, we had a lot of debate. My Democratic colleagues had a lot of different ideas. The President vetoed one version. After that, we came to an agreement. The Democrats would force the President to agree that after we sent General Petraeus there--and that was a unanimous thing, to send General Petraeus to Baghdad to secure the area, we sent thousands of new troops. The Democrats agreed on that funding, but they requested that we have a report from General Petraeus in the middle of September to find out what progress we were making. We all agreed to that. But after we all agreed and had the signing at the White House, that is now not good enough for my Democratic colleagues.

As we heard one political strategist say about the Democrats, any day they are not talking about Iraq is a bad day. They want to make political hay out of this difficult situation that our country faces.

We have a new plan almost every day of how we are going to withdraw and retreat, a strategy du jour in the Senate. We will be talking about a lot of those new strategies as we go through the evening.

But as has already been mentioned by some of my Republican colleagues who talk a lot with the troops who come home, almost without exception they believe in our mission, and they believe they can win. What we are asking tonight of the majority is to let them win. Let Petraeus do what we sent him to do. Give him the time that we gave him--until September--to demonstrate that we can secure Baghdad, at least reasonably, in a way that the Government can function and the economy can rebound and the country can begin to establish itself as a free and independent democracy.

What we are seeing again is what we have seen over the past years. My Democratic colleagues, while well intended, are very often weak on defense and national security on almost every measure fighting for security. We would not even give our homeland security the same tools to fight terrorists as we give our law enforcement to fight drug dealers. Certainly, terrorists are as much a threat to us.

Some of my Democratic colleagues have even said this is a bumper sticker campaign, not a real war. I think we have to begin this whole process by recognizing, as our national intelligence estimate tells us time and again, this is a real threat, a continuing threat, one that we need to be prepared for in many ways, and we need to develop more of a consensus in the Senate of how we are going to fight it.

Our troops do believe in what they are doing. They believe it is a right cause, and they believe they can win. We need to let them win. We shouldn't continue to talk through the night and talk day after day about ``we have lost'' or ``we can't win'' or ``we shouldn't be there'' or ``we are not making progress,'' when those who are there doing the fighting are telling us quite a different story.

Mr. President, I wish to address at least one amendment to the Defense authorization bill that I think is an example of what we need to be doing to make our military more efficient. There are a lot of things we do as a Congress that force our military to do things maybe for political reasons that don't help us militarily. One is related to aircraft retirement.

I have an amendment that I hope we can get to, amendment No. 2302, that is related to aircraft retirement. Some call it flyable storage. I was amazed to find out that Congress has required the Air Force to maintain in flying condition permanently grounded aircraft at the cost of millions of dollars a year. Many of these older aircraft, because of structural integrity, safety concerns, will never fly again. Yet we require them to be maintained in operational status for that last flight to the junkyard.

Between 2000 and 2007, retirement restrictions cost the Air Force $893 million, and almost $143 million has gone to modify aircraft the Air Force would like to retire. This year, the Air Force will spend $8.1 million to maintain the aircraft in flyable storage, $8.1 million to maintain aircraft that will never be used again. This will happen year after year.

There has been some political pressure to keep this because some maintenance happens in different States where various Senators and Congressmen want that to continue.

My amendment will just give the Air Force the flexibility to retire aircraft that needs to be retired. Most Americans would think that is just basic common sense, and I hope we can agree on that in the Senate.

I hope we can get back to the debate on this Defense authorization bill. I am very sorry that the majority will not let us move to the cloture vote on the Levin amendment, which is pending. But if we need to talk through the night, we will continue to talk through the night.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, you would never know it from our debate the last couple of weeks, but we are here to talk about the Defense authorization bill, this rather large bill that is at all of our desks. Much broader than just any particular conversation about Iraq, or any particular battle, this is to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008, for military activities and the Department of Defense, for military construction, for defense activities and the Department of Energy, to proscribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and other purposes.

One of the most important bills that we debate and pass, this includes money for aircraft, missiles, weapons systems, vehicles, all of the things we need to protect and secure our country--a very important bill.

I appreciate that the minority a number of times this evening has said: We need to go ahead and vote, particularly on the amendment in front of us, the Levin amendment. And while the normal procedure is to get agreements between the sides on when we vote, the minority filed cloture on this bill. There is really no need to delay the cloture vote any further.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, it is clear that the cloture motion as has been filed by the majority is clearly not what they want to happen this evening. So it does seem to be that this is all about a political circus to keep us here all night for some political theater to try to embarrass the President and in the process demoralize our troops and embolden our enemies.

Instead of talking about substantive amendments to the Defense authorization bill, what I hear the majority speaking of is message amendments, to try to message their political theater.

The fact is, this is about winning elections. The majority has given many quotes to the media. One senior Democratic aide on Fox News, when asked about staying up all night, said: Is this a publicity stunt? Yes.

Senator Reid was quoted as saying at a press conference: I don't know if we will get 60 votes, but I tell you one thing, there are 21 Republicans up for reelection this time.

Senator Reid was quoted in the Washington Post as: We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.

So while the majority is putting us through political theater in hopes of picking up Senate seats in 2008, our National Intelligence Estimate, which just came out, is very clear in their key judgment. It says: We judge that the U.S. homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next 3 years.

The main threat comes from Islamic terrorist groups themselves, especially al-Qaida driven by their undiminished intent to attack the homeland and a continued effort by these terrorists groups to adopt and improve their capabilities.

The report is clear that we have a broad threat, a global threat. It is not just about Iraq. The whole Defense authorization is very important. We should not be sidelining the discussion of important issues of national defense and security with political theater this evening.

But it is important, as some of my colleagues have done, to kind of review what we have been through the last few months. Certainly, all of us are concerned about the progress in Iraq, the safety of our troops. We all want to finish our job with honor, with victory, to bring our troops home.

We have had a lot of debate this year. But recently when the President submitted his war spending bill, emergency supplemental bill, to fund our troops, we had a lot of debate. My Democratic colleagues had a lot of different ideas. The President vetoed one version. After that, we came to an agreement. The Democrats would force the President to agree that after we sent General Petraeus there--and that was a unanimous thing, to send General Petraeus to Baghdad to secure the area, we sent thousands of new troops. The Democrats agreed on that funding, but they requested that we have a report from General Petraeus in the middle of September to find out what progress we were making. We all agreed to that. But after we all agreed and had the signing at the White House, that is now not good enough for my Democratic colleagues.

As we heard one political strategist say about the Democrats, any day they are not talking about Iraq is a bad day. They want to make political hay out of this difficult situation that our country faces.

We have a new plan almost every day of how we are going to withdraw and retreat, a strategy du jour in the Senate. We will be talking about a lot of those new strategies as we go through the evening.

But as has already been mentioned by some of my Republican colleagues who talk a lot with the troops who come home, almost without exception they believe in our mission, and they believe they can win. What we are asking tonight of the majority is to let them win. Let Petraeus do what we sent him to do. Give him the time that we gave him--until September--to demonstrate that we can secure Baghdad, at least reasonably, in a way that the Government can function and the economy can rebound and the country can begin to establish itself as a free and independent democracy.

What we are seeing again is what we have seen over the past years. My Democratic colleagues, while well intended, are very often weak on defense and national security on almost every measure fighting for security. We would not even give our homeland security the same tools to fight terrorists as we give our law enforcement to fight drug dealers. Certainly, terrorists are as much a threat to us.

Some of my Democratic colleagues have even said this is a bumper sticker campaign, not a real war. I think we have to begin this whole process by recognizing, as our national intelligence estimate tells us time and again, this is a real threat, a continuing threat, one that we need to be prepared for in many ways, and we need to develop more of a consensus in the Senate of how we are going to fight it.

Our troops do believe in what they are doing. They believe it is a right cause, and they believe they can win. We need to let them win. We shouldn't continue to talk through the night and talk day after day about ``we have lost'' or ``we can't win'' or ``we shouldn't be there'' or ``we are not making progress,'' when those who are there doing the fighting are telling us quite a different story.

Mr. President, I wish to address at least one amendment to the Defense authorization bill that I think is an example of what we need to be doing to make our military more efficient. There are a lot of things we do as a Congress that force our military to do things maybe for political reasons that don't help us militarily. One is related to aircraft retirement.

I have an amendment that I hope we can get to, amendment No. 2302, that is related to aircraft retirement. Some call it flyable storage. I was amazed to find out that Congress has required the Air Force to maintain in flying condition permanently grounded aircraft at the cost of millions of dollars a year. Many of these older aircraft, because of structural integrity, safety concerns, will never fly again. Yet we require them to be maintained in operational status for that last flight to the junkyard.

Between 2000 and 2007, retirement restrictions cost the Air Force $893 million, and almost $143 million has gone to modify aircraft the Air Force would like to retire. This year, the Air Force will spend $8.1 million to maintain the aircraft in flyable storage, $8.1 million to maintain aircraft that will never be used again. This will happen year after year.

There has been some political pressure to keep this because some maintenance happens in different States where various Senators and Congressmen want that to continue.

My amendment will just give the Air Force the flexibility to retire aircraft that needs to be retired. Most Americans would think that is just basic common sense, and I hope we can agree on that in the Senate.

I hope we can get back to the debate on this Defense authorization bill. I am very sorry that the majority will not let us move to the cloture vote on the Levin amendment, which is pending. But if we need to talk through the night, we will continue to talk through the night.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, it is clear that the cloture motion as has been filed by the majority is clearly not what they want to happen this evening. So it does seem to be that this is all about a political circus to keep us here all night for some political theater to try to embarrass the President and in the process demoralize our troops and embolden our enemies.

Instead of talking about substantive amendments to the Defense authorization bill, what I hear the majority speaking of is message amendments, to try to message their political theater.

The fact is, this is about winning elections. The majority has given many quotes to the media. One senior Democratic aide on Fox News, when asked about staying up all night, said: Is this a publicity stunt? Yes.

Senator Reid was quoted as saying at a press conference: I don't know if we will get 60 votes, but I tell you one thing, there are 21 Republicans up for reelection this time.

Senator Reid was quoted in the Washington Post as: We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.

So while the majority is putting us through political theater in hopes of picking up Senate seats in 2008, our National Intelligence Estimate, which just came out, is very clear in their key judgment. It says: We judge that the U.S. homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next 3 years.

The main threat comes from Islamic terrorist groups themselves, especially al-Qaida driven by their undiminished intent to attack the homeland and a continued effort by these terrorists groups to adopt and improve their capabilities.

The report is clear that we have a broad threat, a global threat. It is not just about Iraq. The whole Defense authorization is very important. We should not be sidelining the discussion of important issues of national defense and security with political theater this evening.

But it is important, as some of my colleagues have done, to kind of review what we have been through the last few months. Certainly, all of us are concerned about the progress in Iraq, the safety of our troops. We all want to finish our job with honor, with victory, to bring our troops home.

We have had a lot of debate this year. But recently when the President submitted his war spending bill, emergency supplemental bill, to fund our troops, we had a lot of debate. My Democratic colleagues had a lot of different ideas. The President vetoed one version. After that, we came to an agreement. The Democrats would force the President to agree that after we sent General Petraeus there--and that was a unanimous thing, to send General Petraeus to Baghdad to secure the area, we sent thousands of new troops. The Democrats agreed on that funding, but they requested that we have a report from General Petraeus in the middle of September to find out what progress we were making. We all agreed to that. But after we all agreed and had the signing at the White House, that is now not good enough for my Democratic colleagues.

As we heard one political strategist say about the Democrats, any day they are not talking about Iraq is a bad day. They want to make political hay out of this difficult situation that our country faces.

We have a new plan almost every day of how we are going to withdraw and retreat, a strategy du jour in the Senate. We will be talking about a lot of those new strategies as we go through the evening.

But as has already been mentioned by some of my Republican colleagues who talk a lot with the troops who come home, almost without exception they believe in our mission, and they believe they can win. What we are asking tonight of the majority is to let them win. Let Petraeus do what we sent him to do. Give him the time that we gave him--until September--to demonstrate that we can secure Baghdad, at least reasonably, in a way that the Government can function and the economy can rebound and the country can begin to establish itself as a free and independent democracy.

What we are seeing again is what we have seen over the past years. My Democratic colleagues, while well intended, are very often weak on defense and national security on almost every measure fighting for security. We would not even give our homeland security the same tools to fight terrorists as we give our law enforcement to fight drug dealers. Certainly, terrorists are as much a threat to us.

Some of my Democratic colleagues have even said this is a bumper sticker campaign, not a real war. I think we have to begin this whole process by recognizing, as our national intelligence estimate tells us time and again, this is a real threat, a continuing threat, one that we need to be prepared for in many ways, and we need to develop more of a consensus in the Senate of how we are going to fight it.

Our troops do believe in what they are doing. They believe it is a right cause, and they believe they can win. We need to let them win. We shouldn't continue to talk through the night and talk day after day about ``we have lost'' or ``we can't win'' or ``we shouldn't be there'' or ``we are not making progress,'' when those who are there doing the fighting are telling us quite a different story.

Mr. President, I wish to address at least one amendment to the Defense authorization bill that I think is an example of what we need to be doing to make our military more efficient. There are a lot of things we do as a Congress that force our military to do things maybe for political reasons that don't help us militarily. One is related to aircraft retirement.

I have an amendment that I hope we can get to, amendment No. 2302, that is related to aircraft retirement. Some call it flyable storage. I was amazed to find out that Congress has required the Air Force to maintain in flying condition permanently grounded aircraft at the cost of millions of dollars a year. Many of these older aircraft, because of structural integrity, safety concerns, will never fly again. Yet we require them to be maintained in operational status for that last flight to the junkyard.

Between 2000 and 2007, retirement restrictions cost the Air Force $893 million, and almost $143 million has gone to modify aircraft the Air Force would like to retire. This year, the Air Force will spend $8.1 million to maintain the aircraft in flyable storage, $8.1 million to maintain aircraft that will never be used again. This will happen year after year.

There has been some political pressure to keep this because some maintenance happens in different States where various Senators and Congressmen want that to continue.

My amendment will just give the Air Force the flexibility to retire aircraft that needs to be retired. Most Americans would think that is just basic common sense, and I hope we can agree on that in the Senate.

I hope we can get back to the debate on this Defense authorization bill. I am very sorry that the majority will not let us move to the cloture vote on the Levin amendment, which is pending. But if we need to talk through the night, we will continue to talk through the night.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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