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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 -- (Senate - September 27, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, before my colleague from Oregon leaves, I don't think there is anybody in this body who is more respected than Senator Gordon Smith. He is a very sincere, thoughtful guy who tries to personalize issues that affect people throughout this country. I know he is motivated by all the right reasons, but somebody needs to talk about the politics.

This legislation has been placed on the Defense authorization bill in the past. It never made it out of conference because we knew, with the makeup of the conference, the amendment would fall. Given the makeup of this conference, the amendment will be part of the bill and it is going to be vetoed. That is the politics. Whether one agrees with President Bush, he said he is going to veto this bill, and if I were him, I would as Commander in Chief. I would not buy into this way of legislating.

Another reason for this amendment, if you think there is a gap in military law that without this kind of amendment the military is not going to prosecute people who act on their prejudices, you are wrong. If someone in uniform commits a crime against a civilian or another person in uniform, I don't care why they did it; if they beat somebody up, hurt somebody, they are going to get prosecuted. That is the way the military law works.

We are not doing the military a favor by passing this legislation because there is no problem in the military in terms of how justice is administered. Whatever motivates you to hurt someone or to take the law in your own hands or act on your prejudices, you are going to be dealt with because we cannot have good order and discipline in the military when people can hurt someone based on their individual prejudice because the whole unit falls apart. This is nothing the military needs. They are going to take care of violence in the ranks based on the law they already have.

I can assure my colleagues that no one in the military gets a pass because of the status of their victim. If you engage in violent conduct, inappropriate behavior, illegal behavior, the law is going to come down on your head because we need good order and discipline.

The politics of this amendment is that this bill will get vetoed. The President is not going to agree to this social legislation on the Defense authorization bill, and we have to take responsibility for that action. Whether one agrees with him or not, we are going to put in jeopardy items the military does need. They don't need a hate crimes bill to make it an effective fighting force. We already have disciplinary tools to discipline people. They need pay raises and MRAP protection, and this bill provides those items.

Members of this body have different views about hate crimes legislation. We can argue those differences any time, anywhere, on any other piece of legislation. It can be brought up as a freestanding bill. But to put it on this bill is going to put in jeopardy items our men and women who are in combat and being shot at need. When I go to Iraq, I don't have a lot of people coming up to me saying we need to pass a hate crimes bill. They do need better body armor. They do need pay raises. They do need better MRAPs.

I think this is a very poor use of the legislative process knowing the end game. The end game is, we are going to hijack the Defense authorization bill by legislation not needed in the military, that is contentious, and that has an opportunity to be debated somewhere else. I hope reason prevails eventually.

I yield the floor.

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