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McConnell: ‘Let's Have a Fair and Open Debate'

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Location: Washington, DC

Closing the farm bill to an open amendment process ‘is another unfortunate example of mismanagement by the Democrat Congress'

Washington, D.C. - Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks [as prepared] on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the Majority's decision to block an open amendment process for the Farm Bill:

"I am disappointed with the Majority's decision today to fill the amendment tree and not allow an open amendments process to help perfect the pending farm bill.

"My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have had all year to complete a farm bill prior to the September 30th expiration date, yet we've waited until now, two months after the law's expiration, to bring it to the floor. Now, we are told by the Majority that there is just too much to do in this final two weeks for us to have an open and fair debate on the farm bill. It is another unfortunate example of mismanagement by the Democrat Congress.

"Furthermore, Mr. President, filling the tree and shutting out amendments is not consistent with previous statements by the Majority. For example, just yesterday, Chairman Harkin reported the farm bill debate would be ‘wide open, as is usual in the Senate' and the Majority Leader's spokesman expected an open debate when he said, ‘The farm bill is the last truly amendable vehicle moving through the Senate this calendar year.' But, today's words and actions seem to be exactly contradictory to this promised ‘wide open' process.

"Mr. President, unfortunately, we've been down this road before. Almost at the inception of the last farm bill debate, then-Majority Leader Daschle filed cloture in an attempt to similarly limit amendments. After only two days of debate and only six amendments, a cloture vote occurred on December 13, 2001; not surprisingly the cloture motion failed 53-45.

"Like a bird continuing to slam into a pane glass window, we had a second cloture vote on December 18, 2001 with a similar 54-43 vote, and again another on December 19, 2001. Not surprisingly, this contentious debate took up most of December.

"However, after the Majority finally agreed to an open amendments process, the farm bill returned to the floor on February 6, 2002, no further cloture votes were necessary, and final passage occurred fairly quickly, about a week later.

"Let's not beat our head against a wall again this time. Our nation's farmers are too important to wait until February.

"Finally, Mr. President, look at the farm bill sitting on the desk in front of me. Reported by the Committee less than two weeks ago, it totals almost 1,600 pages. Is the other side of the aisle suggesting that this behemoth of a bill could not be improved by an open amendments process? I am surprised and disappointed by the assertion. The United States Senate does not work this way; legislation is not just rubber-stamped by fiat.

"So, I am dismayed by the attempt by the Majority to ramrod this bill through. Especially since the ink on the 1,600 pages is barely dry and the Administration claims it contains $37 billion of budget gimmicks and new taxes. Let's have an open, fair debate that will yield an effective farm bill for our nation; our farmers and rural communities deserve no less."


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