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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009--Continued -- (Senate - September 11, 2008)

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Mr. WARNER. I thank the Presiding Officer.

That presents clear evidence to colleagues of the magnitude of the task before us. I guess we have said this many times, but this would be the 43rd consecutive authorization bill for the men and women of the Armed Forces passed by the Senate. It is my hope that we can add No. 43.

I commend the chairman for his efforts. I have worked with him through this day. I believe we have had some helpful discussions with staff and colleagues on the means by which to make progress. We are here. It is imperative that this bill pass.

I remind colleagues of the military construction section of our bill which is so vital for the current and future needs of the U.S. military. This bill is the sole bill that can carry that important piece of annual legislation through and get it into a conference.

Mr. DeMINT. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. WARNER. Of course.

Mr. DeMINT. I appreciate having the opportunity to discuss our amendments. I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside and that I be permitted to call up amendment No. 5405.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I will object. We are more than willing to discuss this amendment tomorrow. We realize this is one of the amendments that will have to be addressed if we are going to get to this bill. So it is not as though we are expecting to complete action on this bill without addressing the amendment of the Senator. However, this is not something I can agree to at this time but would be happy to tomorrow or Monday.

Mr. WARNER. Will the chairman yield for a question?

Mr. LEVIN. I am happy to.

Mr. WARNER. Would it not be to the benefit of the two of us as managers, as we have had a great deal of discussion together today on it, to hear from our colleague so we have clearly in mind his goals?

Mr. LEVIN. The reason I am reluctant to agree to that is because the Senator from Vermont was dissuaded from addressing the Senate until we had a few minutes to talk about plans for the future. I held up the Senator from Vermont for, now, 10 minutes when he was here and had a right to debate.

Mr. WARNER. Is there any way we could accommodate both Senators?

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I don't think I am able to tonight. But for clarification, this amendment is two words and a number: Strike section 1002. I hope we haven't come to the point in the Senate when a Senator would not be allowed one amendment on such an important bill that is to strike a section. I can talk more about it later. I know we are being encouraged to bring up our amendments. This amendment has been filed for a few days. I think at least the staff is well aware of what it is. I will certainly not hold up the other Senator. I appreciate the chairman's commitment to giving me an opportunity for a vote on this amendment before it is all over.

I yield the floor and thank the ranking member.

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Mr. WARNER. The Senator has the floor, so if I could ask him to yield for a question?

Mr. DeMINT. Yes.

Mr. WARNER. This is of such vital importance to the bill. While it is just a few words, it does have very significant ramifications. It deals with the relationship of the legislative body; that is, the Congress, the executive branch, and the fulfillment of our constitutional responsibilities versus the ability of the executive branch to exercise certain powers.

In the Armed Services Committee, this matter was brought up. I put forward an amendment in committee not unlike what the Senator from South Carolina has pending before the Senate. It was not accepted. It was a 12-to-12 vote; therefore, a tie. It did not carry.

I understand the goals the Senator is seeking. But I point out, if we could have a few minutes so colleagues have some idea of the significance of this and they can reflect on it. If the Senator is not going to be here tomorrow--he has heavy commitments, as do others--nor Monday, it would be only Tuesday morning before we could really begin to get other Members of the Senate more fully acquainted with the complexity of this issue.

Mr. DeMINT. If I may offer one clarification, this is not the same amendment that was offered in committee.

Mr. WARNER. I understand that.

Mr. DeMINT. What my amendment does is restore basically the format of the Defense authorization bill to the same format it has always had. The way it is set up now, the language that references the report language and makes it, in effect, law is an unprecedented way to deal with report language. What we would do with this amendment is make it like every other Defense authorization bill that has ever been passed.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, that is correct. But in the intervening period, there has been the issue of Executive order. Therefore, we cannot, as a legislative body, be unmindful of what the executive branch has enunciated through Executive order. That Executive order will carry forward after this administration concludes and be a part of the next administration. That clearly states that the President is not going to observe the means by which the Congress, specifically the Armed Services Committee in the many years' pattern of doing much of its work, both in the report language as well as bill language.

Mr. DeMINT. If the intent is to get around the Executive order, then obviously that is a matter for debate. It also gets around the many statements made on this floor about the transparency of earmarks and to disclose what we are doing.

Again, this is a very simple amendment. All I am asking for is an up-or-down vote. I am not asking for passage.

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Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I will be happy to yield.

Mr. WARNER. Can the Senator visit with the two of us off the floor such that our colleague can proceed?

Mr. COBURN. Absolutely.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Presidential document to which I referred, dated February 1, 2008, be printed in the Record as a part of the colloquy.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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