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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009--Continued

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


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

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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.

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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. DeMINT. I will not be here tomorrow. Since we had understood that Monday was a no-vote day, I made other plans. But I can assure my colleague I can deputize my staff to work out any agreement that would be workable for the chairman and Senator Warner. It is not our intent to hold up this bill. There is a managers' package that we will not agree to until we have a commitment for this one vote. I want to expedite this, as Senator Warner does, and the chairman. But if the Senator would like to work with us, I am sure we can work this out tomorrow or Monday without my being present.

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.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, let me just quickly say again, if the Senator from Virginia is also willing, could we let the Senator from Vermont proceed? We could come back. I am happy to debate this amendment tonight, if is the only time we can debate it. It has ramifications way beyond what the Senator from South Carolina says. We made a commitment to the Senator from Vermont that he would be recognized next to speak. I was waiting for Senator Warner to come over. The Senator from Vermont was generous enough to hold off. I thought this would only be a few minutes laying out the path ahead. It is much more than that. I could come back and will be here tonight, if the Senator from South Carolina will stay here. I would be happy to give the position which is so terrifically different, very different.

Mr. DeMINT. I thank the chairman. We will not abuse the time. I have the floor, and I would like to yield for one question to Mr. Coburn. Then I will yield the floor.


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