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Unanimous Consent Request - S. 3454

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, it is obvious we are not going to be able to get to the Defense authorization bill this week. However, it is important we get to it as soon as possible after we return. In order to facilitate that, I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the majority leader, following consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 414, S. 3454, national defense authorization.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. McCAIN. Reserving the right to object, and I do so with some reluctance, I remind my colleagues that last year we took up the consideration of the Defense authorization bill without warning. The distinguished chairman of the committee introduced a hate crimes bill which had no business on the Defense authorization bill, filled up the tree, and then, of course, we spent a great amount of time on hate crimes.

I have only been a member of this committee since 1987. I have never seen what the chairman of the committee did last year by bringing forth a totally irrelevant and very controversial issue and putting it on the Defense authorization bill. We spent weeks on that when we should have been spending time on defending this Nation. It was a betrayal of the men and women who are serving this country.

I am not going to allow us to move forward, and I will be discussing with my leaders and the 41 Members of this side of the aisle as to whether we are going to move forward with a bill that contains the don't ask, don't tell policy repeal before--before--a meaningful survey of the impact on battle effectiveness and morale of the men and women who are serving this Nation in uniform.

It is, again, the chairman of the committee and the majority leader and the other side moving forward with a social agenda on legislation that was intended to ensure this Nation's security.

Along with it, abortion now is going to be performed in military hospitals for the first time in a long time. There is going to be a transparency. The distinguished chairman and his staff, without informing me or anybody else, put in $1 billion worth of porkbarrel projects instead of the $1 billion the administration asked for us to aid Iraq as we are finally leaving.

It is a terrible piece of legislation, ramrodded through. My greatest concern, of course, is about repeal of don't ask, don't tell without any survey being done to find out the battle effectiveness and morale, which we were assured would take place before the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. It is purely a political promise on the part of the President of the United States and the Members on the other side of the aisle, and it is disgraceful to have it on this legislation without a survey being done about our battle effectiveness and the morale of the men and women in the military from whom I am hearing all the time.

Therefore, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

The Senator from Michigan.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, each of the items which the Senator from Arizona mentioned were voted on in committee. These are decisions that were made by the committee, and if we can get this bill to the floor, the decision will not be left up to the Armed Services Committee; it will be left up to the Senate. If anyone wishes to strike a provision that is in this bill--and the provisions which the Senator from Arizona talked about are all relevant provisions. It was a Senate Armed Services Committee bill which put into place don't ask, don't tell. The provision we have in there now which changes that policy makes it conditional upon that survey being completed and a certification from the military leaders that there is no negative impact on morale. So we have taken into consideration that survey.

The main point is that the place to debate these policies is on the floor of the Senate. The Senate will determine, if we can get this bill to the floor, whether we make that conditional change in the don't ask, don't tell policy or whether we do a number of other things, some of which I objected to in committee.

Some of the amendments of the Senator from Arizona that were adopted in committee I objected to and voted against. I am not going to deny the Senate the opportunity to take up a bill which is essential for the men and women in the military because I disagree with some provisions in that bill. I will then move to strike those provisions if I disagree that much, if we can get the bill to the floor. That is what the Senate debate is supposed to be about.

I am sorry there is an objection to this bill coming up. Obviously, we are going to try to get this bill up in September so we can debate the issues which the Senator from Arizona points to. They are legitimate issues for debate. We should debate them, but the only way we can debate them is if we get the bill to the floor.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I will respond again. Last year, the Senator from Michigan did not allow exactly what he is espousing now. He brought up hate crimes and filled the tree so that even if the Senator from Arizona wanted to have an amendment on it, I could not do it. The hate crimes bill had nothing to do with national defense. It had everything to do with the social agenda of the chairman of the committee.

What we have done is, we have eroded the confidence of Members on this side of the aisle as to what the agenda is going to be.

Perhaps the Senator from Michigan can tell me what hate crimes had to do with the defense of this Nation. It had everything to do with his social agenda. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I will be happy to tell the Senator from Arizona what hate crimes has to do with the defense of this country. Men and women who defend this country defend this country for a lot of reasons. One of them is we try to act against hate in this country. That is one of the values we stand for; that we try to defeat hate. That was debated last year. It was voted on last year. The vote maybe did not come out the way the Senator from Arizona wanted.

If we want to debate last year, that is OK. Let's bring the bill to the floor so we can debate it. But the objection now makes it much more difficult to bring a bill to the floor so we can debate the very issues the Senator from Arizona wants to debate.

We should debate the don't ask, don't tell decision we made in the committee. It was debated there; it should be debated on the Senate floor. By the way, it is a conditional change in the don't ask, don't tell policy. The policy was put in place by the Pentagon and by the Armed Services Committee and by the Senate. It is perfectly appropriate that it be considered as part of this bill because it was our committee which put that policy in effect to begin with.

The debate is appropriate. But how do we have that debate unless we can get it to the floor of the Senate? How can we debate the amendments of the Senator from Arizona? There were two or three that he offered in committee that I objected to. How do we get to those debates unless we can get the bill to the floor?

I cannot get a guarantee from everybody that I will prevail in my effort to strike the amendments of the Senator from Arizona. I cannot get that guarantee in advance, nor should the Senator from Arizona seek a guarantee in advance as to what will be in the final bill or will not be in the final bill.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I can guarantee that we would not fill up the tree the way the Senator from Michigan did last year and would probably do again this year in violation of what I believe is what the Senate should be all about--amending on different legislative proposals that are before the Senate instead of filling up the tree and not allowing amending of the bill, despite what the chairman says had something to do with national defense.

Hate crimes? Really? Then that means that everything in the social agenda of the Senator from Michigan has to do with the men and women who are serving in the military. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, it was the Senate which made a decision last year on hate crimes. It was not the Senator from Michigan, although I very much favored what the Senate of the United States did.

But it was the Senate of the United States which acted in a way which the Senator from Arizona does not agree to--I don't know how many amendments we adopted last year, but it was a large number of amendments which were adopted. A large number of amendments were defeated. I don't know if that tree was filled up, as the Senator puts it, last year or not, or when it was filled up. But we had a huge number of amendments that were considered on this bill.

It is the intention, I hope and believe, of the leader, and it is surely my intention this year, that we have an amendment process which is traditional for the Defense authorization bill; that it be a very open process for amendments on this bill. That is my intention. It is the intention of the majority leader as well. I want to assure my friend from Arizona that will be the case again this year.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Shaheen). The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I won't repeat myself over and over. The fact is, last year, the Senator from Michigan brought up hate crimes, filled up the tree, and we spent almost all of the first 2 weeks debating hate crimes, which had nothing to do with the purpose and mission of the Senate Armed Services Committee. It is the first time I have ever seen such a thing happen. I am not going to let it happen again if I have anything to say about it.

As I have said to the Senator from Michigan, I will talk to our leadership and our caucus and all the Members over on this side of the aisle, and when we get back a decision will be made as to whether we will object to the motion to proceed. In the meantime, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

Mr. LEVIN. Is the Senator from Arizona suggesting we did not have a vote on hate crimes last year?

Mr. McCAIN. The Senator from Arizona is saying that the Senator from Michigan filled up the tree; did he not? Was the tree filled up? You are the chairman of the committee.

Mr. LEVIN. It is not my recollection, but that is not my question. My question is whether we had a vote on hate crimes.

Mr. McCAIN. My response is did you prevent the tree from being filled?

Mr. LEVIN. We did not prevent a vote on hate crimes last year. That is my answer.


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