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Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about a very important piece of legislation before this body, and that is, obviously, the Defense authorization bill--a bill that provides the tools and resources for our men and women serving in the military.
It has been my honor to serve on the Armed Services Committee with the chairman, who is sitting right here. Being the new person on the block, I have greatly enjoyed the back-and-forth of that committee process and the fair and free way we are able to debate amendments--some of which passed and some didn't. But always, at the end of the day, there was a handshake and a smile, and we would go on and do our business.
I remember a lot of us, especially the newer people, asking about our concerns, which haven't been addressed here, and I remember the chairman saying that we would be able to handle these things during the bill process when it came to the floor. That was the general consensus by Senator McCain and others--don't worry, we will handle a lot of these things on the floor. So I was actually looking forward to that fair and open process, similar to what we did during the financial reform bill.
Unfortunately, what has traditionally been a very open and bipartisan process has, in fact, evolved into a dynamic display of political grandÐstanding. My question is, What happened? I feel the majority party is using our men and women in uniform as a tactic to pass politically expedient legislation entirely unrelated to the Defense authorization bill, which, in my view, is not appropriate.
There has been much discussion by the leader about his plan to add the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense
bill. Let me be clear: I am willing to debate the merits of the DREAM Act, and even comprehensive immigration reform, but not in a manner that exploits our men and women who are serving in the military by using legislation that is supposed to be solely focused on supporting them, and additionally not allowing for that open amendment process that I thought was promised to us during the committee process and something I have understood as being part of the very important history of this body.
As my colleague from Arizona pointed out yesterday on the floor, the extraneous legislation the leader intends to attach to the Defense authorization bill would never, ever be referred to the Armed Services Committee if it was introduced independently. In the past, the authors of the Defense bill, led by Senator Levin and Senator McCain, have been allowed to come to the floor and debate the process and enact necessary pieces of legislation that keep our men and women in the armed services safe and keep the military going. It is a traditional custom that, by and large, has been shunned. It has been shunned for political gamesmanship and posturing in favor of advancing the defense authorization process.
Once again, Mr. President, as the new person here--well, I guess the second newest person here now--it is an incredible but not surprising turn of events that we have suddenly decided to refuse an open debate on the things we have been working on for some time--certainly since I have been here. An amendment process would allow for everyone's ideas to be considered, as we did during the financial reform and as we did during the actual committee process itself.
Not only have the authors of the bill been effectively shut out, but so has every other Senator. Are my needs and the concerns of Massachusetts not the same as the majority leader's needs or the President's needs? We have issues that affect Massachusetts, and all the other Senators have needs that affect their States that they feel can contribute to the men and women and the way they serve and are protected. When an issue as critical as our national defense comes to the Senate floor, we should absolutely allow for an open process. This is too important an issue to cut off debate and control the process. I know it is football season, but we should not use this as a political football. It is inappropriate.
On another issue of critical importance, as I said before, we spent 4 weeks on the financial reform legislation, and we had over 30 votes on that particular bill. When the process was over, everyone was able to offer any amendments they wanted. I am disappointed that we are not having that same opportunity here. We should absolutely go through that same process.
In closing, I am hopeful that in the days ahead we will turn our focus back to jobs and the economy, where we can start listening to the American people, who are demanding we focus on reducing our Nation's debt, our out-of-control spending, lowering taxes on individuals and families, and getting our economy moving again. I believe that is the biggest national security issue we have in front of us right now--making sure we have the economic engine to not only continue with our economic strength throughout this world but obviously providing the tools and resources for our men and women who are serving.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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