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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, rarely do I come to the floor of this body to discuss particular individuals. But I understand how painful and injurious it is when a person's character, reputation, and patriotism are attacked without concern for fact or fairness. It is for that reason that I come to the floor today to speak regarding the attacks recently on a fine and decent American, Huma Abedin.
Over the past decade, I have had the pleasure of knowing her during her long and dedicated service to Hillary Rodham Clinton, both in the Senate and now in the Department of State. I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working, and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless days of her life to advancing the ideals of the Nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests. That she has done so well maintaining her characteristic decency, warmth, and good humor is a testament to her ability to bear even the most arduous duties with poise and confidence.
Put simply, Huma Abedin represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals she embodies. I am proud to know her, and I am proud--even maybe with some presumption--to call her my friend.
Recently, it has been alleged that Huma Abedin, a Muslim American, is part of a nefarious conspiracy to harm the United States by unduly influencing U.S. foreign policy at the Department of State in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist causes. On June 13, five Members of Congress wrote to the Deputy Inspector General of the Department of State demanding that he begin an investigation into the possibility that Huma Abedin, and other American officials, are using their influence to promote the cause of Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. government. The information offered to support these serious allegations is based on a report, ``The Muslim Brotherhood in America,'' which is produced by the Center for Security Policy. I wish to point out, I have worked with the Center for Security Policy. The head of it is a longtime friend of mine. Still, this report is scurrilous.
To say that the accusations made in both documents are not substantiated by the evidence they offer is to be overly polite and diplomatic about it. It is far better and more accurate to talk straight. These allegations about Huma Abedin and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.
The letter alleges that three members of Huma's family are ``connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.'' Never mind that one of these individuals--Huma's father--passed away two decades ago. The letter and the report offer not one instance of an action, a decision, or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department or as a member of then-Senator Clinton's staff that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government. Nor does either document offer any evidence of a direct impact that Huma may have had on one of the U.S. policies with which the authors of the letter and the producers of the report find fault. These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma's family--none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks have no logic, no basis, and no merit, and they need to stop. They need to stop now.
Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a Nation and who we aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens, not by blood or class, not by sector or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring universal and equal rights that are the foundations of our Constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone--not least a Member of Congress--launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our Nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.
Our reputations and our character are the only things we leave behind when we depart this Earth, and unjust acts that malign the good name of a decent and honorable person are not only wrong, they are contrary to everything we hold dear as Americans.
Some years ago, I had the pleasure, along with my friend, the Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, of traveling overseas with our colleague then-Senator Hillary Clinton. By her side, as always, was Huma, and I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand her hard work and dedicated service on behalf of the former Senator from New York, a service that continues to this day at the Department of State and bears with it a significant personal sacrifice for Huma.
I have every confidence in her loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well. All Americans owe her a debt of gratitude for her many years of superior public service. I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can immediately be brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, may I say to my colleague that I thank him for his important words, and I thank the Republican leader for his commitment. I also point out that the Senator from Alabama, the ranking member on the Budget Committee, has some very interesting statistics that I hope in the course of our colloquy he will talk about--how America's spending on defense has decreased over the years and how Draconian the effects on national defense will be in the case of the implementation of the sequester on our defense spending and the security of our Nation.
We need to discuss this issue in the context of what the Secretary of Defense said. He said that if this sequestration is implemented, it will place our national security in jeopardy. It will be, in his words, devastating. So I believe it is important for the American people and our colleagues to understand that the Secretary of Defense--not John McCain, Senator Sessions, or any of my Republican colleagues, but the Secretary of Defense--said it will be devastating.
We live in a dangerous world--a very dangerous world. If we cut defense the way this sequestration is headed, then there is no doubt we will have the smallest Navy and Air Force in history, with fewer ships than we have had since before World War II, and it will be a hollow force.
I would like to make one other comment as my friends join me. What is our country's greatest obligation? What is our No. 1 obligation, both the administration and Congress? It is to ensure the security of our Nation. That takes priority over every other item on our agenda. So when we start talking about sequestration, that is important in its effect, but I also think it is entirely proper--in fact, it should be our priority to talk about sequestration's effect on our defense.
I will point out that all of my colleagues here know we are facing reductions in defense. We already had $87 billion implemented by Secretary Gates, and another $400 billion has already been implemented. If we implement this sequestration, it will be over $1 trillion in a very short period of time.
We need to sit down and work together, Republicans, Democrats, and the President--who so far has been completely MIA--and work this out so that we can avoid what can be Draconian cuts and jeopardize our national defense, not to mention, as I am sure my colleague from Alabama will point out, the effect on our economy--the effect on our economy of over 1 million jobs lost and a reduction in our GDP.
So this is an important discussion. This is a very important debate. And if someone disagrees with our assessment and that of the Secretary of Defense, then I will be glad to listen to their arguments. But until then, I will take the word of the Secretary of Defense that this implementation of Defense sequestration will put our Nation in jeopardy.
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Mr. McCAIN. I would respond to my friend, through the Chair, that I don't think in the dangerous world in which we live that we can afford to have the smallest Air Force in history, the smallest Navy since before World War II, and the smallest Army since before World War II. Most importantly, we have to continue to modernize and we have to continue to invest, as my friend from Alabama knows.
The fact is we have a crisis with Iran, we have a rising challenge with increasing activities of China, we have an unsettled North Africa, we have an Arab spring going on all over the Middle East, and all of these present a compelling argument for us to be prepared to meet contingencies.
If we were having this debate a year and a half ago, Ben Ali is in power in Tunisia, Qadhafi is in power in Libya, Mubarak is in power in Egypt, and there would not be a bloody civil war taking place in Syria. So where will we be, I ask my friend from Alabama, a year and a half from now? I don't know. But it seems to me we cannot afford to be cutting defense in this fashion.
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