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Mr. COONS. Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to briefly contribute what I can to this debate.
One of the great honors, as the Presiding Officer knows, in being a freshman is the opportunity to preside. I had the opportunity to preside when the Republican leader came to the floor and spoke to Burma sanctions. So I just wanted to say to the Republican leader that because of that speech, I have familiarized myself with the issue of Burma sanctions that he spoke to earlier. I do think it is important that we move to it. I do think it is important to move forward on it.
But the Republican leader made the comment earlier that he doesn't much understand the other part of the bill, which is AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I choose to stand briefly to speak to that because I am the chair of the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Isakson and I joined with Congresswoman Bass and Congressman Smith in twice receiving dozens of Ambassadors from across the continent 3 months ago and 9 months ago as they expressed their grave concern about the thousands of mostly women all across the continent who are losing their jobs as we delay.
The AGOA reauthorization expires in September, and I am grateful for Chairman Baucus and for his vigorous pursuit of renewal in a timely fashion. AGOA needs to be renewed promptly, not in September. In part, I believe this is why the administration has insisted on holding together Burma sanctions and this AGOA reauthorization--it is because of the urgency of getting AGOA reauthorized.
It dates back to the Clinton administration. It was first signed into law a dozen years ago. I think it has real importance for our view in Africa, for how the United States is viewed in Africa, for our bilateral relations with more than a dozen countries. I would be happy to answer questions about it.
But we have three different issues here: the concerns the Senator from Oklahoma has raised about the pay-for, and I respect his concerns about budget and budgetary discipline and dealing with our deficit; the concerns the Republican leader has raised about Burma and about sanctions and about our ongoing role as a global leader in pressing for the liberation of people and process in Burma; and the concerns many other Senators and I have shared about timely reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Unfortunately, the three of them intersect in a way that today is preventing us from moving forward.
It is my hope that the Republican leader, the chairman of the Finance Committee, the Senator from Oklahoma, and I can sit down and craft some responsible compromise that allows this to move forward because, if my understanding is correct, it is the concerns of the Senator from Oklahoma that are preventing us from moving forward at this point, and it is the administration's concerns that are preventing breaking apart the Burma sanctions and AGOA sanctions. And there is a third provision relating to CAFTA, if I am not mistaken. So if we could work together in a way that finds a responsible path forward, it is still possible.
There is bipartisan support in the House for the passage of this package. In fact, I believe they were prepared to pass it by unanimous consent earlier this week and only hesitated to proceed because they heard there was a hold here in the Senate.
I would like to work together in a way that can demonstrate to the people of Burma, to the people of Africa, and to the people around the world that this greatest deliberative body on Earth can still work out issues of this scale in a timely fashion. So I offer my willingness to work together to find a path forward either tonight or in the week ahead.
I yield the floor.
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