Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: Aug. 2, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I would like to start this morning with a word about cyber security. No one doubts the need to strengthen our Nation's cyber security defenses. Open source reporting clearly shows that our defense industrial base, financial sector, and government networks are all under attack by nation states as well as independent hackers. The U.S. Cyber Command, the NSA, and the FBI are working hard to counter these threats. So we all recognize the problem. That is really not the issue. The issue is the manner in which the Democratic leadership has tried to steamroll a bill that would address it.

Members on both sides of the aisle have recommendations for improving our cyber defenses, and some of them thought this bill would provide an opportunity to propose those ideas through amendments, especially since Democrats did not allow for an opportunity to do so in committee. Yet, despite preventing Members from amending the bill in committee, the anticipated open amendment process, once this new bill got to the Senate floor, never happened. It just never happened. Despite being on the bill now for the third day, no Senator from either party has been allowed to vote on any amendment.

Look, this is a big, complicated, far-reaching bill that involves several committees of jurisdiction. Democratic leaders have not allowed any of those committees to improve the bill or even vote on it. Frankly, I was a little surprised the majority leader decided to file cloture and end debate before it even started. An issue of this

importance deserves serious consideration and open debate. Instead, the majority leader waited until the last week before August to even take it up. Rather than give this issue the time and attention it deserves, Democratic leaders brought it up with only 3 days left before recess and then tried to jam something through without any chance for amendment.

The few days the bill was on the floor, the majority limited its consideration to debate only and then filled the tree and filed cloture. But, of course, that is kind of par for the course around here. This is the 65th time the majority leader has filled the amendment tree and filed cloture--the 65th time. Just to give a point of comparison, the last 6 party leaders did it 40 times combined. The last 6 party leaders did it 40 times combined. So the majority leader has set a historic pace for blocking amendments. No amendments in committee, no amendments on the floor--take it or leave it. That is the story of the Senate under the current leadership.

The notion that we should just roll over and wave through these bills without having a chance to improve them and that Democratic Senators would be willing to be rolled in such a way is ridiculous, especially on a bill of this significance. I remind my Democratic friends, none of you were able to offer or have a vote on your amendments. By filing cloture and filling the tree, your amendments were blocked as well. The senior Senator from Missouri authored three amendments and cosponsored three others. None of those will get votes if cloture is invoked. The senior Senator from Arkansas has two amendments and cosponsored another. None of those will get votes if cloture is invoked. The senior Senator from Louisiana has authored two amendments and cosponsored one more. None of those will get votes if cloture is invoked. As of this morning, 29 Democratic Senators have filed 74 amendments, not counting the ones used to fill the tree. That is a lot of amendments. They will not get any votes. I may not support all of these amendments. In fact, I am sure there are many I will probably oppose. But that doesn't mean the Senators who proposed them should not be entitled to have a chance to make their case.

Instead of just being rubberstamps for the majority leader, I encourage these Senators to stand up for themselves and their constituents and demand to be heard. After all, the majority leader himself said earlier this year that given the complex nature of this subject, it was essential to have a thorough and open amendment process and even committed to ensuring it.

Let me read what the majority leader committed to on this bill in February of this year. The majority leader said:

Given the complexity and significance of the legislation, it is essential that we have a thorough and open debate on the Senate floor, including consideration of amendments to perfect the legislation, insert additional provisions where the majority of the Senate supports them, and remove provisions if such support does not exist. For that reason, I have committed to my colleagues that we will have an amendment process that will be fair and reasonable ..... this legislation will have been subject to as fair, thorough, and open a process as is conceivable.

That was the majority leader in February of this year.

There is widespread agreement that a cyber security bill should eventually pass. We need to improve information sharing between the private and public sectors. And there is a clear indication that we will need to responsibly debate this matter in the very near future. If cloture is not invoked today, I suggest we work in a bipartisan fashion to complete the bill, and I suggest that the next time we take it up, we allow the Senate to be the Senate. Let Senators have their proposals considered on the floor, especially if the Democratic leadership is not going to allow them to be considered in committee.

Mr. President, on another matter----

Mr. McCAIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. McCONNELL. I yield to the Senator from Arizona for a question.

Mr. McCAIN. I see the majority leader wants to speak, but my question is, isn't it true that there has been a series of meetings including the sponsors of the bill, those of us who believed significant modifications needed to be made, and large numbers of Senators have at least tentatively come to some agreement that we think could move this legislation forward in a fashion that recognizes the importance of the issue and yet dramatically, in our view, improves the legislation? I hope the Republican leader and majority leader would not interpret this vote--which clearly cloture will not be invoked--as an impediment to the process that I think was moving on a path where we could have reached some agreement and addressed this issue and this legislation conclusively.

Mr. McCONNELL. Yes, I say to my friend from Arizona, he is entirely correct. A vote not to finish the bill today is a vote to actually have amendments and an opportunity to modify the bill, as we all know is necessary, including my friend the majority leader, who indicated as much back in February.

I know the majority leader is on his feet and wants to discuss the matter further. I know he may have time commitments, but I do as well. I have two other issues I wish to address, and then I will be happy to yield the floor.

THE ECONOMY

Two years ago tomorrow, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner declared in a now-infamous New York Times op-ed entitled ``Welcome to the Recovery'' that because of the actions taken by the Obama administration during its first 1 1/2 years, the U.S. economy was, as he put it, ``on the road to recovery.'' I think it is pretty obvious that the Treasury Secretary jumped the gun on that one. Far from putting us on a path to recovery, it is now obvious that President Obama's policies have made a bad situation worse.

Secretary Geithner was right to say that the President's policies were having an effect on the economy. He was clearly wrong to conclude that they were anything approaching a lasting, positive effect on the economy. On the contrary, we can see that the policies of the President's first 2 years in office put us decidedly on the wrong path.

Two years after Secretary Geithner's op-ed, 23 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, or have given up looking for work altogether. Half of the college graduates cannot find a decent job, and with little or no income, many have decided to move back home with mom and dad. Two years after Secretary Geithner all but declared victory, GDP growth is still at an anemic 1.5 percent. Foreclosures are still quite common. More Americans than ever are on food stamps. Two years after Secretary Geithner welcomed Americans to the recovery, more Americans are signing up for disability than are finding jobs. More Americans are signing up for disability than are finding jobs. All of this after the President and a Democrat-led Congress passed his major policy initiatives.

In the face of all these things, you would think the administration would change course, go in a different direction. After all, if it claimed credit then for what it thought was a recovery, it would have to claim credit for what we actually see, now--not exactly apparent.

As it turns out, the administration is happy to claim credit when it thinks things are going well but even happier to cast blame when it thinks things are not going well. So 2 years after touting the impact the President's policies were having on our economy, the administration now acts as though they have been irrelevant. They act as though an additional $5 trillion in debt isn't affecting people's anxiety about the Nation's future. They act as though a $1 trillion health care bill that hammers the private sector isn't affecting business activity.

They act as though the President's perpetual threats to raise taxes aren't impacting investment. They act as though somehow the President's attacks on free enterprise aren't putting a chill on risk-taking. They act as though a barrage of new regulations isn't keeping businesses from hiring and expanding. They say it is Bush's fault, it is headwinds from Europe, it is the Tsunami, and it is the Republicans.

The President can't have it both ways. He can't be responsible for the economy when he thinks it is going well and disavow responsibility when it clearly isn't. He is either responsible for it or he isn't.

The Treasury Secretary had it right 2 years ago when he said: The President's policies have had a big impact on the economy. What he got wrong was the fact that the impact was actually negative. If we were to ask ourselves whether Americans are better off now than they were 2 years ago, the answer would be obvious. The President's policies have clearly made it harder for Americans to find jobs and to keep those jobs.

If the President wants to cast blame for the economic mess we are in, he should look no further than his own policies. If he is more concerned about the future of the country than his own reelection, he would work with us to go in a different direction. For 3 1/2 years, Republicans stood ready to work with him on the kind of policies that would empower the private sector to lift us out of this recovery once and for all. Comprehensive tax reform, an all-of-the-above energy policy, eliminating burdensome regulations, these are the kinds of things we can do together. We are ready whenever he is.

Finally, on one other subject, and I apologize to my friend the majority leader for delaying him further.

TRIBUTE TO CARL KAELIN

Mr. President, I wish to congratulate my old friend Carl Kaelin of Leitchfield, KY. Carl was recently appointed national inspector general of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States at the national convention in Nevada. Carl is the first Kentuckian to become VFW's national inspector general, one of the highest positions in that organization.

Carl has a long history of serving his country, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, his community and veterans across the State and, indeed, the Nation. He served in the U.S. Army as a crew chief of an OV-1 Mowhawk aircraft in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Upon his return in 1969, he joined VFW Post 1170 in Middletown, KY, becoming a VFW life member.

Carl has served the VFW in a number of positions over the years, including as post and district commander and, at the age of 33, as Kentucky's youngest State commander.

In these capacities and on the VFW National Council of Administration, Carl worked tirelessly on behalf of America's heroes, our Nation's veterans. In addition to his selfless work with the VFW, Carl has also been active with Kentucky's Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations and served as mayor and city councilman of the city of Lynnview, KY.

Over the years, I have had the great fortune of working with Carl on a number of issues to ensure our Nation's veterans receive the care and the benefits they deserve.

I congratulate Carl Kaelin and his wife Linda on his new position and thank him for his military service and tireless dedication to our Nation's veterans. I also thank him for his friendship over the years.

I yield the floor.

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