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Ms. AYOTTE. It is an honor certainly to speak after the Senator from Alabama, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He knows better than anyone else here, as my colleague from South Dakota said, had we done a budget for our country, we wouldn't find ourselves in a situation such as this, where we are going to put our national security at risk. It has been over 3 years since this body has done a budget. I think it is outrageous. Having been elected in 2010, I am so angry about that, I have signed up to support the bill that says we shouldn't get paid until we have a budget because where we end up is with this sequestration deal.
This is a lesson we should learn when we have an absence of leadership, when we have a majority leader who thinks it is foolish to have a budget, when we have absence of leadership from our Commander in Chief, who doesn't think this is a priority to resolve. The President should be calling all of us to the table to resolve this because of national security. Without resolving it, we end up putting our country at risk. The foremost responsibility we have in representing the American people under our Constitution is to keep them safe. If we don't do that, we have nothing else.
We have seen the events over the last few days, as Senator McCain has described them. He is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and certainly someone known as being more knowledgeable about national security than anyone else in this body. I believe he is right. It is a dangerous time in the world right now. We are faced with Iran trying to acquire nuclear capability, we have the Middle East unraveling right now, and there is an absence of American leadership, unfortunately.
If we take, in addition to the $487 billion in reductions we are already planning for the Department of Defense, another $500 billion off that, with what we see happening around the world and the risks to our country--terrorists who still want to kill us for who we are and what we believe in--then as our own Secretary of Defense has said, this sequestration will be catastrophic, leading to a hollow force, shooting ourselves in the head. That is what our Secretary of Defense has said. Irresponsible.
Mr. McCAIN. May I ask the Senator from New Hampshire, is it not true we went to her State and met with a major defense industry in the State of New Hampshire that employs thousands of people?
Ms. AYOTTE. Yes, we did. In fact, I was at the same major defense employer in my State on Monday the same employer we went to--BAE.
Mr. McCAIN. What do they say?
Ms. AYOTTE. They say they are worried about sequestration because there are thousands of jobs at stake in New Hampshire. But more important, there is the capacity to make sure our troops have the very best equipment, the very best technology, and that we can prevent attacks on our country. When we send our troops into harm's way, we need to know they are protected. We have a responsibility to them.
There are jobs at stake and there is safety to our troops. When we talk about hollowing out our force, we mean putting our troops at risk and, finally, not only that, but we think about our safety. So there are real jobs at stake. As the Senator from Arizona has said, my State estimates 3,600 jobs on the defense end and over 1 million jobs in this country.
Let's face it, I saw the workers, I have talked to them, and they are very worried we are not going to take up our responsibility; that there is an absence of leadership. Where is the Commander in Chief on this? Of all the things the President has responsibility for, this cannot be punted until after an election. This should not be used as a bargaining chip for other goals he wants to accomplish--increasing taxes in this country. He should be at the table right now. We are all willing to sit down and listen to ideas and to compromise with the other side, but we need the leadership of our President to do that.
I understand the President may be too busy campaigning to do that, but this is too important to leave until after an election.
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Ms. AYOTTE. If the Senator from Arizona will yield, I too would call that hypocrisy. I mean, when there is no plan in the Senate for the fiscal state of the country, when the other side seems unwilling to actually do the work of the Budget Committee, when the majority leader calls it foolish--and by the way, when the President's own budget gets zero votes--
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Ms. AYOTTE. It has. We have to do a budget, I would say to the Senators from Alabama and South Dakota, for our country. And we need to make sure that we protect our national security. That is why this problem has to be solved now. We need leadership from the President as Commander in Chief.
I would point out, in response to the comments of the Senator from South Dakota, not only has the Department of Defense ignored this law of producing a plan as to how they are going to implement sequestration; the administration went so far as to have the Department of Labor issue an order saying: Employers, don't comply with the law of the Warren Act to tell employees that your job may be at risk and issue a layoff notice.
That is how far the administration is going in not wanting to take this issue head on. But it is too important to the American people. We have got to resolve it. We are willing to try to resolve it. I am the cosponsor of another bill that would come up with alternative spending reductions to resolve it. We have got to do it now. We owe this to the American people. We owe this to our men and women in uniform.
Again, if we do a budget and we do what is right for our country, we would never find ourselves in this situation.
I see the Republican leader here. We certainly wish to hear from the Republican leader and would end this colloquy and yield back our time to the leader.
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Ms. AYOTTE. Mr. President, I want to follow up on the comments of the distinguished ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee who, of course, through his own service and sacrifice for our country knows too well how important it is for us to stand with our men and women in uniform. I wanted to follow up on what he said.
This body is about to go out and adjourn next week without passing a Defense authorization bill. It would be the first time in over 50 years in the history of our country. There is no plan that we have heard from the majority leader as to when we will take up this incredibly important legislation for our country.
What Senator McCain has already outlined addresses issues such as pay for our soldiers and the equipment they need and benefits they deserve and they have earned, and all of the important issues that impact the protection of our country, and making sure we stand in faith with our men and women in uniform.
But I have to say that, unfortunately, this is part of a pattern of where we are right now in the Senate. It is very disappointing. I got elected in 2010. I know the Presiding Officer did as well. I came here because I saw that our country was in trouble. At the time I ran, we were $13 trillion in debt. Now we are $16 trillion in debt.
I have the privilege of serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee. It really is a privilege. I am the wife of an Iraq war veteran, very proud of our men and women in uniform. I take that responsibility very seriously. But here we stand, about to adjourn without taking up Defense authorization, so important to our men and women in uniform. Here we stand about to adjourn with our military facing what is called sequestration, which is an across-the-board cut which our own military leaders have said will hollow out our force, will undermine our military security for generations. These are the words of our own Secretary of Defense, will break faith with our men and women in uniform. If we do not take action before January 1, this happens to our military, on top of the fact that we have not taken up Defense authorization.
But not only that, it has been 3 years since the Senate has taken up a budget for our country, which is one of the reasons we find ourselves in the situation with the hatchet coming to our military in January.
On top of that, the majority leader has not brought forward one appropriations bill that would go with, if done in the right way, the appropriate budgeting and responsible budgeting process for this Nation. Let's identify some of the appropriations bills. None of them has come to the floor. But there are two important ones I can think of for our men and women in uniform, the Defense appropriations and also the appropriations for our veterans. Yet none of that has come to the floor, and here we are about to adjourn next week, not doing the people's business, the reason why people sent us here. If we cannot have a budget and we cannot take care of the foremost responsibilities of the American people, which is to keep them safe through preventing Draconian defense cuts that are going to undermine and break faith with our military, and, by the way also will cost us a million jobs coming in January, along with I did not even mention our tax rates are expiring, yet we are all leaving town, I think it is irresponsible.
I would call on the majority leader to bring up the Defense authorization bill now. Why can't we do a budget for this country? Without a budget, how are we ever going to address the fiscal issues that are burning and have led us to be $16 trillion in debt?
I stand here today to talk about why we should bring the Defense authorization to the floor. I certainly do not want to be part of a Senate that for the first time in 50 years has not passed that Defense authorization bill for our men and women in uniform.
Here is what is important as well. In the Senate Armed Services Committee we passed Defense authorization out of committee unanimously. At a time when I understand the American people are looking at us saying, there is too much partisanship, we see you fighting too much, this is a bill that passed with unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats from that committee. So in terms of a bill we can bring to the floor that is incredibly important to our country, incredibly important to our men and women in uniform, and a bipartisan bill, I cannot think of a better thing to do for our men and women in uniform, rather than continuing to have what we have seen from the majority leader, which is sort of political show votes rather than doing the real work the American people have sent us here to do.
Defense authorization should be on the top of our list, preventing our military from these receiving these devastating cuts that are going to diminish our national security at a very troubling time in the world, and also averting this fiscal crisis that is coming in January. I think we should stay to do that. I think the American people would expect nothing loss of us.
I thank the Presiding Officer. I know the Senator ran in 2010. I am sure you heard this when you ran for office. We need to do better by the American people. I know this. We owe it to our brave men and women in uniform to pass Defense authorization--bring it to the floor, debate it robustly, and then make sure it goes forward.
The House passed their Defense authorization on May 18. We should do our job here as well and take it up right away. I hope the majority leader will do that.
I yield the floor.
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