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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, obviously we regret that we have not been able to reach an agreement. I am especially disappointed that we are unable to consider the Ayotte amendment, which is an alternative to the sequestration. A flexibility of sequestration would still sooner or later have the same Draconian effects on our national security.
I also would point out to my colleagues that what we are about to go through is in some respects a charade because we know the proposal on that side will not succeed with 60 votes, and the proposal on this side will not succeed with 60 votes. Meanwhile, the clock moves on until sometime tomorrow night.
Some of us warned for a long time about the effects of sequestration, and if we want to have a blame game, then I will take blame, everybody takes blame. But isn't it time that we prevented what our military leaders in uniform, who have made their careers and their lives serving and sacrificing for this country, say would harm and inflict terrible damage on our ability to defend this Nation, our inability to train and equip the men who are serving? I always appreciate very much when Members on both sides of the aisle praise the men and women who are serving in the military. I am always pleased to see that. But shouldn't we be thinking about them now? Shouldn't we be thinking about those men and women who are serving who literally do not know what they are going to be doing tomorrow--like the crew of the aircraft carrier that they decided not to deploy to the Middle East at a time when tensions are incredibly high?
I would also point out to my colleagues that this is not a fair sequestration. Most Americans believe this is half out of defense, half out of nondefense. It is not.
Under the formulation of the sequestration, about half of the spending we engage in is exempt, such as compensation for the President, such as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, such as payment to the District of Columbia Pension Fund, such as the Host Nation Support Fund for Relocation. All of these and many others were made exempt, which meant the cuts and the reductions in defense were even larger, and, obviously, those who designed this legislation decided that the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation and relocation funding was more important than national defense because we didn't exempt national defense.
That is disgraceful.
Nineteen percent of discretionary spending is out of defense. We are asking for a 50-percent cut out of defense, on top of $87 billion that has already been enacted under Secretary Gates, on top of $487 billion in defense which is already on track to be cut. The percentage of gross national product for defense continues to decline.
What are we doing?
A few days ago there was a wonderful ceremony in the White House where a brave young American received the Congressional Medal of Honor. I happened to go to an evening function at a pizza place with him and his comrades who fought. A book was written by Jake Tapper, an excellent book--I recommend it to all of my colleagues--about eight of their comrades who were killed. Here we are unable to make sure these young men and women serving in harm's way have the equipment, the training, and everything they need to defend this Nation. We are doing the men and women who are serving this Nation a great disservice, and the President did them a disservice when he said in the campaign: Not to worry, sequestration won't happen. The President of the United States said that. I didn't say it. The three of us traveled this country warning about the effects of sequestration. Of course, we now know the idea came from the White House. That is the blame game, and I will be glad to engage in this game.
Can't we at least come to some agreement to prevent this? Are we going to lurch from one fiscal cliff to another? If we want to do that, that is one thing.
General Odierno is one of the great leaders I have had the opportunity of knowing for many years. General Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the Army, a man who has decorations from here to there, said he cannot replace the men and women who are serving in Afghanistan under this sequestration because he doesn't have the ability to train their replacements. Isn't that an alarm for us?
We are going to go through a charade here. In a little while we are going to have a vote on the Democratic proposal, and it will not get sufficient votes; and the same thing here on this side, and the clock will tick.
Tomorrow, on the last day, the President is going to call people over to the White House to see if we can address it. Where was he in the last year?
Again, I am not taking the floor today for the blame game. I am pleading for the men and women who are serving this Nation in harm's way who every single day have a hell-of-a-lot tougher time than we do. Can't we do something on their behalf to sit down with the President of the United States, who is Commander in Chief, and get this issue resolved before we do great damage to our national security?
I thank Senator Ayotte for her proposal. It contains real reductions in spending so we don't have to go through this sequestration. On the one side, now we have a choice between ``flexibility,'' which nobody really knows exactly what that means--and on the other side, obviously, a proposal that really bears no relevance to the issue that faces us.
I thank my colleagues for the time. If I sound a little emotional on this issue, it is because I am. It seems to me we, at least on this issue of national security and the men and women who serve our Nation, should come together. I stand ready to put everything on the table to prevent what could be, in the words of the departing Secretary of Defense, a devastating blow to our ability to defend this Nation in what I could make an argument are the most dangerous times.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCAIN. My question is, does the Senator think the American people appreciate and understand what this does to the lives of the American men and women who are serving? For example, those who are serving on that aircraft carrier they said was going to deploy for many months and was cancelled at the last minute, the training plans which are now going to be cancelled, the deployments which will be changed--not to mention the massive layoffs in the defense industry, which sometimes are not easily replaceable. That is my question.
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