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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 - Motion to Proceed - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, other Senators on the Appropriations Committee--and all are welcome to come and comment, but those on the Appropriations Committee actually assigned to do the work will be coming throughout the afternoon to actually describe the content of the bill. I would like to talk about the content.

We on Appropriations have 12 subcommittees. Of those 12 subcommittees, each has a chair and a ranking member from the other party. The reason I am telling you this is to describe what it takes to do a bill.

So through all of last week, after we got the guidance of our caucus, the guidance of the authorizing committee, the guidance from the leadership, we began to put a bill together. It is not easy. My own staff and Senator Shelby's staff worked through that first snowstorm we had, took computers home and worked all day and through the evening. I was back and forth. We wanted to make sure there was no fog in our bill. And then out of that the subcommittees gave recommendations.

The reason I say that is that took us to Thursday. We didn't complete, from our end, the framework and substance of the bill until Saturday. That means me, the Democratic majority--the majority party has the responsibility of putting the bill together, but this is not a one-woman show here. So after we did, we gave it to our counterparts, who have been in consultation on broad principles, negotiations between the subcommittees, consultation with the authorizing committees on policy, where we are heading.

Then when we got it to Senator Shelby and his staff, they had to exercise their due diligence. We wanted them to do the due diligence. We wanted them to look through every aspect of that bill to make sure with our word of honor, which we have had together for more than 25 years, that there were no hidden agreements, that there were no surprises parachuted in that if we woke up, neither would be happy about.

I must compliment Senator Shelby and his staff. They worked through the weekend doing every line item to make sure, when they gave Senator McConnell and the Republican caucus their best assessment, they had a chance to look at every single line item, and they sure did it, and they worked hard.

So there are those who would say: We would have liked to have had the bill sooner. We would have liked to have been able to get the bill sooner. But we are talking about the funding for the entire United States of America. That is a lot of lines and that is a lot of items that had to be gone through methodically, diligently, and meticulously, and we moved as expeditiously as we could.

So we then had our bill, and I really wanted to share it with the House. I think we have been working with the House in a very constructive way, communicating, but it took until very late yesterday afternoon for us to complete our process as members of the Appropriations Committee.

I would have really loved getting this bill to the floor and filing this bill sooner, but in order to do it right, and not only the right content but the right way, to make sure the appropriate committees were able to exercise their due diligence, their vigilance, their scrutiny, we now present a bill to the entire Senate.

So I hope we can move forward on our legislation. We want Members to take a look at it. We hope we can work on amendments this afternoon. I hope we have permission to go to our bill. We have two great amendments lined up--different philosophies, but that is what it is.

I talked to Senator Ayotte on the floor a couple of weeks ago during sequester. Bring up the amendments. We have an amendment by Senator Harkin on the Labor-HHS content, and we have an amendment to be offered on President Obama's health care bill. There is a Senator who would like to have the full Senate decide whether we should defund it. This is an important national debate. Let it come on out. The only way we can get to that is by letting us go to the bill.

We have an arcane procedure in the Senate called a motion to proceed. In order to be able to vote, we have to get permission to proceed. I want to get to amendments. I want to have a real debate on real issues. Where are we on Labor-HHS? What is the Senate's full view on the funding of ObamaCare? Let's get out there, and instead of fussing over procedure, let's get to real content. Let's talk about the real issues around funding and what we should be doing to pass the continuing resolution to keep America's funding going but where the majority rules and we have our bill.

So let's get to the situation where we can move through the bill, where we can offer amendments. Regardless of how you feel about amendments, we all feel Senators have the right to offer amendments. Let's get to it. Let's get the job done. Let's show we can function as the greatest parliamentary body in the world.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, if people are watching us on C-SPAN--and they do, in our own country and around the world--they will say: Well, it is Tuesday afternoon, 3:30. What is happening in the Senate? We see two Senators--able, seasoned, experienced. Where is the debate? Where are the amendments? Where is the clash of ideas in an open and public forum on what is best?

We are not doing that because we have arcane rules that Senators can put what they call a hold on a bill so we cannot proceed. In the old days that was a good idea; you placed a hold. This goes back to stagecoach days. You are an Indiana man, you understand that, I say to the Chair respectfully. But it was so you could get back. You would put a hold on a bill if you believed I offered legislation that could hurt Indiana, and in your stagecoach you could dash back here.

We don't have stagecoaches anymore. In fact, we are all right here. I would like to be able to move this bill. There are those Senators who want more time. They could actually be looking at the bill if they would let us go this afternoon, because we have two amendments that would take us to 5 or 6--well, gosh now--until this evening. But we would get two amendments done on two pretty big topics, one of which should be, are we or are we not going to fund the President's health care initiative?

We need to move this bill. What is it that Senator Shelby and I are trying to do? We are trying to pass a continuing resolution to fully fund the Federal Government with the scrutiny and oversight of the Congress by October 1. Right now we have the CR, as it is called, the funding. The continued funding expires March 27. Some people might say that is 15 days from now. Not really because we have to pass our bill, we have to go to the House, and then we have to have a bill signed by the President. We would like to do that before the Easter-Passover recess, for which we break next week. We would really like to do it.

I know one of my colleagues is on the Senate floor. I recognize the right for Senators to review and scrutinize a bill. I have done it myself. I respect that.

In the days when we were skeptical and even suspicious of one another, you wanted to look at it to make sure there were no cheap gimmicks, no little fast hand motions, no earmarks parachuted in. But I can say this: After the Democrats finished the bill, we gave it to Senator Shelby and his staff. This bill has been very much scrutinized so that any of those tricks of the old days are not here.

I really need everybody's attention. There is a lot of conversation going on.

What I want to say is this: If anyone spots something they think is a cute gimmick, I would sure like to know about it. I recognize the Senators' rights, but I ask them if we could at least proceed to the bill where, while we debate these two big amendments, we would do it.

Would I have liked to have made it available 72 hours ago? The answer is, yes. But given the magnitude of what we did and the due diligence necessary by the Republicans, it was physically and intellectually impossible, not with the scrutiny and oversight not done until yesterday. When we get back to regular order it will be better. But I feel like I have multiple decks I have been dealt: a real deck, a pinochle deck, a poker deck, and so on.

I am making a plea that we go to our bill, recognizing the Senators should scrutinize the bills and recognizing Senators' rights to offer amendments. That is simply my plea. Some of my colleagues are on the Senate floor, and I will be happy to engage in a conversation with them, two of whom I have enormous respect for.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Would the Senator from Arizona yield for a question?

Mr. McCAIN. Yes, ma'am.

Ms. MIKULSKI. We acknowledge the validity of the concerns of the Senator from Arizona. We also acknowledge that we would have liked very much for people to have seen this 72 hours in advance. There was no intent to stiff-arm. Please understand that. We weren't trying to be cute and come in late and all that. It was just the sheer physicality of moving the bill, not getting it from the House until Thursday. So there was no intent to not honor the request of the Senator from Arizona, in which he was very plain, and he has been consistent in every bill. The Senator's request was not unusual and it was no surprise. So that is essentially where we are.

Mr. McCAIN. I would say to the Senator, the distinguished chairperson, I respect that and I would never impugn her motives. I said I thought I understood the time constraints the Senator from Maryland is under, given the House and the Senate and all that. I certainly did not intend to believe that there was anything----

Ms. MIKULSKI. I just wanted to assure the Senator from Arizona of that and I have respect for the Senator and his regard for the purse.

Does the Senator from Arizona have a sense of when he will be finished reviewing the bill?

Mr. McCAIN. I think in a very short time. I have to coordinate with the Senator from Oklahoma, but I think within a couple of hours.

Ms. MIKULSKI. We would appreciate it in any way the Senator feels he can exercise his traditional due diligence. We are not going to engage in arguments, but we would like to go ahead if we could get something going even later on this evening.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I say to the distinguished chairwoman, I will go back to my office right now, get together with Senator Coburn, and see if we can't come up with a definite time, and I assure the Senator from Maryland it will be a short period of time.

Ms. MIKULSKI. And if perhaps there are amendments the Senator from Arizona could share with Senator Shelby. I expect there to be amendments from Senators McCain and Coburn. It wouldn't have been a real bill if they did not offer amendments. It somehow or another wouldn't have counted in the process. So we look forward to it. If we can move it in an expeditious way, and courteously understanding the Senator's right to offer amendments, I think we can get going.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I will try to carry out my mission as assigned by the distinguished chairperson. I thank her for her leadership and her excellent work. I thank both leaders.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, before the distinguished Senator from Vermont leaves the floor, I really wish to compliment him not only in the way he has moved legislation but really the values, the American values, behind it. I think he has worked steadfastly on a bipartisan basis with Senator Lindsey Graham on our foreign operations. This is what has been called soft power, but there is nothing soft about it. It is part of our smart power strategy.

And what has it meant? It has meant healing the sick, feeding the hungry, making sure children whose legs have been blown off with land mines have an opportunity for rehabilitation or for the children of Haiti who lost their limbs because of the horrific nature of the earthquake--taking lessons learned from other places in the world, that they have a chance to do it.

Baltimore is the home of the Catholic relief organization. These are people who serve the world without religious creed. They serve whomever is in need. The way they extol the virtues of what they have been able to do has been amazing. What they say to me is that because of the work Senator Leahy has done, they are able to leverage philanthropic dollars. Rather than being in lieu of government, they can leverage it because we are coming in to help the children, to help the children learn to walk, and they then come in with community development so that they learn a trade, so that we are literally rebuilding the lives of children in Haiti but also giving them a future where they are going to earn a livelihood. It is pretty terrific.

We have President Clinton, who does his global initiative like in Haiti, but we all have to be in it together, whether it is Bill Gates--the women of the Senate on a bipartisan basis last week met with Melinda Gates in terms of the great Gates Foundation, and they talked about their health care initiatives.

We said: Well, what does all this mean in terms of us?

They said: If you do the job only government can do, we can then do what we need to do.

This is unique. I do not know of other countries in the world that quite work with this synergy, letting our private philanthropic community do splendid, inspirational work. But they need a government.

The other thing we are able to do in this bill is provide something very near and dear, which is embassy security. We know we wanted to do more. We know that over the last couple of years the House has denied $400 million in embassy security. So we are heartsick at the way our Ambassador died. And while there is all that back-and-forth over talking points, which we are not getting into, the fact is that we need to protect our American men and women working in embassies because they are at a duty station, and now that duty station has become a battle station. We need to make sure we provide embassy security in the best way possible. We can debate policy, management, and so on, but at the end of the day we need to put money in the Federal checkbook to do that.

We lost an Ambassador in Benghazi. I lost an Ambassador, and America lost many others a few years ago at Khobar Towers. One was our Consul General. His name was Bartley. He was the highest ranking African American in the Foreign Service. His son was interning with him. They blew up the Embassy. He and his son died. We need to look out for these people. There was also a young lady who was there from the community, from CDC, working to make sure we were doing the right health initiatives, teaching, educating the leadership there. She died. Again, they were at their duty station, which has now become a battle station.

So I compliment the Senator for the children, his work on land mines, and his work on feeding the hungry. And do you know what. We make wise use because of the strong oversight. I know the Senator from Vermont listens to the inspector general, scrutinizes those GAO reports. We get a dollar's worth of assistance, and at the end of the day America is stronger because of what we do in this bill.

I wish to salute the Senator for his sense of bipartisanship, his leadership and stewardship not only in this bill but over the years. The Senator should be saluted, and I want to make sure this bill moves forward so we can get on to next year and even do a better, smarter job.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. I would like to compliment the Senator from South Dakota, who does an excellent job as assistant chairman on the Subcommittee on Military Construction, VA. He has worked steadfastly to bring up this bill. We are in agreement with the House. I wish to share a sense of urgency why this needs to happen.

In this bill, thanks to the leadership provided here, it increases funding to improve and accelerate claims processing to increase staff, business processes, and infotech enhancements. This kind of sounds bloodless and technocratic, but I stand before you today to tell you we have a claims processing crisis for our veterans, particularly in the area of applying for disability benefits.

I hate to tell you, Baltimore has one of the worst records. There are many reasons for this situation. It wasn't my fault. We let the infrastructure deteriorate, there are staffing issues, and there are an incredible number of our men and women coming back from the longest war we have fought with incredible injuries, with some bearing the permanent impact of the war, and they are eligible. Many have multiple problems. This is not your World War II benefit claim.

So we have a backlog. We need to deal with that backlog; otherwise, shame on us. Those men and women fought hard. They gave it everything they had. Thanks to the skill and dedication of military medicine, we saved more lives in combat than in any other war.

I don't want to sound like an epidemiologist; I am a Senator. The fact is we have reduced what doctors call morbidity and mortality. That is the good news back to the hospital from the battlefields, from training medics, all the way to Germany, all the way now to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

What is the issue when they come back home? Because we have saved their lives, they have injuries. It means they have some level of disability. They may not be totally disabled, but they are eligible. If they have a permanent injury, they should have a permanent benefit from their government. While they were on the frontline, they should not need to stand in line to have their claims processed.

We have some claims which take as many as 3 or 4 years to complete. We need to pick it up. We need to up our game.

These are improvements. We have spoken to General Shinseki. I know the gentleman. The chairman of the committee has talked to him and was quite vigorous and insistent in his advocacy. I had General Shinseki come to Baltimore. I was ballistic about the claims situation in Baltimore. What did we need? We needed increased staff.

Did you know we do most of our disability claims by paper? We might as well be doing it by papyrus.

When you look at it--I am rarely brief, but I am short--the average disability claim, which I know you have gone to look at, sir, is sometimes 6, 8, and 12 inches tall. That is just the VA. In order to be certified you need to have the military give you information, you need to have Social Security give you information, and you need to have doctor information. In the meantime, somebody who lost a leg, somebody who has lost an arm, somebody who has lost so much time fighting a war, we ask too much from too few for so long who are there waiting for their benefit.

We need to go digital. If we are going to run government like a business, let's give them the standard business tools. That means more technology.

I really want to thank the Senator from South Dakota and his Republican vice chair for much of what they have done in this bill. What is nearest and dearest for me are two things: increased funding to deal with the claims process to receive what they deserve and also advance funding for VA medical to enable the veterans to receive the health care they were promised, they need, and they deserve. If you ever want to talk about an earned benefit, it is the men and women who need VA medical care and the men and women who need their claims processed to receive what they deserve and what they are entitled to.

This in and of itself is a reason to ensure we don't have a government shutdown and blow this program out of the window. I want to thank the Senator for his advocacy and also for taking good intentions and putting them in the Federal checkbook.

Mr. President, I note the absence of a quorum.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, you have heard me speak to the Democratic caucus and to the press that moving the continuing resolution, or I should call it the continued funding resolution--remember, continuing the funding for fiscal year 2013 to our fiscal New Year's Eve, October 1, is our goal. We don't want a government shutdown, we don't want a government slam-down, lockdown. So we have been working very diligently on a bipartisan basis to fashion the bill that would get 60 votes so we would be filibuster-proof.

In the old days, majority ruled. Now it is supermajority. That is not a fight I am going to do here on this bill. My job is to keep the government funded, to work in an open, transparent, bipartisan and hopefully bicameral way.

I said this was like the last helicopter leaving a disaster area. I was trying to get the cargo on it to make sure we protected national security. We honored compelling human need, particularly for women and children in the area of education and health care, and we also looked at how we could generate jobs--not in government but government-generated jobs in the private sector, such as transportation, and make important investments in science and technology that come up with the new ideas for the new products that will create jobs in our country and hopefully even for export around the world. That is what I have been trying to do.

I also had to give up a lot. I had to give up the funding for ObamaCare. This was not my choice. I know there will be an amendment offered to even defund it further. I happen to believe in what we did with President Obama's health care framework. I liked ending discrimination against women. I liked ending the discrimination against people who have children with preexisting conditions. I liked funding the amendment that provided access for women for mammograms, and for children for early detection and screening. But we could not do it.

One of the other things we could not do was we could not add a very modest pay raise for Federal employees. This bill will continue the existing pay rates. It is necessary to avoid a government shutdown for the entire government. Shutting down the government would make a tough situation worse for Federal employees. It would jeopardize our economic recovery. Shutting down the government would threaten the viability of small and medium-size businesses. It would even threaten the safety of our families, our economy, maybe even our country.

This is not a happy day for me and it is not a happy day for the millions of people who work diligently for the Federal Government. I have the great honor to represent 130,000 Federal employees--I wish you could tour Maryland with me, the way I have been up to your home State--each one doing important work for the Nation. And who are they, these employees? They are people who work at the National Institutes of Health, finding cures or ways to contain diseases--the next vaccine to help the flu endemic or protect us against a pandemic.

They are the civilian employees at the National Security Agency. We employ the largest number of mathematicians in the world. What do they do? They invent the kind of technology that breaks the codes and protects us--now in this whole new cyber domain. They are the people who run the weather satellites. The European model might have done a better job last week than they did, but do you know why? Because we have not had the resources to fund them the way the Europeans have.

I have employees at FDA right this very minute at their jobs, looking at medical devices to see if they are safe. Right at this very minute they are working with the private sector, which is bringing them new pharmaceuticals, new biotech and biologics that they could look at to see if they are safe and effective so they could go into clinical practice to help save lives here and be certified by the FDA, which would give us the ability to sell them around the world. We say to them: We know what you are doing, but tough luck; we can't give you a pay raise because we say we have out-of-control spending. I don't think we have out-of-control spending. Do we have to be more frugal? Do we have to be smarter? Do we have to get more value for the dollar? Absolutely. We are onto that. But don't attack Federal employees for the mismanagement of the Federal Government. That is right here. That is what we do. Don't blame them and don't make them pay the price. It is like making the middle class pay the price for more domestic cuts while we protect subsidies to corporate jets.

These 130,000 Federal employees help run the Hubbell Space Telescope, more discoveries--the most important telescope since Galileo invented the first one. I can't tell you how bad I feel that we are not at least giving them a .05-percent pay raise. And they are facing sequester, which could mean for many of them a 20-percent pay cut, if they are furloughed.

I visited NIH to see what was the impact of sequester. There was Carol Greider from Hopkins. She won the Nobel Prize 2 years ago. We are proud of her. NIH, within a week of my arrival there to meet with them, as I have done so often--they cut cancer rates 15 percent. Instead of pinning medals on them, we say: You don't get a pay raise. We have more important things to do with the money. You are the problem.

I don't think they are a problem at all. I think they are part of the solution--coming up with ways to help compelling human needs and creating jobs in our country in life sciences and giving us something to sell overseas. I think it is wrong to keep asking them for more when oil and gas companies make record profits and we don't ask them to give up tax breaks. It is wrong when we can't close one tax loophole that sends jobs overseas. When Senator Murray brings up her bill, I will talk more about these lavish tax earmarks. This is not the time and place. But it is time to say we have to protect our civil service.

Senator Rubio just spoke about Egypt and he said they have to be able to govern. It is not enough to just bring down a dictator. That is an excellent point. We have to govern, too. And the hallmark of a democracy is a civil service that has integrity, that is promoted on the basis of meritocracy, that is independent of politics, doing missions that serve the Nation in research, technology, administering programs that help get transportation funding to Governors to build roads, bridges, and fund our pent-up demand for physical infrastructure, and then in human infrastructure--education, health care. That is what a democracy does and you need a civil service that is independent, has integrity and is promoted and hired and so on on the basis of meritocracy. What is the hallmark of a despotic, autocratic government, be they Communist or just plain despots? They are corrupt. You get ahead by taking a bribe, by doing a party favor, by looking the other way, on so many other things where you cannot even open a business or get a permit or so on unless there is a series of tipping fees. You can't get through an airport unless you bribe your way through it. That is what a corrupt, despotic, autocratic government does.

But when you visit democracies, the first thing you see is they have a civil service. What is the civil service? Integrity, competency, incorruptible. But we say: Yeah, yeah, you know, we know you have a Ph.D, or we know you are the blue-collar worker who manages the facilities at NIH to keep the lights on so the researchers can do their work. It is those people who help us have a great country, and a country we can be proud of.

I hope we resolve this sequester thing, with layoffs and furloughs and potential cuts of 20 percent. I wish we could have at least said one thing to the Federal employees, that we are at least going to give you a .05--a half of 1 percent--pay raise. I didn't like it because I thought it was so skimpy and Spartan.

But I will say this. The helicopter could not take off if it was on it. I think this is a terrible mistake. I hope in next year's regular order we can make this up. But I want to say to my Federal employees this was a Draconian choice. Do we try to give you a pay raise that would be important to you? Every penny and every dollar counts.

You led the Consumer Protection Agency. You certainly have the reputation, Madam President, of being a real fighter for the consumer, and you were the first in America to do a study that showed people were going bankrupt not because they bought too many Volvos, ate out too much, or lived a life of brie and wine and so on. It was because of medical catastrophes that faced them. You were the first to tell us about that, so you know about family incomes and what makes them and what breaks them. But I say this to you: Thank you for your work.

And I want to say to the Federal employees, thank you for your work. I wanted to do it with a modest pay raise, but right now my duty in the situation I find myself in reluctantly is that the way I serve you is to make sure there is no government shutdown.

Because you know what. In my heart and in my mind--and as I see how different places function--there is no such thing as a nonessential Federal employee. Everybody at the workplace and who serves the Nation is doing their job with honesty, integrity, meritocracy, and is incorruptible. Let's make sure we honor them. We have to get this bill done. Let's get on the Murray budget and right our economy. Whatever problems we have, don't blame the Federal employees for the decisions made by the Congress to get us in the deficit and debt we are in. They didn't do it, we did it. We should take the pay cut, not them.

I yield the floor.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I wish to comment on the remarks by our colleague from Connecticut, Senator Blumenthal.

I say to the Senator, we in Maryland want to once again express our condolences to the people of Newtown. We have lost people in gun violence, nothing like you have, but we have it there. Most recently when a high school opened, a young man who needed mental help came in and one of our young men was shot. Fortunately, he survived. He is an intellectually challenged young man, full of spunk. He has been made an honorary Raven, honorary Oriole. Lady Gaga, who is his favorite, even sent him CDs.

We need to deal with this issue. We need to deal with guns and--I agree with the NRA--we need to deal with mental health. We need to put mental health in the Federal checkbook to train the professionals, do the research and know we are doing the right thing.

One of the fathers from the Newtown tragedy has cycled through Maryland to raise the issue through all of the awful rain in the only way he can to speak up for his daughter.

I want to congratulate the Senator and his colleague from Connecticut, Senator Murphy, for continuing to be steadfast. I wish to say we support you not only with words but deeds. It is wonderful to express our condolences, to send toys to the children, to do all of that. We need to put money in the Federal checkbook. We must first of all confirm our BATF Administrator. The very person in charge of guns should be confirmed. We need to then look at our own legislation about illegal guns, all of what the Senator is talking about.

On the mental health side, the Senator was a member of the HELP Committee. I know now Senator Murphy of Connecticut is on the HELP Committee, the Presiding Officer also. We need to look, even now as we look at the CR, how we may do the right research.

I wish to close with one melancholy thing, which is a consequence of the sequester. Senator Harkin with the HELP Committee held a hearing on mental health. The Director of the Institute on Mental Health was on that committee, and I believe the Presiding Officer was there. I asked him what would be the consequences of sequester on the National Institute of Mental Health, since everyone wants mental health, and that is the research.

This is what he replied: We are not going to fund certain research projects.

Let me tell you one that holds such promise it is going to be a sad day for us not to do it. Here is the test--and, please, I am not a scientist and certainly not a neurological scientist. But there are certain kinds of mental health problems that come on onset, particularly on young males, who are postpuberty, often after high school or as they go into college. As in Aurora, the young man who shot the people was already a graduate student. These things come on.

The Director of the NIH mental health said they wanted to do research for early detection, biochemical as well as environmental. This is not to earmark, paint them in a corner, or push them in a corner and stigmatize them, but they could receive that help early.

We need to know more. Whether that study is a good idea--I am sure it is, it is peer reviewed--I wish to say to the Senator, the reason we need to get this bill done, the budget done, and go on to regular order is to actually put money in the Federal checkbook to do what the American people want. We can do great gun control legislation on the this floor, but I want to support that mental health component.

I call upon the NRA and all of its members to support us to move the Federal budget, look at the mental health aspects. I believe we would have bipartisan support. I believe we would have grassroots support. At the end of the day not only would we prevent gun violence, but along the way, the President's brain initiative. We could learn a lot more and we could help our people. This is what I mean when I say we need to fund compelling human need and do the research.

But I salute the Senator for his advocacy. And my condolences to the people of Newtown, but not with words, let's get to the deeds and let's get the deeds done.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I would like to compliment the Senator from Alabama, my vice chairman. He outlined how we tried to look at this bill and scrub it for nonsense or no sense, OK?

I know we are waiting for the Senator from Oklahoma, Mr. Coburn, to lift his hold. I know he is looking closely at the bill. A few years ago, when I was moving the Commerce-Justice bill, he found that one of the agencies was hosting a conference and they were paying $4 a meatball, so we called it the lavish meatball amendment. Often, the Senator from Oklahoma has great ideas. You know, Madam President, that people from Oklahoma have great ideas, and so we would like him, as quickly as he can, to lift the hold so we can move our bill and he can offer amendments. And I hope he is scrubbing it. I am sure somewhere he will find a rogue meatball. I don't want to minimize what he is doing. He really does scrub for foolishness and folly, and if he has a foolishness-and-folly amendment, I probably will support it. I can't tolerate it either. My constituents really work hard for their money, and they want the money they pay in taxes to work hard for them.

So, Madam President, I see the distinguished majority leader here on the floor. I am hoping that we are going to have a solution to some of that deadlock here.

I yield the floor.

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