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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

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I just want to follow up on some of the comments the Senator from Louisiana has made--very positive comments about research and the role of the Federal Government in all aspects of research. She is a very hard-working member of the Appropriations Committee and she has been involved in a lot of this.

Whether it is research on health issues--the National Institutes of Health on cancer or you name it--information technology, energy, which the Senator from Louisiana referenced--there are so many good things that come out of this, and I believe, overall, the Senate and the House, on both sides of the aisle, realized this. But with all the breakthroughs in information technology we have had, we have only to go back to the research and development the Federal Government did that basically brought us our Internet to realize that didn't just happen. It was built over many years, with many ideas and research. Look at it today. We have all benefited from this overall.

There are threats to this information technology, in everything we use today dealing with energy; for example, our power grid, because a lot of that, as we all know, is computer driven and operated, our banking system's information technology, our military, our traffic control systems we rely on every day, and I am sure our trains and other vehicles we run. There are threats to this today. A lot of us know it as cyber security threats, and they are real.

So as we do research in this area, as we continue our research, we cannot forget that. That is a job we all have to work together on, and I believe, on the Appropriations Committee, this is a good start today for challenges in our future to the security of our information systems--our grid, our banking system, our Federal Reserve, and I can go on and on because it affects everything in our everyday life, and we shouldn't forget it.

I think we are off to a good start today. Senator Mikulski, the chair of the committee, and I believe this is the first time in a few years we have come to the floor trying to work together on appropriations, and we are determined to make this regular order work. I believe the majority of the Senators on my side of the aisle--the Republicans--and those on the Democratic side of the aisle will, in a few days, bring this to a head and we will do something good for the American people and bring forth some certainty and some good legislation.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I have been listening to the remarks of my colleague from Maryland, and as we say down South, she is spot on. Before she became chairperson of the Appropriations Committee, she was a member of that committee for many years. We worked together when I was chairman of the subcommittee and she was the ranking member and when she was the chairperson and I was the ranking member. We both came from the House. We were on the same committee in the House. We worked together. We struggled with each other from time to time, but in the end, we knew we had to come up with a product, and that is what we are trying to do here today.

I was hoping we could bring this bill to the floor. As the Senator from Maryland has been saying, there are a lot of Members who want to offer amendments. We could offer some amendments and debate them tonight and perhaps even vote on them tonight. We know we have this deadline. At the end of March the CR expires, along with the funding of the Government of the United States. I don't think any party--Democrat or Republican--is interested in any way of going to the brink again. It serves no purpose. It creates uncertainty in the marketplace; it creates uncertainty with the role we play in the Senate and the House.

As the Senator from Maryland has said, we have worked together. We have a continuing resolution which came from the House, with the Department of Defense and the MILCON-VA--military construction and VA--in it to fund until September 30, which is the fiscal year. It is about 6 months from now. We have added to the legislation which we hope to bring before the Senate the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, of which she is the subcommittee chair and I am the ranking member. We have worked together on that. Agriculture, which affects everybody in this country one way or the other, and homeland security, which is the essence of the security of this country at home, have been added by the Senate.

We scrubbed these bills all weekend. Both sides scrubbed them. I have given up things I would personally like, and she has given up things, probably including some things from the Democratic leadership. We have done the same over here. We are doing this to show the American people that America comes first. We need to show we can work together. We need to pass these bills. The sooner they get up here, the sooner amendments can be offered by Republicans and Democrats, the sooner we get the process working and we get into the debates. That is what this legislative body is all about.

The CR we are bringing up--or the hybrid CR--is funded at the fiscal year 2012 levels, and it is consistent with the Budget Control Act. It would leave the sequester in effect. It gives some leeway--some but not unbridled--to enable the situation with sequester to maybe work a little better. I think it is good policy and bad procedure.

We are going to have to cut because we cannot sustain deficits of $1 trillion. We cannot continue to go down the road we are on. We have to change the trajectory of this country. We cannot sustain ourselves if we have a $20 trillion or $25 trillion debt. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, or whatever you are, you should want a strong monetary policy and a strong economic policy.

We have a few more years left, and this is a good start here in the Senate. If we can get this bill up and pass it, then the House will do something. We will fund the government until September 30, which is what we are supposed to do. If we do that, then we can start on the 2014 budget. From there we can perhaps go to regular order. That is what we wish to do in the appropriations process so we are not going from crisis to crisis.

What we have done in the House and the Senate--and the White House is involved in this too--in recent years is we have been lurching from crisis to crisis, and then we come up to the deadline and people say: Oh, we have to have certainty. So we kick the can down the road a few more yards. That is not the way to do business. This country is too important. The business community needs certainty, people in government need certainty, and I think this is a good first start. I hope we can get this process moving.

I thank the Chair.

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Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I think today has been an interesting day here in the Senate. We have been trying--the Senator from Maryland and I--to get the bill we have been talking about to the floor so people will have an opportunity to offer their amendments, to debate their amendments, and we in the Senate will be able to vote them up or down. That is what this process is about.

Although I know it is getting late in the evening, I am hoping we can lock in some time agreement with the leadership. I am sure Senator Reid and Senator McConnell are working on that, as well as Senator McCain and Senator Coburn. But if we could get started on this tomorrow and have a healthy debate, there are some issues that ought to be brought up.

I wish to take a few minutes to review a few of the outlines of what we hope to accomplish this week--what is in this bill and what is not.

What this bill would do is allow agencies the additional ability to address priorities in light of sequester cuts. We all know they were Draconian--good policy, as I said, but bad process. The proposed legislation the Senator from Maryland and I are bringing to the floor, hopefully, is in full compliance with the spending caps required by the Budget Control Act, and it brings, with the sequester, the total to under $1 trillion. So we are doing some serious cutting, but we ought to do it wisely by what we do.

Both sides have given in to get to where we are. There is no new funding for ObamaCare, no new funding for Dodd-Frank, no State-specific earmarks.

The bill enables the Department of Defense--and we all care about security--to better implement sequester, and it increases the DOD transfer authority for reprogramming, thus mitigating a portion of the national security impact of the sequester and other across-the-board cuts.

The bill also ensures that veterans programs receive adequate funding--$2.5 billion above the fiscal year 2012 levels--for VA discretionary spending. So that is a good increase.

The bill requires greater accountability of government employees attending conferences, including associated expenses, so that we don't read these horror stories of people going to conventions and living high off the hog while people are struggling to make ends meet.

The bill also prohibits the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the United States, among other things.

The legislation would provide additional funding for worldwide diplomatic and facility security in the post-Benghazi environment. When we send somebody overseas, we want to make sure, whether it is an Ambassador, an employee, or somebody going temporarily, that they are as safe as we can keep them. We know we live in a dangerous world, and some parts of the world are more dangerous than others.

This bill provides over a $3.1 billion increase over fiscal year 2012 in assistance to Israel. Israel is the only democracy--I believe a real one--in that area and is a great friend of ours.

The legislation keeps in place the pay freeze for Federal employees for the remainder of this year, the fiscal year ending September 2013.

The bill prohibits distribution of any funds to ACORN, its subsidiaries, or successors.

It rescinds $50 million from the EPA to restrict its ability to implement certain environmental regulations.

It rescinds $10 million from the ObamaCare, as we call it, Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is the rationing board, some people call it.

The bill continues a provision to clarify the prohibition of Federal funds being used to lobby State and local legislative and executive authorities.

These are just some of the provisions in here, but I think tomorrow we will talk about more. Overall, I think we have put together a worthy and credible package, and I hope the Senate will soon get a chance to start debating it seriously.

I yield the floor.

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