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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. REID. Madam President, I am going to propound a unanimous consent request. Everyone has to look at this from way up high and understand how much has been accomplished during the last week. Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby have worked very hard to change the bill that came from the House of Representatives, and they have done a good job, a really good job. People have requested further changes to the bill, and we have tried hard. I say ``we,'' I have gone to Senator McConnell many times, Senator Mikulski, Senator Shelby, and others trying to come up with some way to move forward on this legislation.

There is a big spotlight on the Senate to see if we can do something. Whatever we come up with, what Mikulski and Shelby, what they have come up with, it is not perfect. I could improve it. The Senator from Tennessee could improve it. Anyone in this body could improve what they did, but they did the best they could--and it was hard.

Both of these Senators gave up things that help them in their States. They worked together on Commerce-State-Justice for many years. They know that subcommittee better than anyone has ever known that subcommittee. They both have many issues within their States that are affected by that subcommittee, but they gave that up for the greater good.

I am asking Senators here to give up a few things for the greater good, to try to allow us to get this done. The reason this is important is it will allow us to go forward and start having appropriations bills. We changed the rules at the beginning of the year to make it easier to go to certain bills, and what we had in mind was appropriations bills.

It has been hard to come up with this. I repeat, is it really, really good? No, probably not. But it is not bad.

I hope we could approve this unanimous consent request. We would have nine votes on matters that people believe are really important. There are other people who have things that are just as important, but this is legislation, the art of compromise.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the two cloture motions be withdrawn; that the following amendments be in order to the Mikulski-Shelby substitute: Coburn No. 69, Coburn No. 93, Coburn No. 65 as modified with the changes that are at the desk, Coburn No. 70 as modified with the changes that are at the desk, Inhofe No. 72 as modified with changes that are at the desk, Grassley No. 76 as modified with changes that are at the desk, Mikulski-Shelby No. 98, Leahy No. 129 as modified with changes that are at the desk, and Pryor-Blunt No. 82; that no other first-degree amendments to the substitute or the underlying bill be in order and no second-degree amendments be in order to any of the amendments listed above prior to the vote; that there be 30 minutes equally divided between the two leaders or their designees prior to votes in relation to the amendments in the order listed; and that upon the disposition of Leahy No. 29 as modified, the Durbin second-degree amendment to Toomey amendment No. 115 be withdrawn; that all the amendments be subject to a 60-affirmative-vote threshold; that the Senate proceed to vote in relation to the Toomey amendment No. 115; that upon disposition of the Toomey amendment, the Senate proceed to vote on the Mikulski-Shelby substitute amendment, as amended; that if the substitute amendment, as amended, is agreed to, the Senate proceed to vote on passage of the bill, as amended.

It is my understanding that the Toomey amendment has a point of order against it; is that right? I make that request.

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Mr. REID. Madam President, this is over with. There

has been objection. I regret the Senator has objected to this reasonable request. It really is reasonable. I understand how strongly the Senator from New Hampshire feels about the issue. I am aware of the issue. I understand it very well. I have talked to a number of Senators. I can't get them to agree to this. They may be wrong, she may be right. She may be wrong, they may be right. I cannot make that decision. I cannot go forward if somebody doesn't agree to this.

Putting together a unanimous consent agreement like this, as I indicated, certainly has not been easy. The people I have empathy for are these two Senators here. They are veteran legislators. They have dedicated a large part of the last 2 weeks to this legislation.

We could have an alternative. We could just vote for what the House sent us. All the work they have done--down the drain. There are scores of Senators--and I say that plural--scores of the 100 Senators who have benefited from the work they have done. It has helped them in their States. It has rearranged things. What they have done does not spend any more money. We are spending the same amount of money the House did. But the House was very emphatic that they would not allow flexibility on nondefense matters. They have some control over what we do.

I just think it is such a shame that there is an objection preventing the Senate from being able to consider these amendments. There are nine amendments. This is a must-pass measure so we will need to move this Senate bill through the Senate back to the House to avoid the government shutdown. I think it is a shame, but that is where we are.

I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Maryland, Ms. Mikulski, be recognized for up to 5 minutes, and the Senator from Alabama be recognized for up to 5 minutes prior to the vote on cloture.

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Mr. REID. Mr. President, my consent has been agreed to. In response to my friend from Kansas, everyone can give a heart-rending speech. We have tens of thousands of children who will not able to go to Head Start. I think that is pretty compelling. There are many other people in this body who could give a tearjerker--just like the Senator tried to do.

This is about compromise. We are trying to work through this so we can continue to fund the government and set up a pattern in this Congress so we can have appropriation bills for 2014.

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