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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. Mr. President, for the last few years my Republican colleagues have been hollering, yelling, and screaming that the Senate has not passed a budget. They have done so in spite of the fact that Republicans in both Chambers voted for the Budget Control Act which set spending levels for the last 2 years. It was a law. Every reasonable political observer admits that the Budget Control Act, which had the force of law, was a budget, period. No, it was not a resolution. It was a law, which is much stronger than any resolution we do here.

As I indicated, they have yelled and screamed. Still, Republicans pine for the days of the so-called regular order when the Senate would vote on a budget resolution that would set spending priorities for the fiscal year. Republicans--we were told, we heard, we saw--were desperate to have a budget debate. They were desperate. They have had charts out here. They were desperate for an amendment. They wanted a vote-arama. They had charts, speeches, and demonstrations to prove it.

They have had press conference after press conference after press conference. They even had a calendar they brought out almost daily tallying the days since the Senate passed a budget resolution--not a law, which was already in effect, but a resolution.

Yesterday I was amazed, flabbergasted, and stunned when Republicans blocked attempts to begin debate on the budget resolution. In fact, the ranking member of the Budget Committee said: Let's put it off for a while. Let's wait until after Easter.

Can you imagine that? They have been pining for regular order, and we now have a chance to have a debate. They said: No, we can't do that. Can't do it. There was a chance, and they were not interested in doing it.

My friend, the junior Senator from Kansas, objected to a request debating the budget unless we vote on his proposed amendment to the continuing resolution. He is concerned about air traffic towers in Kansas because of these across-the-board cuts.

I say to all of my colleagues--I say to the Senator from Kansas--we are all concerned about the impact of these budget cuts. They are senseless, they are ridiculous, and we should do away with them. We have already cut $2.5 trillion from the debt. We can continue to do it but do it in a responsible and reasonable way, not a meat-cleaver way.

More than 100 families in Nevada--almost immediately--are going to lose access to low-income housing because of the sequester. I met with the housing authority people yesterday. Some might say: Oh, that is not such a big deal. It is a big deal for those 100 families. Nationwide, 70,000 little boys and girls are going to lose their ability to go to Head Start. Some may ask: What is that? Head Start will allow them to get started in life.

These cuts--and I have only mentioned a few of them--are painful for millions of Americans, and it is only going to get worse. They are arbitrary.

We are all concerned. The concern for the sequester is not focused on the Senate delegation from Kansas, it is all over. Instead of whining about it, let's do something about it. Let's get rid of it. That is why the Senate Democratic budget proposal actually reverses the sequester. That is one way of doing it, but there are other ways.

The policy outlined in Senator Murray's budget will save hundreds of thousands of jobs, safeguard communities by keeping police, air traffic controllers, and meat inspectors on the job. Reversing the sequester would alleviate Senator Moran's concern about air traffic controllers in Kansas. The Senate cannot debate a thoughtful way to replace the sequester if the Republicans will not even let us debate our budget proposal.

We know Republicans and Democrats will not agree on every aspect of the budget which sets priorities for how the government spends money and how it saves money. Republicans have one plan for Medicare. Their plan is to turn it into a voucher program which will change Medicare forever. Democrats have another plan. The Democrats' plan is to preserve and protect Medicare for our children and grandchildren.

Republicans have a plan for taxes. Listen to this one: They want to lower taxes for the rich and let the middle class foot the bill. Democrats have another plan. We believe the wealthiest individuals and corporations should contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit. Surprisingly, the intelligent American people agree with us--Democrats, Independents, and Republicans--by almost a 60-percent margin. The only Republicans in America who disagree are those who serve in Congress.

Republicans have one plan to reduce the deficit which will rely on harsh austerity that shortchanges the elderly, veterans, middle class, poor, and others. The Democrats have another plan. We have a balanced approach that couples smart spending cuts with new revenue from closing loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

We have our differences, and that is fine. But Democrats are willing to discuss these differences; we are willing to debate the issues. Let's debate the issues. The Republicans have said for months and months: Let's debate the budget. Why can't we debate the budget? Because they will not let us.

This is senseless. We have 60 hours of doing nothing--nothing. The American people are on our side. This is a debate we can win, but at least let's have the debate.

Will the Chair announce the business of the day.

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Mr. REID. Reserving the right to object, I understand how the Senator feels. Over the years I have served with him, he has always made his opinions very clear. We had his amendment in the list of amendments we were going to do before, with some modifications that my friend wouldn't agree to. So I understand his feelings about this, but the good news is that within the very near, foreseeable future--hopefully, I can start it in the next work period--we are going to start immigration legislation here on the floor. We are finally going to be able to move to something that will include issues people have wanted to deal with for a long time.

So I say to my friend, I object, but I understand how he feels about the issue.

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Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding cloture having been invoked, the following amendments be in order to the Mikulski-Shelby substitute: Coburn No. 69; Coburn No. 93; Coburn No. 65, as modified; Coburn No. 70, as modified; Inhofe-Hagan No. 72, as modified; Mikulski-Shelby No. 98, as modified with changes that are at the desk; 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; that no second-degree amendments be in order to any of the amendments listed above prior to the votes; that the time until 2:15 p.m. be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees, with 30 minutes of Republican time under the control of Senator Moran prior to votes in relation to the amendments in the order listed; that upon disposition of the Pryor-Blunt amendment No. 82, the Durbin second-degree amendment to the Toomey amendment No. 115 be withdrawn; that it be in order for the Toomey amendment to be modified with the changes that are at the desk; that the Senate proceed to vote in relation to the Toomey amendment No. 115, as modified; that upon disposition of the Toomey amendment, the Senate proceed to vote on the Mikulski-Shelby substitute amendment, as amended; that all amendments, with the exception of the Mikulski-Shelby substitute, be subject to a 60-affirmative-vote threshold; that upon disposition of the substitute amendment, as amended, the Senate proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the underlying bill; that if cloture is invoked on H.R. 933, as amended, all postcloture time be yielded back and the Senate proceed to vote on passage of H.R. 933, as amended; and, finally, that all votes after the first vote be 10-minute votes and there be 2 minutes equally divided in the usual form between the votes.

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Mr. REID. Mr. President, I appreciate everyone's understanding on both sides. This is going to allow us to get to the issue at hand very soon, and that is the budget, with Senators MURRAY and SESSIONS leading us on that issue.

Also, we were able to get a number of these amendments that people have been wanting very badly to get. So I appreciate everything people have done to this point.

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