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Unanimous Consent Request - H.R. 3521

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I rise to again advocate that we move forward, we come together across the aisle as Democrats and Republicans to agree on what we do agree on and to do some things constructively--specifically, to help veterans across our country.

There are 27 community-based VA clinics that are on the books at the Veterans' Administration ready to go. The VA is ready to break ground, move forward, and build these expanded community-based clinics to serve areas around the country and veterans around the country in a much better way. I am particularly interested because 2 of those 27 clinics are in Louisiana, in Lafayette and in Lake Charles.

All of these clinics have gotten stuck in the mud through several rounds of bureaucratic delay at the VA--funding delays, authorization delays, and a dispute about whether moving forward with these clinics was kosher under the budget rules. We have solved all of those problems. We have figured out solutions to all of those problems that satisfies everyone. The House of Representatives has taken those solutions, put them together in a bill and passed it overwhelmingly out of the House with over 400 votes in support--virtually unanimous. Now we are on the Senate floor and all we have to do is take that bill, adopt a simple noncontroversial amendment and pass it through the Senate. No one in the Senate disagrees with the substance of this bill. No one disagrees with the substance of the amendment we would add to this bill. No one disagrees with the importance of moving forward with these 27 VA clinics. Yet we are still finding it difficult to move this simple noncontroversial matter through the Senate. Why? Because, quite frankly, some of our colleagues who have a much bigger, broader veterans package want to hold this hostage for their veterans package. While I applaud their sincerity, I applaud their passion, I think we should agree on what we can agree on and move forward with what we agree on. Let's not get bogged down and defeat 27 very important community-based veterans clinics because there are major and sincere disagreements about the much broader package.

I also think it will build good will to resolve some of those issues and come forward with a compromise version of a larger package if we do that. In that spirit, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of H.R. 3521, which was received from the House; that my amendment, which is at the desk, be agreed to; that the bill, as amended, be read a third time and passed and that the motion

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Mr. VITTER. I think it is really regrettable. The Senator from Vermont and I can talk about the substance. I will be happy to talk about the substance of his big bill. But the bottom line is that 43 Members of the Senate disagree with him about serious substantive issues.

Because there is major disagreement--almost half of the Senate, 43 Members of the Senate--he is going to block moving forward with 27 clinics to serve veterans around the country, about which there is no disagreement. On my bill, as amended, there is zero disagreement on the substance of that bill. Because he can't get his way fully on a bigger package, he is going to take the bat and take the ball, and home plate, first base, second, and third, and go home. I don't think this is the approach and spirit in which the American people want us to work. I think the American people want us to agree when we can agree. I think we should bend over to agree in those instances where we can agree and actually accomplish substantive, concrete things. We would be doing that by moving forward separately with these 27 important community-based clinics. And by the way, I think we would be creating a much better environment to continue to work on a compromised broader package.

I commend this approach again to my friend from Vermont. I think we should come together where we agree. I think we should accomplish what we can and continue to work on a broader package. But taking these 27 clinics hostage is not doing that, is not creating an atmosphere which is conducive to progress on a broader package, and is not properly serving the American people.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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