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Senate Reorganization (pt. 3)

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator from Arizona yield for a question?

Mr. KYL. I am happy to yield.

Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator from Arizona agree with me that, unquestionably, the beginning of the previous Congress was the most complicated situation we have had in Senate organization, having ended up with a 50-50 tie for the first time since the 1880s?

Mr. KYL. Yes. The first time, I guess, since the 1880s; that is right.

Mr. McCONNELL. I would point out to my friend from Arizona, the Congress was sworn in on January 3 of 2001, the beginning of that dead-even Senate, and 2 days later this complicated organizational resolution, which our friends and colleagues on the other side, in effect, want to continue into this Congress, was passed—2 days.

The reason for that, obviously, is that we had known since the election what was going to happen and we were working long on it. We have known since November 5, 2002, what was going to happen. I have heard on the other side it was 6 weeks, but in fact there were 24 days after Senator Jeffords switched to get the resolution passed. But the chairmen switched almost immediately. I handed my gavel over to Senator Dodd, Senator Bennett handed his over, Senator Bond did; I believe everybody did, including Senator Kyl.

We have known now for 70 days who was going to be in the majority—70 days. It seems to this Senator that we have had adequate notice for quite some time who was going to be in the majority and yet we have killed a week in failing to address the people's business from last year because of an apparent unwillingness to recognize who is in the majority around here.

Mr. KYL. I respond to my colleague from Kentucky that in the last five Congresses we have organized the Senate on January 3, January 5, and January 7. The very latest date was January 9. We are already a week beyond that, and the week has, in fact, been wasted except for a very quick passage of the unemployment compensation benefit, which shows what we can do when we get down to work here.

The history is that we do this very quickly, even in the most complicated circumstances, as the Senator noted, when we were 50-50 and had a lot of issues to try to resolve. That gets back to my point that there is no reason to hold up the exchanges of the gavels, a routine matter that recognizes who won the election, simply because there is still some disagreement about whether the money is going to be split—I don't even know—57/43, or whatever the numbers are.

Mr. McCONNELL. Particularly since the funding resolution goes until the first of March.

Mr. KYL. Precisely the point. So unless there is some other ulterior motives—and I never ascribe motives to my colleagues and they can explain their own actions—the result of this is delay, though, and given the fact that we have unfinished business from last year because of the Democrat leader's inability to pass a budget and get appropriations bills passed, we are already behind schedule.

We are in a war with terrorists. There could be a military conflict with Iraq. The President has an economic agenda that the American people are very interested in because it affects both their families and the economy as a whole. My constituents want Medicare reform and a prescription drug benefit to go along with that so we can strengthen and preserve Medicare. We have a lot on our agenda, and this delay is not helping the American people and there is no reason for it. That is why I, again, urge my Democratic colleagues. We are not saying this in anger or in a partisan tone, I hope, but it does not serve the interests of the American people, and it certainly blemishes the Senate to be unable to organize, to simply recognize which side won the election. Let this side chair the committees so we can get on with the other business of the day. That is the inevitable result of what is happening here.

I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to recognize that fact. It doesn't make them look good, it doesn't make the Senate look good, and it is bad for the American people. I hope we can get the resolution adopted quickly and get on with the business of the American people.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kentucky is recognized.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Arizona for his comments. Before he leaves the floor, I will make the observation that in addition to not being able to address the unfinished business from last year, because we don't have committees approved, we have Senators from 11 States who have no committees at all. They were duly chosen in an election last November. A week ago today, they took the oath of office here at the front of the Chamber and became Senators. A week later, they are still not on committees.

Now, it is almost impossible for a Senator to represent his constituents if he or she is not on a committee. So we have, in effect, disenfranchised those 11 States for a week. There is no crisis to address if the committee funding resolution doesn't expire for some 7 weeks from now. There is no reason to be doing this, other than an apparent attempt to fail to recognize the results of last year's election.

So we have, I say to my friend from Arizona, Senators from Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas who have all been sworn in and have no committee assignments whatsoever.

This is the United States of America. We had an election. All of these new Senators have been certified and they are entitled to be effective Members of this body representing their constituents. Our failure to act makes that impossible.

There has been a lot of discussion about committee funding. Really, that is not the issue before us in this resolution before the Senate today. This is simply a resolution ratifying committee membership of Republican Members of the Senate. Traditionally, Democrats offer a similar resolution putting their members on committees. What has gotten all mixed up in this, apparently, is the whole question of what kind of committee funding ratios there are going to be. There was a very revealing article in Roll Call before the November election in which—it was on October 31—a senior Democratic aide said it was "an extraordinary circumstance that forced them to continue the equal funding."

I agree with that, both in the beginning of the 107th Congress and after the defection of Senator Jeffords. Both were extraordinary circumstances. Here you have a Democratic aide stating the obvious, with which I agree. It was an extraordinary circumstance that forced continuing funding at that level in the middle of a Congress when they suddenly became a majority. But the same aide stated that "if we pick up a seat or two, I think it is without a doubt we would go back to two-thirds/one-third," which is right before the election of last fall. "If we pick up a seat or two .    .    . we would go back to two-thirds/one-third." It is quite stunning how accurate Roll Call's predictions were. They predicted that if the Democrats were to lose a seat, which is indeed what happened, they would fight for equal funding, which is where we find ourselves today.

The funding issue is not before us in the Senate today. This is about ratifying the results of last November's election. The majority leader has laid down a committee resolution that would give the Republican Members of the Senate an opportunity to serve on committees, so that they can represent the people they were sent here to represent.

I hope we will be able to resolve all of this amicably. It has gone on entirely too long. We have been doing this for over a week. Of course, it has been tougher on the majority leader than anybody else because he spends an endless amount of time each day discussing it. I hope we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and may be able to resolve this matter in some kind of amicable fashion, hopefully before the day is out.

I yield the floor.

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