DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION -- (Senate - July 09, 2007)
Mr. McCONNELL. With that, Mr. President, let me make some observations about the Defense authorization bill.
What Republicans would like to see is an open and comprehensive debate. We know this debate is going to include a discussion of our policy in Iraq. We welcome that too. There are a variety of different proposals on both sides of the aisle about how we ought to go forward on that most important issue. Nobody has any doubt that is the No. 1 issue in this country, and we are certainly prepared to offer our suggestions, as well as to react to the Democratic suggestions about where we should go from here.
But a couple of words of caution are in order as we proceed. Everyone should know from the outset that Republicans will expect and insist on the freedom to improve this bill with our own amendments. We will be offering them and expect to have them voted on, as well as Democratic amendments.
Democrats have continually tried to block our efforts at improving legislation earlier in this session, as evidenced by the record pace of cloture motions we have been discussing on the floor that have been filed since January. I know there has been an effort to attempt to paint this record-setting pace of cloture motions as a reaction against alleged Republican intransigence, but, frankly, that is simply not the case. It is an effort to try to truncate the legislative process in such a way that works to the disadvantage of the minority.
The Senate has always been a place of cooperation. Most of us on both sides have been in the majority and minority recently. We know the different proposals that tend to please one and inhibit the other. The Senate is a ponderous place on purpose. It is exactly what Washington and the Founders predicted.
Republicans have insisted on our right to improve everything from ethics reform to the minimum wage bill this year. We have improved, we believe, everything we have touched, and we will continue to insist on our rights to do that.
Specifically, on this bill, the DOD authorization bill, which we will turn to at 3 o'clock, we will insist on amendments that respond aggressively and practically to the ongoing terrorist threat both here and abroad.
It is important to remember whom we are fighting. General Petraeus has said that 80 percent to 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are from outside the country, outside of Iraq. We are fighting al-Qaida, other terror groups, and the states that support them.
We cannot allow these terrorists to gain a new sanctuary even closer to the United States than Afghanistan or to gain access to other ungoverned areas in the Middle East that will give them a new stage to carry out their attacks.
It has always been in the U.S. interest, and it remains in the U.S. interest, to maintain stability in the Persian Gulf. It is important not to forget that either. We need to guard against an emboldened Iran, which is facilitating and capitalizing on the weakness of Iraq for its own advantage on the world stage. We must reassure our allies in Iraq, the Middle East, and the world that America remains committed to fighting terrorism wherever it is found.
Finally, as we proceed, we must remember we are at war and that our enemies will use any means at their disposal to harm us. They intend to strike us at home and abroad. They will exploit any opening we give them, and they will use every tool at their disposal.
Everyone in this Chamber has America's best interests at heart. But it will fall on Republicans in this debate to be particularly awake to the complexity of the terrorist threat.
Now, it is no accident we have not been attacked at home in nearly 6 years. We have kept terrorists at arm's length by bringing the fight to them. Republican amendments will build on the lessons we have learned over the past 6 years. They will reflect our commitment to security and continued vigilance, and we will insist they be heard. Republicans will succeed in improving this bill in ways that improve our war-fighting ability and our counter-terrorism tools.
I yield the floor, Mr. President.
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, will the majority leader yield for a question?
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I am happy to yield.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I do not know if the majority leader was preoccupied or not, but let me say again, we were prepared to go to conference on the 9/11 bill the Friday before the recess, and the request was not made by my good friend, which is fine. I would say, again, we are prepared to go to conference on the 9/11 bill. I would suggest we have our floor staffs work out the language. I do not think there is any reason why we could not do that today.