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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008--Continued -- (Senate - July 10, 2007)


Mr. McCAIN. I paid attention to the statement of the Senator from Illinois, as well as that of the Senator from Nevada. We may be approaching--not a historic moment in the history of the Senate but certainly one worthy of note; that is, according to my staff, that is not always accurate but is well meaning, we are about, maybe, at least 26 years since we have not had a Defense authorization bill passed by this body. Clearly from this beginning it appears, as on most other issues that have come before this body recently, we will be gridlocked.

Cloture motions will be filed. Votes will be taken. Time passes and, unfortunately, during that period of time, the men and women who are serving in our military will be without their pay increase. They will be without the increase in numbers that are called for in this bill, from 512,000 in the Army to 525,000; from 180,000 in the Marines to 189,000.

The best way, probably, to relieve the stress on the men and women in the military and the overdeployment that, unfortunately, we all regret they have had to bear, their unfair share of sacrifice in defense of this Nation and its security, is to increase the size of the military. That is in this bill.

Frankly, the reason we arrived at these numbers is it is just about as many as can be recruited additionally; otherwise, I think you would see additional numbers.

Instead of the 3.5-percent pay increase, instead of increasing size in the Army and Marine Corps, which we all know is badly needed, some of us, including my friend from Michigan, have known for many years how badly it was needed. One of the many mistakes made by the previous Secretary of Defense was not to call for a dramatic increase in the size of our Marine Corps and Army, for which our military families have paid a very heavy price.

Here we are, gridlocked in a battle whether we are going to have 60 votes and whether we are going to have to file a cloture motion which will ripen after a couple of days and all the arcane things that very few Americans understand. It took me a number of years to finally comprehend some of the procedures around here.

So we are, again, going to probably maintain that historic low in approval that was recently, in a recent Gallop Poll that has been taken for many years--I have forgotten the number now. I think it was in the teens as the approval rating of the Congress on the part of the American people.

Anybody who just watched the proceedings that went on and the exchanges between the two leaders make that disapproval rating far more understandable. The average citizen watching these debates really doesn't understand why we don't just go ahead and take care of the men and women in the military, to give them the arms and ammunition they need, to give them the much needed equipment we have talked about on this list--the $2.7 billion items on the Army Chief of Staff's unfunded requirements list, things like the $4.1 billion for the MRAP, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. We all know how bad the situation is, as far as IEDs are concerned.

What are we going to do? Are we going to sit down and say: Hey, you know what. When the Democrats were in the minority around here they insisted on 60 votes on just about every issue, particularly important ones. We are now insisting on 60 votes, now that we are in the minority. Yet somewhere along the way the issue of c-o-m-i-t-y and the national interest suffers and is abandoned by the wayside of politics.

The Senator from Michigan and I will sit here this afternoon and we will have statements made by various Members as they come to the floor. There are, if my past experience with this bill is accurate, probably 100, maybe more, amendments that will be pending because there are so many issues that are important to Members and important to the defense of this Nation. It is very likely, from this scenario I am seeing, that we will for the first time in at least 26 years not pass a Defense authorization bill--certainly not in a timely manner. We are already into the month of July, and, obviously, we will not spend all 4 weeks on this issue.

I think in days gone by--and we all have a tendency to remember the good parts and not the bad parts--there was a tendency for the managers of the bill and the majority and whatever party was in the minority leaders would sit down and say: OK, we are going to narrow down the amendments. We are going to have agreement for a certain number of amendments and votes, and it would take us a while. I can remember sometimes it taking 2 weeks. That is why we usually bump it up against a recess because one thing in the 20 years I have been here we have never missed is a recess. Now we are going to sit here for this afternoon. It is Tuesday afternoon, and we are going to have various statements. Members on both sides will display their dedication to the men and women in the military. I appreciate that. I appreciate the patriotism of every single Member of this body. But are we really going to do anything for them? Are we really going to try to help them? Or are we going to be locked in combat on an issue that should not be on this bill?

We probably have taken up the issue of the war in Iraq eight or nine times. I don't know exactly how many times. We have amendments, we have debates, we have 60 votes, and then we move on to something else. Meanwhile, we have not done a single appropriations bill, I might add, and we are in the month of July.

Everybody knows, even though I don't happen to agree with it, that September will be a seminal time on the Iraq issue.

General Petraeus will be coming back, and he will be issuing his report, which, by the way, I can predict what it is going to be right now; mixed, some success and some frustration. Then, guess what, in September, we are going to go through another debate. We are going to have amendments, and we are going to have 60 votes again.

Meanwhile, the American people are wondering what in the heck we are all about here, and why in the world, in all due respect to the deputy majority leader, do we have to keep taking up the Iraq issue when we know full well that in September there will be a major debate on this issue?

Meanwhile, the men and women in the military who are serving, to whom I see declaration after declaration of our dedication and devotion to their welfare and benefit, then what is going to equip them? What is going to train them? What is going to give them the pay raise? What is going to take care of them is somehow lost in the rhetoric of 60-vote requirements, which again, most Americans do not understand nor should they be required to, because they expect us to come here and act in their benefit. Certainly they should be asking us to act on an issue, on a piece of legislation such as the Defense authorization bill which has to do with the defense of this Nation.

Well, I could go on for a long time.

I do not want in any way my comments to be construed as a lack of respect and appreciation for the chairman of the committee, and the many years we have worked together, because I am convinced he and I could sit down in a very short period of time and work out the number of amendments and schedule votes and time agreements. But we are not going to do that. We are not going to do that. But please do not come to the floor, I ask my colleagues, and talk about your dedication to the men and women in the military and how difficult it is for them in these times, when we have before us a bill to increase the size of the military, we have before us a bill to give them a pay increase that they deserve, and it probably is not going to be passed by this body, at least before we go out for the August recess. Then we get into September. Then we will get into another fight on the issue of whether we should withdraw troops in Iraq.

I don't think we should be very proud of ourselves. I don't. When the men and women in the military whom we again, as I say, all profess our devotion and dedication to, do not get the equipment they need authorized, do not get the increases in pay, do not get the increases in numbers that we are trying to authorize, then do not be too surprised with the cynicism of the American people and voters and, indeed, the men and women who are serving, about the way we do business.

I hope the majority leader and the Republican leader can sit down and work this thing out. Look, it is a fact the way the Senate works. It happened when the other side was in the minority, that they required 60 votes on issues of importance. I am sorry they did. I am sorry we did. I wish we could have simple up-or-down votes on all of these amendments. But to claim that somehow we are filibustering, when that was the standard procedure on the other side, I don't think is, frankly, too forceful an argument.

As I say, my staff tells me it has been at least 26 years, probably more, since we have not passed a Defense authorization bill. I hope we will not break that record. I hope we can sit down together and work this out. Again, recognizing these votes on Iraq are votes that will be taken again in the month of September, they will be taken again in the month of September when the President comes, when General Petraeus comes with his report, I would hope we could set the whole issue of Iraq aside, go ahead with the authorization for equipping and training and protection and welfare and benefit of the men and women who are serving us in the military. Unfortunately, I think that is not going to happen.

I yield the floor.

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