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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I know there are a lot of other issues that are consuming the interests of my colleagues and the American people, such as the confirmation hearings of Judge Sotomayor; the HELP Committee, of which I am a member, is reporting out one of the most massive takeovers and expenditures of taxpayer dollars in history; and we have this bill on the floor, and there are other issues. So it has probably gone unnoticed that we have seen another really--if not unprecedented, certainly highly unusual action on the part of the majority.
Frankly, to my colleagues on this side of the aisle and the American people, elections have consequences. What we have just seen is an amendment before this body and a piece of legislation before this body that I think one could argue is probably of more importance than any other we consider because it authorizes the measures necessary to preserve the security of this Nation, care for the men and women who are serving in the military, and meet the future threats we will face in the 21st century.
So what has happened here is that the majority leader, with the agreement of my friend from Michigan, whom I highly respect and regard, has made it clear that their highest priority is not that. Their highest priority is a hate crimes bill--a hate crimes bill that has nothing to do whatsoever with defending this Nation.
My friend from Michigan just complained that we haven't had a time for the vote. Of course we haven't had a time for the vote on the Levin-McCain amendment because we have been made aware that a hate crimes bill--and by the way, not an ordinary, small, specific amendment, but 17 pages, plus 6 additional pages, encompassing a piece of legislation that is before this body that has never moved through the Judiciary Committee. It has not moved through the Judiciary Committee, the appropriate committee of oversight.
So the majority leader of the Senate comes to the floor, after prevailing upon the distinguished chairman to withdraw his amendment--an amendment of some consequence, a $1.75 billion expenditure, and, far more important than even the money, a real confrontation between special interests and the national interests--so that we can move to the hate crimes bill.
The hate crimes bill is not without controversy, I say. In fact, it is interesting that on June 16, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent a letter to the Vice President and to the leaders of the Congress opposing the hate crimes bill.
I ask unanimous consent to have this letter printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD
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Mr. McCAIN. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a letter saying:
Dear Mr. President and distinguished Senators: We write today to urge you to vote against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
That is basically the bill the majority leader has just inserted into the process of legislation designed to defend this Nation's national security. Of course there are strong feelings on it. This is a complete abdication of the responsibilities of the Judiciary Committee but, more importantly, could hang up this bill for a long period of time. While we have young Americans fighting and dying in two wars, we are going to take up the hate crimes bill because the majority leader thinks that is more important--more important--than legislation concerning the defense of this Nation. I am sure the men and women in the military serving in his home State would be interested to know about his priorities.
So here we are. Now we will go through--I am sure the majority leader will file cloture, we will go through 30 hours of debate, and we will have another vote. All of this is unnecessary. Why couldn't we move the hate crimes bill--remember, this is not a single-shot amendment on a specific small issue; this is a huge issue, the whole issue of hate crimes. It is a huge issue. It deserves hearings and debate and amendment in the Judiciary Committee. But what are we going to do? For reasons that I guess the majority leader can make clear because I don't get it, he wants to put it on the national defense authorization bill and pass it that way. He will probably succeed, and he will call it ``bipartisan.'' The last time I checked, it has 44 Democratic cosponsors and 2 Republicans. That is the definition, by the way, around here of bipartisan bills. That is the way the stimulus package was bipartisan. That is how the omnibus spending bill was bipartisan. And I am pretty confident that if health care ``reform'' passes, it will probably be in another ``bipartisan'' fashion.
So we will have some hours of debate. We will have more exacerbated feelings between this side of the aisle and that side of the aisle. I would imagine that the hate crimes bill, given the makeup of this body, may even be put on a defense authorization bill--a huge issue. A huge issue will now be placed on a defense authorization bill and passed through the Congress and signed by the President. That is a great disservice to the American people. The American people deserve debate and discussion and hearings and witnesses on this legislation. They deserve it. They don't deserve to have a hate crimes bill put on this legislation which has no relation whatsoever to hate crimes.
I will probably have a lot more to say about this in the hours ahead. I have been around this body a fair amount of time. I have watched the Defense authorization bill wind its way through Congress, and occasionally, including at other times, I have seen amendments put on bills which are nongermane, but I haven't seen the majority leader of the Senate--the majority leader of the Senate, whose responsibility is to move legislation through the Senate--take a totally nonrelevant, all-encompassing, controversial piece of legislation and put it on a bill that is as important to the Nation's security as is this legislation. We are breaking new ground here, let's have no doubt about it. It is one thing to sometimes have one Member or two or others propose amendments that happen to be their pet project or their pet peeve. It is an entirely different thing--it is an entirely different thing, and I have never seen it before--that the majority leader of the Senate comes to the floor and introduces an irrelevant piece of legislation that is controversial, that is fraught with implications for this and future generations, to a bill that is totally nonrelevant. After 30 hours of debate, we will have a vote on closing that debate and including it in the legislation. I am deeply, deeply disappointed, and I question anyone's priorities who puts this kind of legislation ahead of the needs of the men and women who are serving our military with bravery, courage, and distinction.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I wish to repeat and emphasize the unprecedented fashion that we are now addressing legislation that concerns our Nation's security and the well-being and welfare of the men and women who are serving it.
I always thought the job of the majority leader of the Senate was to move legislation through the Senate. Obviously, the majority leader has come to the floor of the Senate and, at the request of the majority leader, the chairman of the committee has taken out an amendment that addresses a $1.75 billion F-22 amendment that the President has placed his personal stamp on passing, that the Secretary of Defense has viewed as one of his highest priorities, as did the Secretary of the Air Force and other administration officials. What did we do? We come to the floor and withdraw the amendment, withdraw it so we can take up a major piece of legislation.
I am reminded that there are amendments proposed by various Members of this body who believe their amendments need to be proposed and believe there is no other avenue but to put them on pending legislation. The majority leader of the Senate can bring up legislation wherever he wants to. That is the privilege of the majority. That is the right of the majority.
Here we are trying to address an issue of paramount importance to the well-being of the men and women of the United States of America. Here we are trying to address an issue of $1.75 billion, which has far more importance, in many respects, than the actual cost of the F-22s themselves, and without a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, without a bill reported out by the Judiciary Committee, which is the committee of oversight, the majority leader of the Senate has one very important amendment pulled and then puts in a piece of legislation which is far-reaching in the consequences and very controversial.
I introduced into the Record a little while ago the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights opposes this legislation. Doesn't this legislation, the hate crimes bill, deserve the amending and debate process that legislation is supposed to go through--committees and then on the floor of the Senate, open to amendments? No, it has been inserted now on the Defense authorization bill, and within a short time, I am sure the majority leader will come to the floor and file a motion for cloture to cut off debate on an issue of significant importance to all Americans and railroad it through on a ``bipartisan basis,'' with possibly two Republican votes.
That is not the way this body should work. It is an abuse of power. It does not make for comity on both sides of the aisle. In fact, those of us who are committed to seeing this authorization bill done as quickly as possible because we are worried about the security of this Nation take great offense when the majority leader of the Senate, whose job is to move legislation through the Senate, brings extraneous and unrelated legislation to a bill as important as this to the men and women of this country and our Nation's security. To somehow equate that with other amendments that have been proposed, from time to time, by Members on both sides, I think is not an appropriate comparison. I resent it a great deal. It is not good for the health of this body, in my view.
Perhaps there is precedent for this. Perhaps there is precedent when a Defense authorization bill, an issue probably, as I say, of the highest criticality, with an amendment on it that the President of the United States has fully weighed in on and committed on, is taken off the floor, is taken away from consideration in order to put in an extraneous and very controversial full package of legislation.
The hate crimes bill before us is not an amendment. It is legislation. It is an encompassing bill, 20-some pages long. We are going to have about 30 hours of debate, a discussion on it, the majority leader will come and cut off debate and we will probably pass it, thereby exacerbating a situation where those of us who oppose this legislation--and it is important legislation--will be faced with a dilemma of choosing between a bill which will harm, in my view, the United States of America and its judicial system and defending the Nation. I do not think that is fair to any Member of this body.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I want to point out again, the legislation which is now pending has replaced the F-22, the Levin-McCain amendment. My argument is that the majority leader has put in legislation which is not relevant to the pending legislation, which is the Department of Defense authorization bill. I am perfectly willing for the hate crimes bill to come up under the regular order. Why it should be put on the Defense authorization bill, which will then not allow adequate debate and discussion of amendments, not to mention the fact that it hasn't gone through the committee of jurisdiction--frankly, I do not think it is the appropriate way of using the Defense authorization bill. In fact, I think it is highly inappropriate. Therefore, why don't we do this, I ask the Senator from Illinois: agree that as soon as the Defense authorization bill is complete, we take up the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act under the regular order and do business the way the Senate should do business?
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 909
So therefore, Mr. President, I now ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be immediately withdrawn; that no amendments on the topic of hate crimes be in order to the pending legislation; further, I ask that when the Senate completes action on the Department of Defense authorization bill, it be in order for the Senate to proceed to S. 909, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, under the regular order.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Merkley). Is there objection?
Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, Mr. President, I would say that the Senator from Arizona knows that on 16 different occasions this year Republican Senators have offered nonrelevant amendments to pending legislation. The Senator has done that himself. I have done it myself. It is not unusual or beyond the custom and rules of the Senate. And I believe Senator Reid has the right to do it on this critically important legislation which we can move to with dispatch. Based on that, I do object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
Mr. McCAIN. So, Mr. President, here are the facts. The fact is, the majority leader, whose job it is to move legislation through the Senate, is now blocking progress of Defense authorization--that progress through the Senate--by proposing an unneeded, irrelevant amendment, which is a large piece of highly controversial legislation.
The Senate majority leader will come to the floor and he will file cloture. Then, after some hours--with no amendments because he will probably fill up the tree--the Senate will pass a highly controversial, highly explosive piece of legislation to be attached to the authorization for the defense and the security of this Nation. That is wrong. And why--I want to put it this way: It is unanswerable that we do not just take up the hate crimes bill in the regular order and allow Senate debate and discussion. That is how the Senate is supposed to work--not put it on a major piece of legislation.
I will also point out to my friend from Illinois something he knows. It is one thing for someone who sits back there to propose an amendment to pending legislation because they feel that is the only way they can get their argument heard. The majority leader of the Senate has the authority to move whatever legislation he wants. And the majority leader of the Senate should move the hate crimes bill if he wants it considered rather than give it priority over the legislation that accounts for the national security of this country and the men and women who serve it.
So I am sure there will be all kinds of comments about the Republicans blocking a vote, blocking this, blocking that. Why don't we take up legislation in the regular order? Hate crimes has been opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. This is a very controversial issue. By putting it on the DOD bill, we are not going to have the adequate debate, discussion, and amendment an issue such as this deserves. There is passion on both sides of the aisle.
So it is obvious, whether it is the intention or not, what is happening here is the whole process of debate and amendment will be short-circuited, because we on this side of the aisle are more than willing to take up the legislation as a separate piece of legislation, debate, amend, and discuss it, and let the American people decide. Instead, the men and women in the military right now today are being shortchanged by putting irrelevant legislation that is highly controversial and highly complex on a bill designed for defense of this country and for the men and women who serve it.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. McCAIN. Actually, I will be glad to yield. But if the Senator wants to have a colloquy, go ahead.
Mr. DURBIN. I want to make sure Senator Boxer has her chance.
If I could make two points in the nature of a question to the Senator from Arizona.
First, Senator Reid offered this amendment on behalf of Senator Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is now presiding over the Sotomayor hearings. I know he supports it, and I support it as well, the hate crimes legislation, but I want to make that a matter of record.
Mr. McCAIN. Could I respond to that?
Mr. DURBIN. Yes.
Mr. McCAIN. It is one thing to have the chairman of the committee support it; it is another thing to have the legislation go through the committee with the proper debate and discussion and amendment. But go ahead.
Mr. DURBIN. The second point I would like to make to the Senator from Arizona is, when we asked for unanimous consent from the Republican side to move to the hate crimes legislation, there was objection. So it is not as if we have not tried to go through regular order. This seems to be the only path we can use to bring this matter to a conclusion. And I think it can be done in a responsible way quickly. It does not have to drag out over a matter of days. The Senator knows that. If we can get agreement on both sides to have a reasonable time for debate and a vote on the bill, I think that would meet the needs the Senator has suggested to get back on the substance of the Defense authorization bill.
Mr. McCAIN. In deference to the Senator from California, I will make my answer brief, just to say I do not think--as I have said in my previous argument, it does not belong on a defense authorization bill, particularly so moved by the majority leader of the Senate. But, Mr. President, the Senator from California is waiting, and I yield the floor.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, if the Senator from California will allow me to make a unanimous consent request before she speaks.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that at 12 noon, on Thursday, July 16, the Senate proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Leahy amendment No. 1511, with the time until then equally divided and controlled between the leaders or their designees; that if cloture is invoked on amendment No. 1511, then all postcloture time be yielded back and amendment No. 1539 be agreed to; that amendment No. 1511, as amended, be agreed to and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table; that upon disposition of the hate crimes amendment, Senator Levin be recognized to offer the Levin-McCain amendment, and that the time until 5 p.m., Thursday, July 16, be for debate with respect to the amendment, with all time equally divided and controlled between Senators LEVIN and CHAMBLISS or their designees; that at 5 p.m., Thursday, July 16, the Senate proceed to vote in relation to the amendment, with no intervening amendment in order during the pendency of the F-22 amendment; further, that the mandatory quorum be waived with respect to rule XXII.
The purpose of this unanimous consent request is to achieve just what the Senator from Arizona asked for: a timely consideration of both amendments. We will be back on the bill on his amendment. I ask unanimous consent that we accept this schedule and move forward.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, and I will object, I am not asking that there be a time agreement on hate crimes, I am asking that the hate crimes bill be brought up as a standing bill. The Senator has 60 votes. The Senator could bring it up whether this side of the aisle objects or not as a freestanding piece of legislation. I object to it being considered on the Department of Defense authorization bill. It has no place for it. It should not be there. The longer we wait, the longer the delay is in providing the men and women of the military the tools they need. So I do object. And we should take this up. I am sorry my unanimous consent request was not agreed to--that we would take it up as a freestanding bill after the consideration of the Department of Defense bill.
Mr. President, I yield the floor. I thank the Senator from California for her courtesy.
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Mr. McCain. Mr. President, I wish to take a few moments to address the situation in Burma.
Though it has faded from the headlines, the outrageous detention and trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, that astonishingly courageous Burmese leader, continues. Ms. Suu Kyi, who has spent the majority of the past two decades under house arrest, is being held at the notorious Insein Prison compound. She was charged with crimes following the arrival at her house of an uninvited American man who swam across a nearby lake. He then reportedly stayed on her compound for 2 days, despite requests to leave. Based on this occurrence, the regime charged Ms. Suu Kyi with crimes and ordered her to stand trial in late May. Since then, she has been jailed and awaits possible conviction and up to 5 years in prison.
Let us recall that this long-suffering woman is, in fact, the legitimately elected leader of that country. To this day, the generals refuse to recognize the 1990 elections, in which the Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was victorious. Instead, they plan to proceed with ``elections,'' to be held next year, that they evidently believe will legitimize their illegitimate rule. The ruling regime seeks ways to ensure that Ms. Suu Kyi and other NLD members are not free to participate in these elections, since it is the NLD--and not the military junta--that has the support of the Burmese people. As an estimated 2,100 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, fill Burmese jails, the international community should see this process for the sham that it represents.
I once had the great honor of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a woman of astonishing courage and incredible resolve. Her determination in the face of tyranny inspires me, and every individual who holds democracy dear. Her resilience in the face of untold sufferings, her courage at the hands of a cruel regime, and her composure despite years of oppression inspire the world. Burma's rulers fear Aung San Suu Kyi because of what she represents--peace, freedom and justice for all Burmese people.
The thugs who run Burma have tried to stifle her voice, but they will never extinguish her moral courage.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Secretary-General traveled to Burma in an attempt to press the regime on its human rights abuses. The ruling generals reacted in their typical fashion. They stage managed Ban Ki-moon's visit, even refusing his request to speak before a gathering of diplomats and humanitarian groups.
Instead, before leaving, he was forced to speak at the regime's drug elimination museum. He was also refused a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. Burmese officials stated that their judicial regulations would not permit a meeting with an individual currently on trial. Incredible. Following his visit to Burma, the Secretary-General pointed out that allowing a meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi would have been an important symbol of the government's willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement essential to credible elections in 2010. He is right, and the regime's refusal is simply the latest sign that meaningful engagement is not on its list of priorities.
It is incumbent on all those in the international community who care about human rights to respond to the junta's outrages. The work of Aung San Suu Kyi and the members of the National League for Democracy must be the world's work. We must continue to press the junta until it is willing to negotiate an irreversible transition to democratic rule.
The Burmese people deserve no less. This means renewing the sanctions that will expire this year, and it means vigorous enforcement by our Treasury Department of the targeted financial sanctions in place against regime leaders. And it means being perfectly clear that we stand on the side of freedom for the Burmese people and against those who seek to abridge it.
The message of solidarity with the Burmese people should come from all quarters, and that includes their closest neighbors--the ASEAN countries. The United States, European countries, and others have condemned Ms. Suu Kyi's arrest and called for her immediate release. The countries of Southeast Asia should be at the forefront of this call.
ASEAN now has a human rights charter in which member countries have committed to protect and promote human rights. Now is the time to live up to that commitment, and ASEAN could start by dispatching envoys to Rangoon in order to demand the immediate, unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Following the visit of the U.N. Secretary-General, the Burmese representative to the U.N. stated that the government is planning to grant amnesty to a number of prisoners so they may participate in the 2010 general elections. ASEAN states should demand the implementation of this pledge to include all political prisoners currently in jail, including Ms. Suu Kyi.
Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Thailand later this month to participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum. I urge her to take up this issue with her Southeast Asian colleagues.
Too many years have passed without the smallest improvement in Burma. And although the situation there is replete with frustration and worse, it is not hopeless.
We know from history that tyranny will not forever endure, and Burma will be no exception. Aung San Suu Kyi, and all those Burmese who have followed her lead in pressing for their own inalienable rights, should know: All free peoples stand with you and support you. The world is watching not
only your brave actions but also those of the military government, where cruelty and incompetence know no bounds.
Burma's future will be one of peace and freedom, not violence and repression. We, as Americans, stand on the side of freedom, not fear; of peace, not violence; and of the millions of people in Burma who aspire to a better life, not those who would keep them isolated and oppressed.
The United States has a critical role to play, in Burma and throughout the world, as the chief voice for the rights and integrity of all persons. Nothing can relieve us of the responsibility to stand for those whose human rights are in peril, nor of the knowledge that we stand for something in this world greater than self-interest.
Should we need inspiration to guide us, we need look no further than to that astonishingly courageous leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta's latest actions are, once again, a desperate attempt by a decaying regime to stall freedom's inevitable process in Burma and across Asia. They will fail as surely as Aung San Suu Kyi's campaign for a free Burma will one day succeed.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record an article from BBC News entitled ``Inside Burma's Insein Prison'' and an AP article entitled ``Myanmar junta stage-manages visit by UN chief.''
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, from the story of the Burmese prison, let me quote:
Human rights campaigners say incarceration at the top security prison, which is known as the ``darkest hell-hole in Burma'', could be tantamount to a death sentence--especially as the 63-year-old's health--
Referring to Aung San Suu Kyi's health---- is known to be fragile.
Bo Kyi, now joint secretary of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), has firsthand experience of life in Insein jail.
He was jailed for more than seven years for political dissent, and was kept in solitary confinement for more than a year, in a concrete cell that was about 8ft by 12ft. .....
There was no toilet in the cell--just a bucket filled with urine and faeces. He slept on a mat on the floor.
Mr. Kyi says he was tortured and beaten by the prison guards. He was shackled in heavy chains, with a metal bar between his legs, which made it difficult to walk.
Every morning for about two weeks, he says he was made to ``exercise''--forced to adopt awkward positions and if he failed he was brutally beaten.
During this time he was not allowed to shower and was forced to sleep on bare concrete.
It goes on.
So she is there in that prison. I hope and pray the treatment she is receiving is not anywhere along the lines of what this prison is well known for.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I thank the majority leader for his words concerning the parliamentary situation we are in. Of course, I am very appreciative of his words about the long service we have shared together, both in the other body and in the Senate. Since I have returned from the campaign trail, I have appreciated his kind words about my service to the country. I must say, while the majority leader is still on the floor, I might point out that they are dramatically different from the comments he made about me during the campaign--not just our political differences but my qualifications to serve and other statements about my character. All those things are said in political campaigns, but I am certainly glad to see sort of a significant change in his comments concerning me, and I am always very grateful.
Can I also say that the distinguished leader said he couldn't understand that I couldn't understand. Well, the thing I can't understand is the fact that the majority leader can, by virtue of being majority leader, put legislation at any time before this body. I have never been majority leader, and in all candor I never want to be majority leader. I think the majority leader in the Senate has a very tough job. I appreciate the hard work he does in trying to move legislation through the Senate. My former colleague and one-time majority leader, Senator Lott, once said that being majority leader of the Senate was like herding cats, and I certainly agree with that assessment.
So let me say I appreciate the work the majority leader does, but if I had been majority leader, I would never have had to do any of those amendments. The majority leader sets the agenda for the Senate. All he has to do if he wants the hate crimes bill up is to schedule it to be taken up and debated and discussed and amended--but in the regular order of the Senate. Instead, he chooses to put it on the Defense authorization bill, a bill that is vital to the future of the security of this Nation.
I understand his passion concerning hate crimes. I have heard speakers come to the Senate floor all day, and they, in very graphic and moving terms, described events, as I am sure the next speaker will--about the terrible crimes committed in this country by some of the worst of the worst people who have ever inhabited this country.
But the question remains: Why should a bill of this importance--the hate crimes legislation--not have been, at the majority leader's direction, moved through the Judiciary Committee, reported out, and reported to the floor of the Senate? We have been in session since January. I am sure the Judiciary Committee has a lot to do. This has been described by proponents, as they come to the floor, as one of the most important issues of our time. If it is, why not move it through the Judiciary Committee, move it to the floor, and allow us to amend, debate, and discuss the issue? Instead, it is put, as an amendment, on the Defense authorization bill.
That is not right, Mr. President. The fact is, the amendment the majority leader just, very rightfully, extolled, the Levin-McCain amendment--and I appreciate his strong remarks about the importance of it--is the one he wanted withdrawn. The reason we are not debating it now is because the majority leader told the chairman of the committee to withdraw the amendment.
I appreciate his passionate advocacy of this issue. I also want to reemphasize this isn't just about $1.75 billion. This amendment is about whether we are going to change, fundamentally, the way we do business.
If the opponents of the amendment succeed, and we fund additional F-22 aircraft, which as the majority leader pointed out has never flown in Iraq or Afghanistan, that signal to the military industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned us about is business as usual in our Nation's Capitol.
So this is an amendment that has transcendent importance. The President has guaranteed a veto. The Secretary of Defense came out and staked his reputation on succeeding here and eliminating, bringing to an end the F-22 production line and moving forward with the F-35 production line.
A lot of my friends ought to understand this is not just about cutting or eliminating or ending production of the F-22. It is also about the F-35 aircraft. If I had been majority leader, I would have--when he described those amendments I put on bills that were before the Senate, it was because I could not get them up in any other way.
Let me say this: Hate crimes legislation deserves the attention of the Senate in the normal legislative process with amendments, debate, and discussion. If it is so important, and speaker after speaker, including the majority leader, came to the Senate floor talking about how important and vital it is and all of the terrible things that have happened as a result of, in their view, not having this bill--although that is not in agreement with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. But the fact is, then you would think we would want to take it up in the regular fashion and debate it, and that we would want to improve it and make it more effective through the amending process. But, no, we are not going to do that. We are going to take down the pending amendment that is probably one of the most significant amendments we have had in recent history of the Senate--at least as far as defense is concerned--and replace it with a piece of legislation that is complex, certainly controversial, and certainly deserves the full attention of the Senate.
I proposed earlier a unanimous-consent request, which was rejected by the majority, that we move back to the F-22 amendment, that we dispose of this legislation, and then that we move to the hate crimes bill, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, even bypassing the Judiciary Committee, which is not a normal thing to do given the complexity of the issue.
I am deeply moved by the stories the majority leader told, and both Senators from California came to the floor, and many others have given very graphic and dramatic and compelling stories recounting terrible things that have happened to our citizens--horrible, awful, horrifying things. I understand that and my sympathies and thoughts and prayers go out to their families. We must do everything in our power to make sure these kinds of horrendous acts are never repeated.
Let me point out another thing, if I could. There are also men and women in the military who are in harm's way now and who have been gravely wounded. The sooner we enact this legislation, we will make preparation and be able to better care for them.
Mr. President, I don't usually tell these anecdotes. I heard a lot today, and I sympathize with them. Before the majority leader took the floor, I was outside the Senate Chamber. There was a young man there who said he wanted to meet me--a young marine in a wheelchair, badly wounded. He was there with his family. He was escorted by Congressman Kennedy. I was gratified and moved that he wanted to meet me.
Do you know what. That made me want to come back here and pass this legislation as quickly as possible because this legislation, No. 1, provides fair compensation and first-rate health care and addresses the needs of the injured and improves the quality of life of the men and women of the All-Volunteer Force--Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve, and their families. That is the No. 1 priority of this legislation.
Instead of moving this legislation as quickly as possible through the Senate, we have now withdrawn the amendment and moved on to a piece of legislation that has nothing to do with the purpose and our obligation to the men and women serving this country.
I understand what numbers are, and I understand what the outcome of elections is. I understand there is a majority on the other side of the aisle. But what is being done by withdrawing an amendment that has transcendent importance and putting another totally unrelated piece of legislation in--it may set a dangerous precedent for this body.
This is not a one-shot deal; this the hate crimes bill. This is not an amendment to say you can carry a gun in a national park. This is not a single specific issue bill--hate crimes. We are talking about a very large, encompassing piece of legislation that, by any rational observation, demands to be considered through the proper committee and on the floor through the proper process.
We are now holding up the progress of legislation that is important to the future security of this country and the men and women who serve it, to give them the resources, training, technology, equipment, force protections, and authorities they need to succeed in combat and stability operations.
I understand and appreciate the passion of the advocates of hate crime legislation. They have made it very clear and told compelling stories on the Senate floor. I believe we must take it up and enact it as immediately as possible. What we should be doing is taking up the hate crimes bill in the Senate for full debate and discussion as soon as we finish the Defense authorization bill. There is no connection between the Defense authorization bill and hate crimes. It is a complex and detailed--26 pages, as I recall--piece of legislation.
Again, I appreciate the kind comments of the majority leader, who came to the floor and said he couldn't understand certain things I have done. I hope the majority leader understands better now. If he doesn't, I will be glad to come to the floor again and point out that what we are doing is wrong. It is wrong for us to get off the legislation that provides for the defense and security of this Nation. It is wrong to take up a piece of legislation that should go through the appropriate committee.
This is what we teach kids in school in Civics 101--that a bill is proposed and goes through the proper committee, is reported out, and then it comes to the floor of the Senate for debate and amendment. Instead, we are violating the fundamental rules of procedure of the Senate.
As we continue and vote at 2 a.m.--or whatever it is that we are going to do--all we will have done is delay the responsibility we have, which is to provide for the security of this Nation.
I yield the floor.
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