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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I congratulate the Republican leader on his statement. I think it was very thorough. I think it was very thoughtful, and I am sure it took a lot of hours of deliberation and observation not only of Judge Sotomayor's record but also of her testimony before the Judiciary Committee. So I congratulate the Republican leader on a very thoughtful statement and one that I think makes very clear the reason he reached the difficult decision to oppose the nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court.

I wish to say that we are supposed to be on the Department of Defense authorization bill. Obviously, we are not. We are on the hate crimes bill, which the majority leader decided was important enough to replace the proceedings of the Senate on the Defense authorization bill and the very urgent mission we have and obligation and duties we have as a Congress to authorize the means necessary to defend the security of this Nation and the men and women who are defending it. So we will be wrapped around the axle on amendments and which ones are allowed and time agreements. I am not saying this legislation would have moved forward smoothly; there are always some difficulties. But for many years now, I have been involved in the authorization bill, and this is the first time I ever saw the majority leader of the Senate come forward and propose a comprehensive piece of legislation which had not gone through the committee of authorization, and, of course, this side of the aisle then had to, as is our right, propose an amendment of our own. Of course, there is some reluctance on this side of the aisle to agree to a time agreement, and so we go back and forth. Meanwhile, the men and women of the military are in two wars and they don't quite understand why we don't just move forward and do what our oath of office requires us to do, and that is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. So I will continue to work with the distinguished chairman, and I am hoping we will be able to work together to get the legislation moving again.

I understand there are four amendments to be considered on the hate crimes bill and that a gun amendment has been introduced and there may be amendments on that, and time agreements. Meanwhile, the issue of the F-22 and whether we continue production of it is set aside while we debate nongermane amendments to the Defense authorization bill.

So I guess what is probably going to happen, from previous experience--and I don't know--probably around Thursday, the majority leader will come to the floor and say that we haven't moved forward and we haven't made progress, blame it on this side of the aisle, and file cloture. Then we will have a vote on cloture. I would imagine that given--I don't know how that vote turns out; it depends on whether Members on both sides of the aisle feel their amendments or their views have been adequately addressed.

But I am convinced that we would have moved forward with the authorization bill, that we probably could have addressed the issue of the F-22--and I do not say this side of the aisle is blameless, but I do understand why, when we knew hate crimes was going to be brought up, that those who feel strongly on this side of the aisle--including the fact that it never went through the Judiciary Committee; it has never been reported out but is added on a defense authorization bill--had their concerns. So it is unfortunate. It is unfortunate, and it is not really a good statement about the way we represent the American people, because if there is any legislation we should be moving forward on--and I will take responsibility on this side of the aisle too--that certainly is the Defense authorization bill.

I believe there is an unbroken record of approval of the Defense authorization bill over a many-year period of time. I hope that, on behalf of the greater good, we can sit down and work out amendments and work through the hate crimes and the amendment by the Senator from South Dakota, and we can move forward and get this issue resolved. I don't think it is the right way to do business, particularly when we are talking about the defense of the Nation.

So I pledge to my colleague from Michigan, the distinguished chairman whom I have had the great honor of working with for many years, to try to work through this. But I still maintain that the fact that the majority leader of the Senate felt it necessary to bring a hate crimes bill up before the Senate on a defense authorization bill, which is clearly not germane, triggered this situation we are in today.

Having said that, it is what it is, and so I will go in the back now and see where we can work out amendments, see if we can work out an agreement to have the hate crimes vote, to have the gun vote, and then hopefully work with the target of tomorrow morning for voting on the F-22 since, as we have discussed in the past on the floor of the Senate, the importance of that vote is far transcendent of any single weapons system. It is really all about whether we are going to have business as usual and spend taxpayers' money on what the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, and our other military leaders think should be spent on the Joint Strike Fighter rather than further production of the F-22. From what I understand, it may be a close vote and a very interesting one. I wish we were spending more time debating that than hate crimes and gun amendments.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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