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Public Statements

Unemployment Compensation Extension Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise today to speak to the amendment process with this unemployment bill. It is a very important point that we are making this afternoon.

A few hours ago the very distinguished Member from Illinois, the senior Senator, got up and talked about how the unemployment insurance bill had been stalled by Republicans. He claimed that Republicans had been stalling it for 4 weeks. I rise today to respectfully disagree with that. We have come forward with a series of amendments. That is what the Senate is about. The other side has resisted votes on the amendments. So we started this process of trying to scale this back. We started out with eight amendments. The majority leader said, no, it could only be six. So Republicans got together and said we will come back with only three Republican amendments. Then, lo and behold, there was an objection to that.

Let me repeat: We said eight, they said six, we said three, and they said no.

It turns out there is one significant vote and it is the Senator from South Dakota who I think very appropriately and, I think, wisely put an amendment forward that would put TARP to an end at the end of the year.

I am new to this process. But I have to tell you, in the first weeks I was here when we were voting on amendments I said to myself: This is the most remarkable institution. Somebody from the minority could literally come with an idea from a citizen back home, put that idea out here, and get a vote on that. There cannot be anything like this anywhere in the world.

What is happening today, if I might point out, is that this is being thwarted by filling the tree. For those who are listening to this and saying what does this filling the tree mean, all it means is that the majority leader, who is in control of the process, simply puts all the amendments out there and there is no opportunity for anybody else to offer an amendment. It is called filling the tree.

Look at what is happening. This is what does concern me as a Member of this great institution. If you go back through the history of majority leaders, you can see what has happened. Tom Daschle, when he was majority leader, I think used this once. Bill Frist, when he was majority leader, used this I think it was 12 times, if I remember correctly.

Today, this will be 22 times that the majority leader has done this. What this graph means is if you have an amendment, as I do, that basically says I like what you are doing here. I don't have any problem with extending unemployment. I voted for the tax credit for homes. I voted, or I would vote, for the loss carryback. I talked about it on the campaign trail. But I have an amendment that says we should pay for this the way we did originally, with stimulus funding. That is simple. This is not complicated. All I am asking is for a vote on that. I think that makes a tremendous amount of sense.

What I am saying is if we are going to act like a Senate, if we are going to give each Member the ability to make their case, then what we have to do is stop this and bring these issues to a vote.

I yield the floor.


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