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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, this is, obviously, an important vote that is coming up. I repeat, I am not opposed in principle to bringing up the Defense bill and debating it, amending it, and voting on it. I am not opposed to having a full and informed debate on whether to repeal don't ask, don't tell and then allowing the Senate to legislate. What I am opposed to is bringing up the Defense bill now before the Defense Department has completed its survey because we need to know the views of the men and women who are serving in the military in uniform. Give them a chance to tell us their views. Whether you agree or disagree with the policy, whether you want to keep it or repeal it, the Senate should not be forced to make this decision now before we have heard from our troops. We have asked for their views, and we should wait to hear from them. All four service chiefs have said the same thing: Let's conduct the survey, let's get it done and then act on whether to repeal or not repeal.

There is one other aspect. This is a blatant political ploy in order to try to galvanize the political base of the other side, which is facing a losing election. That is why the majority leader said we would take up don't ask, don't tell, take up the DREAM Act, and then take up the issue of secret holds and then address the other issues after the election. I wonder why the majority leader would have those priorities--in other words, take up those that would be politically beneficial, galvanize his political base as far as the Hispanic community is concerned and the gay and lesbian community, and then take up the other issues after--after--the election is over in lameduck session.

This majority leader has filled up the tree and has not allowed debate 40 times--40 times--more than all the other majority leaders preceding him. Last year, the hate crimes bill was arranged in such a way that there were not amendments that could be proposed by my side of the aisle.

So let's vote against cloture. Let's sit down and try to reach some kind of an agreement. Let the men and women in the military be heard from. Let their leaders go to their men and women who are serving and tell them we have heard their input before we make this legislative change and stop the cynical manipulation of the men and women in the military in order to get votes on November 2.

Mr. President, I reserve the remainder of my time.


Mr. McCAIN. I just wish to emphasize again the statements of the service chiefs.

GEN George Casey:

I remain convinced that it is critically important to get a better understanding of where our Soldiers and Families are on this issue, and what the impacts on readiness and unit cohesion might be, so that I can provide informed military advice to the President and the Congress. I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.

Admiral Roughead:

My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters.

General Conway:

I encourage the Congress to let the process the Secretary of Defense created to run its course.

General Schwartz:

I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, that the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law.

Let's listen to the people we place in charge of the men and women in the military. This is not the time to move forward on this issue, particularly with a political campaign at its highest.

I hope my colleagues will oppose the cloture vote and let's hear a statement in favor of the men and women serving in the military.

I yield the remainder of my time.


Mr. McCAIN. Could I make a couple of comments? One is, one of the things that has disappeared that I saw in the first years I was here in the Senate is the two leaders sitting down and perhaps coming to informal agreements that are then put into unanimous consent agreements to move forward.

The other aspect of this I wonder if my colleagues would care to comment on. One of the reasons why we have these--the majority leader comes forward, as I believe he has 40 times, brings up a bill and then immediately fills up the tree--and to the uninitiated, obviously that means there will be no other amendments allowed through that kind of parliamentary procedure. A lot of times that is read by the Members saying, hey, there is going to be an amendment up that I do not want to have to vote on. I do not want to have to vote on it. So fill up the tree, have no other amendments allowed to be voted on.

It seems to me that we should have the courage to go ahead and vote. Time after time, when I have seen basically a shutout from amendments, I have said, look, I will agree to a time agreement. I am not going to filibuster it. Just give us 15 minutes either side and vote on it. But they do not want to take tough votes. I am not going to call it cowardice, but I cannot call it courage, that people will prevail and say, hey, let's fill up the tree so we can only get this done and we will not have to take a tough vote on whatever the issue is that seems to be attracting the attention of the American people.

I say to my colleague from New Hampshire, who will not be with us next January----


Mr. McCAIN. I certainly do not in any way indicate that there is any physical ailment that will cause you not to be a Member of the Senate next January.

If the Senator from New Hampshire could provide us with the benefit of his experience in both the House and the Senate, and also maybe he would give us at some point his view of what we need to do to fix this gridlock we have over the economy. He has done it on numerous occasions, but it comes to my mind that perhaps the Senator from New Hampshire at some time would take an hour on the floor and say: Here is what I think we need to do. I think it would be valuable. I don't think there is anybody in the Senate today who has a better grasp for the budgetary issues we have to grapple with as we face an unprecedented situation of debt and deficit.

Perhaps after this election, it may be possible for us to sit down and be included in the agenda of the Senate. That is one of the things that has been a big change. It used to be that at least the majority leader, whichever party was in the majority, would come over and say: Here is our agenda. What is your agenda? What is your input? What do you want to see happen? Most of the time nowadays, we hear what is going to happen either through reading it in the media or when the majority leader comes to the floor and says: Here is what we will take up next. It does not lead to comity.


Mr. McCAIN. Doesn't it send a message to people who are having their budgets squeezed, having to make the most difficult decisions about their budget, that this body will function and continue to appropriate money for our functions without a budget of our own? What kind of a signal does that send to the American people? Doesn't that contribute to the disconnect and the frustration Americans feel and give rise to the tea party, which has had a seismic effect on the political landscape?


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