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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2011- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LeMIEUX. Mr. President, I have served in the Senate for 1 year. I have watched the process of different pieces of legislation come to the floor of the Senate.

One of the most frustrating things, to the American people and certain
frustrating to me, is that we as Senators do not have the opportunity to offer amendments on these large pieces of legislation, legislation in this case that authorizes the actions of young men and women who are fighting to protect our safety and freedom around the world, that the Senator from Florida or Senator from Arizona or Senators from other States cannot stand up and say: I have an idea. I have a proposal. I have an amendment. Let it be aired in front of this body, let it be debated, and let's see whether it rises or falls on its merits.

Instead, we get these rules that are closed where the majority leader comes down and says: I am going to fill the tree, which is Senate parlance meaning: I am going to close off all debate except for on the amendments I choose to put before the American people.

That is not right. That is why the American people are, in part, so frustrated with Congress. We are not debating the issues that any individual Senator may bring forth on behalf of their constituents on what they think is the right way to move forward. Instead, we are going to amendments on issues that should not be attached to this bill, in my opinion.

Don't ask, don't tell is a highly controversial amendment, one that has not been debated, one that is not going to have the opportunity to have the input of the military. We are supposed to be conducting a thorough examination and evaluation of the U.S. military before we make this substantial policy change--while we are fighting two wars at the same time. We are going to pass it and then see whether it is going to have an impact on military readiness? Does anybody doubt what the conclusion will be if it is passed, what the military will then say?

If, for some reason, they had the courage and were able to have the freedom to actually express their opinion, do you think this body would undo it? Instead of allowing us to have the process we are supposed to, where we are supposed to get a sense from the military about how it will impact military readiness, we are going to pass, presumably, over the opinion of the four chiefs of the different branches of the military who oppose this measure, including General Amos, who will join now as the Commandant of the Marines, this controversial measure.

Then we have the DREAM Act which, as my colleague from Alabama said, has not gone through the Judiciary Committee. Many in my State support the DREAM Act. It is a very difficult situation for kids who were brought to this country by their parents, through no fault of their own, have gone through public school, now go to a university and may not have the chance to stay and work in this country. I understand and I am sympathetic to that. But to attach that to this bill without trying to fix the broken immigration system, without first securing our borders, is disingenuous and irresponsible.

So I, too, will not support moving forward on this Defense authorization bill. This is not the way this Congress should act. This is not the way the process is supposed to work. It is unfair to the American people. It is unfair to the members of the military. What should happen is we should have an ability to bring any amendments forward that are germane to the Defense authorization bill and let them rise and fall on their merits.

What should not happen is that extraneous amendments that do not relate to this issue be stuck on and that all debate be closed.

The American people are upset. They are frustrated with their government. Their government is broken, and this is just another example of how badly it needs to be fixed.

With that, I yield the floor.


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