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Public Statements

Recognition of the Republican Leader

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, we will soon be voting on two consequential and contentious matters, the DREAM Act and repeal of the legislation concerning the Defense Department's don't ask, don't tell policy. As our ranking member on one of the two committees of jurisdiction recently made clear, the Democratic majority in the Senate is again depriving the American people of the right to have their concerns addressed through debate on amendments by depriving the minority of its right to offer amendments.

When Democrats were in the minority, my good friend, the majority leader, said: This is a ``very bad practice,'' and it ``runs against the basic nature of the Senate.'' In fact, he suggested we should not shut off debate ``before any amendments had been offered.''

With back-to-back blockage of amendments on both the DREAM Act and legislation repealing don't ask, don't tell, the current majority has set a dubious record by denying the minority its right to amendment a total of 43 times. Let me say that again. The current majority has set a dubious record by denying the minority its right to offer amendments a total of 43 times.

To put that in perspective, in his 4 years as the majority leader, Senator Frist did this 15 times. The current Senate majority in the same amount of time has done it three times--three times--as often. In fact, the current majority has blocked the minority from offering amendments more often than the last six majority leaders combined. The current majority has blocked the minority from offering amendments more often than the last six majority leaders combined.

The danger of following this practice is underscored by the flawed process used on the very measures before us now. The DREAM Act the Senate will vote on today has never had a Senate hearing. In fact, it has not had any Senate committee action in 7 years. But, of course, this is a House bill, and the legislative record there is more sparse still. The House, similar to the Senate, has never had a legislative hearing on the DREAM Act, and it has never had a markup there either. Now the Senate majority is preventing their colleagues from addressing the concerns of the American people by shutting off the ability to offer any amendments on the floor.

So, in sum, there has never been an amendment offered to the DREAM Act at either the committee or floor stage in either House of Congress since President Bush's first term.

I guess our Democratic colleagues believe this bill is so perfect it doesn't need any amendments whatsoever--just a few last-minute rewrites during a lameduck session. I don't think that is what the American people believe.

In regard to the ill-conceived effort to repeal the military policy on don't ask, don't tell, the majority leader has insisted on pressing forward with this effort, despite the fact that the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee has established the need for additional hearings. The All-Volunteer Force has had many successes, but has this body become so alienated from the enlisted men and women in uniform that liberal interest groups have more influence over military personnel policy than the senior enlisted leaders of the Army and Marine Corps who were denied the opportunity to testify?

This repeal will be rushed through, despite the fact that it is concerning to those in Army combat arms units, and 58 percent of those in Marine Corps combat units believe repeal will be harmful to unit readiness. Should we ignore the volunteers charged with the most difficult missions in our military, combat with the enemy? I think not.

Democrats will deny the opportunity to amend the bill to require the service chiefs to certify that this repeal will not harm combat readiness, although they are responsible for training the force. Why would anyone oppose this change or even the opportunity to vote on this change?

This is harmful during a time of war and an irresponsible manner in which to change policies that the Commandant of the Marine Corps has actually stated could risk lives.

I am going to recommend to my colleagues to heed the advice of my friend from Nevada, which he gave a few years ago, and not vote to shut down the debate and amendment process for these bills, at least until the minority is allowed to offer, debate, and vote on a limited number of amendments, and the Senate is allowed to be the Senate once again.

I yield the floor.


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