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Public Statements

Funding the Government

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, may I make a few observations about where we are?

Mr. REID. Yes. I am going to file cloture tonight on the DREAM Act. We will have a cloture vote on that Saturday morning fairly early. I am going to file cloture on don't ask, don't tell tonight. So those will be sequenced for Saturday or whenever we get to them. But we have to move this along. Following that I was told by a number of Republican Senators that they needed 6 or 7 days to debate and offer amendments on the START treaty. That will certainly be available. We will finish, if the math works out the way I believe it will, early Monday morning.

First of all, tomorrow we can debate START to everyone's heart's content. They can offer as many amendments as they want, and then Monday we can go to that again. This would be 3 days already completed on that, 3 or 4 days, whatever is appropriate next week to complete the START treaty. We would wind this up by taking care of the nominations that Senator McConnell and I have been working on. That is the range of things we have to do. I have told the two Senators from New York that I will move to reconsider their vote at some time, but that is going to happen fairly quickly.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, let me respond briefly to the majority leader. I too want to commend the members of the Appropriations Committee for all the work they have done, particularly Republican members of the Appropriations

Committee who did spend an enormous amount of time crafting and developing the 12 different appropriations bills that we should have been acting on all year long. This is the first time in modern history that not a single appropriations bill went across the floor of the Senate--not a one. So the Appropriations Committee members on a bipartisan basis did indeed do their job. The problem was the full Senate didn't do its job. What we ended up with was this, this almost 2,000-page Omnibus appropriations bill which we only got yesterday.

The point is, the work the Appropriations Committee did in many respects was squandered because the full Senate didn't do its job. This is precisely the kind of thing the American people have gotten tired of.

The message we ought to take out of this is that next year, we are going to listen to the American people. We are going to do our work, do it in a timely fashion. There is no more basic work than the funding of the government. That is the first thing we ought to be doing.

Here we are trying to do it right at the end, as an old Congress goes out of office and a new Congress comes in. The message is, let's don't do this anymore. Let's make a bipartisan decision at the beginning of the next session that the basic work of government is going to be done in a timely fashion for an opportunity out here on the floor of the Senate for Members of both parties to offer amendments, make suggestions, and improve the bill.

I too respect the work the Appropriations Committee has done. I don't agree with the priorities we have had here in the Senate about what things are important. As a result of not doing the basic work of government, here we are at the end struggling with this issue. There is only one reason why cloture is not being filed and the majority leader, to his credit, has already said it. He doesn't have the votes. The reason he doesn't have the votes is because Members on this side of the aisle increasingly felt concerned about the way we do business. For many of our Members it was not so much the substance of the bill but the process. Let's learn from this. We will get together, as the majority leader said, and determine what appropriate time for a continuing resolution makes sense to offer to govern on an interim basis, and let's come back here after the holidays with a renewed desire to do our business in a timely fashion and avoid this kind of thing in the future.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, it doesn't take a person with a PhD to understand that I differ with what my friend, the senior Senator from Kentucky, said, things that don't indicate what history is in the Senate. We have been facing 87 filibusters this Congress. For anyone to suggest that the reason the work of Senators Inouye and Cochran was not completed is because we didn't do the appropriations bills is farfetched. Senators Inouye and Cochran, in good faith, worked toward what they were told the Democrats and Republicans wanted to do; that is, have a bill that took in the priorities of Democrats and Republicans. The bill that we are talking about isn't a bill that is a Democratic bill. It is a Democratic and Republican bill.

Mr. McCONNELL. Will my good friend yield for a question?

Mr. DURBIN. Will the majority leader yield for a question?

Mr. REID. I yield to the Senator from Illinois.

Mr. DURBIN. I wish to ask the majority leader, does he recall the time I returned from the Appropriations Committee and said Senator McConnell had come to the committee and said he was going to establish the maximum amount that he would vote for in all the appropriations bills, the 203(b) allocation of $1.108 trillion? And I said to the majority leader, I think ultimately that is what we are going to be voting for, Senator McConnell's number. Is the Senator from Nevada aware of the fact that the bill we were going to consider was at that number that was asked for by Senator McConnell in the Appropriations Committee?

Mr. REID. Yes, and it satisfied what we had debated here on a number of occasions and voted on, the so-called Sessions-McCaskill number. So we did that. This is not a big balloon that we just threw up to see how it would work out. Senator McConnell, who has had a longstanding association with the Appropriations Committee, that was a number he told us we should work with.

Mr. DURBIN. Will the Senator yield for a further question?

Mr. REID. I am happy to.

Mr. DURBIN. As a former member of the Appropriations Committee, is the Senator aware of the process in that committee, a bipartisan process where the ranking Republican member and the Democratic chairman of each subcommittee sit down to literally have a hearing, mark up a bill, and accept earmarks from both sides of the aisle?

That is the common practice and has been followed with the bills that are currently sitting in front of the minority leader?

Mr. REID. Yes. To Senator Cochran's credit, there were things he thought should not be in the bill that Senator Inouye was putting together. Senator Inouye, to his credit, said: OK, it does not go in. Everything people wanted in this bill--in addition to the work that went on on the subcommittee level, the full committee level--anything that was added at a later time had to be approved by both Senator Inouye and Senator Cochran.

Mr. DURBIN. On a bipartisan basis.

Mr. REID. That is right.

Mr. DURBIN. In every subcommittee.

Mr. REID. Yes. And things that Senator Cochran did not want in, Senator Inouye, being the gentleman he is, said: OK. That is what I will tell my caucus.

Mrs. MURRAY. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. REID. Yes, I will yield for a question, and, of course, I maintain the floor.

Go ahead.

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask the Senator to yield for a question.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I would ask the leader through the Chair, is he aware that the bill that is before us, that apparently we do not have enough votes for now, has gone through a very long committee process? The transportation and housing bill that I worked with my Republican colleague on, I did not agree with all of his requests, but I gave him a lot in this bill, as we worked our way through it and passed it out of subcommittee, passed it out of the full committee, a committee of which the minority leader is a member.

All of the bills that are involved in this omnibus bill--every one of them--went through a long, long process of committee hearings, subcommittee markups and passage, and full committee markups and passage.

The changes to this bill that have come to the floor have come as a result not of a change in policy, but because we all were told that in order to get an omnibus passed, we had to reduce the amount of that bill that passed out of committee--each of those bills a significant amount--to meet the McCaskill-Sessions level. So we went back and cut a significant amount out of each one of our bills. The result is the omnibus bill before us.

So the 2,000 pages that we are referring to have worked their way through a process. I would ask the leader if he knows this. And the difference is, we had to cut money to meet the level of Sessions-McCaskill. That is what we have before us. And that is what we are being told, after a year's worth of work, that somehow we do not have the capability of knowing what is in the bill. Is the leader aware of that?

Mr. REID. I am aware of it. But my friend, the Republican leader, wants to ask a question or make some statement. But I would say this to my friend from Washington, remember, this bill, which is 1,900 pages long, consists of the work of 12 subcommittees.

Mrs. MURRAY. Right.

Mr. REID. It is work that has been done over the last year, or more in some instances, to come up with a product. So if you break it down per subcommittee, it is certainly a reasonable number of pages on each subcommittee. Remember, there are 12 subcommittees that are a part of it.

I would be happy to yield, without losing the floor, to my friend, the Republican leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. I was just going to ask my friend--it is hard to ask a question without making something of a statement in connection with it, if that is OK.

Mr. REID. That is fine.

Mr. McCONNELL. I was not talking about the process by which the bill was developed in committee. And I started off, I would say to my friend from Nevada, commending the committee for its work. What I was commenting upon was the lack of taking the bill up on the floor of the Senate--over $1 trillion, the basic work of government.

And so, Mr. President, I would ask my friend, why, if these bills enjoy bipartisan support--and they did--why were they not brought before the full Senate and passed? I think I would say to my friend, I expect it is because you had other priorities. And this is the basic work of government. Why did we not bring any of these bills before the Senate floor?

Mr. REID. I hope the court reporter will take down the smile I have on my face because the answer to the question is kind of easy. We have had to file cloture 87 times in this Congress because, on everything we have tried to do, we have been obstructed. So that is the reason.

Everyone knows we have had some very big issues. When President Obama was elected, we found ourselves in a deep, deep hole. It was so deep, so deep. During the prior administration, we lost 8 million jobs. The month that President Obama and President Bush shared the Presidency, in January--that month--we lost 800,000 jobs. So we had a lot to do.

Now, I know people criticize our doing health care for various reasons. There is criticism we did the bank reform bill, Wall Street reform. We did housing reform. We had a very, very busy Congress to try to dig ourselves out of the hole.

So I say to my friend, who, like me, has been on the Appropriations Committee--I am not on it now but he is--the Appropriations Committee is a wonderful committee. Everyone here knows why we did not have the individual appropriations bills. I say to my friend, I hope next year we can get them done. But I think there is more of a chance next year because we have gotten a lot done to help get ourselves out of the hole we found ourselves in because of the previous 8 years which created the big hole we had to kind of dig out of.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask the Chair to lay before the Senate a message from the House with respect to H.R. 5281.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Will the Senator withhold for a second?

Mr. REID. Yes, I will.

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