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Middle Class Tax Cut Act --Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise to once again urge the majority leader of the Senate to bring to the floor for debate one of the most important pieces of legislation that comes before this body each year; that is, the national defense authorization bill.

On several occasions I have approached the majority leader and asked him to consider this legislation which, for the last 50 years, this body has taken up, debated, amended, passed, conferenced with the House of Representatives, and sent to the President for the President's signature.

Last week, the majority leader, the Senator from Nevada, stated that Senate consideration of a controversial and flawed bill on cybersecurity--a bill that has not been considered in the regular order--is more important and of a higher national security priority than the Defense authorization bill. I respectfully but vehemently disagree with that statement.

According to the majority leader, ``We're going to have to get to cybersecurity before we get to the defense authorization bill because on the relative merits, cybersecurity is more important.''

Let me repeat this. The majority leader of the Senate is arguing that legislation dealing with cybersecurity--which is a subset of national security, of national defense--is more important than legislation responsible for ensuring that the men and women of the Armed Forces have the resources and authorities necessary to ensure our national security--a bizarre statement.

I have been involved in national security issues for a long time. I have been involved with the bills concerning national defense, and I have never heard a statement that cybersecurity is more important than the overall security of this country. That either was the majority leader misspeaking or the majority leader having a lack of understanding of what national security is all about.

He is arguing that a controversial and flawed bill on cybersecurity--a bill of such ``significance'' that it has languished for over 5 months at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, with no committee markup or normal committee process, no amendments--should take precedence over a bill which was vetted for over a period of 4 months by the Senate Armed Services Committee and reported to the floor with the unanimous support of all 26 members, which certainly would not have been the case if there had been a vote on cybersecurity legislation as it is presently proposed, because I am a member of that committee and I and others certainly would never have supported this legislation and at least we should have been allowed the amendment process. But that is not the case with ``cybersecurity.''

Also, I might add, I understand we will have to have a motion to proceed, which then will drag us into next week, when we could--I emphasize could--finish the Defense authorization bill in 1 week and at most 2.

I remind my colleagues that consideration of the Defense authorization bill is more than a simple right of this body. It is an obligation to our national defense and a fulfillment of our responsibility to the men and women in uniform that the Senate has honored over the past 50 consecutive years.

I would say to my colleagues, today I went out to Bethesda Walter Reed to visit with our wounded. It is always an uplifting and always an incredible experience for me to make that visit. Cannot we--cannot we--as a body, for the sake of those men and women whose lives are on the line, pass a defense authorization bill that is responsible for their security, their training, their weapons, their equipment, their morale, their welfare? Cannot we pass a defense authorization bill through this body? Are we so parochial? Is the Senate majority leader oblivious to the needs of the men and women who are serving this Nation? They deserve better than what they are getting from the leadership of this Senate.

The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act provides $525 billion for the base budget of the Defense Department, $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan and around the world, and $17.8 billion to maintain our nuclear deterrent.

In the area of pay and compensation, the bill authorizes $135 billion for military personnel, including costs of pay, allowances, bonuses, and a 1.7-percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services, consistent with the President's request. The bill improves the quality of life of the men and women in the Active and Reserve components of the all-volunteer force. It helps to address the needs of the wounded servicemembers and their families. It also authorizes important military construction and family housing projects that cannot proceed without specific authorization.

All major weapons systems are authorized in this legislation, including those that will benefit by the committee's continuous rigorous oversight of poorly performing programs. Every piece of equipment--large or small--that the Department of Defense needs to develop or procure is authorized in that legislation.

With the planned reductions in Afghanistan, the importance of providing for our deployed troops while training and transitioning responsibilities to the Afghan forces has never been more important. The bill provides our service men and women with the resources, training, equipment, and authorities they need to succeed in combat and stability operations. It also enhances the capability of U.S. forces to support the Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan local police as they assume responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan by the year 2014.

The bill contains important initiatives intended to ensure proper stewardship by the department of taxpayer dollars by, among other things, codifying the 2014 goal for it to achieve an auditable statement of budgetary resources, strictly limiting the use of cost-type contracts for the production of major weapons systems, requiring the Department of Defense to review its existing profit guidelines and revise them as necessary to ensure an appropriate link between contractor profits and contractor performance, enhancing protections for contractor employee whistleblowers, and restricting the use of abusive ``passthrough'' contracts.

Another vitally important provision in the bill repeals provisions of last year's National Defense Authorization Act that threaten to upset the delicate balance between the public sector and the private sector in the maintenance and repair of military systems, and the bill addresses many other important national security policy issues.

With respect to cybersecurity, I am in full agreement that the threat we face in the cyber domain is among the most significant and challenging threats of 21st century warfare. This threat was made even more evident by the recent leaks about Stuxnet coming from this administration. That is why the Defense authorization bill takes great steps to improve our capabilities by consolidating defense networks to improve security and management and allow critical personnel to be reassigned in support of offensive cyber missions which are presently understaffed. It also provides policy guidance to the Department of Defense to address the clear need for retaliatory capabilities to serve both as a deterrence to and to respond in the event of a cyber attack.

Based on the procedures the Senate has been following over the past few years--with little or no opportunity for debate and amendments--the majority leader apparently intends to rush through the Senate a flawed piece of legislation. The cybersecurity bill he intends to call up later this week is greatly in need of improvement, both in the area of information sharing among all Federal agencies and the appropriate approach to ensuring critical infrastructure protection.

Without significant amendment, the current bill the majority leader intends to push through the Senate has zero chance of passing the House of Representatives or ever being signed into law; whereas, the Defense authorization bill, if we would take it up and pass it, clearly, we would have a successful conference with the House, and we would send it--after voting on the conferenced bill--to the President for his signature. There is no chance the cybersecurity bill the majority leader wants to bring to the floor will have a chance of passage in the House of Representatives.

So here is the choice: take up the Defense authorization bill, which has important cybersecurity provisions in it and provides for the overall defense of the Nation, or take up a flawed bill that never went through the committee, was never amended, take it to the floor, use up 1 week while we go through the motion to proceed, and then maybe pass it, maybe not, and not have it even considered by the other body during the month of September, which is the last we will be in session before the election.

For the life of me, I do not understand why the majority leader of the Senate should have so little regard for the needs of the men and women who are serving in the military today, and I hope he will understand better the needs to defend this Nation, as we are still involved in conflict in Afghanistan, we face a major crisis with Iran over their continued development of nuclear weapons--we just saw the Iranian ability to commit acts of terror all over the world, the latest being in Bulgaria--the fact that Syria is now coming apart and in danger of--because of this administration's failure to lead--that there can be chemical weapons not only spread around Syria but also in other places as well. There is a danger of chemical weapons that are presently under Bashar Assad's control flowing to Hezbollah, presenting a grave threat to the security of Israel.

All these things are happening in the world without this body acting on the most important piece of legislation as far as our national security is concerned, and the majority leader of the Senate apparently has decided not to bring it up and wants to bring up cybersecurity instead. It is a grave injustice--a grave injustice--to the men and women who are serving this Nation and sacrificing so much.

I hope the majority leader of the Senate, who by right of his position and in the majority decides the agenda for the Senate, will change his mind and bring up the Defense authorization bill, which I assure him we can have passed by this body, as always, in a near unanimous vote, if not totally unanimous vote, for the benefit of the security of this Nation.

I yield the floor.


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