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Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. HUTCHISON. Madam President, I am pleased to follow the Senator from Minnesota because we did work on a piece of legislation, which she perfected. It was my bill that first passed on stalking that would take the antistalking laws nationwide because so often it happens across State lines, and so we had to put it all together so that if someone did cross State lines to stalk a woman or her children or a man or anyone, that would be prosecutable.

I was so pleased Senator Klobuchar then came with a bill which I was proud to cosponsor which updated the technology criminals now use to harass, scare and really make life miserable for people they know. I had a stalker myself for about 12 years. I didn't know him, but he certainly did make my life different, that is for sure. And sometimes it is worse than what I experienced because there are actual threats.

I will never forget the time I got a call from an attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Austin, TX, and he said: I just wanted you to know we got our first conviction under your antistalking law. It was a man who was harassing his ex-wife and his children, threatening them with a gun, and we were able to put him away and make that family a lot safer. I thought, you know, we live to actually know something we have done makes a difference. So I thank the Senator from Minnesota for carrying that forward.


I rise today, Madam President, to talk about Neil Armstrong and about NASA, but I can't stand here today with what is going on in the Middle East and not say that I join the thousands and maybe millions of others who mourn the loss of a U.S. Ambassador who was killed in Libya. You know, I would mourn any U.S. Ambassador who is killed in the line of duty, but it makes it even harder when we know this one was doing such a great job. Christopher Stevens had dedicated his life really trying to make peace and trying to be a force for the positive in the Middle East. He was our Ambassador to Libya.

I am sad to say it appears this was a plot. It was not an accident. It wasn't something that happened because he happened to be in the consulate. It apparently was a premeditated murder of our Ambassador. And I know the whole country mourns the loss of someone who tried so hard to do what is right and to then have this happen. So I want to pay my respects to him and to all who knew and worked with him.

In the travels I have been fortunate to make as a U.S. Senator, I am always so impressed with the representatives of the United States in our embassies and consulates throughout the world. Our Foreign Service representatives do a fabulous job. They take their lives and put them in danger sometimes, especially in countries that are strife-torn, as certainly Libya is right now and Egypt as well. So my great respect goes out to our Foreign Service community, and I think we have just been reminded of the service they give and the sacrifices they make.


Madam President, I wish to speak today about the life of a gentle giant, Neil Armstrong, and also about the future of NASA. This all came together this week because I have just returned from the National Cathedral, where I joined congressional colleagues, Senators, and many others in paying our final respects to a man who unquestionably was a true American hero. Of course, we know Neil Armstrong made world history when he stepped out on the Moon's surface for the first time an American had done so and he uttered those words that will be forever enshrined in American consciousness.

They say that some seek fame and some have it thrust on them, but Neil Armstrong was the rare man who earned his fame and yet shied away from it at every turn. He preferred to live the life of, as he described it himself, ``a white-sock, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer.'' He chose to live a private life rather than bask in well-deserved glory. For that, he was more than a hero, he was a role model we would all be fortunate to follow. We have too few of those today. Neil Armstrong served his country in Korea, where he was a fighter pilot and was shot down. He certainly served at NASA, which we all know, and he served his community as a professor at the University of Cincinnati. He was a serious, dedicated scientist who loved what he did and just wanted to get the job done.

There is a story told about him of an incident that occurred during training before the Moon landing where his vehicle forced an ejection. His only injury was biting his own tongue, but it was a near-death incident nonetheless. It was a very lucky escape. Another astronaut saw Neil working at his desk and said he had heard about Neil being thrown out of his vehicle. Then he asked when it happened, and Neil said: About an hour ago. The astronaut--Alan Bean--later told Neil's biographer:

I can't think of another person, let alone another astronaut, who would have just gone back to his office after ejecting a fraction of a second before getting killed.

I was lucky enough to know Neil Armstrong. We first met when he, Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell, and Gene Cernan expressed concern over the administration's proposal to abandon NASA's manned space exploration program. They wrote an open letter. And let me tell you, when the first and last men to set foot on the Moon had an issue with the direction of NASA, everybody listened. It was a rare occasion that these astronaut leaders would speak publicly on such an issue, and considering Neil's propensity to shy away from the spotlight, it had even more significance. But he thought it was important, and a great bipartisan number of our colleagues agreed it was important that he chose to speak out on this very important issue.

The plan proposed canceling the existing space exploration program and suspending plans to build a replacement for the space shuttle. It placed immediate reliance on commercial capabilities, which at the time were undeveloped and unproven. Neil was particularly concerned about leaning too heavily on commercial crew vehicles because he rightly believed NASA should have ultimate ownership and stewardship of the next phase of deep space exploration.

When I asked if that group would testify before the Senate Commerce Committee and give us the benefit of their immense experience, Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan were able to do so. Their testimony in May of 2010 helped us craft the NASA Reauthorization Act of 2010, which we managed to pass with a balanced plan that prioritized NASA's development of future exploration beyond low Earth orbit, while putting significant resources into commercial development of crew vehicles to the space station. We passed it unanimously in the Senate, very bipartisan, and we passed it on Neil Armstrong's birthday--on August 5, 2010.

When the space shuttle was retired, some thought the space program was ended. You know, I took a group of Cub Scouts to Johnson Space Center in Houston just a few months ago. They have a great program for our Scouts--well, for any group who actually wants to go and spend the night at the visitor's center at Johnson Space Center. They get to tour NASA and hear about the great feats of our country in space. And one of the little boys said to our NASA administrator at Johnson: Gosh, I am really sorry the space program is ending. And I was shocked and the administrator was shocked, and we said: Oh, but it is not ending. The space program is not ending.

If we allow people to think, if we allow our young--possibly the next generation of astronauts and scientists--to think the program is ending, are they going to be inspired to take those courses in aeronautical engineering that will give them the background to propel them to the next level of space exploration that is going to do things maybe we haven't even thought of yet? We would eliminate the potential that manned space exploration can produce in the next decade.

We had a hearing in the Commerce Committee yesterday where we heard from NASA scientists about the Mars rover called Curiosity.

It was just breathtaking to hear the advancements that we have made with that rover that is now plodding around exploring the dirt and the rocks and the atmosphere on Mars.

One of the scientists pointed out that these NASA programs aren't just about exploration, they result in technologies that we use every day and that make our lives better right here on Earth. One pointed out that Curiosity is the first step in the next frontier of space, probing the atmosphere and geology of Mars. Each mission will build on the success of the last, and these robots and rovers that are going up now will be the precursors to the time when we put people--astronauts--on Mars.

There are myriads of practical results from NASA's programs, and there are many reasons to keep them alive and fully funded, but I think the astronauts--Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Gene Cernan put it best in their open letter:

America's space accomplishments earned the respect and admiration of the world. Science probes were unlocking the secrets of the cosmos. Space technology was providing instantaneous worldwide communication; orbital sentinels were helping man understand the vagaries of nature. Above all else, the people around the world were inspired by the human exploration of space and the expanding of man's frontier. It suggested that what had been thought to be impossible was now within reach.

Gene Cernan was one of those who gave the eulogy today at Neil Armstrong's memorial service at the National Cathedral. He gave a personal account. They were very close friends. They went fishing together. They had a long-term and lasting mutual respect, admiration, and friendship.

America cannot lose its preeminence in space. We are the leaders of the free world, and we are the natural leaders beyond its atmosphere. This is not done in dominance or hegemony but to ensure that technology can be used for our economic benefit. The satellites we have discovered with the space exploration have transformed communications, and satellite-guided missiles have given us defense capabilities that hit the target with less collateral damage.

This is my last of 19 wonderful years in the United States Senate, during which I have championed and fought for NASA and our manned spacecraft and space flight programs. I have worked with so many dedicated colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and I am proud of what we have accomplished. I am asking that my colleagues do not let all of the hard work of the past be for nothing. We saved the manned exploration program, but there is so much more to be done. NASA must continue to be a priority.

I am a budget cutter. I will match anyone with the budget cutting that I think we need to do in this country. But the key for Congress is to remember what the Constitution says: The purse strings belong to Congress. So our responsibility is to set that cap on spending--set that cap at the lowest level we can and cover our functions that are necessary to run the government of this country.

The normal average spending of the Federal Government is about 20 percent of our gross domestic product. We are up to 24 percent in the last few years. We have to come back. We have to come back to 20. We may have to go to 18 in order to end at 20, but we must not refuse to set the priorities that will make sure we have a strong economy in the future. We must invest in the programs that will yield the benefits that will keep our economy going, our people working, and our engineers able to continue to produce the great things that have happened in our space program, in our medical research, and more.

This is so important to all of us. America's competitiveness depends on maintaining our dominance in science and technology. We cannot do it without NASA. Neil Armstrong left his mark on the American people and on generations around the globe. This is his enduring legacy. Ours must be to maintain the great organization--NASA--that made him a legend and helped make America the greatest Nation on Earth.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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