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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, just in the lull here--and if there is any legislative business to take place, I will immediately give up the floor--I wish to make the point that I am so proud to be in this Senate, so proud to have been here for a long time now. I came here in 1993. There were 2 women, then we went to 6 women, and now we are going to 20 women. I have seen changes, I have seen good things, and I have seen rough things.

I have to say one of the things that keeps coming up continually here is folks trying to use these debates on bills to add irrelevant amendments, amendments that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

I think we all agree that defending our Nation is our No. 1 priority, and therefore having a defense authorization bill is very important. I am sure we don't agree with every single sentence of this bill, but in general we all want to make sure that our military is prepared, that they are paid well, that they get good benefits. We must ensure we have a strong military that can meet every threat. Again, we are going to disagree on what all that means, but at least when we legislate, we ought to make sure that when we offer amendments, they are either noncontroversial and committee chairs have signed off if they are in their jurisdiction or we shouldn't offer them.

The reason I rise today is that we may be facing two environmental riders on this bill, and I want to go on record as saying I am not going to let that happen. Now, if colleagues want to override and stay here through the night and the weekend, that is fine, but I am going to be staying right here because one of these amendments would say that the EPA, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, could never regulate the ingredients in ammunition. This means they could never regulate lead and they could never regulate perchlorate. Lead and perchlorate kill, they harm, they do damage to the thyroid, to brain development, and to the behavior of children. Pregnant women are harmed.

So I am not going to allow an environmental rider to get onto this floor and pass this Senate when we are doing a defense bill which is meant to protect our people. I can tell you right now, you don't put a harmful environmental rider in the Defense bill when you are trying to pass a bill to protect our people, not make it easier for them to be exposed to dangerous lead, dangerous perchlorate, and other chemicals. There is a place and a time to do those amendments, and that would be on a relevant bill, a bill that comes out of the Environment Committee. That is fine. We can debate it then and have a vote when everyone understands the ramifications.

Now there is threat here to have another environmental rider that deals with coal ash, the regulation of coal ash. What does that have to do with the military bill? Zero. The components of coal ash are a huge danger to people. We have seen the coal ash pile up and get loose. In the East, it just goes down in a rainstorm and destroys whole communities. There is an environmental rider waiting to be offered that would weaken the EPA's ability to go to that threat and get rid of it.

I am very distressed, and I am sure you can hear it in my voice. I know there are differences around here, but I take my job seriously. As chairman of the Environment Committee, my job is to protect the public health from toxins such as lead, perchlorate, and the amazing collection of chemicals in coal ash that kill and harm and maim.

I know people want to get this bill done, and, believe me, I want to get this bill done. I have several amendments in this bill that are so important, and I thank colleagues on both sides of the aisle, particularly Senator Cornyn and Senator Snowe, who helped me with an amendment that would say that if someone has been convicted of a sexual assault, they can no longer join the military. That is in this bill. That is very important.

We have other amendments we have worked on, and I thank Senator Levin and Senator McCain. They have reached out to the committee chairs, and they have said: Look, we are trying to protect your jurisdiction. They have now said they have no agreement that our jurisdiction will be protected.

As much as I don't want to sit here and stand guard, I am going to do it because I think that is my role and that is my job.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this moment to express the reason I have been on the floor all afternoon and will continue to be on floor until we adjourn this evening.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.


Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I listened to the Senator from Ohio and I want to be heard because he is talking about the fiscal cliff and how upset he is at the thought that the wealthiest people in America might go back to the tax rates we had under Bill Clinton when we had the greatest prosperity, we had 23 million new jobs, and we balanced the budget to the point where we even had a surplus. My friend comes down here and complains that the proposal on the table would give 98 percent of the people a tax cut and he is upset that 2 percent of the people might have to go back to the rates under Bill Clinton.

I want to say something. We just had an election. We had a big election. We had a tough election. We had an expensive election. One of the major parts of that election revolved around what do we do about the deficits, what do we do about economic growth, what do we do about spending. We discussed it in the Senate races, we discussed it in the House races, and, of course, President Obama and candidate Governor Romney discussed it again and again.

My friend talks about consensus. Let me tell my colleagues the consensus. More than 60 percent of the people agree with President Obama and the Democrats that we ought to climb down off this fiscal cliff in the next 5 minutes and pass what the Senate passed, which is to renew all the Bush tax cuts and go back to those over $250,000 to the rates of Bill Clinton. That is what we passed here. That would bring us almost $1 trillion over 10 years. That will get us to climb down that cliff.

Then we have other parts of the cliff, there is no question about it, including the automatic sequester. I think it is easy to deal with that by bringing home some of the overseas account money and applying it to the sequester and getting rid of at least half of that sequester, and maybe all of the sequester. But, no, people are going to listen to these speeches every day about how we are obsessed with taxes.

What are people talking about when they say obsessed with taxes? I will tell my colleagues what I am obsessed about. I am obsessed with the fact that we passed a tax cut for 98 percent of the American people and our friends are so worried about the millionaires and the billionaires that they will not allow that bill to be voted on in the House. So people can stand up here morning, noon, and night, and I want them to and I respect their views, believe me, but I do not agree with them.

It is no wonder that the American people are confused. We know we have the fiscal cliff. We know we don't want to see tax rates go up for the middle class. Yet the Republicans say they are going to hold up all those tax breaks for 98 percent of our people because they want to hold on to the tax breaks for billionaires and for millionaires. We had an election about that.

People agreed with us. I suppose we are going to have to hear these speeches every day about how we are going to grow our way out of the deficit. We are going to grow our way out of the deficit? Really? Look what happened under George W. Bush. He inherited surpluses. He turned it into deficits as far as the eye can see, with huge tax cuts to the millionaires and billionaires--huge--the very tax cuts our friends are defending right now. He did two wars on the credit card and we wound up in a mess.

So we have to come together with the best ideas that we can have. I know we can reach agreement. But let's do the first step, which is to take care of 98 percent of the people. The Republicans want to have tax breaks for 100 percent of the people. We are saying: Can you take 98 percent?

If I stopped you on the street and said: I am willing to give you 98 percent of what you say you want, and you walk away from me, and you attack me, and you say I am not ready to do anything, I honestly think people would scratch their heads.

So I think it is clear. The Senate passed a bill to renew the tax breaks for 98 percent of the people. We are saying up to $250,000 in income, we go right back to those Bush tax cut rates. But over $250,000, we go to the Clinton years, pay a little bit more, so we can attack this deficit, so we can make the investments we need to make in this great country of ours.

I will tell you, if the Republicans can do this, we are going to see smiles on the faces of the people. I was very happy to see that Tom Cole over in the House, who was the head of the RCC, the Republican Congressional Committee over there, says it is time to come to an agreement on that proposal.

So I say to the Republicans: We are giving you 98 percent. Take it. Then let's sit down and debate the rest of it. There are a lot of other things we have to do. There is the AMT. We have to do a doc fix. We have to do a lot of other things. I am willing to compromise on those things. But let's at least get those tax cuts in place right now before this holiday season so that the middle class knows they are not going to face a tax increase. I can say honestly that the American people would think we were doing the right thing if we were to see the House take up the Senate bill and pass it.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


Mrs. BOXER. Reserving the right to object and I will not object, I want to speak for 20 seconds. This is what I want to say.

There are amendments and there are amendments. We all know that. I think we have shown that we can work together. But when you try to repeal a law that protects the lives of people--you talk about protecting rights, I am with you. I also want to protect the lives of people. Coming from a State where we have had many mass shootings it may take a little longer. Maybe we ought to have a hearing or two before you repeal a law that is so important to the safety of the people.

I will not object. I will see you all tomorrow.


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