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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Motion to Proceed - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Madam President, I say to Senator Merkley, who has been a good friend and partner on this issue of filibuster reform, I couldn't agree more with his comments and with the kinds of things he has been talking about: commonsense proposals to make the Senate work.

What Senator Merkley and I have been talking about is the way we can have the Senate do the work of the American people. We just went through an election. We know our States are hurting. People want to create jobs. They want us to deal with health care costs and make sure there is quality health care. On education reform, we haven't even reauthorized the No Child Left Behind Act or dealt with education. So all of those issues are front and center. As we know, the last couple of years, because of the filibuster and because of the delay and because of the obstruction we have had go on, we haven't been able to get to those issues. And I think Senator Merkley has experienced what I have when we have talked to our friends on the Republican side--they agree it is not working.

Really what we are trying to do is come up with commonsense proposals such as the Senator has talked about to make the Senate work. The first one is very simple. It is to make sure that the motion to proceed to a bill will not be debatable. We are talking about not allowing filibusters on the motion to proceed because, as we have seen on the chart here, we are in a situation where we now cannot even get on the bills. So this is a commonsense proposal.

One of the other areas we are trying to address deals with conference committees. There are three debatable motions--three motions that can be filibustered to get us into the conference committee. We have not gone to conference as a result, and so we don't resolve differences between the House and the Senate--another important area we could reform and really make the process work much better.

The final one is one Senator Merkley and I have worked on. Senator Specter, a Republican who at the very end of his career became a Democrat, talked about it as the talking filibuster. He said: If you are going to object, if you are going to slow down the Senate and prevent the Senate from doing anything, you should have to come down here and talk about it. That is really the essence of what we are trying to do--shift the burden onto the people who are obstructing to say: Come down here and talk about it. And as Senator Merkley has said several times, it could be that what you talk about, you become a hero or you become a bum in the eyes of the American people. But the reality is that the Senate is deliberating, the Senate is doing its work, the Senate is engaging--we are engaging each other and having a debate about those particular issues.

I think these are commonsense proposals, and the minority should understand that we have thought through these proposals in such a way that if we were in the minority, we could live with them. That is the crucial fact here. We are not trying to ram something through that we couldn't live with in the minority. I believe this place can work a lot better and we can do a better job if we just work with each other and try to come up with rules and not abuse the rules.

My colleague and our leader, Senator Murray, has joined us. Senator Durbin was here earlier. I know the time has been equally divided. It was shortened a little bit with Senator Durbin's talk at the beginning of our half hour. At this time, I yield for Senator Murray's remarks.


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