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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 - Motion to Proceed - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REID. Mr. President, I am somewhat amazed and stunned. You would think that someone who is given an answer to the question--yes--should pretty much be satisfied.

We have been trying to keep the government from shutting down. I appreciate the work done by the Speaker. I didn't agree with his bill, but I appreciate what he did, and he did it in a timely fashion.

The chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski, has been negotiating with her Republican counterpart, Richard Shelby, for days now. They worked all weekend, late into Sunday night, and they worked out a bipartisan agreement. They offered the amendment here. Now we hear from a couple of Senators: Let's not take up the bill. They need more time.

I thought people wanted to have an open amendment process on this bill. Offer amendments. Now it appears that the day is gone. I guess we won't be able to offer amendments today. I have said all along that we would turn to it as soon as possible. Our Republican colleagues said they want to see the first amendment that was to be offered. They saw that. They were originally given to certain people in the leadership office on Saturday about noon, and there has been every effort to work together on this matter. They wanted to see the first amendment that will be offered. I have indicated that was done; they saw it. There were negotiations to get to where that is. But now Senators want to prevent us from going to the bill. Remember, if I file cloture today, the earliest we can have the vote is Thursday.

We are going to finish this CR, and we are going to finish the budget before there will be an Easter recess. That is a fact. So everyone should understand that delaying on this--because they want to read the bill more deeply, I guess--doesn't really make a lot of sense.

We are going to do the budget resolution. I have made that clear, and I emphasize that now. And the Republicans have been talking about--even though it is basically without foundation--that we haven't had a budget resolution. We haven't needed one. We had one that was not a resolution, it was a law that set the standards for what we would do with our budget. It set ceilings on how much we would spend. As a result of that, we were able to get the funding for our subcommittees and appropriations. But they want a budget resolution, which isn't as good as law, and we are going to do everything we can to get that done.

So if Republicans object to allowing the Senate to be in consideration of a bill negotiated with Republicans, then the only people who will be disadvantaged are other Republicans who want to be able to offer amendments.

So I regret that again we have come to this. Just when you think it can't get worse, it gets worse. There are things we have to do. The CR is one of those. If it means cutting into the April recess--we have 2 weeks to do a lot of things people have planned for some time--then that is what we will need to do. But I am stunned.

I learned about this when we had the President at our caucus. I really am flabbergasted that here we are on the eve of doing something together, regular order, but regular order around here is stopping every bill from going on the floor. That is what the regular order is here. I thought we had some kind of an agreement at the beginning of this Congress that this wasn't going to go on anymore. We had that 2 years ago. We changed the rules here a little bit.

There is going to be tremendous angst within my caucus and I think the country to continue trying to legislate with the burdens that we bear, that just one or two people do everything they can to throw a monkey wrench into everything we do. As a country, we are being looked at as being inoperable. It is too bad. It is not good for this institution, and it is really not good for the country.


Mr. REID. Object to what?

Mr. President, through the Chair to my friend from Arizona, this is a 587-page bill that has been available to the public because the vast majority of this bill is identical to what the House already passed--identical. He, along with his staff and the Senator from Oklahoma, have had days and days to look this over.

I want to make sure everyone understands I can only do so much. I try not to be too sensitive, but the Senator from Oklahoma seems to have a problem--I assume he was referring to me or perhaps he was referring to Senators DURBIN, SCHUMER, and MURRAY. Here is what he said on one of the Sunday shows:

``The Senate's not nearly as dysfunctional as it is made out to be ..... '' said Coburn. ``Our problem in the Senate is the leadership in the Senate.''

I don't know if he is referring to Senator McConnell, I don't know whom he is referring to, but one day he should look in the mirror.

I want to try and get along here. The vast majority of the stuff that is in this bill came from the House of Representatives. It has been available for days. I cannot remember what day we received this. I think it was last Wednesday or thereabouts, so it has been many days.

I know Senator McCain very well. He and I came to the House and the Senate together. I understand how he feels about these issues. I don't blame him for being upset about some of the things in this bill, but it is not our fault. We are trying to get a bill to fund the government, and what we need to do is get on the bill.

I am criticized for not allowing amendments to be offered. We cannot have amendments offered until we get on the bill. I think it would be much better if we could get on the bill. If people want to offer amendments, it is kind of jump ball here. We have 100 Senators, and a few of them want to offer amendments. We cannot dictate what amendments will be offered before we even get on the bill.

I hope my friend from Arizona will take some time with the staff and look the bill over--it has been around since last Wednesday or thereabouts--so we can get on the bill. The time is being wasted. We have to finish this and the budget before we leave for Easter vacation.

We can do the bill this week, next week or the week after that. We have to get this done. I am not trying to fight with anybody, but as I said, I do have some sensitivities about my friend from Oklahoma continually berating the leadership in the Senate. I have come to the rationalization that maybe he is talking about his own leadership. I don't know.


Mr. REID. If my friend would yield-- Mr. McCAIN. I appreciate the majority leader's responsibilities, and I appreciate his frustration. I hope he will understand ours and we will try to move this as quickly as possible.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

Mr. REID. For many years and decades Senator McCain has been a watchdog of what goes on with spending in this country. I expect that from him, so I don't say that in a negative fashion. I don't have a problem with Senator McCain looking over this legislation so he feels comfortable with moving on to it, and then if he has amendments to offer, we can move on amendments. I have no complaint about John McCain.


Mr. REID. Madam President, it used to be, before the last Congress, the Senate had two speeds: one for deliberation and one for getting things done. Senators saved the deliberation speed for truly great issues of the day, and when we needed to get the country's business done, we came together to work things out. It used to be that all appropriations legislation was business the Senate came together to work on and to finish. Sometimes it was 1 day, sometimes it took 4 or 5 days, but we got it done.

These days--for the last 3 years--the Senate has one speed: slow--real slow. And we haven't had appropriations bills for a number of years because we haven't been able to do them because of the speed--slow. Even when we are talking about preventing a government shutdown, even when there is broad agreement across party lines that we want to prevent a government shutdown, even then we are stuck in slow.

Madam President, when we got the bill from the House, I didn't like it especially, but, as I said earlier--and I still feel this way--the Speaker at least got it to us at a decent hour, not at the last minute. These two good Senators, Shelby and Mikulski, worked very hard for days to get this done. Now, frankly, I didn't like some of the things Senator Mikulski agreed to, but I was with her, and we agreed to do the things together because we wanted to get a bill done. We swallowed a lot of pride. She gave up things in her bill she has worked on for decades and gave in to others so that they would feel better about this bill.

So then we come here today and are blindsided. This bill has been in the public for days. It passed the House last week, and 85 to 90 percent of the bill that is the so-called amendment was in the House bill.

We are going to finish this bill or not finish it before the recess. If we can't get 60 votes, then it will fail and the government will shut down but not for anything we have done--not for anything we have done. We have a few Senators who are doing everything they can--and have been doing it for years--to throw a monkey wrench into everything we do here. We should have been legislating today.

I came to the floor last week and said we are going to have a CR, we are going to have amendments. I said that when we opened the Senate yesterday. I have tried my best to move to this bill.

The Senate cannot continue like this. I took everyone at good faith at the beginning of this Congress when we made a few changes. I thought those changes would be helpful. To this point, they have done zero because we have had no cooperation from the Republicans.

The Senate has changed, Madam President. I am sorry the Presiding Officer, who has a wonderful background, has not seen the Senate and how it really should work. A small group of Senators has kept the Senate in slow, slow gear. They have prevented us from even starting debate on this important bill. We can't even start the debate on it. People want to offer amendments. We had Senator Harkin waiting to offer an amendment, and we had Senator Cruz here waiting to offer amendments. They can't. We are through for the night, so we have wasted basically 2 days when we could have been considering amendments to this bill, and that is a shame.

We have a limited number of Senate days. In our lives, we have a limited number of days. The time of the Senate is too precious to spend it this way, so I am filing cloture on this bill. We will have a vote on proceeding to it on Thursday. How about that? Isn't that great? We are going to vote to proceed to it. So we will be on the bill Thursday, and we can start offering amendments on Thursday.


I have a cloture motion at the desk, Madam President.


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