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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REID. Mr. President, at the end of a long, hard few days, people probably aren't expecting me to say some positive things about Republicans, but I think it is appropriate to do so.

First of all, the Speaker sent us this bill in a time where we had an opportunity to look at it and work on it. He should be commended, as I do commend him for doing that rather than trying to jam us with something right before the CR expires.

We valiantly tried to make this a better bill, and that has been done because of the outstanding work of Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby. The product we have is a good product. It funds the government for 6 months, that is all. But it is good because not only does it fund the government for 6 months, it allows us to get back to regular order here, which we have all been talking about doing. Not only is this legislation important but what we are going to do to follow up, to do regular appropriations bills, to fund the government for the fiscal year 2014.

So we have made progress on this bill. We voted on some important matters. But I have to say that I am disappointed in a number of my Democrats and a number of Republicans because we have to compromise and work together to get this done.

As an example, we have five different amendments that have been offered on Egypt. This is a CR for 6 months. We have a functioning Foreign Relations Committee. That is where this should take place. I have spoken with Chairman Menendez. There are people on his committee who are offering various versions of what should happen on Egypt. We all have concerns about Egypt, our funding of Egypt, maintaining stability in the region, supporting Israel. As I have indicated, we have five Senators who have filed five separate, distinct amendments, and, literally, staffs, with Senators, have worked all day coming up with amendments that Democrats and Republicans could agree on. It hasn't been done. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but it hasn't been done.

I would again remind Senators that this is a continuing resolution. A long-term solution to the situation in the Middle East is not a short-term CR. Whatever we do on this bill would expire in 6 months anyway. The issue should be brought up in committee and worked on there and brought to us. That is what my Republican friends have said they wanted, and that is what my Democratic friends have said they wanted. They want to get back to where we do that kind of work.

I thank very much Senators Menendez, Rubio, Leahy, McCain--remember, two and two: two Democrats and two Republicans. I appreciate the work they have done. But we haven't been able to merge these different approaches to get something done.

We are behind the scenes around here. Just because you don't see a lot of talking going on here doesn't mean there isn't a lot of work going on. There have been numerous discussions about how to get the amendments into shape so they can be voted on. We can't even get Senators to agree that we should have votes on amendments, unless, ``I want mine.'' ``If he gets his, I want mine.'' So we have had difficulty on both sides to agree on a path forward.

Now, the Speaker has been pretty clear. He has said that unless we get a bill that doesn't have a lot of junk in it--I am paraphrasing what he said to make the point--he is going to strike everything and send us back a straight CR. He said that publicly, not privately. So we need to move forward, cautiously but quickly.

Next week we have something on which we have had speeches on both sides of the Senate--we need to do a budget. As we speak, the Budget Committee is in session working to get a budget so that we can work on it next week.

Now, the budget is defined, how we do it. There is a statute that says there are no filibusters. There are certain ways you can slow it down a little bit, but there is 50 hours. That is how much time we have on it, plus the vote-athon afterward.

So yesterday I filed a motion on the pending substitute and the underlying bill. What I would request--and I have spoken to the managers of this bill--is that they and their staffs make themselves available to Senators and Senators' staff to try to come up with a finite list of amendments--not hundreds but a finite, small list of amendments that we think would improve this bill and not further develop the ire of the Speaker, who is kind of in charge of a lot of what we do around here even though we are on the other side of the Capitol than he is.

The managers have already agreed to be available and their staffs will be available to work on a finite list of amendments. Staffs need to be reasonable, and Senators need to be reasonable.

It is doable. We can do this. If we have a finite list of amendments, we will complete work on this matter Monday. If we don't, then there is not much choice we have except to vote on cloture on Monday. One way or the other, we are going to move forward with this bill on Monday. I hope the Senate will be able to come to a resolution on this important appropriations matter on Monday. We need to do that. I hope this Senate can turn immediately after that to the budget resolution.

I can't say enough how much I appreciate the efforts of Senators Mikulski and Shelby. They have had a very difficult time trying to manage people who at times are unmanageable.

So that is it for tonight. Again, we will go out tonight and have people work to try to come up with a list of amendments that will allow us to move forward on this bill.


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