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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. DURBIN. Mr. President, let me thank the Senators from Maryland and Alabama for their leadership on this bill. I might say to my friend, the Senator from Arizona, that I have a new assignment in the Appropriations Committee following the departure and passing of our great friend Senator Danny Inouye. I am trying my best to make sure we are doing our best on national defense, which I know is near and dear to the Senator from Arizona.

There was an extraordinary effort made in the House to accommodate the Department of Defense in the continuing resolution as well as accommodating military construction and veterans. I think it is a good bill. It comes over to us with provisions that will be helpful with some of the problems and challenges they will face.

What these Senators have tried to do is to add several other areas of agreement in the appropriations process. If I am not mistaken, most everything they have added has been subject to debate within the subcommittee and full committee. So there is no attempt here to conceal anything, and we knew full well that the watchful eye of the Senator from Arizona and his friends would be applied to this bill.

I think what we were trying to achieve today is to start the amendment process--not to close it down but start the amendment process.

That would give Members who want to come forward with an amendment the time to offer those amendments and others the time to review this legislation closely. I think that was our goal, only to have this shut down now, where no amendments can be taken up or considered. Without foreclosing the Senator from Arizona or the Senator from Oklahoma, wouldn't it be a healthier situation for us to be actively considering amendments of Members who know what they wish to offer at this point?

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with the Senator from Illinois.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Schatz). Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. McCAIN. The point of the Senator from Illinois is very well made, but unless we know the entirety of the bill, we don't know what our priorities are as far as amendments are concerned. I am sure the Senator knows that even though amendments are going to be allowed, there is going to be a limited number of amendments. We know how things work around this place come Thursday afternoon.

All we are asking is to give us a little more time. It was 9 o'clock last night when we received the final version of the bill.

I would say to my friend from Illinois, unless we know what is in the bill in its entirety, it is hard for us to know what the priority amendments we intend on proposing are. I think we are nearly through the examination of the bill. I do not wish to impede the progress of the Senate on this legislation. I know how important it is.

I also hope my friend will understand that we asked a week ago to have 72 hours, which is the normal Senate procedure, to examine the bill before we consider it. I understand the exigencies of the moment--all the back and forth between both sides of the Capitol--but I don't believe, for a $1 trillion bill, 587 pages, it is too much to ask for about 12 hours, or 14 hours, 15 hours--we have our staff working full time, and I wish to assure the Senator we will have it done soon.

Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, if I might engage further in this dialogue, I see the Chair is seeking recognition. But there are Senators on both sides who have amendments ready to go. They have ideas they wish to present to the Senate for consideration. Without foreclosing the Senator from Arizona and his colleagues of the possibilities to offer amendments tomorrow or whenever they are prepared to, I don't know why we want to shut down this deliberation today. We can consider some of these amendments and still not in any way prejudice the rights of Senators to review the bill and offer amendments of their choice.

Mr. McCAIN. Look, my dear friend, every Senator has their responsibilities in this body. I have a responsibility particularly where defense is concerned. We spent 3 weeks on this legislation, including hundreds of amendments, hours and hours of debate, markup in the committee of hours and hours, hundreds of hours of hearings by the leaders of our military and the administration. I haven't finished examining the defense part of this bill.

Now, why am I so worried about the provisions of this bill? Because there are provisions in this bill that directly contradict the Defense authorization we spent weeks on. We prohibited money for Guam, OK? We prohibited it. Now there is $120 million in the bill for it. So that makes me curious as to what else is in this bill.

So I think for me to go back and tell my constituents in Arizona, who are heavily dependent on our national defense and our bases, to say, Yes, I went ahead without even reading the whole bill, without even my staff going through the entire bill; we were in such a hurry with our over $1 trillion legislation that they didn't want me to hold up the Senate so people could propose amendments--that is not my duty to the citizens of Arizona.

So I say with respect to my friend, I respect the rights of all other Senators. I hope the rights of the Senator from Oklahoma and my rights would be respected and that includes reading a piece of legislation that is 587 pages long.

Mr. DURBIN. If I might respond to the Senator, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2013 provides $604.9 billion, including $87.2 billion for overseas contingency operations. That is a reduction from the 2012 level of $633.2 billion.

There are no changes in the defense section of this bill. There are no changes in the bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week. The bill fully complies with the spending caps in the Budget Control Act. It contains no Member-requested earmarks, in compliance with the earmark moratorium. There are cuts in the defense budget to define programs with excess funding, scheduled delays, and the like.

The bill includes 671 cuts as it came out of the House to programs in the budget request of funds that are not needed for the remaining 6 1/2 months of the year.

I might say to my friend from Arizona, this is what the House passed. We have not added anything to it that I think would be of Senate authorship that changes it in substance.

So I understand. It is the Senator's right. I respect his right and I will fight for his right as a Senator. But I would hope that at least for those Senators prepared to offer amendments, without in any way prejudicing the right of the Senator from Arizona to do so, we could proceed with the amendment process.

Mr. McCAIN. Well, again, I thank my friend from Illinois and I thank him for his point of view. I understand it. I understand the frustration of our two leaders on the Appropriations Committee and their desire to get this done. I understand the time clock is running out. We are talking about a very short period of time. But I have to repeat to the Senator from Illinois one more time: I am not going to go back to my State and say, By the way, I started the amendment process and debating on a bill that I hadn't read. I don't do that, and I hope the Senator from Illinois respects it. I hope in a very short period of time we can agree to proceed and have vigorous debate and amendments.

I also have to say this is remarkable. Here we are, I say to my friend from Illinois, in a period of sequestration, and there is a provision in here for $15 million for an incentive program that directs the Department of Defense to overpay contracts by an additional 5 percent if the contractor is a Native Hawaiian-owned company. That boggles the mind. It is unbelievable. While we are keeping ships tied up at the pier because we can't deploy them, we are now going to tell Native Hawaiian companies they are going to be overpaid by an additional 5 percent if they are based in Hawaii. What is that all about? That is why the Senator from Oklahoma and I have to read the bill. I thank my colleagues.


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