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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I would be remiss, while we are on the Senate floor, as I was thinking about Senator Harkin, Senator Mikulski, both senior Members--she is the chairperson of the Senate Appropriations Committee where I have had the privilege to serve a number of years. We all go back to our House days. That is where I first met Senator Harkin. He was a couple of years younger then, and so was I. Senator Mikulski and I were on the same committees over there. Senator Harkin came to the Senate a couple of years before we did. We have been involved together on the issues and against each other and so forth, but we stayed friends.

And I think Senator Harkin is absolutely right. Senator Mikulski is very on point on regular order; that what we are trying to do on the Appropriations Committee--and this is a big start here--is to go back to the way we used to do things--regular order. We would have our spirited debates--and they were spirited--in the subcommittees of Appropriations, the full committee would come to the floor, and we would debate it, vote on it, and go to a conference with the House, work it out, come back, and live with it. We haven't done that in a long time. What we are trying to do now is get back on that track, and this is a big first step.

Having said that, I would like to take just a few minutes to speak on Chairman Harkin's amendment. I believe there are three critical points my colleagues should understand about this amendment. First, the draft omnibus that has been talked about was never finalized. There were more than a dozen significant items not agreed to at the time negotiations ended in December. A lot of those negotiations were done at the staff level. Critical decisions regarding health care, education, and labor policies and billions of dollars in funding decisions at that point remained undecided. They were never finalized.

I think these provisions have been decided and put in this amendment without consultation by Senator Harkin. These items included such critical issues as conscience protections for health care providers and provisions limiting the job-killing rules by the National Labor Relations Board. Those were critical issues for us.

Second, the Harkin amendment replaces a bipartisan continuing resolution which the distinguished chairperson has been talking about here for 2 days which includes key provisions in this bill we filed which would support research at the National Institutes of Health and emergency operations at the Centers for Disease Control with a 160-page bill that no Republican has approved. I believe the Harkin amendment both begins new programs and makes authorization changes to programs.

In addition, any program that did not receive an increase in funding during negotiation on the draft omnibus that he has talked about is cut in an across-the-board cut. These reductions hit critical job-training programs and funding for hospital preparedness.

Finally, if the Harkin amendment is agreed to, it will undo a very fragile consensus and poison the entire continuing resolution we have put before us, putting our government at the risk of a shutdown. None of us want that. House leadership has already stated they cannot and will not support the inclusion of the Harkin amendment, and I don't believe we should risk funding the entire Federal Government to do so.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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