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Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I would notify the assistant Republican leader I will be making a unanimous consent request in a few minutes after my remarks. I do not want him to be surprised by that.

Members representing all corners of this great Nation have been working hard on amendments to improve this comprehensive immigration bill. For a week now we have been trying to negotiate a package of noncontroversial amendments to be included in this legislation.

In my experience over the years, both in the majority and in the minority, for whatever bill you had before the Senate, when you have a list of noncontroversial amendments, they are simply agreed to by everybody and put in a managers' package so as not to take up a day voting on things that are going to pass anyway.

Last week I filed a managers' package of amendments. I removed from this list the ones that have been objected to by other Members. Instead, though, the Republican minority has taken the position that in order to even clear a few noncontroversial amendments--which includes both Republican and Democratic amendments--the majority must agree to vote on dozens of highly contentious measures, including amendments being offered by Senators who have said that no matter what happens they are going to oppose the legislation. In my experience, under both Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate, that has never been considered reasonable.

Many of my friends on the other side of the aisle have complained we have not had more votes on this bipartisan immigration bill, and I share that frustration. From the outset, Republicans have delayed the bill's consideration and the ability of Members to file amendments by filibustering the motion to proceed to the bill. We all know the bill is going to get cloture, but they still filibustered the motion to proceed--just as one more delaying tactic. In fact, 15 Members refused to even cut off a filibuster, not for a vote on the legislation, but just to bring it on the floor so we could begin to debate it--delay after delay after delay.

Then once we overcame the filibuster and we could debate the legislation, I offered an amendment, and then I agreed to set it aside so Senator Grassley could call up a Republican amendment--again, the comity we usually have in this place. Well, then, when the next set of amendments was ready to be made pending, the Republicans, instead of doing what we Democrats did--allowing them to come up--objected to setting aside the pending amendment and prevented the next two amendments from becoming pending and ready for a vote. Then they objected to time agreements on votes. They even objected to allowing the leader to modify my amendment late last week, last Thursday night.

They complain about delays--why aren't we voting? Every time we try to vote, they object.

The lack of cooperation on this bipartisan bill has been frustrating for Senators on both sides of the aisle. I have had a lot of Republican Senators who have come to me saying they do not agree with these delays. It has been clear since day one that a small minority of Republican Senators is going to do anything to thwart this bill's passage. It is hard to sympathize with those who complain they cannot get a vote on their amendments, when they have objected to even the most minor consent agreements to make progress on the bill. The expression ``crocodile tears'' comes to mind.

We have tried to find a way forward for votes on both sides, but it has been thwarted. It makes one wonder whether some would rather have the ability to complain about process rather than take votes to improve the bill. I had hoped we could agree to a reasonable number of votes this week.

Unfortunately, some people here want to vote maybe. They do not want to vote yes or no. We are elected to vote yes or no, not maybe.

Yesterday we proposed votes on 17 Republican amendments and a smaller number--15--of Democratic amendments, but Republicans objected. It is a shame we have not been able to continue the momentum of bipartisan cooperation that marked the Judiciary Committee's process that has brought this bill so far.

In the Judiciary Committee we had 301 amendments filed. We approved around 140 amendments. All but two or three were passed with bipartisan votes--both Democrats and Republicans. And when we finished all those, I asked if anybody wanted to bring up any further amendments. They did not. And we passed the bill out with a bipartisan majority. But we voted. Sometimes we voted a dozen times in 2 hours.

We still have a chance to move a package of noncontroversial amendments. Instead of insisting the Senate vote on dozens of controversial amendments designed to harm the careful balance in this legislation, Republicans should clear the noncontroversial and good ideas on which many Republican and Democratic Senators have worked so hard. The amendments included on my manager's list have widespread support. They have been filed by Senators--both

Republicans and Democrats--over the past 3 weeks. Many have already been discussed at length here on the Senate floor.

I will take some examples. This package of noncontroversial amendments contains bipartisan amendments to improve oversight of certain immigration programs. It contains entirely technical amendments to the bill. It contains a bipartisan amendment by Senators NELSON and WICKER to provide for maritime security, as they have so correctly pointed out on this floor that we have a long border--not just our land border; we have very long borders on two oceans. It contains an amendment by a group of northern border Senators, led by Senator Heitkamp, to ensure border security measures at the northern border. There are several amendments from our colleagues from New Mexico to help facilitate cross-border travel and commerce.

The list includes an amendment by Senator Brown to ensure that the border fence is constructed of materials made in America. Who could vote against that? The list contains an amendment by Senator Cochran and Senator Landrieu. She is the chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. It requires increased reporting on the EB-5 program--something that should be a no-brainer. The list contains two amendments championed by Senators COATS, KLOBUCHAR, and LANDRIEU to ease the process for international adoptions--a humanitarian measure that should get strong bipartisan support. But these are just a few examples of what we have in here that we have all agreed should be able to be passed.

I wish the list were longer. Early yesterday morning, I learned there were Republican objections to a number of Democratic amendments that had been on my list, including several that have Republican cosponsors. I was surprised to hear there are concerns about several of these amendments. One of those that has apparently raised Republican concerns is an amendment by Senator Hagan to authorize a border crime prevention program and reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Program to protect law enforcement officers. The Bulletproof Vest Program is from the days when Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and I first introduced it, and it has gotten overwhelming support because of all the lives of police officers it has saved.

I hope those who are objecting to it will--the next time we have a police memorial here on the Mall in remembrance of those police officers who have died--explain to those police officers in attendance why they are opposed to them having bulletproof vests.

Yet another is an amendment Senator Feinstein, Senator Cornyn, and others have championed to provide the judiciary with the resources to handle the large number of immigration cases.

I do not understand why these are considered controversial. I was disappointed we had to remove the Feinstein-Cornyn amendment from this list because Republicans objected to the Feinstein-Cornyn amendment on resources for the judiciary.

Nonetheless, I took these off, even though I thought they would be noncontroversial. I liked the Feinstein-Cornyn amendment, and the others--the bulletproof vest amendment--but we took them off because Republicans objected.

So now I am going to propose a list--and I want to make sure the Republican leader is on the floor--that contains 32 sensible, noncontroversial amendments that strengthen the bill and makes it better. They deserve to be adopted. I recognize and share the frustration of many Senators who have worked on their amendments and want their chance to influence the bill. Amendments that have broad support should not be held hostage by the partisanship that has impeded our work.

I am going to offer now--incidentally, before I do, I note there are 32 in here; the majority of them--17--have Republican support.

I ask unanimous consent the following amendments be called up en bloc; that the clerks be authorized to modify the instruction lines, where necessary, to match the intended page and line numbers of the committee-reported substitute, as amended; and the Senate then proceed to vote on adoption of the amendments en bloc: Baucus-Tester No. 1512; Boxer No. 1240; Brown No. 1597; Cardin-Kirk No. 1286; Carper-McCain No. 1558, as modified with changes that are at the desk; Carper No. 1590; Coats No. 1288; Coats No. 1373; Coburn No. 1509; Coons No. 1715; Flake No. 1472; Heinrich No. 1342; Heinrich No. 1417; Heinrich No. 1559; Heitkamp No. 1593; Klobuchar-Landrieu-Coats-Blunt No. 1261; Klobuchar-Coats-Landrieu-Blunt No. 1526; Landrieu-Coats No. 1338; Landrieu-Cochran No. 1383; Leahy No. 1454; Leahy No. 1455; Murphy No. 1451; Murray-Crapo No. 1368; Nelson-Wicker No. 1618; Reed No. 1223; Reed No. 1608; Schatz-Kirk No. 1416; Shaheen-Ayotte No. 1272; Stabenow-Collins No. 1405; Toomey No. 1236; Udall of New Mexico No. 1241; and Udall of New Mexico No. 1242.


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I appreciate the compliments. But I am thinking of Shakespeare, ``I came here not to praise Caesar, but to bury him.'' Unfortunately these amendments have been buried by the objection.

I would note that yesterday we offered 17 Republican amendments and 15 Democratic amendments to be voted on. That was objected to. Those were offered by the distinguished majority leader. It is frustrating.

I know we are about to go to executive session. I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Hawaii, Ms. Hirono, have 2 minutes before the executive session.


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