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Unanimous Consent Request - S. 182

Location: Washington, DC


    Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I will take very little time.

    To underscore where we are on the Burma sanctions issue, I tried to get this bill cleared for this morning for an hour equally divided and a rollcall vote, but there was an objection on the other side with the suggestion that we modify the bill to have the sanctions end in 1 year. Of course, that is exactly the wrong message to send to the military junta in Burma. That is not acceptable to this side.

    The Washington Post, in this morning's editorial, gets it right by saying: Senators supportive of democracy in Burma should vote for the bill without condition for expiration dates. That is the way the bill ought to pass. That is the way the bill was introduced. That is the way I hope we will be able to reach consent to take it up in the near future.

    In that regard, I ask unanimous consent that the Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further action of S. 182, the Burma sanctions legislation; that the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration; further that there be 1 hour of debate equally divided in the usual form and that no amendments be in order; that upon the use or yielding back of time, the bill be read the third time, and the Senate proceed to a vote in relation to the measure, with no intervening action or debate.

    The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?

    Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, this is obviously a very important matter, and we should address this in a very careful and appropriate way. I might say to Senators, this matter has not been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The committee has jurisdiction on it. Rather, it is coming straight to the floor with a request that there be no amendments, which I think is a little bit bizarre.

    I might also point out that in other sanctions areas, for example, China, we had a long, deep, involved debate a few years ago and agreed to how we should address sanctions, particularly trade sanctions against China.

    I might also inform Senators, I have been in consultation with the chairman of the Finance Committee who agrees with me that it would be inappropriate to proceed at this time, certainly in the manner suggested by the Senator from Kentucky.

    I might ask the Senator if he will agree to modify his request in a way I think is much more appropriate, particularly even stronger than the resolution suggested by the Senator. And that would be for similar, as was the case with China MFN, annual extensions or annual sanctions, but that the President would suggest that the sanctions be continued and that would be the case unless there is a motion of disapproval passed by both Houses of Congress. I believe the executive branch should be part of this. This is not just a legislative branch issue. When it comes to sanctions, clearly the executive branch should play a very important role.

    I might ask the Senator if he would agree to modify his request in the nature of an annual request. If the President wants to continue, he certainly could make an annual request, and that would be subject to disapproval by both Houses of Congress.

    Is the Senator agreeable to make that change?

    Mr. McCONNELL. I would say to my friend from Montana, there is already a sunset provision in the bill. It occurs as soon as democracy is restored in Burma. There was a legitimate election there in 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won 80 percent of the vote. She has been under house arrest now for 14 years. The sanctions would terminate under the bill that I hope we will pass just as soon as she is allowed to take power. Such a provision is already in the bill. I am happy to continue the discussions with my friend from Montana.

    The reason the Finance Committee didn't get the bill is because the Parliamentarian sent it to the Foreign Relations Committee and both the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking member support the bill, as do the majority and minority leaders of the Senate.

    I know the majority leader is waiting to speak on another issue. If I could, I will proceed to try to get this on the calendar. I understand S. 1215 is at the desk and is due for its second reading.

    The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?

    Mr. REID. Reserving the right to object, Mr. President, I know the deepness of the feelings of the Senator from Kentucky. I want the record to reflect that this is bipartisan legislation. One of the chief cosponsors is the Senator from California. This was not an objection made on the other side; it was an objection made by the chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee. I hope this most important issue can be resolved along the lines suggested by the ranking member and the chairman of the Finance Committee, that this resolution will be passed and that each year it would stay in effect until both Houses of Congress say it should stay in effect. I think that would be a reasonable resolution of this most important issue. I, therefore, object.

    The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection is heard. The Senator from Kentucky.

    Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator Harkin be added as a cosponsor.

    The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

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