Senate Democrats

Reid Floor Statement in Opposition to Republican Effort to Cut Off Debate on Defense Bill

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gave the following statement on the floor of the United States Senate today:

Remarks as prepared:

“After keeping the Senate from debating the FY2006 Defense Authorization bill for more than 2 months, I was informed yesterday that the Majority Leader was going to file a motion to cut off Senate debate on this important legislation and all the critical issues it raises.

“This news should be deeply troubling to all members of this body, our troops and their families, and every American who cares about the security of this country.

“Let me remind my colleagues of what we have done so far on this bill. We spent part of Wednesday and Thursday debating it. As far as votes go, there were no votes on Wednesday, and we cast only two votes yesterday. There will be no votes on amendments today, and perhaps a single vote on Monday.

“As I speak this morning, Democrats have offered four amendments in the brief period we have been on this bill, only one of which has been disposed of by the Senate. If the Majority Leader follows through on his proposal, neither Democrats nor Republicans will have time to do much more than that.

“As a result, if cloture is invoked, members of this body will be denied the opportunity to debate and vote on major issues like ensuring that our troops – active and retired – get the pay and benefits they have earned. No time to debate our course in Iraq. No time to deal with the Administration’s failure to address the spread of weapons of mass destruction. No time to discuss how we are faring in the war on terror. No time to address the detainee abuse scandal.

“Mr. President, earlier this week I had the privilege of visiting with some of our soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital. We hear so much about the war on TV and read about it in the paper. During that visit, I saw the war in the faces of the soldiers I met. These troops are looking for a winning strategy in Iraq and they are looking for us to give them the resources they need to do just that.

“All of these things can happen only if we are given time on the Senate floor. If the Senate supports the Majority Leader’s motion, none of this will be possible. Americans will think even less of this institution than they already do. And most importantly, the men and women of our armed services and their families who have sacrificed so much for so long will be shortchanged.

“Let me just remind my colleagues how unprecedented such a move would be. The Senate Armed Services Committee keeps records back to 1987. These records are thorough and highly accurate. During that period, no Majority Leader has filed cloture on the Defense Authorization bill after so little time and so little action. Doing so now, during a time of war when hundreds of thousands of our troops are in harm’s way looking for our support, would be as disturbing as it is unprecedented.

“As things stand now, if the Majority Leader proceeds with this motion, it is entirely possible that the Senate will vote to cut off debate on this legislation before we will even have had a vote on a single Democratic amendment. Let me repeat, it is possible we will have voted to cut off debate before we will have voted on a single Democratic amendment. We cannot find an instance when this has occurred.

“If the Majority Leader takes this action, those who support this motion are sending one message: they do not believe the Senate should debate the important national security issues that are very much on the minds of our troops, their families, and the American people.

“At the same time the Majority Leader has apparently concluded we should cut off debate on this critical legislation after less than three days, he has seen fit to have the Senate spend over 30 days discussing the fate of a handful of judges. 30 days for a five judges and less than 30 hours on the national security of this country.

“The Majority Leader’s decision raises an important question: Why would he prematurely cut off debate on critical national security legislation? Why would he want to prevent the Senate from doing everything we can to help our men and women in uniform? Why would he deny the Senate the opportunity to make this country more secure?

“Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is a familiar one. Rather than address the concerns on the minds of the American people, our Republican colleagues are once again insisting that the Senate focus its time on less important business. Earlier this year they put judges ahead of health care, retirement security, and education. Now they are apparently willing to put gun liability and the estate tax ahead of the needs of our troops.

“Frankly, this action is not in keeping with the spirit in which this bill came to the Senate floor. To this point, the process has been completely bipartisan or should I say nonpartisan. The Chairman and Ranking Member as well as the other Republicans and Democrats on the Armed Services Committee worked together to see that our security needs were addressed. The Chairman welcomed input from members on both sides of the aisle. He made no attempt to prevent members from addressing critical issues or cut off debate. He should be lauded for the course he chose and the Majority Leader should follow his example.

“Democrats want to pass this bill. That is why for the past two months we have urged the Majority Leader to bring it to the floor and why we were pleased when he finally did so two days ago. We are here and ready to debate the numerous important issues raised by this legislation.

“I hope the Majority Leader will reconsider this action and let us get back to work on this important bill. If he does not, we will oppose cloture. That is the only course that will ensure that we effectively address the security needs of this nation.”