Floor Updates

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Nov 26 2012

02:58 PM

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of S. 3525, the Sportsmen's bill, post-cloture.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Waive the Budget Act with respect to Reid (for Tester) substitute amendment #7875 to S. 3525, the Sportsmen's bill.
    • If the Budget Act is Waived, the Reid (for Tester) substitute amendment #7875 will be Agreed to, and the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on passage of S. 3525, the Sportsmen's bill, as amended.
    • NOTE: Majority Leader Reid has indicated that this evening he will file Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 676, the Native American Land bill (Carcieri v. Salazar). He has also indicated that tomorrow the Senate will proceed to Executive Session to consider the Disability Treaty.
  • Pending --
    • Motion to Proceed to S. 3254, the Defense Authorization bill.
    • At a time to determined, the Senate will begin consideration of Executive Calendar #518, Carol J. Galante, of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for up to 60 minutes of debate, equally divided. Following the use or yielding back of time, the Senate will VOTE on confirmation (60 votes required).

Senator Reid
: (2:03 PM)
  • Spoke on the fiscal cliff.
    • SUMMARY "I remind everyone within the sound of my voice of one fact - this Congress is already one vote away from avoiding the fiscal cliff for middle-class families and small businesses. We could solve the greatest economic emergency facing the nation today if only the house would consider the Senate-passed bill freezing tax rates for 90% of American families and 97% of small businesses. As Thomas Jefferson said, and this is a quote - "we should not put off tomorrow what we can do today." Our legislation would give economic certainty to the middle class, protect important tax deductions for families and businesses and restore balance by asking the most fortunate among us to pay a little extra to reduce this debt. It's also the only bill with a chance of being signed into law by President Obama. I was dismayed to hear Speaker Boehner once again urge the Senate to take up the House-passed bill extending more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. The Senate has already considered the bill, and we reject it on a bipartisan basis, so for the Speaker to say bring it up, we already have. It was voted down in this congress. The Senate has spoken. President Obama has spoken. He has promised he will not sign any bill that mortgages our future to pay for handouts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. I only hope House Republicans have been listening. I also hope my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, members of the House and the Senate, used the Thanksgiving break not only to give thanks but also to reflect on the monumental tasks ahead. I hope they took time to reflect on the effort it will take to complete these tasks."
  • Spoke on the Senate schedule.
    • SUMMARY "Discussions continue on the Defense Authorization bill. I had a conversation, just finished one, with the chairman of the committee, Senator Levin. Republicans senators have been having disagreements among themselves on what they want to do on the Defense bill. Thus, while these discussions are going on, I intend this evening to move to the decision affecting Native Americans. I will file cloture on that motion to proceed so we can expect a roll call vote on the motion to invoke cloture on Wednesday. As well tomorrow, I intend to move to proceed to executive session to consider the Disability treaty. We will seek reasonable agreements on amendments to this matter. If on Wednesday, cloture is not invoked, I will intend to figure out some way with the help of Senator McCain and others on the Republican side to return to the defense bill under the agreements that we've had on that - tentative agreements that we have had on that before. That's up to Senator Levin and Senator McCain to figure out a way forward on that. I'm willing to work with them in any way that is reasonable this late in the game."

Senator McConnell: (2:07 PM)
  • Spoke on the fiscal cliff.
    • SUMMARY "I don't think it's a secret that for our part, republicans have shown a clear willingness to make tough choices in order to find the solution to the trillion-dollar deficits of the last four years. We have been open to revenue by closing loopholes as long as it's tied to spending cuts and pro-growth tax reform that broadens the base and lowers rates. This is the model laid out by the Simpson-Bowles Commission and it's a model both parties should step forward and embrace. Without compromising our principles, we put skin in the game and recognition of the fact that while Democrats don't run this town, neither do we. We have been responsible even as we have remained firm on this point. No tax increases now for promised spending cuts that won't materialize later. The American people have seen that game before, and they won't be fooled again. The only balanced approach is one that includes real and lasting reforms, so Republicans have stepped out of our comfort zone. We have been clear about what we'll do and what we want, and yet we remain at an impasse, leading us to ask why. Because a vocal minority on the hard left continues to argue to leaders of their party from the president on down that democrats in Washington should do absolutely nothing about short-term or long-term spending problems. This is the Thelma and Louise crowd, the ones who dream about higher taxes and the bigger government it will pay for, regardless of the impact on jobs or the economy or America's standing in the world. These are the ones who have recklessly ignored the fact that we can't keep running trillion-dollar deficits every year and throw a tantrum if somebody suggests that maybe the taxpayers shouldn't keep subsidizing every last program Washington ever dreamed up. Their reckless and ideological approach threatens our very future and anyone who is serious about solving the problems we face should ignore all of that, starting with the president. The election's over, but the economy and fiscal problems of the past several years have only gotten worse. It's time for the president to present a plan that rises above these reckless and radical voices on the hard left that goes beyond the talking points of the campaign trail and that has a realistic chance of passing the Congress."
  • Spoke on filibuster reform.
    • SUMMARY "The rule change is not an affront to me or the Republican Party. It is an affront to the American people. It is an affront to people who sent me and the other 46 Republicans here to represent them in the Senate. But whose voices would be shut out if the majority leader and it cohort of short-sighted Senate had their way and permanently changed this at the moment Republicans represent the voters of 31 states, representing a total population of more than 180 million Americans. Shutting off our right to express the views of our constituents as is being proposed would effectively shut these people out of the process. What the majority leader and his cohort of senators who don't seem to understand what the Senate was intended for are proposing would guarantee that the one sure means our constituents now have of being heard in Washington would be gone. If a bare majority can proceed to any bill it chooses and once that bill the majority leader all by himself can shut out all amendments that aren't to his liking, then those who elected us to advocate for their views will have lost their voice in this legislative process. This is something the majority leader used to understand. He used to understand that protecting the rights of the minority party meant protecting the right of the people who sent us here to be heard in Washington. He understood the importance of defending the minority view when he was in the minority. But now he seems to have forgotten all of that."

Senator Reid: (2:28 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "The Republican leader said it's absolutely true. I follow the golden rule. And it's very clear what's happened during this Congress. We can go over all the numbers, and I think they really project what's happened, about the hundreds and hundreds of times that we have been forced to file cloture on relatively meaningless things. My friend, the Republican leader, claims changing the rules is make the Senate more efficient is an assault on minority rights. It is a response to the abuse of the filibuster by Senate Republicans. He keeps talking about getting rid of the filibuster. I or no one on the Democrat side has proposed getting rid of the filibuster. But we have proposed making this place more efficient. We had a run at this two years ago. We had a so-called gentlemen's agreement that the motion to proceed would be filibustered rarely. It's filibustered virtually every time a bill came up. I'm proposing that we do away with filibusters on motions to proceed, period. To the average men, these reforms are just common sense. Americans believe congress is broken. Once again the only ones who disagree are Mitch McConnell and Republicans in Congress. The American people know Democrats and Republicans, that this place isn't working and there need to be changes so we can proceed to get some legislation passed We believe that there should be one aspect of the senate that changes, and that is this motion to proceed should be a non-debatable motion to proceed. Simple as that."

Senator McConnell: (2:32 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Let's assume - I know the majority leader must think he's going to be the majority leader forever, but what if he isn't? And what if it's two years from now. And what if my members say if 51 Democrats can change the rules of the Senate, why can't 51 Republicans? Why should we have to fiddle with these people in the minority? What's the point? Why not just change the rules of the Senate and turn the Senate into the House? That is why Lyndon Johnson felt so strongly that a rules change should require a supermajority of 67, not 60, thereby virtually guaranteeing that any significant changes in the way the body operates are done on a bipartisan basis. Further, the majority leader calls anything a filibuster when he decides to file a cloture petition, which he routinely does on virtually every bill and then complains because we're reluctant to go to the bill without some assurances we're going to be able to offer amendments. So here's the way it works. The majority leader calls up a bill. He files cloture on the motion to proceed. We enter into a discussion in order to get some understanding that we're going to have a chance to offer any amendments. And the reason we engage in that discussion is because throughout the last Congress, getting to offer an amendment was kind of an unusual thing. Because as soon as you get on the bill, the majority leader fills up the amendment tree, which means that he alone gets to decide - he alone out of 100 of us - gets to decide who gets to offer an amendment. In other words, he gets to pick our amendments for us."

Senator Reid: (2:37 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "It's ironic that the Republican leader complains about those who want to change the Senate rules. It's ironic because he's been at the forefront of abusing these rules for the past six years. It's ironic because when he was in the majority seven years ago, he sought to change the rules to streamline votes on judicial nominations. He was part of that program. And it's ironic because he's one of a very small group of people who think the senate's working just fine. Rules change around here. They change. It used to be to cut off a filibuster took 67 votes. The Senate changed that because it became too burdensome. Now, I've said on many occasions, and I'll say here, I've said this in public gatherings and private gatherings, these minor changes that I'm suggesting wouldn't affect anyone that have the thought of making America better, if I were the minority. To stop a filibuster on a motion to proceed to a bill, take ten days to get on a bill? I don't think that's good and we need to change that."

Senator McConnell: (2:42 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Don't get me wrong, I say to my friend, the majority leader, I'm not defending the way the place has been run the last two years. I think it's been embarrassing. I have to apologize to my constituents for the way the place is run. But we had the same rules in earlier congresses and didn't have the same problem Look, what the majority leader conveniently continues to leave out is not only the rule that he wants to change but the way he wants to change it. The way he wants to change it. He wants to establish the precedent that 51 senators can change the rules any time they want to take away the rights of everybody else, which will fundamentally change this institution. So no senator should buy the argument this is just a little-bitty change about the motion to proceed. This is about the way rules will be changed in the senate. No longer with a 67-vote threshold, obviously bringing the two leaders and their members together to agree to rules changes, but any time, on any whim any majority leader wants to change the rules, 51 votes. This is no small matter. This is a big issue about the future of this country and how this institution ought to be operated."

Senator Reid: (2:48 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I think that my friend, the Republican leader, has to acknowledge that things haven't been going very well. He just did that. The election's over. We need to proceed to get things done. Incendiary moves? We've - I've been facing incendiary moves for two years. We can't get anything done around here because the Republican obstructionism, the American people recognized that. And as I've traveled this country, people said, do something to change the senate so you can get things done. And we're making a minor change to stop the motion to proceed that we were told two years ago that they wouldn't use anymore. So, we're going to go ahead and change these rules so the Senate can become an effective body. We have a bicameral legislature and no one should suggest that I don't understand that. And no one should suggest that I don't understand the filibuster rule. I think I understand it as well as anybody that serves in this body and perhaps, with the exception of Senator Byrd, than anybody that's served in this body. So if Senator Byrd were here, I would suggest to everybody here, Senator Byrd wouldn't like what's going on here and he would work with us to get these rules changed. And that's why they need to be changed. We can't continue like this. We took people's word that they would help us get things done here and they rejected that. It simply was untrue. It was a falsehood. So, I know what I've said in the past and I know what I - what I've done in the past and I think that what we're doing is the - is a positive step forward. To do away with the motion to proceed so that it's - so that they can't filibuster a simple motion to proceed, stopping us from getting on a bill that takes us ten days to do that. And that's wrong."

Senator McConnell: (2:51 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "It doesn't take ten days to get on a bill, and what the majority leader has repeated now is he's going to break the rules to change the rules, which is a wonderful way to start off the new congress, at a time when the American people would like for to us work together and to solve the huge issues that lie before us. The majority leader has chosen instead to break the rules to change the rules because he's had difficulty getting on bills. It's a sad commentary about where the Senate stands these days. I had hoped going into the lame-duck session we'd have an entirely different view of how to bring this place together and to begin to solve the problems. It's a sad day for the Senate. And we will go forward as best we can under this extraordinary set of circumstances."

Senator Reid: (2:53 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "No matter how many times my friend, the Republican leader, says, "Break the rules to change the rules," doesn't make it true. We're going to follow the rules. I would also say this, I was stunned by reading the press today, a couple of the hill newspapers. A couple Republican senators said, we're going to make things really tough around here. I'm paraphrasing what they said. We're going to make things so bad if they take away our motion to have to file - I mean, causing me to file cloture on motion the proceed. We're going to make things really difficult. Really difficult? When the Republican leader said his number-one goal in this congress was to defeat President Obama? And that's how they've legislated. Everything was to the effort of making sure that Barack Obama did not serve again."