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Excepts From Republican Leader Mitch McConnell And Senator Richard Burr On The Clinton-Obama Senate Shutdown

Apr 23 2008

REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  “You know, there's been a lot of talk lately about the – what happens when the phone rings at 3 a.m. in the White House, but not nearly enough discussion of what happens if the phone rings at 3 p.m. here in the Senate.  As you can see, the doors are closed and will remain closed all afternoon because the majority is trying to accommodate the schedule of their presidential candidates.”

SENATOR RICHARD BURR (R-NC):  “The reality is that Senator Reid chose to delay the opening of the Senate until 5 o'clock this afternoon to accommodate the schedule of two candidates.”

SENATOR RICHARD BURR (R-NC):  “Senator Durbin said yesterday, and I quote, ‘I can't imagine there would be any delay in wanting to bring critical help to our veterans.’  Well, he's brought a delay to it.  We could have had the opportunity to open up this morning.  The Veterans bill would be finished and we would have also taken care of the cloture motion that needed to happen.  He also said, and I quote, ‘It isn't fair.  It isn't fair to the veterans who wait on important legislation like this.’  This was just yesterday.”


FULL TRANSCRIPT

REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  You know, there's been a lot of talk lately about the – what happens when the phone rings at 3 a.m. in the White House, but not nearly enough discussion of what happens if the phone rings at 3 p.m. here in the Senate.  As you can see, the doors are closed and will remain closed all afternoon because the majority is trying to accommodate the schedule of their presidential candidates.

Now, look, we understand people have to run for president and are not likely to be here much of the time.  But to have the schedule of the Senate completely revolve around the schedule of the Democratic presidential candidates strikes me as particularly ridiculous.

This isn't the first time we've had this experience.  Last June when there was a big labor meeting here in Washington all the schedule was pushed aside, we went to the so-called card check, the issue of getting rid of the secret ballot in labor union elections, and did it at a time that could get the Democratic candidates for president back here.

A month later, last July, we had a Code Pink/MoveOn rally.  Once again the presidential candidates were invited back.  We had an all-night show-and-tell here on Iraq.  And now, you know, we're staging this for another special interest vote, this time for the plaintiffs' lawyers with the Ledbetter vote.  So here we are, shut down, on a Wednesday afternoon, no action in the Senate, in order to accommodate the Democratic candidates for president's schedule.
 

RANKING MEMBER, SENATE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE RICHARD BURR (R-NC):  You know, I drew the short straw, so it's my bill that's been caught in the crosshairs this time.  Could have been any ranking member, any piece of legislation.  I'm the one that for the last 48 hours has been accused of stalling and holding up a veterans bill.  I know better than anybody that I'm in the minority, that I'm not the one, and it's not Mitch McConnell, that decides when the Senate is open for business and when it's shut for business; that we have limited minority rights.

And what I was trying to do was to exercise the limited rights that we have as the minority to make sure that there was a full debate, to make sure that all members understood the history of the issues, to make sure that members that wanted to offer amendments had the opportunity to do it.  For 48 hours, I quietly took the criticism that the debate was unnecessary and that exercising your right as a member to offering amendments ought to be expedited. 

Then last night, Senator Reid made a unanimous consent request that we go straight to consideration of the bill.  I'm all for that. I wanted to do it first thing this morning.  But he also wanted to change the Senate rules that require a filibuster to happen one hour after we reconvene the United States Senate.  I objected to that.  I objected because I didn't think we needed to accommodate presidential candidates just to accommodate their schedule.

The reality is that Senator Reid chose to delay the opening of the Senate until 5 o'clock this afternoon to accommodate the schedule of two candidates.  Senator Durbin said yesterday, and I quote, "I can't imagine there would be any delay in wanting to bring critical help to our veterans."  Well, he's brought a delay to it.  We could have had the opportunity to open up this morning.  The veterans bill would be finished and we would have also taken care of the cloture motion that needed to happen.

He also said, and I quote, "It isn't fair.  It isn't fair to the veterans who wait on important legislation like this."  This was just yesterday.  Well, apparently when allowing the minority its rights in the legislative process, it's not fair.  But to accommodate presidential candidates to come back is just business as usual. 

If that's the way the majority determines that they want to run the United States Senate, I'm confident the American people will seek a change in who runs the United States Senate.  I'm also confident that we will continue to protect the rights of the minority, the rights of all members that want to come to the Senate floor and debate legislation, the right of all members to amend legislation, and that that's what will take priority on what happens in the United States Senate, not the schedules of the presidential candidates.
 
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