ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY


Claire McCaskillU.S. Senator
[D] Missouri, United States

Length: 6 minutes, 49 seconds


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Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, back in July of this year, the subcommittee I chair on contracting oversight held a hearing about heartbreaking incompetence at Arlington National Cemetery.

Because of a series of management errors, bungling, neglect, the contracts that were supposed to be executed to make sure we were keeping track of America's heroes in our most sacred place in this country--we discovered that, in fact, the officials at Arlington National Cemetery were not sure who was buried where.

The reaction I have had to that hearing has been so reassuring because as I travel around Missouri, person after person comes up to me, so many veterans, saying: Thank you for getting on top of this disaster at Arlington National Cemetery.

Since that hearing, when it was very clear there was no direct line of authority in terms of managing Arlington National Cemetery--that they had no problem issuing multiple contracts for millions of dollars and getting absolutely nothing for it, an acknowledgment that they did not have a system that was adequately keeping track of the location of burial for potentially thousands of America's finest--we have continued to stay on top of this and have realized that more and more problems continue to arise.

This morning, it was reported nationally that they now found a grave site that has eight different urns buried--eight different urns--cremated remains buried in one location with a tombstone that said ``Unknown.'' And, of course, they have been able to identify some of those remains--gratefully, they have--and they are contacting those families.

But as a result of the hearing, I filed legislation, along with Senator Brown, who is with me on that committee as the ranking member of that committee. Together, we filed a bill, with a number of cosponsors, setting up some basic oversight of Arlington going forward--basic but very important--making sure we have review of contract management, making sure we have compliance with an Army directive, making sure we have a report on the grave site discrepancies that have arisen, so we can be assured that every family in America who looks upon Arlington as the last resting place for [Page: S8473] their family member can be assured that when they go to visit their loved one, they are indeed visiting their loved one.

So we filed this bill, S. 3860. After we found out about these additional problems that have arisen, I now feel a sense of urgency about this.

I know my colleagues on the other side have said we are not doing any other legislation except making sure we get a tax cut for millionaires. I am hoping they will make an exception to the rule because if we do not provide adequate oversight right now, when will we? Is there a subject more important than our oversight and making sure those we should honor the most are, in fact, being treated with the kind of dignity and respect they deserve rather than just being thrown in a gravesite that says ``Unknown''? So I am going to make a motion tomorrow--we will be in session tomorrow--for unanimous consent to pass this legislation. I know I am being impatient. We are supposed to let these things sit on the calendar for months and months, and we are to hope that nobody puts a secret hold on it, and we are to get frustrated not knowing who has a hold on it or why. We have 38 members of the judiciary who have been sitting on the calendar who came out of committee unanimously. But, no, we can't take those up. We can't do anything until we do unpaid tax cuts for millionaires.

I am hoping my Republican colleagues will give the millionaires a rest tomorrow. I am hoping they will get off the case of helping the millionaires and the billionaires so we can unanimously pass this bill. That is the best we can do right now to make sure our loved ones--because they are all of our loved ones. We love the men and women who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, from John F. Kennedy to the soldiers none of us has ever met. We love these Americans, and we need to do everything we can to make sure there is proper oversight of what is going on at Arlington National Cemetery.

So, tomorrow, I am hoping we get an exception to the edict that we got from our friends on the Republican side of the aisle. I am hoping they will allow this bill to go through by unanimous consent because, I will tell my colleagues, I am not comfortable going home for my Christmas holidays with my family until I am sure we have done everything we can for the families who lost loved ones who reached a final resting place on this Earth at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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