EXECUTIVE SESSION


Dick J. DurbinU.S. Senator
[D] Illinois, United States

Length: 9 minutes, 9 seconds


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Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, I want to respond to what has been said by my friend Senator Kyl from Arizona, as well as Senator McConnell of Kentucky, about the appropriations bill, which we are going to consider in a very short period of time.

I am a member of this Appropriations Committee. I remember what happened, and I want to put it on the record right now so that some of the things that have been said can be compared to what I think is the reality. This is the reality: The Appropriations subcommittees--each and every subcommittee of that full committee--met with Democrats and Republicans and prepared a bill. I have the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Senator Susan Collins of Maine worked long and hard in preparation of that bill. Other subcommittee chairs did the same thing. There was full bipartisan cooperation in the preparation of each of these subcommittee bills--every single one of them. And the appropriations bill that we will vote on is the combination of all of that effort.

Let me also talk about the amount of money we are going to appropriate to continue to fund the operations of our Federal Government.

It is true, it is over $1 trillion. In fact, it is $1.1 trillion in this bill. But what hasn't been said by Senator McConnell and Senator Kyl is that is exactly the amount they asked for. Senator McConnell came to the Senate Appropriations Committee and said Republicans will not support this bill unless you bring the spending down to $1.108 trillion. That is exactly what we bring to the floor to be considered.

So to stand back in horror and look at $1.1 trillion and say, where did this figure come from, well, it came from Senator Mitch McConnell in a motion he made before the Senate Appropriations Committee. It reflects the amount that he said was the maximum we should spend in this current calendar year on our appropriations bills. He prevailed. It is the same number as the so-called Sessions-McCaskill figure that has been debated back and forth on this floor, voted repeatedly by the Republicans to be the appropriate total number. So we have a bipartisan agreement on the total number. Yet now the Republican leader comes to the floor, stands in horror at the idea of $1.1 trillion--the very same number he asked for in this bill. You can't have it both ways.

Secondly, they say, well, this is a 2,000-page bill. Well, allow me to explain why.

When you take the work of 12 subcommittees, instead of separate bills and put them in one bill, the total number of pages is going to increase. Maybe the best thing we can give as a Christmas gift to the Senate Republican Caucus is a speed reading course so they can sit down and read these bills. It turns out their fingers get smudgy and their lips get tired if you have more than 100 pages in a bill. Over and over we are told, don't worry about the substance, just count the pages, and if it gets up to a thousand pages, it is clearly a bad bill. Wrong. This 2,000-page bill reflects the work of 12 subcommittees and 12 Republican Senators who helped to assemble and to devise the contents of that bill. It is no surprise that it would reach that number when we put all of the spending bills--the Appropriations subcommittee bills--into one document.

Another point that is raised--what a surprise--we have this thing thrown at us. We have not seen this before. We don't have time to look at this.

This bill was posted 2 days ago, and will be available not only for every Senator and every staff member but for every citizen of this country to look at in detail. The reason Members have been coming to the floor talking about its contents is they have access to it, and have had for almost 48 hours, and will for an even longer period of time before it is finally considered.

I also want to say that the schedule we are facing here now, which is putting us up against some deadlines--deadlines for the funding of government, a lot of personal family deadlines, which trouble all of us, but we accepted this job and its responsibility--many of these deadlines have come to be because of an exercise of the Senate rules. Time and time and time again the Republican minority has forced us to go into a cloture vote, into a filibuster--record-breaking numbers of filibusters over the last several years.

If Members of the Senate were to go back home and ask the cable TV viewers who watch C-SPAN what their impression of the Senate is, their impression is an empty Chamber--an empty [Page: S10316] Chamber because day after weary day we have had to put up with cloture votes and filibusters from the Republican side, delaying us time and time and time again while we burned off the hours on the clock instead of rolling up our sleeves and actually getting down to business.

Now they come and tell us, well, we are going to threaten to start reading bills. They have a right to do that under the rules. It is really not needed, since all these bills have been posted and any Senator who wanted to read them has now had 48 hours to read this appropriations bill, if they wanted to. But they may burn off hours on the clock again and then complain we are ruining Christmas for Members of the Senate and their families. Well, unfortunately, their hands are not clean.

When it comes to the things included in this bill, incidentally, I have heard many Republican Senators come down here and talk about specific elements in this Appropriations bill they disagree with, and that is their right. But many of the same Senators who are criticizing congressionally directed spending, or earmarks, have earmarks in the bill. That is the height of hypocrisy--to stand up and request an earmark, have it included in the bill, and then fold your arms and piously announce, I am against earmarks. You ought to be consistent enough to know if you are asking for an earmark one day and criticizing it the next, your credibility is going to be challenged. That is a fact.

As far as some of the things that have been talked about, one of them brought up by Senator Kyl relates to drilling, and how quickly drilling permits will be issued by the Federal Government.

Our Department of Interior has asked for 90 days to review applications for drilling permits included in the bill. Why would we want to be careful when it comes to drilling permits? America knows why. We saw what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. We saw the damage done. And we know for many businesses and many families and many people, and for a very fragile environment, things will never be the same. Let us avoid that from happening in the future. Waiting 90 days instead of 30 days is hardly an onerous burden to make sure that what is done is done properly and done in a way that won't come back to haunt us.

Finally, to argue this is disrespectful of the democratic process is to ignore the obvious. Time and time and time again, when we have tried to move the democratic process, we have run into a roadblock with filibusters from the other side of the aisle--obstructionism.

I am glad we passed the tax bill yesterday. It was an amazing day. I think the final vote was 81 to 18, which was an incredibly strong bipartisan showing. Let's end this session on a bipartisan note. Let's get away from lobbing bombs back and forth across the aisle. Let us roll up our sleeves and get down to what we need to do.

Senator Kyl should come to the floor and offer his amendment on the START treaty. He has talked about needing time to offer amendments. Let's do it, and let's do it this morning. Let's start the amendment process, let's have votes, let's not filibuster anything. Let's get to the vote, vote on the substance, and let's bring it to an end. Then let us bring up the Omnibus appropriations bill and the CR, let the Senate work its will, and let's vote on it.

We have two or three other items we can complete, and if people don't exercise delay tactics, we can get this done in a few days. I urge my colleagues, in the spirit of what we did with the President's tax package, let's return to a more bipartisan approach to completing our business and going home to our families.

I yield the floor.

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