June 23, 2009 - Issue: Vol. 155, No. 95 — Daily Edition111th Congress (2009 - 2010) - 1st Session
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--H.R. 2918; Congressional Record Vol. 155, No. 95
(Senate - June 23, 2009)
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[Pages S6926-S6928] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--H.R. 2918 Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate now proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 84, H.R. 2918, which is the legislative branch appropriations bill; that once the bill is reported, the committee substitute amendment which is at the desk and is the text of S. 1294, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee, be considered and agreed to; that the bill, as thus amended, be considered original text for the purpose of further amendment, provided that points of order under rule XVI be preserved; provided further that points of order under the Budget Act and budget resolutions be preserved to apply as provided in those measures. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? [[Page S6927]] Mr. DeMINT. Reserving the right to object, Mr. President, I have no problem going to this bill, but we have been working with Members on our side on a finite list of amendments that we wish to be considered on this bill. I am happy to work with the distinguished leader to obtain an agreement, and if he wishes me to cover some of those amendments today, I will. But at this point I will object to the motion to proceed and hope that we can work out an agreement. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. Mr. REID. Mr. President, I say to my colleague, you can offer any amendments you want. We don't care. We just want to get on the bill. And if we can do it, we will be happy to work with the Senator from South Carolina at that time to come up with a list of amendments. The amendments are all governed under rule XVI. Mr. President, I have a letter here. I have all day held off reading it. It is a letter signed by every Republican Senator, including the Senator from South Carolina. Let me read this letter written to me, dated March 24. Dear Majority Leader Reid, As you develop the legislative calendar for the rest of this fiscal year we believe it is critical to allocate an appropriate amount of time for the Senate to consider, vote and initiate the conference process on each of the 12 appropriations bills independently through a deliberative and transparent process on the Senate floor. For a variety of reasons, over the past several years, the Senate has failed to debate, amend and pass each of the bills separately prior to the end of the fiscal year. Far too often this has resulted in the creation of omnibus appropriations bills that have been brought to the floor so late in the fiscal year that Senators have been forced to either pass a continuing resolution, shut down government or consider an omnibus bill. These omnibus bills have not allowed for adequate public review and have clouded what should otherwise be a transparent process. As our President said on March 11, 2009, he expects future spending bills to be `` . . . debated and voted on in an orderly way sent to [his] desk without delay or obstruction so that we don't face another massive, last minute omnibus bill like this one.'' The Senate should begin floor consideration of the appropriations bills during the early summer months to ensure that an appropriate amount of time is available to examine, debate and vote on amendments to the bills. We believe the Senate should pass at least eight of the appropriations bills by the August recess. In order to press for a more transparent process, we will consider using all available procedural tools to guarantee regular order for appropriations bills. Noting our intentions, we hope you will plan accordingly as you work with the leadership of the House to develop the legislative calendar for the rest of this fiscal year. Thank you for your time and consideration. It is signed by every one of the Republicans, including my friend from South Carolina. I have here the manager of this bill, the wild-eyed liberal from Nebraska, Ben Nelson. If this is not a place to start--there is no one who has a more measured voice than the Senator from Nebraska. He is an experienced legislator. He has been Governor of his State. He understands problems, and he is a fine person. Why can't we move to this bill? I say to my friend from South Carolina, we are happy to work on a finite list of amendments, but all we want to do is legislate. We want to get on this bill. The manager of the bill is here. This man has been here for days--well, that is not true, since yesterday--to go to this piece of legislation. I hope my friend will allow us to go to this bill. We will work with him. Senator Nelson is one of the most reasonable people I have ever worked with. I do not see what fear my friend from South Carolina should have going to the bill. We have no games we are playing. We are not going to try to cut anybody off offering amendments. There will come a time, perhaps, when I talk to the Republican leader and say: Have we had enough of this? Mr. DeMINT. I say to the Senator, I am prepared to grant a unanimous consent to move ahead right now if I can be guaranteed seven amendments: three by myself, two by Senator Coburn, and two by Senator Vitter. I will be glad to describe what those are if you like? Mr. REID. I say to my friend, as I told the Senator in my opening statement, the appropriations bills have a little different rules than just a regular bill. But we are happy to work with him. I am curious to find out what amendments he is interested in. Would you run over them with me? Mr. DeMINT. Yes, I will be glad to. Again, this is a trust but verify. Mr. REID. Just give me the general subject. Mr. DeMINT. We had a few problems getting amendments on some other bills, so I just want to make sure we are in agreement and there are no surprises. I have three amendments we would like. One is related to the Capitol Visitor Center. The other is related to rescinding unspent stimulus money. And the other is asking for a GAO audit of the Federal Reserve. Senator Vitter has an amendment related to, I believe, our pay raises, as well as a motion to recommit the--I guess he is going to have to explain that one to me. Mr. REID. I understand that one. Mr. DeMINT. Senator Coburn has a transparency of Senate expenses amendment as well as something about enumerated powers. Mr. REID. I am sorry, minority powers? Mr. DeMINT. Enumerated powers. The minority has no powers. But this is enumerated powers of the Constitution. These are our amendments. If we can just get agreement now that these can be included, we will be glad to proceed. Mr. REID. I say to my friend, I served as chairman of the subcommittee for quite a number of years and enjoyed it very much. It appears the GAO one, from the knowledge I have, will be within the confines of this bill very clearly. Let's see, what else? The CVC, Capitol Visitor Center, I think that would be--I am looking to Senator Nelson. I think the Capitol Visitor Center would be in keeping with what we have in this bill. The point is, without going into every detail at this time, anything that is not something that is subject to a rule XVI or some other problem because it is an appropriations bill, we are happy to work with the Senator. We have no problem. But as far as guaranteeing votes, I cannot do that because somebody may want to offer a second-degree. Mr. DeMINT. I understand the leader's position. I will object and agree to work with you in the next few hours or tomorrow if we can get general agreement and perhaps some compromise if that is possible. We certainly don't want to hold this up, but we would like to participate in the debate with a few amendments. Mr. REID. Mr. President, I understand the Senator is going to object. I do say you cannot have--we want to go to the bill. We want to play by the rules. As it says here: In order to press for a more transparent process, we will use all available procedural tools to guarantee regular order for appropriations bills. I want regular order on appropriations bills. I think the Senator could check with his own floor staff; I can't guarantee votes. I can't guarantee these matters are germane because we have different rules on appropriations bills. I think it is another indication of where we are just wasting time, the people's time. I made my case. I will come here tomorrow and try again. We are happy to work with the Senator from South Carolina. I say to my friend from South Carolina, I understand he is well meaning. I understand that. The Senator is not a sinister person or trying to do something that is evil or bad. But I just think sometimes we would be better off, as indicated in the letter I received from you, just going to the bill and following the regular order. That is what I want to do. Mr. DeMINT. If the Senator will yield for clarification, regular order would be motion to proceed, debate, cloture. What we are trying to do is shortcut the regular order with unanimous consent, which I am very willing to grant, with some assurances that we will have some amendments. I think, just for clarification, if we went through the regular order--I think the request is to bypass regular order. I am more than willing to agree to that if we can get some assurances we will have amendments. Mr. REID. The Senator has every assurance you will have amendments. I repeat, there are certain things I cannot agree to and some may want to file a second-degree amendment to an [[Page S6928]] amendment that you offer. But I will be happy to have my staff work with you through the evening and see what we can come up with. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee is recognized. Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, I thank the leader for reading the letter I sent to him some time ago. I thank him for actually trying to bring forth an appropriations bill. I hope we can figure out some resolve. I think it is very important to our country that we actually go through an appropriations process that is thoughtful. I thank you for doing that today. Mr. REID. Will my friend yield for just a brief comment? I want to go to the bill. I want to follow regular order. That is what I was asked to do. I am happy to have my staff work through the night to see if we can agree on a finite list of amendments. I hope we can do that. Senator Nelson is the man to do that. He is a wonderful person, as I have already said. I am just disappointed it is such a struggle to get things done. Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, if I could talk back to the respected leader, I thank him for bringing it forward. I do think it is important we work through eight bills before the recess begins, and I hope over the next couple of hours he and the distinguished Senator from South Carolina can reach some resolve that is an accommodation and we can move through this. I thank the Senator very much for his patience. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Begich.) Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________