(Senate - July 20, 2011)

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[Pages S4687-S4691]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                        APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2012

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
resume consideration of H.R. 2055, which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 2055) making appropriations for military 
     construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related 
     agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and 
     for other purposes.


       Coburn (for McCain) amendment No. 553, to eliminate the 
     additional amount of $10,000,000, not included in the 
     President's budget request for fiscal year 2012, appropriated 
     for the Department of Defense for planning and design for the 
     Energy Conservation Investment Program.
       Johnson (SD) modified amendment No. 556, of a perfecting 
       Vitter amendment No. 568, to provide that none of the funds 
     appropriated or otherwise made available by this act may be 
     obligated or expended at a rate higher than the level of the 
     Senate and House of Representatives concurrent budget 
     resolution for fiscal year 2012.
       Wyden/Merkley amendment No. 570, to provide for the closure 
     of Umatilla Army Chemical Depot, Oregon.
       Coburn amendment No. 564, to require evidence of causal 
     relationships for presumptions by the Secretary of Veterans 
     Affairs of service connection for diseases associated with 
     exposure to certain herbicide agents.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Dakota.
  Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, I am hopeful that the 
Senate will be able to complete action on the MILCON-VA appropriations 
bill today. Members have had ample opportunity to offer amendments, 
staff has been working to clear them, and I believe we now have a clear 
path to final passage.
  I would like to spend a few minutes today talking about the military 
construction portion of this bill, which is so important to our troops 
and their families. The bill includes $13.7 billion for MILCON, which 
is $1 billion below the budget request. In drafting this bill, we took 
a hard look at the projects submitted by the administration and made 
strategic reductions in order to make wise use of our MILCON dollars 
without sacrificing key military priorities. I believe this bill is a 
prudent approach to addressing our military construction needs at home 
and abroad.
  The bill fully funds the administration's request of $1.2 billion for 
Guard and Reserve projects. Typically, Congress adds funds for our 
Guard and Reserve components; however, given the current budget 
pressures, that option was not available to us this year. It is my hope 
the services will acknowledge and address the chronic backlog of 
construction requirements for the Guard and Reserve forces in future 
budget requests.
  Of note, this bill includes $550 million to construct or modify 15 
Department of Defense schools at home and overseas. As Newsweek 
magazine pointed out last month, a shocking number of DOD schools are 
crumbling and in need of replacing. The administration has made 
upgrading DOD schools a priority, and the committee wholeheartedly 
supports that goal. DOD school funding in this bill represents a 
significant downpayment on the estimated $3.1 billion requirement for 
DOD school recapitalization.
  The administration's request included funding for the move of Marines 
from Japan to Guam. While the committee recognizes the need to 
restructure force posture in the Pacific, we remain concerned about the 
ballooning cost of this plan and the lack of forward progress on the 
part of our Japanese allies. The report accompanying this bill directs 
the Navy to provide Congress with detailed information on the cost and 
prognosis of the Guam relocation initiative.
  Additionally, the committee is concerned with the potential cost of 
related troop realignments in Korea and the long-term impact of troop 
reductions in Europe. The report accompanying this bill addresses these 
concerns in depth.

[[Page S4688]]

  As I have said before, this is a sound and responsible bill. Senator 
Kirk and I have worked hand in hand to forge a bipartisan approach for 
the MILCON-VA bill, and I believe we have succeeded. I urge my 
colleagues to support final passage of the bill today.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. KIRK. Mr. President, I wish to join with my colleague and say 
that Republicans unanimously supported this bill that provides 
appropriations for our veterans and for our military construction needs 
unanimously in the subcommittee. Our Republican members unanimously 
supported this bill in the full committee, and the reason why is 
because this bill is marked to the House budget. This bill cuts 
spending on the budget authority discretionary side about $1.2 billion 
below the President's request. The bill also cuts spending $620 million 
below last year's level, and it even comes in $2.6 million below 
Chairman Culberson's bill that passed the House of Representatives 
under their very strict budget guidelines.
  I will note that we came together on a bipartisan basis in the Senate 
to bring up this very first of the appropriations bills, and the 
cloture motion to move forward to bring this bill to the floor passed 
by a vote of 71 to 26, with Leader McConnell and our vice chairman, the 
lead Republican on the committee, Mr. Cochran, supporting that.
  This bill has been endorsed by AMVETS, the Disabled American 
Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Paralyzed Veterans of 
America, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
  I think it is very important as we look at the wider issue of 
deficits and debt, any danger of interrupting payments to veterans 
because of negotiations here on Capitol Hill, it is a very important 
signal that not just the House pass the appropriations bill to support 
our veterans but also the Senate. So my hope is we will consider the 
amendments this afternoon and then advise Members that we would seek to 
go to final passage and get this first of the appropriations bills done 
this year, sending a very clear message, especially to our veterans and 
men and women on Active Duty, that we are supporting their construction 
and veterans health care needs in a way that spends money according to 
the dictates of the House budget resolution.
  I yield back and wait for our senior Member from Maryland.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.
  Mr. CARDIN. I ask unanimous consent to speak up to 10 minutes as if 
in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                              Debt Ceiling

  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I take this time to point out the obvious; 
that is, we are 13 days away from August 2, the date Secretary Geithner 
has indicated, if we do not raise the debt ceiling, that America runs 
the risk of defaulting on its debt and not paying its bills. I bring 
this up because this is an issue on which we never should be this close 
to this deadline.
  It has been pointed out many times that the debt ceiling has very 
little to do with how much money we spend. It has nothing to do with 
how much money we spend because we already spent this money. The 
question is whether we are going to pay our bills, whether the United 
States is going to live up to its obligations, or whether we are going 
to default on our debt.
  The prospect of not making that deadline is basically unthinkable, 
that the United States would give up its preeminent position 
internationally. It could jeopardize the U.S. currency being the global 
currency. It would have an effect on everyone in this Nation.
  We already have heard from the rating houses. Last week, both 
Standard & Poor's, S, and Moody's Investors Service warned they are 
considering downgrading the country's credit rating if the debt ceiling 
is not raised. A smaller firm, Egan-Jones Ratings, has already 
downgraded the U.S. securities. What happens if we get the major rating 
houses saying we are no longer AAA bond rated? Well, it will have an 
immediate effect on costs for taxpayers in this country. It will cost 
us more to borrow. That means we will have to pay higher taxes in order 
to pay the interest on the national debt. It will affect all credit in 
this country. It is estimated that the typical homeowner will pay an 
extra $1,000 a year on mortgage costs. The average credit card holder 
will pay an extra $250 a year in credit card interest. In other words, 
the interest rates of the Federal Treasury notes affect all the 
interest rates in this Nation. All of us will pay more, and it will 
cost jobs. It will cost us in our retirement savings. It will affect 
each one of us.
  Yesterday, the people of Maryland found out another way the failure 
to increase the debt ceiling will have an effect on Maryland taxpayers; 
that is, the rating houses have indicated that if the Federal credit is 
jeopardized, the State of Maryland's AAA bond rating is in jeopardy. 
Why? Because Maryland depends, as do most States, upon the Federal 
  Governor O'Malley, as the Presiding Officer knows--when you were 
Governor of West Virginia, you managed your State well. The credit 
ratings you deserved were based upon what you did in your State. That 
is true in Maryland. But Marylanders will find that their credit costs 
will go up if we don't increase the debt ceiling by August 2. We are 
all in this. We should never be this close. We should make sure we 
increase the debt ceiling by August 2.
  Yes, I do hope we use this as an opportunity to get our spending and 
our budget in order. We need to manage our deficit. We all understand 
that. We have to bring our debt under proper management.
  I have taken the floor before to sort of go over how we got here. I 
am not going to do that today, but I am here to tell you that the 
Democrats in the Senate, under Senator Conrad, have come in with a 
proposal that we think is well-balanced, that has more deficit 
reduction, quite frankly, than any plan that is out there. It is 
comprehensive, and it will allow us to be able to continue to grow our 
economy because the best thing we can do for our deficit is to create 
more jobs. The Conrad Democratic budget does that by investing in 
education, by investing in innovation and in infrastructure.

  It also recognizes we have to bring the deficit under control. It 
protects Medicare and Medicaid because we know those programs are 
important for our seniors and important for our economy. So we protect 
high-priority programs and include more deficit reduction by having a 
balanced approach. That is what we should do in addition to raising the 
debt ceiling. We should have a comprehensive approach.
  Let me cite some of the numbers of what the Conrad budget does. It 
brings spending down to 22 percent. I heard some of my colleagues talk 
about the historical averages. Twenty-two percent of our economy would 
be the same spending amount, on average, we had when Ronald Reagan was 
President. I think most of us would agree the Reagan years were 
certainly conservative in terms of government spending. That would 
bring down the percentages, despite the demographic changes in this 
country. I think that is quite an accomplishment.
  The revenues would be equal to what the revenues were as a percentage 
of our economy when Bill Clinton was President of the United States and 
when we had the strongest economic growth and the greatest job growth 
in modern history. So these are responsible programs.
  It also, by the way, says to our government workers, who should not 
be used as scapegoats and who are doing incredible work under difficult 
circumstances and are being asked to do more with less since they have 
already made the sacrifice with a 2-year pay freeze--the Conrad 
Democratic budget says enough is enough and doesn't ask our Federal 
workers to make additional sacrifices beyond the 2-year pay freeze they 
have already been subjected to.
  I know there are other efforts and I hope we will continue those 
efforts. I have spoken before about the Bowles-Simpson approach, and we 
have the bipartisan group working. That is how we should proceed. But, 
quite frankly, this cut, cap, and balance is not a bipartisan effort; 
it is an extreme effort by Republicans to bring forward a budget that 
is even more severe and more radical than the Ryan budget. I call it 
cut, cap, and kill when it comes to Medicare.

[[Page S4689]]

  Why do I say that? I have taken the floor regarding the Republican 
Ryan budget to point out the impact on the Medicare system, which would 
be to increase the costs, on average, to our seniors, when it is fully 
implemented, by an additional $6,500 to pay for health care. I know the 
Presiding Officer has been through West Virginia and I have been 
through Maryland and I know our seniors are already paying too much for 
health care. They cannot afford another $6,500 a year for their health 
care. We should be looking at reducing their health care costs, not 
increasing them.
  But the cut, cap, and balance approach would go even beyond that. It 
is estimated there would be another $2,500 in costs on top of the 
$6,500, so $9,000 of additional costs, when fully implemented, to our 
seniors for health care. That is cut, cap, and kill on Medicare, and I 
don't think any one of us wants to be responsible for that.
  I heard my colleagues talk about job growth, and we are all for job 
growth. The cut, cap, and balance bill is estimated to cost us hundreds 
of thousands of private sector jobs.
  Why do we say that? Well, the objective is not very subtle. The 
objective, as the Heritage Foundation has said--and this was just sent 
out to us--this would cut the size of the Federal Government by about 
half within 25 years. Are we going to tell our students they can do 
without half of their Pell grants? Yesterday, I joined students from 
around the Nation and presidents of colleges to talk about the 
importance of the Pell grant. At Morgan State University in Maryland 
and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore--both historically Black 
colleges and universities, in which 80 percent of their student body is 
made up of minority students--50 percent depend upon Pell grants. Half 
of that number could not be there without Pell grants. We are saying it 
is OK to cut the Pell grants in half? No, it is not OK.
  Are we going to tell our seniors we are going to cut Social Security 
in half?
  Are we going to tell those people who need unemployment insurance 
they are going to get 50 percent? It is not sustainable.
  I heard my colleagues talk about predictability. Well, the cut, cap, 
and balance bill is not going to be sustained. It is a radical 
approach. We can do better.
  Quite frankly, David Brooks, the conservative columnist, said it 
best. I will quote what he said about where the Republicans, 
particularly in the House, are trying to lead this Nation. David Brooks 

     . . . the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. 
     Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction 
     that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, 
     governing alternative.
       The members of this movement do not accept the logic of 
     compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to 
     raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, 
     they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch 
     to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

  That is from David Brooks, the conservative columnist.
  We need to have the system work. We need Democrats and Republicans 
working together. We need a budget plan that is predictable, that gets 
our budget under control, that allows America to create the jobs we 
need, and that invests in education, innovation, and infrastructure so 
America can continue to lead the world in economic growth. That is what 
we need to do. It starts by raising the debt limit so America does not 
default on its obligations and for us to work in a bipartisan manner to 
develop a budget plan that gets the debt under control but allows 
America to live up to its commitments to our seniors, to our students, 
and to create the job opportunities for tomorrow.
  That is what we need to do, and that is what this Senator is prepared 
to do.
  With that, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 

                           THE NATIONAL DEBT

  Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, our country is 2 weeks away from a 
deadline date, and this deadline is approaching because of Washington's 
constant inaction. To me, this deadline has to do with our national 
debt. The President, on the other hand, says it has to do with our debt 
limit, the amount of money we are allowed by law to borrow.
  I believe it has to do with the amount of money we have already 
borrowed and the amount of money they want to continue to borrow. I 
believe as Americans we can do better. I believe as Americans we must 
do better. Our country needs for us to act.
  The President has repeatedly said we have to deal with this issue 
now. Last week he asked the most fundamental question. He said: If not 
now, when? The clock is ticking.
  We got a wake-up call from Medicare not too long ago when we found 
out that it will be bankrupt 5 years sooner than they initially 
thought, just over a decade from now. As a doctor who has practiced 
medicine a long time, I will tell you we have to strengthen Medicare. 
We know in 25 years the same will happen to Social Security. Unlike our 
debt limit which Congress can legislate away, strengthening Medicare, 
saving Social Security, that cannot simply be legislated away. We have 
to act now to prevent these programs from failing not just people on 
those programs today but also future generations.
  The President has observed that we are in the eleventh hour when it 
comes to our debt ceiling, and the only clear path to raise the debt 
ceiling that has passed either House of Congress is the proposal that 
passed the House of Representatives last night, the Cut, Cap, and 
Balance Act. This act would only raise the debt ceiling if we put our 
country on the fast track back to fiscal sanity. That is where we need 
to be, on the track to fiscal sanity. It is an approach the American 
people will tell us we need now more than ever.
  Our creditors are getting restive. This week Fitch credit ratings 
warned if the United States does not take action to avoid default, we 
could lose our AAA credit rating.
  Standard & Poor's has already warned that unless we cut our budget, 
our credit rating could be at risk. Wasteful Washington spending has 
already saddled our children with over $14 trillion of debt. If we 
default, this spending may also force them to pay punishingly high 
interest rates that will drain American dollars from our already 
sluggish economy.
  I believe we will not default. We are already paying $6,000 a second 
on interest alone on our debt. For those of us with children, we know 
what this impact is going to be on them years and years into the 
future. Well, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act would put us on the path to 
resolving the issue by cutting spending immediately, by capping 
spending in the future, and by forcing--finally forcing--Washington to 
live within its means. This is the sort of law that the country needs 
and that the President should actually welcome.
  What has the President done? Well, he has threatened to veto this 
law, he says, if it crosses his desk. The President has threatened to 
veto the only plan that actually solves the problem that has passed 
either House of Congress.
  Why? Well, the administration emphasizes ``public opinion'' as their 
reason for opposing the hard choices required by our debt crisis. But 
yet the President said they are opposed to a balanced budget 
constitutional amendment. Well, in a recent Mason Dixon poll, 65 
percent of Americans say they support a balanced budget constitutional 
amendment. Where is that respect the President talks about for public 
  Finally, the administration has hidden behind catch phrases rather 
than debate the merits of cut, cap, and balance. They refer to it by a 
different name. Well, when I hear the White House spokesman talk about 
cut, cap and balance in a different way, I say: How is that ducking the 
issue to confront both our spending problem and the debt ceiling head 
on? That is not

[[Page S4690]]

ducking the issue; that is facing the issue.
  When the President's spokesman talks about dodging the issue, I will 
say: How is it a dodge to support commonsense solutions to our spending 
addiction, such as a balanced budget amendment?
  Then he used the phrase about dismantling. I say: How does stopping 
our government from going bankrupt count as dismantling? The White 
House has even admitted that they do not have a plan. You know what, 
they do not think they need one. Is that astonishing? The White House--
the United States, the most powerful country in the world--the White 
House does not think they need a plan at the eleventh hour. The White 
House Press Secretary just recently said: Leadership is not proposing a 
plan for the sake of having it voted up or down and likely voted down.
  The budget that was brought to this floor--the President's budget--
failed 0 to 97. Not one Republican voted for it. Not one Democrat voted 
for it. No one voted for what the President had proposed, no one of 
either party.
  Perhaps the President ought to propose something new. Holding our 
country hostage to irresponsible Washington spending while trying to 
hit the economy with tax hikes is not leadership; it is denying the 
reality. Refusing to put forward a plan to resolve our spending crisis 
is not leadership; it is deferring the consequences.
  Making the economy worse the way this administration has done for the 
past 2 years is not leadership, and it is hurting our country. The 
President's policies have made it worse--made the economy worse, made 
health care worse, made energy availability worse, housing worse. The 
policies have made it worse.
  This administration can accuse cut, cap, and balance of ducking, and 
they can accuse it of dodging, and they can accuse it of dismantling, 
but the strategy coming out of the White House seems to be duck and 
cover. That is what we are seeing.
  Anyone who knows the math knows this strategy was never acceptable 
before, and it is doubly unacceptable now. The amount of debt we owe 
right now is so high that it is hurting employment at home. Experts 
tell us our debt is costing us 1 million jobs. Spending like this makes 
it harder for the private sector to create new jobs, and the 
unemployment numbers that just came out show us at 9.2 percent 
  With that kind of unemployment, energy prices are high, and people 
are noticing it in the quality of their lives. It is harder for 
American families to buy gas, buy groceries, buy cars, homes, pay 
tuition for their kids to go to college, and it is harder to create 
jobs for those kids who will be graduating this year and next year and 
every year until we get the spending under control.
  Debt is not just a disaster for the distant future. Our debt is 
irresponsible. Our debt is unsustainable. Even our military leaders 
have condemned it. ADM Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, has said: The biggest threat to our national security is our 
  The debt is the threat. It is not our enemies who are defeating us, 
it is our spending that is hurting us so very much. It is time for 
America to fight back. That is why I am supporting and have cosponsored 
cut, cap, and balance and will vote for it on the floor of the Senate.
  This piece of legislation takes commonsense steps to get our country 
out of debt. It will immediately reduce spending by over $100 billion 
as a downpayment on our children's future. It will place a hard cap on 
spending so that it never reaches the unsustainable heights of the past 
2 years. It will send a balanced budget constitutional amendment to the 
American people for ratification, and it will prevent us from 
defaulting on our debt.
  Passing this law is the kind of leadership that America deserves; and 
if the President wants to show he understands leadership, he should 
retract his veto threat and support this approach. I absolutely will 
support it when it comes to this body.
  I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 

                           Amendment No. 568

  Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I rise to ask support, bipartisan 
support, for the Vitter amendment which we will be voting on at 12 
noon. This amendment is very simple. It is very straightforward. I 
think it is important and makes a central point.
  The amendment says these funds in this bill will not be spent unless 
and until we have a 2012 budget, unless we start with first things 
first and decide what the overall budget framework is and then move 
forward with spending, with appropriations bills consistent with that 
budget. That is all it says. It is simple, straightforward, but it is 
an important point.

  Folks around America, including in the market, are scratching their 
heads. They look at Washington and us and the Congress and the 
President and see almost complete dysfunction in the complete lack of a 
budget, even lack of an attempt to get a budget in place, which is a 
glaring, maybe the top example of that.
  This isn't just a good, commonsense idea, something every family 
does, something every small business does; this also happens to be 
required by Federal law.
  The Federal Budget Act mandates that we pass a budget by April 15 of 
every year. We have not done that. The House passed a budget. The 
Senate, quite frankly, has not even tried. The Senate Budget Committee 
has not even met to begin to do that in regular order, through the 
normal process. In fact, it is worse than that. The Senate didn't even 
try to do that last year under the same current leadership. So we are 
now over 800 days and counting, that the Senate, under this leadership, 
has not even tried to comply with Federal law and adopt a budget.
  Again, my amendment is very simple. It says first things first. We 
need a budget so any appropriations bill, any spending is only done 
consistent with and in the context of that budget.
  That is the right way to do it. That is the right way to run a 
railroad. That is what every Louisiana family does in setting its 
plans. That is what every Louisiana business does in setting its plans. 
That is what the American people and the markets want from us.
  In the last few weeks, there has been great discussion about Moody's 
and Standard & Poor's and the threats to downgrade U.S. Treasury notes. 
What they have been saying is loud and clear. It is not a pure focus on 
the debt ceiling; it is even a more important focus as well on the 
underlying issue of spending and debt. They have been saying what every 
economist also says: We are on a completely unsustainable path in terms 
of spending and debt. They want to see a real change in that--the start 
of a real change, adding up to at least $4 trillion of deficit 
reduction. We need to do that.
  Step one to doing that is to have a budget. We can't begin to do that 
without a budget plan, without an outline. Again, that goes to the 
core, the simple, fundamental, straightforward and important point of 
this Vitter amendment. I urge my colleagues to put first things first. 
I urge my colleagues to say we need to start doing our business, 
starting with a 2012 budget.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. KIRK. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. KIRK. Madam President, we are wrapping up to a vote that we hope 
will occur on Senator Vitter's amendment at noon. I will summarize 
where we are.
  We are completing debate on a bill that provides funding for the 
Veterans' Administration and military construction needs. This bill 
backs up over 22 million veterans who have served our country.
  The reason I and the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee have 
unanimously supported this bill is, it is

[[Page S4691]]

marked to the House budget resolution, the Paul Ryan budget resolution 
number. We cut funding by $1.2 billion in budget authority 
discretionary numbers below the President's level. This bill comes in 
$620 million below the 2011 enacted level, and it is even $2.6 million 
below the House-passed level just adopted earlier this year, Chairman 
Culberson's bill in the House of Representatives.
  The Senate voted by a vote of 71 to 26 for cloture to bring up this 
bill. This is the first of the working appropriations bills. I hope 
there are many others. The legislation is important. People may ask: 
How did we make the funding cuts to come in at the House level? The 
answer is, Chairman Johnson and I made some difficult decisions. We cut 
24 separate military construction programs. A list is available in the 
report that accompanies this bill.
  We made some very tough calls regarding spending that was proposed 
for Bahrain, for Germany, and for Korea. There was a worthwhile project 
proposed for the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. They wanted a 
brandnew building and a courtroom. That was denied outright. Those 
tough decisions--those 24 reductions denying a new Court of Appeals for 
Veterans Claims building--making those cuts necessary then brought us 
under the House level, as approved by the Paul Ryan budget.
  I remind Members the legislation is endorsed by the VFW, AMVETS, 
Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Iraq 
and Afghanistan Veterans of America. It had the unanimous support of 
Republicans in the subcommittee and in the full committee because it 
comes in at the House budget level. That is why I think it is necessary 
to move forward, especially as we talk about a budget crisis, in which 
checks may or may not go out. I very much hope they do. I think it is 
an important signal to send that the Paul Ryan-approved budget number, 
which is what this bill is at, goes forward, which ensures 2012 
appropriated funding for our veterans and the military construction 
needs of our men and women in uniform.
  With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent 
that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Franken). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, what is the pending 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the question is on 
agreeing to the Vitter amendment.
  Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, the Vitter amendment 
pending before the Senate is another attempt to derail the progress we 
have made in a bipartisan fashion on the MilCon/VA bill.
  The Senate has voted twice on this issue during consideration of this 
bill. At the outset of debate, the ranking member of the Budget 
Committee raised a point of order against consideration of this bill 
without prior adoption of a budget resolution. I made a motion to waive 
that budget point of order and the Senate voted 71 to 26 to cut off 
debate on the motion to waive. The Senate then agreed to waive the 
point of order 56 to 40.
  Now we have an amendment that says none of the critical funding 
provided in the bill can be obligated in excess of a budget resolution 
that does not exist. The strictest interpretation of this means the VA 
can't spend money on benefits for vets, and our military can't 
construct new training, housing, or other critical facilities until we 
have a budget agreement.
  I don't disagree that it is important to pass a budget, but the 
Senate has overwhelmingly voted to move this bill so as to not delay 
essential funding for our troops and vets while negotiations on the 
debt ceiling and budget continue.
  I remind my colleagues this bill is $618 million below the current 
level, $1.25 billion below the President's budget request, and $2.6 
million below the House-passed bill. This is a responsible and 
bipartisan bill, and the pending amendment would stop all progress we 
have made. Therefore, I move to table the amendment No. 568, and I ask 
for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There is a sufficient second.
  The question is on agreeing to the motion.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. KYL. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Arkansas (Mr. Boozman).
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 69, nays 30, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 113 Leg.]


     Brown (MA)
     Brown (OH)
     Johnson (SD)
     Nelson (NE)
     Nelson (FL)
     Udall (CO)
     Udall (NM)


     Johnson (WI)

                             NOT VOTING--1

  The motion was agreed to.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table.
  Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent 
the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.