(Senate - June 25, 2013)

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[Pages S5108-S5109]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           RULES OF PROCEDURE

  Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about longstanding 
rules of procedures and traditions of the Senate.
  I have watched with interest over the past few weeks as members of 
the majority have continued to threaten to break the Senate rules in 
order to impose a majority rule at the expense of minority rights. We 
continue to hear threats of the nuclear option by which the majority 
would break the rules to change the rules.
  Despite past assurances from the majority that rules changes would 
only occur through regular order, they continue to threaten the exact 
opposite. Make no mistake, this is not some inside-the-beltway squabble 
over parliamentary procedure. The longstanding rules allowing for 
unlimited debate and amendment protect every American whose voice is 
represented by the minority in the Senate. These protections are 
especially important for Americans who live in rural and less populated 
States. That would include my home State of Nebraska.
  The Constitution specifically designed the Senate to function in a 
manner that was very different and very distinct from the House of 
Representatives. The threat of the nuclear option clearly abandons this 
intent. The majority leader has affirmed the importance of filibuster 
rights to small States, arguing they are ``a unique privilege that 
serves to aid small States from being trampled by the desires of larger 
  I continue to be astounded by the insistence by some that we trample 
over these rights, especially given the significant nominations and 
legislation the Senate has recently considered.
  It has been noted by many metrics the Senate has more rapidly 
confirmed President Obama's Federal judicial nominations than it did 
during the time of President Bush's administration. In addition, over 
the past few months the Senate has passed significant pieces of 
legislation: the farm bill, the Water Resources Development Act, and 
the Marketplace Fairness Act. We have considered bills I have supported 
and bills I have opposed. But the fact is we have given these pieces of 
legislation due consideration that would be required of the world's 
greatest deliberative body.
  At the beginning of this Congress, the Senate agreed to a new 
standing order to expedite Senate consideration in extraordinary 
circumstances. But the majority leader has not even attempted to use 
the expedited procedures--not once. So I ask why, then, threaten the 
very fabric of how this institution was created?
  I have served in the Senate just 4 years, all of which I have been a 
Member of the minority. I would caution my colleagues whose experiences 
have been conversely limited to serving only in the majority that 
should the majority go down the road of the nuclear option, there is no 
turning back. There will come a day--perhaps soon--when control of this 
Chamber will shift, and the current majority will not like what it sees 
when it is in the minority.
  My colleague, the senior Senator from Tennessee, recently outlined a 
number of priorities he would pursue should we find ourselves in that 
situation where a Republican-controlled Senate could use majority rule.
  I am not going to be here in the 114th Congress, but I thought I 
would outline some policies I would support should the current majority 
take us down that road. Perhaps my list of priorities will give some 
ideas to my colleagues who will be serving in the next Congress. Here 
are just a few policies I would highlight, many of which have already 
received majority support in the Senate but have fallen short of the 
60-vote threshold.
  First, and most important, the repeal of the health care law that 
promised the world but delivered only chaos, confusion, and higher 
costs. You can bet the Senate would repeal all 2,700 pages with one 15-
minute rollcall vote. In addition, without having to worry about the 
opposition of the current majority, we can enact responsible reforms to 
rein in debt and deficit. Reforming our entitlements would, of course, 
need to be center stage since that is where the money is spent.
  Another priority would be to prevent regulatory overreach by heavy-

[[Page S5109]]

executive agencies, such as the EPA. Very specifically, we could 
overturn the EPA's pursuit of cap-and-trade through the regulatory 
process just announced today by the President and force EPA to back off 
regulations with more costs than benefit.
  Next, we would promote investment and job growth by immediately 
approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. We can further 
support energy independence by continuing development of the Yucca 
Mountain nuclear waste repository which has been stalled by the 
majority leader despite substantial support. This is critical to 
nuclear plants across this Nation, including two plants in Nebraska.
  Another focus would be to provide transparency and reform at the 
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I would require legislative 
oversight of its budget and replace the unelected head of the CFPB with 
an accountable board. Why stop there when we could repeal the entirety 
of the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with a more responsible approach?
  The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which the Senate 
would essentially mirror, passed 270 bills that the current majority 
leader declined to even consider last Congress. Should the current 
majority irrevocably alter the rules of the Senate, a new Senate 
majority could just railroad all 270 bills through the process, and all 
those treasured policies the majority puts in place will get repealed--
perhaps before they ever get implemented. Ping-ponging from the whims 
of one 2-year cycle to the next is not a way to govern. It is the very 
reason our Founders designed the Senate as a counterweight to the 
  I say to those colleagues who would so quickly disregard the Senate 
rules: Be careful what you wish for. Under this approach, your 
procedural right to debate, to amend, to raise points of order, all of 
that would be useless. Your vote, your voice, and the voice of your 
constituents would be effectively silenced. That is not the Senate the 
Framers envisioned when they brokered the agreement that established 
our constitutional approach. I will leave with the words of Senator 
Robert C. Byrd, with whom many of us had the pleasure of serving and 
whose love and knowledge of the Senate remains unsurpassed to this day.

       The Senate has been the last fortress of minority rights 
     and freedom of speech in the Republic for more than two 
     centuries. I pray that Senators will pause and reflect before 
     ignoring that history and tradition in favor of the political 
     priority of the moment.

  I hope the majority heeds his call to place history and tradition and 
our Nation over the political priority of the moment.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Schatz). The Senator from Wyoming.