Alexander Calls Majority’s Tactics on Defense Authorization Bill “Perfect Example of Why Senate is Deteriorating to a Shadow of its Former Self”

Says Senate Majority Has “Said ‘No’ to Amendments, ‘No’ to Debate … A Record 39 Times”

Posted on September 22, 2010

“Those who today want to create a freight train running through the Senate – just as a freight train runs through the House – might not be so eager to do that if the freight train turns out after the election to be the Tea Party Express.” – Lamar Alexander

 

WASHINGTON- Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, made the following remarks today in a Senate Rules Committee hearing on reforming the filibuster and Tuesday in a colloquy on the Senate floor with Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) about preserving the rules of the Senate, during debate over whether the Senate should take up the Defense Authorization bill. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attempted to bring the bill to the floor with the announced intention to “fill the amendment tree.” That is a process in which a senator fills all available bill amendment slots, blocking other senators from offering any other amendment without his consent.

 

  • “A record 39 times in the last two Congresses, the Majority Leader, through procedural tactics, has said ‘no’ to amendments and ‘no’ to debate. The Defense Authorization bill, which is being debated today, is a perfect example of why I say the Senate is deteriorating to a shadow of its former self—by closing off the voices of the American people, by denying their elected senators an opportunity to have a full debate on the issues facing them.” 

 

  • “Our goal is to represent the voices of the American people, to let their feelings, their anger, and their hopes all be represented here. That means we have to have a chance to offer an amendment, a chance to debate. If we Republicans are successful in this election year, we're going to make sure that in the new Congress we have that opportunity, and that these voices we hear across America are heard on the floor of the United States Senate.”

 

  • "The late Senator Byrd said in an address to new senators in 1996 that ‘as long as the Senate retains the power to amend and the power of unlimited debate, the liberties of the people will remain secure.’ What we're talking about here is not the importance of the senator from Kansas' voice or the senator from New Hampshire's voice, but the voices of the American people they represent. Those voices are being suppressed."

 

  • "The voices of the people are to be heard here. They can only be heard and their liberties protected if we, as their elected representatives, have the right to express their views through unlimited amendments and unlimited debate. When the Majority Leader closes that debate off and closes off those amendments a record number of times, he is closing off the voices of the American people. And as the senator from Kansas said, the shoe can sometimes be on the other foot …”

 

  • “So those who today want to create a freight train running through the Senate – just as a freight train runs through the House – might not be so eager to do that if the freight train turns out after the election to be the Tea Party Express."

 

  • “It’s hard to say this is a dysfunctional Senate when it’s passed a health care law, a financial regulation law and a trillion-dollar stimulus. Some Democrats say it’s the most productive Congress in history. Maybe the most unpopular, too, because of what they got done. But it wasn’t dysfunctional. It achieved a lot. [But] what it achieved was a good argument for why we shouldn’t make the [filibuster] changes that are being suggested. Because what the American people have seen in the last two years is the ability of the majority to run over the minority and not take its views into account….  And the result has been to scare the country to death, producing an upheaval, and, in the case of the health care law, a determination to repeal it since the day it was passed. So you should want a bipartisan consensus in the Senate not just to pass a bill but so that the country will accept it.”

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