Bipartisanshipby Senator John Boozman
Posted on 2015-06-11
BOOZMAN. Mr. President, over the past few years, bipartisanship
has not always fared well in the Senate. We have been able to change
the Chamber's culture for the better in 2015. Now that is in jeopardy
In the first half of the year, we had a number of bipartisan accomplishments. It kicked off with the passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act at the beginning of the year. The new law will provide the VA with the personnel, services, and proper tools to help veterans facing mental illness struggles, which is vital as it is estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The Clay Hunt act will help stop this tragic and unacceptable trend.
Then we were able to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act in a unanimous fashion. This law will save lives. It will restore dignity to the victims of these heinous crimes, and it will help end modern-day slavery.
We followed that with legislation that will give Congress a voice in the President's negotiations with Iran over its illicit nuclear program. There was such a strong show of bipartisanship on this vote that it forced President Obama to drop his initial veto threat. Had we not maintained bipartisan unity, there would be no review of the Iran deal. There would be nothing stopping President Obama from signing a bad agreement with Iran. It is because we stood together across party lines that the American people will now have a say in negotiations.
Before we adjourned for the Memorial Day work period, we approved granting the President trade promotion authority. We worked together to provide the President with the necessary tools to negotiate a fair trade deal while maintaining Congress's important role in the process.
I say all this to highlight what we can accomplish when we work together. Unfortunately, the minority leader seems intent on ending that streak.
We are in the midst of discussing another bill which should have substantial bipartisan support, the National Defense Authorization Act. Yet, Minority Leader Reid has called this vital, traditionally bipartisan bill ``a waste of time.'' This is a bill which, as the senior Senator from Arizona has noted, Congress has passed for 53 consecutive years, including those when the minority leader controlled the Senate schedule.
Far from a waste of time, the NDAA helps us modernize our military to face today's security challenges. We live in a dangerous world. We have to stay ahead of those who would seek to harm us, not fall behind them. This is no time to be dismissive of our national security needs.
It is also about the livelihood of over 1.4 million men and women on Active Duty and 718,000 civilian personnel. We are talking about the Nation's largest employer. The NDAA helps us ensure that we are doing everything we need to do to help them. So I think we can all agree there is much in this bill that needs to get done.
Unfortunately, the White House is taking what should be a bipartisan bill and using it to push for its own political end game to increase domestic spending. Worse yet, the President has somehow convinced Senate Democrats to go along with this misguided strategy.
Instead of approaching this in a bipartisan manner, the minority leader is forcing his caucus to carry water for President Obama, who has indicated he would veto the NDAA unless he gets the domestic spending increases he is demanding. That means the President stands ready to block the policy prescriptions and funding levels for the Department of Defense unless we give other agencies, such as the EPA, as they try their additional power grab through things like the Clean Water Act and extending that, and the IRS, as they waste money on bonuses for their employees--all of this is very dangerous.
There will be plenty of time to debate our domestic spending priorities and allotments, but now is not the time. Let's get that bipartisan mentality back and finish the work that needs to be done to protect our Nation.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.