Continuing Appropriationsby Senator Jerry Moran
Posted on 2013-10-09
MORAN. Madam President, I am pleased to be here on the Senate
floor this afternoon. I am saddened by the circumstances we find
ourselves in and look for a solid, responsible, and quick resolution to
our differences in regard to continuing resolution.
I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from California Mrs. Boxer follow me upon the conclusion of my remarks.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. MORAN. Madam President, again, under the circumstances we find ourselves in, I look forward to a quick and responsible resolution to the differences we have and that we move forward with the funding of our Federal Government.
I would point out that a reason we are at this point is we need a continuing resolution because the Senate failed to do its work in the first place. While, for the first time in 4 years, the Senate passed a budget, it was never reconciled in conference with the House. I am certainly a Republican who would be supportive of that reconciliation of the conference committee to work out the differences between a House-passed budget and the Senate-passed budget.
The reality is that there are 12 appropriations bills--and I am a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I take that responsibility very seriously. I was excited to become a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee when I arrived here at the Senate. I saw it as an opportunity for us to establish our priorities and determine what we should be spending money on. Yet not 1 of the 12 bills that are required for us to pass across the Senate floor has been passed this year; therefore, on September 30 we ended up with no funding in place, and it creates this opportunity for us to have this debate and discussion about a continuing resolution at a time in which there is great leverage on that issue.
What I lament and what I wish would have happened is we would have passed 12 appropriations bills and then worked out the differences with the appropriations process in the House.
Today I want to speak about a particular issue related to the shutdown of the Federal Government--the lack of funding. Prior to that occurring--prior to September 30--both the House and Senate and the President signed legislation called Pay Our Military Act. It was designed to make certain that our military men and women had compensation should there be a shutdown. I appreciate that legislation passing and am pleased it is in place now we are in the circumstance we are in. There were rumors and concerns about how that bill would be implemented by the Department of Defense. The Senator from West Virginia Mr. Manchin and I led an effort in which we had 50 Senators in a highly bipartisan way ask the Secretary of Defense to interpret that legislation in a broad way that would make certain our furloughed civilian employees who support our military men and women, as well as our Reserve component--those who serve in the National Guard and Reserve--would be put back to work for the benefit of the Nation's security.
I thank Secretary of Defense Hagel for his decision to implement that legislation in a broad way that did exactly that--returned furloughed civilian workers at DOD, the Department of Defense, back to work, and gave the ability for our National Guard and Reserve members to continue in their responsibilities for defending our country. Again, I thank Secretary Hagel.
I am here today to point out that we have an additional problem, in fact, one that is equally, if not more, serious than that, and that is that we have read and heard that those who die in the active service of our country are not now able to receive the death benefits that come to their families upon their death. I can't imagine that there is a Senator of any political party or persuasion who thinks that is a desirable outcome.
With Senator Manchin and others, we worked at bringing this issue to the attention of the Department of Defense, asking Secretary Hagel, in a letter that was led by Senator Coons and Senator Blunt, to use every opportunity, full authority, wide flexibility--whatever circumstances the Department of Defense could find--to provide the benefits to those who died in service to our country.
There is a special tax-free payment of $100,000 to eligible survivors of members of the armed forces who are killed in action. Those benefits usually arrive within the first 3 days following the death of a service man or woman. This helps the family--certainly not overcome their loss--to have the necessary funds for funeral services, to travel in this case to Dover Air Force Base to meet their loved one as he or she returns home, and to overcome the lack of a regular paycheck. This death gratuity is such a small price to pay to honor and recognize someone's family who has lost a member of their family in service to our country.
At least the stories are, the reports are that this situation is due to the inability of us to resolve--to work with the President, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate--the continuing resolution, and so work is being done so that the death benefit will be available. My understanding is that the House of Representatives is poised to pass legislation to make certain that the Department of Defense has the authority to immediately pay those benefits. I hope that is a piece of legislation that is met with unanimity of support here in the Senate.
We have asked Secretary of Defense Hagel if he has the ability to do that within his current legal jurisdiction, within the law--if he has the ability to do that within the law that he does have--and we anxiously await and hope the Secretary can do that. But, if not, I hope this Senate will unanimously confirm that legislation that would allow the Secretary to pay those benefits immediately.
Again, I just can't imagine any of my colleagues ever thinking that under any circumstance, we ought not step forward to resolve this issue. Just because we can't resolve everything--it seems to me there is a method of operation too often here in the Senate that if we can't solve every problem, we are unwilling to solve any problem. On those things on which there is such significant agreement, we ought not let anything stand in the way of coming to the aid and rescue of a family who now so desperately grieves the loss of their loved one.
Honoring Our Armed Forces Sergeant Patrick Hawkins We know over the weekend there were five soldiers killed in Afghanistan. There are five families as of today who would be in this circumstance. I would like to pay tribute to one of those five: SGT Patrick Hawkins. He was born October 1, 1988. He graduated from high school and enlisted in the Army in his hometown of Carlisle, PA.
SGT Patrick Hawkins, according to his Italian commander, was described as a brave and incredibly talented Ranger. The description of his death revolved around the fact that he was moving to aid another wounded Ranger when he was killed. His actions, according to, again, his commander, were in keeping with the epitome of the Ranger creed, which is, ``I will never leave a fallen comrade.'' Sergeant Hawkins dedicated himself to serving us--to serving our families, to serving all Americans--and he ultimately paid for that service with the loss of his life. I pay tribute to this soldier as an example of many who have sacrificed in similar ways over a long period of time, but especially for those five who this weekend lost their lives in Afghanistan.
Sergeant Hawkins was awarded the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal. He was awarded a Purple Heart. None of that replaces the loss of life. He is survived by his wife, who is [[Page S7326]] a resident of Lansing, KS, and her parents, who are residents of my hometown of Plainville, KS.
So today, on behalf of my colleagues in the Senate, I pay tribute to a soldier who in serving his country lost his life, who leaves behind grieving family members and friends, and who epitomizes what we all should know in service here in the Senate, which is what I spoke about earlier on the Senate floor this week. That is, if we need a reminder about how this place should work, we should look to our service men and women who, for no partisan reason--no Republican or Democratic reason-- volunteered to serve their country. They concluded there were things much more important than life itself, and that being the ability to have a country that we know and enjoy as the United States of America, that has the freedom and liberties guaranteed to us by our Constitution, and creates the opportunity for every American to pursue what we all call the American dream.
Today, I pay tribute to one more hero, one more soldier, one more American who, through service to others, was willing to sacrifice his life for the betterment of his family back home and for the future of a country that we all love and call home, the United States of America.
I yield to the Senator from California.