Nomination of Anne W. Patterson to Be an Assistant Secretary of Stateby Senator John McCain
Posted on 2013-12-11
McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to speak as in morning business.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Senate Rules Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I have been engaged in the back-and-forth for many years concerning the rights of the minority to oppose legislation or nominations for Senate advice and consent, which, obviously, as we all know, is part of the Constitution of the United States.
After investing all of those hundreds of hours in compromises, both when Republican leadership wanted to act to curtail the rights of the minority and when Democrats were doing it--I fought hard. A short time ago Senator Levin and Senator Schumer and others changed the rules to try to expedite the consideration of legislation for a whole lot of reasons, including the fact [[Page S8801]] that a majority of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have never been here in the minority.
We have now acted in a draconian fashion and, in my view, have fundamentally, historically damaged this institution. Among other things, for the first time since the Senate has been a body, we have now changed the rules to 51 votes rather than 67. First time in history. Unfortunately, the repercussions will be that we are moving a step--a very significant step--toward a majority-rule body.
As my friend from Michigan Senator Carl Levin quoted Senator Vandenberg, a former Senator from Michigan and a highly regarded individual in this institution, we have now broken the rules to change the rules. On the night we changed the rules, I read a letter from Senator Robert Byrd--who was one of the most outstanding leaders and clearly the expert on the Constitution and this institution--cautioning against it.
The reason I come to the floor today is not so much to revisit that because it is done. I wish to point out that I see the first manifestation now of the majority-rule vote. I have been a member of the Homeland Security Committee, and I have been involved in these issues for many years. I was also involved in the so-called Gang of 8, where we came up with a comprehensive immigration reform bill which was passed through this body. We still hope that the other body will address, at least in some way, the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.
I come from a border State, as my colleagues know. Our border is not secure. In fact, the majority of drugs that still come across our southern border come across the Arizona-Sonora border in Mexico. My constituents, many who live in the southern part of the State of Arizona, have home invasions, people crossing their property. In one case a rancher was shot and killed, and a Border Patrol agent was killed. In fact, the reality is that they don't have the same security in the southern part of my State as the rest of our citizens do in other parts of the country.
Border security was a fundamental and vitally important issue in the hundreds of hours of debate and discussions that I and my seven colleagues engaged in as we shaped the comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which was largely passed intact in the Senate.
I went back to my constituents and I said there is a very vital and important provision in this bill; that is, when this legislation is passed, we will embark on the goal of achieving 90 percent effectiveness at our border. We can never get complete control of our border--we all recognize that--but 90 percent effective control through surveillance, through hiring new people, through capabilities that we have--we can achieve 90 percent effective control.
Then comes the nomination hearing of Mr. Jeh Johnson for Secretary of Department of Homeland Security. I asked Mr. Johnson a simple, straightforward question. The question was: Mr. Johnson, when you are Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will you provide this committee and me, Senator McCain, with a description of the measures that need to be taken in order for us to achieve what we have turned into legislation--at least in the Senate--90 percent effective control of our southern border? His answer was no.
His answer, believe it or not, was no, that he could not provide that information. In fact, I was so astonished that I wrote him a letter and received a response, which I will read: November 19, 2013.
Dear Senator McCain, I regret that in my current posture as a nominee and private citizen, I am not now in a position to commit to provide the information you seek from the Department of Homeland Security.
At this point, I must respectfully refer you to the Department's current leadership. I know this was a matter of discussion between you and Secretary Napolitano, and I understand your frustration. As I believe I have demonstrated to you and others on the Senate and House Armed Services Committee-- Why he said Senate Armed Services Committee, I am not sure.
--I have a strong respect for Congress' oversight role. If I am confirmed, and if your request is still outstanding at that point, I promise that addressing your letter will be a top and immediate priority for me.
This is the November 19, 2013, letter from Mr. Jeh Charles Johnson.
In other words, the nominee for the Department of Homeland Security, who has direct responsibility for securing our borders, direct responsibility as outlined in legislation passed by this body, the comprehensive immigration reform bill, refuses to give me and this body the information. I hope there are other Senators who might be interested in what is necessary to achieve 90 percent effective control of our borders. He refuses to give me that information.
Thanks to the good offices of my beloved friend Carl Levin and my dear friend Senator Carper, I just came from a meeting in my office with Mr. Jeh Johnson. Mr. Jeh Johnson again repeated to me that he could not give me the information of what is necessary, what tools are necessary to ensure 90 percent effective control of our border.
Allegedly, he is being prevented from doing that by the White House. It is stunning. Why would the White House prevent the nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security from providing this to Members of the Senate and members of the committee that has oversight of homeland security, which is fundamental information if we are going to achieve effective control of our border? I go home to Arizona and I say: Yes, it is in the law, my friends. It is in the law that we are going to have to get 90 percent effective control of our border, but I don't know how we do it because the agency that will be required to do it will not give me the necessary information to do it.
My friends, we will voting on Monday to confirm Mr. Johnson. He will be confirmed. There is no doubt about it now that we have majority vote. We have now deprived Republicans of their advice and consent responsibilities and authority. We have not only changed the rules of the Senate, we have abridged the Constitution of the United States because the only way that I could have received this information from Mr. Johnson was if I had said: I can't approve of your nomination until you provide the information which, by any objective observer, I am entitled to--not only entitled to; it is my responsibility to know that. It is my responsibility. That is why we have a committee. That is why we have a committee, the homeland security committee, that has oversight of the functions of the executive branch. That is how equal branches of government are supposed to function.
Mr. Johnson will be confirmed, and the message will go out, believe me: You don't have to answer a question by a Republican Senator. You don't have to respond to a straightforward question.
There was nothing devious about the question I asked Mr. Johnson. There was nothing complicated. They certainly should have the information of what steps and measures are necessary to ensure 90 percent effective control of our border--which is a requirement in the law, if it is ever passed. Certainly the requirement was passed by the Senate.
It is kind of a sad day. It was a sad day for me when we changed the rules. It was a sad day for me to see people who have been here a very short period of time basically shatter the comity which exists and which is vital to doing business in the Senate.
I also would point out to my colleagues--particularly those who are new and who drove this change in the Senate rules--what goes around comes around and what goes around will come around. To their deep regret, some day--I say to the President and I say to my colleagues who voted for it on a party-line vote, for the first time in history changing the rules of the Senate from 67 votes to 51 votes--they will regret it.
The people who will suffer greatly from this are the American people because this place is largely dysfunctional anyway. If we think it was dysfunctional before, wait and see. I say that with deep regret because I value and treasure my relationships with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Some of the best friends I have are on the other side of the aisle. But to expect to do business as usual when I can't even get a straight answer for a question that--now by not having the answer inhibits and in many ways prohibits my ability to respond and carry [[Page S8802]] out my responsibilities to the citizens of my State--cannot go without being responded to.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.