Omnibus Legislationby Senator James M. Inhofe
Posted on 2015-12-17
INHOFE. Mr. President, I will not go into the detail I was
planning to go into as to what we are faced with and what we are going
to be voting on tomorrow, but I think it is very important--because I
have heard a lot of erroneous things coming out of various talk radio
shows and elsewhere--as to how we got into the mess we are in where we
are going to be looking at a major spending bill instead of the normal
way of doing things.
Historically, in both the House and the Senate, the order has been to do an authorization bill, and that is followed by an appropriations bill. That works out fine in the House. In the Senate, it is not quite that easy because we have some rules in the Senate that allow the minority--whether that be Republican or Democratic--to object to a procedural basis. So it actually takes 60 votes, not 51 votes, to pass appropriations. This has created a real problem.
I remember that on June 18, we passed the Defense Authorization Act. Given that we are in a time of war, it was incredibly important to provide our Defense Department what in the regular course of business would be appropriated to it. However, we have been trying to appropriate that since June 18, and the minority has kept us from doing that. I can say the same thing about other appropriations bills, such as Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and others.
One might say: Why would they be doing this? In the case of the appropriations bill for defense, it is very simple: The President and a lot of the Democrats want to make sure that as we are coming out with additional spending to avoid sequestration, an equal amount be used for domestic purposes instead of military, where we really have a crisis right now.
Let me say something about the House. This morning on a talk show, I heard everyone criticizing the House and the new Speaker of the House. In reality, they did their job over there. That is a bum rap for those guys. They passed their appropriations bills. They passed them on the floor. They passed appropriations bills on the floor. So they did what was supposed to be done. However, you can't pass legislation with just the House; it has to be in the Senate also.
So I think we need to look at that. I don't like the idea of a situation where we are faced with a ``take it or leave it'' deal at the end of the year. That doesn't really allow us to offer amendments. It is done behind closed doors by a limited number of people. This is not right. This is not the way it is supposed to be.
I would just say there is a way out. I am going to suggest that this should be the last time we should have to do this. If we had a system where we could reform it and have it so you could make an exception to some of the motions to proceed for appropriations bills, then we would be able to go ahead and get this done. That is the simple solution. That is what I would recommend. However, there is a lot more detail in that. It happens that there is a committee taking place right now in the Senate. James Lankford, my junior Senator from Oklahoma, Cory Gardner, Lamar Alexander, and I think two other Senators are looking to propose rule changes, and I think it is overdue.
I want to mention one other thing too. I said back in 2006 that I would never vote for another omnibus bill like the one we are preparing to vote for. I said: That is the last one; I am going to serve notice-- thinking that if enough people did this, we wouldn't find ourselves in this position. However, we are still in this position.
The reason I am standing here today is to get on the record why I am going to support this. Back when I had the highway bill, we were trying to put additional things on the highway bill. One was to lift the ban on exports of oil and gas, and we were not successful. So at that time, I made the announcement--we had a couple of other chances, the last one being the omnibus spending bill. We got a commitment that would be on that bill. So I said at that time that if that is the case, if we end up lifting the ban on that bill, then I will change from my original 2006 commitment and I will vote for and support this.
When we stop and think about what we are doing, does it make good policy that we in the United States can say to Russia and say to Iran, people who don't look after our best interests: It is all right for you to do that, but we in the United States cannot export oil.
We have all the former Soviet Union countries. I went to Lithuania and participated in an opening of a terminal there so they could get out from under this restriction. It was a joyous occasion.
In my State of Oklahoma, we have lost 20,000 jobs because since we have had success in getting oil and gas out, we have been encumbered by the fact that we can't export it. This has been a real hardship. I would say the most important thing in this bill in terms of my State would be that we are going to be able to correct that and we are going to be able to do that.
[[Page S8781]] So with the changes that are being made, I am looking forward to supporting it. I certainly think we should all look and see what is in the best interest of the United States and should be aware of the fact that what they are seeing out there in terms of the cost of this bill is exactly the same cost as if we had done it the way we were supposed to do it. If we add up the total number of appropriations that we passed out--all 12 appropriations--add them up, and that is the same amount as this bill we will be voting on tomorrow. So that criticism is not a genuine criticism.
With that, I will move to another subject that I think is very significant, and then I want to join with my friend from New Mexico.