Paycheck Fairness Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Bob Corker
Posted on 2014-09-10
CORKER. Mr. President, how much time am I allocated?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has up to 1 hour postcloture.
Mr. CORKER. Well I assure you that will not be the case. I will speak for possibly 10 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized.
ISIS Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, tonight the President is going to address an issue on which I know almost every American has been focused; that is, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the beginning of that in many other places around the world. This is obviously a big speech. It is one that I know all of us will be paying attention to and watching.
I am hopeful that what the President will do tonight is, first of all, explain to the American people from his perspective what our national interest is in ISIS. I think that should be very easy to do. I also hope that what he will do is lay out a general strategy. Obviously, in a speech such as this you never want to give every detail of what it is you want to do, but I hope he lays out the objectives he wishes to accomplish as he talks to the Nation and really the world about how he plans to deal with ISIS.
So I wanted to say at the onset that I look forward to listening. I hope this is a speech that is meaty. I hope it is a speech that speaks to the essence of why we as a nation need to deal with the threat ISIS poses not only in the Middle East but, over time, in the West, with us being the greatest symbol.
I know there have been many conversations with the administration about ISIS. I know that obviously their concern about ISIS has risen over time. Again, I look forward to very clearly listening to the speech.
Most of us here in the Senate, if we were in the White House, might choose to guard the authorities we have. Many Presidents have said-- most Presidents have said they themselves have the authority to conduct operations of this nature. While that is debatable, that is not a topic I wish to debate. I know the President has said he has the ability to go about these actions, to take these actions without any additional authority from Congress. What they have said is they plan to not come to Congress. I think that is absolutely preposterous.
If you think back in history, back in 1991 President Bush 41, in getting ready to undertake the activities in Desert Storm, felt as though he had the authority to move ahead with those activities. Yet they realized within the administration that the best thing they could do was to get the American people behind what they were doing, and the best way to do that was to seek an authorization from Congress, to have that debate, to have Members of the Senate be able to ask questions about how this operation was going to take place, to get people comfortable with what the objectives were going to be, and to finally win over the Senate. As a matter of fact, as I understand it, Sam Nunn, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee at the time, was opposed to this effort. Yet, with Bush 41 coming up with his Cabinet members to talk to Members of Congress, they were able to pass it over the objection of the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. But what that meant was there had to be interaction, there had to be questions and answers, and there had to be a feeling by Members of this body that what was getting ready to happen was something that was going to make a difference. So they came and did that. They were successful, and the operation itself was successful.
President Bush 43 did the same. In 2001, after what happened with the Twin Towers and other activities around 9/11, the country was outraged. He actually sent forth his own AUFM, the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Action was taken. It was 60 words, it was broad, but action was taken. The same thing occurred in 2002, which led us to what happened in Iraq. So President Bush 43 did those same things even though he felt as if he himself had the authority to take on those activities without Congress approving them. But they felt it was much better for the American people to see what was going to happen and for Congress to be fully informed, to understand what the objectives were, and then to have Congress authorize it.
This President, President Obama, came before us last year--almost 1 year ago exactly--and asked for an authorization on Syria.
I find it truly preposterous and hugely lacking in judgment that this President is discussing--and hopefully he will change his mind in the next few days--undertaking activities in Iraq. Remember, the President declared that in 2011 the war in Iraq was over, that we had won, that it was a stable country. Yet this new enemy--I do not want to get into the past too much, but because of policies of this administration in both Iraq and Syria, things have changed. So now we have a new enemy-- ISIS--that has arisen. They are incredibly well funded, well equipped, well energized, and savvy to social media.
We have seen the detestable things that this group is doing to people of all kinds of ethnic persuasions in Iraq. We understand the threat this is to Iraq and to the Middle East.
What we also know is this is something that is affecting directly today not only Iraq but Syria. There is really no border there. It is porous.
We actually know the ISIS headquarters are in Syria. So this is an operation that can in no way be confined just to Iraq. We have to deal with this in Syria.
The President hopefully tonight--while laying out what our national interest is, while laying out what his general strategy is, while laying out what his objective is--certainly will talk about the fact that we have to deal with this in Syria.
I will say to the Presiding Officer of the Senate that it seems to me, even if the President feels that he has the authority to do this with his own constitutional powers under article 2--even if he feels that--it is totally preposterous that he would not seek our authorization to take on a different enemy. Certainly, to take this into another country that we have not been involved with in this way in the past--Syria--to take on operations in that country with a different enemy and not come to Congress, to not seek the approval of the people whom the people of this country have elected to weigh in on these matters to me, again, is tremendously lacking in judgment.
One of the benefits of the President coming to seek our approval is that he has stated over the weekend that he believes this could take 3 years. Let me say this one more time. This is a conflict that he believes could take 3 years in duration and take us into another country where we are now not involved in this matter anyway. He is talking about not coming to us.
Again, bad things happen in conflict. Our Presiding Officer has a distinguished career in serving our country--and I honor that--a distinguished public service in the military, and he knows that things don't always go the way we intend.
For the President to undertake something of 3 years in duration--by his own words, in another country and an enemy that is one of the most well-funded terrorist operations that we have dealt with, knowing that he has to pull together a coalition of people with very different interests but with like interests relative to this particularly detestable group of folks--to think that this President would undertake that without Congress being behind him and having 535 Monday morning quarterbacks because there was never any buy-in by Congress to me is foolish.
But because of what happened 1 year ago where our allies in the region who were going to help us deal with Assad were waiting by the telephone to respond because they, with us, were going to conduct activities against Assad about 1 year ago today--they watched on CNN as the President had changed his mind without even notifying them, without notifying their leaders or their armed services--there is a credibility issue.
[[Page S5495]] The President has talked about building a coalition, and he says that there are 12 countries that are already interested.
I would say to him that coming to Congress would show that there is durability, that he has sought our support, that he has answered our questions, that his Cabinet members have laid out their plan, both in public and in private--talking about details that have no business in the public sphere--and that he has the buy-in of the Congress.
I would say to the other members of the coalition, the people in the region who question our durability, question, candidly--I hate to say it--his credibility. They would say that after he had done this that they believe this Nation is unified in dealing with this issue.
I just want to say again I hope the President is good tonight. I hope he delivers to the American people why this is in our national interest. I hope he lays out a strategy that makes sense. I hope he deals with the objectives that he wants to come forth with.
Importantly, to me, I understand how we are going to deal with the ground in Iraq. I understand we have an Iraqi military--as weak as they are--that we can build off of. I understand that we have the Peshmerga--the Kurds--who we can build off of in support.
What I don't understand in Syria, especially since year after year we have done nothing to support the moderate opposition like we have said we would do--or very little--let me not say nothing, but really very little. Since we have nothing of substance on the ground in Syria, how are we going to deal with that? Our Presiding Officer knows more about military officers than I do by far. But how do we deal with a country with nothing on the ground. I want him to explain that. But I think all of us would like to understand that.
But, again, I think if he were to come to the Senate to seek our support overtly and to explain to the Presiding Officer, myself, and many others in this body how he has a strategy that could be effective, I believe that he would receive overwhelming support, and I believe he would have the durability necessary to deal with an enemy of this sort.
I do hope, again, the President is on target tonight. I hope the President will seek our authorization for the use of military force-- now.
I hear people say: Well, gosh, Corker, it is right before an election.
So our President is going to talk to the Nation about what we are going to be doing with this enemy in Iraq, in Syria--candidly--and in other places. Because there is an election coming up, maybe he is not going to--I don't know that this is his reason, but I know there are a lot of people in Congress who say they don't want to deal with it before the election.
Are you kidding me--the most significant decision that is made; that is, sending men and women in harm's way--because it is 2 months before an election. If there are people in this body who don't want to be put to the task by the President of asking for an amount, whether it is 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years before an election. Someone shouldn't serve in the Senate if they don't want to take up these issues and deal with them.
I hope the President will change his mind. I hope the President will come to the Senate and seek our input and say that he wants an authorization and send us that authorization.
That is what he did with Syria. Let's look at it. Let's deal with his Cabinet Members, both in public and private. Let's deal with him. Let us see his commitment. Let's understand the coalition that is being put forth and let's deal with this in the manner that people in the Senate should deal with it, but it should come only after the President seeks that authorization. That is an important thing for him to do. I hope he will do it tomorrow after giving his speech.
I stand by ready to work with him in that regard, and I close with those comments.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Brown). The Senator from Vermont.
Constitutional Amendment Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, later this week, one of the most important Senate votes in the modern history of this country will take place, and that vote will be about whether the Senate begins the process to move forward on a constitutional amendment which overturns the disastrous 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision on Citizens United.