Working Together in the Senateby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2015-12-16
CORNYN. Mr. President, I wanted to come to the floor and talk
about what we have been able to accomplish this year because sometimes
I think people, when they hear us talk, think we are somehow claiming
credit where credit is not entirely due or whether we are trying to
make this purely a partisan matter. It is not, but it does require good
As the Presiding Officer knows, having been speaker of the house in North Carolina, the people who set the agenda--that is a pretty important power. All of the legislation that has passed this year would not have passed if it weren't for the majority leader, Senator McConnell, under the new majority scheduling it for a vote in the Senate and chairmen in the relevant committees processing that legislation at the committee level and making it available for floor consideration.
It is not just the Republican majority. Time after time, we have seen Republicans and Democrats working together hand in glove to try to pass legislation that is good for the American people. We saw that on the Education reform bill, where Senator Murray and Senator Alexander worked so closely together. We saw it on the highway bill--the first multiyear highway bill in a decade--where the Senator from California, Mrs. Boxer, working together with Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma and the majority leader, worked to really turn things around in the House of Representatives, to give them the space and time to pass a multiyear highway bill and to work with us to reconcile the differences and get it to the President. That is pretty important.
I was on the phone earlier today talking with some of the folks at the Austin American-Statesman about the impact on the traffic situation we have on I-35. It is a veritable parking lot during many times of the day. People understand the importance of taking care of infrastructure and maintaining it but also expanding it so people can get from point A to point B, but more importantly, what that means in terms of the environment and their quality of life.
So my simple point is that there is a big difference to the way this Chamber operated under the Democratic leader, when Senator Reid was majority leader, back when our friends across the aisle were in the majority. The statistic has been mentioned that there were 15 rollcall votes on amendments. We have had more than 200 so far this year alone. Frankly, I think our Democratic friends like the way the Senate has been operating under the current majority more than they did when they were in the majority because under the dysfunction of the previous majority, even Democrats in the majority weren't able to get votes on the amendments. When they stood before the voters, people asked ``What have you done?'' and they didn't have much to show except dysfunction.
As the Presiding Officer knows, whether it is North Carolina or other places around the country, we got a number of new Senators as a result of that misguided dysfunction, which was calculated but I think proved to be a miscalculation.
It is a good thing to see the Senate operating again in the interests of the American people. We have had a pretty busy session. I am not claiming it was perfect. Frustrations abound. It is in the nature of divided government.
The legislative process was designed by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution to be hard because they actually saw the concentration of power as a threat to their freedom and their liberty, and they didn't want an efficient Federal Government. They wanted checks and balances. They wanted checks between the various branches, between the two branches of the legislature, and also checks and balances with regard to the allocation of power to the Federal Government relative to the States and individuals. All of that separation of power was designed to require deliberation and to require transparency and the building of consensus before legislation was passed that would have an impact on their lives.
It has been a good thing to see the Senate working again, and I think all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, can be proud of some of the work we have done.
One of the things I am most proud of this year is the fact that we were able to pass a bill called the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act by 99 to 0. This [[Page S8712]] was the first legislation that actually provided a crime victims compensation fund to help provide grants to victims of human trafficking. As I have described before on this floor, the typical profile of a victim of human trafficking is a young girl between the ages of 12 and 14. We need to have resources available for people with big hearts in communities all across this country to help rescue these victims of trafficking and help them recover their lives and get on with their lives in a more productive and safe manner. This is one of the things we have done together.