Cornyn Speaks on the Senate Floor on the House CR, President’s Veto Threat
by John Cornyn on April 8, 2011 at 5:23 PM
Thursday I spoke on the Senate floor about the House-passed stopgap spending measure that would ensure our troops continue to receive the paychecks they deserve and the President’s subsequent threat to veto that measure:
Madam President, sometimes when my constituents come to D.C., I tell them, welcome to the District of Columbia, 68 square miles of logic-free environment where perception is reality.
I can't think of anything more surreal than the situation we find ourselves in with the House of Representatives having passed an appropriation bill that would keep the government open while negotiations continue and would fund our men and women fighting now three wars around the world to make sure that they get paid.
I've also had occasion to tell my colleagues or my constituents who come to Washington that it is a lot like Disneyland. It's a fun place to visit, but it's not real. And when Members of Congress get in trouble, they think Washington is real, but it's not. What's real is what is back home, where people have common sense, where people try to solve problems working together rather than playing endless political games.
I find it outrageous that Senator Reid, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, and the President of the United States would refuse to fund pay to our men and women in uniform by threatening a veto to the House bill that's been sent over here.
We know that unless Senator Reid and the President of the United States agree to keep the government open that they will be responsible for the shutdown of the federal government and all of the disruption that goes along with it.
And you know what? After the government shuts down, we're still going to have to pass an appropriation bill at some level to keep the government functioning.
A shutdown doesn't solve anything except cause a lot of disruption, a lot of concern, a lot of heartburn among a lot of good people about whether they're going to get paid. And first and foremost among those are our men and women in uniform.
The President has threatened to veto the troop funding bill, H.R. 1263, by saying, ‘this bill is a distraction.’ That's according to the President's own statement of administration policy, issued by the White House earlier today.
An attempt by the United States House of Representatives to make sure that our men and women in uniform are being paid while they're fighting three wars around the world is a distraction to the President of the United States.
That is an abdication of presidential leadership.
And I hope the President will reconsider because funding our troops is not a distraction. It's a responsibility. And a veto threat is not what they deserve, nor what they should be hearing from the commander in chief.
About one in 10 of the people who wear the uniform of the United States military call Texas home. Those Texans are among the roughly 100,000 troops currently deployed in Afghanistan. Many of whom are serving multiple deployments away from home and away from their families.
Some of them are for example, members of the Texas national army guard's 176th engineer brigade headquarters that is currently handling engineering projects for about one half of the country.
Other Texans are among the roughly 40,000 troops still deployed in Iraq.
Some of them are members of the Texas national army guard's 36th infantry headquarters that is currently providing command and control for about a third of that country.
Texans are also supporting the mission in Libya. Although many are perhaps unclear about what the mission is.
And Texans are on board more than a dozen navy vessels providing humanitarian assistance off the coast of Japan.
The president's threat to veto funding for these troops is irresponsible and shows his willingness to risk a shutdown of the government and deny them the pay they are entitled to rather than accept responsibility and to face the fiscal facts.
For nearly 200 days our federal government has operated without a budget because of an irresponsible approach to one of the most basic functions of the federal government, to keep the lights on, to keep the government operating, and to accept responsibility for those decisions.
We know that Democrats, while they control the White House and both branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate, they failed to pass even a budget last year.
Every family in America, every small business, everyone other than the federal government and Congress has to operate on a budget. But, only Washington can continue to spend money that it doesn't have. About 40 cents on every dollar.
Yet, I would say the President remains either oblivious to that fact I think probably more accurately in denial about the fiscal crisis that is impending and is apparently unwilling to try to work across the aisle to try to address it.
I think it's imperative that the majority leader allow the Senate to vote on the House-passed measure, which we could do by unanimous consent, if not tonight, tomorrow before the looming shutdown tomorrow night.
It is clearly in Majority Leader Reid's hands and it is in the hands of the President of the United States if he would withhold his veto, allow negotiations to continue, and to make sure that our troops were funded as they should be.
The troop funding bill would fund the Department of Defense through the end of the fiscal year and it represents a bicameral, bipartisan agreement that was reached last December on funding of the Department of Defense.
It is past time for this legislation to be enacted particularly given that the months that have pass -- in the months that have passed since December, America now finds itself engaged in a third war entered into without congressional authorization, without any clear mission as -- and, frankly, 21 percent, according to a recent poll actually believe the mission is clear.
Well, I'm with the other 79 percent. I don't know what the mission is. The president said it was a humanitarian mission although when he obligated the United States military to go in, he immediately outsourced the responsibility for it to NATO, which did not have the assets and the resources in order to protect the rebel forces who continue to be killed by Qadhafi's troops.
The President said Qadhafi must go, yet, is doing nothing from a military perspective to accomplish that goal. What does that do to America's stature and representation in the world community?
What other tyrants are watching this President, said that Qadhafi must go, and, yet, have this President do what is necessary to remove him from his office? Well, I think it not only damages American prestige, it emboldens other tyrants like Qadhafi and it does not solve the humanitarian crisis Libya.
Well, some have said, and the Majority Whip was talking about so-called riders that accompany this piece of legislation. But, let me say this troop funding bill also cuts $12 billion in additional spending. When 40 cents out of every dollar that the federal government spends is borrowed money and we're spending money that we don't have, doesn't it make sense to cut federal spending?
Well, I think it does. And I think anybody who thinks that we can continue business as usual is just diluting themselves, living in a la-la land that has no bearing, has no semblance with reality.
This bill would also keep the government operating for another week. This would avoid the shutdown that would occur tomorrow night and it would allow for more time for bipartisan negotiations to occur.
So far as the so-called policy riders go, prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion in the District of Columbia, well, that's been supported by both republicans and democrats in the past. President Clinton signed legislation – similar legislation six times. Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Harry Reid voted for it many times. President Obama, himself, signed this same provision into law in 2009.
This troop funding bill also prevents Guantanamo Bay detainees from being transferred to the continental United States. I think if there ought to be a consensus about thinking, is that we don't want dangerous terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba transferred to the United States, and this bill prevents that. This language is virtually identical to existing law included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
This bill also includes full funding for our commitment to U.S-Israel Memorandum of Understanding for fiscal year 2011 and was passed Thursday afternoon, by a vote of 247 to 181 in the House of Representatives.
I don't know what could be any clearer than if President Obama were to veto this legislation and after it was passed by the Senate that closing the government would be on their hands.
But I would say, Mr. President, is that what this demonstrates is a very disconcerting trend that we're seeing of a failure of leadership at the highest office the land and that is the President of the United States. A President who goes to Brazil and talks about I'm for free trade, but has been sitting on the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, the Panama Free Trade Agreement since he entered office.
A President who says he's for bringing down the price of gasoline to make America less dependent on imported energy from abroad and goes to, believe it or not, Brazil and says, it’s great that you're going to be drilling for more oil off of your offshore in Brazil, and you know what? We're going to be one of your best customers. In other words, saying one thing in America and doing another thing abroad.
This is the same President who appointed a fiscal commission that reported in December of 2010, which documents the sobering reality of the debt crisis that we are facing in this country and what we must do responsibly to deal with it on a bipartisan basis. But in his State of the Union message and in the budget that he's presented, he does not even mention it.
We know that we have important issues to deal with. This is the most immediate one ahead of us, but this is small compared to the bigger issues we're going to have to deal with in just a month or two, which is the debt ceiling.
America's maxed out its credit card and the President is – the Treasury Secretary is asking us to raise the credit limits to allow us to continue to borrow more money. We know that's an unsustainable path.
We know that the American people are sick and tired of the typical gamesmanship and the gotcha politics in Washington, D.C. What they want, I truly believe, is for us to work together on a bipartisan basis to solve the problems in front of us and not to kick the can down the road, not to play a game of gotcha setting up our political adversaries for the next election in 2012.
That's what this smells like.
That's what this looks like.
This is irresponsible on the part of the president.
This is irresponsible on the part of the Majority Leader to fail to take up this bill and to allow us to vote on it tomorrow to prevent the shutdown of the government.
And it is irresponsible to threaten our men and women in uniform fighting three wars across the globe with being deprived of their paycheck by our failure to act by the President's commitment to veto any legislation that were to be passed on a temporary basis to stop this government shutdown.
I hope the American people will call, write, e-mail.
I hope they will let their representatives know that this is unacceptable and that Congress must act tomorrow in advance of the deadline and that if the Senate does pass the bill, that the President, that they communicate to the White House by every means necessary that Mr. President, you shall not veto pay to our troops while we're fighting three wars.
To do so not only is an abdication of your responsibility as commander in chief, but it's an abdication of the leadership that people expect from the President of the United States.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.