McConnell Says Senate Will Revisit Blocked Defense Bill, Proceeds to Veterans Funding Bill

It’s time for the appropriations process to finally be allowed to move forward. It’s time for the Senate to finally be allowed to get back to regular order. It’s time for each of us to finally get back to work.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding veterans and defense appropriations (as prepared for delivery):

“Our colleagues across the aisle just voted to allow the Senate to proceed to an individual appropriations bill.

“Proceeding to a funding bill shouldn’t be breaking news.

“But it is worth noting.

“Because Democrats have repeatedly blocked the Senate from even debating any individual appropriations bills for months. They never had a good excuse for it of course, and the excuses kept changing as each got debunked.

“But they kept it up month after month.

“That changed today.

“One assumes this must finally herald the end of Democrats’ Filibuster Summer—a partisan season of obstructionist Democrat filibustering in which they blockaded government funding bills entirely.

“Nearly all of those bills were bipartisan. Democrats even praised them in press releases. But Democrats blocked them anyway.

“Democrats said no to funding for bridges and infrastructure.

“Democrats said no to funding for energy conservation and clean water.

“Democrats said no to funding for absolutely anything at all — even, and especially, for our troops.

“It was particularly jarring when you consider some of the things written recently by President Obama's own Defense Secretary in an op-ed titled ‘U.S. Military Needs Budget Certainty in Uncertain Times.’

“Here’s what this Obama Administration Cabinet Secretary said:

While Washington struggles to get its house in order, the challenges around the world continue. China continues its dubious and destabilizing land-reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Islamic State continues its barbarous campaign. Russia continues to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine and pour gasoline on the Syrian conflict. In this uncertain security environment, the U.S. military needs to be agile and dynamic. What it has now is a straitjacket. At the Defense Department, we are forced to make hasty reductions when choices should be considered carefully and strategically.

“Here’s how this top Obama official’s op-ed concluded:

I appeal to Congress to act on a long-term budget deal that will let America’s troops and their families know we have the commitment and resources to see them succeed, and send a global message that the United States will continue to plan and build for the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

“But Senate Democrats apparently disagreed.

“They called funding our troops ‘wasting the Senate’s time,’ and filibustered helping them repeatedly. They just did so again this morning.

“Let me repeat that.

“At a time when a vast number of threats face our country, as Secretary Carter alluded, our colleagues across the aisle actually voted to filibuster the bill that funds our troops and our military.

“Democrats filibustered for months on end to hold hostage the men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way for reasons that shifted constantly and had little to do with our troops.

“This is the same party we remember lecturing everyone else about the dangers of the filibuster, but apparently they weren’t serious, because it’s their new best friend now.

“This is the same party we remember bashing legislative ‘hostage taking.’ But apparently they weren’t serious about that either, because they’re basically experts today.

“So look.

“Democrats many never be able to fully remove the stain of this Filibuster Summer gridlock gambit from their party’s reputation — but they can work with us to finally start turning the page now.

“Every excuse not to do so has been wiped away.

“We’ve already settled on a budget agreement.

“We’ve already agreed on topline budget numbers.

“We’ve already settled on subcommittee allocations.

“And we’ve just proceeded to an individual appropriations bill.

“It’s time for the appropriations process to finally be allowed to move forward.

“It’s time for the Senate to finally be allowed to get back to regular order.

“It’s time for each of us to finally get back to work.

“Not just because it’s the right thing for our country.

“Not just because it’s the right thing for the brave men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way.

“But it’s also the best way for Senators of both parties to have the most say in the process — for the American people to be best represented, with their members debating each appropriations bill on the floor with the opportunity for amendments to be offered.

“Members worked very hard to develop these appropriations bills. Most passed committee with bipartisan support.

“That was certainly true of the defense appropriations bill, which passed committee with massive support from both parties: 27 to 3.

“It’s similarly true of the appropriations bill that funds veterans, which passed committee with bipartisan support too.

“That’s the bill we just voted to proceed to.

“It would support veterans by funding the health care and the benefits they rely on.

“It would support military families by funding the housing, schools, and health facilities that serve them.

“It would provide support for women’s health, for medical research, and for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury.

“And it would do a lot of good in many of our home states too. In Kentucky, it would provide funding for design work at a new VA Medical Center in Louisville, a special operations headquarters at Fort Campbell, and educational facilities at Fort Knox.

“This bill would do right by our veterans. We should pass it. With continued cooperation, we can pass it by Veterans Day.

“And then, the appropriations process can continue.

“It’s obvious why we started with the defense appropriations bill first. While this morning’s filibuster was deeply regrettable, to say the very least, we have the option to reconsider that bill. We’re going to keep working to ensure its passage.

“But look.

“As we approach Veterans Day, I would ask my colleagues to consider this.

“We have an all-volunteer force in this country.

“The young men and women who sign up to defend our nation don’t ask for a lot, but our nation certainly asks a lot of them.

“These mothers and brothers and friends and neighbors aren’t legislative poker chips, and helping them certainly isn’t a ‘waste of the Senate’s time.’

“These are Americans who deserve our support. Let’s put the past in the past and unite to finally give it to them.

“Both parties did so in committee a few months ago. Both parties can do so now.”

Related Issues: Appropriations, Senate Democrats, Veterans, National Security