This year, however, without warning or cause, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow for adequate debate or an open process for amending the legislation, breaking an important tradition that has been one of Congress’s few bright spots in recent years.
In the past decade, regardless of which party was in power, the NDAA has been considered in the Senate for an average of nine days with an average of 130 amendments considered each year. But this year, after just two days of considering the bill and voting on only two amendments, Reid filed a motion to end debate on the legislation and block any other senator, Republican or Democrat, from offering further amendments.
This is a dangerous and unnecessary new precedent to set when it comes to our national security. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I recognize the importance of giving this bill full and open consideration. It authorizes more than $600 billion in spending for the next year and enacts policies that touch every part of our national security apparatus. The NDAA identifies our security priorities, such as new and emerging threats, and ensures we have the resources to keep our service members safe.
Refusing to allow the normal debate process to work as it has for almost five decades violates the rights of the American people to have this legislation debated and amended through their elected officials.
I filed several amendments in November and co-sponsored others that, in previous years, would have received consideration. For example, the Due Process Guarantee Act, which I offered with Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, is a bipartisan amendment that guarantees due process for American citizens. That measure passed by a supermajority, 67 votes, on this same authorization bill last year. With such overwhelming support, there is little reason why it could not be considered this year.
My colleagues had other amendments dealing with issues such as the National Security Agency, sanctions against Iran, and sexual assault in the military — all important issues that need to be addressed in this bill.
Much like the “nuclear option” change to Senate rules in November, Reid’s refusal to allow amendments to the NDAA this year serves no other purpose than to stymie the rights of the American people to have their voices heard on important legislation through their elected officials.
As a result, I cannot vote to support this legislation until my colleagues and I are allowed to debate and amend it in a way that respects the normal democratic processes that have worked well for almost 50 years. This bill is too important to the security of the United States, and to military communities like the one supporting Hill Air Force Base, to allow it to move through the Senate without due consideration.
I commend my colleagues in the House of Representatives, whose leadership carved out the appropriate amount of time in their schedule this summer to give this important legislation the consideration it deserves.
I would very much like to see a Defense Authorization bill pass annually that addresses the pressing concerns of our military and enacts policies that enhance our nation’s security and protects the lives of service men and women and their families. The only way to do this is through an open amendment process that allows all members of the Senate to participate and press legislation on behalf of their constituents. To do otherwise is harmful to both our armed services and the democratic institutions they are charged with protecting.
Nov 12 2013
Sep 23 2013
By Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. Mike LeeHouse leaders, therefore, should make absolutely clear that any individual immigration bills must be considered separately by the Senate, not crammed together into a behemoth comprehensive proposal. It’s not step-by-step if the bills are merged with the Senate monstrosity at a later date—either through a formal conference or a closed-door negotiation. Any possibility of such an outcome must be ruled out.
Sep 15 2013
Jul 24 2013
Jul 15 2013
The Declaration of Independence, the founding charter of our nation, is one the greatest assertions of human rights and dignity ever written. Its moral argument for liberty, equality and responsibility rings as true today as did in 1776.
We have to go back to, perhaps, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to find a declaration more steeped in self-evident truths.
In fact, the two bear many similarities. They both speak deep, hopeful truths about the nature of man in language so clear and inspiring that they have literally changed the world every day since they were first delivered.
And, perhaps often overlooked, they were, in fact, both merely introductions, not conclusions.
The Sermon on the Mount is at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel, not the end. The Declaration of Independence was signed five years before the Battle of Yorktown, and seven years before the Revolutionary War officially ended.
Both two millennia ago and two centuries ago, identifying human rights was only the beginning of the story. Whether following in the footsteps of Christ or reviewing the experiences of America's founding generation, this is a crucially important lesson.
The lesson is that with rights come responsibilities. Rights are only the beginning.
The rest of the story involves what we do with those rights. This is especially so in America today.
Here, self-government is not just a political system; it must also be a personal ethic. We can govern ourselves as a nation only to the extent that we govern ourselves as individuals. An assertion of rights is empty without a corresponding acceptance of responsibility.
The rights we enjoy are vast and significant. Our government recognizes that we are created with the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit happiness.
Because our rights are endowed by our creator, our duty is to serve him. And of course, the way we serve our God is by serving our neighbor.
Human rights are the beginning of the story. Service — that is the rest of the story.
In this light, we can begin to see more clearly exactly what it is we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
Properly considered, independence, liberty and equality are not simply moral principles; they are moral challenges. So you're free — what are you going to do with your freedom?
The challenge issued to us, two millennia ago in Galilee, is to be a light on a hill, to provide comfort to the needy, to repair the world one day and one decision at a time.
The great gift the Founding Fathers gave us two centuries ago in Philadelphia is a nation where success depends on service.
Our free enterprise economy takes a lot of criticism for promoting greed, materialism, and competition. But no matter who you are or what you're seeking, the first question anyone in our economy must ask is: how can I help?
Businesses do not survive unless they take care of their customers, their suppliers, their employees and their neighborhoods.
The very same process is at work every day in our voluntary civil society: our civic, charitable, religious and social organizations do not survive unless they succeed in achieving their objectives.
Both in our free-enterprise economy and our voluntary civil society, success in America is ultimately based not on competition, but cooperation. We look out for ourselves by looking out for everyone else.
Freedom, properly understood, doesn't mean you're on your own. It means, "we're all in this together." As it is with our economy and our civil society, so it is with our republic, as well.
On Independence Day, as we celebrate with fireworks, parades and snow cones, we also recognize this annual event as an opportunity to cherish the God-given rights that make us free, strong and able to carry out our responsibility to do God's work on the earth.
Let us stand together as the watchman on the tower, the city on the hill, the candle that must not be hid under a bushel and the salt of the earth. As Americans, we have been born with God-given rights which, if properly understood and righteously asserted, will enable us to continue to establish this nation as the world's last great hope.
Jun 11 2013
But it's also why I left that group. And why today, I must oppose the so-called "Gang of Eight" immigration bill soon to be taken up by the Senate.
But it's also why I left that group. And why today, I must oppose the so-called "Gang" of Eight" immigration bill soon to be taken up by the Senate.