Videos & Speeches
I was on the floor this morning and outlined the merits of an amendment I’ve tried to have pending to this continuing resolution. It’s amendment No. 55. It’s an amendment that deals with the air traffic Control Tower Program that the Obama administration has indicated that it will terminate this program on April 7. I don't want to go over all the things I talked about this morning, but I do want to talk about how we got to the point we are today in which apparently this amendment is not going to be considered by the Senate.
I indicated this morning how, in my view, how important this amendment is. I read from an AP story from Chicago about how air safety was in jeopardy. Indications that a plane crash that occurred previously would not have occurred if there had been an air traffic control tower present. The complaint by Americans hat our aviation sector is so frustrated by the political brinksmanship which goes on in Washington, D.C.
Again, this is an important amendment that’s about the safety and security of the American people—particularly those who fly. It is amazing to me that despite the continued efforts to bring this amendment to the floor for consideration—not that I expect any guarantee. There is no such thing as a guarantee that this amendment would pass. But the inability to have it even considered is very troubling to me and very surprising to me.
Last week when we started on the continuing resolution, I was pleased to hear what the majority leader said about the process on the CR. This isn’t years ago, this wasn’t months ago this was just last week in which the leader said this, “There will be amendments offered.” And he’s talking about the Continuing Resolution. “There will be amendments offered. We are working on a process to consider those amendments. This week we’ll be off to another opportunity for the Senate to return to regular order, an opportunity for this body to legislate through cooperation, through compromise, as we used to do. This legislation will be a test of the Senate's goodwill. We’re anxious to move forward and start doing some legislating. We are going to take all amendments and try to work through them as quickly as we can. I hope we can move forward and set up votes on every one of them”
Mr. President, that is the announcement that was made as we started the continuing resolution. As the majority leader indicated, this legislation will be a test of the Senate's goodwill. Mr. President, I think the Senate has clearly failed the test of goodwill, but more than goodwill, we are failing the American people in taking the steps necessary to secure their safety.
This is not an amendment about me. It’s not an amendment about Kansas. Certainly, I am talking about my home state. Nothing wrong with representing your home state which is affected by the loss of these control towers. But 43 States—almost all of us have control towers, and come April the 7th, they no longer will be.
It’s one of the reasons—and I’ve indicated this previously—one of the reasons why I thought this amendment, perhaps above others, should be considered is because the Control Tower Program will be eliminated April the 7th. I am a member of the Appropriations Committee. I am a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation. I will work to see that these programs are continued once we get to the regular appropriation process when the CR is behind us. But I never—my colleagues and I will never—have the chance to do that because in a matter of just a few short days the control towers will be gone. They will be closed. The lights will be turned off.
So my role as an appropriator and my role as a member of the United States Senate—that I share with 99 other senators—and the idea that we would then come back and restart a program that has disappeared—it just isn’t going to happen. In the absence of this amendment passing—in the absence of this amendment being considered and passing—the ability for me to do my job on behalf of a program that I think matters to the American people disappears.
I have never tried to be a difficult Member. I believe in collegiality. I believe in the goodwill that the majority leader talks about. But this is an amendment I cannot imagine what I was supposed to have done. It is an amendment that is germane. It’s not here trying to offer an amendment that doesn't matter to the bill at hand. I am not trying to score political points, I am not trying to put Democrats on the line for casting a vote that the voters might object to. There is nothing here that is political or partisan in nature. I did what I thought I was supposed to do.
There are 26 cosponsors of this amendment. More than half are Democrats. They are Inhofe, Roberts, Blumenthal, Blunt, Johanns, Kirk, Manchin, Hagan, Klobuchar, Baucus, Tester, Enzi, Vitter, Boozman, Pryor, Merkley, Wyden, Kaine, Warner, Ayotte, Shaheen, Risch, Crapo, Murphy, Rockefeller, and Wicker. If 26 of us in that group can agree upon the value of an amendment, why is it that the Senate cannot even take a vote on a germane amendment that is broadly supported? –Broadly supported outside the chamber of this Senate. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transport Association, Association of Air Medical Services—they believe this is important for the ability of LifeWatch patients—NATCA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the American Association of Airport Executives.
This is not a provincial issue that MORAN is all about trying to take care of something for himself, it’s not about trying to create political difficulties for anybody. We broadly agree on a bipartisan basis that this amendment should be made in order.
I have been in the Senate for a little more than two years. I served for a number of years in the House of Representatives. One of the things I thought was true and one of the reasons why I sought the opportunity to serve in the Senate is that it would be different from the House. Any member of the Senate ought to be here—whether Republican or Democrat--on behalf of their ability to offer amendments. We had a debate about changing the rules and the proffer was made that if we would agree to change the rules, amendments would be made in order. I thought that was a positive development.
Now, it seems to me, while I left the House in hopes of having the opportunity to represent my constituents as best as I know how and to represent America as best I know how, somebody stands in my way. I can't find out who that is. I have not talked to a Senator who is not supportive of my amendment. Every conversation I have is, “well, I think it is a good idea. I don't know why it is not being made in order.” There is no good explanation. Who sits down and develops the list and decides which amendment is important and which one isn't? This ought to be something that is not turned over to a one-person Rules Committee.
Again, the House and Senate are structured differently. This is a historic body with a legacy of allowing debate, discussion, and amendment. And, again, not for purposes outside even the nature of the bill we’re talking about. How can it be controversial to transfer $50 million in a bill that has more than $1 trillion of funding, of spending? How can it be so difficult to transfer $50 million from two accounts—unencumbered balances and a research account—to save air traffic control towers, leave them in place until I at least get the opportunity to work with my colleagues to extend their life through the appropriations and legislative process into the future.
So, Mr. President, for a Senator like me, I lay awake last night from, from I don't know, 3:15 to 4:30 trying to figure out what I could say that would convince my colleagues to support this amendment or to allow whoever is making the decision that it can't be even debated and heard and voted on. I don't know that there are any magic words. It does concern me. It bothers me greatly.
We ought to all be here protecting the rights of each and every other Senator. This is important to us as a legislative body, not to us and our egos as Senators. It is not the sense that we have the right to say everything—we’re Senators, we’re important and powerful people—it’s that on behalf of the American people, a person such as myself who represents 2 1/2 million Kansans ought to have the ability to bring an amendment to a bill on the United States Senate floor that is germane. Had we brought these amendments forward, had we agreed to debate and pass my amendment, we wouldn't be here today still stalled on moving forward to conclude this business and move to the budget. We could have debated the amendments and voted on the amendments that were germane, days ago. But for some reason we once again get bogged down in somebody deciding that this amendment qualifies to be considered and this one doesn't.
So, Mr. President, this is another example of where, again, I guess if we were to tell the story to the American people, it would be that today we are going to pass a bill that spends $1.1 trillion, and we’ve had four or five amendments offered and perhaps approved, maybe a couple more today. This bill has not worked its way through the Appropriations Committee. It comes from the House, and we immediately take it up. It is written so perfectly that only three or four individual Senators have the opportunity to alter the bill—not the guarantee to change the bill but the opportunity to suggest to our colleagues, would you listen to me, and say, does this make sense and then cast a vote, yes or no, based upon whether what I am saying has merit. We can't get to the point at which I am given the opportunity to explain here on the Senate why this amendment is something that is important.
I came to the Senate from the United States House in hopes that the Senate was different, in which individual members have value unrelated to their relationship with the Speaker or the minority leader of the House, unrelated to my relationship with the members of the Rules Committee. I have not always been the most perfect follower of my political party. I have tried to do what I think is right, and therefore I have not always developed the relationship I needed in the House to be able to get my amendments considered on the House floor.
The Rules Committee is there for a purpose. It is a very unwieldy body, the United States House of Representatives, of 435 Members. Here we have 100. Surely, based upon the history, the legacy, the rules of the Senate, we have the ability as Senators, whether we are in favor or disfavor and whether our amendment meets with a person's satisfaction on behalf of the American people, we have the right to represent their interests and have votes taken.
The majority leader said the other day that I am an obstructionist. I lay awake last night thinking, I am not an obstructionist. I am following the rules. The majority leader said this morning that we need to show that sequestration is damaging to the country. I didn't even vote for sequestration, and yet I can't fix a problem that’s caused by somebody else's vote. Again, it is so baffling to me how this works.
I finally found somebody who would tell me they oppose my amendment. Today I talked to the Secretary of Transportation, who said: “The administration opposes your amendment.” So maybe that is the explanation. I have asked my colleagues on both sides of the aisle why I can't—a person who followed the rules, who did what one would think one should do to get an amendment made in order—why can't this amendment be heard?
The only explanation that I guess makes sense is that there are those in Washington, D.C., who want to prove we cannot cut spending without consequences that are dramatic. OK, prove that point. Come to the floor. Have the debate about spending, about budgets, about taxes. Have this conversation about whether we can afford to cut spending. Prove to us. Take the votes. Demonstrate that it can't be done. But to use sequestration as the example for why we can never cut any money from any program, particularly on the amendment I am offering, is dangerous. What it says is, we want to make a political point, as compared to worrying about the lives of the American people who fly.
So, Mr. President this circumstance in which I find myself—again this morning I lay in bed realizing that the radicalization of Senator Moran is occurring. The only way, apparently, to get an amendment heard is to be difficult. It is not my personality. It is not my nature. But on behalf of Kansans and Americans, if what it takes is for me to become more difficult to deal with so my amendments are considered—it is not about me personally—so amendments that matter to my constituents and, at least in my view, to America can be heard—you got to make yourself a pain around here. If that is what is required in the Senate—I hope that is not the case.
I hope the majority leader is right that this is the path in which we are going to get back to regular order. I want to be a member of the Appropriations Committee that works, that debates, and discusses, we listen to witnesses and figure out that we can spend more here, but we have to spend less money here; this program matters, and this one is inefficient.
I voted against sequestration because I don't believe across the board cuts are responsible. What that means is that everything deserves the same reduction. There are things that we do well and that are appropriate for the government to be involved in, and there are things that we do poorly and that the government shouldn't be involved in. Yet we treat them all the same. I want to be a member of the Appropriations Committee that says: we’re going to evaluate each one of these programs and make decisions about spending, and we are going to choose to spend money here and not here, or the decision will be made by the Senate and the House and the President that we are going to raise revenues so we can spend more money. But that is not a reason to block this amendment. It is not a reason to say that those people who are going to be traveling out of 179 airports that have control towers—that their lives are going to be less safe and secure and run the potential of loss of life and injury as a result of us trying to prove the point that we apparently can't cut budgets around here because we want to show that there is damage to be done when that occurs. That is a very dangerous political point.