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Senate Proceeding on Jan 5th, 2011 :: 4:21:35 to 4:35:30
Total video length: 7 hours 32 minutes Stream Tools: Stream Overview | Edit Time

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Lamar Alexander

4:21:33 to 4:21:53( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: modest bills, and putting us on this path to gridlock. the senate has broken -- is broken, let's fix it. thank you, madam speaker. the presiding offi senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: i have -- i have enjoyed this extensive opportunity to -- to hear my

Lamar Alexander

4:21:35 to 4:35:30( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander

4:21:54 to 4:22:16( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: colleagues on a very important subject. what the nature of the senate will be. i'm going to have about 10 minutes of remark to comment on senator merkley and senator udall's comments and then i'm going to yield to senator -- the senator from oregon -- the other senator from oregon, senator

Lamar Alexander

4:22:17 to 4:22:37( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: wyden, and for his colloquy. madam president, if -- if i could say anything that, you know, from -- from deep down within me to my colleagues who have so exercised about this, it would be this, before we change the rules, use the rules. before we change the rules, use the rules.

Lamar Alexander

4:22:38 to 4:22:59( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: now, we've talked about senator byrd a lot because he -- he understood the rules so well. i've often told the story of when senator baker became the republican leader -- the majority leader in 1981 he went to see senator byrd, the democratic leader and said, senator byrd i'm suddenly the majority leader, i'll never know

Lamar Alexander

4:23:00 to 4:23:20( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: the rules as well as you do. so i'll make a deal with you, if you won't surprise me, i won't surprise you and senator byrd said, let me think about it and the next morning he told senator baker he would -- he would do that. and the reason i mentioned those two senators is because before

Lamar Alexander

4:23:21 to 4:23:42( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: we get too mired down in our differences, let's think for a moment about what the goal ought to be. and the goal, to me, for the senate is the -- is the senate the way it operated during those eight years when senator byrd and senator baker were the leaders of their party. four years biwas majority leader, four -- byrd was majority leader, four years

Lamar Alexander

4:23:43 to 4:24:04( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: baker was majority leader. in speaking to staffers, some of whom are still around, senator merkley goes back to senator hatfield in 1976. i first came here in 1967 as senator baker's legislative assistant. but by the time it got to 77, i came up and spent three months here with senator baker when he

Lamar Alexander

4:24:05 to 4:24:26( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: became the republican leader and i followed it pretty closely during -- during the next eight years. here's the way it worked, the majority leader, whether it was byrd or baker, would bring a bill to the floor. he would get the bill to the floor because the senators knew they were going to get to debate and amend the bill.

Lamar Alexander

4:24:27 to 4:24:47( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: the senator from oregon's talking about no debates. well, of course there's no debates because when we come down here with an amendment, the majority leader doesn't let us offer it. all those clotures he's talking about means the majority leader is cutting off my right to represent my people and offer an amendment and a debate.

Lamar Alexander

4:24:48 to 4:25:08( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: they're calling a filibuster a cutoff. it wouldn't be a filibuster if the majority leader weren't cutting off my right to debate which he's done six times -- which he's done more than the last six majority leaders put together. let's get back to what the goal ought to be. so senator byrd and senator baker would say, okay, the education bill is up, the energy bill's up, everybody get their

Lamar Alexander

4:25:09 to 4:25:29( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: amendments in. they might get 300 amendments. then at some point the majority leader would say, i ask for unanimous consent that the amendments be cut off. well, of course they'd get that after a while because everybody had all the amendments in they could think of. so they -- they might have 300 amendments. that was not unusual.

Lamar Alexander

4:25:30 to 4:25:50( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: 300 amendments. you didn't go over the majority leader and say, get down on your knee and say, mr. majority leader, may i please offer an amendment. may i offer this amendment? may i offer that amendment? you just put your amendment in there and then they started voting. and then they did something else that we don't do today, which is why i'm talking about using the rules before we change the

Lamar Alexander

4:25:51 to 4:26:11( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: rules. they voted. they debated. they voted. they debated. they voted. they debated. and of course 300 amendments is a lot of amendments. and so the leaders and the staff would say to the senator from north carolina or the senator from oregon, are you sure you want 25 amendments? it's wednesday night. no, 10 will be enough.

Lamar Alexander

4:26:12 to 4:26:32( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: then you get to thursday night. are you sure you want these five amendments? it's thursday night. we're going to be here friday. and we're going to finish this bill. we'll be here saturday if we have to be. we'll be here sunday. now, you're going to get your amendment and we're going to vote on it, but we're going to finish the bill. that's what they did. that's what they did.

Lamar Alexander

4:26:33 to 4:26:54( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: now, it wasn't always that case. mine, sometimes there had be a -- a legislation that would come up that one side or the other wanted to kill so they'd try to kill it just like we would today. if the democrats bring up abolish the secret ballot union elections, we'll do what we can to kill it. if the house brings a bill over here to repeal the health care

Lamar Alexander

4:26:55 to 4:27:16( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: law, why, the democrats are going to do everything they can to repeal it. that's separate. but most of the time the bill came to the floor, there was bipartisan cooperation, there were amendments. now, why was there bipartisan cooperation? because they knew that unless they had it, they wouldn't move an inch. and being good senators, they

Lamar Alexander

4:27:17 to 4:27:37( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: wanted to do their jobs. in fact, senator baker would tell his republican chairman, don't even bring the bill to the floor unless the ranking member, the democrat, is with you so the picture would be most of the time that you'd have the democrat and the republican there and amendments and they'd be fighting amendments off and they'd get to a conclusion.

Lamar Alexander

4:27:38 to 4:27:58( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: that was how it usually -- usually worked and there weren't so many filibusters because the majority leader wasn't cutting off the right to debate and calling it a filibuster. i mean, this is a word trick is what this is. so that's my concern. i -- i think most of us -- i've talked to a lot of my friends on the democratic side, a lot of republicans, i think we

Lamar Alexander

4:27:59 to 4:28:20( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: basically want the same thing. i think we want a senate that works better. i think it's a mere shadow of itself. i agree with senator merkley about that, but not because of filibusters. it's because the majority leader's cutting off debate and calling it a filibuster. so the majority leader and the republican leader, i commend today, because they have been

Lamar Alexander

4:28:21 to 4:28:42( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: talking about how -- how we can do better. and we all know that -- that changing the behavior will be more lasting than changing the rules. i'm glad senator reid and senator mcconnell are working on this and they've asked senator schumer and me to -- to work on it some more and we're going to do that. we have been. we've had several meetings. we've got another one this afternoon. we'll keep working.

Lamar Alexander

4:28:43 to 4:29:04( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: and we'll consider carefully these proposals or any others that come and we'll see if we can come to some agreement on how to move ahead. but my heartfelt plea is before we change the rules, let's use the rules. going down through the suggestions, for example, the motion to proceed, that's a difficult one for many of us because if you're in the minority, the motion to proceed

Lamar Alexander

4:29:05 to 4:29:28( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: is your weapon to require the majority to give you amendments. secret ballots, senator wyden tells me he and senator grassley have been working on that for 15 years, secret holds, i mean. well, they have republican support and democrat support for that, maybe this is the time to deal with that.

Lamar Alexander

4:29:29 to 4:29:51( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i -- i have -- i make my holds public. when i was nominated for united states education secretary by president bush i, the senator from ohio held me up for three months never saying why. i went around to see the senator from new hampshire, asking him what to do, that was senator rudman, he said when he was nominated by president ford to the federal communications commission, the senator from new

Lamar Alexander

4:29:52 to 4:30:13( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: hampshire held him up. and finally rudman withdrew his name and ran against the senator and beat him. that's how he got in the senate. so there are various cures for this problem. but secret holds, and you will be talking more about that, is an area that has had a lot of work and has bipartisan support. the right to offer amendments, the problem i have with that is that's what we do. i went out to see johnny cash one time in the 1980's.

Lamar Alexander

4:30:14 to 4:30:36( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i asked him a dumb question. i said johnny, how many nights are you on the road? he said oh, 200. i said why do you do that? he said that's what i do. well, if you're on the grand ol' opry, you sing. if you're in the senate, you offer amendments, you debate. that's what we do. that's what we're supposed to do, yet we haven't been allowed

Lamar Alexander

4:30:37 to 4:30:57( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: to do it. talking filibusters, if we talk about the postcloture period, the problem with that is the majority has not used the rules. if i hold up, if i object to going forward with a bill, the majority, if they think i'm abusing that, they can say okay, senator alexander, get down there on the floor because we're

Lamar Alexander

4:30:58 to 4:31:19( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: going to be here all night and you can only get seven hours. then you have got to line up 23 other senators to take one hour each, and if you stop talking, we're going to put the question. if you do a number of things, we're going to make a dilatory motion. in other words, the majority can make it really hard for a senator who objects.

Lamar Alexander

4:31:20 to 4:31:40( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: and someone said one, two, three or four senators can hold this place up. they cannot hold it up, they cannot. because if you have 60 votes, you can pass anything. if you have 60 votes, you could pass anything. and senator byrd said in his last testimony before the rules committee that you can confront a filibuster by using the rules.

Lamar Alexander

4:31:41 to 4:32:01( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: now, the last two things we could do is, one, we could stop complaining about voting. it happens on the republican side and the democratic side. somebody offers an amendment that's controversial and everybody runs up to the leader and says oh, we don't want to vote on that. well, we're here to vote. that's why we're here. so we should do that. and the third thing we can do --

Lamar Alexander

4:32:02 to 4:32:22( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: and senator byrd suggested this his last testimony, is let's get rid of the three-day workweek. there is not enough time for all the senators to offer their amendments, and there is not enough time for the majority to confront the minority if they think the filibuster is being abused, if we have a three-day workweek, and we never vote on friday and we didn't vote on

Lamar Alexander

4:32:23 to 4:32:43( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: friday one time this year. so let's use the rules. let's use the rules. if you think we're holding something up improperly, confront that senator, run over him. you can do it. you've got the power to do it if you have 60 votes. and if in this new congress, there will be plenty of opportunities there.

Lamar Alexander

4:32:44 to 4:33:05( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: finally, i'm going to take these five suggestions and -- and work with senator schumer and work with my friends on the other side. they are very thoughtful. senator udall spent a lot of time on this. senators wyden and grassley have spent 15 years. senator merkley used to be a speaker. he has talked to me. we have talked a number of times. i greatly respect his work in his state and the fact that he

Lamar Alexander

4:33:06 to 4:33:26( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: has seen the senate for a long period of time. i am taking very seriously everything that's said here. i'm just -- i'm just worried about turning the senate into the house. we have a majoritarian organization over there. they can repeal the health care law or get rid of the secret ballot and union elections. if you turn this place into

Lamar Alexander

4:33:27 to 4:33:49( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: that, you will just go bam, bam, and it's done. what the senate is for is to say whoa, whoa, let's -- let's see if we can get a consensus before we do anything, and when we get a consensus, we not only get a better bill usually, the country accepts it better. they like to see us cooperating. they like to see us coming up

Lamar Alexander

4:33:50 to 4:34:10( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: with a tax bill or a treaty or whatever, a civil rights bill or a health care bill or financial regulation bill where we have all got something in it. they feel better about that. it's the check and the balance that's the genius of our system. so obviously we can do some things better around here, i'm committed to trying. i thank my friends for the amount of time and effort they have given.

Lamar Alexander

4:34:11 to 4:34:31( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i'm going to take everything they have said very seriously and in the spirit that they have offered it, but i hope a part of our solution is that we -- we use the rules before we change the rules because this is the form to protect minority rights, this is the form to force a

Lamar Alexander

4:34:32 to 4:34:53( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: consensus, and we dare not lose that. we dare not lose that. i thank the president and i the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of the bipartisan wyden-grassley-mccaskill-collins

Lamar Alexander

4:34:54 to 4:35:15( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: resolution to end secret holds, which is at the desk. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. alexander: mcht, reserving the right to -- madam president, reserving the right to object. as i said earlier, senator wyden and senator grassley, senator mccaskill and others have worked on this, some of them for as long as 15 years. they have made significant progress in gaining bipartisan support.

Lamar Alexander

4:35:16 to 4:35:33( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i'm going to object but only for the reason that this is one of the items that we will be discussing and working on over the next few weeks, with the hope that perhaps we can get agreement over here and agreement over there. it's been mentioned by all of

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