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Senate Proceeding on Jan 27th, 2011 :: 1:55:40 to 2:11:10
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Lamar Alexander

1:55:36 to 1:55:56( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: colleagues who participated in this mr. alexander: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: madam president, i would like to thank the senator from new york and the senator from new mexico and oregon and senator harkin of iowa for their efforts, some over many years, to achieve two

Lamar Alexander

1:55:40 to 2:11:10( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander

1:55:57 to 1:56:17( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: goals. to help make the senate a place that is better able to deal with serious business that comes before us and, second, to preserve the senate as a unique form. unique in the world, really, as a legislative body in its protection of minority rights.

Lamar Alexander

1:56:18 to 1:56:38( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: this is an important step forward. the reform of the senate -- but the reform the senate really needs is a change in behavior, not in its rules. these rules move us in the right direction. the behavior that the senator from new york spoke about and that the majority leader and the minority leader spoke about is what in the end will really make the most difference.

Lamar Alexander

1:56:39 to 1:56:59( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i've talked with many senators on both sides of the aisle. we've done a lot of talking, both on the floor here and off the floor, about where the senate is today. and a great many of us feel the senate really is a shadow of itself, a shadow of its former self in terms of its ability to function as a truly deliberative

Lamar Alexander

1:57:00 to 1:57:20( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: body. it is hard to see how the majority can complain after a legislation -- after a legislative session where they passed health care legislation and financial reform legislation and other legislation that may have even resulted in a diminishing of their numbers. they had a productive, from their point of view, session.

Lamar Alexander

1:57:21 to 1:57:43( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: but the truth is on both sides of the aisle -- both sides of the aisle -- we would like to see the senate function in a different way. the majority leader and republican leader have put out in a colloquy what that way is and that will govern what we do, but basically i believe it is this. we want the same thing, a senate

Lamar Alexander

1:57:44 to 1:58:04( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: where most bills are considered by committee, where most bills come to the floor as a result of bipartisan cooperation, where most bills are then debated and amended and voted upon. for someone who just tuned in to the united states senate, you'll say well, that's a very simple

Lamar Alexander

1:58:05 to 1:58:25( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: solution. i thought that's what the senate was supposed to be. it is what the senate is supposed to be, and it wasn't so long ago that it was the standard operating procedure. senator mcconnell said it was just a few years ago -- he and senator reid have both been here a number of years. i remember watchin

Lamar Alexander

1:58:26 to 1:58:46( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: senate -- and i've mentioned this before in this debate -- between 1977 and 1985 when howard baker of tennessee and robert byrd of west virginia were the republican and democratic leaders. i had worked for senator baker before that as a legislative assistant. i knew senator byrd.

Lamar Alexander

1:58:47 to 1:59:08( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: here's what went on then and here's what could go on today. most pieces of legislation that came to the floor started in committee. that gave us a chance to see what they really did, to improve them, to hear from voices from all over the country. then that legislation came to the floor. during senator baker's day, when

Lamar Alexander

1:59:09 to 1:59:30( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: he was the majority leader, he wouldn't even bring a bill to the floor unless both the republican chairman and the democratic ranking member supported it because he didn't want to waste the senate's time. and he knew that with a 60-vote requirement in the senate, that that requirement forces consensus. see, people talk about the

Lamar Alexander

1:59:31 to 1:59:52( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: filibuster but what we really have is a requirement that most important bills get 60 votes and if you're sitting with 53 democrats and 47 republicans, you don't have to have an advanced degree in mathematics to figure out that if you don't have some democrats and some republicans, you don't get to 60. so senator baker was saying back in the 1980's, bring the bill to

Lamar Alexander

1:59:53 to 2:00:14( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: the floor if it has the republican chairman and the democratic -- and the democratic ranking member. then the call would go out for amendments, and sometimes, madam president, there would be 300 amendments. the senator from north carolina or tennessee might offer 40, and no one said whoa, stop, you

Lamar Alexander

2:00:15 to 2:00:35( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: can't do that. bring them on in. sometimes there would be 300 amendments. then senator baker or senator byrd would ask for unanimous consent to close off amendments. well, i guess because the senators by that time were exhausted from writing amendments, they all agreed to it. and then they started voting. now, it got to be wednesday or

Lamar Alexander

2:00:36 to 2:00:57( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: thursday, and the party secretaries would go to the senators and they would say i noticed you still have 30 amendments waiting. maybe you would only like to offer 15. you might get to friday and they would say i notice you have five left, maybe you would only like to have one. but if they had one that they wanted to get, they almost always got the amendment, madam president.

Lamar Alexander

2:00:58 to 2:01:19( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: and that's what this -- real importance of this agreement is today. the difference of opinion we have had that has caused us to degenerate in some cases to a body that didn't function as well as it should has been because on that side of the aisle, the majority, people didn't want to vote.

Lamar Alexander

2:01:20 to 2:01:40( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: it's like joining the grand ol' opry and saying, you know, i don't want to some republican senator might offer an amendment that that side doesn't want to vote on, and they say we don't want to vote. or they say well, we don't want to work on friday, and so they go home. and they put pressure on the majority leader to use a procedure called filling the

Lamar Alexander

2:01:41 to 2:02:01( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: tree which cuts off votes and the right to amend. the majority leader used that power to cut off all amendments and debate 44 times, more than the last six majority leaders combined. then what happens over here? well, then republican senators now in the minority say we're not going to get amendments, we're going to start objecting.

Lamar Alexander

2:02:02 to 2:02:23( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: and so we have what's called a lot of filibusters. we say you're counting filibusters when you cut off our right to offer they say you guys over there are keeping us from doing our business. and on both sides, there is some truth to what has been said. so i -- i think most senators are happy with this result. i think they will be.

Lamar Alexander

2:02:24 to 2:02:45( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i hope that it works. i mean, the idea would be that the leaders will do their best to see that most bills go to committee, come to the floor, and that when they do, if the senator from north carolina has an amendment that the senator from tennessee would rather not vote on, she offers it anyway,

Lamar Alexander

2:02:46 to 2:03:07( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: if she wants to. or if i have one she would rather not vote on, i may offer it anyway. because it's important to the people of my state, even though we might be in a political minority at the moment. and i believe that if cases, most senators in the minority have that opportunity, that that will help us get back to the kind of senate that we

Lamar Alexander

2:03:08 to 2:03:29( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: want to see. now, i would like to compliment senator udall and senator merkley and senator harkin. i learned a long time ago in life that if you start out in one direction, you don't always get exactly where you wanted to go, but you don't get anywhere if you don't start out. and i think what they have done with their intelligence and

Lamar Alexander

2:03:30 to 2:03:51( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: diligence and persistence in this have created a period of time here where the senate is taking some steps today that will -- that will help the people of this country know that serious issues -- and we have got plenty of them. the debt, for example, 42 cents

Lamar Alexander

2:03:52 to 2:04:13( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: out of every dollar we spend is borrowed. jobs. for example, in my state, we have had 24 months of 9% unemployment. these changes will help us deal better with those issues. i will have more opportunity to talk about those after lunch later this afternoon. i want my friends on the other

Lamar Alexander

2:04:14 to 2:04:35( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: side to make their points before we adjourn for -- or take a recess for an hour, but fundamentally, the steps we're taking make a difference. the one i am especially glad to see is the effort to make it easier for a president, any president, to staff his or her

Lamar Alexander

2:04:36 to 2:04:57( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: government. one of the problems senator reid talked about is we confirm too many people. it's not necessary for us to confirm the p.r. officer for a minor department. there is no need for that. the secretary needs to go ahead and be able to appoint that person, and we need to be able to work on more important issues. and then secondly, we have

Lamar Alexander

2:04:58 to 2:05:19( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: created a phenomenon in this town that i referred to as innocent until nominated. we have created a situation where any citizen who is invited by the president to serve in his government has to run such a gauntlet that it's almost impossible to get to the end of the gauntlet without being branded as a criminal.

Lamar Alexander

2:05:20 to 2:05:41( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: and the reason is we have a maze of conflicting forms in the executive branch plus an i.r.s. audit and a maze of conflicting forms in the senate, and it not only delays but it traps people and it tricks people into filling out one definition of income here and another one here. we all know this is true and we all know it needs to be fixed. we have tried to fix it before.

Lamar Alexander

2:05:42 to 2:06:03( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: not just some of us. the majority leader and the republican leader tried to fix it, and they didn't get it done. senator lieberman and senator collins tried to fix it and they couldn't get it done. two years ago at a bipartisan breakfast which senator lieberman and i hosted, we had a whole group of us that said let's try to get this done. we talked to president obama's administration about it. they said sure, go ahead, we'd

Lamar Alexander

2:06:04 to 2:06:24( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: like to see that happen, either for us or for the president after the next term. but we couldn't get it done because of resistance in this body to giving up any -- any sort of power. well, right now, madam president, we have a -- a unique confluence of support for the idea of making it easier for any

Lamar Alexander

2:06:25 to 2:06:46( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: president to staff his or her government. the majority leader and the republican leader are solidly behind the effort. senator lieberman and senator collins are solidly behind the effort. senator schumer and i are working on a bill to do that, and we hope we can succeed. this opportunity, this window would not have happened if it hadn't been for the work of the senators who have been arguing

Lamar Alexander

2:06:47 to 2:07:07( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: for reforms. the other step we're likely to take is abolishing of the secret hold. i think that's a good idea. i speak from experience. when i was nominated by the first president bush to be education secretary, the senator -- a senator put a hold on my name. took three months to get it off. i finally found out who it was.

Lamar Alexander

2:07:08 to 2:07:28( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: i never knew exactly why he did it or why he took it off, but it might have helped if i had known it a little earlier. so i think it's a good idea. the majority leader put a hold on one of my t.v.a. nominees, but he did it publicly so i put a hold on one of his nominees and i did it publicly and we worked it out. so there is nothing wrong with

Lamar Alexander

2:07:29 to 2:07:49( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: asserting our rights, but we might as well do it in public. i congratulate the senators for making that effort. senator wyden and nor grassley have been working for more than a decade on that as well as other -- other senators. the step that says that if a bill has for 72 hours been on the internet and filed, that we

Lamar Alexander

2:07:50 to 2:08:11( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: can't require the clerks to read it all night long, that's a very commonsense proposal. i mow it would be greatly appreciated by the employees of the senate who have the job of reading the bill. if they had a chance to vote, this would probably be the bill on which they would like to have a chance to vote yes. so these are important steps in

Lamar Alexander

2:08:12 to 2:08:33( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: the right -- in the right direction about which we'll have a chance to talk more about today as the debate goes on, but i'd like to end where i began. what we need most in the senate is a change in behavior in addition to this change in rules.

Lamar Alexander

2:08:34 to 2:08:55( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: we need to preserve the senate as a forum for minority rights. we need to preserve the 60-vote requirement for major votes. that will force consensus, that will cause us to work together. that will build support out in the country for the result of what we do because they can see that both republicans and democrats think, for example, that the way we have gone about

Lamar Alexander

2:08:56 to 2:09:16( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: trying to make social security solvent is a good way, rather than one side or the other just jamming through their partisan way. there is a reason why it's a good idea for this not to be a body that operates by a simple majority like the house does. i mean, the house can repeal the health care bill overnight, bring it over to the senate. that side says let's stop and

Lamar Alexander

2:09:17 to 2:09:38( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: think about it. the house if it's democratic can repeal the secret ballot and union elections overnight, and it did with its vote in the last congress, but when it came over here, the republican side said let's stop and think about it. the american people are better served at having these two different kinds of bodies, and

Lamar Alexander

2:09:39 to 2:10:00( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: the senate and the american people will be better served both boy the rules changes that were likely to adopt -- that we're likely to adopt this afternoon and especially by the agreement by the majority leader and the republican leader, which i feel confident has the backing of almost all of us. that we would like to work in a united states senate where most

Lamar Alexander

2:10:01 to 2:10:22( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: bills are considered by committee, where most bills come to the floor and where senators most of the time have an opportunity to offer their amendments in debate. to be sure, there will be times when if it's repeal of the health care, that side does everything they can do to exercise their rights to stop it, or if it's repeal of the

Lamar Alexander

2:10:23 to 2:10:43( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: secret ballot union elections, this side will do everything we can to exercise our rights to stop it, but that won't be the ordinary course of events if this works like we hope it does. so i hope that my friends on the other side feel -- feel good about what they have done. they haven't achieved everything they sought to achieve, but none of us -- well, we rarely ever

Lamar Alexander

2:10:44 to 2:11:05( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: do, particularly in a body of 100 that offers by a consent of 100. and what they have done, i believe, in addition to the rules changes that we're likely to adopt, is created a window in which we had a good, open discussion about the kind of place we wanted to work, the kind of senate that we hope would serve the american people

Lamar Alexander

2:11:06 to 2:11:11( Edit History Discussion )

Lamar Alexander: the best, and we have come to a consensus about a change in behavior, which i believe in the

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