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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Republican Obstruction Of The National Defense Authorization Act

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Republicans voting last night to block the Senate from moving forward on the National Defense Authorization Act. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

After spending months insisting that the Senate should take swift action on our annual defense bill, last night Republicans mounted a partisan filibuster blocking this chamber from moving forward on the NDAA.

For the information of all, before the vote closed last night I changed my vote to “no” and then entered a motion to reconsider the cloture vote so we can find a path forward on this important bill.

Now, we've heard over and over and over again from Republicans in some form or another that the Senate must act on NDAA and must act quickly.

One Republican colleague called it a core duty, a bare minimum.

Yet another colleague said it was “The best way to thank our soldiers and sailors for their service.”

But last evening, Republicans blocked legislation to support our troops, support their families, keep Americans safe, and support jobs across the entire country.

Republican dysfunction has again derailed even bipartisan progress on our annual defense bill—an outrageous outcome that shows how the Senate and Republican leadership have changed in recent years.

Previous leaders, knowing that Democrats offered Republicans a whole lot of amendments, would have said let's vote on cloture. But not this leader, not yet.

And there should be no mistake: the process that Democrats—and particularly my colleague Chairman Reed— have offered Republicans on NDAA has been more than fair and reasonable:

For months, my colleagues in the Armed Services Committee have been working to produce a bipartisan product that could come to the floor for a vote. This Bipartisan Reed-Inhofe agreement, a Reed-Inhofe agreement, was what we brought to the floor yesterday to vote on.

During the markup, members considered 321 amendments—and adopted 143 bipartisan ones—before reporting the bill out of committee by a vote of 23-3. 23-3. Bipartisan.

In preparation for the Senate floor, the managers worked on a substitute amendment which had at least 50 amendments, 27 of them, the majority, from Republicans. Senator Inhofe, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, worked with Democrats and had agreed to this.

And on top of all that, Senators Reed and Inhofe had also reached a bipartisan agreement to hold votes on 19 amendments here on the floor, before Republicans blocked that proposal two weeks ago.

Nineteen amendment votes. Nineteen! That is more than the total number of amendments to NDAA that received votes under the Republican Majority and under Leader McConnell when we debated this bill in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Not more than each year, more than all of them put together.

We just had just two amendments in NDAA 2017 when McConnell was majority leader. We had five in 2018 when Mitch McConnell was majority leader. Three in 2019 and seven in 2020. Adding that up, that is a total of 17 amendments. That’s over four years.

This year we offered 19 amendment votes—including bipartisan measures to combat ransomware legislation, repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, and support improved cyber defense of critical infrastructure.

But when we tried to get consent to move on this package of amendments, our Republican colleagues came down to the floor and objected not once but seven times.

So we have had ample debate. This has been a fair and bipartisan and reasonable process that has showed respect to the other side. But this is a new Republican Party, unfortunately. And it was not good enough for them, even on the defense bill.

Passing the annual defense bill should not be in question, and Republicans blocking this legislation is harmful to our troops, to their families who sacrifice so much, and to our efforts to keep Americans around the world safe.

Now, we Democrats are not going to let Republican intransigence stop us. We are going to keep working forward on a path forward. And we hope our Republican colleagues, as they discuss this among themselves, will see the light and come up with a fair proposal to make this bill go, to allow this bill to go forward.

Nineteen amendments [on this NDAA bill], a total of seventeen on all the other NDAA bills. To say that we’re being unfair, to say that we’re not giving enough amendments is poppycock and they know it.

Let’s move forward. Let’s move forward.