SENATE REPUBLICAN AGENDA (Senate - January 21, 1997)
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I think we have the opportunity here today to get off to a good start, a fast start. It is one about which we have communicated with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. We have increased the number of bills that we officially introduce at the start of the session from what has in the past been only 5 to 10, and therefore the Republicans will today introduce our first numbered 10 bills as well as Senate Joint Resolution 1, which will be the constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. And then the Democratic leader, on behalf of the Democrats, will introduce their first 10 bills, and then others can come in and offer bills as they see fit. The principal sponsors will come to the floor this afternoon in the hour we have designated to offer the bills and to make comments. Frankly, I see some overlap between our list of 10 bills and the Democrats' list of 10 bills. I think that is positive.
So we want to go ahead and get started with this. We are going to move forward aggressively wherever we can to handle the President's nominations to his Cabinet. We hope to confirm within the next 2 days his first two nominees, to be Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. We hope in the 2 weeks after that to move right along with other nominees. So we are trying hard to work with the administration and set up an atmosphere that will allow us this year to pass some good legislation for the best interests of the American people, but the President, we think, deserves his Cabinet in place so that he can have people there to work with us.
One of the glories of the Senate is that it runs as much by tradition and custom as it does by written rules, and so one of those customs we are carrying out today is introducing these first few bills that will lay out our agenda for the rest of the year.
So it is my honor to present to the Senate and to the Nation 11 major pieces of legislation, 10 bills and 1 resolution, that we will offer today. Each of them can stand on its own as an important initiative dealing with matters that touch the lives of most Americans. Together, however, they form a blueprint for the visionary changes our country needs. I might even call them the user's manual for a better, safer and more prosperous America. These bills represent the consensus of the 55 Republican Members of the Senate.
We did have a unique opportunity to sit together for 12 hours the week before last to talk through what we want to do in this session of Congress and what specific bills we wanted to take up. It does not mean that every Republican Senator subscribes to every part of this package. To the contrary, it is likely that every Republican Senator, this one included, will disagree with some provision or another in one bill or another. But as befits the party of the open door, we have had quite a lot of give-and-take in putting this package together, and, as always, our individual Members make their own decisions about what they will endorse. But each of these bills commands overwhelming support on the Republican side of the aisle, and I want to commend not just the lead sponsors of these bills but all the Senators and staff who worked together over the past few weeks to reach the agreement and get these bills actually drafted and ready for presentation. I am going to leave it to the primary sponsors and others who have worked on the various pieces of legislation to give the details.
So I am going to summarize in this time that I have today what is in this platform.
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S . 7 is the National Missile Defense Act. I am pleased to be introducing this legislation. Building on the work that has been done by Senator Dole, Senator Kyl, Senator Thurmond, and others in the last Congress, it represents our commitment to the American people to secure for them, for their homes, their neighborhoods and, in fact, the country, the maximum possible protection against missile attack.
In the aftermath of the high-tech gulf war of 1990, many, perhaps most, Americans think that the Nation is already sheltered by sophisticated weapons systems like the one that protected Israel against the Iraqi scud missiles.
Don't we wish. But sadly, and potentially tragically, the truth is that in an era of international terrorism, the United States remains vulnerable to missile blackmail. So S . 7 will put our Nation back on the path toward security and toward lasting peace through unquestioned strength.
We have concerns about the environment. One of the bills that we will bring up again this year that we worked on--and we got it through the Senate after a filibuster, but it wound up getting 63 votes--was a bill that would bring to a conclusion the decision about where to have a nuclear waste site in America. We will move on that quickly.
Mr. President, these 10 bills, along with the balanced budget constitutional amendment, form a very ambitious agenda. It will take time to accomplish. I do not think we should put a time limit on them and say we must do them by the end of February or the end of March in each instance. We should do them as soon as we can, but we should make sure everybody has a chance to review them, make their case for or against them. Let us have full debate, but let us get it done and let us do it right. There will be adjustments and accommodations along the way, but we are trying to get started in a very positive way and offer bills we think are important for the quality of life and the future of our country.
The goal of the Senate Republicans is very clear, I think, and unchanging in this effort. It is to free the energy and genius of the American people so that they can achieve a better quality of life. The legislation we are introducing today we believe will allow them to do that--for themselves, their families and their communities--in a society that will be more secure, more prosperous and more caring.
Mr. President, I yield the floor to the Senator from Oklahoma.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
Mr. NICKLES. Mr. President, how much time remains of the majority leader's time?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Seven minutes 35 seconds is remaining under the majority leader's time.
Mr. LOTT addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I would be glad to yield the remainder of that time to Senator Nickles if he would like to go ahead and begin his comments.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
Mr. NICKLES. Mr. President, I wish to congratulate and compliment the majority leader of the Senate for his statement today, but also for his work with all of the 55 Republican Senators to put together this list.
This is a list which we have spent some time on. When I say `we,' I am talking about all 55 Republican Senators, who had some input on this list. That is a little unusual. We have not done that before. We came up with 10 bills. In the past, our tradition has been to introduce five. We came up with 10.
I might mention later today, or in the next few days or weeks, we had several other bills people wanted to have in this list. But this list represents a consensus of an overwhelming number of Republicans, that these are positive things we can do, should do, and that we should pass this year.
Mr. President, let me just comment and take a second to compliment President Clinton on his inaugural address yesterday. President Clinton made two or three comments that I would like to refer to.
He said Government is not the problem, it is not the solution; the American people are the solution. I think you will find that we Republicans really do believe the American people are the solution. We have a lot of ideas for saving Medicare, saving Social Security, a lot of different things where we really want to involve the American people.
I compliment the President on that. He said that Government should live within its means.
The first item that Majority Leader Lott mentioned was a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. We have overwhelming support among our colleagues for passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. We are equally serious about passing legislation to implement a balanced budget. We want that to happen. Unfortunately, President Clinton vetoed that in the last Congress. We want to work with the President. He said in the inaugural address that we should live within our means. We are going to try and make that happen. We look forward to working with this administration to make that happen.
The President also said we should put petty politics and extreme partisanship aside. He is right. This Congress, this political year, maybe in the last year or two, has become too partisan and maybe too extreme in working with the administration. It has been too partisan. It has been too extreme. We need to put that aside.