News Releases

Murray Calls on Senate Republicans To Stop Giving Excuses and Move to a Bipartisan Budget Conference—McCain and Collins Agree

May 21 2013

Murray asks to move to conference with the House for ninth time, blocked by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)



Senators McCain and Collins object to the GOP leadership position—they want to move to conference

Republicans battle on Senate floor: Cruz and Lee vs. McCain and Collins

McCain calls GOP conference obstruction “out of line,” “unprecedented”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging Senate Republicans to stop coming up with excuses and allow the Senate to move to a bipartisan budget conference with the House. 

Chairman Murray asked for unanimous consent to move to conference for the ninth time. Her request was blocked by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Senator McCain (R-AZ) opposed Senator Paul’s objection, and asked his fellow Republicans to follow regular order and work with Democrats on a bipartisan budget deal in conference. Senator Paul then objected to Senator McCain’s request. Senator Collins (R-ME) gave remarks strongly agreeing with Senator McCain, and opposing the Senate Republican leadership’s intransigence.

Senator McCain on Senate floor while objecting to his party blocking a conference: “For four years, four years, we complained about the fact that the Majority Leader...would refuse to bring a budget to the floor of the United States Senate…all of us patted each other on the back and we were so proud we did the budget and by golly, now we'll move with the House of Representatives and we will have a budget— hopefully at least begin negotiations with the House of Representatives…”

“So what do we keep doing? What are we on my side of the aisle keep doing? We don't want a budget unless  we put requirements on the conferees that are absolutely out of line and unprecedented.”

“If my colleagues on this side of the aisle think that we are helping our cause as fiscal conservatives by blocking going to a conference on the budget, which every family in America has to be on, because of certain requirements that they demand, then we are not helping ourselves with the American people at all.”

In her speech, Chairman Murray noted that over the last few weeks, Republicans have offered many different excuses for blocking conference, including calling for a pre-conference “framework” and most recently, demanding a “do-over,” with 50 hours of debate and unlimited amendments—just two months after praising the open and thorough floor debate on the Senate Budget.

Murray expressed hope that her Senate Republican colleagues would reverse course and instead listen to members of their own party, such as Senators McCain and Collins, and agree to a bipartisan budget conference with the House, rather than waiting for the next manufactured crisis.

Watch Murray’s speech.

Watch the full exchange on C-SPAN’s archive (starting at 2:41:33).

Key excerpts from Murray’s floor speech:

“…it has now been 59 days since the Senate and House have both passed our budget resolutions.  The American people are now expecting us to get together and do everything possible to bridge the partisan divide and come to a bipartisan deal—and Senate Democrats are ready to get to work.”

But over the past few weeks we have tried to move to conference 8 times, and each time, Senate Republicans have stood up and said no. They have managed to stall for weeks now—but their excuses for not wanting to move to conference keep changing.”

“At first Republicans told us we needed “a framework” before they would allow us to move to conference—though they never explained what that meant.  Then, the story changed, and they told us they would only let us move to conference if we made certain guarantees about the outcome. Then, just last week, the story changed again, and Senate Republicans claimed that despite the fact that we engaged in a fair and open budget process here in the Senate less than two months ago, they think we need a do-over—with another 50 hours of debate on top of the 50 hours of debate less than two months ago, and another round of unlimited amendments on top of the unlimited amendments that were allowed already.”

“…to claim that regular order involves a second full Senate budget debate is simply not true.  The Senate has never been forced to go through a full debate and open amendment process twice just to get to conference. Not one case. It would be completely unprecedented.”

“…it’s not just Democrats who want to go to conference—quite a few Senate Republicans disagree with their leadership’s position.”

“…instead of scrambling to find new excuses for their budget conference flip-flops, Senate Republicans should realize that their opposition to bipartisan negotiations is simply not sustainable and should come back to the table.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, it has now been 59 days since the Senate and House have both passed our budget resolutions.  The American people are now expecting us to get together and do everything possible to bridge the partisan divide and come to a bipartisan deal—and Senate Democrats are ready to get to work.

“But unfortunately, despite their focus over the past two years on the need to return to regular order, Republicans are now refusing to allow us to move to a bipartisan budget conference.

“Many Republicans, including the Ranking Member on the Budget Committee, Senator Sessions, had been very clear up until recently that after the Senate engages in an open and fair budget markup process, “the work of conferencing must begin.”

“Minority Leader McConnell said back in January that if the Senate Budget is different than the House Budget, then “Send it off the conference. That’s how things used to work around here. We used to call it legislating.” Mr. President, I couldn’t agree more with Minority Leader McConnell’s words from back in January.

“But over the past few weeks we have tried to move to conference 8 times, and each time, Senate Republicans have stood up and said no. They have managed to stall for weeks now—but their excuses for not wanting to move to conference keep changing.

“At first Republicans told us we needed “a framework” before they would allow us to move to conference—though they never explained what that meant.  Then, the story changed, and they told us they would only let us move to conference if we made certain guarantees about the outcome.

“Then, just last week, the story changed again, and Senate Republicans claimed that despite the fact that we engaged in a fair and open budget process here in the Senate less than two months ago, they think we need a do-over—with another 50 hours of debate on top of the 50 hours of debate less than two months ago, and another round of unlimited amendments on top of the unlimited amendments that were allowed already.

“Mr. President, this is absurd. 

“First of all, to claim that regular order involves a second full Senate budget debate is simply not true.  The Senate has never been forced to go through a full debate and open amendment process twice just to get to conference. Not one case. It would be completely unprecedented. 

“In fact, every single time since 1994 that the Senate moved to conference, it was done by unanimous consent—with bipartisan support. Which is exactly the way it ought to be done.

“And second of all, Mr. President, the Senate engaged in a full and open debate in which any member could offer any budget amendment they wanted to—and we did that less than two months ago. I know my colleagues remember this, but I would be happy to quote some of what was said about the process if any reminders are needed.

“As the debate and votes came to a close, Minority Leader McConnell said that the Senate had just engaged in “an open and complete and full debate.”

“He continued, saying “I know everyone is exhausted, and people may not feel it at the moment, but this is one of the Senate’s finest days in recent years, and I commend everyone who has participated in this extraordinary debate.”

“Ranking Member Sessions said that the Budget Committee markup was “an open process,” where, “everybody had the ability to offer amendments.” Senator Sessions also said on the Senate floor as the debate was wrapping up he was thankful that Republicans had “free ability to speak and debate.”  And for  “helping us move a lot of amendments fairly and equitably tonight.”

“So Mr. President, there is no question that the Senate engaged in a fair, open, and lengthy debate about our budget before we passed it.  And there is absolutely no good reason to ask that we do it all over again—unless the intention was to stall the process and push us closer to a crisis.

“So Mr. President—instead of scrambling to find new excuses for their budget conference flip-flops, Senate Republicans should realize that their opposition to bipartisan negotiations is simply not sustainable and should come back to the table.

“Senate Republicans may not agree with the substance of our budget—but they will have another opportunity to fight for changes in a bipartisan conference that they would be included in.  That’s the appropriate and responsible path forward, and I hope that Senate Republican leaders decide to move back to the position they maintained just a few months ago.

“Mr. President—it’s not just Democrats who want to go to conference—quite a few Senate Republicans disagree with their leadership’s position.

“My colleague Senator McCain said blocking conference is “incomprehensible” and “insane.”

“Senator Corker said that to “keep from appointing conferees is not consistent.”

“And Senator Flake said he “would like to see a conference now.”

“Mr. President, House Republican have been spending a lot of their time recently trying to decide among themselves what they would like to demand in return for allowing the federal government to pay its bills.

“They seem to think they have something to gain by pushing our country closer to crisis—but they are misjudging just how sick and tired the American people are of these kind of partisan games and the constant brinksmanship. So I urge them to reconsider this deeply damaging and unsustainable approach, and to join us in a bipartisan conference where we can get to work without waiting for the next manufactured crisis.

“Senate Democrats don’t think there’s any reason to wait, and I am hopeful that at least Senate Republicans will agree with us today and allow us to move to a conference and work together toward a balanced and bipartisan budget deal.

“Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 33, H. Con. Res. 25; that the amendment, which is at the desk, the text of S. Con. Res. 8, the budget resolution passed by the Senate, be inserted in lieu thereof; that H. Con. Res. 25, as amended, be agreed to;  the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; that the Senate insist on its amendment, request a conference with the House on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses, and the chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of the Senate, all with no intervening action or debate.