Motion to Discharge

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 16, 2021
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, the eyes of the world are on Russia as it stages a military buildup on the Ukrainian border. Russia could literally invade Ukraine at any time. And the United States and the international community need to take strong, decisive action to dissuade a Russian offensive from invading Ukraine. I was glad to see the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, denounce Russia's action earlier today, but clearly words are not enough. Statements of support are not enough to counter an invasion. The United States and our NATO allies must provide additional support to Ukraine as they defend their borders, and time is of the essence.

Senator Durbin, the Senator from Illinois, and I have introduced a resolution to provide complete clarity on the U.S. Senate's position on this imminent conflict. Our resolution affirms the unwavering support of the United States for a secure, democratic, and independent Ukraine, but it also asserts the need for action. Our resolution calls on the Biden administration to provide additional lethal aid to Ukraine to counter ongoing Russian aggression.

Senator Durbin and I have been proud to notch a long list of bipartisan cosponsors, and I hope the Senate will pass this resolution before we break at the end of the year. Biden Administration

Madam President, on another matter, the first year of the Biden Presidency and the Democratic-majority controlled Congress is quickly coming to an end. Looking at everything that has happened so far this year, it is tough to imagine the American people are happy with how things are going.

President Biden raised all of our hopes and expectations during his inauguration, as he built his campaign and then spoke at his inauguration on a simple theme: unity. He talked about the need for people across the country to come together and empathize with one another and to work together. He promised to be a uniting force in Washington, DC, and pointed to his service in the U.S. Senate as evidence of his ability to work across the aisle to broker bipartisan deals.

Clearly, this message was welcomed by the American people. After all, they gave him the job in the first place. But just because voters picked a Democratic President doesn't mean they signed off on a radical transformation of our country. The American people elected a 50-50 Senate and lessened the Democratic majority in the House.

In short, Americans selected a President who promised to work across the aisle and a closely divided Congress--and gave us a closely divided Congress to ensure that he kept his word, but the American people have not gotten what they expected.

Right from the start, there were clear signs of where things were headed. At the beginning of the year, the two party leaders negotiated an organizing statement to determine how the 50-50 Senate would function. In light of the far-left's newfound obsession with eliminating the filibuster, Leader McConnell asked for assurances from Leader Schumer that the filibuster would remain intact. After all, it is not unreasonable to ask your negotiating partner to commit to not breaking the rules.

Even though Senator Schumer once said we should ``build a firewall around the legislative filibuster,'' he refused to agree to leave it alone, which was not very encouraging. Fortunately, two of our Democratic colleagues have committed to protect the filibuster, which ensures that there will be something that maybe is a little unnatural for human nature--to try to force us to work together to build consensus to do things like we did yesterday: pass the National Defense Authorization Act. That is not necessarily our first instinct.

But protecting the filibuster is important. It provides stability and continuity and predictability in our Nation's laws and to make sure that we don't add to the chaos by, every 2 years, after every election, reversing everything that had been done the previous 2 years.

We saw how tempted our Democratic colleagues were to use their newfound powers in the majority. That meant, unfortunately, forget working across the aisle or striking bipartisan deals--Senator Schumer made clear he wanted an easy path for purely partisan legislation.

The first item on his agenda was a $2 trillion liberal wish list unconvincingly disguised as pandemic relief. It included things like backdoor funding for Planned Parenthood, a blank check for mismanaged union pension systems, and money for climate justice. This had very, very little to do with COVID-19 and the pandemic, which is how it was sold.

The Democratic leader got a taste of partisan legislating and decided that he wanted more of it, so he tried to break the two Democratic Members on his side of the aisle who were protecting bipartisanship and consensus building. He lined up votes on some of our colleagues' most controversial bills, all of which were designed to fail. There was a bill that exploited the cause of pay fairness to line the pockets of trial lawyers. Unsurprisingly, it did not pass.

Senator Schumer forecasted votes on two bills that were so unpopular among Democrats that they didn't even make it to the Senate floor. One was to erode the American people's Second Amendment rights, and another would punish schools and hospitals that refused to comply with ``woke'' social norms.

But without a doubt, the most dangerous legislation Democrats have pushed is to overhaul America's election system. The version of the bill we voted on this summer was so bad that I was surprised Democrats even had the gall to hold a vote on it.

The bill would have turned the bipartisan Federal Election Commission into a Democratic-controlled, partisan body. It would have seized States' constitutional authority to draw their own congressional districts, instead handing all the power to independent redistricting commissions. It would have federalized ballot harvesting--literally vacuuming up ballots and delivering them to a paid campaign staffer and political operatives who had a stake in the outcome of the election. The only thing it would have done for the people is decide the outcome of virtually every future election and--spoiler alert--make sure that Democrats would never lose.

If this bill weren't so dangerous, it would have been laughable. It is no surprise that the only bipartisan thing about this bill was the opposition. In both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats joined together to defeat this bill.

Still, our Democratic colleagues refused to throw in the towel. They rewrote the bill, tried to rebrand it, and brought it up for another vote in October. Once again, it failed. The Democratic leader has said this partisan legislation will resurface again sometime before the end of next year, but I don't expect the outcome to change.

Of course, amid all the partisan jockeying, there has been a large, dark cloud looming overhead known as the Build Back Better--or, rather, I think more accurately, ``Build Back Bankrupt''--bill. This legislation would drive up the cost of childcare for families and cut healthcare for the uninsured. It would hurt our energy security and increase the already sky-high energy costs. It would put taxpayers on the hook for massive handouts to blue State millionaires, organized labor, trial lawyers, wealthy media corporations, and a host of powerful friends of the Democratic Party.

Our Democratic colleagues have used every trick in the book to make the price of this spending spree look as small as possible. One of our Democratic colleagues even acknowledged the disingenuous advertising.

Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee have provided an honest score of the bill that passed the House and that has been proposed here in the Senate--one which ignores the gimmicks our colleagues initially tried to use. The Congressional Budget Office says that this bill would cost $4.9 trillion in the first 10 years alone--not zero, as President Biden has disingenuously claimed; not $1.75 trillion, as our Democratic colleagues have claimed; but $4.9 trillion, nearly triple the price Democrats have previously been willing to acknowledge. And deficits--money that would have to be repaid by the next generation and beyond--would increase by a staggering $3 trillion over the next decade.

As it turns out, spending trillions of dollars on unnecessary programs and dolling out handouts for the wealthy is not an easy sell. Senator Schumer apparently can't convince all 50 Democrats to vote for the bill.

While our colleagues have focused on these wholly partisan endeavors, they have ignored clear opportunities to work together in a bipartisan effort.

For example, Members of both parties agree that something must be done to bring down prescription drug prices for the American people. This was a major focus last Congress, and there are a range of bipartisan bills that support this goal, including one I have introduced with Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut. So far, we have made no progress for the American people on high prescription drug costs.

Then there is the crisis at the border. On President Biden's watch, annual border apprehensions have hit an alltime high. For most of the year, though, Democrats refused to acknowledge that any sort of problem actually existed at the southern border. They adopted the same rules as ``Fight Club''--they just didn't talk about it. Vice President Harris, named ``border czar'' by President Biden, didn't even visit the border until late last June, long after the humanitarian crisis had ballooned to unimaginable heights, and even then, she stayed away from the hardest hit sectors.

Senator Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, and I have introduced legislation with commonsense reforms to address the crisis, but the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Durbin, has declined to mark up the bill or even convene a hearing of the Judiciary Committee to investigate the border crisis and explore possible responses to it.

Democrats and Republicans have shown a willingness to work together to put DACA recipients on a strong legal footing. These are young people known as Dreamers but frequently referred to as DACA, deferred action on childhood arrival, which is the name of the administrative process used by the Obama administration to provide them some legal standing in which to stay in the country. But they have been embroiled in 10 years of unnecessary litigation, and they are uncertain about the outcome of their case. I think this is an area where we could work together to provide them some certainty and some finality.

There are other things we could and should be doing, like securing our most critical supply chains, encouraging innovation in the energy sector, and solving many of the challenges American families are facing every day. But rather than work across the aisle to address these bipartisan priorities, our colleagues have wasted a year on purely partisan exercises. Again, this is not what the American people thought they were getting when they elected Joe Biden President and when they gave the Senate a 50-50 split.

The 2020 election wasn't an invitation to codify a liberal wish list; it was a call to work together. And there is no better place for the work that can be done than in the U.S. Senate. There is a lot we can and should accomplish next year, but this sort of partisan, unilateral approach to governing has made that nearly impossible. You can only hope for better next year.

Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle got what they wanted, which was a Democratic majority, given the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. They have been given the keys to the kingdom, and now, next year, we will see how long they can hold on to them, or perhaps they can change course and return to bipartisan legislating and consensus building for the benefit of the American people.