Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott Comments on His Vote Against Cloture on the Immigration Reform Bill

When you have the legislative process in full bloom in the Senate, it sometimes is bumpy. Of course, last night we proved once again the absolute rule that if the Senate is in voting at midnight or 1 o’clock, we are going to mess up. It happens every time, and yet, leaders continue to do it. I used to do it. It is one of the dumbest things we do around here. But, look, this is a part of the process. This is a worthwhile effort.

If anybody in America likes where we are with illegal immigration, and legal immigration, if they think what we have now is good or tolerable, fair or responsible, then, fine, let’s try to kill this bill – kill it with amendments, kill it with debate, vote it down. I don’t think that is responsible. This is one of the biggest issues facing this country, and the question is: Do we have the courage, tenacity, and the ability to get anything done anymore? If we cannot do this, we ought to vote to dissolve the Congress and go home and wait for the next election. Can we do anything anymore?

I don’t like a lot of these amendments. I don’t like a lot that is in the bill. I was in and out of the meetings, but I was not one of the people who worked on the so-called “grand bargain.” Some people are acting now as if it were a sinister operation. I don’t believe so. Everybody knew there was an effort underway. Republicans were involved; Democrats were involved; the Administration was involved; conservatives, liberals, agriculture – everybody. Now we are going to pick it to death? I just don’t think this is responsible.

I am getting calls, but I would say to my constituents: Do you have no faith in me after 35 years that I am just going to buy a pig in a poke here or be for something that is bad?

Last year I voted against what we came up with because I did not think it got better. It got worse. But we have an obligation to try, and we should not get all in a twit because we made one mistake or we don’t get the one we wanted. Look, I voted for amendments that passed and amendments that failed. Get over all of that. This is a big issue. This is the U.S. Senate, the great deliberative body. Are we going to belie that description or are we going to step up to this challenge and try to get it done right?

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We should vote down cloture now. Cloture should not have been filed. You can’t ram the Senate. You can’t ram the minority around here. It just will not work. All it does is make people get madder, and it takes longer.

So we are going to have a vote on cloture, and we are going to defeat cloture because more amendments are legitimately pending. But I am serving notice that I am going to be a part of trying to help to find a way to get to a conclusion, to a vote. Vote it up. Vote it down. But to try to kill it with all of those amendments that are being thrown up here for the purpose of killing it, to me, is not an appropriate way to proceed.

I think our leaders work through difficult times. They are being pulled and pushed by members on both sides. This is the time where we are going to see whether we are a Senate anymore.

Are we men and women or mice? Are we going to slither away from this issue and hope for some epiphany to happen? No. Let’s legislate. Let’s vote. I think the majority leader has a right to expect that at some point, we end it, try to cover as many objections and as many amendments as we can. But at some point, we have to get this done.

Unfortunately the idea that then we are going to go to a debate on a nonbinding, irrelevant amendment by Senator Schumer, if we defeat this legislation? If we fall off into that kind of character debate on a nonbinding resolution, we are fixing to drop off into a basement we haven’t been in, in a long time.

I urge my colleagues, let’s step back from the precipice. Let’s legislate. Let’s find a way to take up things. Do we need to take up energy? Yes. We need an energy policy. We need it now. But can we do it? I want to be a part of a process that gets results for the American people. I don’t know why else you would want to serve in this institution.

I appreciate the legislative leadership Senator Kennedy has been providing. I know it is not easy. His own colleagues and those of us over here have been beating him up. He IS a nice poster child, and I thank him very much for what he does! One thing I have learned the hard way: when it comes to legislating, when you are dealing with Senator Kennedy, you better bring your lunch because you are going to get educated. You are going to learn a lot, and you are going to get a result. Hopefully it is going to be a good one. Good luck.

Senator Trent Lott Floor Speech