Thank you, Mr. President. As we approach the final vote on the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Bill, I would like to make a few closing comments.

When we began considering this bill last week, Senator McCain and I were interested in returning to regular order and having debate and votes on any amendment that needed a vote.  We actually started off very well.  While I disagreed with Senator Paul’s amendment to sunset the current authorization for the use of military force, I am pleased we were able to follow regular order on his amendment and have a debate.  It is my hope that we can use this as a step to restore regular order going forward and work together, along with Senator Paul, in drafting a new AUMF that more precisely addresses the threats we face and resolves the issue, which is very critical, that Senator Paul has raised; that is, updating the AUMF.

After the Paul amendment, however, we were unable to come to an agreement on further votes.  As a result, several issues that are important to both sides were not fully considered.  On the Democratic side, Senators Baldwin, Stabenow, and Donnelly had very important amendments that would have ensured important protection for American workers and that our servicemembers receive high-quality, domestically produced equipment.  In addition, Senator Durbin had an important amendment that supports the world-class medical research DOD conducts and has a profound impact on the health of our servicemembers and citizens alike.  Senator Warren would have liked a discussion on the INF Treaty, and Senator Gillibrand was interested in a full debate on protections for military personnel who are transgender.  As I indicated, I also know there are Members on the other side of the aisle who also had important issues they wanted to debate.  I regret we were not able to have those debates and votes.  

I am pleased, however, that we are able to include several dozen agreed upon amendments in this bill from both Democrats and Republicans which will strengthen the legislation.  In the end, this bill represents a strong bipartisan effort to provide the military with the resources they need and the support they deserve. Moving forward, more work needs to be done.  It is clear we need to find a sustainable, equitable path forward that will end sequestration and provide the additional resources needed for our current readiness shortfalls.  I look forward to working together to continue to address the needs of the Department and our servicemembers.

I would like to close by thanking Senator McCain in my remarks about the NDAA for his leadership in guiding this bill through our committee markup process and the floor.  I believe this bill truly exemplifies Senator McCain’s unrivaled dedication to the men and women of our Armed Forces.  His firm hand and unwavering resolve for a bipartisan approach were invaluable in achieving a bill that reflects the priorities of many Members on both sides of the aisle.

Additionally, I would like to thank the committee staff who worked tirelessly over many weeks to make this bill a reality.  I thank the majority staff director, Chris Brose, and his staff for their hard work and commitment to a bipartisan process.  I would also like to thank my staff for their expertise and dedication to creating the best bill possible — Jody Bennett, Carolyn Chuhta, Jon Clark, Jonathan Epstein, Jorie Feldman, Jon Green, Creighton Greene, Ozge Guzelsu, Gary Leeling, Kirk McConnell, Maggie McNamara, Bill Monahan, Mike Noblet, John Quirk, Arun Seraphin, and Elizabeth King.  Finally, I would like to thank the floor staff, without whom none of this could be accomplished.

I must say, having completed a truly bipartisan process using regular order, I am disappointed to hear that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would like to bring back the partisan efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with preexisting conditions and decimate Medicare as we know it.  We have already spent so much time this year having this fight—time we could have spent working on a bipartisan basis to improve our health care system and lower costs.  We voted decisively in July to reject the partisan bill.  With these votes, Senators on both sides of the aisle decided we would return to regular order and work toward bipartisan health care solutions that could get at least 60 votes in this body.

As I have highlighted, this kind of bipartisan approach is why we have been successful in bringing the NDAA to the floor each year, and Senators Alexander and Murray have been doing just that with respect to the HELP Committee. They have had four hearings over the last two weeks, with witnesses from both parties, from Governors to health insurance commissioners, to leaders in the industry.  I have great confidence in my colleagues and their ability to craft a bipartisan bill to improve the ACA that a majority of Senators could support.  

This is a bipartisan, inclusive process, and I should note, it is undertaken by one of the two committees that have jurisdiction for health care.  So for my Republican colleagues to now decide, after this critical work is already underway, that we are going to scratch those efforts and return instead to a partisan process, in which not even Republican Senators have had the opportunity to fully review the bill, make changes or even get analysis of the bill, I think that process is wrong. Let’s not be fooled by the new effort. The legislation would have the same effects as the other versions of TrumpCare we saw rejected.  We have heard the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the latest version of TrumpCare.  

This is not the right process.  It is not representative of the legislative process.  I would urge my colleagues to reject this approach and, rather, follow the example I think we have tried to set in NDAA—a bipartisan, regular process, in which amendments are offered by both sides, in which debate is undertaken, in which we come to a conclusion based on 60 votes and move forward to improve the country, particularly to protect the men and women in the armed services.

With that, I yield the floor.