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Thune Discusses Importance of Returning to Regular Order in the Senate

“I am very pleased that at least on the appropriations front, we are back where we should be – processing appropriations bills through regular order.”

September 7, 2023

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of regular order in the Senate, particularly as it relates to the committee process. Thune noted that the Senate Appropriations Committee, for the first time in five years, has processed all 12 appropriations bills through regular order and with bipartisan support. Thune called on Leader Schumer to empower all of his committee chairs to allow for this deliberative process that promotes bipartisanship and increases productivity, transparency, and trust.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

Mr. President, today I want to talk about something that has been going really right here in the Senate.

“And that is the use of regular order to consider the annual appropriations bills.

“What do I mean by regular order?

“For starters, regular order refers to allowing bills to go through the committee process – including hearings and a markup, where members of the committee have a chance to amend and improve the bill – before being referred by the committee to the Senate as a whole for additional debate and deliberation.

“The regular order process is key, Mr. President.

“It provides the time and space for real deliberation.

“It allows for input from a broad array of members and promotes collaboration and compromise.

“And it is a transparent process, one that ensures that both senators and the American people can see how the legislation in question is made, and have ample time to digest it.

“Not to mention the fact that by ensuring the input of more senators, the regular order process helps ensure that a broader swath of the American people is represented in any final legislation. 

“Mr. President, one of Congress’ most basic responsibilities is funding the federal government.   

“And for all the reasons I just listed, the way we should be doing that is through regular order.

“But we haven’t been doing the greatest job of that lately here in the Senate. 

“But this year, for the first time in five years, the Senate Appropriations Committee has processed all 12 appropriations bills through the committee.  

“And a huge amount of credit goes to Senator Collins, and to her Democrat counterpart Senator Murray, for making this happen.

“And I hope that this will not be a one-off, but the start of a new habit for the Senate – a habit of giving each of the appropriations bills the time, debate, and serious consideration they deserve.

“Mr. President, in their press release following passage of all 12 appropriations bills out of committee, Senators Collins and Murray noted that the bills had passed the committee by overwhelming bipartisan margins.

“And it’s not surprising.

“When you give members time to debate and amend legislation and make their concerns – and the concerns of their constituents – heard, you’re a lot more likely to get bipartisan buy-in on the final product.

“Mr. President, today we expect the Democrat leader to file cloture on a “minibus” of three appropriations bills – Agriculture; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, or THUD; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, or MilCon-VA.

“I hope that the hearing these bills got in committee will be matched by a similarly deliberative process on the floor, including ample time for consideration of amendments.

“Debate and amendment on the floor is another key element of the regular order process, and one that also helps promote a bipartisan final bill. 

“The debate on the National Defense Authorization Act in July was a good example of this. 

“Members had the opportunity to file and offer amendments when the bill came to the floor – resulting in consideration of 131 amendments, including 33 amendment votes – which helped the bill pass the full Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan margin. 

“I’m looking forward to next week’s debate on the minibus, and I’m very pleased that among many other good provisions, this year’s MilCon-VA appropriations bill will continue funding for building out the necessary infrastructure for the B-21 long-range strike bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

“The B-21 will revolutionize the Air Force’s long-range strike capabilities, and is an important step forward in ensuring that our military is prepared to meet and defeat 21st-century threats.

“And I have been working to ensure that the Air Force – and Ellsworth, the main operating base for the first B-21s – has everything it needs for the B-21 mission.

“So as I said, Mr. President, I am looking forward to debate on the Agriculture, THUD, and MilCon-VA appropriations bills.

“And I trust that we will continue working through appropriations bills in the coming weeks with full debates on the Senate floor.

“I expect we will need to pass a short-term CR to enable these debates, and allow for time to reconcile the House and Senate versions of these bills and get final versions to the president’s desk. 

“Mr. President, before I close I do want to mention one troubling thing among the good news about the regular order process.

“And that is the Democrat leader’s decision to, in his words, ‘invent a new process’ to deal with the thorny question of regulating AI, because the committee process, quote, ‘won’t suffice.’

“I’m not too sure what the majority leader hopes to gain by taking responsibility for oversight and examination of this subject away from the relevant committees of jurisdiction, who consider issues like this day-in and day-out and are well-versed in developing solutions. 

“And I am definitely worried that this new process will restrict senators’ input into the final product, leading to legislation created by the leader exclusively, without collaboration with other members or relevant committees.

“It’s a disappointing move, especially considering the progress we’ve made on returning to regular order with appropriations bills.

“And I’d like to see the leader show a little more faith in the committee process – and his committee chairs.

“But, again, I am very pleased that at least on the appropriations front, we are back where we should be – processing appropriations bills in committee and on the Senate floor.

“And I am looking forward to next week’s Ag, THUD, and MilCon-VA debate.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”