30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - November 15, 2005)
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. This is really amazing, and I guess, you know, it would not be a surprise. It was an excellent suggestion on your part, Mr. Ryan; and we, I think, are trying to make our generational working group here innovative. I mean, I think we all, as individual Members of Congress basically make our highest priority the ability and desire for us to interact directly with our constituents. And the one place that we are generally not able to do that is on the floor when we are here debating the very issues that impact everyone in this country.
We can interact fairly well with constituents in committee because they can obviously testify in front of us in committee meetings. We obviously interact with constituents in our offices. But once we are here, this is a very insular environment. This opportunity tonight for us to kick this off, 30-something Live, and interact with people who will be submitting questions to us online will be historic and exciting.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Now, you and I, we are ready to rock and roll on this. And when Mr. Meek gets here, he is going to be ready to rock and roll. But we may have to break it down for our favorite uncle.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Maybe we need a glossary for Mr. Delahunt.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. We can break it down.
Mr. DELAHUNT. If I can just interrupt, I heard that in my absence the other night that there were some comments that were made about my lack of, well, made about my absence. Could you explain that to me?
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. I cannot remember exactly which one of us said something, but it was to the effect that we had to tuck you in bed and make sure that you were getting your proper amount of rest.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Well, I am part of the 30-Something Working Group. I might be a two-fer, though. You know, I mean, I would suggest that in my case you get two for one.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. The only difference in your definition of 30-something is maybe it is 30-something by decade.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Something.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. And we are 30-something by year.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Exactly. It is a very loose term.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. This is not the last time we are going to do this. We are kicking this effort off. So even if we do not get to all the questions tonight, which with over 400 we obviously will not be able to in the 60 minutes, we will be doing this again.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Both of my colleagues are absolutely right. The President has some nerve questioning our patriotism. That is what America is all about. I happen to be in the middle of reading Washington's biography. The Founding Fathers created this country so that there could be an opportunity for a vocal minority to express dissent. The farthest thing from their mind when they created this country was that opposition would be unpatriotic. Of course it is certainly understandable given the climate that the Republican leadership has created here where they do not allow or expect either members of their own party to disagree with them and certainly have structured the rules so that it is virtually impossible for us to voice disagreement or make a significant impact on the process once the process reaches here. Mr. Speaker, the people that have communicated with us have caused me to ask this question. Not only has the President called into question the patriotism of those of us who have questioned why we are still there and when are we going to have a plan to withdraw, but he has also implied that Democrats who have objected to the way we got into this war and the misrepresentation or misallocation of the facts that led us into this war, he has also suggested that those same Democrats saw the same intelligence that the President did. No, they did not. That is factually inaccurate.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Neither did Paul O'Neill, the former Secretary of Treasury who served on the National Security Council.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. The bottom line is that every morning the President gets an intelligence document that we are not privy to. He gets massive amounts of intelligence that they do not widely distribute, even though we have security clearance, widely distribute to Members of Congress. So they were able to be, one would think, Mr. Speaker, selective in what they released to the Members of Congress when we were in the throes of making the decision about whether or not to support, and I was not here at that time, but when those of you that were here were in the throes of deciding whether to support the war.
I just want to read this question that brought this all to mind. You have Mr. Lehman from Goshen, Indiana, who said to us, Since the Iraq war and tax breaks for the wealthy have devastated our Federal budget, why can't the Democrats invoke procedures to semi-close down Congress as this is an emergency situation which is affecting our national economy when the money could be better spent on domestic social programs including hurricane relief. Cut and strut.
That is a really good point. If the American people are asking what are we doing in Iraq when we have so many needs here, when we have literally hundreds of thousands of people in our gulf coast twisting in the wind literally because we cannot get them the assistance they need, yet we are sending millions of dollars, billions of dollars as the gentleman from Ohio has detailed in the charts we have here in the last few weeks that we have been talking about this, the administration has literally chosen sending assistance, infrastructure rebuilding assistance, to the Iraqi people and we are not able to provide that for our own people. All the while, today, they may still be in the committee meeting now, our own Ways and Means Committee is marking up the tax reconciliation bill, $70 billion in tax reconciliation to supposedly balance out the budget deficit, the budget deficit reduction act which is a total misnomer that they could not pass last week. The reason that they could not pass it and the reason that it makes no sense is because if you are passing $70 billion in tax cuts and $50 billion in spending cuts, that still leaves $20 billion. That is the kind of thing that the people who are communicating with us are asking, just like Mr. Lehman from Indiana.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. In that vein, we actually have an e-mail from one of the folks out there in blogger land who wants us to talk about and ask the question, Mr. Speaker, are the rules that have been enacted for the operation of our U.S. House of Representatives constitutional? And if not, what is the remedy for that? There is a person from Vermont. Can a lawsuit be brought about legal or unconstitutional House rules?
In other words, all Americans must have representation in their government, Mr. Speaker; and if Democrats are ignored because of House rules, not allowed hearings like the ones you are talking about, not allowed to offer an amendment on the House floor to legislation when we are duly elected in the same way, putting our pant legs on one at a time just like they do, or a skirt, like I do on occasion, because of House rules that give full power to a majority political party, half the country does not have representation in the day-to-day business of our own government.
That is the bottom line. We are shut down. And this is not about whining. This is not about, gee, we cannot get in our say. This is about that we were duly elected just like every one of the other 434 Members of this body, and it is not like that in the U.S. Senate. In the U.S. Senate, the minority is treated with respect. It does not always go their way, but they can at least make an impact. It is truly enough.
What is more unfortunate is how the Republican leadership in this Chamber misrepresents how the process works here, as if we are allowed to call hearings whenever we want to or have subpoena power in the Katrina committee that was created a few weeks ago. They really, consistently, at least since I have been here from the beginning of this year, if you recall during the Schiavo case, facts were not relevant. They just made it up if it suited their argument.
Mr. DELAHUNT. And they will not have a hearing. They are afraid of transparency and accountability.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. And they protect themselves with the rules. They hide behind the rules.
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