30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - June 18, 2007)
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you, Mr. Altmire.
And I am going to maybe abbreviate my view on what happened last week and just call it what it is: hypocrisy.
Where were our good friend on the other side of the aisle when they controlled this process for 12 years? And I am not going to spend a lot of time on the process because that is all they have because if they allow the debate to turn to the substance of the legislation, the substance of the appropriations bills that we are moving forward and will pass off this floor, with the vast majority of them supporting it because they have to, because when they admit that the substance of the legislation that we are putting forward in the Homeland Security bill, in the military construction bill, in the other bills that will be coming forward to this floor, they have to admit that not only are they good bills but they go much further and do a much better job of providing for the needs of this country than they ever did.
On the floor last week, I took an opportunity to spend a few minutes debating the process with them. One of the things that I had an opportunity to engage in debate on was where was their outrage on the other side when they controlled this process? Where were the reformers, leaping to their feet, urging and pounding on their leadership to adopt transparency and to adopt a process in which they could have the maximum amount of input into earmark reform?
The answer is it was nonexistent because they didn't care about it. It didn't matter to them. They were very happy fat and happy to take all the earmarks they could get, bring them home, tied up with their lobbyists and their friends and their culture of corruption, all twisted up and intertwined, and that is what their process was like. And our process is clear and transparent and participatory and inclusive, and they can't stand it. So what they have to do is they have to try to muck up the perception of what we are doing here because if they acknowledge what is really going on, not only have we adopted a more inclusive, more transparent process when it comes to earmark reform, but the substance of our legislation they have to support because they know that we are going much further than they did.
I want to go beyond process, though, to President Bush's veto threat of the Homeland Security appropriations bill. He actually has threatened to veto this bill, which is just absolutely astonishing. And one of the things that I have heard him articulate, Mr. Meek and Mr. Altmire, is that if the Congress proposes to spend $1 over what he proposed in his administration's budget that he would veto any of that legislation. And that includes the Homeland Security bill, which provides for the homeland security needs for our border protection, for our first responders, for the 9/11 Commission recommendations that we passed in the first bill out of this Chamber during our 100-hour push for the Six in 06 agenda, and the President is actually proposing to veto a bill that would ensure that we spend more money on protecting our homeland domestically.
You know, you can argue process and earmarks and reform and all that. But at the end of the day, that is the stark contrast that people of this country have to choose from. When they go to the polls next November and when they evaluate how they think a Democratic Congress is doing versus how a Republican Congress did, at the end of the day, we are passing a Homeland Security appropriations bill that will really provide for the domestic homeland security needs, as opposed to continuing to twist us up and mire us in the war in Iraq with an endless, open-ended commitment that never proposes to get us out of there.
On top of that, we have a President who has been critical of a military construction bill that will provide for the largest single increase in veterans' health care in history. I mean this is how backwards their priorities are. Under the Republican control, their goal was to help lobbyists, was to make sure that they brought home as many earmarks that were pushed by lobbyists as they could. And, instead, what we are doing here is we have transparency, where people will know, anyone can know, who is sponsoring an earmark, where any Member can offer an amendment to strike an earmark, where any Member can offer to sponsor an earmark. Members will be able to participate in the conference process, which you would think that that would be a normal thing, but it wasn't normal under the Republicans because you couldn't even participate as the minority in the conference process.
But at the end of the day, all of that has been a deliberate distraction because they can't argue with the content of our appropriations bills because they are much stronger and go much further and do more for the country than they did. They don't win that debate. They don't win a head-to-head, toe-to-toe debate on the substance, so they have to try to distract people with the process. And that is what I am hopeful that we can get into in this 30-Something hour and future special order hours that we participate in, because what we need to make sure we focus on is the substance of our legislation, because they would like nothing better than to twist us up in debate on process.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Let's zero in specifically on what we did compared to what they did. If you recall, that was the energy bill that they held open for 40 minutes longer than our normal time limit so they could twist enough arms to get the votes to ensure that they could give the oil companies $14 billion in subsidies, give them those subsidies in the face of world record profits. Now, you know, we support profit. Profit is a good thing. Profit is not a bad word; it's a good thing. But when you are doing what they did, which was forgive the royalties that the oil industry would have been required to pay the Federal Government; they are supposed to pay the Federal Government to use the land that they drill on in exchange for the oil that they pull out and make a profit on. And the Republican majority gave away the $14 billion and said, no, no, no, very profitable oil industry, that's okay, you don't have to pay us. Just put that in your pocket, no problem. And what we did, as part of our 100-hour agenda in the Six in '06 bills that we passed when we first became the majority is we passed a bill that repealed those $14 billion in give-aways and said, what we are going to do with that money is we are going to use it to fund alternative energy research so that we can make sure that we truly make a commitment to wean ourselves off of our addiction to foreign oil, which were nice words that the President said in the State of the Union last year, but then promptly he signed that energy bill that gave $14 billion in subsidies away to the oil industry. So I just wanted to jump off that poster because it really needed to be zeroed in on.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. If the gentleman will yield, I am so pleased. We are all pleased that we have been joined by Mr. Altmire and the 40 other Democratic freshmen in his class who are majority makers who came to Congress to help us move this country in a new direction and make it possible to move this country in a new direction.
The stark contrast you are talking about, where you have tired old, same old, do business as shall Republicans standing with the Republican standing with the President, supporting his veto, his suggestion that he would veto the Homeland Security appropriations bill.
Now, I sit on the Appropriation Committee so I know what is in that bill and had an opportunity to comment on it and participate in it, and I am proud to have supported it.
But I would like Mr. Altmire, given that he is part of the new direction Democrats and our freshmen class who brought us to this point, to outline for us, let's talk just exactly what the President is talking about vetoing. Let's outline that for folks.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Were PAYGO rules, in other words, not spending more than you are taking in, were those in place before Democrats took over the Congress?
Mr. ALTMIRE. They came into place in the 1990 budget agreement.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I mean just a few months ago, before November 7, in the 109th Congress.
Mr. ALTMIRE. They were allowed to expire, and that led to the record deficits of the past 6 years that I talked about earlier.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. And who reinstated the PAYGO rules to make sure that we didn't spend more money than we took in?
Mr. ALTMIRE. On our very first day in Congress, it was this Congress that reinstated the pay-as-you-go. As a result, all of these appropriations bills that the President is threatening to veto, for the first time in 6 years, these appropriations bills are compliant with PAYGO. They say simply, as I said, you have to have money on one side to pay for it on the other. If you want to increase spending, or decrease revenue, for that matter, you have to find an offset to pay for it on the other side of the ledger. That is what the President is talking about vetoing.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman outlining what the President has been threatening to veto.
I want to take it a step beyond the Homeland Security appropriations bill and outline a few of the other bills all related to homeland security that the President has also threatened to veto. Tonight what we aim to show, fact versus fiction, is basically who is for homeland security and who is just kidding, who is just talk, who is just a lot of hot air, versus who is supportive of putting forward substance.
The only thing I can think of in terms of a reason that you have these veto threats and suddenly the President discovers ink in his pen, never having threatened a veto in his first 6 years, instead of an ``R'' next to the idea there is a ``D'' next to the idea. Now this is from a person who has talked a really nice story about being bipartisan and working with the Democratic Congress. This is how he has been proposing to work with the Democratic Congress: proposing to veto the Homeland Security appropriations bill which has a lot of very important issues that went unaddressed by the Republican Congress.
Also, threatening to veto the 9/11 Commission recommendations which was his own 9/11 Commission. We just passed that bill in our Six in 06 agenda with a vote of 299-128. And that would fully implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
The Homeland Security authorization bill which is the statutory provisions in Homeland Security that go with the appropriations bill, he has threatened to veto that. That authorizes $40 billion for the activities of the Department of Homeland Security and includes strong accountability measures which were nonexistent under the Republican majority.
He has threatened to veto the rail and transit security bill, H.R. 1401, which requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop plans to protect rail and mass transit and authorizes $6 billion over 4 years in grants to protect those systems. We don't have a system in place to protect rail and mass transit.
In south Florida, we don't have a really strong mass transit system. You do in the major populations across the country. How many times have you been on a train and been checked or gone through security? There are no security measures around our rail system. We proposed legislation to do that, and the President is threatening to veto that.
The Dubai Ports bill, maybe people have forgotten about the proposal that the administration was completely supportive of and allowed to sail through their FISA process that would have allowed essentially a state foreign-owned company to own port terminals in America. I mean, that just sailed through the administration's process. They basically ignored Federal law and allowed it to happen. We passed a law to tighten that. That passed 423-0. No threat to veto there. We weren't going to allow that situation to continue. We need to ensure foreign countries do not own our port terminals and further undermining our security in America.
Now we have passed the military construction appropriations bill that would ensure that we have the largest single increase in veterans health care in American history, in addition to the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act which responds to the Walter Reed scandal, also ignored by the Republicans. That passed 426-0, but it took Democrats to pass that legislation.
Really what this is about is who is for homeland security and who is just talk; who is for homeland security and who is just kidding. At the end of the day, actions are what speak louder than words. It is what you learned in kindergarten: Follow what people do, don't just listen to them talk, talk, talk. We have to show the American people what the Democrats are trying to accomplish that Republicans and this President is trying to block.
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