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REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): (In progress) -- it is a very serious matter. It is a sacred right of the American people. It was a privilege for me to discharge it. And I know I speak for all our members that our walkout last night was not taken lightly in any measure, but was -- let me say the reason that I walked off the floor, I think the reason Republicans walked off the floor last night was not an argument over procedure. It was not an argument over parliamentary procedure.
We walked off the floor because Republicans made an effort in our motion to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving welfare, specifically food stamps. And Republicans won the vote to deny illegal immigrants welfare benefits. And the imperial Democrat majority changed the vote, abused the rules of the House, for the sole and exclusive purpose of ensuring that illegal immigrants could receive welfare benefits.
Again, this was not an issue of parliamentary procedure. This is not an issue of history and tradition. It's not an issue of what's fair between majorities and minorities. We walked out on behalf of the overwhelming majority of the American people who do not want illegal immigrants to receive federal taxpayer dollars. That's all this issue was about. The Republicans won the vote. We maintain that that vote must stand.
There is no other acceptable option for the American people. And for my part I will hold out until this Democrat majority accepts the true vote on this measure, denies illegal immigrants access to welfare benefits in the form of food stamps, and then we can move on to other issues.
REP. RON LEWIS (R-KY): Well -- I'm Ron Lewis from the 2nd district in Kentucky.
What adds insult to injury to what happened last night when the Democrat majority overturned a vote after the gavel had come down, as Mike just said, in order to give taxpayer dollars to illegal aliens. But what adds insult to injury to this is that we just passed a bill, the S-CHIP bill, that did not go through regular order. And that bill, if it becomes law, would take $197 billion out of the Medicare trust fund, from our seniors, to give to illegal aliens.
It also takes money from legitimate kids here in the United States and gives it to people who are not citizens. This is just wrong, and I hope the American people will let the new majority know that they do not want their tax dollars taken from senior citizens and given to people who are not citizens.
REP. JOHN MICA (R-FL): Let me just -- let me just say something. John Mica, probably one of the senior members here.
Some of you know my brother was a Democrat member. I'm a Republican member. We've been around here, the Micas, for 30-some years. I've never seen in my service or their service what took place last night.
It was indeed a low moment for the House. I tell you when I go back to the district, the number one issue that people ask me about is illegal immigration, about people being here and getting better benefits than our seniors and our veterans.
What this was about last night wasn't procedure, but we won a fundamental vote that denied welfare benefits and other benefits that sometimes our seniors and veterans don't get in this country. That was a fair vote. It was -- it was open. The American people want to stop the magnet that attracts illegal aliens.
The biggest question that we had before Congress, we won that vote fairly and squarely, and the American people were denied the results of that fair, just vote. Under the rules of procedure of the House we were denied the out -- the fair and just outcome by what took place last night. It's unprecedented.
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): One of the things that we saw last night was a clear definition of where the Democrat leadership has their priority. And that priority is, to them, it is more important to let illegal immigrants be paid, fed and sheltered with U.S. taxpayer dollars than it is to let the voice of the American people be heard. It is shameful, it is inappropriate and my hope is that they are going to change their ways. This is not the way the U.S. House of Representatives is supposed to work.
Our nation is a great nation. It has benefited from a two-party system. And we have leadership that is trying to run it as if they're the only party in charge. The American people are not going to stand still and see their taxpayer money used to give benefits to those that have broken the law to come to this country, to see them given priority -- to see them given priority -- over American citizens, and to see them given priority over American taxpayers who would like to keep those dollars to feed, to clothe, to educate and to shelter their children.
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): Phil Gingrey from Georgia.
I made two attempts to correct this problem, had an amendment on the agricultural bill on Tuesday that they called dilatory because we did want to slow down the process, because it was our only opportunity to stand up for the American citizens in regards to this massive expansion of S-CHIP which was coming to us on Thursday. And we knew with a closed rule this was our only opportunity to have that voice.
Later on I submitted two amendments to the Rules Committee with regard to no agricultural money being spent on the WIC program and food stamps for illegal immigrants. Those amendments were made not in order, and Mr. Obey said, literally on the floor, that the gentleman from Georgia was the reason that the House was shut down for four hours on Tuesday. And yet he comes back now and expects us to make his amendments in order.
So I should have expected exactly what they would do with our motions to recommit. My colleagues are absolutely right: this is not so much about process, this is about them taking away the voice of the American people that we represent that says, no food stamps, no WIC program, no Medicare -- Medicaid -- and S-CHIP for illegal immigrants.
And that's why we're here today.
REP. TODD AKIN (R-MO): One of the things that we've seen in the imperial tone that has been set is a disregard for all kinds of people that we see everyday in our own districts, people who are struggling to try to make ends meet.
And one of the things that's widely accepted by many of our constituents is that we don't want to have our taxpayers' dollars be going to pay for illegal immigrants. And this is something that continuously comes up.
Last night a vote was cheated on because we said we don't want welfare going to illegal immigrants. And the whole tone of the debate was set up earlier in the week when we decided we were going to take benefits away from people like my parents and people who are on the Medicaid -- or Medicare advantage program, we're going to take money away from them in order to give health care to illegal immigrants, to kids of illegal immigrants.
The imperial attitude is that money appears to grow on trees. But it comes from our constituents who are struggling to make ends meet. And we simply want to have the right to at least make an amendment or have a clean vote to make it clear where we stand that illegal immigrants should not be receiving welfare payments or free medical insurance. And that's what this is about.
REP. JEB HENSARLING (R-TX): Jeb Hensarling. I'm chairman of the Republican Study Committee representing the 5th district of Texas.
I don't believe ever in the 110th Congress has the radical agenda of the Democrat Party been more on display than it has been in this week. Earlier this week they took the unprecedented move of cutting Medicare -- cutting Medicare Advantage to millions of seniors, raiding the Medicare trust fund, placing a tax on every single nongovernment health insurance policy in America in order -- in order to give government health care benefits to illegal immigrants.
I did not think that could be topped until last night. Breaking over 200 years of precedent, after a vote has ended on the floor, the radical leadership of the Democrat Party reversed that vote in order to again give more government benefits to illegal immigrants -- in this case, food stamps and housing benefits.
Again, rarely has the radical agenda of this Democrat majority been more on display. The American people have the right to be outraged over the conduct that they saw, to use their hard-earned taxpayer money that they need for the health care of their family, that they need for the housing of their family, that instead is being given to illegal immigrants. And to reverse a vote on the House after it had been concluded has not -- is unprecedented in the entire history of America.
The American people will know more about this. They will be outraged. Their voice will be heard.
REP. STEVE PEARCE (R-NM): I'm Steve Pearce. I represent the 2nd district of New Mexico. That's southern New Mexico; we're 47 percent Hispanic. Many times when I go through the district some of the heartbreaking questions I get from Hispanic residents are how come my daughter and son who make $30,000 a year, just had a baby, and they have to pay $5,000 for that baby to be born, and we were proud of it. But the girl next to them in the bed next to them was here illegally and got free medical care. Why is that occurring in this country?
We had a clear vote last night, 215 to 213, where we were going to turn that policy around and stop paying the illegals who are here. No one of us are going to watch while people suffer. No one of us are going to watch distress in human lives, that we must reverse the government policy that is allowing that to occur.
When that vote occurred, the majority simply opened the vote back up to allow them to change it. Their own rules passed in the early part of this Congress said that they would not do that, that they were going to change the direction of this country and this Congress. And yet we find them over and over and over again, doing things which limit the rights of Americans to speak and to be heard, and we walked off the floor in protest.
I don't take lightly my responsibility to vote. I have never walked off a vote before. But the offenses are so great and the issue is so ultimate that we felt it necessary last night to do what was right and just to achieve justice to where the American voices are heard the same way they were heard by the Senate a week earlier.
Thank you very much.
REP. TIM MURPHY (R-PA): Tim Murphy from the 18th district of Pennsylvania.
I spent my life working in hospitals, in health care. And one of the things that was a priority for me when I came here was to represent the health care interests of my constituents.
And yet in this last week what we have seen is a high number of senior citizens -- some 55 percent of my district have Medicare advantage -- are going to be told that their out-of-pocket costs may double.
We also see that those with health insurance plans, their costs are going to go up because their taxes are going to be increased.
We also see, however, that those who are here illegally, those who are not citizens, those who are not voters, are going to get benefits that citizens will then have to pay more for and will be denied.
Something is terribly wrong with the priorities that have occurred in this Congress in these last few days, and something has to be done to correct this. And I hope that Americans are as infuriated as we are. Because when we see the benefits, when we see the costs, when we see the taxes change in this country in order to provide a priority for those who are here illegally, then America ought to be upset and ought to be speaking out.
REP. BRIAN P. BILBRAY (R-CA): Brian Bilbray, the 50th district of California. I'm the chairman of the Congressional Immigration Caucus.
And I think last night sent a very clear message to the American people that there are people in this town that are willing to break the rules and do extraordinary maneuvers just so that illegal aliens can get benefits.
This is the kind of stuff that the American people have been so outraged about that last month they rose up and said, enough is enough. Washington, start doing the right thing, and quit rewarding illegal behavior.
Last night it is astonishing that those in the new majority who claimed last election that they would finally start doing the right thing and stop rewarding illegal immigration were willing to break the rules and bend over backwards just so that illegal aliens can get this health benefit and do it at the price of law-abiding citizens.
Just -- there was no way the American people are going to allow this to lie. This is one of those minimal things that we ought to be doing just to make sure that taxpayer dollars are not going to illegals.
But last night you saw people in Congress that were willing to break the rules just to make sure that illegals got the benefits that the American people -- both Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- have said, Washington, stop doing this. Last night the vote came down. And when the majority of members of the House of Representatives said, we're with the American people -- Democrats and Republicans said no benefits to illegal aliens -- the leadership of the Democratic Party were willing to override that vote and actually violate their own procedures.
It just shows you that that's why the American people don't trust Washington to do the right thing when it comes to illegal immigration. And that's why there is going to be hell to be paid this summer over this issue. And if they think they can go home and not hear from their constituents, both Democrats and Republicans and Independents, they've got a long hot August that they're going to be confronted with.
MS. : Mr. Fest (sp), could you take us to a couple of questions please?
Q Two things first. Could you explain the difference between what Republicans did three years ago by holding the vote open three hours on Medicare Part D, and how that's different than this.
And secondly, you've taken tough votes before that you've won and lost. Are we starting a pattern here that, petulant behavior if you will, if you don't get your way you'll walk out?
REP. PENCE: I think it's a very fair question, and -- I'm Mike Pence from Indiana; I didn't mention that. I remember that night of the Medicare vote. I was one of the 25 Republicans that opposed the bill, and helped create two hours and 50 minutes of the longest open vote in American history.
But the gavel never fell until the end of the vote. There are two sacred things on the floor of the House of Representatives. One is a member's vote, and two is the gavel. All throughout the Medicare vote the gavel never fell. The vote was open. The rules of the House, whether I was comfortable with them that night or not, provide for a minimum of 15 minutes; there is no maximum amount of time for a vote.
The majority had the power last night to leave the vote open, but the member who I heard speak on the floor this morning, and I have great compassion for -- nevertheless the member in the chair with the power of the gavel struck the gavel, and the vote was closed, and the minority prevailed on the issue of saying we will not provide welfare benefits to illegal immigrants.
And after the gavel fell, the vote was reopened. You cannot ring a bell, you cannot unstrike a gavel. And therefore in my judgment the only acceptable outcome -- and I believe Republicans are of one mind on this -- the only acceptable outcome is that the vote must stand; we must ensure that illegal immigrants do not receive welfare benefits. The majority has spoken. The gavel had fallen. Nothing -- there's no further issue.
REP. HENSARLING: If I could just simply add to that. Both parties, and it's not a proud practice, but you can go back to when Jim Wright was speaker, and a vote was kept open for I believe 12 to 14 hours.
Is it a good practice? No. Should Republicans do it? No. Should Democrats do it? No. But this new majority -- this new majority promised they would not do that, that they would not keep a vote open to change the outcome. That was their commitment.
They said this would be the most fair, open and democratic Congress ever, and they did not shoot straight with the American people.
And I am unaware of any precedent in history that, once the vote is closed, to unilaterally say, I don't like the outcome of the vote. I want to assure that illegal immigrants get food stamps, that illegal immigrants get housing benefits -- not American citizens who have Medicare, not American citizens who may need more insurance for their children, but illegal immigrants.
The vote was closed, and the Democrat majority changed it.
Q Could you address the second part of my question -- I'm sorry -- the second part?
REP. PENCE: Which was what?
Q I asked you about the pattern of taking tough votes and -- (off mike).
REP. PENCE: Yeah, look, look, so long -- this is not about procedural arguments. This was not an argument between a minority -- a disgruntled minority on the floor of the Congress frustrated with losing to a majority.
The minority of the Congress won this vote to deny illegal immigrants access to welfare benefits. The vote prevailed. The gavel fell. The procedures were -- the procedural rules of the House were overturned in order to ensure that illegal immigrants would receive welfare benefits.
This was not a petulant argument between parties in the House; this was an argument on principle and on substance that illegal immigrants must not be permitted to receive welfare benefits in the food stamp program.
REP. BILBRAY: And I think it ought to be clarified that once the motion to recommit passed, procedures for the night were over. That's why, and that's a big difference. There was -- if you looked online, once the motion to recommit, there was no other items to be discussed, to be voted on that night.
Q Can I ask one more question? How do you intend to halt action on the floor -- (inaudible)?
REP. BILBRAY: How do we what?
Q How do you intend to halt action on the floor -- (inaudible)?
REP. BILBRAY: Well, the -- the real issue is that FISA should be brought up. It needs to be brought up. The issue in Minneapolis needs to be brought up.
But frankly you're going to have a real problem until this issue is settled about reopening votes, violating that and doing it -- and doing it -- the most outrageous thing, doing it to give benefits to illegals. That has to be settled one way or the other. Because the procedure, and the entire concept of counting votes, how do you have a representative form of government if you don't count votes and don't -- and -- and mess with the electoral process in the House of Representatives, the people's house.
So this thing has to be straightened out one way or the other. You're not going to have any procedures, in my opinion, until this gets straightened out, except for, I think all of us are willing to even overlook this violation of the representative form of government to try to get the two emergency things, the security of America and trying to address the tragedy in Minneapolis.
Q So what are you going to -- what's next? I know the leaders are meeting --
REP. BILBRAY: They are meeting right now. Look, I'm sure that Steny Hoyer knows that there was a terrible mistake made by the Democrats on the House floor last night. I think he knows that. He needs to say, we did a mistake. We shouldn't have done it. Let's try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Q Didn't he say that this morning at the end Mr. Boehner were a bit more conciliatory and then Mr. Blunt --
REP. BILBRAY: Then he needs to stand up -- he needs to stand up and say, we need to go back and look at how this could happen, why it happened. Because what you have now -- this is not the first incident where the chair has ignored the parliamentary procedure and ruled from the chair in violation of the parliamentary procedure, and the parliamentary's recommendation. You understand that this vote was called before they received the tally from the parliament, the parliamentary procedure. That's outrageous -- in other words does the chair now just announce any vote they want at any time? You don't count the votes before you announce the -- this is a big deal.
And then to do it on the illegal alien issue is just absolutely outrageous. And especially when they say, look, we all agree illegals shouldn't get benefits. Well, if you agree, then why are you breaking the rules to make sure that is an opportunity that's out there?
Thank you. I appreciate it.