PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 7060, RENEWABLE ENERGY AND JOB CREATION TAX ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 25, 2008)
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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I want to thank my colleague and friend from Texas for yielding the time to me at this time.
I'm bitterly disappointed, frankly, that we find ourselves back here on this floor once again without an opportunity even to offer up an alternative. And to put it in perspective for my colleagues who may not frequent the Rules Committee, ``closed rule'' means that the minority has no opportunity to offer up an alternative. Period. No opportunity to come to this floor in this great democratic institution, the finest in the world, and have a chance to have a vote on an alternative to this measure. That's what a closed rule is. You shut it down, you shut out everybody else. You got your way. You run the train, and you ran right over the top of literally half the people in America, nearly, who are represented on this side of the aisle.
So what does that mean? It means the amendment that I hoped would be allowed to at least be debated and considered here will not be.
I appreciate my colleague from Washington's Fourth District, Doc Hastings, the gentleman from Pasco, Washington, who offered the amendment. And it was defeated on a strict party-line partisan vote that precludes our opportunity here on the floor when it went down to defeat to even have a discussion about what it means to the 20 counties I represent and the many that he does and the 4,400 school districts and multi-hundred counties in 42 States that have had their revenue sharing cut off because this Congress, this Congress has failed to reauthorize county payments program.
So why are we here?
The Senate had a similar bill to this. It passed 93-2. Huge bipartisan effort trying to get the problem solved for this country. That would have extended these extenders that help on renewable energy, which I'm a big fan of. It also took care of this enormously important issue to the West because it is principally a western issue because, frankly, that's where the Federal lands are is in the West.
Now I know that other counties and other school districts around the country are affected, certainly, and this legislation could have helped them had it been allowed to be offered, but it's not being offered. But nobody is affected more than my colleague from the Fourth District in Oregon and myself, our constituents, some of whom now are out of work.
The largest county in my district had to close all of its public libraries. Most of the road departments in my district have been cut in half, perhaps more. Now in some counties there's one road person for every 100 miles of road. Many of the roads will be turned back to gravel, back to gravel. That's not progress in America.
And the Rules Committee had the jurisdiction, has the authority to prevent that from happening by at least allowing us to have a vote. Not once, not twice, but multiple times they denied that vote.
Now the gentleman from New York raised in the discussion of the Rules Committee about a bill that was brought to the floor that would have reauthorized county schools and roads for 4 years. I was cosponsor of that bill originally under the premise and promise that when it came to the floor it would have a different pay-for because that's what was promised in the Resources Committee, and that payment in lieu of taxes would be included in that bill when it came to the floor--that was the promise, and it was broken. It came to the floor differently.
The gentleman will say, Well, you're in the pocket of Big Oil because we wanted to raise the fees on oil companies to pay for it. Well, please. Under the conservation of resource fee that is allowable under the contract at issue here, the leases, you can add that fee but you can't use it to pay for county payments. The courts have looked at this issue. You can use it to do resource work around the shorelines and all, but you violate contracts when you do it the way you all brought it to the floor.
So, we can argue about that. I happen to believe I'm right. I'm right, I know, in that the promises were broken when it came to the floor.
In addition to that, I also believe that you all have the power to decide how bills come to the floor. You made the decision to bring it under suspension of the rules, had to suspend the rules of the House, requiring a two-thirds majority for that to be passed in this House. And it failed.
And the reason you brought it to the floor under suspension was so that the Republicans could offer no alternative, because that's the issue, isn't it? When you bring a bill under suspension, you and I both know, all of us know the minority has no chance to offer an alternative; it's an up-or-down vote. So we had the up-or-down vote, and it failed.
So then the bill went away, except we also know that you in the majority are most powerful and in the Rules Committee have a 2-to-1 plus one vote. You could craft a rule tonight, just as you have done here, and you could bring that bill back to the floor tomorrow, couldn't you, because you have got 218 votes for it. You didn't get the two-thirds. You got 218. So any day since that bill failed on the floor on suspension, you could have brought it back.
And you could have sent it to the Senate. If you'd had the same pay-for, it would still violate contracts. The Senate's repeatedly refused to accept that pay-for, oh, by the way, I was told repeatedly it was nothing but a placeholder, anyway, and it was never going to be used to fund the bill. So it was never really going to get the job done.
This bill that the Senate sent to us would get the job done. It's honest. It's direct. It would pay for 4 years of county payments in PILT. It would put our people back to work. It would help people deal with the problems in our Nation's forests that are so, so at risk of fire and destruction. It would allow the funding to go back to the communities, to our schools, so that teachers could be hired rather than fired; so we could maintain the roads that lead to our national forests; so that we could pay for search and rescue; so we could actually have collaborative efforts again under title II to go out and bring people together and do what needs to be done in our forests.
You have that power in the majority. We had it when we were in the majority, and those who criticized us for not getting this reauthorized when it just went to expiration, you're right. I was frustrated with our own majority that we couldn't get it done. I take that criticism. I leveled that criticism because I am so passionate about the need to maintain this partnership that's now been broken not for 1 year but for 2.
And this is today. Today is when you make the decision to move forward or not. This is today. It's actually tonight. And we've had two shots today where you could have given us this alternative to at least have a vote on the floor.
So my colleague from Texas, I apologize for my time. I do not apologize for my passion on the need to get a chance to at least have a real vote on a real measure that the President would sign and that the Senate's approved.
So I am bitterly disappointed tonight that for the second time in one day we have been denied on a party-line vote the opportunity to even have this amendment be considered on the floor of this great democratic institution.
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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I thank the gentleman. I wonder if the gentleman from New York would yield to a question or be willing to accept a question.
And the question is why, given the status of the majority, did you not bring that bill back under a rule or allow it to come to the floor under a rule to begin with? You're on the Rules Committee.
Mr. ARCURI. Is the gentleman asking me a question?
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Yes.
Mr. ARCURI. I guess I would return and ask you the question. Why wasn't it passed when we brought it? Why didn't you get more people on your side of the aisle to support it? I mean, it's a legitimate question. I voted for it. I think it was a good idea.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Reclaiming my time, but answer me this question. Why did the majority decide it had to come under suspension of the rules, denying the minority to have an alternative?
Mr. ARCURI. Nor did you answer my question. I think it's a legitimate question I asked. Why wasn't it supported?
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I'll answer your question very clearly, because of two reasons. One, the majority did not include payment in lieu of taxes in the bill, which they promised when it left the Resources Committee they would do. Two, they also promised that pay-for was nothing but a placeholder that would be removed before it came to the floor. So that wasn't done correctly. And three, you violate contracts, which I didn't come to Congress to violate contracts. I never did it in 21 years in private business. I wasn't going to do it here.
And it's not a royalty fee, by the way, that you had. It was a fee on conservation and resource, which the courts have looked at and said you can assess but you have to spend it for that purpose and that purpose only, and county payments doesn't fit that category. And you have used it multiple times and the Senate has rejected it. So it wasn't going to work.
So now I've answered your question. You answer mine. Why don't you bring it tomorrow to the floor under a rule?
Mr. ARCURI. Because there's not a pay-for for it.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. You told me there was a pay-for.
Mr. ARCURI. No, there's not a pay-for in this--do you want to ask me the question?
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I do.
Mr. ARCURI. There's not a pay-for in the amendment you are offering.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I'm talking about the bill that came up in June that was defeated on a suspension vote. You could have turned around the next day if you felt so passionately--you're on the Rules Committee--and brought it to the floor under a rule, couldn't you?
Mr. ARCURI. No, we could not have done that in the Rules Committee.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Why?
Mr. ARCURI. We could not have just brought it up in the Rules Committee.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Why? Of course you could. You do it all the time. A bill goes down on suspension--we did it, you do it--you bring it back under a rule the next day or a week later. You had 218 votes on the floor.
Mr. ARCURI. I think the question is what is your priority--
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Reclaiming my time, you refuse to answer why your majority doesn't bring it back up under a rule. It only takes 218 to pass it under a rule, a majority of those present. You had 218 that day.
You see the point is, you wouldn't bring it up under a rule because you wanted no debate on a real alternative or any other amendment that would be allowed under a rule. You could have passed it the next day and sent it on to the Senate. You chose not to. I don't control the Rules Committee. You all dominate it two-to-one plus one.
So if you care about school kids, you bring it up in a way that doesn't violate contracts, that actually could pay for it, or you allow us to bring it up under this bill or you put it in the continuing resolution or when the Senate sent it over as a 1-year extension--
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. SESSIONS. I yield the gentleman an additional 2 minutes.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Or when the Senate sent over a 1-year funding package in the emergency supplemental, why did the House leadership strike it there?
There have been multiple opportunities this year to deal with this issue in multiple ways, and we are told that Sunday night we're going to be done and out of here for the session.
And every time somebody says to me, well, gee, I'm all for it but we've got to do it later on or this bill or that bill or not this bill or that bill. We're out of time. The layoffs have already occurred. The jobs are gone. The communities are suffering. The law enforcement officials have been let go.
I don't know where to go from here. I'm bitterly disappointed that we have these silly arguments when we ought to be passing legislation that actually helps real people in real places.
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