PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 2828, WATER SUPPLY, RELIABILITY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT ACT -- (House of Representatives - July 09, 2004)
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 711 and ask for its immediate consideration.
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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I know that we are debating the rule on legislation that is being proposed this morning, but I have to say, I do not really know what the rules are anymore in the House of Representatives. I listened last night when the Sanders amendment came up and all that the majority were trying to do, the bipartisan majority, was to protect Americans' civil liberties. After the vote took place, all of a sudden the floor and the vote stays open for another 30 plus minutes, even though everyone had voted and there was not anyone left in the well to cast a vote. It is a total abuse of power by the Republican majority here on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Think about it. When you go to the polls and vote in a general election, in New Jersey the polls close at 8 o'clock. Then you count the votes. You do not have the opportunity to keep the voting machine open and have the people come back and say, well, I changed my mind because I heard about something new that somebody told me and now I want to change my vote, so let's keep it open.
How long is the vote going to be kept open here in the House of Representatives until the Republican majority get their will regardless of what the American people and their representatives want. Will we keep it open 30 minutes as it was yesterday on the Sanders amendment? Will we keep it open 3 hours as we did on the Medicare prescription drug bill which was a lousy bill and the majority, including a significant number of Republicans, were against it until they were cajoled in a 3-hour delay and promised all kinds of things and probably laws were violated to get Members on the Republican side to change their vote. What are the rules?
We act as if this is the House of Representatives that is based on rules. That is why we are having a debate on a rule today for a piece of legislation. But there are no rules. The majority abuses its power and does whatever it pleases. We never know at any given time when the vote is going to be over. I think if this continues, it is just going to be worse and worse for our system of government, the democratic system that we value and cherish here in the House of Representatives and across the country. All that everyone who voted for the Sanders amendment yesterday were trying to do was to protect civil liberties.
One may disagree, think that the PATRIOT Act is good or think it is bad, but when a majority on a bipartisan basis makes a decision that it should be amended and should be changed because they want to protect civil liberties, then that majority should be allowed to vote in a fair way. We do not keep the vote open as we go around and tell Members, well, maybe I am going to give you this or give you that if you change your vote on something that is so basic to American civil liberties. It is just not right. It is shameful.
I just want to join with my colleagues again, on both sides of the aisle, essentially last night who said shame, shame on the Republican majority for what they continue to do and this abuse of power. Something has got to be done so that we know what the rules are. I do not know what the rules are anymore around here and how this Republican leadership goes about deciding