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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRASNSCRIPT

Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.

Mr. Speaker, I always look around when I hear the Reading Clerk reading the rule because I can't tell if folks are glossing over or if they are excited about it, like I am. If you paid close attention to the Reading Clerk this morning, Mr. Speaker, you're excited about it. You're excited about it because we're here to do the first appropriations bill of the FY 2013 cycle. Now, Mr. Speaker, as you know, there is about two-thirds of the budget that is the mandatory spending--that budget that gets spent whether Congress shows up to work or not. It's just money that gets borrowed from our children and goes right out the door.

This one-third of the budget, the discretionary spending side, is the part that doesn't go out the door unless the House comes together and passes a bill, sends it to the Senate, and gets the Senate to pass a bill, and it goes to the President's desk for signature. This is the first of those bills that we're going to have a chance to do in this Congress. And as we began the year last year, we are going to begin the year this year--with an open rule.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, an open rule allows any Member of this body to bring any idea that they have and offer it as an amendment to the underlying bill. You don't have to be a high-ranking Republican to get an amendment to this bill. You don't have to be a senior Democrat to get an amendment to this bill. You just have to be a representative of constituents back home, and you can show up on this floor and have a say. This is going to be Congress at its best, Mr. Speaker. When you hear it read, it sounds like a lot of legalistic mumbo jumbo, but when you see it in action, it is this House as our Founding Fathers intended this House to be.

This is House Resolution 643, Mr. Speaker, and it is an open rule for consideration of H.R. 5326, the fiscal year 2013 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.

You know, last year, Mr. Speaker, we only got through 6 1/2 of the appropriations bills in this House before it became apparent the process was going to break down, and we went to a minibus to finish the deal. But we considered 350 amendments--350 different ideas, Mr. Speaker--350 lines that came from the body right here that said we have a better way than what the committee has reported to us.

Now, this is a special day, as my colleague from Florida knows, because this appropriations bill passed out of subcommittee by a voice vote--a voice vote. Democrats and Republicans came together in subcommittee, passed this bill, and sent it on to the full committee where, again, Mr. Speaker, Democrats and Republicans came together to pass out of full committee this bill on a voice vote, and now we bring it to the House floor today. Goodness knows, we may be able to pass this rule on a voice vote, I say to my colleague from Florida, and perhaps the underlying legislation as well. This is the House working as the folks back home intended the House to work.

Now, this is funding for the Commerce Department, Mr. Speaker. All of those programs intended to grow jobs in this country, to promote trade in this country, Commerce Department, funded under this bill. This is the bill that funds the Justice Department, funds our U.S. Marshals, funds our FBI, funds those parts of our society that we know need special attention, Mr. Speaker, in these difficult times.

This is the bill that funds NASA, Mr. Speaker. This is the bill that funds the National Science Foundation. This is the bill that funds the U.S. Trade Representative and the International Trade Commission. Mr. Speaker, I will quote the subcommittee chairman, Frank Wolf, who said:

This legislation builds on significant spending reductions achieved in last year's bill while continuing to preserve core priorities. Those priorities continue to be job creation, fighting crime and terrorism--with a focus on cybersecurity--and boosting U.S. competitiveness through smart investments in science. This bill makes job creation a priority by maintaining and expanding manufacturing and job repatriation initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, these are tough times. I don't know if you've seen all the young people outside this Chamber today, Mr. Speaker, folks in town with their schools, folks in town visiting Washington, D.C. You know, 40 cents out of every dollar that this Chamber spends, Mr. Speaker, we borrow from those children. We heard lots of 1-minutes this morning about the student loan program. Of course, every penny that goes out the door is a penny that we borrowed from the next generation of Americans.

This bill, passed out of subcommittee and full committee on a voice vote, represents a 1-percent reduction from the President's request in this title. A lot of folks in this body would like it to be more than 1 percent. I suspect we'll have some amendments on this floor during this wonderful open amendment process that will in fact try to change that number to be greater than 1 percent. But what folks came together to say is these are priorities for this country. These all are important funding priorities that only the national and the Federal Government can do. So we want to fund those in a responsible way that both focuses on not borrowing from the next generation, but still maintaining important core priorities that I think we would all agree are important to this Federal Government.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. Speaker, I'll tell you, I don't actually prepare remarks when I come down here to sit opposite my friend from Florida, because I always know his opening statement is going to be that line by line by line that reminds me of absolutely everything that I want to say. And generally speaking, it reminds me of absolutely everything I'm proud of, and sometimes things that my friend from Florida wishes had not happened.

You know, folks ask me back home, Mr. Speaker--I'm a freshman here. They say, ROB, what have you learned in your first term in Congress? And I say, What I have learned is that when you watch the House floor on C SPAN, it looks like theater. And what I've learned is that the comments from my friends on the other side of aisle, it's not theater at all, it is heartfelt belief in absolutely every word that comes out of their mouth. And that's instructive, because if it were theater, we could go into a dark back room somewhere and try to sort it out around the edges. But when it's heartfelt belief about what direction we ought to take this country, it requires the full and open hearing that we give it here on the House floor.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you were here for the deem and pass of the budget several Congresses ago before I was elected, but the gentleman's absolutely right.

Deeming a budget as being passed by both Houses of Congress is a terrible way to run this institution. He is absolutely right.

Now, I'm proud that he and I did not shirk our responsibilities. We passed a budget here in this House under yet another open process. We asked any Member of this House that had an idea about what the budget ought to look like in this country to bring that budget to the floor of this House and we'd have a vote and a debate on it. And we did, and we passed a budget here in the House of Representatives.

Now, sadly, our friends on the Senate side have chosen for the 3rd year in a row not to pass a budget. And I would say again, those areas on which we agree, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman's absolutely right. In the absence of actually having a budget that has passed the Senate--and not just because they haven't passed one, Mr. Speaker, but because they have said affirmatively and apparently with some pride they do not plan on passing a budget. So what's the responsible body here on the other side of the Capitol supposed to do? Well, what we said is we need to move forward with our appropriations process, and so we are going to move forward under the budget that has passed this entire U.S. House of Representatives.

Now, the truth is we did that in a rule a couple of weeks back and we got it wrong. This is not the first time we've had to make up for the Senate's mistake. You would think, as often as we've had to take up for those folks, we'd have figured out how to do it right. But sadly, we didn't get it quite right, and I hope we don't get into the habit of getting it right. I hope we get into the habit of actually passing a budget over there, bringing a budget to conference, and having a budget that controls all of Capitol Hill.

But in an effort to make up for what's not happening there, we did absolutely, in this rule that's before us today, Mr. Speaker, specify that the caps that we created, the 435 of us created in the budget that we passed, will be the caps that regulate the activity that the 435 of us engage in for the rest of the year. And I welcome the Senate to join in that debate.

You know, to be fair to my colleague from Florida, we just see the Budget Control Act differently. I think we both voted for the Budget Control Act last fall. I viewed it as budget caps. In fact, if you open up the legislation, it says budgetary caps. And when I read the word ``caps,'' Mr. Speaker, what I see is you can't spend any more than that. I was never under any illusion that I was obligated to spend absolutely all of it.

And, candidly, I think that's one of the issues we have here in this body, Mr. Speaker. You may hear other speakers come down here today on the other side of the aisle who believe exactly that, that because we signed an
agreement with the President that we would not spend a penny more than $1.047 trillion this year that we are, in fact, now obligated to spend every single penny of that $1.047 trillion.

As we talked about, 40 cents out of every dollar that we spend in this town, Mr. Speaker, is borrowed, borrowed from our children, from our grandchildren. Forty cents out of every dollar is money that we do not have but we are borrowing against the next generation's prosperity to spend on our priorities today.

My friend from Florida brings up the COPS program. The COPS program is a neat program, provides dollars to local law enforcement agencies to help them succeed in their local law enforcement mission. But the clever little secret that sometimes we don't talk about, Mr. Speaker, is that my community back home takes all the tax money out of their pocket and they send it to Washington, D.C. We don't have access to any money in my part of the world, my little Seventh District there in northeast Georgia. There's no money that we get back that we didn't send in to begin with.

We can prioritize those local priorities locally. We can control those outcomes locally. Forty cents out of every dollar we're borrowing. Not one budget.

I mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, that in this open process we allowed every Member of Congress to bring any budget they wanted to the House floor for debate and consideration. Not one of those budgets, not one, balanced next year. Not one. Not one budget. And some of the brightest leaders I hope that our Nation has to offer, Mr. Speaker, sit here in these chairs in this body, and not one of them had a proposal for how to right this ship next year. Not one.

So the question is: What, do we just quit trying? Do we just quit trying, Mr. Speaker? Do we just concede that the economic security of this Nation is just going to drip, drip, drip away with deficit spending year after year after year? Are we going to concede that the 50 percent increase in the public debt that's occurred over the last 4 years is just the way it's going to be; that's a pattern that is going to continue, instead of a pattern that needs to be stopped?

But here is the good news. I have heartfelt feelings on that issue, and my friend from Florida has heartfelt feelings on that issue. The rule that we from the Rules Committee, Mr. Speaker--my colleague from Florida and I--have brought to the floor today is going to open up that debate so that absolutely all Members can have their passions and feelings heard on this issue.

One more point of pride, Mr. Speaker, because I really do like coming down here on open rule days.

What we don't talk about sometimes from that Budget Control Act is that those caps--that $1.047 trillion I mentioned earlier, which is the most that we could possibly spend--that's only good from October 1 to the first week of January because that very same agreement said that in the failure of the Joint Select Committee last fall to act--and I will tell you it was quite the failure--it was going to lead to 8 percent across-the-board reductions in every single account that we're talking about here on the floor today--8 percent across-the-board reductions.

What our budget does and what our caps do is recognize that failure, Mr. Speaker, that the House Representatives on that Joint Select Committee and that the Senator representatives on that Joint Select Committee did not come to an agreement on deficit reduction. Thus those caps, those 8 percent across-the-board reductions, are barreling down the road towards this institution, Mr. Speaker, and picking up speed every day.

Now, we can either tell the American people that all is well and let's go ahead and spend the maximum amount possible--but, oh, watch out; here come those across-the-board cuts that nobody planned for--or we can do the responsible thing, and the responsible thing is to plan for that contingency. I say ``contingency.'' I dare say, Mr. Speaker, it's almost a certainty that we're not going to find a way around those across-the-board cuts but that we can find a way around them with the budget that this institution passed. With the numbers that this institution passed, we can replace those revenues--replace that spending that was going to be saved with across-the-board cuts--with targeted cuts, with targeted cuts to programs that we in this body agree on.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't come to this body to do across-the-board cuts. There is good spending and there is bad spending. I didn't come to this body to use the meat ax to go after everything. I came to this body to set the priorities that my constituents sent me here to set. Far from being an abomination of the process, this House-passed budget, this House reconciliation bill that's coming at the end of this week--and yes, this first appropriations bill, the FY 2013-cycle--is the way this process is supposed to be done.

I rise in strong support of this rule, Mr. Speaker, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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I yield myself such time as I may consume to say I've just gotten the sad news that our friends on the Senate side hadn't just stuck it to us by not passing a budget last year and didn't just stick it to us by not passing a budget this year, but have just stuck it to us one more time by failing to move forward on the student loan legislation there.

I don't know what to do down here, Mr. Speaker. I mean, on the one hand, my colleagues say--rightfully so--that they don't want us just running on our own down here, doing our own thing all the time, pretending as if the Senate doesn't exist. On the other hand, we've dealt with the student loan issue--we've preserved rates at their current low levels--and the Senate can't get its work done. I don't know what more we can do.

Folks are prepared to go over for a vigil outside the Senate Chamber. I want you to put me on your invitation list. I'll go by there with you, and we'll see what we can do to shake things up over there, but those 6-year term limits are not quite as effective at motivating action as are 2-year term limits here on the House side.

Mr. Speaker, this bill before us today isn't actually about student loans. You might not have believed that in listening to the last speaker. It's about the Commerce Department; it's about the Justice Department; and it's about science funding in this body. Now, the good news is we're going to be able to deal with all of these issues one by one by one.

I came to this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, in wanting to move away from the 2,000-page bills that I'd seen in past Congresses. I came to this Chamber in wanting to deal with one issue at a time, in wanting to deal with things so you didn't have to vote for all or nothing but so that you could vote for the individual items that you actually believe in and vote against those items that you don't believe in. That's the process we have today.

This is the first of a dozen different bills that are going to come down through this Chamber, and folks will be able to offer amendments line item by line item. If I didn't say it before, Mr. Speaker, I want to say it now: that that's actually what can happen here. This isn't a ``take it or leave it'' proposition today. This rule, again, I can't take all the credit for. I was actually tied up in the reconciliation markup yesterday. My friend from Florida was actually as responsible as anyone for bringing a rule to the floor that would allow every single line of the underlying bill to be considered by the 435 folks in this Chamber.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, you have a subcommittee, and that's a small group of folks who knows a lot about the issue on which it works. This is the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee over there. Then you have a full committee, and the full committee has a lot of really smart people who know a lot about their topic here. In this case, that's the Appropriations Committee, the full Appropriations Committee, and, of course, they both passed that out by a voice vote.

If you're like me, Mr. Speaker, if you serve on the Budget Committee and on the Rules Committee, you don't ever get a say in appropriations spending. There are a lot of really smart guys on that subcommittee and a lot of really smart men and women on that full committee. But what about my say? What about the 920,000 people I represent, Mr. Speaker? And that's the solution that the Rules Committee brought out last night.

They said you have not gotten your say yet for the Seventh District of Georgia, Mr. Woodall, but you will get it during this process--and not just you, but you and you and you and you. Every single Member of this House, by virtue of the fact that they were elected by American citizens back home, will have the opportunity to come to this floor and have their voices heard.

Mr. Speaker, this isn't a tough decision today. This is one of the proudest decisions we get to make in this House, and that is to have its membership work its will and report out the very best bill that we can, send that over to the Senate, and see what happens next.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I actually had this conversation with some schoolchildren in my district over the break, as I'm sure everybody in this body did. They call it a break, Mr. Speaker. The truth is, it's a district work period. You're working every bit as hard down in your home State as you are here and probably harder back home.

I was talking to young people and I said, Does anybody here have a parent that just let's them eat anything they want to, drink all the soda they want, eat all the candy they want? There wasn't a single hand that went up. Apparently, parents had some discipline incorporated in the lives of each one of these children. I asked, Who thinks their parents love them? The answer was every child in that room felt loved by their parents. They didn't get everything they wanted all the time, there were limits to it, but they felt loved.

Mr. Speaker, we're in the business of spending other people's money. It's not my money; it's not my colleague from Florida's money. It is other people's money in this body. Not only are we spending every penny of the money that they send us, Mr. Speaker. We are borrowing even more. If you think about it, we talk about how we borrow 40 cents out of every dollar that we spend. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is we collect every penny that America is willing to give us, and we borrow 66 percent more. Communities back home aren't operating under that kind of funny mathematics. They understand they can only spend the money that they have. Families back home aren't operating under those kinds of funny mathematics. It's only here.

So in the case of these programs--again, student loans are in absolutely no way at issue in the underlying bill, and they are absolutely in no way at issue in this rule. But just to touch on that topic for a moment--and we had the Speaker of this House come down and give a passionate plea for votes in support of the very provision that is being discussed here today. Not only did he speak on behalf of those provisions; this Chamber passed it.

We talk about the ticking time bomb. That's the ticking time bomb in action in the Senate. This body has acted. Now, what did we do? I happen to be one of those folks who took out student loans, Mr. Speaker. So I know a little bit about the student loan process. I happened to take mine out from a private institution. We were using competition to keep the marketplace regulated in those days. Now the Federal Government is the only place you can go for a student loan. That was courtesy of my friends on the other side of the aisle. Again, it was heartfelt. They believed in their heart that it was going to be a better program if only the Federal Government ran it instead of letting private financial institutions who lend money for a living manage it.

But 6.8 percent is the below-market rate that's available for folks who borrow Stafford loan money. You may have had a Stafford loan, Mr. Speaker. Other folks out here might have had a Stafford loan. But there are two kinds of Stafford loans. There is the Stafford loan that you pay interest on after you've borrowed the money. Imagine that, you borrow the money, you pay interest on it. Then there is the Stafford loan that's called the subsidized Stafford loan. That's a much smaller piece of the pie, Mr. Speaker.

We have the loans that families have to go out and get on their own to help pay for their children's education. We have savings that folks are going out and spending on their children's education. We have grant programs that are scholarship programs all that are out there to help with education. We have the PLUS program out there, which is a loan that parents and students can take out together. Then, in addition to all those programs, we have the Stafford loans, which, again, some of them are loans you pay interest on immediately and some of them--a very small fraction of them--are loans that are subsidized while you're in school.

This conversation we're having here today is about whether or not this subsidized Stafford loan, that was over 7 percent when I borrowed it--it's 6.8 percent in normal times; but the rate was reduced to 3.4 percent by my colleagues. This conversation is about whether or not that rate should be allowed to return to normal levels.

Again I say to folks, there is no money that's coming out of anybody's pocket in this room. This is America's money, America's money that we're borrowing, that we're spending. If we want to borrow that money to cut artificially low rates in half, make them artificially lower, we absolutely can. Not only can, we did. We talk about this as if it is something that might happen one day. We did it. It was 2 weeks ago. I was down here on the House floor. In fact, I sat right over there. I remember the vote happening. It's done here.

Did we pay for it, Mr. Speaker? We did. We paid for it with a program that I would characterize as a slush fund. It is $15 billion that exists over there in the Health and Human Services Department. It came out of the Affordable Care Act. The President looked at it and said, You know what, that really was too much of a slush fund. He cut it by almost a third. Now we said, You know what, perhaps we should go after the rest of it because accountability is an issue here, Mr. Speaker.

We hear folks talk about prevention and cancer and women and children. I wish that's where the money went. I went and got the list of where those projects are, Mr. Speaker. In my part of the world, it was a $2.5 million grant to the county I grew up in to help with obesity training in schools. I'm in favor of that. I think we ought to absolutely work on obesity. I hope my home school district is already working on those issues. In other parts of the country, New York, for example, this is money that went to lobby in favor of soda taxes. That's right. This money that is being described by my friends on the other side of the aisle as critical to protecting the health of women so that they can get breast cancer screenings was spent in New York City to lobby in favor of job-killing taxes for my home State of Georgia.

This is not about women and children, Mr. Speaker. This is about unaccountability when you start handing out slush funds to bureaucrats. In Philadelphia, it was to lobby against cigarettes. Is that something we ought to do? Well, golly, we can go out and do that on our own every day. Does the Federal Government need to borrow from our children and our grandchildren to help Philadelphia lobby against cigarette taxes? In California, it's going to put up signs so folks can find the local parks in the name of obesity training, Mr. Speaker. Do we need signs to help us find the local parks? We have them in our community. I thought they had them in other communities. Do I need to borrow from my children and my grandchildren to put up more signs for parks? Mr. Speaker, we don't.

This is not a priority that the American people stood up and voted for. This is a slush fund that is used by bureaucrats to focus on whatever their priority of the day is. And what's so disappointing is that this responsible government endorsed by a vote of this full House, is being described by my colleagues as an assault on women's health. It is offensive to me.

There are so many things that we legitimately disagree about. Go back where we began, Mr. Speaker. We disagree from the heart about so many directions in this country. There is not one person in this body--not one--that wants to put women's health at risk. Not one.

This is about responsible government and cutting out the waste, cutting out the low-priority spending, cutting out the dollars that come from taxpayers' pockets in my district to spend for job-killing legislation in New York.

Mr. Speaker, we're going to have a full debate on this, a full debate. Every Member of this body will be able to bring their voice to the floor. I look forward to that full debate. I believe in this country. I believe in this institution. I believe that full debate is going to take us exactly where we need to be.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds to say to my friend from Massachusetts that there is only one bill in this institution that abolishes not just the oil company tax credits that he wants to go after, not just all the corporate welfare that he wants to go after, not just all the benefits and exclusions and exemptions that the wealthy in this country utilize to lower their tax bills. There is one bill in this Congress that abolishes every single special exemption, deduction, carve-out, and giveaway in the entire United States Tax Code. It's H.R. 25. I'm the sponsor of that legislation. I join you in your desire to eliminate all those special interest tax breaks and deductions. I welcome your cosponsorship of that legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Florida for joining me here for this debate today. And there really are some things that we disagree about here in this body at large. But one thing we don't disagree about is the importance of bringing open rules to this floor to debate appropriations bills.

This appropriations bill that we're bringing under this rule, Mr. Speaker, is a 1 percent reduction from the levels the President has proposed. As we hear folks talk about the doom and the gloom and the kicking of children and the punishing of women--1 percent. There's a long, hard fall to the bottom coming all right, and it's coming in the American economy. And I'll tell you who gets hurt the most in a bad economy: it's the poorest and the weakest among us. We all know it.

We're asking for 1 percent less than what the President proposed in the name of taking a small step in the right direction. You could have gotten me for 20 or 25 percent less, just to be clear. You could've gotten me on board if we'd gone 20 or 25 percent less. But this body is trying to move in a responsible fashion.

There's only one budget that's passed in this town, Mr. Speaker. The President's budget didn't pass. It got zero votes last year in the Senate. It got zero votes this year in the House. It didn't even get introduced last year in the House. There's only one budget in this town that has passed. That's the one that came out of the open process that we had right here.

We can take our toys and go home or we can try to do our appropriations bills under the one proposal that has garnered a majority vote in this entire Nation. I vote for the latter. And a vote for this rule is a vote for the latter.

Let's go ahead and start that process. Let's go ahead and do for the American people what we promised them we would do; and that is, operate this institution so that everybody has a voice, and at the end of the day we move our very best legislation forward.

The material previously referred to by Mr. Hastings of Florida is as follows:

An Amendment to H. Res. 643 Offered by Mr. Hastings of Florida

At the end of the resolution, add the following new section:

SEC. 4. Immediately upon adoption of this resolution the Speaker shall, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 4816) to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans, and for other purposes. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided among and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Ways and Means. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions. If the Committee of the Whole rises and reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of the bill. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of H.R. 4816.

The Vote on the Previous Question: What It really Means

This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.

Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308 311), describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''

Because the vote today may look bad for the Republican majority they will say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule. ..... When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.''

In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''

Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.

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