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Public Statements

Legislative Program

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOYER. Obviously, the gentleman has spoken to a number of very important pieces of legislation, and I want to talk about those. Then I want to talk about what I believe to be a diversion from the important business of this country. But I will get to, first, the highway conference.

On Friday, it will be 100 days since the Senate has passed a bipartisan bill, a bill which had 75 Members of the United States Senate for it. That conference has not yet reported out. I understand there is some activity on that.

The House overwhelmingly voted for the Walz MTI, and it said the conferees ought to report out a conference report by tomorrow. I don't know whether that's about to happen--today is tomorrow--but we will see whether or not it proceeds. Perhaps the gentleman can give us some information on that issue.

I've offered a motion, as the gentleman knows, to instruct to give the House an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill if we can't wait for a bill that comes out of conference. Clearly, if it doesn't come out of conference, it's going to cost us a lot of jobs. It will not protect the 1.9 million jobs the Senate bill protects, and it will not create approximately 1 million additional jobs.

As the gentleman knows, it is our view that we've been considering a lot of legislation which does not create jobs, does not impact positively the growth in our economy; but I think there is little dispute that the highway bill will in fact do that.

In addition, there has been a lot of talk about certainty. I agree with the premise that we ought to give certainty to the economy and to employers and employees, and to States and subdivisions and private sector contractors. Obviously, if we don't extend the highway bill, that will not be the case. In fact, it will be a very uncertain world in which they will be operating.

So can my friend tell me what the status of the conference is, if he knows? I will tell you, very frankly, that the Democratic conferees do not know the status of the conference.

And I will yield to my friend.

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that information. I hope the gentleman's correct.

My concern, and the concern on this side, continues to be the position--as Mr. SHUSTER, who is the one of the ranking members and whose dad, of course, chaired the Transportation Committee at one point in time. There was a story that Shuster acknowledged that the House GOP's leadership's inability to pass its 5-year, $260 billion transportation bill ``weakens our hand in conference.'' And this is what concerned me, Mr. Leader.

But he added, ``It's not an option to give away the House position.''

Now, he was referring to, of course, a bill which has not passed this House, has not even been brought to the floor of this House. And that article went on to say, House Republicans say they are willing to walk away from the highway bill talks if they cannot get what they want.

Now, this was an interview--I see Mr. Shuster on the floor, and Mr. Shuster's a friend of mine. I'll be glad to hear what he has to say on that matter, and I'll yield to him.

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Mr. HOYER. Well, I'm hopeful that we can resolve this in a way that is agreeable to at least the majority of both Houses and to the President of the United States because if we don't, as the gentleman knows, we're going to increase interest rates by doubling them from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.

Today's college students are leaving with an average of $26,000 in debt. This would add another $1,000 of debt to those students, and right now, with students owing more than $1 trillion, placing more debt on their head. And I would urge us, therefore, to come to an agreement, come to an agreement that both sides could vote for.

Obviously, as the gentleman knows, the House bill that passed was a pay-for that Democrats didn't vote for here, and I think it was well known that the Senate would not agree to that, so I'm hopeful that we do reach an agreement that will provide for its passage.

Now, let me ask the gentleman--we, of course, made the representation that we ought to be focused on jobs. We believe that's critically important, and we believe that ought to be the focus of this Congress. It's the focus of the American people.

We went through, in years past, distractions. You say, with just some 30 full days left between now and the election, that you're going to bring up a resolution that came out of committee, as I understand, yesterday, without much time for consideration or deliberation, a very, very serious matter.

Attorney General Holder, of course, has been involved in making sure that votes are not suppressed all over this country. He has, in my view, conducted himself in a way that brought credit to the Justice Department, to himself, and to this administration.

I don't know--well, let me ask the gentleman. How long do you expect to spend on this motion?

I don't think any of us have seen the final bill that's going to come to the floor or the resolution that's going to come to the floor suggesting that Mr. Holder be held in contempt. I don't think anybody outside of the committees has had an opportunity to consider this very weighty, important matter, very disruptive matter, if I would say, and distracting matter.

What procedure does the gentleman suggest is going to be pursued next week on this matter?

I yield to my friend.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I'd respond to the gentleman, and I think the gentleman does know this is a privileged resolution of which he speaks, and it would be subject to the 1-hour rule, just as privileged resolutions were under their majority, Mr. Speaker, and we will expect to proceed accordingly.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that information. Which means that a matter of great weight is going to be brought to the floor within just a few days of being passed out of committee, with a relatively short period of time for either debate or for consideration.

There is, of course, precedent, and the gentleman's correct. It is a privileged resolution, and I understand the rules under privileged resolutions. But I do understand that this is a matter that's going to require a very careful, judicious, if I can say, consideration. And to bring it up at a time when we ought to be focused on jobs, when you're trying to do two appropriations bills, when you're talking about the highway bill and we're talking about the student loan bill, and to treat it as somewhat of a suspension bill provision, with little time to really have it discussed with the seriousness that the subject matter requires, I would suggest to the gentleman that this is going to be not only a distraction, but an unfortunate taking our focus off of creating jobs here in America.

I yield to my friend if he wants to make a comment.

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Mr. HOYER. With respect to another piece of legislation, I would like to ask the gentleman about the Violence Against Women Act, which, again, the Senate passed in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion and which we passed in a relatively partisan fashion over here, where the parties were split.

Will the gentleman tell me whether or not he knows the status of that legislation and whether or not we expect to consider that anytime soon.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I would just say to the gentleman, as he knows, the Senate has the so-called ``blue slip'' problem with its bill, and that is about as far as I know as to the progress in the Senate.

As the gentleman knows, we passed the bill here in the House. We did so in recognizing the suggestions and incorporating the suggestions that the GAO had made as to how to streamline the grant programs on the Violence Against Women Act to allow for dollars to reach victims in a more expeditious manner. We wholeheartedly support the passage of that as the gentleman saw when it passed the House. We would like to see a resolution on this.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

As the gentleman knows, we believe that the bill that passed the House on the Violence Against Women Act left out a lot of women. It reduced the scope that the Senate passed with, again, a bipartisan vote with, frankly, all the women on the Republican side of the aisle in the United States Senate voting for the Senate bill. We think the House bill restricted the coverage of that bill. It seems to me that we ought to be against violence against all women and other persons who may be subject to domestic violence. We would hope that that matter could be resolved, frankly, along the lines of making sure that all people are protected from domestic violence.

Lastly, may I ask the gentleman what he expects the schedule for the balance of July to be. Again, I would reiterate, as the gentleman knows, we have very, very few days left, less than 30 full days between now and the election following this week. There are another 8 days that are 6:30 days, or some number, either 7 or 8 6:30 days, so we don't have very much time to deal with some of the pressing problems, including dealing with middle class tax cuts to make sure that working people in this country who are having a hard time making ends meet don't get an increase in their taxes on January 1.

Will the gentleman tell me what he expects the schedule to be in the month of July.

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comment.

Let me just add, Mr. Speaker, that, clearly, when you look at the Congress to which he referred in terms of its productivity in the 2007 and 2008 years, we think the productivity was very much higher. I won't go through the litany of those figures; but I think, if the majority leader reviews them, he will see in terms of the productivity of the Congress that we moved America much further forward.

Having said that, I want to say that we hope that we will continue to focus on jobs. I know I share the gentleman's view--and I think all of us share the view--that we want to have reasonable regulations that help grow the economy, not impede its growth. We're for that. We may have a difference of opinion on what that does when we think of deregulating the protection of our environment, when we think of deregulating the safety of our financial markets. When we took the referee off the field, it had an extraordinarily negative impact on this country and on every taxpayer in this country and on every business in this country. It was not useful. It was not helpful.

I think we have a difference of opinion on whether or not we want to make sure there is a level playing field, a fair playing field, for all the participants in our economy--both businesses and consumers. Clearly, there was an effort that was being made to undermine the ability of the CFTC to fully oversee what was a market that went out of control. As a result, there were dire consequences to our country and its fiscal status.

So I am hopeful that we don't pursue a regulatory agenda, which is an agenda with the net result of taking the referee off the field. I don't think the American public wants that, and I don't really think that that's reasonable. Further, I think they think we really need to be focused on things that will immediately grow this economy. The highway bill would have done that. Unfortunately, that highway bill has stayed in limbo for too long a time. I am hopeful that we can move it.

Unless the gentleman has something further to say, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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