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Providing for Consideration of H. . 6233, Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying bill, H.R. 6233, the supplemental agriculture disaster assistance.

Look, weather impacts our lives. I'm going to talk a little bit about climate change and some of the driving factors that are causing more severe weather conditions, be they droughts or floods. Yes, they affect businesses, but the solution is not another Republican Big Government government bailout of yet another industry. The Republicans have bailed out Wall Street. The Republicans have bailed out the banks. Now the Republicans are seeking to bail out cows. Yes, Mr. Speaker, another Big Government solution to another problem, in part, of their own creation by refusing to take up action and reducing our carbon emissions for climate change.

Where does this all end, when it's too cloudy? The solar industry might suffer. Are we going to bail them out? When it's not windy enough, the wind industry might suffer. Are we going to bail them out? We have restaurants on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder that have rooftop lounges. When it's too hot, less people go up to the rooftop lounges. We've had a drought in May and June and not enough people went to rooftop lounges. I would like to ask my colleague, Ms. Foxx, if there could be government bailout money for those rooftop lounges.

I yield to the gentlelady from North Carolina.

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Mr. POLIS. Reclaiming my time, there's just a particular sector. Maybe they have a lot of lobbyists. Maybe they're a big special interest, they own cows. We're going to bail them out because the price of hay has gone up. That's what we're talking about here today.

We're talking about a closed rule. We're talking about a closed process. This is nothing new, this lack of transparency, this limited debate, pushing through a Big Government Republican bailout on short notice without even giving Members enough time to offer improvements to the bill, to change the bill. The first time that Republicans and Democrats even saw this bill was late Tuesday night, and here we are on the floor of the House without a single hearing, without a single markup, pushing through this bill, shutting out opportunities for Democrats or Republicans to offer improvements to this bill.

This is one of the worst and widest droughts we've seen in decades. I see that firsthand in Colorado. We have had devastating fires this summer coupled with extreme heat in the West. This is indicative of a need to address the true culprit: climate change. The evidence that recent droughts and heat waves are linked to climate change is growing suddenly and represents the strong scientific consensus.

We need the very conservation programs in the farm bill that are being gutted for this Big Government bailout of cows. The very programs cut by this bill are needed to help farmers and ranchers conserve soil, conserve water to make their farms and ranches more resilient to the devastating impacts we see from climate change and to mitigate that impact.

Look, American farmers, ranchers, and environmentalists have all been waiting for months to see a farm bill come to the floor. To the disappointment of many, instead of a farm bill, which I understand for at least 5 weeks we're not going to see in the House of Representatives, we're presented with a cow bailout, which is yet another Republican Big Government bailout of an American industry.

When the Senate passed their farm bill over a month ago, the House majority couldn't even manage to bring a package to the floor for Members to debate. Earlier this week, the Republicans were looking at a 1-year extension of the farm bill and have now decided to pull that 1-year extension in favor of a cow bailout.

Let me once again stress that our severe concerns around droughts in the West and across the country are critical, but we mustn't gut programs that are some of the very programs that can help prevent the impact of droughts in seeking to bail out a particular industry. When we look at drought assistance funding, we need to have a bipartisan discussion about how we're going to structure it and where it's going to come from and why certain industries are going to be favored over others.

Why is there going to be a cow bailout instead of a rooftop terrace bailout? When it's too hot, businesses suffer. If you're going to have a big Republican bailout, why don't you discuss who it goes to and not just give it to who has the most lobbyists here or who gives the most campaign contributions.

Furthermore, the conservation provisions that are cut by this bill do have strong bipartisan support in both Chambers. Both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees understand the importance of the farm bill's conservation title. Both farm bills retain funding for the conservation title because many folks on both sides of the aisle agree that conservation practices are critical to protect our soil, the future production of our agriculture, water, and wildlife resources. That's yet another reason to consider a comprehensive bill, to help ensure the strength of agriculture and protect American jobs, rather than another Republican bailout.

Instead of voting on the underlying bill, instead of even talking about a 5-year extension of the agriculture bill, here we are today gutting critical programs with bipartisan support to bail out yet another industry with a centrally planned Big Government solution.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I listened very carefully to the gentlelady from North Carolina. I didn't hear her defend this bovine bailout that the Republicans are proposing here today. Now, I'm going to take a few minutes and address some of the mischaracterizations of the President of the United States that were in some of those comments, but then I do want to bring it back to this Big Government bovine bailout that the Republicans are proposing here before us today.

Look, the President understands and I understand, as somebody who started several businesses before I got here--I created several hundred jobs--that of course I didn't do it alone. If we didn't have roads so that employees could get to work, I wouldn't have been able to start a company. I wouldn't have been able to have any employees to get to work. If we didn't have schools that help prepare programmers and technicians to work technology companies--tech companies that I started that hired programmers, that were good-paying jobs--I wouldn't have been able to start a company. If we didn't have investors and shareholders and the right level of securities regulation to prevent fraud and to give them the confidence to invest in the companies that I started, we wouldn't have capital formation and venture capital flowing to the companies that needed it.

If we didn't have the rule of law, if we didn't fund our courts, if we didn't invest in basic research, if the government hadn't provided the funding to start the Internet, I wouldn't have been able to start a single company.

And most of my friends who are entrepreneurs, who have started companies, who are corporate executives agree. Yes, the entrepreneur is critical. And the President's Jobs Council recognizes that, and this President has been more friendly to entrepreneurship and to business than any President in my lifetime, working to ensure that small businesses have the opportunity to succeed and grow and create jobs in the private sector.

But without that basic infrastructure, we have to ask ourselves what separates the United States of America from a country like Somalia or even a centrally planned country like North Korea. A lot separates us. But a big part of that is this collaboration of a public sector role that enables entrepreneurship, enables success in the private sector, enables people to create fortunes, enables people to create jobs. That's the proper role of government.

Government doesn't stand in the way of job creation. The government's policy framework, courts people can trust, roads for people to get to work, good public schools, good health care--that's what enables success. As somebody who reached some degree of success in the private sector before I got here, I agree completely with President Obama that I couldn't have achieved that degree of success without the public infrastructure that played a role in allowing me and so many other entrepreneurs to succeed.

Now, moving back to the topic, the topic of the bovine bailout that the Republicans have proposed here today. The gentlelady from North Carolina said, We have no control over climate, basically. That was the quote that she just said. Well, the vast majority of scientific consensus and agreement would indicate otherwise.

We don't control weather. But climate is different than weather. And, yes, humans are contributing to climate change through carbon emissions and emissions of other greenhouse gases. The global climate has warmed. The average climate in Colorado now is two to three degrees warmer than it was a century ago, and it continues to accelerate. Now, that doesn't cause a drought or a flood in any one particular year, but it causes an increased incidence of severe weather patterns that cost us all money, which is why we're even talking about a bovine bailout here today.

Now, look, I wish this had come to the floor under an open process. I would have offered an amendment just to talk about it to say, why don't you bail out rooftop restaurants, rooftop terraces?

Look, we're talking about the role of the government, the role of the private sector. I find it ironic and to the point of being bizarre--almost like I'm in an alternative universe--that in the very same remarks that the gentlelady from North Carolina railed against a President who dares to say that the public sector has a role in creating the landscape for private businesses to succeed, at the same time, she is advocating for a bovine bailout of a particular industry.

Now why this particular industry? Why not rooftop terraces? Why not solar, if it's too cloudy? Why not wind, if it's not windy enough? Many, many, many businesses are affected by weather. Retail stores are affected when it snows too much. Should they be coming to Washington, clamoring for a bailout?

Look, both sides respect the role of the private sector. And when you have government preempting the private sector by picking out a particular industry and elevating it above all others, by giving it government subsidies and a big bailout, you are upsetting the very market forces that the gentlelady from North Carolina espoused support of in another context.

This bill today gives us a terrible choice between drought assistance and conservation. Now, both might be worthy; but disproportionate cuts to conservation programs that are used to fund this bill undermine the continued success of conservation programs that have bipartisan support and are helping farmers mitigate the impact of climate change in their businesses.

There are so many other issues of relevance for farmers that this House could be taking up. Why aren't we talking about the estate tax, which affects small farmers across this country? If we don't act by December 31, the estate tax will go to a 55 percent tax above $1 million in assets, forcing many small farmers out of business and preventing them from being passed down from one generation to the next.

Are we going to leave it until the last minute? Is that a plan for the lame duck session? Are the Republicans scared to take on the estate tax before the election?

I would advocate that we get down to work and start addressing issues that actually affect farmers. We should be voting to provide for the success of American agriculture, opening new markets, investing in basic research, helping to ensure that families have access to healthy food and nutrition.

We need to make sure that farmers' and ranchers' needs are addressed. And if we don't address the fundamental drivers of climate change, we're only going to be faced with more and more difficulties, more and more requests for bailouts. It may be cows this time. It may be chickens next time. It may be corn the next time. There are always going to be folks here in Washington, hat in hand, coming to Republicans, saying, Give us a Big Government solution.

And the question will come to this Congress, Are we going to do something about the underlying problem? And whether that approach is through a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax or incentives for renewables, what are we going to do to prevent farmers in this country from being driven out of business? This bill does nothing.

Sure, you can hand them government money. You can hand them taxpayer money, if that's the lack of regard that you have for taxpayer money, you want to hand it out to whoever comes to town and begs for it. Go right ahead. And I have some rooftop terrace restaurant owners in my district. Give them some while you are at it.

That's not a solution. That's what got us into this budget deficit. That's what got us into this hole. Let's address the underlying issue of climate change in a scientific manner, have the real political discussions that are necessary to negotiate a bipartisan solution that reduces our carbon emissions, reduces the impact of climate change on American farmers, reduces the incidence and severity of droughts across the United States of America, and also be the global leaders that we need to be on this critical issue.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question. This will give us the opportunity to renew middle class tax cuts. When we talk about job creation, when we talk about growing our economy, the need to make sure that we don't increase taxes on the middle class during a recess is something economists from both sides of the aisle agree on, something Democrats agree on. I hope Republicans agree, too, that we shouldn't raise taxes on at least 98 percent of Americans.

Then let's have the discussion about the other 2 percent. But let's agree on what we agree on. Let's not raise taxes on 98 percent of American families before Congress goes on break. Before the Republicans send us all home to enjoy our summers, let's do something about jobs. Let's do something about the economy, and let's demand that we give middle class families across America the surety and the security to know that they're not going to need to pay an additional $1,000 a year in taxes, an additional $2,000 a year in taxes.

I think it is critical, and I call upon my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question so that we can bring forward this critical amendment to provide the certainty that America needs to grow our economy and create jobs.

I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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