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Providing for Consideration of House Joint Resolution 117, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013; and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 6365, National Security and Job Protection Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend from my neighboring State of Georgia, whom I consider to be one of the most conscientious, hardworking individuals in the Congress, and I appreciate the fact that he's 18 months here in the Congress. He and I know that he understands this institution considerably, having worked here for a number of years, and I'm grateful the process allows and he has allowed that I receive the traditional 30 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, this rule provides, as has been said, for consideration of two bills. To identify them again, H.J. Res. 117 is the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, and H. Res. 6365 is the National Security and Job Protection Act.

When my colleague began his remarks, he said the magic words, ``This is a closed rule.'' When I was, as he, 18 months in the House in 1992 and I would be on radio, people were talking about how awful it was that the Democrats had so many closed rules. The Democrats lost the election that following year in 1994, and one of the leading reasons was closed rules. Yet we find ourselves on something as important as the financial circumstances of this country coming to the floor at the 11th hour with a closed rule, and, in fact, not having many more days that we are scheduled to be here, but having absolutely no reason why we could not be here at any point in time between now and the time that our financial circumstances would begin to be, as they are, much worse. Maybe the Republicans should have added a third entitled resolution. I would call it the ``No More Getting Anything Done in This Congress Act,'' because that is the message of this particular package.

This continuing resolution is merely a reminder that my friends in the majority were unable to complete work on the regular appropriations bills.

Instead of devoting congressional time to tackling the needs of essential government programs, Republicans have spent the summer trying to repeal the health care law, giving away benefits to the oil and gas industry, and chipping away repeatedly at women's rights.

Now, my colleague is correct in many respects to point out that the other body presents us with challenges, but it is not as if the other body has not done something. Let me tell you one of the measures that I have a continuing interest in because of my constituency, and that is that the Senate has passed a farm bill for a 5-year extension.

What my colleagues or leadership on the Republican side will not do is put that farm bill here on the floor even though we are faced in this country with a residual from one of the worst droughts that America has ever experienced. Even though food prices for all of the people in this country are continuously rising, here we are with this time that the chair of the Agriculture Committee and the ranking member begging the leadership, cannot find time for it to be on this floor. Instead of devoting our time to tackling the needs of essential government programs, we decide that we're going to attack women's rights.

Now, suddenly, you seem to have awakened to the looming, described, fiscal cliff. It's kind of good that you've noticed; but rather than address this challenge head on, the Republicans are pushing a bill that doesn't do anything. The sequester replacement does not actually prevent the sequester with a prudent mix, and every panel that has looked at this says that we have to have a prudent mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. What the Republicans simply do is kick the can down the road, which is no surprise.

I said in an earlier Rules meeting, and it was during the Olympics, that if kicking the can down the road were an Olympic sport, then Congress and the Republican majority would win gold, bronze, silver, and tin. This poor can doesn't have much more space to be kicked on, and I can tell you it places the burden on someone else to deal with this in the future. And this is what my Republican colleagues would call fiscal responsibility?

We got into this mess because of the massive deficits the Republicans piled on this country. Two wars in the Middle East not paid for, huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans--for those among us that are in a high-paying position--and huge, unpaid prescription drug benefits are all things that Republican Members in this House voted for despite the huge costs that would be imposed.

In fact, just 61 bills have been signed into law this year, the fewest in more than 60 years. In all of 2011, only 90 bills were signed into law. When Democrats controlled both Chambers in 2010, 258 bills were signed into law.

Now, I don't want to sound like I'm the only person who is making this observation that is being made. Let me cite two people, especially here inside the Beltway, that have made this observation, and that are generally respected as nonpartisan and accepted as experts by Republicans and Democrats.

We on this side are not the only ones who have noticed the lack of productivity that I just identified with the 61 bills. Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann wrote in a Washington Post column, the two gentlemen, and I am quoting them:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

That's from two particularly nonpartisan observers that everybody around here recognizes as experts. Now we are asked to support the Romney-Ryan vision of America, which ignores any responsibility for today's economic difficulties and instead demands that those who have the least in this great country should sacrifice the most. While Republicans last year were fighting tooth and nail to default on our debt obligations and crash the economy, millions of Americans were fighting to keep their jobs and millions lost them.

Millions of Americans were fighting to pay off their mortgages, and millions could not pay them. Millions of Americans were seeking access to quality health care, and they could not afford it. Millions of children of parents who wanted them to go to college are finding themselves without the capacity to get a decent education largely for the reasons that I have suggested.

But under the Romney-Ryan vision those priorities should take a back seat
to increase defense spending, and yet give more tax cuts for the wealthiest among us in our society. When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, student loans and public safety, the Republicans are quick to dismiss billions of dollars in essential funding with a wave of their hand and the crocodile tears of deficit reduction. But when the defense contractors stand to lose just $1, Republicans suddenly find their fighting spirit and cry about a weakening America.
It's a shame, Mr. Speaker, that Republicans can't shake off their do-nothing indolence to fight as hard for all Americans as they do for the richest.

We have a long list of programs, tax cuts, and activities set to expire at the end of this year; but rather than confront those challenges head on, Republicans are wasting our time with do-nothing bills. I suppose that when you have absolutely no ideas to offer besides tax cuts for those that are better off among our society, you may as well campaign on a platform of ``we have no ideas or even a plan to offer.'' But the American people need and deserve much more.

Mr. Speaker, I reject the Republican notion that a do-nothing Congress can help grow our economy, create more jobs, and address the many challenges facing this Nation from crumbling infrastructure to the impossibly high cost of education; and I also reject the Romney-Ryan vision that the only solution, at least that they have offered to these challenges, is tax cuts that help the rich and increase military spending.

My Republican colleagues paint a very pessimistic vision, Mr. Speaker, of a country where it appears to them that we have given up on trying to better everyone's lives and instead use the public's resources to enrich those who have already made it.

But I believe differently. We can afford to invest in our future. We can afford to create jobs. We can afford to make the choices now that will reap benefits for future generations--right now.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, before yielding to my good friend and colleague, Mr. McGovern, I would just urge my colleague from Pennsylvania to know that all of us are mindful, and rightfully should be concerned, about what's transpired in the Middle East. But he cites to one set of finances, and I would urge that he look at how and why the United States is involved in a compact with the Egypt military for the moneys that are distributed there, and not base it on what is happening today but look at what has happened throughout the years to assist in stabilizing that area. It didn't just happen overnight. It happened as a result of a serious compact in peace negotiations.

I am very pleased to yield 3 minutes to my good friend, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).

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

My good friend from Georgia speaks out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, you're saying that we began this process open and this democracy flourished, and you were so passionate about it until when we left at 5 a.m. in the morning you rushed home and you were on fire.

I'm curious to know when we finish up here, ostensibly tomorrow afternoon, what is it that would cause us not to be able to be here and allow, as you put it, every Member to have his or her say for their constituents on this measure?

But, no, we're here on a closed rule.

I understand that the government has to continue and that's why we are doing a continuing resolution, but I also know we could have done an omnibus bill, and I also know that my colleague and others were the ones that caused this country to come to the brink and our credit rating to be assaulted; and you are going to tell me that we can't stay here tomorrow, that we can't come back here after the holidays or tomorrow and stay here if need be to get this done?

But, no, we're doing it now before April so that when we come back, we will be faced with the same crisis, and the only thing that's going to change is the faces and the places that the people come from, and all I'm saying is let's do it now. Let's do those things that you were talking about. And if it requires 5 a.m. in the morning, let's do it at 5 a.m. in the morning. I'm 76 and I'm still staying up. I don't know about you.

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Mr. WOODALL. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I yield to my colleague from Georgia.

Mr. WOODALL. I'm grateful to my friend for yielding.

I'd say to the gentleman, I think we would be here until 5 a.m. yet again. But our experience, as was our experience on H.R. 1, is time and time again we do the people's work here and the Senate says, no. I have had no indication from the Senate that they will accept anything in that body except this continuing resolution.

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Reclaiming my time, first I ask my colleague. You know and I know you have farm interests in Georgia the same as I do, not necessarily the same, but we have farm interests in Georgia and farm interests in Florida. The Senate did pass the farm bill.

Can my colleague tell me why we don't have the farm bill on the floor during all of this period of time? We could at least do that in light of the disaster relief that took place.

Mr. WOODALL. If the gentleman will yield?

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I yield to my friend.

Mr. WOODALL. I'd say that I regret I'm not high enough up the chain to know all the strategic decisions, but I will tell you that the bill that came out of the Senate is a sad 2-year bill that provides absolutely no certainty to any of the farmers in my district. It spends more and provides less certainty.

The farmers in my district say, Rob, we need a farm bill, but why can't you do it right? And I know my colleague would agree with me.

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Where did you get the number 2-year rather than 5-year bill from? Because the 5-year proposal is what the chair of the Agriculture Committee, your and my colleague, Mr. Lucas, is seeking to offer. But I don't want to get us caught in the weeds.

Let me go ahead and yield 2 minutes to my friend, the distinguished gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich).

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I also have no further speakers and I'm prepared to close, and I thank the distinguished gentleman.

I also would like to offer an apology to my colleague. I committed a parliamentary faux pas when I said you speak out of both sides of your mouth. In the heat of the moment, I guess what I was trying to say is you said one thing one way than you said at another point in time, so I offer you my deepest my apologies.

Mr. Speaker, we will soon start another long district work period even though we haven't given the middle class an extension of tax cuts for the next year. If we defeat the previous question, I'm going to offer an amendment to the rule to ensure that the House won't leave town until middle class tax cuts are signed into law. The first step is to give this House a vote on the middle class tax cut, introduced by Mr. Levin, which is the same proposal the Senate has already passed and the President is eager to sign.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment in the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Gardner). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida?

There was no objection.

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, there is an upside to the Republicans' ``do-nothing'' Congress. First, it creates a clear contrast between the Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats want to press forward with meaningful ideas to create jobs, improve access to affordable health and education, and invest in the kinds of programs that bring about progress and prosperity for all Americans. I believe that my friends in the majority want to push legislation that either cuts taxes for the wealthiest among us, or increases spending on the military, or does nothing more than pay the bills today--play politics while accomplishing nothing.

This is not about the deficit. The United States doesn't lack the money to prioritize our future. What we do lack is the political willpower and leadership necessary to set gainful priorities.

The Romney-Ryan vision for America is nothing more than a reckless sellout to the ideological extremes of the Republican Party, a party that is utterly dominated at this point in our history by a Tea Party dogma which cares more to preserve tax cuts for the rich than to be about the business of ensuring the well-being of our entire society.

The so-called ``sacrifices'' continually demanded by the Republican majority in order to provide ever more money for foreign wars and tax cuts for the wealthy are shortchanging the future of this Nation. Continuing to move further to the right--or to the left--does not constitute progress. Furthermore, the closed-door negotiations and closed process is truly disheartening and does not reflect the democracy that is supposed to be the hallmark of this institution.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question, and I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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