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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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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WOODALL. House Resolution 778 is a closed rule for the consideration of two bills, H.R. 6365, which is the National Security and Job Protection Act, and H.J. Res. 117, which is the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for FY13.

Mr. Speaker, I'm a freshman on the Rules Committee. It's a good committee to be on. I enjoy it. I get to work with learned Members like my friend from Florida, who is across the aisle, but it falls to me to handle continuing resolution bills. As you'll remember, when we showed up at the beginning of 2011, there was a lot of unfinished business from 2010, and we went right into continuing resolution act to continuing resolution act to continuing resolution act--sometimes 2 and 3 weeks at a time. That's no way to run a government. It's no way to have a Congress.

My friend from Florida and I disagree on a great deal of policy, but we believe that a deliberative process yields better results than the ``right here, right now, hurry up and wait'' kind of mentality that this body so often adopts. So what we've done here today with this bill, with this H.J. Res. 117, is to say we understand that the appropriations responsibilities of this Congress have not yet been completed. The Constitution gives this Congress--not just this body, but this Congress--the responsibility of providing appropriations for this Nation.

Now, as the Speaker knows full well, this House has set about getting its business done. We divided those appropriations bills up across a number of bills. The Commerce-Justice-Science bill passed this House with a bipartisan majority. It went to the Senate, and the Senate had no floor action whatsoever. Mr. Speaker, you know that the Energy and Water bill passed this House with a bipartisan majority. It went to the Senate, and the Senate did nothing with it whatsoever. You know that the Homeland Security bill passed this body--again, with a bipartisan majority. It went to the Senate, and the Senate took no action. I can go on and on and on. There is the leg branch bill, the military construction bill, the defense bill, on and on and on.

So here we are. We don't have control over the Senate. We only have control over what goes on here in this body, and I've got to tell you that I'm proud as a freshman that we've set about getting our business done. With one deliberative bill at a time and one open rule on appropriations bills at a time, we allowed every Member of this body to come to the floor to offer their amendments and to have their voices heard in order to produce the very best work product that we could produce. I might add, Mr. Speaker, that we did that at a funding level even lower than what the American taxpayer asked of us in the Budget Control Act. I'm very proud of that work.

But in the absence of the Senate taking action, Mr. Speaker, we have to move on. The American people are going to have a referendum in this country. They're going to have a referendum on what fiscal responsibility means.

We're going to have an election in November, and new House Members are going to come and new Senate Members are going to come. The administration may change. We're going to have that opportunity for all of us as citizens to speak out in November and choose a path for 2013. But our business today, Mr. Speaker, is making sure the doors stay open moving into 2013.

As my colleagues know, in the absence of action, Mr. Speaker, government offices begin to close on October 1 of this year, one by one--national parks, veterans services, Social Security services, Medicare services. That's not the kind of governing responsibility that we all swore an oath to uphold.

So I'm pleased to be here today, Mr. Speaker, to bring this rule to the floor to say, yes, we have gotten our work done in this House, but we've been stymied by the leadership in the Senate that has not scheduled votes on these bills, but we will not allow the American taxpayer and American citizens to pay the price of inaction by the United States Senate. We will make sure that government services continue with this great referendum that this great Republic will have in November. It's a 6-month continuing resolution, Mr. Speaker, and it will solve that need.

This rule also, Mr. Speaker, provides for consideration of H.R. 6365. It's called the National Security and Job Protection Act, but what it is is a sequester replacement bill. Mr. Speaker, I don't know that I've ever been more disgusted in my 18 months in this body.

We came together here in this House in a bipartisan fashion. We passed the Budget Control Act, which gave six House Members and six Senate Members--six Republicans, six Democrats--12 Members of this Congress, esteemed Members of this Congress, talented, bright, conscientious, American-loving Members of this Congress, an opportunity to look at our entire budget. They didn't just look at the $3.8 trillion that we'd spend this year, Mr. Speaker, not just that $3.8 trillion, but next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, well into the three-generational window. It was hundreds of trillions of dollars these 12 men and women had an opportunity to look at to find bipartisan agreement.

About 4 months they worked on that project, Mr. Speaker, and you know how that story turns out. After 4 months of labor by 12 of the brightest, most conscientious Members of this body--six Republicans, six Democrats, six House Members, six Senate Members--looking at hundreds of trillions of dollars in tax expenditures in social programs, in taxes and tax cuts, they agreed on absolutely nothing. Not one dollar out of hundreds of trillions did they come together on. That was a tremendous disappointment.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, in order to try to bring agreement to that body, we passed legislation that implemented what they called the sequester, to say, if against all odds this joint select committee were to fail--candidly, it was not on my radar screen that they would. This was a solemn responsibility. These were talented Members who were assigned to it. But if they were to fail, we would implement automatic spending cuts that would achieve the kind of budget reductions that every American knows that we need. The problem in this town is spending, and the sequester said we will not fail on this opportunity to address it.

Well, that sequester goes into effect in January of next year, and hardest hit will be the United States military. Again, this was a device that was put into place not because folks thought it was the best policy in the room, but to be there as the hammer to say surely this 12-member committee, this joint select committee will come to the agreement that will bring us back from this fiscal cliff. They didn't. Now this sequester hangs over the head of not just the United States military, but over Medicare, over social programs.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I'm just so proud to be a freshman Member of this House. This House said back in the spring that is an unacceptable outcome. It was never intended to be the outcome. No one ever desired that it be the outcome, and we can change that outcome.

So we passed a sequester replacement right here in this House that went into mandatory spending programs, which is where the real problem is in the budget, as we all know, and said let's replace the sequester that may harm
defense--cuts that are going to deal with our military, that are going to put our national security at risk, and let's replace those with spending reductions that make sense.

Again, we passed that in the House. The Senate has taken no action whatsoever.

I don't mean to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that they've taken no action on our bill. They most certainly have not. They're under no obligation to. It's the right thing to do, but they're under no obligation. They are under an obligation to do something about it. They are under an obligation to stand up and listen to the same constituents that my colleague from Florida and I listen to to say there must be action. We must prevent this tremendous threat to our readiness, to our troops, and to our troops' families.

This bill, introduced in this body by Colonel Allen West of Florida, gives us an opportunity to do just that in the bipartisan, open-minded way that I think has characterized the 18 months that I've served in this House because of the leadership of folks like you, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't say you have to use the House-passed bill already.

Was it a good bill? Absolutely. Was it the right answer? I believe that it is.

But what it says is use the House-passed bill or use something like it. If you can find a better plan, if the Senate, in its wisdom, can find a better plan, that's going to work, too. It's not our way or the highway.

It's that we know that there's a right way and a wrong way to deal with our budget challenges, and we want to do it the right way.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this rule. I rise in strong support of the two underlying provisions, as well. I look forward to the debate on that this afternoon. We're going to be able to debate these individually, which I believe is the right way to handle questions of this magnitude and this importance.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, before I yield to my freshman colleague from Pennsylvania, to say to my friend from Florida, I don't think you heard the word ``Democrat'' come out of my mouth during my presentation except to talk about those things on which we cooperated together. There are absolutely challenges in this Chamber, but the challenges I'm talking about are challenges with the United States Senate.

Democrats and Republicans in this body came together to pass 7 of the 12 appropriations bills this cycle. We began back in April. Far from being an 11th-hour solution, we began, as the Constitution requires us to begin, one piece of legislation at a time in the most open process this body can implement, Mr. Speaker, where every Member of this body gets to offer any amendment that they desire. Seven appropriations bills we've moved through this body, Mr. Speaker. And then it became apparent, as the Senate has moved not one of 12 bills, that that process was going to be fruitless--fruitless.

Again, is that what the American people want from us? Absolutely not. Are we doing what the American people deserve in this body? Absolutely we are. In my 18 months, I have not found it to be a Republican-Democratic problem. I've found it to be a problem of ideas.

I said to my friend from Florida, I know that he believes in his heart every single word that he has just enunciated. He speaks for inspiration, Mr. Speaker. I have the great pleasure of sitting behind him on the dais in the Rules Committee, so it's always his words that inspire me before it's my turn to take the microphone.

My constituents back home, they say, Rob, what have you learned in 18 months with a voting card? I said, What I have learned is it's not theater on the other side of the aisle. Folks aren't taking to the microphone for their 15 seconds of fame on television. They're taking to the microphone with heartfelt beliefs that they know in their heart to be a reflection of their constituents back home.

And so as we hear two different presentations about what it is we're doing today--a presentation that suggests it's an 11th-hour, last-minute process versus that presentation that says we've done it all right in the openness of day, and here, 4 weeks before the deadline approaches us, we are going to take action to make sure that uncertainty does not further slow this economy.

I'm told, Mr. Speaker, that the fewer days Congress is in session, the higher the stock market goes because at least nothing bad happens here. We're the problem, Mr. Speaker. Government is not the solution. Government is too often the problem.

The last Congress that passed as few bills as this Congress has passed, it was the 104th Congress, when Republicans took control of this House for the first time in over 60 years, because they were elected then not to expand the size and scope of government but to improve the size and scope of government, to reform those processes.

What my friend from Florida says about 2005, 2006, unfunded priority after unfunded priority, I'd love to tell him he's wrong, but he's absolutely right. He's absolutely right. The American taxpayer knew it, and Republicans in this Chamber paid the price for it in the very next election. That's the ace in the hole for America, Mr. Speaker, the American taxpayer. They're paying attention to what happens here.

My colleague may believe that we're on the wrong track. I'll tell you, in 18 months, I've never been more proud for what this institution has done. We're going to find out when the American taxpayer speaks out in that referendum November 6.

With that, Mr. Speaker, there are 87 new freshmen in this freshman class and two more added. I yield 2 minutes to a freshman colleague from Pennsylvania (Mr. Marino).

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

I'd just like to remind my colleague from Massachusetts how we ended up here; and, again, we ended up in a way I think that we can all be proud of.

Take ourselves back to April of this year. Again, this is the 2013 funding bill we're talking about. We sit here in September of 2012, we're talking about funding 2013 spending. We began this process back in April on the floor of this House, bill after bill after bill passing in a bipartisan way.

The Military Construction, Veterans' Affairs bill, Mr. Speaker. What could be more important and what could be more bipartisan? Passed this House 407-12. We went through that bill, Mr. Speaker. We went to every single Member of this Chamber. Not just 435, Mr. Speaker. We went to every delegate as well and said do you have a voice that needs to be heard on this floor on this issue and gave every Member that opportunity.

At the end of that, Mr. Speaker, which was just a free-for-all of democracy right here--it was our Republic at its best--this House came together, 407-12, to pass that bill. Mr. Speaker, 226 Republicans, most of our number, 181 Democrats, most of their number, passed that bill--407-12 for our military and our veterans. That bill didn't see the light of day on the Senate side, Mr. Speaker.

Our failure to pass this continuing resolution today sees those dollars go to zero. Far from being an abdication of responsibility, this is the height of taking responsibility. Abdication of responsibility has already happened. I can't fix it. I can't change it. We did our business here in this House. But we are being held hostage. And by ``we,'' I mean we, the citizens of this country. I mean ``we,'' the voters of this country. Those with the priorities of this land, we are being held hostage by a Senate that is finding other priorities, priorities other than military construction and our veterans.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't end there with Military Construction. It goes on. It goes through Leg Branch appropriations, Homeland Security appropriations, Energy and Water appropriations, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations.

How about Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Speaker? I mean, when you listen to some of the voices on this floor, there's a reason, there's a benefit to being a Southerner and talking slow. It gives your blood pressure time to come down just a little bit before the words begin to come out of your mouth, because Transportation, including mass transit, Housing and Urban Development, those programs for the neediest among us, passed this House 261-163 in a huge bipartisan majority; 182 Republicans, 79 Democrats came together to say let's focus on the priorities of our constituents back home.

Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Let's move that bill through this body. Again, Mr. Speaker, in the most open process this institution can imagine where every single Member has a chance to be heard, where every single Member can offer their amendments right here in the well.

There are no voices that are being quieted here. We all represent American citizens back home. It's their voices that get shut out.

Do we have a closed rule today on this continuing resolution? We do.

I think back, Mr. Speaker, I know you do, too, to H.R. 1, back in the spring of 2011. It's the only continuing resolution I've ever known of that came under an open rule, and boy did we have a show of democracy here.

It began on a Tuesday, Mr. Speaker. Congress was supposed to adjourn by Thursday afternoon; but by early in the morning on Thursday, it was clear we were nowhere near done. As a freshman, I was a little cynical about this process. I had a suspicion the leadership was going to close that process down because Members had planes to catch and events to go to, and after all, all it was was a continuing appropriations bill.

You know what this leadership said, Mr. Speaker? They said not on our watch. We're going to go into Thursday night. And I don't mean Thursday night at 9. I mean Thursday night past midnight. We're going to go all night long. We're going to go all night long into Friday. We're going to go Friday to noon and Friday through dinner and all night long on Friday night. We finished at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Mr. Speaker, I jumped on the first flight out of National. Flew home. Did a town hall meeting no later than 3 hours after we adjourned that Saturday morning. I was on fire because this House gave every single Member a chance to offer every single amendment that their constituents would have them do. That was extraordinary.

We can't do that every day. We can't go marathon sessions 5 days, day and night. I'm young and vigorous, Mr. Speaker, but I've got to tell you, some folks may not be able to handle it. I'm with you, Mr. Hastings, if you're ready to go those days and nights. I'll do them with you.

But we did that, those 12 appropriations bills. We did that in this body. Not all in one package, but one at the time, at the time, and the Senate said no.

Our choice here today is do we close the doors at these agencies? Do we close the doors on these social services? Do we go through another one of those government shutdown scenarios that benefit absolutely no one, or do we do the right thing which is observe our budget caps, continue to reduce spending? That's right, Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I do on these appropriations bills, on this discretionary spending we spent less in 2011 than they spent in 2010. We spent less in 2012 than we spent in 2011. And if we pass this bill, we'll spend less in 2013 than we spent in 2012.

It hasn't happened since before World War II. Three years in a row, Mr.
Speaker, of this body coming together and telling the American people we can do better with less. That's what this bill is about today, Mr. Speaker.

Again, strong supporter of this rule. Strong supporter of the two underlying measures.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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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.

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

I appreciate my colleague for his words. A lot of folks, Mr. Speaker, have the burden of working with folks whose motives they question. I have the great benefit of working on the Rules Committee with a team of folks whose motives I absolutely never question because I know folks are operating from their heart and from their constituents' best interest.

Let me say, because we talk so much about productivity down here on this floor, Mr. Speaker, The Washington Times did an article earlier this year on productivity in the House and the Senate. They called it ``the futility index''--the futility of all the efforts in the body. They said the Senate ranked number one of all the years that they've been keeping records; less activity going on in the Senate by a large margin than ever before. Then they came to the House and they said, you know what, it's true the House hasn't passed a lot of bills. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we outlawed all of those silly commemorative bills that were not about the people's business but were about folks and their campaigns. Those no longer come to the floor. We eliminated a whole portion of that that was not about the people's business. What The Washington Times said was this: that we had more time in this House in session than all but 10 Congresses since they began keeping records and that we had more debate in this House, Mr. Speaker, than all but two Congresses on record; more debate, more discussion about those ideas and those priorities that are important to the American people.

Now, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, there's not a man or woman in my district that defines success by how many bills the President of the United States will sign; or if they do, they find those things to be inversely proportional. They don't want us to take over any new industries; they don't want us to regulate any new industries; they don't want us to pick any more winners and losers. They want us to stop. And even better than stopping, they want us to roll those things back.

We're having that debate in America, Mr. Speaker: Who are we? Who are we as Americans? Who are we as a people? And what is so wonderful about this country, despite all of our differences there has always been more that unites Americans than that divides us, always. You can't pick up a newspaper today, Mr. Speaker, without them talking about the ideological divide in this country being as stark as it has ever been, but there is still more that unites us than divides us.

I believe, when we come into this election in November, Mr. Speaker, we're going to have the largest voter turnout in American history. I have no idea what they're going to conclude. But I believe in this country, and I believe that if more of us are at the ballot box participating in this Republic--as we are required, duty bound to do--we're going to end up with a better result.

I look at the young faces in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker. I like to think of myself as young, but I'm in my forties. The gentleman from Florida expressed his age, despite his youthful vigor. It's about the young people, Mr. Speaker.

And when the gentleman says America is strong enough that we can handle all of these growing debt challenges, I say to the gentleman, I admire his optimism but I disagree with his conclusion. The numbers I look at tell me, if I take everything from everybody, if I take everyone's house, everyone's car, everyone's bank account, if I nationalize every single company in this country, if I take it at all and put it in a bank account today, I still can't pay the hundreds of trillions of dollars in promises that this Federal Government has made to generations to come.

We don't have a problem in this country, Mr. Speaker, that we're not taxing people enough. Our problem is that we're spending too much.

I serve on the Budget Committee as well as the Rules Committee, and we took that challenge on head-on, head-on, Mr. Speaker. They call some things the third rail of politics. We said, in this House, in a bipartisan way, the third rail of politics is failing to deal with these challenges. Failing to deal with these challenges is the problem; dealing with them is the solution.

This wasn't a solution that everyone agreed with. It was a solution that got the only bipartisan majority in this entire town. And we did it not once, but twice, Mr. Speaker.

This is not a happy day. I usually come to the floor; I talk about how excited I am to be here because we're going to do an open rule and we're going to have the Republic at its best. That's not today.

That day was May 10 on the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill, where we had every voice heard. That day was July 19 on the Defense Department bill, where we had every voice heard passing those bills in huge bipartisan fashion. That day was June 6, when we did it with the Energy and Water bill, huge bipartisan majority; and again on June 7 with the Homeland Security bill, and the Legislative Branch bill on June 8; May 31 on Military Construction, on and on and on, Transportation, HUD, June 29.

We've done those things, and the silence on the Senate side is deafening. We could do all those bills again, but this House has already spoken. The people have already spoken. And this continuing resolution gives this body and the American people 6 months for that referendum in November, for every voting-age man and woman in this country to come out and have their voice heard.

We've done all we can do in this body, Mr. Speaker.

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Mr. WOODALL. Reclaiming my time, I have had no prouder moment than our debate on H.R. 1--no prouder moment.

Though I will say to the gentleman, as the gentleman knows quite well, it is frustrating that we can't do the business today. We tried.

As the gentleman from Florida knows, we tried all of these appropriation bills. They weren't 6-month bills. They weren't 2-week bills. They were entire FY13 bills, and we did them right. We did them the way they were supposed to be done. Some people won, some people lost, but, in the end, a bipartisan majority came together and passed every single one. That's what we should be doing here, Mr. Speaker, and we have.

The American people are going to decide in November: Is the problem the House? Is the problem the Senate? Is the problem the executive branch? I have my own suspicions, but I trust the American people more than I trust any other vote that we make in this House, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I rise in strong support of this rule. I rise in strong support of the two underlying bills, the continuing resolution bill and our opportunity job protection sequester replacement bill.

I urge my colleagues to support the rule. I urge my colleagues to support the two underlying bills.

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