House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in opposition to the rules package put forward by Republicans for the 113th Congress. Below are his remarks:
"I thank the Ranking Member, Ms. Slaughter, and thank her for the work that she is doing and has been doing over the years, as our representative and leader on the Rule Committee.
"I also want to congratulate my friend, Mr. Sessions, on obtaining the chairmanship of the Rules Committee, an extraordinarily important committee that sets the parameters for debate and consideration of legislation on the Floor of this House. I also want to thank him for his discussions with me, his willingness to work together, and I'm looking forward to a positive relationship as we try to make sure that we consider legislation on this Floor giving everybody on both sides of the aisle the opportunity to make their case. I also want to thank the Gentleman -- he explained we are affecting the rules, but I want to thank the Rules Committee and I want to thank the Chairman in particular and, frankly, the Speaker and the leadership for making changes prospectively so existing individuals are not adversely affected. I thank the Chairman.
"Having said that, let me say that I am disappointed though that the Majority is calling up a rules package that again embraces what I believe to be a partisan budget, which obviously there's significant disagreement about, and rejects efforts to compromise toward restoring, in my view, fiscal stability in our country.
"Despite bipartisan agreements in the Budget Control Act, the Continuing Resolution, and -- just this week -- on the fiscal cliff, this rules package returns to the partisan stance that Republicans brought to the last Congress on fiscal issues -- particularly on the budget. It deems the amounts in the Ryan budget to be the default funding levels this year, levels well below this week's compromise agreement. We saw that in the last budget process as well. We made an agreement and, lo and behold, the budget came out with numbers substantially below that agreement.
"It also exempts the cost of policies we now know now cannot become law: massive tax cuts, as well as the cost of repealing the health reform act. We voted on that over 30 times in this House, and the American people had an opportunity to vote on that. We ought to be focused on making that act as good as it can be, saving as much money as it can, and providing access to affordable, quality health care to all our people. After more than 30 votes in the 112th Congress to repeal, it did not happen. Yet this proposed rule signals that the 113th will continue along a path that has been rejected.
"Another provision in this package continues the policy of denying to five million American citizens living in our territories, the District of Columbia -- Ms. Norton is here and will speak -- Puerto Rico ... Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. We have extended in Congresses past, and frankly when I was the Majority Leader, the ability for those representatives to vote on this Floor. Not to vote on final passage -- the Constitution would have to do that -- but to vote in the Committee of the Whole. They can vote in our committees in the House, they ought to give them that here as a show of respect to honor their service to American citizens in territories and the District of Columbia.
"As this new Congress begins, we have an opportunity to commit ourselves to the spirit of compromise which our constituents so desperately seek from their representatives. Our nation continues to face a number of challenges that can only be addressed by working together and giving every family the opportunity, as our Leader [Pelosi] said when she spoke so eloquently, to Make It In America.
"Let's take advantage of this new session to start off on the right foot and show Americans we are ready to come together to tackle our greatest challenges."