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Public Statements

Legislative Program

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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MR. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman from Maryland, the Democratic whip, for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the House will meet in pro forma session at 11 a.m.; no votes are expected. On Tuesday, the House will meet at noon for morning-hour and 2 p.m. for legislative business; votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10 a.m. for morning-hour and noon for legislative business. On Friday, the House will meet at 9 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes of the week are expected no later than 3 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, the House will consider a few bills under suspension of the rules, a complete list of which will be announced by close of business tomorrow.

In addition, I expect the House to take up and pass two bills from the Natural Resources Committee: H.R. 2231, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, authored by Chairman Doc Hastings; and H.R. 1613, the Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act, sponsored by Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina. These two bills continue our efforts to increase domestic energy production to foster an environment of economic growth and lower energy costs for working families.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I anticipate bringing to the floor H.R. 2410, the Agriculture appropriations bill authored by Representative Robert Aderholt of Alabama.

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Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman knows that the House has acted, that the position of the House is one very close to where the President's public position on student loans has been. We don't want to see student loan rates double. We also want a long-term solution to the problem on the fiscal end while helping students.

And if the gentleman witnesses what just happened on the floor, it just seems that on bills where there are solutions and bipartisan indications of support, there seems to be a decision by the part of his leadership, perhaps himself, to say, Hey, we're not going to go along with bipartisan work and success, and maybe we're just going to make this a partisan issue. I'm fearful the same is at work on the student loan issue, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that that is not the case, because I know the gentleman shares with me a desire not to allow students to be put in the position of facing a doubling of interest rates if they decide to incur additional student loans.

So I would say to the gentleman, his question, we will stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion--I've indicated so to the White House. The Senate doesn't seem to be able to produce anything. The House is the only one that produced something--very close to what the President's position is--to make student rates variable, to allow for those rates to be capped so the exposure is not what it would be otherwise. Unfortunately, no movement yet. We stand ready to work though.

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Mr. CANTOR. I appreciate the gentleman, Mr. Speaker. And allow me to just to respond.

The Southerland amendment to which the gentleman speaks is an amendment that had been discussed for some time with the ranking member, with the chairman--the gentleman himself, I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, was aware of Mr. Southerland's amendment.

Mr. Southerland's amendment reflects what many of us believe is a successful formula to apply to a program that has, in the eyes of the GAO, in the eyes of the independent auditors who look at these programs, a program that is in dire need of improvement because of the error rates and the waste and the other things that are occurring in this program.

In addition to that, it reflects our strong belief that able-bodied people should have the opportunity and should go in and be a productive citizen. That's what this amendment says. It gives States an option. It was a pilot project because it reflects a winning formula from the welfare reform program back in 1996 that was put into place, with unequivocal success--able-bodied people going back to work, working families beginning to have productive income, not just taking a check from the government.

There was never an intention at all for our side to say we want to take away the safety net of the food stamp program, absolutely not. This was a pilot project, that was it. It was up to the States whether they wanted to participate to see if they could get more people back to work. Again, consistent with what the GAO reports have said over and over again, these programs are in need of reform.

Again, it was not as if this amendment came out of thin air. The gentleman, the ranking member, the entire leadership on the minority side knew this amendment was there. And the gentleman forever is on this floor, Mr. Speaker, talking about regular order, talking about the need for us to have open process, perhaps to let the will of the House be worked and then go to conference. That was what the goal here was, let the will of the House allowed to be seen through, work its will, and then go to conference. And then we would try and participate in a robust discussion with the other side of the Capitol to see if we could see clear on some reform measures to a bill and a program that is in desperate need of that.

Mr. Speaker, again, what we saw today was a Democratic leadership in the House that was insistent to undo years and years of bipartisan work on an issue like a farm bill and decide to make it a partisan issue.

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that that is the case, I do agree with the gentleman. But I hope that we can see our way to working on other issues where there is potential agreement. Yes, we have fundamental disagreements on many things, but we're all human beings, representing the 740-some thousand people that put us here and expect us to begin to learn to set aside those disagreements and find ways we can work together.

Today was an example. The other side, Mr. Speaker, did not think that was their goal, did not think that was an appropriate mission, and instead decided to emphasize where they perhaps differed when we wanted to reform in a certain area.

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Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I would just say, as far as the budget conference is concerned, the budget is something that traditionally, as he notes, has been a partisan affair. It is a document that each House produces, reflecting the philosophy of the majority of those bodies.

The budget contains a lot of different issues, two of which I think the parties have disagreed on vehemently over the last several years: taxes and health care.

We understand, Mr. Speaker, that the other side rejects our prescription on how to fix the deficit in terms of the unfunded liabilities on the health care programs. We've said we want to work toward a balance. We think a balanced budget is a good thing.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the partisan position on the other side of the Capitol is no balance--no balance--and raise taxes. So when you know that is the situation, there is no construct in which to even begin a discussion.

Again, the budget has traditionally been that, a partisan document, whether who is in charge of which House, and then to be a guide by which you go about spending bills after that.

The farm bill, frankly, is a little different. It's for working farmers. It's for, frankly, individuals who need the benefit of the food stamp program. We believe that you need to reform the SNAP program and reduce some of the costs, because even the GAO--the independent auditors that we bring in--year in and year out say

that that program is rife with error rates, waste, and others that we should be ashamed of.

So we put forward our idea through the Southerland amendment to try and reform, put in place, those reforms; but it's still in the construct of the farm bill.

Again, to the gentleman's point, we do want to work together, but it's going to have to be about setting aside differences instead of saying, as the minority leadership did today, You disagree with us on that program, we're out of here. The entire farm bill then does not have a chance to go to conference, be reconciled, hopefully reforms adopted, so we can make some progress, according to what even the independent analysts say should be done.

It really is a disappointing day. I think that the minority has been a disappointing player today, Mr. Speaker, on the part of the people. We remain ready to work with the gentleman. I'm hopeful that tomorrow, perhaps next week, will be a better week.

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