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Bills Languishing in the Senate

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time and appreciate being here on behalf of my colleagues and to have a discussion that is going to focus on what we are doing with our time.

Mr. Speaker, it seems like it never fails. When we are out and about in our districts talking with our constituents, people will approach us, and they want to talk about how concerned they are about the cost of living and what they see happening to the price at the pump and to the price at the grocery store. They want to talk about how concerned they are with how much more education seems to cost them. They are concerned about our national security. They are concerned about the border security. They are concerned about their retirement security. The list goes on and on and on.

They will look at us and, Mr. Speaker, without fail, they will say: Tell me exactly what you are doing about this. I want to know what you are doing to address this problem or that problem or any of the issues that all of us hardworking families are out there facing every single day--every day.

What they are looking for is solutions. What we have realized is that many times they don't know exactly how hard we are working here in the House and that the obstruction that is happening is not necessarily here in the House. What is happening is across the dome over on the Senate side.

Now, I have got in front of me 300 of the 332 bills that have passed this House--300 of the 332 bills that have passed this House. Now, sometimes people will say: Where are those bills sitting? Why haven't they gone to the President's desk?

Well, I always like to tell them, they are on the desk of Harry Reid. It is unfortunate, but it is where those 332 bills are languishing.

Now, as we begin to look at being out of D.C. and working in our districts for August, one would think that the majority leader over in the Senate, Mr. Reid, would get busy with trying to clean his desk. Most people do that. When they expect to be out of town working for a few weeks, they try to get their desk cleaned off, and they try to get things pushed out to where they need to go. They get things organized. They get things done. But that is not what we are seeing in the Senate.

I had one of my constituents come up to me one day and say: Look, I am all for the Larry the Cable Guy approach.

I said: Tell me what that is.

They said: Git-R-Done.

That is what people are looking for, getting the job done on behalf of hardworking taxpayers.

Now, sometimes people will say: Tell me what all is in this list of things that you have done.

Let me just go through what we have found in our bills that have been passed. 178 of these 332 bills, 178 of the bills passed with no opposition, none at all. There was agreement, total agreement, on these bills.

One would think that the Senate majority leader would say: 178 bills in which there is complete agreement, those bills coming out of the House? Surely we can move those forward in the Senate. Surely, out of 100, we can get 60 to agree on something.

But it is amazing. The Senator still has not called for a vote on those.

Beyond that, 54 more bills passed under suspension. That means you had to have two-thirds of this body agree. So all totaled, that is 232 of the 332 bills that have passed this body with either no opposition or two-thirds of the body voting in support of that.

I also find it very interesting, and probably some of our Democrat colleagues would like to join us in our Special Order tonight, because 55 of these bills--55 of these bills--were authored by Democrats. I am certain that they would like to see the majority leader take up their bills and push them through.

Mr. Speaker, when you are so far behind in your work, you generally work nights and you work weekends. You roll up your sleeves, you buckle down, and you get the job done. But that is not what we are seeing happen coming from the Senate. What we are continuing to see is a resistance, an absolute resistance, to moving forward and taking up these bills.

Now, as we go into our last week next week before our August work period, there are several issues that we would love to see the Senate address. As I said, the issues that are stacked in front of us cover everything that the American people are talking to us about, that our constituents are talking to us about when we go into our town halls.

On the issue of energy, we have 16 bills that deal with the issues of energy, 16 different bills that are right here that would address energy issues. Many people have heard us talk about the Keystone pipeline. Do you realize that the bill that would address the Keystone pipeline approval you are going to find right here in this hefty stack of paper?

For those who are just really concerned about what they are paying at the pump--and I don't know about you, Mr. Speaker, but I have been watching the price of a gallon of gas when I fill up my car, and in the last few months, I have gone from $3.59 to as high as $4.15 to fill that car up--far too much. For people who are paying too much at the pump, there is legislation in here that would get the cost down. It is Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America that Works, getting that price down at the pump.

For individuals that feel like we are paying too much on our electricity rates--and we have all watched these rates go up. You look at that bill every month and you see, compared to last year, you are using fewer kilowatt hours but you are paying more. And you think, how could this be? Well, of course, we all remember the President saying that the prices would necessarily skyrocket under him, and he has made good on that promise. Maybe a lot of promises he hasn't made good on, but, the fact that gas was going to cost us more and electricity was going to cost us more, he is making good on that.

Well, here is a bill, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act. All of these are cost-of-living items that we look at in our monthly budgets, energy being one of those that affects us all, everywhere we drive, when we turn on the lights, when we light the fireplace or turn on the burner of the stove to cook lunch. Bills that address those issues, they are found right in front of us.

So there is plenty of work on Harry Reid's desk. Harry Reid has been unwilling to call the vote. I know that my colleagues join me in saying we would love to see him call the vote on one of these 332 bills.

At this time, I would like to yield to the gentlewoman from Minnesota (Mrs. Bachmann).

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I thank the gentlelady.

She mentioned jobs bills. Mr. Speaker, 40 of the bills sitting in this stack are related to jobs. Just the Keystone pipeline bill, there are 42,000 direct and indirect jobs that are related to getting the Keystone pipeline started. So the question becomes: What are you afraid of? What do you fear from taking up some of these bills? Do you fear the American people going to work? Do you fear that things just might get on the right track? That you would find in these 332 bills that we expand some opportunities and the environment for opportunities and the environment for jobs growth to take place? Why is it that the Senate is content with being a do-nothing Senate? Why is it that they are accepting of being a do-nothing Senate? I think we would all like to know the answer to that question. Do they like it? Do they like that they have a stack of work this high sitting on their desk that they are just not able to get around to?

You know, I used to do some door-to-door sales, and we had a little wooden coin and it was called ``a round to-it.'' Any time we felt like procrastinating, any time we felt like we just didn't have the energy to do the heavy lift or make one more sales call or go to another prospect, we would take that round to-it out of our pocket and look at it and remind ourselves, the important thing is to get around to doing the job in front of you.

You know what, Mr. Speaker, I still have my round to-it. I have it on my desk. It is getting old and worn-out, but anytime you think I could just be lazy, I could just not finish this and go do something I want to do, you look at the work in front of you, you look at the fact that you have a cluttered desk, and you look at the fact and consider that people are counting on you to do your job, and you make it a priority to get around to it and to get the job done. That is precisely what the American people have expected of this body, and we have done it. We have done that. And it is frustrating to us and to the American people, and I tell you, we join them in their frustration because look at this, all of these bills, and nothing has been done.

The gentlewoman from Minnesota mentioned the issue of veterans. Do you think it would be considered appropriate to not solve the VA issues and the issues for our Nation's veterans? Of course not.

I yield to the gentlewoman from Minnesota (Mrs. Bachmann).

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, on the veterans issue, there are three bills specifically that cover exactly what Mrs. Bachmann has just mentioned. H.R. 4031, which is the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, this is something desperately needed. Accountability in the VA, absolutely. Why will the Senate not take this up? Why will they not come to work on this bill?

Another, H.R. 2072, Demanding Accountability For Veterans Act, again languishing on the desk of Harry Reid. Of course the VA should be accountable to the veterans and to the American taxpayer. Why are they not moving this forward so that it gets addressed?

H.R. 4810, Veteran Access to Care, precisely what Mrs. Bachmann is speaking of, making certain that the veterans are guaranteed that they are seen in a timely manner.

I have one constituent who got on the VA list for a primary physician 15 years ago. Guess what? He is still waiting. I have another constituent who has been on the list for 3 years and has never gotten a call.

This is completely unacceptable, and in this stack of 332 bills, you are going to find bills that will put that accountability in place. Mrs. Bachmann mentioned also the issue of taxes. We hear about it everywhere we go. People are overtaxed. They are overworked. They realize that they are taxed far too much, and they are tired of it. They want to see the tax rates lowered and the tax burden lowered as well as seeing the regulatory burden lowered.

And on taxes, we have got seven bills, one we passed today, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act. We have got permanent Internet tax freedom. It is right here, seven bills that deal with taxes. We also have H.R. 4457, America's Small Business Tax Relief Act. Hardworking men and women, small business owners, small business employees, they all want to make certain that we deal with this complicated and overbearing Tax Code. They want to make certain that we are reducing that burden on them.

We could take some steps, not solve all of the problems, but take some steps in that direction if the Senate would show up and take up some of the tax bills that are here and help us lower that burden.

We hear a lot about government spending. You know, government never gets enough of the taxpayers' money and government spends too much. You give them a little, they are going to take a little more. We have 31 different bills that are in this stack that deal with reining in government spending, that deal with some of the budget reforms that are desperately needed so that we get rid of some antiquated processes and move to a new template for how we need to approach our spending and approach being a good steward of the taxpayers' money; 31 different bills. Pick one. Get going.

It is amazing, once you get going on a task, it is easier. You get momentum, and that is something that we would like to see the Senate get and take up some of these 332 bills that are sitting over on Harry Reid's desk.

Maybe you are aggravated about government waste and you are frustrated with regulatory overreach, and you would like to see a smaller Federal Government, and you would like it if some of these Federal agencies would stop wasting your money.

Well, we have 16 bills in this stack that deal with stopping that overreach and curbing that waste and putting the bureaucracy on the track to being a better steward of the taxpayer money. We have to remember it is not Federal Government money, it is not the money of this Chamber, it is the taxpayers' money. They want these issues addressed.

How about reining in red tape? You know, I talk to lots of small business manufacturers on a regular basis and they will say to me, the red tape is killing us. The regulation and the red tape is just killing us. We spend too much time on compliance. We have four different bills in here that deal with compliance and cutting red tape. That is another way that government can do a better job of responding to the needs of the American people and the taxpayers.

I think everybody, Mr. Speaker, is concerned about national security.

Every time you pick up a paper or you flip on a channel or you turn a page on your iPad and go to a Web site and look at what is happening, whether it is in Ukraine, the belligerence of Russia, whether it is what is happening in the Middle East, and what we see happening in Israel, concerns about Iran, everybody is concerned about foreign affairs and concerned about our Nation's security.

We have six different bills that would deal with these issues of national security. We would appreciate it if the Senate would take up some of these House-passed bills. Again, Mr. Speaker, 178 of these bills--178 of 332 bills have come out of this Chamber with no opposition at all.

Another 54 have passed, 54 have passed, with a two-thirds vote of this Chamber. As I said earlier, that is 232 of the 332 bills. By the way, 55 of the bills out of the 332 bills are bills that have been authored by the Democrats, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Mr. Speaker, we hear a lot about repealing and replacing ObamaCare and making the health care system work, getting it into a healthy, healthy place, so that you are going to see people actually have access to health care.

Right now, we have got a situation where everybody's health insurance costs are going up, and they are concerned about that. Access with these very narrow networks is becoming more difficult. We are hearing of people that are having to travel great distances to get to physicians or they are having longer waits.

We found 11 bills right here that deal with health care. Some of these are repealing and replacing ObamaCare, 11 bills right here that could be taken up that would help with those situations, that would help with the access to health care, access to the doctor.

What we have seen happen with ObamaCare is that people have access to the queue because they have got a health care card, but what they do not have is access to the physician.

By the way, education--I talked to a constituent at the grocery store on Saturday morning, and she said that she was beginning to plan toward back to school for her two children. I said: Oh my goodness, it seems so early to be planning for back to school.

She said: Well, you know, they are going to be starting back to school the end of the first week of August and then into school the second week of August, and there are fees to pay, there are different class fees that have to be paid, sports teams that have to be signed up for, sports physicals that the children have to get, and those beginning-of-school expenses.

So she was beginning to focus on education and asked what were we going to do about letting parents and local school districts and getting rid of common core and replacing it with commonsense and putting parents and teachers in charge of those classrooms.

Well, we could make some progress in that direction. Seven of the bills that we have right here deal with education and with the issues that face parents and students and teachers. We are all concerned about the future and what is going to be there for our children, in making certain that they are prepared for the future and having access to a quality education and having that right there in our neighborhoods and our communities.

We could take some steps in that direction if the Senate would begin to take up some of the legislation that is over there on the Senate desk. As was said earlier, we are facing a do-nothing Senate because they have chosen not to get to work on this stack of legislation that would address some of these issues.

Mr. Speaker, this week, as we have looked at the crisis on the southern border, we have heard quite a bit of talk and conversation about the issues of human trafficking, drug trafficking, the sex trafficking that is taking place in this country.

Many people probably are not aware, and many of our colleagues probably haven't thought about the amount of work that we have done over the past 2 years on this issue, getting ready to address the issue, doing some research and some digging and some education and addressing human trafficking, taking steps to prevent this, to have the ability to do some intervention, penalties, and making certain that we are strengthening the family unit and fighting these trafficking elements.

We have 11 bills specific to human trafficking that are right here, 11 bills that would help hold accountable some of the traffickers and smugglers and put penalties in place, strengthen and shore up families, take care of victims, do some work on prevention. It would be encouraging if the Senate would join us and address those.

There are other bills that are here. We have got bills that deal with innovation. We have got flexibility for working families to make it easier for working moms. All of those issues are issues that could be addressed.

Yes, we have worked in a bipartisan manner. Indeed, we recently--just a few minutes ago, Congresswoman Jackson Lee was here on the floor talking about some of her work. I thought it was interesting. There was a report earlier in the week. She had had 18 rollcall votes on her amendments in the House in the past year. That is more rollcall votes than all the Republicans in the Senate combined.

She was asked about the amendments in a recent interview, and she said, ``I want to thank the Republicans for their generosity.''

That is the manner in which we have approached our job. As I said, 178 of the 332 bills that you are going to find in this stack, unanimous votes. You have got another 54 bills that are in this stack that had two-thirds majority support.

I thought it was also interesting, in the same article, Senator Manchin has not received a rollcall vote on an amendment since June of 2013. He had recently aired his frustration. He said, ``I've never been in a less productive time in my life than I am right now in the United States Senate.''

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that there are many people that probably share that thought over in the Senate because they are looking at the fact that things are not getting done in the Senate. Ninety-eight percent of these 332 bills have passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

If we were in school, that would be making an A grade on bipartisan support for legislation that is coming out of this House. Our committee chairmen have worked hard to be able to do that, and we have, in good faith, passed these bills, and in good faith, we have moved these bills to the Senate.

Right now, we are watching these bills sit on Harry Reid's desk. For whatever reason, he is choosing not to take these bills up.

At this time, I would like to yield some time to the gentleman from Montana (Mr. Daines).

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. That is easy to read, and people could easily read that.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to note that our bills are not 2,000 pages or 2,700 pages or 2,300 pages. You are talking about bills that are readable. They are easy to work through. You can take them up one at a time, get going on them, and get some things done for the American people.

You can see the different bills. This one is two pages. This one can't be more than about 15 or 20 pages.

So this is not too much of a heavy lift. You can look at a bill like the Keystone pipeline bill, H.R. 3. It is simple and easy to read, but yet this would help create the environment for jobs growth. It would put in motion the components that are necessary to get 42,000 direct and indirect jobs started and on the books.

For an electric power co-op in Montana--and I think it is important to realize that co-ops are membership-led and owned organizations; these are the people that live in the communities that own these utilities--it would be able to hold those utility rates flat.

What a boom that would be for those families that are members of that co-op and those small businesses to be able to say, We have got certainty and stability and we have got security of electric power that is going to be predictable and our rates are going to be stable and low for a 10-year period of time.

That helps them to know what to expect, to work those business plans, and develop plans for expansion. That aids job growth. And that is an indirect benefit. It is a positive consequence of taking a step and passing a bill that is not even 3-pages long that would approve a route for a project.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. That is exactly right. And it is about making certain that we get our labor force participation back up in this country. We have the lowest labor force participation rate we have had since the misery index days of Jimmy Carter's Presidency. We would love to see more individuals back into the workforce.

There are 40 bills that would deal with creating the environment for jobs growth to take place. There is opportunity for innovation in some of these bills. There is predictability and certainty in bills as simple as the little bit on the Keystone pipeline. All of it is sitting on Harry Reid's desk.

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier tonight, one of the questions many of us in the House are asking is, What is the Senate afraid of? What is it the majority leader and the Senate fearful of? Why does he not take up some of these bills?

We have 332 bills, and 232 passed either unanimously or with a two-thirds vote. That is a pretty amazing record. And in these bills are solutions that the American people are looking for--solutions to jobs, to veterans issues, solutions in certainty for our Nation's economy, for our national security, and opportunity for our children.

Those are the things that our focus is on. It is what our constituents have sent us here to do and the job they have sent us here to do.

So I would encourage my colleagues. And as we move forward, we will continue in the House to do our job and to send bills to the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you I think that we would be encouraging of our friends in the Senate to not be a do-nothing Senate--not to be content with that--but to be aggressive in taking up these bills. And as they get ready for August and go back to their districts to work, to get around to it and get to work to clean and organize their desks and do what is right for the American people by addressing the issues that concern them and finding solutions to the issues that they bring to us each and every day.

With that I yield back the balance of my time.


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