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National Security Foreign Investment Reform and Strengthened Transparency Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Rules Committee's complying with our preference for this rule, which allows any amendments to be offered that are germane.

And I just want to touch a little bit on a discussion we had in the Rules Committee yesterday about whether or not it makes any sense to have an open rule. There were a couple Members, one in particular, who said, This is no big deal because, after all, this bill passed last year overwhelmingly and it could have been done on suspension. And the argument that it is an equivalent to pass a bill on a suspension and to give it an open rule if it is likely to pass by an overwhelming majority is deeply flawed and misunderstands the legislative process, and I want to make sure that people have addressed this.

The important question on a bill may not be ``yes' or ``no.' There is a large number of bills that are going to pass. There are bills that are going to pass because politically they are perceived as impossible to oppose. There are bills that achieve a purpose that everyone is for. In many cases, and it would appear to be the case with this bill, the important question is not whether or not it passes but in what form. That is, the amending process has a relevance and an importance, whether or not the bill is ultimately going to pass. And when you rely, as it was suggested yesterday that we should, on a suspension, as long as we know the bill is going to pass because, as Members understand, a suspension does not allow for the amendment process, then you are constricting the ability of Members to legislate sensibly.

The question is not just ``yes' or ``no.' That, as I said, is a denigration of the legislative process. And having an open rule, as opposed to a suspension, means a number of amendments are offered. I am opposing many of the amendments, as are my colleagues on the other side. I am not opposing all of the amendments. Even where an amendment is defeated, remember, our purpose is not simply to stamp out an end result. It is to participate in the democratic process of discussion and debate. The process is diminished when a bill that is important is given only 40 minutes with no amendments because it is noncontroversial. We will talk for more than 40 minutes today. We will have some amendments.

So I hope this will stand, this process today, as a repudiation of the notion that it is an equivalent to pass a bill under suspension of the rules, with no amendments and only 40 minutes of debate, and to go through this process of an open rule. Even though I expect this bill to pass overwhelmingly, as it passed last year, this House, this country, this democratic process benefit. And, of course, it is just one bill.

As a general rule, I would hope that we would not use the suspension process for bills that are complex where Members might have some difference of view not as to whether or not the bill should pass, but in what form it should pass. This process today, I think, will show the superiority of the choice we are making under the current leadership of the Congress to go ahead with a more open debate than last year when the question was simply can we get the votes to pass, and if so, let's shut down the debate and shut down the amendment process. That is ill-served democracy. Today is a much better way, and I thank the Rules Committee for it.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I want to make clear the flaws in the reasoning we have just heard.

Equating a suspension of the rules procedure which allows only 40 minutes of debate and no amendments with an open rule simply because the final bill will get a large vote misunderstands, indeed, denigrates the democratic process.

The gentleman says this belongs on the suspension calendar. There are amendments offered, some I will support and will improve the bill; others that will not. But for one thing, why only 20 minutes of debate on each side on an important issue. When the gentleman says noncontroversial bills belong on the suspension calendar, he undervalues the process of debate and amendment. Very often the questions are not whether the bill will pass ultimately or not, but in what form. And let us be very clear, the suspension calendar eliminates amendments.

To say because a bill can ultimately pass with a large majority Members should not be given a chance on the floor to alter it or amend it seems to me to denigrate the process.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I am reclaiming my time because the gentleman is evading the point he made. He is the one who said this should be suspension. He is the one who said suspension is where, if it is going to pass by a lot in the end, you don't need an open rule you can have suspension. He said we should put these noncontroversial bills back on the suspension calendar.

There are two separate sets of bills. There are bills that are going to be controversial in the end that you have to debate, and there are also bills that are controversial in part.

As far as the committee I chair is concerned, unlike the practice under the gentleman's chairmanship of the Rules Committee, we will be bringing out the bills from our committee that are controversial in all aspects open to amendment if I have anything to say about it, and I will fight for that. But that doesn't mean that you go for suspension and no amendments.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I would just say to the gentleman that I intend to make the same request for openness this year from our committee that I did last year when he was in the majority. I am hoping for a better result this time.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. If the gentleman would continue to yield, I am talking about the last year when the gentleman was on the Rules Committee and when the committee I was on brought forward amendments to the Rules Committee and offered amendments, the Rules Committee wouldn't allow us to vote on them on the floor.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Well, I am hoping for votes, not outrage.


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