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Republican Freshmen Third Quarterly Report to the 110th Congress

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate Congressman McCarthy's leadership this afternoon and this evening, this opportunity to have a conversation and really to reflect on what it is that we have been sent here to do. I know that I and my colleagues that join me here on the floor, Mr. Speaker, are people that came here as problem solvers. We didn't come here to fight partisan fights. We didn't come here to have sharp elbows. We didn't come here to call people names. But we came here to try to get something done.

We represent districts that are really commonsense districts, that have a high expectation of this process. I know that all of us who are on the floor today, we don't celebrate in the very low view that the American public has of the Congress under this current leadership. We don't celebrate in that at all. In fact, we mourn that in many ways, because there has been a real lack of leadership and a lack of an opportunity.

I think whenever you have conversations about how you are doing so far, and this is our third quarterly report that the Republican freshmen are participating in, it is always in the context of looking at what the expectations were as the 2006 elections came about. What was it that people said, that the American people trusted in, that the American people believed in, that the American people cast their votes for? What was it, that rhetoric that called people forth?

I think we don't have to go very far to really look at the rhetoric from the 2006 campaign and look at the comparison to the accomplishments in 2007, and you can see why 89 percent of the American public says, ``that's not what I voted for.'' So let's kind of refresh our memories.

First off was that we were going to be a very hard-working Congress. The 109th Congress, we were told, was essentially lazy and wasn't accomplishing anything. That was the characterization of the previous Congress under the previous leadership. In fact, we were told that during the next year, Members of the House will be expected in the Capitol for votes each week by 6:30 p.m., and will finish their business by about 2 p.m. on Fridays, we were told by then Minority Whip HOYER.

Well, as it has come into fruition, here we are, it is 5:40 p.m. in Washington, D.C. There is plenty of time for us to be doing substantive work, amending bills, debating bills, considering things. We could all be in committees. And yet the House is quiet today, and here we have this time to be reflecting on what the performance has been.

I regret that. My sense is that we are here to work, and we are willing to work, and we are anxious to work. Yet the way that the majority has structured the calendar, there is simply too much time. Of the 21 weeks in session, only six have included five full days of work. That is according to the official website of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Or, we were told that the Members of the House would have at least 24 hours to examine a bill and a conference report text prior to floor consideration. That is what the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Pelosi, said in her publication, ``A New Direction For America.'' She also said, and it was reported in the Washington Post, that she would insist that bills be made available to the public at least 24 hours before they would be voted on by the full House. Yet the reality, Mr. Speaker, is far different than that.

You know, it is one thing to not make a big deal about something in a campaign and then follow through and you keep things the way they are. But it is an entirely different situation to create this overarching sense of expectation, to create this sort of nirvana invitation, to come to this new 110th Congress where everything is fantastic, and you are just going to love serving here.

Yet the harsh reality is this: The following bills did not enjoy that generous 24 hours notice: The following bills are H.R. 1, the very first bill of this new Congress. H.R. 1 did not enjoy a 24 hour notice period.

Now, let's think about it. Is 24 hour notice the biggest deal in the world? No, frankly, it is not. It is not the biggest deal in the world. There is a little bit of process argument to it and there is a little bit of inside baseball feel to it.

But the point is the current majority leadership created the expectation that 24-hour notice was going to be the standard. So here are just a few things: H.R. 1, H.R. 2, H.R. 3, H.R. 4, all of the first bills, no 24-hour notice. H. Res. 35, the intelligence oversight authority, not the ability to have 24-hour notice. H. Res. 296, H. Con. Res. 63, and on and on and on, no 24-hour notice.

Or we were told by Mrs. PELOSI in the last election cycle, she is quoted as saying, ``Rules governing floor debate must be reported before 10 p.m. for a bill to be considered the following day.'' That sounds great. But the problem, you see, is that the Democrat majority leadership hasn't followed through on that.

According to this report which was put together fairly quickly, nine bills with the twinkling of an aye haven't enjoyed that notice.

As we are moving forward and considering this, my district is sort of interested in the process, Mr. Speaker, but they are really interested in the substance of this Congress. This is a group that is now in the leadership and now in the majority that made very clear promises about what, fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility. And those are things that deeply resonate in the district I represent.

This is what Mrs. PELOSI said. She said, ``Democrats are committed to ending years of irresponsible budget policies that have produced historic benefits.''

Additionally, she said, ``We will work to lead the House of Representatives with a commitment to integrity, to civility, and to fiscal responsibility.'' That sounds fantastic.

You go door to door in the Sixth Congressional District in Illinois, you go door to door in Mrs. Bachmann's district, you go door to door in Mr. McCarthy's district in California, and you say I am going to stand for fiscal responsibility, and they say, hip hip hurray, go to Congress. You go do the right thing.

But where the breakdown has happened or the disconnect has happened is when people say, hey, I voted for fiscal responsibility. I voted for fiscal discipline. That's how I cast my vote last November. And now they come into the third quarter of this year and all of a sudden they realize that is not happening. That is not even close to happening. Oh, they are spending money like there is no tomorrow. That is how this majority has approached the budget situation.

Do you remember the conversation we had on the earmark process on this House floor, Mr. Speaker? Earmarks are those abilities to sort of put a little Post-it note in an appropriations bill, and the note says this money is going to be spent on this particular program in this particular way.

There are some people who say all earmarks are bad. I don't necessarily think that is true, but I think all earmarks should be transparent. People should have the ability to look at the Federal budget, people should have the ability to look at the appropriations bills and look at the work of Congress and say, who is behind that spending item, what is motivating that person, and where is it going.

Well, what we were told is that these earmarks would be transparent. In fact, we were told throughout the course of the 2006 campaign what the Democratic leadership wanted to do was completely transcend the earmark process and open it up to sunshine and goodness and light. But the reality was much different than that.

The reality was it was the Republican minority in this Chamber that had to fight tooth and nail on this floor to drive the appropriations process open so that earmarks were transparent because the way it was originally set up was that we were told that all we could do was simply write a letter if we had an objection to an earmark to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. That is simply not good enough.

So as we are reflecting today and looking about at what is it, how is it that an institution that is to be celebrated, an institution that is to be admired, an institution that is to be respected, is now down at an approval rating at an all-time low? I regret that. I am sad about that. I don't celebrate in that.

I think what has happened is the American people have come to the conclusion that the rhetoric of the Democrat majority, the rhetoric of the leadership of the Democratic Party, the rhetoric of the last campaign simply doesn't match with the reality of what they are seeing in Congress. And so the promise to make this the most ethical group in history hasn't come to fruition. The promise to be fiscally disciplined has not come to fruition. The promise to make this process open and accessible to all hasn't come to fruition.

I think that, Mr. Speaker, in large part is why we are now at this historic low of 11 percent. I think we can do better. I think there are some of us

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who are on the floor this afternoon and evening who want to be problem solvers. There are some of us who want to get things done. There are some of us who understand that living within our means means making fundamental choices and decisions.

We were elected as leaders, and yet sometimes there is a temptation, which I sense on the majority side that they simply want to kick the can down the lane and have another Congress make the tough decisions.

Mr. Speaker, I was sent here to make tough choices and I stand ready with these good colleagues. We are here calling balls and strikes. We don't come in as harsh critics of everything. We are not simply here about donkeys and elephants necessarily, but we are here talking about those things that ought to bring us together as Americans, and that is the ability to work together towards solutions, to make the tough choices now and not defer them to future generations.


Mr. ROSKAM. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I think one of the things that is upon us is this time, Mr. Speaker, that we are in as a country right now and we are really in, essentially, a time of choosing. And there are great weighty issues that are before us as a Nation. There are great challenges that we face today, and yet this Congress is not taking up those challenges. Let me give you an example.

Today, we have the free market. That is something to be celebrated and something to be heralded and something to be defended, because the free market has brought about more prosperity for this country, for more people than the world has ever known. Yet, in many ways, the free market is under attack. And so this Congress, if it chose to, could stand up and defend the free market and celebrate the free market and say we are going to stand by the free market. But, no, actually there has been an attitude that has crept into this Congress that says, no, no, no, the free market is something that brings people down. The free market is something that is to bring suspicion on people and ought not to be celebrated.

Or, that other thing that we are dealing with, and that is that notion of energy independence. This Congress, if it chose to, could come together in a bipartisan way and create the environment where we strive towards energy independence, where we are not dependent on a complicated and difficult part of the world, Mr. Speaker, and that is the Middle East; where we are not dependent on them for our economic vitality and, ironically, for our national security; where we are not funding in many ways indirectly the very people that do us harm. This is the time of choosing.

I think that the reason that we are seeing that this leadership is at an 11 percent figure, and that is almost hard to do if you think about it, to have almost 9 out of 10 people disapproving of you, is because they have squandered this opportunity to deal seriously with these issues.

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