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Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 5658, Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I rise in strong support of this rule. I suggest further, if we were all adults on this floor, everybody would say this rule, outside of the ambit of what amendments are made in order on the defense bill, is an appropriate rule. It is an appropriate rule to respond to a mistake that was made.

As the gentleman from California observed earlier in debate, mistakes are made. Unlike the previous instance some years ago, which were discussed on this floor of the deficit reduction bill where the minority was not notified, the assertion the minority was not notified was absolutely inaccurate, and Mr. Goodlatte would say that. In point of fact what happened was Mr. Peterson learned of it, talked to Mr. Goodlatte about it, then discussed it with me, and they decided jointly and bipartisanly to proceed.

Unlike the Deficit Reduction Act, the first thing that Mr. Peterson said in arguing for the override of the President's veto was, there is a problem here. He wanted all the Members to know what the problem was. There was not a Member on the floor who didn't know what the problem was.

When they voted, a majority of the minority party voted to override the President's veto because they believed the policy proposed in that bill is a good one. The overwhelming majority of Democrats voted for that bill, and 316 out of 435 of us--there weren't 435 of us; there were 11 absentees. So 316 out of about 424 voted for this bill.

This bill, unfortunately, included fourteen-fifteenths of the bill we passed, and really a larger proportion of that because in terms of pages it was probably 95 percent, 98 percent of the bill.

Now, a mistake was made. It was not a venal mistake. It was not a conscious mistake. And the mistake was made, as everybody ought to know, by the Clerk of the Congress and OMB, and they both made the same mistake. And the mistake they made was reading from the printed copy as opposed to the parchment copy. OMB didn't read from the parchment copy, we didn't read from the parchment copy, because the belief was a decision made 10 years ago by the Deputy Clerk not to proofread the parchment because changing the parchment was too expensive, but to read from the printed copy which then, if found in error, could be corrected and reprinted and then programmed for the parchment to be printed from that. And both our side--our side, the Congress--and the OMB made the same mistake. They assumed, as normally is the case, that the parchment reflected exactly what the conference printed report said.

Unfortunately, in this instance it did not. We still don't have a full explanation of how that happened. But obviously, notwithstanding the fact that parchment indicates that title III in the table of contents is included, when you go to page 169, the end of title II, and you turn the page to 170, you go to title IV. Now, one would have thought it would have been a pretty simple proofreading job if you read the parchment. Unfortunately, the print document which was used by OMB and the Congress to proof did in fact include title III.

Okay. So we made a mistake. The administration made a mistake, we made a mistake, the bill was not whole.

This is, my friends, not an unusual situation. In an 1892 case, which was relied upon in the budget case as well, the Court clearly said: Whatever the facts are internally to the House of Representatives, what the President signs is the statute, is the law.

The Supreme Court says clearly, therefore, that what the President sent us back and the veto overridden is in fact what the court has found is the law. Now, unfortunately, it doesn't include title III. We want to pass title III.

This bill took some 15 months, 18 months of deliberation. The farm bill expires tonight or tomorrow, Friday. So we can either do another extension, which is possible, or we can pass what was overwhelmingly passed in the Senate, overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives, and, as I said on the floor last night, was passed in exactly the same form without title III as was passed in both Houses. There were no changes. No alterations. That was not the case in the deficit bill that was referred to by Mr. Boehner yesterday.

In fact, a very substantial difference was made in the bill without notice to the Democrats, a $2 billion change, I might add, changing from 36 months to 13 months the implications of the reimbursement of Medicare for implements.

Now, that is all to say that this is not without precedent, number one. There are a number of cases that hold that what we did yesterday was exactly appropriate, and that law is not subject to question. Everything is subject to question, but not valid question or winning question.

So what have we done?

First of all, I discussed it with the Parliamentarian. I had not done so when we had the colloquy with Mr. Boehner. I then discussed it with the chairman. The chairman discussed it throughout the next few hours with Mr. Goodlatte, Mr. Chambliss, Mr. Harkin and others.

I discussed it with Mr. Reid to figure out, a mistake has been made, how do we correct that, in fairness to everybody, on a bill, that, by the way, the Deficit Reduction Act was passed by a two-vote margin in the House, and in the United States Senate was passed because of the Vice President's vote. And we were not informed, so we were somewhat concerned about the $2 billion mistake that had been made.

In this case, that is not the issue at all, and it's a bill that was, in a bipartisan basis, passed by a majority of the Republicans and overwhelming majority of Democrats.

So what solution did we come up with? Resending the bill that, under the Supreme Court's edict is, in fact, law if it is overridden in the Senate, so that fourteen-fifteenths of what is the Congress's intent will be accomplished.

The rule then says, but in an abundance of caution, we'll also provide for the passage of the entire bill and send it over to the Senate, as has been passed overwhelmingly in both Houses.

In addition to that, we said, the bill does not include title III that is going to be in the veto message that's sent to the Senate.

I know for the public, this is pretty esoteric, and they don't really care. What they care is the substance.

But the point that I'm trying to make is, we are trying to correct a mistake and serve the agricultural community, serve those millions of people who are relying on the nutritional aid, serving those people who are relying on the conservation assistance throughout this country, to have this bill, after 18 months almost of consideration, serious bipartisan working and overwhelming bipartisan votes in both Houses, enacted into law.

But we are also providing separately for the passage of title III. In other words, we're doing title III twice, once as the full bill so we can repass the full bill. If the Senate decides, as I hope it will, to pass that again, then we will not only have passed fourteen-fifteenths, we will have passed fifteen-fifteenths in another bill, and they will be reconciled and they will be consistent with the law and with the will of this body representing the American people.

Now at about 7 p.m. last night, those of you who heard the colloquy, I indicated to Mr. Boehner we ought to talk about this. I went by Mr. Boehner's office to explain to him what I thought the solution to this problem was and discuss it with him. He was not at his office. I left a message and my phone number at 7 o'clock last night. I have not yet received a response to that visit.

I went to his office to suggest that, pursuant to my representation on the floor, we discuss that. I have not yet received a phone call.

I did talk to Mr. Blunt last night. I've talked to Mr. Blunt this morning. I frankly am offended, I will tell you, by the mischaracterization of what we are doing here by the representatives of the minority leader's office.

There are no games being played here. There was a mistake made. And if we were adults and nonpartisan and wanted to deal with this in a responsible way, I suggest we would have agreed on this proposal.

Now, unfortunately, we didn't get to an agreement. I don't allege that anybody on your side has agreed to this. But to suggest that it hasn't been discussed, informed, and I called as soon as I came in this morning, the leadership on your side, to explain exactly this procedure.

Now you can disagree with the farm bill or not disagree with the farm bill. I understand that additional games are going to be played, as it was my perception last week were played. On Thursday, 131 or 132 of you decided, notwithstanding the fact that I am sure you are for funding the troops in Iraq, you voted ``present.'' That was your decision.

It's my understanding now that perhaps you're being urged, some of you who are for this bill, to deny the two-thirds on the suspension of a bill that has gotten essentially three-quarters of
this House and 80 percent of the United States Senate supporting it.

Ladies and gentlemen, at some point in time the American public expects us to act as adults, not simply as partisan protagonists, to conduct business, notwithstanding the fact because we are humans, and those who work for us are humans and are under great stress. They have to work around the clock. They work 15-hour days, sometimes longer days. And we expect them to act without ever making a mistake. That is unreasonable. And when they make mistakes, and when we make mistakes, it is appropriate for us respond in a way that will correct those mistakes and, at the same time, carry out the policies that are overwhelmingly supported by this body.

My friends on both sides of the aisle, I would hope that we could do that. I regret that the minority leader has not called me back. I regret that he has not sat down and, with me, had the opportunity to discuss this. I had a discussion with him before the vote last night. It was a very calm, reasonable discussion, Mr. Lawrence and I, outside the middle door. We knew there was a problem. We knew we had to solve it. I think this does, in fact, solve it from the standpoint of adopting the policy overwhelmingly supported by this Congress of assuring that title III is addressed, and assuring us of the opportunity to make sure that it's not subject even to any lawsuit question by, again, passing the entire bill supported by, as I said, over 75 percent of the Congress of the United States.

I understand there may be questions about which amendment was allowed in order to the defense bill and which wasn't, so on that case, you may vote differently on the rule. But on the addressing of the mistake that was inadvertently made, and I stress again, by the Congress and by the Office of Management and Budget, same mistake apparently was made, that we can correct this as adults treating one another in a way that each of us would want to be treated to act so that we adopt policies that are supported by this Congress.

Mr. HOYER. I would be glad to yield to my friend, Mr. Blunt, if he wants time.


Mr. HOYER. Reclaiming my time. I thank the gentleman for his comments.

I simply rise to say that this rule accomplishes exactly, in my opinion, what the minority whip wants to accomplish. It provides for the full passage of this bill under suspension, which the gentleman was for when it passed before, which I was for, and I will vote for. And that suspension accomplishes exactly that objective, so that any defect caused by the mistake will be cured.

Secondly, it's not blame. I, frankly, think the decision that was made 10 years ago was a rational decision. The decision was not to use the parchment copy as a copy to mark on to correct. There was no criticism there. It was simply that's when the decision was made. I think it, frankly, was a good decision.

The problem was, neither OMB nor ourselves used the parchment copy. We used the printed copy. The printed copy did, in fact, have title III in there. And obviously both the President and ourselves thought that the bill that was signed was the full bill. It ended up not being so, so we're going to correct that. I think we're correcting it properly.

I would urge all Members to vote for the rule, vote for the full bill, the farm bill which, as I said, got over 75 percent of the House and over 80 percent the Senate. Vote for title III so that, frankly, that can be passed more quickly by the Senate under its rules, and the leader has already indicated he will move forward on that.

If you have a disagreement, you won't vote for that. I understand that. And I think we will, therefore, cure the issue at hand.

I congratulate the Rules Committee for adopting this rule. I urge my colleagues to vote for the rule, and if we do so, we will adopt a farm bill that I think will be good for the country. I think we will enact a farm bill which will be unimpeachable in either aspect, and I think we will have done what the American people expect us to do.


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