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Public Statements

Raising A Question Of The Privileges Of The House

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WALDEN. I appreciate that, Madam Speaker. Rule IX is intended to allow a Member to raise questions which, and I quote, ``those affecting the rights of the House collectively, its safety, dignity, and the integrity of its proceedings; and those affecting the rights of Members, individually, in their representative capacity.''

So I pose the question, What is more fundamental to the rights of Members of this House than the ability to represent their constituents and affect legislation brought to this floor?

The Democratic majority, under Speaker Pelosi, has unilaterally ended a 220-year tradition of allowing any Member to amend a spending bill. When my constituents sent me to Congress, they didn't send me here to just push the buttons using this card in a voting terminal. They wanted me to exercise all of the abilities granted to a Member of Congress. And the rule which this House passed yesterday by only a handful of votes, after arm twisting by the majority, denies me and every other Member the opportunity to fully represent their constituents.

If that does not ``affect the rights of this House,'' if that does not affect its ``dignity and the integrity of its proceedings,'' if that does not affect my rights as a Representative, I don't know what does.

For 220 years, we went along in this House with the opportunity to offer amendments. And sure, there were instances along the way where both parties probably restricted amendments that could be offered on appropriations bills, but not very often.

This is unprecedented and historic in terms of the gagging of Members on both sides of the aisle. We had them on the floor yesterday trying to offer an amendment, a Democrat, and he too was turned down and upset. So I'm sure the Chair can find some technical reason why my resolution to protect free speech rights on the public's airwaves may not be in order.

All we were trying to do is offer an amendment that had been offered up in 2007 and approved by over 300 Members of this House. When it was allowed to be considered and voted upon, it was approved by over 300 Members to protect the free speech rights of broadcasters, the citizens of this country as well. And instead, what we have now operating, I believe, affects the very rights of this House collectively, affects the dignity and integrity of its proceedings and affects the rights of its Members as described under rule IX individually in their representative capacity.

That is why I brought this privileged resolution to the floor, because I believe, as a citizen of this country and a Member of this great institution, that our rights have been diminished, and that indeed the integrity of this very House is on the line.

In fact, when you go to the Speaker's Web site, at least I think it is still up, she pledged an open debate and an opportunity for Members of Congress to be able to come to the floor and offer amendments, much like the chairwoman has done over time, and relishes that, as I do. It is part of what we do here, or what we were sent to do here.

It is pretty hard to offer up alternatives to spending bills to reduce deficits and to put ideas into law when the Speaker's Rules Committee acts and shuts down our very opportunity to even bring amendment up for debate.

Whether it passes or not will be up to the collective votes of this body. But we know that if we can never bring them up for debate, there will never be a vote. Now, maybe that's convenient to those who don't like to vote on difficult issues, or stand up for the free speech rights of broadcasters, whether they be religious broadcasters or those on the right or the left on talk radio, which is what my amendment would have sought to protect in the future.

But I really believe that rule IX is intended to allow Members to raise questions affecting the rights of the House collectively, to discuss its safety, and that's not at issue here, but its dignity is. The integrity of its proceedings are. Those rights, these are fundamental to each of us, regardless of the label behind our name that designates our party.

This is the one time we've had in this institution, to come forward with our ideas on how to control the bureaucracy, to offer an amendment that controls it. It's the only time I, as an individual, have that opportunity in the appropriations process, because I'm not a member of that committee, to represent my constituents. That's why I believe, under rule IX, my representative capacity is diminished, and that of many other Members in this Chamber, many who are watching right now. The public needs to understand this as well, that something has changed here, and it's not for the good. And I think it reflects badly on our proceedings. And I think it injures the integrity of this institution, let alone it's dignity. And that's why I make this parliamentary argument, that under rule IX, under rule IX, Members, it talks about collectively affecting the House.

Tell me, when Members of the minority or majority come before the Rules Committee and seek--well, first of all, have to even go to the Rules Committee. That didn't use to occur on appropriations bills, did it? It didn't used to occur. Only rarely, maybe once or twice in a year.


Mr. WALDEN. I appreciate the gentlelady's counsel and I will attempt to do that. I was trying to do that here, and certainly I'm arguing in favor of the rules of this House being observed; that's why I argue about the integrity of its proceedings.

In my view, proceedings have been shattered. Members of both parties are denied the opportunity, as our predecessors were allowed to have, to come to this floor and offer up amendments during the appropriations process. So I think my privileged resolution should be made in order, because I think my rights have been affected, and not in a good way. The rights of other Members are affected. I had more than one person on my amendment. And so individually, our representative capacity has been diminished. The voices I'm trying to represent are not allowed to be considered if I can't get my privileged resolution to be considered. All it did was ask for a vote on my amendment, that it be made in order, so that we could vote on it on the rule, which, oh, by the way, at this point, the way this process has been conducted, not only has the rule been passed, but also the bill has been passed. So it's kind of ironic now we'd have this argument about whether my privileged resolution was in order, which would have allowed me, had it been secured, it would have allowed me to have some additional representative capacity and be able to have a vote on the amendment or a vote on whether I could offer the amendment. I guess that's what would have occurred.

So I posit this point: That under rule IX, we are allowed to raise questions about issues that affect the rights of the House collectively. I can't think of something that affects the House more collectively than our inability to offer amendments. And so I think our integrity is at issue here, these proceedings. I think Americans have come to understand, bills are rammed through here without the opportunity to be read. We've got a 1,026-page bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee that I can't imagine anybody has read yet.

So, Madam Speaker, I'll conclude; that I hope you'll rule in my favor because I know, in your heart of hearts, you're a woman who believes in fairness, and you believe in the integrity of these proceedings, and you believe firmly and fervently in protecting the rights of Members, both individually and collectively, and that you, in no way, would want to diminish the capacity for yourself, when you're not in the chair, Members of this body, and for Members who will follow us. So I plead with you to do the right thing and allow a vote on my privileged resolution.


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