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Public Statements

Legislative Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Maryland, the majority leader, for the purpose of announcing next week's schedule.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

On Monday the House will not be in session. On Tuesday the House will meet at 12:30 p.m. for morning-hour debate and 2 p.m. for legislative business, with votes postponed until 6:30. On Wednesday and Thursday the House will meet at 10 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday there are no votes expected.

We will consider several bills under suspension of the rules. The complete list of suspension bills, as is the custom, will be announced by the close of business tomorrow. In addition to the suspension bills, we will consider H.R. 2442, the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009, the conference report on H.R. 2997, the Agricultural, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010, and the conference report on H.R. 2892, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I'd ask the gentleman if we could turn to the discussion of health care, and as the gentleman knows, he and I have had discussions this week, perhaps, I think, a discussion that could yield the ability for us to work together on the things that we agree on in health care. Obviously, the divide is great when talking about any type of move towards a government takeover of health care. But he and I have spoken about maybe there are some areas of agreement. And he and I have also talked about the fact that we could meet together and discuss that, and I look forward to hearing from him or his office to schedule that. And along those lines, I'd like to ask the gentleman what he expects the schedule to be towards bringing a health care bill to the floor of this House.

Mr. HOYER. First of all, let me say that, as far as I know, we have no premise that we want to pursue of a government takeover of health care, so notwithstanding the characterization, we don't believe that what's being proposed does that, any more than Medicare, from our perspective, was a takeover of the health care system. Having said that, we are working, as you know, as the press is reporting, on seeing what alternatives are available. There are three committee bills that have been reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, had full markups, Ways and Means Committee, and the Education and Labor Committee. As you know, they differ in part, and so there are now discussions as to how you meld those bills together with the theory and intention of offering a bill from those three bills.

We would expect the Rules Committee, at some point in time, to effect that objective, as has been done in the past. Our expectation is that we will do that within the time frame that we're able to do it; that is to say, there's not yet a resolution of how that is accomplished, so we don't have a time frame.

And we haven't set a time frame, but we will do it when it's possible to put forward.

Lastly, I would say to the gentleman, he and I talked earlier this week, as he pointed out, and I look forward to sitting down with him next week to see if there are areas where we can agree. If there are, we'd like to do that. And I think the gentleman has expressed his desire to do so as well. On the other hand, as we know, there are areas of substantial disagreement. It's certainly not our view that we can start over again. It is our view that this matter has had over 90 hearings over the last couple of years; that we've had over 2,000 town meetings on this, and we've been really at this for about over a year now, with very substantial discussions during the Presidential campaign from all candidates on both sides of the aisle, as to the fact that health care reform was necessary, and we believe the overwhelming majority of the American people believe that. Obviously, the details are the critical issue, and I look forward to pursuing discussions next week with the gentleman.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman. And Mr. Speaker, I'd ask the gentleman further as to the timing of a bill. I understand that he's indicated that there is no resolution as to exactly when a bill would come to the floor.

Mr. HOYER. If the gentleman will yield.

Mr. CANTOR. I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I do not expect a bill to be on the floor within the next 2 weeks, if that's what the gentleman's asking. I think we'll have time to have discussions.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman because I was going to ask about the Speaker's commitment prior. So I thank the gentleman for that.

Mr. HOYER. If the gentleman would yield, because I think probably--to complete the answer--the Speaker and I are both committed to giving substantial notice, not only of the bill, when a bill is put together, but also of any manager's amendment which may effect the resolution between the three committee documents. It is our expectation that there would be at least 72 hours for either the bill and the manager's amendment or, if they are separate, 72 hours for each.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, as to the scheduling of a bill dealing with sanctions on Iran, we've had discussions together on the floor and elsewhere regarding the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. And Mr. Speaker, I'd say to the gentleman, now, in particular, I think time is of the essence that we act because, as we have seen over the last 10 days, Iran revealing its secret enrichment program, indicating, yet again, that the regime in that country refuses to comply with international law or the will of the world community.

So it is my sense that we should, and we can work together on this issue. The gentleman had indicated last time we were engaged in a colloquy that he was going to meet with Chairman Berman of the Foreign Affairs Committee about moving that bill and bringing it to the floor. So I would ask the gentleman if he could tell us when we could expect that bill to come to the floor.

Mr. HOYER. Since I made that representation, I have, in fact, met with both not only Mr. Berman, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but also Mr. Frank, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee. As the gentleman knows, there are two sanctions bills. One is Chairman Frank's bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly last year, and provides authority to State and local governments to divest their assets from any company that invests $20 million or more in Iran's energy sector. That is not as consequential, obviously, as Mr. Berman's bill. Mr. Berman's bill, as you know, requires any foreign entities that sell refined petroleum to Iran or otherwise assist such sales to be banned from doing business in the United States. Obviously, that has real teeth to it.

As the gentleman also knows, October 1, discussions are underway with Iran for the first time in a long time. Furthermore, significantly, the

administration is working with our allies, certainly with, as the gentleman knows, with Britain and France, but also engaged with Germany as well, and with Russia and with China, members of the P-5 plus 1, essentially, members of the Security Council plus Germany, on how we might respond to what the world has viewed as a violation of the U.N. resolutions and what Iran has been doing. The gentleman and I share a view that Iran's process is unacceptable, that Iran's pursuing of nuclear armed capability, weapons capability is unacceptable and dangerous to the region and to the international community.

The administration shares that view, and therefore, with respect to Mr. Berman's resolution, we are in contact with the administration, and Mr. Berman is prepared to bring that forward at a time when, based upon whatever may occur in the next week--I don't want to put a time frame on it--a week or two, that might indicate that we could get a broader international toughening of sanctions that now exist, with the agreement, particularly of Russia. As you know, President Medvedev has made some pretty strong statements about Qom and the findings there, and what he believes to be Iran's failure to keep the world informed and concern about what Iran is doing, which was a positive sign.

But with those considerations in mind, I know that Mr. Berman is very focused on this and ready to bring a resolution to the floor at a time he believes is consistent with the administration's trying to attain, with the international community, the strongest possible sanctions internationally, as well as our own sanctions.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman. And I would only add that I believe I'm speaking for our conference here in indicating that it's not necessarily what we would do in terms of trying to wait for China and Russia to move the bill. I'm not saying the gentleman said that, but it sounded as if we've got to wait until there is some collective agreement on the world stage in order for Congress to act. As the gentleman and I have agreed for a long time now, we, in this country, believe very strongly of standing up against the regime in Iran. It has an impact on our allies across that region in the world and particularly for us here at home. So I would encourage the gentleman by telling him that our side stands ready to want to help with moving that bill.

Mr. HOYER. If the gentleman would yield, I appreciate that, and I am confident that, as the gentleman points out, that we will move ahead in a bipartisan and overwhelming fashion on this bill. But I want to make it very clear: We don't have to wait for anybody. Having said that, the judgment of the chairman, in concert with the administration, is that we do want to see what developments occur in the very near term. And I think that's what I meant. Hopefully that's what I said. The gentleman's accurate; we don't have to wait, certainly for Russia or China or for anybody else, to take the action we deem to be appropriate.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, as the gentleman knows, there is a very important debate occurring in our country right now regarding our position towards the commitment we've made in Afghanistan. And it's clear that the Republicans believe, as I'm sure the gentleman does, that this Congress must be devoting attention to this important issue as it relates to the national security of the United States and our interests in that arena, as well as abroad. And I'd like to ask the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, whether he, in his leadership, will call on General McChrystal to testify before Congress as soon as possible. And I'd note, as the gentleman well knows, that Chairman Skelton has been reported to have made such requests of his leadership.

Mr. HOYER. As the gentleman probably knows, I have also indicated I thought General McChrystal ought to come to the Congress and testify, not only before the committees, but perhaps brief a bipartisan session. I don't mean an address to it, but a bipartisan briefing, either in the Armed Services Committee or on the floor here or in the auditorium. I think that's appropriate. As the gentleman knows, the President has been involved in very extensive consultation with the Cabinet members that deal with the national security issues, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen; General Jones, the National Security Advisor; Secretary Clinton; the Vice President and others who are dealing with this issue.

As you know, there has been no specific request directed to the Congress at this point in time, either by General McChrystal, Secretary Gates, or the President, so that it may well be an issue of timing as to when they're ready to come to the Congress to lay out the specific plans that they believe we ought to pursue. But I think that everyone shares the conviction that this is a critical issue with which the Congress is going to deal, and that General McChrystal, who is the commander on the ground in Afghanistan, needs to come before the Congress and give us his best judgment as to how we can be successful.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman. And I know it's just been reported that in the Senate there was an amendment offered by Senator McCain on this very point, requiring there to be some testimony by General McChrystal before Congress by a date certain. And I'm told that that amendment went down on a party-line vote. So I would just tell the gentleman, again, that our side believes it's very important, as I know he does, in terms of our national security and Congress' role that General McChrystal be before us so that we can be informed and conduct our constitutional duty as such.

If I could, Mr. Speaker, turn to the question of jobs.

We have a running debate, the gentleman and I and others, as to the effectiveness of the stimulus bill. And as we all know, back in January it was reported that that bill would arrest the rise of unemployment. In fact, the goal was set that unemployment would not overreach beyond 8 1/2 percent. We know in this country now we're just under 10 percent unemployment nationally.

I feel very strongly, Mr. Speaker, that we should be focusing on this economy while we're trying to deal with so many other issues. And it has been some time now where we have missed the opportunity on this floor to bring up bills that have to do with job creation.

If we look at some of the evidence of the stimulus bill, it is the contention of our side that that bill has not fulfilled its mission. We could go through any list of expenditures that we have noted in the press and elsewhere, where you have got $2.8 million to fight forest fires in the District of Columbia; you have $3.4 million to help turtles cross the road in Florida. These are the kinds of items that, frankly, rob the public of their confidence in what we do.

So I would ask the gentleman, is there any effort, is there any hope that we may perhaps have some constructive debate around the rest of the stimulus money and perhaps orient that towards job creation, sustainable job creation and growth in the economy? Because after all, I think that's what all of us are after.

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

And he's correct: we do have a different perspective on this. Of course, the gentleman supported economic policies in 2001 and 2003 that of course produced the worst job performance of any administration since Herbert Hoover. We lost 3.1 million jobs in the last 14 months of the Bush administration, lost an average of 680,000 jobs during the last 3 months of the administration that President Obama was faced with.

We acted decisively and boldly, in my opinion, under the President's leadership. In point of fact, we reduced the average of some 680,000 in the last 3 months of the Bush administration to, over the last 3 months, 350,000 and only 216,000 jobs lost. I say ``only.'' That relates to 741,000 jobs lost the last month of the Bush administration. That is a half a million fewer jobs. It's not where we want to be, but it is certainly a lot better.

Many economists in our party and, frankly, in your party, Mr. Zandi we refer to, estimate that we have over a million jobs more than we would have had had we not passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There has been a 1.3 percent rise in consumer spending in August. It was the biggest increase since the 2.8 surge in October of 2001. The Labor Department released a report last week showing that during the previous week, the number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell for the third straight week, evidence that layoffs are continuing to ease at the earliest stages of the economic recovery.

Without going into a lot more statistics, we do have a substantive difference as to whether or not our economy is getting better. The good news, from my perspective, is most economists agree with us that we've bottomed out and we're starting to come up. We're going to have unemployment figures tomorrow that will be announced. Hopefully, they're down even further.

The stock market, I will tell my friend, in the Recovery and Reinvestment he thinks hasn't worked is up from about 7,200-7,300 up to about 9,700. I will tell you that every American that opens their 401(k) or retirement plan thinks that progress has been made. I know I do when I open mine. I am very pleased to see that.

So we do differ. We differ not only on the success of the economic plan that was pursued for 8 years that led to the deepest recession that we have had in 75 years.

But the gentleman stands and asked me a question about adopting more of those policies, and with all due respect, my friend, we didn't think those policies were going to work, we don't think they did work, and, in fact, the policies that your party voted against to a person in 1993 produced exactly the opposite results: high employment, low deficits; in fact, a net surplus at the end of the 8 years of the Clinton administration, and a reduction in spending which you doubled in terms of percentage, 3.5 under the Clinton years and 7 percent under President Bush's years. So, yes, we have a difference of opinion.

We think we have pursued vigorously policies to create jobs, create economic stability, create growth in our economy, and we think it's working.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I would say in response, I, nor most of my conference, was not here in 1993 on that vote.

I would simply say to the gentleman, as he knows, in the stimulus debate and on down through the rest--cap-and-trade, the health care, the budget debate--the proposals that we are offering, especially as he refers to in the economic arena, are not the same policies. We have proffered an agenda which speaks to small businesses.

And, Mr. Speaker, I would say I don't think it is necessarily a constructive route to take for us to say who was worse because none of us, as the gentleman suggests, likes the fact that we've lost 2 1/2 million jobs in the last 8 months. And if you ask the small business people in our districts if they think things are better, I think there's pretty much unanimity that small businesses are having difficulties still keeping the lights on, maintaining payroll.

Something is amiss. We've got to be focusing on how we can expand the opportunity for those small businesses to grow again. It's very central to the idea of getting the capital markets straight, of getting our fiscal house in order. I am very troubled by the bills that are coming along in the Financial Services Committee, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, yet more attempts by the majority to impose the will of Washington on the entrepreneurs across this country, restricting ultimately their ability to access credit.

You know, we do have differences, Mr. Speaker. I am just hopeful that we can find a way to work together to promote jobs.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman very much for his time.

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