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Legislative Program-

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Legislative Program -

Mr. CANTOR. I yield to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), the majority leader, for the purposes of announcing next week's schedule.

Mr. HOYER. I thank my friend for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the House will meet at 12:30 a.m. for morning-hour debate and 2 p.m. for legislative business, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the House will meet at 9 a.m. for morning-hour debate and 10 a.m. for legislative business. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday, the House will meet at 9 a.m. for legislative business.

We will consider several bills under suspension of the rules, the complete list of which will be announced by the close of business today.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, we will consider further action on H.R. 3326, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

And Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the gentleman about the schedule for the rest of this year. Obviously many, many Members are asking the question as to when we will be able to return to our districts. Many have plans for the Christmas holiday.

So I would ask the gentleman, does he expect the House to adjourn for the year by Friday next week, December 18?

And I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

That is my hope. It may not be my expectation. It is my hope, and it is my plan, but obviously, as the gentleman well knows, having been in this position in the past, that is somewhat contingent upon what our colleagues in the other body do. But it is my intention, and I have announced that December 18 is the last day on which we are planning to meet. I very much want Members to be able to be home Christmas week. But as the gentleman knows as well as I do, that is dependent upon what our colleagues across the Capitol do.

Clearly, we have now passed most of our appropriations bills except for the Defense bill, so we've funded most of government. The Senate still has to enact, of course, the omnibus that we sent to them 2 days ago, which has six of the appropriations bills in it. One remains. So that if they pass that, 11 out of the 12 would have been passed. But obviously, we want to make sure that we pass our Defense bill as well.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman speaks a lot about the appropriations factor, and I assume that means when we would actually bring up the Defense appropriations bill, but specifically, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the gentleman whether it is his hope that we will be considering health care in this House, or whether we could expect that to fall off into next year.

And I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

As is true of almost all pieces of legislation that are pending, that will depend upon Senate action. And until such time as we know what the Senate is going to do, it's almost impossible for me to say with any clarity and assurance that we are going to be able to take up health care or any other piece of legislation because, obviously, the Senate action will be essential for that to happen.

Again, with respect to the Defense appropriation bill, it is essential that we pass that bill. It's essential that we pass the debt limit. It's essential that we extend, in my opinion, unemployment insurance and COBRA. It's essential that we extend the Patriot Act for at least 90 days while the legislative committees are trying to complete that. So there are a number of things, clearly, that I think it's necessary for us to do because of the time limits. But as my friend knows, health care does not have a time limit and will depend upon what action the Senate takes and when it takes it.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, and would ask about the Speaker's planned codel to Copenhagen. I'm aware, I think correctly, that there are about 30 Members that will be going with the Speaker to Copenhagen, scheduled to depart Wednesday evening next week, and would like to ask whether that will impact our schedule for work next week or does he expect that we will be in for 5 days with the Speaker and the codel gone?

And I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I don't know that the Speaker and the codel are going to be gone if, in fact, we have business to do.

I think you're probably scheduled to be on that codel. I know I am. But we're going to be here working if we have work to do to complete our business. And I will be here.

The fact is, as you know, the Copenhagen conference

ends I think on December 19 or maybe December 18. The Speaker had contemplated taking a delegation to that conference--which we think is extraordinarily important--but that will be contingent upon what our schedule looks like for December 17 and 18 and what we've done and accomplished by the evening of December 16.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

The gentleman did, Mr. Speaker, mention one of the things that needs to be addressed, the debt limit, and I believe, if I heard correctly, the gentleman said that he felt we needed to do that prior to year's end.

That has created a lot of concern. A lot of reports in the press have indicated that perhaps the administration is looking for ways that we could avoid doing that. Obviously given the size of the expected increase of the debt limit to nearly $2 trillion, a lot of Americans are wondering how in the world we keep spending money we don't have.

So I would ask again, does the gentleman believe that that comes to the floor next week?

And I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I think to the extent the Americans are considering that, they are considering that, for the bulk of this decade, I would say, we were spending money that we didn't have on a regular basis at very high levels, which is why we went from the $5.6 trillion surplus to the $10 trillion deficit.

Having said that, we have passed a debt extension, as the gentleman knows, and that debt extension is in the control of the United States Senate. They can take that off the table and pass that debt extension. So while it needs to be passed, we have done our work here. The Senate has that debt extension.

I can't imagine there are any of us that don't want the United States of America, as we would expect of all of ourselves and of others, to pay its debts that it has incurred.

But it could be accomplished in a number of ways, and the Senate has a debt extension bill, and if we don't act further on that, they can take that up off the floor or the desk and pass it. That is one option available. The other option the gentleman refers to is doing a new debt extension at a larger number, and that decision has not yet been made.

But I want to emphasize the Senate has on its desk a debt extension that will make sure that the United States of America pays the bills that it has incurred.

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

Mr. Speaker, the gentleman and I were both in attendance at a meeting at the White House this week where we Republicans presented a plan to the President to suggest that there are ways that we could work together, without costing the taxpayers, to try and get America back to work. It has been labeled a No Cost Jobs Plan.

And as the gentleman knows, Mr. Speaker, I had suggested last week that perhaps we could work on some of those measures together. I know that the gentleman just told us, Mr. Speaker, that we may be able to expect certain things like COBRA, UI extension, and others that he believes, I imagine, would be part of a stimulus effort, and we wonder whether we could expect any of the items that we presented as Republicans to the majority, we could expect any of the items that we presented in that No Cost Jobs Plan, to also be a part of perhaps of what may come to the floor next week?

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

First of all, let me say with respect to COBRA and unemployment insurance, I wouldn't call that a stimulus plan; I would call that a tourniquet plan to try to stop the bleeding of some people who have been badly damaged by the extraordinary depths to which this economy fell starting in December of 2007, leading to unemployment in the last month of the last administration of 741,000 jobs lost.

As the gentleman knows, this past month we had only 11,000 jobs lost. That's significant progress but not success until we get into creating jobs.

We clearly believe that one of the important things that we want to do before we leave here is a jobs bill. A stimulus tends to be viewed as a more broadly-based piece of legislation. We've done a lot of that, as the gentleman knows, with his vote sometimes and without his vote sometimes, over the last 12 months.

The fact is that we want to address trying to create more jobs, get our economy going, make lending available for small businesses, expand our infrastructure--which is a direct not only creation of jobs but addressing infrastructure--roads, bridges, highways--as well as sewer and water systems critical to our economy, critical to the health and welfare of our people.

So we're looking at that as we speak, and we're trying to put together a package that the Senate may agree to and that we could pass before we leave here.

With respect to the No Cost Jobs proposal, as I said at the White House with you, I would be glad to discuss it, and I do look forward to discussing it with you. We can discuss it further this afternoon, some of the proposals that you have. I will tell you though, my friend, I have found very few things in life which are free.

If we are going to create jobs, if we are going to expand our economy, to pretend to the American public that it's free, just as your tax cuts were not free--any tax cuts are not for free. It sounds like it, but then there are consequences. And we believe that, for instance, the TARP funds that your motion to recommit sought to eliminate were essentially, while targeted at the time, really were for the purpose, you and I both voted for them when they were adopted, initially, they were for the purpose of trying to bring our economy from the depths to which it had fallen, preclude it from falling off the cliff and to bring our economy back.

I would suggest to you that one of the reasons we don't want to see these funds eliminated after they have helped the banks is we want us to use some of those funds to help Main Street, small business and job creation.

So, with respect to jobs, we are very focused on jobs. We look forward to working with you on that effort and your side of the aisle and suggestions that you have. And if we can reach consensus, I think the American people will be very pleased.

Mr. CANTOR. Well, Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the gentleman and say that I was, first of all, heartened by the fact that when we did come into the meeting with the President at the White House that he actually had a copy already of our Republican No Cost Jobs Plan. And I took that as a positive sign that perhaps we could actually work together in doing some things that don't cost anything.

And I would say to the gentleman, his comment that nothing is for free, there are some things that we could do together that don't cost anything that will, I think, produce jobs and most people agree they could produce jobs. And some of those being--and we told the President we would respond, and I would share that with the gentleman, also--there are a host of rules and regulations being promulgated by this administration and its agencies that frankly harm job creation. Those are the kinds of things we could stop right now if we are going to put jobs first and make sure we do everything we can to get Americans back to work.

As for the TARP funds themselves, Mr. Speaker, my recollection, we voted for that authorization of money in order to stave off a collapse in our capital markets. Most were in agreement that we were on the edge of an abyss and something needed to be done, and so we took the action. Within the proscription of that statute was the definition, or perhaps the mission, of those funds. Those funds were there to make sure our capital markets didn't collapse.

Now, all of us want to be able to say we're doing things to get people back to work. But I think what the American people are growing tired of is Congress saying that it is spending money for one purpose and then all of a sudden deciding, whoops, there's another need out there; let me then go, when we get this back into the Treasury, spend it somewhere else.

So, Mr. Speaker, the reason why our motion to recommit was crafted the way it was was because we feel very strongly in the emergency nature of the TARP program, and in the statute we called for the return of those moneys to the general fund, essentially to the taxpayers, and not to go and spend the money again, because it's borrowed in the first place. So I would say to the gentleman, we look forward to doing some things that don't cost anything to create jobs.

Some of the discussion at the White House centered on trade. We have three pending free trade agreements. If I recall correctly, the President indicated his support for those agreements, because all of us know those agreements will increase exports from this country. I believe, if I'm correct, that the leader himself, the gentleman from Maryland, did say, Mr. Speaker, that he would like to see those exports increased and perhaps those bills taken care of. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? If we're serious about it, why don't we do that next week? We could leave before the Christmas holiday, and most people would say that by passing those bills, we could be on the path to creating 250,000 new jobs in this country.

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Very frankly, he says most people believe that. The polls don't reflect that. A lot of Members on both sides don't believe that. And that's why these bills are controversial on your side and on my side. I think longer term that is the fact. We have people, however, who are having a challenge feeding their families, keeping their homes and paying their bills right now as we speak. It's not free for them. They need help.

On our side of the aisle, we think we need to give them help. Yes, we gave help to the banks. Yes, it stabilized them. I voted for that. You voted for that. I think it was the right thing to do. But those moneys, however, were to stabilize the economy. Now, they were targeted on banks, which were the immediate problem. There are an awful lot of my constituents and a lot of people around the country saying, Hey, you can help the banks, but guess what? I'm not there. My family is not there. My small business is not there. I need help.

Our proposition, under those circumstances, is, yes, the good news is, we didn't have to use all the money that President Bush asked for. President Bush used about half of it before he left. President Obama has used about half of it for the purposes intended. We also used some of it, as you know, for General Motors. That wasn't in the bill. But President Bush decided those funds ought to be used for that purpose, and Chrysler as well, to stabilize the automobile industry.

Now, I will tell my friend with respect to our discussions at the White House, and I understand we have a difference of agreement. We differ fundamentally on how to get this economy moving. Your party voted to a person against the economic package that we had in 1993, and we voted pretty much to a person, not unanimously, against your plan. I think the plan in 1990 worked. I think the plan in 2001 and 2003 didn't work. And I think statistically that is irrefutable. And we fell, as a result of a plan you supported, into the worst recession

we've had in three-quarters of a century.

What we are saying is we need to take some of that money, we need to make sure that Main Street, bank lending to small business so they can stay in business and create jobs is a good use of those funds, because we are not done yet. Your leader, Mr. Boehner, said on this floor, it was over, the recession is over. I think what he meant was, correctly, that the economists say essentially we have bottomed out and we are coming up.

I suggest to you we bottomed out because we not only passed a bill that you and I voted for, but we passed a bill that you didn't vote for, and that is the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since that time, we have created 600,000 to 1.4 million jobs. According to the CBO, the gross domestic product for the first time since the third quarter 2008 has grown, actually 2007, has grown to where it was the last quarter of the last administration, 6.4 percent decrease. It grew 2.8 percent. That is almost a little over a 9-point turnaround. That's good news for the economy. But there are a lot of people still struggling.

So, yes, we believe that we need to have a jobs bill. And we think it is appropriate to address the funds that we've already authorized, not new funds but that we've already authorized, to try to bring this economy back, to not just look at it globally, but to look at individuals who are hurting. We want to apply those funds to those folks who are hurting and try to get them in their homes, get them a job, and get their families more stable.

Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman recognizing that there are differences, absolutely, on how we believe that we can work on getting this economy going again. I do believe that we have some similarities, which is why we proposed the No Cost Jobs Plan.

So I ask the gentleman again, are we going to see the three trade bills come to the floor? Because in my estimation, I believe at least one, if not all of the bills, can garner a majority of the votes on this floor, something we could do next week, leaving town saying we are committed to job creation. Are we going to see those bills, Mr. Speaker?

And I will yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

I'm going to give him the answer he knows is absolutely crystal clear. The answer to that is ``no.'' The bills are not ready to come to the floor. They need to come out of the Ways and Means Committee, as you know. They are not reported out of the Ways and Means Committee, and we are not going to bring them to the floor next week. If we brought them to the floor next week, and the gentleman knows, they would have no immediate impact.

The gentleman also knows, and has correctly stated, that I certainly am for and have been publicly reported over the last 6 months or more, I guess over a year, reported as being in favor of passing the Colombia agreement and passing the Panama agreement. I think the Korea agreement is a little more complicated in terms of making sure our markets are open to our automobiles, to our beef and other agricultural products to make sure we have a fair exchange. But Korea, obviously, is one of our largest trading partners. As the gentleman knows, that's an important agreement. We ought to give attention to it.

The gentleman knows that we are not going to bring those to the floor next week. The gentleman also knows that if we did and we passed them, and the Senate passed them somehow, that it would not make an immediate impact. You and I both agree that over the long term, it would be a positive impact. Others don't agree with that, but the answer to your question is ``no.''

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman, Mr. Speaker, and I think he makes the case for all the more reason we do something now. If there is no immediate impact tomorrow, at least we could be well on the way to fostering that impact on those jobs for the Americans who, as he correctly states, are facing a lot of trouble right now being out of work.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the gentleman about the 72-hour rule and the importance of that that we felt back earlier this year. And because of the way that the stimulus bill was brought to the floor earlier, in January or February, the backlash was such that I believe the gentleman and his party committed to 72 hours to review any bill before it was voted on, for the Members as well as the public to realize their right to know.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the gentleman is: Why now have we abandoned that commitment? Why have we abandoned the public's right to know in major pieces of legislation this week, in both the omnibus bill as well as the bank bailout, the TARP II bill that we just passed? Both of those bills came to this floor. The House voted on it, on the example of the omnibus, and within 24 hours, not 72. And in the example of what we consider to be an extension of TARP and a bank bailout bill, there was a 249-page manager's amendment that was made available 8 a.m. yesterday, and that very same manager's amendment was voted on at 8:54 p.m. last night. How is it that we have now decided that it is not important to recognize and abide by the 72-hour rule?

And I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

First of all, the gentleman has an inclination to state premises that we all agree on things that we don't necessarily all agree on.

Clearly, we want to give notice. Clearly, we believe we ought to give fair notice. As it relates to the bill that was considered today, that bill has had over 3 months of hearings and has been on the table for a long period of time. The gentleman is correct that the final bill and the manager's amendment did not have 72 hours, but almost all the components within it had been known to everybody as proposals that were on the table either in committee or substitute committee markup for some period of time.

With respect to the bill that you referred to that we passed on the six appropriations bills, we, of course, had numerous committee hearings, subcommittee markup, full committee markup, House consideration. We passed all six of those bills through this House. The gentleman is correct that there were amendments included in there, and there was notice of all those, but I would have liked more time.

The problem is, of course, we have come to what is, as the gentleman pointed out, a target date of the 18th. We still have important work to do. We intend to do that. We are going to give as much notice as we can do and meet our responsibilities to the American public.

The gentleman smiles when I say as much notice as we can give. The gentleman surely will not say, because the gentleman is honest, he understands this process as well as I do. He and I have been here for some years. I have been here a little longer. When his side was in control, as he knows, some majority pieces of legislation were considered within hours on this floor, the prescription drug bill being a specific example, the biggest entitlement reform we had had in a long period of time. You reported it at some hour in the a.m., 12 or 1 o'clock a.m., and reported it on the floor a little after 9 a.m.

We considered the bill that afternoon and passed it that day or early the next day. And that wasn't even, as I recall, at the end of the session. But the gentleman knows, as a practicality, both leaderships find it necessary, in order to complete the business that the public expects us to complete, to sometimes move that, when agreement can be reached, at the end of a session. Unfortunately, I've been at this legislative process for over 40 years, and Members like to delay until such time as they think delay is no longer an option.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat amused by the gentleman's commitment to

give the public and Members as much time as they, the majority, could. Again, we have a 72-hour rule in place, I thought, and that was for the very purpose of allowing all of us, including our constituents, the right to realize what's going on in this House. Obviously, we have a lot of work undone for the year. We've got 5 legislative days next week. Certainly, if we are going to be incurring the type of debt and expenditure that we are looking at, surely we could make sure that there is adequate notice and that the 72-hour rule is abided by.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would say to the gentleman, this is what the public is tired of. I find it somewhat interesting that the gentleman says it's okay for the majority to do that because when we were in the majority we did that. Well, I know the gentleman knows, we were let go in the majority in 2006 and they assumed the majority. And again, there is a reason for that, the public is looking for transparency, the public is looking for fiscal responsibility, and certainly, when we are talking the numbers that we are talking, in terms of taxpayer dollars, $1.8 trillion in new debt, certainly, I think, Mr. Speaker, we should afford the public its right to know.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman very much.

Mr. HOYER. Will the gentleman yield before he yields back his time?

Mr. CANTOR. I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I appreciate the gentleman's observation that you were let go. I want to make it clear to the gentleman, I do not believe you were let go because you failed to meet a time frame for reporting bills. I believe, frankly, the substance of our work is that which the public makes a judgment on. And, frankly, we think that the reason that they turned to us in 2006 and 2008 was because they thought that the programs and policies you were pursuing weren't working for our country or for the economy or for them, with all due respect.

But I continue to tell the gentleman that we want to try to make sure, as you did--sometimes--that you, our Members, the public have sufficient knowledge to make the decisions that are called upon for them to make.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

And I would say in closing that the gentleman may be right, it may be that the cause for the 2006 loss and the majority now coming into power was because of the policies, because of the war, because of fiscal practices, what have you, any number of things. But certainly now the gentleman knows that the public is not too keen on the agenda being pushed by this majority. In fact, most of the people in this country feel we're headed down the wrong track.

But also, Mr. Speaker, the public is extremely, extremely concerned about their future. We've got to restore the trust in this institution, Mr. Speaker. We've got to abide by the same rules that we expect the public to abide by, and that is transparency. That is, when we commit to a certain set of rules to live by, we ought not change them midcourse. That is not what we should be doing. We shouldn't be changing the rules of the game as far as the TARP program is concerned. The public thought that money would be paid back. We shouldn't be changing course in terms of the 72-hour rule. The public has gotten to know that and expects us to give them their right to know, Mr. Speaker. That's what I'm talking about in terms of this Democratic majority in this House living up to the public trust that they gained in 2006.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman and I yield back.

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