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Legislative Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

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

Mr. HOYER. I thank my friend, the Republican whip, for yielding.

Madam Speaker, on Monday the House will meet at 12:30 p.m. for morning-hour debate and at 2 p.m. for legislative business, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. On Tuesday the House will meet at 10:30 a.m. for morning-hour debate and 12 p.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, including a number of bills focused on improving government operations: the Plain Language Act, H.R. 946, by Representative Braley; H.R. 4720, Taking Responsibility for Congressional Pay Act, by Representative Kirkpatrick of Arizona. A complete list of suspension bills will be announced by the close of business today, as is the custom.

In addition, we will consider further action on H.R. 1586, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. Further action on the jobs agenda is possible, and further action on health care legislation is also possible.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, I think it has been well reported that the majority plans to try to use the reconciliation process to ram a health care bill through this House and the one across the Capitol, and we also know from the reports that it is imperative that this House and the House majority and members of the majority must first pass the Senate's health care bill before any other action on a reconciliation measure is taken. The gentleman has announced, Madam Speaker, that all this will take place next week.

I wonder if the gentleman could give us a little bit more clarity as to the schedule and perhaps the need for Members to keep their schedules flexible through the weekend.

Mr. HOYER. First, let me say that no matter how often the gentleman and his colleagues want to say so, that we are going to ``ram through'' something, no matter how many times the press and public may be misled by that assertion, we are not ramming through anything, I tell my friend.

We are following the rules of the House and following the rules of the Senate that have been decades in existence, which, when they have been used, 72 percent of the time they have been used, 72 percent of the time they have been used, I tell my friend, your party used them. They are the rules, and we are going to follow the rules.

Both bills that are pending before the Congress of the United States have been passed with a majority, and, in fact, the Senate bill was passed by a 60 percent majority, I tell my friend, not rammed through, after a full year of debate and discussion, scores of hearings, hundreds of witnesses, and thousands of hours of consideration.

I tell my friend that you can say we are ramming something through as much as you want and it will not make it true, no matter how often it is said by your side of the aisle, who, in my opinion, wants simply to stop the legislation in its tracks.

I tell my friend that we are going to be in the regular order, as we have been on these bills since they were introduced. We are going to be in the regular order in terms of considering the passage of bills that have received majorities in both Houses. As I say again, the Senate bill has received a 60 percent majority in its House.

Now, the American public, frankly, I expect when we vote on bills, they expect things to pass by majority vote. They do here. They unfortunately don't in the other body. So you can have 59 percent, as we had in the House, to give children health care, and children don't get health care.

So I say to my friend, as I said, the expectation is we will consider passing health care legislation this coming week. We think it is long overdue. We expect the Budget Committee to mark up a reconciliation bill, as the committee did when the Republicans were in charge on 16 occasions out of the 22 that reconciliation has been used, 72 percent of the time, as I want to reiterate; because I, frankly, get a little impatient with this assertion that somehow a process that you utilized 72 percent of the times it has been utilized, which means we used it 28 percent, that somehow now when we are using it, it is somehow now not consistent with the rules. My friend knows it is consistent with the rules, and we are pursuing that process.

The committee, I expect, will mark up on Monday. I expect thereafter the Rules Committee to meet, as is consistent with the rules, to prepare a reconciliation bill and to report it to this floor. I expect them to report a rule to consider that reconciliation bill, and I expect that reconciliation bill to be considered.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, all I asked was whether the Members should be prepared to be here over the weekend.

Mr. HOYER. No, you said a number of things before that which I was responding to. But, yes, Members should prepare to be here next weekend.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, without having to delve back into the debate on what makes this health care bill different than the other times reconciliation was used, I think the American people are those that see the obvious.

But I would ask the gentleman, since he says we will be employing regular order here in response to the President's request that there be an up-or-down vote in this House, could the gentleman give us some enlightenment as to the suggestion surrounding something called the ``Slaughter solution'' and whether, in fact, Members can have an up-or-down vote, clean up-or-down vote on this bill, or whether there will be some procedural maneuvering, self-executing rule deeming the Senate bill passed? If he could give us some indication of what we may be able to expect next week.

Mr. HOYER. Of course, as the gentleman knows, the gentleman's party has used that process as well, as I am sure the gentleman knows. But, in any event, we will follow the rules. We will have a vote on the rule, consistent with the rules.

I have not talked to the chairwoman of the Rules Committee at this point in time, so that I cannot give you a specific response and have not heard--this is the first I have heard something referred to in the terms you have just referred to it as. But we will provide for a rule for consideration of the Senate bill for reconciliation, and the process of doing so will be consistent with the rules.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask again, consistent with the President's request that there be an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill itself, can we expect an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill itself?

Mr. HOYER. What the President was referring to, of course, in terms of an up-or-down vote, was a majority vote. One of the problems we have had in the Senate, as the gentleman knows and experienced as well when his party was in the majority, it is difficult to get an up-or-down vote when the majority of the Senate is for

something. They have to get an extraordinary majority, some 60 votes, before they can bring a bill to the floor.

That process, obviously, thwarts, does not facilitate, a vote by the majority. In fact, a minority in the Senate on a regular basis thwarts the will of the majority. That is what the President was referring to, that he wanted an up-or-down vote on that, and I expect we are going to get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Why? Because in the Senate they have rules that we are going to follow, as you did in 16 out of the 22 times, that allow for an up-or-down majority vote in the United States Senate.

We have to have, as you know, a majority vote in the House, and we consistently do have measures that can fail or succeed, depending upon the will of the majority, as opposed to the thwarting by the minority.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Madam Speaker, I know the gentleman would like to speak to the Senate. We are trying to focus on the House here and what the vote will look like. Since the gentleman has indicated that the President and he and all of America would like to see a vote up or down in this House as well, I would ask the gentleman whether we can expect an up-or-down vote on the health care bill itself or not.

Mr. HOYER. I tell the gentleman that nothing will pass here without a majority vote.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I take that to mean that there is a likelihood that we will not see an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill itself and that perhaps these reports of a concept called the Slaughter solution in which the majority will deem it passed, the Senate bill, in some type of procedural move, that maybe the public can expect that to happen. I know that the gentleman does not think that that represents the kind of vote that the American people expect, but I take that to mean that that certainly is a possibility.

Madam Speaker, I would ask the gentleman whether he expects the House to have 72 hours to review whatever legislation comes to the floor next week.

Mr. HOYER. I expect the House to have very significant time to consider the proposals that come out of the Budget Committee and/or the Rules Committee. And this bill, of course, either bill, the House bill or the Senate bill, as proposed, have been online for some 2 1/2 months, otherwise known as about 75 days. So there has been ample time to review the bill, whether it is the Senate bill or the House bill. So my friend is, I am sure, well aware of what is in the Senate bill and what is in the House bill.

In addition to that, the President put online his proposed compromises between the Senate and the House, which have been the subject of great discussion, including the bipartisan meeting that the gentleman and I attended at the White House, an extraordinary, historical meeting at which the President invited leaders from both parties and both Houses to come and discuss what he believed to be a historic opportunity to provide health care accessibility to all Americans.

So I say to my friend that we will certainly give as much notice as possible, but I am not going to say that 72 hours is going to be the litmus test, per se, because that which we have voted on already in the House and the Senate have given Members months of notice and the American public months of notice on the substance of the propositions that are pending before us.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

Again, I am a little bit taken aback that now the 72-hour rule has been completely cast aside, since no one in this House has had an opportunity to see what is in the reconciliation bill, at least I speak for the Members on our side of the aisle that have not had an opportunity to see what is in the reconciliation bill, and I imagine would have some of the provisions that the President in his plan, not the legislation, put up online prior to the Blair House meeting.

Again, it is rather disturbing, Madam Speaker, that the 72-hour rule has now been completely cast aside.

Mr. HOYER. First of all, the 72-hour rule, I didn't say that we were casting aside any rule, nor did I say that we may not have more than 72 hours' notice. You may well have more than 72 hours' notice. What I said to you was I am not going to commit myself and then have 70 hours as opposed to 72 hours and think that I have violated some representation that I made. We want to give as much notice as we possibly can.

This has been a very difficult discussion, as you know, and as you well know, the Members on your side of the aisle in the other body have indicated they are going to do everything in their power to stop the passage of this legislation. So we need to get about this business and engage, if you will.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I guess the gentleman may begin to understand why it is some on our side of the aisle, including yours truly, depict this as ramming the bill through. I mean, if we can't even get a commitment from the gentleman, as well as the Speaker had indicated prior, that we would have 72 hours to review any piece of legislation that comes to the floor, I think that that is consistent with the depiction that perhaps there is a ramming through going on.

Mr. HOYER. The gentleman has had 72 days, I tell the gentleman, to review the bill that he refers to--72 days, not 72 hours--72 days in final form to review the bill.

Now, you can keep saying this. You can keep telling the American public that somehow we are ramming something through. You have had, I tell the gentleman, and you know you have had, 72 days, at least, to review the bill as it stands today.

Mr. CANTOR. Madam Speaker, I tell the gentleman again, we are expecting, as he said, to see a new bill, a reconciliation bill on the floor next week. That bill, no one on our side of the aisle has had an opportunity to see. Perhaps the Congressional Budget Office has had 72 hours to see it, but we haven't. No one, I believe, has had 72 hours in this body to see the reconciliation bill. That is the bill that I am speaking to.

Mr. HOYER. Let me repeat the process that I'm sure the gentleman knows well. The Budget Committee will meet. They will report out the bills that are to be reconciled. The Rules Committee will then take them under consideration shortly thereafter and will present a reconciliation bill. We will all see it at that point in time. It will obviously do exactly what the instructions that we adopted in the budget a year ago instructed it to do, and that is to reconcile these bills.

And it will have a fiscally positive effect, in my view. I haven't seen it yet finally, but my expectation is it will have a positive fiscal impact, and we will all see that. But it will be simply following the instructions that the Budget Committee in the budget passed. I don't think the gentleman voted for it; but, nevertheless, the majority of the House did vote for it.

I know that the other body doesn't like majority will. Maybe that is not the case here. But I will tell the gentleman that, yes, he is going to see the reconciliation bill. And as I said, the reconciliation bill, which will be drafted by the Rules Committee after the Budget Committee reports to it, the process that you followed on a regular basis when you utilized reconciliation. We will hope to have as much notice of that particular piece of legislation as possible.

But I tell my friend, again, when he refers to the health care bill, the Senate bill or the House bill, you have had months to review the substance of that bill. You don't like it. We understand it. You're going to oppose it. We understand that as well. But the fact of the matter is you cannot say that you have not had notice of each and every one of its provisions for over 2 months.

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

And, again, it seems as if we are not going to get an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill in the House, but we will be voting on a reconciliation measure. And the instructions that were included in the budget bill are not legislative text. That is my point, Madam Speaker.

But since we are not going to, since we cannot be guaranteed a 72-hour period for review, Madam Speaker, nor can the American people realize their right to know during the 72-hour period, I would ask the gentleman whether the reconciliation package will contain the House language referred to as the Stupak-Pitts language.

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I don't have knowledge of that at this point in time; so I can't give my friend a definitive answer. But as my friend does know, that language, or any other alternative language, may not qualify for reconciliation.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I would just like to, Madam Speaker, read a recently reported statement by the gentleman in which he said, it is clear that the matter of abortion cannot be dealt with per se in the reconciliation bill; so we are pretty much going to have to deal with it as is at this point in time.

I ask the gentleman if that is a correct translation of his remarks today.

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. It wasn't a translation. It was an accurate reporting of what I said.

Mr. CANTOR. So, Madam Speaker, I would take that to mean the Stupak-Pitts language will not be in the reconciliation package.

Mr. HOYER. As I said, we don't believe that any change in that language--because the gentleman is well aware reconciliation needs to deal with budgetary impact--we don't believe that can be dealt within reconciliation.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

I would say to the gentleman that I'm sure he has seen a letter that has been signed by 41 Senate Republicans in which they indicated they would oppose any effort to waive the so-called Byrd rule during the Senate's consideration of the reconciliation bill, which means to me, Madam Speaker, it is far from certain that the Senate will actually pass the bill when the House sends it to the Senate. And, in fact, I would just call that to the gentleman's attention that we stand ready to continue to work in another direction, but it seems to me very much in doubt with this bill.

Mr. HOYER. Will my friend yield on that issue?

Mr. CANTOR. I will yield.

Mr. HOYER. That is an interesting letter. I'm glad you brought it up, because you brought it up in juxtaposition to the issue of the Stupak amendment. What the letter essentially said is, even if you send over the Stupak language and we agree with the Stupak language, we will not waive the Byrd rule.

So even though they agree with the policy, they won't waive the Byrd rule. Why? They want to defeat the bill. We understand that. That is what that letter said. And I think Americans probably, if they knew enough about the process and could take the time to do what you and I do to follow this very closely, they know what is going on.

And, very frankly, it is ironic that 41 Senators will say, notwithstanding the fact that they may agree with the proposition that we put in the bill and sent over to them, that they would not waive the rule to adopt the proposition with which they agree for procedural purposes of defeating the bill.

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

I would indicate that in that letter there is no specific language that directly relates to an abortion provision or any other. And the gentleman I know agrees that this country has had a longstanding tradition of denying government funding for abortion services. That is the very important issue behind the Stupak-Pitts language. In fact, 45 Senators voted in favor of that language, just as a majority of this House voted for that language. That is why it is so important, I think, that the Members, as well their constituents, understand that you will not be including the Stupak-Pitts language with the protection that will guarantee no government funding goes toward abortion services, which is why I bring the point up, Madam Speaker.

Mr. HOYER. As the gentleman knows, the language in the Senate bill specifically provides for no government funding. I know there is a dispute because there is a contribution towards policies. But, as you know, the Senate drew language very carefully to ensure that no public funds were spent for or participated in purchasing insurance for abortion services.

In fact, as the gentleman, I'm sure, well knows, the Senate language specifically provides that if those protections are going to be purchased, they must be purchased by separate payment with none, either subsidy dollars or government dollars, that they must be spent out of an individual's personal pocket.

Mr. CANTOR. Madam Speaker, I say to the gentleman, if that is his interpretation and belief that this language in the Senate bill protects that longstanding tradition, that may be. However, the U.S. Catholic Bishops as well as Right to Life have strongly, strongly opposed the language in the Senate bill as not having the adequate safeguards to deny government funding of abortion services.

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. This is an extraordinarily difficult issue not only for the Congress but for Americans generally and for individuals. There is a dispute on

this language, he is correct. As he knows, neither side likes the language in the Senate bill. One side, the pro-choice side if you will, for simplification, believes that the language goes beyond the Hyde language. The Catholic bishops believe it is short of the Hyde language. There is a difference of opinion on that. I think the gentleman understands that well. There are other groups which believe that, in fact, the language that is in the Senate bill does, in fact, as I have projected it does, preclude any public dollars from being spent, which is consistent with the Hyde language.

I tell my friend that from our perspective on this side of the aisle, there is no intent nor objective of changing the Hyde language in any health care legislation that is adopted. The President has indicated that is his intent. That is our intent. And that is why we are proceeding in the manner we are.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman for his clarification of his intent. I would just say again the Catholic bishops, as well as the right-to-life organizations, stand very much in opposition to this language. I stand with them.

I would say to the gentleman, Madam Speaker, that the Parliamentarian in the Senate has ruled that the Senate cannot take up the reconciliation package until the Senate-passed health care bill is signed into law. That is the bill, Madam Speaker, that contains provisions such as the Cornhusker kickback. And I would ask the gentleman if it is his position that that would be the case that this House must pass the Senate bill first, it must be signed into law before the Senate can even take up the reconciliation package.

I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I think the gentleman correctly states the Senate Parliamentarian's position, and therefore I think the gentleman is correct on that observation. I might say to him, while I do not know the entire thrust of the reconciliation bill, I can guarantee him this: The reconciliation bill will take out that Nebraska provision which offended him, offended me, and I think offended people across America, not because it advantaged Nebraska, but because it advantaged Nebraska unequally.

I think the gentleman is going to be pleased that Nebraska will be treated like every other State; and, in fact, every other State will be advantaged to the same extent that the Senator wanted to make sure that Nebraska was advantaged. But the Nebraska provision to which the gentleman speaks, and which all of us have felt was inappropriate, will be changed.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

In closing, Madam Speaker, I look forward to working with the gentleman in trying to refocus the issue of this House on getting Americans back to work. And the gentleman did indicate that there will be further action in what he is calling a ``jobs agenda.'' Certainly that didn't happen today, as we are here already having finished the legislative business of the day and only having considered a bill dealing with algae.

I only mention this because 52 percent of Americans do think that jobs and the economy are the Nation's top issue; and, by contrast, only 13 percent of Americans think that health care is our Nation's top priority. This was according to a CBS-New York Times poll.

So I do thank the gentleman for his willingness, hopefully, to get back to the question of how we get America back to work.

Mr. HOYER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CANTOR. I yield.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

First of all, let me say to the gentleman from Virginia that Maryland and Virginia and a lot of other States think the bill we passed through this House on algae is critically important to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. I'm sure the gentleman shares that view with me, a critically important bill for the health of our bay and its estuaries. I happen to live on a river, the Patuxent River, and the gentleman's State feels the Chesapeake Bay is a major asset of his, as well and of his State. So I know that he is pleased that we passed that bill. It was an important bill.

We are here trying to make sure that we have the time to get ready to pass a major historic piece of legislation that Teddy Roosevelt set us on the path to accomplish over a century ago so that we have accomplished, I think, a significant piece of legislation today.

Let me say that in addition to that, we believe the jobs agenda is very important. We passed a bill through here last week. The Senate passed a bill over to us. We are in the process of considering those bills. And I want to say to the gentleman that I share his view, that we look forward to working together to try to get Americans back to work.

I won't go through the litany of how we got here. The gentleman has heard it before. But I will tell the gentleman this part of it, that in 4 months of the last administration, as he well knows, we lost over 700,000 jobs per month. During the last 4 months here, we have lost 27,000 jobs per month. That is a 95 percent reduction in the loss of jobs. Surely anybody who is fair-minded will say that is progress. It is not success. We need to create jobs. We have lost 8 million jobs over the last 2 years.

People are hurting in America. Families are hurting in America. We need to get people back to work. We are going to keep continuing to make sure that when they can't find a job because they are not available that they don't go hungry, that they can support themselves and their families, not to the level that they would if they were working, but certainly support themselves in a way that we think is humanitarian. So those are included in those bills, as the gentleman knows.

I will tell the gentleman that we feel keenly the pain of the American public confronting this historic great recession, the deepest recession that we have seen in 75 years. The gentleman knows that in the decade of the 1990s, we saw the best economy that you and I have seen in our lifetime, and I, of course, am very substantially older than you are. That is an admission against interest, but it nevertheless is true. So I will yield back to the gentleman saying we share your view. We want to continue to work on this jobs agenda.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman for his view of history. I also would like to say to the gentleman, Madam Speaker, I share his commitment to the preservation of the Chesapeake Bay. I do, however, think that the American people are most interested in seeing us get back to the business of focusing on the economy. That is why I raised the issue of our being here today, not doing anything today to promote job creation.

And as far as any quarrel we may have with history as to why we got or how we got to where we are today, I would just like to quote to the gentleman in closing Winston Churchill's speech to the House of Commons June 18, 1940. And he said, ``Of this I'm quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.''

And with that, Madam Speaker, I yield back.

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