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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2828, Water Supply, Reliability, and Environmental Improvement Act

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 711 and ask for its immediate consideration.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, as we discuss the rules, it is impossible for those of us on our side to proceed without talking about the degrading spectacle of yesterday. It is particularly ironic that the Republican leadership chose to use extremely undemocratic tactics because there was a fear that democracy might break out in the law. What you had was a bipartisan coalition which formed a majority of the House seeking to change a provision of the PATRIOT Act.


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, point of order.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LaTourette). The gentleman will state his point of order.

Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I make a point of order that the gentleman is in violation of House rule XVII, which requires that a Member's remarks in debate shall be confined to the question under debate, and ask to be heard on my point of order.

Mr. Speaker, House rule XVII, pertaining to Decorum and Debate provides in part that when a Member desires to speak or deliver any matter to the House, they shall on being recognized confine themselves to the question under debate.

To quote from section 948 of the House Rules and Manual:

"Debate on a special order providing for the consideration of a bill may range to the merits of the bill to be made in order, since the question of consideration of the bill is involved, but should not range to the merits of a measure not to be considered under that special order."

Mr. Speaker, nothing in this rule or the bill it makes in order has anything to do with what occurred on the floor yesterday afternoon.

Therefore, I urge that the Chair uphold this point of order against this irrelevant debate.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Does the gentleman from Massachusetts wish to be heard on the point of order?

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I wish to be heard on the point of order and to contest it vigorously.

I understand the sensitivity of the author of the point of order to discussion of the events over which he presided yesterday, but we are talking about the rules of the House, and we were confronted with what we believed to have been a grievous abuse of the spirit of the rules of the House and we need some reassurance that we will not have a repetition of this as we go forward.

We are, after all, now debating whether or not we will have a previous question motion. If it were to fail, we would then be able to offer some amendments that might prevent that kind of abuse. So I believe a discussion of the abusive pattern of behavior of yesterday is directly relevant to a discussion about whether we ought to go forward with a rule with a previous question or whether or not we ought to be allowed to propose some amendments to this rule that will protect us against the abuse of power of yesterday.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair finds that the gentleman from Washington is correct, that the remarks during this debate should be confined to the special order of business before the House. The pending business before the House is not a discussion of the rules of the House generally. It is the rule that is pending before the House.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I appeal the decision of the Chair.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is, Shall the decision of the Chair stand as the judgment of the House?


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I move to lay the appeal on the table.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion to table offered by the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Hastings).

The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the ground that a quorum is not present and make the point of order that a quorum is not present.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Evidently a quorum is not present.

The Sergeant at Arms will notify absent Members.



Mr. McGOVERN (during the vote). Mr. Speaker, I have a parliamentary inquiry.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman will state it.

Mr. McGOVERN. I would like to ask the Speaker how long he is going to keep this roll call open.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The rules of the House provide for a minimum duration of 15 minutes.

The Chair would also advise the gentleman that at the moment, because this is the first vote of the day, the Chair is attempting to afford courtesy to Members. The Chair will continue to exercise its discretion and will let the Members know.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I have a further parliamentary inquiry.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman will state it.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the Speaker is offering this courtesy to Members in keeping the roll call open, but there will be no need to keep it open for too long because I assume the Speaker is aware that this time you are winning.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman has failed to state a parliamentary inquiry.

Messrs. CARDOZA, MILLER of North Carolina, DOGGETT, GORDON, STARK and FORD changed their vote from "yea" to "nay."

Ms. HARRIS, Mrs. MYRICK, and Messrs. GREEN of Wisconsin, BONNER, DEMINT, BALLENGER, BONILLA and HOBSON changed their vote from "nay" to "yea."

So the motion to table the appeal of the ruling of the Chair was agreed to.

The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LaTourette). Before the last vote, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank) was under recognition. The gentleman has 3 ½ minutes remaining of the 4 minutes yielded to him.

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, in an attempt to avoid today the travesty which occurred on the House floor yesterday, I am going to urge my colleagues at the end of this debate on the rule to vote no on the previous question so that I will be able to offer an amendment that will state very simply that during consideration of H.R. 2828, a record vote by electronic device shall not be held open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of a vote.
So I will urge my colleagues to vote no on the previous question.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts.

Mr. Speaker, it is now very clear we are talking here about whether or not we should keep open this rule to amendment, and the amendment that the gentleman from Massachusetts will offer will be to prevent keeping open the roll call for the purpose of manipulation.

Now, I was talking about that before, and I was told I was out of order. It is an interesting sequence. Yesterday, many of us thought we were changing a provision of the PATRIOT Act, which we find to be insufficiently cognizant of democratic values, and the majority then used what many of us believed to be very undemocratic procedures to prevent us from dealing with an undemocratic provision. And today, to complete the trifecta of disrespect for democracy, I was silenced when I tried to talk about, in an open forum, the undemocratic approach to yesterday's democracy.

Now, I know one of the things we are trying to do is to instruct the people of Iraq, to help the people of Iraq understand democracy. We want them to be open. We want them to fully engage debate, not to suppress dissension. And the only thing I can say is this, Mr. Speaker, and I know we are not supposed to address the television audience, so I address this to you.

I hope you will convey to any Iraqis who might be watching the proceedings of this House on television with regard to democracy, if they see what we are doing, please do not try this at home.

Now, let me explain why we are upset about the delay. It is not simply "the delay." Delay is not bad. We will have a chance today to show, in fact, that we are prepared to delay things as well. The question is what happens during the delay.

The purpose of delaying a roll call, the reason the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) will offer this amendment, is to preserve the integrity of the House, because here is what happens. We have a roll call and Members vote, and Members will have, in some cases, said to their constituents, I support this position and I will vote that way.
Then the vote tally is taken, and when the vote tally is taken, it turns out that the Republican side has lost. Then the roll call is held open, and that is why we want to prevent the reoccurrence and why we will be offering this amendment if the previous question is defeated.

What happens then is this: The roll call is held open indefinitely so that Members who have told people in their districts they will vote one way can be pressured into voting another way. That is the purpose of holding the roll call open, to orchestrate a scheme by which the voters are misled; to orchestrate a scheme in which people can take a certain position, with the silent footnote that that position that they are taking will hold only so long as it does not prevail. But if it looks as if what they have told their constituents will prevail, they are prepared under the pressure from their leadership to abandon it.

So we are not simply talking about the convenience of the House, we are talking about the integrity of the democratic process, because the sole purpose of that sort of delay, we are not trying to accommodate people just so they can vote, this is a very particular form of delay. It is a "DeLay-delay." And this kind of "delay squared," carried out at the behest of the majority leader, is to allow Members of the Republican leadership to press members of the Republican Party who have voted one way to now abandoned that position lest the way they voted prevail. And the only reason for that, as I said, is to perpetuate misinformation. So let us not have this situation.

By the way, there is one other thing the voters ought to understand, Mr. Speaker. What we used to have in this Congress was individual Members voting, they consulted with their party leadership and then they voted.
What has become clear now, and it was clear in the Medicare prescription drug bill, it is clear with the PATRIOT Act, it is now clear the Republican leadership is not prepared to allow its Members to vote contrary to the Republican leadership position if it will prevail. Republicans are allowed by their leadership the freedom of their conscience, as long as it is not operative. But if, in fact, there is any danger that what they say they are for will, in fact, reach fruition, the rug is yanked out from under them and they have to change their position.

What it means is people should understand, come election, no matter who they think they are voting for, they are voting for the Republican leadership, because the Republican leadership is prepared to change the spirits of these rules, to hold roll calls open indefinitely, as long as it takes to pressure Republican Members who have voted one way, presumably having told people in their districts they will vote that way, to switch their votes.

The sole purpose of these open roll calls is to allow deception, to undermine democracy.

I hope that we vote down the previous question, that the gentleman's amendment is adopted, and that we restore the principle of intellectual honesty and integrity and democracy to this House.

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