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Public Statements

Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, we have gone through what James Madison, the author of the Constitution, has described as an ugly, messy, difficult process. That's the legislative process. And while many of us have been frustrated, it does work at the end of the day.

Mr. Speaker, it has to work. It has to work because our fellow Americans are suffering at this moment.

I have just been talking to staff members of the House Appropriations Committee, and we have to get the resources to those people who are suffering ASAP. As of this morning, there was a grand total of $212 million in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's fund to deal with these disasters that have taken place. Last spring, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Ms. Napolitano, testified that we needed additional resources.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let's go back to last spring and realize that was before we had hurricanes. It was before we had floods. It was before we had tornadoes that hit the Midwest. Think of those poor people in Joplin, Missouri, all those homes and lives that were lost. And it was before we had this earthquake that, as we all know, damaged the Washington Monument right down the street from where we are.

Mr. Speaker, it's very important that we get those resources there, with only $212 million as of this morning. With expenditures somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-plus million dollars each day, it means as early as Monday of next week we could end up with nothing, nothing for those people who are suffering.

Mr. Speaker, we don't want the government to shut down. We want to make sure that the people who are truly in need are able to have the resources necessary. But at the same time, we recognize that we have a $14.5 trillion national debt. We have massive deficits that are before us, and we need to do everything that we can to do what people across this country are saying needs to be done--we need to create jobs. We need to generate an increase in our gross domestic product growth, and the measure that is going to be before us when we report out this rule will do just that.

Mr. Speaker, the measure that we will consider is identical to the measure that we considered in the House yesterday, the measure that had been reported out, basically the same package that we had last week. But a bipartisan request that was made by the Senate majority leader, Mr. Reid, and the Senate minority leader, Mr. McConnell, was that we have this provision considered as a Senate amendment so that the Senate would be able to move as quickly as possible to ensure that our fellow Americans have the resources that are necessary. And so that's why we have ended up with the same measure that we had yesterday.

But, Mr. Speaker, as you and I have discussed in the meeting that we were just in, there has been a change. There is a very minor change. It is one single paragraph. So of the continuing resolution that we had, which is $1.043 trillion, exactly what we had yesterday, no change, in full compliance with the 3-day layover requirement that exists in the House rules--and I will remind my colleagues the measure that's before us was put online on Monday, 4 days ago, so, again, in full compliance with time to spare to meet the 3-day layover, with one amendment. The amendment reads as follows:

``At the end of the matter proposed to be inserted by the House amendment, before the short title, insert the following:

``Section 142. Effective on the date of the enactment of this Act, of the unobligated balances remaining available for `Department of Energy--Energy Programs--Title 17--Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program' pursuant to title IV of division A of Public Law 111-5, $100,000,000 is rescinded.''

That is the only change that has been made. Let me tell you why that change was made, Mr. Speaker, and I don't often read The Washington Post on the House floor, but today's Washington Post has an article that explains what it is that led us to call for using the $100 million that I just mentioned as an offset.

I recognize, as one of my colleagues in the Rules Committee stated earlier, we know that this company known as Solyndra, which Democrats and Republicans alike recognize has been an abject failure for this energy program, is one that will not get resources because they have gone bankrupt.

But let me just tell you what led to us focusing on this $100 million, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that we never again have another boondoggle like Solyndra. This is, again, today's Washington Post, in an article entitled, ``Solyndra's Ex-Employees Tell of High Spending, Factory Woes.'' It reads as follows:

``Former employees of Solyndra, the shuttered solar company that exhausted half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, said they saw questionable spending by management almost as soon as a Federal agency approved a $535 million government-backed loan for the start-up.

``A new factory built with public money boasted a gleaming conference room with glass walls that, with the flip of a switch, turned a smoky gray to conceal the room's occupants. Hastily purchased state-of-the-art equipment ended up being sold for pennies on the dollar, still in its plastic wrap, employees said.

``As the $344 million factory went up just down the road from the company's leased plant in Fremont, California, workers watched as pallets of unsold solar panels stacked up in storage. Many wondered: Was the factory needed?

`` `After we got the loan guarantee, they were just spending money left and right,' said former Solyndra engineer Lindsey Eastburn. `Because we were doing well, nobody cared. Because of that infusion of money, it made people sloppy.' ''

Now, Mr. Speaker, we all know that our fellow Americans are suffering across this country because of the tremendous very, very sad disasters that we have faced over the last weeks and months, and it is very important for us to recognize that every taxpayer dollar is precious, especially in these times when there are people losing jobs, losing their homes, and losing their businesses.

This is a very sad and tragic example of the kind of waste that is there, and that is why the one very small but important modification to the measure that is before us will be to take $100 million and use that additionally as an offset to ensure that the hard-earned dollars of the American people are not wasted in the way that we have seen.

So, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this rule, and with that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume to simply say when Ms. Pelosi was Speaker of the House of Representatives, my friend from Rochester chaired the Rules Committee. The disaster relief provided in the response to Hurricane Katrina was partially offset. This is not in any way unprecedented. It's the right thing to do.

I urge my colleagues to support the rule, and with that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume to tell my friend from Worcester that clearly jobs is the priority that we are focused on. I appreciate very much and would like to associate myself with his remarks when he talked about the need for us to focus on job creation and economic growth. And I know I'm speaking for everyone, everyone on our side of the aisle, when we say we want to work in a bipartisan way to ensure that we can get our economy growing and so that the American people who are hurting will be able to have job opportunities.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume to say to my friend that there have been 1,100 jobs lost at Solyndra. We want to make sure that there is never again, never again another Solyndra. That's the reason that we have focused on the $100 million as an offset in this measure, Mr. Speaker.

I think it's also very important to note this morning when I woke up I heard the news that General Motors is now in the midst of an international partnership in the People's Republic of China to deal with the development of electric vehicles. These are the kinds of things that the private marketplace is pursuing. I live in Los Angeles, California, where we have very serious air quality problems, and we just got the news today that Washington, D.C. is number six in the Nation when it comes to air quality problems. We want to make sure that we have energy-efficient automobiles. We are determined to do that. We need to make sure, we need to make sure that those companies that are out there pursuing these kinds of alternatives that, frankly, in most all cases are free, are free of government grants, are able to succeed with that; and that's why we have proceeded with that.

If my friend would like me to yield, I'm happy to yield to him.


Mr. MARKEY. I thank the gentleman. I'm glad you brought out the General Motors deal because the General Motors deal is only possible because of the grants and the loans that have been given for the batteries and for the new technologies under these programs that are now making it possible for General Motors to reinvent.


Mr. DREIER. If I could reclaim my time, Mr. Speaker, let me say to my friend that obviously we have seen the General Motors deal proceed. The fact of the matter is it's not solely because of that that we are seeing this kind of partnership. But, Mr. Speaker, we are seeing the private sector proceed with a policy that I believe very strongly in, and that policy is being pro-environment and is, in fact, pro-business.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume to simply remind my colleagues why it is that we're here.

We're faced with the prospect of a government shutdown. There was a grand total as of this morning of $212 million in the fund to deal with our fellow Americans who are suffering because of disasters that we've gone through over the past several weeks and months, and we want to make sure that the appropriations process, which has been dumped on us, is able to be addressed in a bipartisan way. I want Democrats and Republicans alike to come together to address this.

The $100 million additional offset, the only minor modification that has been made, is to ensure that we don't have--and I know Democrats and Republicans alike agree on this--we don't want to have another Solyndra. And that's what we believe we can do.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume to simply say that job creation and economic growth is what we are all about. The deal about which my friend just referred is one which is part of the global marketplace. The goal of having U.S. manufacturers, U.S. workers manufacturing automobiles for sale in China and vice versa is our priority.

With that, I would like to yield 2 minutes to my friend from Lawrenceville, Georgia


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I'll be happy to yield to my distinguished California colleague at any moment as I make a couple of remarks here as she walks off the floor.

I asked her to yield, Mr. Speaker, because she three times referenced me as it relates to the vehicle program, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturers program. Let me just explain what we're faced with today, Mr. Speaker.

What we're faced with is the challenge of ensuring that we get the resources necessary to the American people who are suffering because of these disasters. Now, when my California colleague was Speaker of the House, we had disasters that took place like Hurricane Katrina. Much of that was offset. And so to act as if this is unprecedented is not a correct characterization of what has happened, because we have seen offsets for disasters in the past on numerous occasions over the last decade in excess of $59 billion in offsets that provided for supplemental appropriations that have been out there.

As it relates to the Advanced Technology Vehicle program, I was going to say to my California colleague who is no longer on the floor, and I'd like to yield to her if she would like to come back to respond to this, there is a total of $4 billion that is there. What we're doing is utilizing $1.5 billion. So as people say that this program is being completely eliminated, that is not a correct characterization of what has happened.

Let me tell you what it is we're doing, Mr. Speaker.

We're doing everything that we can to find every dollar that we possibly can to ensure that our fellow Americans who are suffering due to these disasters are able to have the resources that are necessary. Of the $1.5 billion which is utilized in the offset, it's been sitting in the coffers for 3 years. So to act as if we somehow are going to see some great loss of jobs is again a mischaracterization of what is happening.

We're establishing priorities. We have a priority, that being dealing with our fellow Americans in Joplin, Missouri, who suffered from that horrible tornado that hit that area. That's my home State of Missouri. I know how devastating. In listening to our colleague, Mr. Long, it's very clear to see in his eyes the kind of effort that he's put in to deal with the rebuilding there. That is a priority.

Dealing with the photographs that we saw from Mr. Welch's district who voted for this bill yesterday and I suspect will vote for it again this evening to ensure that those who suffered from flooding in Vermont have that. And as I said earlier in the day, our new colleague, Tom Marino from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who just in the past several days was trudging through the mud as he reported to my colleagues in our meeting downstairs talking to the parents of children who were literally sitting on the hoods of their automobiles because their homes had been devastated. And the question asked by that parent to Congressman Marino was, What is it you are going to do? And he said that he was going to come to Washington and do everything that he possibly can, everything that he would be able to do to ensure that they have the resources they need.

Now, to argue that this is pitting a fund that has been sitting dormant for 3 years and is not in the pipeline versus utilization of those resources for the American people who are suffering is a very inappropriate thing to do.

So that was the discussion that I was looking forward to having with my California colleague as she talked about my support of the Advanced Technology Vehicle program.


Mr. DREIER. May I finish, Mr. Speaker?

What I want to say is that we were told that we on our side of the aisle are declaring war--declaring war--by the statement made by our friends from Massachusetts, and from that, one would have to infer that we were trying to obliterate a program.

When we, Mr. Speaker, have 3 years of those dollars sitting dormant, not being expended and not in the pipeline, we believe that we can utilize those dollars for the American people who are truly in need. We need to move ahead with that as expeditiously as possible, and I think we should try to do that right now and get to the appropriations bill.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time to simply say to my colleagues that we're here for a very important reason. The reason is that we want to make sure that we don't face a government shutdown. We want to make sure that we do everything we possibly can so that the people in this country who have suffered from disasters over the past several weeks and months are able to have the resources that they need to do that, and we want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that we do it in a fiscally responsible way so that we can do what every American and every Democrat and Republican in this House says needs to be done so that we can get our economy growing and put into place pro-growth, job creation proposals. I believe that we can do that. I think we can do it responsibly.

I will say that this is the identical package that we had last night, with one modification; and that one modification is to ensure, with all due respect to my friend, the distinguished dean of this House, that we don't have another Solyndra. Regardless of what some have said was the cause of their demise, when we have employees of that company coming forward and making the case that they were spending money left and right, that they were using it on some of the most outrageous things imaginable, and that the employees could not understand why they built a factory when they had all of these resources in reserve, this cannot be allowed. It's not a responsible expenditure of U.S. taxpayer dollars, Mr. Speaker, and that's the reason we believe this $100 million can be used for the people who are truly in need.

The material previously referred to by Ms. Slaughter is as follows:


At the end of the resolution, add the following new sections:

Sec. 2. Notwithstanding any other provision of this resolution, after expiration of debate on the motion to concur specified in the first section of this resolution it shall be in order to consider the motion to amend printed in section 3 of this resolution. That motion may be offered only by Representative Dingell of Michigan or his designee, shall be debatable for 20 minutes equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent, shall not be subject to amendment, and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question. All points of order against that motion are waived.

Sec. 3. The motion to amend referred to in section 2 is as follows:

``(1) Strike sections 125 and 126 of the House amendment (and redesignate the subsequent sections accordingly).

``(2) At the end of the House amendment, before the short title, insert the following:

``Sec. __ . Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, there is hereby enacted into law the provisions of division B of the amendment adopted by the Senate on September 15, 2011, to House Joint Resolution 66 (112th Congress), relating to emergency supplemental disaster relief appropriations.''.

(The information contained herein was provided by the Republican Minority on multiple occasions throughout the 110th and 111th Congresses.)


This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.

Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308-311), describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''

Because the vote today may look bad for the Republican majority they will say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule ..... When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.''

In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''

Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.

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