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Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Madam Speaker, I can't recall in 16 years in Congress ever speaking against a rule. By and large, I have a great deal of respect for the fact that the majority has the right to set the terms of debate. I understand that we cannot endlessly debate every issue. You have to set a certain amount of parameters on it and move forward.

But this rule goes so against the principles of how we are supposed to debate the Armed Services bill--and I've been privileged to be on that committee for 16 years--that I have to speak against this rule. It is not allowing us to have our position on the single most important issue that faces our country right now on the Armed Services Committee--the future of the war in Afghanistan. It is not allowing us to have our position debated and voted on on the floor.

Now, I had an amendment on Afghanistan in the committee, which was not allowed either because of sequential referral rules. The committee gets all kinds of interesting sets of rules; and even though the base bill had a discussion of Afghanistan policy, my amendment was not allowed. So we said, okay, we'll have the debate on the floor. I worked with Mr. McGovern, and I worked with a variety of others. I very specifically told the Rules Committee that this is our amendment on Afghanistan, and it was not allowed in order. The amendment that was allowed in order by Ms. Lee simply says: get out. There is a huge distance between that policy and the policy of the majority, which is: as many troops for as long as possible. That is the position that Mr. McGovern and I put forward. I asked the Rules Committee to rule it in order, and they denied us the right to debate that amendment and to vote on it.

It is the single most important issue facing our Armed Forces right now. The minority's position was excluded from this debate. Now, I can understand why. Close to 70 percent of the country wants us out of Afghanistan quicker. The majority's position is: more troops in Afghanistan for a longer period of time. Our position is quite the opposite: get us out as soon as we responsibly can; meet those obligations on counterterrorism, but do so without an extended troop presence. Our position is clearly where the country is. The majority didn't want to have to vote on that. It didn't want to have to have that debate, so they froze out our amendment.

There are a lot of debates that when you're in the majority you'd just as soon not have. I understand that, but that's why it's a representative democracy, and that's why we have the rights of the minority. That's why, particularly on the Armed Services bill, I tell everyone that it's the most bipartisan committee in Congress.

Let me just say that my beef is not with Chairman McKeon. He has worked with me in an open and honest manner, and he testified at the Rules Committee that my amendment should be ruled in order, and yet it was not.

This is a critically, critically important issue. They have denied us the right to debate it. They have denied us the right to put our position out on the floor, to have a debate, and to have a vote on the war in Afghanistan, on the Armed Services bill. There is no more important issue. They were afraid of the debate--afraid that they're on the wrong side of the issue--so they denied the people's House the right to debate it and to vote on it.

I can think of no greater reason to vote down a rule than that. It is a shameful way to deal with the Armed Services Committee bill. I urge this body to vote ``no.''


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