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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2578, Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. SLAUGHTER. I thank the gentleman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, first I want to say how happy I am to be back. I appreciate the welcome I've gotten from all my colleagues, and I've missed you terribly. I missed you, like we used to say in Kentucky, like a front tooth.

The bill before us today, Madam Speaker, is another wasted opportunity, I'm afraid. Today's legislation is

composed of 14 separate bills, several of which are even bipartisan. But regrettably, these worthy proposals will not be signed into law because the majority has packaged them with other proposals that endanger our environment and public health.

Several of the controversial provisions before us are based on Democratic proposals. Unfortunately, the Democratic bills were taken and rewritten in such a way--extremely--that they can no longer receive bipartisan support. Two provisions in particular illustrate the extremely partisan approach.

First, title 3 would unnecessarily change a long-standing agreement and endanger the biologically sensitive Alaskan wilderness. This provision would open up our Nation's largest national forests to logging and allow rare old-growth forests to be clear-cut and sold for private gain.

Second, in the most extreme proposal before us, title 14 would impose a so-called ``operational control zone'' over almost 100 million square miles of American land.

On Federal land within this zone, the Department of Homeland Security would then be allowed to ignore 36 environmental laws, and Federal border agents would be able to operate with few limits on their power. My good friend from Utah has put forward an amendment to pare the 36 laws down to 16, but that is still 16 too many.

Title 14 proposes a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Proponents claim that environmental protections prevent the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol from stopping illegal immigration. However, sworn testimony by both Border Patrol officials and the Federal land agency officials contradict this claim. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security opposes this legislation.

My entire district, all of it, would fall under the newly created operational control zone. As a result, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol could take control over all the historic landmarks, such as the Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site, build anything on it that they needed. And I know my constituents pretty well after this number of years. They would not take to that at all.

Meanwhile, the sacred, historic, and sovereign lands of the Tuscarora Indian Nation would also be open to Federal agents. Such an extreme Federal overreach would violate the sovereignty of the Tuscarora Indian Nation. Many other tribes around the country whose land falls within this zone would face the same problem.

In a letter to the leaders of the House, the United South and Eastern Tribes wrote of the danger of this provision. They wrote:

Many Indian tribes have lands and sacred places located near U.S. international borders, and we believe that the sovereignty and cultural integrity of our member tribes and others is unnecessarily put in jeopardy by the sweeping approach in this bill.

Federal cooperation, not Federal overreach, is a proven and prudent way to protect our borders. A recent GAO reported confirmed what we learned in sworn testimony: every time Federal cooperation between the Border Patrol officials and our land management officials was requested, it was given--every time. The only time conflicts remained between environmental laws and border enforcement was when Border Patrol officials didn't bother to ask the Department of the Interior nor the USDA for cooperation.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the majority violated the rules of the House when they combined 14 unrelated bills into the one bill before us today. However, the Rules Committee gave itself a waiver despite repeatedly denying such waivers for Democratic proposals throughout the year. Once again, when the majority wants to break the rules, they find a way. But when Democrats ask for a waiver for one of our proposals, all of a sudden the rules of the House have been written in stone.

I urge my colleagues to oppose today's extreme and partisan legislation and to stand up against the Federal overreach contained within this bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I'm going to offer an amendment to the rule that will allow the House to consider the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. Call centers have been outsourced more than pretty much any other type of job from the United States. This bill will help keep call center jobs in America.

And to discuss his call center proposal, I'm pleased to yield 5 minutes to my colleague from New York (Mr. Bishop).


Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question. I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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