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Public Statements

Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Whether serving as a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee years ago or as chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Fairfax County or now, as a Member of Congress, a constant principle of my own public service career has been a deep suspicion of political legislation that employs arbitrary across-the-board mechanisms that make for good talking points but terrible policy. Such messaging bills make a mockery of the legislative process, and, unfortunately, H.R. 4078 is just such a bill.

To understand the absurdity of this bill, consider the proposal to ban any new regulations based on the Nation's unemployment rate. Actually with the typo in the bill, it's the ``employment'' rate. But for starters, there is little or no evidence correlating regulation to private sector hiring. However, there is considerable evidence showing that blocking important health and safety regulations will have a negative effect on all seniors, children, veterans, consumers--not to mention the private sector itself.

As written, the legislation prohibits any new regulatory actions until the ``employment'' rate falls to 6 percent, meaning unemployment would have to reach 94 percent before agencies could issue new regulations. The effect of that language, coming from a crowd that was just a few years ago talking about ``read the bill,'' means we would never update Medicare payment rates for doctors, bank lending protections for families, or food safety protections for consumers. No doubt, our Republican colleagues intended for this moratorium to apply until ``unemployment'' falls to 6 percent, which would still block regulation for the foreseeable future.

What is absurd about their premise is that the Department of Labor, for example, would be able to update the exposure safety standards to adequately protect the health of workers exposed to beryllium, a toxic substance linked to lung cancer and other chronic and fatal diseases, based on a 0.1 percent swing in the unemployment rate.

The same would be true for implementation of the Veterans' Benefits Act, bipartisan legislation that passed in the last Congress with no opposition. Under this bill, when the unemployment rate is 6 percent, the Department of Veterans Affairs would be able to take ``significant regulatory action,'' meaning implementation of the enhanced disability compensation benefits provisions for veterans experiencing difficulty using prostheses, for example, after the loss of limbs, or veterans in need of extensive care because of post-traumatic stress syndrome. However, if the unemployment rate is 0.1 percent higher, just 6.1 percent instead of 6 percent, H.R. 4078--the bill we're debating right now--would prohibit the Veterans Administration from improving care for those veterans.

Think about that: in voting for this bill, Members are endorsing a world view that a 0.1 percent swing in unemployment ought to determine whether the Federal Government can issue rules that benefit veterans with catastrophic injuries, updating Medicare payments for doctors, assisting students with loan debt, or providing families peace of mind that the peanut butter in their pantry will not poison their children. Any law that results in such absurd outcomes is deeply flawed and misguided far beyond the typo. In fact, the bill, as written, would even prevent those rules that would save money from being implemented.

Whether one advocates for smart regulation or passionately hates all regulations, surely we can all agree that the bizarre, capricious, and unjust outcomes that H.R. 4078--this bill--would lead to are the hallmarks of careless policy based on ideology, not on good public policy, not on good governance. Indeed, as former Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert of New York stated in a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, I believe, on H.R. 4078, he said, it is ``difficult to exaggerate the sweep and destructiveness of the House bill.'' That was from a Republican former colleague in this body.

I would remind my Republican colleagues that one of the first executive orders issued by President Obama requires agencies to ensure that their regulations are, indeed, cost-effective. Of course that doesn't fit their narrative. Neither does it fit the fact that the Obama administration has actually issued fewer final rule regulations than the Bush administration did in its first term.

I urge my colleagues to join me in restoring sanity to the policymaking process in this House by opposing this extreme measure.


Mr. ISSA. Madam Chair, I trust the gentleman from Virginia is well aware that the typographical error in the bill under consideration was, in fact, a mistake done by professional staff. And although unanimous consents are not permitted in the Committee of the Whole, I would ask the gentleman from Virginia if he would be willing--or let me rephrase that--if he would not object to a unanimous consent in the House to make a correction in what was clearly a typographical error made by nonpartisan professional staff at the Leg Counsel's office.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Is the gentleman yielding to me for an answer?

Mr. ISSA. Yes, I am.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Madam Chairman, this Member will reserve the right to object at the appropriate time.

Mr. ISSA. Reclaiming my time, nothing could be more insincere than to pick on professional staff on a typographical error.

If we have to go to the Rules Committee, I guess we will. But I am really sorry to see that kind of an attitude on what the gentleman and all of us know was simply a typographical error.

With that, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Ribble).

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Madam Chairman, matter of personal privilege.

Did this Member hear the chairman, the distinguished chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, characterize a Member as insincere?

The CHAIR. The Chair cannot interpret as a matter of personal privilege remarks that were made in debate.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I'm not asking for interpretation, Madam Chairman. I'm asking whether he in fact said it.

The CHAIR. That is a matter for debate between Members.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I would ask the Chair to caution all Members about personal characterizations of Members on the floor of the House.

The CHAIR. The gentleman from California is recognized.

Mr. ISSA. I thank the Chair. I meant nothing other than I was shocked that the gentleman would say that he would reserve time on what was clearly a typographical error.

With that, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Ribble).


Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Madam Chairman, I wish my friend's characterization of the bill were accurate; but, sadly, I think what this bill does is cripple the ability of the government to protect the American public across a broad swath of policy areas that certainly matter to the average American.


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