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Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object, I think we should have an explanation here. The Clerk read the technical language; but as I understand it, what happened was that the bill that we were voting on yesterday and will vote on today has an error and gets ``employment'' and ``unemployment'' confused and that this is a bill that would correct the error in the bill that we debated yesterday.

So I wonder, why do we now need a unanimous consent? Are we correcting the correction? It's the old Latin phrase ``Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?'' which means, ``Who guards the guardians?'' I guess the question today is, Who corrects the correctors?

I would yield to the gentlewoman from North Carolina if she would explain why we had to get a bill to make a correction and why we now have to have a unanimous consent to probably correct the correction. What is the error? I guess I should ask, What is the error of the day? We know what yesterday's error was. What's today's error?

I yield to the gentlewoman.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, proceeding on my reservation, I appreciate the gentlewoman's mea culpa. She wasn't here at the time. I would note that it is my predecessor, the late Reverend Robert Drinan, S.J., who was better than I at responding to mea culpas. I won't be able wholly to deal with that.

I do think this is more than simply a double error. It's a matter of haste. I would take exception to the gentlewoman saying, well, it's important that we get this done right away. I think, frankly, the problem has been in these past couple of years, and to some extent before, we haven't met frequently enough. I understand people would like to get back to the districts they represent, but I think that this is emblematic of not having enough time to deal with things.

We are going to be voting, I think, on 20-something amendments today, important amendments on an important bill, that were debated for 10 minutes each late into yesterday evening, no proper airing of very controversial subjects. Indeed, I think this is what happens when you try to do too much too soon.

People on the other side were critical of some of the legislation we passed. The financial reform bill, they said it was too encompassing. But it went through a much more thorough process than this very controversial, even more comprehensive bill that we're dealing with today. The bill that we're dealing with today deals with every single subject that comes before this Congress because it would put severe restrictions on the adoption of regulations about financial reform, about health, about the environment, about occupational safety, about transportation safety.

Yes, it is a problem when you try to do too much too soon. I do not impute any nefarious intent. Let me say under the House rules, you can't impute nefarious intent, even if you think there is some, and I don't think there is any. So for two reasons, I don't impute that. But it does seem to me that this is an example of a flawed legislative process. We're doing this bill, which is kind of a big message bill.

I know there's a lot of criticism on the other side of the United States Senate, but the Senate passed an agricultural bill. This House isn't even going to take one up, a very important agricultural bill. The Senate passed a transportation bill. This House had to go along with a conference without any chance to deliberate on it. The Senate passed a postal reform bill to keep the postal service going, and this House can't take it up.

When we can't do the basic legislation that we should do and we do one of these broad message bills that's overly comprehensive and then we make mistakes, I think it's worth some notice.


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. First, as with regards to the tragedy, of course we all come together. But the fact that we can celebrate tragedy does not mean that we put aside, in a democratic body, our legitimate differences. This is not simply a small mistake, but it is a small mistake in a bill that is about as partisan as it gets.

To make a plea for bipartisanship with this excessively partisan bill that is being put through in such a procedurally inappropriate fashion with major concerns about every aspect of the Federal Government, given 10 minutes of debate at 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock at night to be voted on, no, that's a mistake.

Secondly, as the gentleman from New Jersey and I have pointed out, it is not simply that a mistake was made, but it's a mistake that would easily have been caught earlier if people had read the bill.

And I stress this because when we did some of the other legislation--financial reform, health care--there was constant repetition of the argument on the Republican side ``You haven't read the bill. Nobody's read the bill.'' Well, you haven't read this bill, apparently, Mr. Speaker. At least not very many people have read it.

And blaming the staff, I never like to do that, because the staff prepares things, but Members sign off on it.

So, yes, we will proceed to this debate, but we are talking here about an indication, an overly broad bill given too little time for consideration. People on the other side--Members, apparently, didn't read it. And that is not a small point. It is symptomatic of where we are.

I will yield briefly to my friend from New Jersey.


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