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Providing For Consideration of H.R. 807, Full Faith and Credit Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SESSIONS. House Resolution 202 provides for a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 807. This rule provides for discussion opportunities for Members of the minority and the majority to participate in this debate.

Today, Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to guarantee the full faith and credit of the United States for generations to come by ensuring that our Nation will never default on our debt obligations.

Functionally, H.R. 807, the Full Faith and Credit Act of 2013, ensures that the Treasury Department will continue to make payments on the principal and interest of our debt, including debt held by the Social Security trust fund, in the event that the statutory debt limit is reached. Requiring the Treasury to make good on its obligations to the Social Security trust fund will ensure that those funds are available to honor our commitment to seniors and disabled Americans.

Moreover, H.R. 807 provides certainty to investors, small businesses, retirees, pension beneficiaries, and international markets that we will never negatively impact our economy by allowing this Nation to default on its debts.

In the larger sense, it is our opportunity to engage, in a public forum, the Treasury Department and the administration on what we believe is the right way to engage in discussions about how we will move forward in uncharted territories as it's dealing with the financial difficulties of our country.

However, today's debate is symptomatic of the larger problem. For far too long, our Federal Government has spent too much money and borrowed too much. We have spent money and not listened to the American people, nor looked ahead at the consequences of spending too much, saving too little, and not creating jobs that will help to sustain the American Dream, the next generation, and the systems which we hold so dear to the American system.

House Republicans however, today, come to the floor, under the leadership of our great Ways and Means Chairman, Dave Camp, and some ideas that have come from Congressman Tom McClintock of California, and we are working on ideas with commonsense solutions to cut wasteful spending, reform entitlement programs, and balance the budget in a way that furthers our country, strengthens what we do, and makes sure we are ready for tomorrow.

Yet at almost every turn, including yesterday, up in the Rules Committee upstairs, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have opposed pro-growth agendas and pushed for higher taxes and more spending. It happens almost every single day, every single bill that we bring before the Rules Committee, a demand to increase spending and increase taxes.

Our Nation does not have a taxing problem. It has a spending problem; and until we enact meaningful reforms, we will not improve our dire financial dilemma and the circumstances that come with trying to manage a problem instead of a growth opportunity to make our country stronger.

Today, the American economy is struggling and has been struggling now in our fifth year to regain momentum and is burdened by massive amounts of Federal spending and Federal debt. Allowing our Nation to default would severely hinder what little growth there is, potentially causing the U.S. to slip back into another recession and risk another downgrading of our credit rating.

For these reasons, default is unacceptable; and that is why House Republicans, we think weeks, perhaps months ahead of trying to finally address this issue, we think it's time that our ideas are on the floor of the House of Representatives, talking openly, not just among ourselves and with the administration, but also the American people. And that is the purpose of us being here today.

House Republicans are willing to work with our colleagues in the Senate, as well, and also at the White House; and we'd like to find a compromise that would raise the debt limit, while simultaneously enacting meaningful legislation that will fix our Nation's broken tax system.

We need to create jobs through job enrichment, through a Tax Code that is vibrant and does not harm job creation, that does not do things that would cause people to want to not invest in this country because of taxes that are out of control and spending that harms their business.

So we want to rein in our out-of-control spending and reform our ballooning entitlement programs to preserve them for generations to come. It should be our responsibility.

We, as Members of Congress, were elected by the people, and we should be able to come and face tough issues with good answers. We should not try and scare people back home. We should be able to tell the truth about the legislation, and we need to be honest about the circumstances of the pathway that we remain on because of our President's and the Democrats' agenda.

So, unfortunately, President Obama has already stated that he is unwilling to negotiate with the House or the Senate over the debt limit.

It is this President when he was a Senator who voted repeatedly against a debt limit increase, called it irresponsible and a lack of leadership; and yet today he says just give him all the power, he'll take care of this himself. As such, the bill before us today is a necessary and prudent safety net designed to avoid economic calamity should we reach the debt limit and not have resolved that between the House, the Senate, and the President.

I applaud Congressman Tom McClintock, my dear friend from California, and our great young chairman from Michigan, Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Each of them brings their work product to the floor today, as well as many of our other colleagues such as my Rules Committee member, the young man from Orlando, Florida, Dan Webster, who brought forth ideas that would help shape not only the legislation that we have today, but the desire of the Republican conference to make sure that we continue to talk about the issues and problems that we see before they become a crisis, before they become something that is unworkable and rather to share our great ideas now. So for the timeless work on this issue, I thank all three of them for working on this bill today.

I encourage my colleagues to vote ``yes.'' I encourage them to vote ``yes'' on the rule, I encourage them to be thoughtful and truthful about the legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

We've had an opportunity once again today, as we did yesterday, to hear from the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, the gentleman from Michigan. He brought his ideas, the best ideas he had, up to the Rules Committee yesterday on this same issue.

But the issues that the gentleman speaks about are attacking our answers. Their answer that they propose is tax increases and spending increases, and that way we'll simply have more money into the system. Because as we've already heard today just a few minutes ago, the more money we give in unemployment compensation, the more vitality is in our cities, more spending takes place, more unemployment compensation, more vitality, more spending in our cities.

Mr. Speaker, that's the wrong way to go. The Republican Party does not believe that we should create a permanent underclass of people who receive unemployment compensation or who are afraid of facing the truth about where this country is headed.

The facts of the case are other countries are ahead of us on this curve. Most of them are in Europe, and they ignored the signs that Republicans are here talking about today, the signs of spending too much, relying on its people to raise taxes for them to bring money in, and a big government continuing to put rules and regulations and impediments in front of people.

The facts of the case are simple. We are here today because it is President Obama and the Democrats who spent too much money, who are destroying jobs, and who even today are holding back the Keystone pipeline, what could be thousands of jobs for people in this country, lessen our reliance on other parts of the world for our energy, and bring back American-made jobs. This is exactly why we are having problems.

So, it's the Republican Party that is trying to offer a public discussion, a public debate, including our great Speaker, John Boehner, who says we need to make sure that part of the debate comes down to, if we get to that point, that we pay back the people who loaned us money in the first place. They need to have confidence that they can continue loaning us money because we are still having to borrow a lot of money.

I can think of few things that would be worse than to publicly announce we are going to pay somebody else before we pay back our creditors. That is how creditors no longer lend any money to you.

So, what Republicans are doing is having a public debate. We are bringing this to the floor. And I do recognize our friends on the other side, our Democrat friends, that they want to spend more and tax more. They have never seen enough spending in this place. They want more and more. They are like our President--they have an insatiable appetite to spend people's money. And then, like, literally, somebody who started a fire, is an arsonist, show up as the firefighter, the hero, to say, but I want to save our country.

They created the economic malaise that we have. It is overspending, it's holding back job creation, and Republicans are going to stand on the floor and have this debate with the media and the American people and the administration and say, let's know what we are going to do when we get there months ahead of time so that we don't falter like we did some time ago, and take on the President's idea again of sequestration only to have him argue against his own idea later and then try to mislead the American public what this whole issue is about. It's about the economic demise of the United States of America and how we are having to work here to make sure that we publicly discuss this before it becomes too late.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. I yield myself 2 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge Mr. Cooper's presence here today. His idea was valid and, in fact, was utilized in what we have done.

The slight difference of how I'd like to describe this to the gentleman is: we did not say that Members cannot be paid. What we said is that no new debt can be used to pay Members. So, if we're spending 40 percent too much money today and if 60 percent were coming in, we could be paid out of that amount, but we could not be paid out of the debt-side amount, which is what this legislation is about and why this legislation is germane.

I do thank the gentleman. I thank the gentleman for his idea that Members of Congress should equally suffer or equally gain as the American people have. In this circumstance, it's a loss for all of us, and that is why Chairman Camp included this as an amendment. It was to make sure that we clarified: As part of this bill, Members of Congress could not be paid with new debt that was being brought to the United States.

So I hope that clarifies not only the success that we believe that Mr. Cooper brought with his ideas but also the intent of what this legislation actually does, what we spoke about in the Rules Committee and the fine line between paying a Member and whether it comes from new debt or whether it comes from operating entities that would be within the 60 percent that would not be the new debt. I hope this clarifies not only what we are trying to do but that we speak forthrightly to Members about what this legislation actually is.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I have been around this place a long time, and I've heard of people who did not read bills. I have heard of people who did not understand bills, but I have never seen a circumstance such as today where the truth was being held hostage.

The facts of the case are very simple. Republicans today are offering a mechanism to the President of the United States and the American people that says, if we do get in a circumstance where we do not extend our debt to further allow the Federal Government to buy more debt to pay its obligations, then we offer this opportunity, and that is that the government can, even when we're in a circumstance where we cannot borrow more money, and let's say we spend 60 percent that we get money in but 40 percent is the debt that we can no longer have available to pay our obligations, about a 60/40 split, then we're allowing the Federal Government to go borrow more debt to pay its obligations so that it doesn't compete against the money that does come in to pay the bills of the United States as the President of the United States would choose.

I've never heard of a more reasonable option. We're not telling the President how to spend the money. We're giving authorization for new debt to pay our debt obligations. That's not cutting people off. It's not truthful to say we're going to do that. Anybody that tells you that didn't read the bill.

What this is about is to say, if we go into a debt circumstance where we cannot come to an agreement, then we are authorizing the Federal Government, the Treasury, to go get more debt, only enough to pay debt obligations to where we do not default, and then we work on the circumstances of how much money comes in.

This has been miscast. The truth has been held hostage, and I am disappointed in Members of Congress who came down here and misled the American people about what this bill is. It is nothing more than allowing the Treasury to go borrow money to pay its already obligations to people who loaned us money. It says nothing about how they will pay normal bills to people. And to come to this floor and to suggest this is simply a disservice to the obligations I think that we have to be open and honest about what our job is.

I urge my colleagues to understand the simplification of what this bill is about, to not try to twist it to have it become something that it is not. I hope my colleagues will vote ``yes'' on the rule and ``yes'' on the underlying legislation.

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

An Amendment to H. Res. 202 Offered by Ms. Slaughter of New York

Amendment in the nature of a substitute:

Strike all after the resolved clause and insert:

That immediately upon adoption of this resolution the Speaker shall, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1595) to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions. If the Committee of the Whole rises and reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of the bill.

Sec. 2. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of the bill specified in the first section of this resolution.

The Vote on the Previous Question: What It Really Means

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 Democratic minority 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.''

The Republican majority may 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.

Mr. SESSIONS. I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.


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