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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1960, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014; And Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1256, Swap Jurisdiction Certainty Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, this should be a simple rule. Every year, this House considers the annual National Defense Authorization Act. It's a bill that reauthorizes our Nation's defense programs and a place where we should have the opportunity to debate some of the most important issues facing this country and the world.

The process is typically broken up into two parts: a rule providing for general debate on the National Defense Authorization Act and a rule providing for consideration of amendments to that bill. It's generally not a controversial process; although, the decisions made by the Rules Committee in allowing and preventing amendments from being considered can be controversial.

And that's where this rule goes wrong. This is not the normal rule providing for general debate for the defense authorization bill. No, Madam Speaker, this rule is much more than that.

Over the past 3 years, we've seen the Republican leadership in the House fixated on several things:

They want to take health care away from millions of Americans by repealing ObamaCare;

They want to destroy the social safety net through mindless budget cuts; and

They want to weaken our financial system by repealing the Dodd-Frank Act that came out of the greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.

This rule, the rule that should be a simple general debate rule for the Defense Authorization Act, also makes in order H.R. 1256, the Swap Jurisdiction Certainty Act. Not only does this rule cram in this controversial bill, it does not allow one single amendment. That's right. This is a closed rule. That's not an open and transparent process, certainly not the one that Speaker Boehner promised.

H.R. 1256 would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission to jointly issue rules on the regulations of swaps transactions between the United States and foreign entities.

H.R. 1256 automatically exempts transactions in countries with the nine largest swaps markets from U.S. regulations unless the CFTC and the SEC jointly determine that the regulations aren't broadly equivalent. Because many large U.S. financial institutions have subsidiaries outside of the United States, there are serious concerns that banks will seek to conduct swap transactions in countries with looser regulations to avoid U.S. oversight. And, Madam Speaker, it is important to note that many countries are far behind the United States in promulgating their rules on swaps.

Why are we looking to allow foreign regulations to govern transactions involving U.S. companies that could ultimately impact our economy?

During the markup in the Financial Services Committee, Ranking Member Maxine Waters offered an amendment to strike the presumption that foreign regulatory requirements satisfy U.S. swaps requirements, allowing the CFTC and the SEC to determine whether foreign regulatory requirements are comparable to U.S. requirements.

Unfortunately, under this closed rule, the full House will not have the opportunity to consider a similar amendment to strengthen this legislation.

Madam Speaker, this is yet another attempt to slow down the Dodd-Frank rulemaking process, undermine the CFTC's work in regulating derivatives trading, and weaken the financial market regulations needed to protect our economy.

Madam Speaker, I urge all my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule.

This rule also allows, believe it or not, the Agriculture Committee to file a supplemental report to H.R. 1947, the farm bill reauthorization. Madam Speaker, this is a bill that cuts $20.5 billion from SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. While this report is just technical, and fulfills the committee's responsibilities following the markup of H.R. 1947, this rule is not the place for this report. And, more importantly, I want to make it crystal clear that I do not support these egregious cuts. It's a rotten thing to do to poor people during this tough economic time.

Finally, Madam Speaker, let me discuss the least controversial part of this rule, the defense authorization bill. This rule allows the House to begin general debate on H.R. 1960, the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.

There is much to admire and support in this bill, and I commend the chairman and ranking member for working together to ensure the programs that provide benefits and support to our veterans and military retirees are adequately funded and that there will be no increases in TRICARE fees. Regrettably, there's also a great deal in this bill that should make every Member of this Chamber pause and think about our national security priorities:

Should we be spending additional billions on Cold War nuclear weapons rather than on our troops, their families, and our veterans?

Should we really be cutting funds and putting obstacles in the way of implementing the New START Treaty with Russia, limiting both our nations' ability to further reduce and verify our nuclear arsenals?

Should we be committing hundreds of millions this year and billions of dollars in the future to an east coast missile defense site that the Pentagon says it doesn't want and doesn't need?

Should we continue to set up roadblocks and obstruct the President's efforts to resolve the issue of how to effectively and safely close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Naval Station, appropriately release and return to their families those prisoners who have been cleared of all charges, and bring to justice once and for all those few remaining prisoners who were indeed engaged in heinous acts of terrorism?

And once again, Madam Speaker, the committee provides $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan through the Overseas Contingency Operations account. That's $5 billion more than what the President and the Pentagon asked for.

Now let me just say a couple of words about the OCO account. It is an off-budget account. It is another $85 billion on the Nation's credit card--deficit spending, pure and simple. It is the lingo of ``emergency spending,'' as if it were an unexpected surprise that we will still be in Afghanistan throughout all of FY 2014.

I have always been concerned that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ever more amorphous and hard-to-define global war on terror, have not been included in the Pentagon's base budget but always outside that budget, with an ``emergency'' designation so that we don't have to figure out how to pay for it now. We'll just pay for it later and later and later. I'm increasingly concerned that, even after we transition all combat military and security operations over to the Afghan Government by the end of 2014, the OCO will still go on.

It is time to phase out the OCO, put this spending back into the base spending bill, and if we want to make war, then we ought to figure out a way to pay for it or make the appropriate cuts in other Pentagon programs to make room for the funding of these operations.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me say a few words about the strong concerns this Congress has, on both sides of the aisle, about the epidemic of sexual assault in all branches of our military. This bill includes several measures that will strengthen the investigation and prosecution of these heinous crimes inside our military. It also provides new protections for victims of military sexual assault. It reflects the bipartisan work of Representative Turner, my Massachusetts colleague, Representative Tsongas, as well as Representatives WALORSKI, NOEM, CASTRO, and Loretta Sanchez. However, Mr. Speaker, there is still much more that should and can be done to ensure these brutal rapes and assaults are fully investigated and prosecuted, the victims treated with respect, and to advance education in our military academies and among our ranks and our officer corps.

Several amendments were submitted to the Rules Committee, and I hope that they will be made in order so that we can more fully debate this critical issue and how to end rape and sexual assault within our Armed Forces.

Let me just add, Mr. Speaker, that while the NDAA looks to strengthen protections and prosecutions inside our military, we here in Congress are also to blame for having failed in our oversight responsibilities. Congress has not given the attention to military sexual assault that it deserves. So I think that we do need to clean up our own House and ensure that Congress does a far better job of oversight to ensure that the Pentagon and all our military members are held accountable for preventing, reducing, and prosecuting cases of sexual assault and abuse in our Armed Forces and providing victims with the services and support that they deserve.

Mr. Speaker, I'm always ambivalent about the annual defense authorization bill. I support the programs for our veterans and our retirees, and I support providing for the genuine needs of our servicemen and -women, whether they are based here at home or abroad. But I cannot support the amount of waste, the spending on unnecessary and often ridiculous programs, on more nukes, on outdated weapons, and on wars that never end.

As we begin general debate on the defense bill later today, I ask my colleagues to keep these questions in mind.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, this rule is unnecessarily complicated and misguided. There is no reason to include yet another bill gutting Dodd-Frank in this rule, and there's no reason to cram into this rule a report from the Agriculture Committee about a bill that will make hunger worse in America.

For these reasons, I oppose this rule, and I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the rule for these three measures, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself the remaining time.

Mr. Speaker, I get it. The Republican majority wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and they're using every possible vehicle they can to undermine Dodd-Frank, which puts consumers at risk by their constant attack on protections that, I think, most people in this country think are reasonable.

As you heard from Ms. Waters, the ranking member on the Committee on Financial Services, and from Mr. Ellison, there is controversy around this bill. The thought that you would bring a bill like this to the floor that would weaken Dodd-Frank under a closed rule is really unforgivable, quite frankly. We ought to debate this. This is important stuff. There ought to be debates, and there ought to be amendments.

On the defense authorization bill, I just want to say this for the record: while I have no opposition to your bringing the DOD bill up for general debate, I do

want to express my concern that when the Rules Committee considers the amendments that they be fair-minded about it and that all major issues, including the issues raised by a number of my colleagues on sexual assault, are addressed.

I also want to say that the war in Afghanistan ought to be debated on this floor. A central part of our defense budget right now is going to this war, and last year, we were shut out. I'm hoping that this year we will at least have the opportunity to bring an amendment to the floor, debate what our policy should be, and will let Members on both sides vote up or down.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' because this does allow H.R. 1256 to come to the floor under a closed rule. That is wrong. This should be a more open and transparent process, especially when it comes to an issue that is so important.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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