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Legislative Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield to my friend the majority leader, Mr. Cantor from Virginia, for the purpose of inquiring of the schedule for the week to come.


Mr. HOYER. Reclaiming my time, I want to thank the gentleman for his kindness. The American public must be thinking Geminis are, indeed, schizophrenic. I thank my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his good wishes. I thank him for the information. If I can ask him a question initially about the farm bill, which has obviously been very controversial in the past, still remains controversial in many ways, and I'm wondering, in light of the fact that the Senate passed a farm bill in a pretty bipartisan way, 66-27, with 18 Republicans voting in favor, but I know the Speaker has observed the divisions within the Republican Conference, and obviously there are some divisions within our caucus as well, and I'm wondering whether or not in fact the gentleman is confident that we will get to completion and a vote on the farm bill next week.

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comment. As the gentleman knows, on our side of the aisle, there is very significant concern about the status of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and I would hope that as a rule is considered on that bill, I don't know whether the gentleman knows at this point in time, that we would have an opportunity to have a significant number of amendments on that bill to reflect the House working its will, as the Speaker has so often observed, and I yield to my friend for whatever information he may have. I know that the rule has not been written, and I don't know whether he has any insights on how much flexibility there will be on the rule.

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that and look forward to that because I know on both sides of the aisle, this is a bill that has strong feelings among different perspectives on this bill and with respect to different subjects. And so I think as open a rule process and debate process as is possible will be helpful to the final product. I would hope that we can follow that.

Mr. Leader, you mentioned the Unborn Pain bill. I understand and I have some information that says that the text of that bill coming out of committee may be modified in the Rules Committee. Is the gentleman aware of that? And if so, is the gentleman aware of what textual change there may be from the bill that was reported out of the committee?

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman. His comment reflects what I've heard. There is a lot of discussion going on about this. Hopefully we would get significant notice of what changes there might be. Can the gentleman tell me, would it be safe to assume that this bill will be considered, when and if considered, no earlier than Wednesday, and will be considered Wednesday and Thursday? And I say that, I will tell you, some of my Members who are very concerned about this bill are very concerned about when it might be brought up, the timing from their perspectives. This is a very serious piece of legislation, as the gentleman knows, again from all perspectives, and I would hope that this bill would be, in light of the fact that the Rules Committee will probably deal with it--I'm not sure whether they'll deal with it on Tuesday; my presumption is they'll deal with it on Tuesday--but there will be time for proponents and opponents of whatever changes might be recommended to prepare their arguments for the floor.

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for that answer, and I thank him for the fact that you will be following the notice rule that has been discussed. I would ask the majority leader, could I be confident in advising people who are very focused on this bill, that if they are here Wednesday, that they will be in time to consider that bill? In other words, do you expect that the Rules Committee would consider this bill before tonight?

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his answer. So that in an abundance of caution, proponents or opponents would need to be here by Tuesday. I thank him for that answer.

Let me ask an additional thing that is similar to my question on the farm bill. We are very, very hopeful that the bill we have just been discussing, whether it's considered Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, is subject to a somewhat open rule. I don't expect it to be fully open, but that amendments will be made in order. There are very strong feelings on both sides. That's why the gentleman has indicated there's a lot of discussion going on on his side and on my side. I would hope that we have the ability again for the House to work its will and that we would have the ability to offer such amendments as would be relevant, and important amendments, not specious amendments but very important amendments, to be considered by the House, and I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman, and I feel constrained to add, however, on the defense bill that we just considered, yes, it was bipartisan to the extent that both sides agreed on a formulation on the sexual assault issue within the military.

Very frankly, there were two very substantive, widely supported, widely discussed amendments that were requested, one by Ms. Speier from California and one by Ms. Gabbard from Hawaii. Neither one of those was made an amendment so that the only alternative that we had available to us was the committee agreed-upon alternative with respect to sexual assault complaints that women in the military or men in the military might have.

Then a very substantive and, I thought, well-thought out motion to recommit, which was deemed by the individual on your side of the aisle who opposed it, in an almost cursory fashion, less than, I think, 120 seconds, dismissed as a procedural motion.

With all due respect to the majority leader, and it was not the majority leader, obviously, it was anything but a procedural motion. It was a very substantive motion. It would have, in my opinion--of course we can differ on that, but my opinion, would have made a very positive improvement in the piece of legislation we were considering.

Now, I voted for the piece of legislation, the defense bill. I've never voted against a defense authorization in my career here. The national security of our Nation is critically important.

But we had somebody offer that amendment who served in the military, who gave two of her legs for our country, and who has been honored for her service, both in the military, as an officer, a helicopter pilot, and for her service to veterans, both in Illinois and in our country. And very frankly, that was rejected as a procedural motion.

I understand the gentleman's representation that we follow the tradition of giving a full and fair--but if, I say, with all due respect to the majority leader, if the motions to recommit are to be considered simply as procedural motions, which the gentleman will observe we did not do when we were in the majority, we understand, and some of our Members understood, that these amendments made a difference.

And once we got rid of the procedural impediment that a motion to recommit would send the bill back to committee, which is no longer the case, then we should consider very legitimate alternatives on a substantive basis, not the procedural objections that we were confronted with today.

I say that all to say this is a critically important bill, very strong feelings on all sides, and I would--the gentleman has said this, and I take him at his word, that we allow alternatives to be considered on this floor as amendments that are not perceived as procedural, but are perceived as substantive attempts to improve, from the offerer of the amendment's perspective, the piece of legislation before us.

If the gentleman wants to make any additional comments, I'll yield.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments. I understand that you do view the motion to recommit as procedural. We disagree on that.

The motion would make a substantive difference in the piece of legislation. It would have set up a different scenario. To that extent, it was clearly substantive and not procedural; and it would have, I think, comported with, from many on our side's perspective, a better process to protect women and men from arbitrary and perhaps, at some point in time, unfair treatment and would give them a choice of what avenue they would pursue to protect themselves.

And as Ms. Duckworth, Captain Duckworth, Congresswoman Duckworth so aptly stated, would give more confidence, particularly to women, but men and women entering into the service that they would be protected.

We don't need to debate the substance of the issue, simply to say that giving us the alternative, and the MTR gave us the alternative, but it was not considered, on your side, as a substantive alternative.

Therefore, my point being, on the bill that we're talking about, the Pain Bill, referred to shorthand as the Pain Bill, that we be given substantive amendments that are not perceived as procedural, so that the House, not 20 percent of the House--the Armed Services Committee is less than 20 percent of the House--not the Armed Services Committee, or any committee, for that matter, dispose of the issue and preclude the other 80 percent of us from participating in making that decision.

So I would urge my friend to urge the Rules Committee and the leadership, of which the gentleman is a principal leader, to allow substantive amendments, good-faith amendments to be made in order.

Two more things if I can, unless the gentleman wants to say something further. Let me say something on immigration reform. Paul Ryan, leader on your side, a Vice Presidential candidate, said of the bipartisan effort in the Senate on immigration, he said, ``I do support what they're doing. I think they've put out a good product. It's good policy.'' That was reported on June 6 of this year in The Hill newspaper.

Immigration, obviously, nor did I expect it to be on the list for next week. But I want to ask the gentleman--in light of the fact that comprehensive immigration reform, by many on both sides of the aisle, including Mr. Ryan, but obviously in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate, has been something that's been viewed as a priority item--can the gentleman tell me whether or not there is a near-term, and by ``near-term,'' I mean prior to the August break, expectation that we will have any movement in this House on immigration reform?

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for those comments, and I look forward to us doing that and, hopefully, doing so in a bipartisan fashion because he and I both agree that the system is broken, needs to be fixed.

And my view, and I think the view of many, and certainly the Senators who came together and offered the bill that's now being considered on the Senate floor, believe that a comprehensive plan was the best answer. And I agree with that.

Lastly, if I can ask the majority leader, the student loan program, which has capped interest on student loans at 3.4 percent, expires the end of this month, and therefore we're weeks away from having a substantial increase, a doubling of student loan costs.

The President has a proposal. We passed a proposal through this House, as you know, Mr. Leader. Both of those proposals were defeated on the Senate floor for lack of 60 votes. The Senate alternative, which Mr. Bishop has now introduced, got 51 votes, but neither of them got 60 votes.

Can the gentleman tell me whether or not--it's not on the calendar for next week--there's any plan to address the issue, beyond what we've already done and which has been rejected in the Senate, to ensure that students do not see a doubling of interest rates in the near future?

And I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments.

Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you know--and I'm sure the American public knows as well, Mr. Speaker--the reason the Senate hasn't acted is because, although they have a majority for an alternative, frankly, they can't get cloture. They can't get 60 votes. Frankly, Mr. Reid doesn't have 60 votes in order to move legislation.

So, while it's well and good to say that we have acted, we have acted on a vehicle that the Senate has rejected. And they've rejected our alternative as well. They didn't reject it by a majority vote. A majority voted for our alternative. Frankly, the House would not be able to act if 60 percent of the House were necessary to pass something, and the majority leader and I both know that. We would be in gridlock. Frankly, I think it's unfortunate the Senate has a rule which allows a minority to control. I think that's not good for the country, I think it's not good for democracy, and I think it is not good for policy. I think that's demonstrable and, unfortunately, being experienced by the American people.

But I would hope that within the next 2 weeks, or 8 legislative days that we have left, that the gentleman's efforts will bear fruit and that we can do something--not that we'll beat ourselves on the chest and say the House acted.

That's the problem with the sequester. The House acted in the last Congress, and we're not acting now because a bill that's dead and gone and cannot be resurrected was passed in the last Congress as a pretense of--not a pretense. It was real at the time, but now claiming that that is the reason we're not acting on the sequester. Hopefully, that will not be the reason we do not act on the student loan.

I thank the gentleman for his efforts at wanting to get us to a compromise which will assure that students do not see, on July 1, an increase in their interest rates.

Unless the gentleman wants to make additional comments, I will yield back the balance of my time.

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