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Public Statements

Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 1947, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 271 and ask for its immediate consideration.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I rise to claim the time in opposition to the point of order and in favor of the consideration of the resolution


Mr. SESSIONS. The question really before us today, Mr. Speaker, is plain and simple, and that is: Should the House now consider H. Res. 271?

I have great respect not only for the gentleman from Iowa but for the gentleman from Massachusetts. Yesterday, we sat through a very, very long committee hearing in which we considered over 200 amendments that were presented to the Rules Committee.

I believe that what we have done with the rule that is in reference and is being questioned here on the floor is not only a very fair and bipartisan approach, but we took this actually from the Ag Committee, from the gentleman from Minnesota--the ranking member--and the chairman of the committee, from Iowa, both of whom have not only extensive farm backgrounds but also extensive service here in the House, both as chairmen of the Agriculture Committee, to the people of the United States.

The bill was brought to the Rules Committee on a bipartisan basis. We talked about the amendments that the committee felt were worthy. We worked extensively with the committee and with other committees of jurisdiction. We had Member after Member come to the Rules Committee in a fair and open process. We deliberated. The gentleman from Massachusetts knows that he, in some sense, got some satisfaction with how the process worked.

So, today, what we are here for is, yes, to talk about the amendments--some that were made in order and some which changed policy--but the essence of this is: Are we going to put a point of order against the bill? I think that the resolution waives all points of order against amendments printed in the Rules Committee Report, yes, and the Committee on Rules is not aware of any violation of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

I think this is simply an opportunity for my friends to come to the floor in order to allow for more discussion and time--and I respect that. I respect that the gentleman from Massachusetts has very strong feelings as a member of the Agriculture Committee and as a senior member of the Rules Committee, and I respect also those Members of the Democratic Caucus who have strong feelings about some changes that are taking place.

I admire my colleagues. I disagree. I do not believe in any way that there should be any point of order against the bill. I think it's open. I think it's fair. I think it's inclusive. I think it includes a wide-ranging group of ideas and thoughts that are directly germane to the appropriateness of the Agriculture Committee and other committees that have jurisdiction. I think the Rules Committee did an awesome job. I think we did this in a fair and open process. I think our product is good.

How would I characterize it? I think this is a fair rule that made 103 amendments from both sides of the aisle with 53 Democratic amendments and 50 Republican amendments in order. There were a number of bipartisan amendments. It's a fair rule that comes from a good process.

In order to allow the House to continue its scheduled business for the day, I encourage us to keep moving.

I thank the gentleman and respect the gentleman, and he knows this. We have been dear friends for many years on this committee. I know he wants more time, and I respect that.

I urge all Members to vote ``yes'' on the question of consideration of the resolution if necessary, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, the gentlewoman is correct. There is an amendment that was presented at the Rules Committee that has been made in order that essentially does what the gentlewoman says, and she'll have a chance to vote for it or against it. What it says is the amendment ends eligibility of food stamps for those convicted who are rapists, pedophiles, and murderers.

So the gentlewoman and every Member of this body today will have a chance to say on record that it's okay if you're a convicted rapist, pedophile, or murderer, that it's okay for you to be eligible for food stamps in a program that does compete against mothers and children who, in these difficult times, you're seeing the Agriculture Committee try and set priorities about who should receive this government assistance.

This amendment has not been accepted yet, but every Member of this body will be able to help prioritize; and the amendment that the gentlewoman speaks of is about whether we will let rapists, pedophiles, and murderers, who are convicted felons, continue to receive food stamps. The gentlewoman is right. And today she will get her chance to help us prioritize these government programs about who should be receiving food stamps in America.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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

I appreciate the gentleman for coming down to the floor, and I want to respond to the gentleman that what this bill is about is trying to make decisions about what we're going to do in difficult times.

There are 25 million people unemployed and underemployed as a result of the policies that President Obama has placed on this country. Millions of people cannot find work today. There are millions of people across this country who are denied opportunities because the job market out there is not growing. We're seeing rules and regulations. What is known as ObamaCare is causing employers to back away from hiring people. There is the President's inability to make a decision about a simple, most publicized and most looked-at pipeline that would employ thousands of people in this country and us use energy from our friends.

The President's inability to lead is what is causing this country to have massive unemployment and a GDP rate of about 1.5 percent. It is a nightmare for people.

So I do understand that we have those in our midst who are in trouble. I don't think this bill is ever aimed at, and we shouldn't try and say that it would be aimed at, the disabled or mothers with children. That's not what we're trying to accomplish here.

What we're trying to accomplish is to end the eligibility of food stamps for rapists, pedophiles, and murderers, those that compete against needy families. That's why you see members of the Democratic Party coming down here today saying we're going to take it away from other people. No. Rapists, pedophiles, and murderers.

Furthermore, under the current law, people who receive as little as $1 in energy benefits, $1 in State benefits, automatically qualify for SNAP payments.

This legislation that we're talking about today says if you're going to give away a Federal benefit, the State has to have some skin in the game. You can't just give away something that comes from somewhere else. This legislation closes the costly loopholes that have been out there. And without reform, you're going to continue to see dead people, illegal immigrants, lottery winners, and others who are still eligible for SNAP. That is what we are doing as we reform this bill today. We are doing this because we believe it is the right thing to do to save the system.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the gentleman if he has any further speakers or if he believes that we have now gotten to the end of this opportunity?


Mr. SESSIONS. And I believe I have the right to close. Is that correct?


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman from Massachusetts for furthering his feelings that he wants to talk about this. It is true, there will be people dropped off the rolls. We're having to make decisions based upon money. There's a vote today--it has not been decided--whether rapists, pedophiles, or murderers will be eligible. Also, whether we will have people have to qualify on their own as opposed to some other consideration maybe that a State would put. And we're going to take off those who are lottery winners, illegal aliens, and people quite honestly who should have the money to pay for these things. That's what we're doing today. So in order to allow the House to continue its scheduled business, which we're trying to do today, I urge Members to vote ``yes'' on the question of consideration of the resolution.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues on the Democratic side for not only their vigorous support for the things that they believe in today on this important bill but also for their consideration, participation, and bipartisanship yesterday as the Rules Committee considered this important bill.

I believe it is important what we are doing in the House. I think doing our work on a bipartisan basis should draw the attention of the President of the United States, who has said he will veto this bill, veto the bill before we even see what it looks like. I think that we should understand that what we are trying to do is work together. So, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Worcester, Massachusetts, my very dear friend, Mr. McGovern, pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, we've already had a lot of discussion about this awesome farm bill that comes to us today. H. Res. 271 provides for a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 1947. This rule provides for discussion and opportunities for Members of the minority and majority, both Republicans and Democrats who represent 700,000 people back home, to come together with their thoughts and ideas about how to make our farm policies and the things which are included in this bill even better, sustainable, and moving forward so that we can know that we have done our job.

This week, 230 amendments were submitted to the Rules Committee. The rule before us today provides for consideration of 103 of those amendments, 50 Republican and 53 Democrat or bipartisan amendments.

Many of the amendments submitted were duplicative, some violated the rules of the House, and several were nongermane. Given the universe of the amendments the committee received, I believe that this rule allows the House to debate each and every important issue contained in the bill and provides this body with an opportunity to work its will.

Despite the large number of amendments submitted, I believe the underlying legislation, H.R. 1947, is a strong and meaningful statement and measure that provides our Nation with agriculture and nutrition policy necessary to meet the needs of this country.

And I want to commend, in particular, the young chairman of the Agriculture Committee, the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Lucas), and the ranking member, the gentleman from Minnesota (Collin Peterson), who have worked together over the years, not just the time when Mr. Peterson served as chairman of the committee, but also throughout the years that Mr. Lucas has worked in a bipartisan basis together, the committee, to work on agriculture policy.

Their hard work over the past several years has led us to the point where we are today. Hard work, working together, thinking, talking about the policy that would be good for the country--that's where we are today.

We follow that up with an opportunity to make sure, on a bipartisan basis, that I work together with my colleague, my colleagues at the Rules Committee. Notwithstanding Ms. Slaughter was busy on the floor a lot of the time yesterday, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) sat in, heard the amendments with the rest of the Rules Committee. We worked together, staffs, to try and make as many amendments in order that would create an opportunity to follow the leadership set by Mr. Peterson and Chairman Lucas.

So this year's FARRM Bill reforms our Nation's agriculture programs to provide American farmers with innovative risk management tools. It reforms our Nation's supplemental nutrition programs for the first time in nearly two decades, and it invests in meaningful conservation programs to ensure that future generations of Americans benefit from the same resources that we do today.

The bottom line is the top soil, that top soil that is in America, which is the greatest in the world, enables our farmers and ranchers to produce goods and services, food that serves the entire world. And I am proud of supporting those people who live a way of life in a rural area. I know them well, and I respect the hard work and what they do to make our country stronger and better.

Impressively, H.R. 1947 accomplishes all of this, while making difficult decisions on saving over $40 billion over the life of the bill. This legislation is common sense. This legislation is bipartisan.

This legislation allows us, through an amendment process, to make many tough and difficult decisions based upon representation of this House of Representatives about issues because we're re-looking at the entire FARRM Bill.

Most of all, I hope it's fiscally responsible for those. And we offer solutions, solutions to not only consumers, but also solutions to farmers about how we are going to keep their products and services, farmers and ranchers, families, rural communities and consumers all in a balance to where we know that, through the leadership of this House of Representatives, that we have done our job.

That is why we're here today. We're here to take on tough decisions. We're here to make this FARRM Bill better, and I am proud of the product that we present today.

I urge my colleagues to support this rule, and I support the underlying legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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

Mr. Speaker, I can certify that at no time during this process have we vilified any poor people. We're here to help them. The Republican Party cares very much about families and children, moms who are trying to make a go of it.

We're the ones that are up here trying to lower taxes on everybody. We're the ones that are trying to make sure we've got jobs for people. We're the ones that are making sure that we're trying to take pedophiles and rapists and murderers off the rolls of government assistance so that it would serve those who need it the most.

We're trying to help prioritize and save this system. That is what Republicans are trying to do.

We would never vilify those that are disabled, or who are seniors, or who are men and women who richly deserve the opportunity for the government to help them.

But likewise, we believe that those who are able-bodied, those who really should be getting up during the day and trying to go find work do not take government assistance.

We are very concerned about the rights of seniors, about the rights of women, particularly women that have children, and about children and about the disabled. I work very extensively as a Republican with other Republicans and with Democrats on a bipartisan basis to make sure that we're looking at those needs of disabled people. So, I think it would be unfair to say, Well, this bill is aimed to vilify the people that we're intending to help, and that's why we are here today.

Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to a gentleman who is from Gainesville, Florida, and was a large animal vet. He understands a lot, not just about agronomics, but also about the men and women who take care of this country in agriculture, people who spend their lives there, people who have to take care of their animals and, day in and day out, the needs that it takes to make sure that we have the best farms and ranches in America, animals who are safe and consumers that get a good deal.

I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Florida, Dr. YOHO.


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

I appreciate the gentlewoman's coming down and speaking. She was at the Rules Committee yesterday and really sat for a long period of time in order to have her ideas taken up by the Rules Committee. As she knows, she's going to get a vote on what she spoke about today. It's not in there yet. She'll have a chance. This body will have a chance to determine whether we're going to go one direction or the other.

What drives the behavior of all this is very interesting. We're trying to work with, on a high level, something that's going to happen again soon in this next cycle starting at the end of September, and it is called sequestration--again, President Obama's idea of sequestration--which will cut $85 billion more across the board, and the entire government is struggling with how we're going to make these changes.

Our GDP is at less than 1 percent. Twenty-five million people are unemployed and underemployed. We're working with the policies of the Democratic Party that are bankrupting this country.

There are people who are hurting. There are people who need jobs, who need food, need to take care of their families, and need to take care of paying their student loans. This House of Representatives is on the mark of saying how we should solve each and every one of these problems.

They essentially go back to when Republicans had control of the House of Representatives, the United States Senate and the Presidency. For 60 straight months there was sustained, ongoing economic growth. Oh, my gosh, that was under George Bush. Well, that's right. President Bush and Republicans helped this country to achieve a doubling of GDP, of moving our country forward.

But there's also another model of success out there, and it was called President Clinton, who came and worked with the House of Representatives, who took Republican ideas, who took the ideas which we put and merged them with his own--probably called them his own--but moved this country forward. Instead, today we have leadership of our country that says no, no, no.

We've passed bipartisan legislation--cybersecurity. What's the President's answer? No. We've come today with bipartisan legislation from two stalwarts, men who have served this great Nation in the Agriculture Committee for years of service, bringing them together with the best ideas to try and formulate a policy.

Today, there will be examples of people who can control the destiny of these ideas. One is about trying to take rapists, pedophiles, and murderers off the rolls. Another that says we are not going to allow those that have won the lottery to be able to continue receiving food stamps. That's how this bipartisan bill is being crafted and worked together. And every Member of this body will have a chance to vote on the final direction that we go through amendments that were made in order by the Rules Committee.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to remind the young gentleman from Austin, Texas, that he'll have a chance to vote on this, and then we can make a determination. But it's pedophiles, murderers, rapists, those who should have enough money not to have government assistance, that's what we're trying to do here. And he'll have a chance to decide that today.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, if I could inquire about the time remaining on both sides, please, sir.


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

The gentleman from New York, who is a very dear friend of mine, spoke very eloquently about this bill.

I will tell you that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, is designed to ensure that the neediest Americans are able to help themselves with food for themselves and their families. I care very much about people who are disabled seniors and those who are having problems.

I think you would be hard-pressed to find any Member who did not think that reforming this program is also the right thing to do. This program was reformed in the Agriculture Committee. That's the text that we are bringing here today--Republicans and Democrats together working together, looking at the problem, and trying to make sure that prioritization is done.

They also recognize this: in the past decades, SNAP payments, otherwise known as food stamps, have increased by almost 300 percent; 300 percent is non-sustainable. A 300 percent increase puts huge responsibilities on public policy.

This is why Republicans have been offering ideas, and we continue to, about jobs and job growth. This is why Republicans see the terrible plight that the American family and the American people are having in trying to have jobs that are available in their hometown. And this goes to the responsibility of all elected officials, not just Members of Congress, but mayors and Governors and Senators and, Mr. Speaker, Presidents, people who are elected officials who need to understand that increasing food stamps by 300 percent over 10 years should be a national disgrace.

We're not trying to take advantage of those who are on it. They're on it because they cannot find work, they cannot find an opportunity because of public policies that make work harder to find because of rules and regulations out of this body and the Federal Government that are creating circumstances on employers to where they don't go employ people. We've talked about this for years. We said when we got into ObamaCare, this will cause a tremendous loss of jobs. The CBO--we're talking about this organization CBO--predicted the same thing.

Well, by golly, we can look ahead and see exactly where Europe is. Europe is going through what is a tragedy where young people cannot find jobs. It is an international disgrace. You see riots across Europe, and have.

Mr. Speaker, we better be smart enough to recognize that we better reform our policies, not just in agriculture policies but economic policies; economic policies that help people, sure, to get an education, but then a thriving marketplace, not just through trade but also through policies of this country.

Our leaders--Members of Congress, Governors, Vice Presidents, Presidents, and Senators--need to focus on this. We need jobs, we need job creation. We need the opportunity for every Member of Congress to understand how jobs are formulated, how jobs are then formulated, created, and then saved.

We've got a group of people that are in Washington that I think fail to look at the ramifications of long-term unemployment to our country. They, I think, are more interested in what we are going to do for people who are having tough times.

So I'm not here to vilify people. I'm here to say I suffer with you because I know them all over our country. I've seen them, not just in Taylorville, Illinois, but across this country.

What we are doing here today is bigger than just SNAP. It's larger than just the agriculture bill. It is how are we going to create a public policy that we involve all elected officials to understand about jobs, job creation, rules and regulations, and that we do not follow Europe; that we admit that Europe is the problem, not the answer; that we go back to the American Dream, the formulation of hard work, the formulation of creation of jobs and, yes, I'll say it, even people making money so they can employ more people and give more wages.

The free enterprise system, that's really the underpinning of what this whole argument is about today; a creation of a policy in this country that is about helping people that need help and about creating economic opportunity for a vast number of other people and making our country and the American Dream work. That's what the Republican Party is for. That's why we're here today.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. I reserve the balance of my time.


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


Mr. SESSIONS. I reserve the balance of my time.


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

I want to thank the gentlewoman from Florida. I do resemble that remark. I helped put this bill together, and I'm proud of it. We did it on a bipartisan basis.

We also did it in a way to try and encourage a marketplace that will become more vibrant, that will ensure that farms and farmers and families and rural areas will not only survive tough times, but be able to see an advantage for working hard.

People who are farmers and ranchers get up early and go to bed late. They represent the people of our country. They are the bedrock of not just men and women and their children who go serve in our military, but they're people who care about basic American values.

In a larger sense, what this FARRM Bill is doing is trying to find a way in its place in all of the policy that we do to take care of people properly in this country who are the neediest, but to also ensure that we prioritize it.

There are a lot of people that are my friends that are Democrats that talk about how this country is a rich and powerful country. Well, we're not as rich or as powerful as we used to be. In the last 5 years, we've diminished not only in stature and power, but in employment. We are falling behind because of policies in Washington, D.C.

This bill is about empowering people that are in real live America. They call it flyover country. It's to help people--farmers, ranchers, communities--to deal with these issues. We're for job creation and job growth.

The larger message is that we need jobs in this country. Let's not just take this as just an isolated incident to say just the FARRM Bill, but also the creation of jobs and job creation. There are 25 million people unemployed and underemployed. The GDP is less than 2 percent, where literally our country is not growing to sustain the newest generations of Americans who go to school, who go to college or to technical school, who come out and want to have a bright future. We are becoming more like Europe. We're becoming where we're beholden to a government that's bigger and more powerful and one which drives entrepreneurship and individual responsibility out of the way. It's some of these policies that have led to a 300 percent increase in people who are on food stamps over the last 10 years.

We're trying to deal with the problem. I think we're going to do it in a bipartisan way, and I have confidence this bill is on the right pathway. Some may oppose that, and some may not like the bill. I respect that. I respect the gentlewoman from Florida. But I do resemble that remark, and I think our product is good.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. I continue to reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, in fact the gentlewoman is correct, the Speaker of the House, Speaker Boehner, did make a public statement, and he did indicate that we would be open for business at the Rules Committee. I have attempted to do everything necessary and proper to make sure that not only a fair hearing was held, but that all the people who would choose to come and make an amendment available, that the committee was available. We listened. We asked tough questions. We did. But we asked questions that I considered to be fair.

I don't think one witness was discouraged at all from taking all the time they needed but respected that we had some 200 amendments to go through. We did not rush. We took our time. We were very deliberative. We worked with the committee on a bipartisan basis. We consulted others, and we received feedback, and we have a model that I believe many people, if you came to the Rules Committee yesterday, would say they received a fair hearing. Good process.

I'm for this bill. I think it is fair. I think it is balanced. I think it is a good representation of what I'm willing to put my name on as a product to present to this House.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, I'm down to the bare minimum time I have left, and I'm going to reserve my time to close. I will close whenever the gentleman is prepared to do the same.


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, my colleague and friend, the gentleman from Massachusetts, is most kind. He is most kind in not only how he presented his ideas today, and perhaps even some opposition, and I respect that. I respect him for not only standing up almost every day I see him for not just what he believes in, but caring about people.

My party cares about people, too. The Republican Party cares very much for people, not only those who have fallen on tough times but those who are friends and neighbors, and those who we don't know who live in our communities who are hurting, who are actually having tough times feeding their kids, finding work, paying student loans, and getting things done in their community that will better their community, following the guidelines that they always have about how tomorrow will be a better day for America and Americans. These are tough times.

But what we've done, and our mission today, is to take a farm bill that passed out of the committee that is very equally divided 36-10. This committee that looked at not just the policy on farm policy but has held hearing after hearing around this country, some 40 hearings over the last few years on the farm bill, to get it prepared and ready for this floor, to prepare it for the Rules Committee where both Republican and Democrat members of that committee came and thoughtfully presented their ideas, offered support for the bill once again that passed 36-10 in committee, and moved new ideas and allowed new ideas to be debated on this floor.

Look, not every amendment was made in order. I admit that. Did I want that as a goal to get closer? You bet I did.

But we allowed the debate and the opportunity up at the Rules Committee and then are trying to craft a bill that is in line with what the crafters wanted from farm policy. They're the people that understand this best. They're the people that know the impact.

And so I'm proud of the product. I think we've bettered it. I think we made it better up in the committee. I think we made it better here. And the gentleman, Mr. McGovern, is a part of that process.

As chairman of the Rules Committee, I have the authority and the responsibility to ensure that the mark that we make, that the presentation that we put on this floor and, most of all, that the legislation that allows full debate and content is important.

So, look, what we're going to do is try and worry about a new farm bill that we can move forward. I am supporting this bill. I hope we'll vote on the underlying legislation.

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


Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.


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