Providing for Consideration of H.R. 161, Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 36, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Actby Representative James P. McGovern
Posted on 2015-01-21
McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlewoman from North
Carolina for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself
such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, while I have great respect for the gentlewoman from North Carolina, I don't have a lot of respect for this process. I would like to begin today by saying a word or two about the process being used by the Republicans here on the floor--actually, three words: ``It stinks. Again.'' We are all very happy--delighted even--to hear our Republican friends say that they wanted to make this Congress into a place where we could work together, but actions speak louder than words, and here are some of their actions: five closed rules.
Until yesterday, 100 percent of our Rules Committee meetings have been called so-called emergency meetings, and 100 percent of the bills the committee has sent to the floor have drawn a veto threat, and once again, the Republicans are using one rule for multiple bills. This is a disturbing pattern that is quickly becoming a bad habit.
The Republican leadership apparently isn't content to exclude Democrats from offering substantive, germane, and thoughtful amendments. They are also shutting down the debate itself.
Mr. Speaker, this Congress is only a few weeks old. We have 23 months left to go. Are the Republicans really saying that we can't find an extra hour for debate during the next 23 months? Of course we can. They just prefer not to. It is unfair, it is undemocratic, it is unnecessary, and it needs to stop.
Now, as to the bill that is before us today, last night, as we all know, President Obama laid out a bold, clear, and exciting agenda to spur economic growth and ensure that prosperity is shared by all Americans, not just the wealthy few and special interests. I thought it was a terrific speech.
Apparently, my Republican friends weren't paying very close attention. I know they were there in this Chamber because I saw many of them. The Speaker himself was sitting right behind the President. Maybe they were sending each other cat videos or taking selfies because the President made it very clear that if Congress sends him bills that move us backward, he will veto them, and both of these bills deserve his veto.
The first, H.R. 161, is a solution in search of a problem. It is as simple as that. The bill would automatically approve natural gas pipeline projects if FERC or other Federal agencies do not act on required permits or certificates within a rigid, unworkable timeframe.
A GAO report concluded that FERC's pipeline permitting process is predictable and consistent, with 91 percent of pipeline applications receiving a decision within 12 months. During committee testimony last Congress, even industry representatives agreed that the current permitting process is ``generally very good.'' It is not every day that regulators and industry agree that the current system works.
So why would we move forward on a bill that disrupts a system that works is beyond me. In fact, this bill makes it more likely that FERC will deny more projects just to comply with the severe timeline.
In Massachusetts, we are dealing with the proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline which would run through parts of my district and would cut through a number of environmentally sensitive [[Page H445]] lands, including Northfield State Forest and the Montague aquifer and management area.
Yesterday, in the Rules Committee, I offered an amendment with my good friend Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, whose district would also be affected by the proposed pipeline, to keep the existing review process in place for proposed pipelines that cross Federal, State, or local conservation or recreation lands because, if we have already invested Federal and State money into identifying these lands as environmentally sensitive, it doesn't make any sense to expedite the approval of a pipeline that could bulldoze right through them.
It is worth a debate. Unfortunately, Republicans on the Rules Committee voted down this commonsense amendment in a party-line vote.
As the gentlewoman from North Carolina pointed out, both of these rules are completely closed. Even though they did not go through regular order, even though there were no hearings in this Congress or no markup, nobody--no Democrat, no Republican--can offer an amendment.
Then there is H.R. 36. This is just the latest Republican assault on women's reproductive rights. It is their latest attempt to put politicians in the middle of the private medical decisions of women. It is blatantly unconstitutional, and it fails to take into consideration the fact that some pregnancies can have catastrophic, heartbreaking complications, even after 20 weeks.
To make matters worse, this legislation lacks a reasonable exception for victims of rape and incest by requiring victims to report cases of rape and incest to law enforcement in order to have access to an abortion, this despite the fact that research shows that the majority of sexual assaults are unreported, and on top of that, the exception on incest is only for minors.
Mr. Speaker, what really bothers me about bills like this is that the same people who vote for them routinely vote to cut the WIC program, to cut Head Start and childcare programs and SNAP and school lunch programs, and elementary and secondary education funding. This hypocrisy is breathtaking.
Mr. Speaker, leading medical groups agree that doctors, in consultation with women and their families, should make medical decisions, not the politicians.
Mr. Speaker, the American people deserve better. They deserve a better process, and they deserve better legislation. We certainly have a lot to do to help get this country to continue on the road to prosperity, to make sure that everybody can share in this economy's growth.
I urge my colleagues: let's focus on those issues, let's come together and do something for the American people, and enough of these message bills.
I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.