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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1644, Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2016-01-12

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

    (Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. McGOVERN. I thank the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Newhouse) for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in very strong opposition to this rule and the underlying legislation. The rule provides for consideration of three pieces of legislation, and two of these bills are under a completely closed process. In fact, these are the 49th and 50th closed rules in this Congress.

    Last year was the most closed session in the history of our country, and I think this year will probably beat last year. I don't think that is anything to be proud of.

    This is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world, but the problem is, we don't deliberate very much anymore. We don't pass legislation. Instead, we pass sound bites, and that is what we are doing here today.

    This Chamber has become an echo chamber, if you will, for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and its priorities, and the people's business gets tossed to the side.

    When Speaker Ryan took the gavel, he promised openness and a return to serious legislating. And my colleagues on the Rules Committee, we give them many opportunities to be more generous with granting more opportunities for Members of both sides to be able to offer amendments. And every time we do that, they vote ``no.'' And every time we bring up an open rule, they vote ``no.'' Here we are, with two more bills that will be debated under a completely closed process this week. Things have to change here, and I hope my colleagues in the leadership on the other side will reflect on what the purpose of all of us being here is supposed to be.

    I would say it is about trying to find ways to come together and to pass things that will help improve the quality of life for all the people of this country, as well as to ensure our security in this dangerous world.

    Mr. Speaker, let me say a few words about H.R. 3662, the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act. My Republican friends would have us believe that this bill is a serious effort to increase congressional oversight of sanctions relief under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran deal.

    I wish that were true, Mr. Speaker. Such a bill could bring together a substantial number of Members from both parties. I would be even more confident about such a bill if it were crafted with input from the administration about how Congress could be most helpful and effective in monitoring the Iran nuclear deal.

    Regrettably, what is coming before the House is another ultra- partisan bill that would shut down the ability of the United States to carry out its own obligations under the Iran deal.

    Rather than the world closely monitoring Iran's compliance, this bill would make the United States a target of condemnation for failing to fulfill its commitments. In fact, it would be the United States that is the nation in noncompliance with the Iran nuclear deal.

    Now, many of my colleagues who are critics of the Iran nuclear deal have already signaled that they cannot support this bill. House Republicans made no attempt whatsoever to make this bill a bipartisan bill. They made no attempt to draft a bill that might actually be signed by the President and worth the American taxpayers' time. This is political theater at its worst, plain and simple.

    This latest House Republican bill is even more dangerous because it plays politics with our national security.

    No one here wants to see Iran freed from its commitment not to develop a nuclear weapon, but that is exactly what this bill would do if it ever became law. It would make sure that the United States could not fulfill its part of the bargain, thus killing the nuclear agreement, and Iran would once again be free to pursue building nuclear weapons. That is insane.

    How can my Republican friends possibly think that this is a good idea? I believe that there are Members of Congress in both parties who want to work together with the administration in a bipartisan manner to build on the progress that they have made to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    I do believe there are Democrats and Republicans in Congress who genuinely want to strengthen the ability of the U.S. and the international community to respond effectively to Iran's recent testing of ballistic missiles, hold Iran accountable for their support of militant and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and secure the freedom of Americans currently imprisoned in Iran.

    I also believe that achieving these goals may not require legislation, but strong bipartisan actions that increase U.S. leverage with our international partners and with Iran.

    But playing dangerous political games with our national security by bringing legislation like this to the floor, legislation that would undermine and perhaps even kill the nuclear deal with Iran, is not the answer.

    Now, luckily for the American people, this bill is not going to go anywhere. Even if it were actually passed by both Chambers of Congress and made its way to the President's desk, it would be vetoed, and I strongly doubt that the Congress would be able to overturn a Presidential veto in support of such a clearly partisan bill.

    Last week, Congress voted for the 62nd time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and soon afterward, that bill was vetoed by the President. That is 62 times that Republicans wasted the American people's time and taxpayer dollars trying to take health care away from millions of families, all to make a political point.

    Congress has already voted on the Iran deal. My colleagues who opposed the deal tried to kill it, and they failed. It is now official policy. Are House Republicans going to take us down the same path they did with the Affordable Care Act? Are we also going to vote on this bill 62 times, a bill that we know the President will veto, just so the Republicans can make a political point? [[Page H300]] Let's stop wasting the American people's time on such bills. Let's put politics aside and actually work together to responsibly monitor implementation of the Iran deal and find ways to strengthen U.S. leverage in other areas of concern on Iran.

    So I urge my colleagues to reject H.R. 3662 and reject this rule.

    Mr. Speaker, today, the House is also taking up two Republican bills that would have devastating effects on the environment and our Nation's public health. The first piece of legislation, S.J. Res. 22, is the Republican majority's fifth attempt to get rid of the Clean Water Rule. Here we are, having the same discussion once again, wasting the American taxpayers' time and money.

    The Clean Water Rule was created in response to the Supreme Court declaring that the Clean Water Act needed to be narrowed and more clearly defined. So the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers did just that--they narrowed the scope and provided for much-needed clarification.

    With the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers doing exactly what they were supposed to do, you would think that would be the end of it. The EPA's ability to protect our water from pollution has been narrowed and the industry received the clarification that they wanted.

    Unfortunately, my Republican friends are pushing new legislation to further weaken vital environmental protections.

    The final bill before us, H.R. 1644, the STREAM Act, is a bill that is going nowhere and is the same bill that Republicans brought up last year, with the only difference being--and this is a major difference, I guess--but the only difference is that they changed the name. Otherwise, it is the same thing.

    Mr. Speaker, the sole purpose of this Republican bill is to reverse the rule that the Department of the Interior released last year that regulates the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining.

    It has long been known that mountaintop removal mining heavily pollutes drinking water, destroys wildlife habitats, and puts local communities at greater risk of contracting life-threatening diseases.

    Keeping the American people healthy and safe should always be our first priority in Congress. Yet, this bill is more focused on making it easier for big energy companies to continue the destructive and dangerous practice of mountaintop removal and gives no thought whatsoever to the risks it poses to the American families nearby.

    Before the recent rule released by the Department of the Interior in July 2015, parts of the regulations for mountaintop mining were more than 30 years old. Updates were clearly long overdue, and the fact that House Republicans are now actively working against the safeguards established by the rule is astounding.

    Are Republicans so beholden to big coal companies that they would put the health and safety of our country's families at risk? This bill clearly suggests that the answer is yes.

    Mr. Speaker, we are only 2 weeks into the new year, and instead of House Republicans starting the year by working in a bipartisan way to bring serious legislation to the floor, we are, once again, debating political messaging bills that fail to address the most pressing issues we face in a constructive way.

    There is so much we need to do, and I believe that there is so much that we can agree on and actually move forward that will get through both Chambers and go to the White House and be signed and become law and actually improve things for the people of this country. That is what we are supposed to be doing here.

    Mr. Speaker, the American people deserve a lot better than this.

    I reserve the balance of my time.

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