A picture of Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Louise S.
Democrat NY 25

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2279, Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013

    by Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, the majority has passed so few bills into law that it is on pace to become the least-productive Congress in history. And, frankly, I think they are a little bit proud of that. The inability to govern is directly related to the closed legislative process the majority has pursued with vigor over the course of the last year.



    At the beginning of the second session of the 113th Congress, the majority has practically shuttered the doors of every committee, save for the Rules Committee. It is a rare day when a bill proceeds through regular order from a committee of jurisdiction to the Rules Committee and down to the House floor. In fact, during the first session of the 113th Congress, major legislation repeatedly originated in the Rules Committee and was rushed to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.

    Furthermore, during the first congressional session, the majority relied upon closed rules to shut out the minority and diminish the chance of any compromise. Under a closed rule, no amendments are allowed on the House floor. That cuts out, Mr. Speaker, more than half of the people in the United States of America who voted for Democrats.

    During 2013, the majority set new records by approving 19 closed rules in a single week and an unprecedented 11 closed rules in a single day. Even those with no interest in, or knowledge of, the legislative process can understand the impact that such a closed process has on our ability to govern.

    Every Member of this Chamber was sent here with a simple duty--to represent our constituents to the best of our ability. But, by closing down the legislative process, the majority is preventing 200 duly elected Members of Congress from being able to do just that. Collectively, we members of the minority represent more than 142 million Americans. Each one of us is entrusted to work on their behalf. How can we do that when the majority takes away our ability to participate in marking up legislation, amending bills, and having a full and open debate? The Rules Committee has the unique and powerful ability to open up the legislative process and get Congress working again. In our committee, we can amend bills, improve legislation, and set the terms of debate so every Member of the House can participate in the legislative process. That is why I am so dismayed and somewhat disgusted at the proposed rule the Rules Committee has carried to the floor today.

    Before us is a single resolution for three bills. Under this resolution, two of those bills are considered under closed rules, which are not amendable, not discussable, and one is considered under a structured rule. And that one came up 2 days ago. It has had no committee action whatsoever.

    The bill being considered under a structured rule tries to revoke virtually all regulatory powers from the EPA, the agency that protects our health, our rivers, our air, and our land.

    At the same time, one of the bills being considered under a closed rule adds layers of red tape to the Department of Health and Human Services and demands that health care navigators provide everything but their blood type and family history to Congress on an almost daily basis. It is simply designed to slow up the work of signing up Americans for the health care that they want and deserve.

    It is very clear this bill is not a serious attempt to serve the American people but is a tactic to keep health care navigators from doing their work. Instead of moving forward with these go-nowhere bills, we should be extending unemployment insurance to the millions of Americans struggling to find work. And without unemployment insurance, the economy is suffering every single day.

    Just before we left for Christmas, the last day we were here, to end the debate on the rule of the budget, we had a vote that we could have done to extend the unemployment during the rules debate on the floor. That was under the previous question. The vote failed despite the fact that every Democrat and a Republican voted for it.

    By the way, this bill was paid for. It was already taken care of by excess payments that we pay in agriculture subsidies. It was an extension for 3 months, but that was not good enough. So today, you are going to have another chance to do just that, to extend the unemployment insurance, and I strongly urge my colleagues to do it.

    If my colleagues will join me in voting ``no'' on the previous question, a 3-month extension of unemployment benefits will come to the floor for an immediate vote. This is the same bipartisan bill that is moving forward in the Senate, and it deserves the same consideration here in the House.

    Today, more than 1.3 million Americans and their families have lost access to unemployment insurance. Soon, it will be over 2 million and, by probably the end of March or May, 5 million. For so many, it is their only source of income and the only way they can pay their heating bills and buy food during these cold winter days.

    We have to stand up for the millions of Americans struggling to get by through no fault of their own, because, you remember, in order to be eligible for unemployment insurance, you have to prove that you are looking for work. So I strongly urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the previous question when it comes up so we can have an immediate vote to extend unemployment insurance and finally do something in this House and through this Rules Committee that will benefit Americans and make our constituents know that we count for something.

    Mr. Speaker, The Majority has passed so few bills into law that it is on pace to become the least productive Congress in history. This inability to govern is directly related to the closed legislative process that the Majority has pursued with vigor over the course of the last year.

    At the beginning of the 2nd Session of the 113th Congress, the Majority has practically shuttered the doors of every committee, save for the Rules Committee. It is a rare day when a bill proceeds through regular order--from a committee of jurisdiction to the Rules Committee and down to the House Floor. In fact, during the first session of the 113th Congress, major legislation repeatedly originated in the Rules Committee and was rushed to the House Floor for an up or down vote.

    Furthermore, during the first Congressional session, the Majority relied upon closed rules to shut out the Minority and diminish the chance for compromise.

    Under a closed rule, no amendments are allowed on the House Floor. During 2013, the Majority set new records by approving 19 closed rules in a single week and an unprecedented 11 closed rules in a single day! Even those with no interest in, or knowledge of, the legislative process can understand the impact that such a closed process has on our ability to govern.

    Every member of this chamber was sent here with a simple duty: to represent our constituents to the best of our ability.

    Yet by closing down the legislative process, the Majority is preventing 200 duly elected Members of Congress from doing just that.

    Collectively, we members of the Minority represent more than 142 million Americans. Each one of us has been entrusted to work on their behalf. How can we do that when the Majority takes away our ability to participate in marking up legislation, amending bills and having a full and open debate? The Rules Committee has the unique and powerful ability to open up the legislative process and get Congress working again. In our committee we can amend bills, improve legislation, and set the terms of debate so that every Member of the House can participate in the legislative process.

    That is why I am so dismayed at the proposed rule that the Majority in the Rules Committee has carried to the Floor today. Before us is a single resolution for three bills. Under this resolution, two bills will be considered [[Page H92]] under closed rules and one will be considered under a structured rule.

    The bill being considered under a structured rule tries to revoke virtually all regulatory powers from the EPA--the agency that protects our health, our rivers and our land.

    At the same time, one of the bills being considered under a closed rule adds layers of red tape to the Department of Health and Human Services, and demands that healthcare navigators provide everything but their blood type and family history to Congress on an almost daily basis.

    It is clear that this bill is not a serious attempt to serve the American people, but a tactic to keep healthcare navigators from providing millions of Americans with access to healthcare.

    Instead of moving forward with these go-nowhere bills, we should be extending unemployment insurance to millions of Americans who are still struggling to find work.

    Just before we left for Christmas, we had a vote on extending unemployment during a rules debate on the floor. That vote failed, despite the fact that every Democrat voted for it. As a result, more than 1.3 million Americans lost unemployment insurance on December 28th.

    Today, we will give this chamber another chance to extend unemployment insurance--and I strongly urge my colleagues in doing just that.

    If my colleagues will join me in voting ``no'' on the previous question, a 3-month extension of unemployment benefits will come to the floor for an immediate vote. This is the same bipartisan bill that is moving forward in the Senate, and it deserves the same consideration here in the House.

    Right now, more than 1.3 million Americans have lost access to unemployment insurance in the last few weeks. For many, it is their only source of income and the only way they can pay their heating bills and stay warm during these cold winter days.

    We must stand up for the millions of Americans who are struggling to get by in these tough economic times. I strongly urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the previous question so that we have an immediate vote to extend unemployment insurance and finally provide for the millions of Americans in need.

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