Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2655, Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 982, Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (Fact) Act of 2013by Representative Rob Woodall
Posted on 2013-11-13
WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I
call up House Resolution 403 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the resolution, as follows: H. Res. 403 =========================== NOTE =========================== November 13, 2013, on page H7009, the following appeared: H. RES. 72 The online version should be corrected to read: H. RES. 403 ========================= END NOTE ========================= Resolved, That upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 2655) to amend Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to improve attorney accountability, and for other purposes. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. The bill shall be considered as read. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and on any amendment thereto to final passage without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary; and (2) one motion to recommit.
Sec. 2. At any time after adoption of this resolution the Speaker may, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 982) to amend title 11 of the United States Code to require the public disclosure by trusts established under section 524(g) of such title, of quarterly reports that contain detailed information regarding the receipt and disposition of claims [[Page H7010]] for injuries based on exposure to asbestos; and for other purposes. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. The bill shall be considered as read. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. No amendment to the bill shall be in order except those printed in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution. Each such amendment may be offered only in the order printed in the report, may be offered only by a Member designated in the report, shall be considered as read, shall be debatable for the time specified in the report equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent, shall not be subject to amendment, and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question in the House or in the Committee of the Whole. All points of order against such amendments are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for 1 hour.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield 30 minutes to my friend from Florida (Mr. Hastings), 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.
General Leave Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I also ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Georgia? There was no objection.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I think back to a time when I was a teenager and I came into the gallery, and I am convinced that I came in during a rule because the reading clerk was standing there, reading line after line after line of material I didn't understand at all, and I thought, Why in the world is line by line by line the legislation being read? Haven't the Members already looked at that legislation? Haven't they already had time to study it? What I know now, Mr. Speaker, 3 years with the voting card of the people of the Seventh District of Georgia, is that the rule is the only piece of legislation in this entire body that has to be read word for word here on the floor of the House.
My colleague from Florida and I spend a lot of hours up there in the Rules Committee sorting those things out, but the rules matter. The process matters.
I will be able to confess to you, Mr. Speaker--and I think sometimes we get that process done a little better, sometimes we get that process not done quite so well, but today we have a rule that brings two very important pieces of legislation to the floor. This structured rule provides for H.R. 982, which is the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, the FACT Act; and it brings a closed rule for H.R. 2655, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013.
I want to say, Mr. Speaker, I was just talking with a group about what the Rules Committee does, and I have talked about the importance of an open process and how closed rules don't give folks as much opportunity to express their views on the floor.
It is going to be a closed rule on the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, H.R. 2655, because for 11 days, Mr. Speaker, the Rules Committee solicited amendments from the entire body. It asked anyone who had any ideas about how to improve this legislation to submit those amendments so that we could consider them in the Rules Committee, and over that period of 11 days, Mr. Speaker, not one Member of this body offered any ideas about how to improve this bill. We would have liked to have made amendments in order for this bill, but none were submitted. So while we say this is a closed rule on H.R. 2655, it is only because no amendments were submitted to improve upon it.
Now on H.R. 982, the FACT Act, Mr. Speaker, we had five amendments submitted, all Democrat amendments. One was withdrawn. So there were only four that were in order for our meeting last night. One was confessed to actually just try to eliminate the effectiveness of the bill altogether. So we excluded that one because if folks don't like the bill, they can just vote ``no.'' They don't have to destroy the bill from within; they can just vote ``no'' on final passage. But all of the other amendments that were submitted we made in order. Now these are not amendments that I intend to support on the floor, Mr. Speaker, but I do think it is important that people's voices be heard.
So, again, three amendments are made in order. That is 75 percent of all the amendments that were submitted, and they are all amendments offered by my friends on the Democratic side of the aisle. The Rules Committee thought it was important to make those amendments in order.
Now we will talk a lot, Mr. Speaker, in the debate that comes after the rule about the content of these bills. One deals with frivolous litigation and whether or not judges will be required to allow folks who had to defend against frivolous lawsuits to recover the costs of those suits.
Today, Mr. Speaker, if someone files a frivolous lawsuit against you, you can have that lawsuit tossed out, but you have to go back to the court a second time to recover all of the costs that it took you to have the frivolous lawsuit tossed out. It is a tremendous burden on small businesses in our Nation. This bill seeks to solve that.
The FACT Act, our asbestos litigation act, aims to provide some transparency to the asbestos trust funds. I don't know if you are familiar, Mr. Speaker, but when it was discovered all of the health damage done by asbestos, the lawsuits began immediately and would have driven every one of those companies that either used asbestos or produced asbestos into bankruptcy, leaving no money at all for victims who had health problems that they then sought compensation for.
So federally we created, within Federal bankruptcy courts, these asbestos trust funds that allowed these companies, these manufacturers of asbestos, these folks who utilized processes that included asbestos, to deposit money into a trust fund and not go out of business but to provide certainty that victims would be able to recover from those funds in the future.
There is some concern, Mr. Speaker, that the process, as it exists today, does not allow for folks to see who is getting those dollars and whether or not the victims who have the most urgent needs are receiving those dollars first. Our great concern, Mr. Speaker, is that when those trust funds are depleted, they are gone forever. As you know, asbestos- related illnesses often don't present themselves for years down the road, so we have a stewardship obligation to these trust funds to keep them protected for future claimants.
This bill requires a degree of transparency, a quarterly report from the trustees of these trust funds to see who is making claims on these funds, who is receiving claims out of these funds, again, just so we can be good stewards of those trust funds and ensure they are available for future years.
I don't sit on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Speaker, but I heard from the ranking member of the Constitution Subcommittee last night. I heard from the chairman of the full committee last night in the Rules Committee as we held a hearing on both of these bills. I am glad that we are able to bring them to the floor today, Mr. Speaker. Two bills, a structured rule. One rule is closed because no amendments were provided. The other bill is receiving 75 percent of all of the amendments that were submitted. Just one amendment was excluded by that rule.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.