Providing for Consideration of H.R. 325, No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013by Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Posted on 2013-01-23
SLAUGHTER. I thank my colleague for yielding to me. And I want to
continue what he was saying, despite the fact I've got a greet speech
here. But it's terribly important, I think, that we try to make the
point one more time that process here is turned upside down and is
totally meaningless. So John Boehner and Paul Ryan and Harry Reid and
the Rules Committee all agree. That leaves out about 500 more people
who have been sent here from the districts to represent what the people
who live there think.
This is not the first time this has happened. A couple of weeks ago, on the fiscal cliff, we had a thing that came up from nowhere called Plan B. John Boehner liked that. I guess Paul Ryan liked that. I'm not sure what Harry Reid thought about that. The Rules Committee thought it was okay. But the fact of the matter is that that bill was written while the Rules Committee was in session. There are 13 of us on the Rules Committee. We love the enormous power that we've got. But I don't believe any of us ever suspected that the Rules Committee was going to supersede all of the committees in the House of Representatives. There's been no committee action on any of this.
In addition, I want to make the point, again, that despite what we tried to do, we said, Nobody's talked about this. There's been no discussion on this. Let's have an open rule. Let's let not just the people on our side but the people on the Republican side who've had no input here as well, let's open it up and have a real debate and see what's going on here.
What is going on here? What's going on here, as my colleague points out, is a circus of dubious constitutional validity, frankly. Some people may say what they're doing is okay. Other people say, Absolutely not. We certainly should have had that decision before we got this far. What will the Senate do with it? Heavens to Betsy, I don't know. They have to have 60 votes over there before they can get to anything. It is the only legislative body in the world where 60 is the majority, not 51, as it is in every other legislature.
So we've just reached, I think, a new low today. I am very depressed by the fact that the Constitution of the United States, which is very specific, that the rules of the Congress, which are extremely specific, are meaningless here. We have all these people on the committees, people with expertise, and wonderful staff. We can draw on resources from all over probably the world, not just America. But we've got plenty of them here just a block away. All the people we can talk to, all the people we can ask, What is the meaning of this? What will it do to the economy of the United States of America? Are we on the right track? Should we be doing something different? Do we need a debt limit law? What are we doing? Why can't we have those kinds of discussions in this Congress ever again? It's as though if we give them time to think about it and everybody has a chance to weigh in on it, then maybe we won't be able to move this the way we would like to and play another ``gotcha'' game, which is really what it comes down to.
I don't care if The Washington Post loves it. They're probably so pleased to see the fact that people believe there's something in the fact that Harry Reid said he liked it, which is not anything that's been heard here lately, and that they thought they would like it as well. But I don't know what it is, and I don't think any of the rest of my Members did. And we certainly did not yesterday in the Rules Committee. We did not have the benefit of the knowledge of any of the other Members of the Congress or the committee process, which could have answered the questions for us that came up yesterday.
In fact, all of us know where this came from. Charles Krauthammer wrote a column in The Washington Post. They maybe like that a whole lot, as well. That's where this came from. He said, Hey, there's a good idea. Instead of going to the committees of the Congress of the United States, where people of knowledge are seated, they decided let's just throw it together over the weekend at a retreat and we'll take it back next week. We're only going to work a couple of days so let's rush it through and get it through and maybe by the time we get to 3 months, something will have straightened out. Or, more likely, Mr. Speaker, in 3 months we will have thought of another way that we can kick the can down the road.
Now it's important to note that this is not an extension of debt limit. It is a suspension of debt limit. That makes a difference, I think, as well, but we didn't get a chance to discuss that part of it either. We did away with all notions of regular order. I really thought the Plan B, as I'd said earlier--and I don't want anybody to miss this--that bill was being written while the Rules Committee was meeting. I know that all students of government, all the colleges and universities in this country, they're out there teaching people how America runs, how carefully and wonderfully put together it was by the Founding Fathers, how our Constitution is our guiding light. We just celebrated that. Because without doubt, the President's inaugural speech, based so closely on the Declaration of Independence and talking about the Constitution, made us understand that that is what we are here to uphold. And indeed we all held up our hands and swore we would uphold it.
But when it comes to a piece of legislation like this--and this is the same as I said last night in the Rules Committee--it's just lurching around and jerking around and coming up with any kind of crazy gimmick we can think of and making smart remarks. But I will tell you that kicking the can down the road for 3 more months is not a solution. It gives us some breathing room. But I don't have any reason in the world to believe from past performance that the future is going to be any clearer for us.
Until the leaders of the House can start to include the fellow Members in the majority--because they have been cut out as well--and the minority in the legislative process, the regular order will be little more than a dream. And today's bill drops the majority's insistence that increasing the debt limit be matched by cuts to Medicare or reductions to education funding. That's a step forward. But it doesn't answer our questions.
My Democrat colleagues and I are eager to participate in the legislative process for which we came to Washington. And the American people are certainly eager--if not eager, maybe desperate would be a better word--to see an end to the dysfunction in this Congress. I hope that at some point the majority will realize that a completely partisan approach, which is what we've [[Page H231]] had, is a dead end. That meaningful solutions can only come from negotiation and compromise with those on the other side of the aisle who do have some good ideas. And when the majority comes to that realization, my Democrat colleagues and I will happily join in the effort to craft the serious legislative answers our country needs, our constituents deserve, and the world expects of us.
The bill before us today isn't a serious solution--it is a gimmick of dubious constitutional validity. The legislation is the product of a weekend retreat, and contains all the seriousness one would expect from such origins.
For the last year, the majority has alternatively taken the full faith and credit of our Nation hostage and put forth extreme proposals that do nothing to reduce our deficit in a balanced way.
In the process they have done away with any notion of regular order. Just weeks ago, a so-called ``Plan B'' to the fiscal cliff was being written at the same time the Rules Committee was meeting--thus forcing us to debate a bill no one had ever seen.
Now we meet to debate a bill that failed to go through a single committee hearing before landing on the Rules Committee desk yesterday afternoon.
Under the process forged by the majority, the Rules Committee has become the place where legislation is unveiled by the majority and brought to the floor 24 hours later, with no input from their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
This is about as far away from regular order as it gets. Until the leaders of the House start including their fellow members of the majority and minority in the legislative process, regular order will be little more than a dream.
Mr. Speaker, today's bill drops the majority's insistence that any increase in the debt limit be matched by cuts to Medicare or reductions to education funding. This is certainly a noteworthy step forward.
But kicking the can down the road for three months is not the solution that the American people deserve. If today's legislation had been crafted in the halls of Congress, with input from both sides of the aisle, I believe that we could be voting on a serious measure to prevent a debt-limit crisis and reduce our deficit starting today.
My Democratic colleagues and I are eager to participate in the legislative process, and the American people are eager to see an end to the dysfunction in Congress.
I hope that at some point the majority will realize that a completely partisan approach is a dead end. Meaningful solutions can only come from negotiation and compromise with those on the other side of the aisle.
When the majority comes to that realization, my Democratic colleagues and I will happily join in the effort to craft the serious legislative answers that our country needs and our constituents deserve.