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Alcee H.
Democrat FL 20

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  • Providing for Consideration of S. 1, Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, and Providing for Proceedings During the Period from February 16, 2015, Through February 23, 2015

    by Representative Alcee L. Hastings

    Posted on 2015-02-11

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    HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Woodall), for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

    Mr. Speaker, you are not permitted to sing in the House of Representatives, and I shall not do that; but I will take this opportunity to do as my colleagues in the Rules Committee did yesterday, a little bit in advance of my friend's birthday. Today is the birthday of my friend, Mr. Woodall. And as one who has had many more birthdays than he, I hope he has as many birthdays as me and many, many more. Happy birthday to you, Rob.

    As my friends are already aware, the President has already said that he is going to veto this measure. We introduced last night the statement of the administration with reference thereto. That means that the likelihood that this bill will become law is highly improbable at best. I wish I was standing here under different circumstances. I wish that the House were about to vote on something it knows that the President will sign into law. I wish we were working on something that would actually help our economic recovery instead of hamstringing it.

    I listened to my friend very attentively when he pointed out that the marketplace will dictate three different circumstances. One that he did not allude to that I will is that the marketplace will dictate where the oil, once refined if the Keystone pipeline is approved, the marketplace will dictate out there in that neverland where we don't participate, where the oil will go. Therefore, I want to make it very clear that I do not believe that it means that there will be cheaper prices in the United States of America.

    I am standing here because House leadership would rather pass purely symbolic measures than work with the President. And I recognize that, as my friend has pointed out, that a long time has passed with reference to this measure. I did a little added research to determine what would Enbridge and the other companies up in Canada do in case there was no Keystone pipeline. In addition to rail, they also have plans to send oil east and west and plans to send it north. And, I might add, for all that same period of time, the resistance inside Canada, based on a number of circumstances having to do with the Beluga whale, all of the way back to farmers, having to do with environmentalists, the same as in our country, the same arguments, whether East, West, or North in Canada, have been going on while our debate has been going on here with reference to the Keystone pipeline.

    The 113th Congress is going to be remembered, and I believe everyone now understands, as the least productive Congress ever. That is the one that we just came out of. However, it seems that the current Congress is going to take its best shot at accomplishing even less if we stay on the course that we are on. Virtually every bill that has come before the Rules Committee the House already passed in the 113th Congress. Most have no more hope of becoming law now than the last time around. We have yet to see one really new idea from the Republican leadership of this body, which has shown zero interest in actually doing its job, in my opinion.

    How many more times are we going to have to vote to repeal so-called ObamaCare, a program that now unquestionably is improving the lives of some hardworking Americans. Instead, we are voting on bills handpicked for [[Page H939]] their ability to demonstrate the Republicans' message of the week, regardless of chance of enactment, regardless of whether it is a good idea, regardless of whether it is something that will help everyday Americans. And because these bills are handpicked for specific purposes, most have come to the floor under a closed rule, which means that Members cannot change the measure in any way, not even to make it better and not even with bipartisan solutions.

    A good example is so far this body has voted on 15 rules during this 114th Congress, of which 8 of those 15 have been closed. The closed rules we will pass this week will be numbers 9, 10, and 11. Listen, my friends, on this same measure last week and before, the United States Senate, operating under regular order that is now majority-led by Republicans, considered on this very same measure 18 amendments, six that were approved, and some of them that were offered were bipartisan.

    Among the reasons I believe that the Senate majority leader determined that he would operate differently than the previous majority leader is so as to give his membership, smaller than ours, of course, an opportunity to participate in the process. All the more reason, I believe, that we should have open rules. We have new Members, too, as do they. We have Members that have ideas that may be bipartisan with reference to support and opposition to the Keystone pipeline. But no, we continue to operate under closed rules.

    Do you know how many rules were closed at this same point in the last Congress? The most closed rules ever, six. The gavel might as well be a brick wall.

    Furthermore, much of the legislation this Congress has voted on has evaded regular order, escaping the review, hearings, and markups that ensure appropriate deliberation and consideration. Those of us on the Rules Committee have a wonderful opportunity. We are becoming sort of like the place of first resort for legislation. It isn't coming from hearings. The American public doesn't get an opportunity to see the various committees. It just comes up to the Rules Committee and we massage it back and forth about what our views are, but it does not come under regular order.

    {time} 1345 Just like the original version of this bill, the House is considering the Senate version of this bill without a hearing or a markup.

    These are not just academic procedural disagreements. It matters because Members are not able to represent their constituents. It matters because good ideas are being deliberately kept hidden.

    I have been here a long time. I have seen some pretty great Congresses under Republican and Democratic control, and I have seen some pretty lousy ones.

    But the last few years, this body has been like a hamster on a wheel, spinning and spinning, but never getting anywhere. You don't have to look farther than a couple of amendments the Senate made to this bill to see my friends spinning their wheels.

    Climate change is real. Because a few Senators decided to get cute in parsing a few words, it is in the bill. We are going to vote on it. And then what? Just yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United States Department of Agriculture is making more than $280 million available for rural agricultural producers and small business owners to apply for resources to purchase and install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.

    Once more, those funds were made available in the 2014 farm bill, which shows what Congress can accomplish when we work together. I might add, because farmers in this country have experienced a 37 percent reduction--and I, along with others, represent many of those rural areas--I am delighted that we were able to do that in the farm bill, and I am pleased that Secretary Vilsack made his announcement.

    The Senate also included an amendment that finds that Congress should--as opposed to shall--require oil companies to pay an excise tax to fund oil spill cleanups.

    While I appreciate this expression, the amendment effectively does nothing to mandate contributions to the oil liability trust fund. I would invite my colleagues on the other side to explain that. Tell us why it is that these oil companies should not be required to contribute in a mandatory manner to the oil liability trust fund. Instead, what is happening is we create the illusion that oil companies will actually be accountable in the event of a spill.

    Alternatively, simply closing the tax loophole that allows oil and gas companies to deduct the cost of cleaning up oil spills would discourage oil spills and save hardworking American taxpayers an average of $1.3 billion per year.

    The American people were led to believe that changing control of the Senate would lead to an end of this gridlock. But sadly, this has not been the case.

    My friends are not going to be able to, like the hamster, spin their wheels continuously. Even the hamster gets tired. And sooner or later, when that hamster gets tired of the nonsense of spinning going nowhere, he either gets off or he falls off.

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