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Louise S.
Democrat NY 25

About Rep. Louise
  • Rules of the House

    by Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter

    Posted on 2013-01-03

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    SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes and yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Madam Speaker, I want to begin by congratulating my colleague, Mr. Sessions, on his new role as chair of the Rules Committee. I've worked with Mr. Sessions now for many years, and I look forward to working with him even more closely in the months and years to come. And we will welcome the new class of legislators, as well, today, and we go through the traditions and procedures that have governed our Nation since Thomas Jefferson first wrote his manual.

    I'm pleased to welcome our newest colleagues and welcome back old friends. It's a great honor to be chosen by our fellow Americans to represent them in Congress. Our neighbors have placed their trust in us, and we must never take such an honor for granted. With this honor comes a solemn responsibility. Starting today, we have the opportunity to move our Nation forward, and in the words of our Nation's Founders provide for our common defense, promote our general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for our posterity.

    Our work begins today, and one of the first orders of business is considering the rules package for the incoming Congress. During the last Congress, we were promised an open and transparent process, but we unfortunately fell short. Under the majority's leadership, more than one-third of the rules were completely closed, and at times brinksmanship endangered our economy.

    Today provides an opportunity for the majority to put these behind them and govern in an open, collaborative, and bipartisan way; and we are willing to meet them every step of the way. With this goal in mind, though, of this Rules Committee, I must say that I look at it with a little bit of trepidation. The most troubling for me is the proposal to, once again, adopt the Ryan budget. Doing so will keep alive dangerous budget proposals, including the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act.

    In addition, today's resolution makes it easier for Members of Congress to use private planes, and I'm puzzled by that. I don't think Members should be flying around in corporate jets. And it continues the politically motivated campaign over the so-called Fast and Furious operation. To begin by loosening the ethics restrictions and advancing politically motivated campaigns should not be the priorities of Congress.

    Finally, with today's resolution, the majority continues their efforts to oppose marriage equality before the courts. In an age where marriage equality is recognized by Americans across the country of plurality, this Chamber should not be using taxpayer money to be standing on the wrong side of history.

    We could start our new beginning by joining all the Democratic colleagues and me in finally reforming our broken election laws, and I know everyone wants to do that. In the years since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the Citizens United case, unlimited amounts of money from billionaires and hidden special interests have flooded our elections. Led by secret political spending that is hidden from public view, wealthy special interests have tried to buy our airwaves, to fund outrageously expensive campaigns, and to launch dishonest political attacks to persuade the outcome of countless elections.

    The Sunlight Foundation reports that during the 2012 election cycle alone, super PACs, as they are called, spent more than $620 million to affect the Federal elections. Nobody believes that corporations are people, and they should not be able to use unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections.

    At the end of this debate, my Democratic colleagues and I will provide the House with an opportunity to consider a constitutional amendment to overturn the flawed Citizens United decision. If approved, this amendment would finally remove the unlimited and untracked political donations from our electoral system.

    In addition to addressing the uncontrolled money in our political process, the Congress should be ensuring that every American citizen can easily exercise their right to vote. Voting is fundamental to what it means to be an American; but in recent years, we've seen a concerted effort to discourage voters from casting a ballot.

    [[Page H11]] Under the cover of a cynical and untruthful claim that voter fraud is a serious threat to our democracy, political operatives in States across the country have methodically advanced a number of discriminatory and dangerous pieces of legislation. Their methods range from enacting voter ID laws to reducing the number of voting machines in low-income neighborhoods.

    Unfortunately, these discriminatory practices have indeed made it harder for our citizens to vote. This past November, there were numerous reports of voters being turned away from the polls. Many of those who did manage to vote had to wait in line for hours--and sometimes as many as 8 hours--before they could cast a ballot. It is clear as day that keeping people waiting in long lines is purely intended to make them give up and go home.

    Later today, my Democratic colleagues and I will ask the House to bring to the floor the Streamlined and Improved Methods at Polling Locations and Early Voting Act, or SIMPLE Voting Act. This legislation would guarantee that no voter would have to wait more than 1 hour to cast their ballot and require that every polling station in the country have the resources it needs to run a smooth and fair election.

    {time} 1510 When taken together, the overwhelming influence of money in politics and the discriminatory attacks on Americans' right to vote, they have distorted our electoral system and helped to create a broken legislative process that is failing to serve the American public.

    As we open the 113th Congress, my colleagues and I stand ready to work with the majority on fixing our broken electoral system and getting back to a bipartisan legislative process worthy of the citizens who sent us here.

    I couldn't be happier or more honored to serve in the 113th Congress. I look forward to serving with all of my colleagues, and it is my sincere hope that we'll have an open, transparent, and bipartisan House so that we can produce meaningful results for those whom we represent.

    With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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