Hoyer: Congress Ought Not To Adjourn Until We Finish Critical Legislation

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“Mr. Speaker, I see four people in the gallery. I see three Members on the Floor. The galleries are empty. The Floor is empty. Because we are not doing anything. And it's not because we don't have a lot of things to do. We have six – seven if you count tomorrow, where we will leave by 12:00 – six full days left in the session in 2013. And yet we fiddle here while the country sees itself burning. On bills that are going nowhere, that have no priority, and deal with the subject of energy, which happily is one of the most successful places we are at in America today – where we are fast becoming the energy independent, low-cost energy [citus] of the world. And we have no budget conference coming to this Floor scheduled, in the six full days that we have left, and the two other days that may be counted, in which we come in at 6:30 and meet for probably a half-hour or 45 minutes, and vote on suspension bills.

“And yet we have spent in this entire week, and we left – of course, hardworking day yesterday – we left doing work at 2:30 in the afternoon. No budget conference. No fiscal policy. No solution to the crisis that confronted us when we shut down government.

“I urged that we have a budget conference report by November 22nd, that's tomorrow. So that we didn't, as our practice has been in recent months and years, [have] to confront real issues only when crisis gives us no other alternative.

“No immigration reform has been brought to the Floor, although it passed the Senate with 68 votes.  Comprehensive immigration reform, which will address a problem that every Member of this House says is an immigration system that is broken. The Majority Leader said that the other day. And I asked him about the four bills that our Republican friends, Mr. Speaker, have reported out of committee. But they languish somewhere in the netherworld, not brought to the Floor for consideration by this House. And yet we have time to consider bills that will have no impact, which the President says he'll veto, and are not bipartisan bills, [that] were reported out of committee in a partisan fashion, as so much of the legislation that we consider on this House Floor is - partisan, confrontational, no consensus pieces of legislation.  Yet a comprehensive immigration reform bill that had 68 votes, over 2/3 of the United States Senate, fourteen Republicans voted for that bill. Yet the Speaker says he's not for it and won't bring it to the Floor.

“That's the same Speaker that says let the House work its will. The House cannot work its will if the legislation is not brought to the Floor by the House, which can only be done by the Republican Majority, Mr. Speaker, as you know. So they keep that bill from being considered, although CBO says it will help the economy, grow jobs, and fix a broken system.

“Six full days left to go on the schedule in 2013. Yet the farm bill reported out of the Committee two years ago in a bipartisan fashion, in the last Congress but never brought to this Floor. While we twiddled our thumbs while Rome burned. The farm bill lies languishing in conference committee because a bipartisan bill passed by the United States Senate was not considered in this House, but a partisan bill with almost no Democratic votes – and the second piece of that farm bill, the nutritional part, with not a single Democratic vote, lies languishing in a conference committee because it was passed in an extraordinarily partisan fashion. Where Mr. Lucas's bill reported out in a bipartisan fashion.

“The American public, Mr. Speaker, say let's act bipartisanly. We did. With Democratic and Republican votes, the farm bill came out of the Agriculture Committee – and turned into a partisan bill on this Floor by my Republican colleagues. And so it languishes. With six days left, with the farm bill expiring on December 31. No action. No progress.

“We need to pay our doctors a proper compensation for the services they give. I'm sure the Gentleman from the Rules Committee, who is himself a medical doctor, understands this necessity. We need to fix the sustainable growth, but it languishes somewhere out in the netherworld while we have six days left. Unfixed, unscheduled. I've asked the Majority Leader numerous times; it's not going to be brought to the Floor. It's not to the Floor.

“Discrimination in the workplace – passed by the Senate in a bipartisan fashion – ENDA. Not going to be brought to this Floor. The Speaker says he's opposed to it. So the House will not be able to work its will. Again, on a piece of legislation that, in my opinion, would have a majority on the votes on this Floor. No doubt in my mind. And I’m the whip, I count votes, Mr. Speaker, as you know. And it would have the majority of votes on this Floor. But the Speaker and Majority Leader will not bring it to this Floor.

“Unemployment insurance for 1.2 million people ends on December 31, and we have six days left to go of full work – and two partial days when we come in at 6:30. And yet unemployment insurance has not been brought to this Floor, to be extended for those 1.1 million people with still 7.2% or 7.3% unemployment. And unemployment insurance, a critically important issue – it's somewhere out there, but not on this Floor, while we consider legislation this entire week that the Majority knows will not pass the United States Senate, and will not be signed by the President of the United States even if it was. But they make a message, perhaps, to their base. Politics.

“While the budget conference, immigration reform, the farm bill, the sustainable growth rate, doc reimbursement for Medicare patients, discrimination in the workplace, and unemployment insurance – and, yes, I would add to that tax extenders – none of it on this Floor. No one ought to ask themselves why the American people holds this institution in such low regard. None of us who have served in this institution for any period of time are proud of what we're doing in this Congress. And we lament the unwillingness of the leadership of this House to have us do work that the American public knows we must be doing.

“And so, Mr. Speaker, I rise. I rise today in support of the previous question. This is not just an ordinary previous question. What this previous question says: we will not adjourn, American people. We will not adjourn on December 13, as is projected by the Majority to be the date on which we adjourn. We will not adjourn until such time as we have done the important work that the American people expect of us – the responsible work that the American people expect of us. The work that we ought to expect of ourselves. So we consider this bill.

“But I would hope that we would defeat the previous question, and if we defeat the previous question then we will bring to this Floor a resolution which will say: we shall not adjourn until we have done a budget conference that precludes fiscal crisis, shutting down government, a refusal to pay America's debts. That we pass an immigration reform bill that fixes what everybody knows is a broken system.  Until we bring a farm bill to the Floor which will preclude farmers and consumers and those who need nutritional help being put at risk.

“I have in my hand a letter.  This is not a letter from Democrats.  This is a letter from thirteen Republicans – leaders, chairs of subcommittees of the Appropriation Committee – that say to the budget conference committee, bring a solution to the Floor before the Thanksgiving break and no later than December 2. And yet, ladies and gentlemen of this House, Mr. Speaker – and yes, Mr. Speaker, all of us speak to the American people who ought to be asking us why, why, why do we waste time when so much important work remains to be done?

“Defeat the previous question. Allow us to offer a resolution which will say to the American people, we will continue to work until we get your work done.”