Hoyer: Republican Tactics on GSE Bill Undermine Free and Fair Debate

For Immediate Release:

October 26, 2005

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
(202) 225 - 3130

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today, as prepared for delivery on the floor of the House of Representatives:

“Mr. Speaker, once again, this House Majority is resorting to extreme heavy-handed tactics that are designed to do one thing only – to achieve a preordained result by shutting down a full and fair debate in this House.

“Let me remind my colleagues what the Chairman of the Rules Committee (Mr. Dreier) said on this Floor twelve years ago:

“In March 1993, Mr. Dreier stated:

‘Frankly, it seems to me that the process of representative government means that a person who represents 600,000 people here should have the right to stand up and put forth an amendment and then have it voted down if it is irresponsible.  We are simply asking that we comply with the standard operating rules of this House.’

“Again today, Mr. Dreier and his Republican colleagues are violating their own promise to allow free and fair debates.

“On this bill, the Ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee (Mr. Frank) offered an amendment to strike two outrageous provisions from the Manager’s Amendment – both of which are opposed by major affordable housing and faith-based organizations.

“But this Republican Majority has blocked Mr. Frank’s amendment, as well as other Democratic amendments, and thus stifled debate and shut down democracy.

“The Manager’s amendment, among other provisions, will prohibit non-profit organizations from using their own funds to engage in non-partisan voter registration or get-out-the-vote activities for a period beginning 12 months before a grant application is submitted until completion of the grant.

“This restriction would force low-income housing groups and faith-based groups to choose between obtaining funding for low-income housing and using other funds to engage in non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities.

“Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely outrageous that this House would take any action – any action – that would inhibit or prevent anyone from engaging in non-partisan voter registration!

“Let’s be clear: This provision is nothing more than a transparent attempt to disenfranchise low-income voters who otherwise may not register to vote!

“Additionally, the Manager’s amendment would require a faith-based or social welfare non-profit entity applying for a grant to have as its ‘primary purpose’ the provision of affordable housing.

“Mr. Speaker, why are we interfering with social welfare and faith-based groups simply because they have a broader mission than affordable housing?

“These provisions are an outrage.  And this Republican process is an outrage.

“As one Member of this body complained twelve years ago:

‘Once again, the vast majority of Americans are having their representative in Congress gagged by the closed Rules Committee.’

“That was Mr. Dreier, the Chairman of the Rules Committee.

“Today, we see that his words were nothing but hollow rhetoric.”

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