WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland spoke today on the House floor on House Resolution 6, the Rules package for the 110th Congress. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, I now call up House Resolution 6, the Rules Package for the 110th Congress, and yield myself as much time as I may consume.
"First, let me say that this is truly a proud and historic moment for this institution – the People’s House – and our nation. Today, for the first time in our history, the Members of this great body have elected a woman – Nancy Pelosi of California – to serve as our Speaker. I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Speaker Pelosi, as well as her husband, Paul, and her children and all of her family.
"Last November 7th, the American people delivered a resounding message that was heard in every corner of this nation. They want change and a new direction in our nation. Today, as we open this new 110th Congress with hope and optimism, we will take the first steps in offering the voters precisely that by changing the way business is done in Washington. As we open this new chapter in American history – an era in which we will seek to elevate results over rhetoric and put progress before partisanship – we will affirm our commitment to transparency, accountability and civility, which should be the hallmarks of this great institution.
"This Rules package includes sweeping ethics reforms that begin to address some of the most egregious transgressions of the recent past. Among other things, we will ban gifts – including meals and tickets – from lobbyists and the organizations that employ them. We will ban lobbyists and the organizations that employ them from financing travel for Members or their staffs, except for one-day travel to visit a site, attend a forum, participate on a panel or give a speech. We will require Members and staff to obtain pre-approval from the Ethics Committee for permitted travel. And, we will end the “K Street Project,” a practice that brought shame on this House when some Members promised access in return for patronage hiring.
"Now, let me say very frankly: As important as these rule changes are, they alone will not ensure the integrity of this institution. Rather, the Members of this House will ensure the integrity of this institution when we conduct ourselves with integrity and hold accountable those who fail to abide by these rules and the highest ethical standards. Thus, during the next two years, we have an obligation to ensure that the Ethics Committee does the job that it was constituted to perform. The implementation of rules, while vital, must be followed by effective, real enforcement.
"Through this rules package, we also signal our sincere intent to foster an environment in which civility, consensus and compromise are nurtured. The American people are tired of partisanship; they are rightfully demanding progress on the critical priorities that face our nation. Surely we will disagree on many issues. But that does not require us to be disagreeable. And, we surely can disagree without impugning the motives or questioning the character of our colleagues.
"In addition, this Rules package restores fiscal discipline by reinstating the budget rules that helped us produce record budget surpluses in the 1990s and which previously were supported on a bipartisan basis. Mr. Speaker, we simply cannot continue on our current fiscal course. In the last 72 months, our nation has turned a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion into a deficit of more than $3 trillion. It is immoral for this generation of Americans to force our children and grandchildren to pay our bills. Our current course threatens our economic as well as our national security. Pay-as-you-go budget rules will help us restore the fiscal discipline that the American people demand.
"These measures represent the foundation of our mission and the basis for the good work we will do together, as one body, with the best interests of those we serve at heart. We have a profound responsibility to fulfill and many hard choices to make. However, we also share an extraordinary opportunity that is distinctive in the American experience – to heal a deeply divided nation, to conquer national doubt and to restore public confidence in the United States Congress. I look forward to working with each and every one of you in our pursuit of that progress.
"And, in conclusion, let me leave you with the words of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy, who said: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
"Mr. Speaker, let us now embrace our responsibility and fulfill the trust that the American people have placed in us to lead, to govern effectively, and to make the greatest nation on earth even greater. I urge my colleagues to support this Resolution."