Providing For Further Consideration of Senate Amendments to H.R. 22, Hire More Heroes Act of 2015

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 4, 2015
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I find myself with a big smile on my face. I usually do when the Reading Clerk sits down. Even if I could dispense with the reading of the rule, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. Even if there were some days where I would be tempted to do it, Mr. Speaker, this wouldn't be that day because we are down here with rule number two on the transportation bill.

You will remember we came down here yesterday--it was my friend from Massachusetts and I at that time--to bring a rule to consider the first 6-year transportation bill this country has had in over a decade. It is a bill that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has worked on for not days, not weeks, not months, but years to get it ready. It is a bill that was not pushed by Republicans or pushed by Democrats. It is a bill that was pushed by all of us together to do those kinds of important things that are necessary for infrastructure planning for each and every one of our constituents back home.

It is a bill that has been moving in the Senate, which is a rarity in and of itself. It is a bill that we are moving here in the House. It is a bill that can go to the President's desk for his signature and make a difference for Americans, make a difference in our economy, and make a difference for our families.

Now, I sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mr. Speaker, and you would think that my pride of authorship and all the good work we did on that committee would have said: Do you know what? We got it right the first time. Let's just bring that bill to the floor, and let's get it done because it is important to America. Let's finish it today.

I see some of my colleagues from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sitting down here. There might be a little temptation to take our work product and rush it straight to the desk because we did do a pretty good job together. But in their wisdom, Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the chairman of the Rules Committee, the ranking member of the Rules Committee, and our leadership team here in the House said: Do you know what? There are a lot of Members who don't sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. There are a lot of Members who represent some really smart and really talented folks back home in America, but their Representative doesn't sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We need their ideas in this debate, too.

So we came to the floor yesterday, Mr. Speaker, and we brought a rule that made more than 20 amendments in order. We were debating that rule for an hour. We hadn't even finished debating the rule when we brought back more amendments and made another 16 in order, Mr. Speaker. We are back here today because that more than 40 was not enough. We want to make another 81 amendments in order. Mr. Speaker, this is a festival of democracy that is happening in this House today. Everyone's voice is included.

Now, I want to be clear. We had over 300 amendments submitted to the Rules Committee. Here on this floor, sometimes we have a very open process with appropriations bills, Mr. Speaker, where absolutely everyone can offer absolutely any idea at absolutely any time they want to. This process is a little more structured, and I want to stipulate that that is true. We had a lot of duplicative amendments offered, Mr. Speaker. This is important work. We didn't want to waste the body's time. We culled those duplicative amendments.

We had a couple amendments offered, Mr. Speaker, that were not minor changes to the underlying legislation. They were major revisions to public policy that had not had committee hearings and that had not had any public discussions. We culled those as well.

But over 120 amendments, Mr. Speaker, will now be made in order on a bill, again, that was not the product of days of effort, not a product of weeks of effort, not months, but years of effort of our House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to bring together a product that this body can be proud of--a product, I might add, that Republicans in the past and Democrats in the past have failed to come together and succeed on.

This is a day of celebration, Mr. Speaker, as we offer this rule to consider even more of our colleagues' ideas. I hope that we will get unanimous support for this rule, Mr. Speaker. With the passage of this rule, we can get into debate, and we can move this bill one step closer to the President's desk, and we can move one step closer to making a difference for those families back home.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I remember when I ran for Congress 4 1/2 years ago, I had this idea that because I had really good ideas and had the backing of 700,000 folks back home in the district who also had really good ideas that we were going to be able to come up here and share our good ideas; 435 of my colleagues were going to recognize the wisdom that I brought from the great State of Georgia, and we were just going to be able to make those things happen.

It has been harder than I had anticipated, Mr. Speaker; I will confess that to you. It has been harder than I had anticipated. It turns out there are some folks in other parts of the country who have some different ideas.

My friend from Colorado is absolutely right. He offered two amendments yesterday, and he only got one of them made in order. That has happened to me, too. That has happened to me, too.

We have got to talk about what we are going to define as success in this place. Are we going to define getting half of everything you want as failure, or are we going to define getting half of everything you want as a huge step in the right direction that we can celebrate together?

There are not that many bills in this institution, Mr. Speaker, that are worked through in the bipartisan, collaborative way that this one has happened. It is not easy. It is tremendously difficult--tremendously difficult. Why? Because we have legitimate disagreements about public policy--legitimate disagreements about public policy.

Now, I don't want to tamp down my friend's pessimism about 3-year funding instead of 6-year funding. I want 6-year funding, too. I have wanted it from day one, and I am prepared to vote for it today. I haven't found quite as much enthusiasm for that around not just this floor, but the floor right down the hall in the United States Senate. We are going to have to sort that out.

I tell you, with no small bit of optimism, that I think we are going to find that 6-year funding before we see a conference report back on this floor. I believe it. We need it. We have serious people working at it, and we have the ability to make it so.

But, Mr. Speaker, by any measure--by any measure--certainty of funding, certainty of authorization, bipartisanship, nonpartisanship, amendments made in order, length of time of the authorization, length of time of the funding, by any measure--this is the best transportation bill and the best transportation rule that have come to this floor in more than a decade--more than a decade.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want us to take our toys and go home claiming victory over all that ails America. That is not where we are today. I want us to take credit for making a small step in the right direction together, a step that so many of our colleagues before us have failed to succeed at together, and engage in what is sure to be not another hour or 2 or 3 or 4, but dozens of hours to continue to improve this work product of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

This is a moment of opportunity for us, Mr. Speaker. We can spend our time grousing about what we didn't get, or we can spend our time celebrating what we did get, put this bill on the President's desk, create certainty for America, and then come right back together the day after and begin to make improvements once again. That is the way this institution has always worked when it has worked at its finest, Mr. Speaker, and that is the way I expect this institution to work today.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume to say that I can identify with the gentleman from Oregon's frustration.

The frustration you see is not from a gentleman who does not have any power over the process. He is the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. But the rules of the House prevent the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from funding transportation. It is an incredibly powerless space to be in.

Your job on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is to come up with good transportation policy. You just can't pull any of the levers that fund it. That is the frustration you hear from my friend from Oregon, and I don't discount that in the least.

What I do discount, however, is any suggestion that what is happening today is in any way unprecedented. My friend from Oregon first began serving in this House when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, and not one Ways and Means major funding bill has come to this House floor under an open rule in any day of the gentleman's service--not one. Not one Ways and Means bill funding this government has come to the House floor under an open rule. Not under Republicans, not under Democrats, not ever--not ever.

There are lots of reasons for that. I don't need to get into arcane budget policy. But what I do need to say is we have an opportunity in conference to solve this problem. We are grappling with openness in this institution. I am excited about it, Mr. Speaker. A lot of folks say, oh, we can't have openness on the floor because we will have to take tough votes. I say, if you don't want to take tough votes, don't run for Congress.

We have a serious challenge, however, in whether or not we allow a committee, like the Ways and Means Committee, whose sole purpose, whose sole jurisdiction, covers tax matters--no one else covers tax matters other than the Ways and Means Committee. Do we allow them to grapple with funding issues, or do we bring an amendment to the floor, debate it for 9 1/2 minutes, and change Federal tax policy together? We can do that.

I am glad we are not doing Federal transportation policy in a 9-minute stint. I am glad we worked on it, again, not for days, not for weeks, not for months, but for years, together, to get policy that worked.

It is very puzzling to me, again, by any measure--by any measure. This is the best transportation process and the best transportation rule that this body has seen in a decade. We can choose to recognize that and improve upon it, or we can choose to continue the self-flagellation that seems to constitute government today. I don't understand it. I am very proud to be in this body. I am very proud to work with each one of you, and I am very proud of the work that we have done together.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. I appreciate that. The gentleman is always generous.

Mr. Speaker, while the minority whip was the majority leader of this institution, this House did a lot of big things--a lot of big things. But what they couldn't do--what they couldn't do--was a bill like the one that Ranking Member DeFazio and Chairman Bill Shuster have brought to the floor today.

We can cast this dye and call it anything we want to; but the fact of the matter is it is a success, and it is one that we have done together. I don't know where partisanship comes into this process, and it will be a shame if it comes in today because it sure hasn't been in in the previous days, weeks, months, and years that we have been working on this process.

I had some great ideas for this bill, Mr. Speaker, and I serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Where better for a fellow with great ideas on transportation to work than on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

So I knocked on my chairman's door. I said, Mr. Chairman, I bring the wisdom of the Seventh District of Georgia. I have crafted it all here in legislative language for you. Let me just go ahead and give it to you so you can include it in the base text.

Do you know what the chairman said to me?

He said, ROB, we are doing this in a collaborative manner. If your ideas are that good, you are going to find some folks on the other side of the aisle who believe in your ideas, too. You bring me back those ideas. Together, we will get it done.

He was right. That is exactly what I did. My ideas were that good. Thank you very much. I did go out and find some collegiality on the other side of the aisle, and we did include those ideas in the base text. That is what this product is.

You can't do that on every piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, as the divisions are too great; but the minority whip was right--this is about jobs. There is not a local mayor in the country who doesn't know that, as one's transportation infrastructure and education infrastructure goes, so goes one's community.

We need to solve that education piece. Today, we are going to solve the transportation piece. Not once in more than a decade has a bill come to the floor of this House with the kind of commitment to transportation and infrastructure that this bill has today. My hope is, somewhere in these 81 amendments this rule makes in order, we will be able to improve upon that bill. If nothing else, if we can't improve upon it, at least we can find out where the will of the House is by defeating those amendments.

Mr. Speaker, this is the process I ran to be a part of. This is the way I imagined the House to work. I am very proud to be here today, and I hope my colleagues will take some of that pride as well.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I appreciate my friend from Colorado working with me on this rule today. I appreciate all the folks on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure who made this possible, and the whole body that came in front of the Committee on Rules, bringing amendments to try to make the bill better.

I don't want to suggest that the differences that we have between one another here are in any way going away because of this bill. They are not. I have heard passionate speech after passionate speech about funding of this bill.

I share some of those concerns, but I represent a county of 200,000 people who just raised $200 million in a bonding initiative to build their roads. Until my colleagues have raised the taxes on their constituents by $1,000 on every man, woman, and child--$4,000 on a family of four--to build roads back home in your district, please don't come and ask my constituents to pay even more.

Georgia is one of the States that has raised its gas tax, from a 7 cent sales tax to a 26 cent excise tax. When your State has taken on that same burden of responsibility, come back to me and tell me how much more Georgia needs to put in to help you.

The devolution of the transportation trust fund has long been a conversation in this body, but by holding the Federal gas tax constant over these years, that devolution has been happening naturally with the effect of inflation, and localities are picking up the tab.

You know what we are celebrating this week back home, Mr. Speaker? This is election week, of course. A year ago this week is when Forsyth County passed its $200 million bonding initiative. You know when they broke ground on the project, Mr. Speaker? This week. This week. You tell me that time is money. It is true in transportation.

I challenge you to find that Federal project that you are working on back home in your district that you are going from conception to groundbreaking in 12 months. I want to help you find the funding to make it happen, I do, because, clearly, you are running at a heightened level of efficiency, and it deserves our support.

Mr. Speaker, the reason we need this bill is because we are not getting a dollar's worth of value out of a dollar's worth of Federal taxes. The reason we need this bill is to help make some of those bipartisan reforms to the infrastructure program that just don't make sense. They just don't make sense in the 21st century, and it is no wonder. Democratic Congresses failed to succeed in this effort. Republican Congresses failed to succeed in this effort. This Congress is succeeding in this effort.

There are 81 new amendments with this rule today, 81 new ideas with this amendment today. Mr. Speaker, the underlying bill has more certainty and more funding than any other proposal this body has considered in more than a decade. This rule has more openness, more voices, and more amendments than any other rule of this nature that I have been able to handle in 4 1/2 years here.

We don't get it right every day. We don't get it right every day. Votes don't go the way I want them to go every day, but we have got a chance, Mr. Speaker. We have got a chance with this bill, with this process, with this new House leadership team to restore the trust that has been lost for far too long.

Mr. Speaker, I urge support for the rule and the underlying resolution.