Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3354, Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018; Providing for Consideration of Motions to Suspend the Rules

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 6, 2017
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, these are very serious issues that my friends on the other side were trying to have a debate on the appropriations bills. My friends have a very legitimate concern about an immigration issue, characterized with terms like ``cruel'' and ``nasty'' and ``rotten'' and ``no courage.''

I would say to my friends we can try to belittle each other into a compromise. I have not seen that work before. We can try to insult each other into a solution. I have not seen that work before.

I have seen my colleagues coming down the other side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, one after the other to tell a compelling story about a man or a woman they know who they believe would make an amazing United States citizen, who they believe would add value to our communities, and who they believe is serving admirably in our church and is working admirably in our community. They have a story to tell, and they should tell it.

Guess what? I have got a few of those stories to tell myself. But I would say to my friends, I don't believe, Mr. Speaker, that the insults and the acrimony are going to get us where any of us wants to be.

For my friends who believe differently, I would tell you I think we have tried that path before, and it didn't take us where we want to go.

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


Mr. Speaker, I fear you are going to have to use that admonition a great deal in the coming days, and I regret that.

I regret that folks have begun to confuse civility with weakness. My experience is, when you are strong, you don't have to insult the people around you. When you are strong, you don't have to call folks around you names. Civility and weakness are confused. In fact, more often than not, there is a loss of civility when folks feel at their weakest.

My friends on the other side of the aisle right now, Mr. Speaker, with good reason, feel very restricted. Being in the minority in the House of Representatives is a hard place to be. For my friend from Massachusetts, Mr. Speaker, being in the minority on the Rules Committee is among one of the hardest places to be. So I don't fault him for his frustration one little bit. If I was in his shoes, I would be frustrated as well.

Let me be clear: we are in this position with DACA today for one reason and one reason only, and that is because instead of leading the Congress and leading the Nation, President Obama chose to act alone in a way that he knew would not be permanent.

The instability that you see today is the result of folks acting in a way that was not stable. The confusion that you see today is the result of an administration that committed itself to that confusion instead of committing itself to consensus.

I have been in this Congress for 7 years, Mr. Speaker. That is 7 years. For 4 of those 7 years, the United States Senate was led by the Democratic Party. Not once in those 7 years has an immigration bill come to my desk from the United States. Not once. I know, as we sit here right now, the House Judiciary Committee has acted on immigration bill after immigration bill after immigration bill.

Let's be clear, Mr. Speaker: the situation that the DREAMers find themselves in today is the symptom of a Nation that does not have the security of its borders. Had America had security for its borders, we would not have allowed these families to put their children in these positions.

Today, we have an amazing opportunity to have this debate. I tell you that our President is in a unique position to lead us.

It frustrates me so much, Mr. Speaker, that folks want to assume the worst about one another and that the media is all too anxious to report the worst about one another. The President could have just canceled the DACA program. He could have instructed DHS to start proceedings today.

He didn't. It wouldn't have been the right thing. It wouldn't have been the prudent thing to do. He didn't do it.
What did he do?

He said: I have read this thing called the United States Constitution. It turns out that only one group in the land has the opportunity to write the laws. It is me and my friend from Massachusetts. It is the majority leader from Kentucky and the minority leader from New York across the way.

He said: Congress, there is only one way this should have even been done. It should have been done in the Halls of Congress. That is not the way President Obama chose to do it. He should have done better. He didn't. We can do better. Let's do.

Now, to the sky-is-falling reports that came out one right after the other almost with glee from the fourth estate, the President spoke again to say: Listen, you know what? If Congress doesn't get it right, I may have to act myself.

I hope he doesn't. I think that folks have too little confidence in what we can do together when we set our minds to it, but we do have to ask ourselves, watching the display here on the floor today, watching the displays we have had here on the floor in the past: Do we have a serious group of men and women here who want to work together on solutions? Or do we have a group of men and women here who want to just get the next headline, who want to just send out that next tweet, who just want to just make that next front page story of hysteria?

I believe the former is true. I know the men and women on this floor, Mr. Speaker, not the caricature of the men and women that you read in the newspaper, but the real men and women on this floor, who each come here every single day to diligently serve the almost 700,000 men and women that they report to back home. And I am proud to do it.

I plea, Mr. Speaker, for you to use your leadership to not allow us to devolve into the name calling and the acrimony that the fourth estate would like to suggest characterizes this Chamber, but to lead us to the sincere debate of caring about people, caring about the rule of law, caring about families.

Let me just say, the best part of this job is the casework that each one of us does back home. You all know it. People think the job happens in Washington, D.C. It doesn't. It happens one family at a time back home.
You have heard the comments on the floor of the House today, Mr. Speaker. I have families in my district separated from one another. You want to talk about uniting families? I have families separated from one another standing in line to come to this country legally.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker: How many folks have you heard standing up for my constituents whose families have been separated because they have been standing in line to get here for more than a year? How many folks have stood up for them? Not one.

What about those families standing in line 2 years, Mr. Speaker? I have got them in my district, too.
What about those families who have been separated for 3 years and standing in line trying to get to America the right way? Who is standing up for them? I don't hear those calls on the floor of the House. I have got them in my district, too.

What about 4 years, Mr. Speaker; 5 years, Mr. Speaker; 6 years, Mr. Speaker? If you wanted to bring your adult child in from Mexico, you had to file in the 1990s for their number to be coming up today. That is crazy. It is crazy.

Where is the conversation about reforming the system that got us here to begin with? I applaud my friend for trying to solve the symptom. I beg my friend to work with me to cure the disease.

We have a President who can lead us in that direction, Mr. Speaker.

He has the credibility of being tough on borders and he has the heart of someone who wants to keep families united. We have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker. We can take it or we can reject it. I believe we are going to take it.

But that is not for the business today. The business today is an appropriations process. My friend from Massachusetts called it unprecedented. He is right. I take no small amount of pleasure in talking about how right he is. I have been in this body for 7 years and we don't generally get the appropriations bills done before the end of the year, Mr. Speaker. Deadlines don't tend to mean anything to us. We are about to make that happen.

Mr. Speaker, 1997 was the last time Congress funded the government ahead of schedule, before the deadline. It has taken a continuing resolution every other year since 1997. We have an opportunity this year to do it. I don't know if we will take it or not. I hope that we will.

We can't solve everything every day, but we can solve something every day. We can make something better for someone every day.

If you support this rule, we will bring to the floor four appropriations bills and 119 amendments, give or take. We are up in the Rules Committee right now making even more amendments in order, Mr. Speaker, to have even more voices be heard, to have even more opportunity to make a difference for the families that we all represent back home.

Support this rule. Be proud of this rule. Be proud of the work the Appropriations Committee did. Mr. Speaker, you don't hear it on the floor of the House, but it so frustrates me. If you had been in the Rules Committee last night, you would have seen Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side talking about the amazing work they did together on the appropriations process in the Appropriations Committee, talking about the great admiration and respect that they had for one another because of the work they do together on the Appropriations Committee.

We don't hear that here on the floor of the House, and we should. We should hear more of that. We should hear more about the good work we are doing together. If we support this rule, Mr. Speaker, we will get a chance not to hear about it, but to experience it, to do it.

I know my colleague from Massachusetts and I have another 6, 7, 8 hours of Rules Committee work to do together tonight. I know my colleague is going to challenge us to do even better than what we are doing. I am prepared to accept that challenge.

But for today, Mr. Speaker, for this moment, I urge my colleagues to come to this floor; support this rule; move the appropriations process forward; finish the appropriations process before the September 30 deadline; and serve your constituents back home, like I know every man and woman in this Chamber does.

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