Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act of Providing for Consideration of H.R. Water Resources Development Act of and Providing for Consideration of H.R. Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019

Floor Speech

Date: June 6, 2018
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 918 and ask for its immediate consideration.

The Clerk read the resolution, as follows: H. Res. 918


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the ranking member of the Rules Committee, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only. General Leave

Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I am excited to be down here with my friend from Massachusetts today, Mr. Speaker. You heard the Reading Clerk work her way through this rule. It is a big one today, and it is a big one because we have got a lot to talk about today. I am going to try not to go over. I appreciate the Speaker starting proceedings a little early today so that we have time to get through all of the material that we have to work through.

In this rule today, House Resolution 918, we are providing for three separate appropriations bills to be considered as a single package in addition to two other bills that are very important.

First of all, the rule today, Mr. Speaker, provides for concurrence in the Senate amendment to the House-passed bill, H.R. 3249. It is the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act.

Mr. Speaker, our colleague from Virginia (Mrs. Comstock) has been working so aggressively on this bill. You will remember the House passed this bill by a voice vote back in March of this year. It went over to the Senate. The Senate amended it. They, too, passed it by unanimous consent. House Resolution 918 today provides for the consideration to approve those Senate amendments, send this bill directly to the President's desk, and let it begin to make a difference in these communities right away.

The bill supports Federal, State, and local law enforcement efforts, Mr. Speaker, to combat gang-related violence throughout our communities and to get involved in other prevention techniques.

We have all seen street gang activities increasing in our communities. If you are from a community that has not yet seen that impact, consider yourself fortunate. According to the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Speaker, we have these crimes on the increase. We have all been hearing about transnational gangs, such as MS-13, as they are becoming increasingly organized and increasingly more violent.

Giving our Nation's law enforcement authorities the ability to keep Americans safe and to have the tools they need to fight these gangs is a priority of all of us in this institution, and approval of this rule today will allow us to bring that bill to the floor and send it to the President's desk for his signature.

House Resolution 918 also provides for a structured rule, Mr. Speaker, for consideration of the first of our fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills. As I mentioned, there are three bills in this package. H.R. 5895 combines the Energy and Water Development bill with the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and with the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill. It puts them all under one umbrella, maintaining our commitment to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 spending caps.

The House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Speaker, has already passed 6 of the 12 annual appropriations bills. I will say that again. Six of the 12 annual appropriations bills have already moved through the House Appropriations Committee.

I look forward to the remainder of those bills being on this floor very soon. In fact, the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies is marking up their bill today, and the Defense Subcommittee is marking up their bill tomorrow.

So before the end of the week, I would expect we will have 7 of 12 appropriations bills ready for the floor, and we will be well on our way to having an eighth ready for the floor soon. This is only the first week of June, Mr. Speaker, and this is already the progress that the House Appropriations Committee has achieved. I am very proud of their success, and I want to talk a little bit about the bills they have before us today.

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill was approved unanimously by the Appropriations Committee. Republicans and Democrats came together to support that bill. You will recall that we decided early on, Mr. Speaker, that thrift would begin here in this House.

With this Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, not only are we funding the shared priorities across the Capitol, we are also at a funding level still below the level at which this House was funded the year I was first elected to Congress, Mr. Speaker. Thrift does begin at home. We have avoided being penny-wise and pound-foolish. We funded important priorities and were again able to pass this out of committee on a unanimous, bipartisan vote.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill also came out of committee on a unanimous, bipartisan vote, 47-0 in both cases, Mr. Speaker. And, clearly, this type of collaboration, this type of bipartisan activity is something we would like to see more often in this Chamber, but we have it in these two bills today.

The third appropriations bill that is bundled together here, Mr. Speaker, is the Energy and Water bill, a bill that is tremendously important to my part of the world there on the Georgia coast, involving Georgia's water infrastructure. It passed the Appropriations Committee on a slightly less powerful vote. It was 29-20, still a bipartisan vote, but not as big a majority--in fact, not unanimous, as the others were. But it is critically important to so many of our States, Mr. Speaker, and I am confident we will be able to move it across the floor.

I will just give a couple of examples. I know everybody has their own story to tell about the importance in their State.

In my State, it provides $49 million as a Federal partnership to the more than $300 million that the State of Georgia has already put into deepening the Port of Savannah. The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is one of the largest economic development projects in the Southeastern United States. It has a Corps of Engineers report authorizing this construction. Georgia put all of its money in up front, and now the Feds are coming through with $49 million of their own.

Mr. Speaker, the bill includes millions of dollars for operations and maintenance of the Corps of Engineers. If you live in the Southeastern United States, as I do, odds are, the Corps controls your water supply. More than 80 percent of the people who live in the multimillion-person metropolitan Atlanta area, Mr. Speaker, depend on Corps of Engineers facilities for their drinking water. Eighty percent depend on Corps of Engineers for their drinking water. It is tremendously important to families across the district.

I am heartened that the Appropriations Committee, even though they could not be unanimous, persisted in moving this bill through committee in a bipartisan way, and I am optimistic of what it is going to do for water and energy infrastructure for years to come.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, to a committee that is almost as near and dear to my heart as the Rules Committee is, this bills brings to the floor a bill from the Transportation Committee, H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018.

Folks often think of the Veterans Affairs' Committee as being one of the most bipartisan committees on Capitol Hill, and, candidly, I think it makes us all proud to know that is true; but the House Transportation Committee sits a very close second.

Infrastructure projects, whether it be safe drinking water, whether it be roads and bridges, whether it be airport facilities, these are issues that we all confront, and these are issues that bring us together in an also unanimous fashion, Mr. Speaker. The House Transportation Committee reported the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, and we have that before us today.

If you haven't gotten to see a good committee chairman and ranking member working in partnership, Mr. Speaker, I would recommend Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania and Ranking Member Pete DeFazio of Oregon to you any time. To suggest that these two men agree on everything would be folly, but to suggest that they find a way to work through everything would not be too much said. They never take no for an answer. They always work hard together. In the case of the Water Resources Development Act, Mr. Speaker, that doesn't just exist at the committee chairman level; it exists at the subcommittee level.

On the Republican side of the aisle, we have Chairman Garret Graves from Louisiana; and on the Democratic side of the aisle, we have Ranking Member Grace Napolitano from California--again, two Members who work incredibly closely together. They produce a superior work product that you are going to be able to see in the line items in this legislation.

We are talking about America's ports. We are talking about inland waterways. We are talking about locks and dams. We are talking about flood protection. We are talking about water infrastructure and ecosystem protection. Line item after line item, we were able to come together in a bipartisan way.

I would argue this is going to be one of the most important bills that the Congress passes in 2018, Mr. Speaker. And, again, it took a lot of hard, bipartisan work to get here.

Our Nation's ports, Mr. Speaker, process about $4 billion in product a day, imports and exports. About 11 percent of everything we buy in the State of Georgia has come through one of our ports. Nearly 440,000 jobs, Mr. Speaker, in my State alone are dependent on ports and waterways, and there is $25 billion worth of State income from that.

And that is just a State like Georgia, Mr. Speaker. If you go to Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, California, or Washington State, you are going to hear those same stories told time and time again.

Now, I would like to believe, because we passed this bill out of the Transportation Committee where transportation experts sit, that we produced a perfect work product out of the Transportation Committee. But wearing my Rules Committee hat, I recognize that other Members of this Chamber may have some good ideas of their own that they would like to make in order for the debate on the Water Resources Development Act.

To that end, the rule today, Mr. Speaker, passed by this body will make 52 additional amendments in order to be considered for this bill. That is 19 Republican amendments, 20 Democratic amendments, and 13 bipartisan amendments.

I will say that again, Mr. Speaker. Fifty-two amendments were made in order by this rule for the Water Resources Development Act: 19 Republican amendments, 20 Democratic amendments, and 13 bipartisan amendments.

All amendments are intended to make this bill better. This body will decide, if this rule is approved, whether, in fact, they do.

We had four subcommittee meetings on WRDA this year, this cycle, Mr. Speaker--two roundtable discussions in Florida and Oregon, and two hearings here in Washington, D.C.--all seeking to involve stakeholders.

You may not recall, Mr. Speaker, but there was a while that this Congress was unable to pass WRDA bills. We went through 7 years of this Congress failing to pass any WRDA bills at all. I was not in Congress at the time that began, but I am in Congress at the time that that comes to an end.

Beginning with Bill Shuster's leadership there on the Transportation Committee, we have gotten back in the habit of moving a water resources bill every single Congress. This will be the third in that cycle, and it matters: It matters for certainty to stakeholders back home; it matters for certainty to constituents back home; and it matters that we don't have to do it all in one giant omnibus bill every single time. We are able to break it down into smaller chunks because we are taking care of it as challenges arise, again, in a bipartisan fashion.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where the kind of collaboration and mutual respect that you have heard me talk about exists every single day.

I want to thank, again, Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio for making that environment one that can exist.

I think we brought a very fair rule to the floor today to try to bring not just the Water Resources Development Act to the floor, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization to the floor, but also the first three appropriations bills in our annual cycle to the floor.

Mr. Speaker, I hope all my colleagues can support the rule, I hope they will support the underlying bills, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't come to the floor today to tell anybody that the process was perfect, and I didn't come to the floor today to tell anybody that the pieces of legislation before us are perfect. I am certain that they are not perfect, Mr. Speaker, because I didn't write every line of every one of them. That is my indication that they didn't turn out exactly right.

What I did do, however, because I serve on the committees of jurisdiction, is I worked with my Democratic colleagues to get to a bill that we can all be proud of.

Understand what we are talking about here today, Mr. Speaker. We can go back and have a series of recriminations and talk about all the injustices that have happened to each and every one of us over the years or we can celebrate the fact that in a really difficult budget environment we found a way to get the appropriations bills out--two out of three of these bills today unanimously--to the floor. The third one that didn't come out unanimously still came out with a bipartisan vote, Mr. Speaker. We should be celebrating that, not pretending that we are not making an honest effort with one another to get things done.

The Water Resources Development Act, Mr. Speaker, the largest water infrastructure bill that this Congress will produce, and we produced it on a committee that has members from the far left to the far right and produced it unanimously, Mr. Speaker, because we did not take no for an answer and continued to work shoulder to shoulder until we found a place that each and every member could live with.

No, these bills are not perfect today, which is why, in the case of WRDA, for example--again, the best work product the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee could produce--we allowed more than 50 additional amendments--more Democratic amendments than Republican amendments, bipartisan amendments as well--to try to improve that language.

How does this WRDA bill come to the floor? It comes after a long period of time where this Congress was controlled by both parties where no WRDA bill was produced at all. I will say it again, Mr. Speaker: it comes after a time when this Congress, controlled by both parties, produced no Water Resources bill at all. No bill for ports, no bill for inland waterways, no bill for water infrastructure, and no bill for locks and dams. No bill, Mr. Speaker, at all.

Fast forward to today, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about the third consecutive Congress where we have come together and gotten it done-- not gotten it done for one party or another, not gotten it done for one Member or another--but gotten it done on behalf of all of our constituents who sent us all here, not to find excuses, not to find things to complain about, but to find a way to make it happen.

Support this rule today, Mr. Speaker. I urge all my colleagues to support this rule today, Mr. Speaker, because if they do, we will bring that bipartisan work product to the floor. We will bring that unanimously approved gang violence prevention bill to the floor. And we will bring those three appropriations bills all passing in a bipartisan way out of committee to this floor. It is a day we can be proud of, Mr. Speaker, and I am proud to be here with you to talk about it.

I appreciate the words of my friend from Vermont. He is absolutely right. Fiscal conservatives, as a rule, are out there trying to save money. Occasionally, we find ourselves in those spaces where we end up being penny wise and pound foolish.

The flood mitigation projects that my friend from Vermont referenced saved countless dollars, but, more importantly, countless lives. As some of these aging infrastructure projects look to be on the brink of failure, the time to act is now, not later.

I am glad to see that we were able to come together to invest needed resources today in a water resources development bill so that we are not spending dollars tomorrow in a disaster relief bill. This is the right time to do it, and I appreciate my friend from Vermont making that point.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I would advise my friend that I am prepared to close when he is.

Mr. Speaker, first things first. I mentioned earlier I don't think any of these bills are perfect bills; I just think they are the best we were able to work out together.

I do want to mention that in the Rules Committee report in the summary of Mr. Nolan's amendment, we did describe that amendment incorrectly. We have now corrected that for the record, that has been submitted, but I just want to highlight that for the purposes of transparency.

I think my friend from Massachusetts is exactly right, Mr. Speaker. It is time for us to decide how we want to run this institution. I don't question his numbers. He is very good. When he says this is the most closed Congress in American history, I am sure he has some set of numbers that backs up that attestation.

But what I know is, when I was running for Congress and Democrats were leading this institution at the time, for the entire cycle that I was running, Democrats allowed less than 1,000 amendments totally for the entire session of Congress.

Mr. Speaker, this Congress, we have considered more than 1,000 amendments before the month of May got out. We haven't even gotten into the appropriations cycle yet. That doesn't include the 30 amendments made in order on the appropriations bill today. It doesn't include the 50-plus amendments made in order on WRDA today.

We have already done more to allow Members to be heard in this Congress than was happening when the other side led this institution. I don't think that should be the measure of success, Mr. Speaker. I don't think that should be the measure of success. My friend from Massachusetts was right when he said we are going to get bigger votes and better votes when we bring better bills and a better process to the House floor.

Let me tell you what I have brought today, Mr. Speaker. I will tell you what I brought today. I brought a bill that passed this House unanimously before it went to the Senate to be passed unanimously after a few amendments--and I brought it back here so that we can again pass it unanimously--a bill to protect communities, to empower law enforcement to fight gang violence on the front lines. I want to send that bill to the President, Mr. Speaker. And if we pass this rule today, we will be able to send that unanimously agreed-upon legislation to the President. That is in this rule.

Also in this rule is the Water Resources Development Act, which passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously. Unanimously. Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, everyone working together to bring a bill out of committee. We brought it out of committee unanimously.

The Rules Committee still made another 50 amendments in order in case folks want to improve upon it--50-plus--but we made those amendments in order to a bill that had already been agreed upon unanimously.

What else does this rule do?

It brings a third piece of legislation to the floor as a part of our appropriations package, the legislative branch appropriations bill, which passed out of committee how, Mr. Speaker? Unanimously, Republicans and Democrats working together to bring that bill out of committee.

We include the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill in this package, Mr. Speaker. It came out of committee how? Don't tell me.

Unanimously, as Republicans and Democrats came together to move that legislation forward.

And then we have a fifth part of this package, the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which I confess--I want to be clear; I want to be transparent--did not pass unanimously. It just received a simple bipartisan vote to come out of committee.

So I challenge my colleagues who want a better process, who want to see better bills come to the floor. We are already making more amendments in order than my friends on the other side ever dreamed of doing. We are already bringing bills to the floor that have passed in a collaborative, in fact, unanimous way.

If Members support this rule, they will be supporting five things, four of them that passed unanimously, and one that passed with a bipartisan vote. Is that going to get everybody what they want here today? I doubt it. It is a tall order, but is it worth supporting? Is it worth saying it is a step in the right direction? Is it worth celebrating because you know it could have gone a different way, but we committed ourselves to the excellence that we have here? It is.

I will finish where I began, Mr. Speaker. I am proud to be down here carrying this rule today. I am the luckiest guy in the world to be able to come down here and talk about it, because folks don't get to hear it, they don't get to read about it, they don't get that around the water cooler back home, Mr. Speaker, that we are working together; that we are working together not only on the easy problems, but on the hard problems; that we are doing things here together that we have not done before, but we are doing them now because we have serious men and women on both sides of the aisle who want to make it happen.

Support this rule. Support this rule. Let's show the American people the work product that has gone into this legislation: the rule and those five underlying provisions. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes.''