Providing for Consideration of H.J. Res. Termination of National Emergency Declared By the President on February 2019

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 26, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, I want you to know it flatters both me and the gentlewoman from California that you have made it your habit to be down here during Rules Committee time. It is good to know that you respect what we do upstairs as much as the members of the committee do.

I always enjoy coming down for the Rules Committee debate, because it is the only debate on all of Capitol Hill where the Reading Clerk reads every single word of the bill that we are about to consider. Ordinarily, we waive that, but the rules don't let you waive it. You have to read the rule so folks will understand what is happening today.

I happened to time the Reading Clerk today. I didn't put him up to anything special. He read as he always does. It took him 1 minute and 6 seconds to read the resolution that is before us.

I heard my friend from California talk about the important constitutional questions that are here before us today. I heard my friend from California equate our President to discredited despots around the globe and how we must stand up to prevent that behavior here in America. I heard my colleagues who took to the floor this morning for 1 minutes be sanctioned by the Chair and advised to cease engaging in arguments of personality and attacks against our President.

One minute and 6 seconds it took to read the resolution before us today, Mr. Speaker, and that is 1 minute and 6 seconds longer than this resolution has been considered in total in every committee throughout this Capitol.

I want to say that again. You heard my colleague talk about how critically important this resolution of disapproval is as it relates to our constitutional powers. You heard it described as a power grab equivalent to those of discredited despots. And we haven't talked about it at all in this Chamber. In committees, not one witness has testified.

One minute and 6 seconds is how much we have invested in these nationally important matters.

I listened, Mr. Speaker, as you cautioned Member after Member to cease engaging in personal attacks on the President during their 1 minutes this morning. Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that that is exactly what we are doing here today.

If you want to have a debate about Article I and Article II powers and how we ought to retrieve the power that has slid down Pennsylvania Avenue through administration after administration after administration, I am not just your willing partner, I am your enthusiastic partner and passionate advocate. But that is not the bill we have before us today. It is not the debate we are going to have today.

This is another in a long string of measures that have been brought to the floor of this House that could have been brought in a bipartisan way. I don't mean one Republican; I don't mean two Republicans; I mean the majority of Democrats and the majority of Republicans standing together to speak with one voice on behalf of the American people. But time and time again, we are missing that opportunity.

This isn't a constitutional issue today, Mr. Speaker, though you would not know that, because we have not had any witnesses testify. This is a legislative issue before us today.

There is, in fact, a National Emergencies Act that allows the President to do extraordinary things if he or she decides there is a national emergency. That is not unconstitutional. Congress passed the National Emergencies Act; the President signed the National Emergencies Act. Perhaps the Supreme Court one day will decide that was an unconstitutional delegation of power by the Congress, but the Congress delegated that power in the National Emergencies Act.

The way we talk about this issue, Mr. Speaker, you would think this is the first time you and I have seen this in the few years we have been in Congress. Of course, you and I know that is nonsense.

There are 31 other national emergency declarations in effect today-- 31 other national emergency declarations. National emergency declarations from the Obama administration are still active today.

If we are so concerned about Article I and Article II power grabs, perhaps these emergency declarations that have been on the books since the last administration, Congress should deal with those affirmatively here on the floor.

There are national emergency declarations still in effect from the Bush administration. There are national emergencies still in effect from the Clinton administration. Mr. Speaker, there are national emergencies still in effect from the Carter administration. This House has made not a single effort to draw back that power from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Those are legitimate questions. Those are important questions. Those are things that bring us together as the people's representatives in this House, not bills designed just to poke a stick at a President who has real passion and real conviction about issues of real importance.

Do you know what is in this resolution today, Mr. Speaker, what is in this disapproval resolution today, that will make a difference on the border in terms of ending human trafficking? Not one thing.

Do you know what is in this resolution today that, if we come together to pass, will make a difference in terms of drug trafficking on the border? Not one thing.

What about if we come together to pass this resolution today for the very serious issue of weapons trafficking across our border? Do you know what we will do today to fix that? Not one thing.

Victims of sexual assault as they are being trafficked into this country, do you know what we are going to do to fix that today? Not one thing.

Do you know how many Dreamers are going to have their hopes realized today with a pathway to permanency here in the United States of America? Not one.

Man, we are good at bringing issues that are designed to poke each other in the eye. We are so good at bringing issues designed to try to embarrass one and boost another. But I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, we are not so great with actually solving real problems.

For the first time in my congressional career just last Congress, Mr. Speaker, we brought a bill to the floor that would have provided permanency for our Dreamers and that would have provided solutions on our border for human trafficking, for weapons trafficking, and for drug trafficking. You know how many Democratic votes we got on that bill, Mr. Speaker? Not one.

Now, to be fair, it wasn't one bill; it was two bills. Folks said, hey, if this one is not the right one, let's bring another one. Maybe this is going to bring people together.

Do you know how many votes we got on the second bill, Mr. Speaker, from the other side of the aisle? Not one. The only bills that have come to the floor to provide a pathway for Dreamers in my 8 years in Congress, and we got not one vote from the other side the aisle.

Is that because the other side of the aisle doesn't believe in those solutions? No, that is not why. It is because the other side of the aisle, in its wisdom, deemed that to be a resolution not designed to support the Dreamers, but designed to divide. I disagree with that conclusion, but that is the conclusion that was made. Thus, the only opportunity in a decade we have had to support Dreamers, not one Democrat stood up and said yes.

I call that a failed opportunity, and I am not interested in figuring out who is to blame for that failed opportunity.

This is a failed opportunity today, too, Mr. Speaker. Sadly, it is another in a series of failed opportunities here in 2019.

I believe my colleagues are going to see through the divisiveness of this resolution, through the charade of constitutionalism right down to the very core of partisanism that underlies this resolution.

But just remember, 1 minute and 6 seconds, Mr. Speaker. Before I took to the microphone today, 1 minute and 6 seconds from the Reading Clerk is all the time this new Congress has dedicated to an issue that you are going to hear from my colleagues again and again is one of critical national importance, international importance, constitutional importance. How can those things be true?


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, if we pass the resolution, as my friends on the other side of the aisle have presented it, we will save not one single life. If we defeat the previous question and move on to H.R. 962, we will, in fact, save lives.

Mr. Speaker, to speak to that issue, I yield 4 minutes to the gentlewoman from Missouri (Mrs. Wagner), my friend and a great leader in our conference.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Reed), a member of the class of 2010.

Mr. Speaker, you just heard an impassioned plea from my friends on the other side of the aisle about the important constitutional questions that are before us today, about how the President's emergency declaration violated those sacred constitutional principles.

Candidly, I don't know if my colleagues are right or not because we have not had one legal expert come to talk about the National Emergencies Act. Most of us were not in Congress when it passed several decades ago, but it is a delegation of authority from Congress to the executive.

You just heard my friend from New York come to the well and say, listen, we have been working in a bipartisan way to offer a bill to rein in those authorities. I think that is important work. I think that is work that we ought to all be able to agree on. We should be doing that work first.

I told you earlier, Mr. Speaker, the sum total of all of the time this institution has spent working on these important constitutional questions is the 1 minute and 6 seconds our Reading Clerk Josef spent reading us the resolution today.

We will vote on this rule today. We will vote on the underlying disapproval today, having never had the committees of jurisdiction hold even a single hearing.

Now, lest you think there is just no time in the calendar, this resolution is referred to the Transportation Committee on which I sit. In fact, I had to leave a Transportation Committee hearing in order to come up here to do the rule today.

We are working on the Green New Deal in the Transportation Committee today. We are working on electric vehicles and how to reduce carbon emissions across the country. Now, I am not saying that is not important work, but I have not heard one of my colleagues talk about the dearth of electric vehicles and how that is threatening the future of our land.

I have heard my colleagues talk about this important constitutional question that this disapproval brings before us, and, yet, there was not one hearing on it.

Now, lest you think, Mr. Speaker, that if we deal with this today, we won't deal with it again. No. We are going to have some hearings on this resolution. When? Later in the week after it passes.

Now, I don't know if that is a pattern that we are going to get into. I hope that it is not. Having had no hearings and no witnesses testify on this issue, we are going to have an Appropriation Subcommittee hearing later this week to talk about exactly these issues, where the money is coming from, what the impact of that is, and whether or not it is wise.

We are going to have a hearing later this week in the Judiciary Committee talking about the National Emergencies Act, and whether or not it permits this kind of activity, and what kind of changes ought to be made.

This resolution will have already been considered. This vote will have already been taken, but we will eventually get around to having thoughtful conversation about this.

Mr. Speaker, I close where I began. There is more that unites us as Americans than divides us. And even in politics, there is more that unites this institution than divides us. Making sure that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue only is exercising those authorities delegated to it by either the Constitution or this Congress, is a shared value.

But if you listen to the debate here on the floor, from the Speaker's chair, you had to caution our colleagues against engaging in attacks of personality against the President. We heard debate, not of thoughtful constitutional principles, but of hateful administration policies.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell my friends, I don't believe those words, those actions, or those efforts are going to bring us one bit closer to the shared values that we have in this institution.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to reject the rule today and vote against the previous question so that we can bring up a bill that will save lives. This bill will save not one life; will prevent not one drug trafficker from coming into the country; will protect not one migrant family. It will do nothing, Mr. Speaker, to solve real problems that face this country.

If we defeat the previous question, we can at least take a commonsense step toward doing exactly that. Vote ``no'' on this rule, vote ``no'' on the previous question, and let's commit ourselves to finding a way to come together.

If you believe there is more that divides us than unites us, these first 45 days of this session have been just perfect for you. But if you believe, as I do, that we can do better, let today be the end of the partisan attacks. Let today be the end of bringing bills to the floor designed to make a point instead of make a difference, and let's make tomorrow better.