Providing for Consideration of H.R. Save the Internet Act of Providing for Consideration of H.R. Investing for the People Act of and for Other Purposes

Floor Speech

Date: April 9, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


I thank my friend from New York for yielding me the customary 30 minutes. And, at the risk of opening this debate like I opened so many others in 2019: Mr. Speaker, we have taken an opportunity to do something very productive and very bipartisan and we have turned it into something that is going to be very partisan and wholly unproductive.

Neither of the bills we are considering in this rule today are going to be moving through the Senate. Neither of the bills we are considering today are going to be signed by the President. But the good foundation in both of those bills could have been, and we have missed yet another opportunity.

Let me start with H.R. 1644, Mr. Speaker, the so-called Save the Internet Act. I can't speak for everyone else's internet, but my internet is still thriving. I haven't seen any nefarious internet shortages or blockages in recent days.

For the millions and millions of Americans trying to livestream C- SPAN right now, they are having no problems whatsoever. It is going right through the pipes the way it always has, Mr. Speaker. And, if it is in need of saving, it is certainly not in need of saving from this institution.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that my friends on the other side of the aisle are upset with the Trump administration's FCC.

You will recall that the Obama administration and its FCC took the regulations that had governed the internet from its inception through its explosion of productivity and innovation, all the way through 2015, and threw all those rules out entirely, replacing it with a command- and-control government structure.

In its wisdom and with my great support, the Trump administration and the FCC threw those new rules out, taking us back to those rules that provided the foundation for the internet and all of the productivity that it has provided.

It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that so many folks are afraid of internet freedom that we need to try to find a way to clamp down on internet freedom and bend the internet to the will of the government.

I would argue that the Wild West innovation style that has driven the internet and tech companies from day one shouldn't be boxed in by the government and certainly shouldn't be replaced with a 1930s-era, Ma Bell telephone regulatory scheme.

That is what we are talking about here today with this bill, Mr. Speaker, is turning over regulation of the internet to title II of the Communications Act.

If you have not looked at title II recently, Mr. Speaker, it is almost 100 years old. It was created to govern that wonderful emerging technology called the landline telephone and the monopolistic telephone companies that existed at that time.

I don't know how many of your staffers still have landline telephones, Mr. Speaker. I know your grandchildren probably don't even know how to operate one these days.

We certainly should not be relying on those regulations to bring us forward with innovation. The heavy hand of government regulation always takes us backwards.

The good news, Mr. Speaker, is that, if you see legitimate challenges out there, we do have some bipartisan solutions to help address those: Former Chairman Walden's H.R. 1101, one such bill that could have been on the floor today; Mr. Latta's H.R. 1006, another bill that could have been on the floor today; Mrs. McMorris Rodgers' H.R. 1096 could have been on the floor today, just to name a few.

But none of those bipartisan options were seriously considered. Instead, we are left with a single option, in true government, monopolistic fashion, and that option is to support the Obama administration's failed government takeover of the internet.

Mr. Speaker, I oppose that. I oppose the legislation. I hope my other colleagues will as well.

It did not have to be this way. This could have been a productive partnership discussion about how to take what is obviously a productive and innovative tool fueling, not just urban America, not just suburban America, but rural America, and we could have talked about how to grow it together. But we chose a different path, digging partisan ditches even deeper early in 2019.

If that is not disappointing enough, Mr. Speaker, there is a second bill that this rule makes in order. That is H.R. 2021. That bill comes out of another committee that Mr. Morelle and I serve on, the House Budget Committee.

I love serving on the House Budget Committee, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker. It is a wonderful committee on which to serve. Mr. Morelle and I are both lucky to be on it, and we have two fabulous leaders on that committee: Mr. Yarmuth of Kentucky leading the Democratic side of the aisle and Mr. Womack of Arkansas leading the Republican side of the aisle.

If you were going to task two leaders in this institution with crafting the kind of budget that I talked about from the well earlier, Mr. Speaker, a budget that would protect Social Security, protect Medicare, protect Medicaid, a budget that would lay out priorities for America, talk about where it is that we want to see our children and our grandchildren go in the 21st century, those are the two leaders who could have brought us together for the first time in a long time around a unified vision.

But, instead, the order came down from on high, Mr. Speaker. There was to be no budget. I assume that is true. We have considered absolutely no budget in the so-called Budget Committee. We have had no budget markup in the Budget Committee. We have had no discussions of budget in the Budget Committee.

Instead, what we have before us today is a bill that is sometimes referred to as a caps deal. You have heard ``caps deal'' before, Mr. Speaker.

It is those times in years past where we have taken what are those discretionary caps, those limits on how much Federal money we can spend, and we have adjusted those so that we can invest in some shared priorities on the one hand while reducing spending in some other, lower priority places.

We have done that in a bipartisan way not once, not twice, but three times. We could have been here today, Mr. Speaker, for a fourth time.

If we are not going to actually do a budget, we still could have been here on a caps deal. But this is not a caps deal. This is not a caps bill that had input from Republicans in the House. This is not a caps deal that had consultation with the Senate. This is not a caps deal that has been done in bipartisanship with the White House.

This is a caps deal that is just a deal among warring factions of a divided Democratic Caucus, and that bill has come to the floor today-- again, a bill that will not be considered in the Senate and a bill that will not be signed by the President.

We can normalize partisan failure in this institution, Mr. Speaker. We can. We can also normalize bipartisan cooperation.

I don't fault the other side for the struggles that are, inevitably, going to happen when a new majority takes over in the U.S. House of Representatives. Leading is a very difficult, difficult thing to do.

But, at the end of the day, the majority is tasked with doing exactly that--leading. The Budget Committee should produce a budget. The United States of America should have a budget.

It is not easy to do. It is not easy to pass this House floor. It is not easy to pass through a committee. But it is what the law requires us to do; it is what we have the right leaders on the Budget Committee to do; and it is what every single Member in this institution knows in their heart that we should do.

Mr. Speaker, I urge defeat of this rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to my friend from New York, but I just have too many speakers who have come down to the House floor today to speak about this.


Mr. WOODALL. What he failed to mention, though, is the reason he can make those criticisms is because the law required the administration to offer a budget, and it did. The law also requires this House to offer a budget, and we have not.

We are better than that. This is not an Article II responsibility. This is an Article I responsibility, and we will rue the day that we decided that we would rather talk about what Article II was doing instead of doing the work ourselves here at Article I.

My friend from New York is right: They did make a number of amendments in order, but not enough amendments to solve some underlying problems.

One amendment they didn't make in order was an amendment to provide disaster funding to so many of our communities that have been waiting on disaster funding--not for a day, not for a week, not for a month, but, now, into the new year.

If we defeat the previous question today, we can correct that injustice, and I will bring up an amendment to the rule to make this disaster funding possible. It is critically important.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, as we have heard so often on the House floor, hopeful wishes are not enough for our constituents. We need to deliver results.

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for my friend from New York on the Rules Committee, and I really do enjoy serving with him on the Budget Committee.

It is neat to be on the Budget Committee as a freshman because you are working with the biggest issues that we have in this country. We all care about healthcare and how it gets implemented, but we can't implement it if we can't pay for it, so the Budget Committee grapples with those issues.

We all want our seniors to be protected. They have been paying into Medicare and Social Security their entire lives, but we know those programs are headed toward bankruptcy. We can't solve those problems except in the overarching look of a Federal budget process. It is what the law requires.

We get to talk about those big ideas. We get to think those big thoughts. We get to come together to make big and, yes, Mr. Speaker, difficult decisions.

President Trump, in his budget, made difficult decisions. I dare say I could go Member to Member in this Chamber and find 435 people out of 435 who would find at least one flaw in the President's budget. I bet I could.

It is hard to write a budget for the United States of America, but the law requires that we do it. More importantly, even if the law didn't require that we do it, Mr. Speaker, we know that we should. We know the Constitution lays out that responsibility, the power of the purse, for the House. We have constituted an entire committee called the Budget Committee.

I don't want to wow you, Mr. Speaker, with my eloquence, but do you know what the responsibility of the Budget Committee is? It only has one: write the budget.

For years, there was a time when the Senate was not taking up budgets in its Budget Committee. I wondered why they didn't disband the Budget Committee because the only job the Budget Committee has is to write the budget.

We know we need to do that together. We know we do, but we are not.

The second bill this rule makes in order is the government takeover of the internet bill. Again, if you think the internet is broken and the benevolent hand of government can fix it, this is the bill for you. If you think the internet is not broken and perhaps government ought to stay where government is, and the freedom of the internet should continue, this is not the bill for you.

We need to defeat both of these bills, and we need to defeat the rule.

I do want to point out, for the Rules Committee, we were working just beyond those doors last night, Mr. Speaker, and I think the Rules Committee did the best it could with the material that it had to work with. I see the staff director of the Rules Committee sitting over there. He has a tough job.

I think the chairman did the best he could. You cannot solve the problem of a flawed, partisan committee process with the inclusion of amendments in the Rules Committee. You just can't do it. But they tried as hard as they possibly could, making in order as many amendments as they could to try to satisfy as many concerns as they could.

The problem is not the Rules Committee, Mr. Speaker. That is not why we need to defeat the rules today. The problem is the leadership decision that has been made to bring up these two flawed products that were created in a partisan way when we could have brought to the floor two positive products created in a collaborative way.

We have to make a decision in this Chamber. Either we are in the business of making a point or we are in the business of making a difference. So far, the first 4 months of this year, we have been great at making a point, but we have been struggling to make a difference.

Like it or not, we have a Senate that has to pass this legislation and a President who has to sign it if we are to make it the law of the land. The two products today fail that test.

Let's not waste another moment on them, Mr. Speaker, not another moment. Let's reject this rule. Let's not bring these two pieces of legislation to the floor. Let's go back to the drawing board collaboratively, as we know we can. Lock any bipartisan group of Members into a room together, Mr. Speaker, and they will craft a better solution. We have the right leaders in this Chamber for this time. We just need to free them up to lead.

Defeat this rule. Defeat the previous question.

Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of my amendment in the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.