Providing for Consideration of H.R. Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years and Relating to the Consideration of House Report and An Accompanying Resolution; Relating to the Consideration of Measures Disapproving of Sales, Exports, or Approvals Pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act; and Providing for Consideration of H.Res. Condemning President Trump's Racist Comments Directed At Members of Congress

Floor Speech

Date: July 16, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

I don't want to put any pressure on you, Mr. Speaker, but it comforts me to see you as the Chair up there today. There are those days where you need particular leaders to be there at a particular time, and I will tell you that I am not telling anybody in this Chamber anything they don't already know: You have made an entire career in this institution reaching out, building unlikely alliances, making it work where other folks said it could not work. And when my friend from Maryland, whom I thank for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, talks about what it is our constituents expect, what it is our citizenry expects, I think they expect that, Mr. Speaker, and we have one of those bills before us today in the intelligence reauthorization act.

There is more in this rule, Mr. Speaker, than I believe I have seen in any rule in my 9 years in Congress and years serving on staff here. We packed it all in there last night, and I don't want to miss the lead on this rule, which is an intelligence bill that is named after two congressional staffers who passed away last year. They spent their lives in service to this institution and to the intelligence community, and we are grateful for that service.

If you have not looked at the intelligence community recently, Mr. Speaker, you will see Devin Nunes on the Republican side of the aisle and Adam Schiff leading it on the Democratic side of the aisle. I can picture those two faces because I usually see them on split screens on FOX or MSNBC, and I can't think of many things they have had to say where they agreed with one another over the past 4, 5 years, and yet we have a bill today in sharp contrast to the partisan nonsense that was the NDAA operation last week.

We have a bill that has come out of the Intelligence Committee with two strident, passionate Republican and Democratic leaders there on the Intelligence Committee, that came out unanimously, that they presented unanimously in front of the Rules Committee last night and we have a chance to pass here on the floor of the House.

You also find in this rule, Mr. Speaker, 31 amendments that have been made in order to that intelligence reauthorization bill. Even though we found bipartisanship in the committee, even though we found unanimity in the committee, the Rules Committee, in its wisdom, last night, decided to make 31 more ideas available to be considered here on the floor of the House.

You see in this rule, Mr. Speaker, the ability for the House to take up Arms Export Control Act measures. These are also measures you are going to find bipartisan support for, also measures that you will find, again, as my friend from Maryland referenced, the House doing what you would expect the House to do, what our bosses back home sent us here to do.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that there are times when folks feel their deeply held beliefs cannot be compromised for the sake of bipartisanship. I find that trying to find a way to get to yes is better than trying to find a way to get to no. There is always a reason to get to no.

Instead of looking for ways to oppose our political rivals, we have to act as the Intelligence Committee did, in a manner where we can find issues on which we agree. It is the only way to move this process forward.

Mr. Speaker, America's national security and that of our allies, which is what the intelligence community helps to protect and support every day, is about more than scoring political points.

I mentioned those split screens on the TV where you do see folks lobbing accusations back and forth. Sometimes it seems to be political sport instead of serious legislating.

The measure we have before us today is not political sport; it is serious legislating. And we are going to have a chance to come together as a House not just to discuss it, not just to improve it, but to implement it.

Mr. Speaker, among the things that you will find in this bill, the foreign influences around the globe, and we have talked about them in all of their various incarnations here on the floor of the House over the last 2 weeks. This bill requires a report on China's influence over Taiwanese elections.

Chinese influence around the globe is at an unparalleled high. We are now rivaled by the Chinese in every single aspect of international influence and policy, but they have outsized influence in Taiwan, and we require that report.

We require a report not just on Russian interference in our elections, Mr. Speaker, but in elections across the globe. It would be naive to suggest that the Russians would limit their influence in elections to trying to manipulate the greatest and freest country in the world. They are working across the globe to influence elections wherever free people live.

Combating Chinese and Russian aggression in elections, Mr. Speaker, is not something, as is so often told in the media, that divides us; it is something that unites us. We saw that in the Intelligence Committee, and we are going to see that here on the floor of the House, and I am very proud of that. I wish we could have continued that effort, Mr. Speaker.

I agree with every word my friend from Maryland said about standing up for Article I. Of all of my frustrations of 9 years in this institution, the deference of the United States Congress to the executive branch has been my greatest frustration. It exists for one reason and one reason only, and that is that men and women, colleagues like my friend from Maryland and I, have been unable to find a way to speak with one voice on issues that are Article I versus Article II issues.

Go down the list in your time in Congress, Mr. Speaker, whether it is the contempt resolution this institution passed for former Attorney General Eric Holder, that contempt resolution that passed on party-line votes in committee and party-line votes here on the floor of the House and went down to the executive branch where absolutely no action was taken on it whatsoever; take production of papers, whether on Fast and Furious or whether on the Census, production of papers, whether from the President's counsel or from the President's press secretary, we have these discussions and we cannot--no, we have not found a way to come together to speak with one voice.

We have an opportunity, a model. You will remember some number of weeks ago--now, months ago, Mr. Speaker--where we were very concerned in this Chamber about anti-Semitic remarks that were broadcast in the public domain. We came together as an institution to speak out against anti-Semitism.

It didn't happen overnight. In fact, my friend from Maryland authored that resolution, to his credit. But he didn't sit down with a pen and put some words on a page and bring it here to the floor for consideration. He had to work it. And I don't mean work it a little bit; I mean work it hard: it was coming; it was not coming; it was coming again; it was not coming. To find a pathway forward so that this House speaks with one voice instead of divided voices was an effort that was put in.

Now, granted, at the end of the day, it was a little more milquetoast than the resolution that I would have drafted, but sometimes that is the trade you make to be able to expand the acceptance of a resolution, Mr. Speaker.

Every single time in this Chamber, as it comes to reining in Article II or reining in the judicial branch, every single time we speak with a divided voice, we weaken this institution.

I have never seen a resolution that tried to hold two Cabinet Secretaries in contempt at the same time. Maybe that has happened historically; I don't know that answer. I have not seen it in my time.

I heard last night from the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, and the ranking member was unwavering in his commitment to Article I and our preeminence in the constitutional model. But he was also unwavering in his commitment to there is more that we could do to work with the administration as opposed to begin to poke that sharp stick, and so this resolution does not have his support.

Well, if we begin our effort to do oversight over the administration and we are already divided before that bill even leaves committee, I tell you, Mr. Speaker, we are not going to have the outcome that we want here on the floor of the House.

And then, of course, this rule in those contempt efforts is targeting a United States citizenship question that would have gone on the Census. We talk about that as if that is an outrageous thing.

I appreciate the kind words my friend from Maryland had to say about President Lincoln. I am going to have to get the Clerk to read them back to me because I am going to use that over and over again about a wonderful Republican President, but I want to use the words that Mr. Raskin used.

But when President Lincoln was presiding over this land, it was common practice to have a citizenship question on the United States Census.

In fact, every single Census from 1820 to 1950 had a citizenship question on it. It was noncontroversial. In 1950, we took it off of the short form; it moved to the long form. And so from 1970 to 2000, that question was on the long form every single Census. And then in 2000, we took it off the long form and we put it onto the American Community Survey, that half-decade measure that goes out to create the data that Mr. Raskin rightly noted is so important to all of our communities back home.

If, for the first time in American history, in the history of the Census, we decide that citizenship is somehow now a forbidden topic, that we can't find a way to discuss it, that it is not important to who we are as a Nation and how it is that we look at ourselves, fair enough.

That is not what the Supreme Court case was about, Mr. Speaker. As we well know, the Supreme Court case simply said: You can put a question about citizenship on the Census if you want to. You just didn't do it the right way, and so we are going to ask you not to do it that way. There are those ways and means of getting that done. You just didn't do it the right way.

I raise that, Mr. Speaker, not because I am a Census guru. I am not. I don't serve on any of those relevant committees. But in this era of outrage, where folks have begun to confuse civility with weakness--and that is a confusion that I think is to all of our detriments--the desire to have a question about citizenship on the Census has nothing to do with this President, this administration, Republicans, Democrats. It has been that way since 1820.

Thoughtful men and women, concerned men and women, serious legislators have been interested in this information for over 100 years.

If we want to have the conversation that somehow citizenship can't be discussed anymore and we should ban it from all Census documentation forever, I don't think that would succeed, but it is certainly a legitimate topic of debate. But what is not legitimate is to suggest that the only reason that anyone would ask about citizenship is to pursue some sort of nefarious, xenophobic purpose. It is simply not true.

I represent a majority minority constituency, Mr. Speaker. Twenty-six percent of my bosses are first-generation Americans. You want to find folks who love America, come down to where I live, find folks who have waited in line, folks who have paid their money, folks who pinned all their hopes and dreams to, ``If and only if I can get there, my children and my grandchildren will have a better life.''

That is what brought us all here at one generation or another. Whether you came in 1650 or whether you came in 1950 or whether you came yesterday, those are the dreams that bring us here.

There is a lot to be outraged about in today's culture, but I haven't seen any of it get fixed by being more outraged.

I have seen it get fixed by men and women like yourself, Mr. Speaker, who value trust, who value candor, who value honesty, and who value real relationships.

Anything that is hard, I can't solve with someone I don't trust. If one side is good and one side is evil, where do you go from there? What does that negotiation look like? That is not a conversation; that is you have got to now destroy one another. That seems to be the path that folks too often opt for in politics today.

There is more that unites us than divides us in this constitution and in this country, Mr. Speaker. You might not know that by the parts of this rule that are going to get the most attention today.

Adam Schiff, Devin Nunes, there are not two Members in this institution who feel more strongly and differently about the direction of public policy than those two men, and they came together, not to advance themselves, but to advance the Nation. They came together, not because it was easy, but precisely because it was hard and necessary, and brought us this bipartisan package we have today.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Massachusetts, the chairman of the Rules Committee, for bringing that resolution to the floor, and I hope we will have ample time to celebrate those successes.

Mr. Speaker, I think I misunderstood my friend from Massachusetts. I think what my friend said is he does not care whether his words coarsen this institution, he does not care whether or not his positions diminish us as an institution, he does not care about the rules of this institution, which prohibit exactly the kind of words that he knows they prohibit and yet he uses anyway.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to ask my friend if he believes that his cause of admonishing this President is going to be advantaged by diminishing this institution?


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time. If the President believes every word that he said, does that excuse his behavior, in the gentleman's mind? Does it excuse his behavior to believe it?


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time. It is a perfectly legitimate assertion and attestation my friend from Massachusetts makes, and of course we all share that belief.

Mr. Speaker, when I was down here for the rule last week with my friend from Massachusetts, the other side was admonished, not once, but twice for violating the House rules for coarsening our debate, for diminishing our civility, for violating our rules; not a social contract about how we ought to treat each other, but rules where we have committed about how we will treat each other.

Today during 1 minute speeches, Mr. Speaker, not once, but twice the Chair admonished the other side to say: You are breaking our rules of civility. You are violating our standards of decorum. Our children are watching, and your behavior doesn't pass muster.

And now my friend--and he is my friend and I admire his work--he is passionate in the causes for which he advocates, and I believe that it is his passion, not his contempt for this institution, that leads him to say those things that he says. I believe he loves this institution, but he is misguided, when the Chair admonishes him again today now, and he has no apologies for his colleagues, no apologies for this institution.

We do have serious issues. I am not meaning serious like Russia and China, which those are serious, I don't mean serious like the hate that is fomenting in this country, which is serious. I mean all of it that is serious that nobody in this institution can solve unless we solve it together, and I want to find that pathway forward. This isn't it.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time.

Mr. Speaker, does the gentleman remember when Joe Wilson apologized, which is more than what my friend from Massachusetts has done when the House has condemned him from the Chair today?

I remember when my friend Mr. Wilson lost his temper. I do remember it. And I remember him apologizing for it because he didn't want to bring shame on this institution.

I would welcome any time the Chair admonishes either side of the aisle for violating our rules, coarsening our debate, doing those things that we all agree we don't want our children to see on TV, I welcome folks to correct that behavior.

Mr. Speaker, I fear my comments are falling on deaf ears, but I hope I am mistaken.

Parliamentary Inquiry

While my friend from Texas is sometimes known for running over the gavel at the end of her comments, it is only because it comes from the heart. When I think about Members in this institution who are unhampered by a lack of passion, I think of my friend from Texas. But when I look for an honest broker, who will be true to her word and partner when partnership is required, my friend from Texas embodies that, as well. I appreciate both her words and her restraint here this morning.


Mr. WOODALL. I yield to the gentlewoman from Texas.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I thank my friend from Texas. I think that is a welcome invitation.

Mr. Speaker, thinking about the policies before us today, if we defeat the previous question, I will amend the rule to bring H.R. 3965 to the floor.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, you have heard a lot about the controversial citizenship question in the Census. Whether or not it should be controversial is a different issue altogether.

Mr. Speaker, again, I regret that there is so much that is packed into this rule. It is one of the reasons I urged defeat of the rule today.

Everyone in this Chamber wants to vote to have this debate on the national intelligence reauthorization bill. Everybody wants to be a part of that. Again, 31 amendments made in order will improve that bill, a bipartisan product coming out of a very contentious committee.

The rest of these issues are more complex. And I don't mean complex because we shouldn't discuss them. We should. I mean complex because we haven't discussed them.

I think I am prepared to yield time if the gentleman needs it. I know my friend from Maryland is not the author of the resolution condemning the President, but the gentleman mentioned my friend from Texas (Mr. Olson) and Mr. Olson's comments on the Republican side of the aisle.

I ask the gentleman, was Mr. Olson consulted to try to create the language that we see before us today?

I yield to the gentleman from Maryland.


Mr. WOODALL. Was the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Olson) consulted as we tried to draft this language that is before us today?

I yield to the gentleman.


Mr. WOODALL. Reclaiming my time, was Mr. Upton, who the gentleman referenced as having sympathetic words to say, was the gentleman consulted about the drafting of this resolution?

I yield to the gentleman.


Mr. WOODALL. Reclaiming my time, so Mr. Kasich was also not consulted and Ms. Murkowski also not consulted.

Mr. Speaker, if we are talking about a serious issue and we are going to craft a serious response and we want to speak with one voice from this institution, might it be a good idea for there to be at least one conversation between Democrats and Republicans about how to proceed?

Might it be a good idea to have more than one conversation?

Might it be a good idea to put partisanship aside and actually do those things that I know my friend from Maryland wants to do and I want to do arm in arm with him?

We keep missing opportunities in this Congress, Mr. Speaker, opportunities to make this institution stronger, opportunities to make this Nation stronger. We are missing them, and we are creating scars along the way.

What could be an operation in building trust has become an operation in building distrust.

What could be an operation designed to heal, I suspect, is going to be an operation that brings more needless pain.

We have a good bill in the intelligence reauthorization, Mr. Speaker. We have a good series of bills in arms export control. We could be down here talking about those because of the bipartisan work that has gone into it already.

Not one conversation has been had between tweets over a weekend and a resolution condemning those on the floor of the House, not one effort made to speak with one voice in the United States House. That tells you just about everything someone needs to know about why this resolution is on the floor with these two contempt resolutions in this place at this time.

Mr. Speaker, I urge defeat of the rule. I urge defeat of the previous question.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.