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

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 26, 2019
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from New York for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I am usually pretty excited to be down here on the House floor talking about the rule. It is always an opportunity to set the stage for what the House is getting ready to do, and this is a body that is filled with men and women who want to get something done. The honor that Mr. Morelle and I have to come down and always begin that conversation is a special one.

Today, unfortunately, we are not coming down here to get new business done. We are coming down here on the exact same language that we have already considered this year, the exact same language that the House has already passed this year, the exact same language that the President has already vetoed this year, and absolutely no expectation that anything different is going to happen this time.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about emergencies, the irony is not lost on me that I do consider it to be an emergency when thousands upon thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the southern border in need of housing, in need of healthcare, and in need of food, clothing, and care.

I do consider it an emergency when we have a southern border that is porous, that is the transit point for drugs, for human trafficking, and for weapons trafficking. I do consider that an emergency.

My friends on the other side of the aisle take issue with the President and his declaration of that emergency. Again, the irony is that we had an emergency meeting in the Rules Committee last night so that we could come down here and declare this a nonemergency.

It is a bipartisan, bicameral goal to provide safety and security on every border of the United States of America. I would encourage my colleagues to take a look at what happened in this body yesterday.

Again, I thank my friend from New York for his role in it on the Rules Committee. We brought a resolution to the floor with the rule that was going to demand the production of documents from the White House. When we considered that resolution in the Rules Committee, it was full of partisan accusation after partisan accusation after partisan accusation before it got down to a request for a document.

That was going to come to the floor, and it was going to pass, but it was going to pass in a strictly partisan vote. I would argue that diminishes the institution and diminishes the cause that the majority was seeking.

To the majority's credit, during consideration of the rule, they rescinded all of those whereases, took all the partisan material out of that resolution, brought the very same document request to the floor, and it passed unanimously.

There is so much that we have in common, Mr. Speaker, that gets overshadowed by the partisan nonsense that occurs here day in and day out.

I want to ask my friends--and I regret that I didn't do it last night in the Rules Committee; I should have--to take a look at H.R. 1410.

H.R. 1410 is a bipartisan bill that does what I know we both want to do as Article I Members, and that has changed the language of the National Emergencies Act so that Congress does reclaim the power from the administration.

Today, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the President gets to decide what is an emergency. We delegated that authority to him. Right or wrong, the Congress--not this Congress, but a previous Congress--delegated that opportunity.

Mr. Reed from New York, again, in a bipartisan way, introduced language in February of this year, as this was unfolding the first time, to say let's fix this language once and for all. Let's not have ourselves in a partisan debate on the House floor about whether we like what one President or another did. Let's reclaim Article I's power and decide that no President is going to be able to disburse funds as he or she seats fit, that Congress is going to reclaim that responsibility.

To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1410 has not moved through committee. It certainly has not been considered by the Rules Committee, and it certainly is not headed to this floor.

We have a choice, Mr. Speaker. We can continue to find things to argue about, or we can unite around those things that we all know to be right.

I don't disagree with my friends on the other side of the aisle who want to reclaim Article I's authority. I share that goal, support that goal, and would gladly apply my vote to that goal.

What I do disagree with is a Congress that has failed to create a functioning budget process--that is functioning by continuing resolution now through November--and, instead of responding to what I think are very legitimate requests from this White House for additional resources on the southern border, has chosen again to bring a bill that may well pass this House but will not be signed by the President and will not impact the future goings on in this government, as I know we all want to do.

Mr. Speaker, I am not certain that I disagree with my friend from New York about the language being used as it was intended; what I am certain about is the language is being used as it is written. It is incumbent upon this Congress, if we don't like the way the laws were drafted--that we drafted--that we go back and we change those laws.

As the Speaker well knows, yesterday, we dealt with marijuana on the floor of the House. We didn't decide we were going to repeal the schedule I classification of marijuana. We just decided that, for those States that were ignoring Federal law, we were going to let them ignore more Federal law, too, and go ahead and get involved in the banking system as well.

It is lost upon me why it is that this body has concluded that, rather than changing things we don't like, we should just ignore those things or complain about those things. It is the United States Congress, and we have an opportunity to do things. We weren't elected to talk about it. We were elected to get it done, and I know my friend from New York shares that same passion.

Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question today, we will have an opportunity to get something done together. If we defeat the previous question, I will bring up an amendment to the rule to make in order debate on S. 820, the Debbie Smith Act of 2019.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, this authorization language is set to expire at the end of this month, and it provides Federal grants to States to reduce the DNA backlog in criminal investigations.

You don't have to turn on two news stations in your district, Mr. Speaker, just turn on one. You will see the impact of what going back and testing that DNA using technologies that are available today that were not available years ago has meant, particularly in rape and sexual assault cases.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, we have subject matter experts and almost everything in this institution, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to yield to one of our passionate advocates and experts on this issue. I yield 5 minutes to the gentlewoman from Missouri (Mrs. Wagner).

Mr. Speaker, again, I enjoy working with the gentleman from New York. When I think about folks who are able to work across the aisle to get things done around here, the gentleman from New York is up at the top of that list.

If you have not tuned into the Rules Committee, Mr. Speaker, number one, shame on you. It is a vibrant discussion. It happens every Monday at 5 o'clock, at least once, if not twice, at least for an hour, if not for 5 or 6. It is rare that Mr. Morelle is questioning witnesses up there that I don't learn something new, that I don't gain from his perspective.

He is absolutely right when he talks about the resolution that the Rules Committee is trying to send to the floor being a bipartisan resolution. When it passed the United States Senate, there were 11 Republicans who supported it along with all of the Democrats.

What Mrs. Wagner is proposing that we replace it with isn't something that was passed by just 11 bipartisan votes; it is something that was passed unanimously, Mr. Speaker.

It is true what my friend from New York says; we included this language in the VAWA bill that passed the House earlier. That was a partisan exercise, too. That bill hasn't moved through the United States Senate.

In contrast to decades of reauthorizations here, Mr. Speaker, where this DNA testing authorization passes as a standalone bill with broad, bipartisan support, this Congress, this year, for reasons unbeknownst to me, decided to play a political game with it.

What Mrs. Wagner is offering us the opportunity to do is to bring a bill that passed unanimously in the United States Senate to the House floor, where it can pass unanimously here, too.

Again, my friend from New York is right. What this Congress has done is provide funding for this bill all the way through the month of November--not the entire month of November, but 3 weeks in November. That is absolutely true that Congress has done this important work for at least a month and a half.

What Mrs. Wagner is offering us the opportunity to do is do this important work for another 5 years, which I know my friends on the other side want to do.

To speak on this issue, I told my friend from New York that I didn't have any speakers on the underlying bill. It is true. I expect that to be another partisan exercise. But on this language, Mr. Speaker, I do have another speaker.

I know my friend from Maine to be an eloquent speaker. I thought that was classic Morelle there. It sounded exactly like what I would have expected my friend to say.

As you would imagine, Mr. Speaker, I don't disagree with Senator Collins, and I don't disagree with Mr. Morelle. That is just not what this resolution does.

Whenever anybody starts talking about constitutional law--that is why I thought it was classic Morelle, Mr. Speaker, because he knows how much the law gets me going. He is not a lawyer and makes that point regularly in the Rules Committee, but I am, and when we start talking about the foundation of self-governance in this country I get excited.

But this isn't a resolution about a constitutional question, Mr. Speaker. Read this resolution: Pursuant to section 202 of the National Emergencies Act--that is the act that this Congress passed in a previous Congress and a previous President signed--the national emergency declared by the finding of the President on February 15 is hereby terminated.

That is exactly one of the procedures that can be used--one of three--to end a Presidential declaration of emergency. What we are doing here today has nothing to do with reclaiming powers of Article I. We are just following the law that folks already wrote. We are just following the law that folks already have said is insufficient.

If you believe this law is insufficient, as I do, Mr. Speaker, and as I know the majority does, H.R. 1410 is the bill to bring to the floor to reclaim our power that we delegated away.

If you believe it is unconstitutional, the Court is the place to go and reclaim that power.

This resolution simply says we disagree. It is the same one we passed earlier this year. It is the same one the President vetoed earlier this year. And we are going to have that same conversation again.

I pledge to my friend on the other side of the aisle, when we get ready to reclaim constitutional power, count me in. I told my friend that in the Rules Committee 2 days ago that I wanted to support Article 1 over Article 2. I cast that vote yesterday. I will cast that vote again tomorrow.

But, Mr. Speaker, what my amendment will do if we defeat the previous question is in no way a partisan exercise. It is in no way a divisive exercise. It is not even the subject of disagreement passing unanimously out of the United States Senate and historically passing unanimously out of this House. As my good friend from North Dakota described, it has been passed by Republican Congresses and signed by Democratic Presidents; it has been passed by Democratic Congresses and signed by Republican Presidents.

We do not disagree on the need to provide these dollars to those communities to reduce that DNA backlog. I don't understand why since May of this year when the Senate passed it unanimously this House has failed to take it up at all.

Instead of spending our time taking up a bill that was unanimously passed by the Senate and never considered here in the House, we are using our time to take up a bill that has already been passed by the House once and vetoed by the President once, so that we can pass it by the House again and have it vetoed by the President again.

I get the headlines. I understand what the press releases look like. I watch the Twitter feeds. I see the Facebook posts. I get the communications narrative of ``look at us and look what we are doing.'' I just grow weary of it, as I know my friends on other side of the aisle do, too.

I am ready to be out of the business of ``look at what I am saying.'' I am ready to get out of the business of ``look at what I am passing.'' I am ready to get into the business of ``look at what we are doing together that is getting signed into law and actually making a difference.''

S.J. Res. 54 won't fall into that category. It didn't in the spring, and it doesn't today.

But DNA testing does, Mr. Speaker. I urge my colleagues to think about what our choices are today: go down the same road we have been down already and do nothing. Or go down a road that we have traveled in a bipartisan way in every single authorization going back decades, and let's repeat that success together today.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to close, and I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, it pleases me to see you in the chair. It has been a Northwestern day so far, but the State of Washington has a proud tradition on the Rules Committee.

A lot of folks don't understand what the Rules Committee does up there. If you look over here on this side of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, it looks like a representative sample of most of the Congress, but, really, it is a lot of folks with some Rules Committee passion. You can't get to the House floor without going through the Rules Committee.

As I think back on folks who have served, I certainly think about Doc Hastings as being in that category that labored on the Rules Committee year after year.

Mr. Newhouse labored on the Rules Committee, and I appreciate him being down here to bring us to a close.

It is important what we do on the Rules Committee. We bring two kinds of bills to this floor, Mr. Speaker.

We bring things that are worked through the process. They are collaborative; they are agreeable. We get everybody on board, and we bring those under the suspension calendar. That is that calendar for things that we have already sorted out.

Then there are those bills that we hadn't quite sorted out, those things that might be a little controversial. In fact, when we bring a rule to the floor, almost every rule vote is an entirely partisan vote because of disagreements about the way the underlying process was structured.

In the alternative, we are going to bring a resolution that has already passed this institution, only to be vetoed. It will pass this institution again, only to be vetoed.

We often talk about how many legislative days we have left on the calendar. We often talk about what it is that we can get done together. In fact, I just came from a hearing on civility in the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress with folks bemoaning how partisanship gets in the way of productivity.

Candidly, I don't see that in most of my day. The men and women on both sides of the aisle that I have the honor of working with day in and day out, Mr. Speaker, prioritize productivity over partisanship across the board.

But as the gentleman from New York (Mr. Morelle), my friend, observed in his football analogy, there is a quarterback who calls the plays in this institution. That quarterback calls the plays, and one team runs with the quarterback, and the other team runs against them.

This happened for decade upon decade upon decade. Occasionally, Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to get outside of that ``who is going to score, who is going to win, who is going to lose.'' We have an opportunity for us all to win, for us all to win.

Support the previous question today, and we are going to have another opportunity for one side to claim victory, one side to claim defeat, and nothing to get done for the American people. But defeat the previous question, have my amendment added to the rule, and then pass that rule, and we have an opportunity to do something that I say with no doubt every single Member of this institution believes needs to be done.

The choice is with the Members as they vote here in just a few minutes. Defeat this previous question, and then let's pass the rule.

In the absence of that, Mr. Speaker, if the previous question is not defeated, then we are going to have to defeat this rule, lest we go through the same partisan exercise that this House has already gone through time and time again this year.

Mr. Speaker, I again thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Morelle), my friend, both for his friendship and for his mentorship. He says he never gets tired of visiting with me on the House floor, Mr. Speaker, but inevitably, he only yields me 30 minutes and keeps the rest of the time for himself. I don't fault him for that. I am actually grateful for that.


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

The yeas and nays were ordered.