Providing for Consideration of Hr. United States Export Finance Agency Act of and for Other Purposes

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 14, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

I want to tell a different story, Mr. Speaker. You and I haven't gotten a chance to work together down here when I have really gotten to come down here and really sell these rules, because back when I was in the majority on the Rules Committee, we didn't always get it right; but, as a rank-and-file member of the committee, I always had a chance to improve the bill, to make it better, to try to hear some voices.

My friend from Florida is not down here with us today. My friend from California knows, the worst thing about having Alcee Hastings on your committee is that he gets all fired up and all geared up, and you almost get upset because so often he is right, and he is pointing out your flaws and he is making you do it better. We need more of that from one another, Mr. Speaker, where we get ourselves wound up, not about Republicans and Democrats, but about how to do the process better.

I know that your week and my friend from California's week has been just like my week. It started out with Veterans Day events back home in your district. And you didn't find a man or a woman who said, ``Let's do better for Republican veterans but not so much for Democratic veterans,'' or vice versa. You found men and women who were proud of their service. You found men and women who wanted to support those men and women who had served us. You found folks grateful for our opportunities to be in community with one another and do better tomorrow than we did yesterday.

Then we showed up here on Tuesday after Veterans Day break and we started with our suspension calendar.

For the life of me, I don't understand why this institution hides all the good things that it does and accentuates all the controversial things it does. If we took a poll outside the Capitol today, Mr. Speaker, I just want to ask you, and I want to make sure I get it right: How many folks walking past the Capitol today know that, in a bipartisan way, you and I and the gentleman from California came together on Tuesday and passed General Bergman's GI Bill Planning Act to ease the burden on new servicemembers as they try to sort out accessing their education benefits?

This is an important issue that has been plaguing our veterans. We have been talking about it here in this institution. We got together on Monday, and we did it together. Not one headline, not one 6 p.m. news story. Republicans and Democrats standing together in this House on behalf of veterans who were not being served as well as we knew we could serve them, we fixed it together, but that is not what we are talking about.

How many folks, Mr. Speaker, if we go outside today, are going to know that we passed Ms. Brownley's Deborah Sampson Act, which recognizes the different needs that women veterans and newborn children have and established a department within the VA to make sure those needs are met?

Yes, the VA was formed as a male-centric institution. Of course, in 2019, there are going to be needs that were unmet. We have known that. We have talked about that. We have pushed that down the road. But this House this week came together, Republicans and Democrats, to solve that issue once and for all, but I challenge you to find somebody standing outside who knows that is what their U.S. House of Representatives has been working on this week.

What about Mr. Cunningham's VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act? You have the same concerns in your veterans community that I do, Mr. Speaker: folks trying to file their appeals, trying to get in touch with those hearing boards, but because their mobility is limited, because they are distant from those population centers, they can't get that done. Mr. Cunningham's bill improves the ability to do that with the telecommunications that are available to us in 2019.

Of course, we should have gotten that done. Of course, we should have. We have been working on it; we have been perfecting it. This week, this House, Republicans and Democrats, came together and did that for veterans, too.

Mr. Harder's Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act, to ensure that family members of servicemen and -women and Active-Duty reservists who were killed or seriously injured on Active Duty are allowed to terminate their financial dealings back home in a way that is easy.

My father passed away last summer, Mr. Speaker. It is incredibly difficult when you lose a family member to deal with all of those end- of-life issues, all of those financial issues. The last thing our service families need to be dealing with is sorting through all of that paperwork.

We have now come together in a collaborative partnership way to solve that issue. I challenge you to find a man or woman outside the Capitol who knows that.

Now, why do I tell you that story, Mr. Speaker? I tell you that story because that was just Monday and Tuesday, a little bit of Wednesday, and we are not talking about that on the floor of this House. Instead, I am down here today to talk about the Ex-Im Bank bill, which is an important bill, an important bill that we could have done in a bipartisan way but didn't.

I don't know if you remember those headlines. I brought them down here with me, Mr. Speaker, if you don't recall them. This is when we produced the bipartisan Ex-Im Bank bill, the one that was going to committee, the one that Chairwoman Waters and Ranking Member McHenry worked out together in a bipartisan way back in June: ``Export-Import Bank Deal in Peril Amid Democratic Backlash.''

The bipartisan bill that had been worked out didn't meet the standards of some in the Democratic Caucus. The bill got pulled back.

``Democrats Defy Waters on Ex-Im Bank Restrictions''. Again, this is a bill to reform the Ex-Im Bank. It imposed some new restrictions. The Democratic Caucus pushed back. The bipartisan bill was pulled.

What we have before us today, Mr. Speaker, is a bill that is completely partisan in its passage. The only thing that is bipartisan about the bill today is the folks that voted against it. Republicans and Democrats said: No, this is not the right bill. Only Democrats said: This is the right bill.

All of these things we could be doing in partnership, things like Ex- Im Bank that started in partnership. It seems we go out of our way to focus on our divisions instead of our successes.

So when we went to the Rules Committee in the midst of all of these great veterans bills passing the floor of the House, we advocated to make improvements to the Ex-Im Bank bill. Again, this was a bill that started out as a bipartisan bill, a collaborative bill, one that had been sorted out between Republicans and Democrats so that we could move forward, and it turned into a partisan bill.

We went up to the Rules Committee to try to get some Republican amendments made in order to try to improve the bill in some way.

I know it is popular, and the lore back home is if you are in a different party, you don't have anything productive to add to the debate. I hear that at some county meetings, and I am sure my friends on the other side of the aisle do, too. It is just nonsense.

Having good ideas does not have a Republican or Democratic requirement to it. Folks on both sides of the aisle have something to offer.

But when Republicans brought their ideas to the Rules Committee, Mr. Speaker, with the exception of two Republican amendments, every other idea was rejected. Every other idea was rejected.

Now, that is the way it went in committee, too, Mr. Speaker. If you weren't following the committee hearings, the amendments in committee the Republicans offered were rejected on a party-line vote.

They had their chance in the Rules Committee to improve upon it. Those amendments: rejected one by one.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, and it gives me no pleasure to say this, because my chairman on the Rules Committee works very hard, the last two rules I have been down here to talk about, Republicans got the same number or even a few more amendments than Democrats got. It was the first time it had happened that I had been down here carrying such a rule, and it did bring some partnership back to the institution.

But for this bill, the Ex-Im Bank, how do we finance trade in America, not a partisan issue, we have got individual Democratic Members who have been offered more amendments personally than the entire Republican Party has collectively. Let me say that again, Mr. Speaker, because this institution is divided roughly down the middle here. I have got individual Members of the Democratic Party who have been offered personally more opportunities to change and improve this bill than the entire Republican side of the aisle combined. Combined. It is as if we go out of our way to find division in what ought to be partnership issues.

Eighty-one percent of the amendments that are offered are Democratic amendments; 17 Democratic amendments made in order, two Republican amendments, two bipartisan amendments.

The funny thing about this institution, Mr. Speaker, and you see it better from your chair than any of us do from our chairs, is that if you are in the majority, you get to win. Two things are important to winning. Being in the majority means you have the votes. Now you have to bring a good idea to pair with those votes. You can carry the day.

We have gotten into that habit, Mr. Speaker, of having all Republicans or all of Democrats carry the bills one direction or the other.

Where are those opportunities, like we did on veteran bill after veteran bill after veteran bill on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, to come together and do things collaboratively?

I will give you another example. I don't understand what the self- loathing is from time to time here, Mr. Speaker, that prevents us from celebrating what is the most democratic institution in the world today.

This rule that we are talking about today hides deep within it an extension of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The Select Committee on Modernization is a bipartisan committee, it is the only one we have right now, Mr. Speaker, equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Why? Because they are not working on partisan issues. They are trying to improve the institution. They are trying to improve the process. They are trying to make this institution work better for the American people.

It is led by two great Members of this institution: Derek Kilmer out of Washington State, Tom Graves out of the great State of Georgia. Mr. Kilmer is a Democrat, Mr. Graves is a Republican. They have been leading this committee in partnership together, tackling thorny issue after thorny issue in a collaborative way.

The House only authorized the committee for a year. This rule gives them a second year. It is a great idea, it is a great thing to do.

Because this is a rule and because it contains all of these provisions that completely shut out Republican contributions on the Financial Services legislation that is before us today, it is going to pass on a party-line vote. All the Democrats are going to vote ``yes,'' many having not read it, as is the function of rules, all Republicans are going to vote ``no.''

We have a chance here to have taken that language out, to have done that together, to have talked about the successes we have had collaboratively on the Modernization Committee. We are missing that chance today.

I am not enough of a failed student in mathematics, Mr. Speaker, to believe that I am going to prevail on the vote on the rule today. I have done the math again in my head. They still have more votes than we have. I am prepared to lose.

What I am not prepared to do is give up on doing better.

I challenge my friends on both sides of the aisle to find a partisan advantage in extending the Modernization Committee hidden inside the rule instead of having that debate on the floor of the House. You won't find it there.

I challenge the body to find a partisan advantage to spending 10 minutes on Tuesday talking about serving veterans in a bipartisan way and spending 2 hours on Thursday and Friday talking about financial services in a way that could have been bipartisan, but instead has been converted to a strictly partisan issue, and to add insult to injury, has denied all but two Republican amendments and bipartisan voices to the debate.

I know that habits are difficult things to break. Some of the bad habits that we are in in this institution started under Republican leadership, some of the bad habits that we are in in this institution started under Democratic leadership.

If we want to have a day of debate on who is to blame, I have a pretty good idea how those lines would fall out. I am not interested in that day of debate. I am interested in a day of debate not talking about who is to blame, but talking about how we are working together to fix it.

Because I don't know if your constituency is anything like mine, but my constituency is starting to think that we have given up working together to fix it. When my constituency turns on Fox News or MSNBC, that is not what the talking head of the day is talking about.

The thing that keeps me up at night, Mr. Speaker, isn't all the things we are voting against, it is all the things we miss an opportunity to vote for, those things that, because we are here in community together today, we have an opportunity to fix.

I have got one for you, if you are interested and if you haven't had a chance to take a look at it. It is the Adoptee Citizenship Act, Mr. Speaker. It is just crazy to me.

The best part of this job, as my friend from California knows, is that really smart people spend time with us to make us smarter.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act, it is H.R. 2731, is a bill that my Democratic colleague, Adam Smith, and I have offered together. When American families adopted children from overseas in the 1970s and 1980s, those children didn't automatically get citizenship.

You would think an American family adopts a child, that child has American parents, they are going to become an American citizen. Not so, Mr. Speaker. It is an incredibly long process.

Now, in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn't care that much about that, but fast forward to September 11, 2001, we started talking a lot about citizenship status, only to find out that thousands upon thousands of Americans didn't have their citizenship because their parents didn't know they had to file all of this additional paperwork.

Now, who among us is opposed to letting American families that have been American families for 40 years, citizens who were adopted into American families, get that citizenship document and live the normal life that we all thought they were supposed to be living here? H.R. 2731.

The list of things that we do collaboratively, cooperatively that make differences for the American people is as long as any statement anyone is going to read on the floor of the House today, and it is not going to be what we celebrate this week.

The last vote today is at 2 o'clock. We are going to do amendment debate for the rest of the day. If we don't start spending more time on this floor celebrating those things that we are doing together, Mr. Speaker, we are going to lose the confidence of our constituency back home. I dare say, for many families, they have lost confidence in us already.

I don't shy away from the serious fights we are going to have down here at all. This is supposed to be a place where serious people come together and disagree about some ideas and sort it all out.

What I take issue with is when we stop trying to sort it all out and when we send the message back home that instead of succeeding on behalf of our bosses, we are actually just arguing amongst ourselves. It is not true. It is not true.

We are missing another opportunity today, as our ranking member said in the Rules Committee debate last night, to do better. I know that we have men and women on this floor, in this institution who want to do better.

Can we fix it this afternoon? Maybe not. Will we fix it if we stop focusing on it? Definitely not.

My commitment to my colleagues, for better or for worse, is that I will spend my next 14 months focusing on it as long as my friend from California continues to yield me 30 minutes in the Rules Committee debate, for which I am grateful.


Mr. WOODALL. It devolved from that so that, as it passed out of committee, it is not a bipartisan bill.

The only thing bipartisan about this bill is the opposition to it. Republicans and Democrats opposed it in committee. Only Democrats support it because of the partisan turn that it took.

He offered two amendments in the Rules Committee that would have brought bipartisan support to this bill.



Mr. Speaker, I do enjoy working with my friend from California. When I am critical of our work product, I am critical of all 13 of us on the Rules Committee. We are tasked with getting the job done, and when we don't get it done, it falls on all of us.

I was critical earlier today of stuffing so many things into this rule because I like to do things one at a time. But if we are going to stuff all the things into this rule, Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleagues that if we defeat the previous question, I will add one more into this rule. It will be a collaborative effort, not a Republican effort, a collaborative effort. If we defeat the previous question, Mr. Speaker, I will add an amendment that will bring to the floor H.R. 2207. That is the Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2019, which most of my colleagues know is the bill to prevent the medical device tax, eliminate that tax.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I told you this was a bipartisan piece of legislation. It has 253 bipartisan cosponsors. It is authored by a Democrat from Wisconsin, a great Member, Mr. Kind, and it makes a real difference to so many Americans. I can't explain it as well as my friend from Indiana can.

Mr. Speaker, I can't say it any better than my friend from Oklahoma said it. He supports the goal of the underlying bill. He is going to oppose this rule because his ideas were not even heard, not that his ideas weren't put into the language, but that he was not even allowed a chance to debate his ideas.

I will say it again: Only two Republican ideas were made in order for consideration in this rule, and more amendments were given to individual members of the Democratic Party than the entire Republican Party combined. That is not the way we ought to be doing things. We ought to have a full airing of issues and concerns.

You heard it from the gentleman from Oklahoma, vote ``no'' on the rule. But also vote ``no'' on the previous question.

Mr. Speaker, you heard from my friend from Indiana. We have an opportunity in a bipartisan way to solve a nationwide problem by eliminating the medical device tax. Everybody from the far left to the far right knows it; from the east, to the west, to the north, to the south. We can do this together.

If we have to do this closed rule that eliminates the diversity of ideas in this institution, then let's at least do it with the medical device tax language included.

Vote ``no'' on the previous question. Add that language. If we can't defeat the previous question, I am going to have to ask my colleagues to defeat the rule and see if we can't come back with a process that opens up this bill to more voices; not just from across the parties, but from across the country.

We can do better than this. My colleagues know it, as do I.


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.