Providing for Consideration of H.R. Corporate Transparency Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 22, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I thank my friend from Colorado (Mr. Perlmutter) for yielding me the time.

I don't want to take up too much time, because I know we have the chairwoman here. And as the gentleman from Colorado pointed out, she is one of the most studied Members in this Chamber on this topic.

We did meet in the Rules Committee last night. And for the second week in a row, Madam Speaker, we have brought rules out of the Rules Committee that gave the minority a voice that we have not seen throughout this Congress.

Candidly, the record of open rules in the Chamber has been abysmal on both sides of the aisle. I don't believe while Paul Ryan was Speaker, Republicans on the Rules Committee made a single open rule in order, and that has certainly been the way that things have continued in the Pelosi majority.

But I want to mention to my colleagues, as learned as the chairwoman is, I believe that Members in this Chamber have something to offer on these topics. And I just want to remind the Chamber that in 1970, when we passed the Bank Secrecy Act to begin with--that is the bill that this bill before us today amends, Madam Speaker, a very small portion of the Bank Secrecy Act that this bill amends--we brought the Bank Secrecy Act to the floor under an open rule, 2 hours of general debate, and then amended it under the 5-minute rule, ended up passing that bill unanimously out of this Chamber.

As my friend from Colorado knows, Madam Speaker, we had witnesses in the Rules Committee last night who had ideas that they wanted to have considered on the floor of the House by all of their colleagues, ideas that I would tell you deserve consideration.

The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Davidson), my friend, brought an amendment that said, Listen--as you heard the gentleman from Colorado discuss earlier--this is the creation of a new government database for the purpose of law enforcement querying it for its enforcement activities.

What my friend from Ohio said is, If this is going to be a law enforcement database, if we are creating new government databases, if we are creating them for the sole purpose of law enforcement to query them for the sole purpose of engaging in criminal prosecutions, shouldn't we ask for a warrant to query that database, just like we would ask law enforcement for a warrant in any other investigation? These are, after all, American citizens.

Perhaps, because I don't serve on the Financial Services Committee, Madam Speaker, I don't fully understand the ramifications of that, but I am not afraid of this body considering it in its collective wisdom. And I am disappointed that even as broad as the rule was, even the amendments that were made in order, Mr. Davidson is not going to have a chance to talk about this question of fundamental civil liberties, which, again, I know is important, from the most liberal Democrat in this Chamber to the most conservative Republican.

There was a time in this Chamber where we thought enough of ourselves as a body and had enough respect for one another as individuals that we were not afraid of the open rule process. There is enough blame to go around on both sides of that. I am not proud of the Republican record of the last several years, but I do believe, and I would say to my friend from Colorado, because he has outsized influence on the committee, this would be the kind of bill where we could begin that open-rule process, a very narrowly tailored bill designed to do very specific things.

I will go one more: I offered an amendment last night, Madam Speaker, to allow consideration of an amendment from another Member of this body who thought that we should have a cost-benefit analysis done of this bill. I mean, undeniably, there is a paperwork burden associated with it. That is uncontested.

So the idea was, because we are doing this on behalf of the American people, do the costs outweigh the benefits or do the benefits outweigh the cost. Candidly, my constituency back home would imagine that we have that conversation about every piece of legislation that we pass every day. Of course, the Members of this Chamber know that we don't.

That amendment was offered for consideration. It was defeated on a party-line vote, not the nature of the amendment itself, Madam Speaker, but even the ability to discuss it. I don't think any of my colleagues would say that the legislative calendar of the last week has been so aggressive that they have no bandwidth to consider either civil liberties on the one hand or cost-benefit analysis on the other. I think we do have that bandwidth.

And I recognize that in this culture of outrage that we are in, Madam Speaker, this culture of offense that we have gotten ourselves into, it is oftentimes true that in political discussions, folks will believe that they can never do good enough. However good a rule the gentleman from Colorado crafts, the other side is always going to say, Well, you could have done better. I recognize that. In fact, that was confessed from the witness table last night. The gentleman from Ohio said, Listen, I have been trying to defeat this bill because I disagree with it on its merits.

Now, if we are going to pass this bill, I think we should protect civil liberties. And I am afraid my civil liberties concerns are being dismissed because I have developed a reputation for wanting to kill the bill altogether. We recognize that is a very real circumstance that we have before us. But when we pass the underlying legislation, the Bank Secrecy Act, I will remind my colleagues, again, we came together and did it unanimously, because it is important.

The chairwoman of the subcommittee put together a big bipartisan majority to move this legislation out of her committee. She recognizes how important that is. There are so many opportunities for us to divide ourselves in this Chamber, in this day. It is my regret that we have not taken this opportunity where the bill was so narrow, where the topic was so tailored, and where the expertise that is so obvious, to those of us in the Chamber who don't have it as to which Members do have it, that we did not allow a more full-throated debate on this issue.

For that reason, Madam Speaker, I will be opposing the rule, but I very much would like to get to consideration of the underlying bill. We offered an amendment last night to do this in an open rule. That amendment was rejected. Our ranking member offered it. It was rejected on a party-line vote.

Let us recognize that we are including more voices today than this Congress has historically included. This is, again, for only the second time this year that I remember, there being as many voices included as there are. But that is a step in the right direction. It is not the goal. The goal is to allow every Member, each one of us representing 700,000 American citizens whose voice needs to be heard, to come to the floor and have that debate.

Part of the reason you see the floor is empty, as you do today, Madam Speaker, is because folks know the word has already gone out. Folks have already seen the literature. They know their voices have already been shut out. Those Members who have offered improvements, they know they have already been rejected. They know there will not be a chance for their voice to be heard, and, thus, they are not on the floor today to pursue it.

So, again, to my friend from Colorado, I would ask him to use his influence. I know we can do it. I know we can be better.

And this, again, because of the chairwoman's expertise, because of the bipartisan way it moved through committee, this would have been the way, this would have been the time for us to begin trying to expect more of ourselves. And we have not taken advantage of that this time. I hope that we will not miss that opportunity next time.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I am willing to stipulate that almost everything my two friends have just said is absolutely true. Law enforcement absolutely supports this provision. Law enforcement absolutely believes pursuing criminals will be easier under this provision.

Now, it would also be easier if we allowed folks to kick in everybody's door, but we don't. Protecting civil liberties is about protecting American citizens.

I am not even here today arguing that we have to include the amendment for the bill to go to the President's desk. I am here arguing that civil liberties deserve a conversation.

Madam Speaker, we did not come in until noon today. We are not going to burn the midnight oil tonight. We did two small bills last week, in its entirety, coming out of the Rules Committee.

We have the bandwidth to talk about civil liberties. It does not advantage us to pretend that folks who care about civil liberties are somehow a threat to democracy. People who care about civil liberties are the ones who have always protected democracy.

Whenever bad things happen in this country, the pendulum automatically swings in favor of protection of the group against the protection of the civil liberties of the individual.

It happened after 9/11. It happened after Pearl Harbor. It happens time and time again in this country.

What was asked in the Rules Committee is that we take 5 minutes. That is not a figure of speech, Madam Speaker. It is actually 5 minutes that was requested to make the case on the floor that civil liberties were not being appropriately protected in this bill and that we could do better. The answer from the majority was, no, it is not worth 5 minutes.

I stipulate that what my friends have said about the value of this legislation is absolutely true. So, when I offered the amendment that said let's do a cost-benefit analysis to document the truth of that, I expected the answer to be yes. The answer wasn't just no. The answer was, no, we don't even have the ability to do a cost-benefit analysis of this legislation.

Madam Speaker, that is just nonsense. It is nonsense.

I was asking for 5 minutes--literally, 300 seconds--to talk about whether or not American citizens were going to get the value out of this bill that was being suggested. The answer was, no, we don't have 300 seconds to spend talking about it.

I would argue 300 seconds isn't enough. Three hundred seconds isn't enough to talk about civil liberties. Three hundred seconds isn't enough to talk about taxpayer responsibilities. But that was the ask, and that ask was declined.

I can't come to the House floor with many of the rules that I am assigned to carry, Madam Speaker, and make this request because I don't have partners like the two partners that I have today.

You may not have noticed it, Madam Speaker, and you are kind if you tell me that you didn't, but I am the least educated person on this House floor when it comes to this bill. I am the only one who doesn't sit on the committee.

I am, today, down here discussing this with two Members who have dedicated their careers to the improvement of the financial services system in America, and I respect the time and effort they have committed to it. I respect their counsel.

I don't believe these two individuals are threatened by 300 more seconds of debate on any issue. They know what they believe. They know why they believe it. They know why they believe what they believe is good for America, as do Members with opposing opinions.

I can't ask, if we are down here talking about a tax bill, to have an open rule on a Ways and Means bill because that gets more complicated. I can't ask, if we are down here on a Judiciary bill, to have an open rule on a Judiciary bill because that gets more complicated.

What I have today, Madam Speaker, are two Members who have worked in a collaborative, bipartisan way to produce the very best bill they could out of their committee. I am asking for an opportunity for the other several hundred Members of this institution to have a voice in the debate.

Just so that we are clear on what my ask is, Madam Speaker, to make all the amendments in order--all the amendments--to allow for the free and open debate that I am asking for, it would have taken 1,200 more seconds, 20 minutes.

If the majority could have found, in its wisdom, 20 more minutes, every Member of this body could have been heard on an issue that you have heard the subject matter experts testify to how important it is.

We have gotten out of the habit of listening to one another. We have gotten out of the habit of trusting one another. I don't argue that either one of those things has happened without cause and effect. There is a reason we are in the box that we are in. We have to find narrowly tailored pieces of legislation to begin to reverse that cycle. This is one of those narrowly tailored provisions.

It modifies one part--one part--of what the Bank Secrecy Act tried to achieve. The Bank Secrecy Act was brought to the floor under a completely open rule with all voices to be heard. Now, we can't find 20 minutes to have a full-throated debate on this. If we defeat the previous question, I am going to amend the rule.


Mr. WOODALL. It says: Upon adoption of this resolution, the Committees on the Judiciary, Ways and Means, Financial Services, Oversight and Reform, Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence shall suspend pursuing matters referred to by the Speaker in her announcement of September 24, 2019, until such a time as a bill implementing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement becomes law.

That is a lot of text, Madam Speaker, and I am going to yield to one of my colleagues on the Rules Committee and a learned member of the Judiciary Committee to talk about it. But what it says, in effect, is that we have real legislative priorities that are not being met.

We didn't find the 20 minutes for a full-throated debate here. We are not finding the bandwidth to work on a trade deal, the single best trade deal done in my lifetime, a trade deal supported by the leadership in this House, the leadership in the Senate, and by the White House, a trade deal that is going to make real differences to men and women across this country, in your district and in mine.

It says let's stop the nonsense, let's stop the partisanship, and let's focus on some things that every single citizen in this country cares about. Let's prioritize that, and perhaps, in doing so, we will build some trust.

Madam Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentlewoman from Arizona (Mrs. Lesko), my friend from the Rules Committee, to discuss this amendment in detail.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, you and I don't get to be down here on the rule together very often, and so I feel like I have got a fresh ear in you.

My friend from Colorado, he and I discuss these matters all the time, so I understand his tone. It is as if I am saying this bill has no merit because, very often, we are down here and I am saying exactly that.

This is a very different day that we are down here, and I want to say it again if I haven't said it loud enough. The chairwoman has worked incredibly hard to build a partnership on this issue. This bill came out of committee with broad bipartisan support.

Madam Speaker, I don't believe I have handled a rule this year that has had the partisan divide erased and had folks collaborate to make a bill better. All I am asking for is, because we have such a wonderful work product, that we go ahead and let every voice be heard.

In the same way that the gentleman from Colorado is used to me saying a bill has no merit whatsoever, he is used to defending silencing voices. It rolled off his tongue very easily: Oh, Mr. Davidson, he gets to offer another amendment. We don't need his other ideas.

Well, for Pete's sake, he is a gentleman who serves on the Financial Services Committee. He has expertise that you and I do not have. He has a voice that needs to be heard on this floor. It was going to take 300 seconds for him to share it, and the answer was: No, no time for you.

We are better than that. We don't always have the bills to demonstrate it; and what I am saying today is that we have a good, solid work product that addresses a concern that we all agree on. Why can't we make the time to make it better?

They took that time in the Financial Services Committee, both in the two amendments they considered during the markup and in all the off- the-record discussions that have gone on behind closed doors, which are what really make bills better.

I am just asking for the opportunity to get out of the habit of making excuses for why we don't want to hear from our friends and colleagues in this Chamber and getting back into the habit of recognizing not just the merit of their voice, but the responsibility we have to hear their voice.

My friend from Colorado says, if you don't like this bill, just vote ``no.'' Well, there is some good stuff in this bill.

My response would be: If you don't like the amendments I am going to offer, just vote ``no.'' But he used the power of the Rules Committee to silence those voices. We won't even have votes on those amendments.

We have developed bad habits here as legislators. We don't always have the right leaders to lead us out of the corner in which we have strapped ourselves. We have the right leaders today on that side of the aisle, Madam Speaker, and that is why I am asking my colleagues--they wouldn't do it ordinarily, but I am asking my colleagues to defeat the previous question so that we can amend the rule.

And, even better, defeat the rule so we can go back up, have every voice heard, come back to this Chamber, take a few extra minutes, perfect this bill, and then do exactly what the chairwoman wants done and exactly what my friend from Colorado wants done, and that is to send this bill out of this Chamber not with a perfunctory party-line bipartisan vote, but with a full-throated, hearty bipartisan endorsement that says we are speaking with one voice on an issue that is important from corner to corner of this institution.

Madam Speaker, I had hoped that other learned voices would join me today. I find myself alone, and I would say to my friend from Colorado, I am prepared to close if he is.


Mr. WOODALL. Given that I did not hear either an ``amen'' or ``attaboy,'' I am thinking of saying it one more time in hopes that the response is different.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

I want to say this as sincerely as I can. I know my colleagues believe me to be sincere.

We bring a lot of bills to this floor where no effort was made whatsoever to include disparate voices, where the party line, and the party line alone, was the primary consideration. Madam Speaker, that has been a flawed habit when both Republican leaders have sat in that chair and when Democratic leaders have sat in that chair.

That is not the bill we have before us today. The bill we have before us today, I have got a Republican from Georgia serving on the Financial Services Committee; I have got a Democrat from Georgia serving on the Financial Services Committee; and, truth be told, as often as not, they vote the same way on the Financial Services Committee.

I can always tell when good legislation is coming out, because they are not voting with a Republican or Democratic agenda in mind; they are voting with the service of their constituents in Georgia in the forefront of their mind, and they vote side by side and move arm in arm.

We don't always get that opportunity. And so, when we have it today, what a shame it is to waste it and not try to get back in the habit of doing a better job of hearing voices, defeating those that need to be defeated, supporting those that need to be supported, and letting the Chamber work its will.

The National Federation of Independent Business, NFIB, as we all know it, represents mom-and-pop shops across this country. They don't represent mom-and-pop businesses because they think that big businesses are bad. They represent mom-and-pop businesses because they think mom- and-pop businesses are good.

This bill creates a new burden on those small businesses. That is undisputed. The question is: Is the burden worth it or not?

We won't get to hear amendments on civil liberties to decide if it is worth it or not; we won't get to hear amendments on cost-benefit analysis to decide if it is worth it or not. And that is a shame. That is a shame.

But when we have respected Members in this institution, respected policy shops outside of this institution saying, ``Hey, I just want to have my concerns heard by the full House,'' I think it is incumbent upon us to try to find some time to get that done.

I am not encouraging folks to defeat the underlying bill. I am encouraging folks to work with me to perfect the underlying bill so that we can move it forward collaboratively.

Defeat the previous question. Defeat the rule. Take this opportunity to do what all good institutions do.

Madam Speaker, we need good leaders, and we need good followers. We have got the good leaders on the other side of the aisle today to get back in the habit of making every voice heard. What we need are some good followers to defeat this rule and give them a chance to do exactly that.

Madam Speaker, I thank my friend from Colorado for yielding. I thank the chairwoman for her leadership on the issue.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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

The yeas and nays were ordered.


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

The yeas and nays were ordered.