Providing for Consideration of H.R. Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act of Providing for Consideration of H.R. Strength in Diversity Act of Providing for Consideration of H.R. Pregnant Workers Fairness Act; Providing for Consideration of H. Res. Condemning All Forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment As Related to Covid-19; and for Other Purposes

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 15, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

She and I have the pleasure of serving on the Congressional Modernization Committee together--a bipartisan committee--and it is not infrequent that we will have identified a problem and she will have identified a solution, and I will think: Why haven't we come up with that before. And we will move forward in partnership together.

I think that is the way the American people expect this House to run, and doggone it, we are close to getting there today, Mr. Speaker.

But I listened to my colleague as she laid the mantle of blame at the feet of our friends in the Senate and our friends in the White House, for why can't they get more things done?

The truth is we have opportunities here to get things done, and I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, the mantle of responsibility sits with us, and we are missing some of those opportunities today to come together and do things in a partnership way.

Over the weekend, Mr. Speaker, I was with our colleague, Denny Heck from Washington State. We were in a forum on polarization in Congress, and we were talking about what that has meant, how that has come to be, and how legislation is affected by that. Mr. Heck said something that I thought was very profound and not really understood outside of the Halls of Congress. Folks often talk about their partisan achievements, but, he said that--and I will paraphrase him--there is really a special sense of pride that Members take in sorting out those really thorny issues, those issues that you had to come together and work on, those issues where you had to give a little to get a little, and those issues that not just anybody could have solved but that we came together with a unique mix of people at a unique time and that Members take special pride in cracking those hardest of nuts.

I think that is exactly right. The media doesn't cover those successes, I think, with the same glee that partisan bickering is covered, but, absolutely, men and women of conscience in this body take special pride in solving particularly hard problems.

We have an opportunity today, Mr. Speaker, to solve some problems, and I am not sure that we are taking full advantage of that. Principled compromise, Mr. Speaker, does not mean finding the lowest common denominator. It means finding those things that all of our constituents are asking us to do and figuring out how in 435 different districts and different sets of ideas we can meld those things together.

We have in this rule today, Mr. Speaker, a whole host of bills. I miss the days where we did one rule and one bill. I recognize the pandemic has caused some time crunch problems, but I hope that when these masks come off--as I am absolutely certain one day they will--we will return to being a body that can handle one idea at a time and have a full-throated debate on each idea, but this bill makes in order a number of bills.

I will start with H.R. 2639, the Strength in Diversity Act, Mr. Speaker. It must have been said by every Member who spoke yesterday that discrimination is wrong, that it is immoral, that it is unlawful, and that we have to do absolutely everything we can to ensure that American school children are treated equally in our schools. H.R. 2639 purports to do that.

Again, this is an idea that has great bipartisan support. It has moral right on its side. Separate is not equal, and learning from diversity is part of the strength that our Nation provides. I am glad, even though we offered a motion for an open rule so that all Members could have their voices heard, my friends in the majority on the Rules Committee saw fit to make 12 separate amendments in order, including one from my colleague from Georgia (Mr. Allen) that I believe will make this bill better.

The Allen amendment is an opportunity for us to work together and move forward, not just on something that goes to the Senate, Mr. Speaker, but something that goes to the Senate and moves beyond. I have been there, and so I understand the need to say: I have sent my idea to the Senate and the Senate isn't moving it, and shame on the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, if you talk to your friends in this Senate, whether it is a Democratic-led Senate or a Republican-led Senate, they will tell you that if you send them bad ideas they are not going to move them.

We can send good ideas to the United States Senate, Mr. Speaker, good ideas that will move across the floor, ideas that will move to the President's desk and thus ideas that will make a difference. We all grow weary on this floor of talking about things we would like to do, and we often mistake passing something using a very partisan majority in the House as getting something done. It is not. It is absolutely making a statement, but it is getting absolutely nothing done. Only when the Senate acts and only when the President acts are we able to get something done. We have that opportunity with the Allen amendment today, Mr. Speaker, and I hope folks will take advantage of that.

Mr. Speaker, another bill that the rule makes in order is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, H.R. 2694.

Again, there is not a single Member in this body who believes that discrimination is appropriate. This is another opportunity that we had to work in a partnership way to move a bill forward. We all believe it is important for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. We all want what is best for these workers; and, in fact, we heard from the ranking member of the Education and Labor Committee yesterday, Mr. Speaker, that Chairman Scott, the chairman of that committee, had worked to try to make this bill better. The bill is different today than it was when it was introduced because of that partnership effort. Again, any good thing that comes out of this institution comes out in a partnership way.

One more step that, of course, the minority was hoping we could make would be one to protect religious freedoms in this bill, the rights of religious institutions, Mr. Speaker. This is not a radical idea. This is something we have been doing for 50 years when we have talked about nondiscrimination statutes. It is my hope that Chairman Scott, having heard the arguments yesterday in the Rules Committee and having heard from our ranking member, the gentlewoman from North Carolina, Dr. Foxx, that he will take yes for an answer. There is still time to come back and improve this bill and get it across the floor in a very bipartisan, again, partnership way that not just makes it to the Senate but makes it through the Senate on to the President's desk to effect the law as we all desire. I think the American people will thank us if we seize this opportunity to find common ground.

Mr. Speaker, we see this, again, in H. Res. 908 that this rule makes in order today. It condemns all forms of anti-Asian sentiment and bias as it relates to COVID-19. Mr. Speaker, I would encourage you to go and read this resolution. As you know from House resolutions, you have a series of ``and whereases'', and then you have what it is that we want to do.

If you read this series of whereases, you will find it to be as stridently partisan as you often find House resolutions to be, and it is not necessary that it be that way. We all condemn and denounce anti- Asian sentiment, Mr. Speaker, all manifestations of racism, of xenophobia, of scapegoating, and of intolerance. We all condemn those ideas, and we all want Federal law enforcement to play a strong role in ensuring that Asian-American communities across this country are protected and that crimes against them are investigated and properly prosecuted.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, in July of this year I joined, again, in a partnership, bipartisan way Mr. Lieu and Ms. Chu on the Democratic side of the aisle and Mr. Olson and myself on the Republican side of the aisle. We led a letter to Attorney General Barr that included signatories like my friend from Pennsylvania (Ms. Scanlon) asking that the Justice Department bolster its work in this area and to send an unambiguous message to the American people that anti-Asian bias and discrimination will not be tolerated at any level of our government.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, because I do want to highlight those things that we do together not in a partisan way but in a ``let's-get- something-done-together way'', I include in the Record the letter. Congress of the United States, Washington, DC, July 20, 2020. Hon. William P. Barr, Attorney General, Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

Dear Attorney General Barr: Thank you for featuring the quote ``Coronavirus is no excuse for hate'' on the Department of Justice's hate crimes website. The COVID-19 pandemic affects all Americans and has wrought enormous pain in the United States. Some Americans are facing increased discrimination as a result of the pandemic. We write to draw particular attention to an increase in verbal and physical attacks as well as discrimination towards Asian Americans who have been wrongly blamed for the virus' spread. We respectfully request that you publicly condemn acts of anti- Asian bias, and provide us with regular status updates regarding the steps the Department of Justice is taking and will take going forward to combat this behavior.

Asian Americans are not responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the United States; yet, since the start of the pandemic they have experienced continued harassment, violence, and discrimination. As of June 3, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council reported 2,066 incidents of coronavirus-related discrimination. These and numerous news reports have documented cases ranging from the denial of services at stores to verbal harassment on the subway to physical assaults.

In one particularly egregious instance, an individual in Texas stabbed three Asian Americans, two of whom were children, because he thought they were infecting others with COVID-19. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Houston field office acknowledged the likelihood of a surge in hate crime incidents against Asian Americans. And most recently, a new Ipsos survey conducted for the Center for Public Integrity found that more than 30 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic.

We appreciate the op-ed the Department placed in the Washington Examiner generally stating that hate crimes will be investigated and prosecuted. However, the dangers faced by the Asian American community today are very real and deserve a strong and specific response by our government. In fact, on May 8, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights acknowledged its concerns ``over the increase in xenophobic animosity toward Asian Americans (and perceived Asian Americans) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic'' and unanimously issued recommendations urging federal agencies reduce this sentiment.

We note that in the early 2000s during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, the Bush Administration immediately took steps to prevent discrimination against Asian Americans by creating a community outreach team to monitor and document acts of anti-Asian bias and engage with the community.

Two years earlier following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Administration had similarly sought to prevent attacks against Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian American communities by engaging with community leaders, conducting coordinated civil rights enforcement, and speaking out forcefully. While these prior responses were not perfect, they represented an important effort to acknowledge and address the specific discrimination.

Despite the fear present within the community, each and every day Asian Americans help to combat COVID-19. While Asian Americans comprise 7 percent of the U.S. population, 17.1 percent of active medical physicians are Asian American. Similarly, Asian Americans are serving our country by working as nurses, health aides, and in many other essential occupations. Asian Americans are just as American as any other group of people in our country.

We respectfully request that you, as head of the Department of Justice, forcefully condemn anti-Asian bias to send an unambiguous message to all Americans that discrimination against this community is un-American and will not be tolerated. Further, we would ask that you update us regularly as to what steps the Department has taken to address our concerns. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Sincerely,

Ted W. Lieu, Member of Congress; Rob Woodall, Member of Congress; Judy Chu, Member of Congress; Pete Olson, Member of Congress.

Jerrold Nadler, Ted S. Yoho, Adam Smith, Derek Kilmer, Frank Pallone, Jr., John Yarmuth, Nydia M. Velazquez, Karen Bass, Adam B. Schiff, Dan Crenshaw, Eddie Bernice Johnson, James P. McGovern, Kathy Castor, Peter A. DeFazio, Joaquin Castro, Brian Fitzpatrick, Carolyn B. Maloney, Eliot L. Engel, Zoe Lofgren, Mark Takano, Ted Deutch,

Abigail D. Spanberger, Alan Lowenthal, Alma S. Adams, Ph.D., Andy Kim, Ann McLane Kuster, Ayanna Pressley, Bill Foster, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Brenda L. Lawrence, Chellie Pingree, Danny K. Davis, Adriano Espaillat, Alcee L. Hastings, Ami Bera, M.D., Andy Levin, Anna G. Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Brad Sherman, Brendan F. Boyle, Cheri Bustos, Darren Soto, Al Green, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Andre Carson, Angie Craig, Anthony G. Brown, Betty McCollum, Bobby L. Rush, Bradley S. Schneider, Cedric L. Richmond, Colin Z. Allred, David N. Cicilline.

David Trone, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Doris Matsui, Ed Case, Eric Swalwell, Grace F. Napolitano, Gwen Moore, Henry C. ``Hank'' Johnson, Jr., Jackie Speier, Jan Schakowsky, Dean Phillips, Denny Heck, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Dwight Evans, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Gerald E. Connolly, Grace Meng, Hakeem Jeffries, Ilhan Omar, Jahana Hayes, Jared Huffman, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Dina Titus, Donna E. Shalala, Earl Blumenauer, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., Gregory W. Meeks, Harley Rouda, J. Luis Correa, Jamie Raskin, Jason Crow.

Jennifer Wexton, Jimmy Gomez, John B. Larson, Juan Vargas, Kim Schrier, M.D., Lisa Blunt Rochester, Madeleine Dean, Mark DeSaulnier, Max Rose, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Jerry McNerney, Jimmy Panetta, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, Katherine M. Clark, Lauren Underwood, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Marc Veasey, Mark Pocan, Mike Thompson, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ron Kind, Jesus G. ``Chuy'' Garcia, Joe Neguse, Josh Gottheimer, Katie Porter, Linda T. Sanchez, Lucy McBath, Marcia L. Fudge, Mary Gay Scanlon, Peter Welch, Rick Larsen, Rosa L. DeLauro.

Ruben Gallego, Scott H. Peters, Seth Moulton, Stephanie Murphy, Susan A. Davis, Suzanne Bonamici, TJ Cox, Veronica Escobar, Yvette D. Clarke, Salud O. Carbajal, Sean Casten, Sharice L. Davids, Steve Cohen, Susie Lee, Sylvia R. Garcia, Tony Cardenas, Vicente Gonzalez, Nanette Diaz Barragan, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Sean Patrick Maloney, Sheila Jackson Lee, Steven Horsford, Suzan K. DelBene, Thomas R. Suozzi, Tulsi Gabbard, William R. Keating, Members of Congress.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, the Attorney General, I have no doubt, feels exactly the same way about this as Ms. Scanlon and I do, as Mr. Lieu and Ms. Chu do. And that is why I am saddened that we have a resolution before us today that includes these ``whereases'' that make it difficult to take ``yes'' for an answer.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to remember that we had a very similar conversation with H. Res. 576 last year. That was the resolution asking that the whistleblower's complaint be provided to Congress.

Mr. Speaker, I went up to the Rules Committee on that afternoon last spring, and the conversation was the Trump administration is derelict, it is full of scoundrels, all of these bad things are going on, and we demand the whistleblower's report.

Mr. Speaker, well, what are we supposed to do with that? As Article I says, we are entitled to the whistleblower's report, and we made a recommendation to the chairman of the Rules Committee at that time and to the House leadership to give us an opportunity to speak with one Article I voice on whether or not the House is entitled to see a whistleblower's report.

We said, ``Please, take out these partisan jabs and let's just get to the heart of the matter and get access to those documents that we want. In the chairman's wisdom, and in the Speaker's wisdom, they took that advice. A resolution that had been on its way to being whipped ``no'' from the Republican side of the aisle, came back and passed with absolutely no dissent when we decided to spend less time poking one another and more time trying to make progress together.

Mr. Speaker, we have that opportunity again today, and I hope we will take ``yes'' for an answer. This is obviously an election year, an opportunity to get off the rails on partisan rhetoric from time to time, but we all know that we speak with a stronger voice when we speak with one voice here in this institution, and we have that opportunity to find that space in H. Res. 908.

Mr. Speaker, finally, the last bill in this very long rule, is H.R. 2574, a measure that purports to strengthen Federal civil rights laws in educational settings, creating a private right of action on the theory of disparate impact.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I hope it surprises you, as it surprises me, that we are talking about a fundamental change in American civil jurisprudence, and this bill didn't go through the Committee on the Judiciary at all. Now, again, it purports to change the laws it relates to educational settings, but, of course, in fact, changes the law across the entire spectrum of civil litigation and not one opportunity for the Committee on the Judiciary to be heard.

Now, I talked about principle compromise and not seeking the lowest common denominator. I don't want to pretend that it will be an easy thing to find that common ground on disparate impact litigation. Litigation is something that divides this House time and time again, and it takes serious people, which is why serious men and women, like my friend from Pennsylvania, find themselves on the Committee on the Judiciary. It is not an easy path to find. But for not one opportunity--and we asked the Judiciary chairman about that yesterday, Mr. Speaker--and he said he looked at the Committee on Education's work product and he thought it was appropriate. Well, I am glad that he does not feel undermined by being completely left out of changes in judicial procedure in the United States of America. I would feel that way if I were chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. But even if he doesn't feel left out, even if he thinks that is good enough, I have got dozens and dozens of Members who are on the Committee on the Judiciary who were placed on that committee because of their expertise in that area, who have been placed on the Committee on the Judiciary because of their thoughtfulness in this area. And I think America would benefit, not be burdened, by having an opportunity for those voices to be heard.

Again, if your position is ``let's pass bills in the House and thank ourselves, congratulate ourselves for passing something in the House,'' we have got exactly the right bill before us today.

If our position is, we want to make a difference for the men and women that we serve--and I say, ``if our position is''--Mr. Speaker, I take that back. I shouldn't have even said that, because I am certain, knowing each one of my colleagues as I do, that it is their position that they didn't come here to make a statement, that they did come here to make a difference. I want it to come to fruition that we can make that partnership progress together.

Mr. Speaker, if we defeat this rule, we are going to have that opportunity. I am not talking about an opportunity to quash any of these bills. I am talking about an opportunity to perfect these bills in those ways that I have mentioned, not so that they go to the Senate and die, not so that they receive a veto threat from the White House, but so that they go to the Senate and pass, so that they receive the President's signature, and so that they make the difference that each one of the men and women in this Chamber were sent here to do.

Mr. Speaker, we are close to that today, and I believe if we defeat the rule, we can get that.

Mr. Speaker, I don't disagree with a word my friend from Massachusetts had to say, and, in fact, I want to thank him for joining the letter that we led on this very topic in a bipartisan way earlier this year. And I do not believe I am speaking out of turn. If the gentleman will partner with me for stripping out the political ``whereases'' in this resolution, I am certain not only will we get a bipartisan vote, we will get a huge bipartisan vote in the same way that we did when you followed that same good advice that I gave about this time last year.

Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will amend the rule to make in order H.R. 1325, the Protect and Serve Act, and H.R. 8251.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, these measures before us today are critically important.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words of my friend from California. What makes this institution strong is so many of those experiences that each one of us brings from our lives.

Again, we have an opportunity to speak with exactly the one voice that my friend asks us to if we can simply remove the partisanship from this resolution and make it the condemning resolution that it should absolutely be.

Along those lines, Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield 4 minutes to my friend from Missouri to talk about, again, not hijacking the rule by defeating the previous question, but simply adding to what is already a very long rule, two additional bipartisan measures that won't just be statements, Mr. Speaker. They will be opportunities to move through the Senate and on to the President's desk.

I yield 4 minutes to the gentlewoman from Missouri (Mrs. Wagner).


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, we have no further speakers. I am prepared to close.

I can't say it any better than my friends from Missouri and Florida have just said it.

My colleague from Pennsylvania is absolutely right, Mr. Speaker. We have a regular order process. Here we are, halfway through September. We are back for our first day of session this month. I wish we were here more. I wish there was more work going on. I wish there was less campaigning and more working together, but there simply isn't.

The previous question is an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to add things to the rule. You can use it to hijack the rule. You can use it to take down the rule. That is not what we are doing today. What we are asking, Mr. Speaker, is to add two commonsense, bipartisan bills.

Mr. Speaker, you heard the arguments from the gentleman from Florida and the gentlewoman from Missouri. Did you object to a single word that they had to say? Did you find one bit of partisanship or disagreement in their words? You did not.

The question isn't are we going to get some Democratic votes to defeat the previous question and add these two bills. We are. We absolutely are because these are bipartisan ideas. The question isn't if we are going to get them. The question is: Are we going to get enough?

The truth is, Mr. Speaker, the question isn't if their words ring true with you. The question is, knowing that their words rang true with you, will you add your vote to theirs? I am asking you to do that. I am asking my friend from Pennsylvania to do that. I am asking my friends from Massachusetts and California to do that.

I opened the debate today, Mr. Speaker, telling you we were so close to what I believe every man and woman in this Chamber come here to do, and that is work together, not to pick a fight, not to make an argument, but to make a difference. With some minor, minor tweaks, we can do that with every single piece of legislation that my friends in the majority want to bring forward today.

With just one vote to defeat the previous question, Mr. Speaker, and no tweaks at all, we can do that with the two measures that the gentlewoman from Missouri and the gentleman from Florida have put before us here today.

Mr. Speaker, vote with me. Defeat the previous question. Let's move forward to speak with one voice, not just to condemn anti-American sentiment, not just to protect pregnant women in the workplace, but to stand behind the public safety officers, the men and women in this country who show up every day of the week for us.

I ask my colleagues to defeat the previous question. In the absence of that, let's defeat the rule and follow exactly the advice my friend from Pennsylvania suggested, take all of these bills back to committee and bring them back out one more time. It doesn't have to be that way. We can move forward today.

Mr. Speaker, I do encourage my colleagues to defeat the previous question, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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


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