Providing for Consideration of H.R. National Apprenticeship Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 19, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


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

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend from New York, not just for his kind words, but for the time today.

We always say, Madam Speaker, that time is yielded for the purpose of debate only, and for folks who don't follow what the Rules Committee does, that just prevents the shenanigans that could occur if the gentleman from New York wanted to give me 30 minutes unlimited and I could start calling measures to the floor.

But we do need more debate, less vitriol and more debate. As my friend from New York pointed out, the apprenticeship program is one of those programs that really does bring people together.

The track record speaks for itself when we talk about the 90 percent employment retention rate that these apprentices bring forward, when we talk about the $300,000 in lifetime earnings that apprentices generate compared to their nonapprentice peers.

This really is a partnership opportunity that I am afraid the House is missing again today.

Lameduck sessions, Madam Speaker, are strange things. Sometimes we bring the biggest bills that Congress is going to work on during lameduck sessions; sometimes we bring the smallest. Sometimes it provides that extra time to bring people together; and, candidly, on this bill, I thought that is what we would be doing because, exactly as my friend from New York points out, this is a partnership issue.

But we find ourselves here today with a base text that passed out of committee on a party-line vote. I think we can do better than that. I know we can do better than that. And to the majority's credit, because this is a majoritarian institution, the majority can do absolutely anything they want to.

Oftentimes, a minority substitute is excluded from the rule. In the wisdom of Rules Committee members like Mr. Morelle and our chairman, Mr. McGovern, the Republican substitute was made in order by the Rules Committee, so we will have an opportunity to debate different visions of the apprenticeship program.

But I wonder, in this exceptional time where folks are exceptionally worried about the future, if maybe this isn't the time to have more of those Republican-alternative, Democratic-alternative debates and not one of those times that we should be speaking with one voice to the American people.

There were amendments made in order and, candidly, more amendments than are traditionally made in order for a bill like this. Again, I can't fault my Rules Committee colleagues for trying to get out of some of the closed amendment process ruts that we have been in, but we were so close to being able to make this a truly bipartisan process; and I am concerned, having excluded about half of the Republican amendments that were offered, we are going to fall a little bit short of that today.

At its core, Madam Speaker, our disagreement is about how easy should it be to have these apprenticeship programs certified. We absolutely have, through the Department of Labor, an official process for putting apprenticeships on the official U.S. Government list. It comes with lots of benefits and privileges and also comes with many burdens.

As we sit here today, Madam Speaker, this is a process that has been in place for 80 years and is in need of a modernization in the 21st century. Many of the numbers we look at, Madam Speaker, suggest that there are more apprenticeships happening outside of the official Department of Labor program than inside the official Department of Labor program.

One of the amendments we have made in order today is one from my friend from Washington State (Mr. Kilmer) that is going to make computer science programs, computer programming programs eligible for the first time.

Well, of course, anybody who has been in that field--I happened to be in one of the first computer science classes that America had back in the 1980s--knows that you learn more from your friends, more from your colleagues, more from being in the process together than you ever learned from reading a book or sitting in the classroom.

Of course, computer science ought to be on that list of programs, yet it has taken us well into 2020 to get to that place. I would argue we may be a decade or two late in that process, but better late than never.

As my friend from New York referenced, I am on my way out of the institution; and, candidly, I am pleased that we have a process that, even though the result is a partisan result, has more bipartisanship in it than many of the bills that I have had to represent here in the Rules Committee minority position that I hold.

It is my great hope that, as this institution shrinks the distance between the majority and minority heading into 2021, it is going to provide opportunities to remind us how much we need each other to get things done.

The best votes I took as a young freshman Member, Madam Speaker, were not the ones that John Boehner jammed through with all of the Republicans voting ``yes'' and all of the Democrats voting ``no.''

The best votes that I took freshman year were the ones that John Boehner jammed through with Nancy Pelosi's help that had about 50 percent of the Democrats and about 50 percent of the Republicans and did the big things that you just couldn't do alone, Madam Speaker, that required Members to stand up and get outside of their ideological comfort zone and get into that space of how can we really make a difference.

Is this bill going to make a difference for American workers and young people trying to get started in their career and businesses trying to recruit good talent?

Of course, it is. Of course, it is. It is a modest step in the right direction, but it is a step in the right direction.

I am going to encourage my colleagues to defeat the rule so that we can take a larger step in the right direction. Sometimes, Madam Speaker, you have to play small ball to get the gears of success turning at the appropriate speed. Sometimes you are up against crises like COVID-19 where you don't have time for small ball, and you have got to take those big steps.

I will mention just one to you, Madam Speaker. I offered an amendment in the Rules Committee to make in order an amendment by my friend from Pennsylvania, whom you saw on the floor here earlier, Mr. Thompson. His amendment simply said this: During the COVID-19 crisis, while we are seeing the economy evolve in ways that we could have never predicted and still cannot predict, let us give the Secretary of the Department of Labor the ability to be nimble in terms of designating new apprenticeship programs.

Now, for the next 40 days, that Department of Labor Secretary is going to be a Trump appointee. After those 40 days, we are going to have a different scenario happening there.

Is this an issue of our being in the rut of voting ``no'' on the administration that is not of our political persuasion?

Is this an example of our starting to reclaim some Article I power and to stop delegating things down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and instead retaining those authorities here?

We didn't get to have that debate because we didn't make that amendment in order, and we are not going to be able to have that conversation. It is a conversation that needs to be had. We need to get out of our habits of voting ``no'' on the other team that sits in the White House, and we need to get into the habit of being so nimble ourselves that we don't have to delegate authority to the executive in order to get things done, that we are able to get those things done.

It is difficult for me, Madam Speaker, to be this close to the kind of legislative process that I came here to be a part of and our not reaching that goal. I do want to recognize success where success lives, and we had a more successful Rules Committee process this time than many times in the past, but it only reminds us of how close we are to that process that I believe all of our constituents expect of us, and that is bring all the ideas into the room, vote ``no'' on the bad ideas, vote ``yes'' on the good ideas, bring all 435 of our collective experiences to the floor, and let's put the best of it into the lawbooks to serve those whom we are sworn to serve.

If my colleagues are willing to work with me to defeat the previous question today, I think we are going to have a chance to move in that direction. I look forward to talking with my friend from New York and the rest of my colleagues about that more to come.


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

Madam Speaker, there are a lot of issues out there, certainly student loans and educating young people for 21st century skills is one of those, and I am glad we are taking this time out today to focus on that before the end of this Congress.

There are other issues out there, though, that we all know in a bipartisan way need attention, whether it is COVID testing, vaccines, and therapeutics, that are in the newspaper every day but on which Congress has not acted recently, we know that needs attention; whether it is the Paycheck Protection Program, those programs that were supporting employers and employees that have expired that in a bipartisan way we know need attention but the Congress has not acted on that; whether it is on police reform, again, in the paper and in the media every day and we know in a bipartisan way we can do better to serve our citizenry, and yet we have not acted on that.

If we defeat the previous question today, Madam Speaker, it will not slow down the apprenticeship conversation that we are having. What it will do is make sure that in the limited time we have remaining in this Congress that we do tackle those three issues that I mentioned: COVID, vaccines, therapeutics, and testing; police reform, ways that we can act together in a bipartisan way to serve the country; and the Paycheck Protection Program, helping employers and employees to survive into 2021 as we all know they need to do.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, I led talking about therapeutics as it relates to COVID. I am very fortunate on the Rules Committee, as is Mr. Morelle, to be able to serve with a gentleman who spent his lifetime in the service of others through medicine, Dr. Burgess.

Dr. Burgess also sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee which has had jurisdiction over this issue, and which has had numerous bipartisan bills and opportunities to move forward. Defeating the previous question today would make in order the gentleman from Texas' bill.

Madam Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Burgess) to talk about the real impact that could have on the American citizenry.


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

Madam Speaker, I have worked with the gentleman from New York long enough to know that it is true that we sometimes measure our success by what the House does. But working with the gentleman from New York, I have seen him measure his success by what he actually gets done for folks. You never see him trying to take credit for getting the work done. He is just doing the work. And too often, I think, all of us have come to talk about what it was that we passed in a partisan way and how that absolves us of any more responsibility.

It is true, the House jammed through a partisan COVID package 7 months ago, and absolutely nothing has happened to it since then. That is what happens when you jam through partisan packages. If we jam through a partisan apprenticeship package, that is also what is going to happen to a partisan apprenticeship package.

Madam Speaker, I yield to the ranking member of the Committee on Small Business, who crafted the last bipartisan package. And when that bipartisan package was crafted, it didn't just pass this House, it didn't just pass the Senate, it was signed into law by the President of the United States. And it made the difference in the life of our constituents that my friend from New York and I would like to make.

Madam Speaker, if we defeat the previous question today, we will have the chance to, again, go to that bipartisan well of support that my friend from Ohio has generated.

Madam Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot), the ranking member of the Committee on Small Business.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, again, thinking about things that the American people are looking for and the opportunities we have to craft those in a bipartisan way, Mr. Stauber brings his lifetime of law enforcement experience to this Chamber, giving us an opportunity to do those things that we all know need to be done.

How can we serve our constituency better?

Madam Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Stauber) to share not just his partnership effort in trying to work across the aisle to get that done, but also his vast experience in that area.


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

Madam Speaker, when you reach the end of your service in Congress, you start thinking about those things that you are really, really proud of, and you start thinking about those things that you wish had gone differently.

I have only gotten to override one of President Trump's vetoes since I have been here in Congress. And I will tell you--and I will tell President Trump--I thoroughly enjoyed that, thoroughly enjoyed it, because I didn't come here as a Republican, I came here as a United States House Member. And any time the Article 1 branch comes together and speaks so loudly and proudly in a single voice that it can even swamp the voice of the most powerful leader of the free world, the President of the United States, that tells me something about how our Republic is functioning. And I am excited about that. I don't think I am going to have a chance to do that in our next 3 weeks here, but I appreciated the opportunity to do it the one time I did.

Madam Speaker, we have to get back into that habit of speaking with one voice. We are stronger not just as an institution when we speak with one voice, we are stronger as a nation when we speak with one voice. This apprenticeship bill should have been one of those things.

Instead of having me on the House floor saying, ``We are taking a small step in the right direction, and that is great, but why didn't we go big?'' it would have been nice if the chairman and the ranking member could have negotiated that middle ground first and I could have been down here talking about how it didn't go as far as I wanted it to go, but we did the best we could with what we had to work with, and so let's all vote ``yes.''

We can do that, and we have had some experience doing that. Our initial response to COVID was exactly that.

Candidly, this is as close as we have come in quite some time. I know that the ranking member, Virginia Foxx from North Carolina, wanted to get over the finish line there.

We have made two Republican amendments in order in this rule, Madam Speaker, and we have made two bipartisan amendments in order, and we have made 13 Democratic amendments in order, all on a bill that passed on a party-line vote out of committee.

Sometimes the process works that way. Sometimes the House needs to put down a marker. But late November of an election year is not the time for putting down markers. It is the time for putting points up on the scoreboard for the American people, and this bill fails in that regard.

If we defeat this rule, and I ask my colleagues to join me in voting ``no'' on it, I know--I don't think, Madam Speaker, I know--that the chairman and the ranking member can come back together and we can bring that partnership bill to the floor that I am talking about.

My friend from New York talks about expanding the apprenticeship program. That is the crux of the problem: He expands it a little; we want to expand it a lot, because we all recognize what the needs of the American worker and the American economy are. Defeat this rule, and we will have that chance.

Defeat the previous question, Madam Speaker, and we are going to have a chance to talk about these three bills. My friend from New York is absolutely right; they are extraneous to what we are talking about today. But the three gentlemen who spoke spoke truth when they said we have been trying to bring these up through the regular process and we can't.

We know a vote to extend and reform the Paycheck Protection Program would pass this House with a huge bipartisan majority today, but the House leadership has not given us an opportunity to have that vote.

We know that an investment in community policing, a goal championed by Republicans and Democrats for decades, could pass this floor in a bipartisan basis, but the House leadership hasn't given us that opportunity.

We know, as every single one of our constituents is concerned about their health and their business and their children, that if we passed a COVID therapeutics program, a testing program, a program targeting vaccines, getting the rest of that job done, we know it would pass in a bipartisan way, but we have not had a chance to bring up such bipartisan legislation.

I have served in this institution when the House and the White House were held by one party and the Senate was held by another party. What I found during that time is that the negotiation happened between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue, and those of us on Independence Avenue were largely left out of that conversation.

For my colleagues who remain, I worry about that for you, because I believe that we operate differently than the Senate, and for good reason. I don't want to change the majoritarian nature of our institution. I am glad that it is passionate and it is deep and it is messy and sometimes the fights spill out of the committee room and onto the House floor. I value that. I value the Senate's go-slow approach and the larger voice given to the minority there.

We don't often get opportunities to fix our bad habits. While Paul Ryan was Speaker of the House, we had not one open rule, not one chance in his entire Speakership for the House to come together and have everyone have a chance to contribute and have their voice heard--not once. And during Speaker Pelosi's second Speakership, we have had not one opportunity either.

For years now, this House has gotten in the habit of deciding that every voice is not worthy of hearing. Certainly, there are bills and there are measures where that needs to be true. A partnership issue like the apprenticeship program, a partnership issue like serving our young people, a partnership issue like jump-starting our economy, this is one of those opportunities where the bad ideas would be rejected in a bipartisan way and the good ideas would be adopted in a bipartisan way and we would speak to America in a single voice, bipartisan way about the pathway that we have crafted to go forward.

Madam Speaker, if you would surrender your gavel and allow Mr. Morelle and me to sort out all of the issues I have mentioned today, I think by the end of November, certainly the first week of December, we could crack all of those nuts. For whatever reason, our Framers did not believe that it should be given to two bipartisan folks who want to solve problems. They believe that all 435 voices should be heard.

It is hard. I worry when we miss chances like the one we had today to demonstrate to the American people what we know to be true about the way that we work together. When we miss an opportunity to demonstrate that to folks from the floor of this House, we do some bit of damage to the fabric of our Republic. That damage happens under Republican leadership and that damage happens under Democratic leadership, and I fear one day that damage will be so great that neither party is going to be able to turn it back.

I do want to urge defeat of this rule today, and I want to urge defeat of the previous question. But I want to recognize Members like Mr. Morelle from New York and Members like our chairman, Mr. McGovern from Massachusetts, who have made sincere and difficult efforts to move us in that partnership direction.

Defeat this rule. Defeat the previous question. Let's give them a chance to move us even further in that bipartisan direction going forward.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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


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