Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2824, Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Col Mining Jobs in America; Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2641, Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2013; and Providing for Consideration of Motions to Suspend the Rules

Floor Speech

Date: March 6, 2014
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WEBSTER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the rule and the underlying bills.

House Resolution 501 provides a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 2641, the Responsibility of Professionally Invigorating Development Act, known as the RAPID Act. The resolution also provides a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 2824, Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America.

Lastly, the resolution provides suspension authority for legislation to provide much-needed financial relief to the government of Ukraine.

The resolution makes in order all of the amendments submitted to the Committee on Rules regarding the RAPID Act. It makes in order half of the amendments submitted to the Committee on Rules regarding the coal jobs bill.

Of the amendments made in order, more than half are sponsored by my colleagues across the aisle. The resolution provides for a robust debate in the House of Representatives.

In July, the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law held a hearing on H.R. 2641. The subcommittee reported the bill favorably, without amendment, by voice vote. On July 31, the Committee on the Judiciary ordered H.R. 2641 favorably reported without amendment.

In August, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held hearings on H.R. 2824. In November, the Committee on Natural Resources, by a bipartisan vote, voted favorably for the bill and reported it out.

Mr. Speaker, the bills before us today garnered majority support and bipartisan support for one simple reason: they ensure the regulatory process works for Americans, as intended by Congress.

Across the Nation, energy and infrastructure projects are being significantly delayed. In some cases, the environmental reviews have continued on for a decade or more. According to a study by the Chamber of Commerce, current delays are costing more than $1 trillion in economic development; and those delays are also prohibiting the creation of 1.9 million jobs.

As our country continues to struggle through a lackluster recovery, ensuring these beleaguered studies are completed would help generate jobs and create economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, in 2011, President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness recommended action to simplify regulatory review and streamline project approvals to accelerate jobs and growth.

Just this year, in his State of the Union, President Obama called for permit streamlining. He said action must be taken to ``slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.''

News reports like to highlight our disagreements. In fact, it often seems that there is nothing that we can agree on. That is not true. Earlier this term, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. That bill passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 417-3.

The RAPID Act is nearly identical legislation to streamlining provisions contained in H.R. 3080 and the streamlining proposals from the President.

The House-passed WRRDA provided a process for Army Corps of Engineers-led studies to be concurrently reviewed in more of a parallel, as opposed to a linear fashion by multiple agencies. The President initiated a similar proposal, where studies had to be completed within 3 years.

The President and each Member of Congress who supported WRRDA should support this bill. The RAPID Act is simple. It allows multiple agencies to study the environmental impacts of a project at the same time. Because the agencies will have a better process by which to study a project, the RAPID Act establishes a reasonable and efficient timeline for completion of the study.

That is it. The RAPID Act provides a better process and a better timeline. The RAPID Act does not alter or weaken any of our environmental laws. The RAPID Act does not require that environmentally sensitive areas be developed.

The RAPID Act does not force agencies to approve projects. It simply reforms our permitting and regulatory process to allow our Nation's most important infrastructure projects to move forward in a timely manner.

The President has asked for this to happen. 417 House Democrats and Republicans have supported this already. The bill should pass the House overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. This bill will get Washington out of the way of our economic growth and put unemployed Americans on a pathway back to work.

The rule also provides for consideration of H.R. 2824, Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America. H.R. 2824 stabilizes the out-of-control regulatory scheme involving the Department of the Interior.

In 2008, after a 5-year exhaustive process, the Office of Surface Mining finalized a rule to protect our streams from excessive coal waste. The rule was supposed to go into effect on January 12, 2009.

However, the process was sidelined by a sue-and-settle gambit that the OSM, under President Obama's administration, used to attempt to rewrite the already finalized rule.

Since that settlement, the administration has spent 5 additional years and billed hardworking American taxpayers an additional $10 million attempting to rewrite the rule.

H.R. 2824 is simple. It tells OSM to put in place the 2008 rule, study the results, and report to Congress. If the study reveals a need to draft a new rule, then a new rule should be drafted. By putting in place the already finalized 2008 rule, H.R. 2824 ensures that our streams are safe while further study is conducted.

It is easy to see why these underlying bills should garner strong bipartisan support. They are measured and balanced in their approach to our project study and regulatory processes. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule and the underlying pieces of legislation.

I encourage my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the rule and ``yes'' on the underlying bills.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WEBSTER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This rule provides for ample and open debate. It makes in order amendments from both sides of the aisle. Further, it advances bills that were favorably reported out of committee and will receive bipartisan support.

The RAPID Act is good for our infrastructure needs. It puts in place a good process that helps our agencies conduct quality and timely environmental reviews.

This bill should receive overwhelming bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats have supported these same provisions already in this Congress.

The Florida delegation knows all too well the impact that delayed studies have on moving our critical projects forward. Port Everglades, which is in the district of the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), has been under review for 17 years. That is too long. It is too much. It needs to be completed. The study of the project at Port Everglades is a prime example of Washington bureaucracy crushing America's jobs and America's future.

The RAPID Act would make it possible to move projects forward while protecting our environment. Mr. Speaker, the President has proposed a similar solution. The House passed a similar solution in the WRDA bill. We should pass this bill and give our infrastructure projects a good review process.

Our Nation's economy is sagging under an inefficient government. Our unemployed friends and neighbors are being hurt by our stagnant regulatory review system. The RAPID Act provides a better process and a better timeline. It does not change our environmental standards. It does not require agency approval of projects. It simply reforms our permitting process.

The coal jobs bill puts in place an already approved rule. It ends the regulatory limbo that has existed since 2009. It gives certainty to those who work in the coal industry.

Let's reform our review methods. Let's give our government the tools and the incentives to move America's infrastructure projects forward. When we do, we will release economic activity. We will strengthen our economy, and we will put Americans to work.

Mr. Speaker, the underlying bills are good. I urge Members of this House to vote for the rule, vote for the bills, and move our country forward.