Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3393, Student and Family Tax Simplification Act, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4935, Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014

Floor Speech

Date: July 24, 2014
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. I thank my friend from Oklahoma for yielding me the time.

Madam Speaker, the Rules Committee has a tough job, but it is interesting to hear folks down here talking about both their agreement on tax reform and deficits and their agreement about what a rule ought to look like.

I have kind of gotten a little bit of both of their passions with me today, Madam Speaker, because Ways and Means bills do have to come to the floor under a closed rule.

The way the rules work, if you have an open rule, anything that is relevant to the underlying bill, you can discuss, so when you bring a tax bill to the floor, suddenly, the entire Tax Code becomes available for amendment, and you can imagine what a brouhaha that would be. I would enjoy that debate. I would thoroughly enjoy that debate, but it would never, ever end.

That is not so with our spending bills. When our spending bills come to the floor, they come under a completely open process, so that we can examine the underlying spending.

Just to take folks through the Rules Committee process a little bit, Madam Speaker, what we did here is we waived the CutGo provision in the rules. There are a lot of focus groups going on around the Chamber right now about how we should change the rules to make the system work better.

Sometimes, in the Rules Committee, we end up waiving some of the rules to make the system work better. Some folks think it makes it work better, some folks think it makes it worse, but we should have that conversation as a body.

We had to waive CutGo in this rule, Madam Speaker, because it increases mandatory spending. I have a bill beside me--and it really drives this point home. In fact, I think it was the gentleman from Colorado who was making this point.

We voted on the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill this year. It was a $3 billion spending bill. We had eight amendments on the floor of the House. It passed. We voted on the Financial Services spending bill. It was a $21 billion spending bill. We had 51 amendments on that bill. We passed it out of the House.

We voted on the Energy and Water spending bill, a $34 billion spending bill, with 78 amendments on the floor of the House. We voted on the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, a $51 billion bill, with 84 amendments on the floor of the House. It goes on: Transportation, $52 billion, with 68 amendments; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, $71 billion, with 24 amendments.

It brings us to one of the underlying bills today, a bill that I think touches the heart of absolutely every man or woman in this Chamber, our constituents back home, trying to help our children access the higher education services that they need, but in this case, it is going to increase mandatory spending by $73 billion--more than any of the appropriations bills we passed this year, except for our Defense Department Appropriations bill--and it is not going to be able to allow a single amendment on the floor of the House.

Now, that is just the process. That is the process that we have when we are dealing with tax bills, but my question for my colleagues is: Does mandatory spending deserve some additional scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that we give to appropriated spending, to discretionary spending? I will tell you that it does. I am so proud of what this House does on discretionary spending.

My friend from Oklahoma happens to be an appropriator. He is an appropriations cardinal, in fact, which means he has leadership responsibilities over there. This committee comes to the Rules Committee--and my friend from Colorado recognizes this--they come to the Rules Committee, and they ask for an open rule every single time.

They say: We have done the best we can do to give the House our proudest work, but if anybody else has ideas about how to improve it, come to us. We want this to be a collaborative product.

We can't do that with this bill before us today, and it increases mandatory spending by $73.7 billion. I cannot count the number of times I have heard my colleagues in this body say it is not the appropriations spending that is the problem. It is the mandatory spending that is the problem.

We are moving awfully fast in the body this week to appropriate $73.7 billion in new mandatory spending. I know people's hearts and heads are with these young people that we are trying to help get ahead, that we are trying to help access higher education, but there is only one place we are going to find this $73.7 billion, and that is in the pocketbooks of those very same young men and women when we borrow this money today to spend it on them and ask them to pay it back, with interest in the future.

I caution my colleagues today, spending is a constitutional responsibility that we have. It is a constitutional responsibility that we have placed in the Appropriations Committee, where things are scrutinized line by line by line.

Never before this year has so much money gone out the door in so little amount of time, with so little input from the very capable Members on both sides of the aisle.

With that, again, I encourage my colleagues to read this rule. You will support this rule, but examine the underlying legislation carefully.