Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2898, Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3038, Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II
House of Representatives
Congressional Record: 114th Congress
July 15, 2015
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 362 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:
H. Res. 362
Resolved, That at any time after adoption of this resolution the Speaker may, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2898) to provide drought relief in the State of California, and for other purposes. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Natural Resources. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. In lieu of the amendment in the nature of a substitute recommended by the Committee on Natural Resources now printed in the bill, it shall be in order to consider as an original bill for the purpose of amendment under the five-minute rule an amendment in the nature of a substitute consisting of the text of Rules Committee Print 114-23. That amendment in the nature of a substitute shall be considered as read. All points of order against that amendment in the nature of a substitute are waived. No amendment to that amendment in the nature of a substitute shall be in order except those printed in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution. Each such amendment may be offered only in the order printed in the report, may be offered only by a Member designated in the report, shall be considered as read, shall be debatable for the time specified in the report equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent, shall not be subject to amendment, and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question in the House or in the Committee of the Whole. All points of order against such amendments are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. Any Member may demand a separate vote in the House on any amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole to the bill or to the amendment in the nature of a substitute made in order as original text. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions.
Sec. 2. Upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 3038) to provide an extension of Federal-aid highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund, and for other purposes. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. The bill shall be considered as read. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and on any amendment thereto to final passage without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate equally divided among and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Ways and Means; and (2) one motion to recommit.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Washington is recognized for 1 hour.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the good gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Washington?
There was no objection.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, the Rules Committee met and reported a rule, H. Res. 362, providing for consideration of two very important pieces of legislation: H.R. 2898, which is the Western Water and American Food Act of 2015, and H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II.
The rule provides for consideration of H.R. 2898 under a structured rule, with eight amendments made in order that are evenly split between Democratic and Republican Members of this body. The rule also provides for consideration of H.R. 3038 under a closed rule.
Mr. Speaker, this rule will allow us to consider the Western Water and American Food Act, which is an important bill that will help us respond to the severe water shortages facing California, which I am sure many of you have heard, and much of the Western United States. Many people are confronting the worst drought that they have seen in many, many years, and a growing number of communities across the West have been acutely impacted by these arid conditions.
While this crisis has been caused by the drought, our environmental laws, as well as misguided and outdated regulatory restrictions, have exacerbated the situation. This bill addresses these policy failures and seeks to alleviate the impacts of drought in the short and in the long term.
My own district in central Washington is dealing with serious water supply shortages. Actually, the whole State is declared a drought area. These are impacting the agriculture, energy, and manufacturing sectors, as well as families and small businesses that rely on an adequate and stable supply of water. These conditions are also increasing the threat of dangerous wildfires and increasing the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire, which could destroy homes, businesses, and large amounts of land, as well as crippling many communities throughout the West.
Over the past 2 weeks in my State of Washington, we have already seen wildfire outbreaks across the State in cities like Wenatchee and Quincy and counties such as Benton, Grant, Adams, and Douglas. Sadly, with an extremely low snowpack and continuing drought conditions, we are likely to see even more fires.
Mr. Speaker, as a third-generation farmer, I know firsthand the challenges facing many in our Western agricultural communities and the critically important role that water plays in agriculture's success. In recognition of this fact, earlier this year, I introduced H.R. 2097, the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act. This measure will speed up Reclamation's feasibility study process on surface water storage, spurring the development of new projects across the West, and I was very proud to have it included in this essential legislation that we are considering today.
Water is not just a resource, it is the lifeblood of farming and ranching communities all across the West, and we must act swiftly and decisively to mitigate the impacts of this crisis that we are facing. The importance of water to agriculture production cannot be overstated, and we must take steps to support this vital industry that is responsible for feeding billions of people around the globe. In fact, today, I am proud to say, the average American farmer is responsible for feeding upwards of 144 people, a drastic increase from just 50 years ago when that number was around 25.
The reason for this change is simple and complex. Our modern farmers are growing more disease- and pest-resistant crops that require less water, less pesticides, and better conserve our natural resources. Although modern agriculture allows us to use less water for agriculture to flourish, we still must have a reliable supply of water.
Mr. Speaker, the Western Water and American Food Act represents a comprehensive and bipartisan approach aimed at alleviating the drought's impacts through short-term and long-term measures. This bill will address the root causes of the crisis: complex and inconsistent laws, faulty court decisions, and onerous regulations at the State and Federal level that have exacerbated an already devastating drought.
In California and across the West, millions are facing water shortages and rationing, yet many of the drought's damaging effects are preventable. H.R. 2898 aims to fix our broken regulatory system and bring our water infrastructure into the 21st century. This bill gives immediate relief to millions of Americans facing mandatory water rationing and invests in new water storage facilities to prepare for future droughts. Additionally, it will provide farmers with the certainty they need to produce the majority of our Nation's fruits and vegetables, which feed our Nation, as well as people around the world.
This rule also provides for consideration of H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II, a bill that will extend Federal surface transportation programs, as well as the hazardous materials transportation program and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act, until December 18, 2015, and fund these programs at the fiscal year 2014 authorized level. This extension will provide the committee of jurisdiction with additional time to continue their important work towards a long-term highway and surface transportation bill. Mr. Speaker, this extension will provide the House and Senate with time to work out a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill in a bicameral, bipartisan manner.
Every State transportation department in the country currently has numerous multiyear transportation projects that would benefit greatly from the increased certainty a 6-year transportation bill would provide. My hope, and I think the hope of everyone in this Chamber, is that this short-term extension gives us time to reach an agreement that can provide certainty for all of our constituents.
Additionally, this legislation will also allow us to work on a resolution for the highway trust fund, which is facing a $90 billion shortfall. Failing to address the trust fund would have disastrous impacts across our country. If the trust fund were to go insolvent, many State transportation and infrastructure projects would grind to a halt, leading to furloughed workers and lost capital from investments on existing projects. The cost of shutting down and then restarting all of these projects would be astronomical and would end up costing our taxpayers much more in the long run.
Mr. Speaker, another short-term extension is not what any of us would have wanted. Our States need certainty, and that will only come from a long-term transportation authorization. While the bill before us may not be what we all would have preferred, it is a good stepping stone to something greater. I believe passing H.R. 3038 is the right thing to do and will allow us to consider a long-term, 6-year authorization in the very near future.
Mr. Speaker, this is a good, straightforward rule, allowing for consideration of two critically important pieces of legislation. H.R. 2898 will help drought-stricken communities in the West by providing critically needed reforms to the broken regulatory system, as well as bipartisan solutions to help provide relief to families, farms, the environment, and the American economy. H.R. 3038 will ensure that many important transportation programs do not lapse and will extend the highway trust fund expenditure authority,
guaranteeing that this vital fund will remain solvent and available for infrastructure projects across the country while working towards a lasting solution.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I support the rule's adoption, and I urge my colleagues to support both the rule and the underlying bills.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman, my friend, Mr. Newhouse, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes for debate.
Mr. Speaker, we already know what H.R. 2898 and H.R. 3038 are called, but they are follow-up legislation to the short-term temporary transportation funding bill that was signed into law last May. I am troubled by a number of issues concerning the rule and underlying bills that we are considering today.
First, as I have stated on numerous occasions, I take serious issue with the manner in which the majority has chosen to consider legislation in this
Chamber. Grouping or combining multiple, unrelated pieces of legislation into one rule has become the new normal, precluding the Members of this body from making informed judgments about the proper floor procedure for each measure and creating often confusing debates about an assortment of unconnected issues. The majority's insistence on the continued use of grab-bag rules prevents the thoughtful deliberation that important legislation requires and does both the Members of this Chamber and the American people an immeasurable disservice.
Next, there are now only 9 legislative days remaining before Congress recesses in August, and much important work remains. For example, millions of Americans continue to suffer dire economic ramifications from the GOP's failure to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, the charter for which expired June 30.
The Ex-Im Bank supported 164,000 private sector American jobs in fiscal year 2014, alone, and over 1.3 million jobs since 2009. What is more, the Ex-Im Bank has received the support of the last 13 Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, including Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. It is high time Republicans allow a vote on its reauthorization.
In the face of realities such as these, Republicans in Congress continue to put forward legislation for consideration that has very little bipartisan support and stands even less chance of becoming law. Indeed, President Obama has issued a Statement of Administration Policy advising that, if he is presented with H.R. 2898, the Water bill we are considering today, he will veto it.
Mr. Speaker, I include that Statement for the Record.
Statement of Administration Policy
H.R. 2898--WESTERN WATER AND AMERICAN FOOD SECURITY ACT OF 2015
(Rep. Valadao, R-CA, July 14, 2015)
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, because it fails to address critical elements of California's complex water challenges and will, if enacted, impede an effective and timely response to the continuing drought while providing no additional water to hard hit communities. Like similar legislation in the last Congress, H.R. 2898 was developed with little input from the public, the Administration, or key stakeholders affected by the drought. The urgency and seriousness of the California drought requires a balanced and flexible approach that promotes water reliability and ecosystem restoration.
Specifically, H.R. 2898 dictates operational decisions and imposes a new legal standard which could actually limit water supplies by creating new and confusing conflicts with existing laws, adding an unnecessary layer of complexity to Federal and State cooperation. This additional standard could slow decision-making, generate significant litigation, and limit real-time operational flexibility critical to maximizing water delivery. And, contrary to current and past Federal reclamation law that defers to State water law, the bill would preempt California water law.
In addition, H.R. 2898 directs specific operations inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), thereby resulting in conditions that could be detrimental to the Delta fish and other species listed under Federal and State endangered species laws.
The Administration strongly supports efforts to help alleviate the effects of drought in the West; however, the Administration is concerned with section 401, which establishes deadlines for completing feasibility studies for certain water storage projects. The provision is unnecessary and the dates provided in the bill could prevent the participation of non-Federal partners in certain studies and may inhibit the Administration's ability to consider a full range of options for addressing these issues. In addition, financial penalties levied upon the Bureau of Reclamation under section 403 for not meeting these deadlines would only undermine the Department of the Interior's ability to help address the effects of drought in the West.
Much of the bill contains provisions that have little connection to the ongoing drought. The bill includes language constraining the Administration's ability to protect the commercial and tribal fishery on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, which will have impacts not just in California, but throughout the west coast. The bill would also repeal the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement, which the Congress enacted to resolve 18 years of contentious litigation. Full repeal of the settlement agreement would likely result in the resumption of costly litigation, creating an uncertain future for river restoration and water delivery operations for water users on the San Joaquin River.
Californians are facing significant drought-related challenges. This is why the Administration has directed Federal agencies to work with state and local officials in real-time to maximize limited water supplies, prioritize public health and safety, meet state water quality requirements, and ensure a balanced approach to providing for the water needs of people, agriculture, businesses, power, imperiled species and the environment. Consistent with the 2015 Interagency Drought Strategy, the Administration and Federal agencies have partnered with state agencies in California to improve coordination of water operations in the state. In June, the Administration announced new actions and investments of more than $110 million to support workers, farmers, and rural communities suffering from drought and to combat wildfires. This builds on the more than $190 million that agencies across the Federal government have invested to support drought-stricken communities so far this year. Unfortunately, H.R. 2898 would undermine these efforts and the progress that has been made.
For these reasons, if the President were presented with H.R. 2898, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, even more offensive, in a display of colossal incompetence, last week, the Republican leadership was forced to pull their entire Interior Appropriations bill to protect their Conference from having to defend the display of the Confederate battle flag on Federal lands, imagery long recognized as a symbol of hatred and intolerance. As a result, funding for critically important agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, whose programs protect wildlife, the environment, and public health, continues to hang in the balance.
This rule first provides for consideration of H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which Republicans claim will alleviate the drought crisis currently unfolding in California and other Western States, but this bill is just another example of the countless partisan attempts made by the majority to roll back important environmental protections while also preempting State laws. Let me put a footnote right there, ``preempting State laws.'' These are the people that argue State rights and now would preempt them in Western portions of our great country, particularly California, reducing water management flexibility.
Mr. Speaker, this bill undercuts the Endangered Species Act by changing the well-defined standard used to determine when an action negatively affects an endangered species and introduces an untested, undefined standard.
As evidenced by this piece of legislation, the Republicans' solution to the drought crisis is to provide handouts to big agricultural interests at the expense of the environment and everyone else.
I want to make it very clear that I represent agricultural interests as do my colleagues who are Republicans. We represent all of the specialty crops and sugarcane grown, and we understand these dynamics very well.
Not only will this bill scale back desperately needed environmental protections, it will affect thousands of fishing jobs in California and Oregon that local residents depend on.
Given the changing standard of the Endangered Species Act, this bill will dramatically weaken protections for salmon and other fish and wildlife in California's Bay-Delta Estuary.
This bill claims to help California, but even California doesn't want it. California's own Secretary of Natural Resources has said that this bill--and let me quote him--will ``reignite water wars, move water policy back into the courts, and try to pit one part of the State against another.''
This bill will elevate the water rights for certain agricultural contractors over the existing water rights that benefit refuges and wildlife areas.
In short, this bill circumvents California's groundbreaking equitable water conservation programs and puts the desires of big agriculture over everyone else.
This combined rule also provides for the consideration of H.R. 3038, termed the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II, because it is yet another short-term, temporary patch to ensure that the highway trust fund does not become insolvent.
It is a patch. It is the ninth time we are patching. If you had a tire and were riding down a highway and if every time you looked up you had to have another patch, pretty soon you would recognize that you would need new tires.
What we need in this country is a 6-year highway bill.
Back in May, Congress passed and the President signed a bill we can now appropriately call the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part I.
At that time, we were assured by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle that a multiyear bill that would provide the long-term funding certainty and stability needed to keep transportation and construction projects operating was on the horizon. That was in May.
We were promised, Mr. Speaker, that if we voted to provide funding through July 31, the comprehensive, multiyear highway bill America so desperately needs would become a reality in time to avoid any insolvency.
Unfortunately, today we find ourselves in the same situation as we did in May. I just heard my good friend from Washington make the argument that, in the next 6 months, we will be able to work together to do the things necessary for a 6-year highway bill. I am paraphrasing what he said.
As we had in May, today we have a rapidly approaching, self-imposed deadline and are frantically seeking an interim fix. Like its predecessor, this highway bill does nothing to address the long-term solvency of the highway trust fund.
There is one thing I have learned here about kicking the can down the road: If kicking the can down the road were an Olympic sport, here in the United States Congress, we would win gold, we would win bronze, we would win silver, and we would win aluminum for kicking the can down the road.
Instead, we are again being asked to vote for legislation that would keep the highway trust fund solvent through December 18.
Note the date of December 18, just before Christmas, so that we can play the game: ``If you don't vote for this next patch--if we don't do 6 years--then we will keep you here until Christmas without the necessary assurances that a long-term bill will become a reality.''
This is no way to govern. Our insistence on kicking the can down the road does nothing to protect American jobs or to invest in critical infrastructure that every man and woman in this House of Representatives recognizes is desperately needed in this Nation of falling bridges and pock-marked roads.
Finally, investing in our Nation's infrastructure and, indeed, in our Nation's future will require us to make tough choices.
Instead of considering raising the Federal gas tax--I said the ugly words, ``Federal gas tax''--which is the primary source of funding for the highway trust fund--and it has not been increased since 1993, people--this bill seeks to cut taxes on liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas at a cost of $90 million over the next decade.
Any comprehensive highway bill must consider, in part, addressing the Federal gas tax. Why don't we just face up to that, go to our constituents and explain it to them so they will understand that this is a desperate need for this entire Nation.
Our failure to come together to pass a multiyear transportation bill year after year has resulted in 65 percent of our Nation's roads being rated ``deficient.'' All you have to do is drive around Washington to recognize that.
It has left 25 percent of our Nation's bridges in disrepair, and it has left 45 percent of Americans without access to transit.
This failure has far-reaching and devastating implications and must be addressed with thoughtful and meaningful bipartisan legislation that will provide the certainty and consistency required to fuel jobs and keep the highways and other transportation infrastructure safe.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I share the gentleman from Florida's enthusiasm for the important work that is in front of this Congress. These combined rules offer us the opportunity to bring forward important legislation at a critical time in as efficient a way as possible.
I am excited, as a freshman Congressman, to be able to be a part of this institution, certainly, but to be able to do this hard work that we have in front of us. We have a lot to do, and doing it in this way allows us to get these important things done very quickly.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Valadao), a young man who shares a very interesting perspective because he is living the drought conditions that we just read about in the State of California. He is the author of this important bill we have before us, and he is a resident of Hanford, California.
Mr. VALADAO. I thank the gentleman from Washington for his help with this important legislation.
Mr. Speaker, a little bit on the history of the Valley and the area that I represent. It is an area filled with immigrants.
When you look at my district and when you look at the people I represent, 80 percent of them are minorities. One of the reasons I feel that I had the opportunity to be elected and the honor of being able to represent that district is due to my own background.
My dad came to this country in 1969 as a new immigrant. He didn't speak English as well as he should have, and still, to this day, he speaks with a very strong accent, as does my mom.
When my dad started working in plants and trying to save money so that he could start his own farm someday and give us the opportunity to have the American Dream, he learned to speak Spanish while working alongside a lot of Hispanic folks.
While working really hard and saving his money, he had the opportunity to save enough money to actually buy some cattle and work his way up to the point at which he actually owned some land.
When we look at an opportunity for the American Dream, when we listen to people talk about the opportunity to be successful and protect the small business guy, I am that guy.
I am the guy who had that opportunity because of my parents, because of their hard work. I have been in that struggle. I don't just represent them in Congress, I am that face. I am that person who had that opportunity because of that hard work.
When we see the struggle and when someone claims to tell me or to tell us on our side what those struggles are really like and how this piece of legislation has an impact only for the largest of the large, when you raise the cost of water because you restrict the amount of water that we have delivered to the Valley, it hurts the smallest guy the most.
Those people I represent, that 80 percent minority district, are seeing unemployment numbers as high as 50 percent because those farmers are not getting that water. Those food lines are starting to grow, lines that I stood in, where I helped serve food. It is food that was grown in other countries because we can no longer grow it in the Valley.
These are all people that my friends across the aisle claim to represent, but they don't, because they don't have that background and they didn't have that opportunity to be there to work with them and to grow up in that life where they had to work before and after school like I did--drive a tractor, feed calves, and do all that different type of stuff--because that is what the American Dream is all about: working, saving your money, and having that opportunity.
It is also about having government at their backs. But, right now government is making it more and more difficult for that little guy. Water has gotten so expensive because you have the large cities coming in and spending a bunch of money so that water is going right through the Valley to the southern portion.
All we are asking for in this piece of legislation is for some common sense, common sense that says: ``Let's look at what science we are using.'' If we are going to protect a species, show me the evidence that meets and actually delivers the protection of species.
We have lived through two decades of this, and now we are seeing that the endangered species they claim to want to protect is on the verge of annihilation, almost gone, extinct, after delivering almost no water.
We have gotten an allocation over these past few years of zero percent. We are not asking for a lot of water. We are not asking to be taught how to conserve water. We have done that. We have reached that point.
We are at zero. We have got zero water, and we have got high unemployment numbers. We have got people standing in line, asking for food and begging for help, when all they want to do is work an honest living and provide for their families and for their neighbors.
We have seen too much suffering. It is getting old. We need to pass legislation. We need people who are sincere in this conversation to show up and show some courage and vote for this legislation.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
When the gentleman speaks of growing up in that area, my father grew up in Griffin, Georgia, on a farm. My first job was on a farm. I picked beans, I stripped celery, and I cut chicory. So I don't need lectures about not understanding farming. I picked beans in Pahokee, Florida, which I am proud to represent now as their Congressperson.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Welch), my good friend.
Mr. WELCH. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Speaker, America needs a long-term, sustainably funded surface transportation bill. You know it. I know it. The Governors in all of our States know it. We need it to repair our roads and bridges and to fix our crumbling infrastructure.
Every single one of the 435 Members in this body has needs in his district. Speaker Boehner has 136 deficient bridges in his district. Leader Pelosi has 29. In my State of Vermont, we have 252 structurally deficient bridges. A photo of one of them is right here. It is disgraceful and it is unnecessary.
Yet, instead of facing up to this problem that we all share and doing something that a proud and confident country would do--invest in its future--with reckless irresponsibility, we are acting, once again, to dodge our duty with yet another short-term extension of our highway bill.
This time, the plan is a bold extension for 5 months, through December 18. Can our transportation agencies really plan a bridge replacement or a major repair in the next 5 months?
By the way, how is it paid for? It is not by asking users to pay, which has traditionally been the way we have funded our roads and bridges, but by, in this case, among other dubious devices.
We are asking airline passengers 10 years from now to pay a few billion dollars to fix our highways tomorrow. Think about it. Airline passengers in 10 years--2025--will pay for road repairs we make tomorrow.
By the way, this resort to gimmicks is not new. It has become a habit. This is the 35th short-term extension in the past 6 years. The last one in July of 2014 was paid for by the gimmick of all gimmicks, pension smoothing. We created a pothole in somebody's pension in the future to fix a pothole in his highway today.
Mr. Speaker, we need a long-term plan. We need it first to restore some semblance of duty and responsibility to this House of Representatives that has failed to do its job.
We need to have those 600,000 good-paying jobs start digging dirt and fixing those roads and bridges, and we need it to make America more competitive.
Mr. Speaker, enough is enough. I urge you to join me in voting ``no'' to this joke of a short-term plan. No more Band-Aids, no more patches, no more smoke and mirrors, no more gimmicks.
American contractors and workers are ready to do their job. It is time for Congress to do its job and pass a long-term highway transportation bill.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I was just handed a Statement of Administration Policy from the Executive Office of the President, a statement of his policy position on H.R. 3038. It says:
The administration supports passage of H.R. 3038 to give the House and Senate the necessary time to work on a long-term bill this year that increases investment to meet the needs of the Nation's infrastructure.
I just wanted to add that to the Record.
At this time, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Hardy), a fellow freshman, a gentleman from the scenic Virgin Valley of Nevada.
Mr. HARDY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from Washington for yielding me time to speak on the rule of this vital piece of legislation, H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act.
Coming from Nevada, the Nation's most arid State, we continue to battle a drought in all 17 counties. At no time in recent memory has the significance and proactivity of managing our water resources across the West been more important.
I can sympathize with my colleagues from across the neighboring State of California, who are also facing the fourth consecutive year of drought. We obviously cannot afford to keep this status quo.
As the only Member of Nevada's House delegation on the Committee on Natural Resources, I take a great deal of pride in speaking up for my constituents and the people of my State on important issues facing our communities. Those communities are affected by the droughts currently affecting California's Central Valley, the source of so much of our Nation's food.
For those in my district and around the country who are still battling to get this economic recovery, they can ill afford to pay more of their hard-earned income at the supermarket to feed their families.
As the son of farmer-ranchers from southeastern Nevada, I feel for the hard-working farmers whose suffering is being made worse by burdensome environmental laws and the failure of our elected leaders to provide adequate water infrastructure to meet the ever-growing demands of the 21st century. Though long overdue, we have a real opportunity to provide some commonsense solutions to this very dire situation.
Again, I would like to thank the gentleman from Washington for yielding me some time. I strongly urge a ``yes'' vote on the rule and a ``yes'' on the underlying bill.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, would you be kind enough to advise how much time remains on both sides?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Washington has 13 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Florida has 15 minutes remaining.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, at this time, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. Hahn), my good friend.
Ms. HAHN. I thank my colleague from Florida for allowing me these few minutes.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to explain why I am voting against this rule today. As has been said, California is now in the fourth year of a record drought. In response, our State and local governments have implemented mandatory conservation measures, but we also need to think about how we will increase our water supply.
The bill that the House will consider today does not do that. It just moves water from one need to another. That is why I attempted to offer an amendment to address present and current water needs. However, my amendment was not made in order by the Committee on Rules.
My father, who was Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenny Hahn, had an idea in the 1970s to build a water pipeline from Alaska to California. The idea was never completely investigated but continues to have merit; therefore, I believe that the Department of the Interior should study the feasibility of a water pipeline network, linking our Nation's Federal reservoirs to transport water from wet regions to the dry regions in this country. That is what I thought my amendment would accomplish.
My proposal, I thought, was a first step in building pipelines from regions that have more than enough water to regions that do not. If we can transport oil via pipeline, we should be able to do the same thing with water. I am disappointed that the Committee on Rules did not find this amendment in order. It was a study to determine if this idea is feasible.
I believe a water pipeline and other creative ideas to increase our water supply should be studied. I would think Mr. Valadao, my fellow Californian, would support an idea like this that we could consider.
To ensure that California and other States have enough water for our residents and other needs, even during periods of drought now and in the future, I think Congress should encourage and support efforts leading to these kinds of creative solutions.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Nunes), a young man from the San Joaquin Valley to add to the California voice.
Mr. NUNES. Mr. Speaker, I thank the fine gentleman from Washington from the Committee on Rules and, of course, Chairman Sessions for, again, bringing a water bill to the floor of the House.
Five years ago, we passed a water bill very similar to this. It was in a year where we had abundant rainfall. Unfortunately, that rain was not captured. The water flowed right out to the ocean and was wasted. We have continued to dump water out to the ocean over the last 4 years. Even today, we are continuing to dump water out to the ocean.
When I hear my colleagues talk about drought, yes, we are in the third year of a drought, a very bad drought; but, in fact, the founding fathers of our State built the water systems to withstand 5 years of drought.
Back from 1987 to 1992--it is a drought that I still remember and many of my constituents remember--we really didn't have harsh problems until that fifth year of the drought. Since that time, places down in Los Angeles have built big water storage projects--in our area, no new water storage projects, only taking water away.
You go to 1992; they pass the Central Valley Project Improvement Act that took a million acre feet away and dumped it out to the ocean. In 2009, the San Joaquin River Act took another 250,000 acre feet and wasted it. In addition to that, you have had lawsuits brought forth by the Endangered Species Act by radical environmental groups that have taken the rest of the water away.
The reason we don't have any water is not because of drought; it is because we didn't hold the water when we had a chance to hold the water and keep the water and use it and spread it throughout the State of California.
In fact, it is unfortunate to say because I don't wish ill on the people in San Francisco or the Silicon Valley, but they get their water from our area that they actually pipe over, instead of contributing to the environment.
Now, I don't want the people of San Francisco to lose their water, but at the same time, the people of San Francisco shouldn't be willing to forfeit and give up our water that we rightfully own while they are taking some of ours and not contributing to the fish populations that, no matter how much water we put down, down the river and out to the ocean, the fish continue to die.
At some point, you would think that people would step back and say: Well, if flushing water out to the ocean doesn't work and hasn't helped the fish populations, then we should stop doing that.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. Matsui) to add further perspective from California.
Ms. MATSUI. I thank the gentleman from Florida for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 2898. California is in the fourth year of a devastating drought, and what is on the House floor today does nothing to address the crisis, but, rather, it sets California back by fanning the flames of century-old water wars.
The story of California and the West's drought is known across the country because it is unprecedented. Not only has our annual rainfall plummeted, but for the first time in our history, California has no snowpack--none. The snow in the Sierras once sustained us through the dry summers and replenished our streams with cold water, but not this year.
Folsom Reservoir, just upstream from the city of Sacramento, is projected to be at the lowest it has been by the end of September, less than 15 percent of capacity. This is not due to government mismanagement or environmental restrictions; it is due to the lack of rain.
We need real solutions to this crisis, short- and long-term solutions. There are no silver bullet solutions. It is an all-of-the-above approach, and it should certainly not be the fear-mongering legislation like H.R. 2898.
For the short term, our State has used the flexibility it already has to move the water and make timely deliveries to make the best of this very, very bad situation. We also need to continue our conservation efforts and fix our infrastructure where there are leaks and wastes, but that is just for the short term.
In the long term, we need to be investing in wastewater recycling, above- and below-ground water storage, and new technologies to help us monitor our water use on demand.
I have introduced a sensible bill that will allow wastewater recycling projects to move forward much more quickly with Federal support. We should be debating solutions like that and not wasting time, yet again, on a bill that does not solve the real problem.
As the daughter of a Central Valley farmer and the granddaughter of another, I grew up on a farm, and I deeply understand the value of and the controversy over water. In northern California, we have done our best to balance our watershed to provide water for our farms, our cities, and the environment.
To say that this bill will help the drought is grossly misleading and, frankly, irresponsible. Mr. Speaker, even if we pump as much water south as possible, it still wouldn't be enough.
The problem is a lack of rain. There is simply no more water to pump from the delta. This bill only further divides our State. My district, the city of Sacramento, the Sacramento region, and northern California as a whole strongly opposes this bill.
Some of the concerns that have been raised include the loss of the State's right to manage its own water; the decimation of environmental protections for our Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; the ability to manage Folsom Reservoir for the benefit of the Sacramento metropolitan area; and, most importantly, the overall instability that this bill will create in California.
We cannot afford to give up California's right to control its own water future. The stakes are too high. I urge my colleagues to strongly reject this legislation.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Lawrenceville, Georgia (Mr. Woodall), a fellow member of the Committee on Rules.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend on the Committee on Rules for yielding and appreciate what he is doing down here today.
Mr. Speaker, you serve on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, as I do; you know how important it is that we get to these infrastructure questions. I see colleague after colleague after colleague coming and saying we need long-term solutions to infrastructure. What I don't see is any colleague coming and saying that those long-term solutions are available to us, as we stand here today.
I don't have to get everything I want in this institution, Mr. Speaker, but I do have to move the ball forward. Three yards and a cloud of dust is what I tell constituents back home is the way we are going to get what we all want for this country; and if the answer is to sit on your hands and do nothing for this thing that has been so vexing to this institution, we are looking at 34, 35 extensions.
We have an opportunity to put a stop to it. The Senate, in its wildest imaginations, says maybe we can get a 4-year deal; most likely, it will be an 18-month deal. When I turn to the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means here in the House, when I turn to the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the House, they say: Colleagues, give me 5 months, and we can do it right.
Colleagues, give me 5 months, and we will do what no other Congress has been able to do for nearly a decade. Give us 5 months, and we will deliver on not just the promises, but the expectations that every single American has.
My colleagues, we have gotten in the business of telling the American people that they can have their roads for free, and that is not true. If you want better roads to drive on, you have got to provide the money to make that happen.
For years, our solution has been to transfer general fund revenues into the user fee-funded transportation account. User fees mean that people who benefit from it pay for it.
I have never bumped into an American who didn't believe they ought to pay for what they use. I have never bumped into an American who didn't believe that paying their fair share was at the fabric of who we are as a nation.
This rule gives us the best chance we have, and the best chance we have had in a decade, to make transportation certainty a reality for this country. It means better roads. It means more savings of taxpayer dollars. It means better efficiency. It means more accountability.
I am grateful to my friend on the Rules Committee for bringing this rule forward and giving me an opportunity to cast my ``yes'' vote on this rule and a ``yes'' vote on the underlying bill. Five months to a better solution for America.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I will keep my good friend from Georgia's statement for him on December 18, and remind him of what he said.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer), my good friend.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. I listened to my friend from Georgia talking about 5 months and we will be able to finally fix this. I actually have in my hand my speech from 1 year ago today speaking on the rule where we dodged the bullet again, and I said at that time I could pull out some of my other speeches. All this does is let people off the hook.
Why didn't we fix it last fall or this spring? My good friend from Washington used to serve in the State legislature. His State legislature just passed a 15-cent gas tax increase, joining a list of six States, all Republican States, that have raised the gas tax this year.
My friend from Georgia says he has never met anybody that doesn't really want to pay for their infrastructure. Well, he ought to take a hard look at his leadership. They have denied an opportunity to move forward with something championed by Ronald Reagan in 1982, when the gas tax, at his direction, under his leadership, was raised 125 percent.
There is no excuse to keep torturing people at the State and local government level to stop enabling people to avoid their responsibility here.
My good friend, Mr. DeFazio, is on the floor. In 2 months, he and Bill Shuster, the chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, could give us a 6-year bill, but Congress has to give them a number.
Does anybody in their right mind think that we are going to go into 2016, with half the people in the other body running for President, holidays, treaties? Think again. It is a fool's errand. We ought to step up, follow Ronald Reagan's lead, replenish the gas tax, and get on with work.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I would inquire how much time is remaining.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Simpson). The gentleman from Washington has 8 1/2 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Florida has 8 minutes remaining.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to bring up H.R. 3064, a comprehensive, 6-year surface transportation bill that is partially paid for by restricting U.S. companies from using so-called inversion to shirk their tax obligations.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio), my good friend and the ranking member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who will discuss our proposal.
Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
As we have heard, a year ago today, the House passed a temporary extension of 1 year. Chairman Ryan of the Ways and Means Committee, who was supposed to figure out how to pay for this, said we will use this year to put the transportation highway trust fund on a sustainable path so we can avoid stopgap legislation in the future.
Well, that didn't happen, but they were occupied with much more important things. For instance, they said that estates worth more than $10 million shouldn't pay a penny in taxes--none, zero. That cost $289 billion. If we had dedicated that to surface transportation, we could have basically doubled spending over 10 years.
So today, the Democrats are here to offer a real, 6-year, long-term increase in investment in America's failing infrastructure.
There are 140,000 bridges that need repair or replacement on the National Highway System. Forty percent of the pavement is at the point where you have to dig up the underlayment and rebuild the whole road.
We have an $84 billion backlog just bringing our existing transit systems up to a state of good repair. It is so bad that people are dying on Metro here in Washington, D.C., because of the decrepit condition of the system.
With the Buy America rules, we would create a phenomenal number of jobs. In fact, under our funding proposal in our bill, we would create an additional 300,000 jobs a year. And we need those jobs here in America, and they are good-paying jobs. They are not just construction jobs. They are engineering, they are technical, they are small business, and they are minority business enterprises. They are a whole host of things that would lift the whole economy--make us more energy efficient, make Americans save money getting out of congestion, not driving their cars through giant potholes and incurring costs--but the Republicans can't figure out how to get there.
Well, we are offering an alternative--a good, solid, 6-year bill. Yes, we haven't figure out the 6-year funding yet because you guys are totally opposed to user fees, despite Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower and the history of the Republican Party on user fees, and also former chairman of the committee, Bud Shuster, who joined with the Democrats in 1993, the last time when we raised the Federal gas tax to 18.3 cents a gallon.
We would fund 2 years of this bill by prohibiting corporate inversions; i.e., Benedict Arnold corporations that continue to have all of their operations in America but go overseas and buy some minor entity and claim that is their international headquarters, like a corner drug store somewhere in London for a pharmaceutical company. It is an outrageous practice. While they enjoy all the benefits of America and all the protections of our law and our military and all those costs, they don't want to pay, and they don't want to pay for transportation either.
So we are offering an alternative today. If we defeat the previous question, we would go into an open rule, something that never happens much around here, where both sides of the aisle, any Member of Congress, could offer an amendment to increase spending, decrease spending, target one or another part of the infrastructure that they feel needs more investment.
So I urge my colleagues to defeat this rule, move to an open rule, something we were promised when the Republicans took over, and fund a 6-year bill. We will give you 2 years of funding, and we can figure out the rest over the next 2 years.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to yield 4 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Van Hollen), my good friend and the ranking member of the Committee on the Budget.
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Let me thank my friend from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and congratulate Mr. DeFazio and Mr. Blumenauer on all their work on trying to modernize our national infrastructure. They know what every American out there knows, which is that we have an embarrassing
state of affairs when it comes to our roads, our bridges, and our transitways.
It is not just them. We also know from the American Society of Civil Engineers, who are the nonpartisan pros, that they have concluded we have failing infrastructure. They gave our infrastructure system a grade of D-plus, a grade we should all be embarrassed by. But what is even worse is this Congress should get a grade of F for its refusal to actually do something about it.
So we are about to see an expiration of the authorization in a few weeks. Funding will dry out in a few weeks. And so what is the proposal from our Republican colleagues? Let's do 5 more months, through December, at a level they know is inadequate to help modernize our infrastructure. That is their proposal.
As my colleagues have said, we have been here before, and we are tired of Band-Aids. Who can plan to modernize their infrastructure with just a 5-month time period?
These are major investments our States are making, major investments we are making on behalf of our country, and to not have any kind of certainty that the funds are going to be there after the end of December is something that is embarrassing for a country like the United States of America.
So we are proposing today to do the 6-year plan. Mr. DeFazio has put that forward. The President has put forward the 6-year plan, the Grow America plan, to modernize our infrastructure and grow more jobs in the process, and we fund the first 2-year installment. How do we fund it? We fund through a mechanism that I will bet you virtually every American will support, which is to close these pernicious tax loopholes that are allowing American companies simply to move their mailing address overseas in order to dodge their obligations to the American people.
These companies are not moving their employees. They are not moving their management. They are not moving their factories or anything else. They are just changing their mailing address by acquiring a small overseas company. It is called inversion. By doing that, they are escaping their responsibilities to their own country.
That is why my colleague called them Benedict Arnold corporations, because they are still benefiting from everything this country has to offer--educating their employees, the infrastructure that we do have, and all the other support structures they get--but they don't want to pay for it. And when they don't pay for it, guess who pays for it. The American people. Their taxes go up, or we have to borrow more on our credit card to pay for it.
So what we are saying is let's stop these inversions. Let's use that $41 billion to fund the first 2-year installment of a robust infrastructure plan. And we can do it now.
We have introduced the bill, H.R. 3064, introduced by Mr. DeFazio, myself, Mr. Israel, Mr. Levin, Ms. Holmes Norton. The next vote we have, the next vote we cast, will allow this body to take up that legislation.
So we don't have to kick the can down the road for just 5 months with all that uncertainty. We can vote to do a robust 6-year plan, have a modernized infrastructure, and pay for it by shutting down these loopholes that corporations are abusing.
Let's take that money that is right now going into the pockets of people who are dodging our tax laws and invest in infrastructure. Let's get the job done today, not 5 months from now or a year from now. Let's get it done today.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and defeat the previous question so we can take it up.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Denham).
Mr. DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, it is an important and critical time for the State of California. We are facing an unprecedented drought that is affecting farms, families, and communities that are just being shut off from water, communities that are not only rationing, but now having to have water trucked in.
This has been an ongoing battle. This battle has been going on for years. Some would say this is all due to climate change. But shouldn't we as a country, shouldn't we as a State be focused on infrastructure that will actually capture water so that we can save the water for years like this rather than seeing huge unemployment levels?
Rather than seeing people waiting in lines to receive free food because they can't get a job, shouldn't we be making the simple fixes to actually store and capture our water?
The amendments that we heard earlier talk about desalinization. Sure, I am fine with desalinization. I think we ought to use every opportunity that we have. But rather than pushing all of our clean water out into the ocean only to desalinate the salt water to bring it back into clean water, shouldn't we first start by saving the precious resources that we have?
So, sure, desalinization is a good idea, but it ought to be mixed in with everything else that we do. We ought to have greater water storage. We ought to be actually protecting the fish that we talk about protecting. Let's actually address the predator fish that eat 95 to 98 percent of the fish that we are trying to save, spending millions of dollars not only trying to save them, but pushing out thousands of acre-feet of freshwater that would go to our communities, which would create thousands of jobs rather than seeing this huge population that begins to see unemployment levels at record levels.
We ought to do the restoration to the environment. We have a number of different tributaries that we entered into agreement on, bipartisan agreements, to actually address the restoration of that area.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.
Mr. DENHAM. Rather than restore the riverbeds themselves, we truck the fish around the river. That doesn't help the environment; it doesn't help the fish, and it certainly does not help the communities of California.
What the rest of the country needs to worry about is this shortage of food, the scarcity of food that we will see across the country not only being sent from California, but the high prices that go with it.
You are affecting the American family; you are affecting the jobs in California, and it is time to fix this water situation on the West Coast and in the United States and in California and to do it now.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time to close.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I have one more good gentleman from California I would like to hear from.
I yield 2 minutes to the young man from Richvale, California (Mr. LaMalfa).
Mr. LaMALFA. Mr. Speaker, this bill, H.R. 2898, is the product of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and will protect State water rights, store more water during winter storms, address invasive fish that my colleague Mr. Denham was talking about that have decimated endangered species, and advance new water infrastructure to prepare for future droughts.
One project alone--Sites Reservoir, in my region--would reduce the State's need for rationing by 60 percent with that project.
My northern California district is a source of a vast amount of the State's usable water supply and its largest reservoirs; yet even my constituents are facing water rationing. Fields across my district are fallow because Federal agencies haven't adapted to drought conditions.
While some in the minority party would prefer to simply hand out borrowed money, doing so only ensures that this crisis will be repeated again and again. Our conditions in our lakes are already desperate. Folsom Lake, for example, will soon be a dead pool, and that is an important water source for Sacramento, due to the attempts to try to keep water under salmon down there.
This bill increases access to water for all Californians, without benefiting one region at the expense of another.
Mr. Speaker, California and the Nation cannot wait any longer. We need H.R. 2898 to move forward in the bipartisan effort we have had so far. The answer to this crisis isn't billions again and more borrowed dollars or more environmental restrictions. It is action to move on California's drought and add to California's water supply.
I urge your support for H.R. 2898. Let's get California back moving again.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of my amendment in the Record, along with extraneous material immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Florida?
There was no objection.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, there is too little time left on the legislative calendar for this body to be considering partisan legislation that we have been assured will not become law.
Furthermore, the future of our Nation's highways and transportation systems are far too important to continue to fund using short-term Band-Aid patches. Our constituents, this great country, deserves better.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
In closing, the issues we have considered here today are critical to the stability of our transportation infrastructure and the health of our rural western communities, as well as the economic well-being of our country.
This rule provides for consideration of H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act, as well as H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act, a comprehensive and bipartisan bill that aims at alleviating drought impacts in the short and long term.
Water is not just a resource in the West; it is the lifeblood of farming and ranching all across the region, and we must act swiftly and decisively to mitigate the impacts of this crisis.
California and many areas in the West are facing devastating drought conditions. This bill fixes the bureaucratic and regulatory mess that has prevented people from getting water they so desperately need. Failing to pass this bill would deal a devastating blow to farm families and the American economy.
Many families, businesses, and ag producers are producing with some of the most dire drought conditions they have seen in decades; and a growing number of communities have been impacted by water shortages and rationing.
However, most of the damaging effects of the drought are preventable, and this bill comes to the aid of the West by fixing the broken regulatory system and updating our water infrastructure for this coming century.
While the root of the cause of this crisis is the drought, complex and inconsistent laws, misguided court decisions, and burdensome regulations have exacerbated an already devastating situation.
Mr. Speaker, this bill addresses these policy failures and seeks to alleviate the drought's short- and long-term impacts. It will give immediate relief to millions of Americans who are facing mandatory water rationing and will invest in new water storage facilities to prepare for future droughts.
While the Obama administration has issued a veto threat for this bill, people suffering in the West have little time for political theater, which is why I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this critical legislation.
This rule also provides for consideration of H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act, a bill that will extend the Federal surface transportation programs. This extension will provide the House and Senate with time to work out a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill in a bicameral, bipartisan manner.
This bill will also allow us to work towards a resolution of the highway trust fund, which is currently facing a $90 billion shortfall, as we have heard. If we fail to address the trust fund, its insolvency would have disastrous impacts on States across our country. Many projects would grind to a halt. Workers would be furloughed, and existing infrastructure investments would be lost.
While another short-term extension is not what any of us wanted, our States need certainty, and that certainty can only come from the long-term reauthorization of these transportation programs, as well as a lasting solution for the trust fund.
Mr. Speaker, this is a good, straightforward rule, allowing for consideration of two important pieces of legislation that will help protect our rural, Western communities, while providing much relief from devastating water shortages and drought conditions.
It will also ensure that many important transportation programs do not lapse and will extend the highway trust fund expenditure authority so that this vital fund remains solvent and available for projects across the country while we work towards a lasting solution.
I appreciate the discussion we have had over the last hour. It has been great, very enlightening. Although we may have some differences of opinion, I believe this rule and the underlying bills are strong measures that are important to our country's future.
I urge my colleagues to support House Resolution 362 and the underlying bills.
The material previously referred to by Mr. Hastings is as follows:
An Amendment to H. Res. 362 Offered by Mr. Hastings of Florida
Strike section 2 and insert the following:
Sec. 2. Immediately upon adoption of this resolution the Speaker shall, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 3064) to authorize highway infrastructure and safety, transit, motor carrier, rail, and other surface transportation programs, and for other purposes. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided among and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Ways and Means. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions. If the Committee of the Whole rises and reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of the bill.
Sec. 3. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of H.R. 3064.
The Vote on the Previous Question: What It Really Means
This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the Democratic minority to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.
Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308-311), describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''
The Republican majority may say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule....... When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.''
In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''
Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.
Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is ordering the previous question.
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 9 of rule XX, the Chair will reduce to 5 minutes the minimum time for any electronic vote on the question of adoption of the resolution.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 245, nays 182, not voting 6, as follows:
[Roll No. 438]
Hice, Jody B.
Boyle, Brendan F.
Doyle, Michael F.
Johnson, E. B.
Lujan Grisham (NM)
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Sánchez, Linda T.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|