2:21 PM EST

Jim McGovern, D-MA 3rd

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier). All time yielded during consideration of the rule is for debate only.

I yield myself 6 minutes.

GENERAL LEAVE

I also ask unanimous consent that all Members be given 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on House Resolution 818.

2:22 PM EST

Michael Arcuri, D-NY 24th

Mr. ARCURI. Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 817 provides for consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 3074, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

I want to thank the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee and the ranking member for bringing a conference report to the floor that makes critical investment in our Nation's transportation infrastructure at levels guaranteed in SAFETEA-LU.

The conference report also rejects the administration's proposed funding cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program, highway programs, and critical housing and community development programs.

The conference report provides $151 million more than current funding for the FAA, $765 million more than the President's request for FAA Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants for airport planning, construction and development.

Recipients of AIP funds such as Griffiss Park Airfield in my upstate New York district have benefited greatly from this program. Over the last few years, AIP funds have helped Griffiss continue to fully develop as a regional aviation facility, become the new home for the Oneida County Airport, create long-term regional economic growth for a region seeking to attract new investment.

The conference report also maintains our commitment to keeping our airways safe by providing $7 billion for air traffic organization, including $16 million to hire more than 1,400 new air traffic controllers to replenish the work force as the rate of retiring air traffic controllers continues to grow, and provides critical funding to hire and train more safety inspectors and for other aviation safety activities.

Mr. Speaker, this conference report provides $3.5 billion more than current [Page: H13890]

levels for the Transportation Department. These additional funds will provide for much needed investments in our Nation's highways, road construction and repair, and transportation safety.

This conference report boosts funding for the Federal Transit Administration by providing $227 million more than the President's request for mass transit programs. Local transit authorities, such as the Central New York Regional Transit Authority and Centro in my district, will now be able to expand their hybrid bus fleet and continue to provide low-cost, convenient, clean and energy-efficient transportation services to commuters in both upstate New York and in New York City.

This conference report also increases funding for the Housing and Urban Development Department by $3.1 billion above the President's request.

The President's budget request sought to eliminate funding for the HOPE VI program, but I am so pleased that this legislation will maintain our commitment to providing affordable housing for the many disadvantaged individuals across our country, individuals that still struggle daily to meet their family's needs, even while working full-time jobs.

In 2003, the City of Utica, New York was the recipient of an $11.5 million HOPE VI grant for revitalization of a local residential community. This grant has allowed for significant improvements in safety and greater access to service and facilities for its residents. It would be a shame if similar communities around the country were unable to reap the benefits of the HOPE VI program.

The conference report restores funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, which this administration has cut since 2001 by nearly 35 percent. This conference report provides $922 million more than the President's request for CDBG grants, which allow local governments in cities such as Utica, Rome and Auburn, New York to provide critical service to revitalize neighborhoods, promote economic development and improve quality of life for those starved of financial resources.

Localities across my upstate New York district rely on CDBG funds to support vital redevelopment efforts that improve housing, assist local businesses, and offer services that promote safety and reduce crime. CDBG funds have been used by the City of Utica to prepare sites like those in the Corn Hill area for new housing construction by demolishing existing structures, replacing antiquated sewer lines, planting trees, constructing new sidewalks and curbs and paving streets, improving the quality

of life for all the citizens of that city.

CDBG funds have been used in the City of Auburn to provide small business assistance loans to help new businesses make it through their first critical year of start-up, retain their employees, and grow their business. CDBG funds are also used by Auburn to support after-school programs, child care subsidies, and even counseling for children in crisis.

In the City of Rome, these funds are also used to assist new small businesses and also to assist low- to moderate-income persons make needed health and safety improvements to their homes, such as helping seniors with the installation of ramps and railings that allow them to remain living in their homes, and helping people deal with emergencies like failure and roof collapse. These are important parts of this bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

2:27 PM EST

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL 21st

Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, there are, I'm certain, very important programs that are funded by the legislation being brought forth today. And without any doubt, the Transportation and HUD appropriations bill is one of the most important appropriations bills that we face and we consider and we pass every year.

What is unfortunate is that it has been brought forth, it has been brought to this floor by the majority in a manner that is consistent with a pattern that is most unfortunate, objectionable.

As a matter of fact, that pattern, another aspect of that pattern is the subject of an editorial today by a newspaper that analyzes and informs on a daily basis with regard to this Congress. The newspaper is called Roll Call, and it has an editorial today about another aspect of the pattern that is most unfortunate and that we're seeing with the way in which this, albeit, very important piece of legislation is being brought forth today. Because it wasn't until, and we'll talk a little bit about

the other aspect of the pattern that is the object of the Roll Call editorial in a minute. But with regard to this legislation, it was publicly available at 7 p.m., approximately, last night for the first time.

[Time: 14:30]

By the way, not in a very accessible way, in a format that's not very accessible: it was put online. There was no way to look at all of the legislation in that manner, in the format in which it was made available around 7 p.m. last night.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in the rules of the House, there is a requirement that before an appropriations bill is considered by this House, 3 days, 72 hours, must pass. That rule was waived by the majority in the Rules Committee last night.

Now, in addition to that rule, there is a custom and a custom that is repeatedly made reference to. As a matter of fact, it's not only custom, but in the promises made by the new majority in a document during the campaign the last election, the new majority in a document entitled ``A New Direction for America,'' they talked about that at the very least, if not 3 days for an appropriations bill to be able to be considered by the membership before it is brought forth that there should be at least

24 hours. I read from the document ``A New Direction for America": ``Members should have at least 24 hours to examine bill and conference reports texts prior to floor consideration.''

So not only do we not have the 3 days because that's waived by the rule, it's a rule but it was waived by the majority of the Rules Committee, which is what we saw last night, but, in addition, not even the 24 hours now for Members to be able to look at the legislation that is before them. Most unfortunate. It violates the promise of the majority in addition to what I would say is an elemental required fairness for this process to work.

Now, I talked about the pattern. It's not just the lack of 24-hour notice; it's a pattern. Let's look at Roll Call today. They talk about the fact that there have been multiple threats by the majority to restrict something that hasn't been restricted since 1822, and that is one of the few legislative means, procedural means by which the minority can seek to amend legislation, and it's called, Mr. Speaker, the motion to recommit. And that hasn't been restricted since 1822. The majority has repeatedly

now during this year, the first year of this Congress, this year that is already coming to an end, it's talked about that it wants to restrict that right that the minority has, one of the few vehicles that the minority has had since 1822 to try to amend legislation.

Roll Call, a newspaper, Mr. Speaker, that covers what we do here, observes us very carefully, has an editorial in today's edition: ``Despite promises to manage the House on a more open basis than Republicans did during their 12-year rule,'' Roll Call says today in an editorial, ``Democrats have prohibited any floor amendments at more than double the rate of the previous Congress.''

And then Roll Call goes on to ask the Democrats not to do what they have threatened to do, and that is restrict the procedural vehicle that has been available and unrestricted since 1822, the motion to recommit. So note, Mr. Speaker, the pattern.

Now, I wish, I really wish, because of the importance of the programs funded by this legislation that we could discuss those programs. But when we are seeing this pattern of unfairness, of constant tightening, restricting the legislative process despite, and in contrast to, the promises made by the majority included in this ``A New Direction for America'' where they said, well, if we're not going to give 3 days, which is what the rules require, because sometimes we might have to waive that in

the interest of time, then at least 24 hours. So, no, this legislation, the first time it was posted was 7 p.m. That's when it could be seen. [Page: H13891]

By the way, I am informed by people who are a lot more expert than I am at the format by which the legislation was posted at 7 p.m. that at 7 p.m. with that format, the details of the legislation could not be accessed. So really, Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about is a lot less than even that time if we wouldn't have come to the floor until 7 p.m., which is what the New Direction for America promised, the majority repeatedly promised, and which would have been elementally fair in addition

to in compliance with the promise of the majority.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I would ask my friend, and he is my friend, Mr. Arcuri from New York, how many speakers he has wishing to speak.

2:58 PM EST

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL 21st

Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Reclaiming my time, fortunately that purely political move, Mr. Speaker, failed last week when the Senate removed the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill from the Labor-HHS bill.

Recently, Mr. Speaker, the Republican leader, Mr. Boehner, took a step toward naming House Republican conferees. Now the distinguished Speaker must follow suit and take the steps necessary to ensure that work can begin on writing the final veterans funding bill that can be enacted into law.

Mr. Speaker, every day that the majority chooses not to act on this bill, veterans lose $18.5 million. Our veterans deserve better than partisan gamesmanship holding back their funding.

I urge my colleagues to help move this important legislation and oppose the previous question.

2:58 PM EST

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL 21st

Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Reclaiming my time, fortunately that purely political move, Mr. Speaker, failed last week when the Senate removed the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill from the Labor-HHS bill.

Recently, Mr. Speaker, the Republican leader, Mr. Boehner, took a step toward naming House Republican conferees. Now the distinguished Speaker must follow suit and take the steps necessary to ensure that work can begin on writing the final veterans funding bill that can be enacted into law.

Mr. Speaker, every day that the majority chooses not to act on this bill, veterans lose $18.5 million. Our veterans deserve better than partisan gamesmanship holding back their funding.

I urge my colleagues to help move this important legislation and oppose the previous question.

2:59 PM EST

David Dreier, R-CA 26th

Mr. DREIER. I thank my friend for yielding.

I would just like to ask him to clarify one more time before we vote on this issue, I think this is going to be the 11th time we have had an opportunity to vote on this.

I have just been reminded by our crack Rules Committee staff that this is, in fact, the 12th time that this House has had the opportunity to vote on this issue. I guess the second or third time in Veterans Week. We have just marked the date on which we honor our Nation's veterans, and this House has repeatedly, repeatedly denied us the opportunity to move ahead and get the very much-needed assistance to our Nation's veterans. I think that this vote is going to be critically important in our quest

to move that effort forward.

3:00 PM EST

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL 21st

Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. I thank my friend. I think that it is critically important that we get this legislation passed as soon as possible and sent to the President. It is the 12th time that we have attempted in this House to get this bill sent to the President. Mr. Speaker, obviously this is critically important legislation, a critically important moment. And so I urge my colleagues to help move the important veterans legislation along by opposing the previous question.

I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment and extraneous materials immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

3:04 PM EST

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL 21st

Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. My parliamentary inquiry is as follows: When I asked the gentleman if he had any further speakers before yielding back the reminder of our time, I was informed that he did not. Is it correct for the gentleman to say that he has no further speakers, and then after, based on that statement, I yield back our time, he yields to someone else in contradiction to what he has told me?

Is that appropriate, Mr. Speaker?

3:05 PM EST

Michael Arcuri, D-NY 24th

Mr. ARCURI. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Additionally, I would like to point out that whenever anybody makes factually incorrect statements on the floor, I am going to yield to my colleagues to make sure that the record is made clear, and that is why I yielded to Mr. Edwards on that point.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill, like very few other things that we as a body deal with, deals and helps and touches many, many millions of Americans, whether it is CDBG money that goes to help the elderly make a senior center more accessible, or whether it is fixing our roads that thousands of commuters travel on every day, it is a bill that is critically important. All we have heard from the other side of the aisle are procedural reasons why we shouldn't go

forward. That is what the American people are tired of. They are tired of the process, the procedure. They want action. They want things accomplished.

During the break, I had an opportunity to talk to my friend and colleague from Wisconsin, Representative Kagen, and he made a good point. He said, you know, while we spend billions of dollars in Iraq, and no one talks about it, we hear all kinds of complaints when we try to spend millions of dollars domestically on programs that help Americans, needy Americans, people that need it most.

Mr. Speaker, that's why we need to pass this rule. I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and on the rule.

The material previously referred to by Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida is as follows:

Amendment to H. Res. 817 Offered by Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida

At the end of the resolution, add the following:

SEC. 2. The House disagrees to the Senate amendment to the bill, H.R. 2642, making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes, and agrees to the conference requested by the Senate thereon. The Speaker shall appoint conferees immediately, but may declare a recess under clause 12(a) of rule I for the purpose of consulting the Minority Leader prior to such appointment.

The motion to instruct conferees otherwise in order pending the appointment of conferees instead shall be in order only at a time designated by the Speaker in the legislative schedule within two additional legislative days after adoption of this resolution.

(The information contained herein was provided by Democratic Minority on multiple occasions throughout the 109th Congress.) [Page: H13893]

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 Democratic majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, 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.''

Because the vote today may look bad for the Democratic majority they will 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 definition of the previous question used in the Floor Procedures Manual published by the Rules Committee in the 109th Congress, (page 56). Here's how the Rules

Committee described the rule using information from Congressional Quarterly's ``American Congressional Dictionary'': ``If the previous question is defeated, control of debate shifts to the leading opposition member (usually the minority Floor Manager) who then manages an hour of debate and may offer a germane amendment to the pending business.''

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 Democratic majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.