Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Hastings). All time yielded during consideration of the rule is for debate only.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Speaker, I thank the chairwoman of the Rules Committee, Ms. Slaughter, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.
I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
(Mr. HASTINGS of Washington asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Speaker, it is imperative that the over 200,000 miners in the United States work in a safe environment. Tragedies in recent years have highlighted the need to improve mine safety. In an effort to improve mine safety and prevent future tragedies, I was pleased that in 2006 the Senate unanimously, and the House overwhelmingly, passed the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, which was signed into law. This comprehensive, overwhelmingly bipartisan
law represented a significant step, the first in some 30 years, forward in improving mine safety. But, Madam Speaker, it's unfortunate that today Democrat leaders have put bipartisanship aside and brought forth a rule to allow the House to consider legislation that threatens to jeopardize, not improve, meaningful achievements and efforts currently under way.
The MINER law of 2006 is still being implemented, and to date, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has met all of its statutory deadlines in implementing the new law. However, Democratic leaders have chosen to bring forth the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act, which ignores the progress that has been made, and further, provides no opportunity for stakeholder participation in the regulatory process and imposes unrealistic time requirements on employers.
In addition, it is concerning that this bill would allow technology to be placed in mines that has not been deemed ``intrinsically safe'' by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. This has the potential, Madam Speaker, to result in serious safety issues, such as maybe an explosion.
Another major safety concern is that this bill creates a two-tiered notification system in the event of an accident, with one set of reportable incidents being subject to be reported within 15 minutes and another set within an hour. Madam Speaker, current law requires a mine operator to call the Mine Safety and Health Administration within 15 minutes of a reportable incident or face a fine. This new confusing tiered system could potentially lessen protection to miners.
Lastly, this bill does not empower all miners to participate in the development of safety policies and procedures through the formation of safety teams. Currently, miners who are not part of a union can be prohibited from working with management to promote safety. Representatives Kline of Minnesota and Wilson of South Carolina will be offering a substitute amendment later to end this discrimination between union and nonunion employees. All miners should be able to have a say
when it comes to their safety, and this bill fails to do that.
Before enacting additional legislation that could be counterproductive, Congress should allow current law to be fully implemented. Congress should also review the law first before dictating mine safety regulations that fail to advance safety, potentially threatens jobs, and impose over $1 billion in unfunded mandates on the mining industry.
So, Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against this rule and the underlying legislation.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. McKEON. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Since the 110th Congress was gaveled into session, not a single bill within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Education and Labor has been considered under an open rule. Sadly, today's bill is no exception. Nonetheless, I do want to thank the majority for making the Republican substitute in order. I believe the S-MINER Act is fundamentally flawed and cannot be fixed with discrete amendments. As such, anything short of the Republican substitute will only result in cosmetic changes to a bill
whose flaws run much deeper.
Each of us recognizes the importance of mine safety. The individuals who work in mines supply the energy that powers this Nation. Their job is dangerous, yet vital, and keeping them safe is critical.
Our commitment to mine safety is nothing new. In fact, it was nearly 2 years ago that we first took up the MINER Act in an effort to implement the most comprehensive reforms to mine safety in a generation. That bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support as well as the backing of both labor and industry.
The MINER Act was signed into law just a year and a half ago, and already it is producing major changes in the operation of our Nation's mines. The law included an aggressive implementation timetable, and the mining community has acted quickly to embrace the law and make its required changes. Our committee has monitored implementation of the MINER Act in order to ensure it is quickly and effectively put into place. There should be no question about our commitment to mine safety. Yet, here we
are today to consider a bill that in many ways ignores the progress that has been made.
At best, the S-MINER Act is premature. The 2006 MINER Act has not yet been given the chance to take root, with many of its reforms still being developed by MSHA and those in the field. At worst, the S-MINER Act could actually derail ongoing progress by sending regulators and the mining community back to square one on many critical safety issues.
I would like to quote from an article published by the Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader by Rick Honaker, Mining Foundation distinguished professor and chairman of the University of Kentucky department of mining engineering:
``But now it seems very strange, almost incomprehensible, that a move is afoot in Congress to impose an entirely new set of requirements on coal mine operators and mine inspectors even before there has been an opportunity to comply with the far-reaching provisions of the MINER Act. It threatens to disrupt the all-important emergency rescue provisions of the law. Simply put, additional legislation now serves no useful purpose.''
Madam Speaker, Republicans have developed an alternative to the S-MINER Act that we believe strikes the appropriate balance between strengthening mine safety and maintaining the [Page: H42]
widely supported reforms enacted less than 2 years ago. First and foremost, our substitute underscores the importance of the MINER Act reforms and restates our commitment to seeing them implemented fully and forcefully. In addition to supporting these strong reforms, our substitute
goes further to protect miners by allowing them to be full participants in the safety process.
During the Education and Labor Committee's consideration of this bill, Representative Kline offered an amendment that would have taken meaningful steps to enhance mine safety, without jeopardizing work already under way. That amendment, like our substitute, would empower miners by directly engaging them in the development of safety policies and procedures through the formation of safety teams. Currently, nonunionized miners may be prohibited from working with management to promote safety
To further protect miners, our substitute would enhance the MINER Act reforms by fostering communication between MSHA and the Bureau of Land Management; studying the conditions the next generation of miners will face with deep mine conditions, as well as fostering a better understanding of retreat mining using pillar removal; and clarifying information dissemination in the event of a tragedy.
Lastly, we would implement a testing program for illegal substances. This would not only protect those in the mines, but also identify miners who are struggling with addiction and in need of help. The States of Virginia and Kentucky have already implemented this safety measure, and miners have been protected because of it.
Madam Speaker, I cannot help but notice that the amendment offered by the distinguished chairman of the committee also includes a provision to address the issue of drug abuse among miners. I also cannot help but notice that this provision was inserted at the very last possible minute, several hours after the deadline for amendments to the Rules Committee. I hope this 11th-hour acknowledgement of the crippling problem of drug abuse among miners is a signal of genuine interest in addressing the
issue. Unfortunately, by providing only a study rather than a strong testing program like that called for by Republicans, this gesture rings hollow.
Madam Speaker, although the rule makes in order a strong Republican alternative, it remains flawed because it allows consideration of a bill that should not pass.
The S-MINER Act abandons bipartisan mine safety reforms and replaces stakeholder expertise with bureaucratic Washington mandates that threaten mine workers' jobs. I urge a ``no'' vote.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Madam Speaker, for the last several months, Republicans have highlighted the need to change the House rules in order to restore accountability and enforceability to the earmark rule.
Clearly, the rules are flawed when it comes to enforceability of earmarks. House Republicans believe every earmark should be debatable on the House floor, but time after time Members have been denied the opportunity to challenge earmarks during consideration of the rule and the bill.
Over the last several months, we have learned that the earmark rule does not apply when considering amendments between the Houses. This loophole has prevented numerous earmarks from being challenged in the energy bill, the State Children's Health Insurance Program expansion legislation, and the omnibus bill, which contained nearly 9,000 earmarks, including at least 150 earmarks that were air-dropped in the bill at the last minute.
Madam Speaker, in October Parliamentarian John Sullivan sent a letter to Chairwoman Slaughter confirming that the current rules are flawed as they relate to earmarks. In his letter, he states the earmark rule ``does not comprehensively apply to all legislative propositions at all stages of the legislative process.''
Madam Speaker, I will insert this letter from House Parliamentarian John Sullivan into the Record.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENTARIAN,
Washington, DC, October 2, 2007.
Hon. LOUISE MCINTOSH SLAUGHTER,
Committee on Rules, House of Representatives, Washington, DC
DEAR CHAIRWOMAN SLAUGHTER: Thank you for your letter of October 2, 2007, asking for an elucidation of our advice on how best to word a special rule. As you also know, we have advised the committee that language waiving all points of order ``except those arising under clause 9 of rule XXI'' should not be adopted as boilerplate for all special rules, notwithstanding that the committee may be resolved not to recommend that the House waive the earmark-disclosure requirements of clause 9.
In rule XXI, clause 9(a) establishes a point of order against undisclosed earmarks in certain measures and clause 9(b) establishes a point of order against a special rule that waives the application of clause 9(a). As illuminated in the rulings of September 25 and 27, 2007, clause 9(a) of rule XXI does not comprehensively apply to all legislative propositions at all stages of the legislative process.
Clause 9(a) addresses the disclosure of earmarks in a bill or joint resolution, in a conference report on a bill or joint resolution, or in a so-called ``manager's amendment'' to a bill or joint resolution. Other forms of amendment--whether they be floor amendments during initial House consideration or later amendments between the Houses--are not covered. (One might surmise that those who developed the rule felt that proposals to amend are naturally subject to immediate peer review, though they
harbored reservations about the so-called ``manager's amendment,'' i.e., one offered at the outset of consideration for amendment by a member of a committee of initial referral under the terms of a special rule.)
The question of order on September 25 involved a special rule providing for a motion to dispose of an amendment between the Houses. As such, clause 9(a) was inapposite. It had no application to the motion in the first instance. Accordingly, Speaker pro tempore Holden held that the special rule had no tendency to waive any application of clause 9(a). The question of order on September 27 involved a special rule providing (in pertinent part) that an amendment be considered as adopted. Speaker pro
tempore Blumenauer employed the same rationale to hold that, because clause 9(a) had no application to the amendment in the first instance, the special rule had no tendency to waive any application of clause 9(a).
The same would be true in the more common case of a committee amendment in the nature of a substitute made in order as original text for the purpose of further amendment. Clause 9(a) of rule XXI is inapposite to such an amendment.
In none of these scenarios would a ruling by a presiding officer hold that earmarks are or are not included in a particular measure or proposition. Under clause 9(b) of rule XXI, the threshold question for the Chair--the cognizability of a point of order--turns on whether the earmark-disclosure requirements of clause 9(a) of rule XXI apply to the object of the special rule in the first place. Embedded in the question whether a special rule waives the application of clause 9(a) is the question
whether clause 9(a) has any application.
In these cases to which clause 9 of rule XXI has no application in the first instance, stating a waiver of all points of order except those arising under that rule--when none can so arise--would be, at best, gratuitous. Its negative implication would be that such a point of order might lie. That would be as confusing as a waiver of all points of order against provisions of an authorization bill except those that can only arise in the case of a general appropriation bill (e.g., clause 2 of rule
XXI). Both in this area and as a general principle, we try hard not to use language that yields a misleading implication.
I appreciate your consideration and trust that this response is to be shared among all members of the committee. Our office will share it with all inquiring parties.
John V. Sullivan,
Madam Speaker, today I will be asking my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the previous question so that I can amend the rule in order to close the loopholes and restore accountability and enforceability to the House earmark rules.
Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the amendment and extraneous material be inserted into the Record prior to the vote on the previous question.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the previous question, oppose the rule.
Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question so that we can give more safety to the miners who work day after day in [Page: H43]
sometimes unsafe and unspeakable conditions. I also urge a ``yes'' vote on the rule.
The material previously referred to by Mr. Hastings of Washington is as follows:
Amendment to H. Res. 918
Offered By Mr. Hastings of Washington
At the end of the resolution, add the following:
SEC. 3. That immediately upon the adoption of this resolution the House shall, without intervention of any point of order, consider the resolution (H. Res. 479) to amend the Rules of the House of Representatives to provide for enforcement of clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives. The resolution shall be considered as read. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the resolution to final adoption without intervening motion or demand for division
of the question except: (1) one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Rules; and (2) one motion to recommit.
(The information contained herein was provided by Democratic Minority on multiple occasions throughout the 109th Congress.)
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.