Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Providing For Consideration Of Conference Report On H.R. 3074, Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

On Page H13885, November 14, 2007, the following appeared:

The online version should be corrected to read: PROVIDING FOR

Rep. Michael Arcuri

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 817 and ask for its immediate consideration.

The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:

Resolved, That upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider the conference report to accompany the bill (H.R. 3074) making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes. All points of order against the conference report and against its consideration are waived. The conference report shall be considered as read.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order against H. Res. 817 under section 2 of H. Res. 491 because the resolution contains a waiver of all points of order against the conference report and its consideration.

Rep. Anthony Weiner

legislator photo

The gentleman from Arizona makes a point of order that the resolution violates section 2 of House Resolution 491.

Such a point of order made under that resolution shall be disposed of by the question of consideration under the same terms as specified in clause 9(b) of rule XXI.

The gentleman from Arizona and a Member opposed, the gentleman from New York, each will control 10 minutes of debate on the question of consideration.

After that debate, the Chair will put the question of consideration, to wit: ``Will the House now consider the resolution?''

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

I thank the Speaker.

And while the Speaker of the House is actually in the Chamber, I want to read a quote from March of this year. In March of this year, the Speaker of the House said, ``Before Members vote on a bill, there should be an appropriate time for people to read it. That should be a matter of public record. If there is an earmark that can stand the scrutiny, then that transparency will give the opportunity for it to be there.''

Let me just ask, if I can, the representative from the Rules Committee, don't we have a rule that says that we are not to consider a bill or a rule until 24 hours after the bill is actually out there? I would yield to the gentleman to answer.

My understanding is that this bill was posted on the Web last night at just after 7 o'clock, yet here we are at 1:35 already considering the rule. I think that is important, because when you look at the bill, we didn't just get it on the Internet where it would be searchable, where we could find things in it. We got a PDF file that is not searchable.

When you look at the bill itself, you find complete sections that have been X'd out, or little insertions with little notations here that are barely legible. You have another big insertion here of an entire page. Again, there are little insertions there within the insertion. You have within it ``3 percent'' stricken. It says ``4 percent'' now. To what?

This is really difficult to wade through. And when we don't even get 24 hours? I mean, 24 hours, frankly, is far from sufficient to consider a bill that is 531 pages long. Then when you consider the bill itself is not searchable, it was given in a PDF file, and then you also have 141 pages of earmarks that are part of the report. That is not a searchable index, either. It is just given. You can wade through it.

The earmarks that are air-dropped into the conference report are supposed to be asterisked. You can see some of those. We identified 21. But is that all there is? We're not sure. But when you look through that list of earmarks that were air-dropped in, you have to be suspicious of why in the world we waited until now to air-drop these earmarks in when nobody can challenge them.

Keep in mind, this is a point of order against consideration of the rule. Because the majority has chosen to waive the rule against points of order on the bill, we can't challenge any of the earmarks in the bill, so we have 21 earmarks air-dropped into the bill at the last minute that we have no ability to challenge.

You might think that, well, if they were air-dropped into the bill, then they certainly must be vital spending, vital projects, that we just couldn't do during the regular consideration of the bill.

I will read a couple of them and you can make your own decisions on whether or not this was vital spending, something that couldn't wait, something that was so important that you had to, at the last minute, in the last 24 hours, include it in where nobody could see it.

One is for $200,000 for the Intergenerational Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, for a community center. The Intergenerational Research Center, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, for a community center. This is part of the Economic Development Initiative.

Another one: Waynesburg College Center for Economic Development in Pennsylvania for a multipurpose facility. That is $300,000 there.

Tell me, please, somebody tell me, what was so vital here that we had to violate the rules that we have had in the House to insert this at the last minute, when nobody has the ability to challenge it?

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Michael Arcuri

legislator photo

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

I would like to point out to my friend and colleague from Arizona that this point of order is about whether or not to consider this rule, and ultimately to consider a measure that invests in our Nation's vital transportation infrastructure and housing program at a time when we desperately need it so much in this country. In fact, I would say it is simply an effort to try to kill this conference report, and on a faulty premise at that.

Every single earmark in this conference report has been properly disclosed in conformance with the House rules. The blanket waiver against consideration of the conference report did not include a waiver of either clause 9 or rule XXI of House Resolution 491.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

Well, we've waived other requirements as well here. What this point of order is about is transparency. Again, we got this bill last night, less than 24 hours ago. It has always been the understanding you would have at least 24 hours, and we are violating that even.

When you look at the bill itself, here I found another page, section 409, we're not sure what was there, because it is now gone. It is gone from the bill. It is very difficult to go through a bill that is 534 pages that is not even searchable and wade through the earmarks.

The gentleman mentioned this is vital spending we have to get done. Let me give you an example of some of what is in the bill itself. $150,000 for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Atlanta, Georgia. $275,000 for the Berkshire Music Hall in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Rep. Doc Hastings

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

I yield to the gentleman from Washington.

Rep. Doc Hastings

legislator photo

I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Let me clear up this issue here about the time requirements. The rules of the House say there shall be a 72-hour, or 3-day layover on these bills. That was waived. That was waived by the majority party. Then as a courtesy in their ``new directions,'' they say it should be at least 24 hours. So here they are even waiving a promise of a waiving of a rule of 3 days.

So I wanted to clarify that. It is supposed to be 3 days, that is the premise from which we start, and then we come down to a promise of 24 hours. They are even waiving that promise.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

I thank the gentleman for that clarification.

Let me get back to this list of these vital projects that we somehow have to rush through here. There is $400,000 for the Bel Alton High School Alumni Association in Bel Alton, Maryland. Again, $400,000 for the Bel Alton High School Alumni Association. Why in the world is this in the bill at all? Is it any wonder that somebody wants to move this bill through quickly and without following the rules?

$500,000 for the Los Angeles Fire Museum in Bellflower, California; two earmarks totaling $300,000 to revitalize downtown Clearwater, Florida; $150,000 for the Edmunds Arts Center in Edmunds, Washington; $100,000 for Cooters Pond Park in Prattville, Alabama; $100,000 for the reuse of the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Romney, West Virginia; $100,000 for the Crystal Lake Art Center in Frankfort, Michigan; $750,000 to the Detroit Science Center in Detroit, Michigan; and $300,000 to the Houston, Zoo in Houston, Texas.

Again, this is just a tiny sliver of the 141 pages of earmarks in the bill, more than 1,000 of them. And again, 21 air-dropped earmarks that we have never seen before, never had the ability to challenge on the House floor for such vital things as the Grand Teton National Park Pathway System in Wyoming. This may be a good project, but it should receive the scrutiny it deserves, not air-dropped into a report that we are given less than 24 hours to consider, that we have no ability, none, to amend out.

Or $500,000 for Park Street Streetscape Improvement in Alameda, California. Why in the world was this that vital where we had to violate our own rules to bring this to the floor and hide these earmarks where they don't see the light of day?

Rep. Michael Arcuri

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve my time.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to Mr. Campbell from California.

Rep. John Campbell

legislator photo

Let's talk about what is really going on here. If somebody is an alcoholic, they understand they shouldn't drink. What they will do oftentimes is they will ask their friends to help them, you know, come in the house. Make sure I don't have any alcohol here. Keep me honest. Make sure I don't do this.

This Congress is drunk on earmarks. The majority party has said, well, we want to get better. We want to stop drinking. We want to stop doing these bad earmarks, so we set up a point of order on the bill so we can stop this.

But it is the equivalent of the alcoholic saying, I want you to help me, Mr. Speaker, and I want you to come check my house to make sure that I don't have any alcohol, but then locking the door so you can't go in and you can't look. That is what the majority party is doing here.

They say we have this point of order on earmarks, but we are waiving it. We are going to bury them in the bill so you can't see. The majority here in this Congress is not serious about controlling earmarks, and they should be, because of the ones that the gentleman from Arizona read, and whether it is teaching people how to play golf in the defense budget or monuments, to me, whatever it is. We have budget problems, we all agree. We disagree on how to take care of them. But one thing we must do is stop these earmarks, and the majority is not doing that.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner).

Rep. Anthony Weiner

legislator photo

The gentleman yields the balance of his time to the gentleman from Ohio.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

How much time remains on this side?

I did the math for you, sir; 1 minute remains.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

I am glad to yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Ohio.

Rep. John A. Boehner

legislator photo

I appreciate my colleague for yielding. This is exactly what the American people are disgusted with. We can't balance the budget. We can't send the President appropriation bills that are within the budget. This bill is some $3.5 billion over the President's request. But having said that, we have all of these projects that didn't go through the House, didn't go through the Senate, that got air-dropped into a conference. And we wonder why the American people look at us like our heads have been cut off.

There is nobody in my district who would ever vote for any of these projects that got air-dropped into this bill. And we have this process, this point of consideration on these earmarks, on consideration of this bill, in exactly the time when we are supposed to have a better look at what these earmarks are.

All we have are these brief descriptions, if you can find them in the bill, because this bill should not be up on this floor until tonight. It is one thing to waive the 3-day rule, but the 24-hour rule, most Members believe, is almost sacrosanct. And yet, not even 24 hours after the bill was filed, it is on the floor of the House. Members don't know what is in it. That is why this point of order that we fought for this summer was put into effect.

I would urge my colleagues to vote for the gentleman's point of order to stop consideration of this bill so we have a chance to look and see what else is in here that we haven't seen, because this place is out of control.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

In my remaining 30 seconds, let me just say, in January when we passed transparency rules on earmarks, I was the first one to compliment the majority on what they had done. We put some decent rules into play. But rules are only as good as your willingness to enforce them. And we have seen a pattern over the past several months culminating in this kind of thing, breaking the rules so we can bring a bill to the floor with 21 air-dropped earmarks into it where we are simply not following our own rules.

This institution deserves better than this. I plead with my colleagues to vote to stop this bill from moving forward until we can actually see what's in it.

Rep. Michael Arcuri

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), a member of the Rules Committee.

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague on the Rules Committee for yielding to me.

I think my friend from Arizona raises issues, and sometimes it is not clear with reference to earmarks. I don't recall hearing too many people argue about the earmarks that the President of the United States has within the prerogative of the President. Two-thirds of Federal spending is nondiscretionary. And in a budget the size of ours, which is $2.9 trillion, that means discretionary funds in this particular budget are about $935 billion.

What they fail to do in their point of order or that we hear in the Rules Committee is to say to the general public that the name of the Member requesting the earmark exists, the name and address of the intended recipient, and if there is no specifically intended recipient, the intended location of the activity, the purpose of such earmark, a certification that the Member or spouse has no financial interest in such congressional earmark, and it requires the House Appropriations Committee to make open for public inspection approved earmarks.

Now each of these earmarks has an asterisk and each of these earmarks is easily identifiable. Clearly, there are things that people disagree with as to whether or not in the particular constituency that that constituency is going to benefit.

Democrats cut in half the number of earmarks. I believe my friend from Arizona knows that when this measure was sent to the Senate, the Senate increased the number of earmarks that are here. But I don't care whether you call it earmark, toe mark, arm mark, elbow mark, whatever it is, it is something that benefits the American people. And in a budget that has $2 trillion in it, we can find some reason for us to control that as opposed to the executive branch.

Rep. Michael Arcuri

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, we must consider this conference report which provides funding for our Nation's priorities. For example, Community Development Block Grants to provide communities with funds to assist low and moderate-income persons; housing for the elderly, disabled, and homeless veterans; foreclosure mitigation and reconstruction of the Minnesota bridge and the repair of aging bridges throughout our Nation that is desperately needed.

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the new House Democratic majority has implemented the most honest and open earmark rule in the history of the United States House of Representatives. But don't take my word for it. A few weeks ago, Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Commonsense, was quoted in CQ Weekly as saying, ``The House has given us more information than we have ever had before on earmarks, and they deserve credit for that.''

I am troubled with the analogy given by my colleague from California comparing it to a drinking problem. I would say the comparison, considering the way the Republicans abused the process, would be to a person who started a fire, then called the fire department, and when the fire department came and put out the fire, they then turned around and criticized the fire department for the way that the fire was put out.

That is the situation that they have. They abused the earmarks when they were in control of the House, and now they are critical of our majority when we attempt to fix it. It is important to remember which side actually abused the earmark process and who actually stepped up to the plate to reform the system and provide transparency.

We didn't wait until 2 months before the election. We responded to the people's call for more openness on the first day of Congress. It seems quite clear to me that the minority is more concerned with obstructionism, while we are focused on actually meeting the needs of our constituents and the people in this country.

This question of consideration is the result of an unwarranted point of order against our rule. A ``no'' vote will prevent consideration of a critical package that has strong House and Senate bipartisan support.

So despite whatever roadblock the other side tries to use to block this bill, we will stand up for housing and we will stand up for the critical infrastructure upon which our economy depends. We must consider this rule and we must pass this conference report today.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' to consider this rule.

I yield back the balance of my time.

All time for debate has expired.

The question is, Will the House now consider the resolution?

The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

Sen. Jeff Flake

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, this 15-minute vote on the question of consideration will be followed by a 5-minute vote on approval of the Journal, if ordered.

The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 197, nays 186, not voting 49, as follows:

[Roll No. 1093] YEAS--197 Abercrombie Ackerman Allen Altmire Andrews Arcuri Baca Baird Baldwin Barrow Bean Becerra Berkley Berman Berry Bishop (NY) Blumenauer Boren Boswell Boyd (FL) Boyda (KS) Brady (PA) Braley (IA) Capps Capuano Cardoza Carnahan Carney Castor Chandler Clay Cohen Cooper Costa Costello Courtney Cramer Crowley Cuellar Cummings Davis (AL) Davis (CA) Davis (IL) Davis, Lincoln DeFazio DeGette DeLauro Dicks Dingell Doggett Edwards Ellison Emanuel Engel Eshoo Etheridge Farr Fattah Filner Frank (MA) Giffords Gillibrand Gonzalez Gordon Green, Al Green, Gene Grijalva Gutierrez Hall (NY) Hare Harman Hastings (FL) Herseth Sandlin Higgins Hill Hinchey Hinojosa Hirono Hodes Holden Holt Honda Hooley Hoyer Inslee Israel Jackson (IL) Jackson-Lee (TX) Johnson, E. B. Jones (OH) Kagen Kanjorski Kaptur Kennedy Kildee Kilpatrick Kind Klein (FL) Kucinich Lampson Lantos Larsen (WA) Larson (CT) Lee Lipinski Loebsack Lofgren, Zoe Mahoney (FL) Maloney (NY) Markey Marshall Matheson Matsui McCarthy (NY) McCollum (MN) McDermott McGovern McIntyre McNerney McNulty Meek (FL) Melancon Michaud Miller (NC) Miller, George Mitchell Mollohan Moore (KS) Murphy (CT) Murphy, Patrick Murtha Nadler Napolitano Neal (MA) Obey Olver Ortiz Pallone Pascrell Pastor Perlmutter Peterson (MN) Pomeroy Price (NC) Rahall Reyes Richardson Rodriguez Ross Rothman Roybal-Allard Ruppersberger Ryan (OH) Salazar Sanchez, Linda T. Sanchez, Loretta Sarbanes Schakowsky Schiff Schwartz Scott (VA) Serrano Sestak Shea-Porter Sherman Shuler Sires Skelton Slaughter Smith (WA) Snyder Solis Space Spratt Stark Stupak Sutton Tanner Tauscher Thompson (CA) Thompson (MS) Tierney Towns Tsongas Udall (NM) Van Hollen Velazquez Visclosky Walz (MN) Wasserman Schultz Weiner Welch (VT) Wexler Woolsey Wu Wynn Yarmuth NAYS--186 Aderholt Akin Alexander Bachmann Bachus Baker Barrett (SC) Bartlett (MD) Biggert Bilbray Bilirakis Bishop (UT) Blackburn Boehner Bonner Bono Boozman Boustany Brady (TX) Broun (GA) Brown (SC) Brown-Waite, Ginny Buchanan Burgess Burton (IN) Calvert Camp (MI) Campbell (CA) Cannon Cantor Capito Carter Castle Chabot Coble Cole (OK) Conaway Crenshaw Culberson Davis (KY) Davis, David Deal (GA) Dent Diaz-Balart, L. Donnelly Doolittle Drake Dreier Duncan Ehlers Ellsworth Emerson English (PA) Everett Fallin Feeney Ferguson Flake Forbes Fortenberry Fossella Foxx Franks (AZ) Frelinghuysen Gallegly Garrett (NJ) Gerlach Gilchrest Gingrey Gohmert Goode Goodlatte Granger Graves Hall (TX) Hastings (WA) Hayes Heller Hensarling Herger Hobson Hoekstra Hulshof Hunter Inglis (SC) Issa Johnson (IL) Johnson, Sam Jones (NC) Jordan Keller King (IA) King (NY) Kingston Kirk Kline (MN) Knollenberg Kuhl (NY) LaHood Lamborn Latham LaTourette Lewis (CA) Lewis (KY) Linder LoBiondo Lucas Lungren, Daniel E. Mack Manzullo Marchant McCarthy (CA) McCaul (TX) McCotter McCrery McHenry McHugh McKeon McMorris Rodgers Mica Miller (FL) Miller (MI) Miller, Gary Moran (KS) Murphy, Tim Musgrave Myrick Neugebauer Nunes Pearce Pence Peterson (PA) Petri Pickering Pitts Platts Poe Porter Price (GA) Pryce (OH) Putnam Radanovich Ramstad Regula Rehberg Reichert Renzi Reynolds Rogers (AL) Rogers (KY) Rogers (MI) Rohrabacher Ros-Lehtinen Roskam Royce Ryan (WI) Sali Saxton Schmidt Sensenbrenner Shadegg Shimkus Shuster Simpson Smith (NE) Smith (TX) Souder Stearns Sullivan Tancredo Terry Thornberry Tiahrt Tiberi Upton Walberg Walden (OR) Walsh (NY) Wamp Weldon (FL) Westmoreland Whitfield Wicker Wilson (SC) Wolf Young (FL) NOT VOTING--49 Barton (TX) Bishop (GA) Blunt Boucher Brown, Corrine Butterfield Buyer Carson Clarke Cleaver Clyburn Conyers Cubin Davis, Tom Delahunt Diaz-Balart, M. Doyle Hastert Jefferson Jindal Johnson (GA) Langevin Levin Lewis (GA) Lowey Lynch Meeks (NY) Moore (WI) Moran (VA) Oberstar Paul Payne Rangel Rush Scott (GA) Sessions Shays Smith (NJ) Taylor Turner Udall (CO) Waters Watson Watt Waxman Weller Wilson (NM) Wilson (OH) Young (AK) Announcement by the Speaker Pro Tempore

Members are advised there are less than 2 minutes remaining on this vote.

So the question of consideration was decided in the affirmative.

The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

Stated against:

Rep. Michael R. Turner

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, on rollcall No. 1093, I was inadvertently detained. Had I been present, I would have voted ``nay.''

Rep. Christopher H. Shays

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, on November 14, 2007, I was participating in an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing and inadvertently missed 1 recorded vote.

I take my voting responsibility very seriously. Had I been present, I would have voted ``no'' on recorded vote number 1093.