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McGovern: Speaker Ryan Breaks Promise of Fair and Open Process, Sets Record for Most Closed Year in Congressional History

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Washington, November 7, 2017 | comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), a senior House Democrat, led debate on the House floor against the rule for two House Republican bills – H.R. 3043, the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 and H.R. 3441, the Save Local Business Act. Congressman McGovern.

During the debate, Congressman McGovern slammed Speaker Ryan for his failure to support the fair and open legislative process he promised when he began as Speaker of the House two years ago. Speaker Ryan has routinely shut out both Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans from debates on bills taken up by the House, regularly refusing to even consider their amendments. With today’s 49th closed rule of the 115th Congress, House Republicans have now broken their own record for the most closed session of Congress in history. Click here to view video of speech.

“Today we are considering the 49th completely closed rule of the 115th Congress. Today House Republicans are breaking their own record for the most closed session of Congress in history!

“It’s astounding. This is something you would celebrate in Putin’s Russia, not here in the United States.

“Since he first took the gavel in 2015, Speaker Ryan has continued to shamelessly break his promise to allow a fair and open legislative process in the House.

“With each new closed rule they bring to the floor – shutting out amendments from both Democrats and Republicans, the cynical hypocrisy grows louder and louder. Instead of the people’s House, this has sadly become “only the people who agree with Paul Ryan’s House.

“I guess my question for the Speaker would be: Did you mean any of what you said? Did you forget all those promises you made? Or did you have absolutely no intention of keeping those promises once you were in power?

“Every single member of the House of Representatives was elected to represent the people of their district. But we cannot do that if the party in the majority blatantly uses strong-arm tactics like these that prevent us from doing our jobs.

“And today, when asked by a reporter about this record-breaking closed process, Speaker Ryan responded, ‘Absolutely we have an open process.’

“Really? Let’s review his record this Congress. Zero open Rules. 49 completely closed Rules.

“Open process? Open process my foot.

“I guess in the age of Donald Trump words simply don’t matter anymore. Black is white. Up is down. Open is closed. And politicians can say whatever they think sounds good and think they can get away with it – facts be damned.

“If Speaker Ryan was serious about a fair and open process, he would not turn this House into a rubber stamp for Donald Trump. He would let us be the independent voice the people of our districts elected us to be. He would not routinely shut out the voices of Democrats AND Republicans. He would let this House actually debate the serious legislation and issues that come before us.

“With one closed rule after another on each bill that comes to the floor, Speaker Ryan has completely shut out both Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans – routinely blocking amendments we offer.

“This is not how Congress is supposed to work.

“Our constituents deserve a Congress that actually debates the bills that will affect their lives. They deserve better and I refuse to sit by while the Republican leadership makes a mockery of this House. Americans’ voices will not be silenced.”

Click here to view video of speech.

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Floor Speech:

“I rise in strong opposition to this rule, which provides for consideration of two deeply flawed pieces of legislation.

“HR 3043, the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017, is yet another attempt by this Republican majority to prioritize corporate profits over ensuring people have access to safe and clean drinking water.

“This bill would not only threaten our clean water, it would also undermine states’ rights and tribal rights by prioritizing power generation above all else when deciding whether to grant or extend a license to operate a hydropower plant.

“Simply put, this bill puts profits ahead of the public interest. By giving a rubber stamp commission more power than other expert agencies, the bill rigs the process in favor of power producers at the expense of states, tribes, and our environment.

“This bill prioritizes profits over clean water and healthy fisheries and should be strongly defeated. Protecting our families and our environment should always be our first priority.

“In another giveaway to corporate interests, House Republicans are also bringing to the floor this week HR 3441, the so-called Save Local Business Act, under the false claim that it eliminates uncertainty for workers and protects small businesses.

“The truth is a very different story. Joint employment standards ensure workers can hold employers accountable for violating wage and hour laws, child labor, or refusing to collectively bargain. This bill represents a significant and dangerous break from that standard and would undermine the rights of American workers.

“This legislation rewards companies that rent employees from staffing agencies instead of hiring them directly, and allows them to evade responsibility for upholding the rights of those employees, even though they profit from their work.

“This bill is not about helping workers or small businesses. This is all about giving powerful companies even more power over their employees.

“What’s just as troubling as the content of the underlying bills is the process Speaker Ryan and his Republican leadership team routinely use to call up this terrible legislation.

“Today we are considering the 49th completely closed rule of the 115th Congress. That’s right; today House Republicans are breaking their own record for the most closed session of Congress in history!

“It’s astounding. This is something you would celebrate in Putin’s Russia, not here in the United States.

“Since he first took the gavel in 2015, Speaker Ryan has continued to shamelessly break his promise to allow a fair and open legislative process in the House.

“In Paul Ryan’s first speech as Speaker in October 2015, he said:

“We need to let every member contribute…Open up the process. Let people participate…A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will work in good faith. Instead of trying to stop the majority, they might try to become the majority.”

“Speaker Ryan and I disagree on a great many issues, but I strongly agree with what he said in that 2015 speech. We do need to let every member contribute and open up the process here in the House. We do need the majority party to respect the minority party so we can actually work together on bipartisan solutions.

“But in the two years since Speaker Ryan took the gavel, he has sadly failed to deliver on his commitment to open up the legislative process. Things have only gotten worse.

“In fact, Speaker Ryan is the only speaker who has not allowed a truly open rule to give Members the opportunity and the chance to do what their constituents sent them here to do: offer different perspective and ideas on how to improve legislation.

“With each new closed rule they bring to the floor – shutting out amendments from both Democrats and Republicans, the cynical hypocrisy grows louder and louder.

“Instead of the people’s House, this has sadly become “only the people who agree with Paul Ryan’s House.”

“I guess my question for the Speaker would be: Did you mean any of what you said? Did you forget all those promises you made? Or did you have absolutely no intention of keeping those promises once you were in power?

“Every single member of the House of Representatives was elected to represent the people of their district. But we cannot do that if the party in the majority blatantly uses strong-arm tactics like these that prevent us from doing our jobs.

“In 2015, Speaker Ryan also said:

“We need to return to regular order. We are the body closest to the people. Every two years, we face the voters…We represent them. We are supposed to study up and do the homework that they cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand—we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.”

“Where do I begin?! Literally just a few months ago Speaker Ryan and the Republican leaders of this House were recklessly steamrolling their healthcare bill to the House floor without holding anything close to the number of hearings we held when the Affordable Care Act was passed.

“Instead they led a haphazard process where the bill was drafted in secret behind locked doors without any input from rank-and-file members of Congress or the American people. M. Speaker, that is not regular order. That is unconscionable. That disrespects this House.

“And today, when asked by a reporter about this record-breaking closed process, Speaker Ryan responded, QUOTE “Absolutely we have an open process.” END QUOTE

“Really?

“Let’s review his record this Congress. Zero open Rules. 49 completely closed Rules.

“Open process? Open process my foot.

“I guess in the age of Donald Trump words simply don’t matter anymore. Black is white. Up is down. Open is closed. And politicians can say whatever they think sounds good and think they can get away with it – facts be damned.

“If Speaker Ryan was serious about a fair and open process, he would not turn this House into a rubber stamp for Donald Trump. He would let us be the independent voice the people of our districts elected us to be. He would not routinely shut out the voices of Democrats AND Republicans. He would let this House actually debate the serious legislation and issues that come before us.

“With one closed rule after another on each bill that comes to the floor, Speaker Ryan has completely shut out both Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans – routinely blocking amendments we offer.

“This is not how Congress is supposed to work.

“Our constituents deserve a Congress that actually debates the bills that will affect their lives. They deserve better and I refuse to sit by while the Republican leadership makes a mockery of this House. Americans’ voices will not be silenced.

“You know, the Speaker made grand promises of openness, inclusiveness, and regular order. But we just lived through the most closed year in the history of this institution – and the year isn’t even over yet.

“Republicans ought to remember that they will not always be in the majority. I don’t think a Democratic Majority could be this bad on basic process even if we tried.

“But any Member who votes for this record-breaking closed Rule today had better not have crocodile tears for regular order, and openness, when they find themselves in the minority someday in the future – anyone who supports 49 closed rules and zero open rules in a single year loses all credibility on the issue of openness.

“My Republican friends should be ashamed; ashamed of diminishing this House and diminishing its Members and their thoughtful ideas. I urge Democrats and I urge Republicans to take a stand and to vote no on this closed rule.”

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