Mr. Speaker, the Labor-HHS spending bill we will consider today is the 11th of 12 appropriations bills the House will complete before the end of next week. By now, we all know how important it is to Chairman Obey to complete each of the spending bills by the end of July. It's almost a badge of courage for him to go into the August recess saying, "I did my job. The House Appropriations Committee has completed its work."
To some extent, I know how he feels. On June 30th, 2005 Mr. Obey and I celebrated the passage of all of the fiscal year 2006 spending bills with our bipartisan staff just across the hall from the House Chamber. And, for the record, each of those spending bills were considered on this House floor under an open rule with unlimited opportunity for Members of both parties to offer and debate amendments. Today, the House is under different management and clearly, we’re on a different path.
In 2005, there were 27 amendments offered on the House floor during consideration of the Labor-HHS bill and it took a total of 14 hours over two days to complete our work. Today, only five amendments have been made in order and we will conveniently complete our work in time for lunch.
Until today, every single floor amendment allowed by the majority—on every spending bill considered thus far—has been limited to 10 minutes. That is, until now.
Members on both sides of the aisle may be interested to know that the Rules Committee has generously allotted 20 minutes for the consideration of an amendment today—an amendment to be offered by Chairman Obey himself. Sadly, as other Members are shut out of the process time and time again, Chairman Obey is an exception to the rule.
By this time next week, the House will have passed each of its annual spending bills. Every Member of this body knows that the majority leadership has only been able to achieve its goal by pursuing a distorted roadmap, stifling any and all meaningful debate throughout the process. To me, it's a legislative sleight of hand that obliterates the rights of every American and undermines the very institution we all love.
A few years ago, a very talented baseball player—Barry Bonds—took a shortcut to break the home run record. This was a ball player with tremendous natural talent and great skills that, on its own, could have achieved greatness. But, because he took the easy way out, he undermined his own credibility as well as the magnitude of that record-breaking performance.
Barry Bonds felt then, as the majority leadership feels today, that the end justifies the means. In the mind’s eye of the public, Barry Bonds’ achievement was illegitimate—and an asterisk was placed next to his performance in the history books (and even on the record-breaking home run ball). Barry Bonds never recovered and, I fear, neither will this Committee or this Congress.
As this majority leadership continues to add to the mountain of debt on a daily basis, it’s important that we remind the American people that each of the spending bills are being completed this year in much the same manner as Barry Bonds setting the home run record.
The majority leadership is taking short cuts to pass these bills, an achievement they apparently could not attain within the rules. As a result, the Rules Committee has become to Chairman Obey what steroids became to Barry Bonds—not a ticket to the Hall of Fame but merely the means to an end.
I do not hold all of my friends in the majority party responsible for many of them feel as strongly about an open process as I do. I believe most of my friends would prefer to return to the time-honored practices and traditions of our Committee. I know many of them have grown weary of the arm-twisting and the overtly partisan instructions to oppose every Republican amendment offered in full Committee.
I don’t know if or when our Committee will ever be restored to its old ways but I do know that when the history of the fiscal year 2010 budget process is written, it will be noted with a Barry Bonds asterisk* that these spending bills were completed under an entirely illegitimate process.
The lesson learned is this: To this majority leadership, the end is more important than the means, and sadly, it will take any shortcut necessary to win.
I yield back.