From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 1430, HONEST AND OPEN NEW EPA
SCIENCE TREATMENT ACT OF 2017
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I
call up House Resolution 229 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:
H. Res. 229
Resolved, That upon adoption of this resolution it shall be
in order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 1430) to
prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing,
finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based
upon science that is not transparent or reproducible. All
points of order against consideration of the bill are waived.
The bill shall be considered as read. All points of order
against provisions in the bill are waived. The previous
question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and on
any amendment thereto to final passage without intervening
motion except: (1) one hour of debate equally divided and
controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; and (2) one
motion to recommit.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the
customary 30 minutes to my friend from Colorado (Mr. Polis), pending
which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration
of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the
gentleman from Georgia?
There was no objection.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I hold in my hand House Resolution 229. You
heard the Clerk read it moments ago. Page 1 and page 2. Folks can find
it on rules.house.gov if they haven't had a chance to see it already.
It provides a closed rule for consideration of H.R. 1430, Honest and
Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017.
If you work through that title, Mr. Speaker, the Honest and Open New
EPA Science Treatment Act, you will find that “honest” is what those
letters spell out. It is the HONEST Act.
In the past, the Rules Committee has reported structured rules for
consideration of this very bill. In this case, Mr. Speaker, there were
no amendments offered in committee. There were no amendments presented
in the Rules Committee last night. We have reported a closed rule for
consideration of this bill.
Science is, Mr. Speaker, in the EPA's own words, the backbone of
EPA's decisionmaking. President Obama, in 2011, issued an executive
order about how agencies should go about making the regulatory process
more effective. He said, and I quote: “Each agency shall ensure the
objectivity of any scientific and technological information and
processes used to support the agency's regulatory actions.”
We talk so much about what divides us in this institution, in this
town, sometimes even in this country, Mr. Speaker, I think that point
is worth dwelling on.
Again, quoting from former President Barack Obama: “Each agency
shall ensure the objectivity of any scientific and technological
information and processes used to support the agency's regulatory
It is what the HONEST Act aims to do, Mr. Speaker. It aims to provide
the American public with the data that the EPA uses in each of its
It would come as a surprise to many Americans, Mr. Speaker, to learn
that there are Agency actions that take place based entirely on
undisclosed data sets, that the regulatory arm of government can be at
work based on secret data that will never be released to the American
public to verify, to confirm in this what is often, in scientific
communities, referred to as peer-reviewed literature.
We believe that, if we are making the rules, we should be able to
expose the data on which those rules are based to scrutiny and, in
fact, to challenge, Mr. Speaker.
One thing I have learned in this job is sometimes I am not as smart
as I think I am. I don't know if that has ever happened to you, Mr.
Speaker. I am sure it has never happened to my friend from Colorado.
But sometimes we are not as smart as we think we are. Sometimes being
challenged makes us better.
The HONEST Act, Mr. Speaker, aims to provide the opportunity simply
by looking at the data for any American citizen to understand the
regulatory actions being taken at the EPA, and, yes, if necessary, to
challenge those actions if they believe they are not based on sound
Mr. Speaker, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: Is this
bill necessary? The EPA's mission is to protect the environment and
public health, so, of course, it is going to use the best science.
The answer should be yes. The answer should be yes that in every set
of circumstances we are always using the very best data. But as you
know, time and time again, you can bring an expert into your office. A
scientist on one side of the issue will tell you one thing; a scientist
on the other will bring an equally compelling compendium of information
to tell you the next. It is left to us, to the American people, to
decide who is right and who is wrong.
This is nothing to be feared. This is something to be embraced. It
has certainly been a characteristic of our great country for over 200
But in these days of information pouring out of the administration at
the speed of the internet, it is more critical than ever that we make
that information available to the public. With the ability today to
understand that information, to process that information, to compile
that information, to inspect that information in details never before
imagined, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that America has that
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage my colleagues to support
this rule to bring the bill to the floor and then to support the
underlying legislation so that we can pass the HONEST Act, bringing
clarity and transparency to the EPA rulemaking process.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume,
and I thank the gentleman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying
legislation. First, when the gentleman from Georgia said there were no
amendments brought forward on this in the Rules Committee, that is
partial truth but not the entire truth.
The entire truth is, when we have a process whereby Members believe
that there might be an amendment process, there is something called a
call for amendments which is issued. Often our chair, Mr. Sessions, and
my friend from Georgia has heard Mr. Sessions come down to the floor
and say: We are calling for amendments on this bill. Submit them. The
Rules Committee will consider them and allow some of them to advance to
the floor. At least you know you have a fair shot.
In this particular case, there was no call for amendments issued,
which means, yes, Members could have spun their wheels, and sometimes
you feel like a hamster doing that, just running around and not moving
anywhere in one of those circles. And if we thought there was any
realistic hope that amendments could be included, I, myself, would have
been happy to submit one, as would many of my colleagues.
Chairman Smith actually requested a closed rule on this. So, again,
the chairman of the committee and the Rules Committee gave every
indication that we are not allowing any amendments to this bill; and
that is what discourages Members from going through the work of
submitting an amendment if they have a good idea what the outcome is
already going to be.
So this is a closed rule. This is an antiscience bill. It is another
example of how we go around the ability of Members to improve bills
and, instead, work in a partisan, smoky, backroom manner where this
bill emerges fully formed. The chair of the committee of jurisdiction
himself didn't want any amendments or any changes to this rule, and the
Rules Committee never called for those amendments.
Now, if the goal of this bill is somehow to increase government
transparency, why don't we start with the lawmaking process and have an
open rule that allows Democrats and Republicans to improve a bill and
offer their best ideas forward? And if they are good ideas, they will
be incorporated into the bill. If they are bad ideas and can't command
a majority of this body, they will be defeated.
But, unfortunately, these partisan tactics that were seen trying to
ram through legislation last week that failed when the Speaker and the
President refused to work across the aisle with us on healthcare reform
and now on improving the process at the EPA, instead of working with us
to improve science, they are seeking to undermine the integrity of the
important scientific work done at the Environmental Protection Agency
and bury the Environmental Protection Agency in red tape.
The underlying legislation that this rule talks about has a lot of
problems, Mr. Speaker, and so many problems, in fact, I won't even be
able to talk about them all during my limited time for debate here.
Hopefully they will be able to cover some more during the debate on the
The first issue I want to address that is highly problematic with
this bill, and it is something that is so important to the American
people--liberal, conservative, and moderate--and that is the issue of
This bill would undermine the privacy of American families in a
number of ways. What it would do is prohibit the Environmental
Protection Agency, an agency that exists to protect our health, from
taking any action unless it is based on data that is fully available to
the public. Now, that sounds good, “fully available to the public.”
But what does that mean?
You see, normally the EPA has relied on peer-reviewed, scientifically
valid research to inform its actions. Now that is something that the
process of science across the world informs. It is a very important,
well-founded process that respects the efforts of scientists everywhere
and the diligence of a peer-reviewed process.
Much of these bodies of work utilize personal health information and
confidential data which, currently, are legally protected from public
disclosure. The EPA identifies the academic papers that it uses in the
Federal Register so we have that transparency, but it doesn't release
the legally protected private data--participants in studies, health of
people--to the general public nor is there any scientific value to that
The value is in the studies, which are done scientifically and are
already made public. This bill would force the EPA to either ignore
these valuable studies because they utilize private
data or violate Federal law by sharing confidential patient information
with the general public. We are talking about everything ranging from
Social Security numbers, to whether you got cancer from something you
were drinking as a child, to our most intimate health or lifestyle
issues that are researched by the agency.
The majority here, the Republicans, are trying to include a provision
in the bill that allows personally identifiable information to be
redacted prior to the EPA making the information available. I am sure
my colleague from Georgia will cite that, but that is woefully
inefficient because it has a loophole in that very provision that
basically negates that provision in another section by allowing the EPA
administrator to allow any person who signs a confidentiality agreement
to have access to all the redacted data.
So, again, basically, at the whim of the administrator, they can
allow companies and people in there--the information can be put in
front of people who have access to it, to use it in any way they want,
and that is highly personal information.
Again, whether it is under the coverage of a confidentiality
agreement or not, it is shown with unknown partners. This is not the
Federal agency itself. This is perhaps even the company that caused the
pollution that wants to come in and look at it or just various
Americans with prurient interests who want to know intimate health
details, and there is effectively no protection for that. It is
entirely at the whim of the administrator of the Environmental
So that is an enormous setback for the privacy of American families
and a woefully insufficient privacy protection with a loophole that is
big enough to drive a truck through. There is not even a numerical
limit on the amount of people or corporations that would be allowed
access of that data. There could be a blanket permission from the
administrator allowing thousands, tens of thousands of people, again,
to see the individually identifiable data, including your Social
Security Number, including your health details or medical records,
including things that affect property value and affect health.
Another major issue with this bill, major fault, is it actually
undermines the goal of the Agency itself. The Environmental Protection
Agency, which has the congressional mandate to keep our air and water
clean, to protect our health, this bill actually does the opposite by
burying the Agency under a mountain of red tape and bureaucracy.
This bill removes sound, scientific, objective decisionmaking and
replaces it with ridiculous amounts of red tape, adding to the process
of regulations, adding to the process of rules, requiring the
Environmental Protection Agency to jump through additional bureaucratic
hoops to use certain information, and making their entire goal of
fulfilling their mission less efficient than if this bill were not the
The Environmental Protection Agency already uses a peer-reviewed
scientific process. They publish in the Federal Register the reference
of the works that they are basing their opinions on, just as the rest
of America's scientific community does. This bill undermines the
scientific process, is unscientific, and is opposed by so many
scientific advocacy organizations, including opposed by the Union of
Concerned Scientists who are strongly opposed to this legislation.
Now, on top of the red tape and antiscience aspects of the bill, this
would also cost the government $1 billion of EPA funds; that is
according to analysis of a very similar bill last Congress. These are
funds that would be diverted away from protecting our health and
safety, which is what they are doing now, toward creating more red tape
and bureaucracy for the very agency that the American people entrust
with the goal of keeping our air and water clean and the American
Look, we all know what this bill is. It is a thinly veiled attack on
science, part of the antiscience agenda that we are seeing from the
The budget that the President offered earlier this month cuts science
funding to the bone. Enormous setbacks in the very research into
lifesaving science in the future that would help improve our quality of
life and duration of life and help our economy boom are being
devastated under the President's budgets.
Scientific research creates billions of dollars of economic impact
and innovation in States like mine, Colorado, and every other State.
Science helps keep us healthy. It keeps crops alive and productive. It
keeps our businesses open and keeps America as a global leader in
I also want to take a moment to highlight that, while this bill is
being heard on the floor today, President Trump is signing an executive
order that effectively repeals all of the work that the Environmental
Protection Agency and other Federal agencies have done in the last 8
years to protect our planet from the impacts of climate change.
Unfortunately, while we focus on a bill that forces scientists to not
use the best science available, the President has signed an executive
order that will essentially begin the repeal process of the Clean Power
Plan. The Clean Power Plan is a basic requirement for States to bring
their emissions down to a sustainable level to protect Americans'
health, to reduce the amount of pollution in our air and water, and to
reduce the human impact on climate change.
The executive order also, unfortunately, undermines some of the
commonsense protections we have with regard to fracking, something that
is near and dear to my constituents and people in Colorado, as an area
that is impacted by extraction activities.
This repeal, for example, would allow oil and gas companies to hide
the chemicals that they use when producing oil and natural gas. Picture
that: fracking wells near homes and schools who would no longer have to
report what chemicals could potentially be leaking into drinking water
or groundwater. How can that possibly further our goal to protect the
health and welfare of the American people?
So, at the same time, we have this legislation undermining the
scientific process of the Environmental Protection Agency and burying
the Environmental Protection Agency under red tape, coordinated the
same week with the President's disastrous executive order that will
hurt the health of the American people and, ultimately, cost lives.
These are just another step in the undermining of science and the
work to improve and protect the health of the people of our country.
The Environmental Protection Agency relies on the best science
available when developing new standards, and they are fully transparent
about posting those scientific studies.
However, because many of the studies that this bill requires would
impact legally protected private data, like personal medical records,
to reach their findings, the Environmental Protection Agency could even
be prohibited from considering that research.
This ridiculous restriction would force the EPA to ignore a lot of
relevant information because of the desire of the researchers and the
legal imperative of the researchers to protect the private data of the
participants, ultimately leading to policies that are ineffective and
are not based on sound facts or science.
Mr. Speaker, facts exist. Science and the pursuit of truth is an
incredibly important human endeavor, and we can't afford to disregard
that quest for truth in the name of a fiction-based reality that we
increasingly seem to be headed toward as a nation.
Without sound and strong science, America will fall behind in the
world. Americans will--our lifespans will be of lower quality and lower
duration, and our economy will be hurt as we cede our leadership role
to more forward-looking countries willing to invest in the future.
If this bill had been in place over the last few decades, I am pretty
sure that the cloud of smog over Denver, Colorado, would probably still
be there. Rivers and lakes across this country would suffer from
pollution in a significantly worse way, and that is not the future that
the American people want.
If the EPA is prevented from using the best available peer-reviewed
research data on air quality, asthma will be causing more attacks and,
yes, even deaths of children across our country.
Let's see this legislation for what it is--an attack on science, a
giveaway to corporations who benefit from pollution, who don't like the
fact that the EPA is using sound silence, who want to create and live
in their own fictional
reality, where the externalities of their actions somehow don't matter.
We need the truth. The American people deserve the truth. We deserve
the benefit of the outcome of the process of objective science, and
this bill undermines that by burying the Environmental Protection
Agency under immense red tape, while preventing them from using some of
the very peer-reviewed studies that would lead to the very best
decisionmaking possible to protect the health of the American people.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, you know that I consider the gentleman from Colorado to
be a good friend of mine. I find myself, after that presentation,
though, wondering if that was a cloud of smog over Denver or if it was
another cloud of smoke over Denver in these days.
That is just not true. It is just not true. I will start with what I
am proud about because I think we do focus too often on divisions.
Mr. Speaker, you know that we wanted to hold the Obama administration
accountable for sound science. And now that there is a Republican in
the White House, we want to hold a Republican administration
accountable for sound science.
So often in this town, we see one set of rules when you agree with
the person in office and another set of rules when you disagree with
the person in office. I don't think that is the right way to govern a
country. I am proud that we are not falling into that trap. If it is
good for the Obama administration, it is good for the Trump
Number two, there is no smoke-filled backroom deal here. Number one,
there is no smoke-filled room anywhere on Capitol Hill. Speaker Boehner
is gone, and smoking is banned from all of our spaces. This bill went
through a full committee hearing, the full committee process. So often,
Mr. Speaker, you know at the beginning of a year like this one, we are
trying to move legislation to the floor quickly. Some things that we
have already had hearings and debate on, like this bill, from last
Congress, we bring to the floor outside of regular order, and we skip
the committee hearing process. Not so with this bill. It went through
the Science, Space, and Technology Committee for a full hearing.
Mr. Speaker, we talk about transparency as if it exists at the EPA. I
will remind my friend from Colorado, Mr. Speaker, we have to issue
subpoenas from the United States Congress to get the EPA to share its
data with us, notwithstanding to get them to share it with the
University of Georgia or Georgia Tech or Caltech, or wherever the best
scientific minds of the day are. We have to issue subpoenas to get them
to share that information. Clearly, transparency is not the norm, it is
We talk about costs. My friend references $1 billion in costs from
some study, apparently, not a peer-review study. I have not seen the
data backing up this study. But the good news is I don't actually need
the study. I have the bill itself, Mr. Speaker, and I will turn to the
relevant part here. Paragraph 5, clarify that the administrator shall
implement this section in a matter that does not exceed $1 million per
year from the amounts otherwise authorized to be appropriated. Now, you
don't have to spend the entire million dollars, Mr. Speaker, but in the
name of transparency, to make sure that folks have access to the data,
we have said it is worth investing resources but not to exceed $1
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we talk about the burden of red tape. I don't
know if you have had to deal with the EPA or the DOT or the DOD or the
DOE--insert DO acronym here--red tape is abundant in this Federal
Government, and asking the Federal Government to be transparent is the
antithesis of red tape. Since when did it become a burden on the
institutions of government to be transparent with the American people?
Since when, when you are making rules and regulations that affect the
lives of every single American, did it become a burden to share the
data on which those regulations are based?
I will say to you, Mr. Speaker, we get wrapped around the axle so
often here that we end up getting further and further from our goals.
Sharing data, getting peer-reviewed comments on that data, and having
folks come out in support of the conclusions reached on that data are
going to make us stronger as a nation not weaker. If you are proud of
your underlying data, you should be proud to share that data. If you
are embarrassed of your underlying data, I understand why you might
want to keep it a secret.
We have an opportunity not to hide from science but to embrace
science, we have an opportunity not to reach political conclusions but
scientific conclusions, and we have an opportunity to restore the
American people's trust in the institutions of government that are
issuing these regulations. This is a small step in the right direction
with the HONEST Act, Mr. Speaker, but it is an important step in the
right direction. I hope my colleagues will support it.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I have some scoring from the Congressional Budget
Office, dated March 11, 2015, that I include into the Record.
H.R. 1030--Secret Science Reform Act of 2015
As ordered reported by the House Committee on Science, Space, and
Technology on March 3, 2015
H.R. 1030 would amend the Environmental Research,
Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to
prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from
proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a “covered action”
unless all scientific and technical information used to
support that action is publicly available in a manner that is
sufficient for independent analysis and substantial
reproduction of research results. Covered actions would
include assessments of risks, exposure, or hazards; documents
specifying criteria, guidance, standards, or limitations; and
regulations and regulatory impact statements.
Although H.R. 1030 would not require EPA to disseminate any
scientific or technical information that it relies on to
support covered actions, the bill would not prohibit EPA from
doing so. Based on information from EPA, CBO expects that EPA
would spend $250 million annually over the next few years to
ensure the transparency of information and data supporting
some covered actions.
Enacting H.R. 1030 would not affect direct spending or
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
H.R. 1030 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act
(UMRA) and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or
ESTIMATED COST TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
This legislation would direct EPA to implement H.R. 1030
using up to $1 million a year from amounts authorized to be
appropriated for other activities under current law. Although
H.R. 1030 would not authorize additional appropriations to
implement the requirements of the bill, CBO estimates that
implementing H.R. 1030 would cost about $250 million a year
for the next few years, subject to appropriation of the
necessary amounts. Costs in later years would probably
decline gradually from that level. The additional
discretionary spending would cover the costs of expanding the
scope of EPA studies and related activities such as data
collection and database construction for all of the
information necessary to meet the legislation's requirements.
BASIS OF ESTIMATE
Under current law, EPA typically spends about $500 million
each year to support research and development activities,
including assessments to determine the potential risk to
public health from environmental contaminants. The number of
studies involved in supporting covered actions depends on the
complexity of the issue being addressed. For example, when
addressing a recent issue with flaring at petroleum
refineries, EPA relied on a dozen scientific studies. In
contrast, when reviewing the National Ambient Air Quality
Standards, the agency relied on thousands of scientific
studies. In total, the agency relies on about 50,000
scientific studies annually to perform its mission--although
some of those studies are used more than once from year to
The costs of implementing H.R. 1030 are uncertain because
it is not clear how EPA would meet the bill's requirements.
Depending on their size and scope, the new activities called
for by the bill would cost between $10,000 and $30,000 for
each scientific study used by the agency. If EPA continued to
rely on as many scientific studies as it has used in recent
years, while increasing the collection and dissemination of
all the technical
information used in such studies as directed by H.R. 1030,
then implementing the bill would cost at least several
hundred million dollars a year. However, EPA could instead
rely on significantly fewer studies each year in support of
its mission, and limit its spending on data collection and
database construction activities to a relatively small
expansion of existing study-related activity; in that
scenario, implementing the bill would be much less costly.
Thus, the costs of implementing H.R. 1030 would ultimately
depend on how EPA adapts to the bill's requirements. (It
would also depend on the availability of appropriated funds
to conduct the additional data collection and database
construction activities and related coordination and
reporting activities under the legislation.) CBO expects that
EPA would modify its practices, at least to some extent, and
would base its future work on fewer scientific studies, and
especially those studies that have easily accessible or
transparent data. Any such modification of EPA practices
would also have to take into consideration the concern that
the quality of the agency's work could be compromised if that
work relies on a significantly smaller collection of
scientific studies; we expect that the agency would seek to
reduce its reliance on numerous studies without sacrificing
the quality of the agency's covered actions related to
research and development.
On balance--recognizing the significant uncertainty
regarding EPA's potential actions under the bill--CBO expects
that the agency would probably cut the number of studies it
relies on by about one-half and that the agency would aim to
limit the costs of new activities required by the bill, such
as data collection, correspondence and coordination with
study authors, construction of a database to house necessary
information, and public dissemination of such information. As
a result, CBO estimates the incremental costs to the agency
would be around $250 million a year initially, subject to
appropriation of the necessary amounts. In our assessment
that figure lies near the middle of a broad range of possible
outcomes under H.R. 1030. CEO expects that the additional
costs to implement the legislation would decline over time as
EPA became more adept and efficient at working with authors
and researchers to ensure that the data used to support
studies are provided in a standardized and replicable form.
InTERGOVERNMENTAL AND PRIVATE-SECTOR IMPACT
H.R. 1030 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in UMRA and would not affect the budgets
of state, local, or tribal governments.
ESTIMATE PREPARED BY:
Federal Costs: Susanne S. Mehlman; Impact on State, Local,
and Tribal Governments: Jon Sperl; Impact on the Private
Sector: Amy Petz.
ESTIMATE APPROVED BY:
Peter H. Fontaine, Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
Mr. POLIS. This is based on H.R. 1030 from last session, the Secret
Science Reform Act of 2015, effectively the same operating provisions
as this new bill. If there are any cost-saving elements in this new
bill that weren't in H.R. 1030, I would encourage my colleague from
Georgia to let us know because we are voting without scoring or costs
on the newest version of this legislation. The previous version of this
legislation, as I mentioned earlier, would cost $250 million annually
over the next several years, $1 billion to implement, and that is the
scoring from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office whose director
was appointed by the Republicans on a substantially similar bill.
Mr. Speaker, we are deeply concerned by reports from our intelligence
community regarding Russian interference in last year's election. Even
more troubling is FBI Director Comey's sworn testimony that the FBI is
now investigating the possibility of collusion between members of
President Trump's campaign team and Russia.
Mr. Speaker, the legitimacy of our electoral system is at stake; and,
frankly, it is time that we rise above partisanship and that we get our
job done and get to the bottom of this.
Unfortunately, recent actions by the House Intelligence Committee
chairman have left many Members of both sides of the aisle convinced
and the American public convinced that the committee is unable to
conduct an impartial investigation of this critical matter of national
Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer up an
amendment to the rule to bring up Representative Swalwell's and
Representative Cummings' bill which would create a bipartisan
commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of my
amendment in the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately
prior to the vote on the previous question.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the
gentleman from Colorado?
There was no objection.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from
California (Mr. Swalwell), a member of the Intelligence Committee, to
discuss our proposal.
Mr. SWALWELL of California. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from
Colorado for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, Russia attacked our democracy this past election. I urge
my colleagues to defeat the previous question and for all of us to get
to the business of forming an independent commission to find out how we
were attacked, who was responsible, whether any U.S. persons were
involved, and, most importantly, promise the American people we will do
everything we can to make sure we never find ourselves in a mess like
Congressman Cummings and I introduced H.R. 356, the Protecting Our
Democracy Act, because we always believed that the only way to have a
comprehensive understanding of what happened and who was responsible
and to make recommendations was through an independent commission.
However, it also now is an insurance policy against compromised
investigations that we believe are coming from this House as well as
There is no question that, this last election, Russia meddled in our
election. It is not disputed that that order came from Vladimir Putin.
There is no dispute, among our intelligence agencies, that he had a
strong preference for Donald Trump, and the most terrifying finding
that our intelligence agencies made was that Russia is sharpening their
knives and undertaking a lessons-learned campaign because they will go
at us and our allies again.
Unfortunately, we have seen that those charged with getting to the
bottom of what has happened have been compromised. The American people
are counting on us to defend this great democracy, a democracy that so
many men and women in our armed services have fought for and sacrificed
for and who are fighting for and sacrificing for today.
Unfortunately, the Attorney General, twice when asked under oath as
to whether he had any prior contacts with Russia, said that he had not.
We later learned that, indeed, during the Republican Convention and
afterwards, he had met with Russia's Ambassador. He is now recused from
any investigation into Russia. That is the executive branch.
Unfortunately, our investigation in the House has also been
compromised. I have long enjoyed working with Chairman Nunes. I think
he is a good man who has led our committee over the last few years to
bipartisan results that have made us safer. For the last few weeks,
Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have gone
down an investigative road together. We had a very productive open
hearing last week where we were able to connect the dots of Donald
Trump's, his family's, his campaign's, and his business' personal,
political, and financial ties to Russia that were converging with a
Russian interference campaign. Those dots were validated by the FBI
Director confirming that, indeed, President Trump's campaign was under
counterintelligence and criminal investigations.
Unfortunately, the chairman, in the last week, exited this bipartisan
investigative road to work with the White House; going to the White
House to receive classified information before sharing it with any
members on the committee, Democratic and Republican; and going again to
the White House the next day to share that information with the
The actions of the Attorney General and the actions of the leaders in
this House who are supposed to be undertaking this campaign demand that
we take this outside of politics and that we take this outside of
Congress. The only way to do that is to have an independent commission
that can depoliticize this, that can declassify the facts to the extent
possible, and that can debunk the myths that our
President has put forward about what happened with Russia.
Mr. Speaker, I was a 20-year-old intern in Washington, D.C., when we
were attacked on September 11. I will never forget watching Republicans
and Democrats stand on the House steps, arm in arm, singing “God Bless
America.” But what was more moving than that moment of symbolism was
the unity that Republicans and Democrats showed when they came together
to make important reforms to ensure that never again would we be
attacked from the skies, when they made many reforms that were put in
place by an independent commission that was parallel to investigations
that were being done in Congress.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield an additional 1 minute to the
gentleman from California.
Mr. SWALWELL of California. Mr. Speaker, there is still time for
Republicans and Democrats in this House to unite. There is still time
for us to uphold that solemn duty to ensure that we always put our
public safety and our sacred democracy first. The best way to do that
is to bring before this House for consideration the Protect Our
Democracy Act. This country is still worth defending.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from
Texas (Mr. Gohmert).
Mr. GOHMERT. Mr. Speaker, I do thank my friend from Georgia (Mr.
Woodall) for his able presentation on this very good bill and our
colleague, Mr. Smith.
I am sorry to change the subject back to something that is relevant,
material, and germane. By the way, I am also looking forward to the
investigation into Russia and the sale of such a huge percentage of our
uranium by Hillary Clinton's State Department. They approved it. But we
will get into that later.
Right now we are talking about a fantastic bill because the EPA is
very close to being omniscient, omnipotent, and ubiquitous--they are
everywhere all the time. We have had a hard time in the last 20, 30
years as it got more and more heavenly in getting information on why
they were making the decisions they were. As the EPA has continued to
crush jobs, like in Texas if there were no EPA, we have agencies that
have continued to make our water and air cleaner and cleaner every
year, and, despite the EPA's constant interference, they are doing a
But one of the things that we have wanted, as my friend, Mr. Woodall,
was pointing out for years, is whether it is a Democrat in the White
House or a Republican, we just wanted some openness. We wanted to know
what these seemingly arbitrary rules were based upon. So the purpose of
this rule coming from Chairman Smith is let's go ahead and require the
EPA to do what anybody would have to do in one of our courtrooms, you
got to show why there is a reason to take action.
But since the EPA has been at this level where they were basically
unquestionable for so long and could make arbitrary and capricious
decisions which could not be challenged effectively, this may be a very
helpful start to stopping the EPA from being so heavenly they are not
So I think it is a fantastic bill. It is something I hope will be a
bipartisan vote as we require the EPA to just show the basis of what
you are doing, and then we can know whether this American god, this
EPA, actually has feet of clay or is back in the real world or is
actually killing jobs unnecessarily.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, the EPA protecting our quality of life, our air, and our
water has nothing to do with Heaven or God. It is based on science.
Individual Americans like Mr. Gohmert and myself have our own faith
traditions. I don't think there is anybody in the country whose faith
tradition is to worship the EPA.
We have created the EPA for a purpose: to protect the health of the
American people and protect our air and water. There are people alive
today and people who are healthier today because of the work of the
EPA. The converse of that, without the Environmental Protection Agency,
some of us wouldn't even be here and others of us would be sickly.
It really doesn't make any sense to talk about people worshipping the
EPA. We respect the scientific work of the EPA, and maybe this
confusion between faith and science is what is leading to the
undermining of the scientific aspects that the EPA reaches their
Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a letter that shows the strong
opposition from those who advocate for our health against this bill.
Alliance of Nurses, American Lung Association, American Public Health
Association, National Medical Association, Asthma and Allergy
Foundation of America, and others have all signed a letter in
opposition to this bill because this bill threatens the health of the
March 27, 2017.
Dear Representative: The undersigned health and medical
organizations are writing to express our opposition to the
EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017 and the Honest
and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017. Our
organizations are dedicated to saving lives and improving
Science is the bedrock of sound medical and public health
decision-making. The best science undergirds everything our
organizations do to improve health. Under the Clean Air Act,
EPA has long implemented a transparent and open process for
seeking advice from the medical and scientific community on
standards and measures to meet those standards. Both of these
bills would restrict the input of scientific experts in the
review of complex issues and add undue industry influence
into EPA's decision-making process.
As written, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act would
make unneeded and unproductive changes that would:
Restrict the ability of scientists to speak on issues that
include their own expertise;
Block scientists who receive any EPA grants from serving on
the EPA Scientific Advisory Board, despite their having the
expertise and conducted relevant research that earned them
these highly competitive grants;
Prevent the EPA Scientific Advisory Board from making
policy recommendations, even though EPA administrators have
regularly sought their advice in the past;
Add a notice and comment component to all parts of the EPA
Scientific Advisory Board actions, a burdensome and
unnecessary requirement since their reviews of major issues
already include public notice and comment; and
Reallocate membership requirements to increase the
influence of industry representatives on the scientific
In short, EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act would limit
the voice of scientists, restrict the ability of the Board to
respond to important questions, and increase the influence of
industry in shaping EPA policy. This is not in the best
interest of the American public.
We also have concerns with the HONEST Act. This legislation
would limit the kinds of scientific data EPA can use as it
develops policy to protect the American public from
environmental exposures and permit violation of patient
confidentiality. If enacted, the legislation would:
Allow the EPA administrator to release confidential patient
information to third parties, including industry;
Bolster industry's flawed arguments to discredit research
that documents the adverse health effects of environmental
Impose new standards for the publication and distribution
of scientific research that go beyond the robust, existing
requirements of many scientific journals.
Science, developed by the respected men and women
scientists at colleges and universities across the United
States, has always been the foundation of the nation's
environmental policy. EPA's science-based decision-making
process has saved lives and led to dramatic improvements in
the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the
earth we share. All Americans have benefited from the
research-based scientific advice that scientists have
provided to EPA.
Congress should adopt policy that fortifies our scientists,
not bills that undermine the scientific integrity of EPA's
decision-making or give polluters a disproportionate voice in
EPA's policy-setting process.
We strongly urge you to oppose these bills.
Katie Huffling, RN, CNM,
Director, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.
Harold P. Wimmer,
National President and CEO, American Lung Association.
Georges C. Benjamin, MD,
Executive Director, American Public Health Association.
Stephen C. Crane, Ph.D., MPH,
Executive Director, American Thoracic Society.
Cary Sennett, MD, Ph.D.,
President & CEO, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Executive Director, Health Care Without Harm.
Richard Allen Williams, MD,
117th President, National Medical Association.
Jeff Carter, JD,
Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Mr. POLIS. Last Congress, we considered a bill called the Secret
Science Act, which was nearly identical to this bill. That was a bill
that I submitted was at a cost of billion dollars. If the gentleman
from Georgia has any evidence that this bill will cost less, I
encourage him to bring it forward.
This bill, frankly, would force the EPA to be dishonest, to not use
the best available science, and threaten the privacy of the American
Our goal should be to help the agencies that we charge with
protecting our health to use the best possible science to do the best
possible job that they can. We should not be throwing up roadblocks and
red tape and bureaucratic mazes that hurt the quality of work and the
science that we base our protections on.
We need to protect American lives from things like dirty air, dirty
water, and pollution. We should protect the privacy of all Americans,
but this bill doesn't protect the privacy of Americans. It undermines
the goal of the Environmental Protection Agency.
My colleague, Mr. Swalwell, brought forward a very important motion.
When we defeat the previous question, we have a motion to create a
bipartisan commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016
That is what I hear about from my constituents. I haven't heard from
any constituents that say: We want our personal data to be revealed by
the Environmental Protection Agency or we want to stop them from citing
That is simply not on the minds of the American people.
What is on the minds of the American people is that we need a full
accounting for the Russian interference in the 2016 election, which is
why we have a bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate
that Russian interference in a manner that has credibility with the
American people, that can end this increasingly bizarre spy novel that
seems to be unfolding in this city that we are meeting in now, and
replace it with investigations and facts and a full accounting for the
American people as to what happened and who was involved.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers, and I reserve
the balance of my time.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, I want to inquire if the gentleman from Georgia has any
information as to why the new bill would cost any different amount than
the prior version of the bill from the last Congress that was scored?
Mr. WOODALL. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. POLIS. I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.
Mr. WOODALL. I would say to the gentleman, as he may know, the
language is different in this section.
When the CBO scored the bill last year, they presumed that the EPA
would have the obligation of compiling all the data and making it all
public themselves. In this bill, it presumes the EPA will only make use
of publicly available data. I would refer the gentleman to the
Mr. POLIS. Reclaiming my time, what the bill essentially does is two
things in this regard. One, it will foist an unfunded mandate onto
those who are conducting the research to go through the effort
themselves of releasing the data. But more perniciously, it will
prevent data and scientific studies that there are legal protections
from even being looked at by the Environmental Protection Agency. They
won't even be able to consider that data.
I think it is important that we get back to the topics that the
American people care about. I hope that we can move forward with
Representatives Swalwell's and Cummings' bill to create a bipartisan
commission to investigate the Russian influence in the 2016 election
rather than attack and undermine science, attack and undermine privacy,
and attack and undermine the American people.
This bill undermines our privacy protections and opens the door for
more Americans to get sick and hurt by pollution in our air and water.
I hope that we can stand up against that.
Mr. Speaker, I ask Members to vote “no” on this bill and vote
“no” on this rule.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I often wonder what it is like to be in your position
there, a distinguished career as a judge, and you come down here to
talk about the EPA and whether or not the rules and regulations should
be based on sound science or not, and you end up with a discussion over
the Russians. There is no objection that can be lodged here for going
outside of the scope of the bill.
I can always tell, when I come down for Rules Committee debate,
whether or not we are really talking about something that divides us or
whether we are just talking. If we are talking about something that
divides us, we spend every moment of the hours that we have debating
the nitty-gritty of the issue before us--talking about how quickly
should that data be disclosed; how many folks should have access to it.
Are there going to be episodes where the data needs to be kept super
secret and folks can't be trusted with it? What should we do about new
and emerging business practices, propriety technologies? How do we deal
with those questions?
I enjoy those rules, Mr. Speaker, because we are doing exactly what
we came here to do, and that is to delve into the details and get it
right for the American people.
What I am led to believe on a day like today is that we are pretty
close to getting it right for the American people because we are not
talking about the nitty-gritty of the legislation. We are talking about
the Clean Power Plan that the past administration put forward. We are
not talking about the details of the legislation; we are talking about
the Russians today. I think that is because there aren't many things
much more common sense than sharing with the American people that data
on which the laws of the land are made.
Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the EPA is involved in a
complicated line of work, a critically important line of work.
I can't find a single constituent in the great State of Georgia that
doesn't believe in clean water and clean air. I can find a whole lot of
them who think that they believe more in clean water and clean air than
does any institution in Washington, D.C. I promise you, no one cares
more about the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area than those
of us who live along the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Nobody cares more about protecting the Earth in the great State of
Georgia than those farmers who are creating the largest export we have
in the great State of Georgia, which are our agriculture products.
We are in this together, which is why, when this bill came before the
House last Congress, it passed with a bipartisan vote. These are
commonsense ideas that bring us together more than they divide us.
Mr. Speaker, I think the real surprise is that folks believe the EPA
to be transparent, and learn that it is not. Folks would not believe
that this Congress has to subpoena information in order to get its
hands on it.
What this bill would say is not only should Congress be able to
access the information, but any reputable scientist should be able to
access the information.
What my friend says about privacy concerns, they are a shared concern
in this institution. There is absolutely nothing in this underlying
legislation that threatens those privacy concerns. In fact, it requires
that all private information be redacted before the information be
Concerns over cost, again, are absolutely important, but I will read
from the committee report: “This bill does not contain any new budget
authority, spending authority, credit authority, or an increase or
decrease in revenues or tax expenditures.”
That it is a pretty simple bill and a pretty simple rule. It asks
that we lift the curtain of secrecy around the regulations that protect
our health and safety. It asks that we make health and safety issues
not things that divide us around process, but things that unite us
Candidly, I came to this institution to achieve those results, Mr.
Speaker, and I am proud to be carrying this rule to the floor today. I
encourage all of my colleagues to please support this bill, and with
its passage we can get to the underlying legislation, end the shroud of
secrecy, and restore public confidence in the laws that protect all of
our health and safety.
The material previously referred to by Mr. Polis is as follows:
An Amendment to H. Res. 229 Offered by Mr. Polis
At the end of the resolution, add the following new
Sec. 2. Immediately upon adoption of this resolution the
Speaker shall, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare
the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on
the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R.
356) to establish the National Commission on Foreign
Interference in the 2016 Election. The first reading of the
bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against
consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be
confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally
divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority
member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. After general
debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the
five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in
the bill are waived. At the conclusion of consideration of
the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report
the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been
adopted. The previous question shall be considered as ordered
on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without
intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or
without instructions. If the Committee of the Whole rises and
reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then
on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately
after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of
rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further
consideration of the bill.
Sec. 3. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the
consideration of H.R. 356.
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 Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow
the Democratic minority 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
The Republican majority may 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
Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in
the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition,
page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous
question vote in their own manual: “Although it is generally
not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member
controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of
offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by
voting down the previous question on the rule. . . . When the
motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the
time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering
the previous question. That Member, because he then controls
the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for
the purpose of amendment.”
In 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 Republican
majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the
opportunity to offer an alternative plan.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time, and I
move the previous question on the resolution.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on ordering the previous
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that
the ayes appeared to have it.
Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further
proceedings on this question will be postponed.