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Congressional Record2017/03/28Senate | House | Extensions

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[Pages H2471-H2478]
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 1 hour.

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. General Leave

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. [[Page H2472]]

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 actions.”

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 regulatory actions.

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 science.

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 years.

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 opportunity.

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. {time} 1230

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 bill.

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 privacy.

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 personal information.

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 [[Page H2473]] 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 Protection Agency.

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 law.

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 people healthy.

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 Republican Party.

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 innovation.

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 [[Page H2474]] 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. {time} 1245

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 administration.

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 the exception.

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 million.

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 SUMMARY 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 tribal governments. 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 year. 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 [[Page H2475]] 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. PAY-AS-YOU-GO CONSIDERATIONS None. 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 security.

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 this again.

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 the administration.

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 President.

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 [[Page H2476]] 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 great job.

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 earthly good.

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. {time} 1300

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 conclusions on.

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 American people. 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 public health. 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 advisory panels. 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 pollution; and 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. Sincerely, 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., [[Page H2477]] FACP, President & CEO, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Paul Bogart, 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 people.

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 election.

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 scientific papers.

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 committee report.

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 utilized. [[Page H2478]]

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 around results.

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 sections: 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 recognition.” 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 question.

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. ____________________



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