Speech ● Congress
For Immediate Release: 
October 1, 2020
Contact Info: 
Annaliese Davis 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke today during the House Rules Committee’s Members’ Day Hearing on recommendations for the House rules ahead of the 117th Congress. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

Click here to watch the video. 
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I'm glad to be with you today, and I thank Mr. [Tom] Cole as well. I think the House is advantaged by the new relationship that you and Tom Cole as the Ranking Member have, and the fact that both of you care about the institution. And I might start my remarks with no matter what we do in the rules, no matter what our rules say, if we don't have comity and respect from one another, the rules will not make us work better. They can set great guidelines for us, they can be the rules of conduct, they can be the rules of how we consider bills, but one of the things that we all need to work together, in the next Congress, is to raise the respect for one another, raise the consideration for one another. And I think, Mr. Chairman, you and the Ranking Member reflect that kind of attitude and working relationship.

“So, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's Member listening day on the rules package for the House for the 117th Congress. As we look ahead, many are anticipating a busy start to next year - I certainly do. Our rules ought to facilitate the House to move swiftly to address the most pressing challenges facing our country. Others have spoken or will speak, I’m sure, at length, about several of the proposals for next year's rules package including the importance of our ‘Pay As You Go’ rule. But I want to focus on the restoration of Congressionally-directed spending.

“Now, that's a great phrase, and you and I both know the press and the public will call them earmarks. But Congressionally-directed spending, with the safeguards that Democrats put in place in 2007 and 2009, very, very important. The safeguards are discussed at the same time we discussed the focus on Congressionally-directed spending. Let me add before I go further on the ‘Pay As You Go,’ that we created the PAYGO waiver for emergencies like the COVID-19 crisis, where we have to meet a serious threat by investing in immediate priorities and needs. We now have substantial fiscal challenges, however, about that. And they will confront us in the years and years ahead, and we must work responsibly together to address them in the coming years.

“With regard to Congressionally-directed spending, after abuses in the system were brought to light, we implemented significant reforms, as I referenced, that made it transparent and held Members accountable. A couple of those reforms are included in the Rules, and a number of those reforms included in the Committee Rules. As you know, we've restricted it to governmental or nonprofit recipients, and required every request to be published online for the American people to see and judge. One of those rules is in the Rules of the House.

“We made the system work and kept it honest. Unfortunately, however, when our Republican colleagues took control of the House in 2011, they used Congressionally-directed spending as a partisan talking point, unfortunately, and eliminated this valuable tool for Congress and surrendered part of our power to the Executive Branch. Tom Cole just said, and I agree with him very much, that the powers and prerogatives of the institution need to be protected. I'll speak in just a minute about that. Restoring this power in Congress, I believe, is essential to restoring the balance of our Constitutional systems of checks and balances.

“A major focus, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member, if I am fortunate enough to be the Majority Leader in the next Congress, will be finding ways to restore that balance. That is the balance between the Executive and the Congress, and looking at how Congress can better assert the powers that our Founders intended us to have as a coequal branch of government, and as the sole authority on spending taxpayer funds. Not the Executive. That is why I think the restoration of the Congressionally-directed spending for projects is so important. And my belief is that Members of Congress elected from 435 districts around the country know, frankly, better than those who may be in Washington what their districts need, what their states need. And we ought to return to a time when Members can make that decision. But obviously, have that judgment reviewed by the other 434 Members of the Congress.

“The Founders neither intended, nor envisioned, an expansion of executive power the kind we've seen in recent years. Through many Administrations, Democrat and Republican, however, we have seen that concern heightened by the actions of the Trump Administration. This President, in my view, sees Congress not as a coequal partner in governing, but as an impediment to his authoritarian tendencies. We much approach the issue of Congressionally-directed spending within this context. Since the elimination of Congressionally-directed spending in 2011, decisions about funding requests for projects in communities across the country have been made by the Executive Branch, not by the Members of Congress, who under the Constitution are solely responsible for the spending of money. Members know the needs of their district, as I said, and are in contact on a daily basis with local leaders and civic organizations.

“That's why I strongly support restoring safe, transparent, and accountable Congressionally-directed spending in the 117th Congress, and I will work toward that end with whomever is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Several of the reforms we adopted during our previous Majority are still part of the current House rules. But others were adopted as Committee practices, and we ought to consider whether codifying them within the House rules for the 117th Congress. I want to thank Chairman [Derek] Kilmer, of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress and his fellow Committee members, Mr. Chairman, for working hard on a number of recommendations for the next Congress which include restoring Congressionally-directed spending, and I thank them for that.

“I believe strongly that this spending ought not to be, however, conditioned in any way on the involvement of entities outside of Congress. When I say involvement, let me explain that I mean, without the necessity to have a checkoff or an approval of a local official or state official. This is the Congress' judgment. However, obviously, we would involve all of those in communications for their advice and counsel on what spending may be helpful for local jurisdictions. I, therefore, would say that we ought not to have any requirement for outside approval, other than the voting Members of the Congress.

“I hope you will consider this proposal seriously, which can help us better serve the people and communities that we represent. Again, I want to thank you again for holding the listening day and for the hearing and the many important and positive ideas Members are bringing to the table for next year. I would close as I began, however, I think all of us, as leaders, as Members of the Congress of the United States, when we get through this toxic partisan battle that we're now participating in, hopefully, we'll be able to restore the kind of comity, Mr. Chairman, that I experienced, and you were working in the Congress, and I was a Member of the Congress. The kind of comity, that we - not only on the Rules Committee, but we had the Congress of the United States.

“One of the finest members with whom I've served in the Congress over the last 40 years was [Congressman] Bob Michel, who was the Minority Leader. He was a partisan Republican from Peoria, Illinois, the middle of our country. He cared for his party and his party's leader. But he cared for his country, and he cared for the institution, and he respected and worked with in a positive way his fellow Members. I appreciated that. I think other Members appreciated that. As a Member for over 20 years on the Appropriations Committee, when I came there, it was a very bipartisan Committee. [Congressman] Silvio Conte from your state Mr. Chairman, was an extraordinary Member. A passionate Member, but also a bipartisan Member. And that's what we need. Not bipartisanship in the sense that I'm going to change my philosophy, or my Republican counterpart is going to change his or her philosophy, but that we both have a philosophy that your ideas are worth listening to, as are mine. And we may disagree, but we can do so in a positive way. And that furthers the work of the Congress of the United States and our country. Thank you very much for this opportunity to be with you.”