Today, at a House Financial Services Committee markup of 23 bills, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, gave the following opening statement:
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I must indicate that this is the largest number of bills that I’ve ever experienced being taken care of in Committee, and it does cause me some concern. I know there may have been some questions about filing deadlines, et cetera. However, I do not wish us to get bogged down today with any of the kind of process questions, et cetera, because I know that many Members are concerned about the amount of time that we will be spending on trying to expedite this large number of bills.
So, I would like to applaud the Democratic Members of this Committee who have worked tirelessly over the last few days to negotiate and achieve bipartisan compromises. Despite being pressed for time, we have crafted several creative solutions to provide targeted relief, while at the same time closing loopholes and otherwise overbroad provisions in the underlying bills. And I am hopeful that we will all recognize the work that has been put into these efforts and that our Members will not be penalized for not meeting certain filing deadlines. I’m sure that our Members could have met all deadlines if we had had more notice, but I do not wish us to get, again, bogged down in the fact that there are some process questions that could be raised.
What is also concerning a little bit concerning is that this Committee is not focused on finding creative solutions within our jurisdiction to the dire situation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And I know that the devastation of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is on the minds of many of our Members on both sides of the aisle. Puerto Rico is barely recognizable in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. And it’s been nearly three weeks since Maria hit and yet significant numbers of Puerto Ricans remain displaced and still lack food, drinking water and electricity. The few hospitals in the country that have reopened are still barely operational and bordering on chaos with limited supplies and diesel fuel to keep the generators going. To date, Hurricane Maria has caused an estimated $95 billion of damage, more than a year’s economic output for the island.
The devastation in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been less well documented, but no less catastrophic. Most of the 100,000 citizens there have no drinkable water or power. Both of the country’s hospitals have been catastrophically damaged with one already condemned by the Army Corps of Engineers.
So I mention all of that because this Committee and every Committee in Congress should be gathering testimony and ideas about how to address both tragedies, as well as finding ways to help the islands rebuild and achieve long term prosperity.
So I hope that we can quickly turn our attention to these matters, as well as to return to regular order to better understand the measures coming before this committee.
Mr. Chairman, a number of Members have been a little bit apprehensive about the time that’s going to be required. I have said to the Members on this side of the aisle that for those bills that we agree on, if there is not a real need for Members to take full time on each of these bills that we have agreed on, I’d like to expedite these bills as quickly as possible. And I hope that perhaps we can have that kind of cooperation from the opposite side of the aisle, so that we can not end up, you know, not only spending this whole day, but having to go over to another day, et cetera. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.