[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 189 (Friday, November 30, 2018)]
[Pages H9751-H9752]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Rothfus) is 
recognized for the remainder of the hour as the designee of the 
majority leader.
  Mr. ROTHFUS. Mr. Speaker, since the House of Representatives moved 
into this very Chamber in 1857, the people's Representatives have 
debated the great issues of the day. The Speaker's rostrum behind me 
was redesigned after World War II and words were added to the bottom 
level that speak to noble aspirations of our Nation: union, justice, 
tolerance, liberty, and peace.
  These words are not the fundamental principles upon which our Nation 
was founded, but are, I suggest, the fruits of those principles. 
Consequently, if our founding principles are eroded, these fruits will 
be eroded as well.
  Over recent decades, our Nation has endured a great and ongoing 
debate that, at its heart, goes to the continuing relevance of our 
Nation's founding principles. And what are those principles? They are 
in our Declaration of Independence.

[[Page H9752]]

  ``We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created 
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 
rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted 
among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the 
  ``The consent of the governed.'' These five words recognize that our 
Nation's sovereignty is in her people--not the government, not the 
legislative branch, not the judicial branch, not the executive branch 
or the Federal bureaucracy, but in the people.
  Sovereignty in the people was, indeed, revolutionary in 1776, and it 
is at the heart of the notion of self-government. This sovereignty in 
the people, however, is not absolute. It is restrained by a higher law 
that acknowledges that certain of our rights come from our Creator and 
are inalienable, among them, the right to life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness.
  These rights do not come from or depend on government, or what a 
majority of people electing the government decide. They require, 
however, that the government protect them. Sovereignty is further 
restrained by the higher law that we are created equal.
  Our laws should not favor one person over another. All are to be 
equal before the law, and there must be a fair playing field where all 
are given the opportunity to develop their God-given gifts and talents.
  These concepts, Mr. Speaker, are not just founding principles. These 
are truths, self-evident truths. There are many today who challenge the 
notion of truth and claim everything is relative. But the Founders 
recognized the self-evident truths of the Declaration in establishing 
this country.
  Our Founders built on these principles when they adopted our 
Constitution and Bill of Rights which limited the power of the Federal 
Government. The Founders understood that the bigger government became, 
the more it would infringe on the principles in our Declaration.
  It was appealing to our founding principles that our Nation was able 
to correct the defect in our Constitution that denied equal rights and 
liberty to those held in slavery.
  But some current political views reject the framework of sovereignty 
in the people, and that such sovereignty is limited by God-given rights 
and freedoms. Some decry our Constitution's structure as being a 
charter of negative liberties.
  For example, Barack Obama, prior to becoming President said that our 
Constitution, `` . . . says what the States can't do to you. Says what 
the Federal Government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the 
Federal Government or State government must do on your behalf.''
  If you don't like what the Constitution says, there is a process to 
amend it. And those who would advocate for the government to do things, 
should go through the process of proposing amendments.
  Those who are Progressives believe that they can better order a 
society than can a free people relying on their God-given rights to 
life and liberty. But this is inconsistent with the notion of self-
  Progressives believe in the power of government. The power of 
government should be used to protect rights, not infringe or abridge 
them. What Progressives miss is how the power of government can destroy 
communities and lives and infringe upon God-given freedoms, which we 
have seen in recent decades.
  It is the power of the government acting through the Supreme Court 
that denied the very first right recognized in our Declaration, the 
right to life, for an entire class of human beings.
  To be clear, insisting on universality of the God-given right to life 
is not an establishment of religion. It is simply an affirmation of a 
self-evident truth described in our Declaration of Independence.

  It is the power of government that put through great society programs 
that undermine the family and dramatically increased societal 
challenges as a result.
  It is the power of government that targeted the American energy 
industry, threatening hundreds of jobs in my district.
  It is the power of government that took away healthcare plans that 
people liked, and the power of government that went after the Little 
Sisters of the Poor.
  Rather than looking to the power of government, perhaps we should 
look to the power of the people. Rightly understood, government should 
not be looked at as a vehicle for wielding power, but for serving and 
protecting the rights in our Declaration and Constitution. It is never 
out of season to rediscover those principles.
  This is what Abraham Lincoln called upon us to do at another divided 
time in our Nation. In an 1858 speech in Lewistown, Illinois, Lincoln 
`` . . . if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great 
landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if you have listened to 
suggestions which would take away from its grandeur, and mutilate the 
fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe 
that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights 
enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back . . 
. come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of 
  If we want union, let us unite around the principles of the 
Declaration. If we want justice, let us work for equality for all while 
protecting the right to life of every human being, no matter their age 
or state of dependency.
  If we want tolerance, let us appreciate that while we, indeed, have 
differences, we should not demonize those with whom we disagree.
  If the Little Sisters of the Poor, or a small business, or a private 
citizen for that matter, hold sincerely held beliefs that people 
throughout history would recognize as being grounded in the exercise of 
conscience and faith, we should be tolerant of such exercise.
  If we want liberty, let us ensure that our Constitution remains a 
check on the power of the State that would infringe on the fundamental 
rights and freedoms our Founders sought to protect.
  And if we want peace, let us embrace what our Founders embraced. And 
like the Founders, let us firmly rely on the protection of divine 
providence as we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, 
and our sacred honor.
  And when we reaffirm our foundational principles, let us hope that 
instead of division, we would see the new birth of freedom that Lincoln 
  Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my deepest gratitude to the people of 
Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, encompassing Beaver County 
and parts of Allegheny, Lawrence, Westmoreland, Cambria and Somerset 
Counties. I appreciate that they elected me to represent them in this 
House for the past 6 years.
  It has been an incredible honor to pursue the objectives they sent me 
here to do: to get the economy growing at a healthier pace with more 
jobs and higher wages; to stop government overreach that was taking 
away the right of people to choose their own healthcare plan and 
causing their health insurance costs to skyrocket; to stand in 
solidarity with our veterans; and defend the foundational principles on 
which this country was founded, including the first right and the first 
freedom mentioned in our founding documents, the God-given right to 
life and the free exercise of religion.
  Mr. Speaker, I could not have done my work without the support of 
several constituents, in particular: my wife, Elsie; and my kids, Mimi, 
Gerard, Edmund, Maggie, Helen, and Alice.

                              {time}  1115

  Their patience and endurance with my absences are what many families 
of those in public life go through, and I cannot thank them enough.
  May God grant that our country reaffirm the truths embedded within 
our Declaration of Independence. May He grant that such reaffirmation 
does lead to that new birth of freedom that President Lincoln spoke of.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.