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Energy And Water Development And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 19, 2007)

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the gentleman from Texas for this amendment. And let me begin where the gentleman from the other side of the aisle concluded when he asked the question? What if there is not enough money to go around?

That is a question that we ask here in Congress in the House all the time. What if there's not enough money for my pet project to go around?

What if there's not enough money for this earmark to go around?

What if there's not enough money for this brand-new program to go around?

But let me suggest to you that there's another variation of that question that we would be mindful of, and that is the families back at home that we represent. When the mom and dad sits at their dining room table at the end of each week with their checkbook out, paying their bills, be it for the electric bill, some other utility or heating bill, their rent or their mortgage, their food bill, their health or education bill for their children, or any other vital bill that that family has, and the husband looks over to the wife, and they realize that they have all these stacks of bills in front of them, and they have more bills than they have money in their checking account, and the wife asks the husband, what now, because there's not enough money to go around, what does that family do?

Who does that family turn to when there's not enough money to go around?

I can tell you where this Congress turns to when we say there's not enough money to go around. When we say there's not enough money to go around, what this House has done, or at least in the new budget that was presented in the Budget Committee which I serve on, by the other side of the aisle, what the Democrats propose to do is to simply raise taxes. And as we have seen in the proposed budget from the other side of the aisle, it is now the largest tax increase in U.S. history, on the backs of America's families, on the backs of that very same husband and wife who is sitting there saying to themselves, there's not enough money to go around to pay our bills, to pay our mortgage, to pay our health care bills, to send our kids to go to school.

They can't raise taxes on anybody else. They can't go out to their neighbors and say, we can't afford food this week, we can't afford our rent this week. We can't afford to send our kids to the colleges we want to, so we're going to raise taxes on you. They can't do that. But somehow or other, Members of Congress think when they get elected around here, that we can do that by raising taxes, the largest tax increase in U.S. history, that somehow or other that we're entrusted to do such things and create slush funds and the like.

Well, I stand before you and say that no, that the American public has sent a message to us, to both sides of the aisle, to Republicans and Democrats alike. Yes, the Democrats are now in charge, Mr. Chairman, of this House. And they are so because the American public spoke this last November, quite candidly, because perhaps the Republicans weren't listening well enough during that period of time.

But I can tell you this, and those who listen to us on this floor today, the Republicans are listening very well right now, and the Democrats are not listening very well. The voters sent us a message in November and said enough is enough. We have to be concerned about the family budget sometimes instead of the Federal budget. We have to put the focus on the moms and dads out there being able to pay their bills for their kids' health care and the like, instead of always worrying about ever-increasing budgets on the Federal level.

Now the proposal that is before us to look at would simply look to save a few million dollars out of a several trillion dollar budget, something that most Americans, myself included, can't really get our arms around when you think about how large this budget is. In a way, it's just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the budgets back here. But to the budget of the family at home, that's still a lot of money.

The proposal that the good gentleman from Texas proposes here right now would simply try to rein in spending in such the smallest of ways, but it would be a good step in the right direction. It would be saying to the voters from last November, we heard you; we have to put the focus on the family budget, we're going to try to live within our means.

And even when we are dealing with important issues, such as the gentleman from the other side of the aisle raised, whether it's water resources or the like, we're going to fund those programs. We're going to take care of those programs, but we're going to do it in an efficient and a manageable manner, and we're going to do so in a way that is not a burden on the American family budget any longer because we have heard you, and we realize that there will never be enough dollars for every single program that every single Member of Congress and the Senate come up with. But we are going to prioritize them, put them in order of importance, put them in an order that are most significant to the American family, fund those programs to the levels that are necessary. And the rest, we are going to do just as every family in America has to do, set limits on what we are going to spend on, set limits on how much we are going to spend, and live within our means.

So to the good gentleman, Mr. Hensarling from Texas, I commend you for your work in trying to have this House live within its means.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I come to the floor in support of yet another good and commonsense amendment. Good and common sense because it asks of this Congress to do the very same thing that any family in America and any small business in America would do under similar circumstances.

The American public right now is looking at, as we have already seen, the largest tax increase in U.S. history. And let me just take a moment, though, before I go into the particulars on this amendment to explain how that impacts upon the average American family.

There was an article in the New York Times several months ago after the Democrats proposed their budget, which is inclusive of what we have here before us, to say how would this, the largest tax increase in American history, impact a family of four, the average American family of four maybe in the Fifth Congressional District, maybe in Bergen County, which is one of the great counties of New Jersey that I represent, an average family of four, four individuals, making around $70,000, which I should point out by no means in the great State of New Jersey would be considered by most people an affluent family. That family would see their taxes, because of this underlying legislation combined with the overall budget, go up by upwards to $1,500, $1,600 year. That would mean $1,500 or $1,600 more coming to the Federal Treasury into the Federal checkbook as opposed to being able to stay in the family checkbook. That means $1,500 or $1,600 more coming down to the Washington bureaucrats as opposed to being able to remain in the family checkbook on the kitchen table where Mom and Dad are able to decide should those dollars be spent on their son's college education, on their daughter's health care expenses, on their in-laws' necessary expenses that they must share with, whatever else, to Washington as opposed to the family budget.

Now, the good gentleman from Colorado comes up with an amendment to try to address that. If we are able to hold the line on overall spending just as an average family would have to do, we would not see the need for this, the largest tax increase in American history. And what does the good gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Lamborn) do? Well, he simply says hold the line on spending for, let us say, the bureaucrats, if you will, all good men and women, I am sure, the people in the policy and administration account under this bill, under the Bureau of Reclamation, hold the spending at 2007 levels. By doing so, we will be saving some money. That will represent a $1.236 million reduction, from $58.8 million to $57.57 million.

Some of you may say in this grand scheme of things when we are looking at our Federal budget upwards of almost $3 trillion, saving $1.2 million is not that much. But the flip side of that argument is if it really isn't that much of a cut, then it really shouldn't be that much to bear for the Federal Government. If we are not really not cutting that much, then the bureaucrats and the rest who have such a huge budget as it is should not feel the squeeze that much. But all we are asking them to do, like any other family does, is to live on their budget for this year.

I ask how many Americans saw their income rise last year by one, two, two- 1/2 times the rate of inflation? I can tell you quite candidly most of the people that I talk to in my district, unfortunately, did not see their incomes rise that much, but yet that is what we are asking them to do in the sense of higher taxes to pay for the increase in spending for the overall budget that we have here.

Let me just conclude in the same way that the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Lamborn) does in his letter. He says, and I think these are the most poignant words: ``We must restore fiscal discipline and assure the American people that we are doing whatever is necessary to reduce our national debt. To do this, we must find both commonsense and innovative ways to do more with less. The American people have asked Congress to rein in Federal spending and to tighten its belt. This reasonable amendment does just that.'' And he asks us all from both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat alike, to join with the gentleman from Colorado to work to make sure that we do not have the largest tax increase in American history, to work to make sure that we have a system that is common sense, efficient, and appropriate on the Federal level, just as we have asked for the American family at home.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. PRICE of Georgia. I am pleased to yield to my friend from New Jersey.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. I think it is a significant point that you raise with regard to what level of American taxpayers will be subjected to these taxes.

I come from the great State of New Jersey, where we had similar rhetoric, if you will, from the other side of the aisle on the State level. And we actually heard the exact same arguments being made: Don't worry, they're going to come up with what they call the millionaires' tax; and if you're not a millionaire, don't worry about it. Well, truth be told, after all the dust was scattered away from the bills, after all the hearings were held, after all the press conferences and everything else was done by the Democrats in the State of New Jersey, we found that that level went from $1 million to $900,000 to $800,000 to $700,000 to $600,000 to $500,000, $400,000, $300,000, 250-some-odd thousand dollars at the end of the day. Now, you still say they may be a large income? Well, in the State of New Jersey, if you're a two-income family making a hundred-some-odd thousand dollars, you found that you would still be subject to tax on that.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, first of all before I begin, let me commend a prior speaker, the gentleman from Texas, with his references to homeland security and the efforts that need to be made. I completely concur with the majority of the points that he makes.

This House, as you know, just dealt with those issues the other day on homeland security and how it relates to my congressional district is one of the forefront issues that I deal with. I commend the points he is making there.

Tied to homeland security is energy security as well. We will not be a secure country if we are not secure with regard to our energy needs. Much in this underlying legislation and what the administration is calling for is working towards that laudable goal, energy efficiency and renewable energies as well. And I concur with the previous speaker with his remarks as well, that we must move in that direction.

I guess the rub is how you get to some of these things. When you talk to your local constituents back at home. When we have the opportunity to go back to our districts and talk to them and they see just how Washington spends their very hard-earned dollars, they must think we are literally burning their dollars down here and wasting them on inefficient programs. Some of them of course are important. Others need to be prioritized down the line to put them in the proper perspective.

The legislation we have before us, more specifically the amendment, goes to that ultimate goal, setting priorities. Now the gentleman who is proposing this amendment is from the great State of California, a very warm State. I have come from the great Northeast where weatherization is a critical matter, especially for the low-income individuals who need to do something in order to make sure that their limited dollars go as far as they possibly can.

They are called upon in their daily lives to be as efficient as they can with their limited dollars, whether it is spending on food or rent costs, or in this case, their energy costs.

But they are asking us the very same thing in Washington. They are asking us to be efficient and effective with their dollars because they want to tell us these dollars are limited as well. Because it comes out of the American taxpayers' pocketbook.

What we are looking at here is the largest tax increase in U.S. history, and this is going to be a negative impact on the average American family of $1,500 or $2,000 more that comes out of their wallets and is sent to Washington. They are asking to make sure that the dollars spent are done effectively.

I am a Member of the 108th Congress. I came in with the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hensarling) and a few others, I believe, that started a group called WWW, Washington Waste Watchers. They would come to the floor each week and talk about areas of concern to them and this entire Congress to make sure that Washington moves in the right direction, to be stopping this wasteful spending of dollars.

So before we take a program that is already in existence, that we know as the testimony here earlier from the gentleman from California may be a laudable program in some sense in terms of providing assistance to those who need it, but it is wasting the dollars in another sense because it is not really getting to those individuals who desperately need it, and it is going elsewhere and being done in an inefficient manner.

Before we simply up the dollars and not make sure that those dollars get to those low- and moderate-income people to get the job done, as the gentleman from California pointed out, let's make sure that we have something, something to make sure that we do so in an efficient and effective manner. That is what the WWW, Washington Waste Watchers, is trying to do. That is what the Republican side of the aisle is trying to do.

Let's implement programs to say we will operate this House of Representatives the same as a family's budget would; that we will operate just as stringently with our dollars here as if they were our very own. We will make sure that there are systems in place, accountability in place to make sure that the dollars really get to the places they need to get to. And before we get those mechanisms set up and established, we are not going to waste any more taxpayer dollars by going to them and saying we are going to raise tax dollars or raise tax rates, and simply up the spending on a program until we can certify that program is being run effectively and efficiently.

I commend the gentleman from California for trying to move in the right direction to make sure that we don't have the largest tax increase in history, and to make sure that programs like this are run efficiently and effectively.

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Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Before I begin, let me just say I concur with the gentleman from Minnesota on his priorities that he is setting forth, and I cannot honestly say that I am familiar with each and every aspect of the provisions that he is raising there; but from his testimony before the House right now, they seem to at least rise to the level of significance, especially when you go to the concern of making sure that people need to have adequate drinking supply. So I appreciate him coming to the floor and making that point.

I think the gentleman's point coincides with the point that I wish to make right now in support of the gentleman's amendment that is on the floor before us right now, and that is that it's incumbent upon this House and this body to set priorities. The American public asks no less of us, inasmuch as we are spending their hard-earned tax dollars. The American public has seen the misapplication of setting of priorities of this House in past administrations and past Houses in the past.

The American public has been outspoken when they saw, with regard to what happened with Katrina, and the infamous case of buying of FEMA trailers, literally thousands of them, that were then set on land and never used for their rightful purposes. The American public was outraged when they said the priorities were not appropriately spent with their tax dollars in that instance.

Likewise we were outraged when they heard about the proverbial ``bridge to nowhere.'' Again they asked were not priorities set as to where their tax dollars go when it comes to transportation purposes.

Again, finally in the area of earmarks, and the latter point raises the earmarks. When the American public hears about the litany of earmarks that come out of both this House and Senate as well, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and other such things, again the American public asks are priorities not set on these matters, again, with their hard-earned tax dollars.

Well, the American public spoke this last November and at least this side of the aisle heard them loud and clear. We must set appropriate priorities when it comes to the American tax dollars.

Unfortunately, unfortunately, the priorities that seem to be coming from the other side of the aisle in the majority of cases are not the appropriate priorities that the American public would set for themselves. Priority number one from the other side of the aisle is a budget which raises taxes, the largest tax increase in U.S. history upon the American family.

Priority number two from the other side of the aisle appears to be an increase in spending with little or no regard to accountability or cutting spending in any areas. We see that in this case.

When I hear the arguments made, both pro and con in this bill, I am taken aback. All this amendment simply does is to say that the American taxpayer dollars should not be there and spent to subsidize Big Oil.

We had similar language in legislation last year. I know I supported it saying that the American taxpayer, in light of oil now being sold at over $60 a barrel, should not be forced into a situation anymore to support Big Oil in coal industries when it comes to these things through tax credits and tax cuts. I supported those, saying the American public in that regard.

But, now, today, when we have a Member, Congressman Kline, saying let's at least rein in, let's at least set some priorities as to where our energy dollars should go, let's go to those areas, as the gentleman here said, perhaps some who support carbon capture issues; let's have some of those dollars, as a Member from the other side of the aisle says, go to renewable energy resources, whether it be wind, water or geothermal or et cetera. Let those dollars go to those areas, but let's set the priorities of those dollars to go specifically to those areas and not on extraneous purposes, as we saw in this bill.

Congressman Kline gave a couple of examples that really just threw me when I heard them once again. The American public must really scratch their head, as I did, when they say, should we be giving, as Congressman Kline said, given the record profits being made by oil, gas and coal, the research of oil and gas resources of the Russian Arctic should be done and paid for by those oil companies and not by American taxpayers. This amendment simply goes to make sure that occurs.

Likewise, again in the Arctic area, submersible deployed microdrill sampling, ultralight cement and oil and gas resource assessments in that area. Who should be paying for that? The American public?

We already pay for that when we go to the pump each time. Shouldn't it be the oil companies who should make it a private investment and not the American tax borrowers? This amendment simply says let's set those priorities, let's reduce spending on those areas and make sure that we have the dollars from the American public to spend on those other areas, be they renewable energy or otherwise.

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