ADDITIONAL TEMPORARY EXTENSION OF SMALL BUSINESS PROGRAMS -- (House of Representatives - May 20, 2008)
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Mr. CHABOT. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of this particular legislation, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
The bill is very simple, Madam Speaker. It extends the authorization of all programs authorized by the Small Business Act, the Small Business Investment Act, and any program operated by the Small Business Administration for which Congress has already appropriated funds. This extension will last until March 20, 2009.
The extension is necessary because authorization for various programs operated by the Small Business Administration ceases on May 23, 2008, so in just a couple of days.
Working in a bipartisan effort with Chairwoman Velázquez, as she always does, she's reached out many occasions to work in a bipartisan fashion in the committee. The committee has ordered 15 bills to be reported out of the committee, all of which have passed this body, the House of Representatives.
The most recent action taken by the House was the recent passage of legislation to extend the Small Business Innovation Research Program. With the passage of this bill, the House has finished all the necessary work to reauthorize all of the programs overseen by the Small Business Administration.
Even though the House finished its deliberations, we operate in a bicameral legislative system, of course, and time is needed for the legislative process to run its course and enable the two bodies to resolve any disagreements on the best way to move the Small Business Administration forward and helping America's entrepreneurs. That work simply cannot be completed by this Friday, and given the upcoming legislative work on appropriations matters, it remains unclear when the two bodies will be able to commence deliberations to iron out their differences.
As a result of the need for following regular order and ensuring due deliberation of important issues to the American economy, I would urge my colleagues to suspend the rules and pass S. 3029.
However, there are additional items that I believe this House should address when it comes to small business. We're looking at access to capital in the Small Business Administration, and that is one of the areas that small businesses all around the country struggle it, with, access to capital.
Taxes is another big issue, and that's why I believe that the tax cuts that we pass should be made permanent because many of the people who would benefit from those, that tax relief are small business owners, and they hire about 70 percent of the new workers in this country. So I believe we should make those tax cuts permanent.
Regulatory reform needs to happen. Small businesses continue to be overregulated, as many parts of our economy are. Health care is important. That's why we believe that Association Health Plans should pass. We ought to make sure that businesses are able to provide health care for their employees.
But there's one area that this Congress, I believe, has been woefully remiss in not addressing, and that's the area of energy, the fact that whether it's natural gas to heat our homes in the wintertime, or whether it's filling up one's gas tank at all-time record highs of almost $4 a gallon, it's absolutely unconscionable that Congress has not acted in a responsible manner and a bipartisan manner to actually do something to bring those gas prices down. Why are we seeing these gas prices at all time highs?
Well, we are far too reliant upon foreign sources of energy. Is there anything we can do about this? Absolutely.
I've been in Congress for 14 years, and I've voted 11 times to allow us to explore and drill and go after energy up in Alaska, in ANWR, where we believe we have up to 16 billion barrels of oil which is being kept off-limits.
So we're essentially handcuffing ourselves and saying, you can't go up there at all, even though most Alaskans are all for it. They believe that we should be able to go up there, as do most of their representatives, as do an awful lot of Members of this House. And we had the votes in previous Congresses to pass that here in the House. As I say, I voted for it 11 times. But we didn't have the votes over in the Senate.
But I just think it's absolutely outrageous that we've kept 16 billion barrels of oil off-limits. And that's only the start. We've also kept the entire Outer Continental Shelf off-limits. We think we have 86 billion barrels of oil there, and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas to heat our homes in the wintertime, which we've kept off-limits.
Now, we're not going to go after it, but Cuba has entered into an agreement with China to go after this oil out there that we ought to be getting. And so they're going to take advantage of it and we're not. And that's one of the main reasons that we see these high gas prices out there, because we have to buy the oil from somewhere, so we continue to buy it from some of the most unstable parts of the world, like the OPEC countries especially in the Middle East.
We're also buying oil from Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is down there, really a bitter enemy of the United States, yet we're forced to buy his oil. We buy oil from Mexico and Canada, Nigeria and other countries around the world as well. But we ought not to allow ourselves to be so dependent on foreign sources of energy.
We ought to go after those areas that we have control over, that we don't have to ask anybody's permission. But this Congress has kept that oil off-limits, and that's one of the main reasons we see prices as high as they are right now.
In addition, if we had the crude oil here, which we don't, but if we had it, we can't refine it quickly enough to be able to put it into our cars. Why? Because we don't have enough oil refineries in this country.
Back 30 years ago, which is the last time, more than 30 years, 32 years ago is the last time we built an oil refinery in this country. The regulations now make it virtually impossible to build an oil refinery. So we ought to change those regulations. We ought to make sure that we do it, you still build these refineries in an environmentally safe manner, just as we go after the oil in ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf in an environmentally safe and friendly manner. But those are the types of things that we need to do. But because we take no action in those areas, we haven't built an oil refinery in this country in over 30 years.
We've put nuclear off-limits, no more nuclear power plants about 20 years ago. France can produce 75 percent of their electricity, completely, safely. But we can't do that in the United States? I don't think so. I think that's just a very bad policy that we enacted about 20 years ago, making it impossible to build nuclear power plants. We need to change that.
Finally, we need as well to make sure that we have sufficient dollars going into research so that we can go after the cutting edge types of energies that are going to power us in the future, solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen fuel cells that we may be able to power our cars by in the future.
But most of these things, for the most part, are in the future. Yes, we do have wind now. But we're talking about less than 1 percent of the power in this country. So we have to have energy going in; we have to have sufficient dollars going into those technologies of the future.
But the bottom line is that at this time oil is one of the principal ways that we power our automobiles and other important things in this country. And when we put that stuff off-limits and we continue to buy it from foreign sources, we're going to continue to see these high prices. And that's just wrong.
The American people are suffering right now. We should have taken this action a long time ago. But since we didn't, we need to do it immediately. And that's what really bugs me when I hear people talk about, well, even if we opened up ANWR now, we're not going to have that oil for years. Well, that's why we should have opened up ANWR a long time ago. But we can't go back and undo what was, we can't go back and do what we didn't do back then, but if we passed it now, a lot of the price at the gas pump is reflected in speculators, what they think oil is going to be like in the future. If we opened up ANWR, I think you'd see an immediate effect on the prices at the pump that we would pay.
People are sick and tired of the high prices we're paying. It's time that Congress act, and we ought to act sooner rather than later.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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