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Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


WARM IN WINTER AND COOL IN SUMMER ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - July 23, 2008)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my Senate colleagues, to the American people, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is we are now on a subject that the American people are interested in. The bad news is, it only deals with a very tiny part of the overall problem we confront.

We know that over 80 percent of the American public believes we ought to expand domestic production of oil and gas, both onshore and offshore. We know a speculation-only bill, while interesting debate as to what part of the price of gas at the pump speculation involves, we know that alone is not going to deal with the core problem, which is we do not have enough supply of oil and gas.

As the most famous rich Democrat in America, Warren Buffett, said: We do not have a speculation problem, we have a supply and a demand problem.

As T. Boone Pickens, who has been liberally quoted on both sides of the aisle here, and has been in town this week, has repeatedly pointed out to us, his view is we ought to do everything we can to both expand domestic production and to conserve. But he too does not believe speculation alone has anything to do with the core problem.

The dilemma we have now is that we have a very narrowly crafted measure that the majority leader has made impossible to amend, that no experts in the country think would have a real impact on the core problem. Senate Republicans find that unacceptable.

The American people are pounding the table. They are angry as they gas up their cars every week and see the pricetag. They are saying: Do something and do something now that will make a difference. This is the biggest issue in the country since terrorism right after 9/11, and our response: A no-amendment approach. That is simply unacceptable and inconsistent with even the recent history of the Senate when preventing amendments by the minority has become all too common.

Look back to last fall or last year. We did an energy bill on the floor of the Senate, an important energy bill that, among other things, raised the corporate average fuel economy of automobiles. We spent 15 days on the floor. The price of gas at that point was $3.06 a gallon. It is a full dollar or so higher now. It was not the biggest issue in the country at that point. Although it was a big issue, it was not the biggest issue. We had 16 rollcall votes. We agreed to 49 amendments; in 15 days, 49 amendments when the price of gas was $3.06 a gallon.

In 2005, when this side of the aisle contained the majority, we had an energy bill, an important energy bill. The price of gas at that time was $2.26 a gallon, which we all felt was entirely too high then. We spent 10 days on the floor on that debate, we had 19 rollcall votes on amendments, and we adopted 57 amendments.

Both of those measures ended up becoming law. They were clearly not one of those check-the-box exercises where you put everybody on record and move on. I think the American people would be appalled and will be appalled as they learn that the plan here is to not do anything serious about the biggest issue in the country.

There is a lot of dodging and weaving going on. We know the Senate Appropriations Committee decided not to function out of fear that amendments would be offered relating to offshore drilling. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I gather, was rather candid about it: We are not going to meet because we might have votes on the No. 1 issue for the American people, which is to expand domestic supply.

Now, we have said repeatedly on this side that we do not think expanding supply is the key. We think you should both find more and use less--do both. As T. Boone Pickens repeatedly told us this week, both sides of the aisle: You need to do all of these things. You need to do all of them quickly. ``Get about it,'' he suggests.

I am sure he said to the Democrats, as he did to the Republicans, that he is 80 years old, he wants to see some results soon. He said he was running out of time. Well, the American people are running out of time too. So my suggestion is we proceed with this bill, the most important issue in the country, in a way that will get a result for the American people. A proven way to get a result, demonstrated last year when the Democrats were in the majority and in 2005 when the Republicans were in the majority, is to have a process that is fair to both sides, that allows all Members of the Senate to participate in writing a bill on an important subject.

UNANIMOUS-CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3268

Now, in that regard, I have indicated to my friend the majority leader that I was going to propound a unanimous consent agreement that I think would be reasonable, related to the subject, and begin to move us in the direction of having an accomplishment and not a check-the-box exercise.

Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate consider the pending measure in the following manner: that the bill be subject to energy-related amendments only; provided further, that amendments be considered in an alternating manner between the two sides of the aisle, first an amendment on one side, then on the other. I further ask unanimous consent that the bill remaining be the pending business to the exclusion of all other business other than privileged matters or items that are agreed to jointly by the two leaders. I ask unanimous consent that the first seven amendments to be offered on my side of the aisle by the Republicans, by either myself or my designee, be the following: an Outer Continental Shelf amendment, plus the conservation provision; an oil shale amendment, including a conservation provision; an Alaska energy production amendment, including a conservation provision; the Gas Price Reduction Act, which has 44 cosponsors; a clean nuclear energy amendment; a coal-to-liquid fuel amendment, plus conservation; and a LIHEAP amendment.

All this would do would be to indicate what the Republicans have in mind on those seven amendments related to the subject, and would give notice to the other side that were we permitted to do so, those would be the first seven we would offer.

Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that that be adopted.

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Mr. McCONNELL. Well, Madam President, the good news is we are on the subject the American people are interested in. Republicans believe it is important to talk about the biggest issue in the country. We have agreed that speculation is something we are willing to take a look at.

As the majority leader pointed out, it is part of the Gas Price Reduction Act. But we need to do a lot more than that, and we will be arguing during the pendency of this issue that we ought to open this bill, give all Senators on both the Democratic and Republican side an opportunity to turn this into a serious, comprehensive energy proposal, debated and amended, consistent with Senate tradition.

That, we know, will lead to an actual law. What happens when you go through these expurgated, slimmed-down, check-the-box exercises is, you do not get anything done. The American people are out of patience. Maybe this is one of the reasons this Congress has a 14-percent approval rating, which makes the President's approval rating look pretty good. They sent us here to do something, and I think I can safely speak on behalf of the Republican conference that we are ready to do something about the most important issue in the country.

We are pleased to be on the subject matter, and I see my good friend from Arizona on his feet.

Mr. KYL. Madam President, might I just ask the minority leader to yield for a question?

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I would be happy to.

Mr. KYL. Madam President, just to clarify one thing the majority leader said, your unanimous consent request dealt with seven specific subjects that you would like to address by amendment. The majority leader indicated that all seven of those were part of a bill that 44 Republicans had cosponsored.

I would ask the minority leader, is that correct? Specifically, did that bill that Republicans have cosponsored include LIHEAP, which is one of the amendments, a nuclear amendment, which is another amendment, or an amendment dealing with the production in Alaska, specifically ANWR?

Mr. McCONNELL. Well, Madam President, I would say to my friend from Arizona, of course not. Members of our conference, as we know because we worked very hard on this, believe that the four provisions of the Gas Price Reduction Act--offshore drilling, oil shale moratorium--I see the Senator from Colorado here--battery-driven cars--I see the Senator from Tennessee here--and an important provision on speculation are a good place to start.

We would like to have that vote. But there are other members of our conference--I see the Senator from Alaska here who feels very strongly maybe this is a good time to debate and vote on ANWR or maybe a good time to discuss the proposal about which the other side has been talking about part of her State that is currently open that may or may not end up being productive.

The fundamental point, I say to my friend from Arizona, is, everybody in the Republican conference believes, since this is the most important issue in the country, we ought to spend some time on it and try to get it right. That is what we ought to be doing.

I see my friend from Tennessee on his feet. Does he have a question?

Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, I wonder if the Republican leader would answer a question.

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I am happy to yield.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, is it the intention of the Republican leader to cause the Senate to take up the issue of $4 gas prices and stay on it and debate it and amend it and come to a substantial result, including ways to increase supply and reduce demand, so we can say to the American people we have done our job?

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I would say to my friend from Tennessee that is precisely what we had hoped to do. And that is the reason I outlined the way the Senate dealt with the broad subject of energy last year under a Democratic majority and 3 years ago under a Republican majority.

If we want to make a law around here, the way you do it is you give both sides an opportunity to amend and debate. That is not for the purpose of not going forward with a bill. That is for the purpose of going forward with a bill and getting a result. I think clearly I can safely speak for every single member of the Republican conference: We would like to get a result to make a difference.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, if I may ask a second question of the Republican leader. Has the Republican leader not from the very beginning said that the solution to $4 gasoline is both supply and demand; that we want to find more and use less; that, yes, we want to drill offshore, but we also want to make it commonplace to have plug-in electric cars and trucks, as an example, and that the major difference between us is that we are willing to find more and use less and the other side is not?

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I say to my friend from Tennessee, I think I am hard pressed to think of a particular example of any conservation measure that virtually every Member of our conference is not in favor of. Every Member of our conference has said, as the Senator from Tennessee has indicated, that we would like to both find more and use less, and we are confident that we cannot have an accomplishment that actually makes a difference unless we do both.

So I think the Senator from Tennessee is entirely correct. Our goal here is to find more and to use less and to actually make a law and make a difference rather than trying to make an issue.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, if I may ask a last question of the Republican leader. The Republican leader and I and many other Senators probably took economics 101. When I took it, the law of supply and demand had both supply and demand, finding more and using less.

I wonder if the Republican leader knows of any movement in academic circles to repeal half of the law of supply and demand, and to say that the law of supply and demand does not anymore include supply?

Mr. McCONNELL. The only time I heard that suggested was by some of our friends on the other side of the aisle who think maybe you can only do half of that. But I am unaware of any American people who believe that. The American people get this. The reason this issue has jumped way up the charts is because they understand the law of supply and demand. They understand we both need to find more and to use less.

And I do not understand the reluctance here. I really do not. In a Congress enjoying a 14-percent approval rating, I do not understand what my good friends on the other side are afraid of. What is the problem? Why don't we join hands and do something?

Every one of our amendments may not pass; we do not know whether they will. But what is the reluctance of the majority to tackle the No. 1 issue in the country? I am perplexed by the strategy. I do not know why we should be afraid. We are all familiar with these issues. We wrestled with many of them in 2007 when we passed an energy bill. We did it in 2005 when we passed an energy bill. Most people think both of those bills made a positive difference for the country. It obviously is not enough.

If not now, when? When? Now is the perfect time to get started. And it is never a good answer to say if we do this or we do that it will not make a difference tomorrow. Almost none of these things make a difference tomorrow, unless collectively we do something that is so applauded by the rest of the world and by the markets that they think, my goodness, maybe these Americans are serious about getting on top of this problem and doing something about it.

So that is our goal, I would say to my good friend, the majority leader. There is nothing tricky about it. There are no gimmicks involved. This is a serious effort and an overwhelming interest on our side to make a law--a law that will make a difference, and to do it not tomorrow, not 3 weeks from now, not in November, but now. The way forward toward an accomplishment for our country is to get started. We have the opportunity to do that.

If my good friend on the other side would like to engage in further discussions off the floor about ways in which we can agree to sets of amendments that are fair to both sides and go forward, we are happy to do that. But we are relieved to be on the subject, and we think we ought to stay on this subject because the American people expect it of us.

Mr. GREGG. Madam President, will the Republican leader yield for a question?

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I will be happy to yield to the Senator from New Hampshire for a question.

Mr. GREGG. Madam President, it seems to me that the Republican leader has outlined the process for getting this bill completed. He has listed seven amendments which are reasonable and which are significant because they involve--well, in the area of oil shale, over $2 trillion of potential reserves, in the area of offshore oil, literally years of reserves, and on the issue of nuclear power, a chance to produce a clean energy that does not pollute the environment and addresses the issue of clean energy.

I presume the Republican leader--certainly, one of those amendments might be my amendment, and I would certainly be agreeable to a time limit. Would the Senator agree that we on our side would be willing to agree to reasonable time limits for debate on each of these amendments so there could be an orderly process which would have a time certain for completion of this bill sometime early next week?

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I say to my friend from New Hampshire, of course we would be happy to agree to time agreements on our amendments. We want to go forward. There is no effort to slow this down. We want to make progress. Frequently, as my friend from New Hampshire points out, the way you make progress when you offer an amendment around here is, you agree to a time agreement. There is a certain amount of risk involved because you do not know whether you are going to win or lose, but you move forward.

That, I assure my colleagues, is the way we handled the energy bill last year, it is the way we handled the energy bill in 2005, and it is the way to make a law and to make a difference for our country.

So I would say to my good friend, the majority leader, that is where we hope we will end up, in a position where both sides can have their fair say on this important issue and just maybe come together and do something important for the American people.

I yield the floor.

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