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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - July 31, 2008)

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, we had hoped to make significant progress over the last week or two to begin to address the most important issue in the country, and that is the price of gas at the pump. Regretfully, it seems we are bogged down here in trying to move ahead. So in order to try to facilitate progress, I have notified my friends on the other side that we intend to propound a number of consent agreements that virtually every Member of my conference believes would move us in the right direction and begin to address the No. 1 issue in the country.

UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--AMENDMENT NO. 5137

In that regard, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of a Senate bill to address drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, the text of which is identical to the amendment No. 5137, filed by Senator Coleman to the Energy bill.

I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read three times and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, and any statements relating to the bill be printed in the Record.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

The Senator from Colorado is recognized.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, the reality is the Democrats have been in favor of drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf in places such as the gulf coast, including votes we took here on a bipartisan basis 2 years ago. The reality is the Republican proposal here will not do anything in terms of addressing the gas price issue which we are facing here today because it will not be effective in bringing down the price of gas. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I know the Senator from Minnesota is on the floor. The amendment I propounded in the form of a consent agreement was essentially the Coleman proposal to open the Outer Continental Shelf. It was not geared to any particular price of gasoline at the pump. But I renew consent for the very same proposed consent agreement with one modification--that the enactment date is triggered when the price of gasoline reaches $4.50 a gallon.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

The Senator from Colorado is recognized.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, reserving the right to object for the same reasons we stated earlier, this again is creating a phantom solution to the reality of the energy crisis and the energy crisis we face as a Nation, and therefore I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, our good friends on the other side of the aisle apparently do not believe $4.50 a gallon gasoline is sufficient emergency to open the Outer Continental Shelf, those portions of it that are currently off limits which--by the way, 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf is currently off limits. I renew my consent agreement with the following modification, that the enactment date is triggered when the price of gasoline reaches $5 a gallon.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

The Senator from Colorado is recognized.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, and I will object again, it is a phantom solution, and therefore I do object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, if $5 a gallon gasoline is not an emergency, I am compelled to ask what is the definition of an emergency? Maybe it is $7.50 a gallon gasoline. Therefore, I renew my consent request with the following modification: that the enactment date which triggered the implementation of the amendment would occur when the price of gasoline reaches $7.50 a gallon.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

The Senator from Colorado is recognized.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, it is clear the Republican leader wants to move forward with the opening of places in the Outer Continental Shelf. I would say, on the Democratic side, there are a number of us who supported opening places in the Outer Continent Shelf, including additional significant acreage in the Gulf of Mexico, the 8 million acres that were part of the lease sale 181. We also know there are hundreds of millions of acres in Alaska that are not in a moratoria area, on which we support exploration and inventory of those places. What we are doing here with those triggers being proposed by the Republican leader again is not getting to real solutions that deal with the energy crisis we have and not coming together in a bipartisan way to move forward to have a package of energy legislation that would work for America. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I am going to propound my consent agreement with a modification one more time and then I am going to engage in a colloquy with Senator Coleman. It is his amendment that he had hoped to offer, which I initially offered consent that we take up. Then these additional amendments were a different trigger, these additional consents were with a different trigger. I say to my friend from Minnesota, I will give our friends on the other side one more opportunity to maybe get their attention. Then we will discuss the amendment of the Senator from Minnesota.

Mr. President, I renew my request with the modification that the trigger be $10 a gallon at the pump.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

The Senator from Colorado is recognized.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, if we were moving forward with a package of energy legislation that would address the fundamental national security, economic security, and environmental security issues we are facing, and this were part of that kind of package, this might be very well worthy of consideration, including some of the triggers that have been mentioned. But it is clear to me this is another one of the tactics that essentially is wanting to get this Senate and this Congress to the point where we simply are not going to be able to get to a bipartisan energy package, and so I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

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UNANIMOUS-CONSENT REQUEST--AMENDMENT NO. 5253

I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of the Senate bill to address oil shale leasing, the text of which is identical to amendment No. 5253 filed by Senator Allard to the Energy bill.

I would further ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time, passed, the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, and any statements related to the bill be printed in the Record.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I would remind the Republican leader that even the oil companies--Chevron Oil--have said we do not even know whether the technology is out there to be able to develop oil shale. At the earliest, it is 2015, 2016 when we will know that. We had the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior, and in his testimony before the Energy Committee, he said the same thing.

So the consequences of moving forward with the legislative proposals propounded here by the Republican leader essentially would do nothing more than to lock up millions of acres of land and millions of barrels of reserves to oil companies that already are getting the highest record profits of any company in the history of the world. That includes companies such as Shell, which reported a 33-percent increase in its second-quarter profit on Thursday, Exxon, and all the rest of the oil companies.

So if this is about giving the national public resources away to the oil companies, then I would say we should support the Republican leader's unanimous consent. But it is not about that, it is about creating a new energy frontier for America. Therefore, I object.

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Mr. McCONNELL. I will use a few more minutes of leader time. If the other side wants to expand their time, it would be perfectly permissible with me.

There is one other area that is important to me and to other Members on both sides and that is coal. We have vast reserves of coal in this country. There is a promising technology we know works to turn coal into liquid. We have a customer, the U.S. military. We have an interested potential customer in American commercial airlines. One of the amendments that would have been offered was related to coal to liquid.

Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of a Senate bill to promote coal-to-liquid energy, the text of which is identical to amendment No. 5131 filed by Senator Bunning to the Energy bill. I ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and any statements relating to the bill be printed in the Record.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. SALAZAR. Madam President, reserving the right to object, the purpose of the amendment is laudable. For those of us who work on the Energy Committee, including the Senators from Montana, we recognize that coal is to the United States what oil is to Saudi Arabia. There are ways in which we can advance the usage of coal, including coal gasification and carbon sequestration which we all support. But the proposal put on the table is not something that would get that kind of bipartisan support.

I object.

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Mr. SALAZAR. Madam President, I wish to make a few comments to clarify some of the colloquy that went on and what I consider to be some of the distortions that were spread.

First, there is a misconception that the minority side is trying to spread: that Democrats are against drilling. If you go to my State of Colorado, you will find tens of thousands of natural gas wells and oil wells that are producing. If you look at the votes we have taken in this Chamber, there are many of us who have said we need to go and drill, and we need to explore, whether it is off the gulf coast or whether it is in other areas. So for them to try to use the brand that we are against the use of our conventional fuels and resources is simply wrong.

I wish to comment on two or three specific matters. First, on the opening of the Outer Continental Shelf, it is true the President has said he wants to lift the moratoria. It is true Senator McCain has said it would have some kind of a psychological effect, perhaps, on the market. The fact is, there are some of us who say we ought to at least have an inventory of what is out there on the OCS.

But no matter how you cut it, the Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration has said we are not going to be producing anything out there for 7 to 10 years. So it is not going to have an impact on gasoline now. That raises the question: What is the real motivation of these amendments and these agendas on the Republican side? It is a stalling tactic to keep gas on the minds of people through the month of August so they play it for their own political advantage.

I think the American people expect better of us. I think the American people expect us to come up with real solutions and not phantom solutions. Solutions that have been proposed here are, by and large, phantom solutions. There can be no greater phantom solution, frankly, than what we have seen countless times over the last 2 weeks: the assertion by my wonderful friends on the other side who have said that somehow out of this shale rock--which is shale; it is not tar; it is not sand; it is shale; it is rock--that somehow we are going to be able to develop 2 trillion barrels of oil out of that rock.

Well, it has been tried for about 100 years. Nobody has figured it out. Even the oil companies are saying they cannot figure it out right now. We, contrary to the assertions made by my good friend from New Hampshire, opened the opportunity for oil and gas companies to go in and see whether the technology could be developed. So we have a robust research and development program that is taking a look at whether oil shale can be commercially developed in my State of Colorado, where 80 percent of the reserves are located.

So I would hope, as we move forward in what is one of the most important issues in the crucible of our times, that we look to the future to find real solutions that are so important for us on energy because, at the end of the day, what will drive us to that new energy world is the importance of national security, economic opportunity here at home, and the environmental security of our planet.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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