NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - August 01, 2008)
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FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, all across America today, people are looking to Capitol Hill with astonishment. They are wondering how it is even possible that lawmakers who have been hearing from their constituents for months about the burden of record-high gas prices could fail to work out a sensible response.
I don't blame them. High gas prices have triggered a crisis in American homes and in the broader economy, and the American people have a right to expect their elected representatives to do something about it.
Every crisis is a call for leadership, and this one was no different. This was an opportunity for the Democrats who control Congress to demonstrate courage and resolve. They squandered it. In their hunt for more seats in Congress and control of the White House, they took the path of least resistance. They decided that they could increase their hold on Congress by avoiding tough votes, and then blaming the mess that followed on a party that wasn't even in charge.
While Republicans were working out a legislation solution that addressed high gas prices head on, Democrats embarked on a concerted effort of pointing fingers and casting blame. Americans were looking for answers, and the Democrat answer was to make everyone accountable but themselves.
First came the energy producers, who were threatened with higher taxes that would have passed along to consumers, making the problem worse. Then came the foreign oil producers, who were threatened with lawsuits unless they increased production, even though America sits on massive energy reserves that dwarf their own.
Finally, it was the speculators. Citing the testimony of a lawyer whose previous statements on energy provoked a stinging bipartisan rebuke, the Democrats claimed that writing a few new regulations for speculators would solve the energy crisis. Republicans agree that we need greater transparency in the market and more cops on the beat. But the notion that speculators alone have led to a dramatic surge in gas prices is, according to every serious person, completely and totally absurd.
The chairman of the Federal Reserve has rejected the idea that speculators alone were the cause of the oil shock. Warren Buffett, a prominent Democrat and perhaps the most successful investor of our generation, has said speculators alone are not the problem. The 27-member International Energy Agency said speculators alone are not the problem. T. Boone Pickens, who has been cited by both sides in this debate, has said unequivocally that speculators alone were not the problem.
When asked about high gas prices, all the experts seem to agree on two things: first, that speculators alone are not the problem. And second, that the high price of gas is primarily the result of increased demand and static supply. Increase supply, and the price of gas will go down. Keep it static and prices will continue to rise. That is why even the liberal New York Times derided the Democrats' speculators-only approach as a ``misbegotten plan.''
Republicans didn't invent the law of supply and demand. It's as old as commerce itself. And it has the virtue of being perfectly straightforward: any serious proposal for bringing down high gas prices would have to increase supply. And any serious proposal that aims to decrease our dependence on Middle East oil would have to increase supply here at home.
Every expert in America tells us that Americans will be dependent on fossil-fuels for decades to come. And until the day when we're all plugging in our cars or using alternative fuels, Americans can't be expected to shoulder the crushing burden of ever increasing gas prices. Congress has a responsibility to act, and that action must involve a comprehensive approach.
This is why Republicans put together a solution to this crisis that seeks, first of all, to accelerate the day when America will no longer be dependent on foreign sources of oil. We do this in our plan by addressing not only the principal cause of rising fuel prices--insufficient supply--but also by promoting new energy technologies, such as plug-in hybrid cars and trucks.
We heard the concerns of the American people, brought together the best ideas from both sides of the aisle, and pressed forward, confident that here was a solution that would be embraced by Americans and acceptable to a majority in Congress who could claim shared credit for the result. But, in the end, the Democrat Leadership showed it would rather cast blame than share success.
Americans are wondering why the Democrat Leadership voted to leave town last night without proposing a comprehensive solution of their own to $4-a-gallon gasoline. And they deserve an honest answer. The moment that gas prices became a major issue here in Washington, Democrats started to build a protective blockade around their Presidential nominee.
Rather than come up with a comprehensive solution that would do something to lower the price of gas, they set out to insulate their candidate from ever having to take a difficult vote on the issue. They have done this because their nominee opposes expanding the domestic energy supply. Recall that his initial response to high energy costs was that Americans would have to learn to turn their air conditioners down and consume fewer calories.
He has stated publicly that high gas prices are only a problem because America didn't have enough time to adjust to them. And just this week the junior Senator from Illinois unveiled his own comprehensive solution to the high price of gas: ``We could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling,'' he said, ``If everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups.''
This is the proposal of the man that Democrats in Congress want to lead us through the Nation's energy crisis: regular tune-ups. This is the answer the junior Senator from Illinois has proposed to the patients at the Woodland Dialysis Center in Elizabethtown, KY, who are now limiting their treatments because they can't afford the cost of getting to them. This is Senator Obama's answer to $4-a-gallon gas: issue some new regulations and go to Jiffy Lube.
Add it to the growing list of laughably inadequate proposals that our Democrat friends have brought forward over the last few months. Some of them wanted to sue foreign countries as a way of forcing them to open up their supplies. Others proposed tax incentives for riding bicycles to work. But Senate Democrats really outdid themselves earlier this summer when they showed off a two-seat, electric-powered Tessla Roadster. It gets excellent mileage, and any American family can buy one of its own for a mere $109,000. These are the kinds of solutions we have heard from the other side.
Over the last few weeks, the time for real action arrived. And when it did, the Democratic leadership blocked and stalled every attempt to advance a real solution to the energy crisis. They canceled appropriations hearings out of fear that a deep-sea exploration amendment to lower gas prices would be offered. They offered a speculation-only bill, which no serious person thinks is in itself the answer to $4-a-gallon gas.
And then over the last 7 days, they tried to take us off the issue of high gas prices seven times. Seven times they have tried to take us off the issue of high gas prices, taunting Republicans for standing on principle rather than taking the bait. In every case, Republicans refused to turn their backs on the people at the pump.
These last few weeks were a time for decision, and the Democrats made theirs. When Americans demanded action, the Democrats played games. They changed the topic so the man they want to lead our country would not have to make a public decision about high gas prices.
Some on the other side may think this kind of behavior is acceptable. They might think it makes sense to block the Senate minority from offering a balanced solution to high gas prices in order to protect one Senator and the 20 percent of Americans who think we should not use more energy from American soil. We couldn't disagree more.
When faced with a crisis, the Democratic leadership opted instead to follow the political playbook of the senior Senator from New York who recently told a reporter that Democrats should wait until after Inauguration Day--when he hopes to see a Democrat in the White House--before doing anything about high gas prices.
This is precisely the kind of statement that frustrates the American people. They have waited for a solution long enough. They should not have to wait another day.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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