Energy Bill Update
Current status of energy reform before scheduled district work period
Congress is in session for only one more full week before it is scheduled to adjourn. Below are updates on three important issues I thought you would want to know about.
The American people continue to suffer from the burdens caused by high energy and gas prices. They have demanded (see the poll results at right), and I have strongly supported, an "all of the above" energy strategy. On the House Floor Tuesday (Sept. 16) night, we voted on an energy bill offered by the Democratic leadership. Unfortunately, it was not the "all of the above" approach many of my colleagues and I have been advocating for years. Instead, it is a gimmick designed to provide political cover for some politicians while hard-working American families remain vulnerable to the pain at the pump and America's energy security is vulnerable to nations which do not have our best interests at heart.
The list of what this bill fails to do is extensive:
No environmentally responsible exploration on the Arctic coastal plain in Alaska, where geologists believe more than 10 billion barrels of oil are.
No expansion of emission-free nuclear power.
No development of advanced clean coal and coal-to-liquid technologies and resources.
No real leap from carbon-based fuels to renewables.
No real oil shale exploration. The bill is laden with hurdles to environmentally responsible exploration of American oil shale resources. (The Department of Energy estimates that 2 trillion barrels of oil shale exists within the United States.)
No new refineries. No provisions to cut red-tape and increase American refining capacity of American made energy.
No lawsuit reform to prevent frivolous lawsuits from radical interest groups intent on stopping the environmentally sound exploration of American energy solely for political purposes.
While there is much this legislation fails to include, one thing it does have is a tax increase. It would add $19 billion in taxes, burdening businesses and consumer alike. Such a step would add to the pain working men and women are feeling at the gas pump and be disastrous for our economy.
Especially important to Floridians, this proposal wouldn't even permit coastal states to share in the revenues of any oil or gas drilling that would take place off their shores. The states that permit environmentally responsible exploration and drilling for resources off their shores deserve a share of the royalties. Failure to do so is fundamentally unfair.
So now, after taking a five-week recess in August, the Democratic leadership in the House continues to leave America's energy crisis unaddressed. House Republicans are continuing our historic, unprecedented protest to demand the do-nothing Democratic Congress listen to the American people and hold a full and fair debate and up-or-down vote on our "all of the above" energy plan: the American Energy Act.
Protecting Taxpayers During the Mortgage Crisis
Weakness and uncertainty in the mortgage industry has caused serious damage to a number of financial institutions, and the impact is being felt in other areas of the economy. Many families in Central Florida are rightfully concerned how they may be affected. Congress has authorized the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to intervene in the operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government created organizations that were established to help make more money available for home mortgages.
It's clear these two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) are in need of serious reform. And it is up to Congress to ensure that taxpayers are not left holding the bag for past bad decisions. For example, recent news reports indicate that the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each stood to earn as much as $15 million in severance packages. For this reason, I cosponsored H.R. 6864, legislation that would require the FHFA regulator to prohibit "golden parachute" payments from being made to the companies' former executives and board members. I am also pleased to share that on Sunday, September 14, 2008, the FHFA regulator announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not be allowed to make these huge severance payments to the CEOs.
Moving forward, there are many important questions still to be answered regarding the future of these GSEs. On Thursday, September 25, 2008, the House Financial Services Committee, on which I serve, will hold a hearing to examine the recent Treasury and FHFA actions regarding the housing GSEs. I look forward to updating you on this hearing and future developments.
Recent action to help our veterans
Brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces deserve to be provided with the benefits they were promised in a timely and efficient manner. These benefits should also be modernized to ensure they appropriately meet the needs of veterans today. For these reasons, I recently supported the following two bills on the floor of the House of Representatives, which both passed with bi-partisan support:
Rural Veterans Access to Care Act: This legislation creates a pilot program allowing highly rural veterans who are enrolled in the system of patient enrollment of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to elect to receive covered health services through a non-VA health care provider. Additionally, the bill directs the VA to provide highly rural veterans with prescription medicine.
Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2008: This legislation directs the VA to increase (as of December 1, 2008) the rates of veterans' disability compensation; additional compensation for dependents; the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children; and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.