Briefers: Rep. Adam Putnam; Rep. John Boehner; Rep. Mike Pence; Rep. Thaddeus McCotter; Rep. Michele Bachmann; Rep. Fred Upton; Rep. Tom Price
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-216-2706.
REP. PUTNAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us as we, House Republicans, who have gathered here in the Twin Cities to nominate John McCain and Sarah Palin to be the next president and vice president of the United States of America.
But, we want to talk about something that doesn't have to wait until November, and it doesn't have to wait until inauguration day, and that is the fight that we have begun and will continue to guarantee that the American people can witness an up or down, clean vote on a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy policy for this nation.
As people prepare for the fall and the winter, and prepare their homes for the home heating oil costs; as Americans have witnessed the impact that the storms in the Gulf have had -- or had the potential to have, knowing that we have a concentration of refineries there, they recognize all too well the need for this nation to embark on an ambitious program of renewables and alternatives funded by more domestic production of traditional fuels, so that we stop sending $700 billion dollars a year to people who don't like us.
This is a fight that the House Republicans have been consistent on, and will continue to be active in. In fact, as we speak, our brothers and sisters in the House are in Washington continuing the protest with one simple demand, that Speaker Pelosi give us that up or down vote on an American energy act that will solve one of the greatest challenges we face as a nation and as an economy.
These are the leaders in that effort. And the leader of these leaders in that effort is John Boehner, who I'm pleased to introduce.
REP. BOEHNER: Well, Adam, thanks.
And, ladies and gentlemen, welcome.
The energy issue that we've been talking about is the number one issue on the minds of the American people. They want Congress to take a big step toward energy independence. They understand that being dependent on foreign oil -- to the extent of some 70 percent of our oil that we use we have to import, sending the $700 billion dollars around the world puts us -- our national security in jeopardy, because energy security is, in effect, national security.
And what they want is they want the plan that we've outlined, our all-of-the-above plan that makes it clear that we need more incentives for conservation; we need the next generation of biofuels; we need to speed up the development of alternative sources and renewable sources of energy.
In addition to that, we need to use coal in a clean way. We're the "Saudi Arabia" of coal. Whether it's coal-to-liquid, coal-to-gas, we'll let the market decide. But we can use coal in a clean way. We need to use nuclear energy, and tightening up permitting process, making sure that frivolous law suits don't delay the inevitable opening of these facilities, will help speed up the development of nuclear energy in our country.
But even if we did all of that, we've not taken a big step unless we're willing to produce more American-made oil and gas. And not only will that produce more supply, and put more supply on the market and bring down gas prices, it will do something else. It will generate revenues to the federal government that, under our plan, would go into a trust fund to be rolled back into the faster development of renewable sources of energy.
So, the plan that we have funds itself. And it'll put some $300 billion dollars, over the next 10 years, into renewable energy, which is what the American people want. They know that we don't have enough oil to last forever. But this oil that we can produce will generate revenues that will help move this process along.
Right across the street from the Xcel Center here in Minneapolis is a biomass facility. It's the largest biomass facility in the country. More of those could be built and more technology could be developed if we had the resources from more oil and gas drilling to plow back in to these renewable sources. There's only one problem: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama continue to stand in the way of the consideration of this bill.
All we're asking for is a fair up-or-down vote. Nancy Pelosi, in 2006 said, if we take the majority, this will be the most fair and open Congress in the history of our country. Well, it's been anything but fair and open. And all we want's a vote. Give us a vote. Give us a chance to show the American people that we can produce what they want.
REP. PENCE: I'm Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana. And I'm just proud to stand with my colleagues today here at the Republican National Convention, and also those who are continuing the unprecedented gas price protest that now is in its fifth week on Capitol Hill.
On August the first, the House Democrats dropped the gavel without, over the last year and a half, allowing a single up or down vote on giving the American people more access to American oil. And House Republicans, under the leadership of John Boehner, and Roy Blunt and those gathered here, refused to go quietly. We began that day, on August the first, on the House floor, what was a spontaneous demonstration, and it's turned into an unprecedented effort by House Republicans.
Now, some people have suggested that what's happening on Capitol Hill is about politics. And I understand the skepticism of some, as we stand at a political convention -- (laughs) -- and raise this issue. But I can tell you, the fact that over 130 men and women in the Republican Congress left their districts, left their families, left their homes, and returned to Washington, D.C. over the course of the last four-and-a-half weeks is for one reason and one reason only, and that is that the American people are hurting.
Beyond all the rhetoric and all the, all the theatrics of a political season, seniors on fixed incomes are struggling with the high cost of gasoline; school systems are struggling, as we speak, with how they're going to keep the buses running; small business owners, family farmers and working families are hurting under the costs, the extraordinarily high cost of gasoline.
And Republicans have gone to Capitol Hill day in and day out through this August recess to simply demand that Speaker Nancy Pelosi bring this Congress back into session, and, as leader Boehner said, give us a fair and open debate on an all-of-the-above energy strategy. We'll continue that demonstration through this week, but as we return to Capitol Hill next week our objective will be the same.
Our objective will be that we will bring forward to the American people an energy strategy that will say yes to conservation; it will say yes to alternative sources of energy, like solar, and wind and nuclear; it'll say yes to new fuel efficiency standards for buildings and vehicles; and, most importantly, it will say yes to giving the American people more access to American oil.
REP. BOEHNER: With us, by telephone, is our colleague, Thad McCotter, a member of our leadership team who's been on the floor with a group of our members all this week.
REP. MCCOTTER: Thank you, Leader Boehner.
When I first heard I was going to be doing this by telephone, I have to admit I resisted the temptation to throw on a bath robe.
But here we are completing our fifth day -- our fifth week of the historic Republican speak-in protest on behalf of the American people. And, as we are conversing, the Democrat's most hated Congress in American history, the do-nothing, don't care Congress remains on their five-week vacation.
Today we had nine members go to the floor. We talked with the American people about energy. We reiterated our demand for a simple up or down vote on our all-of-the-above strategy. We continue to ask Speaker Pelosi to free the United States Congress, to free the people's House to do its work in a bipartisan fashion so that we can have more American energy production, common sense conservation and free market innovations to provide a responsible transition for Americans to -- American energy security and independence.
Again, they continue to refuse, but we are going to continue our protest on behalf of the American people. And, as I think Mike pointed out, and others are going to point out, we are coming back for three, quote, unquote, "five-day work weeks." Now, I want you to think about this, and I want the American people to think about this: The Democratic majority in this Congress is going to give them 15 days of work in Washington over the next five months. And if you think you could pull that off in your job you are sorely mistaken.
I would hope that if the American people, whatever they believe our position on an all-of-the-above strategy, or the Democrats' some- or-none-of-the-above strategy, at least we can agree on one thing, House Republicans wanted to earn the money they pay us to be their servants and work on this problem. The Democrats didn't care.
And, now, I know Speaker Pelosi's over in Nagasaki. I don't know what that's going to do to lower the gas prices. I know a lot of Democratic members are out in their districts producing the new hybrid energy of hot air. That's not going to solve America's energy problem.
And as we've seen reports, Leader, the global economy is starting to slow. Well, our suggestion to our Democratic colleagues is quite this: A global recession is no solution to America's energy crisis, and they should get back here and work; give us our up or down vote; and let the American public's will be done in their House.
REP. BOEHNER: (Off mike.) -- (inaudible) -- thank you.
REP. BACHMANN: It's an honor to be a part of America's freedom fighters for American energy independence. This is just a sliver of the American energy freedom fighters that you see before you today. You heard from Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who's in Washington, D.C., along with nine of our colleagues in Washington.
We've each taken our turns to go back to Washington, D.C. because we see the United States capital, if you will, as kind of the Alamo. We're making our last stand there for the American public, because this isn't a joke to American families. We've all been out in our districts and we've seen the pain -- the very real pain that the Americans are facing by high energy prices. We want people to be free from the high price of energy. And that's why every day we're on the floor of the United States Congress telling the truth about the truth.
And the truth is clear. We have energy galore in United States, but we have a Prohibition-era mentality when it comes to American energy production. We need to have it embrace an all-of-the-above strategy. Go for it all. Enhance conservation. Enhance alternatives. Enhance the energy sources that we have now and then we'll solve this American energy crisis.
REP. UPTON: I'm Fred Upton, from Michigan, and I'm the ranking member on the Energy and Air Quality subcommittee. Some predict that we're going to -- our energy needs are going to grow by as much as 30 to 40 percent by the year 2030. We are not prepared for that day today.
We need renewables. It's outrageous that we've not been able to see a simple tax credit extension for R&D for both wind and solar. It expired last year. There's a bipartisan bill that's out there that we can move forward on, and yet it is -- the Democratic leadership has refused to bring this up. And some would predict that if we don't do the solar part of it, that industry will be dead by the end of this year. It needs to happen.
Nuclear, with no greenhouse gas emissions: We did some things in the '05 bill that are going to help it along. And, in fact, we've seen a couple new plants now in the pipeline. Hopefully, for a operation to be on-line with approval of the NRC by the year 2018 to 2020. John McCain talks about the need to expand nuclear power reactors by about 50 -- 45 to 50 by the year 2030. He believes that it'll expand jobs in this country by as much as 750,000 jobs.
You know, I have two nuclear plants in my district. Eighty-five percent of the components, when those were built in the '70s, came from someplace else -- or, excuse me, came from this country. Today, looking at the new plants on-line, 85 percent of the components will come from someplace else. We need to turn the switch back to green., not only for new nuclear engineers to be able to man these plants, but the fight -- pipefitters; the steamfitters; the steel industry in states like Indiana, where Mike Pence is from, and Pittsburgh, other places.
We can do great things, again, with no greenhouse gas emissions if we simply turn the switch from red to green. It needs to happen. We need to do it all. And we cannot stay at home with the job undone. We need to do it before we adjourn, before the election, for sure.
REP. PRICE: I'm Tom Price. I represent the 6th District of Georgia, and I'm proud to stand with my colleagues here and thank the leadership, and the members of the House Republican Conference for their activity over the past five weeks.
On August first -- Friday, August 1st at 11:23 a.m., the Speaker brought the gavel down and she shut down the House. And what we said was, no. We're going to stand up and fight on behalf of the American people on the most important issue that they have confronted this summer, and at this time, and that's the rising cost of energy and gasoline.
Over the past five weeks we've been there every single day -- 134 members of the Republican Conference have come back to Washington to fight on behalf of their constituents. And why? Because what we have seen is that we have captured the enthusiasm, and the optimism and the vibrant vitality of the American people, to address the issues that they believe need to be addressed, and that's the rising costs of gasoline.
So, I'm proud to stand with my colleagues and say to the Speaker, we don't ask you to allow us to vote, we ask you to allow us to vote on behalf of our constituents. This isn't a Republican issue. It's not a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. And it's time to put a bill on the floor that allows for an open process so that we can respond to our constituents with conservation -- incentives for conservation, new alternative energy, and increasing American supply.
Madame Speaker, we demand that.
REP. BOEHNER: All right. Thank you.
Q (Off mike.) Leader Boehner, -- (inaudible) -- one of the things that Sarah Palin is getting some credit for -- taking on the oil companies, she raised taxes on the oil companies in order to fund rebate checks for Alaskans. Barack Obama's had a proposal to raise taxes on oil companies and to have a rebate for Americans.
I'm wondering if Republicans will reconsider their opposition to doing something like that in the coming month. Speaker Pelosi has talked about maybe packaging something like that with off-shore drilling.
REP. BOEHNER: I'm opposed to raising taxes, and the majority of my colleagues in the Republican Conference are opposed to raising taxes.
Q Speaker Pelosi has said that Democrats are interested in putting forward a package that may or -- may include some off-shore drilling. What is the strategy from the Republican House leadership for addressing that? And, would you be willing to vote on a bill that includes off-shore drilling as long as it -- a bill that includes renewables and off-shore drilling --
REP. BOEHNER: We've -- we've been demanding --
Q -- if it comes from the Democratic leadership?
REP. BOEHNER: -- a vote on our bill to do all of the above. Everything that we've seen of the Democrats thus far is to blame someone else for the energy crisis we have in America. And even what's being talked about -- we've not seen a bill, what's being talked about is a little bit more energy, just a little bit more -- (with sarcasm) -- but, by the way, we're going to raise taxes on people at the same time.
That's not going to achieve anything, in terms of taking the step toward energy independence.
Q (Off mike.) -- (inaudible) -- so, you're saying you won't support a bill that includes drilling if it comes from the Democratic leadership?
REP. BOEHNER: What I'm suggesting is, I'm going to vote -- I'm going to vote for a bill that does all of the above; that does, in fact, enhance renewables, has more conservation, opens up ANWR, and allows for more American-made oil and gas. And from what I've heard, doesn't sound like that's the kind of a bill she's going to put on the floor.
Q Harry Reid has told Kent Conrad from North Dakota that he will allow a vote on a bill that Kent Conrad, Saxby Chambliss, and a number of other senators have been working on -- the 'Gang of 10' bipartisan energy bill. Have you seen this bill? Is that something that you think Republicans in the House would support -- or, at least seeing their ideas for the bill?
REP. BOEHNER: It's a small step in the right direction. But, you know, my view, it's not bold enough to help move us toward energy independence. And I just think that the American people expect us to be bold, to take a big step. They want us to do everything we can to maximize American-made energy. They want to maximize the resources we can plow back into renewables.
And if you look at these other proposals that are out there, they come nowhere close to maximizing what we can do. They're just little baby steps, hopefully in the right direction.
Q Do you have any hope that John McCain will switch his position on ANWR tomorrow, given Sarah Palin being on the ticket?
REP. BOEHNER: John McCain has been very supportive of our overall efforts; agrees with us 98 percent of -- on 98 percent of our bill; and we're going to continue to work on him to get him 100 percent on- board with us. (Laughter.)