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Public Statements

Providing For Consideration Of H.R. 3650, Harmful Algal Blooms And Hypoxia Research And Control Amendments Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, the resolution provides for consideration of H.R. 3650, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009, under a structured rule.

The resolution waives all points of order against consideration of the bill except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. The resolution provides 1 hour of debate on the bill. The resolution provides that in lieu of the amendment in the nature of a substitute recommended by the Science Committee, the amendment in the nature of a substitute printed in the Rules Committee report shall be considered as adopted.

The bill, as amended, shall be considered as read. The rule waives all points of order against the bill, as amended. The resolution makes in order the amendment printed by the Rules Committee report if offered by Representative Flake or a designee. The resolution waives all points of order against the amendment except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. The resolution provides one motion to recommit with or without instructions.

Madam Speaker, harmful algal blooms, or HABs, are a growing problem along U.S. coasts and they impact almost every coastal district. Some algae, like red tide, produce toxins that contaminate shellfish and shut down shellfish beds to local harvesters.

Severe red tide blooms can be harmful to tourism across the country. When red tide affects an area, people can't go in the water, seafood isn't bought and sold, and stores and hotels along the coast are empty.

Over the past few decades, harmful algae have begun to bloom more frequently and with greater intensity. HABs are one of the most complex and economically significant coastal management challenges facing the Nation.

We know that algae growth is influenced by a number of factors, including light, water temperature, salinity, and nutrient availability, but the factors that drive outbreaks like red tide are not understood as well, and additional efforts are needed to monitor, control, prevent, and mitigate these outbreaks.

A professor at the University of Maine has done research that shows that the blooms start offshore and are blown towards shore by easterly winds. This sounds simple enough; yet in the field of red tide research, this was groundbreaking work.

Addressing HABs on a national level requires a coordinated approach that involves a number of Federal agencies, including the EPA and NOAA. The underlying bill oversees the development and implementation of regional research and action plans to help coastal managers understand and deal with HAB outbreaks.

New England, and Maine in particular, have been especially hard hit by outbreaks. Severe red tide events occurred in 4 of the last 5 years, causing tens of millions of dollars in lost income to shellfish harvesters.

The shellfish industry is vital to the Maine economy, Madam Speaker. Over 2,000 harvesters and dealers depend directly on access to healthy shellfish beds to make their living and support their families. Maine's Department of Marine Resources estimates total annual economic value of the shellfish industry in Maine to be about $50 million.

Last spring and summer, the shellfish industry in Maine was shut down because of severe red tide bloom. At its peak, the density of the red tide toxin was nearly 100 times the federally mandated quarantine level and closed 97 percent of the State's shellfish beds and 100 percent of the offshore beds in Federal waters. Many shellfish harvesters were stuck on land for months with nowhere to go. This all occurred during the peak of the tourist season, and the results were devastating.

Coastal families rely on the income generated during the short summer months to carry them through Maine's long, cold winters; and the timing could have not have been worse for these hardworking harvesters. Not only were they missing out on the best time to sell their product, but they had no way of knowing when it would be okay to return to the mudflats. The uncertainty made it impossible to know whether to look for other employment or to wait and see if the next week would bring clear water.

Predictions for 2010 indicate that it could be an even worse year for red tide in the Gulf of Maine. According to a recent NOAA report, the cysts that cause red tide are at some of the highest levels ever measured, 60 percent higher than what was observed in the sediments prior to the historic red tide of 2005.

While red tide in Maine is a coastal issue, HABs are increasingly occurring in our inland lakes and rivers. Blue-green algae blooms in some Midwest lakes and the Great Lakes have killed
dozens of dogs and poisoned people all over the region. Frequently, these freshwater algae blooms are caused by a combination of droughts and fertilizer runoff. These outbreaks lead to rashes, sore throats, and other health concerns. This bill helps address algal blooms in lakes as well.

I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important bill, and I am glad that Senator Snowe from Maine is a leader on this issue in the Senate and is the author of the Senate companion legislation. I look forward to continuing to work with her to improve the economic health of our coastal communities.

This bill will help shellfish harvesters in every coastal community by improving our knowledge and ability to predict red tide blooms. We need a national strategy to address HABs and to provide for the development of regional action plans to reduce HAB outbreaks.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the rule and ``yes'' on the underlying bill.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Madam Speaker, I had no idea that we were here to debate health care this morning, but I appreciate that the gentleman, my friend from California, has brought up the differences between us. I would like to make a couple of points.

First off, we are here today to take up this bill that could have been done under a suspension; but as I understand, my colleague voted ``no'' when this bill originally came to the floor, which is why we're back here today--to pass what is a relatively simple, I agree, piece of legislation but what is very important in coastal districts like mine.

Yes, we do have a disagreement on health care legislation, and I wish that your caucus were doing what my caucus is doing right now, which is going through the health care legislation that we hope to bring to this floor soon, line by line, to make sure that we are confident this is excellent legislation to move forward the cause of health care reform, something on which he and I don't agree.

I support very strongly and am looking forward to the debate that we will have on this floor about that health care legislation, and I am thrilled with the year and a half that I have spent here and with the number of hours that the committees and Members on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, have put in in crafting health care legislation. Now, we may not agree on the final product, and that will come down to a vote. You're right. It will depend on making sure that we have enough votes on our side of the aisle, and I am glad that we are making sure that everyone feels confident about that vote.

You know, it was interesting. I, as you know, am a freshman, so I wasn't here in previous years when you were. But when you talk about arm-twisting and about getting votes, I am reminded of the stories that I've heard about passing the prescription drug legislation, and about what it took for the other party, in the middle of the night and with a vote open for many hours, to pass a piece of legislation. I have to say, from my perch as a former State legislator from a State where the cost of prescription drugs is crippling the health care costs for many of our senior citizens, I was shocked to see what that final piece of legislation came to be. I am thrilled that our health care legislation, which I believe will be on this floor soon, will fix some of the problems in there, but, I'm sorry to say, not all.

I remember hearing about that legislation. Was it 2 hours or was it 3 hours in the middle of the night when people were convinced to change their votes so as to get the votes, and when every minute counted to get one more vote? That was the legislation that left us with this tremendous doughnut hole of which our senior citizens talk to me every day. Frankly, that's the public opinion polling that I hear about when I go back to my district.

Yet it's not a public opinion poll. It's senior citizens who come up to me and ask, Do you see what it costs me to buy my prescription drugs? Do you see what happens when I get into the doughnut hole?

Here is what they really ask me. They ask, How could the Republican Party, in the middle of the night and in twisting arms for every vote, pass a piece of legislation that doesn't allow us to negotiate with the pharmaceutical manufacturers for the price of prescription drugs? I can tell you, in my home State of Maine, this was an issue for years.

When I first got elected in 1992 to my State legislature, senior citizens came up to me and asked, Do you see what it costs me to buy my prescription drugs? Then, every year, it got worse and worse and worse as the pharmaceutical manufacturers, which are some of the wealthiest corporations and multinational corporations in this country, were able to sell their drugs at the highest prices in the world to senior citizens in America. Those people had to pay cash for their prescription drugs. Those people had to decide whether to put heating oil in their tanks to keep warm or put food on their tables.

The Republicans came to the point where they could have changed the law like they've done in Canada or like they've done in virtually every other country in the world. They could have done what they're always telling us: Be like a good business, have good business practices. You know, I own a small business. I wouldn't think of buying something I didn't negotiate for. Well, that's what that bill said. It said we won't negotiate. In fact, we'll give them sweetheart deals. We'll say to our senior citizens, You know what? You're going to pay the highest prices in the world, so there will be no cost savings. These are the same Republicans who tell us now there aren't enough cost savings in our health care bill. They use it as an excuse, but that was what was done in the dark of the night, for 3 hours, in holding open a debate.

Do you know how I first found out about this? I got on a bus with senior citizens from the State of Maine. Let me tell you how it worked. We'd stop in Biddeford, Maine. Then we'd go to Portland, Maine. Then we'd go to Lewiston, Maine. We'd stop at places all along the State of Maine, and we'd drive all the way up to the Canadian border. We'd get all the way to the Canadian border, and we'd visit with a duly licensed physician so that they could have their prescriptions rewritten and they could take them across the Canadian border legally. So then we'd go to a Canadian drug store. This is a busload of senior citizens. We'd go into that Canadian drug store, and they'd buy their prescriptions. I want to tell you about one person I sat next to on one of the many bus trips.

I sat next to a person who had to take Tamoxifen, which is a wonderful drug that we're glad we have for breast cancer, but this person takes 30 pills a month. At that point, I think it cost her about $150 a month for her 30 pills. When we got across the Canadian border, it was $12.35. In my opinion, that was highway robbery. Do you know why that was? Because the Canadian Government, just like every other Western nation, requires that they negotiate for the best prices possible.

So, as far as I'm concerned, that's what should have been in that prescription drug plan that was decided in the middle of the night when arms were twisted to get every last vote. That is what should be: closing the doughnut hole and lowering prescription drug prices in the health care bill that we will debate soon.

As far as I am concerned, I am thrilled that members of my caucus are here today to go through line by line, to make sure that we are getting the best possible health care plan we can get. And I will say, it is not going to be everything I want in a health care plan.

I come from the State of Maine. Our doctors think that single payer ought to be the health care plan in Maine, and I am right there with them, but I know that is not what we are going to get to vote on here on the floor. But I am anxious to make sure that we get the best possible compromise, and I would be thrilled if some of the members of your caucus would vote for that bill. I would be thrilled.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would like to yield to my colleague to engage in a colloquy, if I might, so we might have a discussion.

I found it very interesting, very interesting, Madam Speaker, that she talked about that amazing drug that is used for breast cancer, and, unfortunately, the huge disparity in the cost that that woman she was riding on the bus had in Canada versus the United States of America. There is an important reason for that, Madam Speaker, and that is the fact that we want to make sure that there are more amazing drugs created.

There are many very serious ailments that exist out there today, and one of the things that we have as our great comparative advantage here in the United States of America is that we are the center for research and innovation. And, unfortunately, we have had to shoulder the financial burden for that research so that that woman riding on the bus with my friend from North Haven was able to have a drug that would never have been developed had it not been for the kind of innovation that exists here in the United States of America.

I would like to yield to my friend to see if she would recognize that the innovation and creativity that exists in the United States of America is what allowed that friend of hers on the bus to have.

I am happy to yield whatever amount of time my friend consumes from my time.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Well, thank you so much for yielding your time and for allowing me to address this topic, and even though we are here to address algal blooms, I appreciate the chance to go back and forth on this important topic.

Mr. DREIER. Let me just say, Madam Speaker, that I am very happy that we are here to address an issue that is of concern to the American people. With all due respect to the importance of algal blooms and hypoxia research, I believe what we are talking about today is much more important. And the thing we should be talking about is not something that happened 5 years ago, which, frankly, many, many seniors are benefiting from, but what we should talk about is what is about to happen and what is happening behind closed doors throughout this Capitol at this moment.

I am happy to further yield to my friend.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Thank you. And just to answer your point, I, too, think it is essential that we continue our research and development here in this country. Frankly, much of it is done around the world on research and development. But I don't think that negotiating for a better price, that lowering the prices to our senior citizens, would cost us research and development. And, frankly----

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, if I could reclaim my time just to say to my friend that she is right. She is right, Madam Speaker, that there are other parts of the world where research and innovation are taking place. But it all pales, it pales in comparison to the kind of research and development that takes place here in the United States.

I would like to ask my colleague, Madam Speaker, if she would support making permanent the research and development tax credit so that we could have the kind of incentive for our pharmaceutical industry and others out there who are creating these innovative new ideas to deal with Alzheimer's and cancer and diabetes and other ailments that exist. Madam Speaker, would she be supportive of the notion of our pursuing that kind of incentive to deal with these problems that can play a role in driving costs down?

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. First off, I would prefer to answer you on my own time, because it seems to me when you yield me your time, you usually answer for me. So I would rather wait until I have my time.

Mr. DREIER. I just asked the question on my own time. I am happy to yield to my friend. I asked a question, and I would welcome your answer.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I have to say I am unprepared to answer your question about the research and development tax credit for the pharmaceutical industry--I know that I have industries in my State that benefit from that tax credit--before I say yes or no about the solution that you are proposing.

But I do want to go back to one other thing----

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, let me just say, because I control the time----

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. See, I don't think you are letting me finish my answer, so you go ahead.

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I am happy to yield to my friend further, but the gentlewoman has chosen to say she doesn't know whether or not she would support making permanent the research and development tax credit, when we all know that would play a critical role in driving costs down for our seniors and others.

Madam Speaker, the fact of the matter is we are here at this juncture dealing with a measure that may be important to some, but this measure was considered, as I said, under an emergency structure upstairs in the Rules Committee.

Now, I ask the question, when the President made his decision to delay his trip to Indonesia and Australia from March 18 to March 21 or 22, was that so that he could deal with the emergency of signing legislation dealing with algal blooms and hypoxia research? I don't think so. But that is the measure, as my friend said, she wanted to discuss here on the House floor today, when in fact we know, we know that arm-twisting is taking place. And to liken, to liken the structure that is taking place with what happened 5 years ago is preposterous.

It is true, it is true that under the rules of the House that vote may have been left open, and as a by-product of that we have seen literally millions and millions of seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs.

Madam Speaker, I have to say that that pales in comparison to this unprecedented and outrageous structure that is being utilized, that is being utilized to ram down the throats of the American people something that they don't want.

Madam Speaker, with that, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Madam Speaker, I will just say a couple of more things again.

I am thrilled that the President has decided to focus all of his energy on health care. I think that the people of this country have waited long enough for health care reform, and I am anxious to see it come to this floor. I am anxious to see us bring it to final passage.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. DREIER. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let me say that I was just reminded by my staff, Madam Speaker, and I have got a couple of articles that were just handed to me here today, about this process issue. I regularly argue that process is substance. And excuse me, I am not talking, by the way, about algal blooms or hypoxia research. I am talking about this convoluted process known as the ``Slaughter solution.''

For some strange reason, the Democratic leadership has said that, regardless of what the Senate is going to do, we are going to proceed with taking our action here, when reconciliation itself is a Senate process. That was designed, as we all know, it is called budget reconciliation, put into place in the 1974 Budget and Impoundment Act. It was put into place by Senator Byrd, and the goal of providing an opportunity for reconciliation, budget reconciliation, was so that there could be an opportunity to deal with tax increases or spending cuts.

I will say, the last time we dealt with meaningful spending cuts under this kind of structure was when we tried to tackle the issue of entitlement reform, and we were able to bring about a very, very modest $40 billion reduction. I think that we need to work harder on that and we need to utilize that process in doing it.

But what we are seeing right now and these reports that are out there, the confusion that exists in this House, and certainly with the American people, who are just casual observers of this, is that this is not what we were promised, Madam Speaker. It is not what we were promised.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I have no further requests for time, and I will continue to reserve my time.

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, it looks like my friend from Texas is here and would like to be recognized. I am happy to yield to my friend, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Gohmert).

Mr. GOHMERT. Madam Speaker, I appreciate so much the points my friend from California has been making. Here there have been discussions about health care and the White House wanting to take that over for the American people, and it really is highlighted by something that I ran into just this morning at the White House.

Now, we know from the prior hearings that were held that apparently the Social Secretary had a meeting with people at security at the White House and decided to change protocol so she wouldn't be there, and so some people got waved in that shouldn't have gotten waved in. As a result, what has happened now, with Members of Congress, it used to be that if you gave 24 hours' notice with Social Security numbers, date of birth, all that kind of thing, you could get six people into the White House at 8 o'clock, 7:45, something like that the next morning. Now, under this White House that was changed to where they want 48 hours. Okay, fine.

As a result of the incompetent handling over letting people into the White House that shouldn't have been, not by the Secret Service, not by the armed guards there--now they have doubled the number of guards that are out there--they now make both Members of Congress and those people who are obviously law-abiding and have had their security checked and double-checked with not one smudge on their record, now they have to go clear down a block away to 15th Street and go through security there.

The Member of Congress, like today in the rain, has to go down a block and then go through security there, with double the number of guards, and then come up and go through security again and go through guards again, all not because Secret Service messed up or the armed guards that are now doubled in number, but because somebody in the White House staff screwed up. Now they are deciding to punish Members of Congress and law-abiding citizens that normally just get in.

The point here is that this is a circus over there. Nobody seems to know what is going on. When accountability was demanded and the Social Secretary was requested by Members of Congress to come testify, they said, ``We are not going to let you come testify.''

The same thing happened on the Auto Task Force. Could you have them at least come tell us about their secret meetings, these czars and all that stuff? ``We are not going to be accountable.''

It is a circus going on over there, and now the people in the circus want to be in charge of your health care. Good grief. It is time to say we don't want clowns in charge of something as important as our health care. I don't even want them in charge of algal blooms.

With that, I appreciate the time.

Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I thank my friend for his very thoughtful remarks.

Let me just close--I know my colleague is prepared to do the same--by making a couple of comments.

I began by pointing to the fact that in California we have a number of counties with an unemployment rate in excess of 20 percent. In part of the area I represent in suburban Los Angeles, we have an unemployment rate in excess of 14 percent. We have, obviously, tremendous numbers of home foreclosures and small business people are unable to gain access to credit.

I believe that we can get our economy growing boldly, strongly, and dynamically, with bipartisanship--and I underscore that term ``bipartisan,'' Madam Speaker--by utilizing the John F. Kennedy-Ronald Reagan approach with marginal tax rate reduction which, during the 1960s under John F. Kennedy and the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, stimulated economic growth by reducing marginal tax rates and doubled, doubled the flow of revenues to the Federal Treasury.

Everyone is decrying the $1.4 trillion deficit and the $12 trillion debt that we have today. And what is it we are doing? We are sitting here with a discussion about algal blooms and hypoxia research, and we are witnessing arm-twisting to see the Federal Government take control of one-sixth of our economy, while the American people want us to focus on job creation and economic growth.

We can be doing that, Madam Speaker, if we can refocus our attention to where it is that the American people want us to be. And I urge a ``no'' vote on this rule.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I thank my colleague from California.

We have had a lively debate this morning on a whole variety of issues. I had no idea I was going to have the pleasure of coming to the floor to talk about the bus trips with senior citizens, about the prescription drug debate in the middle of the night and many of the things that have been part of our process for years before I was ever here. And I thank you for that opportunity to go back and forth on those issues.

I appreciate your thoughts and our differences of opinion on this issue of health care reform. I want to reiterate we are here today on the issue of algal blooms and red tide and a variety of things that are important to my constituents here in Maine.

The reason this bill is here on this floor today is because many of those on the other side of the aisle, including my Republican colleague, whom we have been going back and forth with today, Mr. Dreier, voted ``no'' on the bill when it first hit the floor and we are taking up again.

I would like to close and stick to the topic for a minute and let us move forward with our business today making sure that we continue to bring more bills around jobs here, and I hope that we have some Republican votes on our future jobs bill and certainly on our health care bill.

In closing, I just want to say that the 2009 red tide in Maine hit our coastal communities hard. Most shellfish harvesters are self-employed and make the majority of their living in the summer months. Every day, shellfish harvesters were calling the State agencies and asking for help with mortgages payments, utility bills, doctor bills, car payments, and even food. In my State and in many coastal States, these are jobs. These are jobs that keep families working through the summer and help them get through the winter.

The economic impact of closing much of the coast to shellfish harvesters, aquaculturists and related businesses was conservatively estimated to be between $1.6 million and $2.5 million each week. This is real money to coastal States in every corner of this country.

This bill will make a difference for coastal communities. With improved testing and tracking, scientists will be able to accurately identify localized areas. This means that smaller portions of the coast will be shut down instead of entire regions. In addition, it will build on so much of the good work that has already been done, improve our prediction and monitoring capabilities, and take steps to mitigate the impact of red tide and other HABs. We need a national program dedicated to coordinating and integrating Federal resources to minimize or even prevent HABs in both fresh and saltwater. Enhanced coordination will help resource managers make better decisions, and with better decisions will come less economic hardship in our coastal communities.

I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and on the rule.

I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.

The previous question was ordered.

The resolution was agreed to.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.


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