Energy Task force -- (House of Representatives - April 27, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of January 20, 2004, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized during morning hour debates for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, today I hope we are one step closer to prying the doors of the White House open in regard to Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force.
For 3 years now, the Vice President has done everything he can to keep the records of the Energy Task Force secret. The secret task force developed President Bush's energy policy, a policy that was then made into legislation here in Congress, legislation that is now stalled in the other body. Nevertheless, the end result was bad energy policy. There is no doubt that the energy industry succeeded with its influence during these secret, closed-door meetings in crafting a policy that benefited them rather than benefiting Americans who at the time desperately needed relief from high energy prices.
Mr. Speaker, today Americans face high gas prices, but they should not be fooled by claims from congressional Republicans and President Bush that the legislation they pushed would reduce the cost of energy in this country. Instead, the President's plan was nothing more than a payback to the oil and gas industry numbering in the billions of dollars and embedded in tax incentives, loan guarantees, liability protection and research and development.
For 3 years, the Vice President has refused to let the American people know who made up this Energy Task Force. For 3 years now, the Vice President has refused to let the American people know how and why the task force came to the conclusions that it did.
Finally, after 3 years of hiding the information, today the U.S. Supreme Court hears from the Vice President's lawyers why CHENEY thinks it is so important that this information remain secret. Today, the Supreme Court hears from the Sierra Club and the conservative group, Judicial Watch, who sued Vice President Cheney seeking an accounting of energy industry participation in crafting the Bush administration's destructive energy policy. A district court has already ordered the administration to provide information about participation from those industries but once again the Bush administration refused to divulge any information. Fortunately, the court denied the request, and last December the Vice President appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
So what does the Vice President do once he realizes the Supreme Court would be hearing the case? He goes duck hunting with one of the Supreme Court justices as a guest of an energy executive. The situation begs several questions. First, was the energy executive hosting the Vice President and Justice Scalia a member of the Energy Task Force? Second, was the Vice President attempting to use this trip to Louisiana as a way to persuade Justice Scalia that the documents being requested should remain secret under the cloak of executive privilege? And, third, how could either Vice President Cheney or Justice Scalia think this trip to Louisiana for duck hunting, in which both flew to and from together on Air Force Two, would not look like a conflict of interest?
Justice Scalia should have recused himself from this case, but Vice President Cheney should have realized how this trip would appear to the American public. Think about this for a minute. Imagine that you are a plaintiff in a case and you learn that the defendant and the judge had vacationed together several months before. Would you accept that scenario? The Sierra Club asked Justice Scalia to recuse himself but Justice Scalia refused.
ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman will please suspend.
The Chair must remind all Members that remarks in debate may not engage in personalities towards the President or the Vice President. Policies may be addressed in critical terms, but personal references of an offensive, accusatory nature are not proper.
The gentleman may proceed in order.
Mr. PALLONE. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I just hope the Cheney decision in this case is not another 5-4 decision in which Justice Scalia is the deciding vote in favor of the Vice President.
It is time for the Vice President to come forward with the list of participants on the Energy Task Force. What information is so damaging that the Vice President does not want to make it public? I think the time has come for both President Bush and Vice President Cheney to lift the cloak of secrecy on its national energy plan and basically disclose what happened, who the participants were, and how and in what way they influenced the energy bill that came forward here in the House and is now in the other body. I think it is very wrong for them to continue to not provide this information, not disclose who was involved, and frankly have to go to the Supreme Court to try to make the Supreme Court say that that information should not be divulged.