Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, last week, as gas prices continued to climb, squeezing family budgets and putting more pressure on already struggling businesses, Democrats here in Congress sprang into action. Instead of actually doing something about high gas prices, our Democratic friends staged what one of my Republican colleagues accurately described as a dog and pony show. They rounded up what they believed were a few unsympathetic villains whom they could blame for high gas prices, hoping nobody would notice they do not have a plan of their own to deal with those high gas prices.
That has been the Democratic strategy from the beginning: Blame this crisis on somebody else, and see if they can't raise taxes while they are at it. They have been so shameless about it, in fact, that they have not even pretended they are doing anything to lower gas prices, readily admitting the bill we will vote on today will not lower gas prices by a penny. As the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee put it last week: ``That's not the issue.''
Well, I would submit that for most Americans, high gas prices are in fact, the issue. This week, Democrats will show once again how little they care about it when we take up an energy plan that several more of them have admitted will do absolutely nothing to lower the price of gas at the pump. One Democratic Senator, a member of their own leadership team, called the bill a ``gimmick.'' Another Democratic Senator called it ``laughable.''
I would also argue that with Americans looking for real relief, symbolic votes such as this that aim to do nothing but pit people against each other will only frustrate the public even more. Americans are not interested in scapegoats. They just want to pay less to fill up their cars.
That is why this Democratic bill to tax American energy is an affront to the American people, and so is the President's announcement over the weekend that he now plans to let these same energy producers lease lands throughout the United States that his administration had previously blocked off.
The administration knows perfectly well that leasing--the act of leasing--is just the start of the development process, which is why its only hope is that the American people do not pay close attention to the details of the plan.
Permits, Madam President--permits--are what matter, and by refusing to issue permits in any meaningful way, the administration is showing its true colors in this debate. If the administration were serious about increasing domestic energy production, it would increase leases and, most importantly, it would increase permits.
In the end, the only thing Democrats will actually achieve this week is to make Republican arguments for comprehensive energy legislation seem even stronger than they already are. By pretending to want an increase in domestic energy production, the President is not only acknowledging that the United States has vast energy resources of its own waiting to be tapped, he is also acknowledging that tapping these resources would at some point help drive down the price of gas at the pump.
That is what Republicans have been saying all along. Now the President is acknowledging that: Supply matters. And American supply matters even more.
So the only thing that seems to be standing between Republicans and Democrats at this point is the Democrats do not seem to have the political will to follow through on their conclusions. And in this, today's Democrats are no different from their predecessors. Literally for decades, Democrats from Jimmy Carter to President Obama have sought to deflect attention from their own complicity in our Nation's overdependence on foreign oil. Every time gas prices go up, they pay lip service to the need for domestic exploration while quietly supporting efforts to suppress it.
But President Obama's energy policy puts the current administration in a whole new category. Over the past 2 years, the President has mounted nothing short of a war on American energy, canceling dozens of leases, imposing a moratorium off the gulf coast, arbitrarily extending public comment periods, and increasing permit fees. On the crucial issue of permits, the administration has held them up in Alaska, the Rocky Mountain West, and particularly offshore. Every one of those decisions has had a major impact on future production--and on future jobs, since every permit the administration denies is another job creation opportunity denied.
So the truth of the matter is, the Obama administration has done just about everything it can to keep our domestic energy sector down and to stifle the jobs that come along with it.
Until now, the President has stuck to attacking Republicans for being stuck in the present without preparing for the future. But this has always been a disingenuous argument. It ignores history, since we have repeatedly supported alternative fuels and renewable energy, as well as comprehensive energy legislation that commits us to the development of cleaner technologies. It ignores science, since even if a million electric vehicles are sold here by 2015, they would still only account for less than one-half of 1 percent of the entire U.S. vehicle fleet. However much we desire it, the transition from oil will take decades, and serious energy policy must account for that.
With this latest gambit, the President may have acknowledged the wisdom of our approach. But his plan to allow a few lease sales without corresponding permits falls short. Energy producers might end up with a lot of expensive land, but the rest of us would have nothing to show for it. A better approach to this crisis is the Republican alternative that we will get a vote on tomorrow.
Our bill would return American offshore production to where it was before this administration locked it up, require Federal bureaucrats to process permits--to make a decision one way or the other: process the permit, make a decision one way or the other--rather than sitting on the permits. And it would improve offshore safety. Our plan not only acknowledges the importance of increasing domestic production, it does something about it, while ensuring environmental safety.
If President Obama and his party are serious about lowering gas prices, making us less dependent on foreign oil, and creating the thousands of jobs that American exploration is proven to produce, they would embrace our plan and stop pretending to care about a crisis they have done so much to create and, their latest public relations efforts notwithstanding, continue to ignore.