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30-Something Working Group

Location: Washington, DC

30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - April 25, 2006)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, I, too, want to express my thanks to the Democratic leader and the Democratic whip.

Wow, the 2 weeks we had at home, I am sure that you experienced just like I did, I went home and heard an earful from folks in my district who just really are at the end of their rope. They are fed up. They are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I think one woman said it best. She has just reached the end of her last nerve, whether it is the culture of corruption and the daily revelation that comes out of this capital with either an indictment or an accusation or an ethical cloud or an example of cronyism, or just one more example of the incompetence that has really permeated government as led by the Republican leadership.

People are sick of it. They really are. They are sick of the gas prices. They are sick of the issues coming up again repeatedly and not being dealt with and not being addressed and their concerns not being addressed until it becomes such an immense political issue that the Republican leadership realizes it is unavoidable. They are over it, and I can understand why they are over it.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It is insulting. In January, the three of us, along with our colleagues, sat in this Chamber and listened to the President deliver the State of the Union and the line he had in the State of the Union about America's addiction to oil and that we needed to end it. You know, it is insulting. It is insulting on so many levels.

Number one, it is insulting that just last year, and I have made this reference before. I have only been here 14 months now, and in the last 14 months just while I was here, we have voted on two different energy bills that gave away the store to the energy companies, to the oil companies.

So it was just so obnoxious when in the President's State of the Union he is talking about us, the United States, needing to end, Americans needing to end our addiction to oil. Where have his proposals been? Where has his agenda been? Suddenly today or yesterday he comes up with his five points that we need to move on to address the energy crisis that we are in? I mean, give me a break.

The American people understand when their leaders are genuine and when they are scrambling because politically they know there is no other choice.


Mr. DELAHUNT. Madam Speaker, I was listening to the President today, and I thought it was interesting that for the first time that I can remember, this President indicated that maybe it was time to take away those tax breaks for big oil. I mean, that is just a desperate response to falling polling numbers, because those tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, Madam Speaker, were the product of his energy policy combined with the rubber-stamp Republican Congress that has run this country for the last 6 years.

Whose policy is it, Madam Speaker? It is not a Democratic policy that is responsible for a gallon of gas going from $1.45 on January 20, 2001, to $2.91 today.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. This is something that I think the Members who are hearing us should really be able to see while we are talking about it. And following, I mean, the comparison on the heels of what we have just been talking about with two pieces of Republican-led energy legislation giving away the store last year to the oil companies, forgiving taxes, allowing for drilling rights tax free, with taxes being forgiven. In the time that President Bush has been in office, when he took office January 20 of 2001, gas prices, Americans paid $1.45 a gallon. Now, fast forward to today, and we now pay an average price of $2.91 a gallon. Now, in 5 years, a little more than 5 years.

Mr. MEEK of Florida. I know, Mr. Delahunt and Ms. Wasserman Schultz, that the American people see this and say wait a minute, they must have a typo on this. It is like $3.06 last I saw. But this is on average. I just want to make sure because, Madam Speaker, I think it is important. I am glad you are spelling this out, and I am glad you have this chart because we want to make sure the Republican majority knows exactly what their policies have brought on the American people, Democrat and Republican. I'm sorry, Ms. Wasserman Schultz.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That is okay. So people understand what we are talking about, those two bills last year cost taxpayers more than $12 billion, with a B, billion dollars in giveaways to big oil companies. That was in the legislation where essentially taxes they were required to pay they did not have to pay because those pieces of legislation forgave those taxes


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. In the evolution of gas prices that you have on that chart, 2002, $1.39; 2003, $1.57; and $1.90 in 2004; $2.37 in 2005; and now an average of $2.91 in 2006, in between that time, because I have not been in Congress all those years, and you have, have the Republicans who have controlled Congress all of this time, and President Bush who has been President all of this time, have they put forward any proposals to fund, significantly fund, alternative energy sources? Has there been anything that has been initiated by the Republican leadership here, by this White House maybe that I didn't see since I was still in the State legislature to fend this off, to make it less likely that the situation we are in now we wouldn't find ourselves in? Because the President did say in his remarks and commentary in the last several days about what control he did or didn't have over gas prices, that he really wasn't able to control market forces. I mean, I heard him say that.

Well, no, he probably can't control market forces, but there are certainly things that they could have put forward. But I haven't seen it. Did they?

Mr. DELAHUNT. Well, they did, but it didn't help. What they did is they put forth a welfare program for Big Oil. I mean, that is truly what they did.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. What do you mean by a welfare program for Big Oil?

Mr. DELAHUNT. Well, how about $16 billion worth of subsidies for Big Oil? And this, of course, this is not for poor folk, because the big oil companies, Madam Speaker, they are doing remarkably well in this country. They are showing profits that only can be described as embarrassing in a free enterprise system.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Should we illuminate that a little bit?

Mr. DELAHUNT. I yield to my friend.

MS. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Some people might be concerned about our commentary here and you referring to profits as being obscene, because, obviously, in a capitalistic society we understand and think profit is a good thing. So I think it is important that people understand what we mean. While giving away the store, while giving away $12 billion in tax breaks.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Sixteen billion all together.

MS. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Sixteen billion all together. Forgive me.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Subsidies and tax breaks. Let's just call it welfare for Big Oil.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Right, the oil welfare that we have given away.

Mr. DELAHUNT. That is the oil welfare program.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. My experience with tax breaks as a State legislator and now a Member of Congress is that you generally give those kinds of breaks to help a business get back on its feet, thrive, to maybe bridge them through a difficult time. In 2002, the oil companies made a combined profit of $34 billion. In 2003 it was $59 billion.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Could I interrupt for a minute?


Mr. DELAHUNT. Could I ask my friend from Florida just to repeat that. $34 billion, and that was all of the major oil companies?


Mr. DELAHUNT. Would you, for the sake of our conversation here, would you identify them, if you can read them from the chart?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Sure. As you can see, BP, Chevron, Shell, Conoco, and Exxon-Mobil.

Mr. DELAHUNT. So the five of them, Madam Speaker, in the year 2002?


Mr. DELAHUNT. In the year 2002 had a combined profit of $34 billion. And then, of course, that was just the beginning.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That was only the tip of the iceberg, because if you continue down the road, and remember, I just got here, and so we will get to 2005 in a minute. But it was 2005 that the $16 billion was granted that we have been talking about. But you go to 2003: $59 billion in profits. Also the same oil companies.

Mr. DELAHUNT. So, in one year, you are telling me that it almost doubled, or did it?

MS. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Not quite, not quite doubled. No. About a third more in profits.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Then you go to 2004, and we are at $84 billion in profits.

Mr. DELAHUNT. $84 billion.


Mr. DELAHUNT. In 2 years. I guess that is productivity.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Not bad if you can do it. And then you go to 2005. In a year where we passed two major energy bills that gave away $16 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to the oil companies, they made, last year, $113 billion; and one of those companies made more money in one quarter than any company in U.S. history.

Mr. DELAHUNT. And that company is?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That was Exxon-Mobil.

Mr. DELAHUNT. And my memory is that Exxon-Mobil, for the year, had a profit of $39 billion, that one company.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. More than all of the companies combined profited in 2002.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Three years ago. Now, that is why I use the word ``obscene,'' because something is wrong with our free market system.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. And we don't begrudge profit.

Mr. DELAHUNT. I encourage profit. Clearly profit is important. And it is what made this country unique in terms of our ability to have a high standard of living. But this is not free market. This is not free market. This is something different. This is either price gouging or some sort of market.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. This is doing what the Republican leadership is allowing them to do.

Mr. DELAHUNT. This is oligopoly or a tendency towards monopoly, and this House has done nothing, Madam Speaker. There has not been any antitrust hearing as far as the oil companies are concerned, Madam Speaker. We have not had any hearings at all in the committee of jurisdiction, which is the Judiciary Committee, that would shed some light on why in 3 years they went from $34 billion to $113 billion. And we wonder why, Madam Speaker, we wonder why the American people are losing confidence in the House of Representatives, the people's House.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Can I ask you a question, Mr. Delahunt, again because you have more direct experience with this than I do? My understanding is that the oil companies, they do not own the areas of the gulf and the other places that they drill for oil. The Federal Government sells them essentially, through payment of taxes, the rights to drill; that these are essentially public lands, whether they are in the Gulf of Mexico or wherever they are drilling, I mean whether it is Texas or any portion. I do not believe any of the area is private land, any of the significant area. So when we forgive the oil companies taxes, we are basically giving away the ownership rights to a private company that the government owns and just saying, here, take our oil stores for free. Is that right?


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you for your generosity. What we are saying, I want to underscore what we are saying when we say we are not opposed to profit, because that profit we had up there a minute ago, if it happened and the oil companies were being asked to pay their fair share, if they were paying the royalties and the taxes that they are supposed to be under the law to the Federal Government for the rights to drill, you know what? You can't begrudge them the profits, because that is the free market system.

But they are not. They are being given these oil rights for free, for no remuneration or very little remuneration whatsoever. And they don't need it. They are not struggling. Far from it. The people who are struggling now are Americans who need to go to work, who need to get their kids to school.

Mr. DELAHUNT. But stop for a minute and just see what the values are. We hear a lot about values. Here we are providing a wealthy program for big oil, and at the same time we are not adequately funding the so-called LIHEAP program, which provides assistance to low-income families, working families, so that they can get through the winter, so that they are not forced to make a decision between having food on the table and staying warm.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Delahunt, given that I am from Florida and have a particular sensitivity to not using much heat, can you explain what the LIHEAP program is?

Mr. DELAHUNT. The LIHEAP program has been around for some time now, and it has been a program that was introduced in a Democratic Congress, supported by Democratic presidents and adequately funded. Today, only 20 percent of those who are eligible based on income, who would qualify if the funding were available, only 20 percent of those receive that assistance.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. What does LIHEAP do for folks?

Mr. DELAHUNT. It gives them basically a discount on the purchase of their energy for heating their homes.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It gives them a break on their bill.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Delahunt, can I just describe the difference between the Alice in Wonderland-like policy that is made here, where down is up and down is up, and reality? At the end of Alice in Wonderland, Alice woke up and it was a dream and she could go back to what reality really was for her.

Mr. DELAHUNT. But this is a nightmare.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That is right, that the Republican leadership won't let Americans wake up from.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I just want to ask you another question. As we went through last year and we debated those energy bills, and I remember when they went through the committees and then actually came, at least one of them did not even go to committee, it just came to the floor. And it came out on this Chamber. One of those bills was yet another example of the red lights changing to green lights, and the board being held open. I think the energy bill that I am referring to, I know the board was held open for at least 40 minutes, until the Republican leadership got the vote that they wanted.

Now, we have asked repeatedly, where is the outrage? Where was the outrage then when Republicans, rank-and-file Republicans, who not only needed some courage, but could have gotten some advice from the Scarecrow and the Tin Man then, too, for some heart and some brains, but where was the outrage? And what did that mean?

Essentially what did it mean when they had the opportunity, when they put their no vote up on the board, yet the leadership came to them on the floor, wrenched their arm behind their back, and what did they do? They were rubber-stamp Republicans yet again. Rubber-stamp Republicans.

And I just, time after time I have noticed that that is really the best way to describe the vast majority of Members of the Republican Caucus, because they have the opportunity to have some courage, they do not have any. What do they have? They have the ability to just say, uh-huh, sure, I will do it exactly the way you want it, Mr. Republican Leader.


Mr. DELAHUNT. I think it is really interesting to note for the record, Madam Speaker, that the relationship between this rubber-stamp Congress and this White House is so close that in the 6 years of this Presidency, he has never had to veto a single piece of legislation that came from the United States Congress. Not once, Madam Speaker, not once.

Mr. MEEK of Florida. Say it is not so, Mr. Delahunt.

Mr. DELAHUNT. It is so. Tragically it is so.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. He has never been forced to veto any legislation or sent anything that they were afraid he would not like. And I want to know, where are our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, where is their line? Where is the line that we know we all have, that says, you know, this far and no farther? I just cannot do it. They do not have that line.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. In our final minute or so, I can tell you that what I learned from my constituents when I went back home is that they know that together America can do better. It does not have to be this way. We do not have to keep going. And through our efforts and the efforts of our other Democratic colleagues, our 30-something Working Group will continue to take the floor each night.

I yield to my colleague from Florida to close us out. We do have a Website.


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