PALLONE VOICES STRONG OPPOSITION TO GOP BILL THAT INCLUDES OFFSHORE DRILLING
As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to adjourn later today, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today voiced his strong opposition to a rule allowing a giant tax bill to come to the House floor that includes a controversial provision opening up 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling. While Pallone opposes the offshore drilling provision, he supports another provision that prevents a cut in Medicare physician payments from taking effect at the end of the year. A vote on the rule and the overall legislation is expected later today. The New Jersey congressman gave the following statement on the House floor this morning in opposition to the rule.
"Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my strong opposition to the rule and my serious concerns about the substance of the bill we are about to consider.
"First off, we are considering complex pieces of legislation that affects a wide variety of U.S. policies -- and we're doing so after getting only a few short hours to read the actual text of the bill. I suppose we shouldn't have expected more from this Congress, but it is still reprehensible that the Republican leadership has chosen to throw so many bills together at the very end of the session without giving members the opportunity for amendments.
"I will say that on behalf of doctors and patients in my district, I am glad to see that Congress is taking action to avert a drastic 5.1 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians. It's a shame, however, that we have had to wait until the end of the last week of this Congress in order to address a problem we saw coming from far away.
"What really needs to be done is a permanent fix that will avoid Congress from having to correct the Medicare reimbursement rate on an annual basis. If doctors face annual cuts seniors may lose access to physician services. That's why it's important to permanently fix the formula by which we pay physicians under Medicare.
"On the other hand, I strongly oppose the offshore drilling language in the bill. It is inconceivable, given what we know about our current energy problems and the looming threat of global warming, that we are considering another proposal to do nothing more than drill, drill, drill. As I have said many times before, the United States consumes a quarter of the world's oil but contains only three percent of the world's known reserves. There is simply no way we can drill our way out of our dependence on foreign oil.
"What we need instead is a more comprehensive solution that focuses on increasing the efficiency of our cars, homes, and businesses and promotes the use of clean, renewable technology. We see more and more evidence every day that our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels is threatening our national security, causing volatile prices at the pump, and exacerbating global warming.
"It is my sincere hope that next year we can start this process over next year and work in a bipartisan fashion on legislation to address all of these issues. I hope members realize that next year the new Congress will not resort to such tactics as the rule we are dealing with today and will choose to deal with important matters such as energy legislation and physician payment schedules in a timely and rational manner.
"I strongly urge my colleagues to vote no on this ill-conceived rule."