Friday Faxline: Issue 516
Gas price spike shows need for more refining capacity
Despite relatively stable crude oil prices in recent weeks, drivers across the Midwest and elsewhere saw gas prices jump up this week by as much as 40 cents. The main cause of the price jump was a disruption in production at a major oil refinery located in Indiana. This is reminiscent of the lessons learned in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that damaged refineries in the Gulf Coast: American oil refineries must constantly operate at or near full capacity in order to meet modern-day demand. Because a new oil refinery has not been built in the U.S. in more than 30 years, there is no margin for error for existing refineries - any disruption means price hikes at the pump. I have introduced legislation (H.R. 2279) that would encourage greater domestic refining capacity by designating closed military bases as possible sites for new refineries. This would cut out one major hurdle in the process of expanding our refining capabilities - finding a location - and is a good step toward reducing price volatility for consumers.
Deficit projections revised downward again
This week, the Office of Management and Budget reported the fiscal year 2007 budget deficit is expected to be $40 billion less than originally projected. The 2001 and 2003 tax relief packages have encouraged sustained economic growth and job creation, thereby growing federal revenues and reducing the deficit to less than half of what it was just three years ago. The economy has grown for 22 consecutive quarters, with real GDP growth averaging 2.9 percent a year since the end of 2001. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the economy is now more than 16 percent larger than in 2001. Job creation has also been strong, with more than 8.2 million new jobs added nationally since August, 2003. These numbers underscore the importance of keeping tax rates low and giving our economy the capital it needs to remain strong and growing.
Vaccine safety amendment passes in committee
In 1999, the Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and vaccine manufacturers adopted a policy to remove thimerosal, a mercury compound found to be harmful to an infant's nervous system, from child vaccines. Though thimerosal has been removed from all other routinely administered vaccines, the compound (50 percent mercury) still remains in childhood flu shots. Unfortunately, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanding its flu vaccine recommendations, more infants and children are being exposed to this mercury compound. On Wednesday, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), a medical doctor, offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would prevent any taxpayer money from being used to administer mercury-laced flu shots to children under three years of age. This is a simple strategy that will help protect our kids. The amendment passed in committee and is expected to be considered by the full House as early as next week.
Bush cuts the ribbon on new White House press briefing room
For years, Americans have watched presidents and White House press secretaries brief the White House press corps from the briefing room located in the West Wing of the White House. What they may not realize is that, despite the stately podium and crisp blue backdrop seen on TV, the rest of the room, built over top of FDR's old swimming pool, was a dump: dim lighting, exposed wiring, poor ventilation, worn carpet, and an occasional rat sighting. To improve conditions for the press corps, the Bush team moved the whole briefing operation across the street for a year in order to renovate. On Wednesday, the President and First Lady cut the ribbon on the newly-renovated room, and the press moved in to its much-improved quarters. During brief remarks at the ribbon cutting, President Bush jokingly told reporters, "Welcome back to the West Wing. We missed you - sort of."
Quote of the Week
"If you went on a $1,000 shopping spree today and every day thereafter until you spent just $1 billion, you'd have to shop every day for the next 2,740 years. But it only takes about four hours for the government to spend $1 billion of your money."
- Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), putting government spending into perspective.