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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I associate myself with the Senators from New Hampshire, Florida, and Texas, and would like to report an interesting occurrence that took place yesterday that kind of verifies exactly what Senator Cornyn said.

After the vote on the media shield motion to proceed, I went back to my office and placed two phone calls, one to the president of the Georgia Press Association, the other one to the president of the Georgia Broadcasters Association. I told both of them: We have had conversations about the importance of media shield, and I know both of you are very interested in it. But I want to explain why a few minutes ago I cast a ``no'' vote on a motion to proceed to media shield.

I said: The reason I did it, quite simply, is that for everybody in my State--and I would submit most everybody in the United States of America--the No. 1 issue is the high cost of energy and particularly the high cost of gasoline.

Both men, both professional journalists, both presidents of their associations, said: We understand.

The broadcasters said: Our talk shows are not calling in about media shield; they are calling in about the gas.

The president of the press association said: Listen, I understand. Read our letters to the editor. I listen at the coffee shop. I know what Georgians are concerned about. It is the high price of energy and the high price of gas.

So that is why I have remained committed to staying on the Energy bill until we find some way to bring Republicans and Democrats together. Both of us can give. I said in a speech the other day: We ought to put our donkeys and elephants in the barn and sit down and talk about ways to really meaningfully change the lives of the American people, not 20 years from now but today.

The country is hungry for a Congress and for leadership that will say yes to more production, yes to more conservation, yes to a better environment, yes to a productive economy, all of which would be the result of a comprehensive, balanced approach toward energy. But a singular slingshot approach or a rifle approach, like just speculation or just drilling or just something else--we have to do it all. We have to do it comprehensively. We have it within our capabilities to do it right.

As the Senators before me have stated, we have all kinds of resources. Many of these resources are not only abundant but they are cleaner than gasoline and they are cleaner than oil--nuclear energy, for example. In America, 19 percent of our electric energy is produced with nuclear; in France, it is 87 percent. Think about the difference that makes not only in the reliability and the cost of energy but the carbon-free emissions that come from nuclear versus the heavy carbons that come from the burning of oil or gas or coal or other sources.

Ingenuity and innovation. The American people are a remarkable people. When confronted with whatever challenge, we have almost always come up with a solution. But sometimes those solutions either take inspiration or they take encouragement. When we needed to go to the Moon and win the space race, we had the inspiration of a great President, John Kennedy, to declare a goal to land a man on the Moon and bring him back again before the end of the decade. We did not know how to do it, but we did it. We need a Congress that is just as bold today to say that $4 a gallon is too much for gasoline, carbon is too bad for our atmosphere, and fossil fuels are geopolitically not in our interest.

It is time that we as America find ways through engineering and ingenuity to invent and to develop and to process those sources of energy that are clean, renewable, reliable, and less expensive. And we can do it. But you cannot do it if you stand in gridlock on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives, unwilling to talk about all the issues.

We all have our biases and we all have our prejudices, but all of us take an oath of office to represent the people of our State and to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and defend the domestic tranquility of our people. When your economy is tanking, when your debt is going up because of your addiction to foreign oil, and Congress sits here for 2 weeks and debates only one sliver of the solution without everything, then we are not living up to our responsibility.

So if the Georgia Press Association understands, if the Association of Broadcasters understands, if the 17,488 people who communicated last week with my office about one issue--and that was cost of energy--understand, why can't we in the Senate understand? We are all in this together. We are 100 coequals. We all have the same responsibility. And we ought to all have the same goal; that is, to find a way to thread the needle so we sit down and we develop a comprehensive energy program for the people of the United States of America.

I did a talk show yesterday--actually, it was a television program where I was asked about this energy question. I was asked about the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. I said that the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s was an early warning. It gave us a second chance to address the energy question. But when prices went down in the 1980s and 1990s and the price of gasoline was not that high, we did not take that chance. Well, now prices have spiked to an alltime high.

This is not a second chance for us in America, this is a last chance for us in America. A sustained cost of gas at $4 a gallon, oil at $120 to $150 a barrel will break the U.S. economy. It will destroy the value of the U.S. dollar, and it will hurt the people of the United States of America.

So it is time for us to put these prejudices aside, put them aside and sit down and be willing to agree. I will be the first person to lay on a table--I am willing to sit down and talk to anybody, anyplace, anywhere, about any singular facet of the energy crisis if they are willing to talk about the other facets of the energy crisis.

As Boone Pickens said, drilling will not solve it, but it will help. Solar will not solve it, but it will help. Wind will not solve it, but it will help. Renewables will not solve it, but they will help. What we have to do is put together the pieces of the puzzle that are within our grasp and make sure the people of the United States have abundant energy at affordable prices. We are sitting on a ham sandwich, starving to death. We are not developing the resources we have at our disposal, and because of that, our citizens are paying a dramatic price.

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, let's start talking about solutions rather than continuing to perpetuate the problem.

I yield back any time we have remaining, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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