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Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 - Motion to Proceed - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 30, 2008)



Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I wish to thank my colleagues, our assistant majority leader from Illinois and the Senator from California, for speaking today, because we are quite astounded, I have to tell my colleagues. Coming from the great State of Michigan where we care about jobs--and I know the Presiding Officer does, coming from the great State of Pennsylvania--our folks are desperate for good-paying jobs, middle-class jobs that allow them to pay that mortgage and pay those outrageous gas prices and to be able to keep their families afloat and put food on the table.

What we had happen in front of us today was an effort to once again block the future of alternative energy jobs and block today, by stopping it, an investment in the highway trust fund that would keep 400,000 jobs going in our country. That is a lot of jobs--400,000 jobs.

Now, why would they do that? When you look around, since this President and Vice President have taken office, gas prices have tripled. Oil prices are four times higher. Families and businesses are being squeezed on every side. Why can't we get action? Who benefits? I wonder who would like this picture.

Well, let's look at who would like this picture. I only pick on one company because they happen to be the ones showing the highest profits. During this time that families and truckers on the road are trying to make a living, and businesses, small and large, are trying to hold it together, during this time of crisis, $185 billion profit since our President and the Vice President--two oilmen from Texas--took office. Mr. President, $185 billion in profits. What we have here is an oil agenda. We have had an oil company agenda since they took office on every step of the way.

The bill that was turned down today--it wasn't just turned down today; it was, in fact, turned down on June 10 of this year, June 17 of this year, July 29, and today. This isn't the only time. We have gone back as far as last year, a year ago. Tax incentives in the Energy bill were blocked twice by Republican colleagues on behalf of big oil on June 21, 2007, and December 13, 2007. We can go on. February 7 of this year, Republicans blocked adding critical energy production tax incentives to the stimulus that was passed. They are willing to give everybody a little bit of a check, a little bit of a rebate check, but when we are talking about creating jobs and investing in competition with the oil companies, oh, no. Oh, no.

Who wouldn't want that competition? Let me see. Maybe these folks wouldn't want that competition. Maybe they were the ones who said: No, no, we don't want to be focusing on electric vehicles and investing in battery technology or consumer credits for new vehicles. No, no, we don't want to be investing in solar and wind and geothermal. No, no. Getting off of oil? No, no, no, no. This is the oil administration. We don't want to get off of oil; we want to embrace it. We want to continue it.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened.

Record profits. The total combined net profits of the big five oil companies since our President took office are upwards of $556 billion. If I sound a little upset, I am because I have folks in my State who are just struggling to try to make it. Are they investing here at home with that $556 billion? The oil companies spent $188 billion buying back their own stock in the last 5 years. Exporting. A record 1.6 million barrels a day were exported, 33 percent higher than before.

We are in a global economy. Unfortunately, even though I think it is important to have a domestic oil supply, it is in a global economy. It is not necessarily going to stay here. The drill-only, the drill-forever crowd, that is the oil agenda. It is the oil profits agenda in a global economy.

Let me share for a moment some folks who are suffering under the oil agenda of this President and Vice President and the Republicans who have been in charge.

In South Haven, MI, a beautiful little town along Lake Michigan, this was in the paper. Early last month, Jeanne Fair, who is 62 years old, got her first hot meals delivered to her home in this little lake community in the rural southwestern part of the State. After two deliveries of meals, they stopped because the volunteers couldn't afford the gas to get her the food. ``They called and said I was outside of the delivery area,'' said Mrs. Fair, who is homebound and hasn't been able to use her left arm since a stroke in 1997.

Faced with soaring gasoline prices, agencies around the country that provide services to the elderly say they are having to cut back on programs such as Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance, and home care, especially in rural areas that depend on volunteers to provide their own gas. In a recent survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, more than half said they already cut back on programs because of gas prices. Ninety percent say they are expected to cut them back in 2009.

This is the United States of America, and we have volunteers who have to stop giving meals to people in rural Michigan so these folks can keep up this agenda here: $185 billion profit since George Bush took office. And our folks can't afford gas.

Let me share something else, a letter from a gentleman:

As my family's only breadwinner, I drive over an hour each day to my job at LifeWays in Jackson ..... The reason I drive over an hour each way is because jobs for professionals are extremely rare in Hillsdale County where I live. Over 16 car industry-related plants have closed in Hillsdale County in the past 10 years, leaving the unemployment rate sky high and wages extremely low. The newest hit is the high prices for energy which are hurting me and my family. Not even looking at the 55-cent increase per gallon of propane we were just notified of, my commute costs me $28 a day and I drive a midsized car. I urge Congress to act immediately.

Mr. President, we had a chance to act immediately today to do something that would make a difference, a real difference, and Congress didn't do it.

I also have one other letter from a 17-year-old high school student who has a job. She says: I make $7.15 an hour and put in about 20 hours a week. My job sometimes interferes with my education because I am trying to make money that I need. My job affects school because I need to work. It makes it difficult for me. I am paid every 2 weeks and spend about $100 a week on gas to get back and forth to school and work. She says: Even during school time, I ride the bus to try to save money, but now I probably won't be riding the bus because school districts are cutting back on transportation to school. They are doing this because they don't have enough money to fill up the buses' gas tanks.

What is going on? What is going on here? We are fighting for the people of this country who expect to be able to put gas in the schoolbus, who expect to be able to have seniors get Meals on Wheels, who expect to be able to drive to work. That is what this is about. It is about time we change the agenda of this country and who decisions are being made for. The reality is--I think it is, unfortunately, way too simple, but it is true--we have had 8 years of two oilmen in the White House and it has gotten us paying $4-a-gallon gasoline, maybe a little less, maybe a little more. That is the reality. We have seen over and over not only efforts on this floor to block what we are doing but on top of that, to add insult to injury, a free ride for the oil companies.

In January of 2006, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration was allowing oil and gas companies to forgo royalty payments--forgo royalty payments--on leases in Federal waters, public waters in the Gulf of Mexico. It would cost American taxpayers more than $60 billion. Sixty billion dollars would equal 38 days of free gas for every American. How about that. So not only are they blocking us from creating alternatives, not only are they blocking us from taking taxpayer money--the same people I just read about are subsidizing the oil companies because we can't stop these subsidies going to the most profitable companies in the world--the world. We can't get that stopped when we are trying to say: Take those dollars and move them over to the future, which is alternative energy that will allow gas prices to go down, that will free us from foreign oil, get us off of a policy that depends on those around the world who aren't exactly our friends, and make us stronger in terms of national security. We can't get that done. Then, to add insult to injury, they waive oil and gas leases--$60 billion. I would love to have been able to waive some house payments. I would love to have been able to say to folks who were trying to make it and not lose their house in foreclosure: We will give you 90 days, don't worry about it, because we care about families and we want to make sure you keep your house.

We finally have a housing bill. It is too late for many people, but we finally have one, thank goodness, that the President would sign.

Where are the priorities of this country? Who are we making decisions for? That is the question. Who are we making decisions for?

So I have extreme concern about the direction in which we are going. I have to tell my colleagues, as somebody who comes from a State where there is such a little bit of support right now, it would give us a whole lot more impact in the short run if we were to invest--and I know that. I am so grateful to our Senate leadership for supporting our efforts to retool our auto plants, to keep jobs in America for new vehicles. We are now focusing our talk so many times on this floor on what we are doing to support the advanced battery research and development so we are making those new batteries in America, not only for automobiles but for energy storage, and making sure we are the energy producers and creating the jobs of the future. A few investments we can do immediately within the next couple of years would tremendously impact us.

I know my time is up. Let me just indicate that it is time to change the agenda. The American people have had enough. This big-oil agenda which has been driving the train here on the Senate floor and which has been driving the train in the White House has to stop.

We have to take away their track and turn this thing around, so that we are focusing on what the American people want us to focus on to help them and their families in this country.

I yield the floor.


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