MISSISQUOI AND TROUT RIVERS WILD AND SCENIC RIVER STUDY ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 10, 2008)
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Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I very much appreciate the excellent work you did and your eloquent description of a beautiful river. If I have any say about it, we're going to make you an honorary Vermonter and bring you down that river and make you paddle your way from one end to the other and have you see for yourself how beautiful what you described really is. Thank you.
I want to respond to some of the comments.
Mr. Chairman, my opinion is that one of the greatest Presidents of the United States was Theodore Roosevelt. He came to the Presidency when his predecessor was assassinated. It was a time of great turmoil, social and labor unrest, a need for corporate reform, trust busting. President Roosevelt had his hands full taking on those economic challenges.
He was a war President. The skirmish in Cuba and the Philippines were still very much alive, and he had to deal with that as President. Very serious issues with the Supreme Court. And in the midst of all of that he still found time to be a peacemaker and was the winner of the Nobel Prize for the work that he did in bringing together the Soviet and Japanese conflict and helping those folks resolve the end of that war.
But Theodore Roosevelt was also a person who respected and did more, perhaps, than anyone else to protect our environment. And amidst his responsibilities, where he had to simultaneously deal with enormous economic anxiety in this country, when he had to deal with foreign affairs that involved making America a strong country and bringing together peace in other countries, he would never, ever, busy as he was, urgent as his demands were, belittle the work of the House of Representatives when they were taking up what is now being characterized as a ``waste-of-time bill'' because it involves two rivers in the State of Vermont. He wouldn't do it. He's a bigger man than that.
He reflects the leadership that we can provide to the American people where we simultaneously take on the challenges, as President Roosevelt did, but also pay attention to the posterity that is our responsibility to leave behind.
I just want to say as a Vermonter, I want to say as a Member of the House of Representatives that if we can't find time to do those things that are going to allow us in Utah, in Arkansas, in Arizona and in Vermont to save our rivers and to do what is going to preserve our country and leave behind legacies like President Teddy Roosevelt did with the National Park Service that we revere and enjoy, then we don't deserve the vote of confidence that we get from the folks who send us here. We can do both.
Now my friend from Utah has essentially made an argument that there is more important business to be done, as if that suggests we don't have time to do other important business about protecting and preserving our environment and having mutual respect for the particular concerns, in this case, of Vermont.
But it's that same comity that has allowed us to come forward and step up as Vermonters and Arizonans to help the folks in the Midwest from their flood and to respond to the gulf coast with the damage that they sustained. It's political. That's what we know.
The reality is our friends on the other side had 12 years in control here and their energy policy was one thing: give tax breaks to oil companies. You can't make that up. Oil companies are doing well. I don't begrudge them their profits. But why do you reach into the taxpayers' pocket and ask taxpayers to give the most profitable corporations in the world, running a mature industry, doing well, why do we ask the taxpayers to give them $13 billion? When you reveal that fact, they don't even know how to respond because you can't make that kind of stuff up.
So this House of Representatives, under the leadership that now is being castigated for a failure of leadership, has repeatedly passed legislation against the objections, almost unanimous, of our friends on the other side, to stop filling up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to squeeze out the speculative premium in the price of a gallon of gas at the pump. That can provide some short-term relief. We did that. We passed comprehensive energy reform, again, against the objections of our friends on the other side. We took away the tax breaks from the oil companies, not because oil companies are a target. They're doing important work. They know how to do their work and they know how to do it well. But why in the world would our friends on the other side want to give $13 billion in tax breaks to a mature and profitable industry when that money comes directly out of the pockets of American consumers who need that money in their pocket to pay the price at the pump? They've resisted that. They opposed it.
Our friends on the other side are also aware that even though we have passed legislation against their objection, it has gotten stalled in the other body, threatened with veto by the President, we're ready to do it again. Our motto is try again, try again, and keep going because, bottom line, we want to address that problem. And we have actually been doing things in our 2 years on the watch despite their resistance when they had 12 years to get the job done and essentially caved into the interests of the oil companies.
So, Mr. Chairman, as a Vermonter and the sponsor of this bill, I want to object to what is really a rhetorical and political device, and that is ridiculing the importance of these two rivers to the people of my State for a partisan political argument. Energy is incredibly important and we have delivered. We've put substantive proposals on the floor. They have been debated and they have been passed. They've been stalled in the Senate or threatened with veto by the President. We're prepared to do it again. We're also prepared to reach out to the other side because we all know that in the end if we are going to be successful, we do have to work together, particularly where we have divided government. But it takes two sides, two bodies, and a President to be willing to do that, and it has not been forthcoming.
So I want to go back to a very simple fact. This legislation is about allowing Vermonters to have a study for scenic status on two rivers that are very precious to us, places where moms and dads have taken they are kids, taught them how to hunt, taught them how to fish, taught them how to be families, taught them responsibility. And there is a place for us and a time for us to do that as well as face these large issues like energy, like the war in Iraq, like redefining our foreign policy. So this is a very important piece of legislation to us, and I, as one Member of Congress, object to having it be held hostage to what is essentially a political game that's been going on far too long.
And I want to thank the chairman for the tremendous work that he's done. And, Vermonters, thank you as well.
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