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Press Conference With House Republican Leaders - Energy Legislation

Press Conference

Location: Washington, DC

Participants: Rep. John Kline; Rep. Lee Terry; Rep. Sue Myrick; Rep. John J. "Randy" Kuhl; Rep. Dave Camp; Rep. Randy Neugebauer; Rep. Howard Coble; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland; Rep. Robert Latta

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REP. KLINE: Well, good morning, everybody. I'm John Kline from Minnesota's 2nd District.

I and my colleagues are back here for day eight of making our demands on the floor of the House to the speaker, bring us back from five weeks of vacation and have the opportunity to cast a vote, an up- or-down vote, on the American Energy Act.

We have been frustrated, as all of you know, that for day after day as we've been calling for this vote, the speaker has been out on her book tour and has been saying consistently, at least until last night, that there would be no vote on drilling. She apparently indicated last night that she might be open to such drilling. I suppose we'll see.

In the meantime, we're demanding that she bring us back into session now so that we can vote. We don't understand why we or the American people should have to wait another day to have our voices heard.

I'm joined by a number of my colleagues here who are giving up their time, their time for vacation, their time for campaigning, their time in their districts, their time with their family to come back here and make the point that the American people deserve to be heard. And I know a number of them want to have a chance to speak here before we go on the floor of the House. And I would like to start by yielding to my good friend and colleague from North Carolina Sue Myrick.


REP. MYRICK: Thank you, John.

Well, all of us have been home in our district, and we've been dealing with this issue for quite a long time. And people at home just don't understand why we can't get something done. And so that is why we're here. We're trying to send the message. And the speaker can call us back into session. As John alluded, she said last night that she would consider this, but we need to do it now.

I mean, it's not just affecting the individuals who are trying to get to work, but it's also affecting our schools and how they're going to pay for the school buses, business and industry, small businesses, the trucking industry. This is what I keep hearing at home. We're hurting, and so the time is now. And we request, again, that Speaker Pelosi call us back into session now. Stop the book tour, and let's get down to business. We can agree on a plan and move forward.

REP. KLINE: Randy.

REP. KUHL: Hi. My name is Randy Kuhl, I'm from the western part of New York.

And I think it's outrageous that Speaker Pelosi, a multimillionaire, travels about the country promoting a book when we, members of Congress, are receiving letters daily and phone calls, people pleading for help.

I just want to share a paragraph of a note that came to me. And I'll read it to you. It's from Elizabeth from Wayland, New York, the center part of my district. She says, "My oil budget just went up from $65 per month to incredibly over $200 per month. My electricity also went up from $95 to $160. What is this? We live in a small 1,200 square foot house with new windows, less drafts, less loss of heat. I'm on a fixed income with two children, 5 (years) and 8 months. What do I do? I live in an area with no mass transit. I drive 50 miles to Rochester to work. My nearest Wal-Mart is 21 miles. My church is 16 miles. I am scared," she says, "this is going to be impossible."

We can't wait! We need to act on this energy comprehensive policy now.


REP. LATTA: Hi. I'm Bob Latta. I represent the 5th Congressional District in northwest Ohio.

And since we've been on adjournment, I've been out in my district. I have 16 counties, and I've been in 13 in the last 10 days. And when I've been out there, right off the bat, the people are asking me what am I doing back in the district when I should be in Washington. They want us to be acting on this energy policy right now.

The farmers are out there right now, and they're hurting. I've had a lot of district meetings with farmers across the northwest Ohio region. And one of the things that they're telling me is this. Some of them are paying 800 (dollars) to $1,000 a day on diesel fuel to be out in their fields. They can't afford it. And manufacturing plants across my district -- in some cases, these manufacturing plants, they take me into a warehouse, and they said, last year, this whole area was full of what we need to produce our product. Today, it's only one-quarter full because it's a lot of petroleum-based product, and they can only get one-quarter in at this time.

And people are afraid. They're afraid that they're going to lose their jobs. Farmers are afraid of what's going to happen out there because not only the diesel costs are up but the fertilizer costs are up, the chemical costs are up. They're saying, what are we going to do about next year? How are we going to make it through this year?

So you know, we've got a lot of problems out there. And people want to know why we're not acting. And we need to be acting right now. And all I can say is the speaker needs to bring us back immediately because we've got to get this country back on track.

REP. KLINE: Howard.

REP. COBLE: Thank you, John.

Howard Coble, North Carolina.

This post-adjournment exercise is not a case of first impression. We've had these exercises for years. Prior to the '94 election when the Democrats were in the majority, we Republicans staged post- adjournment exercises. When we became the majority party after '94, the Democrats conducted post-adjournment exercises.

Now, some of those exercises were stunts. We've probably had stunts as did the Democrats. This one is no stunt for two reasons. Number one, the energy issue is probably the most pressing one facing Americans today, a. B, on this issue, House Republicans have overwhelmingly supported exploring, not exploring for exploiting but exploring drilling, refining, nuclear energy. Conversely, the Democrats have overwhelmingly opposed these issues.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that it was unanimous. We had a handful of Republicans who voted with the Democrats on some of those issues. By the same token, there were a handful of Democrats who voted with us. But on balance, the House Republicans overwhelmingly supported exploring from day one.

This is important.

Thank you all for being here.


REP. TERRY: Thank you. I represent Omaha, Nebraska, somewhere in the middle of America, where school actually starts today for some of our school districts, tomorrow for my children in the Millard School District.

I had the opportunity to talk with the superintendents last Friday and one yesterday, who have talked about how they've had to rearrange how they bus kids to school. Some have resorted to charging the parents to cover the additional costs of diesel that they have not budgeted. It's nearly 100 percent increase from what they budgeted when they passed a budget last fall. Others feel that they're just going to have to find it some other way in the budget and probably raise property taxes next year if these prices continue.

It just shows at every level how it's affecting people. We've all stood before these microphones and given individual stories. Those have not ceased in Omaha. But the emphasis with going back to school certainly has elevated what impacts there are on the schools themselves.

So last night when I heard that the speaker said she was at least open to bringing some drilling bill, my first one was one of lack of sincerity. I don't know if I could trust that we're going to have that happen, but I'll take her at her word. We need a bill. Why wait? Let's come back next week. Let's do the drilling bill now since she says she's open for that. It's important to not only our families but our schools.

REP. KLINE: Lynn, do you have a few words to say?

REP. WESTMORELAND: Lynn Westmoreland from Georgia's 3rd Congressional District.

This is not about Republicans versus Democrats, minority versus majority. This is about Nancy Pelosi versus the people of the United States. Ms. Pelosi has the ability to bring a drilling bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote. She can do this by bringing some of the same energy bills that she has brought to the floor under suspension, under regular order and given the Republicans an opportunity to have a motion to recommit.

And the thing that we are going through right now and the things that we are hearing from Ms. Pelosi could be more snake oil. Because if you listen to the Democrats and what they have said in the past weeks over some of their energy is that they were actually drilling bills. These were not drilling bills. These were snake-oil stands that were set up to convince the American people and to give her members cover when they go home.

And let me say this. You know, if Nancy Pelosi is elected by the same amount of people that each one of us is elected by, the difference is she's elected by the San Francisco mentality. And I think most of the American people, no matter whether you live in Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, Georgia or wherever, would understand that her constituency is a little left of where this country is.

And so all we're asking is that Ms. Pelosi come back and understand that she's the speaker of the whole House. And that she should allow a regular order bill to come to the floor, that we can do whatever we need to do to make sure that we can have a vote on our energy plan. Because ladies and gentlemen, I'm telling you, this is not just a Republican energy plan. This is an energy plan for America that has bipartisan support in this House. And she knows that she would lose.

And so all we're asking for is, look, give us an opportunity to work the will of the House, and the American people will win. Thank you.

REP. KLINE: Randy.

REP. NEUGEBAUER: Randy Neugebauer, 19th Congressional District of Texas.

Why are these members back here? Because this may be the most important issue that the 110th Congress can take up this year. Many of us during the cold War remember the days of the arms race. Well, let me tell you, there's a global race going on for energy right now. And quite honestly, the United States of America is behind in this race.

In just a few months, China will overtake America as the leading manufacturing company (sic) in the world. And what we know, this is a supply-and-demand issue. And the demand for energy is increasing at an exponential rate while the supply is not keeping up with that.

If America is going to keep its greatness, if the American people are going to continue to enjoy the quality of life and the economic opportunities and the freedoms that they have, this Congress must begin to act. And it is ludicrous that the speaker of the United States House of Representatives is on a book tour while American people all over America are suffering. They're not able to go on any kind of a tour. In fact, they're not taking vacations. In fact, many of them have told me that they're not able to go to get treatment, medical treatment each week, because they can't afford it.

And as my friend from Nebraska mentioned, many teachers are starting back. I had a teacher tell me the other day that she didn't get a raise this year, although the school district gave her more money. Why didn't she get a raise? Because it's going to cost her more money to drive 100 miles each way to her school-teaching job.

So it is time for the American people to get what they deserve, and that is for their elected representatives to come back to Washington, DC and do the job that they were elected to do. And I appreciate you being here.

REP. KLINE: Last man.

REP. CAMP: Thank you. I'm Dave Camp. I represent 14 counties in mid and northern Michigan.

And I'm here today to deliver a petition from 2,600 people who live in my district, who want and demand an immediate vote on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and in Alaska.

And let me just read a couple of the things that people have said, "It's put a tremendous hardship on our family limiting the amount of activities we choose and the amount of groceries we purchase. Unfortunately, our daughter has been affected also as with the price of gas I cannot afford to drive her to required events and practices for schools and sports and such. And because of gas prices, we've been unable to visit with family this summer. We've also had to cut extra spending and are struggling to keep up with normal expenses. It's a sad day when you have to pass up fresh foods that would be part of a nutritious and healthy meal for your family because of the increase in oil affecting all aspects of life."

And I have many other comments similar to that, people on fixed incomes, seniors and others.

In fact, it's nothing short of a disgrace for the speaker to leave the Congress, not call us back and remain on a promotional book tour while every-day Americans are suffering all over this country. Thank you.

REP. KLINE: Questions?

Q For those of you who actually saw Speaker Pelosi's comments last night, she seemed to come your way to some extent by at least allowing a vote on the concept of drilling. She also insisted that it be reconfigured, repackaged with other alternatives. Are you willing to take the extra time to do so and go her way?

REP. KLINE: If she would bring a bill forward in regular order and open it up for amendments, we would have a chance to examine amendments from her side and from our side. We are asking that she bring our American Energy Act up for a vote. If she brings it up under regular order, the amendments will be allowed. We'll be glad to have that debate.

What we want is the chance to have the debate and have the vote. What we've been given are one closed rule after another, bringing a bill up under suspension of the rules where we have no opportunity to amend it at all. That's not what the American people want, and that's not what we want.

Q But as far as the American people are concerned, none of this legislation will immediately drop the price at the pump, will it?

REP. KLINE: Well, it remains to be seen. It takes a while for oil to come out of the ground, there's no question of that. It could be two years or three years or five years. But clearly, it's a very, very important signal to the world and to the world markets if we're going to open up billions of barrels of American oil and trillions of cubic feet of American natural gas. And we think that's very, very important that we get that out there. So if we pass a bill, we think it will have an affect on prices, and it will have an affect on prices right away.

We want the opportunity to vote. That's what this is about. Give us a chance to vote.

REP. : Thank you very much, everybody.

REP. KLINE: Okay, thank you.

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