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Press Conference With Rep. Tom Price - Energy Legislation

Also Present: Rep. Mike Pence; Rep. Michael Burgess; Rep. Virginia Foxx

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REP. PRICE: Thank you all for coming today.

On August 1st, when the House adjourned abruptly at 11:23 a.m., the speaker shut down the House, over 50 Republicans stayed and spent over six hours talking, giving voice to the American people on the number-one issue of the day: the high cost of gasoline and energy.

Three weeks ago, the speaker went on a book tour. And here in the United States Capitol, on the floor of the House of Representatives, Republican members stayed every single day, to give voice to the American people on the number-one issue of the day: the high cost of energy and gas prices.

Two weeks ago, the speaker said that providing greater supply of gasoline to the American people was a hoax. And the House Republicans were on the floor of the House, giving voice to the American people on the number-one issue of the day.

Last week, the speaker joined her Democrat colleagues in formulating the final touches of the platform that they will talk about and adopt this week, at their convention in Denver, and not one mention, not one mention of increasing supply or drilling in that platform, some 90-odd pages long, 46,000 words, not one mention.

Last night in a hyperpartisan speech, the speaker of the House in Denver did not mention increasing supply of gasoline, answering the number-one question of the American people.

We are here on the 18th day of this speak-in, America's town hall, to address and challenge the speaker and demand of the speaker that she call the House of Representatives back in, so that we can have an up-or-down vote on a comprehensive solution, to the energy challenges that we face in this nation, one that includes conservation, new energy and increasing American supply of energy for Americans.

I'm pleased and proud and honored to be joined by my colleagues here today. We appreciate you coming today. And many other individuals will speak this morning.

Mike Burgess from Texas.

REP. BURGESS: Thank you, Tom. Good morning.

It is the 18th day. And it is truly remarkable that members of Congress have come back from their work, in their districts, to take their time to talk to the American people from the floor of the House.

Last week in Gainesville, Texas, I toured a plant that is involved in the making of these large rigs that drill for natural gas, in various alternative shale formations. We've got a big one in my district in North Texas.

There's other such formations in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, the Dakotas.

This is going to be a source for natural gas for future -- the future of our country, and it is so important that this equipment be manufactured in this country by American-made energy, American-made jobs.

It is really a good news story and we should encourage people not to buy those cheap, imported drill bits that really won't go through those alternative shale formations. (Laughter.) Your drill bits should come from Spindletop Oil in Gainesville, Texas. (Laughter.)

Now, so much for the Chamber of Commerce. That is an important point. The queue is so long for people who want to do additional exploration, the equipment -- we're so far behind in the manufacture of equipment in this country because it just wasn't important. Well, it's important now.

And we heard the speaker talk on one of the Sunday shows this weekend. Natural gas, as it turns out, is not a fossil fuel. Who knew? So now we can drill those alternative shale formations in Texas, Pennsylvania and Arkansas, and we're not contributing to the increase of fossil fuel use in this country, clean-burning natural gas. I agree with her. I think that's important.

But you know what? It's all hands on deck. We need conservation. We need alternatives. And we need to increase the domestic supply of American energy, American jobs here in the United States. That's what's going to answer this crisis for the American people.

REP. : Great. Virginia?

REP. FOXX: I'm going to be real short and sweet. I'm Congresswoman Virginia Foxx from North Carolina.

It seems to me that the Democrats have a simple choice to make. You are either pro-American energy or you're anti-American energy. We are here because we're pro-American energy. We can be energy independent. We support alternatives. We support conservation. But we also support increased supply.

The Democrats think they can repeal the law of supply and demand, but they cannot. The way we're going to bring down the price of energy in this country is to increase supply. We're here saying we have a means to do that. We want the Democrats to come back. We hope from their caucus that they're having today, we understand, in Denver that they'll come out of there having heeded the message of the American people that we should increase the supply of energy made in America.

REP. PENCE: I'm Mike Pence, from Indiana. I want to thank my colleagues for their great leadership and effort in this gas-price protest on the floor of the House of Representatives.

And let me say, while there's been much written of late about the politics of high gasoline prices, the politics of drilling, I want to say from my heart, Republicans have not given up time in our districts, time with our families, time with our constituents to play politics. We come back to Washington, D.C., because the American people are hurting.

Small business owners, family farmers, seniors on fixed income are struggling under the weight of record gasoline prices. They're going back to school in Indiana. School systems as we speak in my home state are talking about cutting back on programming, and some school systems around the country are talking about cutting back a day a week because they simply cannot absorb the extraordinary increased costs of gasoline to drive the bus system for the children.

This is a real issue, men and women. This is an issue I believe that transcends politics. And the solution also transcends the politics of that chamber. As many of us have said over and over again in the past three-and-a-half weeks of this unprecedented protest on the floor, for the first time in my eight years in Congress, I believe with all my heart there is a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives that would vote for a comprehensive energy bill that included more domestic drilling. And by comprehensive energy bill, I mean precisely what we've offered in the American Energy Act. We want to say yes to conservation. We want to say yes to more fuel efficiency standards for buildings and for vehicles. We want to say yes to alternatives like solar and wind. We want to say yes to nuclear. But we also want to say yes to giving the American people more access to American oil and natural gas through drilling.

But what I want to say -- I want to say to anyone looking in, any of my countrymen, what we've said to the Americans who stream through -- even the hundreds of Americans that are seated on the floor of the House today -- is that this is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, it's not a liberal or conservative issue; energy independence is an American issue. And in the people's House, there is for the first time, in my or in anyone else's memory, a bipartisan majority that if this Congress will simply come back to session and have a fair and open debate, we will solve this 21st century energy crisis with bipartisan cooperation in an all-of-the-above strategy.

That's why we insist as party conventions are underway in Denver, as our own party convention is preparing to be underway, we're prepared to be here.

We're on the Hill. We call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Bring this Congress back. Give us a fair and open debate on a comprehensive energy solution with more drilling and we will solve this 21st century energy crisis with bipartisan cooperation and a vision for America's future.

REP. PRICE: Jean Schmidt from Ohio.

REP. JEAN SCHMIDT (R-OH): I'm Jean Schmidt from Ohio. I'm going to be brief.

This is a very serious issue. It's an issue that's affecting each and every family when they wake up in the morning and try to put food on their table, when they tuck their kids to bed at night. This is an issue that is affecting local governments as they decide how many police that they can put on the streets or how many times they can have their fire departments make a run before they run out of money.

This is an issue that is serious, but one that is solvable. We can do this. The American Energy Act can do this. It's a three- legged stool. It says, let's drill because we can increase the supply. Let us open up new refineries because we can increase the supply. But you have to conserve, and the American public is doing that. That's the second leg. We're conserving. And you also have to have on the third leg an alternative plan that is all of the above. You can't pick and choose our way out of this. It's all of the above.

When I was a child, I was inspired by President Kennedy when I got concerned about Sputnik going to the moon before we could. And he said, we are the greatest nation in the world and we can do this. He inspired me to get involved in my community. He inspired me to get involved in politics. Ladies and gentlemen, that same enthusiasm is here right now in the United States. We can inspire our children to think beyond they've ever thought before by giving them this challenge to reduce our dependence on oil in the future by looking at the American Energy Act now.

Thank you.

REP. PRICE: Jeb Hensarling, Texas.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R-TX): It was 18 legislative days ago that Speaker Pelosi turned off the lights, turned off the microphones, turned off the cameras, but two great leaders within our Republican Party said she cannot turn off our voices -- Tom Price of Georgia and Mike Pence of Indiana. And they started this energy revolt. And Republican member after Republican member has taken time away from their families, away from their districts to keep this debate going on the number-one issue that is impacting families in America.

I just came from the House floor, where I read three letters from constituents, one of who said, "I had to cancel my life insurance policy to afford gas at the pump." One of whom said, "I can no longer drive next door from Dallas to Fort Worth weekly to visit my sick mother, because of the high cost of gas." Another one who said, "My husband never sees our children anymore because he has to work overtime to pay for the high cost of energy." And I do not know what Speaker Pelosi hears in the salons of San Francisco, but in the coffee shops and the small businesses of Dallas and East Texas that I represent, the pain at the pump is real.

And we've asked for only two things. Number one, recognize that American energy, made by Americans for America in America, is part of the solution. And number two, allow -- in the greatest representative democracy known to mankind, allow the people's representatives to vote. Speaker Pelosi may have the legal authority to keep us from producing more American energy, to prevent us from voting on this bill, but men and women, she does not have the moral authority.

REP. PRICE: Thank you.

Rob Bishop, Utah.

REP. ROB BISHOP (R-UT): Thank you. I'm Rob Bishop from Utah.

We are now in the fourth week of what you have called the rebel session. And even though we stand on the floor and our speeches are not amplified nor are they televised nor are they recorded, it doesn't matter. What is significant is that almost one-third of the House of Representatives has returned to the floor and stand up to say we want and are dedicated to a solution to this problem.

And we've only made three requirements: Number one, a request to the speaker, because she is the only person in America who can both call us to the floor and set the agenda for real solutions.

A second, to our fellow Democrats who are pro-American energy Democrats, who feel as stifled as we do in the inability to discuss real solutions, because whether they like it or not, as they are caucusing right now at this time in Denver, upon their shoulders is the responsibility of either helping to create a real solution to this energy crisis or going along with the -- with the forums of the speaker who have not tried to go for a real solution. They've got to stand up and now is the time for them to stand up.

And number three, it's the realization that we will not come back on this floor and just talk about political salves to this issue. We want to have an "all of the above" strategy that's been mentioned before of real solutions. If Dr. Price was to take me into the hospital, to an operating room, and simply -- I would not gather him and the nurses together and say, "When you open me up, just show me that you can work together and do something inside." If somebody was going to change my house, I would not greet the repairman at the front door and say, "Just go inside and work together and do something." I want him when he goes inside me to do something that is right to solve the problem.

When we come back and talk about energy solutions for the American people, we have to talk about the issues, the bills, the proposals that are right that will solve the problem. And that is what we want, that is what we insist and that is what we need, because that's what Americans need to solve this energy crisis in which they find themselves today.

REP. PRICE: Throughout these 18 days, we've had 133 members of the House Republican Conference here from every stripe of the conference, including every member of our leadership. Today joining us, Thaddeus McCotter, our policy chair.


REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R-MI): First, echoing what Rob said, if Dr. Price were to operate on me, I'd call for priest. (Laughter.)

The Democrats are -- stop that. The Democrats are huddling in San Francisco, which really only goes to show what we're trying to accomplish here, is to find a bipartisan solution to America's energy problem, not a partisan solution. People are going to say, what is going to come out of this huddle in San Francisco?

And as I think Rob rightly pointed out, we're going to get a test of the resolve of many of the Democrats who agree with us on an "all of the above" energy strategy. And we're going to have to see if they maintain that resolve in the face of not only the speaker but the radical special interests who will not increase American energy.

As for what we as Republicans are looking for, it remains simple. We believe that Americans deserve and demand a responsible transition to American energy independence that includes three factors: maximum American energy production, commonsense conservation and free-market innovations. If these three things are in a bill put forward by the speaker, we'll be more than happy to support it with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

If not, then we fear it will be just another sham on the suffering Americans who cannot afford more pain at the pump.

Thank you.

REP. : They're caucusing in Denver -- (off mike).

REP. : (Off mike.)

REP. : (Off mike) -- Denver.

REP. : Yeah, just San Francisco, Denver -- it's the same suspects in both places. (Laughter.)

REP. : Mac Thornberry, from Texas.

REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): Polls show that somewhere approaching 70 percent of the American people favor drilling offshore. So there's no doubt there is political heat related to this issue. I think the key question that Rob brought up is, will we have a fair, open chance to debate and vote on these issues?

I'm a little bit of -- afraid that when we come back in September after the conventions and after people have heard from the folks back home, that there will be some bill put together that includes fig leaf drilling and a bunch of other things that do nothing to produce more energy for us here at home. And that's not what the American people deserve. They deserve a full, fair, open debate and vote on the key issues that we've talked about to produce more energy. And some sort of a cynical political move just because the heat turns up is not going to meet the national need. They deserve better from this House, and they should get it.

REP. : A gentleman who's been helping lead this charge, Louie Gohmert, from Texas.


Ladies and gentlemen, I was speaking to some people from China recently, and they were inquiring about our efforts here to try to get the speaker to allow a comprehensive energy package of American energy. And they commented that it's their belief that our leadership here of Congress is preventing American energy from being utilized because we want to hold on to it until places like China, Russia, others exhaust theirs -- the Middle East -- and then we'll come rushing in, and we'll be the only country with energy, and we'll be able to be even a stronger superpower.

I had to let them know that that's not actually this case nor the strategy, that our speaker and other leaders are not allowing people from their party or Republicans to have a vote on producing more of our own energy, because they don't want to produce American energy; they believe they're saving the planet.

And these people from China were curious. "Well, don't you understand -- if there's no endgame which puts you ahead, then why hurt your country like this?"

And I said, "Now you're talking our language." That's what we're asking.

We need to be helping this country, the planet. And when the speaker says, "I want to save the planet," or "I'm trying to save the planet," the fact is, if you'll look realistically, no country with a struggling economy cleans up the planet like we have for the last 30 or 40 years. It's what we should do.

But when the economy is struggling, when our constituents are around us saying, "Help us not lose our jobs; help us get to work, so we don't lose our job," then that takes priority.

Now unless you have a government solution that's going to put everybody to work for the government, then let's quit losing union jobs. I've told union workers who tell me, "I'm about to lose my job because of the price of energy" -- say, "Tell your union leaders to tell the Democratic Party leaders that unless they get you a vote, you're going to have to vote Republican to save your job." And that will scare them enough so that maybe we'll get an appropriate energy vote.

One other concern that's already been expressed, I want to take one step further. There continue to be these rumors about the disingenuity of having a vote to extend the moratorium of the Outer Continental Shelf. Now we had thought originally, well, that will obviously be one that they'll lose. Their leadership has realized that. The discussion is, maybe they don't have any appropriations they bring forward. That means we have to have a continuing resolution to keep the government going, and if they slide the moratorium on further American energy drilling off the coast in the CR, then we'll have to vote for it.

But ladies and gentlemen, there are more and more of us that are growing -- that say if you try to extort the American people and the legislators up there by doing something that disingenuous, then the voters, the workers, those who are losing their jobs, they will revolt, and there will be a price to pay. That should not be done.

Thank you.

REP. PRICE: I think you can sense from my colleagues the passion and the enthusiasm of representing their constituents for a comprehensive solution, an "all of the above" solution, the American Energy Act, that makes certain that we increase our conservation, makes certain that we utilize and appropriately provide research and development for alternative fuel, but in the short term and the near term, provides American energy for Americans.

We understand that the Democrats are meeting right now, Democrat members of the House of Representatives are meeting right now in Denver, caucusing to determine what their agenda will be when they return in September. So as they're talking to each other, we're talking to the American people. And we would challenge our colleagues on the Democrat side of the aisle to address the number-one issue of the day with a comprehensive energy solution.

One of my colleagues here today also mentioned that if the speaker doesn't call us back -- and we hope that she does -- if she doesn't, and if they're true to their word, we will be in session about 15 days in September, which means that from August 1st until the end of this year -- December 31st -- this House of Representatives will have been in session for a total of 15 days and will have not addressed the number one issue of the day.

That's a United States House of Representatives that does not do service to the American people. That's a United States House of Representatives we believe that will answer to individuals at the polls come November.

With that, I'd be pleased -- we'd be pleased to answer some questions.

Q (Off mike) -- at the proposal or what you know of the Democratic proposal that they're discussing today, are there any pieces of it that you all would be willing to debate when they come back? If they put it all out there on the table and allowed you to do some debate on drilling, would that also be acceptable?

REP. PRICE: As you've heard from my colleagues here, we are interested in a vibrant debate, in an open debate. We hope that that's what will occur. If that's what occurs, then we're very content to live with the outcome, as long as individuals are given the opportunity to vote up or down on the specific elements of the comprehensive energy package, which is conservation, American supply, American energy for Americans and providing appropriate incentives for alternative resources.


REP. FOXX: And part -- and part of that debate has to be bills that are amendable.

REP. MCCOTTER: Well, first, I think you have to admit there's a frustration when we see that people from the Sierra Club are already praising proposals that were put on the table, and their quote is that we're better off without cheap gas.

Secondly, the process of a legislative institution is not merely for us to sit by and wait for someone to stick something in front of us that we cannot amend, that we cannot help to write. And so that would also not only vitiate the whole purpose of the people's House; it would be another indication that this is a partisan attempt to fool the American public for political purposes.

What we want is quite simple: maximum American energy production, commonsense conservation and free-market innovations. And we're more than happy to help write that into any bill through regular order rather than to sit back and run a referendum on something that has been jammed down the throat not only of Republicans but of the Democratic Caucus itself.

Q Question about the possibility of closing down the government, that seems to be in the air here, if the moratorium is continued or stuck in a continuing resolution --

REP. PRICE: Look, what we're demanding is that the speaker call us back into session so that we can address the number one issue of the day, which is energy prices, gas prices. We believe, as has been described, that ought to be done in an open and an honest and a deliberative way that is the institution of the House of Representatives. That's what we're asking for.

If that -- if she will respond to the desires of the American people -- 80 percent of the American people desire this type of solution. If she will respond to those demands, then there won't be any question about it. If push comes to shove, that's their decision to make.

REP. FOXX: The --

Q If the president were to -- I'm sorry.

REP. FOXX: Go ahead.

Q If the president were to veto the CR because the moratorium was included in it, would you all have enough votes to sustain that veto?

REP. PRICE: Look, again, we are hopeful that the speaker will listen to her constituents as we have listened to ours and call the House of Representatives back into session so that we can address the issue. That is the cart in front of the horse at this point. We are sincere in our desire to have that open and honest debate and respond to the number one issue of Americans.

STAFF: Last question.

Q Do you feel on the renewable tax credits for renewable energy -- would you not want to have that unless you also have your full proposal, your energy proposal?

Is there a --

REP. PRICE: We're anxious to make certain that the three legs of the stool survive: conservation, alternative sources of energy, renewable sources of energy, and American supply of energy for Americans. As long as we are able to have that open and honest debate on the floor of the House, have amendments to be able to be offered, go through regular order and the routine process, then we're content with the outcome of that and the vote.

REP. PENCE: Can I make a comment?

REP. PRICE: You may.

REP. PENCE: Let me just say I'm very intrigued about discussion about a Democrat proposal. If Congress was in session today, that proposal would be posted and made available as a bill to every member of the House. The Republican minority could be developing our substitute. We could be developing amendments. But none of that can happen if what should be a legislative process is being replaced by quiet counsels and caucuses at political conventions. This Congress should be in session.

As I stopped at a gas station, in Edinburgh, Indiana, yesterday and saw 3.79 a gallon; as I talk to my constituents in Indiana, the people that I serve want us here, and they want us having a full and fair and open debate and allowing what I truly believe is for the first time a bipartisan majority in Congress to work its will. That's all anyone has been asking the 130-some-odd members who have given up time with their families, time with their constituents and returned to this Capitol and will continue to return to this Capitol, is to say let the House work its will, because I -- as Congressman Price just said, I am very content that in a full, fair and open debate this Congress is capable of enacting comprehensive energy reform that says yes to conservation, that says yes to alternative sources of energy, and emphatically says yes to giving the American people more access to American oil. If we allow the House to work its will, we will set our nation on a course toward energy independence.

REP. GOHMERT: So let me say -- add this.

Q (Off mike) --

REP. GOHMERT: This could be her last -- the speaker's last opportunity in this Congress to be able to live up to the promise that this would be the most open government in history. So far that has not been the case. We need to be allowed to have regular order, bring amendments, like we've been denied so often.

Thank y'all very much.

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