Participants: Rep. Greg Walden; Rep. Sam Graves; Rep. Thaddeus Mccotter; Rep. Nathan Deal; Rep. Mike Rogers
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REP. WALDEN: (In progress) -- change in energy independence. I'm going to open up this news conference and serve as the master of ceremonies. I'll make my remarks later on.
One of our colleagues, Nathan Deal, however, has to go to another commitment shortly, so I'd like to introduce him first to kick us off. So, please welcome Nathan Deal from Georgia.
REP. DEAL: Thank you, Greg. I'm Nathan Deal from the 9th Congressional District of Georgia. And I have gone across my 15 counties with a series of town-hall meetings, about an hour-and-a-half each, during the first week of our recess. And, as you can imagine, the primary issue was the question of gas prices, and energy in general.
I think that I can speak for my constituents when I say that the very thing that we're doing on the House floor, of keeping this issue alive and asking the Speaker to bring us back into session so that we can vote on drilling -- knowing that we have great resources in our own country, and should be accessed.
Our people are hurting. In rural districts such as mine, it is especially a significant issue. People are feeling the pain, and they are asking the legitimate questions, why is Congress on recess when the rest of us are having to pay huge prices at the gas pump?
And I'm delivering the message, along with my fellow Republicans, that it's time that we got down to the serious business of trying to make ourselves more energy independent, and to access the known resources that are available and belong to the American people and should be made available for their use.
Thank you, Greg.
MR. WALDEN: Thank you, Nathan.
We were joined today by a total -- including myself, of seven members of the Republican Conference. This is day 13 of our request to come back into session and deal with the energy issues that affect this nation's consumers. Frank Wolf was one of our other participants today. He had to go to a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery, and Mike Ferguson was also here today but had to depart.
With that, I'd like to welcome Sam Graves from Missouri. Sam serves on the Small Business committee and the Transportation committee, and is a soy bean and corn farmer when he's not a member of Congress -- was before, and is today.
So, Sam, welcome.
REP. GRAVES: Thanks, Greg. Thanks, Greg.
I'm here today because the people in Missouri, in my district, have spoken out. I've been traveling the district extensively, and you ask folks, what's your one, two and three issue when it comes to what's doing -- you know, hurting you daily, or how things are going daily? And they'll tell you, it's gas prices, gas prices, gas prices. Whether it's small businesses, or my farmers, or just families that are trying to make ends meet.
We've got school starting today in the 6th District in Missouri -- for most of the school districts. Taking kids to school, just getting to work, getting your combine ready for harvest, a lot of gas -- or, a lot of things are affecting these folks, and it's fuel prices, it's diesel fuel and it's gasoline. And it's really hurting.
I'm asking the Speaker to bring us back into session so we can have an up or down vote on energy issues; up or down vote on a comprehensive energy package, an up or down vote on being able to drill in places like ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf. What I fear, however, is that she's going to put a package together that is going to be so cost prohibitive that nobody is going to want to do any of these things. And it's very frustrating.
We want a simple bill -- up or down, up or down vote. Yes or no, on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in ANWR. We also need alternative fuels. We need wind energy; we need nuclear power; we need coal power; we need to turn coal into gas; we need conservation; we need all of those things. It's an all-of-the-above strategy that we're trying to pull out to help the American people.
So, please bring us back in from vacation. Bring Congress back -- those of us that are trying to get something done and trying to help our constituents out are getting very frustrated.
REP. WALDEN: Thank you, Sam.
Next up is Mike Rogers, former FBI agent. He serves on the Intelligence Committee and on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and was the Senate majority leader in Michigan before coming to the United States Congress. Please welcome Mike Rogers.
REP. ROGERS: Well, thanks for your interest. The lights may be out, and just a few feet away, the microphones turned off, and apparently that is their answer to energy conservation, is make sure the microphones, the lights and the cameras are turned off. We appreciate your interest to keep this thing alive.
You know, if you're a single mom driving a minivan -- trying to get your three kids to soccer, get to work, maybe get to day care, you've paid, in these last 18 days, a $100 premium, more than you paid two years ago when Nancy Pelosi took over as speaker. One hundred dollars, 18 days -- that's real money to families who are struggling. It's infecting our small businesses, it's affecting our economy as a whole, and it's an anchor that we can no longer tolerate.
So, if you look at what else we've done -- so everybody pitching in that $100, we, in total, as Americans, have paid about $7 billion in overseas oil money, to Saudi Arabia, to Venezuela, to Russia. Somebody estimated that it cost probably about $100 million for Russia to go into South Ossetia. Certainly, the world has protested, but they did that at the cost of $100 million. We've sent them, in the last 18 days, nearly $1 billion in oil revenue money.
So, this isn't just about economic security, it is about economic security; but it isn't just about national security, it is about national security. It's also about our environment. We had the bill. We could have said, in a way that got us to energy independence by 2015, that we're going to use everything, all of the above -- nuclear, wind, solar, biomass; and yes, we're going to drill and use our natural resources off the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR.
And, oh, by the way, in these 18 days, had we been drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR, $800 million in federal tax revenue -- $800 million. So, while the Speaker goes on book tour -- and by the way, she's had apparently less books sold than we've had average citizens sit in this chamber and listen to this debate -- it has cost us Treasury money; it's cost us national security edge, most certainly; and more importantly, it's cost every single family who's struggling to make a difference, real money out of their pockets.
This is real stuff. We've got to do something.
Some said, oh, it's only two weeks, why don't you just let it go? Another two weeks -- another $100, another $7 billion to our enemies, and more revenue that we could have in the federal treasury -- lost. That's what happens in another two weeks. We're begging the Speaker to get off her airplane, to come back to work, to quit selling books and start working for the American people.
REP. WALDEN: -- (inaudible) --, Mike.
Next up is the Republican Policy committee chairman, Thaddeus McCotter, a lawyer; served in the state senate; a sometimes musician; and a spokesperson for the Republican Policy committee.
REP. MCCOTTER: Thanks, Greg. And, as an aside, I'm very concerned about the Speaker's lack of an energy policy because if this continues I may have to start playing acoustic again. And that would be horrible for all involved. (Laughter.)
It apparently -- it appears to me that we have a significant problem. Last night I was at the Livonia Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. And they looked at me and they said, Congressman, look, this isn't about Republican or Democrat, it's about being an American. Can't you people out there come together and do something that's in the best interests of Americans?
And I said, well, first of all, we can't come together back there in Washington because the Speaker and the Democrats are on vacation in their districts. But what we have done is we have bipartisan agreement amongst Republicans and Democrats for an all-the-above energy strategy which unleashes America's own natural resources for the betterment of the American people.
And they said, well, why don't you just do it? And I said, well, this is part of the reason that this Democratic Congress is the most hated Congress in history, it's because the Speaker and her radical environmentalist allies have decided there will be no vote. And they said, well, why would she decide to do that? And I said, because it would pass.
The very thing that the Disabled American Veterans were asking us to do, that we have a capable number of members that are willing to do it, is being frustrated by the will of one person. And I would say that it is exceedingly frustrating not only to the people who are sent here to serve the sovereign citizens of the United States, it is increasingly hurtful and injurious and frustrating to the American people themselves who see nothing getting done; who see a darkened floor; who see their gas prices continuing to rise; see no relief on the horizon for natural gas prices.
They see seniors who are going to have to choose between freezing and eating. They are seeing people with manufacturing jobs being put out of work. And they are saying, what are you doing? And the answer from the Speaker is, nothing. Perhaps they'll be interested to buy her book if they can save enough money. But I highly doubt they will, because Americans understand fully well one thing that the Speaker is telling them -- the Speaker and the radical Democratic minority that is running their Democratic Congress has decided to dictate that your pursuit of happiness will be on foot.
I hope Americans remember that and demand that their Speaker and her colleagues get back here and do something about the price at the pump. Thank you.
REP. WALDEN: Thank you.
I want to make a couple of points using these charts -- they'll hold up. Here's the real issue: All of these areas are off limits because of a rider on an appropriations bill that gets passed each year. So, all off the West Coast, all off the East Coast, even down in the Gulf, these areas are off limits. And last year the Congress put off limits this area for shale oil development.
Meanwhile, the speaker has said we're going to have a process around here that is open and allows the minority the opportunity to bring alternatives to the floor. Now, I have a degree in journalism. I used to be in the broadcast business for 21 years. I can read her words and I don't think her words have matched her actions this year. Time and again, she has frustrated the minority party -- the Republicans -- in bringing any alternatives to the floor, manipulating the system, going around the committees and using the suspension calendar so you have just an up or down vote require two-thirds. They know it'll fail that way, then they can blame Republicans. That's wrong!
Meanwhile, she goes out on a book tour when they haven't passed a single appropriations bill to the president. There hasn't been a Congress that's failed as much as this Congress under this leadership and Americans are suffering because of it.
That's why we're a little upset! That's why we keep coming back in August to Washington! Can you think of a better reason or any reason we'd come back, other than we're tired of getting pushed around? We're tired of a no-energy policy; we're tired of a no-action Congress that leaves our people at home hurting when fertilizer prices are doubled, when people can't afford to take their kids to the away games, when their wallets are getting empty and when they're worrying now about their jobs.
They're hurting in Oregon; they're on their knees in Michigan. Things have to change and this Congress can't even stay around and do its job! They turn out the lights; they turn out the microphones; they shut the place down and they go on a book tour. That's the Democrats energy policy.
We want to come back and have an opportunity to help write a bill in a bipartisan way. Now, the Sierra Club's already apparently endorsed the bill she talked about this weekend. How would they endorse something they haven't read, which means if they've read it, then they probably helped write it. So it must be a done deal, right? Well, we're going to get a vote on the floor, probably on a bill we've never seen that's been crafted in secret and written in some room somewhere! We think we ought to have the right to participate in this process and represent the views of our constituents.
Let's look at what's happened to this Congress: The Democrat Congress, while gas prices have been going up, we've congratulated the U.S.-Santa Barbara Soccer Team; we've created National Passport Month; we've condemned -- we've commended the Houston Dynamo Soccer Team; we've had National Train Day; Great Cats and Rare Canids Act. We passed the International Act of Sanitation and finally the Monkey Safety Act was passed.
By then gas had gone from $2.22 to $4.14. From soccer to monkey business -- that's all this Congress has done and the price has gone up and up and up. And meanwhile, what do we do? Every day we send $170,250,000 to people like Hugo Chavez who can invest in Russian- built aircraft and submarines and military equipment to cause all kinds of problems in our backyard in South America. And that's just one place we send it. Mike Rogers talked about the problems in Georgia right now -- and I mean the country, not the state. We see what's happening as these areas are destabilized.
It's time to access America's great energy reserves. It's time to open up these areas for exploration and development. And if we do, we'll generate revenues. We'll create jobs and we can fund the new technologies that will allow us to go to alternatives and get away from hydrocarbons. And that's what needs to happen.
And so ladies and gentlemen, that's why we're here, because we want to see a change in how this Congress operates. We want the alternative to craft a policy that will work for America for today and the future, to access the great oil and energy reserves that are out there and could be ours. Why do we have to wait and let other countries be sovereign wealth states? What's wrong with having America generate revenue and invest in new technologies and education and maybe even pay down our debt?
That's enough from me. I'll be happy to take any questions that you have.
Q (Off mike) -- you sent a letter to the president today. The U.S. exports about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. Why should the U.S. be exporting oil?
REP. WALDEN: Some of that I would wager -- and I've not read Mr. Markey's letter -- is because it is probably the really heavy crude that is difficult for U.S. refineries to refine, and so actually, it's more efficient to send it, because we haven't build a new refinery here in 20 or 25 years and we need to do that.
There are some oil types, and I'm not AN oil expert, but there are, I know, some oil types that we're at capacity in our refinery capabilities. And I would wager that's probably the issue.
Q He's calling on the president to halt the export of oil from the United States.
REP. WALDEN: And he could. I'm not sure that would affect the gasoline production in the United States and that's something I think you'd have to look at it. We actually may be better exporting that, because we also import gasoline and there's some diesel issues out there as well. And so I don't know the specifics on that, but I -- you know, we'll be happy to look into it.
But the point is, we could do so much more. He's arguing over little bits here and there. We're talking about the enormous resource that would power 60 million cars for 60 years.
In my home state of Oregon, the public utility commission just announced a rate increase of 35 (percent) to 40 percent for natural gas for this winter. So if you like what Democrats have done and what's happened in this Congress for gasoline and diesel, wait till you get your home heating bill this winter. Ed Markey could help us on that. He could help us in a lot of these areas. Just let us have a chance to have a vote on an alternative package that would actually solve our energy needs for this country and bring about renewables.
I'm a big fan of renewables. On the House floor, which you all probably weren't listening to every word we had to say today, but Oregon is about to eclipse Texas as the producer of the most wind energy in the country. My district and our state of Oregon could replace two-thirds of electricity needs with geothermal, if we accessed it all, and we've got great solar potential as well -- not to mention the hydro system.
And so I'm a big advocate of renewables and conservation, but I also know to get from here to there, we've got a gap where we need to fill with petrochemicals.
REP. ROGERS: The fact is, we have to export oil. We have to export oil because we can't refine it. We don't have the capacity in this country. We export oil out of this country and re-import gasoline and diesel -- refined product -- back into this country, because there hasn't been a new refinery built. We can't refine what it is that we need.
And that's what's the most frustrating thing about this. We have all of these resources in the United States -- billions upon billions upon billions of barrels of American oil and we can't use it. Not only that, but we can't even refine it. That is the worse case of off-shoring jobs that I have ever heard of. You know, you hear all this talk about jobs leaving this country. Energy jobs are some of the best jobs that you can have in this country, and we're just sending them away -- sending them away.
Q (Off mike) -- probably have to export it.
REP. ROGERS: If we don't expand our refining capability. We have to import refined gasoline, because we cannot refine as much gasoline as we use. So the only way to get that oil turned back into gasoline is you have to offshore it, refine it and bring it back, which is a horrible way to do it.
And by the way, the bill that we think that they've proposed -- nobody's read it -- but one of the provisions they talked about is making it harder to expand for refineries in the United States. They're going to make that problem worse! I would ask Mr. Markey -- he might want to reconsider his position on expanding refineries if he wants to cure that problem.
REP. WALDEN: Well, and for the West Coast, if we don't add to the supply coming down the pipeline, the law already requires the be removed in Alaska. Nearly all of the gasoline that we get in the Northwest is refined at Cherry Point Refinery from oil that comes out of Alaska. And at some point, the volumes coming out of Alaska are declining out of Prudhoe Bay right now. And when they reach a certain level, which isn't in the too distant future -- it's a number of years out, but it's coming -- the law requires that pipeline to be removed.
So for the West Coast, if we don't have supply coming out of Alaska, we're going to be in a real world of hurt.
REP. GRAVES: Can I just, real quick -- first, it's nice to see that Representative Markey spent his summer vacation fishing red herrings out of Boston Bay. The reality is, the price of oil in the world market is dictated by supply and demand. If there is more supply put on the world market, the demand will be met and the price will come down. It is that simple.
His argument that somehow sending American oil offshore to be brought back as gasoline will do anything -- as said here by Representative Graves and others -- it's an attempt to glut the U.S. market, while you cannot refine the fuel fast enough, which will actually increase the cost of gas.
It also doesn't affect all of the above strategies, such as natural gas, which we're trying to get for people in his neck of the words -- up in the northeast.
Now, maybe on Walden Pond what they can do is if they have too much -- the price of natural gas is too high, they can take copies of his letters and burn it for fuel this winter so they don't have to choose between freezing and eating.
Q Speaker Pelosi indicated over the weekend that she'll be bringing a package that includes drilling, but along with a few things that a lot of Republicans don't like.
There was also a poll over the weekend that showed that when it comes to energy, Senator McCain leads Senator Obama by some 16 points.
How many of these conditions from the speaker are you willing to accept? Do you feel you have the wind of public opinion at your back? Are you going to keep pushing for drilling -- a vote on drilling by itself? Are you going to accept some of these conditions from the speaker's office?
REP. WALDEN: Look, I come from Hood River, Oregon, which is the windsurfing capital of the world -- where John Kerry went to windsurf while he was running for president. So I understand wind at your back. And I'll tell you, the Democrats are on the run, and they're running the wrong way right now.
What we want is a bill, the Energy Act for America -- the American Energy Act, a bill that does all the above: it does alternatives, it does conservation. Give us an opportunity to have a vote on our bill. Don't take it away by putting the bill up on suspension, that clever little technique that allows them to never have their bill get passed because they know that it will get defeated and then blame us for that problem. Give us a straight up or down vote, allow America's great institution of democracy to work like it was designed. To allow the minority a voice and an opportunity, that's what we're asking for.
REP. ROGERS: And I would say that the bill they're talking about, she said she would consider. She didn't say she would be for drilling or put more drilling, she said she would consider, which is a political safety valve of couching her words very carefully. But the only reflection we have on that bill is that the Sierra Club has publicly come out and said, "We're for the bill." Nobody's seen the bill except for the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is the same group that said cheap energy is a bad idea for America, and we shouldn't be interested in coal or natural gas or nuclear.
So, any bill that gets us out of this problem, the main opposition to that has already spoken. That worries me a lot because it may, I think, take a little pressure off of them, but it won't take pressure off of the people who are stopping and paying $70 to fill up their minivans. And by the way, their other response to that, they had one of their leaders on, I think it was the Cavuto show, come out and say, "Well, what is your answer for those families in minivans?" And they said they shouldn't be driving minivans. Well, I'm going to tell you, you tell a mom with three kids going to four different places that she's going to take it in a Smart Car in the UP in February and you've got a fight on your hands.
This is -- it's maddening at this gamesmanship they're trying to play when people are suffering under the weight of these high costs. And it tells me a lot that the Sierra Club lobbyists who wrote the bill think it's a great idea. Well, that is completely contrary to lower prices at the pump and conservation, alternative energy and American-made energy. It runs contrary to their beliefs and their public statements.
REP. MCCOTTER: I think it also highlights a point. First, we don't care about the polls. We're here to help working people stop the pain at the pump. But it's also instructive to realize that the speaker has said she has drafted a bill, that she has put provisions in it, provisions that no one has seen, has not gone through regular order, we have no procedural safeguards to ensure that both Republicans and Democrats who support an all-of-the-above strategy will have a crack at making this bill better. All we know is that the Sierra Club that said we're better off without cheap gas supports what they've heard on the radio or may have had a hand in this.
The reality becomes this: what the speaker is doing is by laying out what she thinks Republicans will object to, she's trying to hide the fact that her bill will not include an all-of-the-above strategy that actually produces energy for the American people from the energy resources that are owned by the American people. She can speculate on what Republicans think or don't think. The reality is if she does not bring forward a bill that is supported in a bipartisan fashion to unleash America's energy resources to help people at the pump, then that will be the reason we will oppose it, not the reasons she puts forward to mask her tracks.
Q Any chances on getting one of your own bills on the floor?
REP. ROGERS: It depends on this Democratic leadership.
This problem would have been a long way toward being solved if the speaker had followed some of the promises they made back in 2006, rather than deal with an iron hand, draft legislation in the dead of night, not allow regular order and allow this problem to fester without fair bipartisan up or down vote. And remember, the reason that this all-of-the-above strategy has not come to the floor for a vote is quite simple: because it would pass and the speaker does not want that.
REP. WALDEN: And the other reason we think we have great opportunity for success here isn't because of, quite frankly, anything that we're doing, but it's the fact that American people are starting to rise up and understand there is a plan out there to get us out of this in a way that's responsible. And every group that has left the floor says they're going back, they ask us questions: how do we get involved, who do we call, who do we talk to? These are folks from all over the country. They're average people here on vacation enjoying their capital realizing that they're part of something pretty big. And the local radio stations back home still talk about and local papers are covering it.
So, even though they turned off the national press, or at least in their minds they did, Americans are hearing the message, they understand it and they're the ones that are going to change this. They are the ones who are going to make this possible. We're just going to try to help them get the information they need to make a good decision. We're very, very confident that the pressure that the average American puts on this Democrat leadership is going to result in a vote that will help us and help the next generation of Americans.
Q Has the American Energy Act gone through committee?
REP. WALDEN: Not yet, but we would welcome the opportunity for the speaker to schedule hearings before any of the committees of the House over which it would have -- over which it would have jurisdiction. That's what we're asking for. I don't think it would hurt to just have her follow her own words. You know, generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full and fair debate consisting of full amendment process that grants the minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a -- (inaudible). Just do what you said you were going to do, Madam Speaker. Make this place run, use regular order, allow the minority to have substitutes, allow us to have an alternative, do the things you said you'd do when you took control.
You all can go back and look at her webpage, if it's still up, where she detailed all these things at how she would run the House. Time and again, she hasn't run the House that way. So, on an issue that is the most critical issue facing Americans today, and that is energy, we're just saying, "Madam Speaker, do what you said you'd do. Here are your words; follow them. Come off the book tour. Come back to Washington. Give us an opportunity."
But, frankly, folks, how many legislative days do we have left? The majority leader has said the Congress, the House would be done by the end of September and not come back afterwards. The last convention finishes after the first week in September. We're talking 10 or 15 legislative days at most to work on a piece of legislation that is probably the single biggest problem facing our country, and that is affordable energy and access to it. And the real crush comes, remember, the reason all these things are off-limits is because we're right around the appropriations bill.
So, before the end of the fiscal year, this issue will become right because Speaker Pelosi cannot extend the moratorium on her own. It will take an act of law to do it. We're just saying, let's do it now. Let's not extend it, but let's have this discussion now, let's lift the moratorium and let's move forward with a comprehensive energy bill that does all of the above: conservation, investment in renewable production and access to oil and gas reserves. And let's do that in regular order before the committees as they're structured, not written in a back room, not cut with some deal with special interest lobbyists on the left, but let's get a real bill that works for America and Americans.
Thank you all for being here.