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Public Statements

Disabled Military Retiree Relief Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HALL of Texas. Madam Speaker, I stand here to speak on this bill. I have some misgivings about it. But I intend to vote for this bill. I can't vote against this bill because it benefits people that have served this country and that have suffered for this country. And I have never, in the 28 years I have been here, voted for a bill that affected adversely any veteran or any person that stood up for this country, and I admire and respect Mr. Skelton, the author of this bill. I disagree with the way he has funded it and want to point that out.

I would also point out that I have a letter addressed to Mr. Skelton. He has not had the time to receive it because this bill was introduced yesterday, and it is on the floor today. That is a little hasty. But this is an important bill, and it is a bill that needs to be passed. But I'm torn today as I rise to speak on H.R. 2990. On the one hand, I support the revisions in the bill, retired pay benefits for Reserve members and compensation and benefits for servicemembers. But where I'm torn is how the chairman, my good friend, Mr. Skelton, chose to pay for the compensation and benefits provided under the bill.

I will first point out that this is a bill for the veterans, and this is a bill for those that probably without this bill would not have the assistance that they need, that they deserve and that they are entitled to.

I would also say that as a veteran of World War II, and probably one of about four or five on this floor still here, five or six over in the Senate, there are not very many of us left, but I take no backseat to anybody in supporting veterans. I have a veterans' hospital that my predecessor, Sam Rayburn, provided and benefited. And I have had the pleasure of walking in a mass of walkathons to preserve that hospital, from Bonham, Texas, where Mr. Rayburn lived, to Dallas, to protest cuts in it, as anybody here would. Anybody on this floor has to support the purpose of this bill, which is for those that are suffering.

The major desire of those that have served in any war is that no other generation would have to fight such a war and that we remove the causes of war. And probably the greatest duty of a Member of Congress is to prevent a war. And how do you prevent a war? You prevent a war by removing the causes of it. And energy itself, or the lack of it, has been the cause of most wars that I know anything about. Japan didn't hate this country. Japan loved this country. But our country had cut off their access to oil. They had 13 months' national existence. We had to know that Japan would break out somewhere. That was a war over energy, not the hatred of the United States of America. Twelve or fourteen years ago, George Bush, Senior, sent 450,000 of our troops over to Kuwait. That was not a battle for the emir of Kuwait. We don't care anything at all about the emir of Kuwait. That was to keep a bad guy, Saddam Hussein, from getting his foot on half the known mineral reserves and energy of that area over there. That was a war for energy.

So I have a bill that I passed. I passed it as a Democrat once, it failed, it didn't get through. I passed it as a Republican with Democratic and Republican support. It passed this body. The chairman, Ike Skelton, voted for it at the time. And that bill is now underway. And I want to say a few words about that bill because I think you're entitled to know, and I'm very hopeful that the other body will look closely at this. And I'm going to be working toward that. I haven't had the time or the opportunity to work toward it, and neither did I have the incentive to do anything to kill this bill.

I urge everybody within the sound of my voice to vote for this bill and to commend Ike Skelton for his leadership and his devotion to the men and women that fight for this country and care for this country.

I think unfortunately regarding this bill, he chose to redirect the funds which by law, Public Law 109-58, a law that passed the House 275-156, a law that Chairman Skelton voted for, are reserved for the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Onshore Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Research and Development Program, also known as section 999.

Now the hard, cold facts about it that brought that bill into being was that we can get energy up from the coastal waters. We can get it up to around 80 or 90, 900 feet. And this bill, without the technology, could not get it to the surface where we could benefit from it. But we knew that the energy was there. And we knew that technology was there. And the bill I introduced is not an energy bill nor a technology bill. It puts the two together. And it pays universities, and there are 26 universities in this country, and I'm going to mention some of those in a few minutes, that stepped forward, that are working within this bill and have put 3 years work into it.

I just think that we need to remember section 999. It has achieved a lot since its enactment. It passed, and it passed the bill. It was in the bill that we passed, what, a year and a half ago, a consortium that administers the program has grown to achieve over 140 entities in 28 States, including 26 universities. Those 26 universities, I'm not going to recite all those universities, they are available and people know where they are and which they are, but I do want to point out just some of the universities: MIT--this is a list of them here--MIT; Florida International University; Louisiana State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mississippi State University. It goes on down: Rice University; Texas A&M; Texas Tech; Universities of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Tulsa, Utah, Alaska-Fairbanks, Houston, Michigan, South Carolina, Southern California, West Virginia, and West Virginia State. Those are just some of the many institutions that are working within the confines of the bill that we passed.

The consortium has awarded dozens of projects. These are underway. If you divert this money from this bill to support the bill that Mr. Skelton has, these are the things that you're knocking out, an effort to find energy for 100 years that this country needs, that would prevent us from having to pay foreign agents, Arab nations that we don't trust and don't trust us, those millions and trillions of dollars could stay here in this country. And the consortium has awarded dozens of projects, including 43 research projects currently underway, with a total project value of nearly $60 million.

Also, Madam Speaker, the value of the projects over and above the amount of annual funding for the projects, $37,500,000 was achieved because industry believes in the value of the program and has invested substantially in it, a testament to the work that the program has achieved to date. These projects were selected on a competitive basis from over 180 proposals totaling nearly $415 million. This program is underway and the projects awarded by the consortium include components that benefit dozens of universities throughout the country. In fact, the research and development projects undertaken through the program have included the participation of nearly 1,500 energy researchers from coast to coast. These are not the majors. These are little people. These are for little people. These are for the American people. These are to prevent a war in the future by providing the energy of today.

Nearly 80 percent of the awards made through the

section 999 program have gone to universities, nonprofit organizations, national laboratories, and State institutions.

Program awards have created high-tech and innovative domestic jobs. The National Energy Technology Laboratory has estimated that the awards would create 1,300 job years from research alone. All the while, Madam Speaker, the research projects are aiding the development of cleaner, safer, and more environmentally responsible domestic energy sources, and yes, hundreds of years of energy that is there, we can bring to the top now that we couldn't before.

We get the technology. It doesn't cost the taxpayers anything. We pay for the energy we get by the technology that gives us the ability to bring it up, ability we didn't have--we couldn't get the energy. With that technology, we can get that energy, and that is the thing that really breaks my heart to see us kill a program that is underway and is working. It is hundreds of years of energy.

I want to just point out one other thing. Section 999 does just the type of research that the Secretary of Energy, the Honorable Steven Chu, feels that the Federal Government should be supporting, as he stated in a hearing earlier this year as he testified before the House Science and Technology Committee.

So this is a bill that is a wonderful bill. For the purpose of the bill, I support it. I'm going to vote for it. I urge everybody else to vote for it. But I urge you to work and look forward and find out for yourself the funds that are being utilized to take its place, already underway successfully and producing for us, not to throw it aside. There are surely other areas that we can find. And I will join Mr. Skelton in that, as this thing goes to conference, if it goes to conference, or as it works its way through the other body.

I thank you, and I thank Chairman Skelton.


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