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Offshore Production and Safety Act

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, last night, Senate Democrats put forth a plan to raise taxes on American energy that, in their words, would have done nothing to lower the price of gas at the pump. As the chairman of the Finance Committee put it: ``That's not the issue.''

I think for most Americans, high gas prices actually are the issue.

According to a Gallup poll that came out this week, nearly 7 out of 10 Americans say the high cost of gas at the pump is causing financial hardship for their families. More than half of Americans say they have made major changes to compensate for it. More than 1 in 5 say high gas prices are jeopardizing their standard of living.

Americans are struggling. My constituents in Kentucky are hurting. They want relief, and all they are getting from Democrats in Washington is a dog and pony show. Their own Members admit their legislative proposals are gimmicks. They spent a week vilifying the energy industry and another week trying to punish them.

The legislation they proposed yesterday would have done three things: destroy jobs, send American jobs overseas, and make us more dependent on foreign sources of oil. That is what yesterday's bill would have done.

Democrats themselves admit it would not lower gas prices by a penny. So it is a fair question: What in the world are they doing? Once again, Democrats have been faced with a crisis and have done their best to turn it into a political exercise rather than doing something to actually help people and create jobs.

They pushed a tax on energy because evidently some of their leaders think it polls well. So does Mother's Day. I would suggest Democrats spend a little more time looking at the price of gas at their local gas stations than at the latest polling numbers about class warfare rhetoric.

At a time when Americans are genuinely struggling out there, the Democrats have chosen to waste 2 weeks making a political statement rather than in trying to make a difference.

The American people deserve a lot better than that, and that is why Republicans have offered the Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, which we will vote on later today.

Our plan has basically three objectives; first, to restore American offshore production; second, to improve safety; third, to require bureaucrats in Washington to get to work on the permitting process to make a decision one way or the other.

It would have three corresponding effects. First, and most important, our plan would help reduce the price of gas at the pump. By unlocking our own domestic resources and speeding up the permitting process, our plan would actually do something to increase supply, putting downward pressure on price. As the Democratic Senator from Missouri said yesterday: ``The more supply, the less the price.''

It would also help alleviate our dependence on foreign sources of oil, and it would create thousands of energy jobs right here in America instead of sending them overseas, which is why this bill has the support of both the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I have indicated what our bill does in general. Here are the specifics.

In order to restore American offshore production, our plan directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct previously scheduled offshore lease sales in the western and central Gulf of Mexico, Virginia, and Alaska. In addition, the plan will extend lease terms by 1 year for gulf leases which were suspended under the 2010 Obama moratorium.

After the devastating oilspill we had last year in the gulf, improving safety is one of our highest priorities. That is why our bill amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to require all lessees to develop spill response and containment plans, establishes a public-private task force on oilspill response and mitigation, and orders a study on Federal response to oilspills by the Comptroller General to examine capabilities and legal authorities related to spill prevention and response to clarify appropriate Federal roles.

Finally, it is imperative we put in place a process that makes bureaucrats operate more efficiently on the crucial issuance of permits. That is why our plan puts time limits on the review of and decision on drilling permits, providing for 30 days of application review, with two opportunities for the Interior Department to extend the time period. Beyond that, it provides for a default approval if Interior does not reject the application within 60 days, and it directs the Interior Department to provide rationale for rejection of permits.

This bill is not our last on this crisis. We could do a lot more to increase production here at home, and we should. But it offers solutions, and every provision in this bill has bipartisan support.

At a time of near record gas prices, this is a modest approach, a good first step that takes everyone's concerns into account so we can actually achieve a practical result.

That is what Americans want. It is time to stop pointing fingers. It is time to stop picking winners and losers. It is time to stop telling Americans what is best for them.

It is time to stop holding Americans back with moratoriums, fees, bureaucratic roadblocks, and the ever-expanding reach of a President who seems to think business owners in this country need to get his permission first if they want to create jobs.

Every single American is feeling the pain at the pump, Democrats and Republicans alike. It is time for the two parties to come together and get serious about results. I urge all my colleagues to support the Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011.

I yield the floor.

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