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Public Statements

Proposing a Minimum Effective Tax Rate for High-Income Taxpayers-- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I too come to the floor to talk about the most pressing issue facing so many millions of Louisiana and American families; that is, the price at the pump. Sometimes we seem to get ourselves in a cocoon in Washington, DC, divorced from the real world.

We need to reconnect to the real world. Back in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and every State across the country, middle-class, lower middle-class families are struggling with this ever-increasing price at the pump. When President Obama was sworn into office a little over 3 years ago, that price was about $1.84 a gallon. Today, it is over double that, $3.80 and beyond.

That is a big hit to American families. That hits folks where it counts and where it hurts--in the wallet, in the pocketbook, in the family budget. All around Louisiana families are huddled around the kitchen table trying to figure out how to make it work because gasoline, transportation, driving is not a luxury. Sure, they can cut back a little bit, but for the most part it is a real necessity; it is going to work; it is getting the kids to school; it is doing absolute necessities.

This is a big hit to middle-class, lower middle-class families' budgets and wallets and pocketbooks. So let me suggest the obvious; that we focus on what truly matters to American families, that we focus on that in the Senate, here in Washington, and we do something about that.

That is why I favored moving to the Menendez bill on the Senate floor. That is why I voted against moving off the bill today, not because I agree with that solution--it is not a solution--but at least we can talk about the topic, at least we can offer amendments on what is to millions of Louisiana and American families the biggest day-to-day challenge they face; that is, that ever-increasing price at the pump.

The Menendez ``solution,'' the Democratic plan, will not help bring down the price at the pump. In fact, it will do the opposite. I think the American people with good old-fashioned American common sense get it. Look, we can love the oil companies, we can hate the oil companies, but the Menendez bill increases taxes on U.S. energy companies and on U.S. energy production.

It increases taxes on those folks and on that activity. What do we think is going to be the result of that in terms of the price at the pump. The American people know. The American people get it. It is obvious. It is going to increase the price at the pump. It is certainly not going to leave it alone or decrease it. Why? It is economics 101. When we give business a new additional cost, almost all the time that is going to be passed on to the consumer.

The American people get that. They see that. They feel it. They deal with it every day. Also, when we increase taxes on something, we produce less of it in the market. In this case, the Menendez bill is increasing taxes on energy production, in particular, ironically, U.S. energy production, which I thought we wanted to increase and maximize.

So when we tax something more, we get less of it. Supply goes down. Guess what happens when supply goes down and demand is the same. Price goes up. So I not only agree with, but I go further than some of the Democrats who were quoted by the previous speaker saying this bill is not about reducing the price at the pump. It is not only about not reducing the price at the pump, it will have the impact of increasing the price at the pump.

Conservatives have a different suggestion that will decrease the price at the pump; that is, to use the resources we have in this country, to open our ability to use those energy resources, to produce more good U.S. American energy for ourselves, to increase supply, and to thereby lower the price at the pump. We can do that and we should do that.

A lot of Americans do not realize the United States is actually the most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. When we look at total energy resources, when we compare countries in terms of their total energy resources, the United States is the richest in energy, bar none. This chart shows that. The United States is top. Russia comes second. Saudi Arabia is third. But look at Saudi Arabia and all Middle Eastern countries--way below our total U.S. energy resources. We are very rich in terms of energy.

This map shows just how rich we are in terms of U.S. resources. We have enormous recoverable natural gas, particularly with new technology and horizontal drilling that has been developed. That is these green circles. That represents, conservative estimate, 88 years of natural gas using just that for U.S. use.

We have enormous recoverable oil--again, very conservative estimates. But in the gulf, where we do produce, also on the east and west coast and Alaska, there is lots of oil, and we have enormous recoverable oil from shale, particularly out West. That is being blocked now. It is off-limits. But we have these resources.

The problem is--and I said we are the single most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. We are. The problem is we are the only country in the world that puts well over 90 percent of our resources off-limits. We are the only country that does that. East coast production, no, absolutely not; west coast production, no--big red no;

ANWR, Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, where we could access millions of acres of lands from a very select footprint, smaller than an area the size of Dulles Airport in suburban Virginia, no; western shale production, where we saw so much of the resource potential on the previous map, no; even production in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, no. Under Federal law, because of this administration, because of this Senate, we keep saying no, no, no to our U.S. resources.

A good example of that is President Obama's 5-year lease plan for offshore production. Under Federal law, every President has to develop and issue a 5-year plan about leasing the Outer Continental Shelf offshore. President Obama's 5-year plan is half of the previous plan. We have very little we are able to touch as it is, and President Obama has backed us up from this, has turned us around, moved us in the wrong direction from there. His plan is literally half the previous plan. So we are moving there in absolutely the wrong direction.

This map shows that. This map is what was available for potential drilling under the previous plan. We were finally moving forward on the east coast, on the west coast, offshore Alaska. We have been in the gulf. But under President Obama's very different lease plan, we are back to saying no, no, no, no, no, no--backing up, moving in the wrong direction.

We are moving in the wrong direction in other areas too under this administration. In the Gulf of Mexico near where I live, traditionally, the area where we produce the most U.S. energy, even in the Gulf of Mexico we are moving in the wrong direction. Production is down 17 percent in 2011. It is projected to go down more in 2012. Permitting is down over 40 percent compared to the pre-BP levels of permitting. I know with the BP disaster there had to be a quick pause. We had to change some rules. But it is still down over 40 percent. Production is down 17 percent in one of the few areas we allow activity. We cannot afford that. We need to produce more good U.S. energy.

Oil production on Federal property, again, is down on all Federal property, down 14 percent. Federal offshore is down 17 percent in the last couple years. We need to do better.

Of course, perhaps the clearest example of this approach to energy by President Obama is his recent veto of the Keystone Pipeline, a true shovel-ready project, truly ready to go. It is not U.S. energy, but it is the next best thing, from our biggest trading partner, a very good friend and reliable trading partner, Canada. The President has vetoed it and with it the 20,000 jobs it would have created--no; 700,000 barrels a day of oil from Canada, no; $7 billion of economic investment when we are trying to come out of this horribly weak economy, no; help to lower prices at the pump, no--again, No, no, no, no, no, no.

We can do better. We can do better as a country. We certainly can do better in Washington and say yes. We can do better by accessing more domestic energy resources. Again, we are the most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. But we are the only country that puts over 90 percent of that off-limits. We need to change that. We can create more great U.S. jobs. Let us say yes to that. By the way, those are jobs which by definition cannot be outsourced to China or India or anywhere else.

If we are creating energy in the United States, that job has to stay in the United States. We can build greater energy independence. Let us say yes to that. We can dramatically increase revenue to the Federal Government and thereby reduce deficits and debt. After the Federal income tax, the second biggest source of revenue the Federal Government has is revenue on domestic energy production, those royalties, second only to the Federal income tax.

Let's say yes to that new revenue, deficit and debt reduction, and we can help lower the price at the pump because supply does matter. Increasing supply does matter. It will lower prices.

Again, I disagree with the Menendez approach. The Menendez approach will increase the price at the pump and increase taxes on an industry and that is going to be passed on to the consumer. Taxing something more produces less of it. Less oil means the price goes up. But we can have an American solution. We can open access to our own resources and thereby gain control of our own future. We do not have to beg Saudi Arabian princes. We can regain control of our own destiny and our own future. Let's do it. The American people want us to do it. Common sense dictates that we do it. Let's move forward together and do it for the good of our country.

I yield the floor.


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