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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I rise to talk about one of the most pressing challenges Louisiana families--indeed, most American families--face, and that is the price at the pump and the enormous hit that is to their family budgets, their pocketbooks, their wallets. It is really making life very difficult in the midst of a very weak economy.

A few years ago the price was $1.84. That was on the day Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. Now it has more than doubled; it is $3.80-plus. It seems to be rising every day, and that is a real crisis to a lot of American families. We should be committed here in the Senate, here in Washington, to connecting with the real world and focusing on real problems and real crises. For millions of Louisiana and American families, that is absolutely it.

Unfortunately, I don't see real solutions and a real policy to address that coming out of the President or some of my colleagues on the Senate floor. Right now, to the minute, as we speak on the Senate floor, the President is speaking at the White House, and he is laying out his proposal to raise taxes on domestic energy companies and domestic oil and gas production. That is not a policy that is going to help Louisiana and American families with the price at the pump. In fact, it is a policy that is going to make it worse and not better.

Folks get it in the real world. They certainly do in Louisiana. When we increase taxes on something, those are costs that almost every business, if they possibly can, is going to pass on to consumers. That is pushing prices up, not down.

It is also the first rule of economics, as my colleague from Georgia said, supply and demand. If we tax something more, we get less of it. If we increase taxes on domestic energy producers, on domestic oil and gas, we will get less of it. Less supply means the price goes up. So those are two compelling reasons this proposal is not going to help Louisiana families and American families with their struggles with the price at the pump. It is going to make it even worse, when it has been getting worse on its own for a lot of related reasons, very dramatically. So that is not a policy. That is not a commonsense or a real-world solution.

Likewise, one of the few other things I have heard from the President in terms of this matter is essentially begging other countries to increase their production. I don't think that is a policy worthy of America either. I think the perfect symbol for that approach is the President bowing to the princes of Saudi Arabia. It is a symbol of his approach of trying to deal with the price at the pump, and it is not good enough and it is not worthy of the American people.

Other folks have also adopted this approach. Senator Schumer, our colleague in this Chamber, recently wrote Secretary of State Clinton on February 28, 2012, just a few weeks ago:

To address this situation--

Meaning the price at the pump--

I urge the State Department to work with the government of Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production, as they are currently producing well under their capacity.

Begging Saudi Arabia is not an adequate solution, and it is not a policy worthy of America.

President Obama's own Energy Secretary Secretary Chu said even more recently, on March 20 of this year:

We're very grateful that Saudi Arabia has extra capacity and it feels confident that it can fulfill any potential deficits, at least the way the current markets are now, the current demand I should say, are now.

Again, begging Saudi Arabia, begging the Middle East, begging other countries, that is not an adequate policy and it is not a policy worthy of America.

President Obama has done a world tour doing some of this in other countries. Notably, on March 20, 2011, when my part of the country was still struggling with the de facto moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico, a permit logjam blocking us from producing good, reliable American energy, putting Americans, Louisianans to work, the President went to Brazil to beg them to produce their resources and to promise them that the United States would be a great customer. Quote:

We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely. And when you're ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers. At a time when we've been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.

He means drilling in Brazil. I have to say this was like rubbing salt in the wound to most Louisianans. As I said, this was March 2011, a year ago, and we were still suffering from a continuing de facto moratorium that the President had imposed following the BP incident. So he was going to Brazil and urging them to drill, urging them to explore, committing America to that, and refusing to do it in America in the Gulf of Mexico. That is not a commonsense solution. That is not a real-world policy. That is not a policy worthy of America. None of this begging is.

Other countries do have an energy policy, and it is not begging; it is developing. It is controlling their own future. Very recently in the press there have been reports that PetroChina has now become the leading company publicly traded in terms of production of oil, far surpassing Big Oil and all the other companies that have been demonized by my colleagues on the left on the Senate floor.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have the press report printed for the Record.


Mr. VITTER. The Chinese are not going around the world begging. The Chinese are developing. The Chinese are trying to control their own destiny, and PetroChina is now the leading company in terms of producing oil.

Petrobras in Brazil is another example. Brazil is developing its resources very aggressively. That is what I referred to when the President went there a year ago and applauded them and encouraged them with giving them U.S. resources to do it in terms of loan guarantees, and the President absolutely promised we would be a great customer.

The Brazilians are not traveling the world begging. The Brazilians are controlling their own destiny. The Brazilians are responsibly developing their own resources, and our President even applauds that while refusing to do the same in this country.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have the press report printed in the Record.


Mr. VITTER. According to recent press reports, there is a budding and building relationship between Brazil and China, and China is taking advantage and forming contracts to take advantage of that resource. We should learn a thing or two from other folks around the world, and we should not just beg; we should build and develop. We should take our own future into our own hands, and we have an enormous opportunity to do that.

The United States is actually the single most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. When we look at total energy resources, we lead the world. Russia is second, and other countries follow way behind. Saudi Arabia is third but cannot compare in terms of total resources. No Middle Eastern country can compare, and China is below that. We have the resources. We are the single most energy-rich country in the world, and this map shows it.

We have enormous reserves, particularly shale in the West, natural gas in finds on land, and offshore enormous potential of reserves of oil. Literally, there are hundreds of years' worth. So what is the problem? The problem is we are the only country in the world that puts well over 90 percent of those resources off-limits and doesn't develop them, but we can do better.

We can reasonably, responsibly, and safely open that access. We can do what Brazil is doing; we can do what China is doing. We do not have to beg. We can have a policy worthy of America and Americans. We can take control of our own destiny.

What will that mean? It will mean great U.S. jobs, which by definition cannot be outsourced. We cannot have a domestic energy job producing good, reliable energy in the United States and outsource it to China or India. We will build more energy independence, not having to beg Saudi Arabia or go to Brazil as a customer or anything else. We will even increase revenue to lower deficit and debt. After the Federal income tax, the biggest source of revenue to the Federal Government is royalty or revenue on domestic oil production. It is second only to Federal income tax. It would be enormous new revenue to reduce deficit and debt. And, of course, we can help lower the price at the pump. We can increase supply, which lowers the price.

So I urge us to do what the American people want us to do: to adopt common sense, to adopt a real policy, and to take control of our own destiny. Begging is not a policy, at least not one worthy of Americans. This tax proposal to increase taxes on U.S. oil companies and domestic oil production is not a policy that will do anything but increase the price at the pump, decrease supply, and that is the opposite of what we need. Let's do what will make a difference: increase supply, control our own destiny, and do more right here at home.

I yield back the floor.


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