Mr. HONDA. Mr. Chair, I regret that I am unable to be in Washington, DC, today to cast a vote in support of H.R. 527, The Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act. This bipartisan, commonsense plan will prevent a global helium shortage, protect jobs and the economy, and ensure a fairer return for taxpayers while we take the time to determine a long-term strategy to deal with our nation's helium needs.
Representing Silicon Valley, I know firsthand how dependent high-tech manufacturing and scientific research labs are on helium. Helium is needed by hospitals for life-saving medical diagnostic tools like magnetic resonance imaging, and it is critical to our national defense.
Unfortunately, the frenzy to slash the government that accompanied the Gingrich Republican revolution in 1996 led to legislation to sell and privatize the Federal Helium Reserve and caused the situation we face today--in October, the Reserve will no longer be able to sell the remaining 11 billion cubic feet of helium, which will create an immediate worldwide helium shortage and cut the domestic supply by nearly half.
H.R. 527 will prevent this shortage and promote market-based reforms by implementing a three-phase system for operating the Federal Helium Reserve until the Reserve is emptied of helium. In addition, it will ensure that taxpayers get a fair return for this resource. While this bill is not the long-term strategy on helium that we need, it does prevent a short-term crisis and allow time for a transition to a new paradigm.
Numerous industry groups and companies based in my Silicon Valley district have expressed their support for the bill, and I join them in expressing my support for H.R. 527. I would also like to express my support for the Collins/Scott Amendment, the Holt Amendment, and the Thornberry Amendment, and my opposition to the Dent/Higgins/Esty Amendment.