July 31, 2008
House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis Floor Statement on the Military Construction – Veterans Affairs Appropriations Legislation
“Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate both Chairman Edwards and Mr. Wamp for producing a truly bipartisan fiscal year 2009 Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill in the longstanding tradition of this committee. Their work is a demonstration to the House that Democrats and Republicans can work together to create legislation the majority of our Members can support.
“As we all know, the Appropriations Committee has steered off course this year because of one single issue which is critical to the American public and which has significant bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
“I do not fault my friend, Chairman Obey, for the breakdown of the Appropriations process this year. While we have had our share of disagreements over the years on overall funding levels and policy issues, he and I have historically worked well together to move our spending bills through the House in a timely fashion.
“However, this year, the largely bipartisan work of the Appropriations Committee has ground to a virtual standstill because of the energy issue. For reasons I do not fully understand given present pressures on our economy and the increased worldwide demand for oil, the majority leadership has decided to put on the shelf most of the annual spending bills as well as any and all meaningful bipartisan efforts to lower the price of oil and gas.
“I don’t understand this decision, nor do I agree with it. We have an opportunity — and we have an obligation — to work on a bipartisan basis to develop and pass long-term energy solutions that involve a combination of conservation, alternative and renewable energy sources, and the development of proven resources both onshore and off-shore here in the United States.
“This effort to bolster our energy resources would create thousands of well-paying union and non-union jobs across the
United States . The overwhelming majority of Americans favor increased domestic energy production. So, what is the downside if we develop energy resources in a responsible, environmentally safe manner? Why is the Democratic leadership standing in the way?
“Just yesterday, a dedicated group of Members led by our colleagues John Peterson and Neil Abercrombie introduced sweeping, bipartisan energy legislation in an attempt to break the current energy gridlock in the House. I applaud their efforts. We ought to debate their bill openly in the appropriate committees and on the House floor before we leave town for the August recess.
“The mere message that Congress was actually debating energy policy — in meaningful, bipartisan debate — would send a signal to the markets and to foreign suppliers of oil that the
United States is serious about addressing its energy future. That powerful message would send oil prices down overnight. I believe that an honest energy debate on the floor of the House would be, in itself, a stimulus package that would have a tremendously positive ripple effect throughout our economy touching every American business and consumer.
“Let me respectfully remind my colleagues that it was Nancy Pelosi in 2006 who outlined the new Democrat majority’s governing philosophy. She said, and I quote, “Bills should come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full, and fair debate. Bills should be developed following full hearings and open subcommittee markups.”
“As the body knows, we have not had an open, full, and fair debate on energy policy in Committee nor have we had any open amendment process on the House floor. In fact, the House Appropriations Committee has not moved any bills through full committee since June 25th because of a pending energy production amendment supported by a bipartisan majority of Committee members but opposed by the majority leadership.
“I would remind our colleagues that most of the challenges facing us today have little or nothing to do with partisan politics. At a time when our country is facing daunting challenges at home and abroad, my constituents and your constituents are looking for real leadership. Rather than providing the leadership our constituents deserve, this body is now in a state of paralysis.
“Again, I remind my colleagues that it was then-Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi who wrote in an October 20, 2007 letter to then-Speaker Hastert, “The voice of every American has a right to be heard. No Member of Congress should be silenced on the floor.”
“I encourage each of my colleagues to remind the Speaker of these words so we can return to regular order in our committee work, and restore civility and open debate to the legislative process in the House. It is time to set aside partisan politics and get to work. We can do better. We must do better.
“Let’s support our veterans funding bill today and then move quickly to support our constituents by openly debating potential energy solutions. Again, the House should not leave town for the August recess until it votes to lower gas prices, increase the supply of American-made energy, and promote energy independence.”