September 16, 2008
Floor Statement by Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis on the
Democrat Energy Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following is the floor statement by Appropriations Committee Ranking Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis on the flawed Democrat energy legislation under consideration by the House today:
“Mr. Speaker, a bipartisan majority in the House has been calling for a real debate on energy issues for months now. But it was 82 days ago—during a scheduled full Appropriations Committee markup—that the real debate began.
“That debate in full committee was short-lived and it ended rather abruptly; the majority leadership ordered Chairman Obey to pull the plug on that markup when it became evident that they would lose a vote on off-shore drilling. The Appropriations Committee has not met since.
“All year long, the majority leadership has abdicated its responsibility to have the Appropriations Committee proceed under regular order, largely relegating our work to the back-burner. The assumption has been that Barack Obama would be elected President in November. The assumption has been that the House majority would remain the House majority and that an Obama Administration would be more inclined to support higher levels of spending in bills reflecting the majority’s budget priorities.
“Such a scenario, assumes that the House pass very few bills, pass a continuing resolution, and leave the future of the remaining bills unanswered until after the November election. But, what if John McCain is elected President? And what if he draws an even harder line on spending than President Bush? What then? Is the Appropriations Committee going to do nothing for the next four years?
“Because the legitimate work of the House is now being dictated by election-year politics, it now appears that the Appropriations Committee will not meet again this year. It also appears that we will not have a chance to debate and consider a legitimate energy bill this year.
“The vast majority of Americans support an energy policy that includes off-shore drilling for oil and natural gas. But the majority leadership still doesn’t get it. Rather than working across party lines to develop a bipartisan bill—a consensus bill—we can all support, the House is being forced to consider a “take it or leave it” energy bill that leaves out over 80 percent of known energy reserves off our coasts.
“This misguided strategy reflects decisions made at the highest levels of the majority leadership. It is especially disappointing to me because in recent years the Appropriations Committee has largely set aside partisan differences to pass all of our bills in a timely fashion. More often than not, we have been able to say, “We have fulfilled our responsibility. We have done our work.” But not this year.
“This year, one issue—the high price of oil and gas—has completely paralyzed the appropriations process and, indeed, the legislative process in the House of Representatives. We are now two weeks away from the beginning of the new fiscal year and what have we done? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Instead, funding bills essential for every conceivable function of government have been put on a shelf to avoid votes on offshore drilling, on oil shale, and drilling in ANWR.
“In past years, when controversial issues have come to the full committee, we took them head on. During my service as Chairman, we debated and considered raising the minimum wage, the millionaires’ tax, and the Truman Commission. I was opposed to each of these amendments but felt our Members—Republicans and Democrats—deserved to have their voices heard.
“Had the Interior bill been considered in full committee on June 18th as originally scheduled, the Committee and the House would not be in this position today. It would have broken the logjam and enabled us to complete our work. And, it would have given Members of the House an opportunity to openly debate the most important issue facing our constituents today.
“To me, preparing a long-term energy strategy is like preparing for retirement. It doesn't happen overnight but takes careful, thoughtful, long-term planning. Addressing the OCS issue is just one leg of the energy stool (along with conservation, oil shale, renewables, etc) just as a 401(k) plan is one leg of the stool when planning for retirement. I believe we have to take the long view just as we take the long view when planning for retirement. It can't and won't happen overnight.
"Republicans and Democrats alike deserve an opportunity to have a straight up or down vote on energy amendments addressing the high price of oil and gas. Again, “all of the above” has been replaced with “take it or leave it.”
“Mr. Speaker, I don’t recognize this place anymore. Once upon a time, members of the People’s House worked together to serve the best interests of our country. Now, we either march in lockstop to the whims of the majority leadership or we are left out of the legislative process altogether.
“When I first came to Congress, legislation was drafted not by the Speaker of the House but by Committee Chairmen with jurisdiction over the issue of the day. Members of the minority party had every opportunity to participate in the debate by offering amendments. But those days are no more. Members of the minority party no longer have any rights. We are basically told to “sit down and shut up” because the majority leadership knows best.
“This Member has had enough. And my constituents have had enough. I encourage colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in rejecting this irresponsible approach to governing. Let’s work together and openly debate energy policy. Let’s vote on a consensus bill that addresses the high price of oil and gas. Remember, our constituents are closely watching this debate. They will remember what we do when they vote on November 4th.”