Press Conference By Select Republican House Members Following The House Adjournment For Summer Recess
Speakers: Rep. Roy Blunt; Rep. Eric Cantor; Rep. Tom Price; Rep. Mike Pence; Rep. Virginia Foxx; Rep. Thaddeus Mccotter; Rep. John Carter; Rep. John Shadegg; Rep. Peter Hoekstra; Rep. John Culberson; Rep. Wally Herger; Rep. Don Manzullo
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at email@example.com or call 1-202-216-2706.
REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Well, five hours ago, the Democrats decided they were ready to go home for five weeks, and we're not. We've been asking for months now to bring energy legislation to the floor that solves this problem for the American people. I just saw one of the Democrats interviewed on television. The question was, if oil was $10 a gallon, and you knew exactly where to get it in Alaska or on the coasts, would you drill there? And there was no answer.
We think we need to have more sources of energy, use energy more efficiently and invest in the future. That's all. We want to have that debate. We think those are winning ideas in America today. But for whatever reason, the leaders of this Congress, the Democrat leaders of this Congress are afraid of those ideas. There's no reason that for any time in the last months, any time in the last six weeks that we've been trying to discharge bills to the floor or any time in the last five hours that Republicans have been on the floor waiting for the Democrats to come back that we couldn't have had a debate on good, comprehensive energy legislation.
They said no. They're going to have to live with that no, but so is the country. Now, we wouldn't mind them having to live with that no, but we don't want the country to have to live with that no.
We'd like the speaker to call the Congress back into session and have this debate. What better thing for the Congress of the United States to be doing in August than solving this energy problem for the American people. We're committed to that. We're going to work hard to do that, and nobody will be working hard than the Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): Thank you, Roy.
And as you can see, this has been an extraordinary afternoon. We've had almost 50 members talking on the floor to the American people. Meanwhile, the speaker of this House has shut down the people's House, as you know, kept the cameras out, turned the lights off, turned the mikes off. But yet we had a House full of people listening to a parade of members insisting that we open this House back up.
You know, this is about two things. One, gas prices are too high. American people are suffering at the pump now. We've got seniors having to make decisions as to whether they buy their medicine or whether they pay for their gas. We've got moms and dads driving carpools, making trips to the grocery store and saving up what they've got to do because they can't afford so many trips anymore.
This is about, secondly, the fact that this Democrat-controlled Congress is not working. People see that it is not addressing the most important economic issue facing America, which are gas prices.
We're about calling on Speaker Pelosi to open this House back up. And there has been no one more enthusiastic, leading the charge than the gentleman from Georgia Dr. Tom Price.
REP. TOM PRICE (R-GA): Thank you, Eric.
I represent the 6th District of Georgia. And every week that we've gone out over the past nine weeks, I have taken to the floor when we have adjourned and said the speaker has sent the House home, but the American people want us to continue working.
What we did today was continue working. What we did today was give voice to the American people on the biggest issue that they have at home today, and that is the high cost of gasoline. This isn't a difficult problem to solve. Americans can take any challenge and solve any challenge if we work together. It's not a Republican issue, it's not a Democrat issue, it's an American issue.
And if given the opportunity, the representatives in the House of Representatives will vote, a majority of them will vote, to make certain that we increase supply of American energy for Americans. It's that simple. All we ask for is a vote. All we did today is give voice to the American people.
I was honored to organize this along with my good friend from Indiana Mike Pence.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): I'm Mike Pence from the state of Indiana. My voice is somewhat diminished, but my heart is swelling. I've never been prouder of the Republican leadership of this Congress. I've never been prouder of the rank and file.
What you saw today, with absolutely no notice, was a spontaneous demonstration of the passion of this minority to stand up for working families, small-business owners and family farmers and to fight to lower gasoline prices. Many of our colleagues have talked themselves hoarse on the floor. We wish all the American people could have looked in.
But many Americans were in the room. Many were in the gallery. Many joined us on the floor. And they agreed with us. Again and again, the ovations from those in the room were moving. I believe the majority of Americans recognize that it's simply unconscionable for Congress to take a five-week, paid vacation while Americans are struggling under the weight of $4-a-gallon gas.
And let me also say, under Republican control, we tried many times to give the American people more access to our domestic reserves, and we failed. But I believe with the advent of $4-a-gallon gas, with the pain at the pump that Americans are feeling, for the first time ever there is a bipartisan majority in the Congress that would give the American people more access to American oil. And we as Republicans are more than willing to marry that with more conservation efforts, more solar, more wind, all of the above. But we believe there is also a pro-drilling, bipartisan majority in the Congress.
And so we are here. We will stay later.
We will be here through the break until either the speaker calls this Congress back or the president of the United States uses his authority to call a special session of Congress to bring them back and make them work and bring the American people relief at the pump.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-NC): I think what we've tried to point out today, too, is the hypocrisy of the Democrats.
In 2006, they said they had a common-sense plan to bring down the price of gasoline. Where is that plan? We have not seen a plan. We'd be happy to consider their plan, but there isn't one. They said this would be the most open Congress, there would not be a shutting down. Look at what they did today, they adjourned. A small group of us were going to speak today after the regular session, and they shut it down because they didn't want us to speak.
But as my colleagues have said, we're here speaking on behalf of the Americans. We are not going to let Speaker Pelosi shut this House down and not let us give voice to what Americans are saying to us. And we know that they're saying it to the Democrats, too. And what we want to urge Americans to do is keep saying it to your Democratic representative so they will bring pressure on the speaker.
We want to know what is she afraid of? Why won't she bring up a vote on the American energy act? If they're so opposed to it, they can vote it down, they have the majority. But we want action out of the Democrats who control this House.
REP. BLUNT: Thaddeus McCotter, the policy chair.
REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R-MI): I think it's important, as someone who comes from Michigan, the Detroit area, a hard-working state that's facing tough economic times, to tell Speaker Pelosi a very simple message. Working people cannot wait for relief from high gas prices. The Democratic Party says that they support the little person, the working people. They did not support them today as they adjourned to go on their five-week paid vacation.
We work for the people of our districts. We do not get to vacation at their expense. All we ask is quite simply this. It is for the senior citizen that is worried that this winter they're going to have to choose between freezing and eating, tor the single mother who is worried that she can't afford to drive her children to daycare, for the person who's working in a steel plant or a car-suppliers factory that is worried about losing their job because the price of energy is going to put their business under, we say to Speaker Pelosi, if you truly represent these salt-of-the-earth Americans, you will let us have a vote on a bill that we believe has a bipartisan majority.
Because if she continues to treat this as an issue between Democrats and Republicans, she's going to injure the vast majority of working Americans. And we urge her to honor the responsibility as the speaker of the House to allow the will of the majority to prevail in a free and open vote. And we are convinced the the vast majority of Republicans as well as Democrats will pass this legislation on behalf of the people we serve.
REP. BLUNT: And our Conference Secretary John Carter.
REP. JOHN CARTER (R-TX): I'm John Carter from Texas. You know, what we saw today is a pretty amazing thing. And my friend, Mr. Manzullo, he hit the theme that the crowd responded to, and it was the voice of what happened today. And that is, the American people heard that a group of people just got together to talk, and they started drifting in, and more drifted in, and more drifted in until the galleries were full and people started being seated on the floor below. And their theme was "give us our country back!" And their whole purpose was to say, what's wrong with you people? Let's just have a vote! Let's let the Congress function! If the vote is no, then the vote is no. If the vote is yes, then the vote is yes. But what's this deal of not letting us have a vote?
So this is about spontaneity in America because not one person invited the public to this deal today, but they all showed up. God bless every one of them! Thank you.
REP. BLUNT: Thank you, all. Congressman Shadegg.
REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R-AZ): Thank you, all. I think a couple of times on the floor I said it, and I believe it, this is the equivalent of the Boston Tea Party over the energy issue. The reality is the speaker is trying to repress not just the minority in the House but the majority in the nation.
We haven't had a single-dimension policy. Remember, what we've said consistently is ALL of the above. We've come forward and said, we're for more solar. That's extremely important to my state. We desperately need to pass the investment tax credit. And actually not passing it thus far, because she's tied it to other tax increases, is already damaging that industry. We need to move forward with wind power. That's an important issue in my state. We build the blades in my state. There are every kind of alternative every one of us supports. And yet,the other side won't let us have even a little access to our own resources.
Now, I want to make a point. When gasoline was $1, $1.50, $1.60, maybe even $1.80 or $2.00 a gallon, maybe even when gasoline was $2.20 a gallon, you could understand or some people could defend as rational the closing-off of American resources, the shutting-down of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Intermountain West and oil shale and ANWR. But things have changed. Oil is now over 135 (dollars), $150 a barrel. And the party of change, Democrats in this city who say they're for change, refuse to change.
And they are leaving working men and women, the little guy, the construction worker, the union member, who lives the furthest from his job, drives the oldest car, has the least money to go buy a new hybrid, high and dry. They are saying that those people, for whom high gas prices aren't just an inconvenience, they are life and death, they are get to job, they are get to a hospital appointment or a doctors appointment, they are leaving them standing out alone.
The American people won't stand for it. The spontaneity of this demonstration today, which started with five or six of us, demonstrates that Nancy Pelosi is going to lose on this issue. And we better have a policy on energy in this country that isn't anti-energy, which is what we have right now, but is pro-energy, pro-all-of-the- above, including renewables but also American resources in oil and natural gas.
REP. BLUNT: Pete.
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R-MI): Yeah, I think what you saw today was the real difference between Speaker Pelosi's House and the people's House.
Speaker Pelosi's House at 11:30 was one that said, the lights are going out, the mikes are going down, I'm going to kick the press out. You gotta remember that. At about 11:30, 12:00, John Shadegg had to go into the press gallery to make sure that the doors weren't locked so that you couldn't watch what was going on on the floor of the House. That is Speaker Pelosi's House.
The real House is the one that was there today all afternoon for over five hours, the people's House, where we were talking to the people of America, talking to the people in the gallery, actually getting some questions and some comments from the people in the gallery and carrying forward America's agenda.
What we want to have now in the month of August is we want the people's House to come back to Washington and do the people's work. It's clear that the American people reject Speaker Pelosi's House which is going on vacation for five weeks. So we call on either Speaker Pelosi or the president to call back the people's House and do the people's work.
REP. PRICE: Great, great.
Good, anybody have any questions?
Q: (Off mike.) Are any of you willing to forgo your enormous paychecks to -- (inaudible) -- energy?
REP. PRICE: I think the issue is whether or not --
REP. PRICE: I understand that. But I think the issue is whether or not the speaker will allow the House of Representatives to vote. If we had an opportunity to forgo our paycheck and have it go directly to the coffers of the American people and allow them to purchase their own gasoline, then certainly. But what we do back home --
(Off mike commentary.)
That is a foolish question.
Q: You are the ones who said it was a five-week vacation and you're not doing any work.
REP. FOXX: The Democrats aren't working.
REP. PRICE: That's why we're here. We are here. We are here.
REP. PRICE: We don't know that. You don't know that either. Does anybody have a question. Yes.
Q: How late are you going to be here tonight? And is there talk of coming back during August?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I canceled my plane to be here. And I'll be here as long as it takes.
REP. PRICE: As you heard, this was a spontaneous event today. And what we have behind us and what we had today were about 50 individuals of our conference who stood up and said they were willing to stay and make a statement. What we did today is give voice to the American people. This is a spontaneous activity. What we'll determine after this is the strategy going forward.
What we will do over the next five weeks is continue to bring the message of the American people to Congress, and that is to say that we demand a vote for American energy for Americans. We're going to go from here back onto the floor of the House.
Another question? Last question.
Q: Some of you have talked about trading the Section 199 from the 2004 tax breaks -- (inaudible). Is that an idea you guys could get behind?
REP. PRICE: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the question.
Q: In the Senate, the "gang of 10" so-called has talked about trading the Section 199 tax breaks that took place in 2004 in exchange for offshore drilling as a bipartisan compromise. Is that something you guys could look at?
REP. PRICE: Absolutely. What we've always said is we want an all-of-the-above policy. We want to talk about conservation and encourage conservation. We want to talk about alternative sources of fuel and encourage that. What we need right now in the near term and the short term is new American supply, American energy for Americans.
We appreciate this. We're going back on the floor right now. Thank you so much. God bless.
REP. PENCE: Thank you.
Q: (Inaudible) -- conservation, supporting conservation, sir. Conservation is part of the problem. How are you going to -- (inaudible)?
REP. PENCE: Well, I think that theme came up many times on the floor. And we were speaking -- while we were cut off from a wider audience because of the rules of the House, long-instituted rules of the House -- most of the Republicans who spoke said that we are not myopically committed to drilling as a solution. We would like to see the Congress come together and get behind a comprehensive energy bill that expanded our domestic drilling, invested in conservation, alternative energy sources like solar and wind and new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles.
We'd like to do all of the above. But Congress obviously can't do anything if we're not in session, and that's why we'll continue this demonstration on the floor as long as we can go tonight, as long as our pipes hold up. And we'll continue it this month.
The American people want this Congress to come together in a bipartisan way and give the American people more access to American oil.
REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R-TX): The key is is that by drilling here and drilling now, we'll have an immediate impact that will bring down the price of gasoline at the pump and ease the pressure on the American economy. And we all understand this is a 10-to-12-year hump we gotta get over. And by drilling here and drilling now and helping save the American economy, it will then position us to move into solar, wind, alternative sources of energy, develop the Manhattan- style-scale project that we need to invest in technology to get us to the next generation of energy. Thank you very much.
REP. WALLY HERGER (R-CA): We're advocating, again, all of the above.
Now, I'm from northern California. Nancy Pelosi is from northern California. I have citizens who live in my rural district who drive into San Francisco. I've had six tele-town-hall meetings this summer, and the only issue they want to talk about is rising gas prices. Is that what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said there was going to be change a year and a half ago, that gasoline prices were going to go from $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon?
I have those who live in my rural area because they can't afford to live in Nancy Pelosi's district, that drive there, that no longer can afford to feed their families and others because Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not allow a vote on this issue.
Nancy Pelosi, we want a vote! The American public demands at least a debate and a vote on this issue. Give us that democratic right to have a vote!
REP. CULBERSON: You all may be interested to know this is the first time we've actually communicated live -- this is also the first time that we have communicated live from the House floor using new media. Congressman Hoekstra and I were both actively twittering, sending mini posts to our thousands of followers out there who were then resending those posts to their thousands of followers. And while I was not videoing from the House floor because that's a violation of the House rules, we have been videoing this entire news conference, streaming live on the Internet. And I was doing interviews with members of Congress outside of the House chamber. And you are all now streaming live on my Internet website at quick.com.
So we are using these new media tools to talk directly to the American people because everyone understands the common sense of drilling here and drilling now to get gas prices down for the short term so we can then invest in the long-term technology it will take to make America energy independent. Thank you very much.
REP. DON MANZULLO (R-IL): I'm Congressman Don Manzullo from the 16th District of Illinois. And there was a question of, what do you have in mind, something to vote on, in order to bring down the high cost of energy in America?
I spend probably 75 percent of my time on manufacturing issues. We have over 2,500 factories in my congressional district. Just last week, I visited Danfoss. This is a company that makes the equivalent of a variable-speed drive. And what they do is they maximize the energy that goes into an electric motor, anywhere from a quarter horsepower to 1,700 horsepower.
If there were enough tax breaks available and incentives available to manufacturing in America, they could save energy the equivalent of running 5 million homes in this country. It' just another example of the types of things that we can do. The problem is is that there's been no debate. So a debate comes up, and the majority members of the House of Representatives say, we're not interested in drilling. Then that's fine. We will accept that. But the American people are at least entitled to an up-or-down vote on whether or not we should use all of the available resources we have in this country in order to become independent of foreign oil. Thank you.
REP. MANZULLO: Yes.
Q: Have you gotten any feedback from the White House about calling into special session Congress to deal with this?
REP. MANZULLO: No. It would be the leadership that would be in that position.
Q: You haven't talked to anybody?
REP. MANZULLO: No.
Q: You said it strong in your conference you urged the president to do this.
REP. MANZULLO: Well, it is the -- my five weeks are packed. In fact, I've even got a trip going to the ANWR during that period of time. I'm working just tremendous hours that are going on. The more I travel our congressional district, and we have little towns -- the people in Polo, Illinois, for example, 3,000 people, many people there travel to Rockford 40 miles away, 80 miles a day. And you can imagine the high cost, what the gasoline prices are doing upon them.
It's not just gasoline. It's natural gas. Natural gas is up double what it was a year ago. A lady called me. Just to run her natural gas, hot-water heater, $91 for 30 days. And she said, I might be able to afford it, she said, but I teach at a school where there are a lot of impoverished families. Those people cannot afford to pay these types of energy bills.
See, it's not just drilling and exploration for petroleum. It's also for gas. And because of the high price of natural gas in this country, we have lost probably 75,000 manufacturing jobs in the chemical industry because 80 percent of the feedstock for chemicals is from natural gas.
And so what happens is that the price of natural gas in Europe is half what it is in the United States. So not only are people put in desperate situations because of the lack of exploration, because of the cost, but we're losing high-quality manufacturing jobs.