Saturday, July 26, 2008

Boehner Column: "It's Time for the U.S. House to Vote on Meaningful Energy Reform"

The next time you fill up at the gas station consider this: The U.S. House of Representatives has not been allowed to vote on meaningful energy reforms in more than a month. There have been several sham votes – such as one recently to replace 70 million barrels of easily refined oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) with oil that is much more difficult to process – but nothing that would help get out us out of this situation. Seventy million barrels of oil would meet our energy needs for about three days, and then we’re right back to where we are today. That’s not a solution; that’s not even a band-aid.

Our job responsibilities as congressional representatives include voting on legislation. In 2007, there were 1,186 roll call votes in which you can track how individual lawmakers voted; so far in 2008, there have been 533 recorded votes. As of Friday, July 25, the House has held 62 roll-call votes this month. Not a single one of those votes has done a single thing to help bring down gas prices.

And the Democratic leaders who control the House have indicated they will take the traditional August recess without letting the House vote on long-term solutions for what ails you – high gas prices. The Washington Post editorialized, “Instead of dealing with the issue on the merits, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a staunch opponent of offshore drilling, has simply decreed that she will not allow a drilling vote to take on the House floor.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such cynical and petty politics play out in the House. The American people are crying out, demanding their lawmakers take action to help – help lower fuel prices, help get us off our addiction to foreign oil and help create programs and incentives to bring alternative fuels online.

A colleague of mine recently said, “Politicians do not see the light; they feel the heat.” I don’t know how much more clear it could be that the American public is indeed bringing down the heat on their representatives to do something; and that includes letting us vote on meaningful, long-term energy solutions.

House Republicans recently introduced our energy strategy – the American Energy Act – that is a comprehensive measure to help reduce gas prices by harnessing new technologies, encouraging greater conservation and efficiency, and increasing American energy production in an environmentally-safe way. I recently visited Alaska’s remote North Slope where vast American energy resources sit untouched as well as nearby Prudhoe Bay, which uses 1970s technology to pull oil from the ground. I can tell you that I have seen with my own eyes wildlife and oil production coexisting.

But instead of letting us vote on the American Energy Act, Pelosi and her lieutenants are trying to run out the clock. Chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees who are charged with moving spending bills to keep the federal government running have stopped their committee work because Republican lawmakers kept offering amendments to help lower fuel costs. We’re looking at situation in which both the House and Senate will leave for August recess without passing a single spending bill. That hasn’t happened since at least 1950.

My Republican colleagues and I continue to look for ways to force the House to vote on meaningful energy reform, not band-aid measures that don’t create new American energy and help wean us off foreign oil. It’s time for Democratic leaders to stop listening to radical special-interest groups that favor high gas prices, and hear the cries of the millions of energy-strapped American families who are crying out for help.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Boehner Column: How Much Higher Do Gas Prices Have to Go Before Congress Acts?

It’s no wonder that just 14 percent of the American public believes that Congress is doing a good job with such cynical moves as the recent vote on the ill-named “Drill Now” Act. This bill was the Democratic Majority’s answer to soaring gas prices, but the legislation would actually not do a single thing to lower prices and help us move toward energy independence.

The American public is crying out for relief from high energy prices, and a growing majority of Americans wants Congress to act on comprehensive energy reforms that include ending the ban on new American drilling for oil and gas in Alaska and deep ocean energy zones. A bipartisan majority in the House comprised of Republicans and moderate rank-and-file Democrats supports such a comprehensive approach and is ready to vote for it. This has put Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democratic leaders in a quandary, because the radical anti-energy special-interest groups that helped put them in power are dead-set against the reforms the American people want.

Desperate for a way out of this box, yet determined to prevent a vote from taking place on comprehensive energy reforms that include drilling, Democratic leaders hastily threw together the “DRILL Act” – a collection of hollow half-measures designed to look like a pro-drilling energy bill. They bypassed the committee process and rushed the bill to the floor on what’s called the suspension calendar. Members cannot offer amendments to bills brought to the floor on the suspension calendar, which meant the bipartisan pro-drilling coalition couldn’t offer proposals to strengthen the DRILL Act.

But the leadership ploy had a weakness that proved to be its undoing. A bill brought to the floor on the suspension calendar must get a two-thirds majority to pass rather than a simple majority. Because a bipartisan majority in the House saw the DRILL Act for what it was – a sham – the legislation failed.

Democratic leaders reacted to the bill’s failure with more spin, charging that “House Republicans” are “blocking energy reforms.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I and a bipartisan majority of members in the House are promoting what we call the “All of the Above” energy strategy. It includes expanding domestic and deep-ocean drilling, increasing production of American energy, increasing our investment into alternative fuels and promoting conservation. And it deserves an honest, up-or-down vote in Congress.

So far Democratic leaders have refused to allow such a vote. Instead they defied the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority in the House and allowed a vote instead on the hapless DRILL Act. How weak and meaningless was this bill? Democratic leaders made a big deal out of a provision that would “reconstitute a ban on exporting Alaskan oil.” But the U.S. is not currently exporting Alaskan oil – and the bill a bipartisan majority in the House supports to allow new environmentally-safe drilling in the Alaskan coastal plain specifically requires all new oil pulled from the ground there to be sold within the United States.

The bill also included a much-ballyhooed “Use It or Lose It” provision that would supposedly force companies to drill on land they’re leasing from the federal government. But “use it or lose it” is already the law of the land.

But the DRILL Act’s greatest weaknesses lie in what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t support a comprehensive energy strategy that includes accelerated development of alternative fuels, greater conservation, and increased American energy production. These are the reforms the energy-strapped American people want brought to a vote. Instead they got window-dressing.

There are few legislative days left before Congress will leave Washington for the August recess – a five-week break during which gas prices are expected to rise even higher. Ohio’s families and small businesses are already suffering. How much worse does it have to get before Speaker Pelosi allows the bipartisan energy reform plan to come to a vote?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Butler County's Most Wanted

Sherrif Jones (blog) has released a new set of Butler County's Most Wanted.

Hat Tip: Hamilton Journal News, Staff Writer Lauren Pack

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boehner Column: "We Need an 'All of the Above' Energy Strategy"

We moved one step closer to developing our own natural resources to provide American energy with the White House announcement that President Bush will lift an executive ban on deep-ocean drilling. But that alone does nothing as it must be matched by congressional action.

Unfortunately, those in control of the U.S. House stubbornly refuse to unlock U.S. resources to help bring down prices at the pump while we wait for emerging technologies and alternative energy sources to become viable for mass consumption. As American families and small businesses face record prices at the pump, they are counting on their leaders in Congress to work together on reforms to help reduce fuel costs. Ending this outdated ban now will help reduce our costly dependence on foreign sources of energy, empower states and local jurisdictions to make decisions about energy exploration, and will also create thousands of good-paying jobs.

For weeks now, House Republicans have tried to bring legislation to a vote in the U.S. House that would help bring down gas prices and put us on a path to being energy independent. Time and again, those bills get caught up in political maneuverings from the Majority party that worships at the altar of radical environmentalism. We’re looking to open up remote, barren land in Alaska for drilling, unlock our deep-ocean resources and develop clean coal-to-liquids technology in what we call an “all of the above” energy strategy. All options should be put on the table, and lawmakers should have the opportunity to vote on them.

While I am promoting the “all of the above” strategy, others in the House are clinging to a “no energy” agenda. Democratic House leaders have announced they would support supposedly speeding up development of energy resources out of Alaska ’s National Petroleum Reserve (NRP-A). But just last year, Democrats passed an energy bill that would actually discourage development in this area. Do they plan to overturn their previous legislation and join House Republicans in unlocking our natural resources for development?

Democrats also claim they will “reconstitute a ban on the export of Alaskan oil” but we currently do not export Alaskan oil so “reconstituting” a ban would be pointless, although it makes for a good rhetoric. The much-heralded “use it or lose it” legislation also makes for good rhetoric but again, it’s completely unnecessary as oil and natural gas companies exploring on federally-leased land must produce results within five to 10 years or they will lose their lease. And the millions of acres some claim is just sitting around untouched is false. At today’s prices, it makes no sense that a company would sit on an oil find rather than develop it and get it onto the market.

We have few legislative days left before the House is scheduled to begin its traditional August break. I believe that we should not leave Washington until lawmakers have the opportunity to vote on meaningful legislation that will help bring down gas prices and set us on the road to energy independence. The more time we waste, the more our working families and small business will suffer. The American public has made it clear that they expect their leaders in Washington to take action to provide some kind of relief from soaring energy prices. The Democratic-run House should stop defying the will of the people and join with Republicans to implement an “all of the above” comprehensive energy strategy that will end our near-total dependence on foreign resources and allow us to develop our own.

Editorial: Fairfield Board Puts Levy on Ballot

Imagine our surprise: the Fairfield Board of Education has put yet another levy on our ballots. In a Hamilton Journal News piece by Eric Schwartzberg, we learn the stakes:
The 2-mill levy would raise $2,787,537 a year and help the school district fund specific long-term items, such a large equipment purchases and major maintenance items.

Every five years since 1983, residents voted to renew the levy at the same millage to fund roofs, school buses, computers, security systems, paving, heating and ventilation systems, plumbing, windows and safety equipment.

Board President Mark Morris said 2 mills would cost an extra $5 a year on a $100,000 home.

If the levy does not pass, the district will have no permanent improvement funds for the first time in 25 years.
We also learn that the board realizes that this is getting tired:
Also at Monday's meeting, board member Jerome Kearns said he and Dan Murray collected information and data from many sources during the past couple of months to create five recommendations for immediate action including eliminating the middle school dean of students position, reducing building budgets by 5 percent, restructuring library services provided to elementary school students, discontinuing weekend and holiday building checks and implementing a hiring freeze for new positions beginning in school year 2009-10.

"These recommendations would result in an immediate savings of $265,400 in the first year," he said.
The Butler County Bugle stands with board member Arnold Engel on this one: he voted against the levy and also says that Kearns' estimate of saving $111,000 via the hiring freeze can not be rolled into the total amount of savings because that money had not been spent previously.
"It's not a savings if you're saying you're not going to spend it," Engel said. "There's no reduction in cost."
Reducing the cost of government, including public education, is imperative for the growth of the region and the state.

It is a noble effort to demand high quality education, but it is absurd to think that we are doing so at the most effective price using the most efficient means. Our community deserves better.