Monday, August 4, 2008

Boehner Column: House Republicans, American People Protest “Drill-Nothing” Congress

The U.S. House of Representatives truly became the People’s House on Friday, August 1 when hundreds of American citizens and families joined Republicans on the House floor to protest Democratic leaders’ decision to send Congress home for a five-week break without voting on energy reform legislation.

This historic event was not just about gas prices; it was about the power of democracy. Throughout the summer, the Democratic leadership in the House had refused to allow a vote on legislation to help lower fuel costs and put us on the road to energy independence, despite widespread public support for such legislation among the American people. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) closed down the U.S. House for the five-week break on August 1 without an energy vote, House Republicans took to the Floor in protest. When the lights, microphones and cameras were shut off, we raised our voices to speak for the American people who for too long have been ignored by this "Drill-Nothing Congress.”

Rather than listen to the American people, Speaker Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are listening to radical special-interest groups that believe we’re better off with expensive gas because fewer people will be able to drive. When she was asked why she refuses to allow a vote on the energy reforms Americans want, this was the Speaker’s explanation: “I am saving the planet.”

But the notion that we have to choose between “saving the planet” and making America energy independent is false. I recently visited Northern Alaska, where energy production and wildlife have not only co-existed, but generally thrived together for decades. I saw firsthand that energy production can be done in a manner that protects the environment and the plants and animals that exist in such regions. It’s also notable that the people of northernmost Alaska – those who know the land best and care for it most – favor opening areas such as ANWR to careful, environmentally responsible drilling.

I prefer to help working families by lowering gas prices, creating American jobs and getting us off our addiction to foreign energy. Every year, we send $700 billion a year overseas to pay for our oil addiction. That money would be better spent here at home to create good-paying jobs. Twenty-five years ago, about 60 percent of the oil we used was produced here in America; today, just 25 percent of the oil we use is American. While some Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have called on Saudi Arabia to increase its production, I believe that more people agree with Republicans in calling for the United States to increase production.

House Republicans have introduced a comprehensive energy reform bill we call the American Energy Act. The American Energy Act calls for “all of the above” when it comes to the reforms needed to lower gas prices and liberate America from its dependence on foreign oil: more conservation, more alternative and renewable energy, and more production of American-made energy. It would accelerate the development and implementation of clean, renewable fuels; create new incentives for conservation and development of alternative energy sources; and lift the government ban on drilling in the frozen North Slope of Alaska and deepwater ocean energy zones far off the U.S. coast. We need to make use of these untapped American resources for affordable energy in the short-term as we work to develop and implement new, cleaner energy sources for the 21st Century.

I reject the notion that American families have to suffer with $4 and $5 per gallon gasoline before America can successfully transition to the widespread use of new, cleaner energy. And clearly the American people reject it too. The American people want Congress to take action on an “all of the above” energy reform strategy. It starts with a vote on the American Energy Act, which would pass with bipartisan support today if Speaker Pelosi would simply allow it to come to a vote. Unfortunately, to date, she has refused to allow such a vote to take place. That’s why House Republicans, joined by hundreds of American citizens, rose in protest on the House floor on August 1.

August 1 was a defining day for the U.S. House, and it will be remembered as the day the people took control and demanded action from their democratically elected representatives. While House Republicans stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the people, the Democratic leadership sent their Caucus home.

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