New Refineries Will Increase Consumer Power

One of the few ways Congress can do something, really anything, to affect high gasoline prices is to increase the supply of products. To increase supply we must increase our domestic refinery capacity. The Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act that the U.S. House will vote on this Wednesday would simply establish a federal coordinator to work with the federal government agencies responsible for issuing permits in the development of a new refinery.

This would help eliminate some of the needless delays that beset any large project, such as a refinery. The bill also looks at closed military bases for possible sites for a refinery, including at least one biofuels refinery. In addition, this legislation would benefit coal to liquid refineries, which I strongly support.

The bill does not exempt a refinery developer from any regulations or environmental standards. It simply gives them a single point person to assist in running the maze of the permitting process and tries to keep government agencies on a time schedule for making their decisions.


Allowing Both Sides To Negotiate, Without Taking Sides

My bill simply stops the clock and allows both sides, the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, to resume fair negotiations. It does not take a position on which side should prevail or what the terms should be. I am confident that additional negotiations will result in an agreement, but if the two sides cannot reach agreement, the matter can go before the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which has the ability to impose contract terms.


More Refineries is The Solution For Energy Needs

Bringing new biofuel and traditional refineries online outside of the Gulf of Mexico region is the fastest and best way to increase our energy security and restore lower cost supplies for consumers.


NSA Surveillance Will Stop Terrorists Before They Succeed

The arrests made in Toronto and the recent news out of London should serve as a stark reminder that al Qaeda and related groups are not sleeping-they are actively pursuing the tools of terror and plotting against our people and our cities. Law enforcement must have every legal tool at their disposal for the surveillance, tracking and capture of al Qaeda and other terrorists.

And though some oppose the NSA's terrorist surveillance programs, it is clear that our law enforcement and intelligence forces need the right tools, the right focus and the right people to 'connect the dots' and prevent further attacks from al Qaeda. And they need to be able to do this while the terrorists are planning attacks and purchasing bombs-not after they've set them off.  


House Must Join Senate To Secure Safety for Miners

Mining, and coal mining in particular, is vital to our national and local economies, and to our national energy security. No aspect of mining is more important than protecting the health and safety of those whose hard work fuels the industry.The MINER Act, S. 2803, passed unanimously by the Senate, is the first meaningful mine safety reform in 28 years. It would improve mine safety oversight, impose stricter penalties on employers who violate MSHA policies, increase mandatory oxygen supplies, develop and employ new technologies, foster education and training programs, and open lines of communication between regulators, employers, miners, and their families.The House must join the Senate by approving this bill this week so that these crucial reforms can be put into law as soon as possible, and so that the health and safety of our nation’s miners will no longer be jeopardized.  


We Must Strengthen Senate Bill To Protect Miners

The tragic 33 coal mine deaths that have occurred so far this year have taught us lessons that Congress must not ignore, especially as the House now has the opportunity to strengthen and pass mine safety legislation already passed by the Senate. Unfortunately the Senate bill fails to address the major weaknesses in mine safety that have been highlighted by the tragedies at the Sago, Aracoma Alma, Darby and other mining disasters.

I have urged Majority Leader Boehner to allow the House to vote on 3 key amendments that would provide miners with safeguards they urgently need—and that we know could have saved lives at Sago and other mining tragedies. These key provisions would: (1) ensure miners trapped underground have at least 48 hours of air to survive, (2) ensure that the special air packs miners use for escape are routinely sampled to make sure they work properly, and (3) require communications and tracking devices for miners within 15 months. With these additions, the Senate legislation will be an important first step towards real protection for mine workers, safeguards that the family members of fallen miners have repeatedly called for. Without these additions, I cannot support the legislation.

A West Virginia joint industry-labor task force just issued recommendations that are consistent with these provisions, and demonstrates that the industry regards these requirements as feasible. Similarly, the Illinois state legislature passed a mine safety bill (with almost unanimous bipartisan support) that is more protective than the Senate legislation. We know that at the Sago mine, the 12 miners who did not die from the initial explosion were trapped underground for 40 hours. We also know that there have been questions about whether the special air packs these miners were using functioned properly. And we know that even with just one way wireless communications devices, these 12 miners could have escaped-and survived.

By adding these 3 amendments to the Senate bill, the House has the opportunity to pass legislation that members of both parties could feel proud of as a first step towards improving safety in our nation’s mines. Coal miners in every state face the same dangers, and they should have the same safety protections, whether they live in Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, or any other state. These miners risk their lives every day in order to provide our country with a vital energy resource. We owe them a real solution to the problems that have claimed the lives of far too many of their fellow miners. All members of Congress should be able to look the families of victims of these tragedies in the eye and assure them that we took all responsible measures to ensure that our nation's miners will not find themselves trapped with inadequate supplies of oxygen and life support, or no wireless communications. 


Republican Congress Has Made America Less Safe

Americans must ask themselves today if they believe we are safer now than we were five years ago. The Republican Rubber Stamp Congress has cut homeland security grant funding, and the Bush Administration has compounded that mistake by failing to spend the money available on the areas most likely to be targeted by terrorists.

The bipartisan, independent 9/11 Commission concluded that homeland security assistance should be allocated based on risks and vulnerabilities. Instead, the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have reduced vital anti-terror funding for cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. It is unacceptable that homeland security policies are so at odds with the threats facing the American people.


Bush Administration Fails at Securing America's Safety

Today, I sent a letter to Secretary Chertoff with a bipartisan group of my colleagues asking that the Department of Homeland Security reconsider it's misguided decision to reduce the National Capital Region's Urban Areas Security Initiative allocation by 40 percent. Distributing homeland security dollars without adequate consideration of risk is a dangerous practice that diminishes our ability to protect potential targets and we need to more details on the DHS's decision to ensure that is not the case.

Whether it's the failure to secure our ports, the refusal to fully implement the 9-11 Commission recommendations, or the insistence on driving critical homeland security dollars away from at-risk sites, the Bush administration has continually failed to make America as safe as it should be.


Direct Talks Is Best Way to Prevent a Military Solution

I am pleased that the Administration has decided to embark on a new and more concerted effort to engage with Iran over its nuclear program. Secretary Rice's offer can only be seen as an acknowledgment by the President that diplomacy is the only way to solve this crisis. Today's announcement that the U.S., the EU-3, Russia and China have crafted a package of incentives and consequences for Iran is further evidence that the Administration has decided that direct US involvement in the negotiations is the surest path to a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

The recent letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Bush was clearly an attempt to open a dialogue with Washington - as well as relieve the pressure of possible U.N. action - and the knee-jerk rejection by the Iranian foreign ministry of yesterday's offer is almost certain to be modified in coming days. As we move forward in this process we need to remain mindful that Iran's government is not monolithic and that it is broadly unpopular with its own people. We should be prepared to leverage the regime's unpopularity to build support for a negotiated end to Iran's nuclear weapons aspiration.


Bush Administration's Talks with Iran is a Necessity

It is absolutely necessary for the U.S. to engage in a direct dialogue with Iran. Secretary Rice's willingness to move forward with talks with Iran is a move in the right direction at the right time. I hope that the Bush Administration, along with our European allies and Iran's leadership, can agree on a formula for talks to end the current impasse. Now is the time to use preventive diplomacy to ensure that Iran develops nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes and not for weapons of war.