Republican Refinery Bill--Will Help Big Oil Over Consumers

Republicans are at it again, bringing up bills they claim will help average consumers, but which are actually just handouts to big oil.

This week, House Republicans offer the Refinery Permit Process Act, which takes decision-making power away from local and state governments when it comes to oil refinery construction and expansion, and gives it to the federal government instead.

Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle say that current health and environmental regulations are getting in the way of oil companies increasing their refining capacities - but that is simply not true. In fact, several refiners have announced expansion plans totaling over 1.1 million barrels per day of capacity - all under current law.

Even the CEO of Shell testified before the U.S. Senate last November that "we are not aware of any environmental regulations that have prevented us from expanding refinery capacity or sitting on a new refinery."

This legislation is clearly not needed. It is time the House Republican leadership bring bills to the floor that will actually decrease our dependence on foreign oil and relieve the price burden on consumers.

A Key Vote Toward Energy Independence

Today, we are set to continue our efforts to address high gas prices by voting on the "Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act," an important bill that will increase our domestic ability to refine crude oil by reducing bureaucracy and streamlining the permit approval process. We must increase the production of refined petroleum here at home rather than importing it from other countries whose interests are not necessarily in line with ours. As member of the House International Relations Committee, I can tell you without hesitation that we do not want to be dependent on countries like Venezuela for refined petroleum. One way to end that dependency is to increase the amount of refined crude oil we create here at home. It is hard to increase that domestic supply when we have not built a refinery in the U.S. in thirty years. Getting refineries online is important to increasing production here at home, but that also needs to be combined with an increase in domestic exploration. This is why I am glad we recently took another vote on opening up a small portion of the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to oil exploration. Oil exploration in ANWR is essential to helping drive down gas prices in the long run. In fact, at peak production levels, development in ANWR could deliver us an additional 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. It could become the single largest conventional energy resource in America. And it can all be done while we protect the natural beauty of the Refuge.

The passage of the "Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act" today will be another key step toward weaning our country off of foreign oil. Hopefully the Senate will follow our lead and take up this important bill and the ANWR bill. We have the ability to drive down gas prices over the long-term and it all starts here at home.

Cuts in Homeland Security Funds for NYC is Unbelievable, Insulting

Everyone knows that on September 11th 2001 nearly 3000 New Yorkers were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center and of course several hundred here in Washington D.C. at the Pentagon. Yet the Department of Homeland Security has chosen to cut both New York and Washington by 40% of Homeland Security funds for this year. It is absolutely mind boggling, unbelievable and outrageous that New York and Washington would face these cuts.

New York’s money is scheduled to go down from $207.6 million in 2005 to $124.5 million in 2006, and now to add insult to injury we hear the Department of Homeland Security is cutting New York Bio Terrorism money 15% as well. So that per capita in New York, we would receive $2.99 per resident to fight bio terrorism, while the good people of Wyoming would receive $9.72 per person to fight Bio Terrorism, and the good people of North Dakota would receive $8.09 per person to fight terrorism. We all know the threat in North Dakota and in Wyoming is not nearly as great as New York.

What is Secretary Chertoff thinking? What are they thinking over there? Their policies and their thoughts need to change.

Bush's Harebrained Tax Collection Plan Worth Rejecting

With personal identity theft on the rise, it makes no sense to hand over 2.65 million taxpayer files to private debt collection companies. I am proud that my colleagues joined me in supporting my amendment, saying 'no' to President Bush's harebrained idea to create a new, privatized tax collection system. It would cost taxpayers more while protecting their personal financial information less. Currently, a system of checks and balances that has been refined over the years ensures that IRS employees protect taxpayers' private information. If we allow that information to be handed over to private collection agencies, we put taxpayers the mercy of these private, for-profit companies. That's not good enough for me or the people of this country.

It's Time To Earn More A's than F's on Homeland Security

When the 9/11 Commission tells us the government has earned more F's than A's on implementing their recommendations, it means we have some serious work left to do. We are safer, thanks to progress reforming the intelligence community, but we are still not safe. Almost two years after the Commission released its 41 thoughtful proposals, there are 27 for which the government received an average, near-failing or failing grade. Today we are reminding the American people and Congress that the 9/11 Commission's work cannot be in vain; it's time for more action.

Sub-Standard Labor Practices, No Trade With Oman

Democrats outlined their concerns regarding labor issues in Oman back in November 2005. In the months since, we have maintained a clear, consistent position requiring that Oman's labor laws comply with the most basic International Labor Organization (ILO) standards. We have asked no more and can accept no less than this - a standard we achieved through negotiation on the Bahrain Free Trade Agreement.

Oman is a good friend and ally of the United States, and for that reason Democratic members and staff have spent countless hours negotiating toward agreement. Despite our clear, consistent position and request, Oman has not changed its practices nor has it formally changed its labor laws. We appreciate the efforts that have been made by the Omani government, but unfortunately, it is the view of the Democratic minority that they have not achieved the basic minimum labor standards outlined by the ILO.

Marriage Amendment, Like Terry Schiavo, is GOP Shot at Political Points


It’s no surprise that the American people are frustrated with the Republican Senate these days. They deserve and want action on the enormous challenges we face as a nation – the endless and costly war in Iraq, the many dangers to our national security, skyrocketing gas prices, soaring health-care costs, the upcoming hurricane season. How we can have safer schools and better care for our children, and so many other urgent issues. But instead of dealing with these real priorities, the Senate Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution.

Why aren’t we taking up the Defense Authorization Bill, which is so vital to our national security? It provides the authorization for the salaries for our troops in the field, including a 2.2% pay raise. It provides urgently needed equipment for our troops to carry out their missions in humvees with safer body armor. It authorizes the food and supplies our troops need in Iraq and Afghanistan. It contains funds to care for those who are injured or wounded, or who may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when they come home. But the Republican leadership of the Senate has told us that supporting our troops has to wait.

Let’s be clear about what this debate is really about. It’s a blatant effort to deny some members of our society the right to receive the same benefits and protections that married couples now have. Like this Senate’s intrusion into the Terry Schiavo case, it is a cynical attempt to score political points by overriding state courts and intruding into individuals’ private lives and most personal decisions. It’s the politics of prejudice and division at its worst.

Senate Bill Represents Opportunity at Immigration Reform

In its current form the immigration bill the Senate passed would not make it through the House. I'm just glad the Senate was able to actually pass legislation that we can work through with the House and actually get a bill done this year for the American people.

Estate Tax Elimination Or Compromise Needed From Congress

An elimination of the estate tax seems to be the answer in providing certainty for the future of estate planning. If we are not able to vote by the end of the week on a bill that seeks to eliminate the estate tax, as I would like to see done, I hope that a compromise can be made that will provide some sort of certainty of the estate tax law.