The Do-Nothing Congress of 2006

The Do-Nothing Congress of 1948 is about to be replaced as the most ineffective Congress in recent times. Today, just as in 1948, the American people are looking to Congress to tackle some very important issues----the war in Iraq, rising gas prices, rising college and health care costs, the economic uncertainty resulting from the outsourcing of high-paying American jobs and a record deficit that continues to spiral out of control.There is so much that this Congress could be working on right now, but House Republicans refuse to address any of these concerns. In fact, it's difficult to address the concerns of the American people when Congress is never in session.

I'm sure the American people will be shocked to hear that this is only the 36th day the House is scheduled to hold votes this year. With only 57 scheduled voting days until adjournment, the House is now on track to meet 15 days less than the first Do-Nothing Congress of 1948. No wonder the American people are so disgusted with Congress.


We Need Fiscal Discipline and Funding for Social Programs

The House passed the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, [HR:4200], a bill to establish new procedures to expedite projects for rehabilitating federal land after fires, floods, or other disasters. The bill would require the Interior and Agriculture departments to develop prompt response plans for lands they manage. Timber harvesting would be allowed on damaged land when trees are dead, likely to die within five years, or must be removed for public safety. The departments could assist state and local governments in restoring non-federal land after a disaster. The bill passed 243-182 without my support.


The fiscal year 2007 budget resolution, [HCR:376], passed the House 218-210, with my support. This bill would allow up to $872.8 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2007, plus $50 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would call for mandatory spending cuts of $6.8 billion over five years and tax cuts totaling $448 billion over five years. Defense discretionary spending would increase by 7 percent over fiscalyear 2006, to $460.2 billion, not counting a $50 billion war set-aside, non-defense discretionary spending would remain at $419.4 billion.


It is important that Congress pass a budget as a benchmark of fiscal discipline. I was pleased to vote for this bill as we begin to consider appropriations bills for this fiscal year. Although this bill was not perfect, I have pledged to work with my colleagues to make sure that education, health, and other social programs get the funding that they need. These are the programs that affect our communities at the core and need to be prioritized.


Oil Prices Controlled by Companies and Cartels-Not Market

There is no free market in oil and gas. The OPEC cartel and the growing concentration of power in the oil industry have strangled competition. Mergers have turned 34 major oil companies into 13, and fifteen refining companies into seven. The lack of real competition means that companies can more easily manipulate supply and price. Not surprisingly, this is reflected in the record profits at oil companies like Exxon Mobil. The government needs to go after those who are truly responsible: the hugely profitable oil companies, the OPEC cartel, and speculators. We should impose a windfall profits tax, pass legislation to make gouging of consumers a crime, subject all oil trading to the same regulation as other commodities, and force the administration to break up the OPEC cartel. We need long-term solution as well. I support H.R. 4409, a bipartisan bill that would require a reduction in consumption and focus on conservation and alternative fuels. 


Deploy The Guard To Secure Our Borders

I’m extremely pleased that my colleagues recognize the importance of allowing the National Guard to assist in securing America’s borders. With the passage of my amendment we are a step closer to the secure borders the American people are demanding.

The Border Patrol is doing a great job under overwhelming circumstances, and they deserve all the support we can give them. With the National Guard in a supporting role, our border security efforts will be much more efficient and we will be able to reduce the amount of crime on the borders, most of which affects the immigrants themselves.


Mythic Arms Race Will Not Solve Iranian Nuclear Issue

The Administration's plan for a National Missile Defense in Europe is nothing more than deploying an expensive myth in the absence of true international cooperation.

National Missile Defense (NMD) has a well documented record of failure. Despite over twenty years worth of research and development, and hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money wasted, no NMD system has successfully completed a live-fire test.

The only people who benefit from this taxpayer funded boondoggle are the defense contractors who continue to line their pockets with taxpayer funds without producing a successful live-fire test.

Missile defense has failed in America, and it will fail in Europe.

Only international diplomacy, in which the United States participates, will resolve our stand off with Iran. A new arms race in Europe will not deter Iran from pursuing nuclear technologies, and is just the latest example of this Administration's failed foreign policy that makes our country less, not more, secure.



Focus on Oil Makes Us More Vulnerable

The "Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act" will do nothing to affect gas prices or reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The implication that efforts to expand our national refinery capacity have been prevented or impeded by the environmental permitting process is just plain wrong. Even the CEOs of Shell and Conoco have stated that environmental regulations are not impeding their refinery building decisions. By focusing exclusively on oil drilling options as a cure-all for our nation's energy challenges, the Republican Leadership is neglecting it's duty to work on forward-looking policy ideas for improving CAFE standards and moving to cleaner, renewable fuels. Oil is not the answer.

(The Shell and Conoco CEO statements were at a Nov. 2005 joint hearing before the Senate Committees on Energy and Natural Resources, and Commerce, Science and Transportation.)


More Refineries Will Equal Less Vulnerability

The lack of refinery capacity is one of the major effects on high gas prices, as was evident after Hurricane Katrina. Allowing a federal coordinator to set timelines for federal agencies involved in the permitting process would help eliminate some of the time-consuming delays. The refinery permitting bill could also help locate a biofuels or coal-to-liquid refinery.


Solution to Supply Issues Can Be Found in ANWR

There is no logical reason to oppose safe energy exploration and production on ANWR's northern coastal plain. It is not a silver bullet solution to America's energy problems, but it represents one of the biggest pieces to the simple supply and demand equation that seems to have puzzled Washington liberals for more than a decade. The fact of the matter is America needs more American-made energy. My bill will deliver that and more.


Eliminating Identity Theft to Protect Commerce

Given the alarming rate of data breaches and the resulting identify theft epidemic, consumers are understandably questioning the security of using the Internet for commercial transactions. The Data Accountability and Trust Act will help ensure that personal data are accounted for, secured, and actively protected against breaches by empowering consumers and businesses to promote the notion that security sells.


Coal Energy Equals Independence

Our nation has the largest reserves of coal in the world - nearly 250 billion tons of recoverable coal. By using an existing technology called the Fischer-Tropsch process, coal can be converted cleanly into liquid fuel.