10:58 PM EDT

Steve Scalise, R-LA 1st

Mr. SCALISE. Madam Chair, the amendment that I bring would take $420,000 from the Secretary of the Interior's account and move it into the spending reduction account to reduce the Nation's deficit.

And the reason that we're doing this is that, over the last year since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the administration came out with a policy not long after that imposed a moratorium on drilling, a moratorium that was found by Federal courts to be outside of the law. The administration unfortunately went forward with that moratorium, costing thousands of American jobs, hurting America's energy security.

But even after the lifting of the moratorium, they still maintain what they call a permitorium, a refusal to issue permits to explore in the Gulf of Mexico for American energy. Not only does it cost our Nation tens of thousands of jobs, but it also costs us energy security where now we're even more dependent on Middle Eastern countries for oil. It's led to higher prices of gasoline at the pumps. It's had devastating impacts. Yet there's been no accountability to the administration for their policies

that have led to this destruction of our economic well-being and our energy security as it relates to American energy, and especially as it relates to jobs in the Gulf of Mexico.

[Time: 23:00]

Now, if you really want to get down to the details of this amendment, one of the things we've said for a long time is, a lot of these companies, these big employers that have been out there for a long time exploring safely for American energy, they want to continue to be able to explore for American energy; and they want to go back to work; but they haven't been allowed to because of administration policies.

But what's more absurd is that while the administration has had this permitorium, where they won't let people go back to work, they have also allowed the clock to continue ticking on the permits and on the leases. And you've got a finite amount of time for a lease; you've got a 10-year period of time. And if the administration is saying you can't properly develop your lease--now it would be one thing if they said, we're going to stop the clock while we, as an administration, go forward with this

radical policy. But all outside experts have said is that it has nothing to do with safety, and it is hurting not only American energy production but American jobs.

But what the administration said is they're going to continue to let the clock run. It's like if you are playing a basketball game and the referee is holding the ball, and the clock's still running. You are sitting there saying, look, I just want the ball. I want to be able to go out and play by the rules, and the referee is holding the ball while the clock continues to run. That's just not fair. And yet the administration continues to do this.

This House, Madam Chair, passed legislation, H.R. 1229. It's called the Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act. This legislation that we passed here in this House with a bipartisan vote, sent it over to the Senate--they still haven't taken action in the Senate--but what this legislation did, among other things, is it addressed that problem and said, If this administration is going to tell responsible companies who are trying to go back to work, who are trying to do the right thing--if the

administration is going to tell them that they're not allowed to play by their own rules, then the clock stops while the administration denies them the ability to be permitted.

So the legislation that we passed addressed this. But the Senate, for whatever reason, refuses to take that up; again, costing our country thousands of good, high-paying jobs and hurting America's energy security, making us more dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

What we're saying with this amendment is: if this administration wants to continue going forward with that radical policy, which a majority of the President's own hand-picked scientists in his report right after the explosion of the Horizon said is irresponsible to do, that would actually reduce safety by denying permits, by having this moratorium, and now permitorium, then there has to be accountability. We have to hold this administration accountable for their actions.

And the $420,000 number in this bill that we're setting aside and putting into the deficit reduction account was gathered by looking at the number of leases that expire at the end of this year. There are 350 leases that will expire at the end of this year, not through any fault of those companies that are out there trying to explore for American energy, but because the administration won't let them play by the rules.

So if they're going to be irresponsible with their policies, there has to be a price to pay. There has to be accountability that the American people say, You're not going to use taxpayer money to deny American jobs, to deny American energy, and make our country more dependent on Middle Eastern oil and make our country continue to have to pay these higher prices at the pump.

It's their policies that have done it, and it's clear, and everybody understands that. People in the Gulf of Mexico recognize that. But there has been no accountability by this Congress, and so that's what this legislation is intended to do. This amendment will address that problem. I urge its adoption.

I yield back the balance of my time.

11:04 PM EDT

Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. Madam Chairman, I reluctantly rise in opposition to the amendment. I understand what the gentleman is saying. I agree with what he's saying. I think the Members have a concern that we are not allowing these oil companies to go out after the permits, and we're trying to send a message to the Secretary. I understand that, and I don't have a problem with sending a message.

The problem is--and this is a little bit of inside baseball, I guess, to talk about it this way--the problem is that under the rules we have, you can reduce an account by a certain amount and put that money in the budget reserve account which then reduces the allocation that the committee has to spend. He takes the $420,000, I think it is, out of the Office of the Secretary and reduces our allocation by that much. [Page: H5573]

And as Members have heard that have listened to this debate, there are both Republicans and Democrats that are concerned about some of the funding allocations in this bill of the various accounts. People want to put more money into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. People want to put more money, as the last amendment did, into the invasive species program, taking care of invasive species. If you go throughout, there are Members on both sides of the aisle that believe that various accounts

are funded at too low of a level. So to take this money and put it into the budget reserve account and take it out of the Interior appropriations bill means that that is money that could go into another account.

Now, this bill comes to the floor under the budget resolution that was passed by the House under the 302(a) and the 302(b) cap, the allocation that was given to this committee. It's a tough allocation, but we've made those tough decisions, and I don't like to see money to send a message to the Secretary, money taken out of his account and put into the budget reserve account when there are other accounts within the appropriation that could obviously use the funds.

So if we weren't putting it into the budget reserve account, I don't have a problem with the message you are trying to send. I appreciate what the gentleman is trying to do, but I would reluctantly have to oppose the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

11:06 PM EDT

Jim Moran, D-VA 8th

Mr. MORAN. I agree with the chairman of the committee again that this amendment should be opposed. But I would also mention that I don't know how fast the administration could issue drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico that would be fast enough. It's as though Deepwater Horizon never happened. When it did happen, people died. The ecology of the gulf area was severely and adversely affected. The economy was devastated. And we did a complete investigation and found that it was largely because

the Minerals Management Service was not doing its job, that they were issuing permits too quickly without adequate review. Sometimes they were just letting permit forms be filled out by the oil companies themselves. Sometimes they had already made arrangements to go to work for the oil companies.

But for whatever reason, the fact is that they weren't doing their job. They were letting down the American public. They were letting down the workers on the drilling rigs. And they certainly contributed to a despoiling of the environment, the ecology of the gulf. So this Congress, both sides having been severely critical of the Minerals Management Service, reorganized it and instructed it to be very careful, at least much more careful than they had been in the past in terms of issuing drilling

permits. That's what they're doing.

Now, there have been any number of drilling permits issued. They're being issued so fast, we don't have an exact number right now; but we know a lot have been issued. Again, I doubt that whatever the number was that it would be enough for Members that represent areas in the gulf to benefit from more drilling activity. But the American public--this is a democracy, the majority of the American public, whatever State they're in--wants the Secretary of the Interior to have a process that reflects

integrity, that reflects caution, that puts the safety of workers and the protection of the environment first.

So the Secretary is doing his job. We support the job he's doing. We know he's issuing a lot of permits, and we agree with the chairman that this amendment should be defeated.

I yield back the balance of my time.

11:10 PM EDT

Jim Moran, D-VA 8th

Mr. MORAN. Madam Chairwoman, this is a distinction without a difference. The money still goes away. The argument that was made by the chairman of the committee still stands, as far as I can see. And so even though the amendment may be worded a little differently, the reality is that the money is lost. And we don't see that this would be a constructive amendment anyway, so we would oppose it.

11:11 PM EDT

Steve Scalise, R-LA 1st

Mr. SCALISE. What the amendment, as it's now revised, would do is it would still reduce the $420,000. It wouldn't go to the Spending Reduction Account; it would stay within the department, and I think that addresses one of the concerns that the chairman had.

But it would still make it clear that there's going to have to be accountability for those people who have played by the rules who are being penalized today. There's got to be some accountability and, in this case, there would be the ability for us to not only send a message but a message attached to a spending reduction in the Secretary's department, that he can't just deny people the ability to go back to work who are playing by the rules.