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Home   /   Capitol Connection   /   Capitol Connection 06/30/2006

House Passes Bill to Increase Energy Independence, Decrease Energy Costs


This week I voted in strong support of American energy independence, by supporting the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, H.R. 4761.

With passage of this critical energy legislation, we will lower fuel costs and decrease our dependence on foreign oil & gas reserves. At long last, we are moving forward with a sensible policy that meets our nation’s needs for energy while protecting our environment and natural resources. Even the editorial board of the Washington Post recognized in an article on June 28 the need to remove the outdated moratorum on offshore exploration. The working familes of WNC are the real winners, and I am proud to have supported them by supporting this legislation.

The legislation amends the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Act by permitting oil or gas leasing between 50 miles and 200 miles off the U.S. coast. The existing moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration would be made permanent for areas up to 50 miles offshore, unless individual states choose to opt out of that moratorium. H.R. 4761 further shares revenues from the offshore leases with local governments: 63.75% of revenues from any exploration within 12 miles of the coastline (which can occur only through state opt-out) will go to states and local governments themselves; 42.5% of revenues from exploration between 12 and 200 miles of the coastline will also be shared in this way.

Most importantly for WNC, H.R. 4761 would also provide a stream of financial support to partially fund reauthorization for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act – resulting in up to $50 million annually from 2007-20012. I have strongly supported reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, while fighting the Administration’s proposal to sell off more than 300,000 acres of national forest lands to pay for it. H.R. 4761 is a crucial step in reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools program, and it was taken without selling off a single acre of national forest land. I hope that the Administration learns from our example.

H.R. 4761 passed the House by a vote of 232 to 187 on June 29th, and will now be sent to the Senate for its consideration.

In Case You Missed It . . .

 “Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey said last week that a Bush administration proposal to sell national forest lands to finance a secure rural schools program is finished for this year, a Forest Service spokesman confirmed June 23. . . . Rey was undoubtedly stating the obvious. The Republican majority on the House Appropriations Committee went out of its way last month to refuse to add the proposal to a fiscal year Interior and related agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 5386).”

-- Public Lands News, June 30, 2006

Benefits Increased for the Nation’s Disabled Veterans

I am proud to announce that the House voted this week – with my strong support – to increase the benefits for the nation’s disabled veterans. The House passed H.R. 4843, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2006, by a unanimous vote of 408 to 0. This bill will increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled adult children, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children – beginning on December 1, 2006.

I am proud to have once again cast my vote in support of our nation’s veterans. It is our obligation as leaders to ensure that our veterans can live comfortably in the country they worked so hard to defend.

The cost-of-living increase is factored into various veterans’ benefit programs, and Congress has approved an increase in veteran’s benefits every year since fiscal year 1976. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee also approved a cost-of-living measure on June 22 by voice vote. H.R. 4843 will now be sent to the Senate for its consideration.

Line Item Veto Moves Forward

Last week the House passed H.R. 4890, the Legislative Line Item Veto Act, by a vote of 247 to 172 . This legislation proposes to give the President the authority, for six years, to rescind any dollar amount of discretionary budget authority or any item of direct spending to cut down on the "pork-barrel spending.”

The President of the United States was briefly granted full line item veto power by the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, passed by Congress in order to control spending. The line-item veto was used 11 times to strike 82 items from the federal budget by President Clinton. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately struck down the line item veto, however, saying that repeal of only parts of statutes or appropriations bills violated the U.S. Constitution.

H.R. 4890 stops short of granting a full line-item veto like the one passed in the 1990s, and instead allows the President to send a bill back to Congress within 45 days for another vote to affirm specific earmarks. This legislation will now be sent to the Senate for its consideration.

I will continue fighting to bring every possible federal dollar back to WNC, but I will also fight to ensure that overall federal spending is reined in and that real progress toward reducing the budget deficit is made. Like my cosponsorship of a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, my vote in support of H.R. 4890 is one more step in the right direction – toward a sensible, conservative fiscal policy.