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Here's how it went down while I was there:
Rep. Adam Putnam (FL): Ran the show, introducing speakers and keeping tourists who were coming in and out of the room apprised of the issue. Putnam said that we need all kinds of energy to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Congressmen were still calling for a vote, addressing the process - but expanded the message from "Drill" to the emphasis on a variety of types of energy as addressed in the American Energy Act. Putnam went on to say there would be a "bi-partisan recipe" to "pass an all-of-the-above, comprehensive approach to energy." We missed opportunities in the past, but it's time to address things once and for all.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC): Was thrilled to speak in front of a packed room of people from across the country, "This is the people's house," and got a standing ovation at "We live in the greatest country in the world." Foxx said we need American energy and that some colleagues were anti-American energy. She reminded visitors that your Congressman is your REPRESENTATIVE and that right now the House was not representing what the people want. Foxx concluded with the story of Marie Antoinette's famous "Let them eat cake" solution to people starving, likening it to the Democrats solution for energy - drive smaller cars and wait for the wind. Foxx said she didn't like to say "Democratic leadership anymore" because "It's not leadership when you let the American people suffer the way they are now.
At the door, visitors received a copy of the open-letter a group of Representatives sent to Speaker Pelosi, and were asked to take it to their Congressman.
Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ): Talked about how this was a bipartisan issue, and he knew many Dems were supporting a pro-energy policy and he would welcome them there on the floor. Garrett also unveiled a new way to tell your member about how you are dealing with high gas prices - PainAtThePump@mail.house.gov. Garrett also told the crowd about a man from Maine who had to take a second job to afford high fuel costs and as a result barely saw his family. A student in Florida had to attend a local community college, not the university of his choice because he couldn't afford gas and the university had discontinued bus service due to costs. He reminded everyone that it's not just at the pump people are hurting - it's the cost of milk, of bread, and stocks that are all hurting. The same stocks that comprise your retirement plan, mutual funds, and pensions - all are tied up in the issue. Garrett ended, "Pelosi wants to save the planet, but we need her to come here and save the American family, the American taxpayer, the middleclass, and the poor."
Rep. Frank Wolf (VA): wished that Congress could be here to see everyone in the seats [it was amazing]. Wolf went on to point out the international consequences of our current energy plan. That, while we sat on our hands, Cuba awarded drilling rights to China - a nation with an abhorrent human rights record. Wolf described how China plundered Tibet and ignored the atrocities occurring under their nose in Darfur.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (NC): brought up the fact that while they were fighting for energy freedom, and while people around the country were suffering, Speaker Pelosi was on her book tour. "If Nancy Pelosi truly wanted to save the planet, she would allow for American energy production" because it is the cleanest in the world - others pollute far more extracting oil and it pollutes to transport it here. McHenry pointed out that in Nigeria, from 1976-2001, oil production averaged a spill a day. He went on to describe how new nuclear plants had zero emissions as he called for a balanced energy plan that included investing in alternatives like wind, solar, and nuclear.
Rep. Christopher Shays (CT): said this was one of the most moving things he has seen in the 20 years he has served in the House. He said it was too bad they couldn't even vote on energy policy because "If you tell the American people the truth, they'll do the right thing, but we can't even talk about this." Shays noted that the twenty representatives from New England didn't stay for this, even though New England has the highest energy costs and natural gas to heat over 1 million homes had to be piped all the way down from Canada while deposits of natural gas sat just off their own coast. He went on to describe how Congress had passed 279 bills, but 105 of those were to rename post offices after someone.
Judy Biggert (IL): called for OCS truth - you can't see the rigs from shore, and they are safer than ever withstanding hurricanes. Biggert pointed out that spills had been from ships transporting the crude and that domestic drilling would mean less far to travel. She also made reference to the actual impact of drilling in ANWR - that the little bit that would be drilled on, on the entire 19.6 million acres, would be like a postage stamp on a football field.
Then, came the piece de resistance. An utterly, jaw-droppingly amazing speech from Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah.
Bishop said this was a truly unique and amazing issue. They were here on the floor defending an issue that was not driven by special interests, by special groups, or even by other members, but by the American people were were experiencing real pain. This was a "people-driven issue". Bishop went on, "Energy is the way we get out of poverty, it is the great equalizer." As an aside, he mentioned that he has a son getting married next week and another leaving for a two year mission - he needed to be home with his sons, getting ready! A local paper wrote about what was going on and calls came from constituents who volunteered to help out while he was in Washington doing the people's work.
Bishop went on to say that government shouldn't determine winners and losers through mandates, subsidies, and legislation - people can take care of themselves. "Relying on American creativity and ingenuity [not the government] is a real solution." Bishop then listed a huge number of American inventions throughout history - bifocals, airplanes, vaccines that had improved the lives of countless people the world over without a government mandate or grant. He said that "We have the ability and creativity to solve our problems," speaking of the competitive prizes that had made history like Lindbergh's Atlantic flight and the idea of longitude and latitude to map the globe and the same kind of prizes that were included in the American Energy Act legislation.
Bishop concluded by saying that "Americans should be rewarded for doing great" and then we all stood to clap.