Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceed—Continuedby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2015-01-08
CORNYN. Mr. President, even during moments of intense
polarization here in Washington, especially over the past 6 years, it
is really kind of refreshing to find a topic--maybe a handful of
topics--on which there appears to be bipartisan consensus, and that
includes the topic du jour, the Keystone XL Pipeline. I wish to share a
few reasons why I believe that is the case.
First, the Keystone XL Pipeline will be good for our economy, and it will be good because it will create jobs. I know there is some hairsplitting out there. Some people say: Well, these are not really good jobs; they are only temporary jobs or some such thing. But the truth is--I will tell you what the President's own administration said about that.
The State Department--President Obama's State Department--said that roughly 42,000 American jobs would be created directly and indirectly from the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Now, it is true that some of these would be temporary construction positions, but by there nature, construction positions are such that you go to work on one job, finish that job, and move on to the next job. If the President has a problem with that, I am not sure what he or anybody else can do about it. There are also other permanent jobs that will be created by this Keystone XL Pipeline related to refining and transporting this oil, and many of them will be in Texas.
As a matter of fact, this pipeline--which will go from Canada into North Dakota and across the United States--will end in southeast Texas, where we have most of our refining capacity here in the United States. It will then be refined into gasoline and other types of fuel.
By the way, one of the blessings of having a plentiful supply of oil as a result of what has happened here in the United States is lower gasoline prices. Boy, those came just in time for the Christmas holidays and put money in people's pockets. It was like a pay raise for hard-working American taxpayers.
The President has also tried to downplay the job-creation impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline by saying it would have a ``nominal'' impact on consumers and the Nation. I am curious. At a time when the national labor participation rate is hovering at its lowest point in three decades and we are coming off of the financial crisis that we have had since 2008--which has finally, after all of these years, recovered many of the lost jobs that were lost as result of that crisis--does the President truly feel that any additional jobs--especially 42,000 additional jobs--are just nominal and not worth the candle? Well, for those people who don't work and are now able to find work, those jobs are not nominal. For the people who are working part time and want to work full time, those jobs will not be nominal. When we need to grow the economy so we create more opportunity for more hard-working taxpayers, no job, in my view, should be deprecated as just a nominal job and not worth having. That is what the President is saying.
I would also ask that the President visit the Texas leg of this pipeline. As a matter of fact, the President did go to Cushing, OK. The irony of that is, once again, the President seems to be taking credit for something he didn't have anything to do with because this domestic portion of the pipeline from Cushing, OK, down to southeast Texas didn't require his approval at all. But what does he do? He holds a press conference there. It is just like the President taking credit for this renaissance of American energy. He has had absolutely nothing to do with it. All of that has happened as a result of private investment on private lands and not on public lands.
As a matter of fact, the Federal Government continues to make it harder and harder to produce more American energy, which, again, according to the laws of supply and demand, as we have seen, will bring down gasoline prices for American consumers. At a time when wages have been stagnant for so long as a result of the policies of this administration, why wouldn't we do something to put more money into the pockets of hard-working American families? Why wouldn't we do that? Well, I would ask the President to visit the Texas leg of the pipeline, which was constructed and went operational about a year ago this month and is already transporting about 400,000 barrels of oil a day to gulf coast refineries. Of course, again, this does not require his approval, but that didn't stop him from claiming credit for it. I think he would find it edifying and educational to go there.
In Texas alone more than 4,800 jobs were created to construct that gulf coast portion of the pipeline. That includes heavy equipment operators, welders, laborers, transportation operators, and supervisory personnel. When our friends across the aisle spend so much time and effort trying to argue for a minimum wage increase, they turn around at the same time and deny hard-working Americans from earning these high- paying wages and these high-paying jobs.
I was reading an article today about a welder in Texas who went to school to learn how to be a welder. Now, it was not a 4-year liberal arts education such as many of us have had. He didn't go to law school or medical school, but he is earning $140,000 a year as a welder. Those are good jobs. Those are the [[Page S89]] kinds of jobs we ought to encourage, and they are the kinds of jobs that the Keystone XL Pipeline would help pay for.
Well, perhaps these kinds of jobs don't count in the President's book because they are not funded by the taxpayer. In other words, they are not a result of stimulus funds. The President seems to believe that the only jobs worth having are those that are paid for by borrowing money, increasing the debt, and having the Federal Government pay for them. We have recently been down that road once before when we had the nearly $1 trillion stimulus package. Remember that? The President said these were shovel-ready jobs.
I remember at the time Speaker Pelosi said they were targeted, temporary, and timely, I think it was. It was the three t's. The President came back later on--when the stimulus did not have the desired effect and the $1 trillion of borrowed money, including interest, didn't create the kind of economic recovery he had hoped for--and said: Well, I guess shovel ready didn't really mean shovel ready, as if it were a joke.
Well, this Keystone XL Pipeline is paid for as a result of private investment and not as a result of tax dollars--your money and my money going into this pipeline. The Texas portion of the pipeline was a $2.3 billion private sector investment. The taxpayer funded infrastructure project seemed to be the only kind of investment the President actually wants to see and encourage. There are many examples, and perhaps the most notorious of which was Solyndra, where the Federal taxpayer was asked to sink a bunch of money into a project that basically flopped because there was no market for what they were making. It was not economically viable. But that is the kind of investment the President wants to encourage while discouraging private investment that creates jobs.
Now, in Texas we are proud of that portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and like so much of what makes my State successful, it was not built by the government. I am proud of the fact that my State is doing better than the rest of the country. I wish the rest of the country would do as well when it comes to job creation and opportunity because I worry, as I think many parents worry, that we are somehow losing the hope and the aspiration for the American dream. When young men and women graduate from college and can't find jobs so they end up living with their parents, we here in Washington say, that is OK, because we will let your parents keep you on their health insurance coverage until you are 26, as if that is supposed to be some kind of answer to their inability to find work commensurate with their education and training.
Well, this is not a government solution. Of course, we all remember the President notoriously said to the private sector: Well, you didn't build that. That certainly doesn't apply here because the private sector did build the Texas portion, and what we would like to do is complete the Canadian-U.S. portion so we can get even more of this oil down to Texas and refine it into gasoline so it is available to consumers here in the United States.
The President acts as though if we don't complete this pipeline, this oil is not going to be produced. That is malarkey. We know that China is starved for natural resources, and Canada is not just going to sit on this valuable natural resource. They are going to build a pipeline to the Pacific Ocean, put it on a tanker, and send it to China or other countries that need those natural resources.
Well, I am beginning to think the one reason why the Texas leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline was so successful is because the Federal Government didn't have anything to do with it. That seems to be the test. If the Federal Government has something to do with it, it ends up not delivering as promised. But if the private sector does it, it has the potential of living up to expectations.
Well, we all know the President has continued to delay making a final decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline. I know last year the distinguished Presiding Officer sponsored the bill in the House that approved the Keystone XL Pipeline. Over here in the Senate, I remember the Senator from Louisiana, Ms. Landrieu, was urging--in almost desperate terms--that Senator Harry Reid allow a vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline after denying it for many months, even years.
Well, we know what happened. It failed because very few Democrats on that side of the aisle decided to support the Keystone XL Pipeline. Perhaps it was because even at that time the President said he was undecided whether to sign it or to veto it. There have been times when the President has said--of course, he says lots of things, but I have learned one thing around Washington, DC: We can't just listen to what people say, we have to watch what they do. The President indicated, with the start of this new Congress following the November 4 election, that he was looking forward to working with the new Congress in a constructive way. I just have to ask you, Mr. President: Is it constructive to issue a veto threat on a piece of legislation before it is even voted out of the energy committee and isn't even on the floor for consideration by the Senate? The majority leader, Senator McConnell, the senior Senator from Kentucky, has said we are going to have an open amendment process, a procedure many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and actually many on this side of the aisle, haven't experienced under the former majority leader--an open amendment process. I anticipate there are going to be a number of amendments offered, some of which will succeed and some of which will not succeed. I don't know anybody who can tell us right now exactly how this bill will leave the Senate, although I am confident it will pass since there are at least 63 Senators, on a bipartisan basis, who said they will vote for it. As we know, 60 is the magic number in the Senate, so we have a pretty good idea it will pass. But we don't know what other measures will be attached to it, some of which may command more Democratic votes, some of which may make the President more interested in taking another look at this legislation. So to prematurely issue a veto threat before the Keystone XL Pipeline is even voted out of committee, much less comes to the Senate floor, does not strike me as wanting to work with the Congress; just the opposite.
I say enough is enough. That is what we heard from the voters on November 4: Enough is enough. They are sick and tired of the dysfunction in Washington, DC. I heard that story daily back in Texas and around the country as I traveled: Enough is enough. We want Congress to function. We want our elected representatives to work together to find solutions to the problems facing our country, and the No. 1 problem is not enough jobs. There are not enough good jobs for hard-working Americans.
So now the President has, in spite of this, said: I am not going to sign that legislation once it reaches my desk. He said this before the Senate has even acted on it. It is just breathtaking. Is that within the President's authority under the Constitution? Yes, it is. The President can either sign legislation or he can veto legislation. The Constitution gives him that authority. But I think the President ought to have to explain to the American people his reasons for saying he will not sign this legislation. Again, this is the same project his own State Department said would create 42,000 jobs, again at a time when the percentage of people in the workforce is at a 30-year low. While unemployment is coming down, unfortunately a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are not looking for work and have dropped out of the workforce. They have given up. Hopefully, in spite of the Federal Government--and I say it is in spite of the Federal Government--the economy seems to be strong enough to be growing, finally, but we need to continue to have our economy grow. We need to continue to let this American economy create jobs for hard-working American taxpayers.
I say in closing that I hope the President makes his decision not wearing ideological blinders, not just listening to the hard left base of the Democratic Party that thinks we can somehow survive and prosper with only wind turbines and solar panels. By the way, Texas actually produces more electricity on wind energy than any other State in the Nation. We do believe in an ``all of the above'' policy. The President says he does but apparently does [[Page S90]] not, at least his actions would so indicate.
So we are missing out on a golden opportunity to further enhance North American energy security with one of our strongest allies, and that is another very important reason for this. Why in the world would we continue to import oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East that have their own problems, in an unstable region of the world, when we could import that oil from our best ally and next-door neighbor, Canada, and in a way that benefits our economy and creates jobs.
I believe what the American people said on November 4 is they want effective, efficient, and accountable government and one that benefits all hard-working Americans and especially hard-working American taxpayers.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
Tribute To Jeanne Atkins Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I rise to recognize Jeanne Atkins, my Oregon State director, who is retiring from team Merkley this month. Jeanne is a long-serving member of my team, and she is an outstanding public servant, an individual who has dedicated her life to making the world a better place.