SPEECH: Biden Must Course Correct on Failing Energy Policy
Mr. President, I want to come down to the floor and talk about the issue that is certainly the focus of America and the world right now, and that is Ukraine, and that is the President's State of the Union Address, which will be a very important one tonight.
And I know that Americans all across our great Nation are glued to their televisions, social media streams. And what we are seeing in Europe is quite remarkable, quite unsettling--another major war on the European continent. We are seeing children in bomb shelters singing the Ukrainian national anthem. We are seeing brave young men and women on the front lines taking up arms to defend their country. We are seeing grandmothers take to the streets, foisting upon Russian conscripts the seeds of their country's flower. One of the most effective acts of resistance I have ever witnessed.
Mr. President, you and many of us were over in Europe just about a week ago at the Munich Security Conference, where we had the opportunity to meet with many of these brave Ukrainian ministers, the mayor of Kyiv, parliamentarians, young parliamentarians. And our message--my message certainly was a hard one. At the time, the war had not started, but we were seeing increasing intelligence that it would any day.
And the message was, if war comes, it will be important for the Ukrainian people, the leaders, to fight. And we are seeing that. All across the country, the people in Ukraine are fighting and willing to die for freedom, for their country.
I want to say I think I speak for the whole Senate: Watching these acts of courage and heroism has been truly inspiring, and we all applaud the courage and heroism that we are seeing in Ukraine, and we stand with the people of Ukraine.
Given the circumstances in Ukraine and across the globe and in our country, where working families are struggling under increasing energy costs and inflation, I want to talk a little bit about the President's State of the Union tonight and what I certainly hope he is going to tell the American people.
I and several of my colleagues here, Republican colleagues in the Senate, will be sending a letter to the President very soon, urging him to announce specific actions that relate to an entirely new world with this invasion of Ukraine by Russia and start to announce a course correction on issues under which the Biden administration has been going the wrong way on two key, key areas.
Mr. President, let me begin with one of the areas of course correction that we are urging the President to undertake, and that is in the area of national defense.
There are many lessons that we are going to learn from this Ukrainian invasion, but one of them is certainly that we have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression, led by the dictator in Russia--that is Putin--and the dictator in China--that is Xi Jinping. When they sense weakness, particularly military weakness, they are acting.
As I mentioned, this new era of authoritarian aggression is something we need to be ready for. It is led by the dictators of Russia and China, who are increasingly isolated and dangerous. They are driven by historical grievances, they are paranoid about their democratic neighbors, and they are more than willing to use military force and other aggressive actions to crush the citizens of such countries on their periphery. These dangerous dictators, Putin and Xi Jinping, are increasingly working together to achieve their aggressive goals.
We must wake up to the fact, and that is what we are calling the President to do--hopefully he does in his speech tonight--that this new era of authoritarian aggression is likely to be with us for decades.
What are the areas which we should focus on and which we are respectfully requesting the President to focus on and announce tonight? Well, first, as I mentioned, our Nation's national defense. Now, unfortunately, this has not been a priority of Democratic Presidents. That is a fact. This has not been a priority often of my Democratic colleagues--some; not all but some.
Let me just give you some of the numbers. In the second term of the Obama administration, the Pentagon's budget was slashed by 25 percent--25 percent. Our military readiness plummeted.
When I got elected to the Senate--in many ways, I ran because of these issues in 2014. When I was elected in 2015, I was on the Readiness Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee. The numbers at the time were classified because they were so horrendous in terms of our military's readiness. Three out of fifty-eight brigade combat teams of the U.S. Army were at the tier 1 level of readiness needed for deployment--3 out of 58. The Air Force was the smallest and oldest in terms of aircraft age ever, and less than half of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps' aviation fleet could fly. That was the U.S. military during the end of the second term of the Obama administration. When you gut defense spending, you gut readiness, you gut lethality.
During the Trump administration, when the Republicans had control of the Senate, we worked to reverse this dangerous hollowing out of our military by dramatically increasing funding. Many of the areas I talked about involving readiness and lethality returned back to the levels that the American people expect of their military.
Unfortunately, when the President, President Biden, was elected, he reverted back to what Democratic Presidents always do: He submitted a budget that cut defense spending in real terms, inflation adjusted, about 3 to 4 percent cuts.
What was remarkable, if you looked at the Biden budget, everywhere else, it was double-digit increases. You name the Agency, it got a double-digit increase, with the exception of two: Department of Defense and Homeland Security. Budgets are an indication of priorities, and this President was not prioritizing his own armed services.
So what we are doing with regard to the letter today is asking the President of the United States: You can't do that anymore, Mr. President. We are in a new era.
We had a hearing in the Armed Services Committee today. I asked both the witnesses what they thought Xi Jinping and Putin thought when the President of the United States put forward a budget to cut his own military. The witnesses answered today in this hearing: Undoubtedly, it helped embolden Putin and Xi Jinping.
So the first thing we are asking the President to make clear in his speech tonight is that he needs to put forward a robust, real increase in defense spending to make sure we have current and future readiness and lethality of our military forces. Obviously, if you turn on the TV and see what is going on around the world, this needs to happen.
The President also needs to continue, as every President has done before him, to call out our NATO allies, whom we are acting closely with right now, to meet their obligations that they have committed to for years, which is to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending.
The good news is, Germany just announced that it was going to do this, that it was going to double its budget. That is remarkable. That is great news. But we can't have Germany leading on the calls for increasing defense spending and lethality. The President of the United States needs to do it, and he needs to do it tonight.
The second issue that we raised in our letter on the critical need for a strategic course correction with this administration is with regard to energy. Everybody knows it. Everybody feels it. Everybody understands it. Yet, for some reason--I think driven by the far left of the Democratic Party--this administration won't get real on energy.
Let me talk about that for a minute because it is a topic I care deeply about and, by the way, have been pressing the Biden administration on since day 1, that this is bad for our economy, bad for working families, and bad for national security.
What am I talking about? Well, first, it is important to understand what President Biden inherited. Over the 4 years of the Trump administration, with Republicans in control of the Senate, we were able to achieve a bipartisan goal of American foreign policy and energy security that we collectively as a nation had been seeking for decades: American energy independence.
Before the pandemic hit, the United States was the largest producer of oil in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia; the largest producer of natural gas in the world, bigger than Russia; and a leader in producing renewables--all-of-the-above energy.
At the same time, and I really want my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to listen to this, we led the world in terms of major economies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2005, we have reduced these by almost 15 percent. No other industrialized nation in the world has a record like that, including our high standards on producing energy. In China, the emissions are going through the roof. In the United States, they are coming down dramatically because of the American energy revolution. Millions of jobs were created because of this revolution in energy, in U.S. manufacturing, in energy sectors, and our energy independence significantly enhanced our Nation's national security.
I often recount this story. In a meeting about 4 years ago I had with Senator John McCain--a close friend of mine and mentor in the Senate--and a very senior level Russian dissident. At the end of the meeting, I asked this brave Russian dissident: What more can the United States do to undermine the Putin regime and to undercut Vladimir Putin's malign influence in Europe and around the world? Without hesitation, this Russian dissident said: It is easy, Senator; America needs to produce more American energy. That is exactly what we did, and our country and our allies benefited enormously.
So what has been the policy of this administration? From day 1--and I mean day 1--1 hour into his administration, President Biden has intentionally done the opposite. We are not going to produce more American energy, as that Russian dissident told me and Senator McCain to do to undermine Putin. To the contrary, the Biden administration made the conscious decision: We are going to undercut the production of American energy.
Since taking office, this administration has shut down energy production, has made it hard to produce on Federal lands, has killed energy infrastructure like pipelines, has strong-armed American financial institutions and not invested in energy here and particularly in places like my State, the great State of Alaska.
All of this restricting, delaying, killing the production of American energy, driven by a far-left agenda that makes no sense, has had the very predictable result of what? Catastrophically driving up energy prices for American working families--we are seeing that every day; my colleagues know that--increasing pink slips for American energy workers. Keystone XL laid off 10,000 workers, a lot of laborers. First day on the job--that was the President's call.
Here is the thing that matters right now: This war on American energy has significantly empowered our adversaries, especially Vladimir Putin, who has used energy as a weapon for decades.
Again, I see this every day. Think about this statistic if you are an Alaskan citizen. This administration comes up to Alaska and tries to delay and shut down the production of American energy. Guess what. At the same time, year 1 in the Biden administration, we are now importing 700,000 barrels a day of oil from Russia--almost a 40-percent increase in year 1 from the Biden administration. Does any American or any U.S. Senator think that makes sense--killing American energy production in our great Nation and importing hundreds of thousands of barrels more from Vladimir Putin? Because if you do--well, actually, I don't think anyone thinks that makes sense. But that is what is happening right now. In effect, the United States, in many ways, along with countries in Europe, is funding the very war that Putin has launched.
The United States still is the world's largest producer of natural gas, but, again, due to the irrationality and hostility toward pipelines, we can't get enough natural gas to the Northeast. So you see places like Boston importing LNG from where? Russia.
This is insane. This is insane. This is a colossal, strategic mistake. It is clearly harming American working families. I am sure every Senator hears about it when they go home. But it is also national security suicide.
It is being done, supposedly, to lower carbon emissions, but I want to be clear about that, too, because it isn't. In fact, oil produced in the United States has lower emissions than oil produced in most other countries. LNG shipped to Europe from the United States has a 41-percent lower carbon emission footprint than gas piped in from Russia, and we also have some of the most rigorous environmental standards anywhere on the planet in terms of production.
So, again, the Biden administration's energy policies are strengthening Putin, increasing costs and hurting Americans, and are actually doing zero to address global emissions. The only conclusion I can come up with is the far left has undertaken some kind of holy war against the production of American energy, and it makes no sense.
So here is what we are asking the President. He gave a speech to the American people the other night where he said that he is using all available tools to address these energy challenges. With all due respect to the President of the United States, that is not true. The President knows it; his team knows it; every Senator here knows it, and the American people know it.
So in our letter today that we are sending to the President, we are saying, President Biden, if you want to keep your word to the American people on what you just told them, ``all available tools,'' here is what you can actually announce tonight at the State of the Union that will have very significant, real impacts on lowering energy costs in America and increasing our national security relative to Putin.
Some of the actions we requested the President to take in the letter we are sending him before the State of the Union.
Simple, rescind your decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline and fast-track other similar energy infrastructure projects around the country.
Work to rescind the recent decision by the Biden administration's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, that makes it much more difficult to actually approve natural gas pipelines. My understanding is my good friend from West Virginia Senator Manchin is holding a hearing on this very issue on Thursday because he knows that this is national security suicide.
Commit to fast-tracking and producing American energy on American lands, particularly where the Congress has told you to do so, like ANWR in Alaska, like the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska--Congress has said produce there; that is the law--like the Gulf of Mexico. We have decades in our great Nation of abundant proven reserves of oil and gas. So why are we importing so much from Putin right now?
This brings me to another request. And this is a request of many Senators, and I believe Democratic Senators also. We should be banning the importation of Russian oil into the United States. Canada just announced it was doing it yesterday. Why would we be importing 700,000 barrels a day of Russian oil when we have millions and millions of barrels in Alaska? Can somebody answer that question?
I hope the President of the United States looks at our letter and recognizes these are commonsense approaches that are going to be needed to address this new era of authoritarian aggression, not just with Vladimir Putin but with Xi Jinping as well. When you look at what the Communist Party fears more than anything, it is American energy dominance. And yet this administration has come in, in year 1, unilaterally disarmed one of our most important strategic advantages in the world.
One other thing we mention in the letter, which makes so much sense, is to issue all pending export licenses and announce an initiative to help surge American liquefied natural gas to our allies in Europe and partners in Europe who right now are being blackmailed and trapped by Vladimir Putin's use of energy.
Again, you would think that would be a no-brainer.
And we hope the President looks at the American people tonight and goes through this list of good energy ideas that we have given him and says he is going to do it--says he is going to do it.
The world is reeling right now. Our country certainly is hurting, in terms of inflation and many other challenges, many of which are self-inflicted like the energy challenges. We can take steps to strengthen our country. And a strong United States, of course, strengthens the world.
We have seen this time and time again throughout history. Our country is the beacon of freedom and hope, and the light of that beacon can only shine brightly, can only cast light on all corners of the globe when we are strong. And it shines most brightly when our citizens are not struggling, but when we have strong communities, strong families, bolstered by good-paying jobs that provide dignity.
Our light of freedom shines most brightly when our country is on a common mission, and I think the President can call us toward a common mission tonight by listening to some of the things that we as Republicans have implored him to talk about and focus on in his speech.
As I mentioned, as a country, it is important that we wake up to the fact that this new era of authoritarian aggression will likely be with us for decades. We need to face it with confidence and strategic resolve.
Our country has extraordinary advantages relative to the dictatorships of Russia and China if we are wise enough to utilize and strengthen them. Our global network of allies, our lethal military, our world-class natural resources and energy resources, our dynamic economy, and most important, our democratic values and commitment to liberty.
Xi Jinping and Putin's biggest weakness and vulnerability is that they fear their own people. We should remember and exploit this vulnerability in the months and years ahead.
I yield the floor.
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