Political Hay

Ten Questions for Steve Scalise

A Republican congressman discusses energy policy, cap-and-trade, and President Obama's spending plans.

By 5.19.09

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Steve Scalise is a Republican in his first full term representing Louisiana's First Congressional District, replacing now-Gov. Bobby Jindal. He is active in the debate over energy policy, particularly cap-and-trade.

TAS: With the recent defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, does the role of the Republican minority change? What institutional leverage do Republicans still have in Congress?

Congressman Scalise: Sen. Specter almost lost the Republican primary in 2004. His switch was purely a politically motivated decision on his part to try salvaging his re-election chances, which are still in jeopardy.

TAS:  The sad passing of Jack Kemp reminds us that Republicans have previously come up with innovative policy ideas while in the minority -- and those ideas haven't always come from people in the leadership. What are some of the new ideas being formulated by today's Republican minority?

Congressman Scalise: I have been working with many other Republicans to propose solutions that address many of our nation's problems. We have proposed common-sense solutions rooted in the ideals of lower taxes, less government and more individual freedom. There is a growing group of core conservatives who have stood up against taxpayer-funded bailouts and reckless spending, while proposing fiscally responsible solutions to get our economy back on track, provide tax relief to families and small businesses and balance the federal budget.

TAS: What will the consequences be of the cap-and-trade energy plan being pushed by President Obama and congressional Democrats?

Congressman Scalise: President Obama is proposing a "cap and trade" energy tax that will raise utility costs on every American family to generate $646 billion in new taxes, while shipping millions of American jobs to foreign countries. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the President's bill will cost 3 – 4 million jobs that will be shipped to countries like China, India and Brazil.

According to Peter Orszag, the President's own budget director, the average American family would pay about $1300 more in utility costs per year for a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions, which is significantly less than the cap sought in President Obama's proposed budget. Orszag testified before Congress last year saying that price increases borne by consumers are essential to the success of their "cap and trade" energy tax.

Even President Obama has acknowledged that his "cap and trade" energy tax will lead to higher electricity prices when he said, "under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over national energy policy, I will continue fighting to oppose bad policies that threaten our economy. Rather than a "cap and trade" scheme that will raise taxes on American families and ship millions of jobs overseas, we need to pass a comprehensive national energy policy that will further develop the technologies for renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, encourage more conservation, while also expanding our own natural resources including oil, natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear power.

TAS: How likely is this plan to pass in its current form?

Congressman Scalise: The more information Americans find out about the "cap and trade" energy tax, the more they don't like this attempt to impose a national tax on energy while shipping millions of American jobs overseas. That's why Chairman Waxman has refused to disclose many of the key details of the bill while using procedural tricks to deny the very transparency that they promised the American people. Even former Chairman Dingell (D-MI) said of "cap and trade," "It's a tax, and a great big one." The American people are seeing more and more that President Obama's "cap and trade" proposal is nothing short of an energy tax that will raise utility rates on all families while shipping millions of jobs overseas.

TAS: What would a Republican energy and environmental agenda look like?

Congressman Scalise: I joined with more than 40 House Republicans to introduce The American Energy Innovation Act that represents a fiscally responsible approach to reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, producing more renewable alternative sources of energy, and putting more Americans to work by:

Promoting greater conservation and efficiency by providing incentives for reducing energy demand and creating a cleaner, more sustainable environment.

Increasing the production of American energy by responsibly utilizing all available resources and technologies and streamlining burdensome regulations.

Encouraging innovation within the energy industry to create the renewable fuel options and energy careers of tomorrow.

TAS: Does the Environmental Protection Agency legally possess the authority it recently claimed to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases?

Congressman Scalise: The EPA's proposal is a power grab orchestrated by radical environmentalists to help the President pass his reckless "cap and trade" energy tax that will raise energy and utility costs on every American family, and ship millions of American jobs overseas.

I have co-sponsored legislation (H.R.391) that would clarify that EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate Greenhouse gases, which they have never before had the authority to regulate.

TAS: Can the Obama administration quantify how many "green jobs" its policies will create? Does it even have a consistent definition of what a green job is?

Congressman Scalise: I asked EPA administrator Sheila Jackson this same question in an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last month. She had no answer for us. What we do know is that according to a Spain study, for every "green job" Spain created, they lost 2.2 regular jobs. In addition only one in ten of those new jobs were permanent.

TAS: For that matter, can the White House quantify the number of jobs saved or created by its economic policies?

Congressman Scalise: For months the administration and the liberals in Congress have been pushing through a reckless big government agenda with nothing to show for it but record deficits, debt, and job losses. The so-called stimulus package was supposed to provide immediate help, but unemployment numbers continue to climb and interest rates are on the rise.

TAS: Do you believe that we are done with the bailouts and the stimulus plans for now, or are there more to come?

Congressman Scalise: President Obama and the liberals in Congress need to acknowledge that the American taxpayers are fed up with these bailouts. We need to end the bailouts. The companies who are in trouble need to go and fix their balance sheets by addressing their fundamental problems. I opposed the financial bailouts last year because it wasn't focused on addressing the problems or resolving the issues of mortgage backed securities and derivatives that caused the financial industry to collapse. We still have to go and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They helped create this problem by giving loans to people that had no ability to pay and they were encouraged by liberals in Congress like Barney Frank (D-MA) who are working to pass some of the bailouts today.

I don't think the federal government should own car companies, I don't think we should own banks. I think we need to get back to market-based solutions to these problems. Unfortunately our country has gone down such a road that the government is literally trying to take over everything -- and it doesn't work. It puts our country deeper in debt. We can't do this to future generations. We need to get back on a path of fiscal sanity.

TAS: In the coming debate over the federal budget, which has passed both houses in blueprint form largely in tune with the president's priorities, what will be some of the major areas of focus?

Congressman Scalise: We need to rein in reckless spending in Washington and balance the federal budget. I voted against the President's budget because it is fiscally irresponsible; spending too much money, raising taxes on all American families, and borrowing record levels from our children and grandchildren. While I opposed this bill, I joined with other Members of Congress to present an alternative bill that balances the federal budget. The alternative budget I supported would cut wasteful spending, balance the federal budget and create good jobs for the American people.

It took 43 Presidents and 220 years to build $10 trillion of national debt. With just one budget, President Obama will more than double that debt to an astounding $23 trillion. This dangerous level of spending and borrowing will saddle future generations with new debt for decades to come.

Even European leaders like Czech prime minister and current European Union (EU) President Mirek Topolanek are criticizing President Obama's out of control spending. When European leaders are saying that we're spending too much, it's like the town drunk saying you have a drinking problem.

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About the Author

W. James Antle III, author of the new book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?, is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and a senior editor of The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter @jimantle.