As gas and other energy prices continue to soar, Americans are desperate for relief. The question is, what does Congress plan to do about it?
Rep. Debbie Lesko, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has some answers on today’s edition of “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Lesko, R-Ariz., pledges that if the GOP regains the majority in Congress, lawmakers will act swiftly to reduce gas prices and increase America’s energy independence.
“Republicans will introduce legislation to codify into law some of the rules and regulations that the Trump administration put forward … to reduce the time for permitting of new production facilities, reduce the time of permitting for new pipelines, and help Americans increase U.S. oil and gas production,” Lesko says.
“When Republicans come into control, we want to put America first,” she says.
Lesko discusses the Biden administration’s failure to manage gas prices, and what congressional Republicans see as the solutions.
We also cover these stories:
- President Joe Biden extends a freeze on repaying federal student loans until Aug. 31.
- The U.S. and over 30 allied nations impose a new round of sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
- Oklahoma is set to institute an almost total ban on abortion.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Doug Blair: My guest today is Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, who represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District and is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Congresswoman, welcome to the show.
Rep. Debbie Lesko: Thank you for having me.
Blair: Now, we recently had a meeting from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce titled “Gouged at the Gas Station: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump.” This was a meeting that was called by Democratic representatives and is seemingly placing all of the blame for the current gas crisis and energy crisis on big business and big oil. Is that an accurate representation of where these price hikes that we’re seeing are coming from?
Lesko: Well, it’s very clear to me that [President Joe] Biden and the Democrat policies are to blame for the high gas prices. I mean, just look at this chart and it shows that as soon as Biden and the Democrats took one-party Democrat control, the gas prices started soaring, and it wasn’t until later on that the war actually broke out.
So I know that Biden and the Democrats know that this is a No. 1 polling issue throughout the nation and so they want to deflect blame. They want to deflect blame onto the oil and gas industries. They have a constant war against oil and gas industries. And this hearing today is just another reflection of their war against U.S.-produced oil and gas.
Blair: As a representative in Congress, are you seeing that the Biden administration is trying to use Congress to get this solution solved or are they ignoring you entirely?
Lesko: No, the Democrats ignore us entirely. I mean, they have one-party control. They have since January of 2021. They have control of the House, control of the Senate, control of the presidency, and they’re basically doing whatever the heck they want, whether it’s on their open-border policies or now their war against American-made energy.
It shows and people are starting to wake up. They have waken up. They’re not buying Biden in the Democrats pointing blame to the oil and gas industry or pointing blame [at] the chicken farmers for a while for the high price of chicken, if I remember right.
I mean, they just want to deflect blame from them and come up with anything. It’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall. They’re like, “OK, let’s blame this group, let’s blame this group, so that maybe one of these will stick and the American people will actually buy it.”
Well, I don’t think the American people are buying it. And that’s why it’s always fun for me to see at the gas pumps in Arizona those little stickers like this one, it’s like, “I did that.” And they keep popping up and I think the gas stations take them down because you can see all the little sticker marks, but then people keep putting them up. I don’t know where all these stickers come from but it’s great fun to watch.
Blair: So in that vein, do you see the American people maybe responding to this claim that it’s big oil or it’s big business that is causing these gas prices? Do you think that they’re responding with, “That’s just not true”?
Lesko: Well, I think it’s up to us commonsense Republicans to point out that it’s not true. And I think that’s why I had this chart, because at first, President Biden and the Democrats were blaming it totally on the war in Ukraine.
Now, that does have some price pressures to go up because after all, prices are based on supply and demand. And when we ban the imports of Russian oil into the United States, that will decrease the supply of oil and thus the prices will go up.
I find it very sad and embarrassing, quite frankly, that Biden reached out to the Saudi Arabian prince and [is] begging them basically to produce more oil and the prince wouldn’t even take his call.
And then he goes in March, and they go to talk to the Venezuelan president, which, this guy has all kinds of atrocities that he does against his people. And so now they’re apparently in some negotiations to say, “OK, we’re going to relieve you from some of the sanctions we placed on you, Venezuela, and in exchange for you producing more oil.”
So far OPEC has said no to President Biden and said, “We’re sticking with our contract that we made with Russia, and we’re only going to produce X amount of oil and gas.” And basically said, “We don’t care what you think, Biden.”
It’s really a sad state of affairs and shows the American people how quickly policies can change. Under the Trump administration, we were really energy-independent here in the United States and he promoted America first. Let’s produce more American gas and oil. Let’s free up the regulatory burden that we’re placing on U.S. companies so they can compete fairly with the world market.
And the Biden administration, as soon as he took office, he did the exact opposite. He says one thing—it really frustrates me. At the State of the Union address, President Biden says, “Let’s buy American.” But he does the opposite.
In fact, their administration has an all-out war against oil and gas. And it’s not just that he stopped a leasing of federal lands for new oil and gas production, but it’s the financial pressures he’s putting on businesses that want to produce new oil and gas with all of these restrictions.
Even the [Securities and Exchange Commission] has now more burdensome restrictions on all companies reporting their emissions and their supplier’s emissions and their supplier’s emissions. It’s so much burdensome regulatory that the financial markets and the capital people are like, “Wow, we don’t want to lend new oil and gas production, capital money, because the Biden administration is so against it.”
And so it’s from all angles that the Biden administration is trying to hurt oil and gas. And Biden’s answer is so out of step with the American public, saying, “Buy an electric car.”
I mean, first of all, an electric vehicle costs quite a bit of money. Now, I think electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular, but let’s face it, electric vehicles need a lot of critical minerals that are not made or mined in the United States because the Biden administration has closed down mining permits in the United States.
So now we’re going to have to be more reliant on China for processing of lithium. China processes most of the lithium that we use in the United States for our lithium battery backups, for utility scale solar, and for the electric vehicles.
In Arizona, the Biden administration shut down a copper mine that the Trump administration had greenlighted. And that copper mine can produce 25% of all of the demand in the U.S.
So like I said, Biden says one thing, he does another thing. And I hope the American people don’t buy it.
Blair: There does seem to be this recurring pattern of failure of the Biden administration to deal with these issues. Now, we talked a little bit about how Republicans will need to be the commonsense people in the room to make sure that these gas prices go down. If Republicans are to gain back power, and if they are able to regain a majority in the House, what is the plan to give relief to Americans struggling from these gas prices right now?
Lesko: Well, we’re going to incentivize that there is U.S. production of oil and gas and that we again become energy-independent. We’re going to reduce the regulatory burden on producing new oil and gas. We’re going to reduce the permitting time it takes for new pipelines.
I mean, that’s another thing that Biden and the Democrats are against. They’re against pipelines. This is ridiculous. Of course Biden shut down the XL Keystone pipeline on Day One, I think, that he was the president. And so this even affects what the Democrats like, their renewable clean energy.
Let’s say it’s green hydrogen. How are you going to transport the new, clean green hydrogen to the places where it’s needed because they’re against the pipelines for transporting hydrogen? It makes no sense at all, their policies, and that’s what’s causing prices to go up.
Blair: We’ve heard that the president has been very open about his desire to use the sort of weight of the federal government to push for climate-friendly/climate change initiatives, including those pipelines that you mentioned, and a lot of these other natural gases and natural resources in America. Do Republicans in Congress have any plans on how to push back against this type of legislation that makes us less energy-independent?
Lesko: Well, Republicans are going to introduce legislation when and if we are back in the Republican majority. And so I think that we will put more leverage on the Biden administration, especially if both the House and the Senate go back to Republican majority. And then Biden will have to decide if he’s going to veto our bills or not.
I certainly hope we get back to Republican majority because Republicans want America to be first. We do not want to rely on Russian oil. We do not want to rely on Venezuelan oil. We do not want to rely on Iranian oil. We want to be energy-independent.
Recently I was at a meeting and former Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo spoke. And he talked about how just about every meeting he met with foreign countries, he negotiated using U.S. energy as a tool because other countries want U.S. energy. They need energy. And if we have enough to provide to them, that is an advantage for our economy, for our national security. But obviously, if we are now reliant on Russia for oil or Venezuela for oil, that puts us in a terrible national security risk.
Blair: We are seeing that there are massive differences between the Trump-based energy policies and the Biden-based energy policies. Where would you say that those differences are the most pronounced?
Lesko: The Biden administration has a war against oil and gas made in America. The Trump administration wanted more oil and gas to be produced in America because we want more Americans to have the great jobs. We want to be energy-independent. We want to have the political power that comes along with that for national security, that we don’t have to rely on hostile adversaries for our oil and gas and our energy needs.
Blair: Is there any particular Trump-era policies that you think would be particularly effective at dealing with this energy crisis right now? And does Congress have any plans, if the Republican majority is to come back, to reinstitute that legislatively?
Lesko: The Trump administration did a lot of great policies by reducing regulations on American businesses to produce oil and gas and other American businesses.
So I believe Republicans will introduce legislation to codify into law some of the rules and regulations that the Trump administration put forward when he was in office in order to reduce the time for permitting of new production facilities, reduce the time of permitting for new pipelines, and help Americans increase U.S. oil and gas production, U.S. energy production, and quite frankly, all things.
As I said, in Arizona, the Biden administration shut down a mine that could produce 25% of all of the copper consumed in the United States. Now, why they would do that is just beyond me.
Blair: Now, you did mention Arizona, and obviously, as a Western state, natural resources are something that you would rely on. How has the energy crisis impacted the citizens of Arizona?
Lesko: Wow. Arizona, and especially the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, are ranked the No. 1 inflation in the entire country. Ours is at 10.9% inflation rate, so almost 11% in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. This has a huge impact on everyday Americans.
Our gasoline prices, I think today we’re averaging $4.65 a gallon. That is higher than the national average. This affects the pocketbooks of everyone. I don’t care who you are. It affects your pocketbook and so you have less money to spend on other things.
And quite frankly, Biden and his administration and the Democrat policies have really tanked just about everything that’s going on in the United States. I mean, my husband went to the grocery store last week. He couldn’t find spaghetti on the shelves.
So first of all, the prices are higher for groceries, for meat, for gasoline, for electricity prices, because we need air conditioners in Arizona in the summer months. And all of those prices have gone up.
And I have a huge constituency of senior citizens that live on fixed incomes. I have about 70,000 senior citizens that live in my district, at least 70,000, and these folks are limited on how much they can spend. And when their utility prices go up, when their gasoline prices go up, when their medicine prices go up, their health care costs go up, they often don’t know where to turn.
This is serious impact. And quite frankly, politically, this is going to be a hard year for U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, between the inflation that’s going on in Arizona and the border crisis that’s going on in Arizona’s border and across the nation.
Blair: As we continue to see federal mismanagement of energy and of energy policy, are we seeing that your state has done anything to maybe mitigate some of the worst consequences of these gas prices?
Lesko: Well, we have a Republican governor and a Republican-led state Legislature, both in the Arizona House and the Senate. So we’re a pretty free market-type state. And so we promote free markets, less regulations. Gov. [Doug] Ducey, the Republican that on Day One that he became governor, he reduced government regulation at the state level.
So we’re doing what we can in Arizona. But when President Biden and the Democrats who are in control go against us and go against the Arizona citizens all the time, it’s hard to overcome. Their policies are ruining America.
Blair: Now, as we begin to wrap-up, is there a conservative solution that we can pursue to lower these gas prices while still being aware of the fact that we have a hostile administration who’s going to try and prevent conservative policies from being instituted?
Lesko: Yeah. If we get back the Republican majority in the House and the Senate, we’re going to introduce legislation that will incentivize new oil and gas production in America. We’ll incentivize new other energy sources in America. And we need to get control of our spending as well.
I mean, it’s one thing to help people that are in need, and it was important when government shut down businesses during the pandemic to help make sure that the workers kept their job, but now the Democrats want to spend more. They just keep on wanting to spend money. And that is going to really adversely affect not only are national debt, the amount of interest that we are paying, but our national security as well.
And so when Republicans come in control, we want to, again, put America first. Now, it depends kind of how much majority we have, and wouldn’t it be nice if we had 60 Republicans in the Senate? That would be great. But it depends on what the outcome is and what Republican majority we have. It’s going to be tough, quite frankly, with Biden in there. He’s gone so liberal. But hopefully, if Republicans control both the House and the Senate, we’ll have a bit more leverage with him.
Blair: That does occur to me, like I mentioned, it will be difficult, obviously, with President Biden in the White House, who is not particularly conducive to these types of policies that we’re proposing. What are Republicans going to do if we keep seeing veto after veto after veto of these types of bills?
Lesko: Well, I think if President Biden vetoes every single bill that Republicans put forward, assuming we get back the majority in the House and the Senate, then I think it will lead to a Republican president in 2024.
Because the American people will see that we are trying to reverse some of the bad policies that Biden and the Democrats put forward, and we have to do it. We have to put forth the legislation, whether we think that President Biden is going to veto it or not, because we have to show to the American public that we are working for them and we are working for America.
And I think it would be a mistake for President Biden to thwart us repeatedly because then it will have impact on the presidential election and I think it will help elect a Republican president.
Blair: Excellent. That was Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, who represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District and is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time.
Lesko: Thank you.
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