RUSH: Senator Chambliss is on the line. Senator Chambliss, I’m glad you called. I only have a couple minutes here so I may ask you to hang on during the break at the bottom of the hour.
CALLER: Okay Rush, how are you, my friend.
RUSH: I’m fine. There’s a hubbub here because of a Wall Street Journal column today about you being a member of the Gang of Ten, you and four Republican colleagues that basically signed on with the Democrats’ idea of an energy plan that will essentially shut off all drilling, all kinds of tax credits for renewables and alternatives, it will let all kinds of brand-new regulations, basically thwart the effort to drill for more oil.
CHAMBLISS: Well, Rush, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean you know, here we are in Washington trying to set good policy on energy as well as other issues, and people back home in my state and all across America are hurting, they’re angry because gas prices have gone from $2.33 when the Democrats took over to over $4, and that’s backed a little bit, but people are upset about that. And what are we doing in Washington to try to help these people out who all of a sudden that have had their kitchen table budgets shoved to heck and back. We’re doing nothing. So what we did was we got together in a bipartisan way, Rush, and you well know that no major issue gets resolved in Washington unless you got 60 votes, and we had to get 60 votes, so we put a bipartisan group together, a group of Democrats who were willing to make the commitment to additional offshore drilling, provided that we would make some compromises otherwise, and —
RUSH: Well —
CHAMBLISS: We did.
RUSH: Senator, I don’t mean to be rude but I do have to take a commercial break here in ten seconds.
RUSH: Can you hold on and we’ll go through what some of the specifics of this bill are.
RUSH: And you can tell me if the reporting that we’ve all heard about the specifics are accurate.
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, be glad to, Rush.
RUSH: Okay, we’ll be back. Stay with us. Senator Saxby Chambliss from Georgia.
RUSH: And we are back with Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss. Thank you for holding on during the break, Senator.
RUSH: Now, let me set a couple things up here, it won’t take long at all and it will give you the general idea why people are bamboozled today and a little angry. In the first place, people are fed up with the four dollar gas price, it’s a tipping point and they want to drill for new oil, become independent, they want to drill here and drill now, and they don’t like being dependent and they want to have more supply from domestic sources. The ban on offshore energy production is set to expire at the end of September if Congress does nothing, giving the American people exactly what they want. Now, here comes your bill, The New Era Bill, and it says that new production will only be permitted in four states, and the state legislatures are in charge of it, not the federal government anymore, and only 50 miles or further offshore in those four states, which eliminates the richest fields and things like ANWR. It has 84 billion dollars in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. It basically, according to the Wall Street Journal today, will eliminate any effort for new drilling.
CHAMBLISS: Well, it’s actually designed to do just the opposite, Rush. First of all, our bill has nothing to do with whether or not the moratorium remains on after September 30. That’s going to be an up-or-down vote on either continuing resolution or some sort of omnibus bill. That’s where it will be included. I intend to vote to lift the moratorium. I think all five of us will do that. I’m sure all five of us will. This doesn’t have anything to do with that. What it does have to do with is we’ve got a commitment for the first time that I can remember in my now 14 years in the Senate, a significant number, although five may not sound significant, but it really is. We’ve got five Democrats who are willing to say, ‘Look, you know, we think we need to be reasonable and we need join with you guys, so let’s work on a compromise bill that will allow additional offshore drilling,’ something we haven’t done in the last 28 years. And sure, we had to make some compromises on the other side, but what we’ve got is this. We’ve got common ground. Is ANWR common ground? Absolutely not. I voted on that, Rush, as you well know, I got elected to the House in ’94 with —
RUSH: I know —
CHAMBLISS: — in ’96 —
RUSH: — I know, but this bill puts ANWR off limits.
CHAMBLISS: No, no, no. It doesn’t address ANWR one way or the other, but we knew Rush that we would never be able to get 60 votes and we will not get 60 votes on ANWR in any piece of legislation right now until we get enough like-minded, folks, in there. But this bill that says while we know we can’t do that, we can drill offshore. We’re going to open up additional areas, plus —
RUSH: In four states.
CHAMBLISS: Well, four states will have — but, look, the Gulf of Mexico is where the oil is. And that’s where we’re going to start with in this bill. We’re going to protect the beaches of Florida. That’s why the 50-mile barrier is there.
RUSH: Okay, so the 50-mile barrier — see, the thing that has people upset about this is that everybody’s assumed that the Democrats are going to sweep to major victories in the House and Senate and a landslide in the White House. This drilling issue came along with a tipping point of four dollar a gallon gas, finally Senator McCain had an issue the Republicans could embarrass Obama with and perhaps ride to victory, because the vast majority of the American people want to do the opposite of what the Democrats do. So nobody can figure out why compromise with the Democrats and cut the knees off of Senator McCain.
CHAMBLISS: Well, it doesn’t cut Senator McCain’s knees off. It really complements his position, but what it does do is it provides an opportunity to send a message to the markets that, wow, the president is serious about lifting this moratorium, and now we’ve got ten members of Congress who have come together in a bipartisan way who say also we’re going to lift the moratorium, we’re going to allow more drilling. Look what’s happened to the market since we started this conversation. Just in the last week since our legislation was announced, our draft discussion was announced, we’ve seen a further reduction, Rush, in the price of a barrel of oil. Now, we’re not taking credit for that, but the fact is the markets understand that finally Congress is not at loggerheads. Congress is serious about expanding offshore drilling. They do want to drill now and they want to drill in places where we know there’s oil.
RUSH: But Senator, the Democrats don’t want to drill, and the obstacles to drilling that are apparently in this bill are going to make it impossible to succeed. I mean, letting the ACLU and animal rights groups and so forth have a regulatory role or at least a right to protest here, which is just going to make the permit process extended over and over and over. I don’t see the Democrats compromising anything here.
CHAMBLISS: Well, they agreed that we move into additional areas of the Gulf of Mexico, they’ve agreed that we go to places like Virginia where the two senators there want to immediately take advantage of this, and we don’t know whether there’s oil out there or not off the Atlantic coast. We think there is gas out there, and we will have the opportunity to have immediate access, but let me mention one other key point to what we agreed to, Rush. One argument we’ve heard is that if you start drilling now, it’s going to be ten years before you see any results of it. Well, in the Gulf of Mexico, where we, number one, know there’s oil, know there’s gas, there’s something else out there that is key to immediate effect on the market, and that’s the infrastructure. They’ve got the pipelines already existing in the Gulf of Mexico, and if a driller were successful out there in the short term, we could immediately see some impact in the supply. And as you and I well know, supply and demand is what is causing the price–
RUSH: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know the ten years thing is a bogus thing. The Democrats are trying to shut down — I mean they’ve turned oil into a campaign issue demon. It is amazing. So you say you’ve got five Democrats — by the way, we’re talking with Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss — you say you had five Democrats that were willing to compromise with you, moving in our direction. It’s the first time in 14 years. Why not make ’em come a little further?
CHAMBLISS: Well, if we could have, I assure you we would have. We had some very heated discussions between our members, even though everybody was respectful and professional with each other, but we did try to move ’em. I would love to have ANWR in there. I would love to have oil shale in there, although the technology with the oil shale is not quite where we could take advantage of it right now. And I think this, Rush. I mean when people see and understand that with the technology we have today, drill in areas even where we’ve drilled before, and from an environmental sensitive standpoint not interfere with the environment, I think it gives us the opportunity to open up ANWR. Otherwise, I’m afraid symbolically it’s going to be extremely difficult ever to do that.
RUSH: Well, to me, that whole environmentally friendly stuff is a straw dog because it’s been environmentally friendly for decades. We haven’t had spills from rigs. We haven’t had leaks from rigs. The oil facilities pumping and drilling and so forth, we’ve had, you know, tanker spills and so forth, but the actual infrastructure to get the oil is clean as it can be. We’re not destroying anything with this. And the politics of this is what has some people upset. They see Republicans always compromising with Democrats to move things forward, and they want Democrats defeated, not compromised with.
CHAMBLISS: Well, what my constituents tell me is that they don’t like paying four dollars a gallon for a gallon of gas, and upwards of that. And if Congress could just quit their partisan bickering and come together on this as well as some other issues, they would see relief. And I think they’re right. We’re not going to see any relief as long as we just stand on the floor and butt heads with each other. So it’s not —
RUSH: If butting heads with them leads to them losing elections, and you getting enough senators on your side of the aisle to have no worries about having to compromise, I mean that’s the gold standard. Time is running short here, and I just want to get one thing clear.
RUSH: The Wall Street Journal today says that this deal is essentially what Harry Reid wants, that it guarantees no drilling because, even though there’s four states that can drill, states have to decide it, you’ve turned the decision over to the states, the 50-mile limit and the new regulations, the analysts of this bill on our side say this is going to result in no meaningful discoveries.
CHAMBLISS: Well, if that’s true, then they’re telling you something entirely different from what our analysts are telling us. We did our homework on this. We did our research. The folks that we talked to say there is additional oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s there now; we know where it is. There have even been wells that have been shut down, down there. If they’re within 50 miles, we won’t be reopening them, but if they’re outside of that, potentially they could be. So we know there is oil and gas there. The question is, Rush, whether you want to have access to it or whether you want the issue out there from a political standpoint. And I know and understand that. I understand that we’re winning on this issue, but at the end of the day we have the opportunity not only to win on the issue — because it’s pretty clear, Democrats as a whole, don’t want to drill; Republicans do — but people know that the price at the gas pump is not going to come down until we do have the opportunity to drill. As long as we stay where we are today and keep the issue, we don’t have the opportunity to drill. But if we do have a compromise on offshore drilling, we can drill within a short period of time.
RUSH: Senator, thanks for calling. People, I’m sure, wanted to hear what you had to say about this, as we opened the program with it, and I understand your office is being bombarded with calls, as are some of the other Republicans. So thanks for calling in and telling us your side of this.
CHAMBLISS: Okay, Rush. Thanks, buddy.
RUSH: You bet.