Senators Offer Measure to Free America from Overseas Oil

Just days before Independence Day, U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Carper (DE), Tom Udall (NM), and Michael Bennet (CO) introduced legislation to eliminate our dependence on overseas oil, strengthen national security, and create jobs.

The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act of 2011 will set into law the goal of achieving independence from overseas oil in the next 20 years and provides a specific plan for achieving it.  By committing America to developing a robust clean energy economy, the legislation would create new jobs while eliminating the national security vulnerability posed by dependence on oil from overseas.

“As we celebrate our nation’s independence, our economic fate is firmly in the hands of others: dictators in oil-rich countries, Wall Street speculators, and oil company executives all of whom influence how much we pay at the pump every day,” said Merkley.  “We can continue to send a billion dollars a day overseas and be at the mercy of gas price spikes, or we can invest that money right here at home creating red, white, and blue American jobs.  It is time to declare our independence from overseas oil.”

“I am proud to join Senators Merkley, Bennet and Tom Udall in introducing this much needed legislation that sets an ambitious, but attainable, goal of eliminating all oil imports from outside of North America by 2030,” said Sen. Carper. “This bill provides a comprehensive strategy to reduce our unhealthy oil consumption by improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of clean, renewable energy sources. The legislation also takes important steps forward to increase vehicle efficiency standards and provide Americans with a practical alternative to using their cars, trucks, and vans for every trip.  This will save families money at the pump and reduce traffic congestion as well as harmful air pollution.”

“Enacting this bill would help America take control of its energy future by ending our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, which puts our economic, environmental and national security at risk,” Udall said.  “Global oil supplies are struggling to keep up with demand, so combining a suite of solutions including fuel efficiency, advanced biofuels and natural gas vehicles is both a national security and economic necessity.”

“In all of my town halls across Colorado, one thing everyone can agree on is the need to break our dependence on overseas oil,” said Bennet. “By committing America to developing a robust clean energy economy, the bill would create jobs while eliminating the national security and economic vulnerability posed by dependence on overseas oil. We have outlined a plan to break our dependence on overseas oil in a way that promotes Colorado’s energy sources and creates Colorado jobs.”

“The veterans of Operation Free are proud to stand with Senators Merkley, Carper, Udall, and Bennet in the fight for American energy independence,” said Michael Breen, Vice President of the Truman National Security Project.  “In Iraq and Afghanistan, we saw firsthand that America’s addiction to oil costs dollars and lives.  In Afghanistan, a single gallon of gasoline costs the American taxpayer $400, but that doesn’t even begin to measure the price – one in every 24 fuel convoys ends in an American casualty.  Meanwhile, our most dangerous enemies continue to be funded by oil money.  It’s time to stop putting oil dollars into the hands of extremists, and to start investing in a clean energy economy here at home.  The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act is the right choice for our security.”

To eliminate the nation’s reliance on foreign imports from non-North American countries in 20 years, the bill includes steps to ramp up deployment of electric vehicles, increase travel options and improve infrastructure, make gasoline engines more efficient, develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce the use of oil to heat buildings.

The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act also would create a National Council on Energy Security to ensure a sustained focus on reducing the use of oil.  The Council, housed in the White House, would be charged with making recommendations to the President and Congress to ensure America has a focused strategic plan for energy independence and with aligning the actions of various federal agencies.

This year, more than two-thirds of America’s oil imports will come from nations that too often do not share our goals or values.  This dependence on overseas oil costs our nation a billion dollars per day that could be used here at home.  Instead, the United States could be investing in home-grown American clean energy and reduce pollution in our air and water.

The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act would reduce oil consumption in the U.S. by over 8 million barrels per day in 20 years, enough to end the need for oil imports from beyond North America.  The plan, which relies on existing technologies and proven strategies, was recently rated the most effective roadmap of the last 5 years to reducing oil consumption by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Reducing oil consumption is the only way to break America’s national security and economic vulnerability to hostile countries and groups, geopolitical instability, and natural disasters posed by overseas oil.  Increasing domestic drilling will not solve the problem, since the United States only has 3 percent of oil reserves, yet uses 25 percent of all oil.  The Department of Energy has estimated that opening up offshore drilling on both coasts would only lower the price of gasoline by three cents per gallon in twenty years.  Moreover, domestic drilling is not without risks, as last year’s BP oil well catastrophe has shown.

The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act will put into law the plan for American oil independence Senator Merkley laid out in June 2010.  Details of the plan can be found here:

As Democrats Fight For Jobs and New Mexico Small Businesses, Heather Wilson and John Sanchez Refuse to Stand Up Against GOP’s Obstructionism

For weeks, Heather Wilson and John Sanchez have refused to tell their Republican leaders to abandon their extreme plan to end Medicare as we know it.  Now, Wilson and Sanchez aren’t saying a word as GOP leaders hint that they will block more job creation measure proposed by Senate Democrats, including efforts Republicans once supported like cutting payroll taxes for small businesses. It’s clear that Wilson and Sanchez would rather let their fellow Republicans stand in the way of job creation efforts in Washington because they think it’ll help their politics.

“Heather Wilson and John Sanchez are standing idly by while their party’s leaders gear up to block job creation initiatives and push an extreme plan to privatize Medicare, all because they think it’s good politics for the Republican Party. They couldn’t be more wrong,” said Shripal Shah, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman. “All of Heather Wilson and John Sanchez’s rhetoric about jobs and economic recovery is completely empty.  It’s clear these Republican candidates and their friends in Washington are only interested in obstructing any and every effort to get the economy moving again, demonstrating the kinds of priorities that New Mexico just can’t afford.”

For months, Democrats have demanded that Republicans quit pushing their extreme plan to privatize Medicare and instead focus on common sense solutions to create jobs and grow New Mexico small businesses.  Yesterday, Senate Democrats called for a renewed effort to reduce the jobs deficit as part of the ongoing bipartisan negotiations with Vice President Biden.  But at every step, Republicans have refused by obstructing these plans with the hopes that it helps them at the ballot box next year.  Just weeks ago, Republican leaders even publicly pressured Heather Wilson and John Sanchez to publicly endorse their plan to privatize Medicare.

“Heather Wilson, John Sanchez and Republicans in Washington have made it clear that the only jobs they really care about are their own.  They need to stop playing politics with jobs and the economy, drop their reckless plan to privatize Medicare, and join Democrats in doing what’s right to get the economy moving again,” added Shah.

Democrats Are Calling for Job Creation to Be Part of Ongoing Talks. “Democratic leaders called on Wednesday for new spending and tax cuts to boost the sluggish U.S. economy, setting up a fresh hurdle for bipartisan efforts to head off a government debt default this summer… Senate Democrats want the deal to include a payroll tax cut, more money for highway construction and clean-energy subsidies to bring down the 9.1 percent unemployment rate.” [Reuters, 6/22/11]

Boehner Called Job Creation Approach a “Gimmick.” In his Thursday press conference last week, Boehner called short-term stimulus in general a gimmick. [TPM, 6/22/11]

House GOP Leader Cantor: Senate Candidates Should Support Plan. When asked at a town hall meeting yesterday if Senate candidates should support the Republican plan that ends Medicare in order to preserve tax breaks for the rich and oil companies, House Majority Leader Canter answered, “Yes… I believe that the proposal that we’ve put forward is a credible plan to reduce spending and to reform the system so that we can see a return to prosperity.” [Associated Press, 6/8/11]

Senate GOP Leader McConnell: Ending Medicare Is Still “On the Table.” The top Republican in the Senate said the Republican plan to end Medicare is still “on the table” as budget negotiations continue. Asked whether he would concede that the Ryan Medicare plan won’t be part of any budget deal this year, McConnell said: “No. It’s on the table.” [AP, 5/29/11 ]

Senate GOP Leader McConnell Won’t Support Raising Debt Ceiling Without Medicare Cuts. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he won’t support a deal to raise the U.S. federal debt ceiling unless it restrains the growth of Medicare spending. “To get my vote on the debt ceiling..Medicare will be a part of it,” McConnell said. “The details have to be negotiated.” [Washington Wire, Wall Street Journal, 5/29/11]

Wall Street Journal
: GOP Plan Would “End Medicare.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/04/11]

National Journal: Both Campaigns in New Mexico Refused to Comment on GOP Budget. “In New Mexico, the campaign of former Rep. Heather Wilson did not comment when asked by Hotline On Call where she stood. Wilson’s main GOP opponent, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, when pressed in an interview Tuesday over whether he would vote for the measure, declined to commit to a yes or no vote.” [National Journal, 5/26/11]

Obama For America Launches Neighborhood Organizing Efforts in Dõna Ana County

Local neighborhood residents from Las Cruces came together to attend a locally-oriented community planning session at the home of Dr. Rae Fortunato in Las Cruces on Sunday. The community planning session is one of many that have been organized in southern New Mexico and the first in Dõna Ana County.

The purpose of the gathering was to reconnect with the local grassroots efforts that helped propel President Barack Obama into the White House in 2008. Rather than rely on a centralized organizational model, Obama For America organized the event to hear from local voters on how the President’s re-election campaign can reach out and reconnect with local communities, including the diverse neighborhood communities of southern New Mexico.

Sunday’s Las Cruces meeting is one of many scheduled for the region. Nearly forty supporters of President Obama met earlier this week at a similar planning session held in Ruidoso. Another well-attended event was held in Roswell last week. More neighborhood events are planned in the coming weeks in both Dõna Ana County and elsewhere in the state. A full-scale voter registration effort, begun earlier this spring,  is also well under way in New Mexico.

For more information on Obama for America’s efforts in New Mexico. and other local community meetings planned for our area, contact Obama For America.

Doña Ana Democrats Kick Off Summer With an Enthusiatic Fundraiser

Energetic Dõna Ana County Democrats braved scorching southern New Mexico heat to pack the house at its June 24 fundraising reception in Las Cruces. The event, which was hosted by State Representative Joseph Cervantes, honored the new County Chair and Vice Chair, Christy French and Bill Gomez, and also saluted our local Party activists and Dõna Ana County’s great Democratic elected officials, past and present.

There’s more photos of the Dõna Ana County Democrats Fundraising Party on Flickr

Click for slideshow

Bipartisan Bill Would Improve Health Delivery Along U.S-Mexican Border

U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) have introduced legislation that allows border states to continue addressing public health challenges along the U.S.-Mexico border region by improving infections disease surveillance and strengthening the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission.

In 1994, Congress approved legislation led by Bingaman and Hutchison to address the unique health needs along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Under that law, the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission was established.  The commission, consisting of health officials from the United States and Mexico, has since then worked to promote public health and has established key initiatives to address bi-national health issues that strain the public health system along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Border Health Commission has been instrumental in bringing together experts from the United States and Mexico to help address important health issues that are unique to our border.  This bill will make it possible for the commission to continue its good work to help improve the quality of life in the U.S.-Mexico border region,” Bingaman said.

“A 21st century Texas should not have to tolerate the high rates of infectious diseases we see on the border,” said Hutchison.  “This legislation is extremely important for Texas – and especially Texans who live along the border, where these serious public health problems need to be addressed.”

“Improving the health and level of health care resources along the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the greatest challenges confronting America today,” Reyes said. “This legislation will help address the mounting health disparities in the border region that endanger our nation’s long term economic health.”

The Border Health Security Act of 2011 will build on the ongoing work of the commission and continue to invest in key public health initiatives.  The commission’s Healthy Border 2010 initiative has achieved notable progress in reducing breast cancer mortality, cervical cancer mortality, childhood injury, and reducing Hepatitis A incidence.  In the coming year the commission will focus on reducing the tuberculosis incidence at the border and improving detection and treatment outcomes. Additionally, the commission was particularly helpful in coordinating the response to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. The Border Health Security Act of 2011 will do the following:

  • Provide Infectious Disease Surveillance Grants for All Hazards Preparedness: Authorizes funding for the successful Early Warning Infectious Disease Surveillance (EWIDS) program in the U.S.-Mexico border region.  The bill also establishes a health alert network to identify and communicate information quickly to health providers about emerging health care threats and coordination of the system between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Improve Border Health Services: Provides authorization for needed grant funding to states, local governments, tribal governments, institutions of higher education, nonprofit health organizations, or community health centers along the U.S.-Mexico border to improve infrastructure, access, and the delivery of health care services, including: maternal and child health, primary care and preventative health, behavioral and mental health, substance abuse, community health workers or promotoras, among others.
  • Strengthen the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission: Undertakes key organizational reforms of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission and authorizes $31 million annually for its operations, the border health and EWIDS grant programs, and facilitates key studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine.
  • Coordinate Recommendations, and Study:  The legislation affirms the need for coordinated efforts to address border health issues.  It specifies that recommendations and advice on how to improve border health will be communicated to Congress from the Commission.  And finally, the legislation authorizes a GAO evaluation of the Commission’s execution of its strategic plan and two key studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine on bi-national health infrastructure and health insurance coverage for border residents.

Senator Udall Commends Obama Administration Decision on Oil Reserves

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has issued the following statement in reaction to President Obama’s decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve:

“The Obama Administration should be commended for rallying an international coalition to prevent disruption in oil markets due to the ongoing conflict in Libya. However, today’s action highlights America’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil in a world where global oil supplies are failing to keep up with demand, and Middle East instability is on the rise. America’s domestic oil production has recently increased to its highest level since 2003, but we need energy policies that replace imported oil with improved fuel economy, advanced biofuels, domestic natural gas vehicles and better transit options.”

Court Sends Qwest Case Back to PRC

In a case involving Qwest Corporation and New Mexico Attorney General Gary King’s office, the New Mexico Supreme Court today ruled that a Public Regulation Commission Final Order regulating Qwest must be vacated, and a new hearing conducted. 

At issue is whether Qwest was underselling it’s competitors by offering various telecommunications services below their true cost.  The high court upheld the rule of law at the Public Regulation Commission by insisting that all parties affected by its decisions be given a full and fair opportunity to be heard.  As the Court stated, “parties were denied the opportunity to substantively address” the impact of previous PRC decisions and the Final Order in this case was “not based solely on the evidence presented and made part of the record.”

AG King, who intervened in the case on behalf of the state’s consumers, welcomed the decision.  “Today, the state’s highest court has affirmed the due process rights of New Mexicans to fully participate in the regulation of vital utilities and networks.  A full and fair process is essential to democracy, especially in the extremely complex field of utilities regulation.  I applaud this decision and will continue my advocacy for consumers in this vital sector of our economy.”

“Such predatory pricing is harmful to consumers because it so badly distorts the market,” adds AG King. “Undercutting competitors to drive them out of the market results in higher prices and decreased service quality in the long run.  My goal as Attorney General is to prevent such practices and to fight for the ability of all New Mexicans to access broadband telecommunications throughout the state.”

The PRC has not announced the date for the hearing yet but Attorney General King urges the commission to set a date at the earliest possible moment.