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Weekly remarks: GOP says U.S. must develop more domestic oil; Obama marks Women's History Month

March 12, 2011 |  3:00 am

Capitol Dome

Weekly remarks by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as provided by the Republican Party leadership

This is Lisa Murkowski, senator for Alaska and lead Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Japan in the wake of Friday’s terrible earthquake and tsunami. In Alaska, the memories of the devastating 1964 quake are still with us. We know we’re just beginning to comprehend the magnitude of this quake and its devastation.

We share and support the President’s commitment to bring America’s resources to bear to help Japan recover -- and we commend the actions that he has taken so far.

This tragedy -- as well as the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa -- serve as stark reminders of how intertwined our world economy is; how world events beyond our control can affect all of us. It makes it all the more important that we control those things we can.   

I want to speak with you today about one of the threats that we’re....

...experiencing personally, rising energy prices. And, I want to share some of the steps that Republicans are ready to take right now – steps that will protect America from international conflicts, create thousands of new jobs, reduce our budget deficit, and help bring energy prices back down to earth.

Nationwide, gasoline prices have risen by 40 cents over the past month, and have more than doubled since January of 2009. A gallon of gas is heading north of $4. That’s not just pain at the pump; it’s crippling for anyone with bills to pay, groceries to buy, or a long commute.

 When gasoline prices go up, families and businesses are stretched thin. Budgets are harder to balance and jobs are destroyed. If energy prices keep climbing, our nation could slip back into recession – just as we’re finally emerging from the last one.

The worst part of this emerging crisis is that our own government deserves much of the blame. International events have pushed prices higher, but our own shortsightedness and restrictions have also played a critical role. 

Some in Washington believe higher oil and gas prices, driven even higher by proposed new taxes, are needeAlaska Republican senator lisa Murkowski 2-11d to make Americans behave the way they think they should. Higher energy prices are their explicit goal. They don’t realize or don’t care about the damage to the economy, the pain to a mom as she fills her minivan, or a farmer as he tries to bring in a harvest.

America now imports 11 million barrels of oil every day. Last year alone, we spent more than $330 billion on foreign oil, much of it in countries that are not our friends. 

We don’t import oil because our domestic reserves are exhausted. Not even close. Since 1919, people have claimed that America is ‘running out of oil.’ It might surprise you that we’re still the world’s third-largest oil producer, and seem to find more whenever we actually look.

Republicans know that it’s past time to produce more of America’s oil. My home state of Alaska alone has estimated resources in excess of 65 years’ worth of Persian Gulf imports. 

Republicans would end the de facto moratorium on new development in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Rocky Mountain West. Instead of canceling leases and refusing to issue permits, we need to put people back to work.

It’s also time to shelve the bad ideas. Democrats have repeatedly sought to increase taxes and fees while slowing the permitting process. That won’t solve any problems, but it will mean less production, more imports, and higher prices. To boost production, we need to cut red tape and streamline regulations.

Both supply and demand affect oil prices, and that’s why Republicans support both new production and alternatives to reduce consumption. But we’re also thinking about what comes next, and we’re committed to making progress on cleaner energy -- that’s just not our only goal.  We also want energy to be affordable, abundant, diverse, and domestic. 

For far too long, our nation has lacked a coherent energy policy. For too many decades, opponents have argued against vital long-term policies because they won’t produce instant gratification. We’ve ignored the tremendous benefits of American oil production -- jobs, money, and security -- and now we’re facing the consequences. 

Republicans believe that Americans deserve better, and we believe the federal government can do better.  We’re ready to make meaningful progress on energy, and we’re hopeful that our Democratic colleagues will join us.    ####

Democrat president barack Obama enjoys an Oval Office phone call

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

March is Women’s History Month, a time not only to celebrate the progress that women have made, but also the women throughout our history who have made that progress possible. 

One inspiring American who comes to mind is Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1961, the former first lady was unhappy about the lack of women in government, so she marched up to President Kennedy and handed him a three-page list of women who were qualified for top posts in his administration. This led the president to select Mrs. Roosevelt as the head of a new commission to looMichelle Sasha and Malia1 Obama 11k at the status of women in America, and the unfairness they routinely faced in their lives. 

Though she passed away before the commission could finish its work, the report they released spurred action across the country.  It helped galvanize a movement led by women that would help make our society a more equal place. 

It’s been almost fifty years since the Roosevelt commission published its findings -- and there have been few similar efforts by the government in the decades that followed. That’s why, last week, here at the White House, we released a new comprehensive report on the status of women in the spirit on the one that was released half a century ago.

There was a lot of positive news about the strides we’ve made, even in recent years. For example, women have caught up with men in seeking higher education. In fact, women today are more likely than men to attend and graduate from college. 

Yet, there are also reminders of how much work remains to be done. Women are still more likely to live in poverty in this country. In education, there are areas like math and engineering where women are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts. This is especially troubling, for we know that to compete with nations around the world, these are the fields in which we need to harness the talents of all our people. That’s how we’ll win the future.

And, today, women still earn on average only about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. That’s a huge discrepancy.  And at a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet – and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss -- it’s a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn’t just a women’s issue.  It’s a family issue. 

In one of my first acts as president, I signed a law so that women who’ve been discriminated against in their salaries could have their day in court to make it right. But there are steps we should take to prevent that from happening in the first place. That’s why I was so disappointed when an important bill to give women more power to stop pay disparities -- the Paycheck Fairness Act -- was blocked by just two votes in the Senate. And that’s why I’m going to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill. 

Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as president. It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve. 

As I’ve traveled across the country, visiting schools and meeting young people, I’ve seen so many girls passionate about science and other subjects that were traditionally not as open to them. We even held a science fair at the White House, where I met a young woman named Amy Chyao. She was only 16 years old, but she was actually working on a treatment for cancer. She never thought, “Science isn’t for me.”  She never thought, “Girls can’t do that.” She was just interested in solving a problem. And because someone was interested in giving her a chance, she has the potential to improve lives.

That tells me how far we’ve come. But it also tells me we have to work even harder to close the gaps that still exist, and to uphold that simple American ideal: we are all equal and deserving of the chance to pursue our own version of happiness. That’s what Eleanor Roosevelt was striving toward half a century ago. That’s why this report matters today.  And that’s why, on behalf of all our daughters and our sons, we’ve got to keep making progress in the years ahead.  Thanks for listening.    ####


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Photos: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press; Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images (Murkowski);  Pete Souza / White House; Jonathan Ernst / Reuters.