I support an energy policy that promotes clean, renewable, domestic sources of energy that will fuel an economy that is sustainable, while protecting our environment and promoting our national security. I believe it is critical that energy policy works to prevent the worst effects of climate change by dramatically reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases over the next several decades.
Reliance on foreign-imported fossil fuels leaves us vulnerable to economic disruption by foreign nations wishing to influence U.S. foreign policy. We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that we import the majority of our petroleum, often from countries that do not share our democratic principles. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we are the world’s third largest producer of petroleum at 8.5 million barrels a day, but we consume 19.5 million barrels a day, which is nearly 25% of the world’s consumption. Unfortunately, we sit on only about 3% of the world’s proven reserves, so no matter what extremes we go to in exploring for oil domestically, we simply cannot drill our way out of this problem. And as we know, going to those extremes can have devastating consequences.
While we address climate change and move to renewable sources of energy, we must protect our coastlines from the threat of offshore oil drilling. Throughout my legislative career, I have consistently stood in opposition to the expansion of drilling off the coast of Florida. As the explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent oil spill has shown us, offshore drilling could easily bring oil slicks to Florida’s western and eastern coasts, and even penetrate the Florida Everglades. Oil spills threaten our state’s vulnerable coastal ecosystems, which are home to some of our most precious and diverse wildlife. Fortunately, Florida was mostly spared the worst effects of the BP oil spill, but we may not be so lucky next time. I will continue to oppose efforts to expand offshore oil and gas exploration, while working to ensure we can adequately and rapidly respond when spills do occur.
Expanded offshore drilling not only threatens Florida’s ecosystem and economy, but contributes nothing to weaning our nation of dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Drilling in the Eastern Gulf would potentially increase domestic production by a mere five percent, an increase to the world supply of less than one percent. Adding a fraction of a percent to the global oil supply will not lower gas prices and ignores the critical need to develop alternative energy supplies that finally break our addiction to fossil fuels.
Throughout our nation’s history, the strong American workforce has been at the center of our vibrant economy. In particular, our manufacturing sector has been a source of pride, a source of economic strength, and a source of well-paid jobs, as well as a guarantee of investment in an American future. Unfortunately, as the recession has hit our housing and our financial industries, it has taken a toll on our manufacturing industry as well.
There is no natural resource more resilient than the American worker, and that is why I am proud that we have focused on the “Make it in America” agenda. This manufacturing strategy for our country’s future is based on the idea that when more of our products are made in America, more citizens will be able to make it in America. Through incentives for investment in industry, support for infrastructure and innovation, and ending tax loopholes that ship our jobs overseas, we will bring more Americans back to work while strengthening all aspects of our economy.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of touring A&M Tape & Packaging in Sunrise, Fla., to see some of the products produced and shipped right in South Florida. Joining me on the tour were Reps. Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Alcee Hastings (FL-23), and Ted Deutch (FL-19) to talk about the progress of the Make it in America agenda.
Implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created a vital and significant foundation for the future of a stronger economy. From assistance to homeowners, to investment in infrastructure, to easing credit for small businesses, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped put our economy back on track. In early 2009, we were bleeding 700,000 jobs a month. As of the end of June 2012, we’ve seen 28 straight months of private sector job growth.
Our top priority is creating jobs for the American people and creating an economy that's built to last, so that everyone has a fair chance at living the American dream if they work hard and play by the same rules. From creating clean energy jobs to helping small businesses expand and thrive right here in America, we can strengthen our middle class once again, and show them that it’s possible to make it in America.
As you know, Florida possesses many of our nation’s most unique and delicate ecosystems. Our coastlines and wetlands are national treasures which must be preserved for all Americans. Yet, rising sea levels, polluted waterways, and the dwindling populations of native species remind us of the dire need for robust environmental protections that promote cleaner air, cleaner water, and preservation of our natural resources. The health of our environment is essential to the overall well being of Floridians and all Americans. We must understand that what we do today has a profound impact on future generations.
As part of this effort, it is critical that we continue our restoration efforts of Florida’s Everglades. Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden toured the Everglades National Park and talked about the Administration’s plans for funding restoration projects.
Everglades restoration has been a bipartisan, state-federal partnership for more than a decade, and returning the Everglades to a more natural state will have broad positive benefits for Florida’s economy and natural resources. While progress over the years has been uneven, since 2008 we’ve seen a dramatic increase in federal resources as well as the commencement of several major federal projects – from construction on a Tamiami Trail bridge, to improving the ecosystem at Picayune Strand and the Indian River Lagoon.
Restoration of the Everglades has significant environmental and economic benefits for Florida. In addition to the seven million Floridians who rely on the Everglades for their primary source of drinking water, a study conducted for the Everglades Foundation showed that for every dollar invested in Everglades restoration, $4 are generated in economic benefits. This means that $11.5 billion invested in Everglades restoration would result in $46.5 billion in gains to Florida’s economy and create more than 440,000 jobs over the next 50 years, by spurring construction and tourism activity.
We are fortunate to have one of the world’s great wonders right here in South Florida, and restoring the Everglades serves as a reminder that we must leave this world better than we found it. Please be assured I will continue to support efforts to restore and preserve our environment, and oppose further efforts to roll back protections for the water we drink and the air we breathe. Protecting South Florida’s ecosystems, from our pristine coast line to the Everglades, is a fundamental responsibility that I do not take lightly. We must continue to work to make certain we have proper safeguards to protect the environment—our greatest national treasure—for future generations to enjoy.
For the first time in history, we have passed a comprehensive health care reform bill that will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, while having the added benefit of significantly reducing long-term health care costs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) gives American families and small businesses more control over their health care by reducing costs, increasing choice, and instituting common-sense rules that will keep insurance companies honest.
By providing one of the largest middle class tax cuts in history, this legislation reduces premium costs for tens of millions of Americans and setting up a competitive market, giving working families and small businesses the same access to coverage that members of Congress have. Additionally, the law extends coverage to the millions of struggling Americans who have been unable to obtain coverage due to skyrocketing costs or discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. This legislation protects the sacred relationship between patients and doctors, and we must work to ensure that all medical professionals are adequately reimbursed for their high-quality care.
While we increase coverage and reduce costs we must ensure that we continue to lay a foundation for economic prosperity. The Affordable Care Act puts our budget on a more stable path by reducing our deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years and more than $1 trillion over the following decade.
Comprehensive health care reform has already brought vital improvements to the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in South Florida. The following provisions have already taken effect:
•If you are a senior, you will now be receiving a 50% discount on brand-name drugs if you enter the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ coverage gap – a discount that grows until the ‘donut hole’ is closed in 2020. Because of this provision, 7,200 seniors in our district have saved $4.6 million in drug costs, which is an average savings of $640 per person.
•If you are a young adult, you can now stay on your parents’ health plan until your 26th birthday, if you do not have coverage of your own. Approximately 4,900 young adults in the South Florida have gained health care coverage because of the new Affordable Care Act provisions.
•If you are a child under age 19, you can no longer be denied coverage by an insurance company for having a “pre-existing condition.” In our district, there are now 8,000 to 36,000 children with preexisting health conditions who are now protected against insurer denials.
•If you are among 4 million eligible small businesses, you can receive tax credits if you choose to offer coverage to your employees – covering 35% of the cost of coverage. As a result of the law, 760 small businesses in the district received tax credits to help maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees in 2010.
•Your insurance company must now spend at least 80 percent of premiums on covering medical services – rather than administrative expenses, CEO pay, and profits.
As this law continues to take effect between now and 2014, we will see even more monumental consumer protections: including, the complete elimination of restrictive annual and lifetime limits, key investments in our health care work force to increase the number of primary care doctors, the elimination of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and the establishment of the affordable health insurance exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act will help 31 million uninsured Americans afford comprehensive coverage, it’s closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, protecting the doctor-patient relationship, and bringing down the deficit. In just its first two years this legislation, aimed at fixing our nation’s broken health insurance system, has already helped millions of Floridians live healthier lives.
America's service men and women should be able to count on the full and unwavering support of their government. Our nation’s veterans have shown unwavering courage and bravery on the battlefield and should not have to fight to get the benefits they deserve here at home. I believe we have a duty to protect and provide for every American who serves, and I pledge to always honor their service, sacrifices and their dedication to their nation.
As our men and women continue to return home, it is crucial that we ensure they have access to the help they need to transition to civilian life. This means treating them fairly when it comes to health care, housing, and supporting their families.
This is why I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Hiring Our Veterans Act and a supporter of President Barack Obama’s efforts to relieve unemployment. These efforts include the creation of the Veterans Job Corps and the signing of two new tax credits into law. Florida also needs to do its part to make hiring veterans a greater priority, and that’s why I co-hosted a Jobs Fair for veterans in December with my good friend and colleague, Rep. Ted Deutch.
My colleagues and I passed the new GI Bill for the 21st Century, which restores the promise of a full, four-year college education for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. These benefits, which started in 2009, are available to an estimated 2.1 million veterans. We have also extended those college benefits to all children of fallen soldiers since 9/11 (with no minimum military service needed to qualify). To date, we have made progress in the key areas for veterans: jobs and the economy, health care, family support, housing and education. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to push for continued progress as more troops return home and look to return to civilian life.
We have made significant progress in women’s health over the past decade, but now is the time to strengthen our education and prevention efforts because, as the old saying goes, knowledge is power. As you may know, in 2007, at the age of 41, after I found a lump in my breast while doing a routine self-exam, my doctor diagnosed me with breast cancer. As my own personal story indicates, despite the perception, young women can and do get breast cancer.
As a woman who believes in the protection of reproductive choice, I affirm that abortions in this country should be safe, legal and rare. Currently, the law as upheld by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade protects a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy during the first and second trimesters. After this stage, states may regulate the abortion procedure in way that are reasonably related to protection of the mother’s health. I believe strongly in a woman's right to make educated medical decisions regarding her reproductive health. Not only do I support a woman’s right to choose, but also her ability to obtain legal pharmaceuticals such as emergency contraception and birth control.