Yesterday, we had the privilege to sit down with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) in his office in the Capitol for a free ranging discussion on issues and legislation before the Senate.
When asked how his agenda differs from the Democrats, security appears to be a common theme as Frist mentioned a three-prong message: securing our homeland, securing our prosperity and securing our values.
We were most interested in the securing our prosperity aspect and were fortunate enough to ask two questions of the Majority Leader-one on taxes and the other on energy.
he talked a lot about the Gulf of Mexico Energy Act. Frist predicted later that day that he’d get 72 votes on passage (he was off by one) and made the point that two months ago the Democrats were still bad mouthing last year’s energy bill and saying the prospects for passing the Gulf of Mexico Energy Act were dead in the water (no pun intended). “Its unbelievable,” Frist said, “the amount of benefit Americans will gain as a result of this legislation. With $3 a gallon gasoline, Americans expect us to act. Meanwhile the Democrats continue to obstruct.”
While the energy that we can recover as a result of this legislation won’t be on the market for another ten years, there will likely be an immediate benefit on the futures market. This is because the leases for area 181 in the Gulf of Mexico can be sold immediately and this fact will have an immediate impact by reducing the price of oil by between $7-15 per barrel.
It is expected that area 181 will yield one billion barrels of oil and 5.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. While some scoff at this amount, it is worth repeating that if President Clinton didn’t veto ANWR legislation the first time ten years ago, we’d be receiving the benefits of production today.
We also asked the Majority Leader his thoughts on the prospect of this energy bill getting to the President’s desk. Frist reminded us that after this week, the Senate only has 15 more legislative days before adjournment and that the House has passed a different bill which still needs to be reconciled in conference.
Monica McGuire in our office asked us to pose a question regarding how much support he has among Democrats for H.R. 5970, the “trifecta” bill that will include business tax cut extensions, an increase in the minimum wage and a permanent reduction in the estate tax.
“We will see….we will see.” The Senator remarked. Frist noted that he has not whipped the vote among his GOP colleagues but that the issue is very important. He recognized that the legislation was a compromise and that Democrats will likely block the bill while they work hard to make sure it passes.
A final question was asked about judges. Frist was proud to note that as Majority Leader, he helped achieve the lowest court vacancy rate in 20 years and has broken the back of filibuster as a technique to stall judicial nominations.
The event concluded with the Majority leader preparing to head to the Senate chamber to deliver his remarks on the Gulf of Mexico Energy Act.
We’re thankful for the Senate Majority Leader taking time out of his day to meet with us and, as we have noted in this space many times, we’ll happily clear our schedule to meet with anyone on the Democrat side (House or Senate) and report their thoughts on this space.
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