Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Signing Into Law the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

November 27, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. This morning we are gathered here to sign into law the Interior appropriations bill, which has a special significance above and beyond its meeting the needs of the Interior Department. It does provide the first budgetary commitment to the long-range evolution of synthetic fuels, but I think of even more personal importance, this bill, for the first time, will provide real help for the poor and the elderly people of our Nation in meeting the rapidly increasing costs of energy.

We have already distributed to the States $250 million to help the poor and the elderly meet their increasingly high energy bills—$250 million. This bill will provide an additional $1,350 million, a total of $1.6 billion this winter. We will expedite the distribution of these funds, and I want to congratulate the Congress on taking this action in a rapid and effective way.

I've asked the Congress, from the windfall profits tax, to provide, on a permanent basis for the next 10 years, $2.4 billion each year to help the poor and the elderly to meet their rising energy bills.

The last 3 weeks have been a trying time in the history of our country. It has been made vividly obvious to everyone in the United States that our Nation is overly dependent on the import of foreign oil. In 1980 it's estimated that we will purchase from foreign countries 3 billion barrels of oil. In order to pay for this, we'll send overseas $70 billion of American money. Along with oil that we import, we also import inflation and unemployment.

In July, after the Iranian revolution had interrupted for a few months our own supply of imported oil, I went to the American people for the sixth time since my inauguration as President and called on the Congress to take rapid action on five different elements of meeting our energy needs: First was an appeal to the Congress to give me full authority to implement a gasoline rationing plan when and if it's needed; second was an appeal to provide low-income assistance for energy cost increases for the poor and the elderly, which I will sign into law in just a few minutes; third was to pass a windfall profits tax, to provide for the wellbeing of the American public, and to derive this income, which is needed, from the unearned profits of the oil companies of this country.

The House has passed an adequate windfall profits tax bill. The Senate is now in the process of debating this bill on the floor and will be voting on a series of amendments. I hope the strongest possible windfall profits tax will be forthcoming from the Congress.

The House and the Senate have acted on the energy mobilization board, legislation which will permit us to expedite decisions on projects that will provide better energy production in our country. The differences between the two Houses must now be resolved in conference.

And the fifth request that I made to the Congress was to implement for us an ability to proceed rapidly with the development of synthetic fuels, solar energy, including gasohol, and strong conservation matters. This legislation has now been passed in its entirety by the Senate. It's been passed partially by the House, and my hope is that this action can now be completed by both Houses and signed into law.

Any delay in implementing this complete package of energy proposals Will be a deep disappointment to the American people. Time is of the essence, and I can say from the bottom of my heart as President that it involves the security of our Nation. Failure to pass adequate energy legislation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is a clear and present danger to the security of the United States.

We stand here as a sober and determined group, the President and the key Members of Congress. We are working as hard as we can to meet the energy needs of our country. There are only two actions which we can take to resolve this difficulty: One is to enhance conservation, the saving of energy, the elimination of waste of energy; and on the other hand, the increased production of energy in our own country.

This is a complicated and difficult matter, but I want to congratulate again the Members of the House and Senate for the action that they've already taken and to encourage them to join in with me in an expeditious action on the remaining three items that are so crucial to our Nation.

I'd like now to call on Senator Robert Byrd to say a word representing the Senate, if he will, and then I'll call on the representative of the House and then one of our fine Governors, who will help to administer this program for the poor and the elderly. And then I'll sign the legislation.

Senator Byrd?

SENATOR, BYRD. Mr. President, the legislation that you are about to sign represents a commitment on the part of the Congress with respect to a comprehensive synfuels program. It also represents a commitment on the part of the Congress to aid the elderly and the poor in the face of rising energy costs.

I would only want to pay special tribute, Mr. President, to Senator Javits, who is the author of the amendment in the Senate to add $1.2 billion in aid to the elderly and to the poor. I also want to express my deep appreciation to Ted Stevens, who is the ranking minority member on the Senate appropriations subcommittee for the Department of the Interior. And also, I want to thank Dee Huddleston, who acted as chairman of the subcommittee. And certainly I would want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Sid Yates, Congressman Yates, who is chairman of the House conferees, because without the cooperation and the understanding that marked the conference, we would not have been able to send to your desk a bill for you to sign.

You're very right in saying that in the face of world developments, we have to do something and do it expeditiously, to deal with our reliance on unreliable sources of foreign oil. The Senate has passed an energy mobilization board bill. It has passed an omnibus energy bill, establishing an energy security corporation. And in that legislation, of course, is included conservation provisions; a synthetic fuels program provision is in that bill. And we now are in the process of getting conferees appointed so that these Senate and House conferees, once they're named, can meet in conference to iron out the areas of differences.

So, we're working. And I assure you that we're going to do all that we can to get those conference reports back to each House as soon as possible—and that won't be easy, as we have seen in the past. I've never seen anything so contentious as the subject of energy when it reaches the Senate floor.

THE PRESIDENT. I've noticed that. [Laughter]

SENATOR BYRD. And if I were to take off my jacket and my shirt, I could show you some scars— [laughter] —that you may remember were inflicted upon me when I helped to break the spirit of a filibuster a couple of years ago.

But in any event, we applaud you for your leadership in this vital area, and we're going to do the best we can in the Senate to do our part.

Thank you very much for inviting us.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Bob.

I met earlier this morning with the Speaker of the House, who had to go back to the Hill to get the House work underway today. And of course, Jamie Whitten, who's the chairman of the appropriations committee, has worked in a yeoman's way to get this legislation to my desk. Many others have been involved. I'd like to call on Congressman Natchef, however, to speak for the House at this time.

REPRESENTATIVE NATCHER. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you will recall, on the House side we started with a House joint resolution. This is important legislation, and legislation which, of course, will be a milestone in programs where we have people in need and people that are suffering. We passed this bill, Mr. President, in the House by 185 majority, and as you know, that's quite a feat. Ordinarily in the House, legislation like this will pass with a vote 20 or 30 majority, but we passed it on a vote of 185 majority.

We succeeded through the efforts of Sid Yates, my chairman, Jamie Whitten of Mississippi, and the appropriations committee, permitting this legislation to go through on the Senate Interior appropriation bill. This is the way it should have happened; it expedited the legislation. And, Mr. President, we are now down to the point where you are signing. And I want to commend you and to say thank you for presenting to the Congress this legislation.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Congressman Natcher.

Perhaps more than—certainly more than most payments that will go out to people who are urgently in need, the Governors of this country are deeply involved. They've helped to draft the legislation; they've helped to administer the programs that are already in existence; they've already received the $250 million that has been disbursed; and they will be playing a major role in the rapid disbursement of these funds to the poor and the elderly. And I've asked Governor Ella Grasso of Connecticut to say a word for the Governors.

GOVERNOR GRASSO. Thank you, Mr. President.

I think that you have shown us one more time that a majority is one who truly believes. And I want to thank you for your insistence and your determination and your leadership in making the fulfillment of this very real need of crisis intervention moneys a reality. And I congratulate the Members of Congress, as well, for moving with such dispatch to be of help: help to needy families, help to the working poor, and help to the elderly.

The enactment of this legislation, in a very real sense, changes a season of concern into a winter of new hope, and for that, Mr. President, we are most grateful. And we join with you in a continuing pledge of conservation, so that our resources may be fully and properly utilized and we may reach that day, under your leadership, of true energy independence.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. If anyone has the uncontrollable urge to speak— [laughter] —otherwise, I will proceed to sign the bill.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Thank you very much, everyone.

Note: The President spoke at 9:30 a.m. at the ceremony in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 4930 is Public Law 96126, approved November 27.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249163

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives