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Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan Remarks on the House of Representatives Disapproval of the Plan.

May 11, 1979

Two years ago, I presented to Congress a comprehensive energy plan for our Nation, and the Congress took some action on it. But they avoided taking action on the subject of oil, and this failure to take action to deal with the oil problem is part of the reason for our present gasoline shortage.

Yesterday, I was shocked and I was embarrassed for our Nation's Government when, after the Senate gave me authority to develop a Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan, that the House refused to take the responsibility for giving me this authority.

Ninety-five percent of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted "no." Forty percent of the Democrats voted "no." The Nation owes a debt of gratitude for those Members of the House of Representatives who did have the courage to vote "yes."

The only conclusion that I can draw is that in spite of the strong leadership of Senator Byrd, Senator Jackson, and a majority of the Senate, Speaker O'Neill, Congressman Dingell, Congressman Bolling, and others in the House, that the majority of the House Members are unwilling to take the responsibility, the political responsibility for dealing with a potential, serious threat to our Nation.

If we should have a serious interruption of oil and gasoline supplies, our Nation would be unprepared to deal with it. We would be in a vulnerable position, and I would have no authority at all to meet what could be a national crisis.

If we had an interruption in gasoline supplies, we would have no plan to allot gasoline equitably among the States or to meet the needs of farmers and others who produce food, the handicapped, policemen, firemen, other major users of gasoline on a priority basis.

I'm not predicting that we will have a shortage—I hope that we will not have a shortage—but I'm not willing to accept the judgment of a majority of the House of Representatives, whose Members have apparently put their heads in the sand and refused to take action, refused to acknowledge the threat, and refused to deal with what is acknowledged to be a very difficult political issue.

There is nothing easy about energy. All of us have learned that from experience. But what can we do now? This is one of the most serious questions that I face. The House has not rejected the plans on their own merit. The House has refused to give me the authority to develop the standby rationing plan so that if and when it is needed, it could only be implemented, provided at that time the House and the Senate also agreed with the President that it ought to be implemented.

This question indicates—and I hate to say this—that a majority of the House of Representatives have been willing to put local or parochial interests and let political timidity prevent their taking action in the interest of our Nation.

I have a sure knowledge that anyone who wants to have gas rationing has taken leave of their senses, but anyone in a position of authority who is not willing to recognize the potential threat to our country and to be prepared to deal with the threat when and if it comes is irresponsible.

There is no need for me under the present circumstances to submit another plan for gas rationing in an emergency. The Congress has indicated that the merits of the plan is not the problem. The problem is the unwillingness of a majority of the House of Representatives to vote for any plan because it's politically difficult.

I challenge the Congress within this next 90 days to develop their own rationing plan—fair, equitable, and balanced. Obviously, I will give them every possible assistance if and when they are willing to exhibit the willingness to take this necessary action in the interest of our country.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. to reporters assembled in the Oval Office at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan Remarks on the House of Representatives Disapproval of the Plan. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249230

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