Editor's Note: This article was updated at 1 p.m. with comments from Tim Kaine.
U.S. senate hopeful George Allen said Tuesday night at a Fredericksburg library that one of the first things he would do if elected is to propose legislation that would allow Virginia to explore for natural gas and oil off its coast and share in the royalties.
“We are No. 1 in the world when it comes to energy resources,” Allen said. “We have the resources under our land, we have it under our waters. What is missing is the political will to unleash those resources. If you hire me to be your U.S. senator I am going to be like a dog on a bone on energy.”
Allen was speaking to about 50 Republican friendly people who attended a forum hosted by the Fredericksburg Virginia Patriots (FVP). Although he is challenged by four other people in the primary, Allen is believed to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Tim Kaine, who is in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination, is believed to be Allen’s chief opponent. Kaine declined to participate in any of the FVP's forums—the only candidate to do so.
Allen said he would propose legislation to amend the constitution to require a balanced budget like in Virginia, and to give the president line-item veto power. He said if presidents had line-item veto power, projects like the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska would have never been on the books. Allen said if Washington legislators don’t get the appropriations bill passed on time then their pay should be withheld.
“Unfortunately, right now we are vulnerable to outside sources. Why? Because we have dangerous levels of debt and because of our counterproductive energy policies," he said.
Allen galvanized the conservative base by talking about freedom, opportunity and personal responsibility. He said his “Blueprint for America’s Comeback” is a pro-job-growth agenda that will reinvigorate America’s entrepreneurs. He said he knows Americans are frustrated with 35-straight months of unemployment above 8 percent and ballooning debt.
“I’ve listened to a lot of Virginians and they share my view and that is that our country is not going in the right direction,” he said. “While we are frustrated with Washington, we can’t give up. There is too much at stake.”
He said one key to energizing America’s economy is producing natural gas and oil off the coast to create tens of thousands of jobs. He said Virginia could share in the royalties of off-shore exploration and use the revenue for its woeful transportation systems.
“Tim Kaine said 'no' to the Keystone pipeline that would create tens of thousands of jobs,” Allen said. “If we unleash our energy resources, what would happen? Hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs would be created in America. We’d have more affordable fuel, more affordable groceries, more affordable electricity. We’d be a more competitive country. We’d be a more secure country. The federal government could get over a trillion dollars in revenue without raising taxes and we keep our money here.”
Allen said this country has the second-highest taxes on business in the world at about 35 percent. He said he wants to have it at about 20 percent, which would create about five million jobs over 10 years.
He said more power should be given back to the states. The federal government must focus on its primary responsibilities of making sure there is unimpeded interstate commerce and protecting civil rights, national security and strengthening the national defense, Allen said.
“The states created the federal government, not the other way around,” Allen said. “I’d like to see the federal government stay out of our lives and out of our businesses.”
Allen railed against Obamacare, saying it impedes small businesses to hire because of the mandates they’d be forced to meet if they have more than 50 employees.
“Tim Kaine said he thought Obamacare was ‘a great achievement’ and he will vote against repealing it,” Allen said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to be the deciding vote to repeal Obamacare.”
Kaine for Virginia Communications Director Brandi Hoffine released the following statement today in response to Allen's remarks Tuesday night: "George Allen's promise to balance the budget and restore fiscal discipline in Washington is about six years late and $3 trillion short. Allen had the chance to prove that Virginians could trust him during his previous term in the Senate and instead he turned a record surplus into a record deficit, added more than $3 trillion to the national debt and voted against measures to help balance the budget while voting to raise his own pay. Virginians couldn't afford the first six years of George Allen, and they certainly can't afford six more."
Opt Out of Social Security?
Allen didn’t directly answer the question, but he said he believes there is consensus that if people don’t need Social Security benefits, then they should not get them. He said he wants additional ways for people to save for retirement. He proposed health savings accounts that allow the person to roll over the money year to year instead of the “use it, lose it” rule attached to the accounts now.
“I am all for legal immigration. My mother is an immigrant who came to this country after World War II,” Allen said. The federal government needs to do a better job of securing this country's borders, he said. He is against amnesty and for the only time of the night he said he was against Pres. George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain for supporting amnesty.
“I am not for rewarding illegal behavior,” he said.
Reforming the Tax Code
“I am not content with the way our tax system is right now,” Allen said emphatically. He said businesses are at a disadvantage because they are taxed so much.
He supports changing the tax code so businesses that bring money back to the United States that was earned in another country are not double taxed for those earnings. They would only pay the tax in the country from where it was earned. For individuals, he said he wants to let people choose to either stick with the current taxing system or choose a flat tax with no deductions, similar to what presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has been promoting. Flat tax critics say such changes would take hundreds of billions away from the treasury and push the economy further into debt.
Finding Middle Ground
Partisan politics are at an all-time high. Conservatives refuse to raise taxes and liberals refuse to cut programs, so what is left is not cutting programs and not raising taxes, which inflates the national, state and local debt. Allen said he has a record of working with Democrats and getting major initiatives passed, such as abolishing parole and reforming welfare, effort that required support from both political parties.
“I know it can be done. There is an urgency to get it done,” he said. “It is one of the reasons I have gotten off the sidelines and into the fight. Every vote does count. If there are areas where you can find agreement, you ought to do it.”
Allen said if legislators focused on getting the economy in better shape, they wouldn’t have to worry about cutting programs or raising taxes.
“You find allies in different areas and that helps break the logjam,” he said.
Allen did not directly answer if he would support cutting Medicare, but he did say that seniors should have more options and that millionaires shouldn’t get Medicare benefits. He said the $50 billion wasted on fraudulent claims should be used for Medicare.
What Federal Agencies to Cut?
Allen said he is against having czars because they are unaccountable.
“Everyone of them ought to be eliminated,” he said.
The Environmental Protection Agency needs to be reined in, he said, but he didn’t mention any agency that he would outright abolish. The Department of Energy is an impediment, he said, and should focus on moving the country forward.
“These high gasoline prices are hurting families. When President Obama came into office the average price of gas was about $1.80 a gallon. It is now, as you know, about $3.40 a gallon.”
Let Banks Fail Or Bail Them Out?
“I would probably let them fail, as difficult as that would be,” he said.
Allen said the automobile industry bailout was particularly egregious.
Is Deficit Spending Immoral?
“I think it is immoral to load these children with $48,000 of debt. As one is born there is $48,000 of debt.”
He said a solution to deficit spending is requiring Congress to pass a balanced budget.
Learn From Mistakes
One of Allen’s biggest mistakes in his political career was the “macaca incident.” In 2006 while Allen was stumping to retain his U.S. Senate seat, he pointed to a Jim Webb staffer and called him by the racial slur. The staffer was following Allen around with a video camera and caught the incident on tape.
“I never should have brought that young man into the debate. It was wrong to do it," Allen said.
That single incident sent Allen into a spiral of trouble and he ended up losing to Webb.
At this moment a man of color who had an Allen sticker stuck to his jacket stood up and said, “You should be asking people like me that question. George Allen has been reaching out to the immigrant community all across Virginia and nobody’s perfect. Not me, not you, and not him."
Allen smiled and said, “Everyone knows I’m not perfect.”