Stepping in for injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is pushing a bill to help the military address its costly energy needs.
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state plans to introduce the legislation this week on Giffords' behalf. Smith is one of several lawmakers who has looked out for Giffords' legislative and political interests since the January shooting that left six dead and 13 injured, including the congresswoman who was shot in the head.
"Since joining the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Giffords has understood that our military's overreliance on fossil fuels represents one of our great vulnerabilities and she has worked tirelessly to address this shortfall," Smith said. "While she has been successful in including a number of proposals in the committee's annual defense authorization bill in the past, this legislation represents a comprehensive approach."
The Defense Department spends about $20 billion a year on fuel and electricity, relying in large part on oil. A statement from Giffords' office pointed out that one-time terrorist leader Osama bin Laden had called for cutting off U.S. supply lines, referring to them as the military's "umbilical cord."
The legislation would create a joint task force for alternative fuel development, push for the Pentagon to buy electric and hybrid vehicles and provide money for energy-efficiency steps at older buildings. Among the goals are reducing the cost of energy and reliance on foreign oil as well as improving coordination among the services.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., backs similar legislation in the Senate.
Giffords was released from a Houston hospital last week and is undergoing outpatient therapy. She has been struggling to relearn to speak and walk during her extended absence from Congress.