Democratic lawmaker warns of ‘a world without balloons’

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket

There's a helium shortage in the United States, and Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson is almost as worried as he was when he thought Guam might tip into the ocean if the U.S. expanded its military presence on the island.

During a speech on the House floor Thursday, Johnson urged his fellow lawmakers to act quickly on a bill that would allow the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas, which supplies more than 30 percent of the world's helium, to remain open, despite a 1996 law mandating that it be shut down this year. The House voted 394-1 to stop the reserve's closure on Friday.

“Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a world without balloons,” Johnson said. “How can we make sure that the injustice of there being no helium for comedians to get that high-pitched voice that we all hold near and dear to our hearts.”

He went on, deadpanning: "Today, the House has chosen to just simply float above it all. And finally we're going to do something for the American people, and we should all pat ourselves on the back for that. Too often lately this body has sat deflated, not for a lack of hot air, mind you, but seriously ladies and gentlemen, unlike a noble element, this House has failed to act on Americans' real concerns."

"The Congressman was speaking in jest," Andy Phelan, a Johnson spokesman, told Yahoo News in an email. "He was emphasizing the fact that the Republican-led House was taking two days to pass a non-controversial bill while they should be working on more important issues such as the budget, creating jobs and fixing the sequester."