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LAMBRO: Savvy GOP maneuver
Question of the Day
When Democratic leaders shut down Congress last week for the rest of the summer to avoid dealing with record oil and gas prices, they may have committed the biggest political blunder of the 2008 elections.
What they didn’t expect is that many Republican House members were not leaving town without addressing the hottest national issue in this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns.
Instead of quietly acceding to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stubborn refusal to take up a comprehensive energy bill to deal with punishing $4-a-gallon gas prices, a gang of Republicans refused to follow Democrats home for a five-week vacation. They gathered on the House floor Monday to continue a protest that began spontaneously Friday to denounce Mrs. Pelosi’s action.
Her rigid, iron-fisted decision appears to have boomeranged on her party — making it appear insensitive to the plight of ordinary Americans struggling under the yoke of budget-crushing gas prices while Democratic lawmakers bask in the luxury of more than a month off that most workers can only dream about.
Handling the gas price debate with remarkable political dexterity, the Republicans have shoved the Democrats on the defensive and seized the high ground on the No. 1economic issue of the year. And they did it by demanding what most Americans want: To vote on a bill to lower gas prices by boosting oil exploration and production.
Meeting Monday in the Capitol by the Will Rogers statue, the American humorist who ridiculed Congress as bumblers and bunglers, they plotted a week of protests on the House floor where Republicans are blasting the Democrats for skipping town without taking up a pending energy bill.
The Democrats have “shuttered the U.S. House of Representatives for a five-week vacation while ignoring the No. 1 issue weighing down our economy and the budgets of American families — high gas prices,” said Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri.
And it wasn’t just the Pelosi Democrats who found themselves under a barrage of political fire on the issue. Barack Obama was being pounded this week by John McCain for not demanding that his party return to take up an “all of the above” energy bill that would reduce oil prices and lower the cost of gas here at home.
That means encouraging alternative energies like wind, solar, biofuels and geothermal, Mr. McCain lectured the freshman senator. But it also means “we need more nuclear power. It means we need clean coal technology. And that means we need to offshore-drill for oil and natural gas. We need to drill here and we need to drill now,” the Arizonan said Monday.
“And anybody who says that we can achieve energy independence without using and increasing these existing energy resources either doesn’t have the experience to understand the challenge we face or isn’t giving the American people some straight talk,” he said.
The Republicans’ double-barreled offensive is beginning to make Democrats squirm. With Mr. Obama’s numbers shrinking in key battlegrounds, including Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Florida, the Illinois senator conceded last week that he would accept some offshore drilling as part of an energy bill. In a surprising turn-around in Lansing, Mich. Monday, he hastily proposed dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (an old bromide that never works).
Voters seem to sense that his proposals will do nothing to reduce gas prices. Alternative sources of energy like wind, solar and biofuels will not fill your tank. More $30,000 hybrid vehicles and a $7,000 tax credit may be fine for the Chablis and brie set, but they are beyond the pocket book of working-class voters who are hurting the most.
Clearly the Republicans’ relentless pounding on the energy issue is drawing Democratic blood, boosting voter polls in behalf of the GOP’s pro-drilling proposals and forcing Mr. Obama to abandon positions of his environmental supporters.
“It’s so disappointing to see Obama now say he would consider expanding offshore drilling,” Friends of the Earth testily said in a statement this week.
About the Author
By John McAfee
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