- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

Noble: The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Billy Tauzin, for spending his steamy August recess attempting to be bipartisan about energy security with Democrats already steamed about prescription drugs (more below).

Admittedly, even the worst of Washington's dog days is probably positively cool compared to the heat and humidity in Mr. Tauzin's home in the southernmost district of Louisiana. Still, he almost certainly has things he'd like to be doing there such as spending time talking to potential voters, mending fences, meeting with book publishers and missing speeches at the Democratic Leadership Conference. Oops, sorry. That's what Al Gore is up to.

Anyway, instead of enjoying Louisiana's outdoor delights Mr. Tauzin and his staff are spending the summer in a detention-style atmosphere inside the Beltway, attempting to turn the art of compromise into a comprehensive energy-security package. He's talking to representatives about renewable energy standards, to senators about oil security and to the White House about greenhouse gas registries. He recently told reporters from The Washington Times that he was not going to rest until he had produced a comprehensive bill. (Given the complexities involved, a strong third quarter may be brewing for Starbucks.)

The task is to produce a comprehensive energy bill that ties together the strands of the widely divergent House and Senate energy packages, binds 60 senators into agreement on energy policy and adds to the nation's security. Doing so, on the cusp of the election season, could be seen as almost laughably hopeless were the need not so great. After all, about 60 percent of the oil Americans use is imported, making an already torpid American economy extremely vulnerable to potential energy shocks. (By comparison, oil imports were at 35 percent during the 1973 Arab oil embargo.)

When members return from their recess, they'll have Mr. Tauzin to thank. Perhaps at that point, Mr. Tauzin and his staff will be able to enjoy a sleepy recess.

Knaves: Senate Democrats, for preventing passage of a prescription drug plan, out of what appears to be pure political calculation.

Scaring seniors over prescription drugs is a Democratic specialty, even though one would almost have to be on drugs to believe the rhetoric that is sometimes spewed. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that, after two weeks of debate, plans to provide a prescription drug benefit to seniors were shelved after senators failed to reach a 60-vote consensus. Over the last two weeks, the Senate shot down a total of four different prescription plans, ranging from a conservatively priced GOP proposal to a liberally endowed Democratic one.

There was probably plenty of back-slapping going on in Capitol Hill cloakrooms. After all, the economy could recover by November, and Democrats need something more to run on than obstructing legislation and supporting windmill subsidies.

November will tell if such knavery has energized seniors, or simply put them to sleep.

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