- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

House Republicans will try a final time next week to force the Senate’s hand in passing a comprehensive energy policy this year.

The House Energy Action Team (HEAT) has planned a week’s worth of legislative introductions and marketing events to highlight the House’s work on the energy bill.

“They are going to take up the HR-6 conference report and a series of stand-alone bills for renewable [energy] and lump them together,” a House Republican staffer said yesterday.

House members are not optimistic that the bill will pass the Senate, but they are counting on public acrimony from high gasoline prices to add fuel to their fire under the Senate’s feet.

“The House has passed a bill three times and the Senate has obstructed each time,” the House staffer said. “It is largely Democrat opposition with a handful of Republican senators.”

House and Senate Democrats have objected to drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which could produce more than 10 billion barrels of oil, and civil-liability protections for producers of the fuel additive MTBE, or methyl-tertiary-butyl ether.

Both measures were stripped from the Senate version of the bill, but the chamber still has not passed an overall energy bill, although some small parts of it have won approval as parts of other bills.

The HEAT campaign, which was to begin this week, will begin next week out of respect for former President Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday.

President Bush has pleaded with Congress since his 100th day in office to pass a comprehensive energy policy, only to be disappointed each time the bill has come to the Senate floor.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has attacked the president on this issue since last month, blaming him for high gasoline prices and accusing him of failing the American people on energy.

Democrats countered that the “House Energy Week” was a ploy to attack them during an election year.

“The much-advertised House Energy Week will likely have a lot to do with election-year politics and little to do with fixing our nation’s energy problems,” said Bill Wicker, spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Mr. Wicker said it is false to say that Democrats have obstructed energy policy, citing the Senate’s passage last month of some tax provisions on which the House has not acted.

“If there is one bill the House should pass next week, it’s the Senate-approved JOBS Act, legislation that includes tax incentives to boost domestic energy production and conservation,” Mr. Wicker said, adding that Mr. Bush has failed to take several measures to lower gasoline prices that don’t require legislation.

Mr. Wicker himself did not specify any such measures, but Democrats have argued that Mr. Bush should dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or at least stop filling it up.

“The president can act based on his current authority. To date, though, the president has missed numerous opportunities to take action when it could have made a difference,” Mr. Wicker said.



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