A growing number of Republican members of Congress yesterday continued the revolt against Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to vote on offshore oil drilling as they sustained their vigil demanding a vote on a “drill and” energy bill. Over 70 members have participated in the events to date, with the number swelling daily.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi abruptly adjourned Congress last Friday for a five week vacation blocking an up or down vote on offshore drilling before recess, the action caused a spontaneous uprising that smoldered over the weekend, showed renewed sparks of life on Monday and is now threatening to grow into a full-fledged revolution. Democrats should ignore this at their own peril.
As a steady stream of members began returning to the District Tuesday night, tour groups Wednesday for a time had the extraordinary experience of being met at the door of the House Republican cloakroom by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) who gave them instruction in the rules governing electronic devices in the chamber, then escorted them to the floor of the House to settle back into a chair usually occupied by a Member of Congress.
As more Republican representatives returned from their districts to participate in the blacked-out of television and radio events in the House chamber, the number of attendees for the speeches is on the steep rise as tourists are being invited to join in on what can only be called at this point – gauging by the mood — festivities.
The audience for the opening speeches Wednesday morning was standing room only and two deep in the back and side aisles of the House floor with the overflow spilling into the gallery. There is a spirit of energy, a skip in the step of members and staffers alike who haven’t really had anything to be this excited about since the axe fell in November of 2006.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich kicked off a feisty morning press conference yesterday praising House Republicans for their efforts and tweaking the nose of the Democrat’s presumptive presidential nominee. Gingrich said, “There is a sign that there is a pro-energy wing in the Democrat Party. We’ve seen Senator Obama move a little closer toward maybe possibly somehow eventually if necessary being in favor of more energy.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) compared Pelosi to another player in an historic revolution, “When the people of France were starving, they went to the queen and said the people have no bread! The queen’s answer was, ‘Let them eat cake.’ That is not the kind of response we expect from the leader of the people’s House in the United States of America.” As the presser ended, Foxx was off to the hallways and the rotunda where she introduced herself to large tourist groups and continued throughout the day to escort them to the House Republican cloakroom.
These Congressmen are well aware of the historic nature of this effort. They are working the radio talk shows on their cell phones, the blogosphere from rooms adjacent to the floor giving non-stop interviews. The enthusiasm was palpable on Wednesday from the very beginning.
“It is really exciting taking part in this historic time, and the people coming in here are great,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ). “I’ve heard from folks from across the country asking to come and be escorted to the floor, and I’ve heard from even more saying they’d like to come but they can’t afford the gasoline to get here.”
Tuesday, Garrett unveiled an email address designed to let constituents share their energy woes: PainAtThePump@mail.house.gov . Garrett’s office provided me with a sampling of the email that is coming in from all over the country, not just from his constituents. The frustration of those writing leapt from my inbox: “I know I am not alone in having to cancel my vacation plans this year. For members of Congress to take a five week vacation while the citizens of this country can’t is appalling,” writes one irritated Army veteran from Virginia.
Yet tourists did stream into the House chamber all day. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) entertained folks in the cloakroom as he tried to eat a chicken lunch between floor speeches, “It’s so encouraging, it’s invigorating to the point that I’ve missed four meals and didn’t realize it until now. I’ve been here since Monday.” When asked about the enthusiastic chanting and applause he received during his speech from the non-partisan audience of vacationers, Gohmert quipped, “I’m just glad it’s not a lynch mob.”
North Carolina resident Bob Perry drove up from Raleigh at 4:30 this morning with his son Sam. “I’ve been following this on the internet and I wanted my son to be able to sit in a seat on the floor of the House of Representatives to be a part of history,” Perry said. “My representative, Brad Miller, isn’t here but I called his office and told them he should be.”
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) closed the speeches for the day as members led all of those assembled in the now-traditional closing of the day’s events: a boisterous rendition of “God Bless America.”
As the last group of folks made their way toward the exits and the summer heat, Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) strolled along chatting with one of the groups. Someone asked how long they were going to keep this effort up. Shadegg replied with a smile, “I’ll be around all month,” earning a cheer from those within earshot.
With Congressional approval ratings scraping the floor at nine percent, laudatory praise for politicians on both sides of the aisle has been non-existent this election year. Until now. This thing may just have legs.