There’s a very odd mood among House Republicans this week. Rebelling against Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s adjournment of the House last Friday, Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind) and Tom Price (R-Ga) had a sort of Howard Beale moment. Beale, the mad newscaster in “Network," asked his audience to throw open a window and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”
Pence and Price refused to leave the House floor and began the open revolt against Nancy Pelosi’s “Drill Nothing” Congress. Five days into the revolt — as I saw yesterday in the Republican cloak room and on the House floor — dozens of House Republicans and thousands of tourists sitting in the chairs of the congressmen on the House floor — the Republicans are excited and Americans seem to be responding.
This is a key moment in the 2008 campaign: the Republicans, if they stick to their guns, can wrest victory away from the Democrats not only in Congress but perhaps the White House, too. Pelosi has handed them the perfect lever with which they can move the nation.
The small revolt against Speaker Pelosi’s refusal to allow a vote to enable offshore drilling — and relieve the gasoline price burden on American consumers — that began when Democrats adjourned the House for a five-week vacation has energized Republicans like nothing since the great revolt against the amnesty for illegal immigrants bill last summer.
According to Republican Whip Roy Blunt, about twenty members have been on the House floor every day since Friday, and more than one hundred members are either already here or promising to come back next week.
When I last saw Mike Pence, he was on the House floor talking about the Democrats’ priorities. His chart shows what Pelosi believes the House should spend time on instead of voting on offshore drilling: vital issues such as declaring “National Train Day” and praising the “International Year of Sanitation.” Pence and Price are leaders. They attracted a lot of attention from their fellow House members.
I asked Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) how she felt about it yesterday in a not-too-quiet moment in the Republican cloakroom. The mild-looking former school teacher told me, “I’m jazzed. Friday night, I was driving home at eleven o’clock at night and got home at midnight…I told my daughter on the phone my adrenaline is pumping so much, I don’t know if I can go to sleep tonight. I’m just jazzed by this.”
Foxx, getting ready to speak on the floor, said, “You know, Thomas Jefferson said we needed a revolution every once and awhile, and I think the American people are speaking, and I hope they’re going to get up in arms with their Democratic and say, “We want to bring down the price of gas and oil, and we can do that.” Let me tell you, when people are starting now to pay for their winter heating fuel, and they are starting to see the problem there too, it’s going to hurt the people in the Northeast in particular where there are a lot of Democrats, and I hope they understand who is creating this problem. It’s the Democrats, not the Republicans.” Revolution?
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) wasn’t any more inclined to smoke the peace pipe with Pelosi. I caught Gohmert after he, Blunt and several other members held a press conference in the hall outside the House Chamber.
Gohmert is raising the stakes for the Democrats. When Congress comes back in September (assuming, as is probable, that Pelosi doesn’t call them back earlier), it’ll have only a couple of weeks to deal with a huge list of important issues, including the fact that the offshore oil drilling ban will expire if not re-enacted. To Gohmert, this is a do-or-die issue.
The last time someone was this fired up, the US government closed down for a few days. Is Gohmert willing to go that far? There’s no question about it.
Gohmert told me, “If they stick in a moratorium to prevent us getting oil and gas from our outer continental shelf to help the American people…they put that in to a continuing resolution to keep the government going. I’m sorry — I’ve got to keep the American people going who can’t afford these gas prices. I’m voting against it, no matter what bill they stick it in. If it’s to honor my mother, my mother would understand, rest her soul, I would vote against it. We have got to take this stand.”
Minority Whip Roy Blunt should be of the same mind, and apparently is. In a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Blunt told me, “I think we really want to keep that ball in the court that it belongs in: the Democrats’. They have to proactively try to maintain these moratoriums on oil shale and on deep water drilling as their price to keep the government going. I think they’re the ones that have to be answerable for that. I’m assuming at this point that those things are over on September the 30th. The American people should demand that they be over, and the president should be moving forward as if the leasing process could begin on October 1.”
Pelosi — trying, in her own words, to “save the planet” — is dedicated to the most radical environmentalist agenda. She and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) have put a green monkey on Uncle Sam’s back.
Voters are angry and their congressmen — at least the Republicans — are listening.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told me that his town hall meetings used to be all about illegal immigration and the war. No more.
“I did a tele-townhall in May and all I heard about was energy prices and since May that’s all it’s been. I get no questions on immigration, I get no questions on national defense. It is all about the price of energy because I live in a part of the state where you gotta drive some distance to get anywhere, and it has affected everyone up and down the line, from the retiree to the young family to the small business, everyone is affected.”
The Republicans continue to be led by conservatives such as Pence, Price and Blunt. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh) is conspicuously absent.
Next week, the Republicans will be back in force. This revolt against Pelosi’s “Drill Nothing” Democrats is taking hold of the House.
Will the Republicans end up closing down the government to prevent the Pelosicrats from blocking offshore drilling again? Possibly. If need be, they should.
It would be worth it. If they force this issue, it’s enough to reverse their course. 2008 need not be a year in which Democrats overwhelm Republicans in Congress or in the White House race. The price of gasoline — which could be greatly lessened if the Democrats would bring offshore drilling to a vote — could be the issue that propels Republicans back into control of the national agenda.
If handled with decisiveness, fortitude, and consistency, it might just be the difference between a massive defeat and (dare I say it?) a year that Republicans gain back much of what they lost in 2006.