Just a Deal Between 10 Senators

Call me cynical, but after the Gang of 14, the “gang” of senators supporting comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 and now the new “Gang of 10” on a supposedly bipartisan energy policy — I’m feeling nervous.  Why? Because we just came out of an era of Republican control of the Presidency, the House and the Senate and we got none of the big things Republicans are supposed to do done.  The war is not yet won, the Bush tax cuts are not permanent, the size of government has grown — not shrunk — and there’s been no reform of the entitlement programs such as Social Security that are on the verge of bankrupting the nation. It always seems that Democrats in the Senate want to make Republicans look bad and Republicans in the Senate want to compromise.

What makes it more difficult to see the Gang of Ten in any positive light is that the House Republicans are doing something truly inspiring right now and the Senate Gang of Ten — at least the five Republicans among them — are actually working against them. So before we go any further, I am challenging the Gang of 10 to go to the floor of the House and stand with their colleagues in the House.  To turn a phrase, “Stand There, Stand Now, Save Americans Money.” With the framework for a bill that is very complicated — because legislators can’t do anything that is not complicated — it is important to make a statement and if they are standing with each other in the Gang of 10 then they ought to stand with their colleagues in the House.

On Friday, two things happened to bring this issue to a head.  First, Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal wrote a scathing analysis of the Gang of 10 compromise entitled “Republican Energy Fumble.” On my program we received calls for our local congressman, Nathan Deal (R-GA). One senate staffer said, “Please know that this proposal was the result of many hours of meetings between these 10 senators.  They met every day for weeks and he would not have supported if he didn’t think it was in the best interest of Americans. He has gotten thousands of emails, letters, calls and faxes demanding Congress do something about the energy issue. This proposal isn’t the end of the energy debate; it’s the beginning and a good place to start.”

Then, Rush Limbaugh received a call from Dalton, Georgia that took Senator Chambliss (R-GA) to task for being a part of this group. He said, “I have a lot of family and friends and if he (Chambliss) doesn’t back away from this, none of them are going to vote for him.”  Sen. Saxby Chambliss is considered to be the safest Republicans running for reelection. But for many voters, it really isn’t about compromise; it is about the foundation for compromise.  On immigration, the foundation was border security first and then we can talk about the other issues.  For energy policy, the foundation is to develop and use our own resources before we compromise on the rest.  

When I heard Senator Chambliss mentioned by the caller, I called the Senator’s office and suggested that they get in contact with Rush Limbaugh and try to get on the program.  It turns out that Rush’s folks had been trying to get Senator Chambliss and after getting the right email in the right hands, Chambliss’ office got in touch with the Limbaugh program and the Senator called in.

Senator Chambliss believes this is the way to get an energy policy utilizing our own resources now. However, that belief is based on the Democrats actually letting this legislation get to the floor.  This is not an issue of the nuances of a complicated bill that gives to some and takes away from others.  Limbaugh framed it as an issue of whether to defend freedom or to take it away. The freedom to use our own resources for our own betterment and the all-of-the-above strategy that Senator McCain has been trumpeting and finally getting some traction. A caller on the Limbaugh program from Ohio put it best, “House Republicans are doing something inspiring and you (The Gang of 10) are sabotaging McCain’s candidacy. Republicans are tired of your compromising.  If we wanted the Democrat plan then we would vote for him (Obama).”

In fairness, Chambliss pointed out that one big part of this framework — it’s not a bill yet — is the virtual immediate access to more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico where there is already  infrastructure in place to get the oil to market. In reviewing the transcript of the news conference, several senators, including Chambliss, said this is the first step with drilling and many of them including all of the Republican Senators support further exploration of our domestic resources.

Over the last week, I’ve talked to several members of the House members who are taking to the floor during this recess. Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-Ga)  said in a statement Saturday, “While I respect our Senators’ desire to find the legislation that reaches consensus with Senate Democrats, the American people are more interested in lower gas prices than in Senate procedural pleasantries.  The only thing they care about is a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy plan to lower the cost of fuel.  For far too long, this Congress has accepted ‘compromise’ energy legislation and look what it has got us — $4 gasoline.”

So what are we to believe?  Congressmen in the House of Representatives who are taking to the floor of the House in recess or traveling around their districts holding town hall  meetings and are holding firm that the first tenet of any energy bill has to maximize the access to American oil and then develop alternatives.  Or should we believe that a bipartisan meeting of 10 Senators can hammer out an alternative?  Faint hope.

Regardless of the support, getting 60 votes to invoke cloture is the key.  The question is, with the Senate still in session to prevent President Bush from making recess appointments, can they get enough support for the framework to keep the environmental wacko lobby from taking over this framework like they take over every debate on this issue? I’m not convinced.

This is another “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment.  I challenge all the Senators supporting the framework of the Gang of 10 to go to the House floor and stand with the members of the House of Representatives who are standing tall on this issue and that includes the 5 Democrats, too.  Then, let’s get the Democrats like Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) and the other so called “Blue Dog Democrats” to stand up with their colleagues for an American issue to “Drill Here, Drill Now and Save Money” for the American people.

Republicans have an issue that is clear and understandable.  As when the American people said we must have border security first, we are now saying we must have the full use of our own resources here and now first.  Now is the time, don’t lose your nerve.