The energy revolt by House Republicans began its third week yesterday, and the momentum is now squarely in the Republicans’ favor. While Americans continue to struggle with high gasoline prices at the pump, by Monday afternoon a total of 115 members — more than half of the Republican caucus — had returned from their districts to attend the protest on the floor of the House since it began August 1st.
Still blocked from camera and audio coverage by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and with lights out and microphones turned off on the House floor at Pelosi’s order, Republican members renewed their relentless demand that the Speaker call Congress back into session to vote on the American Energy Act (H.R. 6566), an “all of the above” energy bill that would include offshore drilling.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) in a post-presser interview on Monday talked about what he’s expecting when Congress does re-convene. “I think it’s going to be some sort of a figurehead vote that someone can spin and say look, we’re allowing for more exploration or more drilling, but, in reality, it will not,” Hoekstra said. “It will still allow for all types of lawsuits to delay [drilling]. It will not put in the mechanisms for the actual process to be accelerated, or perhaps for the process to even take place. It will be enough that it will allow people to say look, I voted for a package and go home, and hopefully, from Speaker Pelosi’s point, to slide through November and make sure that nothing happens.”
A rattled Pelosi rambled her way through interview after interview on her failing book tour last week as Republican members kept up the pressure on Democrats not only on the House floor, but in campaigns across the country. Republicans are elated with the king-sized hammer Pelosi has handed to them this election season.
I caught up to Rep. David Drier (R-CA) on Friday after the protest’s morning press conference, where he hammered away at the gross failure by Democrats to complete the appropriations process and address this most serious of national security issues. Drier said, “[Democrats] have not gotten a single appropriations bill to the President’s desk… they’re looking to punt and continue into next year. We have to do everything we can to make sure the Democrats do not put a ban [on drilling] in any continuing resolution to fund the government, and we need to do everything possible to make sure we can encourage energy security in the United States. This gang that’s in charge is trying to do everything it can to block us from doing that.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) hit the road last week at gas stations in his district, asking his constituents to sign his Energy Freedom Day petition that protects the October 1st expiration on the ban on offshore drilling and shale oil production. One Athens, Texas, resident told Hensarling in front of local news cameras, “Let me sign that thing. All I want to do is get my signature on here. That Pelosi woman is nuts. We want her to allow drilling. They can drill in my backyard if they want to. I want plain coal, I want gas and oil everywhere we can find it.” (You can watch video of Hensarling’s petition drive at the local gas stations here.)
Vacationers have come to the protest at the Capitol by the thousands, meeting and talking about energy solutions with Republican members of Congress on the floor of the House of Representatives. The Capitol tour crowds were at capacity in the chamber on Friday as folks continued to be drawn to the protest to see history in the making.
Angie Katsamakis of Glenview, Ill., travelled to D.C. with her husband and her eight and nine-year-old sons. On vacation, they contacted their Congressman’s office (Mark Kirk, R-Ill.) about a tour and jumped at the chance to go to the House floor. “We’re very proud of our country, very proud to be Americans, and we wanted to teach our sons about our government,” said Katsmakis. “When we were offered the chance to go to the House floor, of course we wanted to come join the protest. It was really easy to do,” she continued.
Last week, Bob Bishop, a 70-year-old retired engineer from Van Alstyne, Texas, drove by himself to visit his daughter in Philadelphia, and, when he heard about this protest on the radio, he drove to D.C. to visit some friends. A teacher by trade now, Bishop had a message for Pelosi, “Turn the lights back on and get back to work.”
Attending as a group on Friday were 45 members of the Naval FY09 Chiefs and Chief Selectees of Washington, D.C. AT1 Kathleen Reilly, acting as a spokeswoman for the group, said, “We came over today to hear what the House members had to say here, see what the House is doing on energy. The Navy is responsible for Homeland Security’s Noble Eagle mission that deals with terrorism and the protection of our shores and ports. We have a great deal of interest in what’s being done on this issue.”
These folks were typical of the groups and families attending the speeches on the House floor and mixing it up with Republican members of Congress throughout the weeks-long protest: family groups, military groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, students, retirees — your typical summer tour crowd.
On Saturday, delivering the Democratic Radio Address, Pelosi continued her non-capitulation-capitulation to public pressure that she began last week by stating the need to use America’s “domestic resources” without actually saying the word "drill." “It is clear that America’s national security and economic leadership demand that we end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. The current energy crisis demonstrates that we need a comprehensive strategy that utilizes our domestic supply and encourages the promotion of clean, renewable fuels,” Pelosi said in a manner that would in the very least leave one with the perception that she’s supported domestic drilling all along — without ever actually saying it.
Perhaps our dear Speaker should give some serious consideration to some of the more compelling reasons to put an end to her grievous book tour and call Congress back into session for a vote on drilling. Taking this sort of bold step, she could shift the focus of the debate and blame the Republicans for forcing her to end her tour early causing her anemic book sales, which would give her the much-needed victim status that worked so successfully for Hillary Clinton. Democrats could at least give the appearance of doing something — anything — tangible about high gasoline and diesel costs that are devastating the American people, not only at the pump but as prices rise at the grocery store and elsewhere as a result.
As an extra added bonus, Pelosi could pretend to understand what a budget is and why staying within budget limitations on energy costs mean so much to American families. She would have the attention of the people that she’s been so sorely lacking on her book tour to let the voters know that she understands folks won’t be able to just “imagine” fuel for their furnaces come November.
Come what may on this energy bill vote, there is one very bright spot on the horizon for American consumers. Not since the illegal immigration debate last year has this “We the People” action become so huge and gained so much political traction.