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Can Congress Change Its Reputation This September?

A look at Congress’ September agenda, including Gustav, what U.S. policy should be towards Russia, and drilling.

Drilling Moratorium

For years, Congress has banned oil and natural gas drilling on most of America‚??s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). On Oct. 1, that ban, along with one that forbids the extraction and development of oil shale in the Mountain West, will expire. Unfortunately, gaining access to these vast domestic resources is in the hands of the ‚??do no drilling‚?Ě Congress.

Annually, Congress blocks access to American energy by attaching a spending rider on the yearly appropriations bills to prohibit federal funds from being used to issue leases to drilling companies. Because Congress has failed to pass the bills necessary to fund the government in Fiscal Year 2009, which starts Oct. 1, they will soon have to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government

A continuing resolution carries on the previous year‚??s spending level and extends current law, including policy riders that would have otherwise expired. To keep the government operational, a continuing resolution must be passed. In other words, the continuing resolution will uphold the congressional moratorium on drilling and extracting oil shale.

It doesn‚??t have to happen, though. Here‚??s how the moratorium can be removed:

1) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can write the continuing resolution to strike the spending riders on OCS and oil shale.
2) Any member of the House or Senate, if not procedurally blocked by Pelosi or Reid, can offer an amendment to strike the spending riders on OCS and oil shale.
3) President Bush can veto the Continuing Resolution if it fails to remove the drilling ban. Then Congress would be forced to pass a new Continuing Resolution without the drilling prohibition.
4) Conservatives can block the passage of a continuing resolution and demand a removal of the drilling prohibition.

This last option is complicated. If a Continuing Resolution isn‚??t passed, the federal government may shut down on Oct. 1. The opponents of drilling use scare tactics about the consequences of a government shutdown. This would be a classic battle of wills to see who caves first. But if conservatives dig in their heels, they should win.

Russian Aggression

The New York Times reports Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has declared Republic of Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili a ‚??political corpse‚?Ě and the current regime ‚??bankrupt.‚?Ě He also announced a chilling five-point plan that proclaims Russian “privileged zones of influence” around the world and the right to use force to protect Russian citizens wherever they are. It will be interesting to see how John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden react to this declaration as Congress goes back into session. These senators have argued that they have extensive foreign policy experience. Let‚??s see their actions match their declarations.

The truth is, senators merely have the responsibility to conduct hearings on issues and propose legislative solutions to international problems. Yet when Obama was Chairman of the European Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, he didn‚??t even do this. Conservatives want to see which candidate will propose a package of expanded trade with Georgia and potentially economic aid to provide funds to those living in a pro-Western democracy threatened by Russian aggression.

Hurricane Supplemental

Hurricane Gustav was expected to cause massive damage. Many feared that it would rival Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,500 people, prompting Congress to pass a massive aid package. Gustav, fortunately, wasn‚??t nearly as bad. Yet Congress may use it as a pretext to spend more of your tax dollars. Sources in Congress report that there may be a disaster relief measure taken up by Congress in September to provide aid to the people harmed by Gustav.

Colorado State University forecasters have predicted that warm water temperatures and low pressure in the Atlantic will make September a potentially stormy month; therefore, it may be premature for Congress to even consider an aid package before a potential blitz of storms hit the coastlines of the United States.

But any measure will surely be loaded up with last-minute pork projects so that members can have some bacon to brag about as they campaign to regain their seats. The American people are unhappy with Congress, and some spending restraint during the next few weeks would show a will in Congress to change in the right direction.

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Written By

Brian Darling is Editor at Large for Human Events. He is also Sr. Vice President for Third Dimension Strategies, a strategic communications public relations firm in Washington, D.C. Darling served as Sr. Communications Director and Counsel for Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) from 2012-15. Before his tenure with Sen. Paul, Darling served in three different capacities with The Heritage Foundation. Follow him @BrianHDarling on Twitter.

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