The final week of the out-of-session energy uprising came to a close on Friday with Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) right where he said he would be when the whole thing started: still on the House floor when the lights came back on.
But he and the rest of the “Drill Now” rebels have to face Speaker Pelosi’s plan to force renewal of the offshore drilling ban as part of a huge “continuing resolution” bill that will appropriate the funds necessary to keep the government going after September 30. The choice will be approve the ban or shut down the government.
The problem arises because the Drill Nothing Congress hasn’t passed any of the appropriations bills that normally comprise a huge part of Congress’ responsibility. A “Christmas tree” continuing resolution will be required to prevent the first shut down since Newt Gingrich was House speaker.
For conservatives, that’s an easy choice. Let the government close for a while and force Pelosi and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nv) to hold an up-or-down vote on lifting the Democrats’ embargo against American oil drilling.
At the final press conference, Pence stressed the success of the protest: “There has been as a result of more than 130 Republicans holding this vigil for five weeks during the August recess… a great deal of rhetorical movement by Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats…Five weeks on into an unprecedented House protest in a darkened chamber we used our imagination. Within a few short days after that interview where she had reiterated her insistent opposition to even allowing a vote on drilling, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced… we quote can have a vote. This is evidence of rhetorical progress, but the American people are tired of talk about energy independence. They want action.”
The big topic of discussion around the hallways, in the cloakroom and on the House floor was the upcoming legislative schedule set by the Democrat leadership that began to make its way through the ranks. Pence remarked to the assembled press, “We received earlier today a list of what is on the schedule for next week on Capitol Hill. The Missisiquoi and Trout Rivers Wild and Scenic River Study Act of 2008 (H.R. 3667) and the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 (H.R. 3036). That’s all that’s been mapped. That is the kind of legislative schedule that has resulted in the level of frustration of the American people and the low approval ratings of the Congress.”
When asked about Pelosi’s bill being constructed behind closed doors, Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said, “I’m glad that after writing a book she’s decided to unilaterally write an energy policy for the people of the United States. She is politically trying to frustrate the will of the United States House… All we’re asking her as our Speaker is that instead of proceeding maliciously that she allow us to have an up or down vote on it.”
Rep. John Carter (R-TX) told me, “There are a lot of dirty tricks that they can pull, one of which I think they might. Right now the offshore drilling ban goes away on the 30th of September unless they put it on a bill that would continue the moratorium. I’m on the Appropriations Committee and we haven’t done our appropriation. This House hasn’t done its work because of the leadership of this House. So they’re going to have to do a continuing resolution to keep the government running. I expect them to put that moratorium on the continuing resolution and then our choice as people who are concerned about energy is to either vote to shut down the government by voting no on the continuing resolution or vote against the energy that we think is important to the average American citizen.”
There is a great deal of speculation over whether or not the continuing resolution with the offshore drilling ban included by House Democrat leadership can be passed by the Democrat majority, which will give House Republicans a huge political hammer to beat Democrats with in elections across the country. Carter believes that the Democrat leadership may not have the votes to pass the continuing resolution that includes a reauthorization of the offshore and oil shale production ban. Carter told me, “I think there’s an awful lot of us who have been in this fight since it started who won’t vote for it. We’ll have a government shutdown first. We’ll play Russian Roulette with them and see who wins. Believe me, the Democrats don’t have the votes to pass it out of the House. If they try to hold people to party lines, there’s some people — I’m not going to mention names — but just from the Texas delegation, that they understand that this is a crisis on energy. We’re an energy state. If we doled out energy throughout the state, and didn’t share any with anybody else, everybody’d be sitting around outside of Texas in the dark. We’ve done our share for a long time. It’s time for a few other people to step up and do their share.”
Should the continuing resolution pass, it would be up to President Bush to veto. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has gathered enough signatures in the House to guarantee that there will not be an override of the veto. This high-stakes game of chicken is just getting started today as the House Republicans proclaim that they have just begun.
Carter remarked, “I think we’ll be doing this issue at night [special orders] from now until Nancy Pelosi starts to listen. We’re being a little softball… if they play in your face politics when they come back, I expect it’s going to get a lot rougher.”
Pop the popcorn and stay tuned right here.