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The Week Ahead: Top Hill Aides Weigh In

Since Capitol Briefing first started asking House and Senate leadership aides last month to contribute their thoughts on each week's agenda, their responses have focused almost exclusively on two pressing issues: housing and energy. This week is no different, as the two parties continue squabbling over oil drilling and both chambers prepare to consider legislation helping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cope with their current financial problems. Here are previews of the battles to come from aides to three top congressional leaders:

Brendan Daly, for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
Energy:
Since President Bush took office, the price of oil has increased from less than $30 per barrel to a recent record high of nearly $150, and the price of gasoline has risen from $1.47 per gallon to more than $4 per gallon. And his announcement today lifting the executive ban on drilling in protected coastal areas is a hoax that will do nothing to lower prices. The Bush plan instead gives millions more acres to the same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas.

Democrats are working to lower energy costs.

• We are Demanding that President Bush "Free Our Oil" by releasing a small portion of the more than 700 million barrels of oil we have put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

• In the coming days, Democrats will continue to take action and introduce legislation that will:

-- Accelerate the development of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska by requiring the Bureau of Land Management to offer annual lease sales in the NPRA, which was specifically set aside by Congress for drilling and has 20 million acres that could produce 10.6 billion barrels of oil.

-- Incorporate the 'use it or lose it' legislation, which requires oil producers to drill on the leases they already have before asking the federal government for new ones.

-- Institute a ban on the export of Alaskan oil so American oil is used here at home.

Restoring Confidence in Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are vital institutions that hold or guarantee nearly half of all mortgages in the United States; the New Direction Congress will work in a bipartisan way to protect homeowners and homebuyers and our larger economy.

We are reviewing the Treasury Department's proposal, which would make assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac available if necessary--and we will continue to work to protect homeowners and families by sending comprehensive housing foreclosure crisis legislation to the President.

Medicare:
This week, possibly as early as tomorrow, Congress will override President Bush's expected veto of Medicare legislation that will strengthen Medicare, prevent a 10.6% pay-cut to doctors, and ensure beneficiaries have access to the doctor they know and trust, especially Americans living in rural areas and seniors.

Michael Steel, for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio):
The President's announcement today that he will lift the executive moratorium on deep-water energy exploration puts the pressure on this issue right where it should be: on the Democratic Leadership. Will they allow a vote on a proposal to increase the supply of American energy to help bring down the skyrocketing cost of gas?

At this point, this week in the House, the Democratic Leadership has once more refused to schedule a single bill that would help lower gas prices. Speaker Pelosi has said that she would rather "pack it up and go home" than allow more drilling for American oil and gas - despite the fact that more than 70 percent of the American people support increased production.

Last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced a new slate of sham "energy bills" as a part of another attempt by the House Democratic Leadership to pretend that they are willing to increase production of American energy when they are not. For details about why each of these proposals is either pointless or actively counter-productive, please click here.

The Democratic Leadership is in a box on this issue. The American people support increased production, not the Democratic Leadership's "drive small cars and wait for the wind" policy. An increasing number of Members of the Democratic Caucus support increased production. How long will the House Democratic Leadership continue to defy the will of the American people, and their own Members, by refusing to schedule real pro-production votes?

House Republicans are committed to increasing the supply of American energy. Again this week, we will use every tool available to the minority to force votes on these issues. At the end of the week, Republican Leader John Boehner, along with ten of his colleagues, will depart on an American Energy Tour, which will highlight House Republicans "All of the Above" energy strategy. The tour is a roadmap to America's energy future. We will visit the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, where scientists are creating the new solar, wind, biofuels, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies that will power the United States into the next generation. We will also visit Alaska, to see the portion of the desolate coastal plain where we can drill now in an environmentally responsible way to get the oil and gas that will help bring down prices at the pump in the short term.

House Republicans' "All of the Above" energy plan says we must do everything we can to deal with the number one issue on the minds of the American people. How long will the Democratic Leadership stand in the way?

Rodell Mollineau, for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):
Democrats are committed to both long- and short-term solutions to our energy crisis. This week we will introduce a bill that stands up to the greedy speculators who manipulate the energy markets, and we hope the President and Senate Republicans will join us in this fight to lower record-high gas prices. While we seek to use our existing resources better and invest more in clean alternatives to oil, Bush-McCain Republicans have consistently run away from the debate, squandering chance after chance to act.

We will also give Republicans the opportunity to override President Bush's recklessly threatened veto of the Medicare fix that will help doctors and patients alike, as well as the opportunity to support funding for fighting global AIDS that the President and Senate Democrats both agree is needed. Bush-McCain Republicans have talked a big game in recent days about lowering the costs of living - especially in energy and health care. This week, we'll see if they are serious.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 14, 2008; 7:30 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , The Week Ahead  
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