The Week Ahead: Top Hill Aides Weigh In
Is the majority stifling the minority? That seems to be the theme of this week in both the House and Senate, where Republicans are agitating for a chance to get votes on their proposals to open up more domestic territory to oil and gas exploration. Democrats say they have their own plans to try to reduce energy prices, and Republicans should get on board rather than obstruct. The debate continues below, with contributions from aides to the top four congressional leaders:
Jim Manley, for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):
Democrats are dedicated to both long- and short-term solutions to our energy crisis. We know we must use our existing resources more efficiently and invest more in new, cleaner ones. But while we have been working hard for months to pass energy legislation that begins to lower record-high gas prices, Bush-McCain Republicans have stood in the way -- blocking half a dozen bills in just the past few weeks. This week we will debate a bill to stop greedy energy traders who artificially inflate oil prices. Republicans have talked a big game recently about lowering the costs of living; this week, we'll see if they are serious.
Don Stewart, for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):
The number one domestic issue in the country is the high price of gasoline, and senators this week will debate ways to bring prices down. However, there are divergent views as to how the Senate should proceed. The Majority wants to limit discussion to the impact speculators might have on the price of oil, while Republicans want a bolder debate which also includes ways to affect supply and demand, production and conservation.
In an attempt to address record-high gas prices, and to forge a bipartisan compromise, 44 Senate Republicans introduced the Gas Price Reduction Act a month ago which can be summed up in four words: Find More, Use Less. It is a balanced approach that combines new and responsible American energy production with conservation and efforts to address speculation in the oil market.
This is a big problem, and the problem is bigger than just speculation; good ideas from all sides should be considered. But Republicans can't act without support from our friends across the aisle, many of whom have publicly supported the provisions contained in the Gas Price Reduction Act.
We hope the Democrat leadership will listen to their conference and allow a full debate that includes responsible increased domestic production. But now the Senate needs to act. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to pass meaningful legislation which will bring relief from high gas prices.
Brendan Daly, for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
Housing Bill/Restoring Confidence in Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac
• This week, the House will consider comprehensive housing foreclosure crisis legislation that will assist homeowners who are struggling and help strengthen the housing market.
• This legislation will also include provisions to make assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac available if necessary. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are critical important institutions that hold or guarantee nearly half of all mortgages in the United States and this Congress will work in a bipartisan way to protect homeowners and homebuyers and our larger economy.
• Republicans have blocked comprehensive legislation that would have increased oil production here at home and forced oil companies to use the land they control or lose it. The legislation also would have accelerated production in the 20 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA) that could produce 10.6 billion barrels of oil -- more oil than is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
• Democrats will continue to call on the president use the full powers of his office to expedite construction of natural gas and oil pipelines from Alaska as soon as possible and fight to bring transparency to the markets and to end speculators' ability to artificially inflate the price at the pump.
• Action can be taken right now to reduce the price of gas right away - releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. There is nothing new or untested about releasing oil from the Reserve or deferring purchases during times of economic instability. Presidents Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush have all released oil from the SPR.
U.S. and Iraq Agreement on 'General Time Horizon' for Combat Troops in Iraq
• Congressional Democrats have repeatedly urged President Bush to bring our troops home from Iraq honorably, responsibly, safely and soon.
• After rejecting 18 months of attempts by the Democratic majority in Congress to adopt redeployment timetables, the President now proposes a vague 'general time horizon' that falls far short of a commitment to ending our involvement in Iraq.
• While this is a good first step, we need a New Direction in Iraq that allows our troops to come home, and allows us to focus on the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and around the world.
Continuing a New Direction in the Gulf Coast
• Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn are currently leading a congressional delegation of 22 members on a bus tour of New Orleans and coastal Mississippi. The tour will explore recovery as it relates to housing, health care, infrastructure, education, and insurance coverage
Kevin Smith, for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio):
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made it clear last week that House Democratic leaders will continue to defy the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority in Congress by refusing to schedule votes on meaningful legislation to increase American energy production. Last Thursday, the Speaker told CNN flatly that, "I have no plans to do so."
It's rather striking because independent polls demonstrate the American people strongly support Republican solutions on gas prices. House GOP Leader John Boehner last week told the New York Times that "I think Speaker Pelosi is walking her Blue Dogs and other vulnerable Democrats off a cliff, and they know it." Indeed they do. Expect House Republicans to take to ramp up our effort even further this week.
Boehner and 10 of his House GOP colleagues yesterday wrapped up their American energy tour, which made stops at a renewable energy lab in Colorado and several energy-rich locations in Alaska over the weekend to highlight meaningful solutions to help reduce gas prices and break America's dependence on foreign sources of energy (check out Boehner's op-ed on National Review Online for a trip recap).
The other issue of note this week in the House is the housing bill, and the Treasury Department proposal to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Appearing on Bloomberg Television's Political Capital with Al Hunt, Boehner made clear that he would vote against the housing bill if they pair up the Treasury proposal with the controversial bailout initiatives the Democrats have been pushing, saying: "I believe that the Fannie-Freddie proposal ought to move on its own and -- because there's talk about tying it to the bigger housing bill that is very controversial and ... if it was part of that package, it's doubtful I would vote for it." If the Democrats are serious about shoring up our financial markets, they'll move the bill on its own and not tack it onto a controversial bill that is already under a veto threat.
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