The Week Ahead: Top Hill Aides Weigh In
Energy is only one of several issues on tap for Congress' last week in town before August recess, but it's still issue No. 1.
Republicans will continue to call for more oil drilling and criticize Democrats for not allowing a vote on the issue, while Democrats will push a variety of other energy-related bills and accuse the GOP of obstructionism. Below, aides to the top four congressional leaders continue the rhetorical battle they've been waging for months:
Jim Manley, for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):
Democrats are committed to both short- and long-term solutions to our energy crisis, but Bush-McCain Republicans would rather talk endlessly about the problem than act to solve it. In the past two months alone, we have moved seven times to lower energy costs, but Republicans have run away from the debate each time. American consumers are as tired of Republicans' excuses as they are of record-high gas prices.
If the Republican Leadership this week again blocks tax incentives for investing in renewable energy and allows the far right of its caucus to block a package of noncontroversial, bipartisan bills, the American people will see their stalling strategy for what it is.
Don Stewart, for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):
The rising price of gas is still the number-one issues facing Americans, yet the Senate has not begun to address it with the seriousness it requires. Republicans will continue working in support of our balanced plan which increases domestic production, encourages conservation, and strengthens the financial markets. Senate Republicans refuse to walk away from this issue and just give up--as the Democrat leadership has proposed and will propose again this week with votes to change the subject away from $4.00 a gallon gas.
The American people are demanding a solution to the price to the pump. A recent Pew Research Poll found that support for increased energy exploration has jumped by 12 percent in just four months (support among self-identified "liberals" doubled in this same time period; nearly half, 45 percent, now support increased exploration). Despite this, the Majority still refuses to address the issue of supply and demand, and is afraid of losing a vote to expand domestic drilling. It's the reason they've been cancelling hearings and markups. They're stuck between a rock and a hard place, between their presidential nominee and the guy at the gas pump with steam coming out of his ears because he just put $80 into his tank--instead of his daughter's college fund.
The Senate can take these votes now or when gas costs $5.00 a gallon but Republicans are ready to work on real energy legislation in the week ahead.
Michael Steel, for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio):
The story of this week is simple: How many House Democrats will vote to go on a five week vacation without doing anything to increase the supply of American energy to help bring down gas prices? That's it. Gas prices are the number one issue on the minds of the American people and if House Democrats leave Washington without doing anything that will help (like passing the House GOP's "American Energy Act"), the American people will notice. Why is the House Democratic Leadership so afraid of having a vote on this issue? Because they are beholden to special interests that actually want higher energy costs. Why are rank-and-file Democrats getting nervous? Because they know that unlike Speaker Pelosi, the American people want lower gas prices, and Republicans have a plan to deliver them while their own Leadership is sticking with their silly "drive small cars and wait for the wind" plan. The House should not adjourn this week until the Democratic Leadership stops defying the will of the American people and allows an up or down vote.
Brendan Daly, for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
Democrats Continue Efforts To Lower Gas Prices
Democrats are working to end the speculation that is driving up gas prices. The House will vote on a bill to close the so-called Enron loophole on speculators who profit off Americans' pain at the pump. This will likely lower prices, according to a series of experts on the unregulated energy markets.
Under Democratic leadership, this Congress has enacted into law the first new vehicle fuel efficiency standards in 32 years, saving up to $1,000 in gas per car per year; an historic commitment to American-grown biofuels, which are keeping gas prices 15 percent lower now than they would otherwise as a result of blended fuels; and action to lower record gas prices by suspending oil purchasing for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The House has passed a Renewable Energy Tax Credit package that will create and retain hundreds of thousands of jobs and give a crucial boost to the next generation of American energy sources; new tools and authority to crack down on oil cartel price fixing, price gouging by retailers and oil companies, and market manipulation by speculators; and reduced commuter rail and bus fares and expanded service, through grants to mass transit authorities.
Republicans Block Legislation that Would Bring Down Gas Prices
Unfortunately, Republicans have blocked "Use It or Lose It"--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 that could produce 10.6 billion barrels of oil - more oil than is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
President Bush and Congressional Republicans also continue to stand in the way of the only plan that would lower gas prices immediately, blocking legislation that would temporarily release 10 percent of the oil from the government's own stockpile, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and replace it later with heavier, cheaper crude oil. Releasing a small portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has lowered gas prices every time we've done it -- under President Bush, President Clinton, and President George H.W. Bush. Unlike opening new lands to drilling, freeing our oil from the Reserve can start to impact prices in 10 days--not 10 years.
Today, the White House will release a report estimating that the deficit will reach $490 billion in the coming year. President Bush has mortgaged our future, with an unnecessary and extraordinarily costly war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans turning record surpluses into record deficits. Meanwhile, our economy is in a severe economic slump as a result of his mismanagement. Congress has begun to reverse the President's failed policies by working with the Administration to provide more than 130 million Americans with Recovery Rebates to strengthen our economy with a timely, targeted, and temporary stimulus check for Americans. This week, the President will sign the most significant housing reform bill in a generation, passed by the Democratic-led Congress. With this legislation, which responsibly expands homeownership opportunities and protects families against foreclosure, we are helping keep the American dream alive and helping turn this economy around.
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