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Political Terrain Shifts on Drilling Issue

Republicans begin their third week of unseen and unheard House floor protests today on the energy issue, and the political terrain appears to have shifted significantly since they began Aug. 1.

When the GOP started using the floor of the House, which is in recess, to demand votes on opening up new terrestrial and offshore land for oil and gas exploration, Democrats appeared firm in their insistence that such a vote would not happen. That resistance has gradually melted away in recent days, as the top leaders in both chambers have signaled a conditional willingness to allow a vote on drilling after Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made a similar concession earlier this month.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a conference call that an energy plan proposed by the "Gang of 10" -- a bipartisan group of senators seeking compromise on the issue -- was "a step in the right direction," indicating that some version of the plan could come for a vote in September. The group's proposal includes allowing more drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

On Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) moved the ball a bit further during her delivery of the Democrats' weekly radio address. In it, she said the party's still-in-the-works energy plan "will consider opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling, with appropriate safeguards, and without taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil."

Of course, opening the OCS wouldn't be the only element of Democrats' energy package. It would also release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, push for more drilling on land that has already been leased, call for oil companies to pay disputed royalties on past leases and production and repeal their tax breaks, encourage an increase in the use of natural gas, boost subsidies for mass transit and crack down on oil speculation.

Basically, it's a Democratic wish list, full of proposals the majority has already tried to push through in one form or another, with some kind of offshore drilling provision tacked on to the measure or at least allowed as an amendment on the floor.

Predictably, Republicans were less than enthusiastic in their response. "While the Speaker now claims to embrace a comprehensive energy plan that includes more conservation, more innovation, and more American energy production, the fact is her new effort appears to be just another flawed plan that will do little to lower gas prices," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.

Democrats are unlikely to admit that the GOP's floor show has pushed them into changing their tune on energy. But there's little doubt that the publicity surrounding the minority's demonstration has helped pushed the majority to change its tune. More importantly, the oil drilling debate has come to dominate on the campaign trail.

As Capitol Briefing blogged and also wrote about in today's Washington Post, the energy issue is at or near the top of the agenda in the race in New York's 25th congressional district and in other competitive contests across the country. Many Republican candidates have taken to focusing on energy at the expense of nearly every other issue. And polls continue to show solid majorities of the public favor more offshore drilling.

Moderate and conservative Democratic incumbents have been pushing their leaders for weeks to allow a vote on drilling, and Pelosi -- who represents one of the most liberal districts in the country and is a strong ally of environmentalists -- certainly has felt pressure not to hang her most vulnerable members out to dry.

Will the comprehensive plan Pelosi discussed Saturday do the trick? Democrats will surely use it as a defense against charges that they won't allow a vote on drilling. But the measure appears to contain enough unpalatable items for the GOP -- particularly on taxes -- that most members of the minority will vote against it, and Senate Republicans may just decide to block it altogether. It also remains unclear whether Democrats would allow the Republicans to offer amendments to the package, giving the GOP a procedural excuse to vote "nay."

So it still appears unlikely that the House and Senate will actually be able to agree on an energy package that would pass with bipartisan support AND be signed by President Bush. Of course, Democratic leaders would really much rather wait until next year, when they expect to have bigger majorities on the Hill and, they hope, President Obama in the White House. Until then, they're gambling that their "comprehensive" plan will be just enough to turn down the heat on the drilling issue until November.

By Ben Pershing  |  August 18, 2008; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , Dem. Leaders  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: From Fair to Factory Floor, Energy Talk Dominates
Next: 'Big Oil Bob' vs. Flip-Flopping Udall

Comments

I hope I am not alone in my disappointment with this sorry attempt to forge an energy policy. It signals to me a clear lack of leadership. We need bold change. Vote Obama.

Posted by: Kevin Bissel | August 18, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Protect the economy and security of the nation in what will be a complex and enormous transition to another primary alternative energy source!

Drill and supply the market with clean technology!

Vote McCain '08
Unoit

Posted by: theaz | August 18, 2008 9:20 PM | Report abuse

liacelzelli

Posted by: bodoml | August 19, 2008 1:33 AM | Report abuse

liacelzelli

Posted by: bodoml | August 19, 2008 1:33 AM | Report abuse

monerermo

Posted by: ricolopasdel | August 19, 2008 4:08 AM | Report abuse

eltbocnatra

Posted by: pasroac | August 19, 2008 4:22 AM | Report abuse

basbocvarpa

Posted by: trocracbocde | August 19, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

It is always interesting to see politicians shift and shimmy their way to new positions. At first I was frustrated with the sit down approach of Nancy Pelosi. Now that she is moving on this issue and I am hearing her ideas, I am reminded why a dead locked congress that can not do anything is a good thing. The markets are already adjusting the oil prices down back where they should be. Oh well. I am sure by the time they get around to it, congress will find a way to mess that up too. To simplify the issue for the presidential candidates, if you are against drilling, go to htp://www.bop-o-rama.com and bop McCain. If you are for drilling, bop Obama. you had better hurry though, their positions are subject to change.

Posted by: acarponzo | August 19, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

It is always interesting to see politicians shift and shimmy their way to new positions. At first I was frustrated with the sit down approach of Nancy Pelosi. Now that she is moving on this issue and I am hearing her ideas, I am reminded why a dead locked congress that can not do anything is a good thing. The markets are already adjusting the oil prices down back where they should be. Oh well. I am sure by the time they get around to it, congress will find a way to mess that up too. To simplify the issue for the presidential candidates, if you are against drilling, go to htp://www.bop-o-rama.com and bop McCain. If you are for drilling, bop Obama. you had better hurry though, their positions are subject to change.

Posted by: acarponzo | August 19, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post! Hit the button by mistake.

Posted by: acarponzo | August 19, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

This reminds me of the years when, despite all the reporting that conclusively demonstrated that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the public, by a comfortable margin, BELIEVED that they did. The same thing is happening now with off-shore drilling. Republicans know that there is NO amount of drilling domestically that can possibly have any impact upon prices, and they also know that all the world's economies have to start preparing for a post-petroleum future now, but they still would rather gain political leverage, putting off the difficult decisions, than face the uncomfortable truth.

Posted by: dch | August 19, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Wherever new drilling occurs, continental shelf or ANWR, there are no guarantees that the oil will be used domestically. I am betting that the oil companies will get new leases, waivers on environmental protections, make a mess AND SELL THE OIL TO CHINA AND INDIA. New drilling should come with a requirement that the oil cannot be sold overseas.

Posted by: jgm | August 19, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I agree with DCH that the issue is more political than practical. Of course drilling is not the answer to high gas prices. Prices have declined because oil demand from the US has dropped enough to impact world supply.

Nancy, Harry, and Barak are tone deaf if they thought that "Drilling Everywhere" wouldn't have a populist appeal that McCain could jump on.
OTTO

Posted by: OTTO | August 19, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

What kind of selfish Americans we are acting like those dictatorial governments. Oh, yes, Pelosi-Reed included.

Free Enterprise is what this Nation was built on. Turn the oil loose. Drive the price down. Let those dictatorial governments eat their sand. That will humble them and keep them from rattling their swords at us, including Georgia.

How long are the American people look at one side of this issue, or party side only.

Global warming is nada, read the facts look them up. Even Britains Education has been sued on this issue and lost.

Energy supply goes for hundreds of years, so what is the panic, except liberals way of paying off supporters off.

Mark my words. Wall Street is not giving 5 to 1 to the Democratic party for no reason at all. They know those funds will need bailed out and who will gladly do, Dems again volunteer.

Posted by: charleydan | August 19, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Actually I like Pelosi's new plan. With it, we will see exactly who the Republicans in the House decide to favor. If in fact, the new approach involves environmentally proteccted offshore drilling plus appropriate payments by the oil industry, including a reasonable tax increase given their obscene profits. Then we will really be able to see if Republicans are all that concerned with improving oil production or if their grandstanding in the House this last few weeks was just that. A poly!. Obviously, if Republicans stall this new plan, we will all see that their blabbing in the House all these weeks was just grandstanding.

Posted by: mJJ | August 19, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The drilling campaign is a scam on the American people. We wouldn't see a drop of this oil for 7 or 8 years, according to testimony of oil company presidents before congress. That is even if drilling is approved today. Once the oil is being produced, there is nothing to prevent the oil companies from selling it all to China. It is a gift to the oil companies and nothing more.

If we want energy security what we need is to develop alternatives such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. Those are sources of energy that won't be put on a tanker. They will give us energy independence, whereas to continue to put the focus on oil is to prolong our dependence on unstable friends. By emphasizing drilling, the republicans are doing great harm to our future energy security.

Posted by: Roger47 | August 19, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on the only reasons Mad Madame
Speaker Nutso Nancy Pelosi is Flip! Flop!
Waffling! On The Stalled Energy Bill is that her other pet lap dog,San Francisco
Mayor Greasy Kid Stuff Hair Gavin Newsom,
needs more hair oil,to keep his greasy hair
thug look intact...Oh I forgot this must all be part of Nancy Pelosi "Trying To Save
The Planet" Plan at work and is tha way her
main lapdog Messiah Barack Hussein Obama
flips and flops all over the place after
Obama voted for his Republican Relative
Draft Dodger Cheney Phony Energy Bill? Oh
God how Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are
such total losers,even in the Democrat Party of Losers. No Pelosi! NOBAMA!

Posted by: Ralphinphnx | August 19, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

John McCain is right on energy! We should do everything to break our addiction to imported oil, because it is a threat to our economy and our national security. Only an immature, inexperienced candidate, who is not ready to lead, can you say Nobama, would insist on not doing every thing to conserve energy and provide all Americans access to our abundant American energy resources.
America's off shore energy resources have estimates based upon out dated 1970's technology. Nobama has introduced a Senate bill that would prohibit use of new 3D and 4D off shore energy exploration, by any one to find out about how much off shore energy really exists. How stupid is the judgment of Nobama to just say no to finding out how much off shore energy actually exists? Way stupid or as Bubba Gump would say "stupid is as stupid does." Nobama does not have the judgment to lead our country. With the use of new 4D technology new oil wells can be drilled with an amazing 70% success ratio of actually producing oil! In the last few months, Brazil just found their largest new underwater oil field off their coast line. How many new fields like this exist off America's shores? John McCain wants to find out, while Nobama just wants to say no!
Nobama is the captive of far left environmental whackos, who want to use only the energy that will in the words of Nobama, "will require the complete transformation of our economy." Gosh, I’m amazed, in the middle of some of the worst economic times Americans have faced recently, Nobama wants to risk our economic and national security future, not just by raising taxes; but, Nobama also wants to not expand and not use proven off shore energy resources. Instead he wants to use only those energy resources duly approved by his tree hugging friends, which will require an abrupt transformation of our economy. Imagine that, Nobama is afraid of finding out what energy resources exist off shore because his far left supporters do not want Americans to use those resources. Instead, Nobama wants to use new technology that does not exist and is not cost effective and ignore energy resources that are proven, such as nuclear power, clean coal, and off shore oil and gas. Nobama wants to put only a few our potential energy eggs in a tree hugger approved small basket, while John McCain wants to utilize all of our energy eggs, and increase the total energy eggs in a basket, as large as possible. Nobama wants you and your family to have a drastic negative change in your life style. That is change we dare not believe in and judgment we dare not trust to lead our country.

Posted by: Charles F. Ellis | August 19, 2008 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Yikes! The Mad Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi
and her Partner in Crime Horrid Harry Reid
and their pet lap dog Messiah Barack Obama
are suddenly all the world's greatest experts on energy no less. Will wonders
never cease? And so,who would have ever
thought that "Checking The Air Pressure In
Your Tires," alone would save the planet
as Nancy Pelosi now claims,after Obama
told her about it! God Help The USA And
Save Us from Pelosi,Obama,Reid and Howard
Dean. NOBAMA! NO Pelosi!

Posted by: Claudine 1000 | August 21, 2008 12:40 AM | Report abuse

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