For GOP, a Quiet Win on Energy
Congressional Democrats bowed to political reality Tuesday and agreed not to include an extention of the offshore oil drilling ban in the upcoming continuing resolution to fund the government, meaning that the ban will be lifted as of Oct. 1 and there won't be a big showdown -- or a government shutdown -- over this issue.
The decision by the majority marks a big victory for the GOP, which has made increased domestic oil drilling its centerpiece issue for months, highlighted by the minority's well-publicized use of the House floor throughout the August recess to call for a vote on oil drilling.
But this isn't as big a victory for Republicans as it might have been, say, three weeks ago. Why? Partly because it may only be temporary; Democrats are hoping that a President Obama would help them reinstitute the ban next year. But it's also because the economic crisis has pushed the energy/gas prices issue off the stage. Check out the new Washington Post-ABC News poll: Asked which issues were most important to them in the presidential race, energy came in 6th with just 3 percent, while the economy led the way with a whopping 50 percent. Other surveys have tracked similarly, with many showing energy moving down the list of priorities as the economy overall moves up.
Now, that doesn't mean high gas prices won't matter in November. Many voters may well link gas prices to their overall views on the economy, and public support for more drilling remains high. But it does appear that Hill Republicans' strategy since July of putting nearly all their eggs in the oil drilling basket may not give them the boost they once had hoped. The still-developing economic bailout package may well turn out to be much more decisive, for both parties.
One housekeeping note: You may have noticed that Capitol Briefing has not been updated as often this week. That's because your humble blogger has been working hard on a new project -- Political Browser -- which launched this week and includes a new blog, The Takeaway. Check it out, bookmark it, make it part of your morning routine (it's updated at 8 a.m. every weekday, and then throughout the day after that). And, of course, keep coming back to Capitol Briefing for your latest dose of congressional news.
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