GOP Looks to Stay on Energy

Posted July 26, 2008 at 12:55pm

Senate Republicans vowed Saturday to continue blocking Democratic efforts to either pass a narrow oil speculation bill or move off energy issues altogether, and warned that the fight over gas prices will spill over into the fall’s battle over a continuing resolution.

Republicans cautioned that no options have been taken off the table even for this week’s runup to the August break, including the possibility of not agreeing to adjourn the chamber for the recess. Although Republicans cautioned that GOP leaders have not discussed that option, they are open to ways to protest the lack of significant Congressional action on gas prices.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), a member of the Appropriations Committee, said she would push for drilling language in the CR, which could come up in September, just before members leave to campaign.

Hutchison and Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) earlier this month attempted to add a provision to the Interior spending bill that would lift a moratorium on offshore drilling. Although largely a symbolic move since no appropriations bills are expected to pass, Democrats were in no mood to take a vote on the politically thorny issue and instead abruptly cancelled the markup. “That’s pretty stark evidence that they’ll protect their members from voting on reduction“ of gas prices, Hutchison said.

“We think this is so important, we will attempt to add it to the continuing resolution“ when the Senate returns from the August break, Hutchison said Saturday following Republicans’ successful filibuster of a Democratic attempt to move to a home-heating measure.

Republicans, who have settled on gas prices as the one issue they can agree on and use to score political points this year, said they will continue to use blocking tactics to keep the pressure on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“We need to stay on this subject, and that’s what the vote … was all about,“ Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said following the home heating vote.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) agreed. “We all have lots of ideas of how to drop the price of gas from $4 a gallon. All we need is a Majority Leader who will allow us to do that,“ he said.

Reid accused Republicans of simply stalling legislation to protect the “status quo“ and said he sees little hope that he and the GOP will find a way to work out their differences in the future. “They’ve been blocking things for 18 months,“ he lamented.

Reid also warned that he will cast any offshore drilling amendments to the CR as a poison pill designed to shut down the government, a charge Republicans are particularly wary of after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s (R-Ga.) decision to let appropriations lapse backfired in the mid-90s.

“This is a step that would be very interesting. They want to shut down the government? It worked real well for Gingrich,“ Reid said. He also dismissed any possibility that Republicans may look to block adjournment, noting he has enough votes to shutter the chamber.

“There’s less of them than us. We can adjourn anytime we want,“ he said.