GOP Tries to Draw Obama Into Drilling Battle

Posted July 29, 2008 at 12:18pm

House and Senate GOP Conference chairmen have a message for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) when he returns to Capitol Hill on Tuesday: Use your influence to sway Democratic leaders into holding votes on offshore drilling, or risk being associated with their “failure of leadership.”

House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) will deliver their message in a news conference Tuesday afternoon in anticipation of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s meeting with the House Democratic Caucus later in the evening.

Republicans are increasingly trying to link Obama with what they describe as a “failure of leadership” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The two have opposed holding votes on offshore drilling as a means to ease skyrocketing gas prices; GOP leaders assert they are trying to protect Obama from a tough vote.

Obama is still only the presumptive presidential candidate, but “he has enormous authority over Congress,” said one House GOP leadership aide. He is the “titular head of the Democratic Party,” and the failure by Congress to hold an up-or-down vote on drilling in an effort to bring down gas prices “falls squarely on him.”