Republicans Return to Empty Chamber to Protest Energy Policy

Posted August 4, 2008 at 10:28am

A smattering of House Republicans returned to the House floor Monday to continue their talk-a-thon protest of Democratic leaders’ decision to go home for the August recess without a vote on expanding oil and gas drilling.

“The microphones aren’t on, the lights are dim, the cameras are off, but we’re here because you’re here,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), talking to an audience of tourists and a handful of staffers and Members.

The group of Republicans — around 20 were on the floor Monday morning — want Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to call Congress back into session “so we can have a vote on American energy,” Price said.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had urged Members to return to the Capitol in a joint memo.

“It’s not a request we make lightly. But the American people are suffering,” Boehner and Blunt said. “We’ve called on the Speaker to call Congress back into an emergency session this month and schedule a vote on the American Energy Act. We must continue to make a stand until the Speaker complies.”

Several Members have also called on President Bush to force Congress back to town.

Pelosi’s office refused requests from television media to allow camera crews into the chamber to televise the proceedings, so the only nonprint coverage consisted of small video clips taken by Members with their phones and BlackBerrys. In the meantime, with the only place to view the proceedings on the floor itself, the press gallery had more reporters than usual, dressed in casual summer attire with the usual jacket-and-tie dress code no longer required because the House is not in session.

Reporters no longer were being threatened with removal from the galleries, as they were on Friday before Republican Members stood guard to prevent the press gallery from being closed.

No immediate comment was available from Pelosi’s office on the continued protest.

Democratic aides have dismissed the protest as “silly.”

It’s not clear just how long the Republicans will be able to keep up their protest, although at one point last week, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) had talked of staying throughout August — or until Congress was called back into session.

“I look forward to joining our leaders and my fellow Republicans returning to Congress this week,” Pence said in a statement Sunday. “This is not a revolt. This is democracy in action.”