Gingrich to Join GOP Protest

Posted August 5, 2008 at 4:17pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) showed no signs of bowing to Republican demands that she call the House back for votes on oil and gas drilling Tuesday, despite a new round of attacks from GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and the third straight day of protest speeches on the House floor.

With television cameras shut out again from the floor and the microphones muted, about a dozen Republicans kept up their fight for votes on the House floor, with some suggesting the protest could last all month and perhaps peak during the Democratic National Convention.

Meanwhile, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) planned to join House Republicans in their protest at the Capitol on Wednesday morning.

The group also got new backing from McCain, who echoed the House GOP call for Congress to return so they can vote to “drill here, drill now” in an effort to lower gas prices.

Pelosi, meanwhile, issued statements Tuesday afternoon tying the Republican effort to oil companies and ripping the GOP for pursuing “yesterday’s solutions.”

“While a very small band of your colleagues remain on the House floor to discuss gas prices, their constituents deserve to know why their representatives in Congress have failed to support serious, responsible proposals,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “These proposals would increase supply, reduce prices, protect consumers, and transition America to a clean, renewable energy independent future.”

And she separately whacked McCain: “Senator McCain wants to call Congress back into session to vote on ‘drill only’ proposals that he knows full well will not provide immediate relief to consumers, and yet he was absent from the Senate during critical votes to cut subsidies for Big Oil, help consumers and promote renewables and conservation,” Pelosi said.

“The New Direction Congress will continue to demand that the President release oil from our nation’s stockpile to provide immediate relief in 10 days, unlike the McCain-Republican-Big Oil plan that lowers prices at the pump by 2 cents in 10 years. Freeing a small amount of our oil from government stockpiles is the only immediate solution to the pain at the pump.”

Earlier, House Republicans took credit for some of the recent fall in gas prices, as they continued to call for a vote on oil and gas drilling.

“Gas prices have gone down, and they’ve gone down in part because the market is realizing that this kind of pressure from the Congress may actually cause a change in American policy,” said Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), one of the ringleaders of the protest.

Republicans feel that they are starting to get under the Democrats’ skin and are getting support from voters.

One tourist, Cody Sears of Del Mar, Calif., was brought to the microphones outside the House chamber during the GOP press conference.

“I’m all for alternative energy, but until I get one of these windmills on top of my Expedition, it’s not going to work,” Sears said, as he complained of high gas prices in California.

The same press conference was later interrupted by a heckler who referenced Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) indictment on false statements charges related to gifts from an oil services company and charged the Republicans with receiving millions from oil companies.

But Republican Members kept the focus on drilling as the solution to lowering prices.

Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, brought his 12-year-old son Clark to the Capitol for the event.

McCrery, who is retiring, said Congress just hasn’t done much.

“This energy issue, finally I think, we’re getting some traction on, and we have a chance to get something positive done this year for the American people,” he said. “That’s why I’m here today. That’s why I took some time off being with my son doing things he’d rather do to come to the Capitol today.”

And Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said people in his state and elsewhere now support offshore drilling.

“There has been a sea change on drilling in the ocean. … It’s becoming more and more apparent, even in the state of Florida,” Stearns said, adding that his state is suffering without cheaper gas. “It’s affecting our tourism, it’s affecting jobs throughout our state.”

Democrats have dismissed the protests — noting that Republicans had voted to adjourn and go home numerous times so far this Congress and had opposed numerous energy bills including energy efficiency, vehicle mileage standards and renewable electricity standards — while the White House has indicated that President Bush also will not call Congress back into session.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, also started to jump on the bandwagon, with Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) calling on President Bush to bring Congress back into session to address gas prices.

In a letter Tuesday to Bush, Specter urged the president to “call Congress back into session to use the August recess to legislate on energy” issues, arguing that Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) use of procedural tactics to limit Republican amendments has undermined the chamber’s ability to “perform its traditional function and legislate.”

Specter’s letter comes as Senate Republicans are fanning out across the country for the August recess. Although GOP leadership aides in the chamber said there is no plan for a protest in the Senate similar to the one under way in the House, chamber Republicans support the House effort.

“It was a good, splashy move for them,” one leadership aide said. According to Republicans, with the Conference scattered, leadership will simply use messaging efforts already under way that highlight the need for Congressional action rather than developing new materials to support the House protest. For instance, Republicans are releasing a Web video this week featuring 15 Senators “calling on Congress to finish the job on energy,” the aide said. That video was produced during the last week Congress was in session, well before House Republicans began their floor maneuver.

Republicans’ recess messaging packets included language on the need for Congress to continue working on the issue, as well as critiques of Reid’s decision to break for the August recess before completing work on an energy bill.

Also today, members are staging a counterprotest to the House GOP. The liberal group is protesting what they call the Republicans’ efforts to help large oil companies.