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GOP Ponders Pelosi’s Statement on Possible Offshore Drilling

Updated: 3:30 p.m.

House Republicans spent Tuesday questioning Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) remarks that she would be open to allowing a vote on offshore drilling.

Pelosi, however, was vague about what kind of drilling vote she would allow. She also said it would have to be part of a larger package that included policies that Republicans may be less amenable to, such as releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

New drilling is “not excluded, let’s put it that way,” she said Monday night on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

Republicans have remained on the House floor to give speeches against Pelosi’s refusal to take up the GOP’s pro-drilling energy bill. As they headed to the floor to continue their protests, Republicans said they were unsure of what to make of the Speaker’s comments.

Pelosi “apparently indicated last night that she might be open to such drilling. I suppose we’ll see,” Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) said.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said he was initially struck by Pelosi’s “lack of sincerity. I don’t know if I can trust that we’re going to have that happen.”

Terry noted that Democratic leaders previously said they were going to bring up drilling bills that turned out not to be about drilling, such as “use it or lose it” legislation aimed at forcing oil companies to use their leases held on public land or lose them.

“We’ve been down this road before,” Terry said. “There’s just a part of me that doesn’t believe it.”

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) was equally skeptical, calling Democrats’ previous drilling bills “snake-oil stands that were set up … to give [Pelosi’s] Members cover when they go home.”

House GOP leaders urged Pelosi to call Congress back into session to vote on the Republican energy bill.

“Our message to Speaker Pelosi is very simple: We are ready to vote on more energy production and lower gas prices right now, and we should not wait one more day,” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.

Before the August recess, Pelosi appeared to open the door for drilling to be part of a package only to have her aides say later that was not what she meant and still had no intention of allowing a vote on offshore drilling. Last night, Pelosi said Republicans “have this thing that says, drill offshore in the protected areas. Well, we can do that. We can have a vote on that.”

A Democratic leadership aide dismissed the suggestion that Pelosi’s comments were a shift in her position. The Speaker was simply being “more clear, more emphatic” about her willingness to include some type of drilling in a more comprehensive package of policies, the aide said.

Pelosi’s comments Monday night were “the final swoop” in bringing her “in sync” with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who has signaled a willingness to consider new drilling in the mix of energy proposals, the aide said.

House Democratic leaders will take part in a conference call Wednesday to discuss, in part, options for proceeding in the energy debate. The aide said the call was not specifically organized to discuss energy but to discuss issues on tap for September.

The aide speculated that the eventual compromise would be one where “presumably you would take things that have passed the House with bipartisan support, lump them in with something together with some sort of drilling proposal expanded outside of current areas … covered by the moratorium.”

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