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Blunt: GOP Not Obsessed With Drilling

Despite daily press conferences by GOP lawmakers demanding that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) allow a floor vote on offshore drilling, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Republicans aren’t fixated on drilling as the solution to lower gas prices.

“We’re for lots of different things that we think would help solve this problem,” Blunt said Thursday.

Blunt said Republicans tried to force through “many single-shot pieces of legislation” by using discharge petitions, a tactic for bringing a bill to the floor immediately once 218 Members have signed off on it. But “no Democrats have joined us on a single one of those,” he said.

Republicans have filed discharge petitions on bills aimed at opening new oil refineries, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, investing in nuclear energy and using alternative fuels derived from coal-to-liquid technology. None has advanced.

House Democratic leaders held a conference call on Wednesday to discuss, among other issues, options for advancing an energy package. Members had “a productive discussion” but there were “no final decisions,” according to a senior Democratic aide.

Insiders have speculated that a forthcoming Democratic bill would include energy-related provisions that have already passed the House, such as releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and requiring oil companies to drill on their currently leased lands or lose them, along with some type of offshore drilling language.

Blunt said he couldn’t lend his support to such a proposal until he sees actual legislation.

“I haven’t seen anything that resembles a bill. When they have a bill, I’m glad to talk about a bill,” said Blunt. “I’m not glad to talk about a bunch of, ‘Oh, we’re clearly in trouble on drilling,’ so the Speaker tells her Members at home, ‘Say you’re for drilling and say I won’t let the bill come to the floor.’ After about three weeks of this, the Speaker says we’ll probably let a drilling bill come to the floor, whatever that means.”

While people are “beginning to hear a different tone” from Pelosi on a willingness to allow a vote on offshore drilling, “I don’t have any reason to believe that the different tone has any different real commitment behind it,” added Blunt.

As Republicans have been doing all week, Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) took a swing at Pelosi for being on a book tour while GOP Members have been giving speeches on an empty House floor about the need to vote on offshore drilling.

Noting that Pelosi has sold some 5,700 copies of her book in the past two weeks, Linder quipped, “My guess is the Republicans have [reached] more people on the floor … in the last two or three weeks.”

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