Democrats May Push Energy Vote to Next Week

Posted September 10, 2008 at 2:35pm

House Democratic leaders probably will have Members review their energy proposal over the weekend and look to next week for floor action, according to the bill’s sponsor, Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

An hour before heading into a Democratic Caucus meeting, Rahall said he was hopeful to have bill language to Members “in five to six hours.” Several sticking points remain, namely over limits on offshore drilling.

Rahall said a final package will come down to “how far we ask groups to continue to sacrifice.”Anti-drilling and pro-drilling lawmakers “have come a long way,” Rahall said. Members from the West Coast and New England are the ones who are “consistently against drilling off their coasts.”

Other unresolved issues include making sure that some areas, such as parts of western Florida, stay under the offshore drilling moratorium because they contain defense installations. In addition, pay-as-you-go budget issues “have not been put to bed completely yet,” Rahall said.

Conservative Democrats, particularly those in tight races, must choose between their party’s package and the GOP proposal, which includes more expansive drilling language.

“Does that put in jeopardy my Blue Dog colleagues? I believe yes,” Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) said. “But enough of us in there believe we need an energy policy.”

And liberal Democrats are faced with having to back some offshore drilling when they have traditionally been against any.

“I am a long-standing opponent of opening up the Outer Continental Shelf,” Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said. “But I’m certainly willing to offer the olive branch if that means we can move something forward.”

Rahall wouldn’t speculate on whether the House Democrats’ plan will go anywhere in the Senate, though he noted that it “takes a lot” from the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of 10” energy proposal. It borrows language that would open up drilling along part of the Atlantic Coast, from Virginia to Florida.