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GOP Stimulus Plan Heavy on Oil Drilling

House and Senate Republicans are hoping to re-engage the public in the energy debate that they started last summer, but this time in the form of GOP stimulus legislation.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), among others, on Wednesday unveiled their “no-cost stimulus— package that bears a striking resemblance to the pro-drilling energy legislation that House Republicans rallied around all last summer. The GOP was largely successful last year in rallying public support for its plans in the face of high gas prices.

The key components of the GOP stimulus plan outlined Wednesday are the same as the earlier Republican energy proposal: offshore drilling, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and “regulatory streamlining— of oil shale, nuclear energy and environmental polices.

By relying on these policies, Republicans say the bill can save more than 2 million jobs and $10 trillion in the gross domestic product. In addition, they say, it stops the “carbon tax— and lessens U.S. reliance on foreign oil — and doesn’t spend a dime in federal tax dollars.

“Just on the clean and renewable energy side, we have a more positive impact than the stimulus that just passed,— Vitter said, referring to the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that narrowly passed last month.

Despite an “anti-energy bias— in the Obama administration and among House and Senate Democratic leaders, Vitter said Republicans can build support for their stimulus by appealing directly to the general public, just as they did during last summer’s energy debate.

The “biggest difficulty— that Democrats faced during the energy debate was “keeping up with the American people,— Vitter said. It was “amazingly powerful to see how much change there was in the energy debate— after the “power of the people was unleashed.—

Last fall, Republicans succeeded in forcing Democrats to concede in lifting the offshore drilling ban after months of protesting and campaigning on the issue. While it remains to be seen whether President Barack Obama will reinstate the ban, the fact that Republicans were able to sway public opinion on the issue was a victory that they hope to re-create.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Republicans are also hoping to tap into public concerns with Congress passing several multibillion-dollar spending bills because “people are offended at bailouts.—

Shadegg spokesman Stephen Miller emphasized that the regulatory streamlining portions of the GOP stimulus bill make it different from — and more aggressive than — last summer’s GOP energy bill.

One of the biggest differences, he said, is that the stimulus plan grants gubernatorial authority to temporarily suspend the Endangered Species Act to help create jobs. The bill also requires the Interior secretary to immediately begin selling mineral leases.

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