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House GOP Resets the Gas Price Campaign

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will roll out the GOP’s summer offensive on energy and gas prices today, aiming to link the season’s traditional cost spikes at the pump to the broader debate over jobs and the economy.

During the past several months, the California Republican has been quietly putting together House Republicans’ latest push on energy issues, which will be formally kicked off next week during their American Energy and Jobs Tour.

McCarthy is expected to discuss the tour and the GOP’s legislative strategy during today’s weekly Conference meeting, where he will urge Members to attend one of nine regional tours being hosted by members of the House Energy Action Team during the upcoming recess.

Unlike previous summer energy messaging efforts by Republicans, which have revolved largely around skyrocketing gas prices and demands for increased drilling, the GOP will look to cast its push as part of its economic critique of the Obama administration.

“The American Energy and Jobs Tour is designed to highlight the importance of increasing domestic energy production. House Republicans will participate in events all over the country to get feedback from small businesses and families about the negative impact of President Obama’s failed energy policies, and discuss how increased production can create jobs, lower energy prices and increase our economic and national security,” McCarthy told Roll Call on Tuesday.

Republicans had initially anticipated gasoline prices to be rising as the summer driving season started and hoped to time their energy push to coincide with the increases to highlight differences between themselves and President Barack Obama.

But prices at the pump have actually begun to drop over the past several weeks,
and while that trend is likely to change again, McCarthy’s decision to broaden his effort beyond simply gas prices should help lawmakers be more nimble over the next several weeks, GOP aides said.

“The overarching theme is domestic energy production and jobs,” a senior GOP leadership aide said, explaining that McCarthy will urge members of the Conference to “talk about energy prices if that’s relevant in your district, or jobs or national security aspects” if gas prices are low in their area.

During next week’s House recess, McCarthy’s nine-member team — Reps. Steve Scalise (La.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Bill Johnson (Ohio), Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas), Jeff Denham (Calif.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Rick Berg (N.D.), Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) and Bill Flores (Texas) — will lead a series of Congressional delegations on “tours” in New Orleans, Little Rock, Ark., Stark County, Ohio, Midland Texas, Richmond, Calif., Greeley, Colo., Bismarck, N.D., Girard, Kan., and Johnson County, Texas, highlighting various energy issues.

For instance, Scalise is expected to take lawmakers on a tour of an offshore oil refinery in the Gulf Coast, while Griffin will lead Members on a tour of the Welspun Tubular plant that is building the physical pipeline destined for use in the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.

With most of those tours occurring May 24 or 25, rank-and-file Members who don’t attend one of the events will be pushed to hold their own district-specific events that day, GOP aides said, and McCarthy will hold a press conference for national media midweek to tout Republicans’ efforts on energy.

According to talking points that will be circulated to members of the Conference, rank-and-file lawmakers are being encouraged to continue pushing the Republicans’ call for an “all-of-the-above” strategy to energy production while drawing distinctions between the two parties — all while connecting the issue to the broader economy.

For instance, the talking points note that the “economy remains in fragile condition, and across our country, family budgets are stretched to their limits only to be further stretched by the rise in gas prices.”

Similarly, the talking points argue, “The House has passed multiple energy bills that promote American energy independence, lower the cost of gasoline and create jobs here at home. Meanwhile, President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed more spending and higher taxes that will only set us back even further.”

Meanwhile, House Republicans are expected to roll out a series of energy legislative proposals as soon as next month.

Likely legislative items McCarthy and his HEAT group will bring to the floor over the summer include bills blocking Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at gas emissions and refineries, which Republicans have argued will result in significant price increases at the pump.

Republicans will also push for legislation to expand permitting for domestic oil and gas production on federal lands, a bill to require a commensurate increase in domestic production if Obama opens the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help temper price spikes and legislation designed to remove “roadblocks” to expanded development in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

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