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House Republicans’ energy bill deserves a second look

The media will continue its 24/7 coverage of Trump even as the economy sours

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks during a news conference after the House passed the “Lower Energy Costs Act” on March 30.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks during a news conference after the House passed the “Lower Energy Costs Act” on March 30. (CQ Roll Call)

By Sunday, after his precedent-setting arraignment, Donald Trump will likely be at Mar-a-Lago, golfing and enjoying the high life. The media, hoping for a needed ratings bump, will continue its 24/7 coverage of what may be a long year of legal appearances for the former president.

Democrats will be celebrating the Trump indictment like big-game hunters displaying a long-sought trophy, while Republicans have no choice but to fight back against what appears to be a political prosecution of the former president that will divide the country even further.

But in “real America” this Sunday, people will be paying more for the gas to get them to church and for the Waffle House breakfast after the service, while in backyards around the country, the Easter Bunny will be hiding fewer and far more expensive eggs as raging inflation, higher rents and interest rates continue to squeeze family budgets and push the country closer to a recession.

But the focus of the talk shows and the political pundits this week won’t be on the economy or inflation or even Biden’s “investing in America” tour, a thinly disguised political marketing effort touting what the White House calls Biden’s so-called economic successes.

It should be a short trip given the Biden economic track record.

I don’t underestimate the seriousness or the historic first that the Trump indictment represents. This is dangerous territory and puts the system of justice that has served the country well for more than 200 years in question at a time of increasing skepticism of our institutions of government.

This also could be only the first salvo in what is an ongoing partisan effort to shape the dynamics of the 2024 election. Whether the Democrats want Trump on or off the ticket remains up for debate, but whatever the outcome or the impact, they certainly understand that whenever Trump is dominating the news, Republicans’ legislative and investigative efforts are not.

There is no better example of the success of that strategy than the media’s failure to cover House Republicans’ first major legislative achievement: HR 1, “The Lower Energy Costs Act,” which passed the House 225-204 with four Democrats voting with the GOP. The bill is aimed at reining in Biden’s disastrous energy policies that are driving inflation, keeping gas prices high and wages under water, and adding to the nation’s destabilizing debt.

After passage of the comprehensive legislation, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said in a statement, “America can and should be energy independent — we have the technology to produce our own energy cleaner and more efficiently than anywhere else in the world, while lowering costs for hardworking families.”

“The ‘Lower Energy Costs Act’ will increase American energy production, reform our broken permitting process, reverse the Biden Administration’s radical anti-energy policies, streamline our energy exports and imports, and boost the mining of critical minerals,” Scalise added.

In a news conference last week, Scalise told reporters: “All of these bad policies that Biden’s pushed the last two years have had a deep, deep negative impact on families in the form of higher prices. And there’s no reason for it. There’s no reason we should be getting energy from foreign countries when we can make it here cleaner, more efficient and at a dramatically lower cost than anywhere else in the world. This bill achieves that.”

Beyond increasing oil and gas production to help lower the price at the pump, the legislation also is a step toward a return to Republican policies that delivered energy independence during the Trump administration, a critical factor in protecting the country’s national security. What Republicans have put on the table is a reasonable attempt to find the kind of commonsense solutions that voters want to end an energy crisis that is pushing people to the brink financially. And it’s beginning to show in the polling numbers.

This week, RealClearPolitics calculated Biden’s job performance average on the issue of the economy at 37 percent approve and 59 percent disapprove, a lack of support that is affecting not only his overall job approval but his party’s as well. In The Winston Group’s March “Winning the Issues” survey, we asked people “which party do you have the most confidence in to handle the economy.” Voters favored Republicans, 48 percent to 38 percent.

It might have something to do with the fact that contrary to Biden’s continual boast that his policies have brought down gas prices, the fact is those policies drove prices to near record highs and are now rising again. In the first week of April, data showed that gas prices have gone up 13 percent over the past three months.

With Saudi-led oil producers announcing their intention to cut oil production by more than 1 million barrels per day, maybe Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and company might want to reconsider arbitrarily rejecting legislation that could help blunt the inflationary impact of a rise in the price of oil at a time when the U.S. and the world are on the brink of recession.

But despite voter unhappiness with Biden and Democrats’ energy and overall economic policies, despite a teetering economy and new threats to oil production, Schumer unequivocally declared that HR 1 was “dead on arrival.” That was followed by a veto threat from the White House, should the “Lower Energy Costs Act” reach Biden’s desk “in its current form.”

On Monday, Biden, in a stop in Minnesota on his “invest in America” tour, accused Republicans of wanting to “cede the clean energy future to China, make us dependent on overseas supply chains, export jobs overseas, and weaken our energy security.” Has he even read the “Lower Energy Costs Act” and would it matter if he did? Probably not.

So much for the bipartisan cooperation or compromise that the president claims he favors.

In a bit of bad luck, Republicans passed the “Lower Energy Costs Act” on the day Donald Trump was indicted. Sure, the media gets a pass for putting this historic moment ahead of HR 1. I get it.

But this legislation could be a starting point for senators of both parties to work toward compromise legislation that can address the concerns of an unhappy electorate seeing no solutions to their economic challenges on the horizon.

The “Lower Energy Costs Act” is one solution that deserves a second look.

David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, as well as serving as an election analyst for CBS News.