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Staying Late to Demand a Vote on Energy

August 4, 2008
Weekly Columns

While citizens across the country go bargain-hunting for the “cheapest” gas prices in their areas, Speaker Pelosi and other members of House leadership have collectively put up their “will return after 5-weeks vacation” signs.  Sound inconceivable?  It should be, but, unfortunately, it is all too true.  As America’s families, small businesses and farmers struggle to afford gasoline, Nancy Pelosi and her party remain committed to taking their annual paid vacation.  This shameless move by House Democrats to lock the doors of Congress without so much as a vote on legislation to lower gasoline prices is downright negligent.

House Republicans, however, have responded in an unprecedented move by refusing to leave the House chamber, even after Speaker Pelosi ordered the lights, cameras and microphones shut off.  I was proud to join my colleagues, some of whom literally got off airplanes to return to the floor when they learned of the Republican "revolt," to demand that Congress reconvene and vote to pass legislation to bring down gasoline prices.

The Speaker's refusal to bring meaningful energy legislation to the floor is not just an abuse of power that silences the Republican opposition - she is using her authority to thwart the will of a majority of Congress.  She knows that there is strong, bipartisan support for more domestic production in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf.  She knows that a majority in Congress support greater use of domestically produced coal and natural gas.  And she knows that Americans are ready to embrace clean, safe, nuclear energy.  But the radical environmentalists who apparently control her agenda would prevent the democratically elected representatives of the people from carrying out their Constitutional duties rather than risk losing the vote.

While Nancy Pelosi and her small band of obstructionists believe we can solve our energy crisis by relying on conservation and renewable energy alone, there are some members of my own party who believe we can drill our way out of this problem.  I disagree with both of these approaches.  I think for the sake of our nation's energy independence our policy must be "all of the above."  It is absurd for our nation to ignore our vast domestic resources of oil, coal and natural gas.  We should be developing them and putting them to use for the American consumer.  But it would be short sighted and foolhardy for the United States to miss this opportunity to invest heavily in research into renewable energy and alternative fuels.  We need to create incentives for solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy.  And we need to increase the tax credits for the purchase of hybrid vehicles.  Finally, American consumers need to look for reasonable ways to conserve more energy.  Whether through car-pooling, using public transportation or turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use, we can and should be more conscientious about our energy use.

It's been 20 months since Nancy Pelosi became the Speaker of the House and promised to bring the nation a "common sense energy policy".  Yet since that pronouncement she has done precisely nothing while the United States became even more dependent on an increasingly volatile global petroleum market.  And her extreme effort to block the Congress from voting on these matters is making her more and more isolated from her colleagues and the American people.  Even the liberal Washington Post has called on her to bring these matters to a vote.

The August recess is an important tradition that allows members to go home and reconnect with their constituents.  And I'd certainly rather be in Oklahoma in August than in Washington, D.C.  But Speaker Pelosi needs to call us back into session so we can have this important vote.  I and my colleagues in the minority party, as well as a significant number of common sense Democrats, stand ready, willing and able to come back to work and finish our job.