“It was extremely important based on both the fact that we really wanted and needed to get something done on energy ... and for momentum,” said the knowledgeable Senate Democratic aide. “It is important, as leaders of a new Congress, to actually get things done to show that we are making progress.”
One senior Senate GOP aide noted that any mileage Democrats hope to get out of their energy bill likely will be “vastly overshadowed by immigration.”
However, Senate Republicans generally agree that Democrats have the upper hand on the energy front going into the recess.
“I think we expect to get more out of it over the long haul,” said one Senate GOP leadership aide. The aide added, “Gas prices are going to continue to be a problem. Energy is going to continue to be an issue, and they’re not going to be able to say, months down the road, that [their bill] did anything.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats plan to unveil their energy package this week, and Democratic leaders are strongly urging their rank-and-file Members to hold at least one energy-themed constituent event over the July Fourth recess to build momentum for their intention to have a comprehensive package on the House floor shortly after they return.
To make sure everyone is on message, leadership aides have been canvassing Member offices to make sure lawmakers are scheduling events.
A packet distributed to Members suggests outreach efforts such as: tying events to the Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7, pumping gas at a local station to meet with constituents, holding roundtables with farmers or touring businesses that incorporate “green” practices.
With gas prices one of the top voter concerns, there is significant pressure on Democrats to move legislation this year — a fact not lost on leadership. “The American people trust us more than Republicans on virtually every major issue, but we must create a drumbeat of accomplishments this summer if we are to maintain the American people’s confidence in our leadership,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other House leaders wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats last week.
Democrats also are urging their Members to hold July Fourth veterans events, where they would promote their recent passage of a military construction/Veterans Affairs spending bill that would provide $4 billion more than the president requested.
For their part, House and Senate Republicans also are expected to focus on energy, but in large part to attack what the Democrats have put forth as a “cobbled-together, recycled semblance of an energy plan,” according to a GOP leadership aide.
Of course, the House has had its own “accomplishment” problems of late — having set a goal of passing all 12 fiscal 2008 spending bills by July Fourth, only to see the House floor taken over by Republicans as they protested a Democratic plan to withhold information on appropriation earmarks until House-Senate conference committees.
But by the end of this week, the House is on target to send at least half of the annual spending bills over to the Senate.
Passage of spending bills notwithstanding, House Republican leaders are asking their rank and file to tout their efforts to increase earmark transparency in recent floor fights, as well as what they say are Democratic plans for massive spending and tax hikes.