Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Republicans Push for Showdown on Drilling

But a Democratic leadership aide said Republican incumbents are in far more danger this year than Democrats and will be the most eager to be campaigning. The aide also dismissed talk of a veto.

“I just do not think it is realistic that a lame-duck president is going to shut down the government over this issue,” the aide said. “That’s wishful thinking on somebody’s part.”

The ramifications of a government shutdown — stalled checks and the like — would quickly overwhelm the drilling issue, the aide said. “They are going to be more pissed about that than the price at the pump.”

Democrats have already signaled that they have no intention of moving any appropriations bills before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year with the exception of the Defense spending bill. That strategy allows them to postpone offshore drilling votes, which are usually held on a long-standing rider to the Interior bill.

Republicans said that their presumed presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) may not want to have such a high-profile role for an unpopular Bush so close to the election but that he may want to gamble on the strategy if he continues to lag in polls.

“When you get closer to election day, McCain may need a Hail Mary,” one pro-drilling GOP strategist said. “If we’re going to go for a Hail Mary with 30 days to go, why not do it with something that is one of the most pressing issues in the eyes of the American people in recent memory? ... If the president is worth his salt on his way out the door he won’t sign any bill that does continue the ban.”

Democrats aimed a counterattack at Republicans, arguing they are beholden to the oil and gas industry and are blocking efforts to increase production on already leased land.

“The most interesting thing about Sept. 30 is that it is another campaign finance filing deadline, and therefore another opportunity for the American people to see the real reason why John McCain and Congressional Republicans suddenly support offshore drilling instead of forcing oil companies to drill on the land they already hold leases to,” said Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). “John McCain has already received $1 million in campaign cash from oil companies — how much will he and the Republican leadership have received by Sept. 30?”

Another House Democratic leadership aide predicted that their strategy would depend increasingly on what presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) wants to do, noting that Obama leads McCain in the polls on economic issues.

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