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Pelosi Maneuvers to Block Drilling Votes

“They are actually backing a policy that is far more damaging to the environment than the one we’re backing,” Steel said.

“Democrats alleging that they are putting massive bills on the suspension calendar because they’ve reached consensus is as laughable as it is offensive,” added Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “What are they afraid of? This is hardly the kind of open government the Democrats talked a lot about before taking the control.”

Pelosi said Republicans were perpetrating a hoax by suggesting that opening up more land for drilling would reduce gas prices.

“Why aren’t they drilling on nearly or over 80 million acres? Why are they saying we don’t have the equipment to do it, but let us drill in pristine environmental areas? Because it is a hoax, it is subterfuge. It is a decoy to take your attention away from the fact their policies have produced $4-a-gallon gasoline.”

But the tight rein leadership is keeping on oil votes may not last, dissident Democrats predict.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who announced a pro-drilling bipartisan working group with Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.) that will meet this week, ripped both parties’ leaders as a “mutual accusation society” and predicted that dozens of rank-and-file Members want to support increased drilling as part of a Member-driven energy independence package.

“We’re going to save this Congress from itself,” Abercrombie said. “The public is not interested in Republicans versus Democrats on the energy issue. ... They are assigning blame to the Congress.”

“The point here is to put together a comprehensive bill that we can get broad support for and show the public we’re really trying to do something,” Abercrombie said. “We can stop the hemorrhaging of dollars leaving the U.S.”

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), a supporter of opening up more land on and offshore, said Democratic leaders are shifting how they talk about the issue but not what they plan to do about it.

“They are now talking that they want to drill, but they want to drill on the current property,” he said. “So much of that land is not productive. We need to be able to lease where there is resources.”

Green said he hoped the Senate might cut a deal that would spur the House into action.

“I think that will make the House more flexible,” he said.

Meanwhile, oil prices continued to rise relentlessly.

At her press conference, Pelosi appeared to take credit for cutting oil prices by nearly $10 a barrel because of the suspension of oil purchases for the strategic reserves.

But by the end of the week, oil prices soared to new records, closing in on $150.

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