Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Climate Bill Adds New Twist to Annual Gas War

With the perennial summer blame game over spiking gas prices on the horizon, House Democrats and Republicans are dusting off their energy talking points and jockeying for the political upper hand.

House Republicans are anticipating with relish next week’s unveiling of Senate climate change legislation — particularly since it is coming just in time for the start of the summer driving season — and will convene a strategy session today to hone an election-year message campaign based on the claim that Democrats’ energy policies will kill jobs and pound Americans’ pocketbooks.

Democrats also are prepared to go on the offensive, touting tangible accomplishments — such as President Barack Obama’s recent call to expand offshore drilling, House passage of a climate change bill, roughly $22 billion in energy tax incentives in last year’s stimulus bill and stricter Obama-era oversight to curb speculation in the energy futures markets — to short-circuit Republicans’ efforts and make some political headway of their own.

“We haven’t really heard anything from the other side except sloganeering,” said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Republicans are better at writing bumper stickers than they are legislation.”

The nerve center for the GOP message campaign is the American Energy Solutions Group, a 31-member working group led by Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), which is slated to meet Thursday to develop an action plan for making the most of what GOP Members view as an opportunity for another round of fire directed at vulnerable Democrats who supported the House climate change bill last summer.

“With speculation that climate change legislation could be resurrected in the Senate next week, we thought it would be timely to huddle,” Pence said, adding that the group would launch a new message war against Democrats’ plans for a “national energy tax” and would also redouble its efforts to promote Republicans’ “all of the above” alternative, which relies heavily on expanding domestic energy production and promoting alternative energy sources, particularly nuclear.

Pence said he would field a team of working group members — drawing on leaders of relevant committees such as Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Government Reform ­­— to spearhead the GOP’s messaging efforts.

A Republican leadership aide said GOP House Members were “eager and ready to message on the Democrats’ misguided energy policy” because they were confident that public opinion was with them.

“The No. 1 issue in America today is jobs, and Republicans are determined to take our case to the American people that we can enact legislation that will put us on a pathway to energy independence without passing a national energy tax or destroying jobs,” Pence said. “That’s our basic message.”

Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) created the group to spearhead Republican opposition to Democrats’ climate change proposals as well as to develop alternative GOP proposals.

It’s unclear whether Senate Democrats will call up the climate change bill for floor action this year. Democrats have signaled that party leaders in both chambers consider immigration reform a higher priority for now.

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