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House Faces Summertime Blues in Energy Fight

Tom Williams/Roll Call
The Republican Study Committee presented its own energy plan last week. From left: Reps. Bob Latta, Tim Huelskamp, Steve Southerland, Steve Scalise and Rob Bishop attend the news conference on Thursday.

Still, some GOP Members quietly grumbled last week that the conference didn’t focus sooner on gas prices, which were on the rise last month.

“Coming from South Florida, I don’t want to see gas prices all of the sudden at $5 or above and no one’s coming down to South Florida to enjoy our beaches and the weather and vacation,” freshman Rep. Allen West said. “We’ve definitely got to refocus on this. Maybe we should have been focused in April as well when we saw it coming.”

One GOP strategist said talking about gas prices is good for the party after getting hit on the proposed overhaul of Medicare, a politically hot topic that has hurt Republicans since voting for Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) sweeping budget plan last month. All but four Members of the GOP Conference voted to approve the plan, which Democrats seized on for its provisions to convert health care for seniors into a voucher program.

“If you’re a Republican, you probably want to be talking about the debt limit and gas prices; those are much more friendly issues for them,” the strategist said. “They’ve sustained a relatively brutal hit on Medicare. They are way off message [on Medicare], and they have a winning message on debt limit and gas prices.”

In his weekly address, Obama spoke of an Indianapolis factory that produces hybrid bus engines. “The clean energy jobs at this plant are the jobs of the future — jobs that pay well right here in America.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today will deliver a speech on the economy and energy at the Economic Club of New York. And after that, the seesaw of appearances and press releases is expected to carry throughout the week.

“On the one hand, oil prices became a messaging casualty for Republicans as they tried to rightly tackle other issues like the deficit and Medicare,” the strategist said. “On the other hand, we’re still two weeks out from Memorial Day weekend and that’s when voters will really feel the pinch on this issue. This could end up being really well-timed at the end of the day.”

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