Reid Says He is Open to Drilling Amendment

Posted July 21, 2008 at 3:16pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that he was open to allowing an amendment on domestic oil exploration to the Democratic bill that aims to tamp down speculation in the oil futures trading markets.

Reid took to the floor Monday afternoon and said that he would allow an amendment on oil drilling if it meant that the Senate would move swiftly toward the speculation bill.

However, a senior GOP aide said that Republicans have already proposed various language that they would like to offer to the speculation bill, but they have yet to hear back from Reid.

The aide said that Republicans are hoping to have an agreement that will allow them to address the energy crisis with more than just the speculation option. The GOP would like to see a catch-all measure dealing with domestic oil exploration, conservation and renewable energy sources.

The runup to the procedural vote scheduled for Tuesday morning that would allow the Senate to take up the market speculation bill has intensified with the August break two weeks away.

Reid’s comments come hours after Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) told reporters that addressing speculation is the first step in a long process, indicating that drilling amendments may not be on the table for Democrats. Dorgan said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is putting together a separate bill on oil drilling and other issues.

One Republican aide predicted that once the Senate moves to consider the speculation bill, GOP lawmakers will force it to stay there until drilling is addressed.

But Republicans cannot force their colleagues to postpone action on the mammoth housing legislation slated to come their way this week since it is a privileged measure, allowing it to be taken up at any time.