Congress Debates Energy, Literally

Posted July 28, 2008 at 12:21pm

Eight House Members on Monday are taking part in a bipartisan energy debate at Tulane University in New Orleans.

A team of four Democrats and a team of four Republicans will have 45 minutes to ask each other questions about energy issues. Lawmakers will then take questions from students in the audience for another 45 minutes.

Democratic lawmakers in the debate include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Jay Inslee (Wash.), Hilda Solis (Calif.) and Bart Stupak (Mich.).

GOP participants include Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Zach Wamp (Tenn).

The event is the third in the “Congress Debates” series, a joint venture of the House Democratic Caucus, the House Republican Conference, the Democratic Leadership Council and the Congressional Institute. Jeanne Cummings from Politico is serving as the moderator. The other events took place in February and April about the economy and health care, respectively.

“The ‘Congress Debates’ series has been successful in providing a forum for Members of Congress to break through the Beltway clutter and engage in a healthy exchange of ideas,” House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) said. “We have had two excellent debates so far, and we expect to make it three in a row in New Orleans.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said the two previous debates have led to “serious, civil conversations” that have helped to produce “great results, such as a bipartisan economic stimulus package and a bipartisan Medicare package.”

For the most part, lawmakers slung talking points at each other that reinforced their party’s message on energy policy.

Perhaps the only sign of actual bipartisanship came when Inslee challenged Upton to be the first GOP sponsor of his legislation to create a national high-capacity grid system.

“I think that I could support it,” said Upton. “If it is what you say it is, I’ll be on board. I’ll be glad to work with you.”

The moderator chalked up the moment as a “minor miracle.”