Republicans Return to House, Focus on Process

Posted August 18, 2008 at 12:22pm

A handful of Republicans returned to an empty House chamber Monday for the third week of protesting Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) refusal to allow a vote on offshore drilling.

Since the protest began, Pelosi has signaled a willingness to support new drilling as a step toward reducing gas prices. So, the GOP is now turning to the procedure by which Democrats will bring up their energy bill.

“The power of the House is to go through regular order,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said. “Presenting some concepts and ideas out there is interesting, but you know, this needs to go through a subcommittee process, it needs to go through a committee process and then it needs a full and open debate with amendments on the floor of the House.”

Otherwise, he said, the process amounts to Pelosi “putting out a proposal and saying, ‘Here, I’ll give you this and you take that and we’ll kind of work it out.’”

Wary of losing votes, Pelosi has sidestepped the committee process on energy votes. She has brought up legislation on the suspension calendar to avoid GOP amendments on drilling.

Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.) complained that the Speaker has “refused to do any regular order. She has refused to vet any of these issues out in any of the committees or subcommittees … She simply cannot just come up with a draft plan on a closed rule and force it down everybody’s throat on the House floor.”

Advancing a bill through regular order is “how you reach a compromise,” he said. “If she’s willing to work a compromise like that, then I think everybody here will be happy.”

Hoekstra said Republicans would be willing to stay in session through October to pass an energy package. “We’ve been here in October before. This wouldn’t be the first time.”

During Saturday’s weekly Democratic radio address, Pelosi blasted Republicans for pushing an energy plan that she said would benefit the oil industry and, for the first time, outlined a forthcoming Democratic energy package that contains some offshore drilling.

That proposal, which is likely to reach the floor in September, “will consider opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling, with appropriate safeguards, and without taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil,” Pelosi said.

It will also call for releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, expanding drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, requiring the oil industry to pay billions in royalties, creating a federal renewable electricity standard, cutting mass transit costs, cracking down on market speculation and increasing reliance on natural gas.