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How Much Higher Do Gas Prices Have to Go Before Congress Acts

American Government

How Much Higher Do Gas Prices Have to Go Before Congress Acts

Congressman John Boehner
July 18, 2008

Its no wonder that just 14 percent of the American public believes that Congress is doing a good job with such cynical moves as the recent vote on the ill-named Drill Now Act. This bill was the Democratic Majoritys answer to soaring gas prices, but the legislation would actually not do a single thing to lower prices and help us move toward energy independence.

The American public is crying out for relief from high energy prices, and a growing majority of Americans wants Congress to act on comprehensive energy reforms that include ending the ban on new American drilling for oil and gas in Alaska and deep ocean energy zones. A bipartisan majority in the House comprised of Republicans and moderate rank-and-file Democrats supports such a comprehensive approach and is ready to vote for it. This has put Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democratic leaders in a quandary, because the radical anti-energy special-interest groups that helped put them in power are dead-set against the reforms the American people want.

Desperate for a way out of this box, yet determined to prevent a vote from taking place on comprehensive energy reforms that include drilling, Democratic leaders hastily threw together the DRILL Act a collection of hollow half-measures designed to look like a pro-drilling energy bill. They bypassed the committee process and rushed the bill to the floor on whats called the suspension calendar. Members cannot offer amendments to bills brought to the floor on the suspension calendar, which meant the bipartisan pro-drilling coalition couldnt offer proposals to strengthen the DRILL Act.

But the leadership ploy had a weakness that proved to be its undoing. A bill brought to the floor on the suspension calendar must get a two-thirds majority to pass rather than a simple majority. Because a bipartisan majority in the House saw the DRILL Act for what it was a sham the legislation failed.

Democratic leaders reacted to the bills failure with more spin, charging that House Republicans are blocking energy reforms. Nothing could be further from the truth. I and a bipartisan majority of members in the House are promoting what we call the All of the Above energy strategy. It includes expanding domestic and deep-ocean drilling, increasing production of American energy, increasing our investment into alternative fuels and promoting conservation. And it deserves an honest, up-or-down vote in Congress.

So far Democratic leaders have refused to allow such a vote. Instead they defied the will of the American people and a bipartisan majority in the House and allowed a vote instead on the hapless DRILL Act. How weak and meaningless was this bill Democratic leaders made a big deal out of a provision that would reconstitute a ban on exporting Alaskan oil. But the U.S. is not currently exporting Alaskan oil and the bill a bipartisan majority in the House supports to allow new environmentally-safe drilling in the Alaskan coastal plain specifically requires all new oil pulled from the ground there to be sold within the United States.

The bill also included a much-ballyhooed Use It or Lose It provision that would supposedly force companies to drill on land theyre leasing from the federal government. But use it or lose it is already the law of the land.

But the DRILL Acts greatest weaknesses lie in what it doesnt do. It doesnt support a comprehensive energy strategy that includes accelerated development of alternative fuels, greater conservation, and increased American energy production. These are the reforms the energy-strapped American people want brought to a vote. Instead they got window-dressing.

There are few legislative days left before Congress will leave Washington for the August recess a five-week break during which gas prices are expected to rise even higher. Ohios families and small businesses are already suffering. How much worse does it have to get before Speaker Pelosi allows the bipartisan energy reform plan to come to a vote

Boehner represents Ohios 8th District, which includes all of Darke, Miami and Preble counties, most of Butler and Mercer counties, and the northeastern corner of Montgomery County. He was first elected to Congress in 1990.


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