If you thought that House Republicans were really serious about wanting a vote on offshore oil, now might be a good time to rethink.
Republicans tapped into an electorate frustrated with $4-a-gallon gasoline when President Bush and presidential candidate John McCain began pressing to rescind a moratorium on new offshore drilling. Polls showed public support — even in California and even in the face of an Energy Department (i.e. Bush administration) report saying it would take about 10 years to get any oil to market and the impact on prices would be negligble at best. We’ve been critical of the idea in our editorials, supporting instead continued conservation (which has had an effect on prices) and development of alternative energy sources.
But it’s proven to be a good political issue. House members who otherwise would never get TV time have been on the evening news with their summer recess rallies demanding an oil vote. So with public opinion polls pointing the other way, an election coming and some of her members worried, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she’s ready to bring offshore drilling up for a vote. The San Francisco Democrat said so last week on Larry King, and used the Democratic radio address on Saturday to repeat it.
And the Republicans aren’t at all happy.
House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio and others immediately blasted Pelosi’s plan to have a vote. They’re pointing at other likely provisions of the energy bill, which could include a requirement that utilities generate more power with clean energy and eliminating some tax breaks for oil companies. A similar bill already came to the Senate floor, where Republicans blocked a vote because it didn’t include a provision dealing with offshore oil. But this really isn’t about the vote. Many Republicans (and also some Democrats) do favor an end to the moratorium. What Republicans don’t want to lose (though Democrats apparently do) is an issue that has shown some political traction in a year where GOP prospects in Congress are dim.
A slippery subject oil is. Politics, too.
— Jim Sweeney