House Republicans take to floor of empty chamber for continued drill-here push
Update: White House won't aid GOP display
While most of their colleagues in the House of Representatives had already gone home for a five-week break Monday, a group of House Republicans returned to the floor of the adjourned chamber to demand that Congress open more of the nation's coastlines to oil drilling.
Following a dramatic demonstration last Friday, in which GOP lawmakers refused to leave the House floor after a vote to adjourn for Congress's annual August recess, several conservative Republicans returned to the Capitol to continue their demonstration.
"What you are about to witness is the beginning of a sustained effort to demand that Speaker Pelosi bring this Congress back to Washington DC and give us an up-or-down vote on an energy bill that includes more access to American oil," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) during a brief press conference before the lawmakers stormed the floor.
As on Friday, the lights were dimmed, the microphones were off and there was no TV coverage as Republican lawmakers delivered impassioned speeches to tourists in the visitors' gallery. Many visitors were also allowed onto the House floor - a very rare ticket - to get a better view.
Pence, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, and his colleagues targeted Pelosi exclusively during an excerpt from the conference aired on MSNBC Monday morning.
Left out of their criticism Monday morning was another prominent politician who had the power to order Congress back to Washington: Republican President George W. Bush.
Pence did send a letter to Bush last week demanding the president exercise his power to convene a special session of Congress, but such a move seems unlikely. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who also returned to the Capitol Monday, called for Bush to convene a special session in an interview on Fox News Monday morning.
The president's unwillingness to subject lawmakers to Washington's infamous August heat and humidity in an ostensible bid to lower prices at the pump stands in stark contrast to his outright demand last year that Congress not be allowed to adjourn for recess until it passed a law expanding the government's domestic spying authority. Apparently, in the Bush White House, warrantless wiretaps trump preventing $5-a-gallon gas.
Bush, who saw gas prices go from $1.44 a gallon at the beginning of his first term to nearly $4 a gallon today, continues to place the blame for high prices squarely at Democrats' feet. In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president continued to blame Congress for preventing domestic drilling, but he gave no indication that he'd act to call lawmakers back into session.
A White House spokesperson did not immediately return RAW STORY'S request for comment on Bush's refusal to act.
Later in the day, the White House said that a special session "won't make a difference" and reiterated the blame-Democrats line the administration has pushed for months, according to The Hill.
“We don't have plans to call Congress into session -- it won't make a difference if Democratic leaders are unwilling to bring up a bill for an up-down vote,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
To be sure, even drilling proponents acknowledge opening the coasts alone won't be a panacea toward cheaper gas, but they argue it's important for America to show the world its willing to take advantage of the resources at its disposal. Democrats say the impact of drilling would be to drop mere pennies from the price of a gallon of gas, and even those effects would be a decade or more away.
Pelosi is standing firm against more drilling, although both presidential candidates -- Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama -- are shifting from their own previous opposition and indicating more willingness to consider offshore drilling. Polls have indicated that Americans also are becoming more receptive to domestic drilling as the price of gas increases.
With wire reports
This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast August 4, 2008.
Rep. Blackburn: President should call for special session of Congress
This video is from Fox's America's Newsroom, broadcast August 4, 2008.