August 17, 2008
How the GOP Can Counter Pelosi on EnergyBy Patrick J. Casey
One of the major criticisms of the Republicans in this Congress has been their inability to take advantage of issues that fall into their laps. We're currently seeing an example of that in the Senate, where John McCain's buddy Lindsey Graham, by organizing a "Gang of 10 on Energy", has taken away the GOP's advantage on the issue in the Senate. Thank's for energizing the Republican base, Senator. I guess you enjoy being in the minority, watching our country go down the tubes.
Republicans in the House are about to face a similar problem. Nancy Pelosi, by indicating to Larry King her willingness to allow a vote on offshore drilling, might cause some Republicans to think that they've won the issue. They haven't. It's vitally important to remember that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's word cannot be trusted, as even her supporters have found out. Let's look at an excerpt from the article in The Hill from late Monday night that broke the news of Pelosi's newfound love of offshore drilling, Pelosi indicates openness to offshore drilling vote:
Nancy Pelosi was, is, and always will be against expanded oil drilling because she is beholden to her environmental special interest groups. It's safe to assume that the unveiling of this new position that Larry King forced out of her (using his usual hard-hitting interviewing techniques) is but a ploy.
Her real plan is simple. She has to hold a vote on the offshore drilling moratorium in September, or else the moratorium will expire on its own, which would be a huge embarrassment for her. So she's going to schedule a vote on a bill, not about renewing the moratorium (which she knows will fail), but on allowing drilling, and will load that bill with amendments that would be very painful for Republicans to accept. If the GOP balks, Pelosi and the Democrats will attempt to claim that the Republicans never wanted anything else but drilling - that this has all been a grand political stunt. The media will merely amplify Pelosi's talking points. Therefore, Pelosi believes that the Republicans will have to vote for her bill, and she's attempting to cause the greatest amount of political damage she can to the GOP on an issue she can't otherwise win.
The GOP, at least in the House, is in front on this issue, and it's important for them to stay in front. That means beginning the counter-attack on Pelosi's transparent strategy now.
Luckily, some in the media recognize what Pelosi's game is, as this article in The Hill shows: Pelosi looks to load up drilling bill. They are even critical about how Pelosi announced her 'Revelation' on offshore drilling:
The article goes on to signal what types of things the Democrats are likely to attach to a drilling bill to make it difficult for the GOP to support:
I wouldn't be surprised to see a "windfall profits tax" attached to Pelosi's bill, as well. With such amendments to offshore drilling in the bill, the media will be applauding her "courageous compromise" loud enough so that the public won't be able to hear the environmentalists' screams over expanded drilling. The Democrats and the media will do everything in their power to paint the GOP as the obstructionist villains in this, as they always do. Therefore, it's important for the Republicans to start to spread the word on why certain "poison pill" amendments that are destined to be attached to offshore drilling are totally unacceptable.
Luckily, House Republicans seem to be unwavering in stating clearly their demand - bring up the American Energy Act (AEA) for a clean vote, with no other amendments. The media has been mimicking their Democratic overlords by claiming that the House Republicans, and Republicans in general, are focusing on more drilling to the exclusion of anything else. The GOP must do a better job of pointing out that the AEA is all encompassing. In addition to allowing more drilling for immediate relief, it also promotes higher emission and gas mileage standards, quick expansion of nuclear power, along with support for wind, solar and hydrogen power - all Democratic-friendly solutions.
In addition, the GOP must pre-emptively issue their arguments against the coming "windfall profits tax" proposal, pointing out that "big oil" is overwhelming owned by individuals (that's us), mutual, and retirement funds (that's the elderly) - and that oil companies already send 40.7% of their income to the government in the form of income taxes ($90.4 billion in 2006 alone).
The "use it or lose it" canard is just as easily to disprove, and must be rebutted forcefully, loudly, and often. Just point out that it's already contained in the leases, and then point out what the oil companies actually do (in resources, time and money) before they are able to determine that a lease site is viable. Then explain how much oil companies have to subsequently spend to get the oil out of the ground.
If I were the GOP, I'd promptly propose something to counter the "use it or lose it" meme - something that would immediately neuter the Democrats on this point. If the Democrats are so certain that the oil companies are just sitting on the oil in already leased land, propose that Congress reimburse the oil companies for all costs (including lease expense) on any land that they lease from the country that comes up dry. Let's see Pelosi argue her way out of that one.
But the biggest weapon that the GOP has in its arsenal is the existence of the automatic expiration of the offshore drilling moratorium. The Republicans have to stand strong and insist that their entire bill gets voted as is. When the Dems claim that it's all about drilling, the GOP must counter that alternative energy is covered by their proposal - if the Dems want to sweeten those incentives, fine. But no poison pills!
If Pelosi complains and blocks, just do whatever it takes to allow the moratorium to expire. Then appeal directly to the voters, saying that it was unfortunate that this was all you could get, since the GOP bill also supported expansion of alternative energy, but that it was the Democrats who played politics - and explain how. Then promise to continue to bring up the AEA every time possible.
The GOP shouldn't look for the media to do their job for them - they won't. Republicans have to talk over the media. It will take brains and guts - brains and guts that certain Senate Republicans seem not to have.
Let's see if House Republicans do...