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The night the lights went out

Right About Now

Posted: August 7, 2008 5:22 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Last Friday, Aug. 1, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats ended debate on energy issues by abruptly adjourning.

Not only were the C-SPAN cameras and microphones shut down, but the lights were also turned off. It wasn't deemed important enough to allow a vote on domestic oil drilling. After all, it was time to recess for the annual five-week congressional summer hiatus.

As Democrats jetted their way out of town, undeterred House Republicans remained in the darkened room and continued speaking to cheering tourists who shouted their approval from the public galleries. When the Capitol Police were ordered to close those areas, Republican legislators invited the public visitors down to the House floor.

In order to keep the press gallery open, Republican House members traded turns sitting in gallery seats.

They were, in effect, acting as their own press corps. Cell phones were used to send pictures to news outlets.

Too bad most of the television and newspaper media ignored these goings-on. As far as I know, only Fox News carried live cell phone audio and visual coverage. Blog-savvy activists on the Internet and YouTube enthusiasts sure picked up on it, though.

Taking the lead

It is curious that the Drill-Nothing Democratic congressional members, albeit strapped with single-digit approval ratings, don't understand that the time for posing and posturing about major legislation has ended. While the American public clamors for action and reform on economic and energy issues, the Democrats once again have chosen to punt.

How many vacations does it take to persuade U.S. voters to give House Democrats a justly deserved November surprise, replete with a permanent vacation? The same crowd of politicians who reject domestic drilling today, saying it takes 10 years to produce results, also rejected drilling 10 years ago.

Inaction begets inaction in the stagnant, walking-in-circles world of the Democrats.

When I asked for his opinion, our own Santa Clarita Republican Congressman Buck McKeon responded,

"With families struggling to afford higher gas prices, it is unconscionable that Speaker Pelosi would adjourn the House for five full weeks without allowing an up-or-down vote to increase American oil production.

"Speaker Pelosi can turn off the cameras, the lights, and the microphones in the U.S. Capitol, but she can't silence the voices of the California families that seek immediate relief from expensive foreign oil."

Let's pray he is correct.

Congressional Republicans generally favor a comprehensive policy that calls for drilling here in the United States now, while also continuing to practice greater conservation, and an increased use of renewable energy such as wind and hydropower. The latest polls support the Republican position on this one.

According to the Rasmussen Report's poll in late June, 67 percent of Americans support off-coast oil drilling. Even the states of Florida and California are on board.

In Florida 60 percent are in favor of offshore drilling, with 10 percent of those saying they opposed it in the past. According to a July 2008 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, 51 percent of California residents now favor drilling off the coast.

It is not too surprising that the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, has altered his previously stated strict opposition to offshore drilling.

Whether it is called flip-flopping, talking out of both sides of his mouth, or merely "a tactical readjustment," he now seems to favor a compromise with Republicans on this issue.

Obama is quoted in an interview with The Palm Beach Post as saying, "My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices.

"If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage ... I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."

He sounds more like John McCain every day. It's a shame House Dems don't agree.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., Republicans are continuing to turn up the heat on Speaker Pelosi and her vacationing Democrats. Republicans want to bring them back for a vote on an energy bill.

Let's see, Senator McCain was ridiculed for his support of a summer tax reprise that would remove the federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline. Democrats refused to allow an up-or-down vote on a Republican-sponsored energy bill that includes more access to oil in the United States.

Taking the lead

They blame President Bush for the rise in the price of gasoline at the pump, yet they know full well it is their responsibility to pass energy legislation, and the president's responsibility to enforce those laws.

House Democrats did, however, choose to take off five weeks, presumably to raise funds and ask their constituents to reelect them. Yeah, right!

The night the lights went out in our nation's capitol building has become somewhat of a reality show for political junkies. What a scene! Heavy-handed Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, used law enforcement officers to end the threat of a vote on drilling.

It's reminiscent of a 1960s sit-in, but with Republicans acting in a role reversal position. Thankfully, there was no police brutality or use of tear gas. The protest has begun, and the drama continues.

Paul B. Strickland Sr. is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right Here, Right Now" runs Monday in The Signal and rotates among several local Republican writers.


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