The Drilling ban and Congress Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, September 23, 2008
As we've noted here, the offshore drilling ban expires on September 30th unless Congress extends it. But extending it, given the energy crisis everyone now acknowledges, and the building grassroots demand that we drill for our own oil where possible, doing so is politically unattractive.
So, how then, given the possible political fallout, not to mention the probable defections among its Congressional members, is the Democratic leadership going to satisfy a public which is demanding more drilling while keeping its environmentalist constituency happy?
A couple of ways. President Bush has promised a veto on a stand-alone bill which extends the moratorium. Obviously then, he won't see one. Instead, Democrats, after assuring their more conservative brethren in the party that the drilling issue wouldn't be included in the upcoming spending bill (not the bail out, but a stopgap measure to keep the government open into the next fiscal year) have now included it in that bill.
Additionally, they've decided the strategic way to do this and satisfy at least the perception they are not extending the moratorium is to use the language in the "energy bill" they recently passed which restricts offshore drilling to 50 miles off the coast:
But a draft of the measure, dated Sunday, included a modified moratorium that incorporated the energy bill the House passed last week. That measure would prohibit drilling within 50 miles of the shore, and open up drilling farther out - leaving most known resources still off-limits.
So the strategy - wrap it in a spending bill necessary to keep the government functioning, and restrict drilling while creating the perception they're opening it up - is to give Democrats deniability if they are accused of being against increased drilling while laying the problem at Bush's feet if he vetoes the bill. It also gives them the opportunity to accuse Bush of shutting down the government for partisan reasons.
House Republicans seem prepared to support a veto:
House Republicans say they have the votes to force opening up the outer continental shelf to more drilling, setting up a potential showdown with Democrats who are conflicted over how to handle the issue.
In a letter to President Bush, more than 150 House Republicans said they would vote to uphold a presidential veto of a bill that tries to extend the moratorium. With the ban set to expire Sept. 30, Democrats may have little choice but to give in or force a veto showdown, which could result in a government shutdown.
“Since the Democrats took control of Congress, Americans have seen prices at the pump increase by 75 percent. Americans watched as Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, took a five-week vacation this summer while they suffered. Americans also watched as Democrats brought a hoax, no energy-energy bill to the floor last week. And today, Americans watch as Democrats prevent access to American energy in a bill designed to keep the government functioning. Once again, when it comes to providing solutions to help lower fuel prices for Americans, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats are more out of tune than a rusty piano.
“Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats have made clear their desire to appease environmental extremists while fooling the American people into thinking that they support Republican efforts to open up America’s energy resources.”
Hensarling is correct - the Sierra Club endorsed the language in the previous bill finding the 50 mile limit to be imperfect (prefering no drilling, of course) but palatable.
This will be an interesting fight to watch. And it will happen in the shadow of the great bailout debate, something the Democrats are quite happy about.
Personally, I always thought Reagan should have given an immediate response to the Iran/Contra affair along the lines of, "Yes, I authorized it, so impeach me."
Similarly, I think Bush should veto the bill while on prime time television. Shutting down the government in such a fashion will give him an immediate 20% spike in approval ratings (like that should matter to him) and be a boost to the stock market.