Just as Katrina has displaced hundreds of thousands on the Gulf Coast, she has also displaced many of the marquee items on the Congressional leadership’s agenda … for now.
Before they left on their August break, the Senate’s September plans included taking up permanent repeal of the estate tax, holding hearings on Judge Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court, and getting started on a budget reconciliation process that’s supposed to include more tax breaks, cuts in social services and student loans, and opening the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. All that is postponed, though not necessarily indefinitely.
But less than a month after an energy bill that did nothing to decrease oil consumption became law, Congress is investigating the cause of high gasoline prices. Starting at 2:30 p.m. EDT, the Senate energy committee is holding a hearing on global oil demand and gasoline prices. It was scheduled before Katrina hit, but has since been moved forward from Thursday to Tuesday, and I’m sure will have a more Katrina-centric focus.
On Wednesday the House energy committee will examine Katrina’s impact on gasoline price and supply. Chair of the committee Joe Barton (R-TX), already a vocal supporter of increased drilling in America, had this to say last week:
If there is a silver lining in this, it is that it may finally bring home to the American people how fragile our energy sector is and our energy infrastructure is. As I said earlier, 25 percent of our oil production is in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t have to be that way. We could be drilling in Alaska right now; we could be drilling off the coasts of several other states.
More on the Arctic Refuge fight later …