Congress broke for August recess today without making any notable progress on energy issues — as expected.
Despite multiple attempts in both the House and Senate to pass legislation that would curb oil-market speculation, release some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and extend tax credits for renewable energy, members of Congress will go home to their districts this weekend with nothing to tout.
House Republicans decided to protest the lack of movement on energy legislation by staying on the House floor to discuss energy issues after the body had been officially adjourned. As of the writing of this post, they were still kibitzing, though they kicked C-SPAN’s camera crew out of the chamber. AP, which described the scene as “at times bizarre,” reported that the Republicans invited tourists into the chamber and spent the afternoon making fun of Democrats who wouldn’t take up their drilling-focused energy legislation. “I am prepared to stay here as long as we can,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), one of the leaders of the protest.
House Democrats were equally miffed at the Republicans, who blocked all energy bills because they didn’t include more oil drilling.
In the Senate, the tax-credit extensions for renewable energy failed for an eighth time (despite having passed previously in the House). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) essentially deemed further haggling over energy legislation pointless, and declared debate “over until the fall.” He chastised Republicans for giving “a big wet kiss to big oil companies” by obstructing Democratic bills.
After the Senate closed down today, a bipartisan group of 10 senators held a press conference on legislation they’re cosponsoring in hopes of breaking the deadlock. The “New Energy Reform Act of 2008” combines limited offshore drilling with increased investment in new energy technologies, with the aim of reducing consumption of foreign oil. Some of the money for renewables would come from scaling back tax breaks for the oil industry. The bill also sets a goal of fueling 85 percent of the country’s automobiles with something other than oil within 20 years.
The group, calling itself the “Gang of 10,” includes five Democrats and five Republicans: Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and John Thune (R-S.D.). They said they expect to hold debate on the bill when Congress reconvenes in the fall.
“When we come back in September we’re very hopeful … they will allow this bill to come forward,” said Chambliss.