Democrats Considering Energy Options

As Republicans continue their protest on the House floor, Democratic leaders are mulling their options to resolve a contentious energy debate before the upcoming elections.

But coordination remains difficult because members have scattered from Washington for their extended summer break.

Party leaders in the House are expected to convene a conference call on Wednesday to discuss their options in the ongoing energy debate, including a potential compromise measure that could include some expanded permitting for oil and gas exploration, a leadership aide said Tuesday.

But the details remain very hazy, Democratic insiders suggest, because leaders have not settled on an exact course of action and may wait until lawmakers return to Washington next month before finalizing a legislative package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in an interview with CNN's Larry King on Monday, suggested she would be open to a broader compromise that includes expanded offshore oil and gas drilling if it is packaged with measures to boost alternative fuel use, such as a renewable electricity standard or new federal incentives for wind power, solar power or biofuels.

It remains to be seen whether her remarks represent a breakthrough in the congressional deadlock over expanded domestic oil and gas exploration.

Before lawmakers left town, the speaker suggested she could consider an offshore drilling measure if it was packaged with legislation requiring President Bush to release some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Pelosi and other leading Democrats have suggested such a move would bring prices down over the short-term by undercutting the speculation markets in oil and gas, which many Democrats blame for high fuel prices.

The conference call comes as Republicans carry their floor protest into its second week. GOP lawmakers are protesting the Democrats' decision to adjourn for the five-week August recess without a vote to expand domestic drilling. Before hitting the floor again Tuesday, a group of rank-and-file Republicans expressed skepticism about Pelosi's comments to Larry King.
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