With a series of suspension votes this summer, House Democrats managed to avert a vote before recess on ending the moratorium on offshore drilling. As Congress returns to the energy debate, however, the issue has moved to the center of the debate.
The Republican demand for an up-or-down vote on the moratorium is even stronger today, after a recess spent on the House floor demanding that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) call Congress back to deal with the issue.
A House GOP leadership aide said that the caucus is “particularly ginned up for this fight” and feels that it has public opinion firmly on its side. And the standoff over the ban on drilling – which is attached to a spending bill – threatens to shut the government down.
A Democratic leadership aide said that discussions were still ongoing and that a final decision on what package to be brought to the floor had yet to be made. It is expected to include expanded offshore drilling on the East Coast – but only with the permission of the individual states – as well as funding for renewable energy at the expense of oil companies.
Republicans, though, dismiss the package as a non-starter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a surrogate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona, said that McCain would do everything he could to return to Washington to vote if a comprehensive package were on the table.
In St. Paul, Minn. last week, Graham said that he wanted to solve the energy problem. “But if we don’t,” he added, “here’s what’s going to happen: we go into September and we have got to pass a CR” – a resolution continuing the current budget levels – “right? How do you avoid the problem of, ‘I am not going to agree to the moratorium?’ So, I am trying to find a way for the Congress to land, a spot to land, that would get a comprehensive approach, where everybody gives some and takes some.”