Democrats Offering 'Sham' Energy Legislation, Republicans Say

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:33 PM EDT

( - As oil prices set yet another record, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that Democrats are doing something to reduce prices at the pump, "here and now." Republicans scoff at the notion. They say Democrats are offering nothing but sham legislation, blame and excuses.

On Thursday, Pelosi outlined what Democrats have been doing lately:

"First, we put oil speculators on notice," Pelosi said in a news release. The House on Thursday passed a Democrat-sponsored bill directing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its emergency power to curb speculation in energy markets. The vote was 402-19. The bill now goes to the Senate.

"Experts have testified this week before Congress that the explosion of speculation in the oil futures market could be driving up prices from $20 to $60 per barrel," Pelosi said. "Oil speculators are making money by betting against the American consumers at the pump."

But record oil prices can't be blamed on speculation alone. Soaring demand and a limited supply of oil also figure in the price run-up, analysts say.

House Republican Leader John Boehner on Thursday accused Democrats of giving the American people excuses, not solutions:

"We've got more excuses, we're going to blame it on speculators, blame it on oil companies, blame it on OPEC, when there's only one group in this chamber we ought to blame -- and that is all the liberals in this House who have voted for no energy each and every time over the last 18 years that I've been here."

Boehner said in his 18 years in the House, there have been 46 floor votes on bills that would expand domestic energy production. He says Pelosi voted yes on only two of them.

Mass transit

Pelosi on Thursday also boasted that the House also has passed legislation to lower fares for mass transit and expand services for commuters "literally forced from their cars by the price at the pump."

Pelosi said investing in public transit is a "key component of a clean and green American energy future."

But Republicans complained that the bill would force taxpayers to fund the bus fares of big city residents while offering nothing to people in rural or suburban areas. "I think this is just pathetic and an insult to the American people," Boehner said. "Poll after poll shows the American people don't want hollow 'no energy' proposals. They want more American-made production to help bring down the cost of gasoline for their cars."

Use It or Lose It

And finally, Pelosi on Thursday blasted Republicans for blocking a "Use It or Lose It" bill that would force oil companies to start drilling on 68 million acres of leased but undeveloped federal lands. Democrats have accused the oil companies of "warehousing" the leases.

Republicans blocked passage of the 'Use it or Lose it' legislation, and Pelosi pounced: "Once again, Republicans voted with President Bush and Big Oil to keep domestic supply lower and prices higher," the house speaker commented.

In fact, Republicans for weeks have been blasting Democrats for refusing to boost the oil supply through expanded domestic drilling.

House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) noted that 19 Democrats joined 176 Republicans in defeating "Use It or Lose It." He called the bill an effort by Democratic leaders to create the impression they're working to reduce the price of gasoline -- while actually making it more difficult for to produce American energy for American consumers.

"Fully aware that their 'Use It or Lose It' bill had been thoroughly discredited by independent geologists, outside experts, and even members of their own caucus, Democratic leaders brought forth this bill anyway today knowing it had no chance of earning passage," Blunt said. "And while they may think that's an appropriate use of floor time before leaving for recess, I don't know that the millions of American families struggling to make ends meet in a world of $140 oil would agree."

Republicans note that "Use It or Lose It" already is the law of the land. If an oil company does not produce oil within the lease term, it must give the lease back to the government, and the company does not recover the billions of dollars it may have invested, the American Petroleum Institute says.

Blunt is backing a bill introduced by Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) that would expedite the permitting and approval process for energy exploration on leased federal lands.

"The Fallin plan would immediately add new energy supply to the pipeline, and trigger an immediate price reduction at the pump," Blunt said. "Unfortunately for the American people, today we wasted valuable floor time on the (Democrats' plan) instead of working together in a serious way to pass (Fallin's plan)."

Home for the holiday

Lawmakers are expected to get an earful from gas-smacked constituents as they leave town for the Fourth of July holiday.

Both Pelosi and Boehner seemed aware of that on Thursday.

"One year ago, on the occasion of America's Independence Day, Democrats unveiled our comprehensive initiative to declare America's energy independence, passing historic energy legislation to increase fuel efficiency standards," Pelosi said. "As we approach this Independence Day, we renew our commitment to a New Direction for energy independence."

But Republicans say Democrats are all talk and no action.

"We're about to go home for our Independence Day District Work Period," Boehner said on the House floor Thursday. We should not leave here until we take steps that will help us move our country toward more energy independence. ..We need to bring bills to the floor that will actually put members on record whether they're for more American-made energy or not."

Republicans are pushing what they call an "all-of-the-above" strategy.

"We need to conserve more of our energy, we need to develop biofuels, we need to develop alternative fuels, we need to have nuclear energy and yes, we need to produce more oil and gas here in America in an environmentally safe way," Boehner said.

"But all we get from the other side, each and every time are excuses (and) 'let's blame somebody else."

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