Friday, July 25, 2008
WHY NOT have a vote on offshore drilling? There's a serious debate to be had over whether Congress should lift the ban on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf that has been in place since 1981. Unfortunately, you won't be hearing it in the House of Representatives -- certainly, you won't find lawmakers voting on it -- anytime soon.
Instead of dealing with the issue on the merits, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a staunch opponent of offshore drilling, has simply decreed that she will not allow a drilling vote to take place on the House floor. Why not? "What the president would like to do is to have validation for his failed policy," she said yesterday when asked that very question. "What we're saying is, 'Exhaust other remedies, Mr. President.' . . . It is the economic life of America's families, and to suggest that drilling offshore is going to make a difference to them paycheck to paycheck now is a frivolous contention. The president has even admitted that. So what we're saying is, 'What can we do that is constructive?' "
If there is an explanation buried in there about why that makes offshore drilling off-limits for a vote, we missed it. Ms. Pelosi is correct that drilling is no panacea for the nation's energy woes. The short-term effect of lifting the moratorium, if there were any, would be minimal. That doesn't mean the country shouldn't consider expanded drilling as one of many alternatives. There are legitimate concerns about the environmental impact of such drilling -- environmental concerns that, we would note, exist in other regions whose oil Americans are perfectly happy to consume. But have technological improvements made such drilling less risky? Why not have that debate?
When they took the majority, House Democrats proclaimed that "bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the Minority the right to offer its alternatives." Why not on drilling?
Meanwhile, the dispute has snarled progress on spending bills for fear of having drilling amendments attached. Citing "the uncertainty in how the oil and gas drilling issue is currently playing out on the Senate floor," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) called off committee consideration of spending bills on which Republicans were threatening to offer drilling amendments. The result threatens to be the first time since at least 1950 that lawmakers will go home for the August recess without either chamber having passed a single appropriations bill.
If drilling opponents really have the better of this argument, why are they so worried about letting it come to a vote?