In the critical debate in Congress over how to solve the energy shortage. Northern Virginia's two liberal Democrates are, for a change, on opposite sides.
And yesterday, Rep. Herbert E. Harris II, who opposes President Carter's plan to deregulate oil, out maneuvered Rep. Joseph L. Fisher in a policy action before the House Democratic Caucus.
Harris said it was his idea to invoke a parliamentary procedure that prevented Fisher from offering an alternative proposal that would have allowed deregulation only after a windfall profits tax is in place.
Harris and Fisher are both taking active roles in the debate, which not only concerns the best way to solve energy problems, but also whether President Carter is the leader best suited to solve them.
The actions of Harris and Fisher yesterday firmed up stereotyped impressions of their contrasting styles.
To some veteran House observers, it was a matter of the brash-some say grandstanding-Harris outmuscling the scholarly-some say hesitant-Fisher.
Fisher was left standing, unrecognized by the caucus chairman, Rep. Thomas S. Foley of Washington, after Rep. Toby Moffett of Connecticut, author of the resolution opposing deregulation, moved the previous question, an action that takes precedence over other motions. Harris said he suggested the move in a strategy session Tuesday night.
"It's a strong, or even stron-armed, action in parliamentary law, that's true," said Foley, who was advised by a House parliamentarian that he had no other choice than to end the debate and to call for a vote on Moffett's motion.
Moffett's motion carried by a vote of 124 to 96, indicating that Fisher's porposal didn't have the necessary support in any event. But the action caused a number of witnesses to murmur about the power play.
The caucus had to adjourn before it could vote on the policy statement against deregulation, but that will be its first order of business today.
Harris is not a sponsor of the policy statement, but he has been an outspoken supporter of it. The policy action doesn't have any force in law, but if adopted, would put House Democrats on record squarely opposed to the President's plan. Harris said its backers are likely to try to amend the energy department budget to require extension of regulated oil prices.
The breach between Carter and Congress over oil deregulation was part of the reason five House Democrats announced yesterday they felt "betrayed" by Carter and were looking for someone else, preferably Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to run against hime next year.
One of those five, Fortney H. (Pete) Stark of California, called to Harris on the Capitol steps, "are you ready to join us?" Harris replied, "U'm going to give Jimmy one more chance."
But Fisher is alone among area Democrats in supporting Carter on deregulation.
Suburban Maryland's two liberal Democrats, Gladys N. Spellman and Michael D. Barnes, both voted with Harris yesterday in the caucus action, and oppose deregulation.
Among them, Harris comes closest to being ready to dump Carter next year.
The President's energy policy "jeopardizes his viability as a candidate very much," Harris said in an interview in his office yesterday afternoon. "If the president wants to re-establish confidence in his energy program," Harris said, he could begin by firing Energy Secretary James Schlesinger.
Fisher believes "the case for deregulation has become persuasive," as he said in a speech last week before the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Commissioners. But his first priority is for a stand-by gas rationing plan, similar to the president's plan that was rejected by Congress recently.
Then, with phased-in deregulation, Fisher would tax the excess profits accruing to oil companes and earmark the money for energy research, development, production and conservation.