House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia today accused presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois of not being serious about bringing down gas prices. "If he were serious ... he would pick up the phone and call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask her to bring the House back from recess to vote on offshore drilling," he said. Cantor, who sources said has made the short list of possible running mates for expected GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said in a conference call that none of Obama's recent energy proposals would do anything to spur domestic oil production. He said anyone who believes the energy crisis can be resolved without increasing U.S. supplies "either doesn't understand the problem or is not being straightforward with the American people." Cantor derided Obama's proposal to impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies and use the revenue to pay for $1,000 rebate checks to help consumers weather the gas price spike. Cantor said it amounted to "finding culprits instead of a real solution" to the energy crunch.
Obama today unveiled his latest energy initiative by calling for the release of light crude from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supplies and push down prices, and began airing an ad charging that McCain was "in the pocket of the oil industry." Obama is also calling for a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in hybrid automobile and announced a commitment to helping the domestic auto industry produce such vehicles.
Cantor's attack appeared coordinated with ongoing efforts by House Republicans today to protest the lack of a vote on their plan to increase domestic oil and gas drilling. A group of about 24 GOP lawmakers, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Pence of Indiana, Donald Manzullo of Illinois and Tom Price of Georgia, appeared on an otherwise empty House floor for a second day to state their case to a crowd of GOP staffers and tourists. The protest is expected to continue this week and efforts are under way to bring in more members throughout August. McCain endorsed the GOP calls for a return, saying today he would be willing to leave the campaign trail to work on energy legislation. "I call on Sen. Obama to call on Congress to come back into town and come back to work," McCain said. The House adjourned Friday for the August recess, at which point the microphones and House cameras that supply the video feed for C-SPAN were turned off. The lawmakers' speeches were punctuated with occasional shouts of "vote, vote, vote" from the crowd. They called on Pelosi to bring the House back for a vote. The sentiment was repeated in a letter today to Pelosi from House GOP leaders. Several lawmakers have also called on President Bush to force Congress back into session over the recess. Neither outcome appears likely. In an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Pelosi dismissed the GOP drilling vote effort as a "diversionary tactic" from a failed GOP energy policy. "This is a decoy, not a solution," she said.
This article appears in the August 9, 2008, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.