House Dems to allow vote on energy bill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Monday morning that the newest Democratic energy bill will be brought to the floor under normal rules and will be subject to a vote on a Republican alternative that is likely to call for even more drilling than Democrats are prepared to swallow.

Hoyer, holding his weekly session with reporters, would not discuss details of the new Democratic energy bill — which was first outlined by caucus Vice Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) over the weekend. But Hoyer did outline the process for bringing the bill to the floor, and said it will be brought up under regular order.

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“[Republicans] will have the opportunity to offer their alternative, yes,” Hoyer said in response to a question about how the energy bill will be introduced. “We understand that their motion to recommit will be their Republican alternative.”

The move is a dramatic departure from Democrats’ pre-August recess strategy, in which they brought up each of their energy bills under suspension of the rules and, in doing so, avoided having any votes on Republican measures calling for offshore drilling. But by embracing this strategy, Democrats also failed to get the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the majority of their energy bills.

Now that Democrats are introducing their own proposal to allow drilling of the coasts of a handful of Gulf Coast states, they believe they can hold back the GOP energy bill, which calls for opening up both the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A leadership aide said last week that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) adoption of a pro-drilling position was a strategic one designed to bring the party in line with its presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), and give vulnerable caucus members political cover heading into the November elections.

Pelosi is scheduled to unveil the details of the Democrats' energy plan later Monday afternoon.