GOP mulls summer sequel protest on gas prices

Amid rising gas prices, Republican leaders are considering another energy protest on the House floor this summer.

GOP conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), who was instrumental in spearheading the 2008 energy protest, told The Hill on Thursday that all options are on the table.

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Pence said, “As gasoline prices rise, we are going to use every means at our disposal to make our case for more domestic exploration, more nuclear power and more conservation and more renewables to the American people.”

According to AAA, the national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $2.63, a dollar more than at the beginning of this year.

Sources say this year’s energy protest, if it occurs, would be aimed at criticizing the climate change bill that has been approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee. Republicans claim that legislation would lead to even higher gas prices, more expensive electricity bills and the loss of U.S. jobs.

Despite those criticisms, the cap-and-trade bill attracted the votes of conservative Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee as well as Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.).

Republicans attracted national media attention last summer when they delivered speeches on the House floor after the lower chamber officially adjourned for its August recess.

The protests — as gas prices hit $4 a gallon — put political pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who subsequently scaled back her resistance to offshore oil drilling.

Buoyed by the energy crisis, the month of August was a high point for the GOP in 2008, as polling showed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cutting into now-President Obama’s lead. The financial meltdown, coupled with falling gas prices in September and October, helped Democrats win the White House and significantly expand their congressional majorities.

A senior House Democratic aide told The Hill that the GOP protests didn’t work last year, when gas prices were $1.50 higher per gallon.

“The American people flatly rejected their failed energy policy in the last election. What the American people are looking for is a way forward,” the aide said.

Pence would not “confirm or deny” that the GOP leadership team has had active discussions on the possibility of recruiting members to speak on the floor when the microphones are turned off. Yet he stressed that Republicans are committed to talking extensively about their energy plan.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tapped Pence to chair the House GOP Energy Solutions Group, which has unveiled the American Energy Act. The bill would increase nuclear energy production and allow more drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf. But with Democrats in charge of the House, the bill is not likely to be considered in the 111th Congress.

It is unclear if the House will vote on climate change before the August recess.

Many Republicans on Capitol Hill believe that the timing of the cap-and-trade bill works to their advantage, saying that the worst time to push such a controversial measure is during a recession amid spiking gas prices.

Yet some previously wary Democrats in the upper chamber — including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — have praised the Energy and Commerce Committee bill.

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