By The Hill Editors - 07/16/08 06:41 PM EDT
Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.) is retiring at the end of the 110th Congress, but he is not mailing it in.
Peterson is working hard to pass a broad, bipartisan energy bill this year. Some on Capitol Hill call that mission impossible, saying that both parties are dug in on gas prices and have little incentive to strike a deal before the elections.
Peterson knows he faces an uphill battle, but believes it can be done if he can convince enough Republicans and Democrats to endorse a bipartisan measure.
Along those lines, he has partnered with Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) to put together a working group of like-minded lawmakers — 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans — in the lower chamber.
The two lawmakers announced on C-SPAN Wednesday that their plan would not call for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Peterson favors drilling in a lot of places, but knows that ANWR is a poison pill, especially in the Senate.
Abercrombie, a straight shooter with a good sense of humor, said Americans are fed up with Washington and are not going to give a pass to either party on high gas prices.
The Peterson-Abercrombie bipartisan pact formed during a Resources Committee hearing when Peterson convinced Abercrombie to change his position on natural gas. To his great credit, Abercrombie said he thought he knew a lot about natural gas, but found out he didn’t.
Peterson is also working to convince the man at the top of his party’s ticket to embrace more drilling. Concerned about Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) stance on energy, and global warming in particular, Peterson has withheld his endorsement.
Usually, a presidential campaign wouldn’t be very concerned about an endorsement from a retiring House member. But the McCain camp, wisely knowing Peterson is getting more and more attention this year, met with the lawmaker recently to talk energy policy for nearly an hour and a half.
Peterson isn’t ready to endorse McCain officially. It sounds as though he will, though he doesn’t want to rush it and is using his leverage to secure promises.
During this heated campaign season, it is impressive that Abercrombie and Peterson are trying to achieve the improbable. And make no mistake, they will push hard in the waning days of the Congress.
Abercrombie, who has not been shy in criticizing his party leaders on a variety of issues, said Wednesday that he and his Republican colleague from Pennsylvania “have lots of energy” and predicted that outrage on gas prices will force their bill to the House floor later this year.