The first dividends from Politico’s article are paid. From Boehner’s office:
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement in response to an article in today’s Politico that suggests Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has secretly signaled to rank-and-file House Democratic lawmakers that they should feel free to portray themselves publicly as pro-drilling if it helps them politically:
“My message to Democratic lawmakers is this: if you’re really for increased American energy production, then prove it by putting it in writing. Sign the discharge petitions House Republicans are circulating that will force votes on energy legislation Speaker Pelosi refuses to bring to the floor. And sign onto the American Energy Act, our ‘all of the above’ plan to increase conservation, innovation, and American energy production, instead of doing the Speaker’s bidding by voting against bringing it to a vote. If you aren’t willing to put it in writing, you’re fooling no one. You’re siding with the Speaker of the Drill-Nothing Congress and radical special interests that favor higher gas prices, at the expense of energy-strapped American families.”
“This cynical strategy is disgustingly dishonest. Without any real solutions to help Americans who are struggling with record-high gas prices, it appears the Democratic leadership has hit on a new plan: deceive. Deceive the press, deceive its members, and deceive the American people. Democratic members have a ‘pass’ from their leaders to talk about drilling at home, while the liberal Democratic leadership – which is beholden to special interests that want higher gas prices – plays ‘rope-a-dope’ back in Washington, ensuring there is no vote to help the American people before November. It’s cynical, dishonest, and wrong – and it won’t work.”
Emphasis mine. I honestly don’t see what Pelosi has to lose by letting a vote come to the floor — or rather, I don’t see how she loses more by letting the vote happen now than by suppressing all attempts and letting the GOP bludgeon the Democrats with this issue all the way to November. If they agree to expand drilling, they can always undo it (at least in part) next year by sneaking the rollback into a more comprehensive energy package. The GOP will scream but the election will be long over and Obama, assuming he wins, will be enjoying a honeymoon period which the Dems can use to blunt Republican criticism. Making a stand now, when this is really the only weapon conservatives have to wield against them, seems stupid, unless the Dems expect the price of oil will drop sufficiently by next year that public pressure for drilling will dissipate and they won’t have to act at all. I’ll leave it to economists to determine whether that’s a reasonable expectation or not, but there are extraordinary yet plausible reasons to believe the price might actually skyrocket. In which case, I guess Pelosi figures they’ll jump off that bridge when they come to it.
Update: Conservative new-media types strike while the iron is hot.