Democrats have declared defeat on their siege on energy policy. Steny Hoyer announced that Democrats would allow a vote under normal rules on a bill that would expand domestic drilling, a move that would allow Republicans to offer their own version of an energy bill with more robust options for increasing domestic supplies of petroleum:
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.
“[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.
Pelosi miscalculated in her heavy-handed tactics before the recess. She attempted to push through her own plan under suspension of the rules, a tactic she decried in 2006, which kept Republicans from offering an alternative. When it failed, she adjourned Congress, hoping to put off the debate until after the conventions … and her book tour.
Instead of regrouping, the Democrats found themselves routed by an angry electorate and motivated Republicans. The House Oil Party kept the issue in the media eye, at least to an extent, but high gas prices kept it on the minds of voters while Democrats took their summer vacation. It was as poor a political calculation seen in recent years, and the sudden shift in generic Congressional ballots and in party identification has been the result.
Pelosi and Harry Reid may have finally figured out that they could lose this election on energy policy. Will this be enough to stanch the bleeding?