WSJ poll: It's the energy, stupid -- er, Pelosi

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll underscores what many of us already know about the most critical issue in this election — and it’s not Iraq.  Energy and fuel prices dominate the electoral choice for voters this fall, thanks to the sharp cost increase in just about everything connected with transportation.  And while Democrats have an edge in this area, it has sharply eroded:

Congress will likely break for the summer without passing legislation to curb high gasoline prices. But Americans are fashioning their own energy policy, founded on conservation and support for more production.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll finds that energy — including gasoline and utility costs — ranks as the economic issue that voters say affects them the most personally. ….

Polls indicate voters trust Democrats over Republicans, by substantial margins, to do a better job on energy. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 42% of respondents preferred Democrats for dealing with energy policy, versus 22% favoring Republicans.

The poll indicated that Democrats’ edge on the issue may be slipping; the July poll gave Democrats a 20-point advantage on the issue, versus a 28-point lead in a January poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News.

If Congress does break for the summer without a debate on energy, expect those numbers to slip much farther. Americans want to start using more domestic supplies, and not just for price relief in the next few years. They have finally begun to realize that sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas and inflating the price of oil benefit those whose don’t like Americans. It amounts to a price support for terror-funding regimes like Iran and Sudan, and in fact has helped Iran survive the international sanctions designed to stop their uranium-enrichment program.

Nancy Pelosi hasn’t gotten the message yet, and the Washington Post notices:

WHY NOT have a vote on offshore drilling? There’s a serious debate to be had over whether Congress should lift the ban on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf that has been in place since 1981. Unfortunately, you won’t be hearing it in the House of Representatives — certainly, you won’t find lawmakers voting on it — anytime soon.

Instead of dealing with the issue on the merits, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a staunch opponent of offshore drilling, has simply decreed that she will not allow a drilling vote to take place on the House floor. Why not? “What the president would like to do is to have validation for his failed policy,” she said yesterday when asked that very question. “What we’re saying is, ‘Exhaust other remedies, Mr. President.’ . . . It is the economic life of America’s families, and to suggest that drilling offshore is going to make a difference to them paycheck to paycheck now is a frivolous contention. The president has even admitted that. So what we’re saying is, ‘What can we do that is constructive?’ ”

If there is an explanation buried in there about why that makes offshore drilling off-limits for a vote, we missed it.

Right now the Democrats have become so frightened of this debate that they have attempted to ram through appropriations bills without debate or amendment to keep Republicans from forcing the issue to the floor.  As a result, both chambers may wind up adjourning without passing anything — appropriations or energy policy.  It would be the first time in almost 60 years that Congress went into its summer break without having passed any of the appropriations bills necessary for the next fiscal year.

Welcome to the do-nothing Congress, take 2.

Republicans have a wide opening here.  The Senate caucus looks firm in its insistence on keeping the energy debate open until a vote on drilling takes place.  If Democrats continue to obstruct it in either or both chambers, expect that 20-point lead on energy to dissipate rapidly.  The GOP and John McCain have already begun hammering Barack Obama on his refusal to countenance increased oil production in the US.  They will flood the airwaves to remind voters which party has blocked consideration of the option favored by 70% of the electorate.