Republican revolt on Capitol Hill

August 1, 2008 4:48:05 PM PDT
The last House vote before a vacation usually sparks a stampede toward the doors and waiting planes. Not so Friday, when Republicans occupied the House floor for a rare, and at times bizarre, protest against Democratic energy policies. The microphones were off, the House had stopped TV feeds to C-Span and the lights dimmed after the pre-noon vote to adjourn for the August recess. That didn't deter Republicans, who one after another rose to demand that Congress stay in session until it does something about high gas prices.

Unlike a normal session where the rules of decorum are strictly enforced, GOP lawmakers and their aides who filled the chamber clapped, chanted, gave standing ovations and booed the Democrats.

"Madame Speaker, where art thou?" shouted out Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, in a glancing rhetorical shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Where oh where has Congress gone?"

It was a rare treat for tourists. Republicans invited many, in their shorts and sandals, into the chamber, usually strictly off-limits, to better hear the revivalist-like speeches.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., one of the organizers of the protest, said up to 40 of his fellow Republicans were prepared to keep the talk-in going. "I am prepared to stay here as long as we can," he said.

Republicans are angry that Democrats blocked them from a vote on allowing more off-shore oil drilling and increasing domestic oil supplies.

Democrats have faulted Republicans for obstructing their efforts to stop market speculation, press oil companies to develop the leases they have and force the president to release oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. The result is that Congress is leaving town without a comprehensive energy bill.

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