May 20, 2006


Democrats to Focus on Fuel: Leaders Tell Rank and File to Spotlight High Gas Prices (Shailagh Murray, 5/20/06, Washington Post)

Seeking to gain advantage on a potent election-year issue, Democrats are promoting ambitious ideas to lower gasoline prices, targeting key voting blocs such as farmers and autoworkers. [...]

House and Senate Democrats are promoting separate energy packages. The differences reflect the challenge of reconciling the many regional interests and biases that influence energy debates in Congress.

The House plan focuses almost exclusively on crop-derived biofuels. "From corn in the Midwest, to soybeans in North Carolina, to sugar beets in Minnesota, we grow the crops that can be converted into the biofuels that power our cars," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), when House Democrats announced the plan May 11.

Although narrowly focused, the House plan has a specific audience in mind: conservative rural voters, whom Democrats believe are particularly disgruntled with Republican leadership and for whom high gas prices are a particular burden.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said of the package: "It's perfect for an Iowa open congressional seat. It's perfect for a Montana Senate race. An Indiana or Kentucky race."

At 352 pages, the Senate package includes benefits for almost every faction of the energy industry. It calls for the expanded use of flexible fuel vehicles, which can run on higher blends of biofuels, and would help local governments and individual gas stations install more biofuel pumps. Oil companies would be required to install the pumps at the gas stations that they own.

Senate Democrats would establish a nationwide renewable energy standard, mandating that 10 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. To reach that goal, they would subsidize the development of alternative energy technologies, such as wind, solar power and liquefied coal.

The third is popular in mining states such as West Virginia and Montana -- where Democrats are trying to defend one Senate seat and pick up another -- but environmental groups strongly oppose the fuel as dirty and impractical.

"It's really refreshing that they're focusing on reducing demand," said Anna Aurilio, a lobbyist for U.S. PIRG, a leading environmental group, referring to the Senate package. But the coal provision, she said, "is the worst of all possible worlds."

Neither Democratic plan requires Detroit automakers to manufacture more fuel-efficient cars, a step that many environmental groups believe would be the single most effective way to reduce fuel consumption. But Democrats don't want to undercut Sen. Debbie Stabenow's reelection in Michigan. Instead, the Senate package would provide federal assistance to the auto industry to advance fuel technologies.

The GOP ought to tinker with them just a bit and pass them. Then bring up ANWR and let the Democrats vote against it.

Bipartisan Group Thwarts Foes of Immigration Bill (CARL HULSE, 5/20/06, NY Times)

In the days since President Bush endorsed comprehensive changes in immigration law in a nationally televised speech, Senate backers of that approach have prevailed on the crucial votes, clearing the way for the likely Senate approval of major immigration legislation next week.

What happens next is anyone's guess. Many House Republicans are dug in against the call by a Senate majority and the president for a plan that could ultimately lead to citizenship for millions who have lived illegally in the United States for years. House Republicans deride that idea as an affront to the law-abiding public.

And Republicans fear that even if they reconcile those seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints in House-Senate talks, Democrats will throw up new obstacles to deny Mr. Bush a legislative triumph close to crucial mid-term elections.

There's the Democrats in a nutshell--they can't vote for even things they support because all they have is reaction against George Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 20, 2006 7:58 AM

Here in central Florida, Rep. John Mica is being targeted by Republicans for being one of two Florida congress critters who voted FOR off shore drilling. Stupid party just got stupider.

Posted by: erp at May 20, 2006 8:15 AM

High prices mean less tourism to FLA. They're going to have to start taxing those rich seniors.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 20, 2006 11:25 AM

Rich seniors, like rich middle age and young people, have lots of options. They come here because taxes are low. Raise taxes and they'll go elsewhere.

Those against off shore drilling are merely repeating the media mantra.

Posted by: erp at May 20, 2006 2:08 PM

All offshore drilling (except off the Texas coast) has been banned for decades.

The House recently tried to lift the ban, but it was defeated by the FL and west-coast delegations.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, challenged drilling opponents to "point to one beach in Texas that has been ruined by oil or natural gas production. No nation can produce energy more responsibly than ours."

A proposal to limit drilling to natural gas (which is cleaner) was also defeated.

Posted by: Gideon at May 20, 2006 3:15 PM