The Bush Energy Plan Passes Test in the House

August 9, 2001
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WASHINGTON, DC — President George W. Bush has won round one in his quest for a national energy policy. Round two could be considerably tougher.

The U.S. House of Represen-tatives passed the Bush administration’s energy bill largely intact as August dawned in a marathon session on the House floor that stretched past midnight.

This energy bill was actually a combination of four energy-related bills that were combined into one large, comprehensive piece of legislation. The table of contents alone was 12 pages long and the hundreds of pages of text covered a number of different energy measures.

The primary goals of the bill are to generate more oil and natural gas drilling in the United States in order to reduce dependence on foreign sources; to save more energy through conservation measures; and to raise automotive fuel efficiency by a moderate amount.

Leaders of the Republican-controlled House allowed just one day to consider and vote on the bill, and lawmakers engaged in some spirited and sometimes acid-tongued debate as they pushed the legislation to its final vote.

Alaska Drilling

The most lively discussion on the floor was over the measure to allow oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), in an area encompassing about 2,000 acres. This issue is one that is specifically mentioned in the president’s energy plan, and Republican leaders prevailed, giving the administration a major victory.

In an example of the back-and-forth exchange, Represen-tative Don Young (R-AK) chastised opposing Democrats, saying, “How dare you stand up here and talk about something, and you have never been there [in ANWR]. Shame on you.” David Bonior (D-MI) retorted that he had been to ANWR and he still opposed drilling.

According to the New York Times, the Teamsters union — in an effort to gain more jobs — joined with Republican leaders to rally votes against the amendment that would have prevented drilling.

A/C On The Floor

During the floor debate, air conditioning was mentioned by Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) during his oration opposing drilling, when he stated that if higher air conditioning standards and other increased energy-efficiency measures would be accepted, drilling in ANWR wouldn’t be necessary.

An amendment to increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards more substantially — considered the second-most important vote — also was defeated, this time via a regional vote by lawmakers from those states that depend on the automotive manufacturers, and the many automotive suppliers, for jobs.

Referring to his Democratic opponents after his big win, President Bush remarked, “Americans know obstructionism when they see it, and I will point it out.”

However, Bush’s bigger roadblock may be down the road. The energy bill still needs to be considered by the Senate, which is Democratically controlled. This will make it much more difficult for the president to gain final passage of a bill that mirrors his energy plan. Democratic leaders are not expected to propose legislation identical to that of the House. And the Senate will reportedly be much more deliberate in its debate.

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