The White House tried to blunt Wednesday’s contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder with claims that Republicans were trying to focus on something other than the economy and jobs.
“At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced that one of their chief legislative and strategic priorities was to investigate the administration and damage the president politically,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. “We are nine days away from the expiration of federal transportation funding which guarantees jobs for almost a million construction workers because Congress has not passed a transportation bill. We are 10 days away from student loan rates doubling, potentially impacting over 7.4 million borrowers.”
And that’s what President Obama focused on today as he notched yet another speech on student-loan rates into the schedule.
But the Carney spin came on the same day that the House passed the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, a package of seven bills focused on spurring job growth and lowering energy costs while embracing the country’s energy resources.
That legislation passed 284-163 despite a veto threat two days ago from Obama.
The package includes sponsor Rep. Cory Gardner’s (R-Colo.) Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012, which would require the administration to formulate a plan for new energy leases on federal land — with production output equal to that which is sapped from the reserve — if it decides to dip into the SPR.
It also includes Rep. Ed Whitfield’s (R-Ky.) Gasoline Regulations Act of 2012, which would freeze new EPA regulations that are expected to drive up pump prices; Rep. Scott Tipton’s (R-Colo.) Planning for American Energy Act of 2012, which would make the Interior Secretary develop an all-of-the-above plan that includes fossil fuels as well as renewables; Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Colo.) Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act of 2012, which would implement a minimum acreage leasing plan and speed up the leasing process; Rep. Doug Lamborn’s (R-Colo.) Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act, which would dial back the red tape for energy developers; Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-Wash.) National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act; and Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-Ohio) BLM Live Internet Auctions Act.
“Through increased domestic energy production, states such as North Dakota and Oklahoma are enjoying unemployment rates significantly lower than the country’s national average of 8.2 percent,” said GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), leader of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT), after the vote. “However, this increased production is occurring on privately owned lands, not public lands – where the majority of our energy potential is located.”
Nineteen Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill, while five Republicans voted against it.
Two of the Democrats who voted “aye” also made headlines this week for confirming that they’ll skip the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this September: New York Reps. Bill Owens and Kathy Hochul.
Owens said after the vote he was disappointed that the Keystone XL pipeline wasn’t part of the package. An amendment to expedite pipeline approval was offered by Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.) but was later withdrawn.
“Domestic oil production is currently at an eight-year high, and we must continue that momentum,” Owens said. “This legislation will provide new opportunities for responsible domestic drilling that will help us to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil and create jobs.”
“There is no reason for the United States Senate not to consider the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act and send it to President Obama’s desk this summer,” Gardner said. “The seven bills in this package provide an opportunity for job growth and energy security.”
But if the bill manages to make it through Obama’s gatekeepers in the Senate, where energy-friendly Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) could give the legislation a bit of lift, it will be struck dead with the president’s veto pen — despite his claims of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy and assertions that Republicans are the ones killing jobs.
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4480, which would undermine the Nation’s energy security, roll back policies that support the continued growth of safe and responsible energy production in the United States, discourage environmental analysis and civic engagement in Federal decision-making, and impede progress on important Clean Air Act (CAA) rules to protect the health of American families,” the Office of Management and Budget said in the statement of administration policy.
The conditions attached to a drawdown of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — in every president’s campaign-year arsenal as a potential salve for consumer discontent over high pump prices — “could hinder the President’s ability to respond appropriately and lawfully to a disruption in the Nation’s energy supply.”
“Linking a drawdown of the SPR with the leasing of Federal lands for energy production is entirely without rational basis, either temporally, spatially, or in terms of the Nation’s energy needs,” the veto threat states.
The White House also takes issue with a more streamlined leasing process as outlined in the bill, saying it would turn back “oil and gas leasing reforms that have established orderly, open, efficient, and environmentally sound processes for energy development on public lands.”
It also accused the bill of blocking “progress on important protections for the health of American families” in terms of environmental regulations.
“While President Obama is busy picking winners and losers in the energy market, House Republicans have embraced an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” said Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.). “…At a time of widespread joblessness, the good-paying work available in the energy sector would be welcome news for our fragile economy. American families and businesses are also desperately seeking the relief of lower, stabilized energy costs.”
“This administration’s lack of a plan to allow for the safe and reliable development of energy on federal lands severely limits our ability to achieve an economic and manufacturing renaissance,” McCarthy said. “The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act requires that the federal government plans for the responsible development of energy-rich, federally-owned lands. Doing this will increase American-made energy while creating American-made jobs. There is no reason for the Senate not to act on this common-sense American jobs bill.”