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‘Gang Of 10’ Gives Away GOP’s Oil Issue

From the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal:

Members of the bipartisan coalition of Senators, known as the ‘Gang of Ten’, from left, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., discuss their energy plan during a news conference, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Republican Energy Fumble

August 8, 2008; Page A13

Politics has its puzzling moments. John McCain and most of the GOP experienced one late last week. That was when five of their own set about dismantling the best issue Republicans have in the upcoming election.

It’s taken time, but Sen. McCain and his party have finally found — in energy — an issue that’s working for them. Riding voter discontent over high gas prices, the GOP has made anti-drilling Democrats this summer’s headlines.

Their enthusiasm has given conservative candidates a boost in tough races. And Mr. McCain has pressured Barack Obama into an energy debate, where the Democrat has struggled to explain shifting and confused policy proposals.

Still, it was probably too much to assume every Republican would work out that their side was winning this issue. And so, last Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson — alongside five Senate Democrats. This “Gang of 10” announced a “sweeping” and “bipartisan” energy plan to break Washington’s energy “stalemate.” What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.

That’s because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast — putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska’s oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.

The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn’t have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.

Sen. Obama was thrilled. He quickly praised the Gang’s bipartisan spirit, and warmed up to a possible compromise. Of course, he means removing even the token drilling provisions now in the bill. But he’s only too happy for the focus to remain on the Gang’s efforts, and in particular on the five Republicans providing his party its fig leaf.

Equally gleeful was Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrat. She had been sweating the energy debate, especially after her vote against more oil-shale production — a position her Republican opponent, John Kennedy, had used against her to great effect. Yet there she was, chummily standing with the Gang of 10 and boasting that she is working with “five Republicans” to “lower prices at the pump by increasing offshore drilling here at home.”

Mr. McCain, who had been commanding the energy debate, was left to explain why he, of all people, wasn’t more enthusiastic about a “bipartisan” effort on energy, especially one that includes “drilling.” His camp was forced to take refuge in taxes, explaining that their boss couldn’t sign up for a bill that included more. If this is what Mr. McCain’s good friend Lindsey Graham considers “helping,” somebody might want to ask him to stop.

And pity poor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been working overtime to stanch GOP losses this fall and head off a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate. His dogged efforts to highlight Democratic opposition to drilling has kept energy in the news and laid the groundwork for GOP candidates to use the issue to their advantage.

In the Colorado Senate race, Democrats had christened former GOP Rep. Bob Schaffer “Big Oil Bob” — hoping to smear his oil industry career. “Big Oil Bob” has instead embraced his pro-drilling positions and is pummeling opponent Mark Udall for his antidrilling stance. In recent weeks, Mr. Schaffer has erased Mr. Udall’s lead. Polls show Republican Sens. Norm Coleman (Minnesota) and John Sununu (New Hampshire) both climbing in the polls on the back of strong energy arguments. As two of the GOP’s most vulnerable senators, both might well have run for cover with the Gang of 10. Instead they’re fighting on the merits.

The “bipartisan” Republican senators have undercut these efforts, and boosted Ms. Landrieu. They’ve even put a smile on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s face. He’d been struggling to tamp down the energy debate through November, where he hopes to increase his majority and permanently shelve drilling. He’s now counting on the Gang to fruitlessly continue “negotiations” straight through the Senate’s short September session and solve his problem for him.

Not one of the five Republicans in the Gang is facing a tough election this year. That’s the sort of security that leads to bad decisions. And theirs is the sort of thinking that could leave Republicans in a permanent minority.

This is why they are called the Stupid Party.

Stunningly, as the article notes, Mr. McCain has so far refrained from endorsing the “Gang Of 10” plan.

But given the presence of his best friend forever, Lindsey Graham, it is probably only a matter of time.

[This is a cross posting from our sister site: GetDrunkAndVote4McCain.com.]

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, August 8th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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