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Congressman Mike Pence on the Lights Out, Don’t Drill Democrats today in the House

Saturday, August 2, 2008

HH: A lot of hot air and a lot of hot tempers in Washington, D.C. today as the Democrats huffed and puffed because Republicans finally stood up and said enough is enough. To explain what happened on the Hill today, Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana joins me. Congressman, good to have you on the program.

MP: It’s great to be on. Sorry my voice is a little hoarse, but we, this rounded out a six hour protest demonstration on the floor of the House of Representatives, because we don’t think, with gasoline prices over $4 dollars a gallon, Hugh, we ought to be taking a five week paid vacation. And we challenged Speaker Pelosi to bring this Congress back into session to give us an up or down vote on more domestic drilling, or we challenge the President to use his Constitutional power and call this Congress back into session immediately.

HH: Mike Pence, what happened this afternoon? As I understand it, you guys were not done talking, and Nancy Pelosi turned the lights out, turned the microphones out.

MP: Right.

HH: She, you know, she’s running it like her own house, not the People’s House.

MP: Hugh, we had a hundred people, a hundred people signed up to give speeches at the end of the day, which is a very, very ordinary way to end a day on Capitol Hill, with members giving us speeches that are five minutes in length each. This time, there were so many Republicans outraged that we were leaving for a five week paid vacation without having had an up or down vote on give the American people more access to American oil, you know, we had about half of the Republicans in Congress were going to speak if we went all the way to Midnight. But then they brought their motion to adjourn, they adjourned and shut the whole thing down. And quite frankly, Congressman Tom Price of Georgia and I, who were kind of organizing some of those speakers, looked at each other and said well, cameras are off, lights are off, but you know what? There’s still Americans up in the Gallery. Let’s have at it. And before it was over, more than fifty Republicans in Congress came to the floor, spoke from their hearts, standing ovations all day long. And by all indications, we got the message across to the American people that the Republicans in Congress want to be working, and we want to be working to give the American people greater access to our domestic reserves.

HH: Now the heart of this issue is that there’s a majority in the Congress, on both the House and the Senate side, who would vote to repeal the offshore drilling ban on the Outer Continental Shelf. Isn’t that correct, Congressman Pence?

MP: I said that several times. It’s almost like you were there today on the floor. I said in one of my five floor speeches this afternoon that I believe with all my heart that for the first time in the last eight years, there is a bipartisan pro-drilling majority in the House and in the Senate. And that may be why Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who categorically opposes any more drilling of our domestic reserves, will not bring a vote to the floor. But come on, Hugh, this is the People’s House. They ought to be allowed to work the will of the American people. And judging from the response we were getting from the Gallery, you know, those seats that are up around the Chamber you see on the State of the Union?

HH: Yup.

MP: I mean, those were filled with, you know, people and their families coming in. You know, it might as well have been a focus group. It wasn’t like Republican visitors. People were on their feet all afternoon cheering one speaker after another from the Gallery. And you just had a clear sense that, you know, the majority of Congress and the majority of the American people know what we need to do here, but Nancy Pelosi won’t give us an up or down vote.

HH: You know, Congressman Pence, since you’re from Indiana, I’ll tell you this story. Last week, I was on vacation, and got to know a great Indianapolis couple, actually not Indianapolis, Fort Wayne. They own a string of car washes in your state, 36 of them.

MP: Yes.

HH: And they were telling me, you know, that puts them very close to people who drive for a living. And folks are no longer getting their car washed as often, they’re no longer changing the oil, because this has really hurt Americans in the pocketbook. And I think that’s why you got the response you got today, is that folks know that to get oil prices down and gasoline prices down, we’ve got to go get more oil.

MP: Well, people do know that. But at the same time, you know, Hugh, I said this, and Tom Price, and guys like Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy from California, were down there standing with the Republican leaders. And look, we’re for all of the above. We’ll put a compromise bill together that’ll do conservation, it’ll do solar, it’ll do wind. We’ll, heck, last year, just for the sake of compromise, I supported some modest increases in fuel efficiency standards. But we’ve got to give the American people more access to American oil. But we can’t do any of that if Congress isn’t in session.

HH: Now did Speaker Pelosi have any conversations with the Republican leadership about trying to come to some sort of compromise about staying an extra day or a few days to try to get anything done?

MP: You know, you’d have to talk to Republican leaders who I know are frequent guests on your show, Hugh. But to my knowledge, the Democrats brought, really, I think it was the first vote a couple of days ago, just to kind of pile drive a motion to adjourn. They passed it, and then they called it up today, and called the vote, and dropped the gavel, and silenced more than a hundred Republicans in Congress who were poised to go to the floor and make the case for lower gasoline prices and greater access to our domestic oil reserves. So I didn’t get the impression there was any cooperation there at all.

HH: I’m not surprised. You had a press conference with Congressman Price today at 4:30 at the Will Rogers statue stakeout location. Did anyone from the press show up? Are they interested in this?

MP: I’ll tell you what, it was a wall of reporters and cameras. And you know, quite a few print media reporters were in the Gallery all day long. I think the story’s leading Drudge the last time I checked from the Cloak Room, Hugh. And you know, I’ve to give the Fourth Estate, you know, came in, the print media reporters sat their dutifully all day, writing down notes from speeches, recounting what was happening on the floor, and television and radio media were out there, and of course, the privilege of being on your show, all over the Western half of the country, is a great joy for me. So I think that the media is on this, and I think that the American know the Republicans were refusing to go quietly into that five week paid vacation without a fight, and we’re going to keep fighting.

HH: Now obviously, the President can call the Congress back.

MP: Yeah.

HH: Have you had any discussions with Josh Bolton, the Chief of Staff, or anyone up there yet about whether or not the President is so inclined to do that?

MP: You know, I wouldn’t want to say who I’ve talked to since I called for a special session yesterday on the House floor. But we’ve had conversations with officials at the White House, we’ve had conversations with close advisors to the President in the last 24 hours. And you know, I wouldn’t want to characterize it. They’re aware that many of us in the House and the Senate would like to see the President use that Article II, Section 3 authority, and call a special session. I think in 1948 was the last time it was done, and it was then-President Harry Truman said he was tired of the newly-minted do nothing Congress. He goes to his national convention and announces he’s calling them back into session to make them work. I frankly think the President ought to use his radio address tomorrow morning to announce that he’s calling this Congress back into session as well. And I really do believe that we’ve come across a 21st Century energy crisis here, and it’s very clear that without a presidential directive, this Democratic Congress is just going to go and run the clock out on the American people before this election.

HH: Now let me ask you, Congressman Pence, if he calls them back, if the President does that, can’t they just adjourn again?

MP: Yeah, yeah they sure can. I mean, he can call them back under our system of government, but he can’t make them do anything, which I wouldn’t want him to be able to make them do anything. But you know what, Hugh? You can. The millions of people that listen to your radio show all over the United States can. And what I would suggest is the President should say I’m calling a special session of Congress, it’ll be in one week, and then have the President give about five different speeches explaining to the American people what his comprehensive energy plan looks like, and tell them to call their Congressman and say number one, I want you to go to work at the special session, and number two, I want a vote.

HH: Last question, Congressman Pence. Obviously, if this doesn’t get renewed, it lapses with the appropriations for this year.

MP: Right.

HH: Are you prepared, do you think your colleagues in the Republican caucus are prepared to allow the government to shut down to get rid of this ban on offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf?

MP: You know, I really believe that that continuing resolution that will likely include a renewal of this ban on the Outer Continental Shelf, I think the Democrats are in for the fight of their life. With no planning at all, Hugh, 50 Republicans in Congress came to the floor today to register their frustration and anger over taking a five week paid vacation without doing anything to lower gasoline prices. I guarantee you we’re going to stay in the fight straight through this fall.

HH: Congressman Mike Pence, congratulations on doing the right thing today, and I hope you guys take it all through October, shut down the government in order to get rid of that ban. We need the oil. Congressman Pence, thanks.

End of interview.

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