WASHINGTON - House Republican Leader John Boehner on Tuesday urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call lawmakers back into session to pass a bill expanding drilling in federal waters, now that she was willing to permit a vote on such a measure.
Reversing her position, Pelosi said she was willing to schedule a vote in the House of Representatives on legislation to expand offshore drilling, if the bill addressed other energy issues, such as extending tax credits for solar and wind energy and releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
"They (Republican lawmakers and President George W. Bush) have this thing that says drill offshore in the protected areas," Pelosi said Monday night in an interview on "Larry King Live."
"Well, we can do that. We can have a vote on that. But it has to be part of something that says we want to bring immediate relief to the public and not just a hoax on them," she said.
Pelosi says expanding offshore drilling alone is not a solution, because it would take years to develop the supplies and bring them to market.
"If Speaker Pelosi is truly sincere about having a vote on deep ocean oil and gas drilling to help bring down fuel costs, she should use her power as Speaker to call Congress back into session immediately and schedule a vote" on such a bill, Boehner said.
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House Republicans have been pushing for a vote on offshore drilling, but Pelosi has blocked their efforts. To press their point, Republicans objected to the House adjourning for its 5-week summer recess and have returned to the chamber almost daily to make speeches with the TV cameras off on the need for drilling legislation.
Pelosi's new position mirrors that of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who says he now could support legislation boosting offshore drilling, if the bill helped solve other U.S. energy problems.
As the November election approaches, Democrats are moving closer to the views of the American public on expanded offshore drilling, which polls show a majority of voters favor.
Bush on Tuesday again called on Congress to end its offshore drilling ban, which has been in place since the early 1980s. Bush lifted a similar presidential prohibition last month.
A bipartisan Senate bill, which could become the vehicle for moving several energy initiatives through Congress when lawmakers return September 8 from their summer vacation, would only allow drilling 50 miles beyond the shorelines of Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Editing by Walter Bagley
© 2008 Reuters