Stephanopoulos to Pelosi: Why No Up or Down Vote on Drilling?

It seems that even ABC's George Stephanopoulos is getting fed up with Congressional Democrats blocking efforts by Republicans to expand offshore oil drilling in order to bring down gas prices.

On Sunday's "This Week," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) was asked repeatedly why she refuses to allow this issue to come to a vote.

The look of disgust on Stephanopoulos's face as Pelosi mumbled non sequitur after non sequitur was almost more telling of his sense of frustration than the number of times he asked virtually the same question: "Why won't you permit a straight up or down vote?"

Readers should prepare themselves for an alternate reality, for Madame Speaker was quizzed on Sunday like never before (video available here, rush transcript from closed captioning, photo courtesy ABC News):

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: You've been getting a lot of heat for not allowing a straight up or down vote expanding drilling off the coasts of the United States. Why won't you permit a straight up or down vote?

NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What we have presented are options that will really make a difference at the pump. Free our oil, Mr. President. We're sitting on 700 million barrels of oil. That would have an immediate effect in ten days. What our colleagues are talking about is something that won't have an effect for ten years and it will be 2 cents at the time. If they want to present something that's part of an energy package, we're talking about something. But to single shoot on something that won't work and mislead the American people as to thinking it's going to reduce the price at the pump, I'm just not going to be a part of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except it’s not just Republicans that are calling for this. Members of your own caucus say we must have a vote. Congressman Jason Altmire, let me show our viewers right now, says, “There is going to be a vote. September 30 will not come and go without a vote on the opening the Outer Continental Shelf. The message has been delivered. The issue can't be ignored any longer.” He says he speaks for a lot of Democrats. He's talked to the leadership and a vote must happen.

PELOSI: Maybe it will, as part of a larger energy package. Let's step back, call a halt and put this in perspective. What we have now is a failed energy policy by the Bush/Cheney, two oilmen in the White House. $4 a gallon gasoline at the pump. And what they're saying is let's have more of the same. Let's have more of big oil making, record profits, historic profits. You see the quarterly reports that just came out, who want to be subsidized who don't really want to compete. Let them use the subsidies to drill oil in protected areas. Instead we're saying, free the oil. Use it, don't lose it. There's 68 million acres in lower 48 and 20 million more acres in Alaska where they're permitted where they could drill anytime. This is a diversionary tactic from failed energy policies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you feel you have the better arguments, why not give a straight up or down vote for drilling?

PELOSI: Because the misrepresentation is being made that this is going to reduce the price at the pump. This is again a decoy, it’s not a solution.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, if you’re right, why not let it be debated out and have the vote?

PELOSI: We have a debate every single day on this subject. What you saw in the Congress this week was the war dance of the hand maidens of the oil companies. That's what you saw on the Republican side of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans are not right there on party lines on this issue. There are regional concerns, as well as some people concerned about what this means back home for them. But we have a planet to save. We have an economy to grow. And we can do that if we keep our balance in all of this and not just say but for drilling in unprotected and these protected areas offshore, we would have lower gas prices.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what exactly are you trying to say? You say you might allow a vote as part of a comprehensive package, but you won’t allow a vote on --

PELOSI: We have put on the floor. Free our oil. Strong bipartisan support for that. Use it, don't lose it. Strong bipartisan support for that. End undue speculation, strong bipartisan support for that. We've talked about these things. Invest in renewable energy resources so that we can increase the supply of energy for our country. Strong bipartisan support for that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet you brought those measures to the floor in a way under the suspension of the rules so that it couldn't be amended with a drilling proposal.

PELOSI: Well, we built consensus and have a strong bipartisan. This is what’s going to make a difference to reduce the dependence on foreign oil, to stop our dependence on fossil fuels in our own country. To increase the supply of energy immediately to reduce the price at the pump to protect the consumer. So this is a policy matter. This is very serious policy matter. It's not to use a tactic of one -- one tactic in order to undermine a comprehensive energy package to reduce our dependence on foreign oil which is a national security issue. To reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in our own country. Now, will we be talking about natural gas that's cheaper, better for the environment --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But why not allow votes on all that? When you came in as Speaker you promised in your commitment book "A New Direction for America," let me show our viewers, you said that “Bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full, fair debate consisting of full amendment process that grants the Minority the right to offer its alternatives.” If they want to offer a drilling proposal, why can't they have a vote?

PELOSI: They'll have to use their imagination as to how they can get a vote and then they may get a vote. What I am trying to, we have serious policy issues in our country. The President of the United States has presented this but for this our economy would be booming. But for this, gas would be cheaper at the pump. It's simply not true. Even the President himself in his statement yesterday and before then has said, there is no quick fix for this by drilling.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator Obama has agreed with you. He says, listen. This is not the answer. Drilling is not the answer. But he said over the weekend that he might be willing to sign onto drilling as part of a comprehensive proposal.

PELOSI: What Senator Obama said is what we want a President to say. Let's look at all of the options. Let's compare them. And let's see what really does increase our supply. Protect our environment, save our economy, protect the consumer, instead of a single shot thing that does none of the above. Why we give subsidies to big oil to drill instead of letting them --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move on to other issues. Just to be clear, you are saying you will not allow a single up or down vote on drilling. But you will allow a vote on a package that includes drilling?

PELOSI: No, what I'm saying to you is, as far as I'm concerned, unless there is something that -- you never say never to anything. You know, people have their parliamentary options available to them. But from my standpoint, my flagship issue as Speaker of the House and 110th Congress has been to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reverse global warming. I'm not giving the gavel -- I'm not giving a gavel away to a tactic that will do neither of those things. That supports big oil at the cost and expense of the consumer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re not going to permit a vote, you may get beat, but you're not going to permit a vote on your own?

PELOSI: Again, we take this one step at a time. But while we're spending all of this time on a parliamentary tactic when nothing less is at stake than the planet, the air we breathe, our children breathe.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s what I don’t understand. If you could get votes on everything else that you care about which you say there is strong bipartisan support, why not allow a vote on the drilling as well?

PELOSI: Because the President will not allow any of these other things to go forth. Why are we not saying to the President, why don't you release oil from the SPR in ten days to have the price at the pump go down? Why are you opposed to any undue speculation in the oil markets? Why do you not insist that people who have leases on our land with permits ready to go use those? The oil companies don't want competition. And what we would do by saying, go ahead, give them the subsidies. Allow them to drill in areas that are protected now, instead of where they're allowed to drill, is to diminish all of the opportunity that we have for an electricity standard for our country. Where we set out standards that makes the competition for renewable energy resources better. Which says to the private sector, invest here because there is a standard that they have to honor. If you just say it's drill, drill, drill, drill and we're going to subsidize it, what is the motivation for the private sector to come in and say we're going to support these renewable energies, wind, solar, biofuels. Plug-in cars. Natural gas and other alternatives.

Although Stephanopoulos never addressed the revolt that happened in the House on Friday when Pelosi adjourned the session for a five week vacation, he is to be commended for doing a fairly good grilling on Sunday.

As for Pelosi, Americans should be embarrassed by her disgraceful performance. If she represents the best House Democrats have to offer at this moment in history, we should all be fearful of the future.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.