WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans are stepping up attacks on Democrats who are blocking votes on oil drilling legislation, homing in on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was quoted saying that she wants "to save the planet."
Pelosi, in an interview published Tuesday in Politico.com, defended her efforts to stall spending bills, saying as speaker she decides which bills will make it to the House floor.
"I'm trying to save the planet. ... I will not have this debate trivialized by their excuse for their failed policy," Pelosi said. “When you win the election, you win the majority, and what is the power of the speaker? To set the agenda, the power of recognition, and I am not giving the gavel away to anyone.”
Ahead of a Republican press conference Tuesday focusing on stalled energy priorities, House Minority Leader John Boehner responded by attacking Pelosi, who has been making talk-show rounds this week with a new book, titled "Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters."
"She's got time to go out and promote her new book tour and her new book, but she doesn't have time to schedule a vote on the floor of the House and let the American people have their will expressed?" Boehner told FOX News.
Boehner blamed Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama for preventing relief.
"For 25 years, Democrats have blocked more American-made oil and gas. That's why we're in the predicament we're in," said Boehner, R-Ohio. Voters want Congress "to vote on more American made oil and gas. We want to do that. She, Harry Reid, Barack Obama are standing in the way."
House and Senate Democrats are using their control of Congress to avoid voting on opening up the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil exploration, which they say is unnecessary because oil companies already have leases to millions of acres of federal land. Because of the deadlock, Democratic energy priorities have stalled, too.
Pelosi countered the criticism by issuing a statement that listed a series of editorials from newspaper boards critical of the GOP plan to allow more offshore oil drilling.
"American families and businesses are struggling with skyrocketing gas prices at the pump, but President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress continue to stand in the way of real relief," Pelosi said in the statement. "Instead, the Bush-Cheney policy, an energy plan crafted by two oilmen in the White House, revolves around the best interests of Big Oil – from protecting tax breaks to expanding domestic oil and gas drilling."
But with a contentious election coming up, and with most Americans now supporting drilling, Boehner and Republicans are willing to go on offense.
Boehner suggested Obama is among Democrats who he says are influenced by a "radical group of environmentalists" pushing higher gas prices.
"If you listen to Barack Obama during the primaries, you know, he didn't think $5 gas was all that bad. He was just upset it got there so quickly. And what you've got, you've got a bunch of radical environmentalists who think that we ought to have higher gasoline prices so Americans will drive less," Boehner said.
With four legislative weeks left before the November elections, after which Congress is likely to punt big issues until the next administration takes office, little time is left to find a means to reduce oil costs, which is blamed for driving up inflation and slowing down the economy.
"They're trying to run out the clock," Boehner said.