Published August 01, 2008
WASHINGTON – What would the last few hours before a summer break be without a schoolyard prank?
House Republicans, hours after Democrats took their last vote before their five-week August recess, stormed the empty House chamber, ordered up some pizzas, hooted and hollered, and did their best to keep the cameras on them so they could call attention to what they said was irresponsibility on Democrats' part for not passing new energy legislation.
After more than five hours, the event came to an end shortly after the Capitol closed to the public around 4:30 p.m Friday.
"I just saw one of the Democrats interviewed on television. The question was, if oil was $10 a gallon and you knew exactly where to get it in Alaska or on the coast, would you drill there, and there was no answer," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, of Missouri, said before a last-minute gathering before reporters late Friday.
"We think we need to have more sources of energy, use energy more efficiently, and invest in the future. That's all. We want to have that debate. We think those are winning ideas in America today. But for whatever reason, the leaders of this Congress, the Democrat leaders of this Congress, are afraid of those ideas," Blunt said, using the invective form of the adjective to describe the opposite party by dropping the "ic" Democrats prefer, as in Democratic Party.
Earlier, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., told FOX News: "Many of us speaking on the floor today, including the Republican leadership, believe the president of the United States should call this congress back into session immediately under Article II of the Constitution, and demand that this Congress deal with the issue of energy independence."
No word from the White House had yet filtered down, however.
And Democrats seemed to issue a collective yawn, with one top aide telling FOX News: "Who cares? I'm in a meeting actually working."
Democrats and Republicans are at loggerheads over solutions to reducing gas prices, which recently jumped to record levels, but have since eased off a few cents below a $4 per gallon national average.
Republicans are angry that Democrats blocked them from a vote on allowing more off-shore oil drilling and increasing domestic oil supplies.
Democrats have faulted Republicans for obstructing their efforts to stop market speculation, press oil companies to develop the leases they have and force the president to release oil from the strategic petroleum reserve.
The result is that Congress is leaving town without a comprehensive energy bill, although there is hope in the form of an as-yet-unwritten bill coming out of the Senate from a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers.
Inside the House chamber, the microphones were off, the House had stopped TV feeds to C-Span and the lights dimmed after the pre-noon vote to adjourn for the August recess. That didn't deter Republicans, who one after another rose to demand that Congress stay in session until it does something about high gas prices.
Unlike a normal session where the rules of decorum are strictly enforced, GOP lawmakers and their aides who filled the chamber clapped, chanted, gave standing ovations and booed the Democrats.
"Madame Speaker, where art thou?" shouted out Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, in a glancing rhetorical shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Where oh where has Congress gone?"
It was a rare treat for tourists. Republicans invited many, in their shorts and sandals, into the chamber, usually strictly off-limits, to better hear the revivalist-like speeches.
Pence, one of the organizers of the protest, said up to 40 of his fellow Republicans were prepared to keep the talk-in going. "I am prepared to stay here as long as we can," he said.
FOX News' Chad Pergram and Mike Majchrowitz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.