WASHINGTON – Blasting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and continuing their call for a special session, about 20 Republican lawmakers took control of the empty House of Representatives chamber floor for the second day of protests against Democratic policies.
Democrats left town en masse on Friday, closing out their summer to take the annual August recess and officially closing down business on that side of the Capitol. Republicans, upset over energy policy, have stuck around, though. The Senate also is on break.
Following similar protests Friday, Republicans on Monday penned a high-volume letter to Pelosi, brought tourists into the House chamber — a move that usually would be against House rules, but since it's technically closed for the summer, just about anything goes — and talked to reporters who would listen to their complaints about the Democrats controlling Congress.
And it's not going to end any time soon, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., warned.
"There will be many more hours, many more days of this (protest) this week. Sadly there is no window to show the broader world through television and photography (what we're doing in the House chamber)," Pence said.
Dismissing the suggestion that there is any political motivation behind the protest, Pence said he and his GOP colleagues were simply "hoping for an up or down vote" on offshore oil driling.
And in an open letter to Pelosi, Republicans said they "believe that Congress should not go on vacation until we take action to lower gas and energy prices for struggling American families.
"For the last two months we and our House Republican colleagues have used every tool at our disposal to try and get you and your Democrat majority to vote on legislation to lower gas and energy prices. ...
"We think it is unconscionable that Congress has gone on vacation before we have addressed the high gas prices that are crippling our economy and hurting millions of families. We are asking that you reconvene the House from your five-week vacation and schedule a vote on legislation to increase American energy production. Let us be clear, we are not asking for a guaranteed outcome, just the chance to vote," reads an open letter signed by top House Republicans to Pelosi.
A few Capitol tourists received copies of the letter. Lawmakers had tried to get tourists to sign a petition, but it apparently ran afoul of other House rules.
Republicans want a vote on a bill that would include their demands for more domestic drilling.
Rep. Tim Price, a Georgia Republican, told colleagues the time had come for Congress "to go to work on the most important issue of the day — and that's the rising gas prices."
Lawmakers also want President Bush to hold a special session of Congress, which would bring lawmakers back to Washington before the five-week break ends.
The last time a president convened a special session was in 1948 under President Truman's administration.
Republicans have their mock House sessions scheduled at least through the end of this week.