WASHINGTON — House Republicans completed a third day of their odd revolt over energy that on Tuesday had about 10 lawmakers speaking without microphones to about 100 tourists in a darkened House chamber.
The Republicans are demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., call members back from a five-week summer recess and hold votes on domestic oil drilling. But the House is not in session, and Pelosi ordered the lights turned down and the microphones and C-Span cameras turned off.
The Republicans held a news conference outside the House chamber to voice their complaints. "We didn’t get our work done," said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who canceled meetings in her Fort Worth district to return to Washington to participate in the revolt. "I've been here 12 years. I've never seen anything like it."
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, another Texas Republican, held up a sign with Pelosi's office phone number. "The speaker says that we need to 'use our imagination' for her to allow a vote for more American energy. Well, I've got a wake-up call for her — Americans shouldn't have to imagine their summer vacations, they should be able to take them."
They denied they were mounting a "stunt." "How stupid would we have to be to stage a political stunt where you can't bring TV cameras and microphones?" said Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican from Tyler, Texas.
On the presidential campaign trail, Republican likely candidate John McCain also called for Congress to come back to Washington to authorize offshore drilling. "We’re going to drill offshore and we're going to drill now," he said.
But Pelosi seemed unintimidated. "Senator McCain wants to call Congress back into session to vote on 'drill only' proposals that he knows full well will not provide immediate relief to consumers and yet he was absent from the Senate during critical votes to cut subsidies for Big Oil, help consumers and promote renewables and conservation."
Pelosi also backed Democratic hopeful Barack Obama's call for the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a step Pelosi said would lower prices at the pump "in 10 days."
Republicans, citing polls that show a majority of Americans are in favor of increased drilling, feel they have a winning issue and plan to continue their House revolt for the next few weeks.
House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that the protest will get some high-profile firepower Wednesday with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., joining House Republicans on the House floor.
"More than 1.4 million Americans have signed a petition demanding that Congress pass legislation to lower gas prices and increase production of American-made energy," said Boehner. Gingrich will join House Republicans to highlight the petition and promote the political message that the GOP is being blocked from delivering on drilling.