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WASHINGTON - Continuing the partisan battle over gas prices, Rep. Michele Bachmann is trying to force a House vote on drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a move that is expected to be blocked by Democratic leaders.
The discharge petition, scheduled today, puts the Minnesota Republican in the forefront of GOP efforts to press for oil and gas exploration in environmentally sensitive areas that are currently off-limits, including ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf.
"The American people have spoken loudly -- they want Congress to open America's off-limits resources for drilling," Bachmann said Tuesday.
A discharge petition is a parliamentary maneuver that permits a majority of House members to bring a measure to a floor vote over the objections of the Speaker, who normally controls the agenda.
House Republicans have filed five previous discharge petitions since June 9, each aimed at voting on different parts of their "all of the above" energy strategy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has derided the GOP efforts as a distraction, telling Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper, "I will not have this debate trivialized by their excuse for their failed policy."
Republicans, who are a minority in both houses of Congress, have been unsuccessful so far in getting any Democrats to join their drive for a discharge petition, which is aimed at forcing votes on expanded gas and oil exploration before the August recess.
"Congress should not go home ... without voting on more American-made oil and gas," House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a radio interview Tuesday.
Bachmann, who recently returned from an aerial tour of ANWR, has emerged as one of the House's most outspoken proponents of lifting the decades-old moratorium on oil and gas exploration there.
The bill she is championing would open 2,0000 acres of the Arctic reserve to oil drilling and establish a "Coastal Impact Aid" fund to protect surrounding native communities from any adverse impact.
Like many other Republicans in Congress, Bachmann is counting on consumer shock over spiking gas prices to translate into increased support for expanded drilling in Alaska and the Gulf Coast, which she also visited recently.
Bachmann's DFL opponent, former Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, said Bachmann "is advocating our continuing dependence on oil."
Tinklenberg, who will spend today visiting alternative energy producers in the Sixth Congressional District, said that while Bachmann has paid lip service to alternative energy sources, all of her recent actions have been directed toward more oil exploration.
"Everything she's doing is about ANWR and oil, and that's not the solution to our energy crisis," he said.
Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753