WASHINGTON - Even in the absence of lights, cameras and microphones, Republicans still seem to have a steady crowd of listeners to speak to on the House floor.
The people filling the seats aren't members of Congress but a line of tourists sporting shorts, flip-flops and baseball caps, intrigued by the loosened rules that allow them to take a seat and listen to the ongoing GOP performance.
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., led the second week of the House Republican revolt against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who adjourned for the month despite congressional gridlock and with no vote on a comprehensive energy bill even in the face of record gas prices.
This was Kline's second trip back to the Capitol during the August recess; he had joined other Republicans for a similar day of protest Aug. 4. So far, 90 members have joined in the daily floor events, which are scheduled to continue every day of the recess. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will be participating Friday.
On Tuesday, Republicans continued their push against Pelosi, citing a CNN interview Monday in which she said she would be open to a broader energy compromise that includes expanded offshore oil and gas drilling. Democrats are accusing Republicans of staging an "Olympics of meaningless rhetoric" while ignoring constituents in their districts.
"We are asking that [Pelosi] bring our American Energy Act up for a vote," Kline said. "What we want is a chance to have that debate and have a vote."
Republicans focused on their "all of the above" energy strategy as they played to the gallery in what felt more like a college lecture than a congressional debate.
Their remarks sometimes drew applause from the audience that wandered in and out of the chamber but didn't always strike a chord. When Kline displayed the main Capitol phone number and urged the public to call Pelosi, listeners wore puzzled looks because of a lack of pen and paper to scribble down the digits.
Kids curled up in House members' chairs as adults listened to legislators' speeches that sympathized with Americans struggling to pay increased energy costs.
Kline said this protest is historic because he normally wouldn't be allowed to address the public, which usually sits in the gallery overlooking the floor. "Today, we are talking with you," he said.
Emily Kaiser • 202-408-2723