One More Time
It's only fitting, really, that outgoing Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa would spend his final days in Congress on this: Trying to stop off-shore oil drilling.
Davis sent House colleagues a letter today urging them to oppose a bill that would permit oil and gas exploration 125 miles off the Panhandle, in return for protections up to 234 miles off Tampa Bay through 2022. The bill may come up when Congress returns from recess on Monday.
House Republican leaders are still discussing whether to bring the bill to a vote, or to perhaps attach it to a larger bill.
The bill passed the Senate last summer with the support of Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez. The House had passed a version that was far more friendly to drilling, but it's clear the House version has no chance in the Senate.
Now, with only next week left before Congress adjourns for the year, the lame-duck Republican House leaders are debating whether to take the Senate deal. That would allow them to send at least some increase in off-shore drilling to President Bush before the Democrats take control of Congress in January.
Davis, a Democrat, has spent much of his 10 years in Congress fighting off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In his letter, which was co-signed by two South Florida Democrats, Reps. Alcee Hastings and Robert Wexler, Davis says Congress has failed to study the effects of off-shore drilling, and he argues nothing should happen before the next Congress takes over.
"It is imperative that the next Congress find comprehensive solutions to our nation's energy needs," the letter says. "There should be an open and honest debate on the use of renewable energy, increased fuel efficiency, greater conservation, as well as offshore energy exploration,'' but "the debate should include hearings, both in Washington and in local communities that will be impacted by drilling."