GOP touts energy legislation

WASHINGTON -- The two Republican House members from Nevada plan to return to the Capitol this week to take part in an ongoing GOP tactic to protest Democrats' handling of energy legislation.

Dean Heller announced he would be returning to Washington late Wednesday to participate in the protest. Jon Porter will be in Washington on Friday, a spokesman said.

Although the House is out of session, roughly a dozen to 20 or more Republicans have convened in the darkened chamber each day.

They deliver speeches calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to reconvene the House and vote on comprehensive energy bills that include expanded oil drilling in coastal waters.

The protest began on Friday afternoon, after the House adjourned for a five-week recess without passing energy policy legislation. Porter took part before flying to Nevada.

Adding to a summer school-like atmosphere of the sessions, Republicans have been inviting tourists onto the House floor, a rare opportunity for most visitors.

"Over the past few days, I have been in Elko, Reno and Carson City," Heller said. "The one issue on Nevadans' minds is the price of gas and Congress's inability to address this issue."

Republican leaders have been coordinating the speeches, but they have not been pushing party members to return to Washington, Matt Leffingwell, Porter's spokesman, said.

"There is enough member interest that is being fueled on its own," Leffingwell said.

Wednesday was the fourth day of what some are calling the Republican "shadow session." Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared at a news conference in support of the protest.

With fuel costs on the minds of many Americans, Republicans believe they have found a potent election issue in the failure of a Democrat-led Congress to come up with responses to high energy prices.

Heller "is paying for this trip out of pocket," tapping neither his official House office account nor his campaign fund, spokesman Stewart Bybee said.

Porter is buying his ticket from his official office allowance, Leffingwell said.

Democrats have begun returning fire, saying Republicans have obstructed any progress on energy.

Travis Brock, executive director of the Nevada Democratic Party, said Porter and Heller were taking part in a "political stunt," a charge echoed by Porter's Democratic opponent, state Sen. Dina Titus.

"I have put forth a comprehensive energy plan and have said I want to work across the aisle, but Jon apparently believes that participating in a partisan stunt is enough to fix the problem," Titus said. "I don't think gimmicks will work. I don't think it will solve any problem."

Pelosi said in a letter to Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio on Tuesday that Democrats have put forward 13 major energy initiatives, but a majority of Republicans voted against each one.

Among the proposals, the Democrats' bills would release oil from the government's stockpile as a way to bring down gasoline prices, put a clamp on energy price speculators and pressure oil companies to drill on federal land they have leased but that Democrats say they have not fully tapped.

"While a very small band of your colleagues remain on the House floor to discuss gas prices, their constituents deserve to know why their representatives in Congress have failed to support serious, responsible proposals," Pelosi wrote.