Could the Republican leadership possibly be any more embarrisingly corrupt?WASHINGTON - The House voted to encourage U.S. oil companies to build new refineries Friday in a raucous roll call that Republican leaders extended 40 minutes while they buttonholed their own members to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
Democrats crying "shame, shame" -- and some GOP moderates -- called the bill a sop to rich oil companies that would do nothing to ease energy costs including expected soaring heating bills this winter.
The bill would streamline government permits for refineries, open federal lands including closed military bases for future refinery construction and limit the number of gasoline blends refiners have to produce, eliminating many blends now designed to reduce air pollution.
President Bush welcomed the vote. "I commend the House for passing legislation that would increase our refining capacity and help address the cost of gasoline, diesel fuels, and jet fuels," he said in a statement.
The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, passed 212-210, but not before a standoff on the House floor. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked at one point, "Is this the House of a Banana Republic."
It looked as if the bill was going down to defeat, two votes shy of approval. Democrats to no avail called for gaveling the vote closed as GOP leaders lobbied their own members to switch votes and support the bill.