Washington (CNSNews.com) – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it’s time for the Senate – including presidential hopefuls Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) – to join House Republicans in calling for Congress to reconvene and pass a comprehensive energy bill that would allow new offshore drilling for oil.
“If (McCain and Obama) want to show real leadership, then they should come back here,” Gingrich said following a press conference on Wednesday outside the House chamber.
Responding to a question from CNSNews.com about whether the presumptive nominees should weigh in on the issue, Gingrich said McCain and Obama should seize the opportunity to take the lead in the energy debate, which he says is now the number one issue for Americans.
“Sen. Obama, as leader of the Democratic Party, could pick up the phone this morning and convince (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid that they should come here and recall the Congress,” Gingrich said.
“Second … a historic moment of real change would be if Obama and McCain could find five things they agree on (about) energy and offer a joint bill and say, ‘Let’s pass it before the convention,’” he said.
Gingrich lent his gravitas to the 20 or so House Republicans who have defied Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) official adjournment of the body last Friday.
The lawmakers have remained on the House floor – sans microphones and cameras shut down by Pelosi – giving non-stop speeches calling on the Democrats to join them in resolving an energy crisis that they say is hurting the economy and the American people.
“We are … well into an unprecedented protest by House Republicans to demand that the speaker bring Congress back to Washington to have an up-or-down vote on a pro-American, pro-production energy strategy,” Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) said at the press conference, “so that we may become less dependent on the sheiks and (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez for the life blood of our economy.”
In a statement issued by Pelosi on Monday afternoon, the Democrat House speaker said the protest on the House floor is not worthy of “serious debate,” nor will it resolve issues such as high gas prices at the pump.
The ongoing protest has included allowing the public access to the House floor, a rare occurrence that has resulted in an ever-growing audience of tourists who have cheered on speakers with standing ovations and chants of “vote, vote, vote.”
“One of the unique things about this issue: This is not being driven by somebody here in Washington,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said at the conference. “It is about being driven by people in America who want us to develop all of our energy opportunities that we have.”
For the first time since the protest began on Friday, a sizeable group of reporters and photographers covered the press conference, which featured Gingrich and a number of other GOP House members, including Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).
Gingrich added that he doubted Obama would take action for fear of alienating his biggest supporters.
“I don’t think Obama can, because I think he now is trapped between the anti-energy left, led by Gore and Pelosi and Reid, and the pro-energy Democrats who understand that they aren’t going to survive if they become the party that is anti-energy,” Gingrich said.
When asked by CNSNews.com about both McCain and Obama’s pledge to take on “big oil” if elected president, Gingrich said there is no better way to accomplish that than by gaining access to the nation’s own oil supply.
“How to take on big oil is to drill more and drive down the price of oil,” Gingrich said. “ExxonMobil is going to make billions of dollars as long as supplies are tight. They already own it all. They don’t need drilling. The independents need drilling. The average American needs drilling.”
“So the best way to take on big oil is to go to a dramatic drilling program and drive down the price of oil,” Gingrich said.
Putnam said there are no plans to end the protest on the House floor, adding that the best conclusion would be for Pelosi to bring the House back into session to draft legislation and get an up-or-down vote.
“The energy level is high. The reaction of the American people is tremendous,” Putnam said. “And I think we’ve got a lot of energy left in us.”