criticized the lagging Congress in an article Tuesday:NORRISTOWN -- Congressman Jim Gerlach joined his GOP House colleagues' on a darkened House floor Wednesday to urge passage of "all of the above" energy legislation as soon as lawmakers return in September.
Monday marked the third week of the GOP's Call to Action for Energy Independence protest that began at the close of the legislative session Aug. 1.
That Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., refusing to hear debate on proposals for oil drilling, adjourned Congress for the summer recess.
Republican House members, however, refused to leave the floor as lights, microphones and C-SPAN cameras were shut off, according to The Associated Press.
The GOP congressmen soldiered on, giving impassioned speeches to groups of tourists sitting in the visitors' gallery.
Since returning to his district three weeks ago, Gerlach has gotten an earful from residents who've complained that the high price of gasoline has strained their household budgets and jeopardized good-paying jobs.
"I can tell you still the No. 1 issue on the minds and voices that are being expressed by my constituents in the 6th District -- and it doesn't matter whether they're Republicans, Democrats, Independents or not even registered (to vote) -- (they) care about gas prices, and (they'll) care in the coming months about the cost of home heating oil," he said. "(They) want Congress to do something about his energy policy that we now have in this nation, and where we should be going in the future."
During an interview Wednesday afternoon, Gerlach called on American voters to contact their local congressional members and demand action on a comprehensive bill. The new congressional session begins Sept. 8.
"I believe if the American people keep the pressure on Congress, that it will happen," he said.
The majority of Americans are in favor of increasing oil drilling, according to a number of recent surveys.
Many GOP politicians have argued that producing more oil domestically would help national security and create more jobs for Americans.
The U.S. imports 70 percent of its oil supply from foreign countries at a cost of $700 billion a year, according to the Department of Energy.
Gerlach said the billions spent on foreign oil makes up a large part of the country's trade deficit.
"The greater the trade deficit, the weaker the dollar," he said.
He and 118 of his House colleagues are sponsoring the bipartisan National Conservation, Environment and Energy Independence Act.
The legislation calls for allowing oil and natural gas development on the U.S.'s Outer Continental Shelf and designating hundreds of billions of dollars for conservation, renewable energy development, environmental restorations, carbon capturing technology and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) Program, according to a press release from Gerlach's office.
The Congressman, who faces a Democratic challenge from Bob Roggio, blamed Pelosi for blocking floor votes on any energy bills during the past session -- particularly if proposed legislation included drilling for oil offshore or in Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
"She basically shut down the voting process," he said.
Each year, Congress is expected to pass a dozen appropriations bills. Thus far, the 110th Congress has passed only two appropriations bills, he said.
Wall Street Journal criticized the lagging Congress in an article Tuesday:
"In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session -- 294 so far than this one. That's not to say they've been idle. On the flip side, no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions -- more than 1,900, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense."
Also Wednesday, House Republican leaders sent a letter to 22 mostly freshman Democrats accusing them of being "hypocrites" for publicly supporting more American energy, but then voting against GOP energy proposals that seek more domestic oil drilling, according to Roll Call.
Bowing to political pressure, Pelosi, who is running for reelection in November, has softened her previous hard-line stance against drilling offshore.
According to AP, energy companies placed $487.3 million in winning bids for the right to drill in the western Gulf of Mexico.
The lease sale Wednesday was the first to take place since President Bush lifted an executive ban on oil drilling last month off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Since then, politicians in both parties have signaled that they are willing to expand offshore exploration. Offshore wells now provide 27 percent of the nation's domestic oil.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.