by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Thanks in large part to resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Democrats appear to have lowered their ambitions for reviving the “Build Back Bankrupt” tax-and-spending legislation. Last Friday afternoon, President Biden suggested that the Senate use the budget reconciliation process to pass a bill imposing price controls on prescription drugs, while also extending Obamacare insurance subsidies to the wealthy.
But even if Democrats have now pared back their big-government legislation to focus “only” on advancing socialized medicine, conservatives still have an opportunity to highlight the way in which “Bidenflation” has harmed the economy. Republicans can and should offer numerous amendments to this reconciliation bill that would expand energy exploration, highlighting how Democrats want to keep American energy in the ground — and keep gas prices as high as possible.
Language adopted by the Senate in 2005 serves as a potential model for lawmakers. In that year, the Senate passed a reconciliation bill that allowed for energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The language from 2005 … holds importance for two reasons. First, it didn’t just permit energy exploration within ANWR — it attempted to force the administration’s hand.
It explicitly said that Congress “authorizes the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas” within ANWR. It directed the Secretary of the Interior to conduct lease sales by a date certain. In addition, it deemed existing reviews and findings compatible with requirements under existing federal law. It also said that the Secretary “shall only identify a preferred action for leasing and a single leasing alternative, and analyze the environmental effects” only for those two leasing options for purposes of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It required challenges to the NEPA review to be filed within 90 days in a specified federal court.