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WASHINGTON -- Despite record high gas prices, House Democratic leaders are standing their ground on Capitol Hill by refusing to release restricted areas for oil production, a move that has angered some Republicans who are now pushing for Congress to forgo its summer break until a decision is reached.
Democrats, on the other hand, are calling on the Bush Administration to release less than 10 percent of the 700 million barrels of oil in the Federal Reserve. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told The New York Times that this would influence the price at the pump "now, within 10 days, not within 10 years."
The White House, however, has rejected such please as a strategic blunder. "We'd like to see members think a little bit more long term and take advantage of the opportunity that we have to do drilling from our domestic sources," Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, told the paper. Republicans seek to lift a longstanding federal ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Democrats are not in lockstep on this issue as party members have called for the opening of the oil fields. "I propose that we drill in ANWR," Representative Mike Ross, Democrat of Arkansas, told The New York Times. "We've already got a pipeline going to Alaska, the ANWR, that can handle two million barrels a day. We're only putting one million in it. Let's fill it up."
Before any movement is taken, Pelosi said the government must force oil companies to explore the federal land they have already leased. She equates the drilling campaign a Republican strategy to shift blame on the out of control gas prices.
"This call for drilling in areas that are protected is a hoax," Pelosi told the paper. "It's an absolute hoax on the part of the Republicans and this Bush administration."
As the highly anticipated presidential election nears and gas prices continue to climb, the focus will be less on dividing lines and more on bipartisan answers. "There is no silver bullet," Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told the paper.