California 1st district congressman Mike Thompson was one of only 13 Democrats to join with 176 Republicans against the Comprehensive American Energy Consumer and Protection Act, H.R. 6899. The Act passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 236 Yes, 189 No, and 9 not voting. The Act opens up most United States offshore oil deposits to drilling for oil and gas, but allows individual states to determine whether to allow such drilling.
Thompson's office will doubtless issue a press release to explain the vote. Given the opposition to offshore drilling in his district, he will probably say that in this case No means No. However, the Republicans (except 15) who voted with Thompson against the measure are very clear that No means Yes, they want even more offshore drilling.
One could write the whole thing off as an election year shenanigan. Republicans have been making hay on the high prices of oil. They have demanded increased offshore drilling, as well as drilling everywhere there might possibly be a buck to be made, including national wilderness areas. The Democrats, from Barack Obama down, were losing ground in the polls because of this issue. Now the Democratic Party can claim it too is stands for offshore oil drilling.
And yet, even though this seems to be a giant stab in the back for the environmental movement's long term support for the Democratic Party, in fact you can count on the Sierra Club apparatus to explain it away. I can imagine their bleating: "We would not want the Democrats to lose an election, would we? Don't worry, by the time a bill is passed in the Senate, with different provisions, and then goes to a House-Senate conference committee, why it might be an entirely different bill and Barack Obama will be President. Really high paying jobs in the White House will once again be available for environmentalists. That's worth risking a little offshore oil drilling, right?"
The pathetic ineffectiveness of the environmental organizations and the Democratic Party is not just a result of the apathy and ignorance of the American voter. For once the Democrats are flooded with far more money than the Republicans this year. So how about a little fighting spirit? No way, fighting for the environment might upset too many of those juicy incumbent seats and their campaign and legislative staffs with their great taxpayer financed health benefits. That campaign money has to be used to convince people that whatever the polls show they hope for, Barack Obama is going to deliver it.
Mike Thompson, though a Democrat, boasted of voting with the Republican Party consistently during the years of Republican ascendancy. He started voting the Democratic Party line when the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives and hence became the party that doles out the goodies. He almost certainly had permission from Nancy Pelosi to vote against H. R. 6899, who knows how to count votes and would rather have a Thompson re-elected than support a Green Party or lefty Democratic Party challenger.
California is still in no danger of having its its remaining pristine waters drilled for oil. But the passage of H.R. 6899 should be a warning to all environmentalists, about every environmental issue. If you don't figure out how to put real environmentalists into office real soon, nothing is safer under a Democratic administration than it has been under a Republican one.
What could a real environmentalist in the House of Representatives done in this situation? It would have been an easy matter to stop this and any offshore drilling bill. Look at the numbers. 25 members switching votes would have killed this. So if 38 Democrats, true environmentalists, had voted against this bill, it would have failed. I think this is about as good of proof as you can find that there are not 38 real environmentalists among the Democratic Party House of Representatives members.
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Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.