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Congress to vote on drilling ban

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With the US controlling some 3 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, drilling in protected sites won¹t solve the problem of high gas prices in the short term, if ever, Democrats said.

Their solution: increase conservation and alternative fuel sources, tax Big Oil for its record 'windfall profits,' rein in speculation in the commodities market, and end billions in tax subsidies for oil companies now written into the tax code.

Before opening any new sites for exploration and drilling, Big Oil should first prove that it has used available leases on some 68 million acres, Democrats said.

After President Bush lifted the executive moratorium on offshore drilling last month, Republicans called on the majority to allow votes to lift the congressional ban, as well.

Senate Republicans, citing support from constituents worried about energy costs, reduced their legislative agenda to a single item: increase domestic energy supply. In a bid to force an offshore drilling vote, GOP senators blocked votes on all other elements of an energy plan, including a popular measure to extend tax breaks for renewable energy. Both houses broke for August recess without a vote on offshore drilling.

On the House side, Republicans have held nearly daily protests on the floor of the House during the August recess to force Pelosi to allow a vote to lift the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling.

Since Aug. 1, 109 Republicans have returned to Washington to argue the case for offshore drilling on the floor of an adjourned House.

"Our members are finding at home that what we¹re doing here in Washington is appreciated," said Rep. Roy Blunt, the House Republican whip, at a press briefing off the floor of the House on Thursday. "At least somebody is willing to fight for the No. 1 issue for their families today ­ and that's gas prices, soon to be followed by energy prices, as we get to the fall."

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