I was in on the conference call today with NRCC chair Rep. Tom Cole on what's being called the "House Oil Party." Some thoughts and questions from it:
Rep. Cole started by thanking the right-blogosphere for being on top of this and helping to publicize it (a theme that would be repeated several times during the call). He also made sure to point out the genuinely spontaneous nature of this action: he credited Representatives like Westmoreland, Pryce, and Pence for starting it, and credited the rank-and-file over House leadership for driving it (although he praised the leadership's staff for their work on this). The participants feel that they are keeping the pressure on the Democrats on this issue; they see themselves on the offense, and for something that they and Republican activists can feel good about. Former Speaker Gingrich's presence yesterday was likewise a boost.
Ed Morrissey wanted to know whether McCain was going to be in on this. Rep. Cole indicated that he didn't know McCain's schedule, but he knows that McCain's on their side on this. (My opinion? This is something that we can and should press the McCain campaign on. Courteously.)
David All asked if there was a list of participants to this that could particularly use donation money. Rep. Cole replied that a list could and would be put together.
Soren Dayton wanted to know what we were going to do to actually win the vote. Cole responded that they were going to keep putting on the pressure on Democrats; not only energy state Democrats, but Democrats representing working class and industrial districts. The Democrats are going to have to do something eventually, and pushing an anti-exploration/production agenda is going to be difficult, especially since the Republicans have no intention of letting them off the hook. Soren also wanted to know if the NRCC was planning to do robocalls like those currently going after Rep. Udall in Colorado: Rep. Cole hasn't ruled that out, but there are firepower issues involved. Bottom line though: this fight highlights who's in charge of Congress - which is to say, the Democrats and Pelosi.
Elizabeth (of Blog Talk Radio) questioned how this was going to affect the end of the moratorium on drilling on September 30th, and whether Pelosi's willingness to let her House members vote pragmatically would have an impact. Rep. Cole pointed out that any ostensibly pro-drilling Democrat was free to sign Rep. Boehner's discharge petitions allowing for a vote; that the American public has noticed this issue, and doesn't like gas at $4 a gallon; and that there's going to be no Republican breakaways on this issue. So, real pressure on Democrats here.
Me, I wanted to know whether House candidates were going to be attending. Rep. Cole explained that while they discussed it, and while House candidates (ex: Chris Hackett) were certainly bringing this up "on the ground," the NRCC wishes to keep this a policy issue, not a politicized one. Bringing in House candidates on the House floor could be a concern in this regard. When asked if there was going to be a list of candidates that were signing on this, Cole replied that there could be one generated easily enough and put on the website. Rep. Cole was very forthright about the way that this was being put together on the fly, by the way. This was not a planned demonstration; some members of Congress had simply gotten tired of the way that their attempts to have a critical debate were frustrated on this issue, not to mention the way that everybody's constituents - not just the Republicans' - were being disenfranchised. They're continuing to expand this: people are making time from their own campaigns (Musgrave, Smith) to participate, and those participating are very excited about the whole thing. Also: some people simply cannot participate, because they have unavoidable scheduling problems (again, the lack of advance notice). Not necessarily their thought.
Mark Harvey of "#dontgo" (who have been really on the front of this, as both Rep Cole and I would agree) asked about how to handle this among College Republicans / youth voters. Rep Cole noted that while individuals (including himself) personally went to set records straight, the NRCC is mostly a campaign organization. Still, one reason for the fight is the 25-30% of the population who think that the GOP still runs Congress.
Closing remarks were more thanks for our help, particularly in being eyes and ears, not to mention feedback. It tells the GOP what kind of party it needs to be: reforming and activist.
My reaction: it was a good call. The NRCC is eager to have this fight - makes sense; we've got both the correct answer and the public on this one - and they're going to push this until somebody breaks. They're certainly not going to stop any time soon.
So. You know what happens next: time to donate. I know, I know, but speculate to accumulate, and all that.