Using the suspension of the rules calender, House Democrats failed to acquire a two-thirds majority which would require oil and gas companies to use or lose the lands they have leased from the federal government for oil drilling.
On Thursday, July 17, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act by a vote of 244-173. This bill would have required the oil and gas companies to either drill on the 68 million acres of approved and leased lands or lose their leases. However, since the Democratic leadership suspended the rules, it really didn't pass because the piece of legislation didn't receive a two-thirds majority.
''The first ''use it or lose it'' bill was brought up on June 26, the last day before the July 4 recess.'' On that date, it fell 56 votes short for a two-thirds majority but it would have passed by a simple majority. Nineteen Democrats voted against the first bill and eleven defected on today's bill. Although Democrats lost this round again, some were encouraged because they received more than twice the number of Republican votes on this bill than the first one.
''We're keeping the pressure on. Things are moving in the right direction,'' said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) just before a post-vote press conference.''
As incentives to get Republicans to support the measure, the Drill Act included language to lease 20 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska; urge the president to move the process forward of completing the oil and gas pipelines from Alaska and reauthorized the ban on the foreign export of Alaskan oil.
House Minority John Boehner (R-Ohio) says that his conference approves the additional incentives but strongly opposes the ''use it or lose it'' language. He referred to it as a hoax. Many Republicans believed that the Democrats were suspending the rules to avoid bringing up a Republican bill which would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the ''use it or lose it'' bill stating that these areas can be tapped the fastest for oil drilling. They will try next week to pass the ''use it or lose it'' bill again as well as a bill that would require the President to release as much as 10 percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Another possible bill would include language to curb excessive oil speculation.
Rep. Van Hollen was asked if these bills would be placed on the suspension calender and he said that it was a possibility.