Updated LAFAYETTE HILL, Penn. — Come back, Barack.
While some Republican members of the House are having a jolly time in Washington trying to embarrass the Democrats into returning to Congress to pass an energy bill, Senator John McCain on Monday issued a personal challenge to his Democratic rival to “come back into town and come back to work.”
Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, urged Congress to abandon its five-week summer recess and return to the Capitol to address the nation’s energy needs.
“Congress should come back into session,” Mr. McCain said after touring the National Label Company, in Lafayette Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia, according to a pool report. “I am willing to come back off the campaign trail.”
He then went on to challenge Senator Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee, to meet him in Washington so Congress can move forward on a package of measures to increase the oil supply and develop new sources of energy. Referring to an “energy crisis,” he mentioned offshore drilling and nuclear power as measures to help the nation achieve energy independence.
“I hope that Senator Obama will call on Congress and the leaders Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi to call Congress back into session,” he said. “Let’s get this energy crisis solved.”
Mr. McCain, of Arizona, made the remarks shortly after Mr. Obama, of Illinois, delivered a speech on energy in Michigan, calling the nation’s “addiction to foreign oil” “one of the most dangerous and urgent threats this nation has ever faced.”
He laid out a program to reduce dependence on foreign oil and impose a tax on oil companies to provide energy rebates to American families – a proposal he said Mr. McCain would not support because he is too close to the oil companies. (“He raised more than $1 million from big oil just last month, most of which came after he announced his plan for offshore drilling in a room full of cheering oil executives,” Mr. Obama said in his speech. “His initial reaction to the bipartisan energy compromise was to reject it because it took away tax breaks for oil companies.”)
The McCain campaign pointed out that Mr. Obama also received contributions from oil company executives — $400,000, they said.
In Washington, meanwhile, some Republican House members were engaged in a lively show of theatrics to send a signal to gas pump-challenged Americans that they are ready to address the soaring gas prices and other rising energy costs – if only the Democratic-controlled Congress did not leave town before a bipartisan package of proposals was approved. Several hung around the Capitol, on the Monday after Congress had dispersed, to march in front of television cameras and chide the Democratic leaders.
Mr. McCain, who has served in Congress for 26 years, has missed numerous votes on crucial legislation, particularly during this prolonged campaign. But he said he was ready to return to session and criticized Congress for “doing nothing.”
“I call on Senator Obama to call on Congress to come back into town and come back to work,” he said. “Come off their recess. Come off their vacation and address this energy crisis for America and don’t leave until you do. Republican and Democrat joining together. And a very vital part of that is nuclear power. And another vital part of that is offshore drilling.”
Mr. McCain has been pressing for Congress to approve a measure that would allow states to decide whether they would allow offshore drilling – a plan that he once described as merely “psychological relief” at a time of record oil and gas prices, but which nonetheless has some popularity with the American people, according to some recent public opinion polls.
Mr. Obama has been opposed to expanding offshore drilling, saying it would not provide any new oil for at least seven years, while perpetuating America’s dependence on the nonrenewable energy source. But over the weekend, he said he would accept an offshore drilling provision as part of a larger package of measures to increase the energy supply if its inclusion was the difference between a bill being passed by Congress and not. Today in Michigan he also said that the government should sell 70 million barrels of oil from its strategic petroleum stockpile to help reduce gasoline prices.
Mr. McCain delivered his remarks, and took no questions, after touring the labeling company and holding a private business round table, according to the pool report.
He then boarded his campaign plane and headed for Sturgis, S.D., home of the famous motorcycle rally, to attend its tribute to veterans and members of the military. According to the Web site for the Sturgis rally, he will be speaking at the Buffalo Chip Campground, where Kellie Pickler, an “American Idol” contestant class of 2006, and Kid Rock, will perform.
Update | 7:37 p.m.: “If Senator McCain is willing to pass a compromise that provides immediate relief to consumers in the form a $1,000 energy rebate and makes a serious investment in renewable energy, Senator Obama would be happy to join him in calling on Congress to return,” Bill Burton, Obama campaign spokesman, said. “But if he continues to reject any compromise that takes away tax breaks for the same oil companies that have given millions to his campaign, as he did on Friday, we’d rather not waste the American people’s tax dollars,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.