A horizontal gas drilling rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, PA on April 13, 2012.
Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty

Real solutions to fake problems

Late last week, House Republicans voted for a new energy measure: going forward, the Department of Energy will no longer be able to block approval of offshore-drilling permits.
 
There is, however a small problem, which Ben Geman uncovered.
[T]here’s just one thing: The Energy Department doesn’t regulate drilling. The Interior Department does.
 
The prohibition on the Energy Department regulating something that it doesn’t regulate came via Republican Rep. Steve Stockman’s amendment to a wider department spending bill, which also passed Thursday.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) tried to explain to House members that the proposal didn’t make any sense. Indeed, in reference to the Energy Department spending bill, Kaptur explained, “There are no funds related to this purpose in our bill at all.”
 
But it didn’t matter. Republicans voted to prohibit an agency that doesn’t deal with offshore-drilling permits that it cannot block offshore-drilling permits. The final vote was 218 to 204.
 
How much do GOP lawmakers hate drilling regulations? As of late last week, enough to approve measures to prevent fictional drilling regulations.
 
There is, however, a larger point: this vote, though embarrassing, wasn’t unique. Congressional Republicans are reluctant to work on solutions to real problems, but the party excels in addressing imaginary problems.
 
GOP lawmakers continue to approve measures blocking funding for ACORN, for example, despite the fact that ACORN hasn’t existed for several years.
 
Last year, House Republicans approved a measure to block an Obama administration policy on welfare reform that didn’t exist.
 
Some Republicans have taken up measures to prevent the imposition of “Sharia law” on the public, despite the fact that there is no effort to impose such a policy.
 
My personal favorite was the effort to stop the “NAFTA Super-Highway,” which never really existed outside the overheated imaginations of the political fringe and Rand Paul.
 
If Congress had already completed real work and wanted to waste time on fantasy, it’d be easier to overlook Republicans occasionally blowing off a little steam. But there’s real work to do on Capitol Hill and lawmakers are choosing not to govern in any kind of serious way. When they’re not chasing made-up “scandals,” they’re tackling made-up challenges.
 
With the GOP majority so invested in fake problems, is it any wonder Congress’ approval rating is languishing?
 

Energy, Energy Policy and Oil

Real solutions to fake problems