Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, became the Republicans' main attack dog Wednesday to lead ripping into Democrats for not debating more oil drilling, while instead spending time to debate a study on possibly declaring two Vermont rivers as "wild and scenic."

"We are now one-fifth of the way through our final (15-day) session before we end" for the year, Bishop complained.

"The most significant piece of legislation we are talking about today is a study that may perhaps someday — if conditions allow and the elements are conducive — possibly create a compromise, that would might possibly pass, (for) an additional 70 miles being added to the inventory of the federal government," he said.

Bishop was tagged to lead the GOP side of the debate on the Vermont rivers because he is the ranking Republican on a House Natural Resources subcommittee that oversees public lands. But he quickly turned it into a debate on energy.

He noted that Republicans protested daily on the House floor during its recent five-week recess to urge going back into session to debate energy, which he said is maybe the most pressing problem facing the country.

He said when the energy crisis began and gasoline was $2.22 a gallon, "the topic of discussion we had on the floor was congratulating the University of California-Santa Barbara soccer team. When energy reached $4 at the pump, I was here to spend a rollicking hour and a half talking about monkey bites.

"And today after our five-week adjournment ... all we are proposing to talk about today as the significant issue on the agenda is to study two rivers in Vermont," he said.

Bishop — and a parade of other Republicans — called for consideration of a GOP "all-of-the-above" energy bill that would allow more oil drilling and look at expansion of other alternative energy sources, too.

"We desperately need a real vote on a real solution," he said. "We have now had eight votes over three days on this floor ... We named three post offices. We said we're against hunger and we're for the Red Cross. But that does not solve the problems plaguing America."

He added, "The rivers are nice. The study is OK. But it is not where we should be at this particular time, and it doesn't solve the problem." He complained Democrats continue to offer only "fluff" legislation that is "as nutritional as cotton candy."

Most of the debate on the Vermont rivers bill was instead on which party should take more blame over energy problems.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who led the Democratic side of the debate, said solving energy will take time because "we have to unravel eight years of failed energy policies" of President Bush, and "we have to unravel the relationship between big oil and the administration so that the consumer ... will get the kind of break and attention he needs."

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