Voters revved up over energy

A gas price display is changed at a Chevron gasoline to display a record high.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Congress has adjourned for a five-week recess. Lawmakers are back home, getting an earful from constituents. One of the top concerns voters have right now, of course: gas prices. Danielle Karson reports.


Danielle Karson: Lawmakers are being greeted by a somber constituency worried about the sluggish economy, high food prices and housing foreclosures. Unlike this time last year, however, the war in Iraq and terrorism are off voters' radar. Energy is the top issue.

Zach Wamp: It's what everybody's talking about, everywhere you go. Even though there's been some relief in gas prices. You literally hear constituents say, you know, if you could just get gas prices below $3 a gallon, we could tolerate it.

That's Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee. He says those frustrations have led many voters to be more amenable to offshore drilling. Wamp points out that Republicans led the charge to ease restrictions, while Democratic leaders nixed a vote on the proposal before they adjourned.

But Utah Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson says the GOP is playing politics:

Jim Matheson: My constituents know there's no simple button we can push that solves the problem, and gasoline prices drop down below $2 just like that. I think they know that.

Political observers say voters are frustrated by the partisan bickering that's left the country swinging in the wind without any solutions to the energy crisis.

Stephen Hess is a political analyst with the Brookings Institution:

Stephen Hess: There is gridlock here, and that creates great frustration. They want Congress to do something about it. And both the Congress and the presidential candidates are running around responding to that.

Both parties are wagging their fingers at each other for failing to come up with a comprehensive energy plan. Lawmakers will pick up where they left off when they return on September 8. But even then, political analysts predict nothing's likely to pass until after the election.

In Washington, I'm Danielle Karson for Marketplace.

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