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House GOP leaders vow to keep up protest sessions

  • Story Highlights
  • GOP wants House speaker to hold votes on offshore drilling, other energy proposals
  • Republicans continue energy speeches despite five-week summer recess
  • Democrats call speeches a hoax
  • GOP leaders speak to tourists who filled House chamber seats
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From Lisa Desjardins
CNN Radio
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A group of House Republicans stayed in session and continued energy speeches Monday despite the summer adjournment in hopes of pressuring Democrats for a vote on oil drilling.

The speeches, a mix of democratic defiance and political showmanship, were part of a plan to pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to hold votes on offshore drilling, nuclear power and other GOP energy proposals.

Republicans refused to leave the House floor on Friday and began five hours of speeches protesting against Democratic energy policies immediately after the House of Representatives adjourned for its annual five-week break.

The speeches picked up again Monday morning, and Republicans have pledged to keep up the effort.

"We'll continue at least this week," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia. "Then we'll see what we know."

Price said 24 congressmen returned to the Capitol for Monday's session.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, said that 40 Republican members are committed to rotate in shifts throughout the week. Asked how long they'll be there, he said, "We'll be here as long as we can."

Democrats called the speeches a hoax.

"The fact is, drilling in protected areas offshore will not reduce the price at the pump," said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi. Elshami accused Republicans of kowtowing to the oil industry.

"Big Oil, with its billions of dollars in record profits, wants more taxpayer lands, and Republicans are happy to oblige," the deputy communications director wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, Republicans hope to score a public relations victory by highlighting the lack of an energy deal and the absence of the Democratic-led Congress for the rest of the month.

"Give us an opportunity. Give us an opportunity to vote," Price said on the floor, his words straining to cover the vast chamber without the aid of a working sound system or microphone. Audio: Price calls for the chance to vote

"We had hoped that what we'd be doing today is debating an energy bill, debate an increase in deep-sea exploration, debate onshore exploration, debate clean coal technology, debate building a new refinery in the United States, debate oil shale technology," he said. "But instead what we have to do, because the cameras are off and the microphones are off, is to come and give voice to the American people." Audio: More from Price

Price told the rows of tourists who had been ushered in to fill the chamber's seats, "You are the eyes and ears of the American people today." The House floor was about a quarter to a third full for Monday's speeches.

Reporters and Republicans found themselves attempting electronic gymnastics, trying to contort around House rules that prevent recording on the chamber floor when the House is out of session.

GOP congressmen were quickly turning to new technology, with lawmakers sending updates on the blogging site Twitter and Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, uploading video interviews he conducted with fellow representatives just outside the Republican cloakroom.

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CNN Radio was able to record and edit some audio of the proceeding from the media gallery directly above the floor.

As Republicans publicly railed against the Democratic-led House, there were some signs of presidential politics at play. At least one GOP staffer handed out tire gauges to congressmen, a prop used elsewhere to criticize Sen. Barack Obama and his call for Americans to check their tire pressure as one way of saving on gasoline costs.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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