Accusations fly between the congressman and his political rival in the upcoming election.

 

U.S. Rep. Randy Kuhl, R-Hammondsport, returned to Washington, D.C. on Monday to join other GOP House leaders in protesting Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision not to allow a vote on an energy plan that includes new domestic drilling for oil.

Meanwhile, Democrat Eric Massa — who is challenging Kuhl in this November’s election — told reporters Monday he had sent Kuhl a letter calling on him to “use his close friendship” with President Bush to reconvene both houses of Congress to provide “emergency relief” to Americans struggling with high fuel prices.

“We are looking at a cold, cold winter in upstate New York,” Massa said in a conference call with reporters.

Congress must implement a plan to bring down the cost of fuel, he said. For people in the 29th Congressional District — which includes most of Ontario County, parts of Monroe County and Yates County — “it is a matter of survival,” Massa added.

Even though fuel prices have been dropping in recent weeks, the subject of how to lower fuel costs has been the hottest issue of the campaign, with Massa and Kuhl both supporting comprehensive plans but disagreeing on details of how they should be carried out.

Kuhl reiterated last week that he is in favor of increased offshore drilling and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along with more nuclear power plants and increasing production of alternative fuels. Massa responded in a press release that oil companies have millions of acres in holdings that have not been tapped for oil.

Massa criticized Kuhl for voting in June “against responsible drilling” included in a House bill, and said in a statement, “George Bush and Big Oil special interests killed this responsible drilling bill because they weren’t satisfied with their record profits.”

On Monday, Massa called Kuhl’s protest of Pelosi’s refusal to call a new vote “political gamesmanship.”

“It’s time to end these political stunts,” said Massa, and have an “open and honest debate.”

Kuhl “has the ability to act independently” and call on Bush to reconvene Congress, Massa said. Kuhl has the chance to show his constituents he can do more than “ride in a limousine” with the president, added Massa, referring to a photo of the congressman escorting Bush to Canandaigua in 2006.

Kuhl’s campaign manager, Justin Stokes, released a statement in response to Massa’s comments, charging that Massa is aligned with Pelosi.

“If Mr. Massa is serious about disagreeing with Speaker Pelosi, maybe he should put his money where his mouth is and return the $14,000 in campaign contributions he’s received from Pelosi,” Stokes said. “Otherwise, his statement is just deceptive, hypocritical and highlights everything that’s wrong with the Democratic majority that’s leading Congress. The bottom line is a vote for Eric Massa is a vote for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the do-nothing, drill-nothing Democratic-led Congress.”

As for Kuhl’s reason for not asking Bush directly to reconvene Congress, Stokes stated, “Only Speaker Nancy Pelosi can set the agenda for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Speaker Pelosi has made it clear she won’t allow a vote on a comprehensive energy plan that includes drilling.”

Kuhl’s congressional spokeswoman, Meghan Tisinger, quoted Kuhl’s statements in a press call last week, when Kuhl said he and other GOP House members had called on the president to convene a special session of Congress.

“Unfortunately, however, he cannot,” said Kuhl. “It’s one of the limitations on his powers. He cannot establish the agenda. And the agenda is set by the majority party, which brings it all right back to the Speaker.”

Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or jsherwood@messengerpostmedia.com