Welcome to the Republican floor show in the House of Representatives, where the microphones don't work, the C-SPAN cameras are dark and the dim lighting recalls the days of gas lamps and spittoons.
A persistent troupe of Republican lawmakers doesn't seem to mind, nor are the legislators deterred by the fact that the oil industry estimates that opening America's coastal waters to drilling is unlikely to provide more oil for at least seven to 10 years.
The Republicans' not-ready-for-prime-time effort to embarrass the Democrats into debating offshore drilling might be having an effect, even though Congress has skipped town for its August recess.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the target of their jibes, recently said she was open to energy legislation that permits some drilling. Earlier this month, Pelosi shut down the House of Representatives before angry Republicans had a chance to debate the issue, and she opposes repealing the ban on offshore drilling.
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Sen. Barack Obama hadn't been a fan of offshore drilling, either. But the Democratic nominee-in-waiting recently said he could support it if it were limited and part of a broader energy package.
Obama's opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain, was against offshore drilling before he was for it. Conservatives who oppose a Senate bipartisan compromise on drilling are on his case, however, because he hasn't ruled out the measure.
All these conversions aren't due entirely to the Republicans' stunt. Polls show that the public is angry over high gasoline prices and increasingly supports offshore drilling.
Lawmakers flee in August to campaign back home, vacation or travel, often on the taxpayers' dime. In a city emptied of heavyweights, the House sit-in is the only game in town.
The crowds aren't exactly standing room only. Think of a town hall meeting, political free-fire zone and pep rally rolled into one. When a congressman extolled the virtues of “American energy,” the audience cheered. That kind of behavior usually would trigger a quick gavel.
“Strange,” deputy House historian Fred Beuttler mused. “We've never seen this before.”
These are not normal times. The visitors have been invited to sit on the House floor, for example, on the very leather-upholstered benches that the lawmakers themselves usually occupy.
Indeed, to see the “people's House” filled with real people in flip-flops, shorts and baseball caps, is kind of a jolt. But reaffirming.