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Energy, drilling will be focus as Congress returns

After getting an earful from their constituents about gas prices, lawmakers return to Washington this week with energy reform high on their list of things to tackle.

One of the bills picking up steam is sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators initially dubbed the “Gang of 10.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is an original member of the coalition, which grew to 16 during the congressional recess.

One of the plan's most notable features is that it expands offshore drilling to the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and gives the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia the right to opt into leasing programs 50 miles or more off their shores.

An energy summit is slated for Friday. A vote could come before Congress adjourns for the elections.

Over in the House, a bill being pushed by Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican from Concord, picked up the support of the Chamber of Commerce last week. It would lift the moratorium on drilling in the outer continental shelf and allow some of the royalties to be used for direct “dividend payments” to residents and businesses of the participating states.

Another hot topic, the economy, will be front and center this week as well.

Rep. John Spratt, the Democrat from York County who chairs the House Budget Committee, will hold a hearing Tuesday titled “A Weakened Economy: How to Respond”

Spratt will be looking for answers from former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, now a Harvard professor, and others.

Hayes and other lawmakers plan to attend a memorial service Wednesday for former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, who died Aug. 20.

Hayes and Tubbs Jones co-chaired the House Philanthropy Caucus.

“She was someone who cared dearly about helping others – especially those who couldn't help themselves,” he said.

There's been a lot of talk lately about what is and isn't fair game when it comes to public discussion about politicians' families.

Apparently Republican Carl Mumpower thinks family isn't off-limits, especially if it involves someone working on a campaign. The Asheville City Councilman, who is challenging Rep. Heath Shuler, a Democrat from Waynesville, said he fired his own son Matt from his congressional campaign after the younger Mumpower got into a barroom fight.

“I can't hold other people accountable if I can't hold my own son accountable,” Mumpower said last week, according to The Associated Press. “I can't go against those that employ illegal immigrants … or others for not being responsible and give him a pass.”

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., didn't attend the GOP convention last week, but her husband did.

The 85-year-old former U.S. senator from Kansas was honored at a reception thrown by members of the Kansas and Missouri delegations.

Dole told the ballroom crowd that he spends three days a week campaigning for his wife, who is up for re-election this year and faces state Sen. Kay Hagan, D-Guilford.

“I'm not doing like Bill Clinton,” Dole quipped, according to the Capital-Journal of Topeka, in a reference to the former president's controversial assist to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

“I'm helping her.”

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