Congressman Mike Conaway will return to Washington Monday even though lawmakers are on recess in order to maintain an ongoing debate in the U.S., House over the nation’s energy policy.

“Congress shouldn’t have left (on recess) without dealing with our energy policy,” Conaway told more than 100 people attending Friday’s monthly Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “We should have stayed and dealt with this issue.”

He said Republican members of the House hope to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, to allow a vote on a Republican-sponsored energy bill that includes expanding drilling for petroleum in addition to other initiatives.

“Let’s don’t leave without taking a rational step for a broad-based energy plan,” Conaway said.

He said that a week earlier, on the final day of work before the recess was to begin, the majority party turned off the lights to prevent further debate. Some 100 GOP members who had signed up to speak for five minutes as allowed under House rules proceeded with their remarks, and moved tourists and spectators from the gallery into the seats usually taken by elected officials. They same situation is expected next week.

“It’s a pretty historic event,” Conaway said. “It’s very rare that people get to come down and sit in a member’s chair on the House floor.”

Conaway said the majority of Americans, who have watched gasoline prices soar to more than $4 a gallon this summer, favor an expansion of domestic drilling, and he urged citizens to sign an open letter to Pelosi at www.gop.gov.

Republicans believe if the measure is brought to the floor, enough Democrats would vote for it and it would pass. If enough House members sign a discharge petition, Pelosi would be required to bring it to a vote.

Conaway said the GOP proposal includes conservation, solar, wind, coal, oil and gas, with the major difference in it and the Democratic Party’s proposal involving expanding drilling in Alaska and offshore.

“It’s a broad-based plan, but it does include drilling,” Conaway said. “The drilling industry today is far more environmentally responsible today… We need to exploit our resources, and we need to continue to power and drive our economy.”

According to the Associated Press, a similar scenario is taking place in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have orchestrated a spate of pro forma sessions designed to block President Bush from making so-called recess appointments of administration officials without requiring Senate confirmation.

Conaway said there are two positions the nation can take. One is to continue buying oil from nations that either don’t like us or are enemies, or use known resources to reduce economic dependency on such countries.

“We’re not going to be able to offset all that oil, but every barrel we produce is a barrel we don’t have to buy from Hugo Chavez and other nations,” Conaway said.

Projections as far into the future as 30 years indicate that oil and gas will continue to be a key energy source, much as it is today, “so let’s create American jobs to find American resources,” he said.

The plan he supports would open new drilling sites but would also work to find ways to burn coal cleanly, and advance wind and solar energy and new technologies.

“But we have to do this thoughtfully and in a way we can afford, and in a way that’s responsible to our grandchildren and the environment they’re going to live in,” Conaway said. “It’s going to be a transition of multiple years.”

Before his remarks, Conaway was presented with the Spirit of Enterprise award by Pete Havel, regional director of the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Irving.

“Congressman Conaway works very hard for you, he works very hard for the troops and he’s an outstanding voice for the businesses of this country,” Havel said. “The Spirit of Enterprise award is presented to those who go above and beyond the call in their votes on taxes, regulation, access to health care option and trade.”

Conaway is not only at the top of the Texas delegation in support of business, Havel said, he is also among the select few in the nation whose votes routinely support business.

Conaway said his votes are are designed to win such awards, but to represent the “best interest of District 11.” He said businesses create jobs, and he has found that where people have jobs, the social issues in that area are much less serious.

“Brownwood is a shining example of that,” Conaway said, pointing out that this community leads his district in per capita manufacturing jobs.

“That didn’t happen by accident,” he said. “You made it prosperous and that speaks volume to the pro-business attitude here.”