John Culberson’s use of technology and the internet has helped fuel the House Republicans’ rebellion against Speaker Pelosi’s dictatorial closing of debate on energy bills. This Houston Chronicle article explains Rep. Culberson’s motivation:

His text messages may be cryptic and hurried on the instant messaging network known as Twitter ( And his shaky and furtive camera-phone interviews with colleagues posted on Qik ( may resemble hostage videos. But they are vanguards of the future for a technology buff who still lovingly describes his first telescope.

House rules bundle restrictions on state-of-the-art electronics with provisions governing “decorum and comportment” on the House floor.

Lawmakers “may not wear a hat or remain by the clerk’s desk during the call of the roll or the counting of ballots,” the rules state. “A person may not smoke or use a wireless telephone or personal computer on the floor of the House.”

In practice, lawmakers routinely use cell phones and BlackBerries on the House floor for text messaging, e-mail and access to the Internet. The sergeant-at-arms only enforces a restriction on talking on the cell phones from the House floor.

Pelosi continues to reject GOP calls for a House vote on its plan to allow offshore oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. But she has no immediate plans to try to tighten House rules to further restrict use of electronic devices.

That means that Republicans will be free to continue their Culberson-inspired electronic insurgency from the House floor through the start of the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 25. Republicans will be positioned to draw contrasts between their mock legislative efforts to cut gasoline prices and the theatrics of the Democrats’ presidential convention.

‘A bit of a contrarian’

No one should be surprised by Culberson, 51, leading the GOP effort to outflank the media blackout imposed by Pelosi, says a colleague, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands. “John has always been a bit of a contrarian,” Brady says. “If he can’t solve a problem one way, he stays on it like a bulldog until he finds another way.”

If Pelosi’s Democrats want to pick this fight, I say let’s get ready to rumble. Does anyone think that anything less than 75 percent of the American people would support Rep. Culberson’s use of Qik and Twitter after Ms. Pelosi’s Democrats voted to cut off debate on pro drilling legislation to go on a 5 week vacation?

I don’t think that’s the fight Ms. Pelosi or her Politburo want to have, especially after denying any amendments, whether they were from Republicans or Democrats, on any energy legislation.

Political scientist Robert Stein of Rice University says Culberson has shown his knack for efficiently and effectively positioning himself for potential political advantage.

“He knows how to craft an issue and deliver the message,” Stein says.

National attention as a cutting-edge, tech-savvy congressman could help Culberson offset some of the financial handicap that he faces in the fall campaign against a well-financed rival, Democrat Michael Skelly.

Culberson has raised $983,200 so far, compared with nearly $1.5 million raised by Skelly, according to federal campaign finance reports.

“Culberson has generated a story line that distinguishes him from the crowd,” Stein says. “He has positioned himself as a hero of technology.”

Rep. Culberson needs to be re-elected, if for no other reason than that he’s new media savvy. God knows we don’t have enough Republicans who make efficient use of technology to get their message out. (Fortunately, I’m represented by one of the best in the House at that, Rep. Michele Bachmann. Rep. Bachmann has her own blog, where she makes frequent use of her YouTube account.)

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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