KINGSPORT — Politically speaking, America is “still a center right country” despite a recent string of GOP losses in congressional special elections, U.S. Rep. David Davis told about 75 Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City chamber of commerce members at a breakfast Friday.

“The people who won those seats ran on a pro-life, pro-gun, limited-tax agenda,” Davis, R-1st District, said of the GOP defeats. “What we believe as Republicans hasn’t changed. ... Unfortunately there are people across America who still believe the Republicans control Congress. ... Since (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi took over the Congress ... oil was $56 a barrel when she took over. ... Now it’s gone to over $120 a barrel.

“I still think the American people are looking for conservative, common-sense leadership. The Republican leadership in Washington has to do a better job of saying ... ‘We’re fighting for energy policy, we’re fighting for health care policy.’ We have to go back and earn our majority back.”

Record-breaking oil and gasoline prices are causing many Americans to brace for even steeper hikes, with 87 percent saying they expect the nationwide average price for regular unleaded gasoline to hit $4 per gallon by Memorial Day, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

“It’s putting a real burden on the middle class and on small businesses. ... It’s putting a burden on young families. ... It’s putting a real burden on senior adults,” Davis said of high gas prices.

Davis again made a pitch for longstanding Republican energy proposals — including drilling for oil offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“The only way we’re going to have an energy policy in America is having one that has American energy,” he said. “We’re dependent on foreign countries that hate us, hate our freedoms and quite frankly, hate our religion. They can charge us anything they want to charge us. ... It’s putting the brakes on the American economy.”

During the breakfast, Davis was given the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Enterprise” award for supporting the chamber’s position 85 percent of the time during 20 selected votes. Members of Congress who support the chamber’s position on at least 70 percent of those votes receive the award.

Davis said the biggest pro-business vote he cast this year was against the fiscal year 2009 budget — a budget he claimed would have raised taxes by $683 billion over five years.

“I serve in the Congress at a time when government doesn’t seem to work,” Davis told chamber members. “We need a Congress that understands what the American people understand. ... They understand you can’t tax, regulate and spend yourself into prosperity.”

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