Gas prices spark partisan debate in Congress
May 5th, 2011
04:31 PM ET
9 years ago

Gas prices spark partisan debate in Congress

Washington (CNN) - Four-dollar-a-gallon gas sparked a partisan and predictable debate on the House floor Thursday about legislation Republicans argued would reduce prices at the pump by promoting more domestic energy production.

The GOP bill, which passed 266-149, is named the "Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act" and directs the Obama administration to move forward with leases for drilling in areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia that were already approved but were suspended after the BP oil disaster last year.

"Let's send a signal to the international markets that America is serious about becoming less dependent on foreign oil," said Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, who sponsored the bill.

But Democrats used the debate as a chance to bash one of their favorite political targets: "big oil."

Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey unveiled a chart on the House floor that featured a large picture of an oil rig on top of a mock up of a Medicare card, arguing Republicans were protecting energy companies at the expense of health care for seniors.

"The Republicans are building a pipeline into the pocketbooks of our seniors so they can pump them dry. No money for Medicare but plenty of breaks for the oil companies," Markey said.

Democrats used a procedural move to force a vote on a measure that would repeal tax breaks for energy companies. The vote failed, but it allowed the Democrats' campaign arm to target Republicans in swing districts as siding with oil companies.

"Representative Bobby Schilling today chose taxpayer funded giveaways for big oil companies making record profits rather than doing what's right for folks squeezed by high prices at the pump," said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

House GOP Leaders scheduled a vote for next week on another bill that would direct the Obama administration to include in its five year offshore leasing plan drilling in the areas with the most known oil reserves.

While Democratic leaders said they do support some more domestic production, they suggested other proposals would have a more direct impact on reducing gas prices. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that in addition to pushing for legislation to end tax breaks for oil companies, House Democrats will introduce a bill to tap into the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Speaker Boehner dismissed the Democratic proposals as not serious and said the energy crunch only got worse because Democrats failed to increase production when they controlled the House

"The same Democrats who've supported the EPA and supported cap and trade and everything that would lower the production and supply of energy now want to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is, therefore, a big emergency? What we ought to be doing is expanding American energy production," Boehner said.

Filed under: Congress • gas prices
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. George

    RS – I do not have a clue what you are talking about oil companies going untaxed. I worked for XTO & another major for years and we paid ridiculous taxes. I am an independent oil man now and pay tons of taxes. But I tell you what I am making ridiculous money right now too because of our idiotic energy policies that keep prices inflated. I am making three times more on most of my productive interests than I was making in 1999/2000. The oil business is just like any other business and if you make doing business unsufferable they go into other businesses or sit on cash. Alot of the majors have sold out of the areas I participate in today in the states order to go overseas. We are going to have a banner few more years with Obama running things – much more than I ever made in the Bush years. Keep up the hate – I find it humorous.

    May 5, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. rick

    Why is it that the Republican members of Congress continue to yell about the free market and the end of farm subsidies, and then turn around and support billion dollar credits to Oil Companies that make billion dollar profits. If the oil was profitable to get out of the ground, the Oil Companies would do it. The Republican party will direct all their efforts to use up all the oil and then blame the Democrats for not developing alternative energy sources. Follow the money in politics and you will find the answer.

    May 5, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Cincinnati girl

    We all know the gas prices are related to supply & demand, however this political posturing only addresses (minimally) one part of the Oil companies have no incentive to become a more affordable commodity. They pay minimal taxes, they monopolize our energy equation, and they raise the prices constantly. The only way to truly combat high gas prices is through demand. That doesn't mean drive less, although it should. What it means is closing tax loopholes for oil companies and reinvesting those revenue streams to technologies that will make our cars more energy efficient, improving mass transit, and developing more readily availale alternative forms of energy. Not only will we protect our environment and the earth that God has entrusted us with, but we'd create jobs, add more postive competitive presure on educaton to better prepare our future generations to succeed in math, science, and business, and we'd also minimize the controls the Middle East have on us. We shouldn't use the "no one else is doing it" excuse when America can step out and be a leader in this front and leverage this as a business opportunity to turnaround our economy.

    May 5, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. brian

    There is no shortage of supply. Saudia arabia offerd more oil and no one wanted it.

    May 5, 2011 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. John/kc

    Isn't it amazing that the republicans would push this item for their buddies, big oil. The oil industry now already has rights to vast tracts of off shore leases that they are not drilling on for some reason or another. Personally, wouldn't people think it would be a good idea that the lease contracts would stipulate that if you hold the lease and do not bring the well in for a period of say 5 years, you forfeit the lease?

    May 5, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. Steve

    Leases are fine but useless unless the goverment gives a permit to drill. We need more permits to drill. There are hundreds of leases sitting idle, with cash paid for them, and not utillized because the government will not issue a permit to drill. Push for permits gang if you really want more fuel.

    May 5, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  7. Michael

    Anyone who believes that off shore drilling will lower the cost of oil is living in fantasy land. the oil companies are making huge profits. If wee drill for our own oil they will simply keep the price as is and make even more money because it will cost them less. Wake up. They have us by the short hairs and are conrtolling our government. They will take our money either way. Have mercy on their souls when they have to be accountable before God.

    May 5, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  8. gt

    there will be jobs when we drill... we need to change to natural gas ... get off the main line of middle east oil... get real ..drill more or pay more...and i dont like 4 .50 a gallon....

    May 5, 2011 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    The idiot Dems won't be happy until gas hits $10/gallon. Of course, if they succeed in that, they'll be shown the door wholesale in 2012.

    May 5, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. Peter E

    Guess what: we use a lot of gas. Lots of use means prices will go up. The change in pirce is not a government conspiracy. The government hasn't raised any new taxes on gas for over two decades. Whatever happened to just letting the market work this out? If you don't want to pay as much for gas, then just don't use as much gas! Plain and simple! Oh, but Americans have been told that they have a birthright to take their SUVs one block over to pick up a pack of cigarettes from the store instead of just walking over. (which ironically takes more time because they spend 20 minutes trying to get a good parking space instead of the 3 minutes it would have taken for the walk)

    May 5, 2011 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  11. KatR

    Ancient Texan...........A lot of the products manufactured today using oil deriviates were previously manufactured W/O using oil deriviates. As far as alternative energy sources being at 1% production.....what do you expect when oil lobbyists and other possibly criminal business policies have no desire to help move forward because it would destroy the BIG OIL conglomerate? I've also heard maybe Texans like yourself are profiting from oil wells that have been capped in order to push the price up. I am praying very fervently for the Obama administration to discover and bring to justice the oil industry for their anti-American activities. Already I'm seeing prices begin to drop after that decision was announced. Hmmm....seems like the same thing happened when Pres. Bush started an investigation. The good ol' USA got OBL.....the oil companies are next!!!!!!!!

    May 5, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  12. PalmReader

    "They'd rather we all ride horses and sacavenge for wood to keep warm in the winter."

    About where we're all headed unless Congress takes the bull by the horn and begins caring enough about their constituents to tackle Big Oil subsidies and spectators. Sure wish I had a wind-turbine (or two) with which to fall back on during the winter months when the gougers keep raising the prices of oil as they invariably do each year. As it is, keep enjoying all that free market BS you love to drool over ... it serves you and your party well.

    May 5, 2011 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Limbaugh is a liberal

    a) Gas prices are primarily determined by local use, not oil prices
    b) Oil prices are determined by international markety, NOT domestic production alone. Any increase in doemstic production would just give a good chuckle to the OPEC overlords while they reduce production by four times that much elsewhere to keep oil prices high
    The only thing added domestic production would do is channel more of your money (especially if the building of infrastrucutre is taxpayer subsidized, as it always is) into the pockets of international oil conglomerate executives.

    May 5, 2011 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  14. fadedlight420

    Last year Exxon-Mobile posted $30.4 billion in profits last year, Chevron $19 billion in profit. Yeah, more drilling is the answer, not regulation of these corporate hogs. There's no shortage of supply, just a shortage of human decency.

    May 5, 2011 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    The price at the pump is disproportionately high compared to a barrel of oil. We did not see pump prices this high until a barrel of oil hit over $140. Think about that. The price at the pump does move with the price of oil, but the current prices are artifiicially inflated. Some circles say speculaters add $0.70. I dunno. But, no one is saying how much the gas refiners are adding to the price, which must be at least half of the amount attributed to speculators.

    May 5, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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