Streams

Parties Take Shots at Each Other, Not High Prices, this Week

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 05:26 PM

(Oil Rigs near Huntington Beach/Aaron Logan)

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Get ready for dueling petro-bills in Congress this week as Republicans and Democrats try to outdo one another in the war of words over high gas prices.

Only trouble is, none of the bills you'll see tossed around the Capitol this week will do anything to lower this spring's high prices at the pump.

House Republicans this evening will bring up a vote on HR 1229, known as the "Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act." It forces the Obama Administration to consider new drilling permits in the Gulf within 60 days, and automatically approves the permits if it the administration goes too slowly.

Republicans say there will be another vote this week, this one on a bill forcing the administration to conduct lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Virginia.

If you feel like you've seen this movie before, it's because you have.

Republicans maintain that increasing domestic production will get the US off of its dependency on foreign oil and increase supply at home. Democrats counter that the US has only 3% of the world's reserves and therefore can't "drill its way" out of oil dependency. Get ready for a lot more of the same on the House floor this week.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Democrats have rolled out an effort that appears to stand a better chance of reaching the President' desk. The "Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act" repeals one of several federal subsidy programs enjoyed by oil companies. The Obama Administration has proposed using the estimated $4 billion in annual savings from closing the loophole for clean energy programs. But that appears not to be the plan of Senate Dems, who instead are getting with Washington zeitgeist and proposing to put the money toward the deficit.

House Speaker John Boehner suggested over a week ago that he may be open to looking at such a plan. But will Democrats succeed in boxing Republicans in and getting them to agree to stick it to "Big Oil" while profits soar and Americans struggle? Stay tuned. A vote likely won't come until next week.

But will any of these efforts ease the pain at the pump Americans are feeling because of unrest in the Middle East and market speculation? Consider the words of Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the sponsors of the loophole repeal bill: "It is dishonest for any of us to say we can wave a magic wand and bring down gas prices."

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