Parties Point Fingers on Gas Prices Legislation

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., was just as stark in pointing the finger right back at Republicans.

"I hope the American people rise up and scream like they've never screamed before, 'How dare we do nothing,'" she said on the Senate floor.

It was a similar argument that Republicans made last week when Democrats staged a debate on legislation to fight climate change by capping the amount of greenhouse gases U.S. companies can emit. While the bill had some bipartisan support, Republicans complained that the bill, if passed, would drive up energy prices.

Windfall Profits

If there was a poison pill in the Democrats' unsuccessful plan today, it was a provision in the bill that would assess a windfall tax on oil companies not investing in renewable energy sources and increased capacity.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said this morning of the oil companies and their record profits, "At some point you've taken too much out of the American economy."

Republicans say such a tax didn't work when it was passed by President Jimmy Carter and a Democratic Congress in the wake of the oil crisis in the 1970s and remained in place for much of the 1980s. Republicans suggested that renewing such a tax would actually raise gas prices in the short term.

"There is a consensus that a windfall profits tax is a bad idea except in the halls of Congress. However emotionally satisfying it may seem, it also affects most Americans retirement plans," Domenici said.

Bipartisan Energy Speculation Proposal Dies, Too

The most bipartisan portion of the Democratic bill had to do with energy speculation. It would have created new requirements for commodities traders to report off-shore trades with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Democrats also suggested an amendment to the bill to boost funding for the CFTC, the staff of which has decreased by 10 percent during the Bush administration even as the number of trades it can monitor has shot up, according to Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

In addition, the bill sought to stem energy speculation by forcing U.S. regulation for traders who route their trades offshore to avoid CFTC reporting and laws that cap the amount of futures commodities that can be held at one time.

"There is nothing in the laws of supply and demand that justifies [the run up in the price of oil]," Dorgan said. He called run-up in gas prices the result of an "orgy of speculation."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said at this morning's press conference that Democrats would allow Republicans to try to strip the windfall profits section from the bill if Republicans would only let them debate the bill.

But one Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who supports the speculation measures, said on the Senate floor that he would not support a debate on the two measures married together.

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