Democrats seek gas-price foils in 'Big Oil' CEOs: The Note

Rising prices on gas and consumer items pose a huge political challenge.

April 6, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Former President Barack Obama took only one question from reporters during his first time back at the White House in more than five years.

His answer cut through the tension in the room and inside a nervous Democratic Party: "We got a story to tell," Obama said when asked about the midterm elections, "just got to tell it."

That task continues Wednesday morning at a hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. House members will hear from top executives at six major energy companies on a quite unsubtle topic: "Gouged at the Gas Station: Big Oil and America's Pain at the Pump."

Members of Congress have already seen the stickers on gas pumps back home blaming President Joe Biden -- and, in some cases, themselves -- purporting to take credit for soaring gas prices.

The "Putin's Price Hike" label applied by the White House only goes so far in telling another side of the story. The measures the president is taking, up to and including releasing supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, also have limited impact.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, in the East Room  at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2022.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2022.
Leah Millis/Reuters

Democrats have their internal disagreements to contend with when it comes to energy policy. One big focus of Wednesday's hearings will be to expose shortcomings and misleading rhetoric in oil companies' commitment to renewables and to make the case that oil executives are profiting from the war in Ukraine at consumers' expense.

Of all the huge political challenges facing Democrats this year, rising prices on gas and consumer items may be the hardest to fix and most resistant to spin. Their hope is that finding new places to direct drivers' ire might start to tell a different tale.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Amid a slew of other actions aimed at lowering the cost of living for Americans, the Biden administration is expected to announce another extension of the pause on student loans.

Borrowers will reportedly not have to make payments until after Aug. 3. Interest would also remain at 0% until then. Payments were supposed to resume in May. The new summer date would have them start up just a couple of months before the high-stakes midterm elections. When asked about that possibility Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki deflected.

"I don't have anything to preview at this point in time," said Psaki. "Obviously, we look at and assess what the needs are for the people who were impacted by the payment of student loans."

PHOTO: White House press secretary Jen Psaki calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2022.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki calls on a reporter during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2022.
Susan Walsh/AP

It comes as the Biden officials take other steps -- releasing oil from reserves to lower the cost of gas, including measures in their proposed budget to tackle inflation in the long term and announcing a plan to lower the cost of health care coverage for families.

The announcement of another extension has ignited renewed calls for the Biden administration to cancel student loan debt altogether.

"With each and every repayment extension, you make a stronger case for canceling it," said Wisdom Cole, the National Youth and College Director of the NAACP, in a statement. "At this point, just cancel it. $50,000 is the bare minimum. $10,000 is not enough."

On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden had called for the cancellation of up to $10,000 per borrower. He has yet to fulfill that campaign promise.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton became the fourth Republican congressman who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump to choose to opt out of running for reelection this year. After serving in Congress for more than 35 years, Upton announced his decision on the House floor Wednesday.

"Even the best stories have a last chapter. This is it for me. I've done the zillions of airline miles back and forth. I've signed 'Fred' to over a million letters, cast more votes than anyone in this chamber while here and by most accounts have succeeded in making a difference, accomplishing what I've set out to do with more unfinished work still yet to come," Upton said.

PHOTO: Rep. Fred Upton speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 9, 2017.
Rep. Fred Upton speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 9, 2017.
Aaron Bernstein/Reuters, FILE

Although Upton joins fellow outgoing GOP Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, John Katko and Adam Kinzinger in leaving Congress amid intraparty tensions, another major factor shaping his decision -- as well as the decisions of some of his colleagues -- is reflected in this year's redistricting process. The new boundaries of his district would have put Upton in a dual incumbent primary against Trump-endorsed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

Even so, Upton's decision appears to have been made recently given his successful fundraising hauls and television ads touting his accomplishments in Congress, even saying he's "not afraid of taking anyone on when they're wrong, and work with anyone when they're right."

Earlier this week, Upton told NBC News that if he won his primary, it would send a message to Trump that he's "not as strong as he might have thought he was." On the heels of Upton's announcement, Trump celebrated Upton's retirement in a statement saying, "UPTON QUITS! 4 down and 6 to go. Others losing badly, who's next?"

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

31. That's the percentage of Alaskans who have a favorable view of former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, according to a 2021 poll. There's reason to think that poll is not an outlier either, as that's the same share of Alaskans who had a favorable view of Palin in 2018. As FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley writes, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Palin's bid to replace the late Rep. Don Young, Alaska's lone representative. But at the same time, her name recognition, appeal among Trump voters in the state and the state's new top-four voting system could ultimately work in her favor.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Wednesday morning with reporting on the ground in Bucha, Ukraine, from ABC's James Longman, who describes the gruesome reality left in the wake of the Russian invasion. Then, ABC News contributor Col. Stephen Ganyard breaks down plans by the U.S., Australia and the U.K. to work together on developing hypersonic weapons. And, ABC's Cheyenne Haslett talks about the future of COVID boosters for all.


  • President Joe Biden delivers remarks at North America's Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference at 12:45 p.m. Later in the afternoon, at 4:15 p.m., the president signs legislation that reforms the US Postal Service.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 2:30 p.m.
  • Former President Barack Obama appears at a panel titled "Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy" as part of a conference presented by The Atlantic and University of Chicago at 4 p.m. ET
  • The Senate Subcommittee on Personnel holds a hearing to examine suicide prevention and related behavioral health interventions in the Department of Defense at 10 a.m.
  • The Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development holds a hearing to examine advancing public transportation in small cities and rural places under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at 2:30 p.m.
  • The Senate Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe holds a hearing to examine ways to counter tactics oligarchs use to launder their money and stifle dissent at 2:30 p.m.
  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem delivers a speech at the "A Time for Choosing" speaker series, a leading forum for conservatives, at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, at 9 p.m. ET
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