The House passed legislation on Thursday pushed by Democrats that's aimed at penalizing oil companies if proven to be inflating prices on gas or other petroleum-based fuels.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA), includes language to allow the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and take legal action against corporations if they are found to be “exploiting” an energy emergency. The measure passed the House 217-207, with all Republicans voting no, along with four Democratic lawmakers.
“At a time when people in my district and across the country are feeling the pain of high prices at the gas pump, Congress needs to be doing all we can to bring down costs," Schrier said. "Gas prices in my neighborhood were already high at $5 a gallon. Now, for no apparent reason, just over the past week, prices are up another 10% at $5.50 a gallon. Meanwhile, neither the price of a barrel of oil nor the cost of refining have changed appreciably.”
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Republicans slammed the proposal, alleging that Democratic leadership brought a messaging bill to the floor instead of taking meaningful action to address inflation, and argued the Biden administration’s policies are responsible for the increase in prices. They noted the bill would be effectively dead in the Senate since there aren't 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster by Republicans in that chamber.
“President Biden and his administration have run roughshod over American energy resource development. They've been hamstringing energy production at every turn. As has been said many times on this floor, on day one, President Biden halted and shut down the Keystone XL pipeline. He halted all onshore and offshore oil and gas leases. Just last week, with everything going on, just last week, President Biden canceled the two remaining court-ordered offshore lease sales and the current five-year plan,” Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said during debate.
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A handful of centrist Democrats raised concerns about implementing price controls, with some noting that there is not a clear process to prove whether prices are being unjustifiably gouged.