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Gas Price Spike Prods Energy Debate

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander said Republicans have their energy plan ready.

The two Senators said their legislation, which would allow the companies with drilling leases affected by last year’s moratorium to have them extended an extra 12 months, would help alleviate the cost of fuel in the long run.

“We have got to get our Gulf of Mexico back to work, particularly because of the turmoil going on in the Middle East, it’s time for America to produce more of its own domestic resources,” Landrieu said during a Wednesday press conference.

“The average price of gasoline in America today is $3.52,” Hutchison said. “I know that Americans who need their cars or are trying to plan a family vacation are going to be strapped. We can open up the Gulf of Mexico in an environmentally secure way and a responsible way if we can get these rigs back to work.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, hoping to recapture the political magic from the 2008 gas price spikes, are also ramping up their efforts on the energy front.

House aides said they welcome the debate.

In talking points circulated to rank-and-file Members this week, Republican leaders look to resurrect their successful “all of the above” call for a broad approach to energy issues rather than just attacking short-term price changes.

Likewise, Democrats have also begun to take up the issue.

Democratic Reps. Tim Bishop (N.Y.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Tim Walz (Minn.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.) introduced legislation this week that would crack down on price-gouging. That bill, Bishop said, would help provide more immediate relief to consumers than anything Republicans have talked about.

“There’s no supply shortage. Price is rising based on fear,” Bishop said, pointing to the crisis in Libya and other parts of the Middle East as key factors. Bishop also criticized Republicans for not moving to address the issue sooner and argued they have taken steps to protect oil company profits at the expense of taxpayers.

“It’s absolutely shocking we’re engaged in a debate about reducing the deficit and yet the Republicans leave as untouchable” oil industry tax breaks, Bishop said.

Republicans dismiss Democratic complaints and say they have already begun putting together a legislative strategy for addressing the issue.

A leadership aide said Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would likely make room on the calendar to take up energy legislation before the end of the month, although what specific bills would be considered had not yet been decided.

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