Senate Democrats and the White House are feeling the heat over rising gas prices and are preparing a legislative response to blunt GOP criticism.
After coordinating with the White House, Senate Democrats expect to consider, likely before the end of the month, legislation that would repeal tax breaks for oil and gas companies, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.
Details of the bill are still being decided, but the revenues could be used for consumer relief or to fund alternative energy initiatives, the aide said.
The aide said there are no easy energy solutions and that Democrats will continue to pursue the "all-of-the-above" strategy advocated by the White House.
Republicans, who see a political opportunity in the gas price issue, contend that raising taxes on energy companies would simply lead to even higher gas prices.
"If someone in the administration can show me that raising taxes on American energy production will lower gas prices and create jobs, then I will gladly discuss it," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement from his office. "But since nobody can, and the president doesn't, this is merely an attempt to deflect from his failed policies."
A senior GOP aide also noted that the Senate last voted on a similar measure in May. The proposal — which would have eliminated a raft of tax breaks for the five largest oil companies — failed to win the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle to move forward. The 52-48 vote included three Democrats breaking ranks to go against the motion with Republicans and two Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the proposal.
Talk of the move to take up the energy tax breaks repeal measure comes after the White House released a progress report Monday highlighting administration initiatives during the past three years that they contend have led to increased energy production.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a White House press conference touting the report, "I think it's important for all of us to note that the domestic oil production is at an eight-year high in the United States of America. Domestic gas production is at the highest level that we have seen in recent memory. And ... we are importing the lowest amount of oil that we have in 16 years to the United States of America."
In 2008, the nation was importing 57 percent of its oil from foreign countries compared with 2011, when the nation was importing only 45 percent, according to the White House.
Republicans questioned the veracity of the White House report. A GOP aide said oil imports are down because the economy is so weak and not from any policies implemented by President Barack Obama.
With businesses of all sizes cutting back, fewer people working and fewer people commuting, that translates into "not as much oil needed," the aide said.
The aide also said increased oil production is due to increased oil exploration occurring on private land and that while the White House has given out more leases, the pace of granting permits necessary to begin the work on federal land continues to be slow.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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