Vulnerable Dems introduce gas price 'gouging' bill

As Republicans seek to capitalize on rising gas prices, some vulnerable House Democrats have introduced a bill to eliminate fuel price "gouging."

The bill, known as H.R. 964, would empower the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to "institute civil and criminal penalties for fuel price gouging during periods proclaimed by the president as an international crisis affecting oil markets, and could also apply to speculation in the oil futures market," according to a release by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), the lead sponsor of the bill.

Bishop squeaked out a very narrow reelection victory in November and remains a GOP target. The bill's co-sponsors are Reps. Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Tim Walz (Minn.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Bruce Braley (Iowa), John Yarmuth (Ky.) and Ben Chandler (Ky). 

In a statement, Chandler said the bill, which was introduced on Wednesday, is targeted at "greedy oil companies and CEOs" who "shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of Kentuckians trying to make ends meet in this tough economy."

The bill is similar to one introduced by then-Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in the last Congress. That legislation passed the House but was not taken up by the Senate.

The Democrats' move comes as GOP strategists are encouraging their party to "to seize the high ground on energy and gas issues."

Republican pollster Glen Bolger offered this advice: "It is important to focus on your support for a balanced energy policy that offers a range of ways for America to break our dependence on foreign oil, contrasted against your opponent’s limited plan."

With that in mind, the GOP has been hitting Democrats who didn't sign on to Bishop's bill or one introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), which would open vast offshore areas to oil-and-gas drilling and require permitting of scores of new nuclear reactors over 30 years.

The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted a release to 34 Democratic-held districts accusing members of doing "nothing to bring down the skyrocketing cost of gas and reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil."

More in Senate races

Conservative poll: Mike Lee not vulnerable in primary

Read more »