House GOP plans votes on gas prices

Facing pressure to address rising gas prices on the eve of the busy summer travel season, House Republicans are planning to roll out a series of small votes next week to give President Bush more authority to address the looming crisis.

GOP leaders in the House have scheduled votes on legislation to let the president act on proposals he introduced Tuesday as an attempt to ease fuel prices, albeit minimally.

The bills, which are expected to be introduced individually, would ease the state-by-state restrictions on boutique fuel blends, limit new deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve during the busy travel months this summer, create incentives for the expansion of hydrogen fuels and institute civil penalties for the Federal Trade Commission, working with attorneys general from all 50 states, to use in enforcing laws against price gouging.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) tapped Republican Policy Committee Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) to roll out the bills during an elected leadership meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“The Congress needs to move quickly to give the president the authority he needs,” Putnam said yesterday.

GOP leaders conceded yesterday that the bills would have a minimal immediate impact on gas prices, which are above $3 per gallon in much of the country.

Republican leaders have scheduled a press event later today at a gas station to promote the initiatives and echo the call to allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) is expected to introduce a package that would include drilling in the refuge and other proposals to increase domestic oil production.

Democrats have dismissed the president’s requests and yesterday condemned their Republican colleagues for not going far enough to reduce fuel prices.

“Republicans have no new ideas on how to lower gas prices for the American people,” said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “Rather than join Democratic efforts to provide immediate relief for the American people, they want to protect the billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil and big gas and rubber stamp the president’s proposals.”

A bipartisan group of House members, led by Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), called yesterday for leaders to consider their legislation to realize fuel independence by 2015 through a number of limits and triggers, which include embracing cleaner fuels and speeding the production of vehicles that achieve better fuel mileage.