The House of Representatives voted this afternoon to create an oil antitrust task force at the Department of Justice (DoJ), and to allow foreign oil cartels to be prosecuted in U.S. courts.

As House Republicans have demanded a solution to high gas prices from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Pelosi posed today's vote as a strong answer.

"The House today with a strong bipartisan and veto-proof margin voted to hold foreign oil cartels and Big Oil accountable," Pelosi said in a statement that called the bill a move "to protect American consumers."

House Republicans have recently blamed Pelosi for high gas prices. In floor speeches and press releases, they have pointed to an increase in gas prices since Democrats took the majority in Congress in 2006, dubbing the increase the "Pelosi Premium."

The bill would create a DoJ task force to investigate, and report annually to Congress on, the effect of international oil cartels, potential price gouging, and potential collusive behavior to restrict oil production. The task force would enforce oil companies' compliance with existing antitrust laws, and could recommend changes to those laws to Congress.


Foreign entities, under the bill, could be prosecuted in U.S. courts for collaborating to restrict production, set the price of oil, or restrain the trade of oil, if those actions affect the price of petroleum products in the U.S.

The bill also calls for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on how oil company mergers may have affected the price of oil.

The Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), passed 324 to 84 this afternoon.