Senate Democrats look for traction on gas prices

Senate Democrats look for traction on gas prices
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (N.Y.) is ripping the White House over high gas prices, arguing President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is putting a pinch on middle-class wallets. 

“According to energy analysts and experts, President Trump’s reckless decision to pull out of the Iran deal has led to higher oil prices,” Schumer said at a press conference held at an Exxon filling station on Capitol Hill, where a gallon of regular costs $3.89.

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“These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices, something we know disproportionately hurts middle- and lower-income people,” Schumer said.

Schumer initially opposed the nuclear deal, which was negotiated between Iran and the United States, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia, as well as the European Union, during the Obama administration. 

But like other former opponents of the pact, such as Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Police arrest 128 protesting Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill GOP launches counteroffensive on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Ariz.), he opposed Trump pulling out of the deal once it became established.

Schumer criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement last month.

He told reporters at a May 8 press conference that there were no reports that Iran had violated the terms of the agreement and warned that Trump’s actions would divide “our allies” and make it “harder to go after Hezbollah.”

Raising a fuss about gas prices has been a favorite page in the GOP political playbook over the years, but Democratic strategists see it as a good way to undercut Trump’s claims about the economic benefits of tax reform. 

Both parties have slammed the other for high gas prices in the past. 

In this case, Schumer says that Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal has created uncertainty over global supplies. He argues that higher gas prices threaten to wipe out whatever economic benefits middle-class families might see from the 2017 tax cuts, which all Senate Democrats opposed as insufficiently generous to most Americans.

“The rising gas prices will, as one economist put it, roughly cancel out the 2018 consumption boost from tax cuts,” he said. “Whatever meager benefit working families might have seen from Trump’s tax scam for the rich is being wiped out by the gas prices that President Trump is responsible for.” 

Schumer is launching the same attack against Trump that Democrats did eight years ago against former President George W. Bush and the Republicans, arguing the president needs to do more to twist arms at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to lower gas prices. 

“If the president wants to take action, he can,” Schumer said. “One: OPEC. He’s very, very tight with the crown prince [of Saudi Arabia]. He’s very, very tight with the head of [United Arab Emirates]. 

“Why doesn’t he use that for the American people?”

Schumer also called on Trump to put pressure on major oil companies to give back some of the money they saved from the 2017 tax-reform bill to consumers at the pump. 

“Tell those oil companies — jawbone them: ‘Don’t keep raising your price, you just got a huge tax break, you’re making huge profits,’” he said.

Schumer railing against high gas prices as a threat to U.S. prosperity might prove controversial with some of the Democrats’ allies in the environmental movement, who don’t think of high gas prices as necessarily a bad thing because it leads to less driving and carbon pollution and makes renewable fuels more competitive in the marketplace. 

Asked about this, Schumer said the potential environmental benefits “shouldn’t come [on] the back of middle-class families.”

He noted that many Senate Democrats support raising mileage standards for cars and trucks, which Trump opposes.