- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to raise taxes on U.S. oil companies Tuesday night would not have lowered the $4 price tag on a gallon of gasoline. The political stunt fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage, but Mr. Reid vowed to bring back the attack on “big oil” before any final deal on next year’s budget or the debt ceiling could be reached.

At a press conference just prior to the vote, Mr. Reid read notes from a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that concluded the Democratic bill would not raise gas prices. I asked Mr. Reid if his legislation would lower the price at the pump, and Mr. Reid said no: “I think that it’s not going to have any effect on the price of gasoline.” The Democratic leader said he wanted lower petrol prices, but he offered no concrete solutions. “Common sense dictates that this would do it … all I have are the quotes that it won’t increase the price of gasoline,” he added, looking at his notes.

Although Mr. Reid insists that raising taxes on oil producers would not increase the cost of gasoline, Republicans beg to differ. The Democratic bill “will raise the price of gasoline at the pump,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican sponsored an alternative that seeks to lower gas prices by increasing domestic production and decreasing government regulation. The legislation, which will be voted on Wednesday, would restart previously scheduled offshore lease sales in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, Virginia and Alaska. It would extend by one year the Gulf leases which were previously suspended by the administration. The measure is also not expected to achieve the 60-vote threshold needed for passage.

While President Obama announced in his Saturday radio address that he wanted to increase leases for domestic drilling, his words rang hollow. The administration continues to block the implementation of leases by not giving permits to start the drilling.

Mr. McConnell told reporters that the GOP bill would overcome such resistance to drilling permits by “putting a time limit on bureaucrats to review the permit, after which they must act.” If the Interior Department fails to make a decision within 60 days, the permit is considered approved.

Increasing domestic production, keeping taxes low and cutting out bureaucracy is exactly what is needed to tackle high gas prices. Unfortunately, Democrats appear more interested in scoring political points than helping American families. Mr. Reid’s continued fight to push through a $20 billion tax hike on oil companies would only increase prices at the pump this summer.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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