- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2022

Democrats’ plan to investigate Big Oil companies for allegedly ripping off Americans is being denounced as “socialism.”

The new line of attack from House Republicans emerged as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic majority advanced toward a vote to give the Federal Trade Commission expanded powers to probe accusations of price gouging by oil and natural gas corporations. 

“Democrats are following the lead of Soviet Russia and Venezuela and failing to learn from our own history,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, said during a Rules Committee debate to set up the vote by the full House. “The promise of America is free enterprise, not socialism, not government price controls.”

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, said he was “personally kind of disappointed” by the comparison.

“You’re going down the road of Soviets, socialism and all that other stuff, but at the end of the day, we have to call these corporations out,” he said.

The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act will mark the first measure that Democratic leaders have acted on that’s meant to blunt soaring prices, as the party becomes increasingly worried about the political fallout ahead of the midterms. But many rank-and-file members feel it’s far from enough and will not have any impact on the sky-high fuel costs that constituents are grappling with.

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In an unexpected turn of events, the Rules Committee was unable to advance the legislation Monday evening due to a lack of Democratic votes in the full chamber. The panel could reconsider it as soon as Tuesday, but it was not clear when leaders planned to try again. 

Prices at the pump continued to reach new highs Monday, with the national average rising to $4.48 per gallon, according to AAA. That’s 40 cents more than one month ago and $1.44 higher than a year ago.

In a whip notice urging their members against the bill, House Republicans dubbed it the “Socialist Energy Price Fixing Act.” They said it sought to “distract and shift blame from the administration’s self-inflicted energy and inflation crisis and blame energy producers.”

At the Rules Committee, Republicans blamed the Biden administration’s anti-fossil fuel policies, such as canceling oil and natural gas projects, for causing rising prices. They also noted that no systemic price-gouging scheme has ever been uncovered by the FTC or other federal agencies.

“All we have to consider is this pathetic fig leaf of a bill that will do absolutely nothing to solve this crisis,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican and ranking member of the committee.

Democrats defended their legislation. They accused energy firms of setting gas prices artificially high because they are using record profits to prioritize investor returns over ramping up production.  

“When the market is broken, that’s when Congress has to step in to protect American consumers. That’s what this bill does,” said House Energy Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, supports the legislation and has said it will receive a vote if and when it clears the House. However, it is doomed to fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass the upper chamber.

Still, Democrats hope the show votes will place them at a political advantage against Republicans in the debate over lowering energy costs.

Rep. Norma Torres, California Democrat, called it hypocritical for her GOP colleagues to support government regulations only when it’s politically convenient, such as with access to abortions.

“Republicans want to control everything, including a woman’s right to choose over her own body. But they don’t want the president of the United States to oversee the costs at the gas pump for average Americans,” she said.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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