Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced during a May 12 press conference that Democrats would bring legislation to the floor that would grant President Joe Biden sweeping new powers to impose price caps on oil companies.
Though both parties acknowledge that prices are rising at an almost unprecedented rate, Republicans and Democrats have suggested very different causes for the sharp increase.
Democrats, for their part, have blamed the increase on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and on "price gouging" by oil and natural gas companies.
On May 12, Speaker Pelosi announced that Democrats would make an attempt to counter this alleged price gouging through a bill set to come to the floor later this week.
The bill, called the "Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act," would grant Biden the power to "issue an emergency energy declaration making it unlawful to increase gas and home energy prices in an exploitative and excessive way, which is part of the business plan of these companies," Pelosi said.
"While families are struggling to pay higher prices at the pump, oil and gas companies are recording record profits, with the seven largest oil companies announcing buybacks that could total $41 billion this year alone," Pelosi said.
"Again and again we see gas prices rise—sometimes when the price of oil drops," she continued. "Price gouging needs to be stopped. This is a major exploitation of the consumer because this is a product the consumer must have.
"Again, the Putin tax hike at the pump is a part of this, and you would think that the oil companies would compensate for that rather than exploit the opportunity ... So what this bill does—price gouging needs to be addressed, including new tools at the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] to address those abuses" in addition to the new powers it would grant the president.
In an email to the Epoch Times, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which advocates for policies that incentivize the extraction and refining of oil, blasted the proposed bill as "political posturing."
"On gas prices, Americans are looking for solutions, not political posturing," API Senior Vice President for Economics and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola said. "This is an industry of price takers, not price makers, and repeated in-depth investigations by the FTC have shown that changes in gasoline prices are based on market factors and not due to illegal behavior.
"The price at the pump that Americans are currently paying is a function of increased demand and lagging supply combined with geopolitical turmoil and policy uncertainty from Washington."
The bill, when brought to the floor, will likely glide through the House by a roughly party-line vote.
However, in the Senate, where most legislation must overcome a 60-vote filibuster threshold before it can move to a simple majority floor vote, the bill is likely to stall.