Energy & Environment

The four Democrats who bucked party and voted against gas price gouging bill

Four Democrats bucked party lines on Wednesday and voted against a bill that seeks to combat alleged gas price gouging.

The legislation, dubbed the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, passed the House in a 217-207 vote. All of those who voted for the bill were Democrats, and five Republicans did not vote.

Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) broke from the rest of the Democratic caucus and voted against the measure.

The bill aims to ban the sale of fuel at an “excessive” price during times that are considered an energy emergency, but it does not offer particulars on what that price threshold is. It also seeks to give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to pursue legal action if it discovers that price gouging is taking place.

Many economists and market analysts have said they do not see evidence of price gouging despite Democrats’ claims, arguing that the bill is a political gesture.

Democrats have said record profits recently posted by major oil companies as the country deals with high prices is evidence of “gouging.”

The bill comes as gas prices in the U.S. have skyrocketed. On Thursday, regular gasoline averaged about $4.59, according to AAA.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where it is unlikely to make it over the hurdle of GOP opposition.

Murphy in a statement on Thursday said the price-gouging bill “takes the wrong approach,” claiming that it “could further reduce supply” and worsen the current situation.

“At best, this bill is a distraction that won’t actually address the problem. At worst, it could make the problem more severe,” Murphy wrote.

She also cited comments from Larry Summers, who served as Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration. Summers said the bill would not reduce inflation, but could “cause and contrive all kinds of shortages.” 

Fletcher in a statement on Thursday said “this legislation is not the answer.”

“The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act would not fix high gasoline prices at the pump, and has the potential to exacerbate the supply shortage our country is facing, leading to even worse outcomes,” she wrote. “For these reasons, I voted no on this legislation today.”

Rice told The Hill in a statement that she objected to the bill because she is concerned that “it will not have any meaningful impact for consumers and could ultimately cause a chilling effect when we need to increase supply.”

In a statement, Golden argued that the FTC can already investigate companies that engage in anti-consumer behavior, citing President Biden’s previous request that the commission investigate gasoline prices. 

That request came before the latest spike, which has been largely driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Instead, Golden said Congress should consider suspending the federal gasoline tax. He also called for “collaboration” between the government and energy producers in the hopes of spurring a strategy to lower prices.

“I believe that my constituents want me to focus on solutions that can get sufficient support and make a real difference for them in the here and now,” Golden said.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), had indicated skepticism of the bill and said Wednesday that he was “leaning no” but voted in favor of the bill on Thursday.

His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

-Updated at 4:54 p.m.

Tags gas prices Jared Golden Larry Summers Price gouging Stephanie Murphy Vicente Gonzalez

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