House passes bill to crack down on alleged gas price gouging

The House of Representatives passed a bill along party lines Thursday that seeks to lower gas prices by cracking down on alleged price gouging by energy companies.

The House vote was 217-207: no Republican supported the bill, suggesting it’s likely headed for failure in the Senate.

The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act would grant the president authority to issue emergency energy proclamations and make it illegal to increase gas and energy prices in excessive and exploitative ways. It would also expand the Federal Trade Commission’s power to investigate and address possible price gouging by oil and gas companies.

Four House Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill: Reps. Jared Golden of Maine; Lizzie Fletcher of Texas; Stephanie Murphy of Florida; and Kathleen Rice, of New York.

In the days leading up to the vote, it was unclear whether the legislation would have enough support to pass, since some moderate Democrats were frustrated with the bill. Murphy, for instance, in an interview with CBS News Wednesday, argued it did little to address the forces driving inflation, and instead could vilify oil and gas companies in a way that would backfire, resulting in less production.

“The American people don’t need political gimmicks,” the Florida congresswoman said. “They need actual relief, and there’s a host of things that we can do that would deliver immediate relief for the inflation issues.”

Democrats in Texas, the nation’s top energy producing state, were also wary of the bill. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez told CBS News on Tuesday he feared the legislation could be targeting the industry unfairly — without proof of actual price gouging.

“It just, you know, seems like we’re treating oil and gas like Big Tobacco, and sometimes they’re unjustly targeted. And that’s something that’s really concerning,” Gonzalez said. He ultimately supported the bill.

Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, of California, and Washington Rep. Kim Schrier sponsored the bill and hailed its passage Thursday.

“I’m a proud capitalist, and what we’re experiencing with fuel prices is the result of a broken market,” Porter said in a statement. “Big Oil executives are bragging to shareholders about price gouging families at the pump. They’re purposely keeping supply low to earn record-high profits, squeezing families — and our entire economy— in the process.”

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