Legislation by Democrats that would expand the Federal Trade Commission’s powers to investigate whether Big Oil is gouging consumers at the pump hit a snag in the House on Monday evening due to a lack of votes in the full chamber.
Democratic leaders were forced to pull the proposal from consideration during a procedural vote in the House Rules Committee that would have teed up the bill for a final vote later this week.
Moderate and electorally-vulnerable Democrats have for weeks questioned how the measure, which would broaden the FTC’s authority to probe whether energy corporations are taking advantage of drivers amid an energy crunch that’s been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, would actually lower gas prices that continue to reach new highs.
The national average reached another record Monday of $4.48 per gallon, according to AAA.
House Democrats had hoped to pass the legislation Thursday.
The Rules Committee could reconsider advancing it as early as Tuesday, but it is not clear whether that will give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and her deputies enough time to win over her entire caucus in the narrowly divided chamber.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has said he plans to bring the bill to the floor if and when it passed the House.
However, it is doomed to fail in the upper chamber because Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.
The intent of the messaging votes, Democratic leaders have said, is to force Republicans on the record about where they stand. But Monday night’s hiccup could mean they scrap a final vote on their own bill to avoid placing vulnerable members in a tight spot.
During a spirited debate on the price gouging legislation in the House Rules Committee on Monday, lawmakers spent hours lobbing criticisms back-and-forth at one another.
Republicans rolled out a new line of attack that the proposal was akin to “socialism” because it seeks to regulate a free market.
“Democrats are following the lead of Soviet Russia, Venezuela and failing to learn from our own history,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican.
Democrats defended the bill as a necessary fix to a problem that has arisen from greedy fossil-fuel companies that are putting record profits and investors ahead of consumers.
“When the market is broken, that’s when Congress has to step in to protect American consumers. That’s what this bill does,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat.