Every American taxpayer would get a $100 rebate check to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline, under an amendment Senate Republicans hope to bring to a vote Thursday.
However, the GOP energy package may face tough sledding because it also includes a controversial proposal to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration, which most Democrats and some moderate Republicans oppose.
Democrats are also expected to offer their own competing proposal, as members of both parties jockey for political position on the gas price issue.
The energy package, sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, will be offered as an amendment to an emergency spending measure now before the Senate funding the Iraq war and hurricane relief, according to a senior GOP leadership aide.
Under Senate rules, either the GOP amendment or the Democratic alternative would probably need 60 votes to pass, which is considered unlikely. However, the amendments would give senators a change to cast votes on measures designed to help constituents being hit by high gas prices.
As outlined by the senior GOP leadership aide, the energy package would give taxpayers a $100 rebate, repeal tax incentives for oil companies and allow the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute retailers unlawfully inflating the price of gasoline.
The measure would also give the Transportation Department authority to issue fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles, expand tax incentives for the use of hybrid vehicles and push for more research into alternative fuels and expansion of existing oil refineries.
The GOP senators are also calling on the Bush administration to suspend deposits into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for six months to increase the nation's oil supply. President Bush announced Tuesday that he would halt new deposits into the reserve until after the summer driving season. (Full story)
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats on Wednesday called for a new energy bill and federal legislation to punish price gougers.
"There's no reason why we can't put forth a real energy policy that addresses the needs of this nation," said Rep. Bart Stupak, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, "from gouging to market manipulation to biofuels. We can do it." (Full story)
And leaders of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday asked the Internal Revenue Service to let them examine the tax returns of the nation's 15 largest oil and gas companies, as part of a "comprehensive review" of oil industry profits.
"I want to make sure the oil companies aren't taking a speed pass by the tax man," said Grassley, the committee's chairman, in a written statement. (Full story)