White House Watch: GOP defensive on fuel prices
With Republicans fearing a widespread backlash this winter over high fuel prices, a White House spokesman signaled the GOP's defensive posture when he told U.S. News that Democrats have continually blocked needed energy legislation. Look to hear more and more of this argumentthat Democrats have blocked Bush's energy programs for a good four-plus yearscoupled with the idea that the president will continue to work with congressional Republicans to help Americans with their energy needs. Democrats contend that the Bush energy legislation, even if passed, would not affect short-term energy pricing.
But Republican insiders are increasingly nervous that the issue of high prices for home heating oil and natural gas will hit them hard this winter. This will come on top of the soaring gasoline prices of this past summer, which have already sparked widespread voter discontent.
"People are going to have a tough winter," says Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. "And they are going to come out of the winter months angry."
Democrats argue that the GOP has done little or nothing to alleviate the economic pain stemming from rising energy prices, and they hope to ride the issue into the 2006 midterm elections when the Democrats hope to recapture the House or the Senate. They say last week's congressional testimony from oil-company executives who defended their industry's high profits will further alienate voters.
Bush is also urging oil company executives to invest in new energy technologies, keep energy prices as reasonable as possible, and help lower-income people meet their home-heating needs this winter.
"The president wants to make sure they [oil companies] do their part," says the White House spokesman.