Congressional Republicans are more interested in exploiting soaring gasoline prices for political gain than they are in providing immediate emergency relief for suffering American motorists. While lamenting drivers' plight at the pump and heaping the blame on President Obama, the GOP lawmakers have displayed their true intentions in a bill recently introduced in the Senate.
The legislation was crafted by Senators David Vitter of Louisiana, Richard Lugar of Indiana and John Hoeven of North Dakota. It would ban the President from releasing any oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to depress the price at the pump unless he first approved a permit for the controversial Keystone XL Oil Pipeline from Canada.
Isn't that great, denying immediate help for beleaguered motorists until certification of a pipeline that could not supply oil until two years hence; would send most of its product overseas; and perhaps most damningly of all, is projected to increase the price of gasoline.
It is patently clear that the legislation is all about forcing Obama into the awkward pre-election position of having to choose between elements of his political base divided over the pipeline's merits. Despite all their handwringing, Republican lawmakers don't seem to care a jot about the misery of the motoring public other than to use it as a political cudgel to pound Obama.
The Republicans' single-minded preoccupation with defeating the president in November has been on display since his first day in office. It has even gotten to the point where Republicans have turned around and opposed their own proposals when Obama has chosen to adopt them.
There is precedent for Obama releasing some oil from the 695 million barrel reserve. Both Presidents Bush as well as Bill Clinton, and Obama himself have done so in a crunch, with the result that oil prices dropped quickly in the short term anywhere from eight to 33 percent and lowered the tab at the pump accordingly.
With rampant Wall Street speculation and tensions over Iran driving up the price of gas, some Democrats in Congress are urging the president once again to consider withdrawal from the Reserve in order to keep the delicate economic recovery on track.
Tapping the Reserve would buy time until the global petroleum market settled down, but don't try to sell this dance to the Republicans. Right now, their quest to attain political power trumps patriotism.