WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) joined a group of her Democratic Senate colleagues at a press conference today to call for immediate relief for consumers at the gas pumps, following no real solution from the White House to help ease the burden.
"We need to make sure farmers can put fuel in their tractors, that watermen and fishermen can put gasoline in their tanks to go out to do their jobs, and that we can keep industry and trucks rolling," said Senator Mikulski. "Where is President Bush? This administration has no answer. But we do."
Senator Mikulski vowed to support legislation from her Democratic colleagues to immediately help consumers handle gas price spikes. She also reiterated her previous calls for strict action against gas gougers and a bipartisan energy summit to address skyrocketing prices.
To hear and/or broadcast Senator Mikulski's remarks from today, call (800) 511-0763 and, when prompted, enter actuality number 7571 or download a high-quality mp3 at:
Senator Mikulski's statement as delivered is below:
"I'm here to stand up for the little guy and to say that we Democrats are ready to keep America rolling. America needs to keep rolling in terms of commuters being able to go to work at affordable prices. We need to make sure farmers can put fuel in their tractors, that watermen and fishermen can put gasoline in their tanks to go out to do their jobs and we can keep industry and trucks and so on rolling. We know that we are facing a crisis.
"We look first at our consumers, and we know that the price of gas is skyrocketing off the chart. In my own home state of Maryland, gas has gone up as much as 50, 60 cents a gallon. Who needs to play the lotto or slots - go to your local gas station and watch the numbers change. But instead of coming up with three cherries, you come up with three lemons.
"When it costs you over $63 to fill up a tank of gas, $90 to fill up the tank of that minivan so the soccer moms can be out and about raising America's families. But instead of being able to concentrate on raising their families, families are gripped by the fear of rising gas prices. We know that for the trucks delivering fruits and vegetables to the markets, prices will go up. Even delivering Meals on Wheels will soon be a reach for a volunteer. So we Democrats want to make sure we keep America rolling and help roll back these prices that we see.
"Where is President Bush? Well, this is kind of Katrina goes gas prices. Too little, too late. And not on top of the game. In September of last year, when gas prices were high, I joined with colleagues here. Senator Pryor and I asked for an FTC investigation on rising prices and was there gas gouging? And we're going to have that answer in a couple of weeks. We reached out to President Bush and said 'convene a jaw-bone conference and get all the oil industry into the room to deal with prices,' to deal with the problem. No answer.
"When the Democrats reached out to George Bush to hold a bipartisan summit, no answer.
"When we said 'how are we going to deal with this problem in the long run, through innovation and discovery and rewarding tax breaks to find new resources in energy and new ideas,' no answer.
"Well, I think we've got the answer now. This administration has no answer. But we do.
"I've joined with my colleagues to ask for the President to have a bipartisan summit on energy. I'm ready to be the red, white and blue party. But while we're waiting for that, we know Americans can't wait.
"I'm going to support the amendments offered by my colleagues. We need to also make sure now that we have to go after the gougers and this means stronger enforcement authority, enforcing the laws on the books, using the Mikulski-Pryor study to get facts so that we can pinpoint and enforce. And at the same time, go after the gougers at the wholesale level so we're not talking about the little guy who runs a gas station for the Marina.
"When we talk about going after the gougers, I believe we need not only enforcement. I want to see a windfall profits tax. I would like to see us pass it in an emergency way and then the constituents can say 'how does that put money back into my pocketbook?' Well, I think we ought take the windfall profits, channel it back the way Senator Menendez has talked about.
"But also I would like to use the windfall profit tax to subsidize health care so that we could at least get some break to the consumer. Let's take some of that windfall money and close the coverage gap in Part D. Let's give small businesses tax breaks to provide health care to their employees. We've got to give consumers a breather. Otherwise our economy is going to collapse under us.
"Third question is to the President 'what happened to Iraqi oil, Mr. President? What happened to Iraqi oil? You said Iraqi oil was going to pay for the bill for the war.' Ain't seen no money, ain't seen no oil. We were going to have an unlimited, reliable source of energy coming from Iraq. What happened to the Iraqi oil?
"Let's get together for the long-range solutions to come up with innovation and discovery to have new ideas and new products for energy conservation and new sources of energy.
"We want to keep America rolling. They don't have answers. We have answers and we're ready to get them out on the Senate floor and show the American people Democrats know what we're doing. Democrats should be in the drivers' seat. That's the way to keep America running."