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House Goes After Price Gougers

posted on May 25, 2007

The proposed guest worker plan would allow 600,000 workers -- mostly unskilled, non-agricultural laborers to work in the U.S. legally for up to three, two-year stints, provided they leave the U.S. for one year in between each stay.

Business groups say the leave-and-return element is unworkable, labor unions fear the plan would depress wages, and Hispanic advocacy groups say it unfairly denies workers the chance to stay in the U.S.

Even if the workers were to leave, higher transportation costs could be an issue. In fact, record gasoline prices are rippling throughout the economy.

But the price at the pump appears to be having little impact on the driving habits of U.S. motorists. According to the American Automobile Association, more than 38 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day holiday. That's up nearly two percent from last year and 84 percent of the travelers will drive.

House Goes After Price Gougers

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas reached a record $3.21 this week. Since the beginning of the year, gas prices have risen more than 30 percent. Feeling the pinch at the pump, consumers are looking to Uncle Sam for relief.

Hearing the complaints of a fuel-hungry nation, the House of Representatives came up with a plan. Early in the week, Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan sponsored a bill to provide stiff penalties for price gouging.

Bart Stupak, D-Michigan:"Despite the fact that crude oil was $7 cheaper per barrel than last year, gas prices are aproxiamately 50 percent higher."

No one will be exempt from scrutiny. Penalties range from $150 million for big oil companies down to $2 million and 10 years in jail for retailers.

After some debate, the teeth of the measure were dulled a bit. Passage came only after amendments requiring the president to first "declare an emergency" were adopted. Even with the narrow enforcement window the president likely will veto the legislation.

And the attack on high prices didn't stop there. In a 345-to-72 vote the House passed a measure allowing the government to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for price-fixing.

Even if the bill reaches President Bush's desk he isn't expected to sign this piece of legislation either. White House officials claim the measure might spawn retaliatory action that could disrupt oil supplies or lead to even higher prices.


Tags: Congress government news oil