Rep. Jeffries says oil execs must show 'patriotism' and cut prices, as GOP says Dems 'own this energy crisis'

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House Democrats Tuesday doubled down on blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and "price gouging" oil executives for high gas prices, as Republicans said President Biden's energy policies are at fault. 

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, urged oil and gas executives to "show some patriotism" by passing some of their "record profits" down to the everyday consumers with lower gas prices. 

In back-to-back press conferences, House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and House GOP Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., laid out their cases for who is responsible for high gas prices. (Reuters / Reuters)

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The comments at back-to-back Capitol news conferences Tuesday capture the competing narratives on the cause of high gas prices ahead of a closely watched House hearing with oil and gas executives. 

Average nationwide gas prices are $4.176 per gallon, not far off from the record of $4.331 set on March 11, according to AAA.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / Getty Images)

House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats will hold a hearing on Wednesday titled "Gouged at the gas station: Big oil and America's pain at the pump." Executives from BP, Chevron Corp., Shell USA, ExxonMobil Corp. and more will testify. 

Jeffries said this week Democrats will show the full story on rising gas prices, placing blame on both "Putin's price hike" and "price gouging" at the pump.

He said oil and gas executives are taking their profits and reinvesting them in the shareholder class as opposed to the consumer class.

"I think it's important for American corporations – as we've seen others do – to show some patriotism and to stand on the side of everyday Americans," Jeffries said Tuesday when asked to preview the hearing.  

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"I think there'll be an opportunity to explore with these gas and oil executives what that kind of patriotism should look like," Jeffries continued. "At minimum, it should involve ensuring that perhaps there's some relief that consumers and everyday Americans experience in the form of lower gas prices, given the incredible record profits that oil and gas companies are making right now."

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise speaks at a news conference on the steps of the Capitol on July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

But Republicans have been beating the drum that Biden's policies – including canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and freezing new oil and gas leases on federal lands – started driving up the gas prices prior to the war on Ukraine. 

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House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said increasing energy prices predate the Russia-Ukraine war and aren't the fault of energy companies. 

"We will see Democrats try to pass the buck again in their hearing tomorrow, where they attempt to blame American oil producers and Russia for high gas prices," Stefanik said. "But make no mistake, the American people are smart. Joe Biden and House Democrats own this energy crisis."

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Biden is harming American interests with his policies and pushed back on Jeffries' "patriotic" comments. 

"It's not patriotic to shut off American energy and one of the reasons that the prices are so high is because President Biden artificially limited the ability for America to produce energy," he said. 

The hearing will kick off at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

One topic that both Republicans and Democrats are expected to address is why there is not more domestic oil and gas production. Fossil fuel companies hold more than 9,000 approved, but unused, permits for drilling on public lands and waters.

The White House says if there was a desire to drill more, companies would be using their current leases. 

President Joe Biden (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"We're going to also be asking some of the myths that are out there like the 9,000 permits that President Biden wants to talk about," Scalise said. "Oil companies aren't sitting on those leases in many cases, what we hear from them is that they can't produce the leases that they have, because every federal regulatory agency is blocking their ability to actually go drill in America."

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Aside from regulatory issues, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said the land where the leases are held may not be rich with oil.

"[We] want to ask the CEOs why they're not producing those and let them explain," Duncan said. "Every lease that you buy, you're speculating. There's not water under every square inch of your yard and there's not oil under every square inch of a lease sale."

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