September 19, 2006

Senate Majority Blocks Gas Price Relief by Stopping Wyden OPEC Resolution

Senator's legislation calls on president to pressure OPEC to increase production

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today called for immediate consideration of his resolution calling on President Bush to pressure OPEC nations to increase oil production. Senate Republicans subsequently moved to block debate on the measure. The resolution (S. Res. 330) , which Wyden introduced on Friday, mirrors legislation authored in 2000 by the current U.S. Energy Department secretary, then-U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), and the current U.S. Attorney General, then-U.S. Senator John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), calling on the Clinton administration to pressure OPEC for higher output to stabilize oil prices. Republicans objected this morning to consideration of the Wyden resolution, preventing immediate debate and passage on the Senate floor. "Every president should be willing to stand up to OPEC and to the Saudis to protect American consumers from higher gas prices," said Wyden. "The Senate should say on a bipartisan basis, today, that the president should turn up the heat on OPEC and help reduce the pressure on the budgets of American families." The 2000 Abraham-Ashcroft resolution (S. Res. 263) called on President Clinton to "communicate to … [OPEC] and non-OPEC countries that participate in the cartel of crude oil producing countries … the position of the United States in favor of increasing world crude oil supplies so as to achieve stable crude oil prices." It saw quick action and passed the Senate unanimously during the 106th Congress. The Wyden resolution makes the same request of President Bush. As a candidate for president in 2000, then-Governor Bush stated that President Clinton should "get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, ‘We expect you to open your spigots.'" Last Thursday, Secretary Abraham testified before Congress that President Bush had contacted OPEC leaders about the cartel's planned production cut, but would not specify whether the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the largest OPEC member, were among those contacted. On the same day, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Reuters news organization that he was not contacted. Wyden remains hopeful that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the committee to which S. Res. 330 was referred, will act quickly on the legislation, as the committee did in 2000 on the Abraham-Ashcroft resolution.