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Democrats Step Up Attacks on GOP Over Gas Prices

Updated: 3:08 p.m.

Democrats Thursday continued their full-court press against Republicans over the soaring price of gas, slamming the GOP for its financial ties to the oil industry.

While Democrats for days have been hitting the GOP over gas prices, their Senate and House campaign wings got into the act Thursday, seizing on statements by Speaker John Boehner that he would be open to eliminating some tax breaks for the oil industry.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took a playful tone Thursday, launching, which depicts Republicans as having a close relationship with oil companies. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called on supporters to sign an online petition calling on Congressional Republicans “to stop sending our money to oil corporations in the form of huge tax breaks.”

The heightened rhetoric over oil subsidies and rising gas prices comes at a time when the average gas price is hovering around $3.89 per gallon — a full dollar more than the same time last year — and Exxon Mobil Corp. announced first-quarter earnings of $10.7 billion, a 69 percent increase over the same period last year.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated her request for Boehner to schedule a floor vote to eliminate $4 billion in oil and gas tax subsidies.

“Two weeks after Republicans voted to end Medicare as we know it in order to give tax breaks to Big Oil, Exxon is now reporting soaring profits,” the California Democrat said in a statement Thursday.

Pelosi called out the Ohio Republican earlier this week after he indicated during an interview with ABC News that ending oil subsidies is “certainly something we should be looking at.” The comments prompted Pelosi to up the ante over energy policy, and she continued prodding the Speaker over the issue Thursday.

“There is no reason American taxpayers should subsidize Big Oil’s profits,” Pelosi said. “This week, Speaker Boehner said that oil companies should pay their fair share; it’s now time for him to make good on that statement and schedule a vote next week on ending taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil.”

Following their leader, 28 House Democrats penned a letter to Boehner on Thursday demanding he schedule a floor vote to end oil subsidies. Like Pelosi, the group of 28 lawmakers led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) seized on Boehner’s comments from earlier this week.

“We agree with you that, especially in an era of high gas prices and high profits, the big oil companies don’t need all of the generous subsidies that taxpayers currently provide,” the group wrote.

The missive from rank-and-file Democrats is the third sent to Boehner this week; both Pelosi and President Barack Obama have sent their own letters to the Speaker on the same issue. Obama’s letter, sent to a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders, noted that “we simply can’t afford” to issue oil subsidies; however, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday that the proposal outlined in Obama’s budget “would simply raise taxes and increase the price at the pump.”

House Republicans are also taking their own steps, lining up consideration next week of a bill that would expedite the permitting process for oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Republicans have hit the Obama administration on the issue since last year, when Obama enforced a temporary moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill. While Obama eventually lifted the deep-water drilling ban, Republicans have maintained the administration has not moved quickly enough to grant permits to oil companies, a message that freshman Rep. James Lankford (Okla.) will reiterate when he delivers the GOP response to the president’s weekly address Saturday.

The National Republican Congressional Committee launched its own media assault in March on energy policy, and in recent weeks, GOP lawmakers have asserted that Obama’s budget proposal would amount to tax increases for private industry.