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Memorial Day Means a Gas Price Event at Congressional Exxon

Schumer-led effort calls on Trump to push OPEC, oil executives to slash prices

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Maria Cantwell were among the Democrats at an Exxon station at Massachusetts Avenue and Second Street Northeast on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Maria Cantwell were among the Democrats at an Exxon station at Massachusetts Avenue and Second Street Northeast on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

With Memorial Day weekend and summer driving season approaching, it was time once again for lawmakers to descend on a familiar Capitol Hill landmark.

This time, it was Senate Democrats making the pilgrimage to the Exxon station at the corner of Second Street and Massachusetts Avenue Northeast to decry policies behind rising gas prices.

“President Trump can take action today to help alleviate the pain at the pump for Americans. It’s time for this president to stand up to OPEC on behalf of the forgotten man and woman he promised to remember,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, referring to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. 

“He’s palling around with the Saudis and UAE and all these other oil-rich countries,” the New York Democrat said, standing in front of the gas station’s sign showing $3.89 a gallon for regular unleaded. “Why doesn’t he ask them to lower their prices so that the prices at the pump can be lower?”

Watch: Schumer Calls on Trump to Address ‘Soaring’ Gas Prices

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It was by no means Schumer’s first time standing on that particular street corner, and the photos from past events show the extent to which the prices have fluctuated over the years.

04/26/06--Senate Assistant Minority Leader Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., after a news conference at the Congressional Exxon near the U.S. Capitol, to
Schumer and Sen. Richard J. Durbin appear in front of the Exxon sign in April 2006. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When Schumer stopped by with Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin and others back in 2006, the per gallon price was a then-remarkable $3.09.

It’s not just Democrats who have made use of the gas station closest to the Capitol campus. Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert led a 2005 trip to the very same Exxon to tout the House GOP’s 2005 energy policy bill.

04/21/05.HOUSE REPUBLICANS ON ENERGY BILL--House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., during a news conference with House Republicans on the energy bill at the Congressional Exxon on Massachusetts Avenue near the U.S. Capitol..CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY PHOTO BY SCOTT J. FERRELL
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert leads an April 2005 news conference at the Congressional Exxon. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The prices at the Senate-side Exxon station are notoriously high, even by Washington, D.C., standards. Regular unleaded was selling for about $3.09 a gallon in Columbia Heights and $3.30 a gallon in Georgetown Wednesday.

But Wednesday, the focus was on the cost of gasoline under Trump, not his Oval Office predecessors.

“It’s time for the president to buck his oil executive buddies who cash in when oil prices are high, and  stand up for working Americans. Remember, this is the same president who tweeted multiple times that President Obama was to blame for rising gas prices,” Schumer said.

Democrats want to Trump to take a multipronged approach. They want him to push energy executives to use funds from the 2018 overhaul of the tax code to benefit consumers, and to push members of OPEC to boost production.

“You don’t need to be Robert Mueller to know that collusion is going on between Russia and OPEC to boost prices, and Donald Trump is doing nothing about it,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey said.

And Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, connected gas prices to a vacancy at the State Department.

“While the president claims to have great relationships with some of the leaders of the world’s largest oil-producing countries in the Gulf, he has done nothing to pressure those countries to lift their cap on output. He has not even nominated an ambassador to Saudi Arabia to advocate on behalf of the American people,” Menendez said. “Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Russia continue to coordinate on cutting down the supply of oil and making prices higher for American families.”

A series of proposals released in conjunction with Wednesday’s event included a call for the Trump administration to jettison an effort to unravel some enhanced fuel economy standards.

But since all politics is local, not every Democrat is decrying the higher oil prices that are also driving up the price at the pump.

“It’s certainly good for North Dakota, and I think that it will help drive domestic production, which I think is a great stabilizer,” Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said of the potential effect of $80-a-barrel crude oil on her home state, a key producer.

Heitkamp said in a Wednesday morning appearance on CNBC that she believes prices could actually be driven higher if not for domestic capacity. 

“I think we would see shortages drive those prices up. Anything that encourages the growth of our domestic drilling industry is good for North Dakota, but I think ultimately it is good for the country when we’re looking at energy security,” she said.

Alex Gangitano contributed to this report.

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