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CORRECTED: $100 gas rebate “insulting,” Boehner says

May 2, 2006

Please read in 4th paragraph “A separate Senate Republican
proposal…” instead of “The White House also officially
weighed in.”

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Senate Republican proposal to
offer a $100 check to taxpayers to offset high gas prices is
“insulting,” House Majority Leader John Boehner said on
Tuesday.

“The really insulting part of this whole proposal is the
fact that somebody is offering $100 to every American family
over this. This is not going to solve the problem,” Boehner
said at a press conference.

“I don’t like the proposal. And over the weekend I heard
back from my constituents. They thought it was stupid,” said
Boehner, an Ohio Republican.

A separate Senate Republican proposal would suspend a
federal retail tax on gasoline sales on a temporary basis.

The White House has said little about the specifics of the
Republican ideas.

But top White House economist Edward Lazear said cutting
gasoline taxes is “one of the policies that we would like to
avoid” because such reductions would encourage U.S. drivers to
use more gasoline rather than less.

“It would be a significant problem and it would move in
exactly the wrong direction,” Lazear said, though he added that
shorter-term tax cuts might have less of an impact.

Lazear, chairman of the White House Council of Economic
Advisers, was cautious on the $100 rebate idea and said the
administration would consider such question as whether it was a
good use of taxpayer funds.

With gasoline prices above $3 a gallon in many U.S. cities,
Boehner’s comments showed senior Republicans deeply split about
how to approach the issue. Lawmakers are fretting that voters
will vent their rage at high prices in November’s elections.

Senate Republicans proposed the $100 rebate last week in a
package that also included incentives to build refineries and
open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said the
proposal would give consumers a rebate equal to the tax they
pay on gasoline purchases over nine months.

“It was a way of trying to provide some help, some
temporary help at a time of gas price spikes this summer
driving season,” Santorum told reporters.

Republican leaders had hoped to attach the gasoline
proposal to an Iraq funding bill, but that plan has been
scrapped, Santorum said.

Some fellow Republicans say support for the measure is
flagging.

“If it is alive it has a weak pulse,” said Sen. Mel
Martinez, Florida Republican.

Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.
said he didn’t think the check would make much of a difference.

“It probably won’t change the way people are using energy,”
Tillerson told reporters after meeting with House Speaker
Dennis Hastert.

Boehner said the House would take up two energy bills this
week: one that deals with price gouging and another that would
encourage new refining capacity.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the chairman
of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would streamline
the process for approving new refineries, and encourage
refineries to be built on abandoned military bases.

That bill will likely see a vote on Wednesday, but will
require a two-thirds majority to win because it is being
considered under fast-track rules.

The House passed a similar bill last year, but it has
remained frozen in a Senate committee.

After that the House would take up bills dealing with
Alaska drilling, “boutique” fuels and incentives for hydrogen
fuel, Boehner said.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Chris Baltimore and
Caren Bohan)


Source: reuters



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