House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Bush on Tuesday to draw down a portion of the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a way to reduce crude prices and help motorists who are suffering from the rising cost of gasoline.
The House Republican leadership responded to Pelosi's proposal by noting that she was supporting a supply increase — something the Republicans have rallied behind in the form of increased offshore drilling, which the Democrats oppose.
Pelosi's proposal, contained in a letter to President Bush, comes as Americans continue to face average unleaded gas prices over $4 a gallon. The increases have followed a surge in the price of crude oil on world markets, though crude eased $5 on Tuesday to close at $136 a barrel for the day.
"The severe energy price crisis facing millions of Americans compels strong presidential action to assist consumers and strengthen the economy," Pelosi said in her letter, which asked Bush to "draw down a small portion" of the country's oil reserve.
Pelosi cited historical examples of such moves in times of uncertainty, from the elder President Bush's use of some of the reserve's oil leading up to the first Gulf war to a similar measure by President Clinton in 2000 to address the threat of a home-heating oil crisis.
She also noted that Bush drew down on the reserve in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and since then the reserve has increased to 702 million barrels, or 97 percent full.
Last month, President Bush called on Congress to repeal the 27-year-old ban on new offshore drilling to address the fuel crisis, a proposal that gained no traction with the Democratic leadership.
House Minority Leader John Boehner said he agrees "more supply is necessary," which is why Republicans "have been arguing for decades in favor of more American energy production."
Pelosi's proposal doesn't go far enough, Boehner said.
"Republicans stand ready to work across the aisle on a real solution to our energy crisis: an all-of-the-above plan that increases production of American energy, encourages conservation and promotes alternative fuels," he said in a written statement.