WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has quietly tasked members of his caucus with crafting a bill he can move quickly to a vote to help give relief from soaring gas prices.
As the price of crude oil hovers near $120 a barrel and thousands of truck drivers descended on Washington, D.C., Monday demanding relief from the soaring prices, FOX News learned that Reid, D-Nev., is looking to get the support of a majority of Democrats behind a bill that amalgamates proposals supported by a variety of senators.
The going has not been smooth putting together this bill, even on such a popular topic. A senior Democratic leadership aide said the bill is still in its infancy despite nearly two weeks of trying.
"It's become a kitchen sink. They've been trying to put this thing together for awhile, and there's still no agreement," the aide said.
"We're still in discussions about what exactly will be in it," Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told FOX News.
A lot of proposals are coming in to Reid, who is accepting ideas from freezing additions to the underground Strategic Petroleum Reserve to get-tough measures on price-gouging and energy market manipulation.
Not expected to be included in the final product is the renewable fuels mandate trumpeted in last year's energy bill. Popular tax credits will also have to wait, said a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said despite the disagreement on what will be included, Reid is confident Democrats will "put together a carefully targeted package designed to deal with the rising cost of energy in this country."
Democrats are expected to discuss a way forward in their weekly party policy lunch on Tuesday.
Among those championing stopping the SPR stockpiling effort is Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who frequently complains that it's not in the nation's interest for the Department of Energy to continue to put nearly 70,000 barrels of oil into the reserve. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said recently he would support this measure.
McCain has also proposed a gas tax holiday in which the U.S. would suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day to provide immediate relief at the pump. He is joined by Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, although Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., opposes it.
Another item under consideration for Reid's bill is a demand that the Bush administration put pressure on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC-member nations to increase oil supplies and bring down prices. Several Democrats last week warned that Congress will block military sales to those countries unless they open up the spigots.
Meanwhile, Republicans on both sides of Congress have been coordinating messages on gas prices, hammering the Democrats for not coming up with solutions while gas prices skyrocket on their watch.
But Manley hit back, saying, "It's no surprise more hasn't been done when the Bush-Cheney secret energy task force made up of oil and energy company lobbyists has been fighting efforts to deal with the gas price issue every step of the way. After years of putting the interests of the oil industry ahead of our national and economic security, it's hopefully time for the White House and Republicans to get serious about energy."
Despite the effort, a similar bill is unlikely in the House, said a senior House Democratic aide, who applauded the Senate movement.
"We've done a number of energy bills already to lower prices and the speaker called on the president to not fill the SPR. We are pleased the Senate will take action on some of our bills," the aide said.
FOX News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.