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Ban on ‘Excessive’ Gasoline Prices Is Heading for House Vote

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(Bloomberg) -- The US Congress will vote next week on legislation barring “excessive” or “exploitative” fuel prices.

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The measure, which is unlikely to garner the Republican support needed to become law, would prohibit price increases during national energy emergencies declared by the president.

“Price gouging needs to be stopped,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday after announcing the bill. “This is a major exploitation of the consumer.”

It marks the latest attempt by Democrats to tame sky-high energy costs before facing inflation-weary votes at the polls in November. Retail gasoline prices has been rising for nearly three weeks, reaching new records for each of the past three days.

The Democrats now in control of Congress have sought to place blame for that on oil companies, which have reaped record profits since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent crude north of $100 a barrel. Instead of reinvesting those profits in new production that could bring prices down, companies have rewarded shareholders and increased share buybacks.

“The Putin tax-cut hike at the pump is a part of this,” Pelosi said. “And you would think that the oil companies would compensate for that rather than exploit the opportunity.”

The bill, called the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to issue penalties for price gouging, according to a summary of the legislation. It would prioritize penalizing larger companies, while protecting independently owned gas stations.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also said he plans to bring to the floor legislation beefing up the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to go after gasoline price manipulation. That effort is unlikely to draw the Republican support necessary to pass in the evenly divided Senate.

(Adds details about prices in fourth paragraph and more context throughout)

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