With gas prices soaring, and DC politicos sharpening their political daggers, Ken Salazar is set to have a really awful month of May.
The government shutdown battle put the issue on the back burner even though prices at the pump have been rising steadily since February. Now, with President Barack Obama already on the defensive, the GOP is ready to pounce. House Republicans are planning bill introductions, hearings, markups and floor votes on legislation aimed at expanding domestic oil production in response to high gasoline prices.
The political risk of spiraling gas prices for an administration with an uninspiring record on energy isn't lost on the President's handlers.
Obama put his own flag in the ground this week, blaming speculators for soaring gas prices and calling for a $4 billion tax increase on oil and gas companies.
From Fox News:
At his town hall, Obama bemoaned the higher price "at a time when things were already pretty tough." He renewed his proposal to end roughly $4 billion annually in various government subsidies to oil and gas companies "at a time when they're making record profits and you're paying near record prices at the pump. It has to stop." But without congressional support for that plan, his primary tool right now appears to be the task force.
Obama's logic is, familiarly, disjointed. As if higher energy taxes will do anything other than make prices at the pump higher.
But Obama's political assault does not stop there. Obama is apparently ready to put oil and gas executives in jail too.
From the Miami Herald:
A regulator whose agency will participate said the task force isn't for public relations purposes alone. In the past when oil prices soared, prosecutors tried to make examples of gas station owners or middlemen profiting from high prices. This task force is looking at financial markets, and seeking much bigger targets.
"We are definitely looking at trading in the markets that isn't nickel-and-dime stuff. They're big enough that we would want the Justice Department involved. We would want people potentially to go to jail," said the regulator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about ongoing investigations.
The shrill rhetoric from Obama is proof positive that the White House is scared stiff about the politics of soaring gas prices. A big part of that fear no doubt stems from the well-known and well-documented incompetence of Ken Salazar — a record of failure in the Department of Interior that is about to receive a great deal of scrutiny as a new season of gas price politics begins.
As Salazar and Obama are not considered close and Salazar already has more than his fair share of failures to account for, we wouldn't be surprised if as Obama's re-election campaign heats up, he chucks Salazar to save his own political hide.