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Republicans “kept up the drumbeat” on gas prices yesterday, with the White House “playing defense” as the president tried to use a speech to shift attention away from his failure to keep gas prices in check:

Republicans, who launched a coordinated assault on the administration over gas prices earlier this week, kept up the drumbeat on Thursday.  ‘American families and small businesses continue to struggle, and they're especially feeling the impact of rising gas prices, which have doubled under President Obama,’ House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters in his weekly briefing.  In the other chamber, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) took to the floor to make the GOP case in the wake of Obama's speech.  ‘It's clear that the president is defensive on this issue,’ said Barrasso, who also blamed Obama for a doubling of gas prices.” (The Huffington Post, 3/1/12)

The president’s defensive posture has been amplified by members of his administration and his party, who are “worried” and “growing anxious” about the pain at the pump.  Democrats are rattled, and it shows from the decidedly uncoordinated way they’ve been handling this issue:

  • Exhibit A: On Tuesday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged at a House hearing that the Obama administration’s goal is not to lower gas prices.   Asked about the comment, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he wasn’t aware of it

  • Exhibit B: Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) endorsed tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but her No. 2, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), said it would be a bad idea – as did President Obama in a lunch with congressional leaders.

  • Exhibit C: President Obama called for a vote on higher energy taxes to put “Congress on record” but seemed to have forgotten the Senate easily defeated the plan last year on a bipartisan basis.  What’s more, Democrats have already acknowledged that it won’t do anything to ease the pain at the pump.  If anything, it would lead to higher prices, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

  • Exhibit D: President Obama felt compelled to deliver two speeches on energy, a defensive move exposed as such by several outlets.   “White House playing defense on gas prices…“ NBC’s Andrea Mitchell tweeted while the president was still at the podium.  Reuters noted that the administration “has been at pains to say it is doing everything it can to bring down costs.”  The main idea in the speech, the Los Angeles Times pointed out, was “nothing new.”

  • Exhibit E: White House press secretary Jay Carney brushed off calls to approve the Keystone XL pipeline as “insulting,” while President Bill Clinton said “we should embrace” the project and the 20,000 jobs that go with it.    
  • Exhibit F: Instead of calling for more American production – and more American jobs – Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) embarrassingly suggested to the Secretary of State that we urge Saudi Arabia to boost its oil production.   Few Democrats echoed the plea.

Democrats do seem to be united on the point that they are on the defensive here.  On Tuesday, No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-MD) conceded to reporters that he’s “concerned about the impact it has on the administration.”  His counterpart in the Senate, Dick Durbin, told a local Chicago outlet that “no question there’s a linkage” between skyrocketing gas prices and opinions of the president’s leadership. 

All week, Republicans “have hammered the White House on energy” and the offensive continues this weekend with Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, delivering the Weekly Republican Address on gas prices and job creationThe Bellingham Herald notes that Hastings “will talk about GOP efforts to increase energy production and criticize Democrats ‘for policies that have contributed to higher gas prices.’”  Check back at Speaker.gov tomorrow morning to watch the address and offer your comments.