Media Prism: Repubs 'Block' Lower Gas Prices by Rejecting Tax Hike

The three broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage, of a Democratic Senate plan to somehow lower gas prices by imposing a “windfall profits” tax on oil companies which they would just pass on to consumers, around how Republicans “blocked” the effort. No one cast any doubt on the presumption the oil companies are earning “windfall” and/or “excessive” profits.

Fill-in NBC anchor Ann Curry's very short update: “Now to the high price of oil and gas. Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic plan to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies.” CBS's Katie Couric, who unlike Curry at least noted how “Republicans said it would have done nothing to lower the price of gas,” asserted: “Senate Republicans today blocked Democrats from slapping a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies.”

ABC twice displayed on screen text favorable to the liberal position: “Senate Republicans block Democratic plan to tax oil companies' windfall profits.” And: “Special tax for excessive oil profits.

“In Washington today,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson fretted, “instead of addressing the nation's concerns about high gas prices, the Senate killed a new energy bill.” Senate Democrats, he explained, “have proposed a windfall profits tax on big oil companies. Republicans blocked it, arguing it would do nothing really to bring down gas prices.”

Jake Tapper reported: “Killed on the Senate floor today, a Democratic energy bill that would have imposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies -- a special tax on excessive profits that oil companies don't reinvest in new energy sources.” In his story centered on partisan gridlock, Tapper at least recalled: “Today's vote came just a few weeks after a Republican energy plan was killed, a bill to open more areas of the U.S. to drilling -- for instance, in Alaska.”

With “OIL PROFITS” as the on-screen header, Ann Curry announced on the NBC Nightly News:
Now to the high price of oil and gas. Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic plan to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies. That news came on a wild day on the oil markets as prices first surged, then fell back, and then finished down just over $3 at $131.31 a barrel.
With “WINDFALL PROFITS TAX” on screen, Katie Couric relayed on the CBS Evening News:
Senate Republicans today blocked Democrats from slapping a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies. The Republicans said it would have done nothing to lower the price of gas which tonight is a nationwide average $4.04 a gallon. The Energy Department predicted today gas prices will top out in August when they'll average $4.15 a gallon.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, June 10 edition of ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: In Washington today, instead of addressing the nation's concerns about high gas prices, the Senate killed a new energy bill, and the partisan divisions were evident, and were deep. Senate Democrats have proposed a windfall profits tax on big oil companies. Republicans blocked it, arguing it would do nothing really to bring down gas prices. Our chief political correspondent, Jake Tapper, is on Capitol Hill tonight. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, consumers looking to Congress to do something today about this energy crisis should probably look elsewhere. Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: The American people are worried.

MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The price of oil is just scaring the American people to death.

SENATOR BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): The American people are furious about what's going on.

TAPPER: But they cannot agree on much else. Killed on the Senate floor today, a Democratic energy bill that would have imposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies -- a special tax on excessive profits that oil companies don't reinvest in new energy sources. The bill also would have given the Attorney General the ability to sue OPEC countries for price-fixing. The bill died on a largely party-line vote.

SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): I hope the people of this country rise up and scream like they've never screamed before. How dare us do nothing?

TAPPER: Today's vote came just a few weeks after a Republican energy plan was killed, a bill to open more areas of the U.S. to drilling -- for instance, in Alaska.

SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Anyone in America who is filling their gas tank must think that Congress is fiddling while Rome burns.

MCCONNELL: It is a supply and demand problem.

TAPPER: Energy analysts say the prices of oil and gas are not coming down anytime soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have a perfect storm of problems here that have come together -- security problems related to oil, environmental problems related to oil, and now price problems related to oil.

TAPPER: And yet, on Capitol Hill, gridlock.

SENATOR BERNARD SANDERS (I-VT): If this weren't so pathetic, it would really be funny.

TAPPER: Neither bill would have had any immediate impact on gas prices, which is, of course, what consumers are clamoring for, but experts were hoping that this crisis could prompt lawmakers to work together to come up with a bipartisan long-term solution. But, Charlie, that is not happening.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center