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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor that highlighted the fact that middle class families are struggling with soaring gas prices at a time when oil company profits are hitting record highs. In the speech, Senator Murray derided Republican policies that have awarded oil companies with tax breaks and special favors while all but ignoring average Americans.

The full text of Senator Murray's speech follows:

Mr. President, as I speak today, millions of Americans are struggling to hold onto their homes in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.  Thousands have lost their jobs – just in the last couple of months.  And millions more are finding it harder just to get by – because sky-high oil prices are forcing families to pay more at the pump, more at the grocery store, and more in their power bills.

Yet while working families are scrimping, the economic downturn hasn’t even registered for one segment of America – big oil.  The major oil companies report their profits this week.  And they are seeing record increases.  Conoco-Phillips reported first-quarter profits of $4.1 billion – beating their previous record by $600 million.  And Shell and BP are also reporting huge gains.

Mr. President, Americans don’t have to look very hard to figure out where the responsibility lies – why oil companies are seeing their profits soar – while working families are watching their bank accounts bottom out.  Over the last seven and a half years, Republicans have backed an energy policy that does little but give oil companies tax breaks and special favors.  And middle class families are paying the price.

In the first month of the Bush Administration, oil prices averaged $29.50 a barrel.  Almost eight years later, the price has quadrupled – it’s almost $120 a barrel this week.  When President Bush first took office, Americans were paying just $1.46 a gallon to fill up their gas tanks.  Last week, gas prices averaged a whopping $3.60 a gallon.  

Washington State has been Hit Hard

Mr. President, in my home state of Washington, drivers are paying even more – a gallon of gas costs $3.70 in Seattle.  And in Bellingham – up near the Canadian border – gas is almost $3.80.  Families across Washington state tell me they are cutting back on everything from shopping errands to summer vacations.  And they’re angry that they have to pinch pennies, while oil companies are making record profits.

When I travel around Washington state, gas prices are the one of the first things people want to talk about.  And they have written me countless letters asking for help.  For example, a stay-at-home mom from Yakima, Washington, wrote me that she worries every day because her husband has starting riding a motorcycle to work – instead of his car – in order to save money on gas.  

She wrote: “It is unnerving to think of him riding his motorcycle after working a 10-plus hour shift….  It does not seem fair that my middle class family has to choose between paying the doctor – or putting gas in the car – while oil companies are making record profits.”

And high gas prices aren’t just affecting drivers.  Industries from shipping to trucking to commercial fishing are hurting.  And our farmers are especially concerned.  We have thousands of farmers in Washington state – who grow everything from apples to wheat.  They have to plow their fields and harvest their crops.  Cutting back isn’t an option.  And they have no choice but to absorb the cost of fuel.

One woman – from southern Washington farming community of Goldendale – wrote me that she and her husband are finding it hard just to pay for groceries.

She wrote, “We, the little people, are struggling.  Meanwhile, the gas companies are still netting billions.  When is it going to stop?   Something needs to be done to stop the nonsense.”  

Republicans Say Oil Prices Would be Higher Without Tax Breaks

Now, Mr. President, Republicans have supported their energy policy of tax breaks for the oil companies because – they say – oil prices would be higher without them.

But even President Bush has said that isn’t true.  In April 2006, he said that:  “Congress has got to understand that these energy companies don’t need unnecessary tax breaks like the write-offs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures – or the use of taxpayers’ monies to subsidize energy companies’ research into deep-water drilling.”

And the reality is that not only have Republicans allowed oil companies to make record profits while gas prices have soared.  But their policies have also made us more dependent on foreign oil than ever before – putting our economy and our national security at risk.  The amount of money we have sent to OPEC countries – like Saudi Arabia – has skyrocketed from $41 billion to $140 billion since 2001.  And just this week, the president of OPEC said oil prices could go as high as $200 a barrel.

Republicans Aren’t Credible

Mr. President, for the past several days we’ve seen a parade of Republican senators out on this floor complaining about high gas prices.  In many cases, they’ve blamed Democrats for failing to address the crisis over the past 16 months.  They bring out charts that show the price of gas when Democrats took over Congress, and the price now.  And they ask us all to simply forget the real reason for this crisis: the misguided energy policy this Administration has pursued for years.  

But the American people won’t forget.  They won’t forget that it was this Administration that asked oil and gas companies to write their energy plan.  They won’t forget that the only real idea coming from the other side is to drill our way out of the problem.  And they won’t forget that this is an Administration closer to the oil and gas industry than any in history.  

We won’t forget either, and that’s why we’re fighting for change.  We’ve already won higher fuel economy standards and new investments in renewable energy sources.  But we need to do more.  Because Americans know we can’t rely on big oil to solve our energy problems.  

This is a Failure of Philosophy

But Mr. President, energy policy isn’t the only area where Republicans have put special interests ahead of American families.  For seven and a half years, President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have chosen to stand by while our highways have crumbled, while hundreds of thousands of our veterans go homeless each night, and while millions of our families are struggling just to keep a roof over their heads.

In the last year, the new Democratic Majority has had to fight Republicans and the Administration for resources to address everything from veterans’ health care to the foreclosure crisis.  And I think the legacy of this Administration is going to be nothing but red ink and broken promises.

Democrats are Fighting for a Long-term Solution

Mr. President, people in my home state of Washington are worried about the future.  They want to be sure that their children will have economic security.  And they want a solution to our energy problems that will keep us safe and protect our environment for the long-term.

Democrats have been fighting for policies that will help cut gas prices, create jobs, and that keep our air and water clean – and our nation secure.  And we’re going to keep up that fight – but it isn’t going to be easy.  Republicans and the oil companies aren’t going just going to give up on the status quo.

Still, I hope Republicans will see that Americans have had enough.  And I hope they’ll join us as we invest in America’s future, and put working families first again.