WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans blocked action yesterday on legislation proposed by the Democrats to curb speculation in energy markets and reduce record oil prices.
The measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, didn't get the 60 votes required to end debate and bring it to a final vote. The tally was 50-43.
Republicans want to be able to debate numerous amendments to the legislation, including expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Reid, of Nevada, said the Republicans were trying to talk the legislation to death. He proposed limited amendments, with the goal of moving the measure before Congress leaves for its August break.
"It looks increasingly unlikely that the Senate will move Reid's aggressive antispeculation measure before the August recess," Christine Tezak, analyst for Stanford Group Co. in Washington, said in a note yesterday.
Speculators are being blamed by Democrats for 30 to 50 percent of the cost of oil.
Crude oil futures hit a record $147.27 a barrel on July 11 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and average US pump prices for gasoline hit a record the same week. Crude has since dropped about 16 percent, and fell $2.23 a barrel yesterday to $123.26, a seven-week low.