CRAWFORD, Texas - Responding to Americans' anger over gas prices and the housing bust, President Bush is stepping up pressure on Congress to open up offshore oil exploration and work to restore confidence in the housing finance industry.
"This is a challenging time for families across our nation," Bush said yesterday in his weekly radio address. "I know many families are worried about rising prices at the pump and declining home values."
Bush recently lifted an executive ban on offshore oil drilling. He said it is Congress' turn to act. "The only thing now standing between the American people and the vast oil resources of the Outer Continental Shelf is action from the United States Congress," he said.
With soaring gas prices, public opinion on energy issues is shifting in favor of a more permissive stance on drilling, though resistance remains to the idea of opening the Atlantic and Pacific coasts or the eastern Gulf off Florida's beaches to oil and gas companies.
There is unrelenting GOP pressure to open up the Outer Continental Shelf to exploration, and Bush kept the pressure on during his radio broadcast.
"The need for congressional action is urgent," he said. "The sooner Congress lifts the ban, the sooner we can get these resources from the ocean floor to the gas pump."
Democrats say they have a different plan to combat record-high gas prices, but that Bush and the Republicans in Congress are blocking it.
They also want the president to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a stockpile set aside for emergencies, and work with Democrats to crack down on Wall Street traders who are driving up oil prices by buying huge quantities of oil just to resell at a higher price.
"I don't know what President Bush thinks, but four-and-a-half dollar-a-gallon gas is an emergency for America's families," Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington state, said yesterday in the Democratic radio address. "When was the last time the president filled his own tank?"