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    Rising Fuel Prices Have Democrats at Odds

    Presidential hopefuls struggle to find solutions.

    WASHINGTON -- Steamed by ever-increasing fuel prices, a visually impressive caravan of disgruntled truckers circled the nation's Capitol this week catching the attention of lawmakers and Presidential hopefuls.

    The protest was met with conflicting responses from Democratic frontrunners Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton sided with her Republican rival John McCain who both called for a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. The New York Times reported that Obama broke step and firmly spoke out against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports.

    In recent weeks, Clinton has accused her party's opponent of being out of touch with ordinary Americans who are struggling to meet their mortgages and gas up their cars and trucks. His latest position, she contends, is more of the same.

    "At the heart of my approach is a simple belief," Clinton told The New York Times. "Middle-class families are paying too much and oil companies aren't paying
    their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump."

    At a rally in Graham, N.C., yesterday, the junior Senator from New York said that she intends to introduce legislation to impose a windfall-profits tax on oil
    companies and use the revenue to suspend the gasoline tax temporarily.

    Obama scoffed at the McCain-Clinton federal tax holiday proposal as a "short-term, quick-fix" proposal that would do more harm than good, telling The New York Times that the money, which is earmarked for the federal highway trust fund, is desperately needed to maintain the nation's roads and bridges.

    During a town hall meeting yesterday on the campaign trail in North Carolina, Obama explained that lifting the gas tax for three months would only save the average consumer roughly $30, a figure confirmed by Congressional analysts, reported The New York Times."Half a tank of gas," Obama said of McCain' proposal, "That's his big solution."

    On Monday, the federal Energy Information Administration reported that the U.S. average retail price for gasoline spiked to 9.5 cents over the last week arriving at a new high of $3.60 a gallon. Reuters reported that the national average price for regular, self-service gasoline is up 63 cents from a year ago due to high crude oil costs, which on Monday reached a record $119.93 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange. The pump price, which rose 21 cents a gallon in the last two weeks, is expected to steadily rise.

    While not a common occurrence, President Bush's spokeswoman Dana Perino essentially sided with Obama telling The New York Times that tax holidays and new levies on oil companies would not address the long-term problems of dependence on foreign oil, adding that gasoline prices were "entirely too high." The President's stance, however, is while it is an unfortunate reality for Americans, easy answers or short-term solutions are not probable.

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