Thursday, June 12, 2008

90% of Americans will pay less income tax under Obama than McCain

Today, CNN posted an article online summarizing the Tax Policy center's report comparing John McCain and Barack Obama's proposed tax plans. It is available here. The numbers are remarkable, but CNN failes to notice the obvious punchline: more than 85% of Americans will pay less in taxes under Obama than McCain.

Data tables below the fold.

Here is a table showing the change in your tax bill in 2009 vs 2008 if McCain or Obama's policies are fully implemented:

Income Avg. tax billAvg. tax billDifference
Over $2.9M-$269,364+$701,885+$971,249
$603K and up-$45,361+$115,974+$161,335
Under $19K-$19-$567-$548

Source:Tax Policy Center

From the table, we can see that if you make less than $112,000 a year, then you will pay less in taxes under Obama's policies compared to McCain's. According to the IRS, 89% of Americans report less than $100,000 in adjusted gross income (2005).

Perhaps it's worth showing this table to your undecided and Republican friends to let them know just how much they stand to lose under a McCain presidency.

Original here

New Christian Political Action Committee (PAC) Endorses Barack Obama

David Brody

David Brody

Barack Obama has some new Christian friends. Mara Vanderlsice is heading up the new Political Action Committee (PAC) called "The Matthew 25 Network" and she tells the Brody File tonight that they will endorse Barack Obama. The group is having a fundraiser tonight but the official rollout isn't for a couple weeks. Vanderslice talked to me about the goal of the group.

"What we found are thousands of Christians across the country who want to find a way to put their faith values in action through supporting candidates and there was no long term organization that existed to galvanize and capture and give voice to that energy that we found around the country. The Matthew 25 network has endorsed Barack Obama. He will be our first candidate but the hope is that this will be an effort that will live long beyond this election cycle and will help give voice to Christians whose gospel values are expressed or lived out in the passage of Matthew 25 that we should care for the 'least of these' as Jesus did. We will be looking for candidates who endorse that agenda, and then we will endorse them."

Read the part in Matthew 25 Mara Vanderslice is referring to here (pay attention to verse 45).

The "Matthew 25 Network" has been in Vanderslice's mind and heart for about a year but it really got going behind the scenes in the last few months. She tells me this is not coordinated at all with the Obama campaign. Rather, this is all about having a heart for the faith community. She goes on to tell me:

"We're going to be reaching out to the diverse Christian community. We want to engage people of diverse Christian faiths including evangelicals, Protestants, Hispanic evangelicals and Catholics in the network."

Clearly a question socially conservative Christians will have is how this group massages the abortion issue. The "Matthew 25 Network" message will be broader than abortion but that doesn't mean they will shy away from the topic. Vanderslice says:

"This kind of organization is going to encompass pro-life and pro-choice people. I think we're trying to move beyond those labels and really come up with some solutions to address the underlying problem of abortion, to reduce the numbers of abortions. I think Christians and Catholics who have a concern about that issue will find an open ear in this organization for pushing forward some solutions on that issue."

The Democratic Party led by people like Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp over at Common Good Strategies, the Democratic National Committee and Faith and Public Life have emphatically declared that the discussion over faith and values is on. It's not JUST Republican territory anymore. They've all been working very hard on this for years. The fruit of their labor is being seen in 2008. The Republican Party and John McCain will need to recognize the shifting playing field and respond accordingly. But the bottom line is this: the role of faith and politics is front and center this election cycle.

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McCain On Whether Cheney Might Serve In His Administration: ‘Hell, Yeah’»

cheneymccain.jpgAs Vice President Dick Cheney makes the rounds on “the GOP’s rubber chicken circuit” these days to raise funds for conservative candidates, he always implores his audiences “to make sure that we elect John McCain the 44th President of the United States.” But worried about being labeled a third Bush term, the McCain campaign has made strides to distance the candidate from Cheney by blasting “Vice President Cheney’s energy bill.”

But before Cheney became a political albatross, McCain overflowed with kind things to say about him. In fact, in July 2004, McCain described Cheney as one of the best vice presidents ever:

At a July 15 appearance in Michigan, McCain dampened the speculation by calling Cheney “one of the most capable, experienced, intelligent and steady vice presidents this country has ever had.”

In interviews for Stephen Hayes’ 2007 biography of Cheney, McCain “strongly” asserted that Cheney “has been of enormous help to this president of the United States.” Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports today that in unpublished comments to Hayes, McCain also said that he would consider Cheney for a post in his administration:

Going further, McCain even told Hayes in comments heretofore unpublished that he’d consider Cheney for an administration post.

Asked whether he’d be interested in Cheney had the vice president not already have served under Bush for two terms, McCain said: “I don’t know if I would want him as vice president. He and I have the same strengths. But to serve in other capacities? Hell, yeah.”

Though the McCain campaign told Martin that “John McCain will always treat the vice president with respect,” they also refused to say whether they would have Cheney speak at the Republican National Convention. “No decisions have been made on the program yet,” said a McCain aide.

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Obama Shows His Punch

Yesterday in Raleigh, North Carolina, Barack Obama opened the general election fight, taking the gloves off against the "tired and misguided [economic] philosophy that has dominated Washington for too long," and offering a clear challenge to the Bush-McCain economic misrule. In Washington before the National Federation of Independent Business, McCain counterpunched, suggesting the choice was between low taxes and "the largest tax increase since World War II."

This argument will be the big kahuna in this election. Despite ritual boosterism, soothing rhetoric and quiet prayers by Wall Street pundits, the economy is foul and likely to get much worse. We've lost jobs for five months in a row. Gas, food, health care costs are soaring. For workers, the mess is worse than the stagflation of the 1970s. Then growth was stagnant, while prices and wages were spiraling up. Now we've got stagflation squared -- with growth and wages stagnant, prices on basics soaring, while the value of homes, the largest investment Americans have, is plummeting.

Many aren't making it. Home foreclosures are the highest since the great depression. One in six homes in America is worth less than the mortgage. With prices down 14% from last year, Americans have seen $2.5 trillion in wealth erased. No wonder credit card debt has soared, and workers are rifling retirement accounts.

President Bush and John McCain say the "fundamentals are strong," so the downturn is a "rough patch." As the president left for Europe, he once more celebrated our "open and flexible" economy, with "some of the deepest and most liquid capital markets" [he's apparently been AWOL the last months], arguing that the "long term health and strong foundation of our economy will shine through and be reflected in currency values."

Bush and Republicans in Congress have been resisting any new stimulus measures, arguing that the $600 rebate checks going out in the stimulus package are just kicking in, and that things will get better.

Not likely. Gas prices will chew up the rebates -- while racking up rising trade deficits. And beginning in July, states and localities will be laying off teachers and police, deferring construction projects as they struggle with rising deficits. And the banks staggered by the collapse of the financial bubble are now about to face the rising credit card, auto loan and mortgage defaults that come with an economic downturn.

Why are we in this mess? Obama put the blame for this directly on the Bush-McCain economic strategy. The current crisis, he argued, wasn't simply "some accident of history," or "an inevitable part of a business cycle." It was the "logical conclusion" of a "worn dogma" that has failed this country.

Obama called for a second short term $50 billion stimulus, for aiding homeowners facing foreclosure through no fault of their own, and for extending unemployment benefits for those workers caught in the economic ebb tide. Bush and Congressional Republicans have resisted these measures.

But he also began to contrast his longer range strategy for rebuilding America to the failed trickle-down, market fundamentalism and fiscal irresponsibility of the past years:
"For eight long years, our president sacrificed investments in health care, and education, and energy, and infrastructure on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs -- trillions of dollars in giveaways that proved neither compassionate nor conservative.

And with McCain pledging to sustain that same course -- top end tax cuts and cuts in domestic spending -- Obama draws the contrast:

John McCain and I have a fundamentally different vision of where to take the country. Because for all his talk of independence, the centerpiece of his economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies. He says we've made great progress in our economy these past eight years. He calls himself a fiscal conservative, and on the campaign trail he's a passionate critic of government spending, and yet he has no problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for big corporations and a permanent occupation of Iraq -- policies that have left our children with a mountain of debt.

In contrast, Obama calls for a "bottom up prosperity," based upon his version of putting people first. He wants to invest in education and training. He'd generate millions of new jobs in a concerted drive for energy independence. He'll create a national investment bank to rebuild and modernize our aging infrastructure, and put people to work. He'll help make college more affordable. He'll offer middle class families (generously defined as making under $150,000) a tax break, while raising taxes on the wealthy, shutting corporate tax loopholes, imposing an excess profits tax on the oil and gas companies, and using money saved from ending the Iraq war to invest here at home.

McCain scorns this as the old "tax and spend" policies that Americans can't afford, arguing that "Sen. Obama says I'm running for Bush's third term, seems to me he's running for Jimmy Carter's second." (Great line, except the stagflation is already here). In his speech before the conservative National Federation of Independent Business, he called for not only sustaining the Bush tax cuts which he once opposed, but also adding new cuts (an estimated $300 billion a year) for corporations and the wealthy. He bizarrely emphasized "the estate tax," as "one of the most unfair taxes on the books," presumably because it applies primarily to the wealthiest 2% of America's fortunes.

McCain paints himself as the change largely by posing as the sheriff policing wasteful pork barrel spending, in contrast to the wastrel ways of the Republican Congress and the Bush administration.

His plans earned Obama's scorn: McCain, he said:

is now calling for a new round of tax giveaways that are twice as expensive as the original Bush plan and nearly twice as regressive. His policy will spend nearly $2 trillion on tax breaks for corporations, including $1.2 billion for Exxon alone, a company that just recorded the highest profits in history.... At a time when we're fighting two wars, when millions of Americans can't afford their medical bills or their tuition bills, when we're paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for Exxon Mobil. That isn't just irresponsible. It's outrageous.

I have a different vision for the future. Instead of spending twelve billion dollars a month to rebuild Iraq, I think it's time we invested in our roads and schools and bridges and started to rebuild America. Instead of handing out giveaways to corporations that don't need them and didn't ask for them, it's time we started giving a hand-up to families who are trying pay their medical bills and send their children to college. We can't afford four more years of skewed priorities that give us nothing but record debt -- we need change that works for the American people.

In this exchange, McCain is in trouble. Here, as on Iraq, he is arguing for carrying the Bush agenda forward, while three-quarters of Americans think we're on the wrong course. As Obama puts it, "We have tried it their way for eight long years and it has failed. It is time to try something new. It is time for a change."

We haven't witnessed this clear an ideological division since the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater faceoff. For those who feared Obama couldn't throw a punch, he showed both a good jab and a decent left hook in pounding McCain on the economy. That's why the Republican posse is likely to scorn sparring about policy and turn this election into an alley fight, taking out the knives around patriotism, pastors and race.

Original here

Constitutional scholar on impeachment: 'It's time to pony up'

Law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley says that America's founders "would have been astonished by the absolute passivity, if not the collusion, of the Democrats in protecting President Bush from impeachment."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann talked with Turley one day after Kucinich's historic presentation of 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush that garnered little mainstream media attention but was an Internet sensation.

Despite noting that not all of the articles Kucinich presented were "impeachable offenses" in a strict sense, Turley says "there are pleny of crimes there -- this is a target-rich environment."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast June 10, 2008.

Original here

Latest Cheney Tape May Contain Evidence Of His Whereabouts

WASHINGTON—Reports surfaced Tuesday that the New York–based Fox News Channel has obtained a tape which purportedly features another cryptic video message from U.S. vice president and known extremist Dick Cheney, widely regarded as the most feared man in America.

Enlarge Image Dick Cheney

Cheney calls on Americans around the world to join the fight in Iraq.

"We have analyzed the tape, and the voice on it matches up with earlier recordings of the vice president," said CIA spokesman George Little, who claimed the tape may contain valuable clues regarding the location of the elusive Cheney, who was last sighted in late 2005 along the border of Maryland and Virginia.

"Though more specific details on his whereabouts have yet to emerge, we do know two things," Little added. "Dick Cheney is still alive, and he is out there somewhere."

The tape, which is 18 minutes in length, contains grainy footage of what appears to be the vice president standing in front of a featureless brown background. Despite a history of heart problems, Cheney seems to be in good health, though he does appear agitated. Analysts said his hair is grayer than in previous tapes, and his hairline has receded by a half inch. He appears to be wearing the exact same suit he wore in his most recent video in 2004.

Enlarge Image Cheney Map

Federal law enforcement agencies track Cheney's movements by satellite.

Though Cheney makes no specific threats in the tape, he does issue vague warnings that the United States will soon face a large-scale attack.

"The possibility of a nuclear attack is very real," Cheney says in his speech, which he addresses to the "people of America." "It could happen tomorrow, it could happen a week from now, it could happen next year. It is not a matter of if, but when."

Cheney warns that, no matter what security measures the United States takes, the terrorists will remain determined to bring death and destruction to American soil. He goes on to insist that he will never give in, claiming that the country should be prepared for "decades of war."

"Praise be to God," adds Cheney, concluding his message.

Cheney reportedly makes reference to President Bush and the Iraq War, alludes to the 9/11 attacks 27 times, and warns eerily about Americans "making the wrong choice" in November. He also mentions current presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama by name, indicating that the tape was made recently and dispelling the rumor that Cheney died of a heart attack four years ago.

"We are closer than ever to finding the U.S. No. 2," FBI spokesman David Hart said. "Taking into account his last known whereabouts and the fact that his health condition makes it difficult for him to travel, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the vice president is still somewhere within our borders."

"God help us all," he added.

A number of experts suggest that Cheney has taken refuge in a D.C. war room, while some claim he is hiding out in an underground bunker beneath NORAD headquarters. Others speculate that Cheney crossed into Virginia two years ago and has been roaming the remote foothills of the Appalachian backwoods.

In a press conference yesterday, President Bush told reporters that he is prepared to do anything in his power to hunt down the vice president.

"This is our top priority," Bush said. "Before I make any further decisions regarding the situation in Iraq, the economy, or anything else, it is absolutely imperative that I find Dick Cheney."

Some conspiracy theorists, however, have begun to question the tape's authenticity.

"That video's a fake," said Bethesda, MD citizen Blake Bresler. "This Cheney looks fatter, and his lip snarl is on the wrong side. Also, if you look closely, those aren't Cheney's real glasses."

Whether or not the tape is legitimate, a growing number of citizens say the fact that Cheney is still on the loose can be traced back to failures by the Clinton White House.

"The only reason that this madman is still out there is because the previous administration messed up," said Richmond, VA resident Curt Meredith. "Bill Clinton should have killed him when he had the chance."

Original here

TSA to let polite terrorists fly without ID

A new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) policy will block passengers from flying if they do not have proper ID, but only if they exhibit defiance. Passengers who merely forgot to bring ID will still be permitted to fly, but will be subjected to a physical screening and enhanced baggage screening.

"Passengers that willfully refuse to provide identification at security checkpoint will be denied access to the secure area of airports. This change will apply exclusively to individuals that simply refuse to provide any identification or assist transportation security officers in ascertaining their identity," TSA said in a policy statement. "This new procedure will not affect passengers that may have misplaced, lost or otherwise do not have ID but are cooperative with officers."

Prior to enforcement of this policy, passengers without ID were still permitted to fly after undergoing the more invasive screening regardless of their attitude or their reason for not showing ID.

Security researcher Chris Soghoian sharply criticized the policy and argues that it fails to resolve properly the concerns he raised in a 2007 research paper which revealed that passengers without ID could circumvent no-fly list restrictions. It will merely punish activists, he says, without improving security.

"With hundreds of millions of dollars having already been spent on the various no-fly lists, it is at least interesting to see that someone at TSA is now spending time on fixing the loopholes in the system. The most glaring of this has long been the fact that passengers can refuse to show (or claim to have forgotten) their ID," Soghoian wrote in a blog entry. "TSA's new rule, while perhaps motivated by a desire to beef up security, is significantly flawed. Terrorists will lie, and claim to have lost their ID—while law-abiding citizens wishing to assert their rights will be hassled, and refused flight."

Soghoian, whose house was raided by the FBI in 2006 after he published a proof-of-concept web application for making forged airline boarding passes, has long been a vocal critic of the TSA's practices. He made headlines earlier this year when he disclosed security vulnerabilities that he discovered in TSA's traveler redress web site. His report sparked a Senate investigation which also uncovered disturbing irregularities in the process used by TSA to award the contract for the site.

This isn't the first time that TSA ID policies have faced criticism and scrutiny. The previous policy was challenged in court by Electronic Frontier Foundation cofounder John Gilmore. At the time, the court supported the policy of allowing passengers to fly without ID if they underwent the full screening.

TSA claims that the function of the new policy is to "enhance the agency's risk-based focus on people, not things," but the entire approach lends strength to the arguments made by critics who say that the TSA peddles security theater rather than legitimate security.

Original here

McCain Iraq Comments: Bringing Troops Home From Iraq "Not Too Important" (VIDEO)


Sen. John McCain appeared on the Today Show this morning and continued to promote his idea of a long occupation in Iraq. But whatever merits there may be for his message, his delivery is once again promising to get him into trouble.

When asked if he knew when American troops could start to return home, McCain responded:

"No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq."


UPDATE: Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has responded:

"McCain's statement today that withdrawing troops doesn't matter is a crystal clear indicator that he just doesn't get the grave national-security consequences of staying the course - Osama bin Laden is freely plotting attacks, our efforts in Afghanistan are undermanned, and our military readiness has been dangerously diminished. We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war."

UPDATE (11:00 AM): The responses are coming fast and furious from both parties, as the McCain hits back for his comments this morning:

McCain camp:

Sen. McCain has consistently opposed a timeline for withdrawing our troops from Iraq. And our friends on the opposite side of the aisle have a long history of attempting to twist Sen. McCain's words on Iraq. The fact that Sen. McCain opposes a timeline for withdrawal and is principally concerned about the safety of American troops and the security of Iraq is pretty much "dog bites man."

Meanwhile, the Dems are beginning to pile on. Here's Biden's response:

"Senator McCain's comment is evidence that he is totally out of touch with the needs of our troops and the national security needs of our nation. I think many of our brave soldiers and their families would disagree that it's 'not too important' when they come home.

UPDATE: Via HuffPost's Sam Stein, Sen. John Kerry ripped into McCain over the remarks:

Sensing political blood, Democrats pounded on John McCain, for saying that it was "not too important" when American forces were drawn down provided that casualty levels were acceptably low.

Perhaps the most pointed criticism, ironically, came from Sen. John Kerry -- no stranger to having Iraq comments be used against him in a political election context. Taking to a conference call with aides to Sen. Barack Obama, the 2004 Democratic nominee accused McCain of being "unbelievably out of touch," lacking a general understanding, and was having a "debate with himself" over the issue of Iraq. The alleged flip-flopper was now doing the alleging.

"The job of the Commander in Chief is to understand the fundamentals of the conflict in which you have the troops engaged. And it is becoming crystal clear that John McCain doesn't understand it," said Kerry. "This is an enormous flaw on his candidacy, which is supposedly hung on his ability to serve as commander in chief... There are series of contradictions in his statements that reflect a fundamental misunderstands of the conflict."

As evidence, Kerry ushered in McCain's misstatements on the historical conflict between Sunni and Shiites, his falsehood that Iran was arming al-Qaeda in Iraq (they're not), and the varying times in which the Arizona Republican has said he was against a South Korea style model of troop presence in the Middle East, something he now favors.

"This is not a small matter as far as I am concerned. And I think John McCain is offering a recipe to keep the military overextended," he said. "And our attention diverted from the real center of the war on terror which is Afghanistan and Pakistan."

As the conference call proceeded, the McCain campaign sought to stem the damage of the remark. In an email response to reporters, spokesman Tucker Bounds accused Obama of trying to hide his own "willingness to disregard facts on the ground," and insisted that "John McCain has always said, that [troop drawdown] is not as important as conditions on the ground and the recommendations of commanders in the field."

This, however, came only weeks after the McCain campaign had released an advertisement explicitly suggesting that violence in the country would be ebbed by 2013 - a clear indication that timetables were, in fact, important.

"He threw out 2013 as the date for American forces to be out of Iraq," said Susan Rice, Obama's foreign policy adviser. "And today he says he has no idea."

UPDATE (12:00): Another statement from the McCain camp, this one targeting Obama:

"The Obama campaign is embarking on a false attack on John McCain to hide their own candidate's willingness to disregard facts on the ground in pursuit of withdrawal no matter what the costs. John McCain was asked if he had a 'better estimate' for a timeline for withdrawal. As John McCain has always said, that is not as important as conditions on the ground and the recommendations of commanders in the field. Any reasonable person who reads the full transcript would see this and reject the Obama campaign's attempt to manipulate, twist and distort the truth."

Original here

Kucinich to push for referral of impeachment resolution to Judiciary Committee

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
UPDATE: House votes to send impeachment measure to Judiciary Committee

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who on Monday presented articles of impeachment against President Bush to Congress, pushed for a vote on his resolution that is expected Wednesday.

The thirty-five articles of impeachment that the Democratic lawmaker from Ohio painstakingly read for several hours on the House floor Monday were repeated Tuesday night into the Congressional record by the Clerk of the House.

Kucinich is offering the impeachment measure as a privileged resolution to force a vote, which is expected sometime Wednesday.

House leaders oppose Kucinich’s measure, and the chamber’s Democrats are expected to refer the resolution to the House Judiciary Committee.

“It is imperative that Members of Congress have a thorough opportunity to read the Articles of Impeachment and study the documentation,” said Kucinich, in the release. “When they do, I am confident that they will agree that it is both appropriate and necessary for the Judiciary Committee to begin hearings on the Resolution.”

In November, the House sent the Judiciary Committee a Kucinich-sponsored measure to begin impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney. No hearings or further action have followed that move, and the same fate is likely to befall his attempt to impeach Bush.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has long said that impeachment was “off the table” as a legislative issue for the now-Democratic Congress, and Democrats seem more willing to simply run out the clock on the Bush presidency than to spend time on impeachment proceedings.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kucinich’s office claimed that his official website had been crippled a few hours after delivering his resolution the night before. An e-mail alert distributed by his office said the circumstances surrounding the attack could “best be described as ’suspicious.’”

Original here

Republicans Block Extra Taxes On Oil Companies

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans blocked a proposal Tuesday to tax the windfall profits of the largest oil companies, despite pleas by Democratic leaders to use the measure to address America's anger over $4 a gallon gasoline.

The Democratic energy package would have imposed a tax on any "unreasonable" profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies and given the federal government more power to address oil market speculation that the bill's supporters argue has added to the crude oil price surge.

"Americans are furious about what's going on," declared Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and want Congress to do something about oil company profits and "an orgy of speculation" on oil markets.

But Republicans argued the Democratic proposal focusing on new oil industry taxes is not the answer to the country's energy problems.

"The American people are clamoring for relief at the pump," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., but if taxes are increased on the oil companies "they will get exactly what they don't want. The bill will raise taxes, increase imports."

The Democrats failed, 51-43, to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster and bring the energy package up for consideration.

Separately, Democrats also failed to get Republican support for a proposal to extend tax breaks for wind, solar and other alternative energy development, and for the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation. The tax breaks have either expired or are scheduled to end this year.

The tax provisions were included in a broader $50 billion tax measure blocked by a GOP filibuster threat. A vote to take up the measure was 50-44, short of the 60 votes needed.

The windfall profits bill would have imposed a 25 percent tax on profits over what would be determined "reasonable" when compared to profits several years ago. The oil companies could have avoided the tax if they invested the money in alternative energy projects or refinery expansion. It also would have rescinded oil company tax breaks _ worth $17 billion over the next 10 years _ with the revenue to be used for tax incentives to producers of wind, solar and other alternative energy sources as well as for energy conservation.

The legislation also would:

_Require traders to put up more collateral in the energy futures markets and open the way for federal regulation of traders who are based in the United States but use foreign trading platforms. The measures are designed to reduce market speculation.

_Make oil and gas price gouging a federal crime, with stiff penalties of up to $5 million during a presidentially declared energy emergency.

_Authorize the Justice Department to bring charges of price fixing against countries that belong to the OPEC oil cartel.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has acknowledged that Americans are hurting from the high energy costs but strongly opposes the Democrats' response and has ridiculed those who "think we can tax our way out of this problem."

"Republicans by and large believe that the solution to this problem, in part, is to increase domestic production," McConnell said.

A GOP energy plan, rejected by the Senate last month, calls for opening a coastal strip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil development and to allow states to opt out of the national moratorium that has been in effect for a quarter century against oil and gas drilling in more than 80 percent of the country's coastal waters.

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