Gas prices spark debate in Miss. election

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Candidates in a U.S. Senate race in Mississippi are exchanging jabs over legislation designed to lower gasoline prices.

Democratic challenger Ronnie Musgrove says Republican Roger Wicker voted to block debate last week on a bill that would’ve cracked down on Wall Street speculators who are making profits off high prices.

“We are being squeezed and Mississippians need relief,” Musgrove, a former governor, said in an interview Monday. “These speculators are profiting on our pain at the pump. This bill could have ended the price manipulation.”

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Wicker responded that Democratic leaders are trying to block consideration of comprehensive energy plans. He said Congress needs to act before starting its August recess.

“American families continue to struggle with the high cost of gasoline, and they are looking to Congress to do something about it,” Wicker said in a news release. “This is the number one issue before our country, and it should be treated that way by Congress. The majority party’s decision in the Senate to not allow for a full debate on comprehensive solutions to this energy crisis has shortchanged the American public.”

Wicker said he wants legislation that will authorize offshore oil drilling. Musgrove said the bill Wicker voted to block would have included drilling.

Both candidates said the U.S. needs to become less dependent on foreign oil.

Wicker and Musgrove compete in the Nov. 4 election to fill the final four years of a six-year Senate term that the GOP’s Trent Lott started.

Lott retired last December, and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Wicker to temporarily fill the job.

The bickering over gasoline prices Monday was a warm-up for what could be a more pointed exchange later this week. Musgrove and Wicker are scheduled to make back-to-back speeches Wednesday at the Neshoba County Fair, one of Mississippi’s top political gatherings of the year.