WASHINGTON – Another key Republican lawmaker signaled Sunday that the oil industry may face consequences if it doesn’t help control prices, especially as it rolls in record profits.

“The message to the oil companies is, “Hold down your price of gasoline and it better start sliding back the other way,”‘ said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.

“If they don’t control it, and if they continue to have prices go up, profits go up and salaries go up, Congress will do something that might not have the beneficial long-term effect,” Lott told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Lott’s comments came a week after Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed the Democratic call for a windfall profits tax when oil prices top $50 a barrel.

Lott also said a large part of the problem was a long-term failure of Congress, the White House and the American people to curb consumption.

He also contradicted President Bush, who said he saw no evidence of price-fixing or gouging in the oil industry even after ordering the Justice Department last week to investigate.

“I think there is manipulation,” Lott said.

White House officials, meanwhile, made the rounds on Sunday talk shows, seeking to downplay hopes of a quick fix.

“This is a very large problem,” new White House chief of staff Josh Bolten said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s not going to be solved in the short run by some silver bullet.”

“Clearly, we’re going to have a number of years – two to three years – before suppliers are in a position to meet the needs of demands,” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

(c) 2006, New York Daily News.

Visit the Daily News online at http://www.nydailynews.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Trent Lott

ARCHIVE GRAPHICS on KRT Direct (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): gas

AP-NY-04-30-06 1934EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.