WASHINGTON—President Bush on Friday rejected calls for a windfall tax on oil companies' profits and said he saw no evidence of price-gouging at the gas pumps.
Responding to rising gasoline prices in a question-and-answer session with reporters, Bush urged oil companies to invest their record profits in expanding domestic energy supplies.
"Look, the temptation in Washington is to tax everything," Bush said. "The answer is for there to be strong reinvestment to make this country more secure from an energy perspective."
The price of gasoline was just one subject that Bush discussed during a wide-ranging news conference. He also declared that the national anthem should be sung in English, not Spanish, and addressed controversies involving Iran and Darfur.
The hastily arranged news conference came as nationwide gasoline prices exceeded $3 a gallon and a day after ExxonMobil, the nation's largest oil company, reported that its earnings climbed by 7.4 percent to $8.4 billion between January and March.
Robust oil profits and escalating gas prices have become a major political issue heading into November's midterm elections. Some lawmakers, including Republicans, have suggested slapping a windfall tax on big oil companies.
In addition, some have called for vigorous federal oversight to ensure that there's no price-gouging at service stations. On Tuesday, Bush directed the Justice Department to work with the Energy Department and the Federal Trade Commission to hunt for "illegal manipulation" of gas prices.
However, Bush said in the Rose Garden on Friday that he doesn't believe "there's any rip-off taking place." He added, "It's the role of the Federal Trade Commission to assure me that my inclination and instincts is right."
On other topics, Bush said the U.S. national anthem should be sung in English, not Spanish. A British music producer released a Spanish version of the anthem, called "Nuestro Himno" (Our Anthem), on Friday, sparking controversy at a time when the nation is torn over how to respond to immigration.
"I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," Bush said in response to a question, "and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English, and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."
The immigration debate has spawned large demonstrations on both sides of the issue. Bush said he was against a call by immigration-reform advocates for immigrants not to work on Monday.
"I'm not a supporter of boycotts," Bush said. "I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration."
On the foreign front, Bush restated that it's his administration's goal to find a diplomatic solution to halt Iran's nuclear efforts.
"The diplomatic process is just beginning," he said. "We're forming a strong coalition of like-minded countries that believe that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon. And I've told the American people that diplomacy is my first choice."
The president criticized the Sudanese government for trying to thwart the United Nations' efforts to quell genocidal atrocities in the Darfur region.
Five members of the House of Representatives were arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington on Friday to protest the three-year-old battle between government-backed militias and rebels. The conflict has left about 180,000 people dead and an estimated 2 million homeless.
The five arrested Democratic lawmakers were Reps. Tom Lantos of California, James McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, and Jim Moran of Virginia. A mass demonstration on behalf of Darfur refugees is planned for Sunday in Washington.
"The message to the Sudanese government is we're very serious about getting this problem resolved," Bush said. "We don't like it when we see women raped and brutalized. And we expect there to be a full effort by the government to protect human life and human condition."
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): BUSH
Need to map