Senate Republicans Reject Obama Call to End ‘Big Oil’ Tax Breaks
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a Democratic measure championed by President Barack Obama to end tax breaks for the major oil companies.
The procedural vote of 51-47, which failed to reach the needed threshhold of 60, killed the measure, which was given little chance of eventually winning approval in the Republican-controlled House. Four Democrats opposed the bill while one Republican supported it.
Obama and Democrats had pushed it in an attempt to gain political advantage as rising gas prices continue to hurt and anger American voters in an election year.
In remarks shortly before the Senate voted, Obama said the nation will be watching to see where Congress stands on the issue.
“With record profits and rising production, I’m not worried about the big oil companies,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden. “… I think it’s time they got by without more help from taxpayers, who are having a tough enough time paying their bills and filling up their tanks.”
A CNN/ORC International poll (PDF) released Thursday shows a majority of Americans blame oil companies — rather than the Obama administration — for the high gas prices.
According to the survey conducted last weekend, seven in 10 Americans say rising gas prices have caused hardship for them and their families.
Obama’s energy policy, which emphasizes investment in alternative sources, has repeatedly been attacked as contributing to high gas prices and stunting domestic oil development. Obama has targeted the roughly $2 billion a year in tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies as a potential new revenue source for clean energy development.
In his remarks Thursday, Obama emphasized steps his administration has taken to boost domestic oil and natural gas production, seeking to deflect the GOP criticism. Now is the time to choose whether to continue to give unneeded subsidies to a thriving industry or to make critical investments in other energy sources, the president said.
“Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising,” Obama said. “Investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels; in fuel-efficient cars and trucks and homes and buildings. That’s the future. That’s the only way we’ll break this cycle of high gas prices that happens year after year after year as the economy is growing.”
To end his statement, Obama declared his belief in the nation’s ability to rise to any challenge and become the leader of a new global energy industry in the coming century. He framed the oil subsidy vote as a choice between that vision and protecting the status quo, adding: “Today, the American people are going to be watching Congress to see if they have that same faith.”
Obama defends his policy on oil pipeline
The Democratic-sponsored Senate measure — which was opposed by most conservatives — would have repealed subsidies currently benefiting BP, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. Savings would have been used to renew various alternative clean energy initiatives and reduce the deficit.
Democrats sought to cast Republicans as defenders of unpopular big oil companies, while Republicans highlighted rising pump prices on Obama’s watch.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, complained Thursday morning that the upcoming vote amounted to political theater because everyone, including the sponsors, knew it would have no effect on gas prices.