Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DEMS Fail To End Oil Subsidies; GOP Fails In Call For More Drilling

May 17: As expected, the Senate Democrats' effort to end the tax subsidies for the five big oil companies -- the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, S. 940 -- was defeated by a 52-48 vote due to the Senate rule that required a 60-vote majority to move the bill forward [See WIMS 5/17/11]. Two Republicans, Snowe (R-ME) and Collins (R-ME) voted with the Democrats; while three Democrats -- Begich (D-AK), Landrieu (D-LA) & Nelson (D-NE) -- voted with Republicans to defeat the measure.

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a brief statement saying, "Republicans would rather cut college scholarships, slash cancer research and end Medicare than take away taxpayer-funded giveaways to oil companies that are raking in billions in profits. That tells you everything you need to know about their priorities. We could have cut our deficit by $20 billion today, but Republicans defended oil companies instead. This is exactly the kind of wasteful spending we should be cutting. Democrats are not going to stop trying to end these wasteful taxpayer giveaways. I hope next time my Republican colleagues will put America's seniors, students and middle-class families ahead of oil companies."
    The White House Press Secretary issued a statement following the vote saying, "It is disappointing that at a time when oil companies are posting near record profits, Republican Leadership in the Senate led an effort to protect billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry that even oil and gas CEO's in the past have admitted are unwarranted and unnecessary. The bottom line is that there are more responsible ways to spend tens of billions of federal dollars, including investments that will help protect American consumers from high gas prices. The vote today -- with support from over half the U.S. Senate -- is an important step towards repealing these unwarranted subsidies for the oil and gas industry. The Administration will continue to pursue this important reform."
    Democrats indicated the battle over ending oil company subsidies was not over and vowed to make it part of the upcoming debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)the sponsor of S.940 said following the vote, "A bipartisan majority of the Senate has spoken. If we are going to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling, cutting wasteful oil subsidies needs to be on the table. We cannot reduce the deficits on the backs of working class Americans alone.  Even the most wealthy and powerful among us must pay their fair share."
    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered a speech on the Senate floor this morning discussing the vote on S.940 last evening and in support of the upcoming vote this afternoon on S.953, the Offshore Production & Safety Act of 2011, which he sponsored with 22 cosponsors. Like the Democrats' bill, the Republican bill was also defeated for a lack of 60 votes. The final vote on the bill, which was just completed at about 2:55 PM today was 42-57. The details of the roll call vote will be posted in about an hour (see link below).
    Sen. McConnell said, "Last night, Senate Democrats put forth a plan to raise taxes on American energy that, in their own words, would have done nothing to lower the price of gas at the pump. As the Chairman of the Finance Committee put it, `That's not the issue.' Well, I think that for most Americans high gas prices actually is the issue. . . Americans are struggling. My constituents in Kentucky are hurting. They want relief. And all they're getting from Democrats in Washington is a dog and pony show. . .

    "They spent a week vilifying the energy industry and another week trying to punish them. The legislation they proposed yesterday would have done three things: destroy jobs, send American jobs overseas, make us more dependent on foreign sources of oil. And Democrats themselves admit it wouldn't lower gas prices by a penny. . . I would suggest that Democrats spend a little bit more time looking at the price of gas at their local gas stations than at the latest polling numbers about class warfare rhetoric. . .

    "Our plan has three objectives: "First, to restore American offshore production. Second, to improve safety. Third, to require bureaucrats in Washington to get to work on the permitting process, to make a decision one way or the other. And it would have three corresponding effects: First, and most importantly, our plan would help reduce the price of gas at the pump. By unlocking our own domestic resources, and speeding up the permitting process, our plan would actually do something to increase supply, putting downward pressure on price. . . And it would create thousands of energy jobs in America, instead of sending them overseas, which is why this bill has the support of both the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. . ."

    Senator McConnell said that S.953 would directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct previously scheduled offshore lease sales in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, Virginia, and Alaska. In addition, the plan will extend lease terms by one year for Gulf leases which were suspended under the 2010 Obama Moratorium. The bill establishes a public/private task force on oil spill response and mitigation, and orders a study on Federal response to oil spills by the Comptroller General to examine capabilities and legal authorities related to spill prevention and response to clarify appropriate Federal roles. Finally, the bill puts time limits on the review of and decision on drilling permits, providing for 30 days of application review with two opportunities for the Interior Department to extend the time period. Beyond that, it provides for default approval if Interior doesn't reject the application within 60 days. Additionally, it directs the Interior Department to provide rationale for rejection of permits.

    Access the roll call vote for S.940 (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Reid (click here). Access the statement from the White House (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Menendez (click here). Access the statement from Sen. McConnell (click here). Access the roll call vote for S.953 (click here, posted soon). Access legislative details for S.940 (click here). Access legislative details for S.953 (click here). [*Energy/Tax]