Gas firm sub­si­dies sur­vive in Se­nate

51-47 vote to end them not enough for Obama’s plan

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY SU­SAN CRAB­TREE

Pres­i­dent Obama on Thurs­day called for Congress to jet­ti­son $4 bil­lion in an­nual sub­si­dies to oil and gas com­pa­nies, but min­utes later, the Se­nate blocked just such a pro­posal.

The 51-47 vote, which fell nine shy of the 60 needed to ad­vance in the Se­nate, likely shelves the plan for this year but gives both par­ties a po­lit­i­cal is­sue head­ing into Novem­ber’s elec­tions.

Mr. Obama, in a Rose Gar­den speech, said the oil sub­si­dies should be cut so the money can be put into his en­ergy-re­lated pri­or­i­ties.

“We should be us­ing that money to dou­ble down on clean-en­ergy tech­nolo­gies that have never been more promis­ing,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s the fu­ture. That’s the only way we’re go­ing to break this cy­cle of high gas prices year af­ter year af­ter year.”

Repub­li­cans, though, said elim­i­nat­ing the sub­si­dies amounts to a tax in­crease on oil and gas com­pa­nies, which they will pass on to con­sumers in the form of higher prices.

“Pres­i­dent Obama will say and do any­thing it takes to get re-elected, even if it means do­ing a Rose Gar­den pho­toop to pre­tend in­creas­ing en­ergy taxes will lower gas prices,” said Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee spokes­woman Kirsten Kukowski. “This is just more smoke and mir­rors from a pres­i­dent who doesn’t have an en­ergy pol­icy while Amer­i­cans strug­gle to pay higher gas prices at the pump.”

In a speech on the Se­nate floor, Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell, Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can, said elim­i­nat­ing the tax breaks would not lower prices at the pump, and he ridiculed Democrats for try­ing to put off a vote ear­lier this week and move to a postal ser­vice over­haul in­stead.

“I see the pres­i­dent made a state­ment a lit­tle while ago in sup­port of this pro­posed tax hike. My ques­tion is: Where was the White House when Democrats voted to get off of it?” Mr. Mccon­nell asked. “Maybe they were too busy lin­ing up votes against the Key­stone pipe­line. Maybe the pres­i­dent was too busy telling the Rus­sians about how he’s hop­ing for more flex­i­bil­ity.”

Mr. Mccon­nell was re­fer­ring to the pres­i­dent’s lob­by­ing against a bill that would have forced him to ap­prove the north­ern sec­tion of the Key­stone XL oil pipe­line from Canada to Ok­la­homa, as well as a “hot-mic” in­ci­dent from ear­lier this week when Mr. Obama told Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev that he needed more “flex­i­bil­ity” on mis­sile de­fense and asked the Krem­lin leader for some “space” dur­ing the elec­tion year.

The Se­nate vote ac­tu­ally showed sup­port is slip­ping for Mr. Obama’s po­si­tion. A sim­i­lar vote in the Se­nate last year earned 52 votes in fa­vor of it, while this year it gar­nered just 51.

Sen. James Webb, Virginia Demo­crat, changed his stance, join­ing three other Democrats in vot­ing to pre­serve the tax breaks.

Two Repub­li­cans — Maine Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Su­san Collins — voted with most Democrats to elim­i­nate the tax breaks.

Dur­ing the Rose Gar­den speech, Mr. Obama said Amer­i­cans should have lit­tle sym­pa­thy for the big­gest U.S. oil com­pa­nies and the money would be bet­ter spent on a long-term ap­proach to Amer­i­can en­ergy in­de­pen­dence.

“It’s not like these are com­pa­nies that can’t stand on their own,” Mr. Obama said. “Last year, the three big­gest U.S. oil com­pa­nies took home more than $80 bil­lion in prof­its. Exxon pock­eted nearly $4.7 mil­lion ev­ery hour. And when the price of oil goes up, prices at the pump go up, and so do these com­pa­nies’ prof­its.”

White House spokesman Jay Car­ney called the Se­nate vote “un­for­tu­nate” but said it would not de­ter the pres­i­dent from con­tin­u­ing to press the case for get­ting rid of the sub­si­dies.

“You can be sure he won’t stop call­ing for this,” Mr. Car­ney told re­porters. “We sim­ply can­not af­ford and it makes zero sense for Amer­i­cans to con­tinue to sub­si­dize Amer­i­can oil and gas com­pa­nies.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Obama greets guests in the White House Rose Gar­den Thurs­day af­ter a speech in which he called on Congress to get rid of $4 bil­lion in an­nual sub­si­dies to oil and gas com­pa­nies. A bid to do that, need­ing 60 votes, failed in the Se­nate

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