Senate Retains $2 Billion in Annual Tax Breaks for Big 5 Oil Companies

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Big Oil is getting to keep its billion-dollar federal tax breaks, for the time being.
 
On a mostly partisan vote, the U.S. Senate defeated an attempt to eliminate government subsidies for five top petroleum producers: BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. The vote was 52 to 48, with three Democrats joining 45 Republicans in opposing the bill that had the backing of the Obama administration and fiscal watchdog groups. Although a majority of Senators voted in favor of advancing the bill, it needed 60 votes to proceed.
 
The legislation would have eliminated five different tax breaks that could have boosted federal revenues by $21 billion over 10 years.
 
Supporters of the plan argued that the Big Oil doesn’t need federal help because the companies’ profits are soaring. They also contend it is unfair to provide taxpayer-supported subsidies to businesses that keep raising the price of gasoline at the pump.
 
Republicans insisted the effort amounted to political grandstanding by Democrats seeking to gain points with voters for the 2012 election.
 
Two of the three Democrats who joined the Republicans in the pro-Big 5 vote come from oil-rich states: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska. The third was Ben Nelson of Nebraska, an aggressive supporter of ethanol. The Republicans who supported ending the tax breaks were Maine’s two senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
 
Senate Democrats vowed to bring back the proposal and demanded it be approved as part of any agreement to raise the federal debt limit.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
Senate Refuses to End Tax Breaks for Big Oil (by Carl Hulse, New York Times)

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