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Democrats’ ‘Big Oil’ bill gets surprise support from Republicans in Senate vote

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 (2 a.m.)

Senate Democrats’ call for a vote on the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies bill (yes, that’s its actual name) Monday was intended to resonate on the campaign trail — to show voters they’re fighting Republicans on what’s shaping up as a key issue this campaign season.

But then, in a surprise move, Republicans voted to clear the usually insurmountable filibuster hurdle, leading to a 92-4 Senate vote to take up the Democrats’ big-oil bill.

That doesn’t mean Republican senators will vote to pass the legislation in a few days — something Democrats are sure to seize on when the time comes. But Democrats won’t be able to accuse Republicans of being obstructionists.

Sen. Harry Reid has complained that the Republican Senate caucus uses its power to filibuster issues they don’t agree with to excess. Forty-seven Republicans can block a bill, while 60 of the 100 senators must vote yea to get it through. But 47 Republicans can’t block much when a simple majority is all it takes to clear legislation.

As the partisan divide has widened, use of the filibuster increased to record levels in the last Congress. But while Monday evening’s vote was a rare display of bipartisan cooperation, few were celebrating.

“The Senate will vote this evening to advance the Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act,” Reid said before the vote, when it was clear Republicans planned to vote to take up the bill.

But instead of celebrating the Republicans’ cooperation, he cited polls showing 80 percent of Americans also wanted to repeal oil and gas subsidies — the Democrats’ position.

“By an overwhelming margin, they agree with us,” Reid said.

Sen. Dean Heller also seemed unimpressed with the bipartisanship.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Dean Heller, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley applaud during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City Monday, May 30, 2011.

“Once again, Washington is doing its old familiar dance — pushing another measure that’s big on talking points but light on solutions,” Heller said in a statement shortly after supporting the procedural motion to take up the bill he doesn’t sound keen on voting for. “The truth is this measure will not help anyone struggling with rising gas prices.”

Heller has been protective of the current tax code, which provides breaks to oil and gas companies. And he has taken fire for that position from his main opponent for the Senate this year, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley.

Berkley and Reid are among the Democrats calling on Congress to repeal oil and gas tax breaks and put them toward developing other forms of energy. Berkley filed a bill earlier this month to swap oil and gas tax credits for renewable energy credits.

Heller argues his position is not about protecting oil and gas companies; it’s about taxes. He’s open to talking about closing loopholes in the context of a larger tax discussion but not to raising taxes on anyone — including oil and gas companies — before then.

Heller said Monday that he will unveil this week a plan “to help provide relief at the pump” while developing the country’s energy resources.

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Discussion: 16 comments so far…

  1. Heller's half-truths and HYPOCRISY is stunning! With over 80% of Americans having finally figured out the Republicans are ALL about supporting the 1% - they are boxed into the corner and facing a blank wall - the Republicans have NO SOLUTIONS that have any real substance to offer!

    Mark my words, Heller will come up with nothing more than vague, well-polled talking points WORTH NOTHING to the Average American or Nevadan!

  2. While I am no fan of tax subsidies -- especially for a group of companies making billions upon billions of dollars in profits -- but let's face it: the oil companies are simply going to pass the costs along to the rest of us at the pump. We'll either pay for their subsidies through our taxes or through our fuel consumption. Until we realize that the oil companies have us by the short and fuzzies, we'll always be at their mercy.

  3. What subsidies? Do we get to kill all subsidies?

  4. "'Once again, Washington is doing its old familiar dance -- pushing another measure that's big on talking points but light on solutions,' Heller said in a statement shortly after supporting the procedural motion to take up the bill he doesn't sound keen on voting for. 'The truth is this measure will not help anyone struggling with rising gas prices.'"

    This statement by Heller is ridiculous.

    He somehow in some warped logic ties in rising gas prices with the subsidies that Big Oil gets. Rising gas prices have been proven to be the direct result of speculators manipulating the costs on Wall Street.

    His argument makes no sense even more so because he'll fight for oil subsidies, but then, on the other hand, he'll scream that the Government needs to stop spending. Well, the Government is spending money on Big Oil, giving them subsidies they don't need.

    Heller doesn't get the right to pick and choose what the Government is spending too much on and not spending enough on.

    Heller has no earthly clue what he's talking about. But his intentions are clearly signalled. He sees the tide swarming against his precious filthy rich benefactors. Come hell or high water, on January 1, 2013, the lousy Bush Tax Cuts for the very rich will end. And there is a resounding cry to get rid of the oil subsidies. All indications show the stupid President Bush policies that have driven this country into the dirt are finally being put an end to.

    I will vote to get rid of Heller. Heller, I remind everyone, was not elected, not even popularly elected. He was appointed. He was set in a Senate chair (by another Tea/Republican, Governor Sandoval) to put a warm carcass in it til the next election...in hopes he can snow people into keeping it. He was put in to replace another Tea/Republican (Ensign) that resigned in utter disgrace before being thrown out after being proven to be corrupt, adulterous, unethical, and a proven criminal (who was never prosecuted, just allowed to walk away in shame).

    The Tea/Republicans failed at maintaining any credibility to keep this Senate Seat. People still have a sour taste in their mouth from that pond scum Ensign. They are going to lose this Nevada Senate Seat. I can't take a chance and put another one in there that will probably do the same absurdities and take advantage of his position of power only for his personal gain. Time for change. The Tea/Republicans blew it. Don't sound fair, but it's just the way it is.

    Heller has proven to me he is unelectable and unsuited to make decisions that will effect Nevadans. Time to go Democratic Party.

  5. Domestic production is higher than the Bush years, and continuing to rise. Consumption in the USA is declining due to conservation and higher MPG standards. So if the natural supply and demand formulas of capitalism were working; gas prices would be falling.

    The reason they are rising is every barrel of oil changes hands 50+ times before reaching the consumer. That's fifty middle-men taking their cut.

    The solution to me would be requiring anyone trading oil must show they have the capacity to take delivery of what they are trading. Why should we pay a 25% premium every hurricane season because traders are betting on a disastrous hurricane wiping out production in the gulf coast?

  6. @LynnJohnson - I agree with you. Everyone needs to turn their attention to Wall Street and the traders. So often overlooked as they sit behind the scenes causing more turmoil and expense to satiate their greed.

    @Colin - all so true, good post.

  7. Listen up People, The oil produced by any Oil company immediatly goes into the world Market! It becomes and is a world Market Commodity, and is treated no different than Gold. The reason for repealing The Oil Tax Subsidies is that those Monies stay in the US coffers as Revenues and thusly is helpful in our Budget, or used elsewhere as Congress sees fit. As a World commodity no one in the USA singly has a say so in the price of oil, or for that matter, will make no difference how much oil American companies Produced. It will be controlled by World Market Prices.....always!!

  8. no company should get subsidies. No subsidies for oil, no subsidies for green energy.

  9. Well I am a democrat and I will be the first to tell you that Bush was not at fault for high gas prices simply because all oil drilled here or abroad goes on an auction block to the highest bidder sorta like buy a car at auction you buy it at one place hold it and sell at another place just that easy. Same way with live stock.

    The only persons responsible for the price of gas is also the one responsible for the high unemployment (The Consumer)
    Recycle the American Dollar through Patriotic spending " Buy American Made goods " And fuel even if it contains ethanol. That 10% means less jobs for the Arab's and more for the Americans.