Senate Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday clashed openly and sharply over tax breaks for the oil industry, with Democrats assailing the incentives and Republicans defending them as necessary.
In unusually hostile terms, an intense debate unfolded among senators over a bill that would repeal the tax incentives and promote clean energy initiatives.
The Senate already voted 92-4 on Monday to approve a procedural motion advancing the bill to debate, but its eventual passage is doubtful since Democrats only hold 53 of the chamber's 100 seats, and Democrats from oil-rich states are likely to oppose it.
That didn't stop Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., from making rare, barbed comments at each other.
"The country deserves to hear the truth about double dipping by oil companies: they take taxpayer money with one hand and raise prices at the pump with the other hand," Reid said.
He added, "Don't be fooled by last night's bipartisan vote. Senate Republicans will never side with American taxpayers against Big Oil. It's against their nature."
McConnell shot back that ending the subsidies defies common sense and criticized the Obama administration for delaying the Keystone Pipeline, which Republicans are championing as a way to ease high gas prices.
"Today the Democrat-controlled Senate plans to send a message: If they had their way, gas prices would be even higher," McConnell said.
He added, "This is the Democrat response to high gas prices. And frankly, I can't think of a better way to illustrate how completely out of touch they are on this issue."
At issue is about $24 billion in subsidies due to be paid to the largest oil companies over the next ten years.
Democrats want to use that money for clean energy investments and to reduce the deficit, while Republicans say ending the subsidies would amount to a tax increase on an industry that is already being treated unfairly.
by RTT Staff Writer
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