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Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

A funny thing happened on the Senate floor yesterday: a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to consideration of a bill to end oil and gas company subsidies from the federal government actually passed, 92-4. That wasn't exactly how it was expected to go.

The Senate voted Monday evening, 92 to 4, to proceed with a politically tinged debate on repealing tax subsidies for the oil industry after Republicans called Democrats’ bluff and agreed to take up a bill designed as more of a political statement than a legislative initiative.[...]

Republicans jumped at the chance to thrust energy issues front and center—and to portray Democrats’ response to soaring gasoline prices as raising taxes on oil producers. That, they said, would only raise gas prices further.

Before the vote, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said: “I can’t think of a better way to illustrate how completely out of touch they are on this issue. And that’s why Republicans plan to support moving forward on a debate over this legislation, because it’s a debate the country deserves.”

They didn't actually agree to move to consideration of the actual bill, David Waldman explained this morning, but agreed to "end debate on the question of whether or not to begin debate" on the underlying bill. But what it does is set up a day of Senate blustering—for the Republicans, about the evil of tax hikes; for Democrats, about obscene oil company profits.

Republicans think they can turn this around on Democrats, arguing that the end of some subsidies to oil and gas companies will raise gas prices. Apparently, they agreed to cloture just so that they can have 30 hours to talk about that, and also to put a handful of Democrats, who've previously opposed ending these subsidies, on the spot. Apparently, Sen. Harry Reid is ready to take that on. From his floor remarks this morning (via e-mail):

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.

But don’t be fooled by last night’s bipartisan vote.  Senate Republicans would never side with American taxpayers against Big Oil.

It’s against their nature.

They proved it yesterday with rhetoric. And they proved it last year, with a nearly party-line vote against legislation to roll back billions in handouts to oil companies making record profits.

But despite Republican rhetoric, Americans understand it will take more than bumper sticker slogans to stop the pain at the pump.

The cloture vote set up 30 hours of debate on the issue, which could be shortened if the Republicans agree to end debate early and hold the vote on the motion to proceed, the vote that lets them debate more as they inch toward maybe voting on the underlying bill. According to a Senate Democratic aide, Reid intends to move forward with the motion to proceed vote, which could happen as early as today.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:09:56 AM PDT

  •  These Senators ought to tread carefully here (3+ / 0-)

    ...lest they inadvertently end the gas and oil subsidies by mistake. That wouldn't do in an election year.

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:24:17 AM PDT

  •  tax subsidies are less than 1 cent a gallon (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jerry J, mightymouse, elmo

    so let's have that debate.  1 penny a gallon, come on!  What will they do, raise the price of gas half a cent a gallon, from 3.739 to 3.744?  Why, that would cost another dime per fillup on a ten gallon tank  LOL

    80 % of success is showing up

    Corporate is not the solution to our problem

    Corporate is the problem

    by Churchill on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:35:23 AM PDT

    •  this deal is posturing as much as anything (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Churchill

      make it look like you're doing something about gasoline prices.

      I mean, $4 billion will help the federal budget. and the oil cos are making a lot of money that might as well be taxed. so that is good.

      but it will do little about gasoline prices.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:15:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're not realizing how big oil thinks... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Churchill

      It will mathematically work out to a fraction of a penny per gallon, but Big Oil will jack up prices by 50 cents and blame it on the loss of their precious subsidies.

      And the turn around and fart out even more record profits.

  •  GOP might misfire here. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless, TRPChicago, weinerschnauzer

    When Oil Companies see record profits, the average American wonders why they get tax breaks/subsidies when they are forced to struggle with a day to day living.  

    Just saying. If I'm the Dems, I rub it in their faces if this fails to pass.

    Keep the faith and walk the path.

    by TheStormofWar on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:38:30 AM PDT

    •  Lots of people want gas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse

      There is a limited amount.

      The price determines who gets it and who doesn't.

      People who can't or don't want to pay for gas should consider moving closer to work, walking, biking, carpooling, or getting a more efficient auto.

      The future is going to be about expensive gas. People who are going to be successful in the new era realize this fact and adjust their lifestyle accordingly. Unsuccessful people will continue their current lifestyle and expect the government to do things to keep prices down. It can't, and it won't.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:03:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Adjust their life style"- the resources for ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... doing that come from where exactly? I think you assume people "who can't ... pay for gas" are as well off and have the same array of choices as the well-heeled. And what makes you say they "expect the government" to do things? Special insight on that?

        Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

        by TRPChicago on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 01:56:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This entire series of diaries... (0+ / 0-)

          ...has been about expecting the government to do something about rising oil prices, either by going after oil companies, speculators, or what have you. Such activities are futile.

          And I don't have a solution for Americans who find it difficult to change habits. I just know that they will have to do so, one way or another. Prices won't allow anything else. Best to start preparing now.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 02:26:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK, I surrender. Prices are whatever prices ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... will be. There's a certain simple purity in that. I'll just get reconciled to the unthwarted forces of a free market.

            But just as a sanity check here: are you personally at all concerned beyond, "I just know they will have to do so ..."

            Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

            by TRPChicago on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 02:39:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm concerned... (0+ / 0-)

              ...but I'm mainly concerned how we are going to keep the lights on in an era of increasing population and declining oil resources more than I'm worried about how individual people or families are going to cope.

              The best way that they can cope is to decrease their reliance on fossil fuels. The government would do well to stop bothering with too much in the way of automobile related infrastructure projects and start building railroads powered by renewables as much as possible (probably with nuclear too), but they won't.

              All subsidization of suburbia must cease in favor of subsidies for dense, mixed use, walkable communities that do not require automobiles to live in. (Another non starter in a nation of people obsessed with driving and suburbia).

              This situation we're entering into is a civilizational crisis. Wondering how middle class people are going to handle high gas prices is like being concerned that steerage on the Titanic is going to miss dinner because of the iceberg.

              (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
              Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

              by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:47:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So, beset by free market forces beyond control, (0+ / 0-)

                ... governments should incent through subsidies fundamentally new approaches to city planning and mass transit. I assume this is because government today is wrong-headed and business won't do anything like these innovative things without a LOT of taxpayer money and centralized planning and management.

                I agree with you that such forward thinking is not likely to happen in any future you and I will be part of, and I realize that I understand less about how libertarians view the role of government than I thought.

                Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

                by TRPChicago on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 03:45:48 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  City planning is always... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...a government function. Even strong libertarians think so. There's just no other way to handle who can build what where, gas and power, whether and how to build a road, etc.

                  As a small l libertarian, I think market based solutions are generally preferable to government solutions. This is not to say that government solutions aren't preferable in some circumstances, but when such solutions are used, they are tailored narrowly and in a limited manner. Also, when such solutions are necessary it is better to use the market than to fight it.

                  For example, if you're trying to cut down fossil fuel usage, increasing cafe standards is a terrible idea. Better just to allow or cause expensive gas and let the market solve the problem. If higher fuel efficiency is a good idea, the market will do it without much prodding. If people start moving closer to work and half of Detroit shuts down, then that is the proper result.

                  (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                  Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                  by Sparhawk on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 04:29:50 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  OK, this is making a bit sense to me, although ... (0+ / 0-)

                    ... I worry more about individuals as individuals - particularly below the diminishing middle class - than I read you as worrying.

                    As for city planning, I celebrate the wisdom that laid out great swaths of New York City for Central Park, a wonderful almost-30 mile long public lakefront in Chicago and rapid transit systems when it was cheaper and easier to build them, for example. But in this day and age, development and developers are so close to government and the wisdom so scarce about community resources and "the commons" that I fear government for the people does not have the ability to override narrow(er) private interests.

                    Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

                    by TRPChicago on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 05:54:14 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Think so? (0+ / 0-)

      Me, too. This is just about as brilliant politically as their "contraception violates my religious freedom!!!" gambit.

      Oil companies jacking up the price of gasoline while enjoying record profits deserve special tax breaks? Oh, yeah. Riiiiight.

  •  Resource Capitalism 101 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skillet, shoeless, elmo
    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
    .

    slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare."

    by annieli on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:39:27 AM PDT

  •  Political strategy-wise (an oxymoron, maybe)... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless

    ... I think this vote on cloture represents a GOP confident of eroding some oil-and-energy-industry campaign support from Democrats and fracturing the Democratic Party.

    But instead - once again, bless-their-hearts! - the GOP is badly misjudging the American public's tolerance for enormous taxpayer subsidies in the face of huge oil baron profits and higher gas prices. This is absolutely made to backfire on Republicans and on McDonnell's leadership in the Senate, such as it is.

    Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:43:36 AM PDT

    •  Enourmous? Not so much (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse

      Apple and Microsoft get more "subsidies" from the domestic production tax credit than the oil companies do.

      Don't get me wrong, they don't need any subsidies at all.  But they are not "enormous" on the grand scale of government revenues.  They total about $4 Billion per year.

      •  Do you have any links to those (0+ / 0-)

        subsidies?  I tried a quick google search and couldn't find anything on apple subsidies.

        There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

        by AoT on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 10:07:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here ya go (0+ / 0-)

          There's not a lot on the web on exact numbers.. but it is a tax break enjoyed my many US corporations:

          http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/...

          They identified the single largest subsidy as the Section 199 Manufacturer’s Tax Deduction. It is an income tax deduction, and not any sort of cash subsidy that is being paid to the oil companies. More importantly, not only is it not limited to oil companies, but oil companies have already been singled out for a reduction in the tax credit. Other industries get to take a 9% deduction for Section 199, but oil companies are restricted to 6%. So Apple and their 28% profit margin gets to deduct 9% from their U.S. based manufacturing activities, and Tesoro with their single-digit profit margin gets to deduct 6%. So the question that should be asked is “Why are we giving oil company subsidies to Apple, Google, and Microsoft?” If you want to eliminate Section 199, fine. Just do it for everyone.
      •  $4 billion of foregone revenues at a time ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... when half of Congress is stopping so much other legislation, including attempts to restart the economy, because it thinks we're too much in debt, $4 billion is a LOT of money. And yes there are other companies and other subsidies, tax breaks and preferments to look into, too.

        Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

        by TRPChicago on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 12:06:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  McTurtle isn't really into this....cause he knows (0+ / 0-)

    it's a LOSER......he's banking on Health Care.....come on Supreme Court....(the fucker better get used to disappointment)

  •  frame (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, elmo

    If you want to frame this issue, divide the gross profit of Exxon/Mobil by the number of gallons of gas they sold.  Very roughly (and simply) that's how much they overcharge for gas.  I realize this is foolish--sort of FOXNEWSish-- but at a level most Americans seem to think.  You can't fight exaggeration and lies these days with just truth--need a little Madison Ave adspeak.

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:49:47 AM PDT

    •  The price is whatever makes supply equal demand (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse

      If oil companies lowered prices out of generosity or whatever, there would be massive shortages as people currently on the sidelines due to prices started buying a lot of oil. You'd have gas lines, rations, and all the rest.

      If you want to pay less, lower your consumption.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:08:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  actually (0+ / 0-)

        Gas is somewhat inelastic--price influences demand less than on most products.

        Apres Bush, le deluge.

        by melvynny on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:13:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, why didn't I think of that! It's so ... easy! (0+ / 0-)

        The way you explain it, I wonder what the fuss is all about. The free market in action will take care of this, of course, and new competitors with lower costs will start providing oil at competitive - read lower - prices. Now I see it all so much more clearly.

        Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

        by TRPChicago on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 02:04:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There isn't any more oil to be had (0+ / 0-)

          There is a limited amount of it since it is a nonrenewable resource. Soon availability of oil will go into permanent decline. People will be pining for the good old days of $5/gallon gas by then.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:38:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  call it "excess profit," not "overcharging" (0+ / 0-)

      as Sparhawk correctly points out, oil cos don't set the price ... but it's true that at current prices anyone who owns conventional oil wells will make a lot of money.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:19:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why do Republicans want big government spending? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, weinerschnauzer

    I am pretty sure the money they give to oil companies comes from taxes.

    I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point -- race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.- Molly Ivins

    by shoeless on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:50:11 AM PDT

  •  Just a thought here... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gleniris

    You know we're always told that the GOP is holding hostage some issue we care about?

    Perhaps.  Just Perhaps.

    Someone should turn the tables?

    IE:  Tax Cuts?  Fine.  End Oil Subsidies, extend unemployment benefits, cut military spending, and strengthen medicare / medicaid.

    Every time.

    Every bill.

    Each and every time.

    I know that Reid is new to the Senate (along with other Dem "leaders") so perhaps someone should float the idea of taking hostage the GOP's favorite legislation and slamming into it something our side wants.

    It's not like there's a pattern of this being successful /snark

    Here's a thought:

    The GOP likes to rant about contraception?  Well, why not offer up a tax hike on Millionaires AND fund contraception for women whose employers morally object to providing said contraception?

    Let's see what happens.  Will the GOP kowtow to their base over "religious freedom" or will they kow-tow to the 1% over a millionaire's tax hike?

    Here's an Advertisement:

    "The Republicans would rather protect millionaires than stand up for religious freedom.  When did the Republicans become so anti-Christian?"
    See.  That's how the game is played.

    When the players want to win for the 99%, that is.

    Either that or here on DKOS we're all geniuses and the elected Dem "leaders" stumbled into their positions by gravity and have no clue how the game is played.

    Or perchance the game is being played very well.  It's just a coincidence the 1% always win.

    It isn't that Obama hasn't Changed anything; It's that his actions advance the 1%'s interests.

    by Johnathan Ivan on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 08:51:07 AM PDT

    •  Um (0+ / 0-)

      There is no need to "fund" insurance policies that cover contraception; those policies actually cost less than policies that don't cover it. From an actuarial standpoint, a policy that covers contraception is cheaper because fewer plan participants get accidentally pregnant. Covering the cost of a birth is very expensive compared with the cost of a year's prescription for birth control.

      •  That's an excellent observation: (0+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure it would carry the same weight with today's electorate as "Religious Freedom!".

        Forget the actuarial math.  Voters, except for a tiny minority on the left, don't give a shit about theories, math, or any other "science" related discipline.

        It's about fighting.  Dirty.  And using the tools ya got to get what needs gettin'.

        It isn't that Obama hasn't Changed anything; It's that his actions advance the 1%'s interests.

        by Johnathan Ivan on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 11:41:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Americans might be surpised to know the truth (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk, elmo

    about oil "subsidies".  They amount to about $4 Billion per year.

    The bulk of that "subsidy" is provided by Section 199 of the IRS code.

    SEC. 199. INCOME ATTRIBUTABLE TO DOMESTIC PRODUCTION ACTIVITIES.

    This IRS code has nothing to do with oil companies per se.  It allow any company to take a deduction for producing anything domestically.  It is a deduction used by foreign companies that manufacture autos here.  It is also used heavily by companies like Apple and Microsoft - pretty flush companies.

    So, yeah.. let's repeal those "subsidies" for everyone.  And repeal the other drilling tax breaks too.  The oil companies don't need them.

    But the American public may be surprised when they find out all of the hoopla over the oil company "subsidies" amounts to a measly $4 Billion per year.

    This is simply more obfuscation and distraction by a Congress unwilling to address any of the problems we face regarding revenues and spending.

  •  Mitch McConnell is quite a Senator... (0+ / 0-)

    The biggest obstructionist in the Senate is Senator McConnell. I hope that this blows up in his face. I hope that the corporate welfare ends with the elimination of subsidies for the oil companies.

    I hope that the re election of President Obama sends Senator McConnell right into Psychiatric care. Maybe he can come out with a statement on inauguration day that says that his number one mission is to see to it that the President is a two term President.

  •  When we we simply (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greendem

    shut big oil down and end this charade?  We could, and should, nationalize oil production since the resources are ours as a nation, not to be controlled by a few.

  •  Fungibility = US subsiding the world. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo

    This is one more chance to remind folks that Oil is fungible.

    In this case it means when the American tax payer subsidies the oil companies...we are subsidizing the price of gas for the whole world...
    Most of the benefit we would get for paying oil companies through our taxes dollars in exchange for lower gas prices would pass to the world...NOT the Americans consumer.

  •  Why oh why (0+ / 0-)

    ...is this not being framed as a spending cut? "Spending cuts" are how the neocons get usually reasonable people to go along with gutting essential services. This seems like a righteous no-brainer; force the Republicans to come out against spending cuts for an industry awash in profits.

    The problem with going with your gut as opposed to your head is that the former is so often full of shit. - Randy Chestnut

    by lotusmaglite on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 10:41:25 AM PDT

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