Trying To Have It Both Ways? Republican Senator Cornyn Complains About Deficit Spending But Wants More Corporate Tax Subsidies

Republican Sen. John Cornyn simultaneously is excoriating Democrats over the rising federal budget deficit, but also is attacking the Obama administration for a proposal to cut tax subsidies to big oil and natural gas companies.

Cornyn, a Texas lawmaker and a member of the Senate Finance and Budget committees, criticizes Democrats for approving a number of White House priorities, including last year’s economic stimulus plan, and initial legislation to approve healthcare reform.

“This Senate must reduce the debt and stop wasteful, unprecedented deficit spending. Instead, the majority has passed a trillion-dollar stimulus bill, approved appropriations bills that included double-digit increases over the previous year, and cut backroom deals to force through a $2.5 trillion government takeover of our health care system,” Cornyn says.

As part of its proposed budget for the 2011 federal fiscal year, the administration wants to eliminate 12 tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies, closing loopholes that would raise nearly $39 billion in federal revenue over the next decade, according to White House budget director Peter Orzag.

“On the fiscal front, the president’s Budget puts on the table more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years by imposing historic restraint on the growth of non-security discretionary funding and restoring fairness and balance to the tax code,” Orzag says.

But rather than embracing these White House deficit reduction measures, Cornyn attacks them by labeling the elimination of corporate tax breaks as tax increases on energy companies. Cornyn questioned Orzag about the White House FY 2011 budget proposals during a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier this month.

“During the hearing, I asked you if it is the policy of the administration to raise energy costs on fossil fuels needed by Americans today in order to make alternative energy sources the profitable kind of energy,” Cornyn says in a follow-up letter to Orzag. “You responded that ‘it is the policy of the administration to move as aggressively as we can towards a clean energy future not only by investing in R&D into those clean energy sources but also in cutting back on the subsidies that we currently provide in a way that we don’t provide to other sectors to fossil fuels.'”

Cornyn also claims the tax breaks in question help small business, but others indicate that large corporations benefit.

“There is no reason Congress should subsidize the five biggest oil companies, which reaped record profits this year, while Americans pay top dollar at the pump,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) says in a statement released in 2008 in endorsing an earlier attempt to eliminate the tax breaks.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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