Two Republicans stood by their vows to end the federal subsidies of Big Oil, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. The rest of the Senate GOP voted to allow the largest oil companies to keep their taxpayer handouts even as they post near-record profits.
Senators voted 52-48 on Tuesday to block a bill that would have stripped the oil companies of more than $20 billion in subsidies that many argue amount to corporate welfare, particularly when the companies are posting an estimated $3 billion a week in profit.
The tally fell eight votes short of the 60 required to break a filibuster and move to final approval.
Senate Democrats have said that the subsidies to big oil companies should be cut to tame the federal budget deficit before other government programs that many midddle class Americans rely upon.
Conservatives are demanding trillions of dollars in budget cuts across a wide swath of programs in exchange for raising the government’s debt limit.
“Republicans would rather cut college scholarships, slash cancer research and end Medicare than take away taxpayer-funded giveaways to oil companies that are raking in billions in profits. That tells you everything you need to know about their priorities,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared in a statement after the failed vote.
“We could have cut our deficit by $20 billion today, but Republicans defended oil companies instead. This is exactly the kind of wasteful spending we should be cutting,” the Nevada Democrat adds. “Democrats are not going to stop trying to end these wasteful taxpayer giveaways. I hope next time my Republican colleagues will put America’s seniors, students and middle-class families ahead of oil companies.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Senate Democrats assembled an online video of past statements by Republicans in which they pledged to end the oil subsidies.
Two of those Republicans in the video, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, stood by their earlier criticism of the subsidies and voted with most Democrats to eliminate them.
Other Republicans in the video, including Sens. Mark Kirk and John Thune, walked away from their earlier statements and voted with their GOP colleagues to defend the subsidies.
Two Democrats, Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, voted with the Republicans to keep the subsidies. Both lawmakers represent states with deep connections to the oil and gas industries.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.