Dems To Force Vote On Oil Subsidies

WASHINGTON -- Eager to prove that Republicans don't want to end oil subsidies despite public GOP opposition, House Democrats plan to force a vote Thursday on a measure that would block a major tax break for the five largest oil companies.

As Republicans call for major cuts to domestic spending, Democrats are pushing for tax code changes that would allow the government to bring in more money, particularly from high-profit industries Democrats say do not pay their fair share. President Barack Obama and key Democrats have called for an end to some oil and gas subsidies, arguing gas prices are high enough to sustain industry investment in the United States.

John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, said in February that major oil companies do not need government help given the high price of gas.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a similar point at a Tuesday briefing with reporters, shooting down questions about whether ending oil subsidies could increase the price of gas.

“The gas companies are making record profits,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a credible argument that reducing the subsidy on a product that is now getting record prices...will lead to higher [gas] prices.”

House Speaker John Boehner indicated some support for reconsidering those subsidies last week, telling ABC News that they “ought to be paying their fair share.” Obama quickly jumped on the statement, sending a letter to Congress urging an end to the tax breaks.

Boehner quickly walked back the statement, and last Thursday turned down a request by Democrats to vote on legislation to eliminate billions of dollars of oil subsidies.

In response, Democrats are trying to force votes as often as possible to get Republicans on the record in support of tax breaks for Big Oil.

On Thursday, when the House holds a vote on expanding domestic drilling, Democrats plan to force a vote on a measure that would repeal Section 199 of the domestic manufacturing tax credit for the five largest oil companies.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) will offer the motion, which is based on a larger bill he sponsored to bring in revenue from major oil companies. That bill, called the Big Oil Welfare Repeal Act, would generate $12.8 billion in the next 10 years, according to Bishop.

Senate Democrats plan to push for a similar bill, with an announcement on timing expected to come out from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office shortly.

Although it is nearly certain to fail in the House, Democrats hope to use the vote to present some Republicans as hypocrites if they vote to continue the subsidies. A Democratic operative pointed to three freshman Republicans who have said they would support an end to the tax breaks: Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.).

Democrats will also be watching Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, who said in May he supports an end to all tax breaks as part of plan to change the corporate tax structure.