Speaker Boehner: Cutting Oil Subsidies “Wouldn’t Lower Gas Prices One Penny”

By John R Parkinson

May 12, 2011 1:53pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

As top executives from the five most profitable oil companies testified on Capitol Hill today, House Speaker John Boehner said that a Senate bill to scrap tax subsidies for Big Oil would not lower gasoline prices at all, but maintained that it is an idea worthy of consideration in the House as part of a broader examination of the corporate tax code later this year.

“We all know that going after oil companies is easy politics, but we also know that if this bill were to pass it wouldn't lower gas prices one penny,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “I believe that as we get into looking at fundamental reform of the corporate tax code, this and every other issue ought to be considered."

With gas prices climbing above $4 per gallon, Boehner had told ABC News in an exclusive interview from his Ohio district April 25 that he believed the so-called Big Five oil companies (Shell, BP, Exxon Mobile, Chevron and ConocoPhillips) deserved “some part of this to blame” for soaring prices, and suggested cutting subsidies was “certainly something we should be looking at.”

"We're in a time when the federal government's short on revenues,” Boehner said last month. “They ought to be paying their fair share."

Those comments reverberated across Washington, with President Obama writing a letter to Congressional leadership urging bipartisan cooperation in order to conquer the challenge.

Senate Democrats also responded by unveiling a bill Tuesday to scrap tax breaks for the “Big Five” and pledged to directly turn over about $2 billion in annual savings from the proposed cuts to pay down the federal deficit.

The measure, known as the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, would eliminate the domestic manufacturing tax deduction and close a separate loophole Senate Democrats say “amounts to the U.S. government subsidizing foreign oil production.” 

“There is more hot air around this building about deficit reduction than any other topic right now, and if we cannot end subsidies to the five biggest most profitable corporations in the history of the planet that come from the federal taxpayer, then I don’t think anyone should take us seriously about deficit reduction,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Tuesday. “The bottom line is this: if we can’t do this, if we can’t remove subsides from these profitable big oil companies, then I don’t know if we can ever get to the really difficult work that lies ahead.” 

House Republicans, meanwhile, passed three natural resources bills over the past week aimed at opening up domestic energy production. Boehner says the GOP’s legislation would immediately lower prices at the pump by increasing American energy production and creating more American jobs.

“The American people are demanding that Congress take concrete steps to increase the supply of the American energy to lower costs, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to create jobs,” Boehner said. “Republicans are listening and taking action to provide much needed relief to families and small businesses who are struggling with high prices at the pump.”

Boehner added that Republicans will continue working to address rising gasoline prices by bringing “more bills on the floor in the coming weeks and months.”

In the wake of the partisan vote April 15 on the House Republicans “Path to Prosperity” budget that transforms Medicare into a block grant program, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested the GOP’s legislative priorities are out of line with America’s top concerns and asked “why should seniors have to pay more for less, while we're subsidizing Big Oil so they can make a trillion dollars over the next 10 years?” 

“While we're giving tax breaks to Big Oil for a policy which just continues our dependence on foreign oil or fossil fuels in our own country, without investing into the future, while we're doing all of that, we're also saying to seniors, we prefer to give tax subsidies to Big Oil and have you pay the price,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.  “If we remove the tax breaks for Big Oil, the big five oil companies, we would save $32 billion over 10 years, over 10 years. That's approximately what the Big Five made in the first quarter of this year.”

“How do you say to the American taxpayer, how do you say to the American consumer who's paying the price at the pump, that in order for these people to make this much money, charge this much at the pump, you, the taxpayer, are subsidizing their production? It's just appalling,” Pelosi added.

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