April 25, 2011 -- At a time of skyrocketing gas prices and near-record profits for oil companies, House Speaker John Boehner made a major concession today: Congress should consider cutting multi-billion dollar subsidies to oil companies.
"Everybody wants to go after the oil companies and, frankly, they've got some part of this to blame," the Ohio Republican told ABC News today.
Blame aside, what about the cold, hard cash -- the billions of dollars in tax breaks and other subsidies big oil receives every year? President Obama has proposed doing away with many of them, which he says would save $45 billion over the next 10 years.
"It's certainly something we should be looking at," Boehner said. "We're in a time when the federal government's short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share."
That is a departure for the speaker on an issue that Republicans have long defended as necessary to encourage domestic oil production.
Republicans have a plan that Boehner says could begin bringing gas prices down right way. It would encourage exploration and new domestic production and curb the EPA's ability to impose restrictions on the oil and gas markets. He argued the Republican plan would send an important message to the market.
"I think if we began to allow-- more permits for oil and gas production it would send a signal to the market that America's serious about moving toward energy independence. That signal, in and of itself-- would-- would calm these prices down quite a bit," Boehner said.
The speaker said that while he wanted to "take a look" at oil subsidies. He also wanted to "see all the facts" first.
"I don't want to hear a bunch of political rhetoric," Boehner said. "I want to know what impact this is going have on job creation here in America."
Boehner made his comments in a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with ABC News as he toured the Innovative Labeling Solutions factory in Hamilton, Ohio, and Rebco Inc. in Greenville, Ohio, which designs and builds commercial agriculture equipment.
When asked who the American people should blame for high gas prices, Boehner pointed the finger at Obama.
"They're going to blame somebody, all right. And the fact is he has done nothing to help the situation," Boehner said.
Boehner said high gas prices, more than anything else, are likely to cost Obama re-election in 2012.
"Who knows," Boehner said, when asked if Obama could win in 2012. "But if the economy doesn't get better, I don't think he'll win. If people don't feel better about government-run health care, I don't think he'll win. And if gas prices are $5 or $6, he certainly isn't going to win."
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today suggests Boehner may be right: With gas up 25 percent this year to an average $3.84 a gallon, seven in 10 Americans in this poll report financial hardship as a result, and Obama's ratings are suffering.
In re-election terms, 53 percent of those who are feeling serious hardship as a result of gas prices said they would definitely not vote for Obama in 2012.
To read what Speaker Boehner had to say about President Obama, the deficit, and Rep. Paul Ryan's budget click HERE.
For a full transcript of this interview, click HERE.
ABC News' John Parkinson, Gregory Simmons and Z. Byron Wolf contributed to this report.