Senate agrees to debate Menendez's latest oil tax bill

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly to proceed with debate on Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) bill to increase taxes on the five largest US oil companies by repealing several federal tax deductions they use. The 92-to-4 vote late toward the end of the Senate’s Mar. 26 session cleared the way for up to 30 hr of debate on S. 2204 to begin as soon as the afternoon of Mar. 27.

“I understand that several members from the across the aisle plan to vote to debate my bill, even though they oppose it,” Menendez said in a floor statement before the vote. “I hope they do, because I’ll be interested to hear their reasons for not taking wasteful subsidies these companies don’t need and using the money to create more alternative energy, jobs, and economic growth.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he could not think of a better way to show how far out of touch Democrats are on the issue of high gasoline prices. “That’s why Republicans plan to support moving forward on a debate over this legislation, because it’s a debate the country deserves,” he said.

“In response to record-high gas prices, Democrats in Congress want to raise taxes on the very people who produce it,” McConnell said. “Meanwhile, the president is blocking a pipeline that would decrease our dependence on Middle East oil and create thousands of American jobs.”

Two Republicans from producing states strongly criticized S. 2204 before the vote. “I don’t know how anyone can reach a conclusion that punitively raising taxes on an unpopular sector of the economy will make gasoline less, not more, expensive,” said John Cornyn (Tex.). “The Menendez bill and the Obama administration continue to single the oil industry out for exemption from the manufacturers’ tax credit when its use of the provision is already limited, for example.”

“President [Barack] Obama has had a 4-year war on fossil fuels, and now we’re paying the price,” said James M. Inhofe (Okla.). “It’s most obvious in his proposals to eliminate federal tax provisions that the oil and gas industry uses in budgets that his White House has prepared. He laid the groundwork for Sen. Menendez’s bill, which…is a little different from what’s been proposed previously in that it would apply only to the five largest oil companies. But it still would be a mistake.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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