With Senate Dems running into a wall of GOP opposition to ending subsidies for Big Oil — and with oil execs denouncing the Dem plan as ”un-American” — perhaps it’s worth recalling that there was a time when more Republicans supported ending Big Oil’s tax breaks.
Senate Dems are circulating this video of Senator Susan Collins of Maine on the Senate floor in 2008, making an impassioned case that it’s wrong to ask taxpayers to subsidize companies that make billions a year in profits:
“With net profits of a single oil company reaching almost 10 billion dollars in a single quarter, we simply should not expect taxpayers struggling to pay their energy bills to continue to subsidize the oil and gas industry,” Collins said. A Collins press release from that time makes the same point.
Collins has not said how she will vote on the Senate Dems’ current proposal, but as you can see, in 2008 she clearly sided with the Dem position.
She’s not the only one. Senator John Thune, too, called for suspending the subsidies in 2006, but has since reversed course.
One oil industry exec has now taken to denouncing the Dem plan to end their subsidies as “un-American.” One wonders if that exec would apply that epithet to Collins or Thune.
That it’s an open question whether a moderate like Collins will support the Dems’ current drive to end the subsidies — even though she has voiced support for this in the past — reflects the GOP’s hardening anti-tax ideology, where even ending tax breaks to multi-billion-dollar companies is now routinely described as a tax hike.
I’ve asked Collins’ office whether she will support the Dem plan, and will update you if I hear back.
UPDATE: Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins, responds that Collins is reviewing the Dem proposal, and could still support it, but she has concerns that it doesn’t do enough to rein in gas prices:
Senator Collins has long supported eliminating certain tax subsidies for major oil companies. She previously sponsored legislation to repeal such tax breaks for large oil companies, and along with Senator Carl Levin, she offered a related bipartisan amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution. Their proposal would have reallocated funds from these subsidies to provide tax credits for consumers to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as to support the research and development of alternative fuels.
She is currently reviewing the specifics of proposals that were just introduced, including Senator Menendez’s proposal, which targets certain subsidies. It is important to note, however, that while eliminating or reducing these tax breaks may be good tax policy and help with deficit reduction, the Democrats’ proposal will have no impact on the price that consumers pay at the pump. By contrast, Senator Collins’s work with Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Maria Cantwell to curb excessive speculation in the energy futures market would have an impact on oil prices.