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Tilting at Windmills

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April 28, 2011

DEMS PRIORITIZE THE END OF OIL INDUSTRY SUBSIDIES.... Though he later said he didn't mean it, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week that he's open to ending lucrative taxpayer subsidies to extremely-profitable oil companies. It was the opening Democrats had been waiting for.

A half-day later, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders in both parties and both chambers, urging them to end the oil-industry incentives and apply the savings -- around $4 billion a year in additional revenue -- to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The president added that he was "heartened" by Boehner pre-walkback comments.

It quickly became clear that the Speaker has no intention of following through on this -- his office all but admitted he was lying on national television -- but his is not the only chamber on the Hill.

President Barack Obama's most powerful ally on Capitol Hill said Wednesday that the Senate will turn quickly to legislation to repeal billions of dollars in government subsidies enjoyed by big oil companies every year.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will consider as early as next week Obama's proposal to repeal the tax breaks. Obama wants to use the billions in saving to invest in alternative energy in an effort to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.

"There's no necessity for these subsidies," Reid told reporters. "The companies have broken all records for profits."

It's a near certainty that Senate Republicans will filibuster the cost-saving measure -- they're allegedly desperate to lower the deficit, but rather picky about how -- and given the makeup of the Senate, getting to 60 will be all but impossible.

But even under this scenario, Democrats see a political opportunity: with consumers paying nearly $4 a gallon, Republicans are fighting to defend subsidies for Big Oil, on top of the industry's massive profits. Like the vote on the House budget bill, the point is to put the Senate GOP in a tough spot.

Not to be outdone, House Dems, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), are also pushing Boehner to at least hold a vote on this, giving members a chance to do what the Speaker told a national television audience he'd consider doing.

Democrats don't see chances to go on the offensive very often, but they see an opportunity here. That strikes me as wise -- if the GOP keeps defending the industry incentives, it's a political cudgel, and if Republicans cave and end the subsidies, the money can be better spent elsewhere.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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Presidents are generally blamed for economic unpleasantries like "unemployment" or "high gas prices", regardless of either their culpability or the ability to do anything about it.

Democrats need a pithy "Frank Luntzism" to hang around the Republican's oil soaked necks.

Posted by: DAY on April 28, 2011 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK


Hold the Republicans tootsies over that oil-fed fire!

This, AND Harry bringing the Privatizing Ryan Plan to a vote in the Senate?

Maybe the Democrats have finally blown the dust off of their old copy "Politics for Dummies, Idiots, and Democrats."
God knows, no one since LBJ's even looked at it.

Be still my foolish heart...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 28, 2011 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are in a bad spot on this issue. Democrats didn't need Boehner's boneheaded comment to start this off.

They should keep pushing to tar Republicans with the subsidies. The real test will come if the Senate actually has a vote. Will 50 Democrats support lifting the subsities if it looks like there is a chance the thing might pass? For me that is the real question.

So far the debt fight seems more about ideology than actually reducing debt or helping the company. As long as it remains a fight over ideology, the Republicans will continue to weaken themselves for the next election. Their ideology just isn't that popular with their intended victims now expanded to include senior citizens.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 28, 2011 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

country, not company.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 28, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Off subject - but from overseas friends and family = they think that America has officially lost it's mind after yesterday and we are the laughing stock of the world.

Posted by: JS on April 28, 2011 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know how Democrats will blow this, only that they will. Maybe Republicans will suggest those subsidies are absolutely essential for finding "new" oil fields, which as we're all told are everywhere in the US if only environmentalists would let us drill at Yosemite. Of course, if Democrats had their way, we'd all be pedaling bicycles and giving blacks reparations.

I'm not sure all of this back and forth is futile but I suspect only genuine catastrophe will wake up people. It's that bad.

Posted by: walt on April 28, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Hold the Republicans tootsies over that oil-fed fire!

I love the smell of burning Republicans in the morning. It smells like victory.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 28, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK
Democrats don't see chances to go on the offensive very often
Steve, I'm glad you phrased it this way. It's not that the Democrats don't often have chances to go on the offensive. It's that they tend not to see them. In my more cynical moments I believe that they choose not to see them. Posted by: Bernard Gilroy on April 28, 2011 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hogwash. As Ron Byers intimates, Democrats don't need an opening to "go on the offensive" about anything.

There are numerous examples of issues that they could "go on the offensive" about--if they wanted to. They just choose not to.

That Democrats have to wait until Boehner or someone else makes a gaffe of this sort to do something should spotlight rather brightly that this is all about politics, instead of doing what is objectively right for the non-rich. Most politicians are simply beholden to the entities that would be targeted for such obvious legislation, and they aren't allowed to do something like Reid is proposing unless someone steps in the doo-doo.

Posted by: terraformer on April 28, 2011 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Most politicians are simply beholden to the entities that would be targeted for such obvious legislation, and they aren't allowed to do something like Reid is proposing unless someone steps in the doo-doo.

This strikes me as wrong. If they weren't really interested in doing something they could have just let Boehner's comment go right on by. It's not like the media was paying attention, what with Trump and Obama's birth certificate as chew toys.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 28, 2011 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

"It's not like the media was paying attention"

Or those media types who yawned while tossing up a few beach balls to Bernanke, yesterday? Callers at C-span, this AM, have been skewering the young man from the WSJ for not not asking pertinent questions. His replies are such as "Oh, that one was Number 4 on my list, but...."

BTW, Danny, you blast Dems for sitting out the last election. Did you notice the name of Earl Blumenhauer in the thread? He is my US Rep. We, obviously, did not sit out his re-election, did we?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Call your senators and tell them to vote against oil company subsidies. If we can't afford to feed children and subsidize college education through Pell Grants, why are we subsidizing an industry that is more profitable than ever?

Here's the link to find your senators' phone numbers:


Posted by: karen marie on April 28, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I am hoping that the Democrats find that the best defense is a good offense and keep using this tactic. It is far better to force the other guy to defend.

Posted by: tomb on April 28, 2011 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers judged that Republicans had expanded "their intended victims [...] to include senior citizens"

I disagree. Their intended victims now include the senior citizens one decade from now. That is, today's middle-aged.

Apparently, Repubs are counting on people who are over 65 today to be the stereotypical "greedy geezers" who are concerned only about themselves. If they get theirs, tough t**y to their children, grandchildren, etc.

Repubs may also count on today's middle-aged to be clueless about the health issues they look forward to, and even after 3 years of worldwide recession, foreclosures and joblessness, confident that they can build up that big nest egg so they can take care of themselves when the time comes, without assistance from the gummint.

Recent events suggest Republicans are wrong both ways.

Posted by: zandru on April 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK
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