With gas prices above $4 a gallon around the country, it's occurred to Senate Democrats that now might be a good time to reconsider tax credits for oil companies who just had another banner quarter of profits. Perhaps they felt shamed into it after seeing the dry eraseboard about gas prices that Fox Business Network's Eric Bolling held up as President Obama's motorcade drove to Ground Zero last week. At a Finance Committee hearing today, Senate Democrats plan on raking execs from the big five oil companies over the coals, in the hopes that deficit woes coupled with high gas prices will have given them an opening to go after energy tax breaks around some $4 billion.
Gas prices have surged recently over turmoil in the Middle East and increasing demands in fast-growth economies like China. Yesterday, oil and gasoline futures tumbled over worries that Americans were cutting back on driving. But that's unlikely to dissuade Democrats from using Big Oil like a piñata.
Republicans in the House are moving in the opposite direction, passing a bill yesterday that would force decisions to be made about offshore-drilling permits within 60 days. A spokesman for John Boehner chimed in that "tax hikes will raise gas prices, destroy jobs in this country and increase our dependence on foreign oil."
But the biggest pushback against the plan to cut back tax credits might come from Democrats in oil-rich states. Senators Mark Begich and Mary Landrieu, who represent Alaska and Louisiana, respectively, both decried attempts to close the tax loophole. On the floor of the Senate, Begich said:
"It is a gimmick, a gimmick to get the next week of activity, and get some press out there. Picking on one industry because it sounds good, rates good in the polls, gets you a couple of headlines is not what the American people want us to do here. If anything, they're getting fed up with that."