Dems prioritize the end of oil industry subsidies

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.