ABOUT THOSE SUBSIDIES TO OIL COMPANIES…. Just last month, congressional Republicans defeated a Democratic effort to end lucrative subsidies to extremely-profitable oil companies. The GOP is eager, at least in public, to reduce the deficit, but not if it might inconvenience those who really matter — folks like ExxonMobil.

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that oil companies are showing huge profits, making it “simply crazy and unsustainable” to keep giving the industry billions of dollars worth of tax incentives.

In a pleasant surprise, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pointed yesterday to some new-found flexibility on the issue.

Congress should consider cutting multibillion-dollar subsidies to oil companies amid rising concern over skyrocketing gas prices, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Monday.

“It’s certainly something we should be looking at,” Boehner said in an ABC News interview. “We’re in a time when the federal government’s short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share.”

“Everybody wants to go after the oil companies and frankly, they’ve got some part of this to blame,” he said.

This was no small concession. Boehner’s own caucus, just six weeks ago, had a chance to end taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that don’t need them, but Republicans refused. Indeed, how many GOP members broke ranks and voted with Dems to end the incentives? Zero.

What’s more, Boehner and his party have argued, repeatedly and passionately, that the federal government doesn’t need a dime of additional revenue, and his comments yesterday suggested the exact opposite.

So, this is a sign of progress, right? Maybe Boehner’s feeling some heat and sees this as a chance for his party to do something popular, oil lobbyists be damned? I’m afraid that’s not the case — despite the Speaker’s own on-air comments, which didn’t leave much in the way of ambiguities, his office soon after walked this back. “The speaker made clear in the interview that raising taxes was a nonstarter, and he’s told the president that,” Boehner’s spokesperson said. “He simply wasn’t going to take the bait and fall into the trap of defending ‘Big Oil’ companies.”

I don’t really know what that means, but I guess the Speaker’s encouraging remarks weren’t intended to be a factual statement.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.