Democrats say Romney beholden to ‘Big Oil’

“This has something to do with Republicans wanting to have Big Oil give them campaign donations,” Menendez said, later adding, “I guess that Republicans think that in trying to cut the deficit, it's more important to cut programs for students and retired veterans.”

Menendez pushed his bill, called the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, which he said would cancel tax breaks worth $24 billion over a decade for the five most profitable oil companies. Under the bill, those savings would be used to decrease the deficit.

That bill, S. 940, twice received a majority of votes but failed to collect the 60 needed to override Republican filibusters.

Asked by The Hill whether he would call for another vote, Menendez said, “They’re going to be subject to filibusters, so I’m not quite sure at the end of the day that we would get a different result.”

Van Hollen said much of the same for GOP members in the House.

“This is a choice they’ve made over and over,” he said.

Meanwhile, several oil conglomerates announced second quarter earnings. Many of the top five oil companies turned in significantly lower profits compared with 2011 after posting record revenue last year of $137 billion.

Exxon Mobil’s profits rose 49 percent for the quarter to $15.9 billion, but $7.5 billion came from asset sales, which showed the company is troubled by a combination of oil price volatility and resource nationalism that has dented U.S. oil companies’ performance in recent months.

ConocoPhillips, another U.S. oil and gas company, saw its profits fall 33 percent for the quarter — down to $2.27 billion, from $3.4 billion one year ago.

Royal Dutch Shell profits dropped 13 percent for the quarter, down to $5.7 billion from $6.6 billion the previous year.

Oil giants have felt the heat from state-backed oil firms in South America, the Middle East and Asia that have spent heavily to edge out major oil companies in surprise mergers and asset grabs.

The most recent of those moves, state-owned Chinese oil giant CNOOC’s $15.1 billion bid for Canadian firm Nexen, illuminated the U.S. firms' precarious position in a period of resource nationalism and falling oil prices.