“This debate would be a lot easier if Republicans just came out and said what they really mean,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “They should simply say openly that they want to protect their friends in Big Oil. I don’t agree with it, but that’s their right. Instead, they’re peddling misinformation and scare tactics.”

“Republicans should at least have the decency to admit it – and then let the American people decide who is best representing their interests,” he added.

Democrats say their proposal will raise about $20 billion over ten years and the funds will be used to pay down the nation’s deficit.

As Reid spoke the CEOs of the five largest oil companies were testifying before the Senate Finance Committee about the proposal.

“With the country watching, these extremely wealthy CEOs of extremely profitable corporations are trying to explain to the Senate – and most importantly, to the American people – why they need taxpayer handouts.

“I don’t envy them,” concluded Reid. “It’s an impossible position to defend.”

Updated 6:11 p.m.