Senate to vote on oil tax bill Tuesday

The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on the Democrats' controversial bill that would cut the tax breaks received by the big five oil companies.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Monday night on the legislation, which means it would come to a vote at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday evening.

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It must reach a 60-vote threshold to proceed in the legislative process. Democrats estimate that the bill will bring in about $21 billion in revenue over a decade and they vowed to use the money to pay down the nation’s $14.3 trillion deficit.

Opposition among Republicans to the plan is strong and even some Democrats, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), also oppose it. It is unlikely the legislation will garner enough votes to reach cloture.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Monday night that Reid was forced to file cloture on the bill as Republicans had threatened to conduct a “silent-filibuster” if he attempted to bring it to the floor.

Several Democratic senators, including Merkley, came to the Senate floor Monday to voice their support of the bill.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) described a scenario in which the U.S. was writing  a $4 billion check to the big five oil companies each year -- entities he said are among the most profitable on the planet.

"We are writing out a check of $4 billion to the big oil companies,” said Schumer. "Does that make sense?"

Schumer added that in order to conjure a "more ridiculous scenario" than one in which profitable oil companies were being subsidized by tax-payers already beleaguered by high gas prices one would need "the imagination of Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice in Wonderland."

In particular the bill would require oil companies to pay taxes for drilling on federal land and remove tax deductions for companies that drill in foreign countries. 

Republicans argue the legislation would not lower gas prices and is a distraction in that debate.

The Senate adjourned at 7:10 p.m. on Monday night and is slated to return at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.