Sen. Murkowski says Democrats are 'punishing' Big Oil for making money

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) jousted on the Senate floor Tuesday in discussion leading up to a vote on repealing tax breaks to the nation’s leading oil companies.

Murkowski, who represents one of the nation’s biggest oil-producing states, accused Democrats of stripping Big Oil companies of $21 billion in tax cuts simply because the companies had earned a lot of money.

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"We're here debating whether or not … to essentially punish a handful of companies," Murkowski said. "Really there's no policy justification for it other than that they can afford it — they're making money. They can afford it."

Such sanctions on successful companies would damage the economic climate in the U.S., Murkowski warned.

"I would ask my colleagues: Is this the kind of business climate that we want for the United States?" she asked. "And I really have to wonder, then — if the answer to that is 'yes' — who the next target will be, if making large profits signals to Congress that you should be taxed at a higher rate?"

Upon the conclusion of Murkowski's remarks, Boxer came to the floor and sarcastically congratulated the Alaskan senator for serving as an eloquent voice for Big Oil.

"I want to say the senator from Alaska does an excellent job of representing the oil companies," Boxer said. "She puts the oil companies' arguments magnificently. She's real good at it."

Boxer noted that both the senators had studied economics but had arrived at different positions on how the U.S. economy ought to operate.

"She said what she learned in her time, and let me tell you what I learned," Boxer said. "I learned that corporate welfare is wrong, that welfare to companies that are on the Fortune 500 list is particularly wrong."

Boxer went on to say that she does not "cry for Exxon" and that she sheds "no tears for Chevron."

"I'll tell you who I shed tears for," said Boxer. "I shed tears for my people at home who are having to pay ridiculous prices and who also have to face federal deficits."

Democrats want to use the extra $21 billion in revenue from the repeal to pay down the country's $14.3 trillion deficit.

The Senate will hold a test vote on the legislation at around 6:15 p.m. today, and must reach a 60-vote threshold to proceed in the legislative process.

Under a unanimous consent agreement, Senate leadership will also hold a vote Wednesday on a Republican offshore drilling bill that mirrors legislation passed by House Republicans in recent weeks.