GOP Budget Chairman Ryan shows support for ending oil subsidies

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) opened the door Thursday to supporting a plan to eliminate oil industry tax breaks even as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans have distanced themselves from the proposal.

“The House-passed FY2012 budget resolution clearly states that as part of an overall corporate tax reform, tax loopholes and deductions for all corporations should be scaled back or eliminated entirely. That obviously includes oil companies,” Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney told The Hill in an email.

Ryan’s budget resolution, Sweeney notes, also calls for eliminating tax breaks for clean energy technologies and expanding domestic oil-and-gas production.

But Sweeney noted that Ryan and other Republicans have “made clear we are not for raising taxes.” The GOP has cast a plan to cut billions of dollars in oil industry subsidies as an additional tax on energy companies.

Think Progress reported earlier Thursday that Ryan appeared to endorse the proposal to slash oil industry tax breaks at a town hall in Wisconsin.

Asked about ending the oil industry breaks, Ryan said: "We’re talking about reforming the safety net, the welfare system. We also want to get rid of corporate welfare. And corporate welfare goes to agribusiness companies, to energy companies, financial services companies. So we propose to repeal all of that."

Think Progress, a blog run by the Center for American Progress, noted that Ryan had previously voted against two proposals to eliminate the subsidies.

Ryan’s possible support for the proposal indicates there is a divide among top House Republicans on the cutting the oil subsidies.

Boehner indicated in an interview with ABC News earlier this week that he would support eliminating some subsidies. But his office quickly walked back his statements.

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Sensing an opening, the White House and Democrats in Congress are pushing for a vote on the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he hopes to bring a bill to the floor as soon as possible, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) released a “blueprint” Thursday that ends tax breaks for the largest oil companies.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other House Democrats have called for a vote on the proposal. But Boehner rejected those requests Thursday.

Pelosi, in a Thursday statement, applauded Ryan for his apparent support of the proposals to cut the tax breaks. "While American families are facing pain at the pump and Big Oil rakes in billions in profits, the Republican leadership appears to be falling off the Big Oil bandwagon," she said.

In his fiscal 2012 budget request, President Obama outlined a proposal for cutting the tax breaks, including the industry’s ability to claim a domestic manufacturing deduction. The budget request says the elimination of the tax breaks would save about $44 billion from 2012 to 2021.