McCaskill: Savings from cutting oil tax breaks should be for deficit reduction

Baucus is holding a hearing Thursday on the oil industry tax breaks. Oil company executives are slated to testify.

McCaskill and other Democrats unveiled a bill Tuesday morning to reduce and eliminate a handful of oil industry tax breaks for the five largest oil companies. The savings would go to deficit reduction.

The proposal has the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), along with a vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and John Tester (D-Mont.). Exactly when the bill will come to the floor for a vote is unclear, but Reid is expected to speak on the issue later Tuesday.

The Hill laid out the details of the legislation earlier Tuesday.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Democrats argued that Republicans should support the measure if they are concerned with lowering the deficit.

“If we can’t remove subsidies from these profitable oil companies, then I don’t know if we can ever get to the difficult work that lies ahead,” McCaskill said.

“This should be about the easiest step to take on deficit reduction,” Brown of Ohio added.

Asked whether he would oppose a bill that gives savings from the tax breaks repeal to clean energy programs, Brown said, “I would support any one of these bills, but I would prefer to do it this way.”

But the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate; two similar efforts failed in recent months with a handful of Democrats voting against the measures. Democrats are hoping that high gas prices and reports of soaring oil industry profits will turn the tides in their favor.

The bill, Democrats stressed, is not meant to reduce gas prices.

“Nobody has made the claim that this bill is about reducing gas prices,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said.

McCaskill said it is “dishonest” to argue that there are any quick fixes to high gas prices, which are nearing an average of $4 a gallon across the United States.

She blasted Republicans for calling for expanded domestic oil and gas production, noting that energy analysts say expanded drilling will not lower gas prices in the near-term.

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