By Ben Geman - 05/15/11 05:52 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that Republicans won’t discuss nixing tax breaks for major oil companies as part of fiscal reform talks with Vice President Joe Biden.
“That's not the kind of thing we're going to be dealing with here in connection with the serious talks that are going on with the Vice President's group,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Biden and a bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers are in talks aimed at striking a deal on deficit reduction. The discussions come ahead of a looming deadline this summer for an agreement between the Obama administration and Congress to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is the lead sponsor of the bill to repeal industry tax breaks, said last week that Democrats would seek to tether the bill to debt ceiling legislation or a budget package if it doesn’t pass as a stand-alone measure.
“I'm convinced we're going to do this, because whether this is done through my legislation or whether this is done as part of any debt-ceiling vote, which we’ll insist on, or whether it’s done as part of any budget vote, we are going to eliminate these subsidies,” Menendez said on MSNBC Thursday.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said last week that the oil tax break repeal will be part of Democrats’ broader deficit reduction efforts if it doesn’t pass on its own.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning a test vote on the oil tax plan this week, but it is unlikely to garner the 60 votes needed to advance. The plan would block an estimated $21 billion worth of incentives over a decade for Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
McConnell slammed the Democrats’ plan Sunday, alleging on CNN that it will “raise the price of gas at the pump, send jobs overseas and make us get even more oil from Hugo Chavez.”