Sen. Charles Schumer, a leading Democrat, on Tuesday pounced on Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) apparent openness to ending some taxpayer subsidies for large oil-and-gas companies.
Schumer (N.Y.), who has acted as a thorn in the side to Boehner since he took power this year, said that the Speaker's comments that the companies don't "need to have" some subsidies were "almost too good to be true."
"Gas hitting four dollars per gallon seems to have finally caused Speaker Boehner to see the light on the insanity of providing subsidies to profit-soaked big oil companies," he said in a statement.
Democrats appear to be boxing Boehner into supporting legislation that would end the taxpayer subsidies.
Schumer seized on Boehner's statement, issuing his release minutes before the White House publicized a letter to congressional leaders, which also referenced the Speaker's comments, asking them to end oil company subsidies.
The New York Democrat called on Senate GOP leaders to "follow his example, and stop their senseless filibusters against attempts to repeal these giveaways," saying it could help bring down the federal budget deficit and high oil prices.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that Democrats themselves are divided on the subsidies.
"I wonder how [Alaska Sen. Mark] Begich [D] and [Louisiana Sen. Mary] Landrieu [D] feel about this — both oppose this tax hike," he said of the oil-state senators.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel clarified the Speaker's comments Monday, saying he was avoiding a political trap during the interview.
“The Speaker made clear in the interview that raising taxes was a non-starter, and he’s told the president that. He simply wasn’t going to take the bait and fall into the trap of defending 'Big Oil' companies," he said. "Boehner believes, as he stated in the interview, that expanding American energy production will help lower gas prices and create more American jobs. We'll look at any reasonable policy that lowers gas prices. Unfortunately, what the president has suggested so far would simply raise taxes and increase the price at the pump."
"I don't think the big oil companies need to have the oil depletion allowances, but for small, independent oil-and-gas producers, if they didn't have this, there'd be even less exploration in America than there is today," Boehner said during an interview with ABC News Monday night.