CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
May 13, 2011 – 10:25 p.m.
Energy Debate Carries Political Risk
By Brian Friel and Geof Koss, CQ Staff
The Senate will debate this week competing energy proposals that pose multiple challenges for leaders of both parties.
Democrats are bringing to the floor a bill that would end some tax breaks for the five largest oil companies, and Republicans will counter with a measure to boost domestic fuel production.
Each measure reflects well-established partisan positions: Democrats want to spark a shift to renewable energy, while the Republicans want to increase the supply of fossil fuels. Neither approach can attract the 60 votes needed to overcome objections from the other side, which would prolong a stalemate on energy policy.
The debate will likely be a proxy battle for how each party will address high gasoline prices, tax policy and the fight over the budget deficit.
Democrats want to count the revenue that would be gained from their bill (
“This $21 billion is an excellent down payment on our effort to get the nation’s fiscal house in order,”
Schumer said Democrats will try to include the measure in a deficit reduction package, even if the Senate rejects it.
Republicans oppose reducing the deficit with new tax revenue, insisting that the effort rely entirely on spending cuts.
But even within the 53-member Democratic Caucus, the push for tax increases is controversial.
The decision to single out oil companies has also divided Democrats, costing leaders the support of oil-state senators including Nelson,
If the Senate debate turns to other energy subsidies, that could ignite intraparty arguments on both sides of the aisle.
The Democratic leaders’ attack on oil subsidies poses internal challenges for Republicans as well. While most of the GOP will oppose the bill because it would increase taxes, some members of the conference have long argued against such targeted subsidies.
Energy Debate Carries Political Risk
One of them,
Other Republicans said they would consider pulling back various tax breaks for businesses only in return for an overall lower corporate tax rate. “I want to do away with tax breaks for everybody,” said
A broad rewrite of corporate tax policy is unlikely this summer, however, senators and outside observers say.
Republicans may be able to attract some Democratic support for their offshore drilling bill. The GOP measure contains provisions similar to those included in three bills (
The measure would also impose new deadlines for the Interior Department to act on drilling permit applications — a provision intended to address complaints about the slow pace of permitting since the spill. Companies would be required to develop oil spill response and containment plans.
One potential Democratic supporter is Landrieu, who said last week she would not support the bill unless it was changed to allow coastal states to share royalties paid to the federal government for oil and gas produced off their shores.
“It is not fair to the coastal states to drill off their shores, take 100 percent of the risks, and virtually share none of the funding,” she said.
Begich said he was reviewing McConnell’s bill and was considering supporting it, although he may also seek changes.
The debate carries political risks for both parties, as the average price of gasoline continues to hover around $4 a gallon.
Democrats have said their legislation is not intended to reduce the price of gas at the pump but have tried hard to refute the charge that the bill could lead to higher gasoline prices.
While Republicans say more drilling could bring down the cost of fuel by increasing supply, Democrats argue that although domestic oil production in 2010 was the highest it has been in seven years, gasoline prices soared.
Sam Goldfarb contributed to this story.