The U.S. Senate last week decided against advancing a measure to repeal five tax incentives for the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies.  Click to hear KMZU’s Chelsea Wade talk to Sen. Claire McCaskill:

Claire McCaskill

The 51-47 vote, mostly along party lines, gave both Democrats and Republicans ammo in the price debate.  Sen. McCaskill took a shot at the oil giants and Republicans supporting the measure saying that there are a number of problems impacting prices at the pump.  “One is speculation.  One is these big oil companies that we are writing checks to every year.  They are shutting down refining capacity in order to, I believe, artificially reduce supply.  The low price of natural gas is putting pressure on these oil companies because they want to remain profitable.  They want to make money off of those people who have no choice but to put gas in their tank.”

The measure would bar BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell Oil Company from claiming some incentives.  “There’s no magic bullet,” Sen. McCaskill added.  “Believe me.  If there was we would have shot it by now.  I have called on the President to release some of the gasoline from the Strategic Reserve because I think this is a national security issue.  I think it will also teach the speculators to be careful.  It would bring down the price because speculators would get spanked.  I believe they deserve to get spanked right now.”

Press Release from the Office of Sen. McCaskill

WASHINGTON – After the Senate failed to advance legislation repealing taxpayer giveaways to the biggest oil companies, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today took to the Senate floor and called on Congress to stand with working families getting squeezed by high gas prices by repealing the costly subsidies, and laid out a case for “economic fairness for working families.”

“Now imagine for a minute you had a government that was spending too much money,” McCaskill asked. “And imagine for a minute that we needed to spend less money—that we needed to change our tax code to a tax code that was fair, simpler, and didn’t pick winners and losers. Imagine for a minute that this was a crisis… And then imagine if you tried to do something simple like ending tax giveaways for the most profitable companies in the history of the world. That’s what this vote just was.”

Video of McCaskill’s floor speech is available HERE.

“Talk about fairness—think about this for a minute: economic fairness,” said McCaskill, citing the current U.S. House budget proposal authored by Congressman Paul Ryan. “The Ryan Budget would want to hold on to more tax breaks for multi-millionaires—in fact, do more tax breaks for multi-millionaires—while they say to seniors: ‘we think it’s time for you to wrestle with insurance companies for your healthcare’… so if you look at what’s being proposed in terms of fairness, and you look at the vote we just had, in Missouri we’d say ‘that dog don’t hunt.’ It just doesn’t work… so when I fill up my gas tank over the next two weeks as I travel around Missouri, I’m going to stop people at the gas station… there are real people hurting out there and we need to treat them fairly, and we can start by pushing Big Oil away from the taxpayer trough.”

Before her speech, McCaskill voted along with 50 other Senators to stop rewarding the five biggest oil companies, and instead use that money to help pay down the national deficit and create more energy jobs—however, the legislation needed 60 votes to advance.

McCaskill also pushed back on rumors, telling her colleagues that “contrary to the claims that some are making, repealing these subsidies would not raise gas prices,” pointing to the fact that oil company subsidies are projected to cost the federal government more than $40 billion over the next 10 years, while the biggest oil companies earned more than $1 trillion in profits from since 2001. Last year, these companies spent $38 billion boosting their share prices through stock buybacks that enrich their boards and senior executives—meaning the five largest oil companies nearly spent in a single year, on stock buybacks alone, what they are claiming the oil industry needs in taxpayer funded subsidies over the next 10 years.

“How seriously can we take anybody who talks about debt-reduction, if they’re not willing to pluck the low-hanging fruit of subsidies to a group that frankly, the folks I represent in Missouri would say are the least deserving of extra help from the federal government right now?” McCaskill asked. “We’re borrowing money to prop up already wildly profitable corporations. If this was a fairy tale that I was reading to my grandsons—they would say that this obviously is fiction, cause this couldn’t be true. But it is. That is what I call the definition of a ‘special interest.’ That oil is so special around here, wields so much power, and so much money, that it turns all the talk about debt-reduction into empty rhetoric… I’ve worked hard on reforming the way we spend money around here, whether it’s contracting or earmarks. But with all due respect, I don’t know how the American people can take anyone seriously about debt-reduction, if they are not willing to cut off from the spigot the most wealthy, profitable corporations in the history of the world.”

McCaskill introduced the Bipartisan Jobs Creation Act with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) last year—jobs legislation paid for in part by rescinding these big oil tax subsidies. McCaskill is also continuing to urge specific actions be taken to combat rising gas prices:

  • McCaskill has consistently fought to repeal the huge tax giveaways afforded to the biggest, most profitable oil companies—taxpayer-funded subsidies that boost oil company profits, not oil production, and reward those companies that are squeezing Missouri families with higher fuel prices.
  • McCaskill called for the Federal Trade Commission to quickly complete an investigation she requested into whether gas prices are being kept artificially high by oil refineries.
  • Citing provocative actions by the government of Iran that are driving up energy prices for American consumers, McCaskill has urged President Obama to release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.