Senate rejects bill to cut slew of tax breaks

By Sara Wyant

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 WASHINGTON, May 17 - Facing gas prices hovering around $4/gallon, tthe Senate rejected a bill on Tuesday to cut billions in tax breaks for the largest oil companies. Democrats vowed to revive the measure as part of negotiations on the budget and debt ceiling.

A procedural motion on S.940, which required 60 votes for passage, failed in a 52-48 vote.

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Two Republicans - Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- voted for the motion, while three Democrats - Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) --voted against the motion.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released the following statement after the vote, which he said would have reduced the deficit by $20 billion.
“Republicans would rather cut college scholarships, slash cancer research and end Medicare than take away taxpayer-funded giveaways to oil companies that are raking in billions in profits. That tells you everything you need to know about their priorities.”

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell fired back, calling the vote a “dog and pony show.

“Last week, as gas prices continued to climb, squeezing family budgets and putting even more pressure on already-struggling businesses, Democrats here in Congress sprang into action.….They rounded up what they believed were a few unsympathetic villains who they could blame for high gas prices, hoping nobody would notice they don't have a plan of their own to deal with them.” 

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said he voted to the measure because it could have an adverse impact on gas prices and increase American dependence on foreign oil.

"With our kids not even out of school for the summer and gas already more than four dollars a gallon, considering a bill that could raise gas prices for Nebraskans and increase our country's dependence on foreign oil is out of the question," Johanns said.

The debate is likely to resurface as part of negotiations that Vice President Joe Biden is hosting on deficit reduction and raising the debt limit. The White House also issued a statement, noting that:

“It is disappointing that at a time when oil companies are posting near record profits, Republican Leadership in the Senate led an effort to protect billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry that even oil and gas CEO's in the past have admitted are unwarranted and unnecessary. The Administration will continue to pursue this important reform.”

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