By COREY BOLES
WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans united to block a
Democratic attempt to end roughly $20 billion in federal
subsidies to the largest oil and gas companies, in a largely
political vote that had little chance of being approved by the
The bill would have affected subsidies paid to BP,
ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
The Senate voted 51 to 47, mostly along party lines. Even
though a majority of senators approved the legislation, it fell
short of the 60-vote requirement to pass it.
Democrats had proposed redirecting some of the money that
would be saved by the taxpayer to renew a series of lapsed tax
credits aimed at manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines
and electric cars.
Those credits ran out at the end of last year, and the
renewable-energy industry has been clamoring for Congress to
The remaining $9 billion would have been used towards paying
down the budget deficit.
The effort by Democrats was a political gesture aimed at
highlighting Republicans' support for the biggest oil companies
at a time when people are struggling to afford gasoline at the
For their part, Republicans criticized Democrats for what
they called a tax increase on oil companies at a time when
prices at the pump are rapidly escalating.
According to the auto club AAA, the average price of a
gallon of gasoline stood at $3.92 on Thursday. Many experts
have predicted that the average price could hit $5 by the
"Is this really the best we have to offer folks who are
staring at $4 a gallon of gas," Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R., Ky.) said. "A bill that even Democrats admit
won't have anything to do with the price of gasoline?"
Democrats pointed to the fact that the five largest oil
companies reported a combined $140 billion in profits in 2011.
They argued that ending unnecessary taxpayer subsidies would
have no effect on the price of gasoline.
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have
sought to end the payments since he took office, although they
have been consistently blocked by Republicans.
Dow Jones Newswires