Republicans in the US Senate on Tuesday blocked a bill that would have erased five separate tax breaks for the oil industry.
Combined, the tax breaks are worth an estimated $21 billion over 10 years to the five largest oil companies - BP (NYSE: BP), Chevron (NYSE: CVX), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) and Shell (NYSE: RDS-A).
The Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act (S. 940) got a vote of 52-48, but because of the Republican filibuster, it needed 60 votes to pass.
48 Democrats, two Republicans and two Independents voted for the bill, while three Democrats joined 45 Republicans in shooting it down.
Environmental groups and the Obama Administration supported the bill as a means of leveling the playing field for other energy sources and reducing the federal deficit.
But Republicans - who have been beating the balance-the-budget drum, and who have lobbied hard to cut vital social programs to do so - quit the pounding just long enough to stick up for their big oil buddies, claiming that erasing their tax breaks would hurt employment and increase reliance on foreign oil.
The Congressional Research Service (CSR) stated last week that removing the tax breaks would not reduce prices at the pump, as oil companies are already collecting record profits.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell performed political sleight of hand with his version of the situation: "Last night, Senate Democrats put forth a plan to raise taxes on American energy that, in their own words, would have done nothing to lower the price of gas at the pump."
Republican Drilling Bill Also Rejected
The Senate also voted 42-57, rejecting a Republican bill that would have forced the Interior Department to conduct offshore drilling lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Alaska.
It also would have extended leases for companies in the Gulf affected by the Obama Administrations moratorium on drilling imposed last year after the BP oil spill.
Interestingly, Obama already agreed to these measures last weekend.