Rotten Tomatoes: Republicans Defeat Windfall Oil Profits Tax

"Fill it up" still refers to oil companies' coffers.

Even if you have to walk to the store because you can't afford gas, buy some of those dangerous tomatoes.

Don't eat them — throw them at the Republican senators who today stymied a windfall profits tax aimed at oil companies.

Here's the story, from David Ivanovich of the Houston Chronicle, deep in the heart of oil-bidness country:

Senate Republicans today successfully blocked a vote on a Democratic-written energy package intended to slap the major oil companies with a new windfall profits tax and roll back other tax breaks the industry now enjoys.

While motorists may be clamoring for relief from gasoline prices now topping $4 a gallon nationwide, Senate Democrats were unable to muster enough votes to move forward with debate on an energy package that contained a number of provisions that already have received veto threats from President Bush.

With the White House threatening a veto of the bill, the Senate voted 51-43 to close debate, well shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

You're probably wondering how Barack Obama and John McCain voted:

They didn't. From this afternoon's New York Times story:

Senate Democratic leaders were reportedly resigned to defeat on the oil-tax bill and did not ask Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, who just completed their monthslong competition for the presidential nomination, to show up for the vote. The other four absentees were John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee for president; Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Democrats who have been ill.

And which Republicans were bold enough to buck their party line?

Six Republicans voted “yes” on the oil-tax bill. They were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, John W. Warner of Virginia, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan M. Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both of Maine. Only two Democrats voted “no,” Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid, the majority leader, may have voted “no” in a parliamentary move to preserve his right to bring up the proposal again.

We know where the presumptive prexy candidates stand, however. Obama has pledged support of taxing the oil industry's windfall profits. From today's Brisbane Times in Australia comes this background:

Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, lost no time in beginning his campaign with a focus on economic issues. He told supporters in the hard-hit state of North Carolina that it was time for a different economic prescription.

"We did not arrive at the doorstep of our current economic crisis by some accident of history," he said. "This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle that was beyond our power to avoid. It was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long."

He accused his rival, the Republican nominee John McCain, of having an economic plan that amounts to "a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies".

Senator Obama pledged to seek a windfall profits tax on US oil companies if elected.

Senator McCain responded by accusing Senator Obama of embracing the usual Democratic agenda of taxing and spending to solve the nation's problems.

The current futile Senate bill was just the latest of many attempts to rein in the historically pampered oil industry.

I know about the sense of entitlement that's standard in the oil bidness, having been raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, when it was the headquarters of both Phillips 66 (now Conoco-Phillips in Houston) and Citgo (now owned by Venezuela and controlled by Hugo Chavez).

In general, Okies consider unbridled oil profits as a birthright (along with hickory-smoked BBQ, cousin-snugglin', and meaningful relationships with barnyard animals).

That aside, this particular bill had some far-reaching provisions for Americans struggling with gas at $4 a gallon while oil execs and speculators make out like bandits. Here's more on it from the Chronicle:

Calling for "oil company accountability" and "energy price relief," Democrats wanted to hit the five largest oil companies with a new 25 percent windfall profits tax. The oil companies would only be able to lower that tax burden by hiking investments in renewable energy, refining capacity and production capability.

The Democratic plan would hit the oil companies further by gutting $17 billion worth of tax breaks they received back in 2004 and 2005.

The bill also would have tried to rein in speculation in the oil markets by preventing traders from routing transactions through offshore markets and requiring oil traders to put down more money to trade in futures contracts.

The legislation also would have made price gouging a federal crime and branded as illegal efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to control world oil prices.

Yeah, good luck with that plan to rein in not only the U.S. oil companies but also OPEC.

 


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