BY WESLEY P. HESTER
Undercutting Democrats’ week of attacks on U.S. Sen. Candidate George Allen, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., today voted against legislation that would have stripped $24 billion in tax subsidies from the country’s five largest oil companies.
Shortly after President Barack Obama urged Congress to roll back the tax breaks, the Senate shot down the plan on a 51-47 vote, mostly along party lines.
Only four Democrats — Webb, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Begich of Alaska — voted against repealing the subsidies.
“Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make: they can stand with the big oil companies or they can stand with the American people,” Obama said during remarks from the White House Rose Garden before the vote.
Republicans argued that the measure would do nothing to ease the pain at the pump and balked at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow an amendment to the measure that would allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine had urged approval of the legislation and pounded on Allen for his support for maintaining the subsidies.
“By rejecting the effort to repeal billions in taxpayer funded giveaways to profitable oil companies, Republicans have again sided with special interests at the expense of Americans,” Kaine responded to Thursday’s vote.
“These subsidies, which have been consistently supported by my opponent George Allen, are unnecessary for the big five oil companies to turn a profit and do nothing to significantly lower the price of gas that Virginians pay when they fill up their tank,” he added. “Instead, today’s vote just ensures all Americans are double charged by the richest oil companies – once in their pocketbook at the pump, and again in their tax bill each year.”
Webb explained his vote by saying that while he has previously supported ending some oil industry tax breaks, the bill before him seemed unfair and applied to more than subsidies.
“My vote today was based largely on concerns over extending tax credits for a number of renewable technologies. Government should avoid picking winners and losers, and should allow the marketplace to work.”
Allen also ended his silence on the issue Thursday.
“When the government raises taxes on any enterprise or business, it is the consumers who ultimately foot the bill for the added costs imposed by the government,” said campaign spokeswoman Katie Wright.
“Tim Kaine and his allies are pushing for the same Washington approach that picks winners and losers, just like they did with Solyndra,” she added. “With Virginia families paying over $30 more at the pump to fill up today, it’s disappointing that Mr. Kaine’s ‘immediate action’ doesn’t include allowing Virginia to produce oil off our coasts, which the president is preventing, nor allowing for the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.”
A Kaine spokeswoman clarified that Kaine is not opposed to offshore drilling nor is he opposed to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, though he has called for additional review.