(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) criticized the Senate Democrats’ effort to pass a bill that would eliminate tax breaks for America’s largest oil companies, arguing that the Democrats plan to combat high gas prices is to "find less" oil and "tax more."
"The Democrats want to raise gasoline prices by putting a tax on gasoline. So Republicans want to find more American energy and use less. Democrats want to find less and tax more," Sen. Alexander told reporters on Tuesday at the Capitol.
The bill, which was rejected by the Senate in a test vote last Tuesday, would end approximately $21 billion in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies in America –
Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips.
"The industry in which the administration would seek to tax employs over 9.2 million people in the United States and represents 7 and a half percent of our gross domestic product," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday.
"According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), this will increase, the Democrat bill would increase the price of gasoline and it would make us more dependent on foreign oil and so the question is, why would we want to support something that would literally export American jobs, reduce unemployment here at home and raise the price of gasoline?"
A CRS report from March 3, 2011 said that ending the tax breaks for oil companies would make gas more expensive for consumers.
"The Administration estimates that the tax changes outlined in the budget proposal would provide $22.8 billion in revenues over the period 2012 to 2016, and over $43.6 billion from 2012 to 2021," said the CRS in its "Oil and Natural Gas Industry Tax Issues in the FY2012 Budget Proposal" report.
"These changes, if enacted by Congress, also would reduce the tax advantage enjoyed by independent oil and natural gas companies over the major oil companies. On what would likely be a small scale, the proposals also would make oil and natural gas more expensive for U.S. consumers and likely increase foreign dependence."
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, said Republicans should support ending the tax breaks because it will reduce the deficit.
"I think that instead of defending oil companies, Republicans should be defending the American taxpayer," said Reid on Tuesday.
"They should, I repeat, stop defending the oil companies, join with us and cut the deficit by billions and billions of dollars, tens of billions of dollars. We believe this is the kind of wasteful spending that will lead to an agreement on reducing the debt."
The White House has vowed to continue the fight on the issue.
"The vote today — with support from over half the U.S. Senate — is an important step toward repealing these unwarranted subsidies for the oil and gas industry. The administration will continue to pursue this important reform," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"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 CEOs in the past have admitted are unwarranted and unnecessary."