This vote was on an amendment offered by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would have repealed tax exemptions and deductions for oil and natural gas companies, including ones for producing those fuels. It would funnel $2 billion annually between fiscal 2011 and 2015 to an energy efficiency and conservation block grant program. The amendment was offered to a bill that would extend several expired tax provisions, unemployment insurance benefits, Medicaid assistance to states, Medicaid doctor payment increases and other items.
Sanders said over the last 10 years, the five largest U.S. oil companies have made more than $750 billion in profits, and that they “do not deserve to continue to have major tax breaks.” Sanders said his amendment would raise $35 billion over 10 years, of which $25 billion would be used for deficit reduction and $10 billion to fund energy conservation and sustainable energy programs.
“Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world—year after year, huge profits—last year not only paid nothing in taxes but received a $156 million check from the taxpayers of this country to help them. That is absurd. ExxonMobil is not the only company to enjoy that kind of outrageous tax treatment. Chevron received a $19 million tax refund; Valero Energy, a $157 million refund; and ConocoPhillips received over $450 million in tax breaks from the oil and gas manufacturing deduction over the past 3 years,” Sanders said.
Inhofe said the amendment would “effectively put the small and the marginal producers in America out of business.”
“If you are concerned also about whom you are affecting by this legislation, look at the royalty owners. There are literally millions of royalty owners. They have maybe a small piece of property, maybe their homestead. They are the ones who would be denied the use of their land. By putting the small ones out of business, they are the ones you are damaging,” Inhofe said.
By a vote of 35-61, the amendment was rejected. Off Democrats present, 34 voted for the amendment (including all of the most progressive senators) and 21 voted against it. Every Republican present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have repealed tax exemptions for oil and natural gas companies and use that money to offset the deficit and create new energy conservation programs.