One way or another, Congress will end the subsidies for major oil companies, Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) told us last night:
There are at least five Republican colleagues, present members of the Senate, who have said in one form or another that these subsidies no longer are need and should be repealed. You know, there will be that moment -- and their words versus their votes. And hopefully they'll join us.
But I'm convinced we're going to do this, because whether this is done through my legislation or whether this is done as part of any debt ceiling vote, which we'll insist on, or whether it's done as part of any budget vote, we are going to eliminate these subsidies.
Senator Menendez and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) teamed up in challenging the oil executives on Capitol Hill yesterday. One of the executives, Jim Mulva of ConocoPhillips, refused to apologize for his company's press release calling an end to the subsidies "un-American." Overall, the U.S. provides about $4 billion a year in subsidies to energy companies. Democratic senators have been pushing to end at least the $21 million or so now going to the big five: Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
Folding an end to the subsidies into a vote on the debt ceiling would up the ante considerably. The pressure is already on House Speaker John Boehner to raise the debt ceiling, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce joining Democrats in calling for it. Speaker Boehner has been demanding $2 trillion in spending cuts as part of that vote. Senator Menendez is saying, essentially, that Congress could start by cutting the subsidies for wealthy corporations.