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Bingaman May Not Support His Party’s Oil Tax Bill

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman hasnt decided whether to vote for his leaderships bill to slash oil and gas company tax breaks and predicted the bill would fail to pass either way.

In an appearance on C-SPANs Newsmakers, the New Mexico Democrat said Friday he has previously opposed some of his partys efforts to rein in tax breaks for oil companies because he thought they went too far.

Frankly, I havent decided how to vote. I certainly support paring back some of these tax breaks ... whether or not all of them should be pared back, Im not certain at this point, he said in the interview, which is scheduled to air Sunday.

Bingaman is hardly the only Democrat with reservations about the bill. Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), both from oil states, torched the legislation on the Senate floor earlier this week, with Landrieu calling it laughable that she might support it.

Though he said he doesnt think that the measure will pass, Bingaman said he still sees some value in bringing the bill to the floor, considering the Republicans insistence on cutting government social programs.

I think theres obviously some posturing going on, but I think at the same time theres some value in putting the budget questions in some context, he said.

Still, Bingaman appeared sympathetic to claims made by oil company executives at a Finance Committee hearing Thursday.

There is an argument that was made very strongly by the CEOs that, if you are going to change these tax provisions, you shouldnt just do it for five companies, you should do it more generally, he said. So theres an argument that deserves attention. Bingaman is also a member of the Finance panel.

Bingaman said he doesnt doubt that increasing the tax burden on oil companies could drive more production to other countries. However, he said the companies could afford to lose some tax breaks.

I think its pretty clear that reducing some of the tax benefits would not in any way jeopardize the profitability of some of these companies, he said.

The legislation would cut the deficit by $21 billion over the coming decade. The companies collectively are expected to make more than $100 billion in profits this year.

In the end, Bingaman said, much broader reductions in tax breaks as well as spending cuts are going to be needed.

I think not just someones going to have to pay, I think everyones going to have to pay, if were going to be able to really make a dent in this very large deficit and debt weve accumulated, Bingaman said.

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