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Senate GOP Wants Oil and Gas Subsidy Debate

Senate Republican leaders will take Democrats up on their offer to debate oil and gas subsidies today and are urging their members to vote to bring up a measure that most GOP Senators oppose.

Sixty votes are needed to overcome a procedural hurdle, and Senate Republicans are expected to provide the votes necessary because they want to have the debate this week, according to Senate GOP and Democratic aides.

The legislation would repeal tax breaks to the five biggest oil companies and extend a raft of renewable energy tax subsidies that have expired or will expire.

The vote on the proposal, offered by Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), is expected this evening.

The GOP position is a change from last week, when the vote had been scheduled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and it was expected that the 47 Republicans would vote against the proposal.

Reid also has scheduled a vote on whether to take up a postal reform bill, but if the Senate votes to debate the Menendez-Stabenow measure, Democrats may vote against the postal bill and take it up another time.

During a conference call this morning, Menendez said his bill would save $24 billion, of which $11 billion would be used to extend clean energy tax breaks and the remaining amount would be used to reduce the deficit.

“To me, this is an easy choice,” he said. “You are either on the side of Big Oil, which is making record profits and certainly don’t need the American tax payers monies ... or you are on the side of the American driver and American taxpayer.”

Stabenow called the tax breaks unneeded and unfair to Americans, who are paying an average of almost $4 a gallon at the pump, as well as a superfluous tax subsidy.

Republicans argue that the move would simply raise gas prices even higher as a result of oil companies passing the cost on to consumers.

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