WASHINGTON – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pressed Speaker John Boehner to call for a vote on stripping tax breaks for oil companies, after the Ohio Republican signaled openness to the idea.
"House Democrats have long advocated eliminating outdated and costly taxpayer subsidies that provide billions of dollars to highly profitable oil companies," Pelosi wrote in a letter to the Speaker sent Tuesday night. "I am writing to request that you schedule a vote on ending these tax breaks on the House floor upon our return to Washington next week."
She added that "we have had several votes on this subject in the House, and have been disappointed that these proposals have not been supported by the Republican leadership."
President Barack Obama capitalized on the specter of rising gas prices amid soaring industry profits Tuesday by urging Congress to "take immediate action" and rescind $4 billion in annual oil subsidies.
The president's sternly-worded request came one day after Boehner said that cutting oil subsidies is "certainly something we should be looking at," invoking the deficit and declaring that oil companies "ought to be paying their fair share."
Democrats treated Boehner's comments as proof that he's come around to their view.
A spokesman said the Speaker was trying to avoid the "trap of defending 'Big Oil' companies," adding that "raising taxes was a non-starter." In response to an inquiry from Raw Story, Boehner's office expressed skepticism toward the Obama's plan but didn't close the door to ending some oil industry subsidies.
"The Speaker wants to increase the supply of American energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and he is only interested in reforms that actually lower energy costs and create American jobs," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "Unfortunately, what the President has suggested so far would simply raise taxes and increase the price at the pump."
Stripping tax breaks for oil companies is a plank in the progressive caucus budget, and has been floated before by Obama and lawmakers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), only to be branded by conservatives as an energy tax hike and fade away.