WASHINGTON — The US Senate defeated a bill taking aim at some $2 billion in annual subsidies to some of the world's largest and most profitable oil companies amid deep voter anger at high gasoline prices.
Lawmakers voted 52-48 to end debate on the measure, falling short of the 60 required and effectively killing a proposal that the White House's Democratic allies had portrayed as a belt-tightening step in cash-strapped Washington.
Democrats planned to revive the proposal -- which would have affected oil giants BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell -- as part of broader spending-cut talks ahead of a vote on raising the US debt ceiling.
"I am confident that before we finish our budget negotiations here, in anticipation of raising the debt ceiling, that that will be part of it," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"There is no justification for giving these companies that are making so much money, and their own executives said these subsidies are unnecessary, there's no justification for continuing that," Reid told reporters.
The White House meanwhile insisted that it would continue to push for the measure, saying it was "disappointing that at a time when oil companies are posting near record profits, Republican leadership in the Senate led an effort to protect billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry."
Republicans were pushing for an alternative measure that aims to expand exploration for oil and natural gas deposits.
"We will tomorrow offer an alternative that very simply underscores the relationship between increasing production and lowering price," said Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Republicans also underscored that the stand-alone Democratic plan would fall afoul of the US Constitution, which requires that legislation that affects government revenues, such as taxes, originate in the House of Representatives.