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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Senate Finance Committee Puts on Dog & Pony Show

If you didn't have the opportunity to watch the Senate hearing with the oil executives on C-SPAN this week, you missed some real entertainment. Assuming you are a person interested in political process, the Senate hearing that brought together the CEOs of the five largest oil and gas companies was real theatre.

Hello. My name is Karen and I am a C-SPAN junkie.

There were visual aids! No standard pie charts offered, not from Republicans who came to play. Finally, the GOP and the oil executives manned up and handed the Democrats their butts back on a platter. The absolute absurdity of the exercise of this hearing was evident from the start. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a Democrat, called the hearing "laughable".

Senator Orrin Hatch, the committee's ranking member, won the day. He started off by having an aide hold up a giant poster depicting a dog riding on the back of a pony. It was to vividly show what a dog and pony show the hearing was. It was also a laugh out loud moment for those of us watching at home. Then, as Senator Hatch went about making his opening statement, Senator Rockefeller, (D-Big Coal) interrupted him by asking him if he was about finished. Not only is Rockefeller not the chair of the committee, he set himself up to be bitch slapped by the soft spoken Utah senator. Hatch responded in no uncertain terms that he was not, in fact, about finished and would be taking as long as he wanted to finish.

Priceless.

For once, the CEOs of oil and gas companies were not kowtowing to the politicians. They are guilty of no crimes, unless you are a Democrat and believe business success is a crime. During the opening statements, for example, Rex Tillerson, the Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, read from his remarks which included this:

"...it is important to make clear that tax provisions such as the Section 199 Domestic production Activities deduction are not special incentives, preferences or subsidies for oil and gas, but rather standard deductions applied across all businesses in the United States."

Tillerson pointed out that punishing the top five companies would be "misinformed and discriminatory". "By undermining U.S. competitiveness, they would discourage future investment in energy projects in the United States and therefore undercut job creation and economic growth. And, because they would hinder investment in new energy supplies, they do nothing to help reduce prices."

No doubt the Democrats were feeling a bit of pressure since two energy states Democrat Senators have come out strongly against the Senate hearing agenda.

Alaska's newest Senator Mark Begich is a Democrat. Unlike most of them in the Senate, he actually has some common sense with a backbone to boot. He shocked fellow Democrats this week with his position on punishing five of the top oil and gas companies for their success.

"I don't have a problem saying what's on my mind," he added. "If (the bill) hurts Alaska, they're going to hear from me."

Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that they say would eliminate more than $21 billion in subsidies and tax credits over the next 10 years for the five largest, most profitable oil companies in the world. The bill is known as the "Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act."

It puts an end to a number of loopholes that allow oil and gas companies to claim tax credits. It also ends royalty relief for deepwater offshore drilling.

The proceeds from repealing the loopholes would go toward reducing the deficit.

The legislation has the backing of President Barack Obama, who called for an end to the tax breaks in his State of the Union address. It has virtually no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House, which on Wednesday passed a number of energy bills that expand drilling.


Did you catch that? Even this newspaper article follows the liberal's meme that the tax subsidies afforded to oil and gas producers are "loopholes". No, they are not loopholes. They are subsidies and tax incentives given to every big business in the country. Movie studios, manufacturing plants, foreign energy refineries doing business here, etc. They all receive subsidies.

And, his opinion was not just expressing what is best for his state, but also for the entire country. The article mentions that he is thinking of his constituents instead of playing normal partisan politics. Imagine that. A Senator actually doing his job.

So, good for Senator Begich. And, good for Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. She found her voice, too.

And, Senator Hatch won the day.

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