Reid Challenges McCain on 'Sharing' Oil Company Profits

Kaitlynn Riely and Keriann Hopkins | Correspondents | Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reid Challenges McCain on 'Sharing' Oil Company Profits

( - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday tried to call Sen. John McCain's bluff over comments McCain made on a morning television talk show. The Republican presidential candidate seemed to indicate that he supports oil companies being forced to share some of their profits with consumers.
Cybercast News Service asked Reid about the comments McCain made Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today" show that oil companies should be "sharing their profits" with the American people.

"If he feels that way, why doesn't he talk to his Republican colleagues and offer an amendment to that effect?" Reid replied.

"The Republicans in the Senate are stopping us from debating the issue, and his silence is obviously in conflict with what he says here," Reid added.

"Today" show co-host Matt Lauer asked McCain whether the government -- which Lauer said "already gives oil companies subsidies and tax breaks so they can explore alternative energies" - shouldn't also expect oil companies to give "something back to the consumer?"

"Absolutely," McCain replied. "They should be investing in alternate energy, and they should be giving back to the consumer, and they should be embarking on research and development that will pay off in the forms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil."

Lauer came back to the question, saying he had recently interviewed the head of ExxonMobil, and taken email questions from angry viewers.

The emails asked, "'How can you sleep at night? How can you and the other CEOs sleep at night when people are having to choose between feeding their families and filling their tanks?'" said Lauer. "So are those people reacting out of pure emotion, or is there some logic to that?"

"There's logic to it and emotion to it," agreed McCain. "I mean, after all, look what's happening to Americans who are on fixed income, particularly low-income Americans. ...They drive the furthest; they drive the automobiles that use the most gas. I wanted to give them a little break for the summer. But the point is, the oil companies have got to be more participatory in alternate energy, in sharing their profits in a variety of ways, and there is very strong and justifiable emotion about their profits.""

Reid is the principal sponsor the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, a bill that would impose a windfall-profits tax on major oil companies, as well as deny oil companies an income tax deduction.

A motion to cut off debate on the bill failed on Tuesday. Of the 49 senators who voted for cloture, something that would have cut off debate, only six were Republicans. McCain did not vote.

In a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Senate and House Democrats accused Republicans of blocking the windfall profits tax legislation.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) referred to the minority party in the Senate as the "Republican No-Machine."

"They continuously say no, but they say yes to nothing," he said. "And at the end of the day, what Americans are looking for is a Congress responding to their needs."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), said the bill would tax oil companies, who she said "are using their profits for corporate jets and corporate bonuses."

"Then you should pay a windfall profit tax on that, because Americans are paying it at the pump," Stabenow said, adding that farmers are feeling the burden of high gas prices, while families are struggling with higher food prices.

If oil companies invested in renewable fuels and alternative energies, they would not be taxed, she said.

"I'm going to ask Senator McCain to take another look," Stabenow said.

At least one House Democrat, Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), said he's not sure if McCain, in his "Today" show remarks, was endorsing the Democrats' bill. He said McCain's comments were "not clear."

"Whether he was talking about the record profits that they've been able to earn in recent quarters, or whether he was talking about reinvesting in America's infrastructure to produce more energy and to look at more renewable energy - if he's talking about the latter, it can be helpful," Costa said.

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