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May 11, 2011

Oil Company Subsidies

[Page: S2817]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, I rise in support of the comments made by the majority leader. I was in Chicago over the weekend, and downstate as well in Illinois, and saw these gasoline prices and understand the hardship they cause. At a BP filling station in Chicago near Lawrence and Lake Shore Drive, I ran into a man who is a plumber who has a van and goes from job to job. He said it is not unusual now for him to spend over $100 a week on gasoline. Of course, that is taking away money he could have brought home for his family. It is a real hardship on him.

He kind of smiled and chuckled and said: They do it to us every year, don't they.

That is true, Madam President. Whether we are talking about the situation in New Hampshire or Illinois, we can predict the rights of spring in America: the opening of the baseball season, Easter egg hunts, Seder dinners for Passover, and skyrocketing gasoline prices.

Then there are the excuses. There is always an excuse: Oh, we had to switch from winter to summer. We didn't see that coming. Oh, there is a problem in the Middle East. Whatever it is, any excuse will do, and the gasoline prices go up.

We can do something about it, and we should. The majority leader is right. We accept the challenge of Speaker John Boehner who said in New York: Let's make a serious effort to deal with this deficit. Well, we have a great downpayment: $21 billion we can take off the deficit. We can take it away from a group that does not need it. We are talking about the oil companies that are registering record profits--$36 billion. If we decide to take away the subsidies that are now being given to these extremely profitable companies, it will save taxpayers $21 billion over 10 years.

Let's get started there. That ought to be the easy part because right now we know what is going on. We are paying for these high gasoline prices three times: First, when we fill up our tanks. Oh, they hit us hard there--$60, $80, $100 just to fill up the tank. Second, because we are giving $4 billion a year in subsidies to the oil companies, taxpayers are being hit again. It is not just what we pay at the gas pump, it is what we pay on April 15. Part of that is going to the oil companies.

But there is a third hit. Do you know where we get the money to pay the subsidies to the oil companies? We borrow it from China--the largest creditor of the United States. We are borrowing 40 cents for every $1 we spend. So out of the $4 billion we are talking about that is going annually to these oil companies, 40 percent of it--about $1.6 billion--is being borrowed every single year from countries such as China. So the third way we pay is, ultimately, on the debt to China and the interest on that debt.

Can we afford that? At a time when Americans are sacrificing, can't we ask the oil companies, with record profits, to sacrifice their Federal subsidies? That is all we are trying to do. I know Senator Schumer from New York is going to take the floor momentarily and talk about this issue. We will have a bill on the Senate floor. For those Members on both sides of the aisle who have given impassioned speeches about reducing the deficit, here is their chance. It is a put-up-or-shut-up moment. If we believe in reducing the deficit, here is $21 billion of low-hanging fruit. Let's pick it. Let's pick it for the taxpayers. Let's take these savings and put it right on deficit reduction. I hope that is something on which both sides of the aisle can agree.

(Senate - May 10, 2011)

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