Senate Republicans Tuesday blocked a proposal to tax the windfall profits of the nation's biggest oil companies and eliminate some of the firms' tax breaks, rejecting Democratic claims that the measure would help assuage consumer anger over $4-a-gallon gasoline.
The vote was largely partisan, yet Minnesota's senators, Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Amy Klobuchar, voted in favor of the bill.
Gasoline prices rose another 2 cents Tuesday to a nationwide average of $4.04 a gallon for regular, but there appeared to be little prospect of imminent action by Congress or the Bush administration.
The Senate fell nine votes short of the 60 required to proceed to debate on the Democrat-sponsored energy measure, which would have erased $17 billion in tax breaks for oil companies over 10 years and created a levy on "unreasonable" profits collected by the five largest U.S. oil companies. Only six Republicans voted to move ahead.
The bill would have used the revenue to create an Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund, tasked with reducing U.S. dependence on foreign and "unsustainable" energy sources and reducing the risks of global warming.
Republicans said that the measure, which they dubbed the "no energy bill," would do nothing to lower gasoline prices, and could have the opposite effect by placing an additional tax burden on oil companies. They said the nation could combat high fuel prices more effectively by increasing domestic oil supplies by permitting new exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in waters on the Outer Continental Shelf. Most congressional Democrats oppose drilling in those areas.
In a separate vote, the Senate blocked a proposal to extend an array of expiring tax breaks for individuals and businesses, and to protect millions of middle-class taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.
The House overwhelmingly approved a similar bill, minus the AMT provision, May 21.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS BACK JOBLESS BENEFITS PLAN
A bucketful of Republicans in the House have not been shy about distancing themselves from the president on unemployments benefits for the jobless. "This is a no-brainer," said Rep. Phil English, R-Pa. "It provides extended benefits at a time people are feeling deep insecurity."
Dozens of House Republicans are likely to abandon Bush on a vote this week to award 13 additional weeks of unemployment compensation to people who have used up their benefits. The legislation would make more than 1 million people immediately eligible for extended benefits, with 3 million more becoming eligible in coming months.
A House vote is expected as early as Thursday. Benefits vary by state but the nationwide average is about $300 a week.
MEXICO'S WAR ON DRUGS GETS BOOST IN HOUSE BILL
The House authorized spending $1.6 billion over the next three years to help Mexico and other countries counter growing drug violence and the cartels behind it. But the money isn't assured.
The bill, approved 311-106, would not provide any money to Mexico. That could come separately in pending bills funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and future appropriations bills.
In the bill passed Tuesday, the House approved $1.1 billion for Mexico between 2008-2010; $405 million for Central America and Caribbean countries and $74 million for the Justice Department to help staunch the illegal flow of U.S. handguns and other weapons to Mexico.
The Minnesota delegation cast party-line votes with one exception: Democrat Keith Ellison joined Republicans Michele Bachmann and John Kline in voting no.