A motion to advance a measure aimed at cutting tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies failed on the Senate floor on Tuesday evening, as it was unable to garner the 60 votes necessary to proceed.
Three Democrats voted against the motion, including Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mark Begich of Alaska, while two Republicans from Maine, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, stood by it.
Nevertheless, the motion was withdrawn as only 52 senators voted in favor of it.
As numerous reports and experts noted that an effort to cut the tax breaks would do nothing to deal with high gas prices, Democrats saw the measure as a way of signaling to their constituents and fellow lawmakers that they are deficit hawks. By framing the bill as something that will cut the deficit, Democrats hoped to put their colleagues on the record voting on the issue.
Though the bill failed to proceed, it put several Democrats and a majority of Republicans on the spot when voting against advancing it.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicated on Tuesday afternoon the fight won’t end here, as he expects the proposal will be a part of final budget negotiations.
“There is no justification for giving these companies that are making so much money, and their own executives said these subsidies are unnecessary,” Reid said. “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.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said on Tuesday that the measure and any efforts to eliminate the tax breaks is simply a "dog and pony show,” echoing his colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
McConnell argued that “a better approach to this crisis is the Republican alternative that we’ll get a vote on [Wednesday].”
That measure, which mirrors House legislation passed in the last two weeks, would require the Interior Department to hold lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia. In addition, the measure would set a timeline for Interior’s approval of offshore permit applications and extend leases in the Gulf for another year.
McConnell’s bill is set for a vote on Wednesday, but it is also expected to fall short of the 60 votes it needs to advance.