Congressional Republicans have spent the better part of three years attempting to cut the federal budget in all sorts of ways, including slashing programs aimed at protecting the environment and developing new renewable energy sources. The GOP’s presidential candidates have followed suit, promising to evaluate the effectiveness of certain subsidies and spending programs. But throughout the debate, tax breaks for oil and gas companies — which cost about $4 billion each year — have been exempt from those discussions, mentioned only when Republicans pretend that all options are on the table.
That hasn’t set well with presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R). Speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Conference today, Gingrich blasted Republicans for exempting oil and gas tax breaks from widespread budget cuts even as they targeted subsidies like ethanol:
GINGRICH: I don’t want to pick a fight with any of my good friends who are running, but I get a little weary of people who represent oil, which has consistently had tax subsidies for its entire history, explaining that they’re really not sure about these subsidies. Notice it’s always these subsidies. It’s never the ones down there. I notice that when Senator [Tom] Coburn [R-OK] introduced a bill that was anti-ethanol, he didn’t include subsidies for gas and oil, because as an Oklahoman, that would be suicidal. So I just think we ought to have a fair playing field.
This kind of tough talk on oil and gas subsidies isn’t new. Republicans from freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) to Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said cutting oil subsidies should be in consideration during budget negotiations earlier this year. Yet, when it came time to vote, all three (and many other Republicans) voted to maintain the subsidies not once, but twice. Ryan, a vocal critic of “corporate giveaways” when he’s at town hall meetings, preserved a $4.1 billion break to oil and gas companies in his fiscal 2012 budget, even while cutting other vital programs. So while Republicans like Gingrich often say the right things when it comes to ending giveaways to Big Oil, it’s rare that they actually back up those words when they get the chance.