Freshman GOP Rep. Hultgren Dumbfounded After Constituent Grills Him On Oil Subsidies

Video recorded by ThinkProgress Blog Fellow Micah Uetricht, a reporter from the Chicago area.

On Tuesday at a town hall in Sycamore City, IL, freshmen Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) was asked about the nearly $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies Big Oil companies receive every year, which the House GOP recently voted to preserve. A well-informed man in the audience asked Hultgren why he had done nothing to cut the subsidies, in light of the high national debt. The constituent noted that the billions in cuts forced by the GOP in the FY 2011 budget deal from valuable programs like Pell Grants and FEMA is about equivalent to the amount of money given to incredibly profitable oil companies. Hultgren hemmed and hawed before finally saying he would “look into that”:

CONSTITUENT: With the oil industry, we’re giving them $63 billion in oil subsidies. And you cut what, thirty one, thirty two billion?

HULTGREN: Thirty nine billion.

CONSTITUENT: Thirty nine? Why don’t you cut out the subsidies? The depletion allowance that they take, four dollar, every quarter its a record profit. C’mon, you don’t have to subsidize an organization, a group of organizations that every quarter they make so much more than they did the last quarter and the quarter before that and so on. How about cutting that out? It’ll give you a nice tidy sum over ten years.

HULTGREN: I’m very open to looking at every subsidy that we do and questioning why we do this. And I want to know. I want to have the answers there. I just–

CONSTITUENT: But there’s no logic there. None whatsoever.

HULTGREN: Well I’ll look into that. That’s something we just talked about on the way into here.

Watch it:

Hultgren mentioned that he had been talking about the oil subsidies issue earlier that day, but had no answer for the question. Although he claimed that he has been “questioning” the subsidies, Hultgren concealed the fact that earlier this year, around the same time he voted for the GOP’s budget cuts, he voted twice to extend billions in tax subsidies to big oil.

Republicans are facing a growing backlash over oil subsidies. Not only have top lawmakers faced angry constituents and questions from the press, but even Tea Party activists have called for the GOP to stop giving so much taxpayer money to multinational oil companies.

A few Republican lawmakers, like Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), have called for an end to oil subsidies, as well as all other energy subsidies.