Before the Silver Elephant Dinner last week in Columbia, SC, ThinkProgress spoke to freshman Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) about the vote. At first, Duncan claimed that he “did not” vote to preserve billions in subsidies to oil companies. Second later, he backtracked and told us that he opposed an amendment, offered by Democrats, which would have killed the subsidies. Finally, after some prodding, Duncan told us he stands by companies like Exxon and BP, but had “no comment” on why they deserve special subsidies:
FANG: What do you think about oil subsidies? I know Democrats have brought this up this week and there was a vote on Thursday or maybe Wednesday on ending billions of dollars in tax subsidies to very profitable oil companies like Exxon, Shell, Chevron, etc. Do you think it’s necessary that the government borrows money to give to already very profitable oil companies?
DUNCAN: Well look at all the money we borrow to give to countries that hate us in foreign aid. I think we gotta look at every bit of expenditure, every tax line, and really work on reining in government spending more.
FANG: Did you vote to extend those subsidies?
DUNCAN: I did not.
DUNCAN: Or I didn’t vote for the Democrat amendment that you were talking about. I support American energy production, and it will be produced by companies, Exxon, BP, Shell, and continue to support American energy.
FANG: Even if they made $35 billion in the last quarter, you think that it’s still necessary that the taxpayer subsidize them?
DUNCAN: I’m not going to comment on that.
Taxpayers will be forced to hand over some $70 billion in oil subsidies over the next ten years, unless Congress repeals them. This money, however, is not making gas prices cheaper. Rather, the subsidies are padding the profits of executives at Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other major oil companies, which collectively made $35 billion in profits in just the first quarter of 2011.
Many Republican lawmakers have been unable to square their loyal dedication to giving taxpayer money to big oil companies with their larger message of spending cuts. Some lawmakers, like Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), have tried to deny the existence of such subsidies. Others have tried to tell town hall meetings that they will vote to end oil subsidies, before traveling back to DC and voting to preserve them.