At a time when oil companies are posting record profits, Republican congressmen across the country are being challenged by constituents about their support for roughly $4 billion in annual tax incentives for the oil industry. Last month, every single Republican voted to preserve these subsidies, but under pressure, several GOP leaders, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), have admitted that Big Oil shouldn’t continue to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies. But yesterday Congressman Lou Barletta (R–PA) took at different approach: scoffing at the idea.
When a constituent asked him how he could vote for tax breaks for the oil industry, the congressman simply laughed at the woman and shook his head, ignoring her question. Another constituent then responded angrily, telling Barletta, “You’re our congressman, don’t laugh at us!”
Barletta continued to smirk in amusement as constituents began to debate one another, at one point even turning his back on the crowd and rifling through papers as he appeared to completely disengage from the discussion. Watch it:
This is not the first time the freshman Republican has responded dismissively to tough questioning at home. At a town hall event one week ago, constituents confronted Barletta about his vote to end Medicare through the Ryan budget plan. He was rebuked by a 64-year-old woman who wanted to know why he backed “a plan that will destroy Medicare.” The congressman’s office brushed aside the complaint and tried to smear the woman, claiming she was part of a coordinated Democratic campaign to disrupt the event.
The congressman’s condescending attitude toward his constituents’ concerns is disconcerting, but not altogether surprising, given the generous support he’s received from oil companies. In the 2010 election cycle, the oil and gas industry was one of the largest contributors to Barletta’s campaign, kicking in more than $30,000.
Today, two of the world’s largest oil companies, Exxon and Shell, announced nearly $18 billion in profits in the first quarter, thanks to higher gas prices around to the world. Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Harry Reid (R-NV) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have called on Republicans to hold votes on ending the subsidies.
This afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rejected Pelosi’s request to hold a vote on eliminating oil subsidies. “The Speaker wants to increase the supply of American energy to lower gas prices and create millions of American jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email. “Raising taxes will not do that.”