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Sanders Amendment to Repeal Oil & Gas Tax Provisions Defeated

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) failed in his attempt to add language to tax extenders legislation that would eliminate tax preferences for the domestic oil and gas industry last week.  The proposed amendment is part of a $140 billion bill to extend unemployment benefits and renew expiring tax provisions.

Sanders' language, taken straight from the Obama FY 2011 budget, would have significantly altered decades-old tax law for domestic producers, including repealing percentage depletion, limiting deductions for domestic oil and gas producers, and expanding the amortization period.  Senator Sanders attempted to link the amendment to the oil spill in the Gulf, and to big oil.  He said, "With a record-breaking $13 trillion national debt and an unsustainable federal deficit, the last thing we should be doing is giving tax breaks to oil and gas companies that have been making enormous profits"

The amendment failed with a 61-35 vote.  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) led the charge against the amendment.  Republicans were unified against the amendment, and the following Democrats crossed party lines to vote no: Akaka (HI), Baucus (MT), Bayh (IN), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Bingaman (NM), Conrad (ND), Dodd (CT), Dorgan (ND), Inouye (HI), Kerry (MA), Landrieu (LA), Lincoln (AR), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), Tester (MT), Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Warner (VA), Webb (VA).  It is notable that senior democrats Baucus (Chairman of the Finance Committee), Bingaman (Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee) and Kerry (author of climate change legislation) voted the provisions down. 

While this threat on the industry was defeated, it is important that we not become passive; there are still opportunities left in the 111th Congress for the industry to be attacked.