Paul Ryan endorses cutting oil subsidies

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a listening session April 26, 2011, at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wis.
AP Photo

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan endorsed ending subsidies for oil companies at a town hall meeting on Thursday, allowing Democrats to put more pressure on Republicans on the subject.

When one of Ryan's constituents at the Waterford, Wis., town hall said that federal oil subsidies should stop, Ryan responded, "sure."

"We're talking about reforming the safety net, the welfare system; we also want to get rid of corporate welfare," he said, as first reported by the liberal blog Think Progress. "And corporate welfare goes to agribusiness companies, energy companies, financial services companies, so we propose to repeal all that,"

Soon after Think Progress published video of the remarks, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tweeted, "Positive sign: Rep. Ryan today called for eliminating oil & gas company subsidies that cost taxpayers $$$$"

He subsequently tweeted, "POTUS has long supported ending oil company subsidies and is encouraged by signs of GOP openness to the idea," including a link to the letter President Obama sent to leaders of Congress this week urging them to eliminate the subsidies.

A spokesperson for the House Budget committee said that Ryan and other GOP leaders have made clear they oppose raising taxes -- however, Ryan's proposed 2012 budget clearly states that as part of an overall corporate tax reform, tax loopholes and deductions for all corporations should be scaled back or eliminated entirely.

Still, Republicans have largely supported oil subsidies, saying the way to lower gas prices is to increase domestic production. Ending the subsidies, they've warned, could increase gas prices.

In response to the president's letter urging Congress to eliminate oil subsidies, House Speaker John Boehner's spokesperson said the president's proposal "would simply raise taxes and increase the price at the pump."

The president's letter, though, was in fact inspired by remarks Boehner made earlier this week. Boehner said in an interview that oil and gas companies are "gonna pay their fair share in taxes - and they should."

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to bring the issue up for a vote in the Senate next month, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed Boehner to schedule a vote as well.

The oil and gas industry receives about $4 billion in subsidies per year, even as the industry continues to bring in profits. Oilfield services giant Halliburton announced earlier this month that its first quarter results set a company record of $5.3 billion in overall revenue.

After Exxon announced on Thursday nearly $11 billion in first quarter profits, the Democratic party sought to tie Republicans to oil companies.