Democrats’ Oil Subsidy Repeal Bill Is Actually Unconstitutional

Views

Republicans may have a point that Democrats are playing politics with oil subsidies. To understand why, look no further than the fact that the bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring to the floor for a vote Tuesday evening doesn’t pass basic constitutional muster.

“The question is if the bill passes the Senate, it will run into a blue-slip problem,” Reid said at his weekly Capitol press conference. Blue slipping is the process the House uses to reject Senate bills that impact tax and spending.

Reid joked, “That’s the least of my worries.”He and most of the Dem caucus couldn’t be happier that their Republican counterparts are circling their wagons around big oil companies to protect their multi-billion dollar annual tax subsidies. And they’ll have great fodder for attack ads starting Tuesday night, when a Senate bill that would rescind those subsidies is expected to fail along party lines.

But even if by some miracle it passes, it would have to be shelved. In their zeal to put Republicans on the spot, Democrats neglected one key technicality: eliminating tax loopholes raises revenues, and any legislation that raises revenues must, according to the Constitution, originate in the House of Representatives.

This is mainly a technical concern. Senate Republicans have made clear they won’t allow the bill to move forward, and Democrats say they plan to attack these subsidies in other venues.

“I am confident that before we finish our budget negotiations here, and in anticipation of raising the debt ceiling, that that will be part of it,” Reid said.

But the fact that Dems didn’t bother with the technical stuff underscores the extent to which this campaign — and tonight’s vote in particular — is meant for the cameras.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK