As expected, a Democratic bill that would have stripped big oil companies of multi-billion annual tax subsidies failed to overcome a Republican filibuster Tuesday evening. The heavily partisan 52-48 vote fell well short of the 60 required to achieve cloture. Three Democrats — Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) — voted with Republicans to maintain the subsidies. Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted with the Democrats.
Democrats have turned oil subsidies into a major issue as Congress looks at ways to tame high deficits and the national debt. They’ve been fueled in their efforts by soaring gas prices and extraordinary industry profits. And party leaders have vowed to include the tax breaks in any grand fiscal bargain tied to raising the debt limit.
But this effort was all about politics. Democrats want to highlight the GOP alignment with oil companies this election season and Tuesday’s vote will help them do that. But if it had passed it would have run smack into a pretty big problem — because, er, it was unconstitutional.