Rising Gas Prices, Historic Deficits Mean Advantage: Democrats? So Says Hulse

Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse, whose reporting has been somewhat more balanced of late, reverted to old partisan habits in Monday's story, "Democrats' Plan Would Offset Deficit by Ending Big Oil's Tax Breaks."

Hulse pushed Democratic enthusiasm over the party's latest talking points attempting to place Republicans on the defensive, this time managing to find Democratic optimism in a story about high gas prices and the deficit, without sparing a word of blame against President Obama for either problem.

Democrats are targeting "the five largest and most profitable oil companies: BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips."

Linking two of the politically volatile issues of the moment, Senate Democrats say they will move forward this week with a plan that would eliminate tax breaks for big oil companies and divert the savings to offset the deficit.

With high gas prices and rising federal deficits in the political spotlight, senior Democrats believe that tying the two together will put pressure on Senate Republicans to support the measure or face a difficult time explaining their opposition to voters whose family budgets are being strained by fuel prices.

President Obama and some top Congressional Democrats have said they want to take some of an estimated $21 billion in savings from ending the tax breaks and steer it to clean energy projects. But the Senate's Democratic leadership is calculating that using it to cut the deficit instead makes it a tougher issue politically for Republicans who are trying to burnish their conservative fiscal credentials.

"Big Oil certainly doesn't need the collective money of taxpayers in this country," said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the authors of the legislation that Democrats intend to showcase. "This is as good a time as any in terms of pain at the pump and in revenues needed for deficit reduction."

Hulse only got around to quoting a G.O.P. rebuttal in paragraph seven. And after quoting a spokesman for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell pointing out Democrats have been criticizing oil company profits for decades, Hulse concluded by suggesting the Democrats had the superior strategy, including a rah-rah quote from a Democratic pol.

But Democrats said they see themselves as occupying the political and policy high ground in this case. They noted that top Republicans like Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, have suggested that industry subsidies might have to be curbed.

Even talk of Republican delaying tactics does not seem to disturb Democrats who are eager to engage in a fight about oil.

"I am happy to have this debate on the floor for days," Mr. Menendez said.

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