At a town hall session today in Waterford, Wisc., Paul Ryan advocated eliminating “corporate welfare” like subsidies for oil companies, which have emerged as a sparring point thanks to soaring gas prices.
“The subsidies for the oil companies that the federal government gives–they’ve gotta stop,” a constituent says to Ryan, in an exchange you can see in footage posted by ThinkProgress, a website run by the liberal Center for American Progress. “Sure,” Ryan responds. “I agree.”
As ThinkProgress notes, Ryan voted twice recently to extend such subsidies. Last fall, he derided one such proposal as “ridiculous economics.” In the clip Ryan mentions curbing subsidies to agribusinesses, energy companies and financial-services companies as examples of breaks Congress should repeal. “Chairman Ryan, House GOP leaders, and our members have made clear we are not for raising taxes. The House-passed FY2012 budget resolution 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. That obviously includes oil companies,” a spokesman for Ryan said in a statement to TIME. “Our budget attacks corporate welfare, simplifies the tax code, and calls for increased energy exploration to address the painful rise in gas prices and help create jobs here at home.”
With consumers feeling the pain at the pump, Democrats have ramped up their efforts to curb the $8 billion in tax breaks oil companies receive annually, framing the issue as emblematic of the GOP’s corporate priorities. Twenty-eight House Democrats today sent House Speaker John Boehner a letter urging a straight vote on legislation that would stop the practice of “wastefully subsidizing some of the most profitable businesses in the world and instead use that money to reduce the deficit and invest in real relief from high gas prices.” President Obama has also prodded Boehner to support slashing some $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to oil giants, and the DCCC, in a spoof tied to tomorrow’s British nuptials, launched a website attempting to highlight the “lasting union” between Republicans and Big Oil: roilwedding.com.
Ryan’s office declined to respond to a question about whether Ryan would support the Democrats’ bill. Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told TIME that “the Speaker is willing to look at any proposal that would actually lower gas prices. Unfortunately, what the White House has proposed at this point would actually increase gas prices.”