The Washington Times - May 10, 2011, 02:18PM

A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Tuesday that calls for an end to taxpayer-funded subsidies to the five biggest oil companies.

“At a time when families are feeling the pain at the pump and our deficit keeps growing at an alarming rate, we simply can’t afford to keep giving away billions in taxpayer handouts to oil companies that are doing nothing to help lower prices,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the bill’s sponsors.

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Another sponsor, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said that if Congress is to get serious about reducing the national debt, “we can no longer afford to keep giving away taxpayers’ money to the most profitable companies in the world.”

Other sponsors of the measure are Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana.

The Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act would repeal or revise several tax rules that allow oil companies to deduct a portion of their costs for such endeavors as oil exploration and drilling. The savings would be used to help reduce the deficit.

The Democrats say the measure also would close a tax loophole that allows U.S. oil companies to disguise royalty payments to foreign governments as foreign taxes, thus allowing them to lower their tax bills in the United States.

The Democrats cited a study by Citizens for Tax Justice that said the major oil companies spent most of their profits in the purchase of their own stocks and boosting their dividends between 2005 and 2010.

While the measure likely will be well received in the Democratic-controlled Senate, it would face a roadblock in the Republican-held House.