Missouri is often a battleground state for national politicians, but the state’s two U.S. senators have embarked on a battle of their own.
This week — during the heated battles in the Senate over ending oil subsidies and increasing the permitting time while decreasing oversight for offshore drilling — Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) traded verbal jabs.
McCaskill fired the first shot before the failed vote to end tax breaks for the five largest oil companies. McCaskill, who supports ending the subsidies, said she would also support an investigation of a possible price-fixing scheme by the oil companies.
"The refinery capacity has been set back over the last year," McCaskill said, adding, "If this is a decision that is being made to purposefully hold back supply, obviously that's something the American people ought to have something to say about." Reports show that refinery capacity is down to about 83 percent from last year, when it hovered around 90 percent. Prices at the pump haven’t gone down much, despite the drop in refining capacity.
But Missouri’s Republican senator doesn’t see eye to eye with McCaskill. Blunt sees no need for a price-fixing investigation, and says that McCaskill’s push to end the handouts to the oil companies would hurt taxpayers when they go to the pump. "The bill that was on the floor [Tuesday] would ultimately increase gas prices, not decrease them in all likelihood," he said. "In even greater likelihood, it would decrease the incentive to produce energy products in the United States."
Following Blunt’s comments and the failure of the oil subsidy repeal to pass the Senate, McCaskill could have let the issue go, but she didn’t. First she hit Blunt in a spot that is particularly sensitive for Republicans, who have made reducing the federal deficit a priority. “All of the subsidies that we would have recovered would have gone toward the deficit," she said. Then she pointed out that the big five companies made about $35 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011, and that the loss of $2 billion in subsidies would not motivate the companies to relocate.
Blunt then replied: "We need more American energy of all kinds," Blunt said. "It is the best and easiest way to create more American jobs."
As the week ended, Blunt and McCaskill found themselves on opposite ends of another battle. McCaskill voted against a bill that would have sped up the process for offshore oil development, while Blunt supported it. (McCaskill is known as a political moderate, even taking heat from the League of Women Voters for a vote to delay the EPA’s plan for regulating greenhouse gases.) The debate about energy is heating up in this country, and the Show Me state is no exception.