Hatch Warns Against Punishing Businesses for Being Profitable

May 12, 2011 - 11:14 AM

Orrin Hatch

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, said at a hearing on May 12, 2011 that U.S. lawmakers should not punish American businesses for being profitable. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - Even before the first oil company executive testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, Sen. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) criticized the hearing as a dog-and-pony show.

Lawmakers should not go down the “dangerous road” of punishing American businesses for being profitable, said Hatch, the committee’s ranking member.
With a photo of a dog riding a pony as a backdrop behind him, Hatch said Thursday’s hearing would only provide “political theater.”

He noted that contrary to what some people think, the Obama administration does indeed have an energy policy: “Are you ready for this? Their energy policy is to increase the cost of energy,” Hatch said.

Hatch objected to Democrats singling out the profits of one industry, and he said the plan being offered by Democrats is simply to “raise taxes.”

Oil and gas companies would probably drill with or without tax incentives, Hatch said: “But let’s be clear. They would be less likely to do so in the United States. We have to ask whether we want to help increase the market share for U.S. corporations in the global oil and gas marketplace, or do we want to decrease that market share and put ourselves at the mercy of foreign importers?”

In his opening statement, committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the five largest oil company collectively earned more than $35 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011, which puts them on track to have their most profitable year ever.

dog and pony

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called a May 12, 2011 Senate hearing to grill the CEOs of the nation's top oil companies a dog-and-pony show, using this photo as a backdrop. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“Businesses should make a profit – that’s what drives our economy – but do these very profitable companies actually need taxpayer subsidies?” Baucus asked.

Democrats have introduced legislation to repeal tax breaks, including taxpayer subsidies, for the five largest oil companies. Those tax breaks average $2-billion a year, Baucus said.

Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., said in prepared testimony that additional taxes proposed by Senate Democrats are "misinformed and discriminatory."

The other oil company executives testifying at Thursday’s hearing are Chevron CEO and Chairman John Watson, ConocoPhillips CEO and Chairman James Mulva, Shell Oil U.S. President Marvin Odum, and BP American Inc. President and Chairman H. Lamar McKay.