NEW: The White House spokesman calls the Senate vote "unfortunate"
Senate Republicans block a Democratic bill to end oil company tax breaks
President Obama says redirect the oil subsidies to clean energy development
Democrats and Republicans both see a political advantage in debating the issue
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a Democratic measure championed by President Barack Obama to end tax breaks for the major oil companies.
The procedural vote of 51-47, which failed to reach the needed threshold of 60 in favor, killed the measure, which was given little chance of eventually winning approval in the Republican-controlled House. Four Democrats opposed the bill while one Republican supported it.
Obama and Democrats had pushed it in an attempt to gain political advantage as rising gas prices continue to hurt and anger American voters in an election year.
In remarks shortly before the Senate voted, Obama said the nation will be watching to see where Congress stands on the issue.
“With record profits and rising production, I’m not worried about the big oil companies,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden. “… I think it’s time they got by without more help from taxpayers, who are having a tough enough time paying their bills and filling up their tanks.”
After the vote, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney labeled the result “unfortunate.”
A CNN/ORC International poll (PDF) released Thursday shows a majority of Americans blame oil companies – rather than the Obama administration – for the high gas prices.