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Brown oil vote becomes instant issue

Warren supporters slam his position

Senator Scott Brown joined with Senate Republicans on Thursday to foil President Obama’s plan to strip $24 billion in tax subsidies from the country’s largest oil companies, a stance that Democrats immediately focused on as an issue in the Massachusetts Senate race.

In voting against the bill, Brown contended the measure did not address the most pressing problem.

“I do not support this bill in its current form because it will do nothing to reduce prices at the pump,’’ Brown said.

Local Democrats argued, though, that the vote proved he cared more about corporations than consumers. They immediately organized a protest outside Brown’s Boston campaign headquarters.


Meanwhile, a third-party group, the Rethink PAC, released a new Web video accusing Brown of “putting the interests of oil companies ahead of the people of Massachusetts.’’

In a statement, a spokeswoman for his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, said she would have voted against the subsidies.

“Scott Brown again is siding with Big Oil, helping the richest, most profitable companies in the world get billions of dollars more in tax breaks and loopholes while consumers are getting hammered,’’ said spokeswoman Alethea Harney.

The 51-47 vote was mostly along party lines.

A majority of Democrats, including Brown’s senior colleague Senator John F. Kerry, voted in favor of eliminating the subsidies, but they fell far short of the 60 votes needed to withstand a filibuster. Only two Republicans, Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins of Maine, joined the Democrats. Four Democrats voted against repealing the subsidies.

Brown criticized Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, for not allowing the GOP to offer amendments to the measure, including one that would allow a controversial pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to proceed.

But a top Brown aide attacked Warren for her opposition to the pipeline on environmental and safety grounds.


“Elizabeth Warren is an ‘energy elitist’ who thinks we can power our country on renewable sources alone,’’ said Brown campaign manager Jim Barnett. “Scott Brown supports an all-of-the-above energy policy, including construction of the Keystone pipeline.’’

Obama, in a Rose Garden speech, slammed oil companies on huge profits. The five largest oil companies reported a combined $140 billion in 2011 profit.

“On top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year in taxpayer subsidies - a subsidy they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century,’’ he said.

The subsidies vote factored into the Brown-Warren race in another way Thursday.

Brown announced he would write a $34,545 check to the charity of Elizabeth Warren’s choice because the American Petroleum Institute took out radio and print ads in Massachusetts denouncing the Democrats’ plan to eliminate the subsidies.

Warren contended that ad violated their mutual ban on outside ads in their race.

The so-called People’s Pledge was signed in late January to penalize both campaigns in the event that political action committees and other interest groups advertise on their behalf. The campaigns have agreed to pay a penalty to a charity chosen by their opponent - equal to half the value of the advertisements.

Brown’s campaign said that by complying with Warren’s request to stop the ad, the campaigns have agreed to an expansion of their pledge.

Noah Bierman of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at bobby.calvan@globe.com.