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A proposal by Senate Democrats to end tax breaks for big oil companies failed a test vote Tuesday, and a Republican counterproposal to ease new drilling is expected to fail Wednesday, underscoring Capitol Hill's energy-policy impasse.

A White House-backed Democratic proposal to end about $2 billion a year in oil and gas tax breaks for five major oil companies failed to win enough votes to move forward. Senate Democratic leaders needed 60 votes to advance the bill under Senate rules, but got only 52, as three Democrats joined all but two Republicans in opposing the bill.



The Senate is expected to act on an alternative Republican bill today that aims to speed up government approval of drilling permits. The measure would require the government to determine within 60 days whether to grant a permit. If officials failed to make a determination, permission would be granted automatically. The GOP bill, which would also direct the administration to increase offshore lease sales to the industry, is also expected to fail. (WSJ, 5/18/2011)