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House Budget Chair Ryan backs cutting oil subsidies


House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives to listen to President Barack Obama deliver a speech on U.S. fiscal and budgetary deficit policy at the George Washington University in Washington, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives to listen to President Barack Obama deliver a speech on U.S. fiscal and budgetary deficit policy at the George Washington University in Washington, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on Thursday he supports cutting tax breaks for the oil industry as lawmakers search for ways to battle rising gasoline prices.

In response to a question at a town hall meeting in Waterford, Wisconsin, the Republican congressman said he agreed that oil company subsidies should end.

"We're talking about reforming the safety net, the welfare system, we also want to get rid of corporate welfare," Ryan said to applause.

A video of the question and answer was posted online in a blog run by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund.

A spokesman for Ryan was not immediately available for comment.

A statement from his office to the Politico news organization said the House of Representatives-passed budget resolution "clearly states that as part of an overall corporate tax reform, tax loopholes and deductions for all corporations should be scaled back or eliminated entirely. That obviously includes oil companies."

On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner said Congress should "take a look" at the multibillion-dollar subsidies to oil companies.

"It's certainly something we should be looking at," Boehner said in an ABC News interview. "We're in a time when the federal government's short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share."

U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday urging them to follow up on his repeated calls to scrap $4 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

Republicans long have argued that killing the tax breaks ultimately would increase, not lower, retail gasoline prices.

The Energy Department said on Monday retail gasoline prices increased for the fifth week in a row with the national price for regular unleaded gasoline at $3.88 a gallon.

Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is contributing to rising fuel prices.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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