Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is “confident” a final agreement about the debt ceiling will include the repeal of tax breaks for oil companies — but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) today said Republican leadership would likely resist any effort to include such a tax hike in the debt limit debate.

“If there’s any opportunity to get an agreement on [the debt ceiling] — and there should be, it can’t be used as a vehicle to advance more narrow agendas,” Sessions said on a conference call with bloggers. “So, I would certainly resist that, and I would expect that to be successfully resisted by our leadership. … Our leadership — I’m talking about in both the House and the Senate — would be able to reject that some way.”
The Senate this week already rejected Democrats’ first attempt to eliminate tax breaks for the big five oil companies — Exxon, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. The “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act” never stood much of a chance in the first place, as at least one Democrat admitted, but Reid and other Democrats want to give it an encore on the debt limit stage anyway.

Senior Democrats are increasingly signaling that industry subsidies must be on the table in broader deficit talks between Capitol Hill Democrats, Republicans and the White House.

The talks are unfolding ahead of a high-stakes vote expected this summer to raise the debt ceiling. The timing of a vote to raise the ceiling is unclear, but is expected this summer before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department has warned it will no longer be able to meet all its financial obligations.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said late last week that Democrats will “insist” on addressing the oil tax issue in broader budget talks. And Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership team, said Menendez’s view is widely held in the caucus.

But Sessions isn’t alone, either. Even Democrats who want to roll back the tax incentives for oil companies don’t think the debt limit debate should hinge on them. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has said “we can no longer afford giveaways to oil companies,” but her spokeswoman says the senator still doesn’t think an agreement on the debt ceiling should be “held hostage” to such a proposal.