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.
According to the survey, conducted last weekend, seven in 10 Americans say rising gas prices have caused hardship for them and their families.
Obama's energy policy, which emphasizes investment in alternative sources, has repeatedly been attacked by Republicans as contributing to high gas prices and stunting domestic oil development.
The president has targeted the roughly $2 billion a year in tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies as a potential new revenue source for clean energy development.