Senate Republicans gave people a slap in the face June 10, voting to block a windfall profits tax on oil companies that are robbing us blind at the gasoline pump with $4.35 per gallon gasoline. Democrats mustered a majority, 51 senators, but GOP leaders rallied 43 senators to block the bill, effectively killing it.

It would have imposed a 25 percent tax on “unreasonable” profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies, which reported $36 billion in profits in the first three months of this year. The legislation would have given the government more power to curb oil company speculation and would have made energy price gouging a federal crime.

The AFL-CIO Working Families network called for a “Week of Action” to protest the price gouging. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said both George W. Bush and John McCain “have handed the reins of the economy over to Big Oil and other corporate interests whose only concern is maximizing their profit margins.”

Since Bush-Cheney seized office in 2000, the five oil giants have reaped $525 billion in profits and presided over gasoline prices that zoomed from $1.47 per gallon to well over $4 per gallon. Oil CEOs are wallowing in money. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson reports $21.7 million income last year. Occidental Petroleum’s Ray Irani pocketed $34 million.

GOP presidential nominee McCain voted in 2005 against curtailing windfall profits for oil companies. In 2007, he was the only senator to miss a vote on an energy bill that repealed billions in tax subsidies for oil companies. McCain promises if elected to push through a new $3.8 billion tax giveaway for the oil companies. His election in November would ensure another four years of Bush-Cheney giveaways to Big Oil. Democratic nominee Barack Obama, by contrast, vows to “make oil companies like Exxon, pay a tax on their windfall profits.”

If this highway robbery continues, can calls for nationalization of the oil companies be far behind? Venezuela’s example of using nationally-owned oil wealth to lift the living standards of the people is becoming an ever more attractive alternative.