WASHINGTON – President Obama’s plea to Congress to end $4 billion in tax subsidies to oil companies was rebuffed Thursday as the Senate turned back a Democratic bill to repeal the tax breaks.

Moments after Obama made his election-year appeal in the White House Rose Garden, the Senate failed to reach the threshold of votes needed to proceed to a measure that would have ended the subsidies. Obama had argued that Americans are getting hit twice – once at the gas pump, and once more by sending billions of dollars in tax subsidies to oil companies.

“I think it’s time they got by without more help from taxpayers who are already having a tough enough time paying the bills and filling up their gas tank,” the president said. “And I think it’s curious that some folks in Congress, who are the first to belittle investments in new sources of energy, are the ones that are fighting the hardest to maintain these giveaways for the oil companies.”

The Senate vote was 51-47, short of the 60 votes necessary. Two Republicans voted to proceed to the legislation: Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.