U.S. Senators on Thursday voted down a bill to end $4 billion in tax breaks for oil companies, moments after President Barack Obama called on them to pass it. The president is putting his energy policy at the center of his re-election campaign.

The president began his address in the White House Rose Garden with a challenge to lawmakers.

“Members of Congress have a simple choice to make. They can stand with big oil companies or they can stand with the American people,” said Obama.

Shortly after the president spoke, the Senate failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill. It was the third time that legislation to reduce the subsidies was voted down.