Senate Democrats on Wednesday afternoon soundly filibustered efforts to send a corporate tax cut bill back to committee to add a $13 billion energy tax package to the legislation. A Senate aide, however, said another vote was possible later Wednesday if Senate leaders were able to address Democrats’ concerns involving amendments to the bill.
On Wednesday afternoon, Republicans fell 11 shy of the 60 votes needed to end debate on a motion by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to recommit the corporate tax reform measure to the Senate Finance Committee to tack on the energy tax portion of the broad energy bill. It was the second time in less than a month that Democrats successfully blocked the corporate tax cut bill (S. 1637).
By adding on the popular energy tax package, Republicans had hoped that they would win more Democratic votes for the corporate tax cut bill. They also figured it was a way of pushing at least half of the energy bill through the Senate.
Immediately following the vote on the cloture motion, Frist said both sides were trying to prepare a list of “germane” amendments in order to clear a “pathway for completion of this [corporate tax] bill.” At press time, GOP and Democratic leaders still were trying to work out a deal, raising the possibility of a second vote on the Frist motion late Wednesday.
Democrats “just want the opportunity to offer amendments relevant to this [corporate tax] bill,” said a spokesman for Senate Democrats.
Failure to achieve resolution could put the overarching corporate tax measure, also known as the JOBS bill, and the energy tax package on hold at least until after the Senate’s one-week spring recess, which begins Friday.
Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee accused Democrats of continuing “their reckless practice of politicking energy while the price of oil, gasoline, home heating oil, natural gas and coal continues to climb.” He further charged that Democrats “deliberately obstructed a bill that would create 650,000 new jobs for out-of-work Americans devastated by outsourcing.”
The Senate Democratic spokesman pointed out, however, that Democrats weren’t the only ones to oppose Frist’s motion. “At least three Republicans voted against cloture” as well.
In an effort to jump-start the languishing energy bill, Domenici on Monday mapped out a new game plan for the tax portion of the energy measure to be moved through the Senate on a separate track ahead of the rest of the legislation. The GOP strategy, however, rests on the energy tax package being piggybacked to the corporate tax cut bill.
The tax package proposes incentives for the development of an Alaska natural gas pipeline, including a controversial floor price for gas produced in Alaska and transported over the line; a new credit for oil and gas production from marginal wells; accelerated depreciation for gas gathering lines; and expensing of geological and geophysical costs, as well as a number of other initiatives.
When or if the energy tax piece clears the Senate, Domenici said he would then turn his efforts to the authorizing portion of the comprehensive measure. This part of the bill would enforce electricity reliability standards; mandate the use of more ethanol, offer loan guarantees for the construction of the Alaskan gas pipeline; repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act; encourage clean coal and enact a host of other proposals.
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