Conservative groups step up fight against energy tax breaks in FAA bill

Source: By Melanie Zanona, The Hill • Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Conservative groups that oppose a proposal to include energy tax breaks in the long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration are vowing to take their fight to the House if the Senate moves ahead.

Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners said Monday that if the Senate ends up attaching energy tax provisions to the FAA bill, the organizations will ratchet up pressure on lawmakers across the Capitol to oppose the language or pass a clean-extension of FAA.

“If the Senate isn’t going to do anything to stop this, we’re going to put pressure on the House,” Andy Koenig, senior policy advisor at Freedom Partners, said on a press call. “The House is under no obligation to take up a bunch of energy subsidies if they don’t want to.”

The FAA’s current legal authority expires July 15 after Congress cleared a short-term patch last month.

Democrats have been pressing Senate leaders to include tax breaks in the FAA bill that support investments in fuel cells, geothermal, biomass, combined heat and power systems and small wind power.

They maintain the tax breaks were unintentionally left out of a tax extenders package that Congress passed last year and that there was agreement among Senate leaders that the provision would be added to the FAA reauthorization – one of the few remaining must-pass pieces of legislation this year.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has acknowledged that the provisions might be needed to secure enough support for passage.

“It’s going to be hard to probably get on the bill, a motion to proceed, or to get off the bill, unless we in some fashion address the Democrats’ concern,” Thune told reporters last week. “It’s going to take 60 votes to get this done.”

The bill’s Democratic sponsors have said that they reached an outline for a broad agreement to incorporate the tax extenders into the legislation, though Senate aides could not yet provide details on what the deal will look like. The chamber resumes consideration of the measure this week.

Conservatives have called the tax proposal an unrelated carve-out for special interests, with over 30 groups urging strong opposition to the plan in a letter to the Finance Committee last week. Heritage Action has indicated it will key vote against the FAA bill if subsidies for fuel cells, geothermal and biomass are ultimately added.

“Americans are sick and tired of D.C. picking the haves and have nots based on who can afford the best lobbyists on K Street,” Koenig said.

Koenig also raised concern about opening up a “can of worms” if the energy tax breaks are attached to the bill. Senators have been jockeying to attach their own pet provisions to the measure, such as extending tax breaks for carbon capture and advanced nuclear power facilities and reducing tax regulations on breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries.

But it appears the real showdown could come in the House, where it may be more difficult for Republicans to swallow the renewable energy tax breaks.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) already signaled her opposition to the provision in a letter last week, writing that “tax extenders for renewable energy have consistently failed to promote economic growth and create jobs.”

Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity said they haven’t whipped against the tax breaks in the House, but believe House leaders didn’t leave the renewable energy credits out of the tax extenders package on accident.

The December tax package extended credits for wind and solar power, which Republicans traded in exchange for lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

“We’ve heard over and over again that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is committed to regular order and a transparent process,” Koenig said.  “He did negotiate an extenders bill which specifically did not include these additional energy extenders, and he should, according to his rhetoric, be opposed to a process where you’re putting unrelated tax provisions into an FAA bill.”