Extenders bill is newest casualty of Senate procedure war

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, May 19, 2014

Another popular bill became a casualty of the Senate’s intensifying procedure war yesterday as Republicans blocked a package of tax cuts they mostly support to protest being shut out of the amendment process.

On a procedural vote, the Senate failed to advance the so-called tax extenders bill, a package to reinstate more than 50 expired incentives, including a dozen energy-related measures such as the renewable electricity production tax credit and a suite of biofuels credits.The extenders bill’s failure marks the second time this week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used procedural tools at his disposal to block Republican amendments, and they retaliated by mounting a filibuster to sink the underlying legislation. Yesterday’s vote delivered to the extenders bill the same fate that met a popular energy efficiency measure Monday (E&E Daily, May 13).The 53-40 tally fell short of the 60-vote threshold necessary to end the GOP filibuster and advance the extenders bill. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was the only Republican who voted to advance the bill.

While Republicans said they support many of the tax breaks included in the package, they sunk the bill to protest Reid’s management of the Senate floor and his routine denial of GOP requests to take controversial votes.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who is considered the father of the PTC for his role in its creation more than 20 years ago, said he wanted to see the credit extended but could not vote to advance the bill today.

“I think the institution of the Senate is more important than just one little issue — or one big issue,” he told reporters before the vote. “And that’s the principle of is the Senate going to protect the interests of the minority or is it going to be a majoritarian body.”

While the extenders bill suffered a setback, it is not the end of the line for the $84 billion package. Reid voted “no” on the cloture motion to allow him to bring it back at a later date. Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he was open to a deal that would let Republicans secure at least a handful of votes on amendments related to the extenders package, but he said they have not yet presented a list of priorities to allow for such negotiations to proceed.

“I’m going to do everything I can to bring about some agreement between the parties,” Wyden told reporters after the vote yesterday evening, predicting a path forward could be clearer as soon as next week.

Most lobbyists tracking the issue already were not expecting a final resolution to the extenders debate until after the November election.

Passage in the Senate would have helped put pressure on House Republicans, who are pursuing a narrower bill to make permanent just a handful of extenders, not including any of the energy breaks. However, the energy breaks still enjoy significant bipartisan support, and clean energy advocates hope that enough momentum can build for the overall Senate package to allow it to cross the finish line after November.