House tax extenders package in doubt

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 3, 2018

House GOP leaders abruptly canceled Friday’s planned floor vote on a tax package that would extend an assortment of energy tax breaks, raising new questions over whether lapsed incentives can be revived in the lame-duck session.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters today that he and other committee members have been tied up for the past day with Republican Steering Committee selections for ranking members in the new Congress.

“We’ll work through the weekend and get the lay of the land for next week,” Brady said.

However, he sounded less than confident the bill would be revived.

“No date’s been set, and it depends on sort of how the discussions go,” Brady said.

The chairman acknowledged there’s pressure from outside groups and industries to add or eliminate provisions in the proposal.

“Year-end bills are always a vehicle for a lot of provisions, so a lot of members who we’ve worked on their bills want them to be considered,” he said. “But we haven’t made any decisions yet.”

House Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said there wasn’t enough support for the package, which also includes technical corrections to the GOP tax overhaul and temporary breaks for natural disaster victims (Greenwire, Nov. 27).

“I don’t think the votes were there,” he told reporters, saying there was no single issue dogging the bill.

One problem is that Democrats aren’t lining up behind the bill, which they have complained was written without their input. An early warning sign of trouble came yesterday when the rule governing the tax debate on the floor squeaked by on a 219-181 vote, with no Democrats voting in favor.

Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, the top Democrat on Ways and Means who will assume the chairmanship in January, said he would not vote for the bill. “I think it really deserves an incomplete,” he told reporters.

Senate Democrats don’t like the measure either, which Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has slammed all week as partisan and unlikely to win 60 votes in the chamber.

There’s been bipartisan concern in the Senate over the House’s decision to only extend the expired energy breaks to cover 2018, meaning they would expire once again at the end of December (E&E Daily, Nov. 28).

Meadows said coal-friendly Republicans both within and outside the Freedom Caucus said they would not vote for the package because it excludes a “coal provision” that he was not familiar with.

“All I know is the coal guys came to me and said ‘We’re not voting for it,'” he said.

Advocates have called for a longer-term extension of a tax on production, which helps pay for black lung disease benefits (E&E Daily, Nov. 30). But companies and allies on the Hill oppose the one year provision in the bill.

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), a Ways and Means member, said this morning he was unsure why the bill was pulled but noted controversy around the electric vehicle credit, which enjoys bipartisan support.

“I heard there was a problem with the electric credit for the cars,” he told reporters, noting President Trump’s recent call to end the break for General Motors Co. over the auto giant’s plans to close factories (E&E News PM, Nov. 27).

Brady said this week the EV credit would not be altered or extended in the lame duck, but conservative free-market groups sent another letter to House and Senate leadership yesterday opposing “calls for more handouts.”

Senate Republicans have been awaiting House action on taxes before showing their hand.

Meadows, who said neither he nor the Freedom Caucus has taken an official position on the House tax package, said he believed leaders could cobble together enough support for passage.

“Certainly there’s still time,” he said.

Reporter George Cahlink contributed.