A key Senate Democrat charged on Wednesday that the GOP is playing politics with a key wind-energy tax credit. Republicans deny it.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that Republicans who support the production tax credit for wind are not supporting efforts to extend it before year’s end because they want to use it as a bargaining chip to compel extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.
“I think the Republican leadership has decided they’d like to use these issues as leverage in the negotiations of the Bush tax cuts,” Bingaman said on Wednesday. “That’s what’s going on. That’s why we can’t get Republicans.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who authored the 1992 legislation that created the production tax credit, denied that charge and responded that Democrats were playing politics with an amendment that the Senate voted down on Tuesday.
“I haven’t had any conversation with any Republican that would lead me to that conclusion,” Grassley, a Finance Committee member, told National Journal Wednesday. “It’s never been talked about in our caucus. Even when we’ve had meetings of Republicans just on the Finance Committee, that’s never been there.”
Both the production tax credit and the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of 2012. Proponents of the wind incentive are fighting to extend it now because they say the industry needs lead time to plan and order turbines.
GOP Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., who said he supports the wind tax credit, also denied that his party’s leadership was withholding support for passing it because of the Bush-era tax cuts. “It’s not like we’re holding it back,” Thune said.
The production tax credit has an unusual degree of GOP support, given that it embodies two policies that the Republican Party has become more critical of since the tea party gained influence in the 2010 midterm elections: renewable energy and subsidies.
Thune, Grassley, and four other GOP senators: John Boozman of Arkansas, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, John Hoeven of North Dakota, and Pat Roberts of Kansas, along with several Democrats signed a letter to Senate leadership late last month urging extension of the tax credit.
They all opposed an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that was defeated in a 49-49 vote on Tuesday. Along with the wind-energy tax credit and several other clean-energy tax incentives, her amendment also included a Treasury Department grant program that the Obama administration created in its 2009 stimulus package. A range of renewable-energy industries use the grant program, but it benefits the solar sector the most. Anything that’s associated with President Obama’s stimulus is a deal-breaker for Republicans.
“I almost think that the politics was played on the side with the amendment by the senator from Michigan,” Grassley said. “We had all these things going for us and all these other energy extenders -- why put in something that will get all Republicans going against it? I didn’t want to be associated with these grants that have led to bankruptcies that will cost taxpayers a lot of money."
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told National Journal on Tuesday he would keep trying to pass the tax credit before the end of the year, possibly by attaching it to the jobs bill the House passed last week when or if the Senate brings it up.
Grassley said he would “look at anything” to get it passed—as long as the grant program is not included.
Request for comment to the office of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was not immediately returned.
Stabenow spokesman Cullen Schwarz said in a statement that the Michigan Democrat was not playing politics by incluidng the grant program.
"All of these provisions will help generate clean-energy jobs and Senator Stabenow is more than willing to work with her Republican colleagues to determine how to get this done," Schwarz said in an e-mail to NJ.