Grassley delays VEETC amendment, vote still possible this week

By Kris Bevill | April 06, 2011

Under pressure from pro-ethanol senators, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., recently decided to withdraw an amendment he proposed to the Small Business Reauthorization Act, known as the Small Business Bill, which would immediately repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. In a floor statement delivered April 4, Coburn said his decision to withdraw the controversial amendment was part of an attempt to gain approval to introduce a suite of other amendments he has proposed for the small business bill. However, the senator’s office reported April 5 that he plans to continue to seek passage of his amendment plans to introduce it after cloture. A vote on a motion to suspend could be held as early as April 7and will require 67 votes to pass, according to Coburn’s spokesperson. “In keeping with the spirit on ethanol, the vote itself will be subsidized in favor of the ethanol lobby,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, led the move to block Coburn’s amendment from being considered as part of the Small Business Bill. In a March 30 floor statement, Grassley said he is not opposed to reform, but believes reform discussions should be widened to include all forms of energy. “The fact is, it is intellectually inconsistent to say that increasing taxes on ethanol is justified but that it is irresponsible to do the very same thing on oil and gas production,” he said. “Let’s have a debate on ethanol, but let’s debate it in the context of a comprehensive energy plan. Nearly every type of energy gets some market-distorting subsidy from the federal government. We can say that is not right. But do we want alternative energy or don’t we want alternative energy?”

In an April 5 conference call, Grassley said he is working with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to draft energy legislation that includes incentives suggested by ethanol producers to provide necessary infrastructure expansions. Grassley noted that other senators are also forming their own pieces of domestic energy-related legislation in preparation for a comprehensive energy policy debate.