- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Senate Republicans on Tuesday again blocked a Democratic measure that called for an extension of expiring renewable energy credits and tax breaks, arguing the cuts would have been offset by new taxes elsewhere.

It was the second time in a week the minority party stymied consideration of the bill, which proposed more than $54 billion in tax relief for individuals and businesses.

“Just as they have done with every opportunity to strengthen our weakening economy and lower record gas prices, Republicans today said no to helping businesses invest in renewable energy,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “Instead, Republicans chose to defend a status quo that has brought us $4-a-gallon gas and $140-a-barrel oil.”

The bill failed on a vote of 52-44, with 60 needed to end a filibuster and proceed to final vote. Five Republicans voted for the measure and no Democrats initially supported it, although Mr. Reid switched his vote to “no” on a procedural move that will allow his party to reintroduce the measure in the future.

A 50-44 vote on the bill last week was 10 votes short of overcoming a Republican-led filibuster.

A spokesman for Mr. Reid said it was uncertain if or when the majority leader would try to reintroduce the bill.

The legislation called for extending or renewing several tax incentives for investing in renewable energy sources like biofuels and wind, solar and geothermal power. The extensions would have been offset by closing loopholes for offshore income of hedge fund managers and other wealthy investors and delaying a tax break for multinational corporations.

The package also proposed extending the research and development tax credit and maintaining deductions for college tuition, state and local general sales taxes, teacher expenses and charitable contributions.

Democrats say the offsets would protect taxpayers from being forced to pay more interest on the national debt, while Republicans contend the tax relief should not be matched with what they regarded as tax increases.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he supported the tax extensions in principal but that “extending existing tax policy should not be used as an excuse to raise taxes.”

Neither Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, or Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican - their party’s presumptive presidential nominees - were present for the vote. Mr. Obama’s office said he supported the bill. Mr. McCain’s office didn’t respond for a request for comment in time for this article.

The House last month passed its own version of the bill by a vote of 263-160, although the tally was 19 votes shy of what is needed to overcome a threatened presidential veto.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said he will not bow to Republican pressure to reintroduce the measure without offsetting the costs of the tax breaks.

“This legislation must be paid for,” the Maryland Democrat said.