House in no rush to take up extenders package

Source: Daniel Bush and Geof Koss, E&E reporters • Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Senate Finance Committee’s swift approval yesterday of a tax extenders package that includes an expansion of renewable energy credits hasn’t swayed House lawmakers to take action before the August recess.

The Senate panel’s markup yesterday of a two-year extenders package for 52 tax breaks came months earlier than the usual, end-of-year debate over expiring subsidies. Last year, Congress waited until December to pass retroactive extensions of wind and solar tax credits that expired at the end of 2013, passing a retroactive one year extension that expired a few weeks later with the start of the new year.

But, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) signaled yesterday that the lower chamber is no hurry to roll out similar legislation, citing the House Republican caucus’ desire to advance a bill that includes permanent tax extensions.

“We’d like to take on extenders now, but there’s many we’d like to see [made] permanent,” Ryan told E&E Daily in a brief interview.

Ryan didn’t elaborate on a timeline, though he has said in the past that an extenders markup won’t take place until the fall.

But other members of the Ways and Means Committee said the House extenders package likely won’t include an expansion of the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy incentives.

“Those extenders didn’t make the cut” in the package the House passed last year, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). “I would think that the leadership’s position in negotiations would be the same this time.”

Democrats said they plan to fight for tax provisions on energy, low-income housing and other issues, though some acknowledged those extensions stand little chance of making it into the final package.

“Democrats have been pretty steadfast in terms of recognizing that these extenders should not be cherry-picked,” Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said.

Members of the Ways and Means Committee are expected to discuss the issue at a lunch later today, Reichert said.

On the Senate side, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told E&E Daily he expects vigorous debate on the extenders package when it arrives on the Senate floor.

“Well, there will be some amendments on the floor, I’m sure,” Hatch said after yesterday’s markup. “There’s some discontent.”

While deferring to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on timing, Hatch said he’d like to see that debate happen sooner rather than later. “I hope we can get it to the floor before the break,” he said.

However, ClearView Energy Partners yesterday said uncertainty over House action on extenders means a quick wrapup may not be in the cards.

“Absent analogous action in the House Ways and Means Committee, movement in the Senate risks being ‘one hand clapping,'” the firm said in a research note. “In our view, quick movement in the Senate would not necessarily spur the House to move quickly, or to pattern its bill after the Senate’s straightforward two-year extension.”

Among the outstanding energy issues that loom for the extenders fight are the renewable production tax credit and investment tax credit.

There was plenty of discussion of the PTC during yesterday’s markup, with Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) backing down from their amendments targeting the credit due to a lack of support on the panel (E&ENews PM, July 21).

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) suggested that a timed phaseout of both the PTC and ITC is an idea that can bridge the gap between the opposing camps on energy taxes. ClearView suggested that extending the “commence construction” criteria to solar may be a possibility “as it would bring solar energy in line with the wind program.”

During the markup, Sen. Dean Heller secured a pledge from Hatch to continue discussing the issue, which was incorporated into an amendment by the Nevada Republican that was ruled out of order to the extenders bill.