House seeks Senate ‘signals’ on extenders

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2018

House Republicans are dropping tax extenders from their year-end tax bill, saying they will handle the assortment of expired energy incentives separately with input from Senate Republicans and Democrats.

Extenders were absent from the revised tax package that House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) unveiled yesterday, which includes an array of tax provisions to help Americans coping with ongoing natural disasters.

“That will run on a separate track,” Brady said of extenders. “So we’re looking for signals from the Senate both from the Republicans and Democrats on the extender package. So we’ll continue to work to move that forward.”

Republicans pulled a broad year-end tax package from the floor in late November after it became apparent they lacked GOP support to pass the measure (Greenwire, Nov. 30).

That bill would have retroactively extended most of the expired energy breaks for 2018 — a duration that Democrats and many affected industries say is too late to encourage investment. A new extenders package will be negotiated with the Senate, and Brady said he was “hopeful” it could be enacted in the lame duck.

Brady described the one-year retroactive extension “as common ground” and one that he still thinks “makes the most sense.”

Brady said that a multiyear phaseout of a biodiesel blenders credit that is supported by incoming Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is part of the extender talks, as is a tax on coal production that helps pay for black lung disease benefits.

“I think the bigger picture is do they want to see the extenders completed before the end of the year or in the new year,” Brady said of senators.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who sits on the Finance Committee, said tough talks lie ahead.

“I hope we can get something done, but that’s been not mission impossible but a tough deal,” he told reporters.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on Finance who has criticized Republicans for shutting the minority out of year-end tax talks, slammed House Republicans for their revised bill.

“This bill sends a very clear message to Democrats that they aren’t serious about negotiating a real bill,” he said. “This is like putting out a white flag of surrender at the end of the session. I don’t know how to describe it any other way.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), also a Finance member, said extenders could be added to whatever final omnibus spending bill emerges.

“I think Republicans are interested in some of the extenders as much as we are,” he told reporters. “Some of the extenders would do a lot of good in terms of addressing extreme weather, and I’m particularly interested in those.”

Outside pressure

Interest groups continue to press for changes to existing credits in the talks.

A coalition of more than 150 businesses and industry associations yesterday wrote to congressional leaders to argue for the expansion of the investment tax credit to include energy storage technologies, which would be done under H.R. 4649 and S. 1868.

Current law only allows energy storage technologies, which include batteries, flywheels and pumped hydro, to qualify for the credit when used with solar projects under certain circumstances, according to the American Wind Energy Association, which signed the letter.

“If enacted, this language would allow our companies to better obtain financing, scale, create jobs, and become more competitive internationally in the fast-growing global storage market,” wroteAWEA, the Energy Storage Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association and others.

Separately, the electric vehicle advocacy group Plug in America is pressing the Hill to expand the EV tax credit by reforming the 200,000-vehicle-per-manufacturer cap that currently exists in the incentive.

“Consumers want EVs — the growing sales numbers year over year show that,” said Joel Levin, executive director of Plug in America.

“But the EV market is far from fully mature. Drivers need the up-to-$7,500 federal tax credit to be reformed and the cap on the number of consumers — 200,000 per automaker — to be raised so that the credit will allow for more consumers to purchase the cars they want. Automakers like Tesla, Nissan and GM are approaching or have already hit the phaseout cap.”

EV backers have hoped to use the extenders bill as a vehicle for revising the credit but face pushback from conservative small-government groups, which want to see the incentive ended by year-end.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who has sponsored legislation to cancel the EV credit, said last week that taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize expensive EVs.

“Right now you have a lot of high-end luxury vehicles coming on the market, over $100,000, Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, Porsche,” he told E&E News. “I just don’t think there’s any reason that taxpayers ought to be subsidizing those cars coming onto the market. Or electric vehicles at all.”

Reporters Jeremy Dillon and Nick Sobczyk contributed.