House to start work on ‘lame duck’ issues next week

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012

While the legislative year is less than half over, some House Republicans already are looking ahead to the post-election “lame duck” session during which Congress will have to quickly decide whether to extend key tax breaks for renewable energy and how to address expiring George W. Bush-era income tax rates.

“Some of us have already started thinking about it, and I think you’ll see a proposal next week during the budget debate that accommodates all of the things that would be on our plate in December,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) told reporters today.

LaTourette offered few specifics on what would be included in next week’s proposal, which appears to be something of a trial balloon to gauge members’ reactions ahead of what is predicted to be a grueling post-election session.

Asked whether the package would include an extension of the 2.2-cents-per-kilowatt-hour production tax credit for wind energy, which expires Dec. 31, LaTourette indicated that would be in there, although he would not say whether he thought that aspect would pass muster with conservative Republicans in the House who are critical of government subsidies for renewable energy.

“It will accommodate everything — everything that is important to people will be accommodated,” he said. “We’ll see” what the reaction from other members is.

Other energy-related tax provisions scheduled to expire at the end of this year include tax credits for coal production on Native American land and a $1.01-a-gallon cellulosic biofuels excise tax credit, according to a Congressional Research Service report from last year.

The merits of those so-called tax extenders also will receive some attention next month from the House Ways and Means Committee, which sets tax policy, its leaders said today.

“Far too many provisions in the tax code are temporary, making it hard for employers to plan, invest and create new jobs for American families. That is one reason why we are committed to comprehensive tax reform. An important part of comprehensive reform is to conduct a thorough review of the various targeted provisions in the Code commonly referred to as ‘tax extenders,'” said Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who chairs the subcommittee on select revenue measures, in a statement today.

The committee plans to hold a tax extenders hearing next month, according to the statement, but no date has been announced.

LaTourette, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, also predicted that Congress would be unable to finalize spending legislation before fiscal 2013 begins Oct. 1. He predicted lawmakers would pass a continuing resolution with overall discretionary spending at $1.047 trillion, the level agreed to in last year’s Budget Control Act, to prevent a government shutdown while putting off full appropriations bills until after the election.

The moderate Ohioan, who is expected to have little trouble holding onto his seat, lamented growing partisanship on Capitol Hill as the reason little more is expected to be accomplished before November.

“Everybody is afraid to give an inch in an election year because everything is at stake. … We can’t give an inch because if we give an inch it screws up our chances in November,” LaTourette said.

While the House will begin laying out its lame-duck agenda during next week’s debate over the fiscal 2013 budget resolution from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), less attention has been given to the post-election session in the upper chamber, senators said this week.

“I wish that I could tell you with a little more certainty that don’t worry about this, you know in certain offices and hallways people are talking about this and kind of mapping out the grand strategy and how we pull it all together at the end,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said yesterday. “But if that’s happening, I’m certainly not hearing any evidence of it.”