Kochs target Republicans on tax breaks

Source: By BRIAN FALER, Politico • Posted: Friday, November 14, 2014

John Boehner is shown. | AP Photo
Koch brothers representatives have met with John Boehner’s staff in recent weeks. | AP Photo

Powerful conservative groups including those backed by the Koch Brothers are pushing Republicans to take a hard line on a raft of expired tax breaks pending in the lame duck, an effort that could jeopardize party leaders’ hopes for a low-drama Congress.

Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America and others want Republicans to capitalize on their election victory by killing some of the tax “extenders” they’ve long hated, such as a one subsidizing the wind energy industry.

Americans for Prosperity said it will spend $200,000 targeting 25 House Republicans on the wind issue. Among them: Reps. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.), Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Michael Turner (Ohio).

Koch brothers representatives have met with House Speaker John Boehner’s staff in recent weeks to urge him to dump the provision.

Some House Republicans agree and are threatening to punt the entire extenders package into January, when they will formally take control of the Senate, rather than accept what they would consider to be a bad deal with Democrats.

“There is a chorus in the House who do not want to do anything in the lame duck, and that includes the extenders,” said a senior Republican aide.

That’s raising alarms among more moderate Republicans because it could disrupt the upcoming 2015 tax-filing season. Millions of Americans could suddenly find their tax refunds delayed or be forced to file twice — potentially leaving Republicans to blame.

That’s precisely the sort of thing Republican leaders have been hoping to avoid. After shouldering much of the blame for a string of unpopular battles over government debt and federal spending, they want to show voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election that they can govern.

Asked about the demands, a spokesman for Boehner (R-Ohio) said: “Those decisions will be made in the coming weeks, after leaders have a chance to talk to members, especially on the Ways and Means committee.”

At issue is the fate of a mishmash of more than 50 temporary provisions Congress has long rolled over one or two years at a time. Some benefit multinational corporations, giving them tax breaks on money held overseas. Others offer special write-offs for race horse owners, motorsport entertainment complexes and film productions that critics have long complained are little more than earmarks. Others benefit ordinary taxpayers such as a deduction for sales taxes and another offering a break to those who’ve had mortgage debt forgiven.

Senate Democrats want to revive the provisions with only minimal changes for two years and have passed a bill in committee to do that, while House Republicans want to permanently renew a few and leave the rest for dead.

Conservative interest groups are pushing against what they say is a plan by party leaders plan to clear the legislative decks during the lame duck session, so they can begin next year with a fresh slate, even if that means agreeing to Democrats’ demands.

“The idea of making a major policy decision when Democrats still control the Senate — I think some Republicans look at that and rightly say, ‘Why in the world would we give them such a huge say in this policy when they were just rebuked by the American people?” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America.

It was among dozens of groups that signed a letter last week demanding Republican leaders kill the wind production credit, a provision long opposed by conservatives. The wind credit has divided Republicans in the past with some from wind producing states actively backing it.

They call it a key part of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, and an example of the government unfairly subsidizing one industry at the expense of its competitors — in this case, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy producers.

“Calls to ‘clear the decks’ for the new Congress are nonsensical,” the letter reads. “Why would the newly elected Senate and House members (from either party) want to reward Senator Harry Reid for his legacy of dysfunction by allowing him the opportunity to advance his pet priority — the wind PTC (production tax credit)— during a lame duck session?”