Senior senators on energy and taxation, across both aisles, said Thursday that they either didn’t know, or that negotiations were too fluid to comment, about a potential deal over energy subsidies in an end-of-year rush to pass a government spending bill.
“I don’t know,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in response to a question on how negotiations were going. A hearing she was conducting on the geopolitics of oil had dominated most of her morning, so she didn’t have time to consider a deal that could lift the 40-year-old ban on oil exports, which she favors.
“I’ve been up here all morning,” she said. Many of her fellow Republicans at the hearing voiced their support for lifting the ban, although they did not talk about the negotiations overshadowing everything in Congress this week.
Briefings on the negotiations are expected later this afternoon, but GOP aides say Democrats are gumming up the works by insisting that wind energy tax credits be extended in the spending measures, if Republicans insist on adding a repeal of the 40-year-old ban on oil exports to the bill.
The top Democrat on the Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told the Washington Examiner, “I think it’s very, very fluid,” when asked if a deal could be had with Democrats over extending the wind credits in exchange for lifting the ban. “We are working hard” to get a bill, but there is nothing solid at this point.
His committee has jurisdiction over the “tax extenders” for renewables and dozens of other provisions that are expiring at the end of the month or were allowed to end last year. The wind credits are considered invaluable to the wind industry, and President Obama has been pushing to have them extended permanently.
The debate over the omnibus spending bill is expected to go into next week, as the Senate Thursday afternoon passed a short-term government funding measure through Dec. 16, and the House is expected to follow suit.
Lobbyists say parts of the energy deal being discussed are “irrational,” with Democrats pushing for an indefinite extension of the production tax credit for wind energy, which they know will make many Republicans unhappy. Other lawmakers continue to add amendments to the spending bill, which could bog it down and create more of a stalemate.
The White House is urging Republicans work to pass a clean bill next week that is free of riders opposing the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, which is being hotly contested in the courts as well as in Congress.
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