The House passed similar legislation this spring, but Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation AIPAC must reach out to President Trump Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Texas) and Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSanders: 'What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?' Poll: Trump controversies make him more popular among supporters More than ever, Justice must demand a special prosecutor for Trump-Russia probe MORE (R-Ala.) complained that the Senate version spends most of the $500 million in revenue that would be generated rather than paying down the deficit.
The Senate technically passed H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, but added S. 1513 as an amendment, so the measure will head back to the House. Cruz and Sessions were the only senators who voted against the bill.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron WydenRon WydenThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs MORE (D-Ore.) said the bill would reduce the deficit by more than $50 million. He also said another difference between the House and Senate bills is that the Senate version permanently gets the federal government out of the helium business.
Ranking member Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiElle honors 10 at annual 'Women in Washington' event Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote MORE (R-Alaska) said it was critical that the House and Senate work out their difference before Oct. 1, because under current law the government is no longer supposed to sell helium on that day.
“We need to move to pass this bill but also to reconcile the remaining issues we have with the House by Oct. 1,” Murkowski said. “If we want to prevent a shortage of helium gas in this country we’re going to have to do it and do it now.”
She pointed out that helium is used by high-tech and manufacturing industries, not just for "party balloons."
The federal government first got involved in selling helium during World War I, selling it below market value. But lawmakers have said that because the government has always sold helium at such low levels there has been no incentive for the private sector to get involved — this legislation aims to change that.