Harkin: Ethanol tax credits could move in omnibus package

Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Distance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds MORE (D-Iowa) said Thursday that expiring ethanol tax credits he’s battling to extend could hitch a ride on a possible omnibus appropriations package.

“If we have an omnibus, the chances are pretty good we might get that in the omnibus,” Harkin told reporters in the Capitol.

However, the prospects for a catch-all federal spending package rather than a continuing resolution that maintains current spending levels are highly uncertain.

Harkin and other Corn Belt lawmakers are battling to extend the credit that provides refiners and gasoline blenders 45 cents for each gallon of ethanol mixed into gasoline — an incentive supporters call vital to ensuring a robust ethanol market.

The tax credit and an import tariff that protects the domestic industry expire at the end of the year, and ethanol advocates are battling a left-right coalition that’s trying to kill the incentives.

Harkin also said the issue is tethered to the broader debate about extension of expiring Bush-era tax cuts. “A lot of this is wrapped up in this deal with the president ... what kind of deal he cuts on the tax breaks, extending them,” he said.

Harkin said it’s unclear if there are enough votes for extending the credits.

“I hope so,” he said. “The 45 cents per gallon comes back to consumers in cheaper gasoline prices. Consumers are better off. If we do away with that, gasoline prices are going to go up and they are going to pay for it at the pump, and the oil companies will get the profit, not American farmers, not American producers, not American shippers.”