By Andrew Restuccia - 05/10/12 06:51 PM EDT
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) hit back at President Obama Thursday for suggesting that Republicans are violating Grover Norquist’s tax pledge by opposing the extension of tax credits for the renewable energy industry.
“What the president is doing is wrong, and again, it is hypocritical,” DeMint said during a conference call with reporters. “He doesn’t go after the green companies that he’s given these big energy subsidies to that end up with credits for years to come.”
DeMint, a favorite of Tea Party activists, joined Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Norquist, the powerful president of Americans for Tax Reform, to rebut Obama’s claims and push for the elimination of a slew of energy industry tax credits.
“The best way to lower the overall tax rate is to eliminate all of these loopholes, credits,” DeMint said, touting the legislation. “We want to eliminate the loopholes and do what’s good for America, not just a few companies.”
Norquist, who has pressed Republicans to sign a pledge not to raise taxes, threw his support behind the legislation, calling the bill “an incredible 'put up or shut up' moment for a lot of folks that have been talking about energy policy, tax policy and tax reform.”
“Some people claim to be getting rid of deductions and credits and cleaning up the code, but they only want to do that if it’s a tax increase,” he said.
The legislation faces major hurdles to passage, obstacles that both DeMint and Pompeo acknowledged Thursday.
“I think we’re making real progress,” Pompeo said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”
DeMint and Pompeo took aim at Obama for backing legislation to eliminate tax breaks for the oil industry, while calling for an extension of green-energy tax breaks.
“Lower tax rates for everyone and stop this silliness of tax favoritism that’s been going on here for too long in D.C.,” Pompeo said.
Obama blasted Republicans during a speech in New York Wednesday for opposing the extension of renewable energy tax credits. He suggested that GOP opponents of extending the tax credits are violating the tax pledge because renewable energy companies would face higher taxes if the credits are allowed to expire.
“if Congress fails to act soon, clean-energy companies will see their taxes go up and they could be forced to lay off employees,” Obama said.
“Congress hasn’t renewed some of the tax breaks that are so important to this industry. And since I know that the other side in Congress has promised they’ll never raise taxes as long as they live, this is a good time to keep that promise when it comes to businesses that are putting Americans to work and helping break our dependence on foreign oil.”
Pompeo dismissed Obama’s criticism. “He says that getting rid of these tax credits is a violation of the pledge. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
The president and Democrats in Congress have long argued for eliminating oil industry tax breaks. But the proposal has failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill, amid opposition from Republicans.
A bill authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to cut billions in tax breaks for the largest oil companies over the next decade failed in the Senate in March.
But liberal lawmakers continued their push to cut the tax breaks Thursday. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) floated a new bill that would strip tax incentives and other federal financial support from the oil-and-gas and coal industries.
Democrats are also pushing for an extension of key renewable energy tax credits, including the production tax credit for wind, which expires at the end of the year. The wind industry says it would have to eliminate thousands of jobs if the tax credit is not extended.
Extension of the wind production tax credit this year is uncertain amid election-season political battles over green energy and other factors.