Senate Democrats seek committee action on energy tax proposals

Senate Democrats seek committee action on energy tax proposals
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Democrats on Tuesday urged Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCongress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits US, Mexico set for new post-NAFTA trade era Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls MORE (R-Iowa) to schedule committee action on energy tax proposals, in an effort to help address climate change.

"It is critical that the Committee move to address these issues in a timely manner, along with much needed policy changes to combat the damage and growing dangers caused by global climate change," the senators wrote in a letter to Grassley.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits Hillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance committee, took the lead on the letter. It was signed by more than two dozen Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-N.Y.).

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The letter comes after Congress passed "tax extenders" legislation in December that extended some expired and expiring renewable energy tax breaks. A number of Democrats and renewable energy groups were disappointed that the measure did not also expand renewable energy incentives, such as the electric vehicle tax credit.

In their letter, Democrats expressed disappointment that the Finance committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, did not hold a hearing on energy tax policy in the last Congress and has not held one so far in the current Congress. They said that there's strong interest among senators in energy tax bills, and that senators on both sides of the aisle have sponsored or co-sponsored at total of nearly three dozen bills on the topic.

"These proposals run the gamut of energy policy, covering electricity, renewable fuels, energy efficiency, fossil fuels, transportation infrastructure, heavy industry, carbon capture, and agriculture," the senators wrote. "Proposed legislation includes addressing the adoption of electric vehicles, expanding existing provisions to incorporate new technologies like energy storage or nascent industries like offshore wind, and sweeping rewrites of energy tax policy, such as the Clean Energy for America Act."  

Grassley said in a statement that Democrats' letter "rings hollow" because he pressed Democrats last year to help pass a package that extended green energy tax breaks.

"We wouldn’t have a wind energy credit or a biodiesel credit but for me, let alone an extension of either," Grassley said. "Democrats were holding up these green energy provisions in an attempt to get a big expansion of taxpayer subsidies for rich Tesla owners.”

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In a letter Wednesday replying to the Democrats, Grassley said that the Democrats' letter made assertions that "are not consistent with the events of the last 13 months." 

He also said he is open to looking for ways to advance bipartisan energy policies and continues to look for long-term solutions for temporary energy tax breaks.

- updated on Feb. 12 at 4:32 p.m.