The Senate is dropping plans to include energy tax breaks in legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration after lawmakers were unable to reach a final deal.
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation Democrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that the FAA measure will now only contain standard revenue provisions.
Democrats had been pressing leadership to attach renewable energy tax breaks they claim were unintentionally left out of a tax extenders package Congress passed in December. They said last week they had a general agreement to add the energy tax breaks to the FAA bill, but had yet to unveil final details.
“It just got too complicated and it was taking too long,” Thune said. “A decision was made to go with a clean finance title, the way we’ve always handled FAA reauthorizations in the past.”
Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.) said the GOP didn’t have the votes.
“It's highly likely that if every Democrat had voted for the tax provision there wouldn't have been the 60 votes," Schumer said. “Almost everything that was added was asked by the Republican side to try to get enough votes. They just didn't have the votes. I don't believe they could have gotten 16 votes."
Finance Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears MORE (R-Utah) acknowledged that the energy add-ons were pulled from the measure, but wouldn’t speculate as to why.
The shift comes after an aggressive push from conservative groups to oppose the proposal, which they called an unrelated carve-out for special interests. Several organizations threatened to step up pressure on the House if the Senate moved ahead with the plan and said they would key vote against the FAA bill if it included the energy tax breaks.
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) said pressure from groups backed by billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch was the reason that so many Republicans refused to back the legislation.
“The reason it went down is that the Koch brothers … paid for 34 different groups that looked like they’re environmental groups, of course they’re not,” Reid said. “They’re the ones who killed this bill.”
Freedom Partners, a Koch-backed group that led the conservative charge against the legislation, was glad to take credit for torpedoing the measure.
“Americans oppose corporate welfare and they’re tired of lawmakers handing out special benefits to the well-connected,” Andy Koenig, the group’s senior policy adviser, said in a statement.
"Congress is right to reject this backroom deal and move ahead with a clean FAA extension.”
Thune acknowledged last week that they needed to address Democrats’ concerns about the energy tax extenders to secure enough votes for passage.
Some lawmakers began jockeying to tack on other amendments, including provisions to extend tax breaks for carbon capture and advanced nuclear power facilities and to reduce tax regulations on breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries.
“The Democrats were insisting on other tax provisions being apart of it. The wheels started to come off,” Thune said. “It got bogged down, and we need to move a bill.”
It's unclear if enough Democrats will still support the underlying FAA bill. Other Democrats are threatening to filibuster the measure if there isn’t a vote on a pilot fatigue amendment.
The FAA’s current legal authority expires July 15.
Timothy Cama and Jordain Carney contributed to this report.
This story was updated at 4:11 p.m.