What Happened in the Senate Last Week?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Senator Tom Coburn
Three significant votes in the Senate on ethanol last week seem confusing at first glance. First they voted against an amendment that would stop tax incentives for ethanol (it's a tax credit oil companies receive for blending ethanol into gasoline, which helps the oil companies, of course, but it also helps the ethanol industry by encouraging oil companies to add ethanol to gas).

Two days later, the Senate voted on the same amendment, but this time in favor of it.

And then a half hour later, they voted to keep federal support for ethanol blender pumps.

So is the Senate in favor of ethanol or against it? The answer is: They are in favor of it. They made the first two votes for other reasons.

Senator Tom Coburn violated some serious protocol Tuesday, and that's largely the reason his amendment was defeated. Thursday, it was passed but for a different reason. The Democrats are hoping to remove tax incentives (subsidies) for ethanol in the hopes that the Republicans would go on record as being in favor of cutting tax incentives, so when the Democrats propose cutting tax incentives for oil companies, it would make the Republicans look bad if they voted to cut ethanol but not to cut the even greater subsidies oil companies get while making obscene profits.

And the Senate voted to keep supporting blender pumps because it will help the ethanol industry grow, and because alternative fuels are an important step toward energy independence, environmental health, and national security.

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