FEDERAL: Before Recess, Congress Bursts into Action with Tax Extenders and Energy Legislation

Posted by Dylan Reed on Jul 30, 2015 4:15:51 PM


Who said Congress wasn’t trying to legislate? After months of discussions, Congress took action on several fronts before taking off for the August recess. The Senate Finance Committee approved a tax extenders bill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee swiftly unveiled and passed energy legislation through subcommittee, and Sens. Murkowski and Cantwell released and passed their comprehensive energy bill through committee. Progress!

The Senate Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved a $95 billion tax package on Tuesday, July 21. Provisions specific to the advanced energy sector include electricity production credits, including wind and hydroelectric generation, as well as tax breaks for a variety of energy efficiency services. The tax breaks will apply retroactively to December 31, 2014 and extend through the end of 2016.

But while the Finance Committee got through one battle, the war is well far from over. Several Senators got in the summer blockbuster spirit, vowing [E&E subscription required], “we’ll be back” to attempt to scale back the wind production tax credit permanently.

Tax reform may be a tale of two chambers, though, as House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) hopes to pass comprehensive tax reform that will include permanent changes to the tax code. Ryan has not indicated a specific timeline for his legislative agenda on taxes, but markup will likely not happen until later this fall.

Congress has also long been considering different versions of comprehensive energy legislation, and it looks as though it’s finally starting to move. The House Energy and Power Subcommittee unanimously approved an energy package on Wednesday, July 22. Although unanimous agreement sounds good now, we can expect partisan amendments to fly during full committee markup. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has indicated that the legislation will come before the full Committee in mid-September.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell guided their energy legislation through committee. The Senate version goes further than its counterpart, if only because it is about 150 pages longer. Provisions include the a number of “Portman-Shaheen” energy efficiency proposals such as extension of federal energy savings contracts to 25 years, as well as investment in various renewable energy technologies, grid storage, and microgrids.

While the bill has moved out of committee without major amendments, it is highly unlikely that it will move easily through the Senate Floor process. With five Senators running for President, and fewer and fewer opportunities left in the session to amend bills to include pet legislation, it is very unlikely we have seen the version of the bill the Senate will vote on. Under the circumstances, it is a narrow and unlikely path to pass a bipartisan bill as was reported out of committee. 

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Topics: Federal Policy