Lawmakers in the House and Senate this week are busy hammering out the final details of separate versions of a modified energy bill that may contain several tax-exempt bond provisions, with the intention of introducing the bills next week for votes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on an oil speculation bill that will likely include an amendment containing several renewable-energy tax incentives that is to be sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Max Baucus, D-Mont.
While the exact details of that amendment are yet not known, it's possible that it could contain new authorization of clean renewable energy bonds, a certain type of tax credit bonds that currently is set to expire on Dec. 31. A related tax extenders bill pending in the Senate contains an authorization of $2 billion of CREBs, which could be used to finance facilities that would generate electricity from renewable resources.
Tax-credit bonds are taxable bonds that provide bondholders with tax credits in lieu of tax-exempt interest.
In addition to CREBS, the pending extenders bill would authorize state and local governments to issue another $400 million of qualified zone academy bonds annually, which can be used for public schools in certain designated areas.
Reid added that the plan is to finish drafting the energy bill this week, and to vote on it in the Senate next week.
This newest development on the energy legislation front marks the latest in what has often been a contentious and partisan debate in the Senate about how lawmakers should handle the extension of expiring tax provisions.
Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked procedural votes on a tax extenders bill that was previously passed by the House, objecting to the fact that the price tag of the legislation - which contains a number of tax breaks - is offset with tax increases in other areas. They contend that a bill intended to provide tax breaks should not require tax hikes to pay for it.
While the energy bill being drafted in the Senate still will contain revenue-raising offsets, Reid said he hopes the inclusion of provisions that would open up more domestic areas for oil drilling - a major Republican rallying cry in recent weeks - will provide an acceptable compromise for Senate GOP members.
"It should be clear to all that we are offering Republicans multiple opportunities to vote for increased drilling," Reid said in a statement. "This time, I hope Republicans will put their votes where their mouths are to pass comprehensive legislation that includes drilling."
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also announced yesterday that the House is preparing its own energy compromise bill that will contain drilling provisions as well as revenue-raising offsets, but not the tax extenders. She said yesterday that she hopes Republicans will take up the "reasonable compromise" when the bill is introduced, either at the end of this week or the beginning of the next.
However, House Republicans immediately assailed the bill, calling it a "sham" in a statement.
Even though the Senate bill that is to be introduced could contain renewable energy tax incentives similar to those found in the languishing extenders bill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said yesterday he hopes the extenders package can still make it to President Bush as a stand-alone bill.