What: All Issues : Fair Taxation : Corporate Tax Breaks, Oil & Gas Industry : (S. 1) On a motion to table (kill) an amendment imposing an 8-cent-per-barrel fee on oil transported through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline (2015 senate Roll Call 25)
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(S. 1) On a motion to table (kill) an amendment imposing an 8-cent-per-barrel fee on oil transported through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline
senate Roll Call 25     Jan 22, 2015
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on a motion to table (kill) an amendment imposing an 8-cent-per-barrel fee on oil transported through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill authorizing construction of the pipeline. Most oil is subject to an 8-cent-per-barrel federal excise tax that funds clean-up efforts in the case of a spill. However, because oil from Canada’s “tar sands” is actually a mixture of soil and bitumen – it is extracted through strip mining rather than drilling – it was exempt from this tax under existing federal law. Sen. Carper’s amendment sought to close this “loophole” by imposing an equivalent “fee” on the Keystone XL’s oil. The revenue from this fee would be put in a federal land and water conservation fund.

However, before the amendment came to a vote, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a “motion to table” it. If successful, this motion would prevent Sen. Carper’s amendment from getting an up-or-down vote, effectively killing it.

Sen. Carper argued that it would be unfair – both to U.S. oil producers and to taxpayers – to allow a Canadian company to transport its oil across the American heartland without paying either the excise tax or an equivalent fee. The fee would prevent the Canadian oil from getting an unfair advantage while also funding efforts to protect the environment, he said.

“The land and water conservation fund is also established not just to provide the revenues for national parks,” Sen. Carper said. “The land and water conservation fund was also established to help protect rivers, lakes, and critical habitat for wildlife, areas that may be impacted by the construction of this pipeline or a possible spill from this pipeline.”

Supporters of the motion to table Sen. Carper’s amendment did not explain their opposition to the proposal; in fact, earlier in the debate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed support for a policy that would subject the Keystone XL’s oil to the regular excise tax. However, she argued, rather than adding the policy to the underlying bill, the Senate should give the House of Representatives a chance to add it, since the Constitution requires revenue-raising legislation to originate in the lower chamber.

“The problem that we have is that as we work to enact legislation to update our laws, we have to make sure it is consistent with the Constitution, which requires revenue-raising measures to originate in the House,” Sen. Murkowski said.

The Senate agreed to the motion to table Sen. Carper’s amendment by a vote of 57-38. Voting “yea” were 52 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 38 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to hold an up-or-down vote on an amendment imposing an 8-cent-per-barrel fee on oil transported through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

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