What: All Issues : Government Checks on Corporate Power : Oil & Gas Industry : CLEAN Energy Act (H.R. 6), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) amendment to require that the bill's tax increases not take effect unless the Energy Department certifies that they would not result in increased reliance on foreign oil or in higher gas prices/Motion to waive the Budget Act (2007 senate Roll Call 222)
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CLEAN Energy Act (H.R. 6), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) amendment to require that the bill's tax increases not take effect unless the Energy Department certifies that they would not result in increased reliance on foreign oil or in higher gas prices/Motion to waive the Budget Act
senate Roll Call 222     Jun 21, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a procedural vote on an amendment to energy legislation aiming to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels. Sen. Jon Kyl proposed an amendment that would have required that tax provisions in the bill - primarily on oil and gas totaling $28.6 billion - not go into effect unless the Energy secretary certify that the tax increases will not increase retail gasoline prices or the country's reliance on foreign sources of fuel.

"The point of the amendment is to make it clear that sometimes tax increases on business can be passed on to consumers," Kyl said. "If that happens in this case, we are going to see higher gasoline prices at the pump, not lower prices. One of the concerns many of us have with the underlying bill is it doesn't produce any new energy. Yet it spends $28.5 billion. To make up for that spending, it taxes an additional $28.6 billion. Somebody has to end up paying that tax."

The legislation to which Kyl was seeking to amendment would increase fuel-economy standards for vehicles, mandate the use of 15 billion gallons of ethanol annually by 2015 and provide tax credits and other federal incentives for the production of and further research into biofuels.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) opposed Kyl's amendment on grounds that the underlying legislation was "a very good bill" and congressional budget rules require that any new spending increases be offset by either tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. Those rules are known as pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO.

In order to accomplish the bill's underlying goals of decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and moving towards conservation, as well as alternative and renewable fuels, the legislation would provide tax incentives and federal subsidies for those activities and in turn would raise revenue elsewhere, chiefly by increasing taxes on commerce related to fossil fuels.

The legislation, Baucus said, "gives incentives to lots of different organizations to help develop new technologies - this is a tax-decrease bill - we also, under our rules, have to raise revenue the same amount that we decrease revenue."

The question posed by Kyl's amendment, in Baucus' assessment, was then whether the Senate should follow those PAYGO rules.

"I say that is the basic question because it is one that offers no alternative. He just wants to strike the provisions that raise revenue in this bill to pay for other things, to pay for the tax decreases," Baucus continued. "So on a net basis, it is zero. Some like to say this is a tax increase bill. It is not. It is a net zero - zero-zero."

Baucus said increasing the deficit to pay for the tax incentives and federal subsidies in the bill was simply not an option.

Under rules put in place by the 1974 Congressional Budget Act, unless a spending increase is offset by spending cuts or revenue increases elsewhere in the federal budget, the Budget Act has to be waived. On those grounds, Baucus raised a point of order against Kyl's amendment. Kyl then motioned to waive the Budget Act. By law, a three-fifths majority of the whole Senate (60 votes) is required to waive the Budget Act.

Kyl did not receive even a simple majority of the Senate to support his bill, let alone the three-fifths majority required to pass the motion. Only one Democrat crossed party lines to support Kyl's amendment, and seven Republicans broke ranks to oppose it. Thus, by a vote of 38 to 55, the Senate rejected a motion to waive the Budget Act and effectively voted down an amendment that would have prevented the provisions in the energy legislation that raised taxes from going into effect unless the Energy Department certified that they would not have the result of increasing the price of fuel at the pump, and legislation to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels proceeded without the provision.

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