Boehner vows to schedule vote on tax cut extensions before Election Day

Source: Elana Schor, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today teed up a pre-election vote on extending an array of tax cuts set to expire at year’s end and a new plan to fast-track sweeping tax reform in 2013, adding fuel to a fiery lobbying battle by energy sectors to preserve their current tax structure.

“Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy, so this fall — before the election — the House of Representatives will vote to stop the largest tax increase in American history,” Boehner said in a speech at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in Washington. “This will give Congress time to work on broad-based tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and businesses while closing deductions, credits and special carve-outs.”

Boehner was silent on whether the production tax credit (PTC) for wind, solar and geothermal power would hitch a ride on the tax-cut extension package he plans to bring to the House floor before lawmakers face voters in November. Presumed to be a part of that bill, however, is an extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for all earners — a move likely to ground the House’s proposal in the Senate, where most Democrats align with the White House in seeking to roll back those benefits for wealthier Americans.

One sign that the PTC could get extended until 2013, when Republicans presumably would seek to end it as part of a comprehensive tax overhaul, came last month when a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee said he is open to that option (E&E Daily, April 27).

That committee “will work out the details” of a plan to advance broad-based tax reform next year, Boehner said today, “but the bottom line is: If we do this right, we will never again have to deal with the uncertainty of expiring tax rates.”

The Ohioan likened his party’s pending tax-reform technique to congressional trade promotion authority, used to set a time frame for free-trade agreements to receive floor votes in both chambers without amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took a dim view of the House bill’s future in his chamber, saying that “the tea party direction of the Republican Party is driving them over a cliff” and predicting that partisan divisions would prevent “much of anything” from falling into place until after Election Day.

Reid added that he hopes to see a post-election session as productive as the one that concluded 17 months ago, when lawmakers and the president reached a massive tax deal that extended several of the same renewables and efficiency credits now in limbo as 2013 approaches (E&E Daily, Dec. 17, 2010).

The ensuing campaign season has seen repealing oil industry tax breaks become a prominent message for President Obama and his party, ensuring that fossil fuel companies will be as active as renewables interests in anticipation of a 2013 push to overhaul the tax code.

Boehner also laid down a marker for the Capitol’s second showdown in two years over raising the federal debt limit, which could be reached before the election. As he did last year, anteing up in negotiations that brought the government to the brink of shutdown, Boehner vowed that any increase in the borrowing ceiling would have to come with corresponding spending cuts that are larger in size.

“This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance,” he said.

That promise drew immediate rebukes from Democrats such as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who noted that Boehner’s conference already is moving to undo part of the trillion-dollar spending “sequester” envisioned for 2013 by last year’s debt deal.

“So while it sounds good, the execution of [Boehner's debt-limit] principle does not seem to be very disciplined,” Hoyer told reporters today.

House Republicans have focused their sequester-prevention efforts on the military, leaving intact a multibillion-dollar discretionary spending cut that is set to wallop U.S. EPA, the Energy Department and the Interior Department, among other agencies (E&E Daily, July 28, 2011).