It was like dodging a bullet Tuesday when the amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., failed. That amendment would have ended the blender credit for ethanol and the import tariff on the biofuel. However, procedural wrangling and even talk that ending a tax credit was a tax increase muddied the waters. Neither issue may be a problem as the next amendments come for a vote.
The Senate has before it two amendments. The first, according to The Hill is from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., which is nearly identical to Coburn's, but doesn't have the baggage of the first attempt. Right after that, the Senate would also vote on an amendment from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would block use of federal funds for the construction of ethanol blender pumps or other infrastructure.
In the Coburn vote 40 Republicans were in favor of the amendment, but opposition to the measure pushed by the Democratic leadership had 59 votes against the measure. With the Feinstein amendment, which is nearly identical, will Democrats push against the idea? The amendment would need only 60 votes to pass and all eyes will be back on the Senate today.
The McCain measure, which would block infrastructure investment, is the one-two punch for the industry.
Meanwhile, the bill from Sen. John Thune, D-S.D., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would end the blender credit (which expires at the end of 2011 anyway) but retain a smaller variable credit for three years if oil prices are below certain levels. And some savings from that measure would go toward infrastructure.
Where the Senate will end up on this issue remains to be seen. The $5 billion-plus cost of that blender credit is a number too big for Senate budget trimmers to ignore.