Politicians cross party lines over ethanol

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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On Thursday, Iowa’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers found a common enemy — the Coburn-Feinstein amendment.

The amendment, although rejected by the Senate just two days previously, passed on a 73-27 vote. If enacted, the amendment will eliminate the 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy for blending ethanol with gasoline and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol.

Several senators and congressmen issued immediate statements on Thursday regarding the amendment:

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

“Today’s vote was a major victory for taxpayers and a positive step toward a serious deficit-reduction agreement, which is our only hope of averting a debt crisis … This amendment saves taxpayers $3 billion. In light of today’s lopsided vote, I urge my colleagues in the House to eliminate this wasteful earmark and tariff at their earliest opportunity.”

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa

“Today’s Senate vote was nothing but a victory for those who want higher gas prices, greater dependence on foreign oil, and further job loss in an already struggling economy. I oppose the Senate’s action for exactly those reasons.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“Ethanol is the only industry I know of that receives a triple crown of government support: Its use is mandated by law, it enjoys protective tariffs, and oil companies receive federal subsidies to use it … These flawed policies, which cost taxpayers nearly $6 billion a year, must be changed.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa

“ … This assault on America’s ethanol industry is both misguided and undeserved. This is a truly home-grown industry, built on the investment and labor of many thousands of Americans, providing a product that helps us with one of our most pressing national issues, our dependency on imported oil, yet here we are debating amendments that clearly tell the industry, ‘You aren’t important, you don’t matter, you don’t have America’s support.’ ”

Sen. Charles Grassley. R-Iowa

“These amendments won’t lower the price of gasoline at the pump. These amendments won’t lessen our dependence on foreign oil. They won’t create a single job. They’ll do exactly the opposite. Most importantly, these amendments also won’t save the taxpayer any money, because they stand little chance of being enacted. Even if the amendments were to pass today they won’t get out of this chamber.”

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa

“I’m very disappointed that the Senate took this action today. Thousands of good-paying Iowa jobs depend on ethanol, and this industry is crucial to our state’s economy … Today’s vote is just another example of Washington politicians siding with big oil companies and foreign interests instead of standing up for a clean, domestic fuel source and the family farmers who produce it.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

“We need reforms and a smarter biofuels program, but simply cutting off support for the industry isn’t the right approach. Therefore, we oppose a straight repeal of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and efforts to block biofuel-infrastructure programs.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the amendment passed 73-23.

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