Thursday, June 26, 2008

Republican Senator Pushes Renewables

A remarkable showdown is taking place in Congress this week, according to the Washington Post. See an excerpt of the story below:
A Republican senator from Nevada, home to the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, yesterday blocked an ambitious plan to help troubled borrowers save their homes, saying he will not permit the measure to go forward unless the Senate adds tax breaks to encourage the production of renewable energy.
The demand by Sen. John Ensign
(R-Nev.) stalled a massive housing package with broad bipartisan support even as a report showed that new-home sales continued to tumble, underscoring the severity of the nation's housing slump. It also threw the Senate into chaos days before Congress is scheduled to leave town for the July 4 holiday, prompting Senate leaders to threaten to keep lawmakers in Washington through the weekend.
Late yesterday,
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate is unlikely to take a final vote on the housing bill until next month. But the Senate will eventually approve the measure, he said, adding: "We need to finish housing. . . . With 8,500 houses going into foreclosure every day, we have an obligation to the American people."
Ensign said he would not back down from his demand to tack on more than $6 billion in tax breaks for producers of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. The measure is popular with both parties -- Sen.
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is a co-sponsor. But Senate Democrats oppose adding it to the housing bill because it is not accompanied by tax increases to make up for the lost revenue. Such an addition would ruin efforts to forge a compromise on the housing bill with the House, where 218 Democrats, a majority of the chamber, have signed a pledge to reject measures that increase the deficit.
Still, Ensign's insistence puts Democrats in the uncomfortable position of opposing renewable energy, a concept many of them ardently support.
That point was not lost on Ensign, chairman of the
National Republican Senatorial Committee, who has been trying for weeks to attach the energy credits to a bill that has some hope of reaching the president's desk.
"Especially in an election year, very few things are actually going to make it into law and going to be signed by the president," he said. "The housing bill has a great chance of being signed into law. And that's why we're trying to get this renewable tax credit on this piece of legislation."
Ensign said the credits are critical to ending the nation's dependence on foreign oil and are important for his home state, where renewable-energy investments are becoming a major economic-development tool and source of jobs. Every quarter the tax credits remain off the books, he said, the nation and Nevada lose investment dollars and jobs that will never return.
Ensign acknowledged that his state also has been racked by the mortgage crisis and has led the nation in foreclosures for more than a year.

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