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NCGA: Fight for energy bill still on

“This bill is far from over,” said Dee Vaughan, National Corn Growers Association president, reacting to the Senate’s decision to delay action on the Energy Policy Act of 2003 after Republican leaders could not find two more votes to cut off debate on the legislation.

“This is a setback but not the end of the game. We will have an energy bill.”

Vaughan commended corn growers for their commitment to the bill containing a renewable fuels standard (RFS), adding it remains NCGA’s biggest legislative priority. In citing the many achievements made in fighting for an RFS, Vaughan said growers earned the respect of not only industry but many members of Congress.

After it became obvious they could not find more votes Thanksgiving week, Senate Republican leaders announced that they would bring the energy bill back to the floor early in 2004.

The House passed the House-Senate energy bill conference report bill by a 280 to 140-vote margin on Nov. 18, and President Bush had promised to sign the bill.

But the White House could not persuade House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to withdraw a controversial product liability lawsuit exemption for MTBE that had become a target for Senate Democrats who threatened to filibuster the legislation.

A Senate vote for cloture on the possible filibuster on Nov. 20 fell two votes short of the 60 needed to end debate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other leaders attempted to find the two votes during the weekend of Nov. 21 without success.

The National Corn Growers Vaughn said growers have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and can be proud of this year’s accomplishments despite the bittersweet ending for this year’s campaign:

-- The House Energy and Commerce Committee, filled with anti-ethanol forces, passed an energy bill with a Renewal Fuel Standard that would double ethanol production over the next 10 years.

-- The House of Representatives strongly supported the RFS when it passed the energy bill

-- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., passed the Inhofe/Voinovich RFS provisions

-- With the leadership of Sens. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) the RFS was folded into the energy bill

-- Four attempts to kill the RFS in the Senate were defeated easily each time

-- The conference committee not only kept the RFS in the bill, but also added gallons and improved the provisions

-- Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) got the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit in the bill and expanded the small producer tax credit and added the biodiesel tax incentive

“We will be working with the administration and our many supporters in the Congress over the next week to pick up where we left off and plan how to pass the bill in January,” he said. “We are just two votes short in the Senate to pass this conference report and having the bill signed into law – two votes. Unlike last year when the bill died in conference, we have the balance of the 108th Congress to get the two votes and finish this.”


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