Big-spending Republicans should be afraid following the upset victories by Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz in Texas on Tuesday over the establishment candidate David Dewhurst, and Richard Mourdock over six-term incumbent Richard Lugar in Indiana on May 9. On Thursday, Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capeheart said: “Folks might not like the Tea Party much. But that’s not stopping this loosely affiliated band of people fed up with government spending and deficits from sending like-minded souls to Congress.”
Bloomberg News said of the Cruz victory: “The Tea Party has no leader, no hierarchy and no national fundraising network, yet the insurgent political movement born of frustration at government spending has bolstered its clout—and its potential for aggravation—in the Republican Party with the nomination of U.S. Senate candidate and political newcomer Ted Cruz in Texas.”
The common thread in these quotes: “people fed up with government spending” and “born of frustration at government spending,” highlights the heart of the Tea Party movement—even though it is just a “loosely affiliated band of people” with “no leader, no hierarchy and no national funding network.” The recent upsets reflect the grassroots’ growing dissatisfaction with the Republican Party’s failure to control spending.
Other than the August 14 senate race in Wisconsin where Mark Neumann and Eric Hovde are battling each other for the tea party backing in the race with establishment candidate and former governor Tommy Thompson, the extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy may be the next line of battle between the Tea Party Republicans and establishment Republicans hesitant to curb their big-spending ways.
I have written several columns in opposition to the PTC extension, but if you are not familiar with it, David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation explains it this way: “The wholesale prices of electricity in the different U.S. markets average from less than three cents per kilowatt hour (kW-h) to about 4.5 cents per kW-h. The PTC provides a subsidy of 2.2 cents per kW-h to wind energy producers. So this PTC subsidy is equivalent to 50 percent to 70 percent of the wholesale price of electricity.” To which Phil Kerpen of American Commitment adds: “So taxpayers pick up more than half the cost for wind power—and even then many wind projects are struggling. It will never work, at any cost, because the concept of large-scale industrial wind power is based on bad science.”
When thinking about the PTC, it is important to realize that we the taxpayers have already been subsidizing the wind energy industry for more than 20 years and that the wind energy lobbyists, advocates, and manufacturers acknowledge that if the PTC is not extended, the industry cannot survive.
Surprisingly, the first shot in the spend/don’t spend battle over the extension of the PTC came from the “moderate” presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, when he came out on Monday with a statement regarding allowing the “longstanding tax credits that help finance wind energy projects” to expire, as scheduled, at the end of this year—a position in line with the Tea Party’s “frustration at government spending.”
According to Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits. Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the president believe the investment will produce results.”
While this newly announced position splits Romney and Obama, it also splits the more conservative Republicans and the establishment Republicans—especially those from “wind states” such as Senator Charles Grassley (IA) and Senator Orrin Hatch (UT).
On Thursday, before leaving for a five-week vacation, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana moved a so-called tax extenders bill through the Senate Finance Committee—which would keep the PTC alive. According to the AP. “The $200 billion-plus package was approved by the Senate Finance Committee Thursday on a bipartisan 19-5 vote.” Regarding the inclusion of the PTC in the bill, AP said: “That provision was initially targeted for elimination, but garnered critical support from Republicans like Charles Grassley of Iowa.” (Apparently, Grassley has decided that it’s a good strategy to publicly slap Romney’s face.)
On Wednesday, before the vote, many groups including Energy Makes America Great Inc., urged people to call the Senate Finance Committee Members and tell them not to vote for a bill that extended the PTC.
One citizen frustrated with government spending contacted Senator Grassley’s office to voice her opposition to the PTC extension. The aide asked where she was from. She told him: “Western New York State, where they are dumping these giant wind installations throughout entire townships and rendering people’s homes worthless.” The aide replied, “Well, Senator Grassley is responsible for Iowans.” To which she said, “Excuse me? As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Grassley is responsible to ALL Americans! And we are damn sick and tired of the corporate welfare that’s going on to the likes of GE, BP, and Iberdrola via the PTC, while rendering many people’s most expensive life investment worthless.” She reports that the conversation continued for a bit, during which time the aide repeated that “Senator Grassley is responsible to Iowans.” Her email with this account included a link to Grassley’s Facebook page and concluded: “Let this guy have it!! The Tea Party needs to go after this Grassley!!!”
I posted the following on his Facebook page: “As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator, you are responsible to ALL Americans. If your office is not willing to listen to opinions from all Americans, please remove yourself from this important committee.” The post was promptly removed.
Senator Grassley is not a member of the Tea Party Caucus. He is an establishment Republican, so his vote to extend the PTC should not be shocking—just disappointing. However, Senator Jerry Moran (KS) is a Tea Party Caucus Member (TPCM). He is not on the Senate Finance Committee, so he couldn’t vote on Thursday’s bill, but my call to his office—and the offices of the other Senate TPCM—revealed that Moran is the only Senate TPCM who does support the extension of the PTC. My calls found that Senators DeMint, Lee, and Paul are each opposed to the extension.
I also called through the list of House TPCMs, as the House will vote on the PTC extension if it makes it through the Senate. Most politicos believe the extension will be addressed in the lame duck session, so I wanted to get them on record regarding their philosophy on the PTC extension—which means more government boondoggle and less fiscal responsibility. Due to their summer recess, my research was inconclusive, but I did find that Representatives Coffman (CO), Farenthold (TX), Fleming (LA), Lamborn (CO), McClintock (CA), Pearce (NM), Stearns (FL), and Wilson (SC) were willing to be bold and oppose the PTC extension. Kline (MN) is not a TPCM but has been strong in his opposition to the PTC extension. Coffman (CO) supports phasing it out, Franks (AZ) is probably “No,” and Smith (TX) is leaning toward “No.” The only House TPCMs who support this government spending are King (IA) and Bartlett (MD). The following said it depends on the exact bill and were unwilling to take a philosophical stand on the issue—and therefore should receive pressure: Akin (MO), Alexander (LA), Carter (TX), Cassidy (LA), and Coble (NC). Every other House TPCM was undecided or unavailable.
After the Senators get back from recess, there will be a full Senate vote on the bill—which will likely go through several revisions before a vote.
Remember, back in June 2009, when the Democratically-controlled House passed the cap and trade bill? It did not make it to a vote before the Democratically-controlled Senate members left for their summer break. That summer, two things happened: the Tea Party and townhall meetings. The newly energized Tea Party types showed up at the “townhalls.” Senators got an earful. When they want back to DC in September, cap and trade was dead—a great victory.
This summer, Tea Party types, once again, need to give their Senators an earful—especially the Republican Senators like Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT), Crapo (ID), Snowe (ME), Thune (SD), and Roberts (KS) who voted for the “extender bill” and TPCM Moran (KS) who will, if it makes it to a floor vote.
The “right” thinking Senators of both parties must know that we have to stop this excessive bleeding of fiscal spending while we still have a chance to stop the slide toward Spain—whose green energy policies have helped push them toward bankruptcy. If they don’t “know,” we, and their TPCM colleagues, can help them.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)