Murray, Cantwell vote to move tax deal toward Senate passage

By:  seattlepi.com
Source: Seattle PI

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., joined a Senate
“super-majority” that voted Monday to move toward final approval the tax deal
cut last week between President Obama and Congressional Republicans.

In a little reported development, however, Cantwell and Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-California, won an important sweetener” – or “lulu” to use the New
York expression – in the deal.

“It was the only significant change made by the Senate leadership from what
came out of the White House-(Capitol) Hill negotiations,” said a senior Cantwell

Murray defended her vote with a sharply partisan statement. “The Republican
game plan is simply irresponsible,” she said. “Extending benefits to those who
need them least and adding to our debt is wrong.

“But I also could not sit back and allow taxes to be raised on Washington
state families who are just struggling to get by.”

The Senate’s key procedural vote was held open Monday afternoon so
snowstorm-delayed Midwest lawmakers could cast votes. The final tally was 83-15:
45 Democrats and 37 Republicans voted to move the bill. The tax cut deal goes to
a final vote Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Late last week, Cantwell, Feinstein and 14 colleagues joined in a letter
threatening the tax cut deal if it did not include extension of something called
the Treasury Grant Program, which was part of the 2009 Stimulus plan.

The Treasury Grant Program provides cash grants in lieu of existing tax
credits for renewable energy projects built in the United States. It has
supported around $18.2 billion in clean energy investments and built 8,600
megawatts of renewable energy generation across the country.

(The city of Seattle uses a little more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity
on an average day, with electrical use increasing on cold, dark early winter

“It is rightly credited with maintaining growth in the renewable energy
sector in the midst of an economic downturn: If Congress allows taxes to rise on
renewable development, momentum would be lost . . .” wrote the Senators.

“To date, 1,465 projects have come online nationwide, and hundreds more have
broken ground. As a result, our nation is slowly weaning itself off imported
fuels, cleaning our air, reducing greenhouse gas pollution and creating

The senators predicted that a two-year extension of the program would result
in 65,000 more jobs in the solar industry alone, and enough additional
electricity from the sun to power 1.2 million homes. They forecast an additional
20,000 jobs in the growing wind manufacturing industry.

Renewable energy would “dramatically suffer” if the program was axed, the
senators argued, warning they would “have difficulty” supporting the tax cut
deal if it were not included.

All six senators from Washington, Oregon and California signed the letter
along with Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska.

The pioneering Stateline wind energy farm sits on the Washington-Oregon
border south of Pasco. And major wind power development is underway on bluffs
above the Columbia River east of Ellensburg