Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted 40 to 59 not to proceed on Sen. Tom Coburn's proposal to end $6 billion in ethanol tax subsidies. The issue has been a tough call for many Republicans, because voting against Coburn leaves them open to attacks that they support ethanol subsidies, while voting with him puts them at odds with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.
Forty one current Senators have signed an ATR pledge that they would not vote to rescind any tax credits or deductions without offsetting it with tax cuts elsewhere. So does that mean that those 34 Republicans who voted today to move ahead with the Coburn amendment were violating the pledge? The answer is no, according to ATR.
Ryan Ellis of ATR explained that the group would not consider it a violation of the pledge as long as Senators also supported an amendment proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would have had offsetting tax cuts. Today's vote was merely on letting the Coburn amendment proceed. Had it prevailed, Senators would have had the chance to vote for the offsetting DeMint amendment.
But as things stand, Ellis said, “nobody had an opportunity to break the pledge in this process.”