More than 200 Nebraskans are likely to be laid off come Nov. 1, due to Congressional inaction, and Nebraskans deserve to know why.
From the start of the 112th Congress, "control" was a higher priority than "compromise," and this jammed up the legislative machinery. Extreme partisan strategizing contributed to this Congress passing the least amount of public bills of any Congress in our country's history. Among the many top items that this Congress still hasn't addressed are the Senate-passed farm bill, emergency disaster relief for this summer's fires and drought, postal reform, cybersecurity, and many issues of taxation, including a wind power tax credit.
Unfortunately, this inaction comes at a great cost to Nebraska's economy, which is why I have been so outspoken about this "Do-Nothing Congress." I want Nebraska to know that when Congress does nothing, there are major consequences to Nebraska, consequences that the special interest groups in Washington don't mention in their emails and 30 second ads.
Because Congress didn't renew a federal energy tax credit for wind power, it is set to expire at the end of this year. Sadly, neither the House nor the Senate is going to take up a wind credit bill until after the November election, if at all. This legislative uncertainty has resulted in wind power developers drastically decreasing their orders for wind turbines and towers. This drop-off in demand has forced wind tower producers like Katana Summit, employing 214 Nebraskans at its Columbus (NE) plant, to lay off their employees.
Earlier this year, I worked to defend those jobs in Columbus when I voted in support of an amendment (Senate Amendment 1812) to the Senate version of the Transportation Bill. This amendment would have provided a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit that is so key to today's wind power industry, as well as a one-year revival of a Treasury Grant program that has supported the installation of more than $21 billion in renewable energy facilities, and extends tax incentives for cellulosic biofuel, biodiesel and renewable diesel.
Unfortunately, the measure failed when several Members from states with growing renewable power industries did not back the credit. They chose to support their ideological agendas, but not jobs back home.
I will continue to work towards an extension of the Production Tax Credit when Congress reconvenes after the November elections. However, I know this will be difficult. We will face the same ideological opposition as the failed amendment did, as well as constant calls to "cut the budget" from Members who don't acknowledge the harm of letting this credit dissolve.
So on this Columbus Day, when Americans pay tribute to a man that valued taking action, keep in mind the people of Columbus, Nebraska, who may pay the consequences of a Congress incapable of action.