WASHINGTON — The Senate refused Tuesday to end $6 billion in ethanol subsidies, defeating 40-59 an amendment by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a test vote in this summer's struggle to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
"This is a historic vote that is a signal to the American people: Either people in Washington get it and are going to stop wasting money and start acting in the best interests of the country, or … they won't" Coburn said.
Feinstein said taxpayers have spent $22.6 billion on ethanol subsidies since 2005 and will spend $31 billion in the next three years.
The legislation, which needed 60 votes to advance, won support from 40 senators. The vote split the GOP. Several Republicans, including Marco Rubio of Florida, John Cornyn of Texas, tea party-backed Rand Paul of Kentucky and Republican leader Mitch McConnell — voted to end the subsidies. Florida Democrat BillNelson voted to continue them.
Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, warned that eliminating the ethanol tax credit would violate his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" and attacked Coburn as a tax raiser.
Food activists say the subsidies costs taxpayers at least $6 billion a year, while environmentalists blame ethanol for contributing to fertilizer runoff that has created an algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico.
Deficit reduction talks: Vice President Joe Biden convened congressional negotiators Tuesday for a three-day marathon round of talks to forge a deficit-reduction agreement that would allow a vote to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
This report contains information from McClatchy Newspapers and the San Francisco Chronicle.