Perhaps tipping his hand too early, Senator Coburn announced on the Senate floor that he, in fact, supports ethanol and has no intention of getting rid of the Renewable Fuel Standard (ethanol mandate). So why would Sen. Coburn force a vote on his legislation to repeal the ethanol tax credit and tariff? Because he knows his amendment will do little to depress ethanol consumption but will put Republicans in the awkward position of voting for a tax increase. Sen. Coburn hopes his tiny ethanol tax increase works like a gateway drug and will make larger, more dangerous tax increases—the kind he has consistently supported—more palatable for Republicans.
Coburn and Thune on the floor:
THUNE: “One of our colleagues from South Carolina has introduced an amendment to this bill which would end that, and I assume — I don't know this for a fact — that my colleague from Oklahoma would support that amendment. Which would do away with the Renewable Fuel Standard. Certainly.”
COBURN: “You obviously didn't hear what I was saying as you were conversing. I said I support ethanol. I wouldn't support that. And I said that. And I’ve been very up front with you in the past. You know what my position is on that.
So the question is — and I would ask him this question — how do you fit what the people who get this $3 billion that you say it is going to have a negative impact — the very people who get the $3 billion who say they don't want it — why would they say that if it's going to have a negative impact on their industry?”
THUNE: “I would say to my colleague from Oklahoma I was not aware that he supports the RFS. If there is an amendment to strike the RFS offered – which there will be, and my colleague from Oklahoma, if I’m wrong in saying that – that you would oppose that amendment to strike the RFS?”
COBURN: “I will oppose that amendment but my worry is because of the process of the Senate, we may not get that amendment to vote on. And I think my colleague as part of the leadership on our side would recognize that we have a problem with amendments.”
THUNE: “I don’t disagree with that. I think there’s an issue here with amendments, and I would say that this, and I’m not arguing, it’s your prerogative to bring this up, it’s your prerogative to file cloture which you’ve done in this circumstance. But I think that the Renewable Fuel Standard, which creates the policy construct that we’re talking about here today, is one aspect of the biofuels policy going forward.”