Senate stimulus bill includes biomass provisions

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Feb. 11, 2009, at 4:48 p.m. CST

The U.S. Senate passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on Feb. 10 by a vote of 64 to 37. Fifty-eight Democrats and three Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while 37 Republicans voted against it. The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the legislation on Jan. 28.

Like the House version of the package, the Senate version extended the production tax credit for biomass energy until 2013. However, there are differences as well. The Senate bill provided less total funding for energy projects, but allocated slightly more funding to renewable energy loans and renewable energy research than the House legislation. The Senate bill, however, provided significantly less funding in the areas of energy efficiency and electrical grid development. Unlike the House bill, the Senate version also provided funding for fossil fuel research.

Currently, representatives from the House and Senate are working to reconcile the differences between the bills. Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, the resulting legislation will return to the House and Senate for a final vote. If approved, the bill will then be delivered to President Barack Obama for his signature. Congress is expected to pass the stimulus legislation before Congress's next break, which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 16.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in January would increase budget deficits by approximately $820 billion. In comparison, budgetary impact of the stimulus package passed by the Senate is estimated to be an additional $19 billion more.

Members of the conference committee include: Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis.; Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.; Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.; Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.; and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.