After much political drama, the debt ceiling debate is now behind us. But out of this debate, there is a story that warrants being told.
Sometimes it is hard to find examples of members of Congress standing up to Washington’s politics-as-usual approach. However, the biofuels industry and agricultural sector just witnessed a moment in which eight House Republicans stood up against their own party, despite overwhelming pressure, to fight for Midwestern values.
Let’s set the scene. The debt limit is the cap on the amount of money that the government can borrow. Every few years, the United States bumps up against its debt ceiling. When this happens, it sets off a frenzy of legislating to lift the borrowing limit so the United States does not default on its debts and cause a torrent of economic failures across the country.
On April 19, House Republican leadership led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California introduced a debt limit proposal called the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023. Tucked away in the legislation to address the debt limit was a small provision that would have erased tax credits that POET and other biofuels producers are counting on to stay competitive in an increasingly volatile liquid fuels market. No cuts to oil tax credits were included in this proposal – this was a blatant attack on biofuels and the Midwest at a time when leadership should have been focused only on the debt ceiling crisis.
But eight House Republicans refused to swallow this poison pill. Reps. Randy Feenstra, Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Zach Nunn of Iowa, Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Brad Finstad of Minnesota, Rep. Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin, and Rep. Mark Alford of Missouri withheld their support, threatening the success of Speaker McCarthy’s package. Over the next 10 days, countless calls and meetings with leadership ensued, pushing our champions to cave in on their values.
They held firm.
Finally, in a late-night meeting, GOP leaders ultimately agreed to strip out many of the biofuel tax credit repeals and allow exemptions for others. Our “Great Eight” had won. Some headlines read: “McCarthy runs into a wall of corn” and “McCarthy caves to corn, passes bill.”
“Early this morning, our conference made great strides in recognizing our farmers by including elements of my amendment that protect our corn growers and biofuels industry,” Rep. Van Orden declared from the House floor.
Likewise, the Iowa delegation, standing united, said, “The biofuels industry drives the Iowa economy and is vital to our nation’s security. We are proud to deliver a major victory for this industry and our whole state in these negotiations. As negotiations continue, we have made it crystal clear that we will not support any bill that eliminates any of these critical biofuels tax credits.”
With an agreement now in place between House GOP Leadership and the group of eight representatives, the Limit, Save, Grow Act passed in the House. After passage, Rep. Finstad said via an official statement, “Additionally, this legislation protects important tax credits to incentivize investments in ethanol and biodiesel, industries that spur domestic energy production, add value for our farmers, and lower the price at the pump. I appreciate House Leadership for working with my colleagues and I to protect the tools our biofuels industry relies on to invest in critical domestic energy infrastructure.”
"Republicans are committed to reining in the irresponsible spending in Washington and passing legislation that truly helps Americans, and I am committed to making sure that includes the people of Minnesota's 7th District," said Rep. Fischbach. "The Limit, Save, Grow Act protects crucial tax credits, incentivizing investment in ethanol and biodiesel. I appreciate House leadership working with my colleagues and I to ensure this legislation supported the producers and farmers in my District, as well as the consumers who will benefit from these tax credits at the gas pump."
These champions showed that biofuels are essential to agriculture, rural economies, energy security, and our environment, and using biofuels tax credits as a political football is a non-starter for any negotiation. It is important for readers to recognize this moment as a time when reason and Midwest values prevailed in Washington.