A bipartisan measure that would provide federal tax incentives for vehicles powered by natural gas drew two unlikely opponents Friday, as freshman Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) announced that they oppose the bill, which they argue is “the perfect example of a federal policy that’s trying to identify and select a winner.”
H.R. 1380, known as the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act, or “NAT GAS Act,” has already garnered the backing of 185 House members since it was introduced last month, with supporters as disparate as Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) on the right and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on the left.
The bill’s momentum is due in large part to T. Boone Pickens. The oil and gas tycoon has been lobbying heavily for the passage of H.R. 1380, arguing that it could help the U.S. reduce its reliance on foreign oil by as much as half.
Pompeo and Labrador said Friday that they aren’t swayed.
“What I’ve seen already in four months and a couple of weeks in Congress, I’ve had 12 different energy industries come into my office, each of them saying, ‘If I can just get a little more federal money – if I get one more grant, one more credit, one more mandate – then I’ll make it,’ ” Pompeo said Friday afternoon at a news conference with Labrador and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who has urged members of Congress to vote against the bill.
Noting that he sold equipment to the natural gas and oil industry for six years before running for Congress, Pompeo said that his opposition to the measure stems not from any ill will toward the industry but rather from his desire to see government stay out of the business of using the tax code to pick winners and losers.
“I spend my time on the Energy and Commerce Committee trying to spank back the EPA so that they can go do the things they need to do to provide affordable energy for America,” he said. “But what we don’t need to do is use our tax code to subsidize them and pick them and favor them.”
Labrador said that “energy subsidies do two things – they distort the market, leading the private sector to invest in less economical forms of energy, but most importantly, number two, they take taxpayer dollars to do this.”
The event marked an interesting instance of two freshman House conservatives who won election vowing to shrink the size of government using that same small-government argument to make the case against targeted tax credits. Both lawmakers said Friday that they support simplifying the federal tax code, rather than complicating it with breaks aimed at particular types of energy.
In response to H.R. 1380, Pompeo this week introduced H.Res. 267, a symbolic resolution “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should end all subsidies aimed at specific energy technologies or fuels.” So far, the resolution has just three co-sponsors – Pompeo, Labrador and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).