The Senate approved a bigger bite and longer life for its proposed oil "windfall profits" tax yesterday, breaking a nerarly week-long impasse on the controversial measure.
By a vote of 58 to 35, the Senate added $22.5 billion to anticipated proceeds from the tax over the next decade by raising from 60 to 75 percent the proposed levy on oil from wells discovered between 1973 and 1979.
This amendment sponsored by Sens. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), means higher taxes on about half the nation's domestic oil production, raising it to the same 75 percent rate that would be levied on so-called "old oil" discovered before 1973.
Then voting 68 to 26, the Senate extended the life of the tax by about six years so it would raise $214 billion by the time the tax was phased out in the mid-1990s. Only about $4 billion would be added to the tax's yield during the coming decade.
The Senate adopted this compromise proposal by Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.) after rejecting, 39 to 54, a bid by Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) to make the tax permanent, with no phase-out provision. The House made the tax permanent when it adopted its stiffer version of the windfall bill earlier this year.
Moynihan estimated his proposal would increase the overall yield of the tax by $69 billion through 1997.
Both votes meant progress for the Carter administration in its drive to toughen the Senate's version of the tax, which would recapture for the federal Treasury only about half as much from the proceeds of oil price decontrol as the administration wants.
The Senate Finance Committee had recommended a tax with an anticipated yield of $138 billion by 1990, which the Senate promptly trimmed to $128 billion in exempting most independent oil producers from the tax. The action yesterday raises the Senate total to about $155 billion, closer to--but still far short of--the $277 billion figure approved by the House.
Yesterday's votes also provided a procedural breakthrough for the Senate under which at least some amendments can be voted on without threat of a fillbuster or other delaying tactics by some Republicans and oil-state Democrats.
After a test vote indicating Senate support for the Bradley-Chafee proposal last Wednesday, opponents of a stiffer tax succeeded in blocking any further action, prompting an off-the-floor effort by Senate leaders of both parties to find a consensus on the overall shape of the windfall tax package.
Although the leaders failed to nail down a firm agreement, they drew up a schedule for considering some of the bill's 130 pending amendments. Many senators are now talking in terms of a compromise target figure of $185 billion for the tax over the next decade.
A clue to the prospects for this somewhat shaky accord--and perhaps for the bill itself--may come today when the Senate votes on a proposal to bar independent producers from benefiting from their existing depletion allowance tax cerdit on oil profits made from the decontrol "windfall."
The proposal, made by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), is strongly opposed by independent oil producers, and its chances of approval are considered doubtful, if it withstands a test vote, however, opponents could move to stall Senate action on the tax again.
Among other proposals scheduled for action later this week is a politically alluring amendment by Republican Sens. William Y. Roth Jr. (Del.), Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and John C. Danforth (Mo.) to limit the percentage of the nation's gross national product that can be taxed by the federal government. That amendment would in effect provide a $39 billion tax cut in 1981, according to the three senators.
The Republicans would impose a taxing limit of 22.5 percent of the GNP in 1981, 20 percent in 1982 and 19.5 percent thereafter. Although President Carter campaigned in 1976 in support of such a tax-ceiling approach, the administration opposes the Roth-Domenici-Danforth proposal.
The Washington area delegation split on both the tax-strengthening amendments considered yesterday, with the Maryland senators voting for them and the Virginia senators voting against them.