Morning Examiner: A NATGAS test for Senate GOPers

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

How far has the Tea Party really moved the Republican Party in a conservative direction? Stalwart conservative Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has replaced the moderate former-Sen. Bob Bennett. Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., beat out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked successor to Jim Bunning. And Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has moved much further to the Right since the 2010 primaries in his bid to avoid the Bennett fate.

But despite all these positive developments, we still have things like the NATGAS Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and set for a vote later today as part of a larger transportation bill in the Senate. The NATGAS Act is a shining example of everything that Tea Party conservatives hate about big government in Washington. The Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney explained last year:

T. Boone Pickens is a billionaire, in the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent. Why then, is Harry Reid trying to give him more of your money? … Pickens is the bill’s original author, chief lobbyist and prime beneficiary: He owns 41 percent of Clean Energy Fuels, which has the largest natural-gas truck-fueling station in the world and plans to set up a series of similar fueling stations around the country — if it can get the subsidies.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clean Energy Fuels admits it is subsidy-dependent: “Our business plan and the ability of our business to successfully grow depends in part on the extension of the federal fuel excise tax credit for natural gas vehicle fuel, the reinstatement and extension of the federal income tax credit for the purchase of natural gas vehicles and the passage of legislation providing for additional incentives for the sale and use of natural gas vehicles.” That’s all in the NATGAS Act.

President Obama is currently pushing back against criticism over high gas prices by calling for higher taxes on oil companies. Now, more than ever, principled conservatives should be taking a stand in favor of simplifying the tax code, eliminating special interests’ tax favors, and lowering rates for all taxpayers, individual and corporate. The NATGAS Act goes in the opposite direction. Just like the rest of Obama’s energy agenda, it carves out special benefits to firms favorable to Obama thus further complicating the tax code and keeping nominal tax rates high. If natural gas is the fuel of the future, it shouldn’t need any extra help from the federal government.

Conservatives will be watching this vote. Senators who don’t want to become the next Bob Bennett should think very carefully before casting their votes.

Campaign 2012
Delegate Count: The Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney reports that Rick Santorum would have to win more than half of all remaining delegates in order to overtake Mitt Romney’s current lead.

Romney: Romney attacked Obama over gas prices yesterday, telling CNBC, “He ought to be taking advantage of all our offshore instead of trying to hold them off.”

Santorum: Santorum aides and allies are making a renewed push to get Newt Gingrich out of the race. Richard Viguerie, a Republican activist, released a statement yesterday including, “The former speaker can either be a kingmaker or a spoiler because, to unite conservatives, Gingrich would have to suspend his campaign and endorse Rick Santorum.”

Gingrich: Gingrich has canceled two appearances in Kansas previously scheduled for the end of this week. The Kansas caucuses are Saturday.

Around the Bigs
The New York Times, ‘Super PAC’ Increasing Congress’s Sense of Insecurity: Brad Wenstrup’s win over Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, in Tuesday’s primary, which was aided by a conservative Super PAC, is being interpreted as a warning shot to all incumbents, especially those who have run afoul of conservative voters over the past year.

The Washington Post, Obama gives administration jobs to some big fundraisers: More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.

The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers: Obama’s Justice Department has warned Apple Inc. and five of the biggest U.S. publishers that it plans to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books.

The Washington Post, Assad’s forces gaining ‘momentum’ in Syria, U.S. general warns: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are “gaining physical momentum on the battlefield,” and the situation there “will get worse before it gets better,” Marine Gen. James Mattis told Senate lawmakers yesterday.

Righty Playbook
The Hoover Institution’s John Taylor makes the case that Obama’s stimulus did not help the economy.

The Heritage Foundation‘s David John makes the case for the House JOBS Act.

RedState‘s Steve Maley corrects Rush Limbaugh on Obama’s Big Energy Lie.

Lefty Playbook
Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, president of the Women’s Campaign Fund and a former Democratic House candidate, tells Talking Points Memo that Obama has a Bill Maher problem.

The Washington Post‘s Suzy Khimm says foreclosure’s will probably rise this year, but that’s a good thing.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is defending her vote for Obamacare by calling it Ryancare for non-seniors.

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