Murkowski Amendment Forges Bipartisan Senate Agreement

Passes 75-23; Senate Ties Amendment Vote Tally for All of 2014

January 22, 2015

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today forged bipartisan agreement on a responsible approach for future legislation to ensure that oil sands are not inadvertently excluded from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

During floor debate on a bipartisan bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Murkowski offered an amendment expressing the sense of the Senate on this matter, and the Senate agreed to it through a bipartisan vote of 75-23.   

“A total of 75 members of the Senate came together to recognize that it is appropriate to review our policies in this area,” Murkowski said. “Right now we have what appears to be a legitimate and unintended loophole on the books. We will engage with our colleagues in the House to examine this issue, and it is my hope we will close it.”    

Murkowski’s amendment expressed the sense of the Senate that “bitumen and synthetic crude oil derived from bitumen” should be subject to the 8-cent per barrel excise tax associated with the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Under current law, conventional oil is subject to the tax, but an IRS ruling in early 2011 determined that oil sands must be excluded. 

Murkowski’s amendment also recognized that under the U.S. Constitution, the House must originate and refer legislation on this subject to the Senate for further consideration. An attempt to add a provision to close the loophole outright was tabled, as it would have led to a “blue slip” from the House and halted the advancement of the underlying bill.

The 75-23 vote on Murkowski’s amendment also marked the 15th vote the Senate has conducted in the early weeks of the 114th Congress. That matches the Senate’s total from all of 2014. By the end of this evening, the Senate will have voted on up to 19 amendments, marking a significant increase in legislative activity under the new majority.