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Key Senate votes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lloyd Bentsen 0 * 0 0 0 0 0 John Tower 0* 0* NV NV ** 0* 0* 0 * The Observer agrees with this vote. 0 The Observer disagrees with this vote. NV Not voting. * Paired, or position announced. the least trouble people got from this Congress; people are going to have to find a way to live with the two big bills their representatives did manage to pass, and it won’t be easy. Carter’s little energy pill There’s a good deal of dispute over just what citizens got when Congress finally approved the energy bill in the closing hours of the session’s last day, October 15, but one thing’s sure: it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the measure President Carter asked for back in April 1977, when he was talking about “the moral equivalent of war.” The meat of his original plan was taxesincentives and credits to encourage conservation, levies to discourage consumption. By the time the Congress got done grinding it up, there was no more crude oil equalization tax, no more tax on industrial use of oil and natural gas, and no more standby gasoline tax; there were a few incentives and credits left, albeit considerably watered down. As Congressional Quarterly put it in classic understatement-,, “Generally, the legislators chose to encourage conservation, rather than penalize waste.” No one is happy with the result. A recent newsletter put out by the state of Texas’ Washington lobbying office approvingly quotes a Senate aide who says that “the administration seemed to be hoping that by combining an ugly duckling with a frog, the end product would look like Prince Charming. What they’re going to get is an ugly feathered frog.” Though the Carter administration professes to be pleased and seems actually to believe that it now has a “comprehensive national energy policy,” the best most congressmen will claim is that it’s better than nothing. According to Sen. James Abourezk he tried to debate with agreed that “it’s a lousy bill.” Says the retiring senator, “Instead of arguing with me, each and every one said, ‘I know, but I’m going to vote for it anyway.’ ” What’s wrong with it? Critics claim that the bill does little to promote real conservation, enriches the big oil and gas companies while giving little help to fmancially strapped consumers, and could actually increase imports because the price of natural gas may rise so high that consumers , would rely even more heavily on oil. Estimates vary on just how much prices will rise. The conference committee that put the bill together claims it will increase gas producers’ income by $9 billion over the next six and a half years; at one point the Department of Energy was saying a more accurate figure would be $29 billion; and consumer groups who feel strongly, that the bill will gouge residential gas users say $50 billion. We’d like to be able to report how Texans voted on these controversial issues and what happened to the better features of the President’s plan. But we can’t because nearly all the action this year took place outside the public purview. Since each chamber had passed its own version of the energy bill last year in the first session of the 95th, the bill was in the hands of a conference committee in 1978. After protracted dispute, the conferees finally offered the Senate and House a compromise in August. The handful of record votes this year took place after the package was in its final form and the only options left were to vote for “the energy bill” or to kill the whole thing. There were efforts in both houses to separate the controversial natural gas pricing proposal from the rest, so as to consider this matter on its merits, but these efforts were stifled by administration armtwisting. \(The recalcitrant senators never got closer than a 39to-59 defeat in their bid to vote separately on gas pricing, but the House dissidents missed by only one votesee House Vote Whacking at taxes The Revenue Act of 1978 was handled in the open, but , the result was similar: victory for corporate interests and rich folks, defeat for average folks. We can’t express it any better than the staid Congressional Quarterly did in its summary of the 95th Congress: “The tax-cut measure that Congress passed on the 4 DECEMBER 1, 1978 last day of the session was significant not because it corrected a tax system that President Carter had called ‘a disgrace to the human race’ but primarily because it was the first tax bill in more than a decade to give most of the relief to taxpayers who were already relatively well off.” The President didn’t mean for things to work out this way. His initial idea was to close the “carefully contrived loopholes” which have shifted the tax burden away from the wealthy and “more and more toward the average wage earner.” The centerpieces of Carter’s package were two proposalsone to eliminate preferential tax treatment of capital gains, and another to call a halt to tax deductions for extravagant business expenses, symbolized by the three-martini lunch. Congress did cut taxes by $18.7 billion, but its bill didn’t contain either of Carter’s two prime provisions. In fact, Congress scrapped all but half a dozen of his proposed reforms, and those were very minor technical adjustments. Half of the taxpayersthe half at the upper end of the income scalewill get 80 percent of the tax reduction, but under the Revenue Act everybody does get something. Unfortunately, the 95th Congress also raised social security taxes. When the effects of both tax’ bills are combined, as they are in a wage earner’s shrinking take-home pay, none but the extremely poor and the rich will find themselves paying lower taxes next year. Seven Days magazine summed it up in four tight sentences: “The overall tax picture is a bleak one. The high growth days of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s are over. The pie Americans are being asked to share isn’t getting any bigger. To ensure that the rich get richer, the government has decided to take from the poor.” In the process of producing this abomination, the Congress considered a number of different ideas, some good, some bad. What follows are the details of a few key tax proposals debated on the Senate and House floors this year, their fates, and how the 26 Texans on Capitol Hill voted on them. 1 Corporate tax cuts Senators took great pains to sweeten this year’s tax bill for industrial interests. Several reforms that would have increased business taxes were killed, capital gains taxes were cut back, and the Senate finance committee reduced the top corporate income tax rate from 48 percent to 46 percent. Sen. John Danto lower the maximum corporate tax even furtherto 45 percent in 1980 and 44 percent in 1981. Committee chairman Ruswas already “very good to the people who own those corporations,” and that every percentage point they lowered the tax meant another $1.7 billion loss to the Treasury. On an October 10 vote, the Danforth amendment passed 60 to 30. A no vote would have brought an Observer star, but neither Texas senator earned one. 2 Kemp-Roth tax cut There was plenty of nationwide hullabaloo over the proposal \(R-