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Senate passes energy package

Some call $1.4b bill giveaway for firms

WASHINGTON -- Stung by high gasoline prices, the Senate approved by a wide margin a $14 billion package of tax breaks that supporters said were designed to spur US energy production and hold down prices.

Democrats joined Republicans as senators turned back an attempt by Senator John McCain to strip the energy provision from a corporate tax bill; the vote was 85 to 13. McCain, Republican of Arizona, called the energy subsidies a ''shameless scam" to benefit the oil and gas industries and other energy interests.

Supporters of the tax provisions argued that with gasoline prices soaring beyond $2 a gallon across much of the country, Congress must take action to stimulate domestic energy production.

But lawmakers have acknowledged that most of the tax incentives are aimed at long-term production and would have little impact this year on prices for gasoline, natural gas, and crude oil.

Nevertheless, actions are needed to persuade industry ''to get back into the business of producing," Senator Larry Craig said, as the Idaho Republican urged senators to reject McCain's amendment that would have killed the energy package.

The provisions are part of a massive corporate tax bill senators were expected to vote on later yesterday.

The bill includes $9 billion in tax incentives for the oil and gas industry, plus billions more to encourage development of clean coal technology and renewable fuels.

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