The U.S. Senate voted to eliminate a tax credit and a tariff that subsidize ethanol production, providing the strongest signal yet that Congress will curtail subsidies for corn-based biofuel.

The 73-27 vote exceeded the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the measure as part of an economic development bill. The underlying legislation isn’t likely to become law, so the vote mostly indicated that it will be difficult for ethanol supporters to extend the 45-cent-a-gallon tax break and the 54- cent-a-gallon tariff beyond their scheduled Dec. 31 expiration.

“We need to look at ways that we can bring the budget deficit down,” said Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who said poultry producers in the eastern part of his state are facing higher prices for corn because of ethanol production. “Repealing unnecessary subsidies should clearly be at the top of our list.”

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