(CNN) - The Senate Thursday approved a measure scrapping a controversial $6 billion annual subsidy for the ethanol industry.
The lopsided tally was 73 to 27, marking the first time a supermajority of senators voted to do away with the special tax break, originally designed to bolster the nascent bio-fuels industry but now considered by many on Capitol Hill to be an unwarranted taxpayer expense.
The vote does not necessarily mean the subsidy will disappear right away. For one thing, it was adopted as an amendment to an unrelated bill that is unlikely to ever become law. However, because it crossed the coveted 60 vote threshold –the number needed to break a filibuster– it sends a strong signal that the tide has turned against continued taxpayer support for the industry.
The special tax break is due to expire at the end of the year. This legislation would end it by July 1st, saving taxpayers about $3 billion, according to the bill's supporters.