Senate vote to end debate on amendments falls short
WASHINGTON – A widely popular, bipartisan energy savings bill fell victim in the Senate on Monday to election-year politics and the Obama administration’s continued indecision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
A procedural motion to end debate and bring the measure to a floor vote without amendments fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed for approval.
The legislation would tighten efficiency guidelines for new federal buildings and provide tax incentives to make homes and commercial buildings more efficient. It easily cleared a procedural hurdle last week but stalled after a Republican demand for votes on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline and on new administration-proposed greenhouse gas limits for coal-burning power plants.
Republicans are united in favor of the pipeline and against the new power plant regulations, while Democrats are deeply divided on both. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used a parliamentary maneuver to block Senate votes on the pipeline and power plant rules as part of the energy savings bill.
Reid said Monday that Republicans were “still seeking a ransom” on the energy bill by insisting on the Keystone amendment and other votes. He said he had agreed to a long-standing request from pipeline supporters for a separate vote on the pipeline if its supporters would let the efficiency bill sail through unamended.
Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, called Reid’s maneuver disappointing. “The Senate used to be a place of great debate and accomplishment. Now it is run like a dictatorship shutting out the voices of millions of Americans,” he said.
Election-year politics loomed on all sides.
Democrats said Republicans were unwilling to hand a victory on the energy efficiency bill to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a co-author of the bill who is facing a re-election challenge from Republican Scott Brown, a former Massachusetts senator who now lives in New Hampshire. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio also co-authored the energy legislation.
Shaheen and Portman both said they were disappointed at the defeat of a plan they said would create almost 200,000 jobs, reduce pollution and save taxpayers billions of dollars.
“People in New Hampshire and across the country lost out today because of election-year politics,” Shaheen said, while Portman called the vote “a disappointing example of Washington’s dysfunction.”
Partisan discord was so strong that three Republican senators who co-sponsored the energy legislation voted against it Monday to protest the exclusion of amendments. Among those voting no was Sen. John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican who has been the Senate’s chief GOP supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Democrats also said the GOP wants to deny political cover to Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough re-election fight in Louisiana, and to other Democrats in energy-producing states who have pushed for the pipeline’s approval during their campaigns. A Senate vote on the pipeline would help Landrieu and Democrats such as Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, even if it fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance it. President Barack Obama delayed the project indefinitely last month, citing uncertainty over the pipeline’s route though Nebraska.
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