A bipartisan energy efficiency bill is at risk of stalling out in the Senate this week, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is indicating that he won’t allow debate and vote on a handful of Republican energy amendments.
The debate is one that has become typical in the Senate — Republicans want their amendments considered, Democrats refuse, and often the GOP responds by blocking further progress on the bill that they aren’t allowed to tweak.
In Tuesday’s debate on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats’ insistence against most amendments has created a Senate process that tries to clears legislation without any input from the minority party.
“We’ve had eight votes on amendments of our choosing since last July, eight,” McConnell said. “This is not the way to run the Senate. We’re entitled to have our ideas debated and voted on as well.”
In his response, Reid didn’t say definitively that he would not allow the amendments. But he was clearly hostile to the idea, and accused Republicans of using the amendment process to shut down progress on a bipartisan bill because President Barack Obama likes it.
“It doesn’t matter what it is. If Obama wants it, they’re against it,” he said.
Reid also said Senate Republicans keep changing the amendments they want considered, and said they remind him on greased pigs that kids try to catch at fairs back in his home state of Nevada.
“Oft times, working with my Senate Republican colleagues reminds me of chasing one of these little pigs in a greased pig contest,” he said. “Anytime we get close to making progress, it seems as though we watch it slip out of our hands, and the Republicans scamper away.”
But McConnell rejected that and said it’s unfair to say the GOP is trying to grind the Senate to a halt by requesting a few amendment votes.
“That is hardly obstructionism,” he said. “It is laughable to suggest that it’s obstructionism, for the minority be given four or five amendments on issues related to the underlying bill.”
Senate Republicans are looking for votes on a handful of proposals before the final energy bill passes. One of these would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing emissions standards on coal-fired electricity plants that cannot be met with currently available technology.
This amendment, from McConnell, would also require the EPA to act on stalled coal mine permits.
Another proposal would outlaw a carbon tax, and a third would help the liquefied natural gas industry. Republicans also hope to vote on language supporting the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Just before noon, the Senate advanced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act in a procedural vote that effectively opens debate on the bill. But a Senate aide said further progress on the bill could be in question if Democrats refuse to allow any amendments.
Sixty votes would be needed to end debate on the bill and allow a final vote, and Democrats may be able to get there given that the bill has seven GOP cosponsors. However, the aide said it’s possible that even some of these Republicans could oppose moving ahead with the bill if no amendments were allowed.