Senate Republicans on Monday were threatening to scuttle a bipartisan energy efficiency bill in an apparent protest against Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision not to allow any votes on Republican amendments.
Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor that two Republican sponsors of the bill have said they would not vote to end debate on the bill. That’s a strong sign that most Republicans will oppose any further advancement of the bill without some consideration of GOP amendments.
If the bill is blocked, it would be another typical week in a broken Senate that can only rarely move legislation. The Senate can occasionally pass a few non-controversial bills approved by the House, but the last time it passed a bill that started in the Senate was in mid-March, when it approved a measure to reauthorize federal child care block grants.
On the floor Monday, Reid blasted Senate Republicans for potentially delaying the bill, and said GOP opposition would ruin the chance for a “fresh start” in the Senate. And while Republicans say the lack of any amendments is unacceptable, Reid argued that Democrats have shown flexibility by including some GOP-supported amendments in the text of the bill.
“Democrats have acted in good faith. We’ve bent over backwards to make this bill work,” Reid said. “But it seems our efforts are never enough.”
Last week, Reid accused Republicans of changing their demands in the energy bill debate, and said trying to work with Republicans is like “chasing one of these little pigs in a greased pig contest.”
But the lack of amendment votes has been a sore point for Republicans. Last year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted Democratic leaders for pushing through the giant defense policy bill with no amendments.
The energy bill being considered this week is largely non-controversial, and is aimed at boosting energy efficiency in residential homes and companies. It would cost just a few million dollars in the first few years, and is expected to save $12 million over the next 10 years.
But last week, GOP leaders said they wanted votes on just a handful of energy-related amendments. One amendment from McConnell would prevent new environmental regulations on coal plants, and others would outlaw a carbon tax and help the liquefied natural gas industry.
“That is hardly obstructionism,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week. “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.”
A procedural vote on the bill was expected Monday evening — 60 votes will be needed to advance the bill, which means five Republicans are needed. Seven Republicans have cosponsored the bill, which means the bill could be killed if three of these cosponsors decide to vote against it.