Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill Stalls Again, Along With Keystone Vote

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

An uncontroversial, bipartisan energy efficiency bill will likely fail in the Senate early next week due to arguments over Republican-submitted amendments. Along with it, a binding Senate vote on Keystone XL, which Senate Democrats offered Republicans in exchange for passage of the energy efficiency bill, sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), will also die.

As E&E News reports, Majority Leader Harry Reid took steps on Wednesday to block five Republican amendments the the Shaheen-Portman bill. The amendments included ones to speed up natural gas exports and oppose EPA regulations on future power plants. Since the amendments aren’t getting attached to the bill, Republicans have rejected the offer to vote in favor of the bill in return for a vote on Keystone XL.

“Republican Senators, wanting to pass this bipartisan bill, asked me to bring the bill to a vote as soon as possible -– as is,” Reid said in an emailed statement to ThinkProgress. “For those Republicans acting in good faith, passage of the energy efficiency legislation was the most important thing. Unfortunately, though, the obstructionist wing of the Republican caucus decided once again to block the bill.”

Now, the Shaheen-Portman bill will move to a procedural vote to end debate on the legislation Monday evening, which will require 60 votes — a tally that it appears won’t be met. This is the second time that disagreements over Republican amendments have stalled Shaheen and Portman’s “Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act,” which aims to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and federally-owned buildings, increase conservation efforts and train workers to be better prepared to work with energy-saving technologies.

“This bill has garnered such widespread support because of a simple fact — it is good for the economy and good for the environment,” Shaheen said in a statement in February. “It’s part of an energy plan for America that can help bring the jobs back, help fix our trade deficit, help make our manufacturers more competitive, and actually help to protect the environment.”

The bill failed last September after it was sidetracked over debates on Obamacare and the Keystone XL pipeline. When it was reintroduced in February, its supporters were more confident that it would get the votes it needed to pass. The bill’s supporters were unhappy this week when it looked again as if the bill would stall — Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is working to develop a compromise to advance both Shaheen-Portman and Keystone XL bills, said that Republicans were too scattered this week when debating Shaheen-Portman, trying to fit in conversations on too many topics not directly related to the bill.

“It’s going to take cooperation. It’s going to take a little give-and-take, and I guess that’s too much to ask,” Landrieu said. “And that is sad.”

Reid said in a statement that the deal to allow a Keystone XL vote in exchange for the passage of Shaheen-Portman was still on the table.

“If Republicans want to legislate, I’m still willing to offer them a vote on Keystone in exchange for passing energy efficiency,” he said. “That’s what they asked for, and what I agreed to do. I hope they’ll take yes for an answer.”

The Keystone XL vote would have authorized immediate construction of Keystone XL, a decision that lies next with the State Department and ultimately with President Obama. The State Department announced in April that it would extend the comment period on Keystone, which would likely delay the agency’s decision until after November midterm elections.