Bipartisan Bill That Would Have Strengthened U.S. Energy Efficiency Dies In Senate

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A bipartisan energy efficiency bill failed again in the Senate on Monday, after a majority of Senate Republicans refused to end a filibuster after days of discussion on the legislation.

Along with the failure of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, commonly referred to as Shaheen-Portman for its two co-sponsors, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Republicans’ hopes of a binding Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline were also squashed. Senate Democrats had offered Republicans the vote on Keystone XL as long as Shaheen-Portman passed. Republicans, however, attempted to attach amendments to the bill, including ones that would have sped up natural gas exports and opposed EPA regulations on future power plants. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked these five amendments, triggering Republicans to block the passage of Shaheen-Portman.

“This bill is being filibustered by some of its very own Republican co-sponsors,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday before the vote. “This useless, mind-boggling obstruction is what continually grinds the wheels of the Senate to a halt.”

This is the second time that disagreements over Republican amendments have stalled Shaheen-Portman, which if passed would have sought to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial, and federally-owned buildings and trained workers to be adept at working in energy-efficient commercial buildings. The bill last failed in September after it was sidetracked over debates on Obamacare and Keystone XL. Before Monday’s filibuster, Shaheen-Portman had become popular with both parties, developing a base of co-sponsors that included seven Republicans and seven Democrats — as well as gaining support from both the Natural Resources Defense Council and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a sad day in the U.S. Senate when more than 270 organizations — from business to environmental groups — can get behind a good, bipartisan effort, but we can’t get votes on a few amendments to pass it,” Portman said.

Both Portman and Shaheen said in statements that they weren’t giving up on the energy efficiency legislation. However, because Senate Republicans have blocked the legislation twice before, if Shaheen-Portman is brought up again in the Senate it may require a a group of Republicans crossing party lines to support the bill in order to pass it.

“I’m disappointed the Senate failed to advance my bipartisan plan to create almost 200,000 jobs, reduce pollution and save taxpayers billions,” Shaheen said. “But I will continue to fight for Shaheen-Portman because it’s a win-win-win for jobs, clean air and taxpayers.”

Portman said that Republicans’ desire to add the amendments was “a reasonable request” and he hopes that, after the Senate takes a break from Shaheen-Portman, it can take it up again, along with votes on the amendments.