The strategy, according to Senate aides and advocates of the measure, is to find the right mix of amendments to win moderate Republicans' backing. All of the potential amendments have bipartisan sponsors, many of them red-state Democrats.
One energy insider familiar with talks between lawmakers and industry groups said "there is optimism" that support will soon exceed the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome obstruction from those who want to see checks on the Affordable Care Act and other unrelated proposals added to the legislation.
More than 100 amendments were attached to the bill the first time around; this time, the focus will be on just a few, said Jim Pauley, a government-relations executive for Schneider Electric, which backs the legislation. The amendments being discussed include:
- A proposal by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to measure energy savings by individual tenants in multiuse buildings.
- A measure to enhance thermal efficiency, proposed by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Thomas Carper, D-Del.
- A requirement added by Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., that would push the Energy Department to use third-party certification programs to verify product ratings, rather than conducting similar testing of its own.
- An amendment to protect certain materials from "disfavor" in General Services Administration building certifications, proposed by Pryor and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
- Allowance of grid-enabled water heaters, along with additional standards, added by Pryor and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
- A proposal by Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and James Risch, R-Idaho, to lower energy consumption in federal data centers.
A pair of other potential amendments are also under consideration, Pauley said. One, proposed by Hoeven and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would roll back a requirement that federal buildings eliminate fossil-fuel usage by 2030, replacing it with efficiency levels that don't target specific fuels. That may draw opposition from some of the more progressive members of the Democratic caucus, but it could also bring some Republicans on board.
The other would allow loan agencies to factor home energy efficiency into mortgage-writing; it is backed by Bennet and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. A Senate aide with involvement in the legislation confirmed those amendments are part of the negotiations.
"There's been a ramped-up or increased pace of meetings this week in exploring a bunch of different ways to increase support for Shaheen-Portman, especially among Republicans," added a Democratic Senate aide. "There have been discussions about amendments being one way to do that." Still, the aide emphasized that no single strategy has been set in stone.
Another Republican aide echoed that behind-the-scenes work has been ongoing. "Portman is working to get bipartisan agreements to get to 60 votes," said the staffer, singling out Hoeven as a potential key vote. "Hoeven's a guy that a lot of folks look to," agreed another Senate staffer, adding that there are already at least 59 potential yes votes for the bill.
All the aides agreed that hitting the 60-vote threshold would greatly increase the likelihood that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would move the bill. "If folks can make a case that there's a lot of support for this, then that makes it easier to bring it back to the floor," said the Democratic aide.
This article appears in the October 25, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.