When Senate Republicans went to bat over a slew of energy amendments last week, they also offered up a preview of what 2015 will look like if the GOP takes the Senate.
Monday marked the long-awaited death of a bipartisan energy bill, when an efficiency measure from Ohio Republican Rob Portman and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen garnered only 55 of the 60 votes it needed to advance (three Republicans, including Portman, voted for the bill). The bill’s bipartisan sponsorship wasn’t enough to overcome a procedural squabble over amendments and a political chess match over a vote on the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline.
Within that squabble, however, was a window into top Republican priorities, as their proposed amendments read like a laundry list of the party’s energy goals: approval of the pipeline, legislation checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s air-quality rules, and a full stop to the Obama administration’s climate-change efforts for power plants.
“Republicans will continue to push for the Senate to address these important matters, whether Democrats want to join us or not,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Democrats have been quick to blame the Right for the death of the Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill, saying that they moved the goalposts by asking for five amendments. Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that the Right was holding the bill “hostage” rather than taking a deal for a clean vote on the bill with a separate vote on Keystone.
But Republicans have countered that Reid is squelching their opportunity to get votes on an energy bill — something they haven’t had a chance to do since 2007.
Besides an up-or-down vote on Keystone, a longtime priority for Republicans and red-state Democrats alike, the GOP had hoped to bring up amendments that would have barred a carbon tax and blocked EPA’s greenhouse-gas rules for power plants. Other language would have stopped EPA’s planned revisions to the air-quality standard for ozone and touched on geothermal energy.
Those aren’t new or surprising proposals — Republicans have long gone after the power-plant rules, including a January push by McConnell to use a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act to force a vote on the standards. Similar measures were offered up around the debate around the budget, the 2012 transportation bill, and other major debates, although Republicans have said that this energy bill offered the best place for them.
And it’s unlikely that last week was the end of the road for the proposals, given the vitriol around EPA rules and other energy issues.
Even Portman, who wrote the efficiency bill under fire, said that the push for a handful of amendments was “a reasonable request” and that he hoped negotiations would continue to allow them on his bill if it came up again.
“We can maybe take a breather, reflect on where we are, and reconsider maybe having four or five votes on amendments,” Portman said before Monday’s vote.
Whether they’ll get a chance is an open question — the Senate will likely move to a tax-extenders package this week, but given the broad range of measures in it, Senate aides don’t expect it to get bogged down in another energy-amendment battle. There’s no guarantee that Shaheen-Portman will come back for a third time, even if sponsors are hopeful of striking a deal.
Last week, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said she was concerned that the big political fights were threatening to hold up any energy policy, including a nuclear-waste bill and possible movement on water policy.
But Republicans are holding onto faith that they’ll have a chance to bring them up, especially if they’re in the majority after the fall midterm elections. John Hoeven of North Dakota said last week that he thinks a vote on Keystone will get even closer to 60 votes next year if some key seats switch.
That’s already got environmentalists sweating that they’ll have to invest even more energy battling back anti-EPA moves, something that’s become a full-time job in the Republican-controlled House.
“The debate over this energy-efficiency bill could be a preview of the Senate Republicans’ energy agenda if they are in the majority next year,” said Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress. “This agenda includes measures that benefit big oil companies while halting efforts to slow climate change.”
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."