Senate’s Energy-Efficiency Bill Bogged Down in Unrelated Amendments

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., left, looks on as Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday June 18, 2008, to discuss Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita recovery money. 
National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
Alex Brown
Sept. 15, 2013, 8:38 a.m.

Sen. Dav­id Vit­ter, R-La., has ef­fect­ively taken host­age the Sen­ate’s en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill, stalling its pro­gress as he in­sists on a vote on his amend­ment to weak­en the Af­ford­able Care Act. But his isn’t the only amend­ment ty­ing po­lar­iz­ing is­sues to the oth­er­wise un­con­tro­ver­sial bill.

One such pro­pos­al, led by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and John Ho­even, R-N.D., would pres­sure Obama to ap­prove the Key­stone XL pipeline. Six Re­pub­lic­ans and three Demo­crats also signed on to the amend­ment, which is es­sen­tially a non­bind­ing state­ment of sup­port.

Oth­er amend­ments have noth­ing to do with en­ergy at all. Six GOP amend­ments, in­clud­ing Vit­ter’s, seek to lim­it, delay, or out­right block the Af­ford­able Care Act. An­oth­er, pro­posed by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would re­form set­tle­ments un­der the En­dangered Spe­cies Act.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., com­plained about the ex­traneous pro­pos­als on the Sen­ate floor Thursday. “There’s not a single amend­ment that’s been al­lowed to be offered in this le­gis­la­tion that has any­thing to do with en­ergy,” he said.

But most of the Re­pub­lic­an-pro­posed amend­ments did have an en­ergy fo­cus — just likely not in a way that would would meet the bill’s “en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency” la­bel. Amend­ments filed Wed­nes­day and Thursday in­cluded 45 with solely GOP spon­sors. Twenty-nine of those — ex­clud­ing the ones aimed at the Af­ford­able Care Act — would lim­it agen­cies’ reg­u­lat­ing power; cut or elim­in­ate ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions; slash or con­sol­id­ate green pro­grams; give states more ways around fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions; or re­duce grants, loans, and tax cred­its for en­vir­on­ment­al ef­forts.

One such amend­ment, pro­posed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., would pro­hib­it the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency from en­act­ing reg­u­la­tions with more than $1 bil­lion in com­pli­ance costs without first gain­ing con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al. That and a sim­il­ar amend­ment backed by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., closely re­semble the En­ergy Con­sumers Re­lief Act that passed the GOP-con­trolled House earli­er this year.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., pro­posed a re­peal of the re­new­able-fuel stand­ard, while Sen. James In­hofe, R-Okla., sub­mit­ted his own plan al­low­ing states to opt out of it. An­oth­er plan grant­ing states ex­tra power would pre­vent EPA from over­rid­ing state pro­grams to con­trol haze; that amend­ment was pro­posed by Sen. Mi­chael En­zi, R-Wyo. And a pair of amend­ments in­tro­duced by Sens. John Bar­rasso, R-Wyo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., seek to pre­vent es­tim­ates of the so­cial cost of car­bon — a cal­cu­la­tion to as­sess the eco­nom­ic im­pact of emis­sions — from be­ing used in agency rule­mak­ing.

Re­pub­lic­ans wer­en’t the only ones pro­pos­ing off-top­ic amend­ments. Sen. Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., called for a halt to con­gres­sion­al pay if le­gis­lat­ors fail to raise the debt lim­it. Mean­while, sev­er­al of her fel­low Demo­crats hail­ing from red states joined with Re­pub­lic­ans on amend­ments lim­it­ing fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., teamed with Ho­even in an ef­fort to block new reg­u­la­tions for oil and gas ex­plor­a­tion on fed­er­al lands. An­oth­er bi­par­tis­an state pair­ing saw Sen. Robert Ca­sey, D-Pa., join Toomey on an amend­ment to ex­empt power plants fueled by coal wastes from fed­er­al emis­sion stand­ards.

A few amend­ments were ac­tu­ally re­lated to the bill’s en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency goals. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sub­mit­ted a par­tially hand­writ­ten pro­pos­al to re­quire fed­er­al work­ers to turn off the lights and un­plug elec­tric­al devices at the end of the day. An­oth­er amend­ment ad­ded by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would man­date dis­clos­ures of en­ergy us­age by all fed­er­al build­ings. Sev­er­al oth­er Demo­crat­ic amend­ments of­fer grant and loan pro­grams for con­ser­va­tion and en­ergy-sav­ings pro­jects.

In all, sen­at­ors in­tro­duced roughly 80 amend­ments to the bill Wed­nes­day and Thursday. Vit­ter’s may be get­ting all the at­ten­tion, but the Sen­ate will still have plenty of di­vis­ive is­sues to dis­cuss if he drops his amend­ment.

What We're Following See More »
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
27 minutes ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

FUNERAL FOR ISRAELI LEADER
Obama Compares Peres to ‘Giants of the 20th Century’
46 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Speaking at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, President Obama "compared Peres to 'other giants of the 20th century' such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who 'find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment.'" Among the 6,000 mourners at the service was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama called Abbas's presence a sign of the "unfinished business of peace" in the region.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many New Voters Does the Clinton Campaign Aim to Register?
53 minutes ago
THE ANSWER

Three million—a number that lays "bare the significant gap between Donald Trump’s bare-bones operation and the field program that Clinton and her hundreds of aides have been building for some 17 months."

Source:
“STANDING FOR PRINCIPLES”
Chicago Tribune Endorses Johnson
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a somewhat shocking move, the Chicago Tribune has endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president, saying a vote for him is one that voters "can be proud of." The editorial barely touches on Donald Trump, who the paper has time and again called "unfit to be president," before offering a variety of reasons for why it can't endorse Hillary Clinton. Johnson has been in the news this week for being unable to name a single world leader who he admires, after earlier this month being unable to identify "Aleppo," a major Syrian city in the middle of the country's ongoing war.

Source:
NEVER TRUMP
USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."

Source:
×