No Energy Efficiency and No Keystone Pipeline Vote

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The Reuters news agency reported that U.S. Senate Republicans on Monday, May 12, forfeited an opportunity to force a Keystone XL pipeline vote by blocking the passage of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio with a vote of 55-36.

At the beginning of the month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., abruptly shifted his position on the Keystone Pipeline by opening the possibility of allowing a vote on congressional approval of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline bill, a project that he has long opposed. The Obama administration has been considering the bill for five years, and supporters have been anxiously awaiting a decision, hoping to capitalize on the thousands of jobs that the mammoth project would allegedly create should the bill be passed.

“They (Republicans) have held this bill hostage, this energy efficiency bill, as demand after demand has been met, but even now, they are still seeking a ransom,” said Reid.

As predicted, the Republicans refused to budge. They complained that Reid barred them from offering amendments to the bill, including one that would have reined in emissions-cutting regulations on coal-fired power plants, a top strategy in Obama’s fight against climate change.

And again, everybody loses and nothing gets accomplished in the deeply divided congress that continues to vote along party lines, putting politics first in yet another blatant display of Washington’s dysfunction.

TransCanada Corp’s proposed pipeline would transport 800,000 barrels per day of oil sands petroleum from Canada’s Alberta province to Texas refineries.

Democrats accused Republicans of being more interested in making Obama’s repeated delays on Keystone an election-year issue than voting to build the project or pass an energy bill.

Congress has not passed significant energy legislation since 2007. Shaheen and Portman hoped their bill would not suffer the same fate as the sweeping climate bill the Senate killed in 2010. But now it looks as if energy efficiency is doomed until after the November 4 election.

At the beginning of the month, Reid offered a vote on a Keystone measure sponsored by all 45 Republicans and 11 of the 55 Senate Democrats in return for the bill.

If they could muster the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation, which would allow congressional approval of Keystone, was not clear. However, even if approved, Obama was certain to veto the bill.

A Senate vote on Keystone would have demonstrated broad bipartisan support for the project and put more pressure on the president to end years of delays in making a decision.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the chief Democratic sponsor of the Keystone bill, said: “This is just the latest skirmish, and the battle to build Keystone is not over.”

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