Thursday, June 23, 2005

Energy Debate Updates

The Senate late this evening prepared to wrap up work on its version of the energy bill, with a vote on final passage scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Tuesday morning (so there will be no votes until then and senators can go back to their states for the weekend). Early Thursday, the chamber voted to invoke cloture on the bill by a vote of 92-4, with Senators Corzine, Lautenberg, McCain and Durbin opposing the motion. Post-cloture debate on any bill is limited to thirty hours, but through much of the day Thursday it looked as though the Senate might hold a vote on final passage as early as tonight, rather than carrying debate into Friday morning as is now the plan.

A number of amendments were approved by voice vote on Thursday: only five post-cloture roll call votes were held. By a vote of 69-26, the Senate approved a waiver of the Congressional Budget Act in relation to an amendment sponsored by Senator Bingaman; senators also approved an amendment offered by New York's Chuck Schumer and Arizona's John Kyl to strike from a bill a provision that would have lifted restrictions on the export of weapons-grade uranium for use in the production of medical isotopes. That measure passed 52-46. Following the Schumer vote, an amendment offered by John Sununu (R-NH) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) that would have stricken some "incentives for innovative technologies" from the bill failed 21-76.

Finally on Thursday, two amendments concerning fuel efficiency standards were voted on. The first, offered by Missouri Republican Kit Bond, urged the increase of CAFE standards "when scientifically feasible" (i.e. whenever the automakers want to). It passed 64-31. A second amendment, offered by Democrat Dick Durbin, would have increased CAFE standards to 40 mpg within 11 years. It failed on a 28-67 vote. It is unfortunate that no centrist fuel efficiency proposal was debated during this energy discussion; senators had the choice between "talk but no action" and "too much too fast."

I had hoped that centrists from both parties would accomplish more with this energy bill. It is a shame that the Senate did not act, in any meaningful way, to combat global climate change or to increase fuel efficiency standards. The latter action, as I've said before, would be the most immediate and best way to decrease America's overwhelming dependence on foreign petroleum, which not only pumps greenhouse gases and other pollutants into our environment, but also threatens our national security and our economic stability.

That said, I hope that the Senate bill which will (barring some unexpected event) pass on Tuesday is the version used by the House-Senate conference when the chambers meet to resolve their differences. As you can see from this AP comparison, from a conservation and efficiency standpoint, the Senate's version is vastly superior. What hybrid bill, if any, emerges from the House-Senate conference (probably not until the of the summer at the earliest) will be the one senators and representatives will have to support or reject. Centrists can only hope that the Senate conferees win the day.


At 5:36 PM, Blogger Ryan Horn said...

Alaska: Drill! Drill! Drill! Drill!


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