A bipartisan energy-efficiency bill collapsed in the U.S. Senate after a feud over election-year amendments related to President Barack Obama’s energy policies, casting doubt on a separate measure to approve Keystone XL.
The Senate voted 55-36 to advance the measure written by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Rob Portman, five short of the 60 needed. The vote also dashes plans for legislation approving the Keystone oil pipeline that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had said would be considered if the efficiency measure was considered without changes.
Reid said the bill would have been “a good first step” to conserving energy, and cited support from industry as he said the measure by the New Hampshire Democrat and Ohio Republican fell short of the votes needed because Republican demands for amendments kept changing.
“They have held this bill hostage, as demand after demand has been met,” he said on the Senate floor.
The efficiency measure -- with broad Democratic support and seven Republican co-sponsors -- would cut energy use for residential, commercial and industrial buildings without boosting federal mandates. It was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Senate Republicans pushed to add amendments, including one by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing rules governing coal-fired power plants unless Congress approved. McConnell, who is being challenged in a May 20 primary in Kentucky, says the rules would harm his state’s coal industry.
“Our constituents are being hurt because of a cynical political agenda, because a War on Coal and other sources of American energy that the far left flank of the Democratic Party demands,” he said on the Senate floor.
Backers of TransCanada Corp.’s $5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline separately said they will seek opportunities to put the full Senate on record on the project this year or next year. The Obama administration on April 18 delayed a decision on the proposed project until a legal challenge to the route in Nebraska is resolved, which may not happen until 2015.
“We may revisit this because a lot of people want to get something done,” said Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican who co-sponsored a measure with Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to approve the pipeline.
Reid, who opposes it, hasn’t said whether he will schedule a Keystone vote later, although he is being pressed by 11 Senate Democrats who back legislation to approve the project. The group includes four Democrats considered vulnerable in November’s election -- Landrieu, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
TransCanada proposed the pipeline in 2008 to link Canada’s oil sands with refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project has galvanized supporters including the oil industry and labor unions and opponents chiefly environmentalists.
Seeking to discourage Democrats from defecting, White House press secretary Jay Carney in recent days urged Congress to respect the administration’s need for more time and avoid pressing for a swift decision on the project.
Hoeven said last week the White House effort was hampering efforts to get enough support for the Keystone measure.
When the Senate voted on a pipeline-approval measure in 2012, it had 56 supporters, four shy of those needed to end a filibuster. Backers indicated they had that same level of support this time around.
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