Caught in Keystone deadlock, Shaheen vows to ‘continue fight’ for energy-efficiency bill
(UPDATED: May 13)
After Senate Democrats and Republicans could not agree on whether, and how, to take up the controversial Keystone XL pipeline over the past week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s energy efficiency bill Monday fell victim to a clear case of Capitol Hill election year politics.
A motion to end debate and bring to the Senate floor without a Keystone amendment the bill Shaheen has been cosponsoring for about a year with Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman fell five votes short of the 60 needed for approval.
Her bill would have tightened efficiency guidelines for new federal buildings and provided tax incentives to make homes and commercial buildings more efficient. It cleared a key procedural vote last week but stalled – probably until after the election — when Republicans demanded votes be attached to the bill on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline and new Obama administration-proposed greenhouse gas limits for coal-burning power plants.
According to various reports, Republicans were united in favor of the pipeline and against the new power plant regulations, while Democrats were divided on both. Shaheen has opposed the pipeline, while Republican New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte supports it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used a parliamentary maneuver to block Senate votes on the pipeline and power plant rules as part of the energy savings bill.
Reid said Monday that Republicans were “still seeking a ransom” on the energy bill by insisting on the Keystone amendment and other votes. He said he had agreed to a long-standing request from pipeline supporters for a separate vote on the pipeline if its supporters would let the efficiency bill go through without any amendments.
Democrats charged that said Republicans were unwilling to hand a victory on the energy efficiency bill to Shaheen, who is running for reelection.
President Barack Obama delayed the Keystone project indefinitely last month, citing uncertainty over the pipeline’s route though Nebraska.
After the vote, Shaheen said: “I’m disappointed the Senate failed to advance my bipartisan plan to create almost 200,000 jobs, reduce pollution and save taxpayers billions. I worked hard with Senator Portman and a countless number of business and environmental interests to craft a smart, pragmatic energy bill because we knew that was in the best interests of our economy and our environment. People in New Hampshire and across the country lost out today because of election-year politics, but I will continue to fight for Shaheen-Portman because it’s a win-win-win for jobs, clean air and taxpayers.”
(NHJournal’s earlier story on this issue, first published April 29, follows.)
Will Sen. Jeanne Shaheen support the Keystone pipeline if it is attached to the bipartisan energy efficiency bill she has long been proposing with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio?
According to Politico.com, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his team are weighing the political implications of holding a vote on approval of the controversial pipeline as part of an energy efficiency bill written by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). A vote on Keystone would offer a strong boost to red-state Democrats in tough races this fall, allowing them to defy the White House in support of a project viewed favorably back home.”
Although New Hampshire is viewed as a purple state, and not a red state, Shaheen has been criticized by foes for voting with the Obama administration 99 percent of the time.
Shaheen has opposed the pipeline project in the past, while promoting her energy efficiency bill with Republican Portman.
According to Shaheen’s office, the Shaheen-Portman bill “uses a variety of low-cost tools to help energy users become more efficient while making the country’s largest energy user – the federal government – reduce its energy use through the use of energy-efficient technology.”
Shaheen’s office says it is a “deficit neutral bill” that “incentivizes the use of efficiency technologies that are commercially available today, can be widely deployed across the country, and quickly pay for themselves through energy savings. The reintroduced bill incorporates an additional 10 bipartisan amendments that will help the United States transition to a more energy-efficient economy while driving economic growth and private sector job creation.”
According to Shaheen’s office, “a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that Shaheen-Portman will create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion a year, and cut CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road – all by 2030.”
Politico reported on Monday that the Senate leadership is weighing various options on whether, and how, to associate the Keystone pipeline project with the Shaheen-Portman bill.
One option would be to allow the Shaheen bill to proceed and hold a separate vote on approval of the Keystone pipeline. Democrats could choose to make that vote a non-binding “Sense of the Senate” resolution, Politico said.
Or there could be a binding vote; or the Keystone project could be introduced as an amendment to the Shaheen bill.
If there is a direct attachment of the pipeline to the energy efficiency bill, it could put Shaheen in a difficult position of needing to decide whether to support her own bill.
“The real question is whether or not Senator Shaheen would vote for her own bill if the Keystone amendment is attached,” said Greg Moore, state director of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which has been airing ads critical of Shaheen’s support of the Affordable Care Act.
“If this plan goes forward with the job-creating pipeline as part of the law, will she cut off her nose to spite her face and move to scrap her own bill, or will she work to bring relief to high energy costs here?”
Moore said that Shaheen, while opposing the pipeline in the past, will now “have an opportunity to stand up to an Obama Administration, which has consistently moved to block progress on this important issue. Will she stand for New Hampshire interests or continue to put President Obama first?”
Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, meanwhile, is both a supporter of the Keystone pipeline and a co-sponsor of the Shaheen energy efficiency bill.
On Wednesday, business and labor groups will rally at the State House in support of the pipeline.