Senate Dems scrap energy bill for the summer 

By Susan Ferrechio Chief Congressional Correspondent

Senate Democrats announced Tuesday they are abandoning plans to take up an energy and oil spill response bill before the August recess, saying they would make another attempt in the fall.

The decision was made when Democrats failed to win enough support to pass anything before the Senate adjourns Friday for a five-week recess.

"We tried jujitsu, we tried yoga. We tried everything we can with Republicans to get them to come along with us and be reasonable," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters.

But while Reid blamed the GOP for refusing to back his plan, the bill stalled in part because of opposition among both moderates and liberals within the Democratic caucus.

Sens. Mark Begich, D-Ala., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., who represent oil-drilling states, would not have voted for the Democratic bill had it come to the floor in the Senate on Wednesday because it did not provide a way for states to share in oil-drilling profits. Democrats control 59 votes and will need 60 votes to proceed to debate on a bill. Without Begich and Landrieu, they would have fallen short by three votes.

"Until they fix the revenue-sharing issue, I can't support what exists right now," Begich said.

Landrieu was concerned about a provision in the bill that would have lifted the $75 million liability cap on all oil companies and wants to carve out an exception for smaller drillers.

"We want the polluter to pay all, we want the taxpayer to pay nothing and we want the industry to be able to get back on its feet and grow," Landrieu said Tuesday. "We have got to be able to get this industry back on its feet."

Reid also faced opposition on his left, from lawmakers who wanted to see a bill that created a renewable energy standard or put a price on carbon in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think there was substantial concern on the Democratic side that the energy bill did not do enough," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said following a private meeting with the Democratic Caucus. "Some of us feel very strongly that there has to be a renewable energy standard in it, but that the bill was so limited, we ought to wait and do it right."

Reid had planned for a Wednesday vote on two competing energy and oil spill response bills.

In addition to eliminating the liability cap, the Democratic bill would have put in place more oversight of oil drilling companies and new regulations aimed at averting future oil spill disasters. The Democratic bill also included federal subsidies for energy-efficient home improvements, electric cars and for converting trucks to natural gas.

The GOP bill called for more flexible oil spill liability limits and for a quick end to the drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.

Reid said he is not giving up on an energy bill for this year.

"Some of the best conversations that have been had dealing with energy have been in the last couple weeks," Reid said. "So I think before the end of the year, the answer is absolutely yes, we'll be able to get a nice energy bill done."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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