Senate Republicans have dashed hopes that the non-controversial Shaheen-Portman Act would be passed. The act received support initially from a wide range of legislators and called for increased energy efficiency requirements. However, Senate Republicans are filibustering to prevent the act from being passed. Republicans were seeking to add legislation on the Keystone XL pipeline to the Shaheen-Portman act that would remove authority over the project away from the executive branch; Senate Democrats were unable to convince their Republican colleagues to accept a separate vote on that measure. Additionally, Republicans were attempting to add a number of amendments to the bill including one that would limit EPA regulations on power plant emissions (just as the EPA plans to issue new rules regarding power plan regulations). Prior to this last round of amendments, Republicans had attempted to add unrelated policies to the bill including one that pertained to the Obama Administration’s healthcare law. The Shaheen-Portman Act looks doomed as these “unacceptable riders” will negatively impact the Obama Administration’s efforts to bolster energy efficiency, to reduce GHG emissions, and to combat climate change.
Back in March, the House of Representatives amazed jaded journalists like me by actually passing a bill that would slightly reduce carbon emissions. The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, which passed the Republican-controlled chamber by an overwhelming margin, would, among other things, increase energy-efficiency requirements for federal buildings and create a voluntary certification system for private buildings. Passage of the Senate version, sponsored by Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), seemed assured, since Democrats control the chamber.
But on Monday, Senate Republicans invoked a filibuster — a tactic once reserved for unusually controversial legislation — to prevent Shaheen-Portman’s passage. Sixty votes were needed to prevent a filibuster, cut off debate, and move the bill forward to a simple majority vote, but only 55 senators voted in favor, including Portman and two other Republicans. All other Republicans voted against.