Senate Energy Bill Stalled by Wrangling

The Senate spent part of the week considering amendments to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012, but then got hung up on Democratic demands that the bill should include $600 million to help Flint, Michigan to deal with its water supply problems.  Two cloture votes to limit debate and move to a vote on final passage were defeated by votes of 46 to 50 and 43 to 54 (with 60 votes needed to invoke cloture).

Negotiations will continue over the weekend, so it’s too early to say that the bill sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), is dead.  I hope it is dead because it has many more bad provisions than good ones.  On the plus side, the bill would require expedited permitting of LNG terminals. The bad stuff includes several new subsidies and preferences, lots of new federal programs, some more loan guarantees, and permanent re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

When the Republican leadership initially resisted putting money for Flint into the bill on the grounds that the Constitution requires that all appropriations bills start in the House of Representatives, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) replied that “those excuses are overcome every day.”  Unfortunately, Senator Stabenow is correct: for many Senators (and Representatives) the Constitution is now just a trivial obstacle to be gotten around.