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POLITICS: PennAve

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, Rob Portman to try again on energy-efficiency bill

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A pair of senators are expected to introduce a revised energy-efficiency bill next week after contentious amendments derailed an earlier version when it reached the floor in the fall, Senate aides told the Washington Examiner.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have been working to secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes since their bill, which they have pushed in various forms since 2011, was yanked from the floor when Sen. David Vitter, R-La., tried to force Obamacare-related votes on the measure.

The bill is fairly innocuous, as far as energy measures go. It would direct the federal government to save more energy, create voluntary standards for new building codes, provide workforce-efficiency training and offer incentives to manufacturers and other industrial consumers for making energy-efficiency upgrades.

But the bill was the first substantive energy measure to hit the floor for debate since 2007, making it a magnet for controversial amendments.

Shaheen and Portman have been crafting a new version of their bill that can get the 60 votes needed to close debate. They have met with colleagues in recent months and will include in the measure's text 10 provisions that were initially amendments. A Senate aide said the sponsors would then work on a deal to allow certain amendments from both parties.

But whether that would actually happen is not clear, as amendments would likely need to be worked out ahead of time between Democratic and Republican leadership, which has been a sticking point for the bill.

Republican leadership could insist on an array of proposals that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has little interest in bringing to the floor -- even though doing so could help some vulnerable Democrats facing re-election in red-leaning states by giving them a chance to cast votes against President Obama's energy and environmental policies.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for example, already is pursuing a little-used maneuver to compel a vote on the Obama administration's greenhouse gas emissions rules for new power plants. Reid and most Democrats support those rules, and Republican requests to vote on the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases has halted progress on the energy-efficiency bill in the past.

Another controversial amendment could call for the approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. And while Reid has said he envisions the Senate will vote again on that issue, he hasn't been keen to put it up for debate.

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Zack Colman

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner