By Cathy Burke
WASHINGTON D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s sharp rebuff of GOP demands for votes on amendments to an energy efficiency bill could doom consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline, The Hill reported Tuesday.
The Nevada Democrat said he wouldn’t allow votes on any GOP-sponsored amendments later this week when the Senate considers a bipartisan energy bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The Hill reports Reid’s balk probably scuttles a vote expected on the Keystone XL pipeline unless Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky caves on his demand for votes on GOP sponsored amendments.
Republican senators have prepared a host of amendments to the energy bill, including one to authorize immediate construction of the Keystone pipeline, and another that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Earlier, the Senate voted 79-20 to limit debate on the energy efficiency bill, but the two parties continued to bicker over what amendments to allow, including the pipeline project.
“The American people deserve a real debate on how we can best tap our own extraordinary natural resources to achieve energy independence at home and how we can help our allies overseas through increased exports of American energy,” McConnell demanded.
“But we can’t move forward if the Democrats who run the Senate keep trying to protect the president at the expense of serving their constituents.”
Reid had said he’d allow a vote on stand-alone legislation to authorize the pipeline in exchange for an agreement from Republicans to allow an up-or-down final vote on the energy bill.
“It seems like this is nothing but a game of diversion and obstruction to many Senate Republicans,” Reid fumed on the Senate floor.
“But it’s not a game. Every time a group of Republicans feigns interest in bipartisanship, only to scramble away at the last moment, it is part of a calculated political scheme.”
McConnell called Reid’s claim “laughable,” and said all Senate Republicans want is a full and open debate on energy policy.
“The American people have waited seven long years for a serious energy debate in the Democrat-run Senate,” McConnell said, noting that the Senate has not approved a major energy bill since 2007.
The Obama administration is reviewing the proposal to build the Keystone pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, but delayed its decision due to litigation in Nebraska.
Also on Tuesday, Reid, an unapologetic “fan” of earmarks — the special projects lawmakers insert into legislation that are often referred to as pork — lamented their demise, and said President Obama is wrong to oppose them.
“I have been a fan of earmarks since I got here the first day,” Reid declared, Roll Call reports. “I disagree — underline, underscored, big exclamation mark — with Obama. He’s wrong.”
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Obama backed a ban on earmark spending in 2011, coinciding with Speaker John Boehner prohibiting them when the GOP took the House, Politico notes. And in the Senate, earmarks have disappeared as well.
But Reid insisted their problems can be fixed.
“…[I]f there needs to be more transparency than what we had, then fine, do it,” he said.
“But it is wrong to have bureaucrats downtown make decisions in Nevada that I can make better than they can make. I don’t run away at all. This is something that’s been going on for centuries in our country. And it has worked quite well.”
Ironically, earlier in the day the Nevada Democrat and champion of pork lashed out at GOP colleagues, likening them to “greased pigs.”
“Oftentimes working with my Senate Republican colleagues reminds me of chasing one of these little pigs in a greased pig contest,” he said. “Regardless of all of our efforts, any time we get close to making progress, it seems as though we watch it slip out of our hands, and Republicans scamper away.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.